Years ago I commented on the Billy the Kid PBS special and how the famous Billy the Kid photo kept appearing on the screen over and over. That’s because there are only two authentic photographs of Billy the Kid presently in existence. The most famous one is a two-by-three-inch ferrotype or tintype, taken by an unknown itinerant photographer outside Beaver Smith’s Saloon in Old Fort Sumner, around 1880…Because it portrays Billy as a very unattractive person, many have called it his visa picture.
Originally people didn’t realize that since it was a tintype, the image was actually reversed. So, everyone though Billy the Kid was left handed. This misconception even inspired the 1958 movie “The Left Handed Gun,” starring Paul Newman as Billy.
Finally firearms experts looked at the Kid’s Winchester and noticed its spring plate, where the cartridges are loaded, was on the left side. But Winchester produced firearms with spring plates only on the right side. So, later books and publications have the reversed image reversed, so it’s correct.
Recently the famous Billy the Kid photo went on the auction block and a retired Wichita industrialist who collects everything from Wild West memorabilia to Picassos bought it for $2 million…Incidentally, it was thought it would go for about $300,000.