Charles H. Tisher (Abt. 1848 – 192?), aka James Farrell, Henry Mason, James Smith, Charles Palmer, Charles H. Fisher, J. B. Ford, etc. — Forger
Chief Inspector (later Superintendent) Byrnes, as seen in other REVISED entries, was often unaware of his profiled criminals’ full records, sometimes including incidents that occurred during his tenure. With his entry on Charles Fisher, there’s a further problem: he appears to be confusing two different individuals; the historical records supporting the details he describes can not be one person. Both men were German immigrants, tall, with good English; but one was nearly ten years older than the other; and one was an inept burglar, while the other was a masterful forger.
Byrnes describes the 19-year old youth who was arrested for larceny in October, 1876 and sentenced to two years and six months in Sing Sing. He was released early, in October 1878, and then was unable to find work. Starving, he broke a window to get arrested, and was brought before Judge Otterbourg, who investigated his circumstances and showed him mercy, raising funds for him to travel west.
That was one Charles Fisher, and he has not been traced further.
However, while this young man was behind bars in Sing Sing, another man–Charles H. Tisher, alias Fisher, alias Palmer, etc., was already plying his trade as a forger. All the facts presented by Byrnes from that point forward align with the career of this man, not the young , repentant thief. Moreover, Charles H. Tisher had a remarkable criminal career, that until now has never been recounted.
Charles H. Tisher appeared for the first time in Philadelphia, in early 1874, as the co-proprietor of a new enterprise, the Mercantile Bureau and Independent Collection Agency Company. Initially, it appeared to be a legitimate enterprise: a private collection agency, an industry which had recently started in the United States. Tisher had respectable attorneys as partners, but the daily management of the business was left in his hands. In early 1875, he appeared in Jersey City, New Jersey, with a plan to expand the company’s services to the New York market. He solicited both investors and new customers; and then was charged with embezzlement. Most of the charges against him were dropped, but he was jailed for months and minor charges stuck, so his business was ruined.
He reappeared in February, 1878, when he was arrested in New York with an accomplice, Charles Burton, alias John Richardson, for committing small check forgeries. Their apartments were searched and police found all the implements of a forging operation: type, small presses, dies, engraver’s tools, inks, blanks, etc. Also found were letters proving him to be the same Charles H. Tisher arrested in Jersey City in 1875. Tisher and Richardson later plead guilty, and gave evidence against three other conspirators, including Ike Hoffman (Isaac Schoan, alias John Jones); Charlie Edmunds alias Loring, and George Luxton. After nearly a year of legal maneuvers, Tisher was sent to Sing Sing in February, 1879, for a term of two and a half years.
Upon his release, he hooked up with another forgery operation headquartered in Chicago. They victimized banks in the city until the gang was captured in early 1882. This time, the member gave their names as John Bush alias Hatfield; John Miller alias Morton; and William Lawrence alias Vaughan alias Livingston. Tisher turned States evidence against the others, and was released and told to leave the state.
Tisher appeared next as Charles Fisher with a gang of forgers in New York, in company with Walter Pierce, alias Potter; Charles J. Everhard alias Marsh Market Jake, alias Samuel Peters; and Charles Denken. Fisher was now recognized as the operation’s leader, and refused to make any statement in court. This time, Tisher was given a stiff sentence: ten years in Sing Sing.
Tisher formed another check-forging gang upon getting out of Sing Sing, this time composed of Robert Wallace alias Arthur Dearborn; William Hartley alias William Boland; and Lizzie Turner, alias Sheeny Rachel. They swept through the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in early 1895, then attacked banks and merchants in San Francisco, then moved on to Cincinnati. Pinkerton detectives traced the gang to Baltimore. Tisher used the alias J. B. Ford. He was taken from Baltimore to Cincinnati on a requisition, and made a daring escape from jail while awaiting trial.
Tisher then headed to England. While there, he frequented a saloon that was a burglar’s hangout, and was swept up with others during an 1897 police raid. Rather than reveal his identity, Tisher allowed himself to be jailed for burglary under the name Edward Simpson. However, while ensconced in the Wormwood Scrubs prison, he was recognized. He was extradicted to New York, and then taken back to Cincinnati, where he had broken jail. This time, in late December 1897, he was taken to the Ohio State Prison to serve three and a half years.
Upon his release, Tisher and his acknowledged wife, Rachel Hurd alias Lizzie Turner, went back to England. Tisher, under the name Henry Conroy, was arrested there in October, 1902, for stealing from letter boxes–a favorite activity of his was stealing checks from envelopes and raising their amounts, and forging signatures. He was sentenced to two years hard labor. Rachel was arrested with him, but released for lack of evidence.
After serving his time, Tisher was freed, but in July 1904 was taken once again. This time he was sentenced to ten years. Apparently he was released early, because he was back in New York City by August, 1910, when he was arrested for attempted forgery under the name Charles Wells. He was sentenced to two and a half years at Sing Sing. He was released in August, 1912. He was given an annuity by the American Banking Association on the promise that he would never forge checks again.
He was sent back to Sing Sing in May, 1914, for one year and eight months, again for forgery.
In 1920, when he was about 74 years old, Charles Tisher (as Charles Fisher) was named as the leader of a forgery gang working in Philadelphia. He was the penman that signed checks stolen by his accomplices, who had obtained jobs as janitors and elevator operators in business office buildings.
In 1923, he was arrested in New York for using a nickel slug to cheat a subway turnstile. He was sentenced to serve ten days.
Tisher did not end his career on that sad note. In 1924 he was caught up as a minor member of notorious post office hold-up gang that had reaped millions from one coast to another, headed by Gerald Chapman.