#41 Charles Fisher

Charles H. Tisher (Abt. 1848 – 192?), aka James Farrell, Henry Mason, James Smith, Charles Palmer, Charles H. Fisher, J. B. Ford, etc. — Forger

Link to Byrnes’ entry on #41 Charles Fisher

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.

Capture

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

#136 Timothy Oats

Timothy Oakes (1848-1907), aka Tim Oates/Oats, Timothy Ryan, Timothy Clark, Charles Oats, Thomas Bradley, etc. — Pickpocket, Till Tapper, Badger-Puller, Con Man

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-six years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Speculator. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 8 1/2 inches. Weight, 198 pounds. Sandy hair, blue eyes, sandy complexion. Generally wears a light-colored mustache.

RECORD. Tim Oats is an old New York panel thief and pickpocket. He was arrested in New York City in 1874, with his wife Addie Clark, charged with robbing a man by the panel game. They escaped conviction on account of the complainant’s departure from the city.

He was arrested again in New York City, under the name of Timothy Ryan, charged with robbing William Vogel, on July 30, 1875, of a diamond stud valued at $200, while riding on an East Broadway railroad car. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to four years in Sing Sing prison, on September 17, 1875, by Recorder Hackett.

Tim was arrested again in New York City, under the name of Timothy Clark, on January 11, 1879, in company of James Moran, whose name is Tommy Matthews (156), charged with robbing a man named Michael Jobin, of Mount Vernon, N. Y., of $200, on a Third Avenue horse-car. Both were committed in default of $5,000 bail for trial by Judge Murray. They pleaded guilty to larceny from the person and were sentenced to two years in the penitentiary on February 6, 1879, by Judge Gildersleeve.

Tim Oats, Theodore Wiley (171) and William Brown, alias Wm. H. Russell, alias “The Student,” were arrested at Syracuse, N. Y., on January 4, 1883, charged with grand larceny. They stole a tin cash-box from behind a saloon bar, containing $250, the property of Seiter Brothers, No. 99 North Salina Street, Syracuse. Two other people were with the above party but escaped. Oats played the “fit act” in the back room, kicking over chairs and tables. The proprietor and all the parties in the store ran into the back room to help the “poor fellow,” when one of the party sneaked behind the bar and stole the cash-box. Tim Oats gave the name of Charles Oats, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Auburn State prison, on March 1, 1883. His sentence expired November 1, 1885. “The.” Wiley gave the name of George Davis, alias George Marsh, and was tried and convicted also. (See No. 171.) Brown, alias Russell, alias “The Student,” pleaded guilty in this case and was sentenced to five years in Auburn prison, on March 1, 1883. Oats’s picture is a very good one, taken in January, 1879.

Timothy Oakes died in 1907 under his real name, but for most of his life he was known as Tim Oates/Oats. He married Ada Clark when both were 20 or younger. Addie was his partner in crime through the early 1870s, and likely is the same woman later identified as his wife in the 1880s and 1890s, Alice Oates.

Tim made his name as a New York pickpocket, but was involved off-and-on between 1874 and the late 1890s as a panel-thief/badger game operator. Panel thieves hid behind a curtain or thin partition in a room in which a co-conspirator woman has lured a man into a sexual tryst. In some cases, the robbery occurs during sex with a prostitute, by sneaking wallet contents from the man’s discarded clothes. Tim Oats preferred to interrupt the scene before any physical intimacy took place by stampeding through the door as an enraged husband. He then would threaten violence on his pretend wife, and the victim was supposed to smooth things over by offering money to stop any beating. This variation was known as the badger game.

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Panel thieves were sometimes found in brothels, but that soon gave a bad reputation to those businesses. Panel thieves and badger games were much more effective when the premises were rented on a short-term basis; and when the woman lured the victim through an impromptu meeting. The woman usually presented herself as high society: elegantly dressed, wearing expensive jewelry, well-spoken, etc. The victims were targeted as being wealthy, respectable men–and unlikely to be armed or pugnacious.

Following his 1870s arrests for picking pockets (listed by Byrnes), in early 1882, Tim Oats tried operating a saloon in Philadelphia. A Philadelphia detective made a deal with Tim to protect a badger-game operation run by Tim, but reneged on the deal and arrested Addie. Tim got his revenge by selling the saloon and testifying against the detective on corruption charges.

Capture

Byrnes got some facts wrong about Tim’s 1883 arrest in Syracuse: he was sentenced April 1, 1883, and was only given two years, regaining his freedom long before November 1885; in fact, he was picked up and later released for picking pockets in Philadelphia in September, 1885. The 1883 arrest helped Timothy Oats to get credit for the “Fainting-Fit” deception, practiced mainly in saloons, where an accomplice feigning a fainting or epileptic fit distracts the counter man or bartender, leaving the sneak thief easy access to the till.

Byrnes does not mention in his book Tim’s next vocation, but in newspaper interviews, he suggested that he devised a con in which he advertised for tutors to be assigned to jobs in other cities, and took deposits from his applicants to assure their position. Then he would disappear with the deposits.

One of the women he interviewed was Jennie McLean, from Passaic, New Jersey, who was so charming that she was able to turn the tables and get a loan of $25.00 from Tim. Time recognized talent, and this was the supposed start of his badger game operation. He employed Jennie, Mamie St. Charles, Kitty Hester, Louise Loflin, and “Essie” to bait targeted men. They were all described as pretty, intelligent, and criminally clever. Tim paid them a weekly salary and assigned them different territories in Manhattan.

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By late 1888, Tim Oats had a virtual monopoly on the badger-game business in New York. However, by 1889 authorities finally recognized all his women and their methods, and Tim left New York for Cincinnati. After a year or so in that city, they returned to New York.

Rather than trust another team of sometimes rebellious female recruits, this time Tim relied on the charms of two women: his wife, Alice Oates, aka Addie Clark or Anna Davis; and her alledged sister Jenny Jones, aka English Jen (who was perhaps, Jennie McLean). As  muscle, Tim employed William Ferguson, aka Billy Devere, Joe “Jimmy” Walsh, and Mike McCarthy, aka Wreck Donovan. The gang was arrested in New York in November, 1891, but none of their victims appeared to press charges. Still, authorities convinced them to leave town.

At that point, the gang split up. There may have been a marital split-up between Tim and his wife. Alice Oates and William Ferguson went on to Boston and then to Washington, D. C.  to ply their badger game. Tim Oates opted to go to England with a man named William Shaw and two women, one of whom was likely English Jen and the other Rachel Hurd, the wife of forger Charles Fisher. In England, Tim went by the name Thomas Bradley, and his associate sailed by as James Bradley. Within a short time, the two men argued, and Tim assaulted his partner. Tim was charged with this attack and sent to jail for two years.

In 1895, Tim returned to the United States, and was soon back in the badger-game business in Washington, D.C. and in New York, teaming up with some of his former gang.

Late in the 1890s, Tim Oakes teamed up with Larry Summerfield to create several “big cons,” elaborately scripted con games targeting rich men, and involving teams of role-players. One con involved selling a huge number of Standard Oil stocks that were supposedly being hoarded by an old miser in England.

But undoubtedly the most famous “big con” developed by Summerfield and Oakes was the “wireless wiretap,” in which a team of con artists set up what was supposed to have been an illegal wiretap that obtained horse race results before they were received by bookies. The victims of the con were gamblers who believed that they had advance knowledge of the race results; therefore these victims could never complain about their losses without admitting that they themselves had tried to cheat. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the plot of the Robert Redford/Paul Newman movie, The Sting. Some sources, like the New York Times, gave most of the credit for the invention of this con to Oakes.

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In August, 1905, New York police got wind that a “wireless wiretap” con was being run in the Tenderloin district, and raided the lair. They were surprised to find such an operation being run, since Larry Summerfield was already behind bars in Sing Sing, but they found the rest of his gang–including Tim Oakes.

Two years later, in September 1907, the New York Times announced that Tim Oakes had died at the Ward’s Island Asylum for the Insane, where he had been incarcerated for over two years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#102 Edward Lyman

Edward J. Lyman (1844-1917), aka Boston Ned, Frank E. Parker, Edward Lovejoy, George Atkinson, George Ackerson, Edward Keenan — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-two years old in 1886. Born in Boston, Mass. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Light hair, blue eyes, light complexion, full face. Married, Painter by trade. Has “E.L.” in India ink on his arm; scars on three fingers of right hand and on under lip.

RECORD. Ned Lyman is probably one of the cleverest general thieves in America, and is well known in all the principal cities East and West, especially in Boston, where he makes his home. Lyman, under the name of George Ackerson, was convicted in the Superior Court of Boston, Mass., on January 17, 1863, for larceny from the person, and sentenced to the House of Correction for four months. Discharged May 15, 1863.

He was convicted again in the same court on May 19, 1864, for larceny from the person, and sentenced to the House of Correction for six months. He was discharged September 14, 1864.

Again convicted in the same court on May 25, 1868, for assault and battery with a knife, and sentenced for two years in the House of Correction. Discharged December 23, 1870.

There is evidently some mistake in the date of Lyman’s discharge from the House of Correction in Boston, as the record shows that he was arrested in New York City on July 22, 1870, for till-tapping, and committed in $1,500 bail by Judge Cox.

The records also show that he was arrested and convicted of larceny from the person in Philadelphia, Pa., and sentenced to four years in the Eastern Penitentiary on March 27, 1880. Again, in the Superior Court of Boston, Mass, April 17, 1884, he was convicted of an attempt to commit larceny from the person, and sentenced to the House of Correction for twelve months. Discharged March 12, 1885. This last time he gave the name of George Ackerson.

Lyman was arrested in Boston again in June, 1885, for larceny from the person, and gave bail, which was defaulted. In August, 1885, he was arrested in Providence, R.I., for larceny from the person, and was sentenced to one year in prison there. When his time expires, he will be taken back to Boston and tried on the complaint he ran away from. Lyman’s picture is an excellent one, taken in Boston in 1884.

What is it that causes a hardened criminal to reform? Fear of dying in prison? The love of a family that encourages them to be better? An old promise to a dead parent? Something made Ned Lyman reform, against all odds, given his record.

Byrnes begins the recitation of Lyman’s record much earlier compared to most of his entries, which usually picked up in the late 1870s. He begins his account of Lyman in 1863; but Lyman had already made a mark three years earlier, at age 16, when he was arrested in Boston for rioting (a charge usually leveled at street gangs fighting among themselves). He was given the choice of a fine of $60 and court costs or six months in jail. Lyman was the only son of an Irish widow, so he likely served the time.

In May, 1861 he enlisted for a year’s duty in the Navy. He was aboard the USS Colorado, which saw blockade duty in the Gulf of Mexico.

By 1862, Ned Lyman had embarked on his career as a pickpocket. He was arrested on October of that year, and sentenced to four months in the house of detention. As Byrnes indicates, he was right back at it when released, but was caught immediately, sending him back to confinement until May 1863.  Ned  was caught picking pockets again in May 1864. He was discharged in September.

After a gap of several years in his known record, he was arrested for stabbing a man in a knife fight in May, 1868. The disagreement was over a woman. This incident put Lyman on ice until December, 1870.

In February 1871, Ned married a Boston Irish girl, Catherine Scanlon, aka Kate Moran. They started working crowds together as pickpockets. Ned was arrested several times later that year: in July, August, and November. His August arrest was under the name Frank E. Parker, and he was found to be carrying a ledger book which supposedly showed his criminal income and expenses. Kate was arrested with him in November, and again on her own in December.

In January 1872, Ned and Kate were arrested for picking pockets on the Fitchburg Railroad. They were indicted and let out on bail of $1000 each. They defaulted and took a ship to London and then on to Paris, where they resumed their crimes. They were both caught while in France, and Kate was given two years while Ned was given three years. Kate returned to Boston after her sentence expired, and while waiting for Ned to be set free, she died.

After Ned was released in France, he returned to the United States and was soon arrested for picking pockets in Brooklyn. He was sent to the Kings County prison at Crow Hill on a sentence of two years. Boston authorities heard he was there, and he was sent back to Boston in March, 1878 to face charges dating back to 1872.

In March 1880, Ned was arrested in Philadelphia for pickpocketing and sentenced to four years at Eastern State Penitentiary. While in his cell in Philadelphia, stories appeared in newspapers suggesting that he took part in bank check forgeries in Vermont; however, these accounts were confusing him with a different man, a well-known forger named William H. Lyman.

Capture

Ned returned to Boston in 1884 and was arrested as George Atkinson for his usual crime, and spent the next eleven months in jail. He repeated his offense in May as Edward Keenan; and in Providence, Rhode Island in August 1885.

In 1887, he went roving with two other well-known pickpockets, Ned Lyons and Shang Campbell. The three were captured in Kent, Ohio. Ned received a sentence to the State Prison in Columbus for five years.

After getting out of prison in Ohio, Ned returned to Boston, now nearly fifty years old. It was then that he turned his life around. He married for the second time, to Mary A. Murphy, and started to raise a family. Ned got a job as a clerk at the Edison Electric Works, a job he held for many years. He and Mary had four children, a last being a son, George, born in 1906 when Ned was sixty-two. Ned passed away in 1917 at 73.

 

#84 Joseph Parish

Joseph C. Parish (183?-1890), aka Sealskin Joe, Joe Parrish — Pickpocket, Watch Stuffer, Bank Sneak

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-six years old in 1886. Born in Michigan. An artist by trade. Married. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 164 pounds. Hair black, mixed with gray; bluish-gray eyes; large and prominent features; dark complexion. Generally wears a full, dark-brown beard, cut short. High, retreating forehead. High cheek bones and narrow chin.

RECORD. Joe Parish is a Western pickpocket and general thief, and is one of the most celebrated criminals in America. He has been actively engaged in crooked work for the last twenty-five years, and if all his exploits were written up they would astonish the reader. In his time he is said to have had permission to work in many of the large cities in the West. He attempted to ply his vocation in New York City a few years ago, but was ordered to leave the city. Several Southern cities have suffered from his depredations.

He is said to have been with General Greenthal and his gang, who were arrested at Syracuse, N.Y., on March 11, 1877, for robbing a man at the railroad depot there out of $1,190, on March 1, 1877. Parish is well known in Chicago, Ill., where he has property and a wife and family of three girls and one boy. He at one time kept a large billiard parlor in Davenport, Iowa, but, being crooked, he was driven out of the town.

He was finally arrested in Chicago, Ill., on February 13, 1883, and delivered to the chief of police of Syracuse, N.Y. He was taken there, and sentenced to eight years in Auburn prison, N.Y., on April 29, 1883, for robbing one Delos S. Johnson, of Fabius, N.Y., on the Binghamton road. Parish’s picture is an excellent one, taken in May, 1883.

Joe Parish once claimed that “Parish” wasn’t his real name, and that even his wife and children weren’t aware of his real name. However, it was a name he early adopted and was known by all his life. One source said that his father was English and his mother French, and that he had been born and raised in Michigan, but none of that has been confirmed.

He first appeared in Detroit in the late 1850s. He was a sporting man, and in October, 1858 at London, Ontario, fought a boxing match against English lightweight Mike Trainor. Trainor was twenty pounds lighter, but a much more skilled fighter. They went nineteen rounds before Parish slipped to one knee and Trainor hit him, a disqualifying foul. Although Parish won the purse, he acknowledged Trainor as the better fighter, split the purse with him, and shared a tankard of ale afterwards.

By 1860 he had migrated to Chicago, his on-and-off home for the rest of his career. He had married an older English woman, Sarah E. Davis, who was said to weigh much control over Joe. In Chicago he gained a reputation as a pennyweight specializing in watches, i.e. a “watch-stuffer”, one who substitutes a cheap watch for a superior one.

He was also an aggressive, mob-style pickpocket, working with other men to jostle people in crowds: on streetcars, outside of theaters, and at baseball games. In the latter part of the 1860s, he worked with a pickpocket mob that traveled around the country, with partners Willy Best, Denny Hurley, Johnny Burke, Chicago Bob, and Tommy Maddox. They were working in New York when they interrupted their efforts to attend the Barney Aaron-Sam Collyer prizefight.

One doubtful tale told about Parish was that he was such a skilled pickpocket that he was hired by the French government during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 to steal papers carried by Prussian officers.

Capture

In November, 1874, Parish made an attempt to earn an honest living by opening a grand billiard room and saloon in Davenport, Iowa. However, within a few months, reporters from Chicago ran stories informing the citizens of staid Davenport of Parish’s background. He was forced to sell out and returned to Chicago.

In December, 1876, he was arrested for stealing sealskin sacques (light jackets) in Chicago, earning him the nickname, Sealskin Joe. Ironically, he was acquitted of that charge by proving that the garments belonged to his wife.

In early 1877, he joined Abraham Greenthal‘s mob of roving pickpockets, who used similar techniques to manhandle their victims. Several of them were arrested in upstate New York in March, 1877, including Parish and Greenthal. It was rumored that Parish informed against Greenthal, sending the later to prison.

Back in Chicago, Parish continued to pickpocket, but paid off so many detectives that he was never convicted. Instead, just to keep him off the streets, judges fined him for vagrancy.

Parish faced arrests in Omaha in 1878 and in Denver in 1879, but always seemed to merit a discharge; he soon gained a reputation as one who was always willing to “squeal” on his partners in order to save his own skin. Still, he found willing partners to sneak money from banks with Billy Burke and Eddie Guerin.

Finally, in April 1883, he was arrested in Syracuse for a train station pickpocket theft. He was convicted and then held in jail for sentencing, but realizing that he was facing a long sentence at Auburn State Prison, where a vengeful “General” Greenthal awaited him, Parish went raving mad and attempted to have poison smuggled to him so that he could commit suicide. The poison was intercepted, but his jailers wondered if it was all an act in order to be sent to the hospital, from which friends could help him escape.

Ruse or not, the judge did take mercy and gave him a generous sentence. Even so, Parish emerged from Auburn in September 1888, a broken man. He returned to Chicago and his family, who had done fine generating income from their property. Parish opened a small grocery store on the South Side to keep busy, but later in 1889 was committed to the Cook County Hospital for the Insane, where he passed away early in 1890.

 

#183 William Scott

William Scott (1834/41-1893?), aka William Kirby, William Clark — Pickpocket, Shoplifter

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-six years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Marble-cutter. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 183 pounds. Black hair, brown eyes, light complexion. Generally wears a dark brown mustache. Short nose, with scar on it.

RECORD. “Scotty” is an old professional pickpocket and shoplifter. He is well known in New York and all the principal cities in the United States. His picture adorns several Rogues’ Galleries. He has served two terms in State prison in New York State, and three in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, N.Y. He pays considerable attention to funerals and fairs, and sometimes works with a very clever woman.

He was arrested in New York City for shoplifting, and sentenced to two years and six months in Sing Sing prison, on April 17, 1879, by Judge Cowling, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City. He was arrested again in New York City for picking pockets, pleaded guilty to grand larceny, and was sentenced to four years in State prison at Sing Sing, N.Y., on July 12, 1882. His sentence expired on July 12, 1885. Scott’s picture is an excellent one, taken in May, 1878.

“Scotty” remains a cipher. Two entries for him can be found in Sing Sing register for 1879 and 1882, but comparing these two finds a different birthplace (New York vs Scranton), different birth year (1834 vs. 1841), and different first name of wife (Ricka vs. Elizabeth). The 1882 entry notes that he was arrested around 1862 as William Kirby; a William Kirby was arrested for larceny in New York in October 1860.

Capture

There are many references to a pickpocket/shoplifter named William Scott or William Clark to be found between 1860 and 1893, but there’s no way to tell if those are referring to the same man. Byrnes’ 1895 edition only added that Scott died in May 1893; but no death record seems to match.

#23 Daniel Watson

“Dutch Dan” Carl (Abt. 1831-1892?), aka Andrew Carl, Daniel Watson, Daniel Erlich, Daniel Davis, James Watson, David Watson, Daniel Carl, John Clark, etc. — Bank robber, key-fitter, tool maker

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-one years old in 1886. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, 186 pounds. Machinist by trade. Single. Born in Germany or Prussia. Quite wrinkled forehead, dark hair, blue eyes, light complexion. Generally wears a goatee and mustache tinged with gray. Heavy lines on each side of nose to corner of mouth (nose lines). A cross-looking man. Has a sort of a suspicious look about him when he meets a stranger.

RECORD. “Dutch Dan,” the name he is best known by, is considered one of the best key fitters in America. He is also an excellent toolmaker, and his many exploits would fill an ordinary sized book.

Dan was arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., on April 11, 1881, in company of George Hall, alias Porter, a burglar and confidence man, Charles Lilly, alias Redman, and Bill Morris, alias Gilmore, burglars, charged with a silk burglary. Wax was found on Dan, with a key impression on it. Watson and Hall were each sentenced to two years in the Eastern Penitentiary on a charge of conspiracy on July 8, 1881; Lilly and Morris to one year.

Watson makes a specialty of entering buildings and obtaining impressions of keys (which are sometimes hung up in a convenient place by the janitor or occupant of the premises). In this manner he collects a large number of impressions from which he makes duplicate keys. He then selects a number of expert burglars and furnishes them with a set of keys and a diagram of the place to be robbed. If the burglars are successful, he receives about twenty per cent, of the robbery for his share. He is known to have had as many as six parties of men to work at one time. Dan has spent fifteen years of his eventful life in Sing Sing, N. Y., Cherry Hill, Philadelphia, and other Pennsylvania prisons. His picture is an excellent one, taken in 1878.

“Dutch Dan’s” real name and origins are not known, but he was arrested after some of his earliest exploits as “Andrew Carl”; and Langdon W. Moore wrote about that same period of the mid-1860s, mentioning Dutch Dan many times, and introduced his true name as simply “Carl.” In fact, Dutch Dan was Moore’s main partner during much of his career.

Thanks to Langdon’s Moore’s autobiography,  Langdon W. Moore : his own story of his eventful life, we also have an anecdote relating the first attempt by both Moore and Dutch Dan to rob a bank–an effort foiled by the cunning of Langdon Moore himself:

In March [1865] I met in New York City two burglars, with whom I had been acquainted for years — one named Carl, who was known to his companions as “Dutch Dan,” and the other named Ned Livingston. They told me at this meeting that they had decided upon the robbery of a bank and needed assistance. When I asked where the bank was located, they said, “At Francestown, N.H.” After a few interviews with them, I consented to become a party to the affair, agreeing to pay all expenses, do the outside work, and furnish the team to take them from Nashua to Francestown, a distance of twenty miles and return.

“Outside work” meant remaining on the outside of the building to see and not be seen while the others were at work inside. In case of danger it became the outside man’s duty to warn the inside men by signals. One rap, for example, was a call to stop work; two meant that the danger was past and work might be resumed. More than two raps called the men out hastily.

The party went on from New York to Nashua, and according to agreement I put the men over the road from Nashua to Francestown, driving the same horse which was subsequently used in the Concord job. We “piped” the Francestown Bank, which simply means that by personal observation during the night we learned that everything was satisfactory for a break when we got ready to make one.

There was one thing, however, that was not satisfactory to me: Dan and Livingston carried a quart bottle of whiskey, and this they worked for all it contained; so that when the time came to start for home, I found them unable to get into the wagon without assistance. On thinking the matter over I was sorry I had entertained their proposition, not only because a whiskey bottle is not a good ally in robbing a bank, but also because Francestown is near my birthplace and I didn’t care particularly about robbing my parents’ old neighbors.

As I could not consistently withdraw from the agreement, I decided to prevent the robbery. The plan was simple but effective. Harry Howard at that time lived in Boston; and as he was already a trusty friend, I confided to him my intentions and told him I would like to hire him as a night watchman for a short time. Howard agreed to assist, and was given his instructions in the matter. He was to go on a certain day to Wilton by rail, walking thence seven miles to Francestown.

He reached Francestown about ten o’clock on the night the robbery was to be committed. He had provided himself with a heavy overcoat and dark lantern; and promptly at eleven o’clock, according to the arrangement with me, he began his march down the street on which the bank stood. When he reached the building, he went to the door of the store underneath the banking-rooms and shook it violently, then tried the bank door in the same way, and finally went out into the street and flashed his lantern at all the bank windows, thus satisfying himself that everything was all right.

During this time my companions and I were in hiding behind some shrubbery in front of the cashier’s house on the opposite side of the street. This was at the time known to Howard, and he had been cautioned not to turn his lantern that way. Leaving the bank, the “watchman” continued on his round, passing down the street toward the church and examining everything carefully as he went along. Arriving at the church, he lingered there, flashing his lantern along the sheds, at the side and in the rear of the edifice.

I had told him he would find my horse and wagon there, and he was to examine both carefully. He was also to look into the vehicle, and, on finding therein two bags, he was to take them out, and, while looking them over, hold them in such a position that the burglars, having followed the “watchman” from the bank, would be able to see all his movements from ambush. This programme was faithfully carried out, and the time occupied in the examination was fully ten minutes.

The “watchman” then walked slowly away until, at the corner of the church, he stopped, acting all the while as though his curiosity had not been fully satisfied. He then walked back along the street in the direction of the bank, near which he was to wait until I should come to him. While he was acting his part, my companions and I were terribly excited, and in backing the horse from under the shed and turning the wagon we upset it.

During the consequent delay, one was saying to the other: “Hurry up or we will get pinched; the watchman is alarming the town!” As soon as we were ready for a start, Dan and Livingston got into the wagon; but I hesitated, saying that I was not thoroughly satisfied that the “watchman” had given an alarm, or that he would remain on duty after twelve o’clock. I argued that as we had done nothing, wrong, and as the “watchman” could have no knowledge of what the bags contained, it would be wise to “pipe” the “watchman” and see if he performed his duty faithfully.

I then proposed doing this myself, and asked them to drive to the bottom of the hill toward Nashua and wait there until I came. This they consented to, after repeatedly cautioning me not to let the “watchman” see me, for if he did, I, they said, would get “pinched.”

I then went to Howard, the “watchman,” and told him everything was all right; that he had performed his duty as a watchman faithfully and to my entire satisfaction. I stayed with him until 12:30 o’clock; then bidding him a pleasant walk back to Wilton, where he was to take the five o’clock Sunday morning milk train for Boston, I returned to Dan and Livingston.

I told them the “watchman” was still on duty and seemed likely to remain on all night, for he was at that moment eating his lunch on the bank steps. The only thing left for us to do was to drive to Nashua in time for Dan and Livingston to get the milk train from Wilton to Boston. I saw them aboard the train, and noticed that Howard was in the car with them, but, of course, did not recognize him. The people of Francestown never knew how near they came to losing their hard-earned savings.

One might think this experience would have discouraged Moore from working with Dutch Dan again, but in May, 1866, they attacked a “burglar-proof” Lillie safe in an office building on Staten Island. The loot was disappointing, but the job itself was successful.

In the fall months of 1866, Moore, Dutch Dan, Bill Vosburgh and a man named Carr made an attempt to rob a bank in New Rochelle, New York, but were interrupted by the night watchman making his rounds. All four men escaped, but Moore believed that Vosburgh, the outside man, had been derelict in his duty.

Capture

Moore, Dutch Dan, and Hank Hall were more successful just a few weeks later, and beat a new Lillie safe at an Olean, New York bank using drills and black powder. In January, 1867, the pair enlisted Spence Pettis to attack a bank in Watkins Glen, New York; but they could not crack the safe before morning. Moreover, Moore and Dutch Dan suspected that Pettis had arranged to cross them. They later discovered they were correct–had the robbery been successful, Pettis had arranged to have them arrested by the Secret Service, as means of getting Hank Hall, who was also a counterfeiter.

The next month, Moore and Dutch Dan cracked a safe in Armenia, but were spotted during their escape. They separated, but both were later captured and held for trial in Poughkeepsie, New York. Once again, Moore believed that Dutch Dan had gotten drunk during the escape, and had let himself be captured through carelessness. They were released on bail in Poughkeepsie, and Dutch Dan decided to jump without letting Moore know. Moore faced trial alone, but was lucky in that the main witness against him, a railroad brakeman, was killed in an accident. Moore was let off.

In August, 1867, Dutch Dan joined Moore’s other recent partners, Ned Livingston and Truman Young,  to rob a general store in Cornish, Maine, of over $20,000. According to Moore, as soon as Dutch Dan was arrested in Boston, he immediately informed the police of the names and whereabouts of his partners on the job. His treachery earned him little: in 1868 he was tried and convicted, and sentenced to seven years in the Maine State Prison. He was pardoned after five years.

In 1874, Dutch Dan appeared in court to give evidence against John A. Olmstead, a brother of the wife of counterfeiter William E. Brockway. Dan said that Olmstead, an engraver by trade, had helped harden the drill bits used by himself and several other burglars. It was around this time that Dutch Dan and his wife hosted in their Manhattan home Piano Charley Bullard, who had arrived from Europe after many years on the run following the Boylston Bank robbery with Adam Worth. Dutch Dan pointed authorities to Bullard, who was taken to prison in Massachusetts.

Dan was arrested on suspicion several times between 1874 and 1878, but nothing stuck. Then, in August 1878, Frank McCoy and James Irving were arrested for breaking into a piano store in New York, and police believed that Dutch Dan had fitted the keys for them. Dan’s house was searched, and many wax molds, key blanks, and burglars’ tools were found. He was later discharged, though there seemed to be an abundance of evidence against him.

Although by the late 1870s, Dutch Dan had been proven many times to be treacherous, he was one of the two best key-fitters in the business, the other being Louis Wolff, aka French Louis. In October, 1880, Dan was arrested for his role in the robbery of a tortoise-shell goods store in Philadelphia, but was discharged for lack of evidence and told to leave the city.

However, in July 1881 he was back in Philly, and assisted three professional burglars in the robbery of a string of stores. Dutch Dan was arrested as “James Watson” and sentenced to two years in Eastern State Penitentiary.

Beyond that, nothing is known of his fate, other than a note in Byrnes’ 1895 edition that says that Dutch Dan died in Philadelphia in 1892.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#58 Hugh L. Courtenay

Sydney Lascelles (1856-1902), aka Sidney Lascelles, Hugh Leslie Courtenay, Marcus LaPierre Beresford, Charles Pelham Clinton, John Reginald Talbot, Robert Raymond Arundel, Harry Vane Tempest, Charles J. Asquith, Lord Dennison, etc. — Impostor, Swindler

Link to Byrnes’ entries on #58 Hugh L. Courtenay and #344 Sid. Lasalle (1895)

Sydney (Sidney) Lascelles (a name as good as any of his aliases) spent his whole life fooling people–a trait that continued for years after his death. Either through sloppiness or doubt, Superintendent Byrnes profiled Lascelles twice as two different people: once in his 1886 edition, under the entry for Hugh L. Courtenay; and again in 1895, under the name “Sid. Lasalle.” Biographies that linked these identities had been published in newspapers in the 1890s; and also revealed in Lascelle’s very rare published autobiography, From wealth and happiness to misery and the penitentiary by “Walter S. Beresford.” However, because later writers and editors relied heavily on Byrnes as a source , many accounts of the exploits of Sidney Lascelles begin in the 1890s, missing the first sixteen years of his remarkable career.

Lascelles first appeared in San Francisco in February, 1875 as “Lt. Harry Vane Tempest, Royal Navy” accompanied by another young man named Park, a member of the British army. They attended social affairs and racked up a large hotel bill, but apparently received a letter with enough money to settle their bill. Continuing eastward by ship, Lascelles was next heard from in Cuba, where he went by the title “Lord Hay.” As would become his pattern, Lascelles always assumed names that could be found in Debrett’s Peerage. Little is known of his activities in Cuba, other than that he did not conduct himself honorably.

The New York Times later published his subsequent movements [note that the year 1878 should read 1875]:

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After a hiatus of three years, Lascelles reappeared in America still engaged in his same act:

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Lascelles was sent back to Utah, where he was tried and acquitted for lack of evidence. However, he was brought back to New York to face charges of forgery in England. He was put on a ship to cross the Atlantic, and was convicted in an English court in June, 1881. He was sentenced to three months hard labor at Clerkenwell prison, then shipped to an West Indies colony.

In 1887, Lascelles reappeared in America as John Reginald Talbot, and insinuated himself in society circles in Newark, New Jersey. This time, he condescended to admit his finances were low, and obtained a job at the Westinghouse Electric factory. However, within a short time, they fired him for laziness. By March, 1888, he was found in Troy, New York, working in a dye factory as “John R. Temple.” He was recognized while attending theater, pickup up by police, and told to leave town.

Lascelles turned his luck around over the next eighteen months, and by December 1889 was headed back to England aboard The City of Paris ocean liner, quartered in the richest stateroom, wearing the finest clothes, and dining with the captain. For the first time, he used the name Sidney Lascelles, son of the Earl of Harewood. He soon went broke at the ship’s poker table, and was saved by a Brooklyn businessman who covered his check. Once ashore, the Brooklynite discovered Lascelles’ check was bogus, but by chance spotted him in a hotel and confronted him. Lascelles broke down in tears and begged for mercy, handing over all the jewelry he had.

The next year, 1890, found Lascelles in Algiers, where he met an American widow, Susannah Lilienthal, and her 22-year-old daughter Maud. Mrs. Lilienthal was the heiress of C.H. Lilienthal, a tobacco magnate. Maud was entranced by the dashing Sidney Lascelles, with his soft tenor voice, his gaiety, his singing, and his quick wit. Though equally charmed at first, Mrs. Lilienthal suspected something amiss with Lascelles, and took Maud back to New York. Sidney followed. Upon learning Lascelles was in New York, Mrs. Lascelles took Maud and fled west to Sewickley, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. Lascelles followed them, got in touch with Maud, and convinced her to elope. They were married on February 2, 1891.

At around the same time, Lascelles had forged a check in order to buy into a Georgia mining operation. He was arrested and taken to Georgia to face trial, and was eventually convicted. He was released on a $5000 bond during appeal. During that period he broke up with his wife, despite the fact that she had provided his bail. Eventually his conviction was upheld, and he began serving a seven year sentence in 1892. During his time at a prison lumbering camp, Lascelles penned his autobiography, which was published in 1893.

He was pardoned in 1897, and promptly married another wealthy young woman, Clara Pilkey. He was well-liked in Georgia despite his crimes, and found a position with a town handling their utility contracts.

There were rumors that his dishonesty drove him out of Georgia, and that he went to Mexico and Texas with his new wife, burning through her money.

He turned up in Asheville, North Carolina in 1902, seriously ill with tuberculosis. He died within a few weeks. Lacking funds from anyone for a funeral and burial, Sidney then began his strange afterlife, becoming a local legend as a funeral home prop.

After many years, Lascelles body was claimed by his first wife, Maud Lilienthal, who had the remains cremated and spread in the Potomac River. Maud later settled in Asheville.

There are many references, beginning in the 1870s, suggesting that Lascelles started his life as the son of a gamekeeper on the estate of the Earl of Devonshire. Other suggested that he was the illegitimate son of a lord. In his autobiography, he claimed to have been born in Australia, and had lived in both India and China. Nothing concerning his origins has been verified.

 

 

 

 

#90 Peter Ellis

Peter Ellis (Abt. 1844-1919), aka Banjo Pete, Long Pete, Luthey, Pete Emerson/Emmerson, John J. Smith, Jack Welch — Bank robber

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-one years old in 1886. Born in New York City. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 11 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Light complexion, brown hair, stooped shoulders, thin face, high cheek bones, dark eyes. Generally wears a brown mustache.

RECORD. Banjo Pete, the name he is best known by (Peter Ellis being his right name), was formerly a minstrel, but drifted into crooked channels about eighteen years ago. He was considered a good man, and was generally sought for when a job of any magnitude was to be done. He was an intimate associate of all the great bank burglars in America.

He was arrested with Abe Coakley in Philadelphia, Pa., on April 28, 1880, charged with robbing the Manhattan Bank in New York City, on October 27, 1878. It was claimed that Emmerson was the man who carried out the tin boxes from the vault, and sorted the bonds, etc.; that Coakley was the man who wore the whiskers, and dusted off the shelves in the bank while Johnny Hope and his father were in the vault with Nugent; that Billy Kelly stood guard over the old janitor; and Johnny Dobbs, or Kerrigan, and Big John Tracy, who was a friend of Shevelin, the watchman of the bank, were supposed to be the men who planned the robbery; while Old Man Hope was the man who did the work. Johnny Hope (19) was convicted, and sentenced to twenty years in State prison for this robbery. Kerrigan, alias Johnny Dobbs, was arrested while negotiating one of the stolen bonds in Philadelphia, and was turned over to the Sheriff of Wethersfield, Conn., who took him back to Wethersfield prison, to serve out an unfinished term of seven years. John Nugent was tried and acquitted. Patrick Shevlin, the night-watchman, was used to convict the others, and was finally discharged. Jack Cannon was also arrested in Philadelphia trying to dispose of some of the stolen bonds, and was sentenced to fifteen years there. Old Man Hope (20) went to California, and was sentenced to seven years and six months for a burglary there.

Pete Emmerson was discharged from the Tombs, in the Manhattan Bank case, on October 4, 1880. He traveled through the country with John Nugent and Ned Farrell, a notorious butcher-cart thief, and was finally arrested in the Hoboken, N.J., Railroad depot, on Saturday, July 28, 1883, for an attempt to rob Thos. J. Smith, the cashier of the Orange, N.J., National Bank, of a package containing $10,000 in money. Nugent and Farrell were arrested also. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to ten years in Trenton State prison, on July 30, 1883. Emmerson stood trial, was convicted,, and sentenced to ten years also, on October 30, 1883.

Emmerson’s picture is not a very good one, although recognizable. It was taken in 1880.

If Superintendent Thomas Byrnes had written his book about famous professional crimes rather than criminals, the October 27, 1878 robbery of the Manhattan Savings Institution would likely have been his centerpiece. Not only did it involve several of the most skilled, veteran thieves of the age, but the planning of the crime involved mastermind George Leslie, who was murdered before the attempt was finally made; and the consequences of the robbery had lasting effects on the careers of all involved. It was never fully revealed; and so it was talked about and rehashed for a generation.

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Banjo Pete Ellis’s adult life centered around the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery, and he died an old man in the company of others involved in that crime. Byrnes was correct about Pete’s real name, but off the mark about his origins. He was born near Kennebunkport, Maine to Thomas and Sophia Ellis, who maintained a large family that dispersed during the Civil War years. Pete Ellis joined the 1st Maine Volunteers in 1864 as a sharpshooter, and saw nine months of action, rising from a private to a corporal.

After the war, Ellis gravitated toward Philadelphia and New York, and by all accounts he became a minstrel performer, eventually joining a famous minstrel act, Sam Devere’s company. There’s no evidence that Ellis ever rose to the level of being a billed name. Devere happened to have an apartment in New York next to the budding criminal genius, George L. Leslie, and the two often socialized together. It can be assumed that it was through Devere that Pete Ellis was introduced to George Leslie; and through Leslie, to Marm Mandelbaum and other veteran bank thieves, like Jimmy Hope and Abe Coakley.

Pete was said to have been in on the 1869 Ocean National Bank robbery in New York, organized by Leslie and Mark Shinburn, and executed by Jimmy Hope, Abe Coakley, Johnny Dobbs, Shang Draper, and Red Leary. Pete’s name was never associated with this crime until years later.

In Byrnes’ entry for thief Dave Cummings, Byrnes mentions that Banjo Pete and George Leslie joined Cummings for an 1873 robbery of a bank in Macon, Georgia; and that they were arrested in Washington, D.C. and forced to return the $50,000 taken. This event can not be found in any newspaper archives.

Pete and Abe Coakley were arrested by Byrnes in Philadelphia in April, 1880, for the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery of 1878. Byrnes had been under intense pressure to make more arrests in the case, and knowing that elements of the Philadelphia police were protecting Jimmy Hope, he took the drastic measure of making the arrest of Coakley and Ellis himself while in Philadelphia, accompanied by a local officer he trusted. Ellis was identified as the man who carried deposit boxes from the vault; though years later, Sophie Lyons wrote that Pete’s role had been to put on the fake whiskers and imitate the night watchman. When arrested, newspapers commented that Ellis had no known history. After being detained for five months in the Tombs (New York City’s Detention Center), Ellis was released.

According to Byrnes, Ellis committed a string of robberies between 1881 and 1883 with John Nugent (an ex-policeman also involved with the Manhattan Savings job) and Ned Farrelly. However, the only time he was caught was in July, 1883, when he, Nugent, and Farrelly attacked a bank cashier transporting a satchel of money while he was seating himself on a train in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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Pete Ellis received ten years in New Jersey’s State Prison for this crime, and the public never heard from him again. After his release in the late 1890s, Pete returned to New York City and in 1898 married Jimmy Hope’s daughter, Ellen “Nellie” Hope. In 1900, he listed his occupation as “dry goods.” In 1910, he was an agent for the water company, and lived in the same house with Jimmy Hope’s sons, Johnny and Harry–a situation that continued for many years, until Pete’s death in 1919 at about 75 years of age. By that time, Pete had been the de facto leader of the Hope family for a dozen years, model citizens all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#196 William Hague

William Hague (Abt. 1844-1924),  aka Curly/Curley Harris, John Hague, John Harris, Henry Abrams, Henry Miller, Jack Davis, etc. — Pickpocket, Burglar, Murderer

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-three years old in 1886. Jew, born in United States. Married. No trade. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 5 inches. Weight, about 140 pounds. Looks like, and is, a Jew. Dark eyes, black curly hair, dark complexion. Generally wears a black mustache. Four dots of India ink on left arm. Has a vaccination mark and mole on right arm above the elbow.

RECORD. “Curly” Harris is one of the most desperate thieves and ruffians in America. He is well known in all the large cities in the United States, especially in Philadelphia, where he makes his home.

Harris, with “Brummagen Bill” and James Elliott, two other notorious Philadelphia thieves, robbed Hughy Dougherty, the minstrel performer, in a saloon on Ninth Street, above Jayne, in Philadelphia, some years ago. The thieves subsequently, in passing the corner of Sixth and Market streets, were accosted by Officer Murphy, whereupon Harris deliberately drew his revolver and fired. The ball, fortunately for the officer, struck the buckle of his belt, which saved his life. “Brummagen Bill” and Elliott were arrested and convicted, and sentenced respectively to eleven and sixteen years’ imprisonment in the Eastern Penitentiary.

Harris escaped, but was afterwards arrested in Pittsburg, Pa. The authorities of Philadelphia chartered a special car, and traveled westward after the fugitive criminal. While returning, Harris, with his hands still manacled, escaped from his captors, and although the train was traveling at the rate of forty miles an hour, he jumped from the rear platform of a car, and a diligent search failed to reveal his whereabouts.

Nothing was heard of “Curly” for some years, and this was owing to the fact that he had been arrested and convicted in the northern part of the State of New York for a hotel robbery, and sentenced to six years in State prison. After his release he boldly went back to Philadelphia, and was arrested there for robbing the American Hotel. He was acquitted, however, and when the old charge against him for the Dougherty affair was spoken of, it was found that the minstrel performer and the officer could not be found to prosecute him.

Harris was arrested again in New York City on May 6, 1880, and delivered to the police authorities of Philadelphia, charged with the murder of James Reilly, alias John Davis, another hotel thief. The murder was committed on August 25, 1879. Reilly resided with his wife on Orange Street, Philadelphia. Upon the day mentioned he was picked up bleeding in front of a saloon at Eighth and Sansom streets. On September 13, 1879, the wounded man died from a fracture of the skull. From facts subsequently gathered it appears that Harris met Reilly and asked him for some money, and the latter replied that he had none. He was then told to go to his wife and obtain some, which he abruptly declined to do. Harris, in his usual cowardly manner, drew a revolver, aimed it directly at his partner in crime and pulled the trigger. The cartridge did not explode, and the desperado then pushed the barrel of his pistol with so much force into one of Reilly’s eyes as to fracture his skull and cause his death. Harris was tried and convicted in June, 1880, and sentenced to ten years in State prison on July 3, 1880, by Judge Yerkers, in Philadelphia.

His sentence will expire on June 3, 1888.

From Byrnes’ 1895 Edition:

Harris was arrested again at Buffalo, N.Y., on September 7, 1888. He was found in the Mansion House, about to sneak into a room which had been left unlocked. He was held on a charge of vagrancy, and sentenced to thirty days in the Erie Co., N.Y., Penitentiary, on September 9, 1888.

Arrested again at Wilmington, Del., in company of Geo. Devlin, alias Broken-nose George. They were caught in the act of burglarizing a safe. Both were sentenced to six months imprisonment and received twenty lashes each at the whipping-post at Newcastle, Del., on February 9, 1889.

He was heard from again on May 30, 1890, when he was arrested for picking pockets at the Lutheran Cemetery. He escaped from the constable who was taking him to the jail in Long Island City, N.Y. He was captured attempting to cross the ferry at Hunter’s Point. For this offense he was sentenced to four years in Sing Sing Prison, on July 18, 1890, by Judge G. Garretson, County Judge, Queen’s Co., N.Y.

After his release he was employed for awhile at Gloster, N.J., race track. He finally came to grief again at Philadelphia, Pa., for the larceny of a watch. Judge Biddle sent him to the Eastern Penitentiary, for three years, on May 3, 1894.

 

Curly Harris first appeared under his preferred alias in 1869, as an associate of Philadelphia gang leader James Haggerty. In 1871, Curly was with a group of other Philly street toughs and participated in the mugging of Hughey Dougherty and the shooting of officer Murphy. Harris didn’t use the gun; that was done by a ruffian named Jim Elliott. Harris faced trial for these events six years later, in 1877, but Dougherty could not identify Harris as one of the muggers; and Murphy could not say if Harris was among those that shot him.

However, at the time that his friends were arrested for these crimes, Curly certainly feared he would be sent to jail, too; and left town to go to Pittsburgh. However, he might have had an additional reason for leaving Philadelphia: On February 2 1871, the famous Kensington Bank robbery occurred, and several sources suggest Curly Harris was involved. His daring escape from the moving train in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, won him grudging admiration for his courage from law officials and the general public.

Later that year, Harris was caught during a burglary in upstate New York, and was convicted and sentenced to seven years. The name under which he was imprisoned has not yet been uncovered, but part of his sentence was spent in Auburn and the other part in Sing Sing. He was released after five years.

Capture

He was rearrested in Philadelphia in 1877 on the old charges from 1871, but was acquitted of those after a trial. He was picked up in New York in May, 1880, and delivered to Philadelphia to face a murder charge, as Byrnes relates. Had the victim not been a notorious fellow thief, Harris might have faced a more serious sentence, but as it was, he was given ten years and was out in eight.

Curly’s brief stint at gainful employment at the Gloucester (NJ) Race Track may not have been any more commendable than his other activities: Gloucester was one of the shadiest racecourses ever run, and closed just three years after it opened. Curly’s role there was likely as security/house detective, to scare off pickpockets.

As Byrnes notes, Curly’s last known arrest and imprisonment occurred in 1894, for stealing a watch. He was released from Eastern State Penitentiary in 1896.

Over the next few years, Curly dropped his alias and resumed life under his given name, William Hague. In 1898, he married a respectable Jewish widow, Elmira Rice, who had three older children from her previous marriage to Aaron Kile Wismer, who belonged to a venerable Jewish family dating back before the American Revolution.

Byrnes may have intended to point out Hague’s appearance and Jewish origins as a slur; instead, Hague’s Jewish connections proved to be his salvation, even though there is no public evidence that Hague, Elmira Rice, or her Wismer children were active in the faith.

Hague continued to do security/detective work for a few years, but when older switched to less dangerous jobs, and was still working as a salesman into his seventies. The family moved to from Philadelphia to Atlantic City in the 1910s. Hague died there in 1924 and was buried in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

#48 Edward Fairbrother

Edward Fairbrother (18??-????), aka Edward S. West, John Brown, Edward Weston — Boarding house thief

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-five years old in 1886. Born in England. Physician. A small, nervous man. Speaks very rapidly, Has long, thin, white hair. Hollow cheeks; high, sharp cheek bones. No upper teeth. Large, long nose. Has a fine education, and speaks five languages.

RECORD. Dr. West, the name he is best known by, was arrested in New York City on July 7, 1873, for grand larceny from a boarding-house in 128th Street. The complaint was made by Charles E. Pierce. The Doctor was convicted, and sentenced to two years in State prison on July 14, 1873, by Judge Sutherland, in the Court of General Sessions, New York.

West was arrested again in New York in January, 1880, charged with committing twenty-two robberies inside of seven months. He freely admitted his guilt, and confessed to all of them. The best piece of work he had done, he said, was the robbery of Major Morton’s residence on Fifth Avenue, New York City, where he secured $6,000 worth of diamonds and jewelry, with which he got safely away and pawned for $450. When taken to Major Morton’s residence, however, the people in the house failed to identify him, and went so far as to say that he was not the man who had called there. West told the officers how he robbed Morton’s house and several others. At the time of his arrest he had $20 in his possession. Out of this he gave $13 to a poor man named Kane, from whom he had stolen a coat. A poor servant-girl also came to court. West recognized her, and offered her the last of his money, $7; but she would only take five of it.

West, in speaking of himself at that time, said, “I have not always been a criminal; I have seen better days, far better days than many can boast of, and bright opportunities, too. I had no disposition for crime—in fact, no inclination that way. But time’s whirligig turned me up a criminal; and I fought hard against it, too. I came to this country from England in 1855. I had just then graduated from Corpus Christi College, founded by Bishop Fox, of Winchester. I am an alumnus of Oxford. I took my degree of M.D., and came to this country, and became a practicing physician in New York City. I lived then in Clinton Place. In 1863 I was arrested for malpractice, and was sent to Sing Sing State prison for five years. While in the prison I associated with all kinds of people, and there I learned the art of robbery. After my time was up I returned to New York City, and tried to lead an honest life; but I had learned too much, and was again arrested for larceny, and sent to prison. I got out, and went back again for another term, which ended in June, 1879.”

West was arraigned in the Court of General Sessions in New York City on four indictments for grand larceny, and the District Attorney accepted a plea of guilty on one of them, and Judge Cowing sentenced him to five years in State prison on January 29, 1880. His sentence expired, allowing him full commutation, on August 28, 1883. West’s picture was taken since 1873. He looks much older now.

Newspaper clippings and the registers of Sing Sing offer many clues to the history of Edward Fairbrother, but these leads are contradictory or not verifiable. He was sent to Sing Sing four times (1873, 1876, 1880, 1885) in each case for larceny, usually for stealing from boarding houses. He consistently stated that he had been born and educated in England and was a physician.

The birth years he offered ranged from 1823 to 1837. His earliest known jailing, in 1873, was under the name Fairbrother; and in 1885, when arrested as John Brown, he admitted to having a brother George C. Fairbrother living on York St. in Toronto (who can not be found). That same 1885 prison register indicates he had also been jailed in 1860 and 1871, but those records can not be found. In 1880, Fairbrother told a judge that he had been jailed for five years in 1863 for malpractice (usually associated with botched abortions); but no newspaper or prison records seem to confirm this.

In 1880, Fairbrother said that he came to America right after getting his medical degree at Oxford in 1855. However, in 1876, he said that he had been in America less than four years. In 1885, he said he had been born in Ireland and educated at Eton.

Capture

What can be said withe surety is that Fairbrother had seen considerable trauma to his body at some point in his past: he was missing all his upper teeth and had an old bullet wound in his right cheek. He also had two gun wound scars on his right leg and one on his left. Fairbrother was obviously not a veteran of street gangs, so it is likely he had seen action on a battlefield. One article said he had claimed to be an army surgeon. One has to wonder whether the injuries had affected him in other, less visible ways.

Inspector Byrnes seemed to accept the fact that Fairbrother was highly educated, and could speak several languages. During his court appearance in 1880, Fairbrother entertained those in the courtroom with a long, amusing account of his crime, delivered with dramatic flair. When convicted in 1873, Fairbrother had appealed to the judge for mercy, and offered to prove that he was a man of feeling by reciting a poem he had composed in jail:

O Music! gentle Music,

There’s magic in thy swell;

Come where thou wilt, in lady’s bower,

Or in a felon’s cell

etc., etc. After patiently listening to many stanzas, the judge was unimpressed, and Fairbrother was sent up the river to Ossining. It was a fate he seemed to find comfortable, and repeated many times over the next dozen years.