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Auction Date: December 5, 2015

Lot 1235: Historic Cased Tintype of a Young Man, Verifi

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Historic Cased Tintype of a Young Man, Verified by Advanced Facial Recognition Technology as Notorious Western Outlaw John Wesley Hardin, One of the Deadliest Gunfighters of his Age,
Estimated Price: $30,000 - $50,000
Item Views 336 Bid Activity Average
Serial #Historic Cased Tintype of a Young Man, Verifi ManufacturerNone ModelNone
TypeOther Gauge Catalog Page106
Barrel Finish Grip
Stock ClassOther RatingSee Condition
DescriptionMeasuring 3 1/8 inches wide and 3 5/8 inches tall, the case is of typical wood construction with a pressed leather veneer, an absent hinge, brass closure hook, and a scroll imprinted red felt pad inside the lid. The tintype itself is framed in a scroll decorated copper panel, with a seated young man dressed in coat and vest. The picture is black and white, with a pink blush added to the cheeks in the style of the time. In a video testimony supplied by the consignor (available on our website) this picture was examined by Bob Schmitt, former vice president of Biometrica Incorporated, and supplier of digital facial recognition and verification technology to casinos and law enforcement. Using the commercially available image comparison tool "Face Off", Mr. Schmitt compares this photo to a known image of John Wesley Hardin, and states that aside from a higher collar and a less dashing haircut, this tintype is unmistakably the same man. Born in Texas in 1853, Hardin was the son of a former Methodist circuit preacher turned school teacher. Getting an early start, he tried to run off and join the Confederates at the age of nine, and got into at least one near-fatal knife fight in his father's own classroom. At the age of 15, he scored his first recorded kill, shooting a man who reportedly tried to ambush him as payback for a lost wrestling match. Going into hiding, convinced he would not receive a fair trial, Hardin ambushed and killed a party of three soldiers which were sent to get him, firmly setting him on the path of the outlaw. As written in his autobiography, "Thus it was by the fall of 1868 I had killed four men and was myself wounded in the arm", putting him on a path of outlawry that would last until 1875. While many criminals of the West were robbers, thieves, or even occasionally lawmen, Hardin was almost entirely a pure gunfighter, save a brief window where he tried his hand at cattle rustling, shooting Mexicans and Indians on the pretext of protecting a cattle drive, and later participating in an old-fashioned Texas range war at the behest of his cousins. Famed in his own time as an expert pistolier, among his recorded tricks were hanging full-sized revolvers down the front or back of his shirt by a lanyard from his neck as a deadly surprise for any would-be captor who thought he was disarmed, and wearing a custom crossdraw vest that would let him produce a pair of handguns with lightning speed, whether sitting, standing, or atop a horse. During this time he was noted as being quick to a fight, shooting people over money, insults, card games, arguments, and one incident where he shot a man in the head through a wall because he was snoring too loud; unlike most of his kills, which he almost greedily claimed credit for, Hardin swore to the end that he was just trying to wake the guy up and the headshot was purely accidental. When he was finally brought to justice, he was convicted for one murder, credited in the papers with 27, and personally claimed 42 kills. Sentenced to 25 years, (and later having another 2 years tacked on for a previous manslaughter charge), Hardin was in 17 years before being released, and spent time studying the law and engaging in theological studies. Returning to Texas, he successfully passed the state bar exam, and settled down to the life of a lawyer and by "settled down" we mean he accidentally killed a guy during a bet, married a 15 year old girl, and pistol whipped El Paso lawman John Selman Jr. for arresting a working lady he was fond of. That last one led to his death in August of 1895; shooting dice in the Acme Saloon, he was shot in the back of the head by John Selman Sr., father of the threatened lawman and himself a retired outlaw, who then put three follow-up shots into the already dead gunfighter. Accounts vary, with some witnesses saying Selman shot in cold blood, others saying Hardin spotted him in a mirror and went for his own piece first, but the end result was Hardin's luck and skill finally fell short. Selman himself would be dead before the matter could be settled in court, having a fatal gunfight with a U.S. Marshall, again over a matter involving Selman Jr..

ConditionFine overall. The case shows wear and tear typical for a piece of its age, with some scuffing of the leather along the edges and fading of the lining, as well as the previously mentioned absent hinge. A few dings and creases are visible in the metal frame. The tintype itself shows minor silver flaking, the most prominent being a 1/8 inch section absent between the left side of Hardin's lip and his chin, as well as some light spots concentrated towards the edges; the lip area was reportedly touched-up for the verification video. In the interest of preserving the item, it has not been dismounted from the case and the back has not been inspected. A rare and incredible find, chances to own an original image of a major Frontier figure are few and far between, especially one as prominent as Hardin. Pass up on this lot and the chance may not come again any time soon. Don't miss your shot at this outlaw!
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