Monday, April 9, 2012

Gangster Clyde Barrow, on Ford cars ...

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, notorious outlaws who terrorized the American Midwest in the early 1930s, reportedly shot nine law enforcement officers and several others as they robbed banks and small businesses during their crime spree.  That came to an end in May 1934, when both were killed in an ambush set up in Louisiana by lawmen from that state and Texas.

But only six weeks before his death, Barrow purportedly sent a letter to Henry Ford praising Ford automobiles, especially the V-8 model. The letter, now on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan, is noted in Jeff Guinn's 2010 book Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde. Written on April 10, 1934 from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the letter says:

“Dear Sir: -

While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasen't been strickly legal it don't hurt enything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8 -

Yours truly
Clyde Champion Barrow”

But is the letter authentic, or is it perhaps the invention of an imaginative public relations effort, or simply a hoax?  You can find historians on all sides of the issue.  Some point out that Barrow’s middle name was “Chestnut,” not “Champion,” but others point out that Barrow wrote Champion as his middle name when he entered prison for a while in 1930. Too, the data and place seem to fit Barrow's whereabouts at the time, and so does the writing style.

Comparisons of the handwriting in this letter with Barrow’s known handwriting are troublesome, though, and suggest that maybe he didn’t write it. In fact, the handwriting in the Barrow-to-Ford letter seems to be a better match for the handwriting of Bonnie Parker, Barrow’s major partner in crime. Could she have written if for him? That’s not a slam dunk either. Although her handwriting seems to suggest some strong similarities to the letter in question, inconsistencies are apparent as well.  See for yourself at Bonnie and Clyde’s Hideout website, which displays the questionable letter and handwriting samples from Barrow and Parker 

1 comment:

Ford Corpus Christi said...

I think handwriting samples would be a much better indication of authenticity instead of the "correct" middle name which can be figured out rather easily.