Why do some people think that Billy the Kid was left-handed?

Billy the Kid, born Henry McCarty; also known as William H. Bonney (1859 – July 14, 1881) was an American Old West gunfighter who participated in New Mexico’s Lincoln County War. He is known to have killed 8 men.

As usual, the spread of left-handed misinformation shows its ugly head again, says Left-handersInternational.com’s Publisher James S. Borthwick.

The image on the left (below) is the unretouched original tintype of Billy the Kid, c. 1880. A tintype, also known as a melainotype or ferrotype, is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet.

One of the few remaining artifacts of Billy’s life is an iconic 2-by-3-inch (5.1 cm × 7.6 cm) ferrotype taken of Billy by an unknown portrait photographer.

The photo shows Billy wearing a vest over a sweater, a slouch cowboy hat and a bandanna around his neck while holding an 1873 Winchester rifle with the weapon’s butt resting on the floor.

For many years, this photo of Billy was the only one scholars and historians agreed was authentic. The ferrotype survived due to a friend of Bonney, Dan Dedrick, keeping the image after the outlaw’s death.

The image was copied several times and appeared in numerous publications during the 20th century. In June 2011, the original was bought at auction for $2.3 million by Billionaire Businessman William Koch.

The image, which had been copied and published in various ways over the years, showed Billy with his holstered Colt revolver on his left side. This fueled the (mistakenly) commonly-held belief that the gunman was left-handed.

*Misinformation Alert*

This belief, however, did not take into account that the method used to make the original ferrotype was to use metal plates that produced reverse (mirror) images.

As a result, the photo showed Bonney’s pistol on his left side, misleading historians to believe he shot with his left hand.

In 1954, Western historians James D. Horan and Paul Sann wrote that Bonney was “right-handed and carried his pistol on his right hip”. The opinion was confirmed by Clyde Jeavons, a former curator of the National Film and Television Archive.

The true image of Billy the Kid is on the right. He’s clearly a right-hander!

Mystery solved.

If the media would just do a little more research they would find the truth instead of perpetuating “Left-handed Misinformation” simply because they didn’t ask an expert, says Mr. Borthwick.