A gun that killed one of the Wild West’s most famous wanted men 140 years ago is expected to be donated for millions of dollars next month.
Before his assassination, a judge reportedly sentenced notorious outlaw Billy the Kid to be hanged until “you’re dead, dead, dead”. Rumored to have Billy replied, “And you can go to hell, hell, hell.”
Legends like these – some facts and other fictions – relating to Kid’s life have persisted for more than 100 years after his death. And they’ve kept history buffs enthralled with the story of Billy the Kid. They have also sparked interest in pieces of Old West history, for which collectors are willing to pay a heavy price. In 2008, for example, Bonham sold Billy’s gun for $ 64,350.
Billy the Kid, a hitman often said to have killed eight men, had been on the run for three months when Sheriff Pat Garrett hid in a dark room and shot him in the chest on July 14, 1881, at Fort Sumner, NM, according to Garrett’s account. The single-action revolver used by Garrett will be offered at auction house Bonhams, which estimates it could range from $ 2 million to $ 3 million. Garrett had taken the gun from fellow Kid’s gang member Billy Wilson after arresting him.
“It was in the hands of the lawyer and the outlaw on several occasions,” Bonhams senior specialist Catherine Williamson told NPR.
As one of the most notorious figures of the time, the life of the legend has often been dramatized in American popular culture. Williamson called its story “one of the greatest good versus evil stories of the Old West.” The 21-year-old when he died, Henry McCarty, who became Billy the Kid, has been portrayed as both a villain and a hero in countless songs, movies and books.
The Authentic life and death of Billy the Kid, a biography and partly first-hand account written by Garrett, has been criticized for embellishing the truth but is generally accepted as factual.
“[Billy is] kind of a charismatic, funny character that you like to see – a trickster who fights against the law, ”Williamson explained. “This kind of character is really compelling to people. “
Most told was his unexpected bond with Garrett – they were ranchers who shared a friendship before the months-long pursuit, according to Williamson. Even now, the details surrounding Billy’s death remain elusive. Some speculate that Garrett never actually killed Billy, but allowed him to escape. Decades later, some thought at least two men were Billy.
On August 27, Bonhams will auction the gun in Los Angeles, which is part of Texan couple Jim and Theresa Earle’s Western gun collection that has been accumulated for over 50 years.
Williamson predicts the gun will sell to an avid collector for even more than $ 3 million.
Dalia Faheid is an intern at the NPR News Desk.