ATF helps bring Bonnie and Clyde pistol to auction

BOSTON – The pistol found strapped to Bonnie Parker’s thigh after she and Clyde Barrow were ambushed and killed in 1934 is coming to auction this weekend thanks to the help of the Manchester, New Hampshire Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The “squat” gun – a Colt .38 caliber Detectives Special revolver  –  was recovered from Parker’s body by Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer. Hamer found the pistol’s serial numbers had been removed. The ATF assisted by issuing an ATF supplied serial number, making the pistol eligible to be sold at public auction.

Bonnie Parker firearm

Bonnie Parker’s personal, concealed Colt .38 snub-nose detective special revolver is expected to be a top lot in RR Auctions’ Sept. 30, 2012 sale.

The Amherst, New Hampshire auction house RR Auction received the gun over the summer from a private collector and noticed that the revolver’s serial numbers had been obliterated and immediately contacted ATF for assistance.

“ATF understands the importance of this historically significant firearm,” said Guy N. Thomas, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Boston Field Division. “We are pleased we were able to work in partnership with RR Auction to make the gun legally compliant.”

Special Agents from the ATF Manchester, New Hampshire Field Office examined the revolver and contacted the ATF Firearms Technology Branch, ATF’s technical authority relating to firearms and their determination under federal laws. The Firearms Technology Branch was able to determine the Parker revolver was originally manufactured with serial numbers, thereby making the revolver non-complaint under federal law.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 requires firearm manufacturers to place serial numbers on firearms and made firearms with removed, obliterated or altered serial numbers illegal to possess.

Bonnie & Clyde gang

The infamous Bonnie & Clyde shown in a period photograph.

ATF Special Agents were able to obtain an ATF-issued serial number for RR Auction, which then stamped the serial number onto the revolver’s receiver making the firearm federally compliant. The auction is scheduled for Sept. 30, 2012. RR Auction is donating the proceeds of a Sept. 28 open house to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

“These amazing and historic weapons—found on their person the morning of their deaths and gifted to Captain Hamer, along with other items from that ill-fated day, by authorities at the time as part of his compensation package for the ambush,” said Bobby Livingston, VP at RR Auction.

Bonnie’s revolver isn’t the only firearm in the sale that was used by the duo. “Not since the Marie Barrow auction in 1997 has there been a collection of such significance to hit the market, with major lots available for sale directly related to Bonnie & Clyde,” said Jonathan Davis, noted authority on Bonnie and Clyde and author of Bonnie & Clyde & Marie: A Sister’s Perspective on the Notorious Barrow Gang (Stephen F. Austin Press, 2012). “The Robert Davis collection is highly regarded and historic, including their impeccable provenance coming from the Frank Hamer collection.”

Clyde’s personal Colt .45, recovered post-mortem from his waistband.

Among the more than 130 stunning and unique pieces in this auction are the following personal items:

  • Clyde’s personal Colt .45, recovered post-mortem from his waistband. This pistol is believed to have been among the weapons famously stolen by the Gang from the federal arsenal in Beaumont, Texas. Also included with this lot is an extra clip, found in Clyde’s pocket.
  • Clyde Barrow’s 10 Karat gold 1925 Elgin pocket watch found on his body the morning of his death. The watch was claimed by Henry Barrow, Clyde’s father, and was among his personal effects returned to the family, along with his body for burial. From the Marie Barrow collection.
  • Bonnie’s light brown leatherette cosmetic case, with a slide lock on the side and a mirror inside the cover. According to the Frank Hamer letter of provenance that accompanies the lot, when recovered from the ambush car, the case at the time contained lipstick and a box of Coty face powder and a powder puff, “about the only feminine touch item in their possession.”

Complementing the physical artifacts in the sale, manuscript and autograph lots will include such unique items as :

  • A snapshot signed by Clyde Barrow A.L.S.. Barrow signed  “bud” (his code name when on the run) and addressed the item to his brother L.C. Barrow, From the Marie Barrow collection, the handwritten remarks are on the back of a candid snapshot photo of a small house on a platform surrounded by water. Barrow writes, in part: “Say how do you like our little home by the sea. We may go to no telling so we will write you later.”
  • An outstanding collection of 47 handwritten and typed letters from Blanche Barrow written to her mother between the years 1933-1939, and all of them written from the Missouri State Penitentiary. These letters served as the basis for the book Blanche Barrow: The Last Victim of Bonnie and Clyde, written by Robert E. Davis.

“Current interest in Bonnie and Clyde [memorabilia] is very strong, and it seems that people always seem to have an intense interest in outlaws and lovers,” Davis said. “In fact, there are currently five feature films, one TV mini-series, a couple of musicals and plays, and a number of books in various stages of production.”

The live auction will take place Sept. 30, 2012. For more information, visit the RR Auction.

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