Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Not on view
The Wild Bunch was the largest and most notorious band of outlaws in the American West. Led by two gunmen better known by their aliases, Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker) and Kid Curry (Harvey Logan), the Wild Bunch was an informal trust of thieves and rustlers that preyed upon stagecoaches, small banks, and especially railroads from the late 1880s to the first decade of the twentieth century. This crudely constructed tintype portrait of five members of the gang dressed in bowler hats and city clothes shows, clockwise, from the top left, Kid Curry, Bill McCarty, Bill (Tod) Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, and Tom O'Day. Without their six shooters and cowboy hats the outlaws appear quite civilized and could easily be mistaken for the sheriffs and Pinkerton agents who pursued them in a "Wild West" already much tamed by the probable date of this photograph. Gone was the open range--instead, homesteads and farms dotted the landscape and barbed-wire fences frustrated the cattleman's drive to market. Gone too was the anonymity associated with distance, as the camera and the telegraph conspired to identify criminals. Bank and train robbery were still lucrative, but the outlaw's chances for escape gradually shifted in favor of the sheriff's chances for arrest and conviction. By 1903 the Wild Bunch had disbanded. A few members of the gang followed Butch Cassidy to South America, while the majority remained in the West, trying to avoid capture. McCarty was shot dead in 1893, in a street in Delta, Colorado, after a bank robbery; Carver died in prison; Kilpatrick was killed during a train robbery in 1912; Tom O'Day was captured by a Casper, Wyoming, sheriff in 1903; and Kid Curry died either by his own hand in Parachute, Colorado, in 1904, or, as legend has it, lived until he was killed by a wild mule in South America in 1909. The photograph comes from the collection of Camillus S. Fly, a pioneer photographer in Tombstone, Arizona, in the 1880s and sheriff of Cochise County in the 1890s.
Camillus Fly; Mrs. Mary Harpening (granddaughter of C. S. Fly); [Kennedy Galleries, New York]; [Paul Katz]; Gilman Paper Company, New York, , January 1, 1983
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Photography from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," February 26, 1999–May 23, 1999.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West," March 29, 2009–June 8, 2009.
Apraxine, Pierre. Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. Reeds Springs, Mo.: White Oak Press, 1985. pl. 121.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 100, p. 116.
Respini, Eva. Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West. New York: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2009. p. 14, pl. 100.
Recent scholarship questions whether the subject persons in this photograph are in fact members of the Wild Bunch. Further research is required.
Previous sitter identifications: Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry; Bill McCarty (+1893); Bill "Tod" Carver; Ben Kilpatrick; Tom O'Day