Tag Archives: authentication

Lois Gibson-Sandy Mills Tintype Controversy Puzzles Great Britain – but not for long

In his forensic analysis, titled “Jesse James, Robert Ford, and the Tintype,” Great Britain’s Mark Bampton poses his question about the controversy in typical British fashion –  as a pun.

 “Who are these four?”

True Jesse James and Bob Ford-Fake Jesse James and Bob Ford
Cover image from Mark Bampton’s discourse, “Jesse James, Robert Ford, and the Tintype.”

Mark Bampton lives in Ampthill, which he describes as “a small Georgian town” in Bedfordshire, Great Britain.  Prompted by the reaction of the Jesse James family to the Bob Ford/Jesse James photo hoax, promoted by Lois Gibson and Sandy Mills and their circle of supporters,  Mark Bampton decided to apply his own scientific forensic analysis to the image controversy.  Not surprisingly, Bampton arrives at a different conclusion than Lois Gibson.

“It took me a little longer than expected to look into Lois Gibson’s authentication material due to the number of problems with it. From the material that I could find, I could not identify any effective analysis process.”

 

Mark Bampton
Mark Bampton of Ampthill, England

Unlike the artist Lois Gibson who claims to have authenticated Mills tintype by employing imagined photo comparisons and artistry, Bampton is not an artist. Bampton’s field is industrial design and product engineering, a profession that Bampton says requires both “artistic and technical demands.”

Instead of artistry, Bampton applied the sciences of mathematics, linear technical analysis, and measurement testing. These are the same skills Bampton employs as a product engineer. They also are the skills that a trained scientific forensic scientist normally would apply in the formal analysis of an historical image or artifact.

“I could not identify any logical or justifiable reason why Lois Gibson would authenticate the tintype…”

 Bampton soon discovered the Bob Ford/Jesse James controversy was not the only controversy involving the Houston-based artist. Lois Gibson also created a very similar controversy over an image she claimed was the famed bluesman, Robert Johnson. On the website Academia, Mark Bampton discovered that England’s newspaper The Guardian  had reported on the Jonhson controversy in an article titled, “‘Robert Johnson’ photo does not show the blues legend, music experts say.”

 

Robert Johnson image controversy
Disputed image of famed bluesman Robert Johnson

Dr. Bruce Conforth, a university professor of American culture and a founding curator of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, was cited in The Guardian article as criticizing Lois Gibson’s authentication technique.  “Historical scholarship relies on evidence,” Dr. Conforth said. “And if you look at the alleged authentication of that photograph there really wasn’t a piece of evidence, there was opinion. Historical fact is never validated by opinion; it can only be validated by evidence.”

Bampton soon discovered the reason why Lois Gibson would authenticate the claimed Bob Ford/Jesse James tintype.  when he read another article written by Dr. Bruce Conforth, that also was published on Academia. In writing “A New Analysis of the Two Accepted Photos of Robert Johnson and the Alleged 3rd Photo,” Dr. Conforth lays out the story of the Johnson image, its discovery, and Gibson’s record of association with it. This article followed two previous publications by Conforth. “Another Robert Johnson Photo Debunked” documents Conforth’s disgruntlement with the fakery surrounding the Johnson image. “The Business of Robert Johnson Fakery” is another Conforth article published in Living Blues magazine.

To Mark Bampton, the Conforth’s story already was  a familiar one. Dr. Conforth’s story of the Johnson image reflected almost precisely the sad saga of the Bob Ford/Jesse James image as related in the James family’s rebuttal to Gibson’s authentication.

Linear forensics applied to claimed Robert Johnson image
Linear forensics applied to Lois Gibson claimed image of Robert Johnson

Very familiar to Mark Bampton was the linear forensics applied to the Johnson image, that appeared in Dr. Conforth’s treatise.

Bampton decided to apply his own forensic skills upon the assumptive Bob Ford/Jesse James image.

 “I intended to make my report factual and impartial although conclusions about the veracity of the authentication were largely inevitable.”

Linear forensics applied to authentic image of Jesse James with a claimed image
Linear forensics applied by Mark Bampton to Lois Gibson’s alleged authentication of the claimed Jesse James image yields numerous discrepancies that are plainly visible.

Using several applications of linear forensics, now fully and clearly outlined in Mark Bampton’s documented report,  discrepancies proved to be multiple and evident. Not only were discrepancies revealed in the conjectural Jesse James image, they also became evident in Gibson’s uncertain Bob Ford image.

Linear forensics applied to authentic image of Bob Ford with a claimed image
Linear forensics applied by Mark Bampton to Lois Gibson’s alleged authentication of the claimed Bob Ford image yields plainly visible discrepancies.

“If this is correct, $40,250.00 is a lot to pay for a picture of two unknowns, even if it is an old tintype! Personally, I’d move the decimal place at least three places to the left.”

Mark Bampton registered shock when told by the James family that Sandy Mills’ tintype had sold at auction for $35,000, plus auction fees. The James family was informed of the sale by two regular attendees at Burley Auction Gallery events. The regulars stated that the prize bidder was not recognizable and was unknown locally.

The James family alleges that the fraud that is evident in Gibson’s hypothetical authentication may extend to the auction, too. Prior to the auction, Stray Leaves publisher, and Jesse James family biographer Eric F. James was contacted by the Houston Chronicle to schedule an interview following the auction. Given the very surprising outcome of the auction, this result should have made a gigantic news story, attracting worldwide attention. No historical image of Jesse James or the James family has ever sold for more than two thousand dollars. Eric F. James is perplexed that the Houston Chronicle did not follow through and interview him afterward as planned. Nor did the newspaper report on the auction outcome as it had planned. This was even more perplexing given the fact that Dylan Baddour of the Chronicle had broken the story initially about the pretentious tintype. Baddour previously also reported on Gibson’s alleged authentication of the Robert Johnson image.

icollector bid report
Sale report for the fake Bob Fork/Jesse James tintype is identified on icollector website

Not willing to accept one piece of oral testimony about the auction result alone, Mark Bampton uncovered secondary evidence of the auction’s outcome on icollector.com.

Of course, no evidence remains that the purchase money actually was paid, the image transferred, and the sale concluded. Nor has the winning bidder been publicly identified following the acquisition of such a prized auction artifact. Those unknowns in itself guarantees that this story will continue to be a controversy for a long time to come.

Initially, Mark Bampton titled his paper in true British fashion, using a very witty pun. He posed the question,  “Who are these four?”

The literal answer to the pun is a fake Bob Ford, a fake Jesse James, and two authentic images of them.  The non-literal answer is, whoever has benefited the most financially or in publicity from the promotion and sale. Among Lois Gibson, Sandy Mills, the auction house, and the Gibson-Mills ring of partners and supporters, a lot of unknown information remains. Ample room for conjecture is left. The wealth of criticism leveled at this controversy will not abate soon, at least not until the pun of the question finds authenticatable answers.

“I plan to do a separate paper for each of the two Robert Johnson photographs…I plan to follow a similar analysis for the Robert Johnson papers as for the Jesse James paper.”

Georgetown College
Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky

This fall, Mark Bampton will visit America to present his paper on “Jesse James, Bob Ford, and the Tintype” before the James family, their friends, and associates at the annual conference of the National James-Younger Gang Inc. The conference will be held in Georgetown, Kentucky. The public is welcome to attend.

MEET Mark Bampton:  SIGN UP for notices to attend & meet Mark Bampton at the James-Younger Gang 2017 Conference.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Mark Bampton’s entire paper now appears on the Academia website and also is free for download HERE.

CONTACT Mark Bampton

Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pt. 5

Rarely does the owner of an image claimed to be that of Jesse Woodson James ever proceed to the costly process of a formal authentication. The process itself is lengthy, and requires an administrator who is highly trained.

Antiquarian Gary Taylor was pretty sure of what he had, enough to commit further resources to prove it. In this video, Gary talks about his reward. Gary present’s Jesse’s great-grandson, Judge James R. Ross, with a photo-copy.

Fraudulent Images of Jesse, Frank, Anna, & Younger Brothers

fraudulent image of Frank James and Annie Ralston
Claimed image of Frank James & Anna Ralston assessed as fraudulent

Photos claimed by a collector to be Jesse Woodson James, Frank James and his wife Anna Ralston, and Bob and Cole Younger appeared this week on the blog of the True West Historical Society. These are fraudulent images. I was asked to respond. I posted the following:

The image may be of a Jesse W. James, but assuredly 100% NOT of Jesse Woodson James, America’s iconic outlaw. Additionally, no provenance appears related to the images to support the claim.

When images are submitted to the James Preservation Trust for possible authentication, prior to anything being done a visual assessment is made of the subject image. Comparisons with the known and authenticated images of the outlaw are assessed. The image also is visually assessed against multiple archives of images of James family members. If the image does not appear to resemble the archival known images, the submitter of the image is advised not to waste the cost of proceeding with a costly formal forensic analysis. Even if the submitter may wish to proceed anyway, the Trust will decline to do so, in essence deeming further effort a waste of time. Regarding the images here, my advice would be to not risk the cost.

Gone are the days when an historical image can simply be claimed to be that of an historical figure. There’s simply too much knowledge now, and forensic techniques have advanced immeasurably. However, that will never stop claims from being made. On average, I receive 2-4 images monthly, and occasionally entire photo albums, that claim to be members of the Jesse James family. The other day, someone asked me what I thought of a claimed image on the internet of Jesse James seated. I responded, “Which one? I have about 25 in our files.”

One certainty is this. There always will be more claimed or fake Jesse James images yet to appear, than there are authentic and true images of the outlaw that exist.

For fun, you may want to view a recent posting to the family on their blog about physical ear formation among the James. It took many among the family by surprise. A bevy of email resulted from family members, so many stating “I have one!”

Fraudulent image of Frank James and Annie Ralston
Claimed full image of Frank James and wife Anna Ralston assessed as fraudulent

Following considerable adverse criticism of the collector’s claims, the collector responded in a way typical of the behavior of countless con men in both the near and distant past. The collector did not address intelligently and coherently any issues of provenance, nor offer any evidence to substantiate his claim. Instead, the collector responded, lacerating his critics, calling them names, and in the most infantile fashion denigrating them by parodying their names. The collector later attacked his critics also of the True West site in their social media. Such is not the behavior of an average, bone fide collector.

Aficionados of the Civil War and Old West well recognize the physical personages of history. If an image holds a possibility of being authentic, calls are made publicly for forensic analysis to be conducted. For the most part, countless claimed images are promptly dismissed publicly as untrue.

A dead giveaway that the claimed image in this situation is not Frank James is the simple historical fact that Frank James has never been known to have a head full of gray hair when he was the age of the man in the photo. Frank James was bald by that time of life. Plus the facial features, spacing, and relationships in the claimed image differentiates wildly from known images of Alexander Franklin James.

Fraudulent pictures of Jesse James and Jesse James with the Younger brothers
Claimed image of Jesse Woodson James & Jesse Woodson James seated with Younger brothers, assessed as fraudulent

No authentic image of either Jesse Woodson James or the Younger Brothers would come close to favoring these.

Con men arrive with their claims, always pumping their frauds together with their own bad behavior.

The Guns of Jesse James

Eric James of the James Preservation Trust, representing the historical interests of the family of Frank & Jesse James, discusses the known guns owned by Jesse James and passed down to his family. Eric further addresses authentication issues the Trust runs into when guns claimed to have belonged to Jesse James come to auction.