Does the Sundance Kid need an introduction? The adventurer and bank robber, usually mentioned with his partner Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch Gang, is familiar to anyone who ever heard of the term the Wild West.
Sundance Kid, who was born Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, was known to be a resourceful bandit and a person with a light trigger finger. But was it really so? To this day, no evidence has been found that Longabaugh ever killed anyone. He robbed banks, for sure. And acted violently―most probably. But no one died at his hand; at least no record exists that can claim otherwise.
So let’s start from the beginning. Harry Alonzo Longabaugh was born in Mont Clare, Pennsylvania, in 1867. His parents were of English descent, with German and Welsh ancestry. He began his outlaw career at the age of 20 when he stole a gun and a horse but ended up in jail for 18 months.
It was during his prison sentence that he adopted the nickname “the Sundance Kid.” After serving his time, the Sundance Kid went to work in a large ranch in Canada, but a few years down the road, he decided to return to a life of crime.
In 1892, the Sundance Kid was a prime suspect in a train robbery, and in 1897, he and five more men broke into a bank. He became associated with Robert LeRoy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy, and his gang, dubbed the Wild Bunch. Together they would pass into legend as the last outlaws of the Wild West.
Constantly playing “cat and mouse” with agents from the infamous Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the Wild Bunch lived up to its name, as several people were killed during their actions. This is noted due to the image created mostly by Hollywood pictures, in which the gang usually performed non-violent robberies, relying on sheer intimidation, or negotiating with clerks and hostages.
The gang operated mostly in Wyoming, using a cleverly picked hiding place known as the Hole-in-the-Wall. During one of the raids on their hideout, Longabaugh did participate in a shoot-out, when he allegedly wounded two Pinkerton detectives.
This is the only known case in which the Sundance Kid actually shot someone―luckily for the agents, with less success than perhaps intended.
The confusion surrounding his reputation runs deeper, as the Sundance Kid was known as one of the fastest guns in the West during his life. An explanation of this misconception most probably lies in a mistaken identity. There were, in fact, two members of the Wild Bunch dubbed “the Kid.” The first one was, of course, Sundance. But the second one, Kid Curry, remains nothing but a footnote in the history of those turbulent times.
Kid Curry, which was an alias for a man called Harvey Logan, was the one prone to excessive violence and murder. During the robberies conducted by the Wild Bunch, Logan was responsible for killing at least five officers.
Since the gang was no stranger to murder, how did the Sundance Kid manage to keep his hands clean?
Well, that remains a question to be answered, but even though he didn’t kill anyone in the United States, he most probably did during the final shootout which claimed his life, together with the life of his partner in crime, Butch Cassidy, in Bolivia in 1908.
As early as 1901, the Wild Bunch decided to disband to avoid capture and death. The country was swarming with “Dead or Alive” posters with their faces on them. Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Etta Price, Kid’s lady companion, decided to flee to Argentina, with the Pinkertons still on their tail.
During their time in South America, the bandits conducted more robberies and raids, living off what they knew best. That was until a Pinkerton posse tracked them down. The two allegedly lost their lives while in a desperate shootout that took place in 1908, in a small village called San Vicente, in southern Bolivia.
Outnumbered and outgunned, their story became legendary, and from that point on was used in numerous fictional portrayals in literature, film, and television.