DescriptionJohn Wesley Hardin: A Large Tintype Photo. Since the publication of the printed auction catalog, this full plate tintype has been conclusively identified as a young John Wesley Hardin. The identification has been confirmed by two leading Hardin experts, Bill O'Neal and Chuck Parsons, both of whom have written formal letters of authentication which will be posted along with this description, and which will be provided to the winning bidder.
Bill O'Neal is perhaps best known as the author of the Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters, which has been in print since 1991 and is considered one of the major reference works on the subject. Bill is the Texas State Historian, and in 2007 was named the "Best Living Non-Fiction (Western) Author" by True West Magazine. He has published some 300 articles and books on Western subjects, and has taken a particular interest in John Wesley Hardin.
Chuck Parsons has been a Texas history specialist for many years, having written numerous articles for True West and other publications. He is Book Review Editor for the Journal of South Texas (Texas A & M University - Kingsville), and most recently authored a definitive biography of Hardin, A Lawless Breed: John Wesley Hardin, Texas Reconstruction, and Violence in the Old West.
This Hardin image has a vintage pencil inscription on the back of the mount from "Aunt Bess" (presumably Hardin's sister Elizabeth), identifying the subject as "Your Uncle John Wesley, he was 17 yrs of age" We have been advised by a collector who knew Wilbur Zink and his collection well that Zink recognized this image as being John Wesley Hardin, but he left no documents to that effect, leading us to erroneously assume this individual to be a James or Younger relation. However, we are pleased to be able to correctly identify the photo prior to the auction, and to give Western collectors an opportunity to own this highly important image. It is one of well under ten known confirmed Hardin photographs, and possibly the earliest known image of this notorious gunfighter.
The tintype itself measures a large 6.5" x 8.5", the oval sight size is 4.5" x 6.5" in its original 7.75" x 10" mat. The tintype is in virtually mint condition, save for a couple very trivial soft bends which are noted for accuracy. The matboard has damage as shown.
Please note: Since amending our description of this lot to identify the subject as John Wesley Hardin, we have become aware that there are those who disagree. It is never easy to confirm the identification in cases like this, where only a handful of images are known, and when those come from different periods in the subject's life. In the absence of solid provenance, the attribution almost always comes down to a matter of opinion.
While we feel that the combination of the vintage wording on the verso, Wilbur Zink's attribution, and the opinions of the expert authorities we have consulted are sufficient to identify the subject of this photo as John Wesley Hardin, we must acknowledge the existence of differing opinions. While Heritage cannot unequivocally warranty this photograph as being a portrait of a youthful Hardin, we do feel that the preponderance of evidence and expert input supports that attribution.
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