Friday, July 13th, 2012
Two Colt handguns that Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were carrying when they were ambushed and killed in a hail of bullets on May 23, 1934 are coming up for auction in September. RR Auction in Amherst, New Hampshire has already opened Clyde’s Colt .45 1911 Government Model semi-automatic pistol and Bonnie’s Colt Detective Special .38 revolver to online bidders; the auction closes on Sunday September 30, 2012.
Unlike the Winchester shotgun and the Thompson sub-machine gun confiscated from the Barrow gang’s Joplin hideout that were sold at auction earlier this year, these handguns are directly connected to Bonnie and Clyde, and not just directly connected but intimately so. Former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, the leader of the six-man posse that hunted down and ambushed the infamous outlaws, retrieved Clyde’s Colt .45 from the waistband of his pants after he was felled in rural Bienville Parish, Louisiana.
With the Colt is a notarized letter from former Special Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, Jr., dated December 18, 1973 in which he states that this pistol, #164070, was removed from the “waistband of Clyde Barrow’s trousers the morning that he and Bonnie Parker were killed by my father in Louisiana.” He goes on to say “This pistol is also described and pictured in my father’s book I’m Frank Hamer. He also states that “this pistol was believed to have been stolen from the federal arsenal in Beaumont, Texas,” and that the federal government gave this Colt to his father. Although Clyde Barrow had many guns during his notorious career, there cannot be any with a closer association to him than this one carried at his death.
Bonnie’s Colt .38 is downright salacious. She kept it taped to her inner thigh which is where Hamer found it after she was killed.
A notarized letter from former Special Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, Jr., dated December 10, 1979, identifies this gun and states, “On the morning of May 23, 1934, when my father and the officers with him in Louisiana killed Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. My father removed this gun from the inside thigh of Bonnie Parker where she had it taped with white, medical, adhesive tape. My father said that one reason she had the gun taped to the inside of her leg was that, in those days, no gentlemen officer would search a woman where she had it taped…Sometime later, my father gave this gun to Buster Davis who had been a Texas Ranger and was, at the time, an FBI Agent.” Included with this gun and mentioned in this letter is a framed handwritten note from Frank Hamer, written on the back of an old Texas Ranger Expense Account form, reads “Aug/1934 Davis hold onto this. Bonnie was ‘squatting’ on it. Frank.”
Hamer got to keep both weapons as part of his compensation for hunting down Bonnie and Clyde. He had quit the Texas Rangers after 27 years on the force two years earlier and in 1934 was working private security for oil companies, mainly breaking strikes. Texas Department of Corrections Chief Lee Simmons commissioned Hamer to find the Barrow Gang, but he could only offer $180 a month. Hamer was making more than double that doing easier work for the oil companies. To sweeten the pot, Simmons allowed Hamer to keep all the guns recovered from the gang and whatever of their possessions he wanted, in addition to his sixth of the reward money (which turned out to be a meager $200.23).
The weapons are being sold by the estate of Robert E. Davis, a Texas collector who bought them from the Hamer family. The pre-sale estimate for each gun is between $100,000 and $200,000, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll go that cheap. The Winchester shotgun sold for $80,000, the Tommy Gun for $130,000. These pistols are in a whole other category of macabre collectability.
Footage of Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled car and bodies taken by posse member and Dallas County Deputy Sheriff Ted Hinton five minutes after the ambush.