​Billy The Kid Flea Market: Lawyer Purchases Image That May Hold New Secret About Outlaw

Billy The Kid Flea Market
Author: Rob AdamsBy:
Staff Reporter
Jan. 13, 2016

A Billy the Kid flea market revealed an authentic photo that was purchased for only $10. The Billy the Kid item may turn out to be an even stranger tale after lawyer Frank Abrahams believes that the outlaw may have been photographed with Pat Garrett, according to KRQE News 13.

“This could be one of the most famous photos in American history. It could belong in the Metropolitan Museum” of Art in New York, he said. Abrams keeps his photo of five cowboys in a safe-deposit box in a bank vault and always dons white gloves to handle the palm-sized picture. If Abrams’ hunch about his $10 tintype proves right, he may be holding a piece of the past worth millions of dollars.

Billy the Kid flea market photos purchased by Frank Abrahams

Billy the Kid flea market photos purchased by Frank Abrahams

Abrams has long haunted flea markets, eager to buy old equipment and photos. Four years ago at Smiley’s Flea Market, he bought five tintypes, including a group of cowboys and a man on horseback.

All the seller knew at the Billy The Kid flea market was that the photos may have come from the Root family of Connecticut, which has roots in the United States before it was a country. Abrams kept the cowboy photo at his office, always wondering who were those tinhorns in the tintype. “Maybe it’s Jesse James,” he joked with his wife.

One of the five men in hats with cigars and whiskey bottles was brandishing a Colt pistol. A pastel crayon gave color to their cheeks, and then the print was varnished, preserving the brightness of the men’s faces for more than a century.

Only two photographs to date have been authenticated of the man born Henry McCarty, alias William H. Bonney, best known as Billy the Kid.

In October, National Geographic Channel aired a documentary about the strange history of a photo that showed Billy the Kid and friends playing croquet beside a cabin in New Mexico. The photo had been uncovered in a Fresno, Calif., storage locker and later bought at a flea market for $2. Investigated by a team of forensic experts, the croquet photo was insured by Kagan’s Auction House for $5 million.

When Abrams heard about the new Billy the Kid photo and its price tag, he took a harder look at the old photo he had picked up at Smiley’s in 2012. He zeroed in on one of the cowboys in the back, a squinty-eyed guy with a pronounced Adam’s apple. At first, he thought he saw jug ears, one of Bonney’s distinguishing features, but that turned out to be the man’s hand holding a whiskey bottle to the side of his face. Could it be Billy the Kid? Abrams believed it was possible.

Experts are doing facial recognition studies, matching faces from known photographs with the men in Abrams’ tintypes. No one has definitely said that it’s Billy the Kid. No one has said it’s not.
When he showed the photo to Tim Sweet, proprietor of the family-owned Billy the Kid Museum in Lincoln, N.M, Sweet recognized at least one man.

“That’s definitely Pat Garrett on the end,” Sweet said. “I’m not sure who the others are.” Garrett became sheriff of Lincoln County, N.M., in late 1880. He found the outlaw July 14, 1881, and killed him, later writing a book about Billy the Kid.

A criminal lawyer by profession, Abrams is trying to build the case that Garrett and Billy the Kid could have been together on Jan. 14, 1880, at a double wedding in a town called Anton Chico, about 85 miles east of Santa Fe, N.M. Garrett and another rustler, Barney Mason, were the grooms that day, and Billy the Kid was known to have attended the festivities.

Garrett and Billy the Kid had not always been on opposite sides of the law but had ridden together as cattle rustlers. A year later, they became sworn enemies. The man twirling the Colt revolver on the end of the photo could be the notorious Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, who rode with the Kid. Both were captured in a Dec. 23, 1880, shootout at their hideout at Stinking Springs, N.M.

Pat Garrett

Rudabaugh escaped from jail but met his end in Mexico, where he shot two men in a cantina but was then shot and decapitated with a machete. A series of grisly photos show his demise.
Abrams believes the fifth man may be Joshua John Webb, another outlaw and known colleague of Rudabaugh. Abrams believes that Garrett wouldn’t have wanted the group photo to get around.

“Maybe he didn’t want to be known as the guy who would shoot someone in his wedding photo,” Abrams said. In his quest to uncover the identity of the cowboys, Abrams also has been tracking a long, cold trail how a picture taken in 1880 in New Mexico may have wound up in a wealthy family’s photo collection and made its way to a booth at Smiley’s Flea Market. He’s crisscrossed the country from New Mexico to New York and plans a trip to Bristol, Conn.

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