The life and legend of Billy the Kid has been woven into the fabric of American culture over the past century through numerous books, films and television shows, yet there is only one confirmed photograph of the iconic gunslinger. That might be about to change.
According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, New Mexico history buff Frank H. Parrish has produced a photograph of two men. The person on the right has been positively identified as Dan Dedrick. The man on the left, Parrish claims, is Billy the Kid.
Parrish told the publication that the image was made from a tintype owned by a Mesilla Valley man who wants to remain anonymous. According to Parrish, the identification of Dedrick is what led him to believe the other person is the Kid.
“The other individual had remained unidentified until recently, when I identified him as Dan Dedrick, a very close friend of Billy’s,” Parrish said.
The only confirmed photograph of Billy the Kid is a tintype showing the legendary outlaw armed with his 1873 Winchester carbine rifle and a Colt revolver. The tintype is believed to have been taken in 1879 or 1880, according to the Las Cruces Sun News. It was sold at auction in 2011 for $2.3 million.
“There are many purported photo images of Billy the Kid, but only one that is acknowledged by leading historians – until now,” Parrish said. “The famous standing bucktoothed Billy photograph was originally given to Dan Dedrick by Billy. It was not known until now that the same Dan Dedrick had his photo taken with his pal.”
Billy the Kid -- also known as William H. Bonney, Henry Atrim and William Henry McCarty, Jr. -- was born in 1859 in New York. He was killed in 1981 in Fort Sumner, N.M., at the age of 21.
According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, Parrish was approached by the owner to authenticate the new photo. The image was allegedly once part of the estate of Pat Garrett, the sheriff who shot and killed the Kid.
“Identification of Dedrick is the ‘clincher’ in this image, elevating a near-certain image to a clearly and obvious picture of the Kid," he said. "It’s finally a good image of the Kid that reveals a young man as people who remembered him described him – not as the famous bucktoothed Billy we know so well,” Parrish said.
Parrish wouldn't go into specifics about how he determined it was Dedrick in the photo. “The full story of the research and evidence leading to the ultimate identification of Dedrick is a fascinating tale to be told at a later date,” he said.
Parrish acknowledges "there will be skeptics and doubters" about the veracity of his claim, but he insists that the new tintype contains the second confirmed image of Billy the Kid.