A photograph of Billy the Kid sold for $2.3 million in Denver this weekend, smashing the pre-auction expected price of $400,000.
It is one of the most expensive pieces ever sold from the old West. Billy the Kid’s (real name William McCarty) mother, Catherine McCarty, came from Ireland, as did his father .
The tintype was taken in either 1879 or 1880 in New Mexico. It shows Billy posing with a shotgun, and is is the only authenticated picture of him.
When Pat Garrett, the gradson of Irish immigrints, finally tracked down and killed Billy the Kid in 1881, a subtext of the killing was the Irish identity of the two famous protagonists.
As Wikipedia notes, little is known about McCarty's origins, but many reputable scholars of western history "contend that he was born on the eve of the Civil War in the bowels of an Irish neighborhood in New York City at 70 Allen Street."
While his biological father remains an obscure figure, some researchers have theorized that his name was Patrick McCarty, Michael McCarty, William McCarty, or Edward McCarty.
There is clear evidence that his mother's name was Catherine McCarty, although "there have been continuing debates about whether McCarty was her maiden or married name."
The most reputable accounts say that McCarty was born as William Henry McCarty, Jr., but his mother preferred to call him "Henry" because she did not wish him to be known as "junior."
It is generally believed that McCarty's mother was a survivor of the Great Irish Famine of the mid-19th century.
By 1870, Catherine McCarty had moved with her two young sons, Henry and Joseph, to Indianapolis, Indiana.
There, she met William Antrim, who was 12 years her junior. In 1873, after several years of moving around the country, the two were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and settled further south in Silver City.
Antrim found sporadic work as a bartender and carpenter but soon became more interested in prospecting and gambling for fortune than in his wife and stepsons. Nevertheless, young McCarty often used the surname "Antrim" when referring to himself.
McCarty's mother reportedly washed clothes, baked pies, and took in boarders in order to provide for her sons. Although she was fondly remembered by onetime boarders and neighbors as "a jolly Irish lady, full of life and mischief," she was already in the final stages of tuberculosis when the family reached Silver City.
The following year, on September 16, 1874, Catherine McCarty died; she was buried in the Memory Lane Cemetery in Silver City.
She never lived to see her son, who become the best known outlaw in the West and consequently a legendary figure in American history.
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