Rare Tintype of Billy The Kid To Go Up For Sale
The image above depicts one of the Old West's most infamous bad guys. This rare tintype of Billy the Kid is believed to be the only survivor of four that were created when he posed for the picture in a Fort Sumner, New Mexico, gambling hall in late 1879 or early 1880. This shot often accompanies stories about Billy the Kid and is believed to be one of the only authenticated images of the young outlaw. It will be auctioned on June 25 at Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction at the Denver Merchandise Mart where it could bring between $300,000 and $400,000. The tintype passed through the family of one of Billy's rustler partners, Dan Dedrick and is sometimes called the Upham tintype after the Dedrick's grand-nephew, Frank Upham and his descendants.
It has only been publicly displayed once, during the mid-1980s, at the Lincoln County Heritage Trust Museum in Lincoln, New Mexico for about three years. At that time rumors surfaced that the exposure had darkened the image but Lebel says that is not true. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Lebel asserts that the tintype has been stored in a a nitrogen-filled envelope and kept in a safe-deposit box.
Billy the Kid, who was also known as William H. Bonney, Henry Antrim and Henry McCarty, is a paradoxical figure in American culture, an outlaw and killer who is also seen as a folk hero. This image, showing a young, pale-eyed man with a soft face but wearing a gun and bullets around his waist is part of that mythology. It could end up in a museum but there are also likely plenty of single collectors eager to get their hands on a piece of American history.
At the tail end of 2010, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said he would not pardon Billy the Kid because the historical record about another governor's promise to do so is ambiguous. Descendants of Sheriff Pat Garrett, the lawman who killed Billy the Kid in 1881 had lobbied against the pardon. Our sister site Politics Daily reported that New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace may have reneged on a promise in 1879 to pardon the Kid in exchange for testimony he gave about a killing he'd witnessed. Richardson had considered pardoning Billy the Kid for the murder of Sheriff Bill Brady and was convinced that Wallace had in fact offered the pardon back then. But he later decided not to because it wasn't clear why Governor Wallace had backed off the original deal.