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Item 2032 - Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow Autograph Letter Signed Catalog 503 (Jun 2017)

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Description


Phenomenal letter written in the hand of Bonnie Parker and signed at the conclusion by Clyde Barrow, four pages on three lightly-lined sheets, 8 x 10, no date but circa late April 1934 [arrived at Dallas County Jail on April 30]. Letter to ex-Barrow Gang member Raymond Hamilton at the Dallas County Jail. In full: “I’m very sorry to hear of your getting captured, but due to the fact that you offered no resistance sympathy is lacking. The most I can do is hope you miss the ‘chair.’ The purpose of this letter is to remind you of all the ‘dirty deals’ you have pulled. When I came to the farm after you I thought maybe the ‘joint’ had changed you from a boastful punk. However I learned too soon the mistake I had made. The first thing that aroused my suspicion was your suggestion of shooting Joe Palmer in the back while he was asleep. You soon learned how I felt about such ‘cat ideas.’ Since then I’ve found your reasons for wanting to do this was because Joe was on the farm with you and knew what kind of a guy you were. The next impression was when we got the road ‘blocked’ on us in the Ozarks and you were too ‘yellow’ to fight. You cowered in the floorboard, afraid of being shot.

Now that you’re in the Dallas jail you have a tested pal, W. D. Jones, you might get a few pointers from him on how to impress the people you were an innocent, or possibly forced companion of the ruthless Barrow gang. You might be as lucky as he was in making them believe I kept you handcuffed or tied.

When you wanted to get your Prostitute Sweetheart I thought it OK. But when you were so persistent about her going to town alone that idea wasn’t so ‘hot.’ I thought then and truthfully believe now that should she have gotten off without Bonnie she would have ‘spotted’ us all. She hails from a ‘rat’ family and you couldn’t expect better from her.

You exposed your ‘hole card’ when you stole the money from us on the Lancaster ‘job.’ That’s what I have my rear vision mirror for to watch suspicious people. When I demanded a ‘shake down’ you offered such strange excuses for having the money on you. I should have killed you then I would have saved myself much bother and money looking for you. For after you writing that letter saying you didn’t stoop so low as to rob filling stations I have done nothing but look for you. Should I have found you, you wouldn’t have had a chance to give up. You couldn’t stand the rift of the outlaw life. For one reason you were too yellow and knew you could never surrender with me and another reason you wanted to play ‘Big Shot,’ sleep in hotels and ride passenger trains. You weren’t intelligent enough to know that you couldn’t live like a king and stay out. I don’t claim to be too smart. I know that some day they will get me but it won’t be without resistance. You only carried your guns around to ‘show off’ or else kidnap women and children. I guess you find where your boastful long tongue has gotten you. Maybe you can talk yourself out of the ‘chair.’ Or maybe you can write a few more letters (try one to the governor) at least it will gain you some publicity.

When you started the rumor about Bonnie wanting a ‘cut’ of the loot you sure messed your self up. I have always taken care of Bonnie and never asked any thief to help me.

I hope this will serve the purpose of letting you know that you can never expect the least of sympathy or assistance from me. So long.” Signed at the conclusion, “Clyde Barrow.” In fine condition, with intersecting folds, scattered creases, and pinholes to corners.

Brimming with remarkable content and cinematic gangster lingo, this is a one-of-a-kind letter from the famed outlaw couple written as they hurtled toward death—their spree came to a bullet-riddled end in a shootout with Frank Hamer’s posse less than a month later. Raymond Hamilton had joined the “ruthless Barrow gang” in the early 1930s and found himself incarcerated at the Eastham Prison Farm after taking the rap for a jewelry store murder. Clyde orchestrated a machine gun raid on the prison farm on January 16, 1934, killing a prison guard while freeing five convicts including Hamilton and Joe Palmer, as he mentions in this letter.

A month later, the gang was seen stealing a car in Springfield, Missouri, and chased through the Ozarks, where they encountered a police blockade at Reeds Spring. Emptying their weapons on law enforcement, the outlaws successfully fled. Although Hamilton was reportedly involved in the gunplay, Bonnie and Clyde cite his alleged cowardice during the incident as a strike against him.

On February 27, 1934, Barrow and Hamilton robbed the R. P. Henry & Sons Bank, in Lancaster, Texas, taking over $4,000. Between a disagreement over how the “loot” should be split and infighting about Hamilton’s companion Mary O’Dare—the so-called “Prostitute Sweetheart”—Hamilton angrily left the Barrow gang. It seems that Barrow’s suspicions about O’Dare as a “rat” were correct—she allegedly provided information to the authorities that aided in Hamilton’s capture.

Hamilton’s split from the Barrows became known after he sent a letter to his lawyer on April 7, 1934, insisting that he could not have taken part in ‘the killing in Commerce, Okla.,’ as he had not been with the Barrows since the Lancaster robbery; he also provided a hotel bill from Louisiana supporting his alibi. The Commerce killing was one in a series of brutal murders that swayed popular support away from Bonnie and Clyde as they became seen as bloodthirsty outlaws rather than folk heroes. The tide of opinion began to turn with the Eastham Prison Farm raid, but it was the Grapevine murders—which left two policemen dead—on April 1st that solidified their reputation. Bonnie and Clyde followed this up by killing a constable in Commerce, Oklahoma, five days later, galvanizing law enforcement against them and ultimately setting into motion the events that led to their demise.

The law caught up to Hamilton first, arresting him on April 25, 1934, after he robbed a bank in Lewisville, Texas; a car chase ensued, but Hamilton surrendered without a fight once the deputies caught up to him. Contrary to Bonnie and Clyde’s suggestions in this letter, Hamilton was unable to avoid the “chair”—he was executed on May 10, 1935, eleven days before his 22nd birthday. Meanwhile, Bonnie and Clyde already knew their fate—“I know that some day they will get me but it won’t be without resistance”—and Frank Hamer’s posse had been in pursuit since February. The posse predicted their route and set an ambush on May 23, 1934, and successfully struck down the outlaw couple in a hail of bullets. Surprised by the attack, Bonnie and Clyde offered no resistance.

Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.


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