Monday, July 6, 2015

Concerning Supposed Bonnie & Clyde Artifacts.. Can Cool Provenance Be Trumped By An Even Greater Reality??

Screen shot of Byram Dollar signatures as posted on Facebook.

Sometimes, in defending Bonnie & Clyde History and also in caring about people and families.. one can end up "between a rock and a hard place"-- a place I seemingly find myself now.  So how do you defend the integrity of this history-- and not throw cold water on a family story passed down through generations??  I'm not sure-- but I'll give it the 'ol college try.  And I know one thing-- unlike some Bonnie & Clyde Cliquey groups of mutual admirer, hate whomever the enemy is this week types-- I will not shy away from controversy, in choosing to publish uncommon opinions, stories and otherwise off the beaten path possibilities for this history.  As such, "status quo be damned"-- and on with this post.          

For purposes here today-- I'll call these the Byram Dollar Bonnie & Clyde Signatures after Andrea and Tony Byram, who own the Silver Certificate pictured above.  But are these signatures revealed on the Net recently the real McCoys?? "Ah".. that is the question.  I get many calls and e-mails each year, concerning helping authenticate Bonnie & Clyde signatures thought genuine.  Why??  I would think, because the pair of Bonnie & Clyde signatures I own, have been painstakingly scrutinized and authenticated to the highest standards practicable-- short of positively having watched Bonnie & Clyde sign their names.  Thus-- many find my knowledge of this subject useful to their cause.

And without the need to re-print an already well-documented record of my authentication, methodology, experts etc-- a link will suffice.  So for those interested in learning of the complete quest (up to now)-- to authenticate my pair of Bonnie & Clyde signatures.. link is here--  

So when Bonnie & or Clyde signatures pop up.. and I don't mean bogus ones found at memorabilia signature mills without provenance, signed on the torn fly leaves of olden books, and "authenticated" by known "Hey that signature looks good"/ certify anything for a price, self-aggrandizing experts-- I'll often do what I can to help.

Screen shot of Byram authenticator's report as posted on Facebook.

Also without a long to do re: the current war 'o words and tactics of the Bonnie & Clyde periphery-- who's best attribute for this history it seems, is their vociferous knack to be rude and incendiary-- here are my thoughts concerning these signatures.

It Always Seems To Come Down To Bonnie's Signature.

Genuine Clyde Barrow signatures although quite rare, have more examples to view than Bonnie's-- with many Clyde signatures appearing on official law enforcement records.  However concerning real Bonnie signatures-- there are but few authentic Bonnie expressions of her name to behold.  One set, with for some unknown reason-- a "number" of Bonnie signatures present-- appear on "The Street Girl".. an unpublished Bonnie poem owned by master collector and lifetime Bonnie & Clyde aficionado Steve Haas.  This poem has iron-clad provenance, as a Parker family-held treasure-- having been in Billie Parker Moon's possession at the time of her passing. 

And to give proper prudence to thinking outside the box re: "The Street Girl" signatures-- some might wonder whether Billie herself may have toyed with writing her beloved sister's name on the poem she possessed??  A novel idea-- however those who have samples of Billie's handwriting including myself, know that quite unusually.. although right handed-- Billie wrote with a backwards slant as if left handed.  Not the case with the Bonnie signatures evident there.    

"The Street Girl" Bonnie signatures.
Interestingly-- both the Bonnie signatures visible on "The Street Girl" and on my dual Bonnie & Clyde signatures-- appeared publicly for the 1st time I believe within the same year (2006).  Prior to that, Bonnie & Clyde Historian Jimmy Ray Gillman had preserved an Ebay image of a pair of Bonnie & Clyde signatures.. signed to Don Wills on a Mitchell & Hale Pharmacy item of some sort.  That Pharmacy was noted to have been located in McKinney, Texas.  So as far as Bonnie signatures thought authentic, with the same characteristics as the beyond reproach family example-- until others surface which can stand up to the spotlight of scrutiny.. "that seems to be it"

Barrow Star Filling Station Bonnie & Clyde Signatures-- signatures I've been proud to own since 2006.

The Bonnie Parker Missouri Highway Patrol Fingerprint Card-- The "Wild Card" In All This.

Then there's a Bonnie signature, which appears on a mysterious fingerprint card never authenticated.  The story on this rumored fingerprint record goes as follows..  Bonnie's prints and signature were said obtained when Bonnie was jailed in Kemp, Texas.  However, many including current lawmen are quick to point out-- that unlike a legitimate fingerprint record.. this supposed fingerprint card, contains none of the usual Police identifiers which should be present.  It is in effect "a blank" but with faint prints visible and a signature.

Bonnie Parker Missouri Highway Patrol Fingerprint Card.

And just how did whatever this card is  get to Missouri, if indeed prints were taken in Texas??  Good question.  Supposedly,  Ed Portley Chief of Detectives in Joplin requested it-- as part of his investigation into the Joplin Apartment shootings.  However-- no record of this request or copy of the card, appear within the current inventory of Joplin Bonnie & Clyde files.  But rather, as close to an original as exists-- can be found in of all places The Missouri Highway Patrol Museum.  As part of my signatures investigation-- I was able to convince the kind folks there, to remove the Missouri fingerprint cards of both Bonnie & Clyde from their display case and scan them for me.  Yes, there's a fingerprint card there for Clyde too-- although Clyde was never arrested in Missouri.  Go figure.   

Anyway-- that Bonnie signature (the Bonnie Highway Patrol signature)-- a signature surely different from ones derived from a family source deemed most authentic.. "that" Bonnie signature with the block capital letters-- is apparently the signature most forgers prefer.. even though there are verifiable and authentic Bonnie signatures to view.. (again, go figure).  And the problem I have with the Byram signatures in part-- is their Bonnie signature, seemingly resembles the Highway Patrol signature.. a signature believed non-authentic. 

J. Edgar Hoover personally spearheaded a search for the Kemp Bonnie signature card in 1934 within Kaufman County-- and also within his Bureau of Investigation, where a copy was said to have been sent.  But Hoover's search was to no avail-- causing him to comment that apparently, this Bonnie Parker fingerprint card does not exist within legal channels. 
So even though a lawman said involved in dealing with an incarcerated Bonnie, stated he took Bonnie's prints-- without any record being found fresh in '34 or when I and I'm sure others have searched for it as well-- that declaration by the Texas lawman, could've been a case of CYA.

One more point re: the Highway Patrol signature.  I've considered the possibility-- that if the Kemp fingerprint card was a true record although shoddily made, which somehow slipped though the cracks-- that Bonnie may have shrewdly signed her name falsely to snooker the law.  However with someone like Hoover with his power and reach, personally directing a search for this record and not finding it.. it seems that fact documented withing the Dallas FBI files speaks for itself.  Plus then-- when asked for her signature by an admirer as the story goes here.. why wouldn't Bonnie give her true signature-- as she had in at least 2 other instances known.  I surely wish we had Bonnie here to ask about this.    

Mitchell & Hale Pharmacy signatures.  To my knowledge, no one knows the whereabouts of these Bonnie & Clyde signatures.  I for one.. believe these signatures to be authentic. 

Then, there's a matter of "authenticators".  

Concerning the authentication of my signatures-- I went to great lengths to choose experts with both stellar and untarnished reputations.  Thus I chose handwriting expert Emily J. Will, fresh from her famous debunking of the George W. Bush National Guard Papers. 

The McCrone Group of Chicago-- chosen by world experts, to analyze The Shroud of Turin and who authenticated The Lost Gospel of Judas.. they performed the Microscopy-- with my expert having been among the leaders of the Lost Gospel of Judas investigation.  Joe Barabe is also an expert in ferreting out forgeries. He performed chemical ink analysis, which identified all the components of the ink in dating the ink to the correct time period-- was able to identify 2 distinct and different depths of impressions made by 2 different nib widths from 2 different fountain pens concerning my signatures when signed.  And yes-- Clyde's pressure in signing was greater than Bonnie's. 

And I must say a decided chill went through me-- when I learned only when standing in the McCrone building.. that Mr. Barabe would begin with the assumption of forgery, and work toward proving legitimacy should that be the case.  Just the opposite of what I'd anticipated.  A tough and uncompromising group there-- surely not easy on the nerves.            

I also had the benefit of 6 antique business machine specialists, who identified the paper my signatures are written on and rare source of it-- along with The Smithsonian in searching for a like piece of Comptometer or antique columned cash register receipt tape (consistent with use in a gas station, such as the Barrow filling station).   

I even had the advantage of a Barrow family admission not previously known-- concerning why Clyde would've tagged his name as he did within my signatures, by signing Dallas, Texas below his name.  A trait those who knew him within his lifetime understood-- and was revealed to me as to why Clyde sometimes chose to sign like that, but not always.  So a "cherry-studded" detail no forger would know-- along with meticulous handwriting analysis and forensic testing, which all-in--all-- formed a composite strength of authentication.  Even as such-- Bonnie's signature is "so" very rare, Ms. Will being as tough as she is professionally, had difficulty in certifying Bonnie's signature with the assurance of Clyde's.  But in being so convinced by Clyde's script-- logically Bonnie's script would need to follow with Clyde's deemed so strong.

Fake Bonnie & Clyde signatures sold through a memorabilia outlet, using the Bonnie Highway Patrol signature as exemplar.

By contrast, the Byrams used but one authenticator-- where an easy search of the Web, revealing some interesting and potentially troubling reports-- which would surely give me pause.  Apparently some have reason to question this gentleman's pedigree as a document examiner.  Are these accusations true??  Don't know-- and I can't speak for some.. however just the fact negativity can be found-- would be troubling to me in attempting to verify signatures as rare as Bonnie & Clyde's. 

It was further pointed out to me in defense of the Byram signatures-- that not everyone signs their name the same way every time.  To some degree that may be true-- but for Bonnie to change from a most artistic "and verifiable" capital letter expression to that of plain caps which "do not" ("they don't")-- match known and accepted Bonnie examples, flies in the face of logic to me.

Maybe Bonnie was having a bad day, or was upset over something to the point of just saying "Screw it-- I'll just sign like this today"??  I won't say it couldn't have been that way, as I am one to allow for unique possibilities within this history-- but is that likely, in having other reliable samples which have consistent characteristics to work with??  I'm not sure one could make that case.  With it's block caps.. the Byram Bonnie signature looks similar to the Bonnie Highway Patrol signature.. so often used by forgers on inexpensively sold signatures, without snowball's chance in hell of being real.  For me.. a very large concern.

Quite suspect copies patterned from my signatures.  Rather than a mishmosh of Bonnie & Clyde signatures.. someone it seems, finally had the guts to try a forgery using good examples. Now what's the provenance on this??  And nice purple paper.  Now let's test that ink.  Olden ink is considerably different in composition, than inks mass produced short years later.  Plus when signatures like this are offered for just a few hundred bucks-- "buyer beware".. for real ones could be offered at Sotheby's for $$ it would take to put down on a house.  So why don't some memorabilia outlets offer "rare" signatures through quality auction houses to maximize their money??  They can't.      

But can provenance overrule logic??

Maybe-- but the provenance better be good.. and in the Byram case it seems good.  The Byram story goes that Mr. Byram's Grandmother owned a restaurant in Bowling Green, Missouri in the late '20's and early '30's.  It's said Bonnie & Clyde ate there, and signed the $1 silver Certificate which was given to the cook.. with the bill subsequently kept until 1971, when it was given to Mr. Byram.  Could Bonnie & Clyde have visited Bowling Green, Missouri??  Of course.  But can a story handed down over time, stand up to a signature which both doesn't match accepted examples-- "and" which resembles a signature, thought with a high degree of probability to be both non-authentic and non-verifiable?? 

Another point to consider here-- is I'm not sure many accounts exist of The Barrow Gang having sat down to eat in places, where they couldn't control their surroundings.  There are stories however, of them taking food to go.  A small detail I know.. but could be important here.  Perhaps the Byrams meant Bonnie & Clyde stopped by briefly to take their food to go??  I'm not sure it can be reliably proven-- that Bonnie & Clyde who were wanted for kidnapping and murder, would pull up a chair and enjoy a meal, within the confines of 4 walls with others present as you or I would.  What if the Sheriff and his Deputy happened by??  Many as well as themselves, could've been killed within a friendly meal gone wrong.            

Another Bonnie & Clyde fake.  I just love when photos of forgeries offered for sale, are out of focus.  Makes seeing what they are, that much clearer.  

Seems to me, the battleground here-- involves family provenance passed down as word of mouth, vs a Bonnie signature which within that provenance "should" match the best examples known.. but doesn't.  Could a more thorough forensic examination be performed to make a difference??  Yes it could, and I would encourage such for the benefit of all.  Would make for a stronger case, which should be the goal-- provided one can get past Bonnie's capital letters issue, in being contrary to an example held by the Parker family-- which does match 2 other examples with good backing. 

It is surely not my intention to be impolite to either the Byrams or their authenticator.  So am I doubting the Byram's family story as provenance for their signatures??.. I am trying my best not to, but this is where this challenge gets tough for me.  I am a people and family person-- and as such, would also defend a story passed down to me by loved ones I trust.. wouldn't you??  As such, I would welcome any alternative solution for this one.  It seems when authenticating signatures "so" very rare.. the extra mile needs to be traveled with focused diligence employed-- and to my way of thinking, that hasn't been the case here. 

So many have stories of having interacted with Bonnie & Clyde during their reign of terror.  And even police records have Bonnie & Clyde sightings in seemingly multiple places at once.  W. D. Jones even commented to the effect, people seemingly thought The Barrow Gang was everywhere.  I would think eye-witness accounts fueled by excitement and bordering on mass-hysteria-- would've been helpful in ways to The Barrow Gang-- for it would have the law scurrying every which way looking them.. which they were.  However in reality, true Bonnie & Clyde sightings were likely many fewer than remembered.       

Concerning The Byram Bonnie & Clyde signatures-- my feeling is, in order to support their family story and advance toward a move definitive conclusion, more needs to be done-- for to have only a story of provenance and somewhat cursory forensic examination may not be enough.  And rather than attacks leveled my way by some, with their own serious issues of impropriety to deal with concerning their conduct within this history (wrong allies for the Byrams)-- good & positive energy should be harnessed to work harder toward authentication.  As I see it, my job here isn't to rubber-stamp Bonnie & Clyde History-- but rather, have an inquiring mind-- and the character to maintain a level of decency and truth, concerning such an outstanding history.

Let me lastly say, those who roll out potential artifacts and supposed stories concerning this history-- and then try to control commentary and limit dissent-- are riding a slippery slope when it comes to their participation within Bonnie & Clyde History.  For those who on one side or another are stewards of this historical journey-- will in no way shape or form, be controlled by those seeking to enhance truth or change it-- without a serious examination of the facts involved.  Those who enter this arena, need to face the realization-- that being scrutinized is a way of life here.  "Welcome" to Bonnie & Clyde History.                        


A. Winston Woodward said...

Received e-mails from Andrea and Tony Byram, with permission to post here. My thanks to Andrea and Tony for their responses to this post. I must say, I just love the story expressed here concerning Bonnie & Clyde.. and their observation that perhaps Bonnie may have been impatient at this encounter, and thus could've just scrawled her name quickly and haphazardly. Could explain the lack of letter formation as usual-- but of course without Bonnie alive to clarify.. impossible to know now. BTW, concerning pencil having been used-- I learned through my authentication process, that pencil lead too-- had quite different characteristics in the days of Bonnie & Clyde than in later years. As such-- pencil markings too, can be tested and pinned down to particular dates in time.

As far as my non-attentiveness to any request made, I'm usually good at responding in a timely fashion. Now, I do get some pretty crazy e-mails which I choose not to respond to. Guess that comes with the territory. I do know in this case, e-mails have been sent to my personal e-mail address, which I must say I don't use much and not often at all for historical work. With so much spam having gained access to that e-mail.. sometimes important messages can get buried within a sea of sales pitches there. So I sincerely apologize to the Byrams. Like many, I tend to favor trying to clean up my e-mail, rather than change an e-mail address I've had for so long. But as far as contacting me re: Bonnie & Clyde History-- that's why I encourage all, to use my historical e-mail address posted at the bottom of the Notes Section here.

A. Winston Woodward said...

So with thanks again to the Byrams.. here are those e-mails. And for those perhaps unaware of the time value of money calculation for '34 to today.. the conversion rate is about 15 times. Thus $20 then-- was about equal to $350 now.

This is Tony Byram, Andreas husband. found your site very interesting. Your statement about the dollar in question was fair, and I didn't find it biased or offensive. Im not a historian or a expert on these things, all I have is the story told to me by my Grandmother and her cook Lemuel. I always thought it was a cool story. Grandma was a great person and fed many a hobo as she called them, as many people of that time had no money. They came in and ordered open faced roast beef sandwiches, both her and Lemuel told me. Hows that for memory? Lol! Ate their meal and then went to the register to pay. Clyde asked her if she could fix a couple of the sandwiches for the road, and Lem fixed them putting them in waxpaper and a brown bag and took them up front to them.Clyde reached in his wallet and gave Grandma a $20 bill and Grandma told him I don't think IVE got enough to cash that. Clyde told her, No Mam, that's for you!

That's when Lem saw his shoulder holster and gun, He asked him if he was a G-Man, (What Lem quoted to me) Lem said he laughed and said "No, but Ive shot a few". Then he asked Lem, "You know who I am?" Lem replied no sir I don't believe I do. He responded "My names Cylde Barrow and this is Bonnie Parker! Lem replied Well can I have your autograph? Clyde then pulled the one dollar silver certificate from his wallet signed his name on the face and had Bonnie sign the back. Grandma passed in 1970. Andrea told you wrong I got this from Lem in 1969. they were both residents of Straube Nursing Home in Bowling Green, Mo.Clyde by the way told Grandma to keep the $20, then told her that roast beef was the best hed had and to tell them Clyde Barrow said so! Guess he had a sence of humor, even if he was a crook. Ive had the bill since 1969. But ive had the story ever since I was little. I tried to contact you numerous times but to no avail. I phoned Emiy Wills 4 or 5, with no response. that's why I contacted Curt Baggett and the ambush museum. by the way the site is very interesting and informative. Especially liked the photos.

(e-mail 2) Thanks, I'm no historian but have always thought the story was cool,as they were gangsters and Grandma met and fed them. You brought up a really good point. They did eat there,Clyde did announce "You know who I am"? Wonder if Bonnie was having one of "those"days where she was saying fine sign the damn thing and let's get the hell outta here! That's a good point, and it's in pencil. If that makes any difference. Sorry we got off on the wrong foot. I hadn't had a chance to actually talk with you. My Dad was with me when Lemuel told me to get the bill he had hidden away with his undershirts in the nursing home. He asked me if Grandma had ever told me the story of when Bonnie and Clyde came in? I said. Yes, and he hands the old yellowed envelope and tells me to look inside. There was the dollar, he told me he wanted me to have it, and was scared to death the "damn nurses were gonna steal it from him". I thanked him, and Dad told me to put it up. Which I did, can't find the old envelope though. Due to the yellowed worn look it looked like it was from that time. There wasn't any writing on it I remember that.

(e-mail 3) Ps, you may certainly post my email on your blog. Thank you.