Thermopolis “Rediscovers” Rare Photo of the Sundance Kid
Written by Andrew-Rossi on August 16, 2021
A unique piece of Bighorn Basin history is on display in Thermopolis after the rediscovery of an iconic image of a legendary Wyoming outlaw.
On Saturday, Aug. 14, the Hot Springs County Museum and Cultural Center in Thermopolis held a special event where the centerpiece was a single photograph. New research led to the rediscovery of this photo as a rare and important piece of Western history.
Mark Mszanski, a writer for the True West magazine, was going through the digital database of the Hot Springs Historical Museum when he came across a famous and familiar photo. It’s a portrait of Harry Longabaugh – the Sundance Kid – and his wife, Etta Place.
The portrait of the outlaw couple was taken in New York City in 1901. Shortly after, Sundance and Etta left for South America with the legendary Butch Cassidy.
This particular photo is well known to Western history buffs, but something about the Hot Springs County Museum image stood out to Msaznski. His clue was the unique photo frame holding the photograph.
After extensive research, Mszanski confirmed his suspicions. The image isn’t a copy of the original Sundance Kid photo – it is the original photo.
Sundance purchased several copies of the photograph once it was taken. Those originals were sent to a few close family and friends as a goodbye before boarding a ship headed for Argentina. Ultimately, this photograph ended up in a photo album owned by a woman named Minnie Brown.
The Hot Springs County Museum is confirmed to hold only four original images of this iconic couple known to exist.
On Saturday, Mszanski gave a free presentation on the photograph and its history at the Hot Springs County Museum. The rare photo was removed from the museum’s vault and put on display for the occasion.
Ironically, the discovery of this rare photograph raises more questions than answers. Nobody knows why Sundance sent the image to Wyoming nor who he was trying to reach. Even the background of the photo’s last owner – Minnie Brown – is a mystery.
Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch used the Bighorn Basin as a base of operations during their years of outlaw mischief. The Hole-in-the-Wall Ranch provided seclusion for the notorious group. A cabin where Butch rendezvoused with his gang members is preserved at the Old Trail Town in Cody.
Thermopolis and the Hot Springs County Museum are already known as the home of another piece of Wild Bunch memorabilia – the original Hole-in-the-Wall bar.
The large wooden bar is one Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch frequented during their Wyoming exploits. Occasionally, the museum allows visitors to sit at the bar and purchase drinks.
Call 307-864-2974 or visit thermopolismuseum.org with any questions about the Hot Springs County Museum and its unique piece of Western history.