Billy The Kid Stories You've Never Heard Before

Young Old West outlaw Billy the Kid would be celebrating his 160th birthday today, November 23, if he hadn't been killed at age 21 (and, you know, if old age wasn't fatal). Billy the Kid was a thief, murderer, and overall criminal, but today, we'd say he was the unfortunate result of a terrible upbringing. Let's look at the incredible life and premature death of this desperate young man who earned a place in the wild lore of America West.

Rarely photographed Billy the Kid

Photography was in its infancy during Billy the Kids Day, so it's no surprise that he only photographed a few times. For a long time, historians knew about only one photo of the young robber. It is called the Daedric pherotype because it belonged to a friend of Dan Daedric named Billy, who passed it on through his family as a paternal heirloom. In the image, which was probably taken in late 1879 or early 1880, Billy is holding a Winchester rifle and wearing a cowboy hat, a bandana and a vest. Although the picture was reproduced several times, the original plate was auctioned in 2011 for $2.3 million.

A new picture surfaced

In 2010, a 4"-by-6" pherotype photograph found at an antiques store in Fresno, California became the discovery of a lifetime. The image shows a group of people who have been identified as members of a gang associated with Billy the Kid, a lot of whom look a lot like the child himself. (Hilariously, they're playing croquet.) Digital analysis and facial recognition software have produced mixed results, but whether or not it actually depicts the infamous outlaw, the croquet picture sparked renewed interest in Billy the Kid.

Billy the Kid's many names

When Billy the Kid was born in New York City on November 23, 1859, he was actually named Henry McCarty, the first of two sons born to Patrick and Katherine McCarthy. However, by the age of 14, both his parents had died, and he was a momentary orphan living on the other side of the country. Within a few years of that, he got himself into enough trouble with New Mexico area officials to require a surname, so he chose "William H. Bonnie". People naturally started calling him "Billy" and when he started hanging out around hardened criminals, they called the teenage hoodlum with babyface a "kid.

Horse theft and murder

After those first arrests, Billy the Kid fled to Arizona, where he took a job as a rancher and spent his evenings at the local saloon, drinking and taking away his paycheck. There, he joined a former U.S. Befriended a cavalry member, and the two started a lucrative horse-stealing business. Billy the Kid committed his first murder on August 17, 1877, when an argument with a local blacksmith named Windy Cahill turned physical. The two scuffle and Billy shoots Cahill to death.

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