George Carson (1855-19??) – Bank sneak thief
From Byrnes’s text:
DESCRIPTION. Thirty-one years old in 1886. Born in United States. Clerk. Can read and write. Married. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 5 1/2 inches. Weight, 155 pounds. Hair,brown. Eyes, hazel. Complexion, florid. Dot of India ink on right hand. Blonde color mustache.
RECORD. Carson is a very clever bank sneak, an associate of Rufe Minor (1), Horace Hovan (25), Johnny Carroll (192), Cruise Cummisky, and other first-class men.
He was arrested at Petersburg, Va., on March 23, 1878, in company of Rufe Minor, Horace Hovan, alias Little Horace, and Charlotte Dougherty (Horace’s wife), charged with the larceny of $200,000 in bonds and securities from the office of James H. Young, No. 49 Nassau Street, New York City. They were all brought to New York, and subsequently dis- charged.
Carson was arrested in New York City on November 15, 1880, for robbing the Middletown Bank of Connecticut, on July 27, 1880, of $8,500 in money and $56,000 in bonds. Johnny Jourdan, Horace Hovan and Rufe Minor were also arrested for this robbery, Carson was tried in Connecticut, proved an alibi, and the jury failed to agree, and he was discharged on April 26, 1881. He then traveled around the country with Charley Cummisky, alias Cruise, and was picked up in several cities, but was never convicted.
He was again arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., on August 2, 1883, with Billy Flynn (now in jail in Europe), and committed to the penitentiary for vagrancy. He was discharged on a writ by the Supreme Court on September 11, 1883. Carson and Flynn were seen in the vicinity of Raymond Street Jail on the night of July 31, 1883, when Big Jim Burns, the Brooklyn Post-office robber, escaped. This celebrated criminal has been concerned in several other large robberies, and has been arrested in almost every city in the United States and Canada. He is now at liberty, but may be looked for at any moment. Carson’s picture is a very good one, taken in 1885.
Professional Criminals of America (1886) devotes less than a full page to George Carson, but was written barely halfway into his criminal career. The Pinkertons had a more extensive file on Carson than Byrnes did. According to William A. Pinkerton, Carson first surfaced in Chicago in 1868 with a gang of New York thieves including Joe Butts, Bill Vosburg, Joe Barron, and Tim O’Brien. Pinkerton mentions that Carson was then a “young, rosy-cheeked lad” who was nicknamed “Little George.” If Byrnes’s birth year of 1855 is correct, Carson would have only been 13 at the time. They lifted $25,000 in bonds from a bank on Monroe Street and were later taken into custody, but were later released after the bonds were returned.
According to Pinkerton, Carson returned to the Chicago area in the early 1870s with Chauncey Johnson, Tom Mulligan, and others. They stayed in the area about a year.
In the late 1870s, Carson teamed up with Horace Hovan and Rufus Minor. They were arrested together in March 1878 for the robbery of bonds from the office of James Young on Wall Street. This was the first crime that Byrnes noted in his profile.
On January 2, 1879, the Government Printing Office was robbed of $10,000 by James Burns and George Carson, with Minor suspected of having played a part. Immediately after the crime, Minor, Carson, Burns, and Horace Hovan went to Charleston, South Carolina, where Hovan was caught stealing $20,000 from the First National Bank. The other three escaped and went to New York, but Carson and Burns were arrested in June for the GPO robbery. Byrnes does not mention this; perhaps because the charges didn’t stick.
Minor, Carson, Hovan, and Johnny Jourdan stole a tin box containing over $60,000 from a Middletown, Connecticut bank on July 27, 1880. All were arrested by November, but tellers could only identify Jourdan. Minor and Carson were discharged.
Carson then traveled through the country and into Canada with Charles Comiskey, Alonzo Henn, and Walter Sheridan. Comiskey and Carson were caught in a Montreal robbery and sentenced to seven years at the penitentiary at St. Vincent de Paul.
After regaining his freedom around 1894-95, Carson joined a gang that specialized in robbing post offices. Among this gang were Joseph Killoran, Harry Russell, Charles Allen, Sid Yennie, and Patsy Flannigan.
Carson and Yennie were arrested in January 1896 for the robbery of the Springfield, Illinois post office. Both were convicted and sentenced to five years. Carson spent his entire stretch at the Illinois State Penitentiary-Menard (Chester), while Yennie was transferred to Ohio. Both were released in 1900.
After being free just three months, Carson was seen across the street during the robbery of a bank in Evanston, Illinois. He was released on bail and fled. Two years later, in September, 1902, he was captured after the robbery of a Metropolitan Life Insurance office in Jackson, Michigan. The office cashier was tied up, and Carson and his accomplices tried to break into the safe; this was a departure from Carson’s usual “sneak thief” tactics, which were rendered obsolete by increased security techniques.
Carson was sentenced to seven years in the Michigan State Prison. One report suggests he was arrested in Cincinnati in 1909, but that represents the last that anyone ever heard of George Carson.
Unfortunately, Carson’s antecedents have not been traced, nor has his marriage.