August 2018 Readers’ Letters | HistoryNet MENU
Frank Abrams, the owner of this tintype, insists it captures Billy the Kid (second from left) and Pat Garrett (far right).

August 2018 Readers’ Letters

By HistoryNet Staff
5/24/2018 • Wild West Magazine

BILLY PULPIT
I am the owner of the tintype [above] that appears with the “Another Billy?” item on P. 11 of Roundup in the April issue. I am an attorney with 31 years’ worth of federal and state trial experience. One of my hobbies is collecting photographic equipment and photographs, which led me to purchase a group of five photos that included this one. Once I recognized Pat Garrett [at far right], I was drawn to the younger man [second from left] with a large Adam’s apple and sweater. I took this matter as seriously as any case I ever handled. After extensive research and consultations with experts (too many to be detailed here), I identify him as Billy the Kid.

Pat Garrett’s signature is on the tintype [on his lapel; not visible at this size]. Other writings on the tintype include “Billy” and “THE KID,” as well as “W B…y” on Billy, “D…Rudabaugh” above Dave Rudabaugh [at far left] and the date “8-02-80.” The other four tintypes are related. One of them has “ASH” written on the back, referring to Ash Upson, the Garrett friend who ghostwrote The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. A third tintype is of Upson’s niece Florence Muzzy.

There is no doubt in my mind or the minds of the experts and academics who have submitted reports in this matter, the tintypes are authentic, including the ones containing Billy/Garrett, Upson and Florence Muzzy. My email is abramstra@gmail.com.

Frank Abrams
Arden, N.C.

KID’S PLAY
[Re. “Much Misunderstood Miss Chisum,” by David S. Turk, February 2018:] Was glad to see that the flapdoodle about Billy the Kid being smoochy with Sallie Chisum was finally shown the door. Someday I may get around to doing the same for Billy/Paulita Maxwell. “Lookit,” I’d say, “no one has ever paused to consider the role of Mexican courtship customs in the matter. Billy would never have gotten within shouting distance of Paulita without a doña breathing down his neck and up his pant leg.” It’s simply preposterous to believe that our modern “free love,” ya-ha approach also prevailed in those days. Such customs were, and largely are, closely observed. It makes me giggle whenever someone suggests a child out of wedlock was likely or even possible.

Dave Snell
Tucson, Ariz.

BORDER WALL
I enjoyed Paul Andrew Hutton’s “Out on a Limb” in the February 2018 issue. The outcome at the Alamo would have been different had there been a strong, tall wall at the southern border, as President Trump has proposed. Santa Anna wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on. Remember the Alamo!

Paul Hoylen
Deming, N.M.

NEEDLE GUNS
I found the article by John Koster about Kill Eagle [“The Kill Eagle Myth,” June 2017] most fascinating. I did note one error on P. 57, regarding the question by Captain Robert Johnston as to whether the Indians fighting Custer had “needle guns.” Koster mistakenly notes these referred to Prussian Dreyse breechloading rifles. In point of fact, Trapdoor Springfield rifles and carbines were commonly referred to as needle guns, due to the long firing pin that angled from right to center of the breechblock. Johnston’s implication there were needle guns (i.e. Trapdoor Springfields) was that these had to have been acquired either from combat losses by soldiers (probably at the Rosebud) or at the reservations for hunting game. Whether Kill Eagle was telling the truth or not, his is one account of the Little Bighorn from the Indian side that should be at least evaluated from its source rather than interpretation.

James W. Barnard
Highlands Ranch, Colo.

John Koster responds: Elizabeth Custer wrote in Boots and Saddles she saw surplus Springfields being shipped upriver by white traders potentially for sale to hostile Indians. References to needle guns crop up in accounts of the Wagon Box Fight, and I believe the same narrator refers to the needle guns (Zündnadelgewehr) and the Springfield rifles and carbines as separate weapons. It’s entirely possible the Indians described any breechloader as a needle gun, as the Prussian Dreyse, which still used a paper cartridge with a percussion cap at the base of the bullet, was the first mass-produced breechloader.

FRAME WORTHY
Your April 2018 issue, with the bison on the cover and the article “Jumping Buffalo,” was excellent. I plan on framing this issue and placing it beside my Old West library. This will be the 10th one I have framed over the years.

Paul Gordon
St. Thomas, Ontario

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