Saturday, May 22, 2010

Anniversary Spurs Media Interest in Bonnie & Clyde

It always seems to happen this time of year. The May 23rd anniversary of the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde, focuses media attention upon events steeped in 76 years-- of unabated awe. As such I post here, a couple of images which surfaced as a result of this years anniversary. Both came from the Dallas Municipal Archives, and both were carried worldwide by ABC News. "Thank you" ABC. One is said to be a formerly unpublished photo of the Grapevine shooting scene, and the other-- correspondence reportedly sent by Clyde to Dallas DA Winter King (with fingerprint)-- concerning his feud with Raymond Hamilton.

As with some Grapevine photos, the 2 white highlights within this image-- seem to denote the locations of the fallen officers. Also of interest, the location of the car in this photo-- seems close to the reported location of the Barrow Gang car. Regarding the telegram form, interestingly-- the numerous typing errors which are evident, may point to Clyde himself having typed this message. Unlike Bonnie's typed poems which seem well formed-- this correspondence perhaps may have been an adventure for it's creator.

It is known via Marie Barrow, that B&C carried a typewriter with them. As these rare images don't surface every day-- enjoy!!


BarefootOkieGal said...

This is an example of how little details can humanize people that one has never actually met - I just love the fact that Clyde played his saxophone and carried it with him (my husband plays the saxophone, too) and the fact that they carried a typewriter around in the car with them! I wonder if typing was part of the curriculum back then - did Bonnie learn to type in school? Bonnie seems to have gotten a better education than Clyde did, overall, although that may have been because school interested her a lot more than it did Clyde; her spelling and grammar may have been better than his, in addition to her typing skills! Clyde did have a temper, and apparently on this one occasion at least he started pounding away on a typewriter instead of banging away with a gun... I wonder why he signed this letter with an X and his fingerprint, rather than adding his signature?

Shelley said...

Two most rare and intriguing images here!

I know I've seen the Grapevine photo before - probably while perusing the Dallas Public Library archives myself some time ago, or perhaps in one of those old "true crime" or "detective" magazines - maybe both. I wonder if this picture was taken immediately following the killings? If you blow it up and look closely, you can see there's a second car in the picture, and there are women and children standing in front of it. Looks like this photo spent years all crumpled up. Would be great if it were restored - and published!

I'm well familiar with the Winter King letter, as it is included in some of my books. It's great to see it in it's original form; seldom, if ever, do we see the "Western Union" letterhead.

This letter, however, has some serious "issues".

Whenever I need to refresh my memory on something specific, I usually refer back first to "Running with B&C". NO ONE knows Clyde & Bonnie like John Neal Phillips does.

He states, "One of the most famous of the alleged Barrow communiques is a note typed on a discarded leaf of Western Union stationery. The text of the note, addressed to Dallas Assistant District Attorney Winter King, appeared in most Texas newspapers. Despite the presence of a thumbprint, supposedly identified as Clyde Barrow's, the letter is generally considered a fake."

Eight years later, Jim Knight & Jonathan Davis published in their book a letter authentically written by Clyde to Raymond Hamilton while he was being held in the Dallas County Jail. They write:

"There exists another letter that claims to be from Clyde Barrow. It was badly typed on a Western Union form, addressed to Dallas Assistant District Attorney Winter King, and included a fingerprint supposed to be Clyde's. The family never believed that it was authentic. Besides the poor typing, the grammar and spelling were awful--nothing like the relatively well-written letter that is certainly Bonnie and Clyde's work. It also tries to implicate Raymond Hamilton and Mary O'Dare in the Grapevine killings. It may have been written as a hoax, or by someone who wanted to cause Raymond some extra trouble--as if he needed any more--but it almost certainly wasn't Clyde."

So there you have it, from three of the most highly esteemed experts in this realm.

But I must say, even if he didn't write it, the Winter King letter certainly does SOUND like Clyde! It expresses the same sardonic sense of humor that the "authentic" letter does, but as pointed out, contains numerous spelling and grammatical errors. In the Winter King letter, Clyde (or the impostor) refers to Hamilton as being a "yellow punk"; in the letter he sent to Hamilton himself, he goes on quite a fascinating rant, informing Ray - among other things - "I guess you find where your boastful long tongue has gotten you". The insight to behold in this letter is absolutely priceless!

A. Winston Woodward said...

I find it interesting that Marie would authenticate the shorter Winter King letter, with Clyde's prints made as she said with engine grease-- but not this one, also with a fingerprint. Clyde's prints were certainly on file.
Marie wouldn't have known about every B&C happening.

Why would it be left for authors and family members 70 years later, to make determinations concerning this Winter King piece without having that print analyzed?? To this day, there exist really clear images of Clyde's prints. Clyde's Fort Worth fingerprint card would be a good example.

It just seems like those who "analyzed" this particular purported Clyde correspondence, did everything but the obvious in dismissing this. Even now-- why not have the print scrutinized?? It could still be possible. Maybe those more concerned with spelling errors are wrong. Spelling errors when typed, could just be typing errors. Perhaps this correspondence was hastily typed by Clyde when Bonnie was asleep?? That's one easy scenario.

And it does sound like Clyde. Also, how would anyone else know how Ray and Mary spent Easter??

BarefootOkieGal said...

I think that's a great question - why not just analyze the fingerprint to see if it's Clyde's?

It's interesting to speculate... if it is a fake letter, then why would the writer put a fingerprint on it, since he or she would have had to have known that Clyde's fingerprints were available for analysis? If someone else wanted Clyde to be blamed for the letter, they surely would not have used a fingerprint that could be analyzed and proven not to be Clyde's fingerprint, would they? It seems to me that if it were a fake, it would have have a signature but no fingerprint.

I will wholeheartedly agree that spelling and grammatical errors can crop up when someone is typing, especially when they are typing quickly - I can type 104 WPM without any errors, but when I'm not typing from copy - just typing out my thoughts as I am doing now - my fingers sometimes get away from me! Also, if Clyde did write this in the heat of anger, that surely could have caused some of the errors. They didn't have self-correcting typewriters back then, so if you made a mistake in the heat of your typing fever, you were pretty well stuck with it!

This is one of those things that, to me at least, is unclear. As Shelley stated, it does SOUND like Clyde!

Shelley said...

So there were TWO letters to Winter King, allegedly written by Clyde?! That's news to me. I never saw or heard of a second letter.

In any case, I have read that Clyde used engine grease to place his fingerprint on the paper. I'm sure the authorities thought of comparing it to known prints on file. My theory on this is, the engine grease may have smeared, rendering it unreadable. Had he used ink, experts could easily have determined whether or not the print was, indeed, his.

As for the spelling and grammar, that can easily be explained as far as I'm concerned. Clyde may very well have typed this one up without Bonnie's assistance. This seems plausible to me.

Unless I see more evidence to the contrary, I would have to say that this is one of those rare instances where I disagree with the experts. The Winter King letter just sounds too much like Clyde NOT to have been written by him! And furthermore, as Winston pointed out, who else could have known to implicate Hamilton and O'Dare on this occasion??? To me, this letter has all the hallmarks of being the real deal.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I found an old newspaper article on-line (wish I'd saved the URL!) that showed a version of this photo - in their version, the people weren't standing around the cars, and the two white areas are clearly large white X's inserted by the photographer to denote the location of the bodies. I found it while just piddling around on the computer at the end of the day, but it's probably still out there; probably due to the anniversary of the Ambush, there were a lot of copies of old newspaper articles on-line dealing with Bonnie and Clyde, and one of the articles about Grapevine showed this photo. The picture was apparently taken at the same time as the one on the page - the only difference is that the people haven't gathered around the cars and the white X's are more clearly defined.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I was looking on Frank Ballanger's Hideout this weekend and I found the photo that I had mentioned earlier! I said that I had seen a copy of a newspaper article with the photo in it, and I was right - only I found it on another website! Frank Ballinger's "Hideout" is the site (you can google it - I don't have the actual URL handy because I can't log into it from work, due to the fact that they classify it a "violent" website) and it's under the category "The Victims," a little way down the page. For those who haven't had a chance to check out the "Hideout," I'd highly recommend it, and this is a good opportunity to see this photo in context.

JJ said...

From Hinton's Ambush: "...the Dallas Bertillon office authenticated the fingerprint identification alongside the typed 'Clyde' at the end of the message." p. 155