Lots, stock and barrels: Hoard of gang memorabilia includes fascinating Bonnie and Clyde ring hidden in attic
Bonnie and Clyde cemented their place in criminal folklore with a murderous bank-robbing spree that left America gripped with fear.
The pair’s gang struck terror across three states, shooting anyone who dared deny them the proceeds of crime.
And now the world is gripped by them again as a fascinating hoard of gang memorabilia has come up for sale.
Bonnie Parker was devoted to a gangster she had met when she was 19.
Clyde Barrow was two years older. He was dangerous, ruthless, merciless.
But his brutal hands also possessed an artistry and craft that has triggered huge interest in the auction world.
A snakehead ring he crafted for Bonnie in jail is one of the auction’s star attractions alongside Al Capone’s watch.
The ring has surfaced 83 years after Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down.
It has lain hidden in an attic belonging to the family of a Texas sheriff who ambushed them in 1933, six months before they finally died in a shootout.
Lawman Richard “Smoot’’ Schmid found the ring in Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled Ford Model B after they managed to escape.
Clyde had made the ring as he languished in a Texas jail and was pining for Bonnie. They had met in 1930 – then he was jailed for burglary.
Bonnie smuggled a gun into prison and Clyde escaped, only to be recaptured and given hard labour in Eastham State Farm jail north of Houston.
The outlaw crafted the intricate ring from copper, coated it with silver and added three jewels. An arrow shaped hallmark inside could signify Cupid or be a play on his surname – B-arrow.
Clyde made other pieces of jewellery as well as decorative woodworking and leather.
These include a beaded necklace for his sister Marie, a hand-tooled leather belt with blue and red stones and his own silver belt buckle featuring the five-pointed Texas Star.
Sheriff Schmid’s family put the ring up for sale and bids last night topped £11,000 as the sale headed to a close.
RR Auctions, handling the sale in Boston, Massachusetts, said: “The belt buckle and ring exhibit similar styles and the same level of high quality, though unrefined, craftsmanship.”
Bobby Livingston, the firm’s executive vice president, added: “It’s astonishing that they have been sitting in an attic since the 1930s. The sheriff took them from a shot-up car in November 1933 near Sowers, Texas. Smoot found a treasure trove of their possessions. The sheriff’s family live just outside Houston and the later generations don’t feel such an emotional tie to his collection.
“It only emerged when we went to see the family. They got in touch after we sold Bonnie’s .38 detective special handgun and Clyde’s 1911 Colt. 45 in 2012 for £400,000. The ring is the closest thing to a wedding ring between Bonnie and Clyde. Theirs was an incredibly romantic relationship.
“Bonnie was wounded and badly crippled for the last nine months of her life and Clyde cared for her at his own peril. She did not have to die with him, but chose to.”
Hollywood stars Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty starred in the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde, which was accused of glamorising the killers.
Their murderous spree came after Clyde was released on parole in 1932. Schmid, who died in 1963, made it his personal crusade to nail them.
He laid an ambush after a tip-off. But as Clyde approached he sensed a trap and hit the accelerator.
The lawmen opened up with machineguns and peppered the car with bullets. It slewed to the side, but the wounded pair escaped.
Bonnie suffered further crippling injuries in a car crash. She was 23 when shot dead in a Louisiana ambush in 1934 – and Clyde was 25.
Schmid’s family was also selling the lawman’s gold and diamond sheriff’s badge, a pair of his boots and his .45 Colt service revolver – with bids for the gun topping £2,500.
The auction was run online and finished with a live sale in Boston yesterday. Also for sale, and fetching bids over £15,000, was a letter written by Bonnie, signed by Clyde and sent to Raymond Hamilton, who double-crossed them.
Clyde told him: “I’m sorry to hear of you getting captured, but due to the fact you offered no resistance sympathy is lacking. This is to remind you of all the dirty deals you pulled. I should have killed you.”
Dozens of other fascinating pieces of American crime memorabilia were up for grabs in the Gangsters, Outlaws and Lawmen sale.
There were several pieces from Chicago mobster Al Capone – including his art deco diamond-studded platinum pocket watch.
It has the initials AC picked out in 23 cut diamonds and surrounded by a further 26. Bidding had topped £14,000.
Some £10,000 was bid for a page of music and lyrics to Humoresque – written by Capone after he was locked up in Alcatraz in 1934.
Capone was in a swing band, playing the banjo with notorious Machinegun Kelly on drums. But Mr Livingston said: “Capone was sacked for upseting the saxophonist, who then stood up to him. It diminished Capone in the eyes of other prisoners.”
Other lots included a watch, razor and overcoat owned by Meyer Lansky, instrumental in setting up America’s national crime syndicate.
There were also letters from John Gotti, dubbed Teflon Don and jailed in 1992 for five murders.
One, to family of mafia hood Gregory “Big George” DeCicco, addresses Gotti’s treatment for cancer, which would kill him in 2002, at 61.
Gotti wrote after surgery: “I started six weeks of radiation and though it’s no picnic I feel like a lion. Tell George to keep the Martinis cold.”
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