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February 12, 2023 4 min read 1 Comment

In the age of social media, a time where everyone has a camera in their pocket and ‘pics or it didn’t happen’, it’s virtually impossible to imagine there only being a single photo of someone in existence.

Well, until just a few years ago, that was exactly the case for one of America’s most infamous and intriguing outlaws, Billy the Kid. For more than a century, only one photo of William H. Bonney (or Henry McCarty, as he was born) was ever authenticated. Odds are, you’ve seen it at some point or another in your life, and certainly if you’ve been paying attention to this collection!

“We worked this image of The Kid into a number of designs for the collection,” Cheryl said. “Because it was the only one there is, we had to get really creative to prevent it from being stale and repetitive. We worked it into that mosaic print, which is very cool, and then did the doodle-like outline that ended up in the Reap the Whirlwind and was front and center on the Winchester Top. And then, perhaps the coolest – or at least the most unexpected – application of the photo is on the Shot of William Bonney Top, where we overlaid the image with subtle sequins. I mean, who would’ve ever thought that Billy the Kid and sequins would be in the same sentence? I think that juxtaposition is why it works.”

We definitely made the most of that one legendary photograph, and then come to find out, recently historians were able to authenticate a second photo of the notorious renegade! The photo depicts The Kid and a trio of his cronies playing cards (seemingly staged in a photographer’s studio), and man, does this picture really highlight just how young he really was.

We definitely made the most of that one legendary photograph, and then come to find out, recently historians were able to authenticate a second photo of the notorious renegade! The photo depicts The Kid and a trio of his cronies playing cards (seemingly staged in a photographer’s studio), and man, does this picture really highlight just how young he really was.

“Obviously, I knew that Billy The Kid died when he was just 21,” Cheryl said. “And hearing that, of course, you think to yourself how young that is. But then seeing this image, it just really registered with me just how young he really was. He looks like a teen in this picture, and he probably was. Just a kid, literally! I am particularly fond of this photo because it has a few of his gang in it, and it captures a more innocent essence of them. It’s a slice-of-life photo, just some boys playing poker, something my own boys do. It wasn’t all gunslinging all the time, ya know? It's humanizing.”

How exactly did they authenticate it, you ask? Well, turns out the wily widow of one of Billy’s buddies handed it down in a photo album that the family hung on to – and kept entirely under wraps – for more than 100 years!

According to a 2019 article by The Vintage News, the story is this:

The 1877 photo in question was handed down through the family of one of Bonney’s cowboy friends, David Anderson, who rode under the name of Billy Wilson. The family says Bonney gave the photograph to Wilson, who’s [sic] widow in turn gave it to their grandfather, and they have kept it within their ranks for more than a century. It has never been made public before now.

Tomas Anderson II recently explained to the Irish Central news website how his family came to own the one-of-a-kind picture. ‘When my 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 photo album. She explained to my grandfather’s family about the history of the photo, and how Billy had gifted the photo to her husband.’

According to the auction house, Sofe Design Auctions of Richardson, near Dallas, there is no doubt about the photo’s authenticity. ‘This is historically important,’ a spokesman told theIrish Central, ‘incredibly rare and one of a kind. It also possesses meticulous and irrefutable Anderson family provenance dating back three generations.’ Furthermore, the photo has been verified by the Eastman Museum in Texas.

A photo forensic scientist has used facial recognition technology to identify William H. Bonney (Billy the Kid) and his associate Fred Waite (second from right). The other two are suspected to be known cronies Richard Brewer and Henry Brown, although the same technology cannot be used to certify that since they are pictured in profile.

Unsurprisingly, the famous photo is expected to go for more than a million dollars when it hits the auction block; the other authenticated photo sold for $2.11M in 2011.

Another photo has also surfaced, allegedly featuring our boy Billy playing croquet, but it’s not yet been fully authenticated.

1 Response

Karen Barnes
Karen Barnes

February 20, 2023

Intriguing it is! This story and its kind are what makes it intriguing. This is historical information to say the least. I for one have always been interested in Billy the Kid. Growing up in New Mexico, we spent many days in Lincoln County and I loved hearing the stories of him and Pat Garrett. These two new pictures I have never seen. Thank you again Cheryl for bringing the story back to life!

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