1929 Clyde Barrow Handwritten and Signed Postcard

Sold For: $5,629

Auction Year: 2012 spring

Lot: 1435

Item Year: 1929

Category: Historical/Political

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Handwritten postcard, postmarked September 30, 1929, signed by Clyde Barrow (1909-1934), one half of the iconic crime duo known as "Bonnie and Clyde." Clyde Barrow signature examples, let alone a handwritten note, are exceedingly rare. This is the first Clyde Barrow signature we have ever offered and we have only seen one other example. Dating approximately four months before Barrow ever met Bonnie Parker, this postcard, written to his mother during a trip to Mexico, finds him in good spirits, with plenty of booze and a woman to keep him company. In full: "hello mother - just fine. We are in old Mexico. drunk as hell. Will see you in about 3 weeks. Clyde + Grace." The postcard is addressed to "Mrs. H. B. Barrow Dallas Texas/R.6 West Dallas." (Barrow's father was named Henry.) All of the text on the postcard has been scripted in pencil by Barrow and grades "8." Barrow's signature is scripted quite legibly, but has been squeezed in at the base of the text and as a result rates a slightly lesser grade of "6/7." Unfortunately, the name of the city on the postmark is no longer legible, but a Mexican stamp remains affixed in the upper right corner. Interestingly, Barrow's trip to Mexico is chronicled in John Neal Phillips authoritative book Running With Bonnie and Clyde: The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults (University of Oklahoma Press, 1996):

Shortly thereafter a young burglar named Frank began paying regular visits to Clyde. Deceptively handsome and well groomed, Frank first met Barrow in the city jail. Soon the two of them were disappearing overnight. Suddenly Clyde was making a lot of cash. He made several purchases and even took a girlfriend, Gladys, to Mexico for a holiday, sending hastily written postcards to his mother, detailing the fun he was having. Eventually Clyde stopped looking for steady work and moved in with Frank. Both boys, though unemployed, were living leisurely lives. Besides cracking safes, they were also stealing cars for an interstate auto-theft ring. Clyde's mother would later blame young women like Gladys, and later Bonnie, for her son's criminal activities, citing their need for cash, gifts, and good times.

The one discrepancy between Phillips' narrative and the offered card is the name of Barrow's girlfriend. It's possible that Phillips had the name wrong, maybe confusing Grace with Gladys or vice versa. It's also possible that Barrow dumped Gladys in Mexico and picked up Grace. He was, by his own admission, "drunk as hell," so anything may have been possible. Barrow was only twenty years old at the time of this writing. Although he was constantly in trouble with the law, having been arrested twice earlier, it wasn't until 1930, following a prison stay at Eastham Prison Farm, that he became a cold-blooded killer. After embarking on his robbery spree with Bonnie and the rest of his gang, Barrow's fate was all but sealed. Both he and Bonnie met their end in a hail of gunfire on May 23, 1934, following a police ambush in Louisiana. The postcard (5.5 x 3.25 inches) displays normal handling wear, including a few tiny areas of light discoloration, and is in Very Good to Excellent condition. Mounted (by means of photo corners) and framed together with three small recent prints (two of Barrow alone, another posing with Bonnie) to total dimensions of 19 x 17 inches.

Included with the postcard, and ideal for display alongside it, is a wanted poster, dated May 21, 1934, issued by the Division of Investigation/U. S. Department of Justice for Bonnie and Clyde. The square placard features photos of both Bonnie and Clyde, along with their known aliases, physical description, relatives, and criminal record. The text below reads in part: "Clyde Champion Barrow and Bonnie Parker constantly travel together and extreme caution must be exercised by arresting officers as they are wanted in connection with assault and murder of officers." The reverse lists the phone numbers of the FBI field agents in charge of the investigation in their respective cities. The placard (8 x 8 inches) displays a horizontal fold, minor surface blemishes and scattered areas of light discoloration. In Excellent condition overall. Mounted and framed between two sheets of Plexiglas so that both the front and back of the placard can be viewed. Total dimensions: 14 x 14 inches. Total: 2 framed displays (Barrow handwritten postcard and the wanted poster). LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $5,629

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