The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Editor's Notebook


October 19, 2015

Not a cowboy hat

The top hat is a dead giveaway — that’s definitely Billy the Kid playing croquet in that photo that was the subject of a National Geographic Channel documentary on Sunday.


Probably not, according to Kid historian Marcelle Brothers who has operated the website for 15 years.

The Kid is also wearing a top hat in the only undisputed photo known to exist that depicts the outlaw. That undisputed picture was taken in late 1879 or early 1880, probably outside Beaver Smith’s saloon at Fort Sumner, Brothers said in a telephone interview on Monday from her home near Los Angeles.

But that Fort Sumner photo is not proof that the Kid was frequently seen in top hats.

Brothers said in a Facebook post on Monday that the Kid was known for wearing a sugar-loaf sombrero. The top hat he’s wearing in the Fort Sumner picture, she believes, “was a prop from the photographer.”

A top hat like the one pictured in both photos was not practical for protection from the sun and it would blow off easily while riding a horse, she said.

Brothers has been one of the most outspoken critics of the National Geographic Channel documentary, questioning multiple points that supposedly authenticate the croquet photo as being the Kid.

“If it wasn’t for that man in the photo wearing a sweater and high-top hat we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” she wrote on Facebook.

— Notebook was compiled by Editor David Stevens. Contact him at: [email protected] or find him on Facebook.


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