Perhaps Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are the most glamorized and well-known Texas outlaw duo. During their heyday between 1931 and 1934, their exploits certainly captured the attention of the American press and public. The 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway revived interest and refueled the couple’s ill-fated “Romeo and Juliet” legend. Of course, the couple met their demise at the hands of a posse led by former Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer. However, it was a collection of “selfie” photos that helped make the couple more identifiable for both lawmen and the general public and, ultimately helped turn the tide of public opinion about the couple.
Bonnie and Clyde were introduced to each other in 1930 in Dallas through mutual friends. It was said to be love at first sight for both. In 1932, Clyde was released from a stint in prison and the life of crime began in earnest for the couple and the Barrow gang which was loosely comprised of Barrow family members and friends such as W.D. Jones. Within a year, the trio consisting of Bonnie, Clyde and W.D. had murdered five people.
In 1933, Buck and Blanche Barrow (Clyde’s brother and sister-in-law) joined the gang upon Buck’s release from prison. The group had a temporary hideout living in a quiet neighborhood in Joplin, Missouri.
Believing the house was being used by bootleggers, law enforcement officials planned a raid for April 13. A shootout ensued with two of the five lawmen killed. The gang fled the house and headed south out of Joplin. Traveling almost 600 miles overnight, Clyde drove the group to Shamrock, Texas.
Although the gang escaped, most of their possessions were left behind, including Buck’s parole papers, jewelry, a handwritten poem by Bonnie, an arsenal of weapons and a camera with several rolls of undeveloped film.
According to a report in The Joplin Globe on April 15, 1933, the film was taken to the newspaper to be processed. The developed film revealed photos of all five fugitives in a variety of casual and playful poses – what we might consider “selfies” today.
Just two days after the raid, the Globe published several of the photos and sent them out over the wires – including the one of Bonnie with a cigar in her mouth and holding a gun. Later it was learned that W.D. had taken that photo and Bonnie was offended that it was released. W.D. said, “Bonnie smoked cigarettes, but…I gave her my cigar to hold.”
Other photos showed Bonnie and Clyde kissing; brothers Buck and Clyde posing together in suit and tie; and Buck leaning against the bumper of the car they used to escape, with guns that were believed to have been used in the shootout.
The pictures appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country. As their fame grew, the exploits of Bonnie and Clyde were covered in newsreels. The photos ultimately helped make Bonnie and Clyde famous – and more identifiable.
Just over a year later, Bonnie and Clyde were killed on a rural road in Louisiana.