Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (October 1, 1910 – May 23, 1934) and Clyde Chestnut Barrow a.k.a. Clyde Champion Barrow (March 24, 1909 – May 23, 1934) were American criminals who traveled the central United States with their gang during the Great Depression, robbing people and killing when cornered or confronted. At times, the gang included his older brother Buck Barrow and his wife Blanche, Raymond Hamilton, W. D. Jones, Joe Palmer, Ralph Fults, and Henry Methvin. Their exploits captured the attention of the American public during the "Public Enemy Era," between 1931 and 1935. Though known today for their dozen-or-so bank robberies, the two preferred to rob small stores or rural gas stations. The gang is believed to have killed at least nine police officers and several civilians. The couple were eventually ambushed and killed by law officers near the town of Sailes, in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. Their reputation was revived and cemented in American pop folklore by Arthur Penn's 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde.
Even during their lifetimes, their depiction in the press was at considerable odds with the hardscrabble reality of their life on the road, especially for Bonnie Parker. She was present at a hundred or more felonies during the two years she was Barrow's companion, but she was not a machine gun-wielding killer as depicted in the newspapers, newsreels, and pulp detective magazines of that time. Gang member W. D. Jones later testified he could not recall ever having seen her shoot at a law officer. Bonnie's reputation as a cigar-smoking gun moll grew out of a playful snapshot police found at an abandoned hideout. It was released to the press and published nationwide. While Parker did chain smoke Camel cigarettes, she never smoked cigars.
According to historian Jeff Guinn, the hideout photos led to Parker's glamorization and the creation of legends about the gang. He writes:
John Dillinger had matinee-idol good looks and Pretty Boy Floyd had the best possible nickname, but the Joplin photos introduced new criminal superstars with the most titillating trademark of all—illicit sex. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were wild and young, and undoubtedly slept together....LESS