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Billy the Kid (15 September 1859–14 July 1881), western outlaw and legendary figure in international folklore, was born Henry McCarty, probably in Brooklyn, New York, probably on the date given, and probably of Irish immigrants; all aspects of his origins, however, remain controversial. In 1873 his mother, Catherine, was remarried, to William Henry Antrim, whereupon the boy took his stepfather’s name and became Henry Antrim. Later, for reasons that are obscure, he adopted the sobriquet William H. Bonney. In adolescence he was called simply Kid, but not until the final few months of his life was he known as Billy the Kid....

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Murieta, Joaquín (1829?–1853), folk hero in Hispanic and California popular culture, was born most probably in Sonora, Mexico. The story of Murieta has been told in many versions, all based on John Rollin Ridge’s 1854 account, The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta...

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Railroad Bill (?–07 March 1896), thief and folk hero, was the nickname of an African-American man of such obscure origins that his real name is in question. Most writers have believed him to be Morris Slater, but a rival candidate for the honor is an equally obscure man named Bill McCoy. But in song and story, where he has long had a place, the question is of small interest and Railroad Bill is name enough. A ballad regaling his exploits began circulating among field hands, turpentine camp workers, prisoners, and other groups from the black underclass of the Deep South, several years before it first found its way into print in 1911. A version of this blues ballad was first recorded in 1924 by ...