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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Thursday September 24th, 2020

Stray Leaves

WELCOME NEWS. Regarding our recent genealogy discovery of our James family lines of Choctaw & Chickasaw lineage, now comes news that the Choctaw & Chickasaw Nations are now displayed on Google Maps.The Choctaw Nation's reservation boundaries are now mapped on Google Maps! This will make it easier for people to search and view our reservation boundaries with just a few clicks. Check out our reservation on Google Maps at the following link >> bit.ly/363xszw. ... See MoreSee Less

WELCOME NEWS. Regarding our recent genealogy discovery of our James family lines of Choctaw & Chickasaw lineage, now comes news that the Choctaw & Chickasaw Nations are now displayed on Google Maps.

Friday August 21st, 2020

Stray Leaves

WHY STRAY LEAVES NEVER WILL RUN OUT OF STORIES...The ancestry of many people in SL's genealogy database can be traced back to 99 generations. Some, even more. Imagine the bounty of stories yet to be discovered, yet to be told. ... See MoreSee Less

WHY STRAY LEAVES NEVER WILL RUN OUT OF STORIES...The ancestry of many people in SLs genealogy database can be traced back to 99 generations. Some, even more. Imagine the bounty of stories yet to be discovered, yet to be told.

Tuesday August 18th, 2020

Stray Leaves

Covid 19 testing is underway at Vassie James' Pembroke Hill School! ... See MoreSee Less

Thursday August 13th, 2020

Stray Leaves

Color restoration to images originally created in black and white is a current fashion in genealogy circles. Oddly, the current rage is not producing the brouhaha that arose decades ago when Ted Turner purchased MGM Studios and began a program of colorizing old black and white movies. The most outrage surfaced when Turner colorized the film Gone with the Wind. Historians argued that colorization was a violation of artistic intent.
Today, artistic intent is not a consideration when it comes to old family photos, although the argument certainly would apply to such art images as those made by famed Yosemite photographer Ansel Adams. If anything, colorization appears to increase the authenticity of a family photo, as shown in the image below of the family of Nicholas Knaff & Theresa Tholl, taken as their son Aloysius departs for World War I. The richness of post-Edwardian color produces a vivacity in the image that was not evident or even present in the original and same black and white image.
For the James descendants of Anna Emalen Knaff, standing at the right end of the second row, the dimension of color restores the warmth she was known to possess and project.
... See MoreSee Less

Color restoration to images originally created in black and white is a current fashion in genealogy circles. Oddly, the current rage is not producing the brouhaha that arose decades ago when Ted Turner purchased MGM Studios and began a program of colorizing old black and white movies. The most outrage surfaced when Turner colorized the film Gone with the Wind. Historians argued that colorization was a violation of artistic intent. 
Today, artistic intent is not a consideration when it comes to old family photos, although the argument certainly would apply to such art images as those made by famed Yosemite photographer Ansel Adams. If anything, colorization appears to increase the authenticity of a family photo, as shown in the image below of the family of Nicholas Knaff & Theresa Tholl, taken as their son Aloysius departs for World War I. The richness of post-Edwardian color produces a vivacity in the image that was not evident or even present in the original and same black and white image. 
For the James descendants of Anna Emalen Knaff, standing at the right end of the second row, the dimension of color restores the warmth she was known to possess and project.

Wednesday August 12th, 2020

Stray Leaves

J. Mark Beamis makes his 14th triple platelets donation of 2020. Mark is a great-grandson of Drury Woodson James & son of Joan Malley Beamis, author of Background of a Bandit.

Platelets are cells that help blood clot and support the immune system. During a platelet donation, you give up to six times the amount of platelets contained in a whole blood donation, and your fluids, plasma, and red cells are returned to your body. Not only do platelet donors provide more of the life-saving platelets patients need, they also help limit how many donors a patient is exposed to.

Donated platelets have a shelf-life of 5 days. Platelet donors are constantly needed, especially on weekends and during holidays, to keep the supply stable.

Blood types most needed: A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-
... See MoreSee Less

J. Mark Beamis makes his 14th triple platelets donation of 2020. Mark is a great-grandson of Drury Woodson James & son of Joan Malley Beamis, author of Background of a Bandit.

Platelets are cells that help blood clot and support the immune system. During a platelet donation, you give up to six times the amount of platelets contained in a whole blood donation, and your fluids, plasma, and red cells are returned to your body. Not only do platelet donors provide more of the life-saving platelets patients need, they also help limit how many donors a patient is exposed to.

Donated platelets have a shelf-life of 5 days. Platelet donors are constantly needed, especially on weekends and during holidays, to keep the supply stable. 

Blood types most needed: A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-
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