The Billy the Kid Knife

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The knife that Billy the Kid was holding when he was shot by Pat Garrett in Pete Maxwell’s house on July 14, 1881. The knife, as it was not a weapon, was never taken by the authorities (though it was noted in numerous accounts). Retrieved by Paulita Maxwell, it descended through the Maxwell-Jamarillo family for over a century.

DESCRIPTION (as if it matters!): Standard Green River skinning or butcher knife with a well-worn, full-length blade, 5 1/2" exposed and 9 3/4" overall. The handle is 3-rivet style, with wood slabs or scales. The handle shows heavy wear and is 3/4" thick. No visible markings or hallmarks.

PROVENANCE: Paulita Maxwell Jaramillo to her daughter Adelina Jaramillo Welborn, to her daughter Ollie Swanson, to her daughter Susan Swanson Wortham, to Frederick Nolan to Robert McCubbin.

Included with the lot:

• Handwritten testimony signed by Deluvina Maxwell and Adelina J. Welborn, March 20, 1926.

• Transcribed (typed) account by Deluvina Maxwell to J. Evetts Haley, June 24, 1927.

• Affidavit of Ursula Pacheco Y. Baca, August 10, 1951.

• Affidavit of Carndido Gutierres, September 19, 1951.

• Book: “Genealogical and Historical Data of the Jaramillo Family: Almost Four Centuries in New Mexico 1598-1989” by Pauline Jaramillo.

• Original correspondence between Frederick Nolan and Pauline Jaramillo, and Nolan and Robert Swanson, beginning in 1990, detailing Nolan first locating and then negotiating for the purchase of the knife.

• FedEx label from Susan Wortham to Frederick Nolan for an “Antique Knife.”

• Affidavit of Robert S. Swanson, July 13, 1997 upon the sale of the knife to Frederick Nolan, with accompanying original, signed photographs identifying the knife.

• Bob McCubbin’s personal ephemera and memorabilia regarding the knife, including photographs from the day he took ownership of the artifact from Frederick Nolan in Tombstone, Arizona, September 25, 1999.

"At that moment a man sprang quickly into the door, looking back, and called twice in Spanish, “Who comes there?” No one replied and he came on in. He was bareheaded. From his step I could perceive he was either barefooted or in his stocking feet, and held a revolver in his right hand and a butcher knife in his left.”

-- From "An Authentic Life of Billy the Kid the Noted Desperado of the Southwest," by Pat F. Garrett, 1882.

“The night he was killed Billy came in hungry, went down with a butcher knife to get some meat at Pete Maxwell’s. He told the people he was going down to get the meat and took a knife and went down to Pete's room. After passing the men waiting outside, he went into Maxwell’s room where Garrett was and he shot him.”

-- From Deluvina Maxwell’s oral account, June 24, 1927.

“We there saw a man lying stretched out upon his back dead in the middle of the room, with a six-shooter lying at his right hand and a butcher knife at the left.”

-- From “The True Story of the Death of ‘Billy the Kid’ Notorious New Mexico Outlaw,” by John W. Poe, 1919.

Lot 640, Brian Lebel's Old West Auction - January 25-26, 2019. Mesa, AZ.
Estimate $800,000-1,200,000.