Friday, August 26, 2016

Billy the Kid photo, bought for $2 - appraised at $5M

Billy the Kid, the Wild West gunslinger, is usually associated with a Colt single-action.44 not the genteel English elegance of a varnished oak croquet mallet. However an extremely rare photograph of the legendary outlaw leaning on a croquet mallet has emerged – only the second known photo of The Kid, whose real name is Henry McCarty, known to exist.

The photo shows McCarty playing croquet with his gang of Lincoln County Regulators in late summer 1878. It was bought by collector Randy Guijarro for US$2 from a California junk shop in 2010.
The photo was authenticated by a San Francisco-based Americana company, Kagin’s, which identified Billy the Kid along with several members of the Regulators, as well as friends and family. It was taken after a wedding in the summer of 1878, just a month after the gang took part in the brutal Lincoln County war.

The only other known photograph of McCarty was sold for US$2.8 million in June 2011. Florida billionaire William Koch placed the winning bid in person at Brian Lebel’s annual Old West Auction in Denver, Colo. The metallic photo, taken outside a Fort Sumner, N.M., saloon in late 1879 or early 1880, depicts the outlaw gripping the upright barrel of a Winchester carbine, with a Colt .45 pistol strapped to his hip.

Born Henry McCarty, but also known in New Mexico as William Bonney, the Kid was shot dead at age 22 by lawman Pat Garrett in 1881, months after a jailbreak in which Bonney reportedly killed two deputies.
Henry McCarty (September 17, 1859 – July 14, 1881) was a 19th-century gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War and became a frontier outlaw in the American Old West. According to legend, he killed twenty-one men, but it is now generally believed that he killed eight, with the first on August 17, 1877.

McCarty was relatively unknown during most of his lifetime, but was catapulted into legend in 1881 when New Mexico's governor Lew Wallace placed a price on his head. In addition, the Las Vegas Gazette and the New York Sun carried stories about his exploits.

Frank Abrams believes the photo shows Pat Garrett, at far left, and Billy the Kid, second from the right.
Four years ago at Smiley’s Flea Market, Frank Abrams bought five tintypes, including a group of cowboys and a man on horseback. All the seller knew was that the photos may have come from the famed Root family of Connecticut.

Abrams kept the cowboy photo at his office, always wondering who were those tinhorns in the tintype. “Maybe it’s Jesse James,” he joked with his wife. Five men in hats, with cigars and whiskey bottles. One of them brandishing a Colt pistol. Their cheeks have been rouged by pastel crayon and then the print varnished, preserving the brightness of the men’s faces for more than a century. Only two photographs to date have been authenticated of the man born Henry McCarty, alias William H. Bonney, best known as Billy the Kid.
Abrams is trying to build the case that Garrett and Billy the Kid could have been together on Jan. 14, 1880, at a double wedding in a town called Anton Chico, some 85 miles east of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Garrett and another rustler Barney Mason (center) were the grooms that day, and Billy the Kid was known to have attended the festivities. Garrett and Billy had not always been on opposite sides of the law, but had rode together as cattle rustlers. A year later, they became sworn enemies. The man twirling the Colt revolver on the end of the photo could be the notorious Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, who rode with the Kid.

Rudabaugh met his fate in Mexico, where he shot two men in a cantina and was then shot and decapitated with a machete. Abrams believes the fifth man may be Joshua John Webb, another outlaw and colleague of Rudabaugh.