Fed-Ex arrived today with my complimentary copies of the catalog for Wilbur Zink’s upcoming auction of his James-Younger Collection, conducted by Heritage Auctions. I was curious to see if Wilbur Zink’s image of Belle Starr is included.
The catalog is a collector’s item of its own.
Leafing through the catalog, one image popped out to immediately rivet my attention. It was Wilbur’s tintype of a young lady purported to be the daughter of Myra Maebelle Shirley, aka Belle Starr.
This image, identified as Pearl Starr, has generated quite of bit of controversy over the years. My book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I displays the best-known image of Belle Starr. On an opposite page are pictures of other Shirley family members, primarily that of Emma Wren Shirley, who married Everett Elbert “Elo” James. Emma is pictured with her parents. The image of her father Paul Porter Shirley offers a third Shirley family image, by which to compare the picture claimed to be Pearl Shirley.
What do you think? Are those the eyes, lips, forehead, and ears of a Shirley?