Smith & Wesson .32L caliber revolver was retrieved
from car driven by outlaws at time of their deaths
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A weapon 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, in the firm’s new gallery at 16513 Cornerstone Drive in Belton, Mo., at approximately 11 a.m. (CST).
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.
“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 gun was displayed at the Texas State 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 gun 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 gun, 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 6 feet long by 4 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 5-6-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.
People unable to attend the auction in person may bid online via www.AuctionByMayo.com. Phone and absentee bids will also be accepted. To consign an item, an estate or a collection, you may call them directly at 816-361-2600 or you can send them an e-mail at Robert@auctionbymayo.com.