They could not save Bonnie and Clyde from an ambush by six Texas Rangers in 1934, but guns recovered from the infamous gangster couple's bodies at the time of their capture are expected to attract sky-high bids at a September auction.
After Texas Ranger Capt. Frank Hamer and his posse gunned down Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow on a road in Gibsland, La., 78 years ago, Hamer found a Colt .38 revolver taped to Bonnie's inner thigh and a pistol tucked into Clyde's waistband. Hamer kept them, having been promised by Texas prison general manager Lee Simmons that he could have anything the outlaws carried with them if he succeeded in capturing them.
The guns are scheduled to be auctioned Sept. 30 at RR Auction in Amherst, N.H., along with a gold watch Clyde was wearing when he was killed, a cosmetics case in which Bonnie carried her lipstick, a powder puff, Coty face powder and a letter from Clyde to his brother signed with his code name "Bud."
RR Auction Vice President Bobby Livingston said the items are all coming from the estate of Robert Davis, a Texas collector who acquired them at an auction in 1986.
Livingston predicted that each gun would sell for between $100,000 and $200,000 but said "the sky is the limit on artifacts that have this type of provenance."
"Bonnie and Clyde had 10 Colt-45s and three machine guns, and Bonnie had a shotgun on her lap when they were killed, but when Hamer takes that gun from Clyde's waistband, that's his gun," Livingston said. "It doesn't get any closer for collectors of history."
The story of Bonnie and Clyde, which inspired a hit 1967 movie by Arthur Penn that starred Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, resonates today much as it did in the 1930s, Livingston said, because they were perceived as enemies of big banks and corporations. In the early years of the Great Depression, the pair led a gang of criminals most famous for robbing banks.
Known as the Barrow Gang, they were believed to have killed at least 11 police officers. Livingston said they became "media heroes" in part through photographs they would send to newspapers that depicted their fugitive lives.
By the time Texas Rangers rained bullets on Bonnie and Clyde's Ford on May 23, 1934, the outlaw icons' fortunes had sagged. No longer adored after their shootouts caused civilian casualties, Bonnie and Clyde knew their end was nearing when a car wreck severely injured Bonnie's leg nine months before their deaths.
Two guns seized from Bonnie and Clyde after a 1933 shootout with police in Joplin, Mo., sold for a combined $210,000 to an unnamed bidder in Kansas City earlier this year.