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Revolver Retrieved from Bonnie & Clyde ‘Death Car’ Will Be Sold by Mayo Auction

by Special to WorthPoint (01/17/13).

This gun—a Smith and Wesson .32L-caliber revolver—was retrieved from the car Bonnie and Clyde were in at the time of their deaths. It will be sold on Feb. 1 by Mayo Auction & Realty. It includes the six bullets that were in it when it was recovered from the “Death Car.”

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A .32-caliber revolver retrieved from the stolen car driven by the outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after they were killed in a hail of bullets from a police ambush in 1934 will be sold to the highest bidder on Saturday, Feb. 2, by Mayo Auction & Realty.

The Bonnie and Clyde gun—a Smith & Wesson .32L caliber revolver—figures to be the centerpiece lot in a sale of over 250 firearms. The auction is being held a little more than a year since Mayo Auction & Realty sold a pair of other guns believed used by Bonnie and Clyde: a Thompson sub-machine gun and a Winchester shotgun. One buyer bought both for $210,000.

Bonnie and Clyde strike a lighthearted and carefree pose, but make no mistake—they were cold-blooded killers.

“That was a remarkable sale of two truly historical guns, but this auction may carry even more cache since the weapon being sold was with the notorious gangsters at the very time of their deaths,” said Robert Mayo of Mayo Auction & Realty. “An online bidder and serious gun collector purchased the other guns. This one may end up in a museum. We’ll see what happens.”

This past year the revolver was displayed at the Texas Stare Fair as part of a Bonnie and Clyde exhibit sponsored by the Dallas Historical Society. It has been consigned for sale to Mayo Auction & Realty by Dr. Carroll Y. Rich, a native of Arcadia, La., not far from where the two outlaws were gunned down (along Highway 154, between the towns of Sailes and Gibsland),

The revolver was first removed from the car (a stolen 1934 Ford V-8 Deluxe, belonging to Jesse and Ruth Warren of Topeka, Kan.) by Louisiana Deputy Sheriff Reginald Hightower, who was not present at the ambush. Later, when the Barrow family threatened a lawsuit for the return of the car’s contents, Hightower gave the gun to his sister-in-law, Vern, a widow, for protection.

She kept the gun until going into a nursing facility in the early 1980s, when she gave it to Dr. Rich’s father, A.D. Rich, who was managing Vern’s bills and keeping up her house.

“My family simply thought of the gun as a curiosity more than anything else,” Dr. Rich recalled, “a remnant of a violent event in the past.”

On rare occasions, Vern would show the gun to visitors or her nieces and nephews, and tell them what it was like the day the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde were brought to Conger’s—the furniture store and funeral home where she worked—for a hasty autopsy and public viewing.

“It was Vern’s job to hold back the crowd that stormed the store to catch a glimpse,” Dr. Rich said.

He added, “I’ve had the gun since my father gave it to me. I don’t think it’s been cleaned or fired since the day Sheriff Hightower took it from that car on May 24, 1934. I still have the six bullets that were in it.”

Dr. Rich has become something of a Bonnie and Clyde historian, authoring such articles as “The Day They Shot Bonnie and Clyde” and “Clyde Barrow’s Last Ford.”

In addition to the Bonnie and Clyde revolver, the auction will also feature an array of pistols, revolvers, handguns, rifles, shotguns, hunting and sporting weapons. Some will be vintage, but many will be recent. One lot expected to attract a fair amount of attention is a World War II-era decommissioned machine gun. The vintage weapon has been welded so it is unable to be fired.

Bidders will also be amazed by a pair of Civil War-style cannons, recently built by Howard Christy of Elizabeth, Ind. Each cannon is six feet long by four feet high and is capable of shooting a 12-pound bowling ball a full mile downrange. The cannons are made in America and feature a five- to six-foot recoil and a hand-cranked elevation. They will be shown on the hit CMT series Guntucky. While they are able to be fired, the cannons might be better served as yard ornaments.

This was the Ford 1934 Ford V-8 Deluxe that Bonnie and Clyde stole and eventually died in, on May 22, 1934, in Louisiana. Bonnie’s body is visible in the front passenger seat.

The Story of Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were notorious outlaws, robbers and criminals who, with their gang, traveled the central United States during the Great Depression, from 1931-34. Though they were widely known for their bank robberies, Barrow actually preferred to rob small stores and gas stations. They killed as many as nine police officers, plus other innocent civilians.

Their luck ran out in May of 1934 when the Warrens’ Ford they’d been driving for three weeks (now sporting stolen Arkansas plates) was spotted in Bienville Parish, La. An ambush was planned and at midnight on Tuesday, May 22, six lawmen concealed their cars deep in the woods and waited behind a rise on the east side of the country road, rifles and shotguns ready.

In addition to the gun that is being auctioned on Feb. 1, a veritable arsenal of weapons was found in the car driven by Bonnie and Clyde when deputies opened fire.

All night they waited, fighting off mosquitoes. Finally, at a little after 9 a.m., they saw a gray Ford approach from the north. Inside, Bonnie was eating a bacon and tomato sandwich, purchased earlier in Gibsland. There was a pack of cigarettes and a movie magazine in her lap. Clyde was driving in his shirtsleeves, shoes off. His tie was hanging from the rear view mirror.

As Barrow reached the crest of the hill, the officers opened fire. Repeated volleys pelted the car and its occupants. By the time it was over, Bonnie had been hit more than 50 times and Clyde had 27 bullets in him. The car itself had been shot 107 times and has since become famous as the “Bonnie and Clyde Death Car.” It has been displayed at state fairs and at various other venues.

In 23 days, Bonnie and Clyde had logged over 7,500 miles on the vehicle. Inside the trunk were 15 other license plates from states all over the Midwest, West and South. There was also an arsenal of assorted rifles, pistols, sawed-off shotguns and ammunition. In the back seat were more guns, some clothes, a blanket and some personal items, including Clyde’s saxophone.

This auction will be held at the Mayo Auction & Realty’s new gallery at 16513 Cornerstone Drive in Belton, Mo., at approximately 11 a.m. (CST). For more information, call 816.361.2600, e-mail to Robert@auctionbymayo.com or visit the Mayo Auction & Realty website.

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