Photo of Billy the Kid playing cards with his gang – just the second known picture of the notorious gunman – is set to fetch $1m at auction after family of fellow outlaw Billy Wilson decided to sell it

A rare photo of notorious outlaw Billy the Kid has emerged on the market with a $1 million price-tag.

The previously unseen black and white image from 1877 shows the outlaw playing cards with his gang. It is only the second confirmed image of the wanted man.

In the photo, Billy the Kid can be seen sitting around a table with three members of his gang – Richard Brewer, Fred Waite and Henry Brown – all of whom were wanted men.

The then-21-year-old is seen dressed in a white shirt, dark waistcoat and top hat.

From left to right: Richard Brewer, Bill the Kid, Fred Waite and Henry Brown - all of whom were wanted men. The black and white wet collodion tin type image is thought to dates back to around 1877 and is only the second confirmed image of the notorious American outlaw.

From left to right: Richard Brewer, Bill the Kid, Fred Waite and Henry Brown – all of whom were wanted men. The black and white wet collodion tin type image is thought to dates back to around 1877 and is only the second confirmed image of the notorious American outlaw.

All four men are depicted carefully considering their hand. On the table in front of them is a glass bottle of liquor which appears to have been largely consumed.

At the time, Billy the Kid, who also used the name William H. Bonney, was a wanted man having murdered a blacksmith in Arizona.

He is believed to have gone on to kill another seven men during the Lincoln County War in 1878. One of those was the Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady.

Billy the Kid was eventually caught by Sheriff Pat Garrett who shot him in the dark.

The photo has been kept in the same family for over a century, after it was given to the vendor's grandfather by the widow of a Billy Wilson, a gang member and friend of Billy the Kid

The photo has been kept in the same family for over a century, after it was given to the vendor’s grandfather by the widow of a Billy Wilson, a gang member and friend of Billy the Kid

The photo now for sale has never been made public before and has been kept in the same family for over a century.

It was originally given to the vendor’s grandfather by the widow of David Anderson, who was better known as Billy Wilson.

Wilson was a member of the infamous gang having befriended Billy the Kid when riding alongside him during the Lincoln County War.  After receiving a presidential pardon in 1896, he later went on to serve as sheriff of Terrell County and also worked as a US customs inspector.

The photograph was given to him, by Billy the Kid, for safe keeping prior to the outlaw’s death.

The photo then ended up in the vendor’s family, after his grandfather, Billy Wilson’s second cousin was given the precious momento.

In a letter detailing the photograph’s journey into his family, vendor Tomas R. Anderson II said: ‘When my grandfather and family went to pay their respects to the widow of David Anderson at his 1918 funeral, she gifted him, with among other items, a small leather family photograph album.

‘She explained to my grandfather’s family about the history of the photograph and how Billy had gifted the photo to her husband.’

The photo has remained in his family, but Mr Anderson from Arizona, has decided the time is right to sell it.

A letter from the vendor details the story of how the photograph got into his family's possession

A letter from the vendor details the story of how the photograph got into his family’s possession

It has been verified by the George Eastman Museum in Texas which is the world’s oldest museum dedicated to photography and named after the founder of Kodak.

Mark Osterman, a process historian at the museum, said the image is consistent with it being a wet collodion tintype photograph that were made between 1870 and 1890.

The picture is to go under the hammer with Sofe Design Auctions of Richardson, near Dallas, Texas.

A spokesman for Sofe Design said: “This is a historically important, incredibly rare and one-of-a-kind.

“It is only the second positively documented and analysed photographic image of Billy the Kid as well as the only known group image to include him.

“It also possesses meticulous and irrefutable Anderson family provenance dating back three generations.

“It has never been seen before and nor has it been publicly offered for sale.”

The picture is to go under the hammer with Sofe Design Auctions of Richardson, near Dallas, Texas. A spokesman for the auction house said the image was a rare one-of-a-kind photograph

The photograph, which remains in a good condition for its age, has been verified by the world's oldest museum dedicated to photography

The picture is to go under the hammer with Sofe Design Auctions of Richardson, near Dallas, Texas. A spokesman for the auction house said the image was a rare one-of-a-kind photograph

The photograph, which will be up for auction on Friday, comes in a cream leather wallet

The photograph, which will be up for auction on Friday, comes in a cream leather wallet

The photograph remains in fantastic original condition and comes in a cream leather frame.

Of his fellow card players in the picture Brewer was shot dead in the Lincoln County War while Waite and Brown were long-time cowboys.

Together, and along with a number of other outlaws, they became known as the ‘Billy the Kid Gang’.

The 1988 movie Young Guns, which starred Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid as well as Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland, told the story of the fugitive’s rise in notoriety.

It’s 1990 sequel, Young Guns II, featured his arrest, jail break out and death at the hands of Garrett.

The auction takes place on Friday.

This 130-year-old tintype photograph was, till the emergence of the second photo, the only authenticated image of the notorious American outlaw Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid can be seen in a top hat (on the left) playing cards with his friends

This 130-year-old tintype photograph on the left was, till the emergence of the second photo (right) the only authenticated image of the notorious American outlaw Billy the Kid

So Who was Billy The kid ?

Billy the Kid was a notorious outlaw who lived in the American Wild West during the mid to late 19th century. The subject of more than 50 movies, the local legend, has achieved global notoriety as scriptwriters took the tale  of the gun-toting outlaw to big screens around the world. 

Bill the Kid can be seen, in a top hat (right) playing cards with his fellow gang members in a rare photo of the notorious American outlaw

Bill the Kid can be seen, in a top hat (right) playing cards with his fellow gang members in a rare photo of the notorious American outlaw

So who is Billy the Kid and what led to his untimely death at the age of 21? 

  • Billy the Kid is believed to have been born Henry McCarty in the Irish slums of New York City in September or November of 1859 – though his birth place, date of birth and even birth name is widely debated
  • He moved to Wichita, Kansas, as a boy with his single mother, before later migrating west to New Mexico in the early 1870s
  • The young Henry became an orphan in 1874 at the age of 14 after his mother died of tuberculosis
  • Left in the care of an absentee stepfather he is said to have quickly fallen into a life of poverty, mixed with a rough crowd and soon found himself on a path of crime
  • The young lad’s first  arrest, and subsequent jailbreak, was said to be for stealing clothes from a local Chinese laundry in 1875. He faced a minor sentence but rather than sit it out behind bars the then 16-year-old escaped and fled town
  • In 1877 he arrived in Lincoln County, New Mexico, under the name William Bonney. In August of that year he is said to have killed his first man during a dispute in an Arizona saloon
  • He earned a reputation as a gunslinger, a man who was quick to pull the trigger, in 1878 when he participated in the Lincoln County War
  • The conflict was marked by revenge killings, including one that saw a gang Billy the Kid was affiliated with kill the Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady
  • In late 1880 Bill the Kid was  found guilty of the murder of Sheriff William Brady and sentenced to be hanged. But on the evening of April 28, 1881 he slipped out of his handcuffs and ambushed and shot a couple of guards in his prison break
  •  After his escape from death row the wanted man remained a fugitive from the law till the evening of July 14 1881. Sheriff Pat Garrett and two deputies rode into town where it was believed the fugitive was hiding out. He was taken by surprise, cornered and fatally shot with two bullets by the sheriff
  • Despite his reputation as an outlaw of the Wild West Billy the Kid did not live the life of a bandit. He had never robbed a bank, train or stagecoach. Outside of his early years and gun-fighting days in the Lincoln County War his main crime was said to be rustling cattle

 Sources: Crime Museum, Britannica, and the History Channel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.