How do we know the tintype photo is really of Billy the Kid?

atm-logoHow do we know the tintype photo is really of Billy the Kid?

Frank Cutler
Sodus, New York

“It is definitely Billy the Kid,” says Robert G. McCubbin, Old West photo expert and president emeritus of the Wild West History Association. “It was used by Pat Garrett twice (a steel engraving, since at that time publishers didn’t have the capability to print photographs) in his 1882 book, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, as a frontispiece and on the rear cover.”

Paulita Maxwell Jaramillo, the Kid’s girlfriend, said of the photo, when interviewed in the mid-1920s, “It was taken by a traveling photographer who came through Fort Sumner [New Mexico] in 1880. Billy posed for it standing in the street near old Beaver Smith’s saloon. I never liked the picture. I don’t think it does Billy justice. It makes him look rough and uncouth. The expression of his face was really boyish and very pleasant. He may have worn such clothes as appear in the picture out on the range, but in Fort Sumner he was careful of his personal appearance and dressed neatly and in good taste.”

The photograph was in the possession of the Maxwell family for many years. Another copy of the tintype was passed down through the family of Dan Dedrick, a companion of the Kid.

***

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu

 

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