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Lot 72

Clyde Barrow Signed & Annotated Original Photograph of the Outlaws, Possibly Blood-Stained & Recovered from the Trunk of the "Death Car" -- Exceedingly Rare! Ex. Charles Hamilton

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Clyde Barrow Signed & Annotated Original Photograph of the Outlaws, Possibly Blood-Stained & Recovered from the Trunk of the "Death Car" -- Exceedingly Rare! Ex. Charles Hamilton


Clyde Barrow Signed & Annotated Original Photograph of the Outlaws, Possibly Blood-Stained & Recovered from the Trunk of the "Death Car" -- Exceedingly Rare! Ex. Charles Hamilton

An original black and white photograph of Bonnie Parker (1910-1934) and Clyde Barrow (1909-1934), the notorious Depression-era bank robbers, signed by Barrow and annotated in eight words in his hand verso. The photo was almost certainly retrieved from the trunk of the "Death Car" following the May 23, 1934 police ambush of the bandits, according to autograph collector Charles Hamilton. Accompanied by extensive provenance information relating to past autograph collectors and auction records.

The photograph depicts Bonnie and Clyde embracing in a field; Clyde, in a vest and shirt-sleeves, appears to be either kissing Bonnie or playfully whispering in her ear. Both faces are obscured by Clyde's straw boater hat which Bonnie holds demurely in front of them. Clyde signed, annotated, and dated the photo verso as: “May 1932 / Making love / in texas sun / shine. / clyde.” The upper left and lower right corners of the photo have perhaps been purposefully trimmed at a slight diagonal angle. The trimming does not touch Barrow's handwriting verso, and it is absolutely possible to restore the photo to a pristine appearance. The reddish stain found in the blank area at the top of the photo has not been scientifically tested, but it could very well be a partial bloody print of one of the outlaws. Viewing the stain through a VSC-4CX Video Spectral Comparator supports the hypothesis that the substance is organic. Slight feathering to the "de" of Barrow's signature mentioned just for accuracy. Else near fine. The photo measures 2.75" x 4" including a narrow white border.

May 1932--when this photo was taken--marked the start of Bonnie and Clyde's violent criminal career. That spring, Bonnie had just been released from prison for her part in a failed hardware store robbery. On May 5, 1932, Clyde robbed and kidnapped the owners of two service stations in Lufkin, Texas. On May 12, 1932, Clyde robbed a Dallas, Texas liquor store and absconded $76. Their reign of terror ended two years later, on May 23, 1934, when the pair was gunned down by a posse in rural Louisiana.

In the ambush, Barrow's car, a Ford V-8 coupe, was riddled with approximately 130 rounds. Any one of the many wounds suffered by Bonnie and Clyde would have been fatal. Officially, the parish coroner's report listed 17 separate entrance wounds on Barrow's body and 26 on Parker's, any one of which would have bled copiously. (The local undertaker struggled to embalm the bodies because of all the bullet holes.) After the massacre, the bullet-ravaged and bloody car was searched. The posse discovered a cache of weapons, ammunition rounds, 15 different state license plates, and personal photos like this one.

Did the red smudge on our photograph come from this carnage, or from another all-too-frequent violent episode? Lawbreaking was a dangerous and bloody business; even before they were killed, Bonnie and Clyde could be recognized by bullet and burn wound scars sustained during the pair’s slew of assaults, kidnappings, robberies, prison breaks, and murders during the last two years.


The item comes with photocopies of catalogue descriptions and images from Charles Hamilton Autographs, Christie's East, and a book exploring the autograph collection of M. Wesley Marans.

1. Only one other signed photo depicting Bonnie and Clyde has sold in over 45 years. Our photo was one of several sold by Charles Hamilton Autographs (New York, New York) in their September 4, 1975 sale, listed as one of three items in Lot 102. The original auction catalog has numerous handwritten notations and could have once belonged to autograph dealer Herman Darvick. No other signed photographs of Bonnie and Clyde are known to exist other than the ones featured in the Charles Hamilton sale.

In Hamilton’s catalogue, the pioneering autograph collector states that the photos “comprise the only known autographs of Clyde Barrow, bank robber, and intimate original photos of the romantic gun-slinging duo, Bonnie and Clyde. The photos are probably unpublished, and excessively rare.”

2. The one other signed Bonnie and Clyde photograph offered at public auction since 1975 took place at Christie’s East (New York, New York) on April 17, 1996 during the “The M. Wesley Marans Collection of Signed Photographs” sale. At that sale, a similar photograph to ours, listed as Lot 7, sold for $21,850. Although our photo is trimmed, its inscription and subject matter are far superior to those of the Christie's East example.

3. This signed Clyde photo similar to ours was from the collection of M. Wesley Marans (see photocopies of his book "Sincerely Yours: The Famous & Infamous As They Wanted to Be Seen, in Autographed Photographs from the Collection of M. Wesley Marans." Marans is quoted in the Christie’s catalogue as saying: “This photo of the bank robbers (with Bonnie’s brother Jim in the white shirt) was found in the trunk of their car after they were slain in a police ambush.” This undoubtedly applies to all the signed Clyde photographs, including ours here offered. This information almost assuredly came from Charles Hamilton, who originally sold the photos.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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