Is This a Photograph of Billy Playing Croquet?

Billy the Kid

This photo, found in a shoebox of tintypes at an antique store in Fresno, California, has caused quite a stir. The owner believes it was taken near Roswell, New Mexico, to celebrate the marriage of Charlie and Manuela Bowdre (he identifies them as being on horseback). He also claims the picture includes William Bonney (inset), Tom Folliard, Sallie Chisum, Paulita Maxwell, Josiah “Doc” Scurlock, “Big Jim” French and Antonia Scurlock.

The owner states the photograph was taken in early September 1878, when several of the people in the photo were preparing to move to the Fort Sumner area. Let’s be clear: history does not properly record the Bowdre move or marriage, although historians believe the couple moved from Lincoln County to Fort Sumner around September 1878 and that they got married in 1879. The 1880 census at Fort Sumner documents them as married and in the area.

The croquet photo and the efforts to authenticate it will be the subject of a National Geographic Channel documentary reportedly airing this fall.

Billy the Kid Wannabe Photos
The Billy the Kid Wannabe Yearbook
Ever since collector Bill Koch paid $2.3 million for the only known photograph of the Kid, image after image has surfaced, in hopes of cashing in as well. Several of these photos have sold for thousands of dollars. They all have two things in common: their owners claim the likeness is “dead on” and none of the images have solid provenance.

For more True West coverage on Billy the Kid, follow the links below:

“What if everything we know about Billy the Kid is wrong?” by Frederick Nolan

Billy the Irish by Chuck Usmar

How Did Henry Get His Alias? by Mark Lee Gardner

“Hello, Bob” by Cameron Douglas

Seeking the Creation of the Kid’s Death Record by Dr. Robert Stahl

 Billy Bonney’s Bad Bucks by Steve Sederwall

How Did the Kid Get the Gun? by Frederick Nolan

What do you think?

Bob Boze Bell

In 1999, Bob Boze Bell and partners bought True West magazine (published since 1953) and moved the editorial offices to Cave Creek, Arizona. Bell has published and illustrated books on Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, as well as Classic Gunfights, an Old West gunfight book series. His latest books are The 66 Kid and True West Moments.