#77 Gustave Kindt

Gustave François Kindt (1835-1910), aka Isidore Marechal, French Gus, Frenchy — Thief, Toolmaker, Inventor

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty years old in 1886. Stout build. Born in Belgium, Widower. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Brown hair, keen gray eyes, fresh rosy face, dark complexion. High forehead. Generally wears a gray silky mustache and imperial. He is a square, muscular man. Speaks English fluently. Dresses like a well-to-do mechanic. Has a scar on his left jaw.

RECORD. Kindt, or “Frenchy,” is a celebrated criminal. He came to this country when very young. He is a skillful mechanic, and is credited with being able to fit a key as well, if not better, than any man in America. He also manufactures tools and hires them out to professional burglars on a percentage. In January, 1869, he was sent to Sing Sing prison for ten years for robbing the watch-case manufactory of Wheeler & Parsons, in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was employed. On February 5, 1871, he escaped from Sing Sing by cutting through the bars of his cell with saws, which friends had managed to convey to him. On October 17, 1872, he was arrested for robbing a jewelry store in Hackensack, N.J., and sent back to Sing Sing prison. He devoted his time to the invention of a lever lock, by which a single key could unlock all or part of the cell doors at once, and offered the lock, which he completed in 1874, to the prison authorities on condition that he should receive his freedom. The proposition was laid before Governor Tilden, who rejected it. “Frenchy” escaped again in 1875, and went to Canada, where he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for robbing a pawnbroker in Montreal. Thirty- seven diamonds, which he had shipped to his daughter in New York, were recovered. After serving out his time in Montreal, where he introduced his lock, he went to St. Albans, Vt., where he was arrested as an escaped convict on February 3, 1880. While on his way back to Sing Sing prison, in custody of an officer of Sing Sing prison, when near Troy, N.Y., on February 4, he made a dash for liberty. He leaped out of the car and ran across the fields. The officer followed and fired one shot. French Gus staggered, put his left hand to his cheek, but kept on. He fired again, and the burglar, flinging his arms in the air, fell headlong to the earth. He had been hit in the cheek and the back of the head. He was carried back to the train, and reached Sing Sing in a dying condition. He recovered, however, and on February 21, 1884, he was discharged, having finally expiated the crime of 1869. Immediately upon his discharge he was arrested and taken to Hackensack, N.J., to be tried for robbing a jewelry store there in 1872, an indictment having been found during his confinement in Sing Sing. There was not evidence enough to convict him, and he was released, after two months’ confinement. Kindt was next arrested in New York City, on May 23, 1885, charged with burglarizing the safe of Smith & Co., No. 45 Park Place, on April 27, 1885, where he obtained one $5,000 and one $1,750 bond, two watches, and $80 in money. He was also charged with robbing the store of G. B. Horton & Co., No. 59 Frankfort Street, of $234 in money and some postage stamps. The detectives searched the rooms of his daughter. Rose Kindt, in East Eleventh Street, New York City, and there found a complete and beautifully made set of burglars’ tools. In a sofa which they tore apart were sectional jimmies of the most improved pattern ; under the carpet were saws and small tools of every variety ; concealed elsewhere in the rooms were drags, drills, wrenches, crucibles for melting gold and silver, fuses, skeleton keys, wax, impressions of keys, etc. They also found what had been stolen from Smith & Co., and Horton & Co., with the exception of the money. When Kindt was confronted with his daughter, who had been arrested but was subsequently released, he confessed to all, and also charged Frank McCoy, alias “Big Frank” (89), with trying to obtain his services to rob the Butchers and Drovers’ Bank of New York City. Kindt pleaded guilty to two charges of burglary, and was sentenced to six years in State prison on June 4, 1885, by Judge Barrett, in the Court of Oyer and Terminer, New York City. Kindt’s picture is an excellent one, taken in May, 1885.

Gustave F. Kindt was an expert machinist and a master of prison escapes, perhaps the most intelligent criminal in Chief Byrnes’s rogue’s gallery. Kindt’s first confirmed presence was in Brooklyn, in 1867. He placed an ad in the New York Herald, looking for any information on his brothers Joseph and Charles–apparently they emigrated separately. Kindt described his original country as Belgium (but, when posing as Frenchman Isidore Marechal, claimed to be from Lille, France.) He was said to have been trained as a watchmaker.


In 1867, he joined a jewelry-making company in Brooklyn, working in their metal shop. Years later, the Cincinnati Enquirer recounted how Kindt robbed his workplace:


Kindt tried to implicate a co-worker–Jeannot–in the crime; this despite the fact that the Jeannot family had housed Kindt and his wife, and had helped him try to find his brothers.

For this crime, Kindt was sentenced to ten years in Sing Sing. In Sing Sing, he was able to craft a tiny saw, parts of which he secreted in one of his own molars that he had pulled out and hollowed. In February 1871, he sawed through three door locks and escaped from the prison and headed to New Jersey. Within six days, he found a new job at a Hackensack NJ jewelry manufacturer. He was hired, given a raise, and reconnected with his wife. While still working his job, he and his wife opened a lager hall across from his workplace. However, temptation beckoned, and Kindt open the safe of his employer and took $8000. The owner called in local police, who were stumped; they called in New York detectives, one of whom had worked on the similar Brooklyn case. Kindt was collared and reinstalled in Sing Sing to serve out his earlier sentence.

In November 1875, Kindt escaped from Sing Sing a second time–the only man ever to do so. This time, he was aided by a corrupt guard, who allowed Kindt to hide in a prison workshop instead of being returned to his cell. From the workshop, Kindt was able to get off the prison grounds, and made his way north to Canada. There, he used his French language skills to assume the alias of Isidore Marechal. About a year later, in November 1876, Kindt picked the lock of a pawnshop, opened the safe with a duplicate key he had made, and took about $20,000 in jewelry, watches, silverware, and bank notes. He melted down the metals into bricks, and sent an accomplice to New York to sell the precious stones. However, a suspicious cleaning lady tipped off authorities, and evidence was found in Kindt’s rooms. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to the Provincial Prison for three years.

Upon his release in 1879, he robbed a Montreal store of $4000 worth of silks. After fencing the goods, he headed back across the border into Vermont, shedding the “Isidore Marechal” alias and becoming “Gus Kent.” The silks were traced back to Kindt through a woman he had been intimate with in Montreal; she told Montreal detectives that he could be found in St. Albans, Vermont. They contacted the sheriff of St. Albans, who found that Kindt had been working in a machine shop there for six weeks. He was arrested; in his rooms they found a new set of safe-cracking tools that indicated he was about to commit another robbery. A message was sent to Sing Sing that an officer should come to retrieve Kindt and take him back to that prison.

An officer arrived to take possession of Kindt, and they boarded a train heading south to Troy, New York, where they needed to switch trains. They were delayed in Troy for several hours, and as they waited in the station, Kindt attacked the officer and tried to make a dash for freedom. They wrestled for several minutes, and finally the officer was able to pull out his revolver and shoot Kindt. The bullet glanced his head, causing a serious wound. He was bandaged and placed on the train the next day, but when he arrived at Sing Sing, there were doubts he would survive.

Imprisoned in Sing Sing once more, Kindt used his time productively. During his earlier stay at Sing Sing, he had observed that the workshop and exercise periods wasted much time with the unlocking and locking of individual cell doors. He had drawn a diagram for a mechanism that would allow one guard to lock or unlock a whole row of cells at one time. He offered his invention to the warden in exchange for a commuted sentence. The request had gone up to Governor Tilden in 1875 and had been turned down. Now, once again confined to Sing Sing, Kindt obtained a US patent for his invention. Kindt was later able to sell the rights to prisons in Great Britain.


Kindt was in and out of prison two more times (in 1885 and 1892), and was arrested again in 1900, but escaped conviction. His final years were spent in Philadelphia, where the city directories listed him as “inventor” or “mechanic.” He was known to be a manufacturer of burglar and safe-cracker tools. He obtained a second patent for an improvement to his cell-block locking mechanism  in 1898. He died in Philadelphia in 1910, age 75.







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