Tag Archives: Bruce Conforth

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

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Tuesday March 2nd, 2021
Stray Leaves

Photos from Jesse James Soul Liberty, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence's post ... See MoreSee Less

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Tuesday February 9th, 2021
Stray Leaves

Theater advertisements for plays appeared like this in newspapers. This ad for Bloomer Girl appeared in August of 1845. Bloomer Girl was the product of Daniel Lewis James Jr. and principally his wife Lilith Stanward. The following excerpt about them appears in JJSL:

Written against the backdrop of World War II, when blacks were moving out of the South into an industrial workforce, and women also were moving out of the home into the workplace, Bloomer Girl is set in the pre-Civil War era, interweaving themes of black and female equality, war and peace, and politics. The play’s principal character, Dolly, is based upon the inventor of the bloomer, Amelia Bloomer, a contemporary of an acquaintance of Vassie James and Susan B. Anthony. As a fighter in the suffragette movement for women’s rights, Bloomer advocated, “Get rid of those heavy hoop skirts; wear bloomers like men; let’s get pants; let’s be their equal.” In the play, Dolly politicks for gender equality, as her rebellious niece Evelina politicks her suitor, a Southern slaveholding aristocrat, for racial equality. As the play’s librettist, Yip Harburg, stated,
Bloomer Girl was about “the indivisibility of human freedom.”

Bloomer Girl opened on Broadway on October 5, 1944. Dan (Daniel Lewis James) insisted Lilith’s (Dan’s wife) name come first in the show’s credits. The play was an instant hit, lasting 654 performances. Dan remained modest about the show’s success, considering his contribution a failure. “...I seem not to have given full credit to my collaborators on the 1944 musical comedy Bloomer Girl...The facts, in brief, are as follows: the originator of the story idea from which the musical grew was my wife, Lilith James, who charmingly chose the perversities of Fashion to dramatize the early struggles of the Women's Rights movement. She also developed the principal characters. I joined her in writing a first draft of the libretto. It failed to satisfy our lyricist, E. Y. Harburg, and Harold Arlen, the composer. It also failed to satisfy us. An impasse developed at which point all agreed to call in the team of Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy who were experienced writers in the field of musical comedy. They reworked the material to the satisfaction of everyone but Lilith and myself, who had hoped to invade Gilbert & Sullivan territory, with what we thought was a light-hearted paradoxical look at history. What I took for a personal artistic failure for which I blamed, first of all, myself, went on to become a lavish entertainment which played on Broadway for eighteen months and has since often been revived in summer theater. If I was not delighted, audiences certainly were and full credit for this should be given to Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy (now deceased) without whom the production would never have taken place...”
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Wednesday February 3rd, 2021
Stray Leaves

YOU CAN'T HELP BUT WONDER...What might have happened if Alan Pinkerton assigned Kate Warne to track and capture Jesse James?In 1856, twenty-three-year-old widow Kate Warne walked into the office of the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Chicago, announcing that she had seen the company’s ad and wanted to apply for the job. “Sorry,” Alan Pinkerton told her, “but we don’t have any clerical staff openings. We’re looking to hire a new detective.” Pinkerton would later describe Warne as having a “commanding” presence that morning. “I’m here to apply for the detective position,” she replied. Taken aback, Pinkerton explained to Kate that women aren’t suited to be detectives, and then Kate forcefully and eloquently made her case. Women have access to places male detectives can’t go, she noted, and women can befriend the wives and girlfriends of suspects and gain information from them. Finally, she observed, men tend to become braggards around women who encourage boasting, and women have keen eyes for detail. Pinkerton was convinced. He hired her.

Shortly after Warne was hired, she proved her value as a detective by befriending the wife of a suspect in a major embezzlement case. Warne not only gained the information necessary to arrest and convict the thief, but she discovered where the embezzled funds were hidden and was able to recover nearly all of them. On another case she extracted a confession from a suspect while posing as a fortune teller. Pinkerton was so impressed that he created a Women’s Detective Bureau within his agency and made Kate Warne the leader of it.

In her most famous case, Kate Warne may have changed the history of the world. In February 1861 the president of the Wilmington and Baltimore railroad hired Pinkerton to investigate rumors of threats against the railroad. Looking into it, Pinkerton soon found evidence of something much more dangerous—a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before his inauguration. Pinkerton assigned Kate Warne to the case. Taking the persona of “Mrs. Cherry,” a Southern woman visiting Baltimore, she managed to infiltrate the secessionist movement there and learn the specific details of the scheme—a plan to kill the president-elect as he passed through Baltimore on the way to Washington.

Pinkerton relayed the threat to Lincoln and urged him to travel to Washington from a different direction. But Lincoln was unwilling to cancel the speaking engagements he had agreed to along the way, so Pinkerton resorted to a Plan B. For the trip through Baltimore Lincoln was secretly transferred to a different train and disguised as an invalid. Posing as his caregiver was Kate Warne. When she afterwards described her sleepless night with the President, Pinkerton was inspired to adopt the motto that became famously associated with his agency: “We never sleep.” The details Kate Warne had uncovered had enabled the “Baltimore Plot” to be thwarted.

During the Civil War, Warne and the female detectives under her supervision conducted numerous risky espionage missions, with Warne’s charm and her skill at impersonating a Confederate sympathizer giving her access to valuable intelligence. After the war she continued to handle dangerous undercover assignments on high-profile cases, while at the same time overseeing the agency’s growing staff of female detectives.

Kate Warne, America’s first female detective, died of pneumonia at age 34, on January 28, 1868, one hundred fifty-three years ago today. “She never let me down,” Pinkerton said of one of his most trusted and valuable agents. She was buried in the Pinkerton family plot in Chicago.
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YOU CANT HELP BUT WONDER...What might have happened if Alan Pinkerton assigned Kate Warne to track and capture Jesse James?
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