- A photo shows Jesse James with the man who would later kill him, a forensic artist says
- The tintype image is a family heirloom passed down for generations
"This photo was taken when the two men trusted each other and the younger Robert Ford wanted a picture of himself with the man who had become a legend in his own time," Lois Gibson said on her Facebook page.
The undated photo shows both men seated on chairs next to each other, with Ford on James' right.
Ford, a member of James' gang, shot the notorious outlaw in the back of the head in 1882 to collect the $10,000 bounty. He was shot to death himself in 1892, according to the Missouri State Historical Society.
Gibson, a forensic artist for the Houston Police Department, said she rigorously compared the photo to known pictures of the two men and concluded that it is genuine.
The tintype belongs to Sandra Mills, who lives north of Spokane, Washington. She says the photo was passed down to her from her grandmother in 2003 with instructions to sell it and buy some land. Family lore says her ancestors used to shelter James and his gang from time to time.
Mills told the Houston Chronicle that she has tried doing selling the photo over the years, but nobody would believe that the image was genuine.
"I'm just a farm girl, so nobody wanted to listen," the newspaper quoted her as saying. "We got no respect from anybody."
The photo could be extremely valuable, an official with a Boston auction house told the Chronicle.
"If it's authentic, it's a real wow," the newspaper quoted Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction, as saying. "It's compelling, but I would want to see much more analysis."