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Bonnie and Clyde

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Bonnie and Clyde “death car”
The Bonnie and Clyde “death car” on display at the Primm Valley Resort and Casino in Primm, Nevada.

The Texas outlaw couple Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker roamed the South and Midwest on their crime spree from 1932 to 1934 during the Great Depression. But it doesn’t appear they ever made it to North Dakota. A bank robbery in 1933 in southern Minnesota is attributed to the Barrow gang, and their exploits were front-page news in The Bismarck Tribune, including the breakout of inmates at a Texas prison farm in 1934.

Over the years Bonnie and Clyde have been glamorized, notably in the film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, but the two were far from being brilliant bank robbers. They botched robberies for little cash and on one misadventure they escaped on mules.

The Barrow gang drove the country from New Mexico to the Great Lakes. They outgunned law enforcement with powerful Browning automatic rifles, and outran officers with the high-powered Ford V8s that Clyde stole.

On this date in 1934, six law enforcement officers ambushed Bonnie and Clyde on a Louisiana highway. Bullets riddled their stolen 1934 Ford Fordor Deluxe sedan. A front-page Associated Press headline in The Bismarck Tribune declared: “Southwest gunman and woman friend killed by police; Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker shot down before they can return fire; Rode in moving arsenal; Girl’s Body Found Almost Doubled Over Machine Gun Held in Her Lap.”

The so-called Bonnie and Clyde “death car” became a true-crime attraction displayed around the country. In 1969, two years after the famous movie came out, an ad in the Bismarck Tribune touted a two-day showing of the car in the parking lot of the Tempo department store at the Northbrook Shopping Center in Bismarck. The ad read “Bonnie and Clyde’s Bullet Sprayed Car. Bring the family and we’ll prove that crime and violence do not pay.” Deactivated guns said to have been used by Bonnie and Clyde also were on display.

However, fake versions of the car were known to exist, and the picture in the ad suggests it might not have been the real thing. Regardless, the viewing wasn’t ticketed, and donations went to a good cause … the Bismarck YMCA Building Fund Drive. These days, the actual “death car” is displayed at a casino in Primm, Nevada.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:
Guinn, J. (2009). Go down together: The true, untold story of Bonnie & Clyde. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks: New York, NY
The Bismarck Tribune. 1934, January 16. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1934, April 6. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1934, April 7. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1934, April 9. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1934, May 23. Page 1
https://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/62/v62i04p124-135.pdf

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