#114 George N. Elwood

George B. Hibbard (1843-1893), aka George Elwood/Ellwood, George A. Moore, Gentleman George — Masked house burglar

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Twenty-eight years old in 1886. Born in Chicago, Ill. Single. No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, 163 pounds. Hair dyed black, eyes dark- blue, complexion sallow. Has small scar on back of head, left side.

RECORD. Elwood/Wilson is a daring and murderous Western thief. Nothing much is known of him in the Eastern country. He was arrested in New York City on August 24, 1885, in company of Joe Wilson, alias Whalen (65), charged with a series of masked burglaries in several of the Western States. When Elwood’s and Wilson’s rooms, at No. 220 Forsyth Street, New York City, were searched, after the capture of the cracksmen, among the articles seized was a Masonic ring, marked “Edison W. Baumgarten, June 25, 1884.” The ring was traced to Ohio, and on August 25, 1885, in response to some inquiries made by telegraph, the Chief of Police of New York City received the following reply from the Chief of Police of Toledo: “Hold Elwood and Wilson. Charge, grand larceny and burglary and shooting officer with intent to kill. Will send requisition papers immediately.” Subsequent correspondence on the same subject stated that the men were also wanted for a robbery which they had committed at Detroit.

The crime for which the Toledo authorities requested the detention of the prisoners was committed on August 13, 1885. On that night, it was alleged, they broke into a house, and being discovered in the act of plundering the place, fired several shots at the servants. An alarm was raised, and a policeman who started in pursuit of the fugitives was shot in the breast and dangerously wounded. The men then came on to New York. They had been there only a few days before they were under surveillance, and while they were being watched the detectives became aware of the plans they were hatching for a series of burglaries which they contemplated committing in Saratoga. When they were about to start on that trip the detectives arrested them. All through the West, Elwood is known as a daring and desperate burglar, and it is said that some two years ago he murdered two of his associates. Elwood and Wilson were on August 25 arraigned at the Jefferson Market Court in New York City, and at the request of their captors they were committed until the arrival of the Toledo authorities with the requisition papers. They were both delivered to the police authorities of Toledo, Ohio, on August 29, 1885, and taken there for trial. Elwood and Wilson were the parties who robbed the residences of Messrs. Oakes and Merriam in St. Paul, Minn., in August, 1885. Merriam’s diamond scarf-pin was found in their possession, and a pawn ticket taken at Detroit for his diamond collar-button was also found upon them. A requisition was taken out at St. Paul to intercept the prisoners at Toledo, where they were being taken for the robbery of Mr. Baumgarten’s residence and the murder of a policeman. The intention was to take them to St. Paul in case they could not be held for the Toledo crimes. The trial of George A. Elwood, one of the notorious burglars, closed at Toledo, Ohio, on December 12, 1885, with a verdict of guilty. The defense offered no evidence, but argued that Elwood had not been sufficiently identified. A motion for a new trial was made, which was overruled. Elwood said he believed he would get the full extent of the law.

He and his partner, Joseph Wilson, are the original gentlemanly burglars who emptied the houses and filled the newspapers of Cleveland, Detroit, St. Paul, Milwaukee and St. Louis, until their doings in Toledo led to their apprehension in New York. These men are well known thieves, and considerable excitement was caused among the fraternity at the time they were arrested and were about to be taken back to the West. Their methods employed to transfer the possessions of others to their pockets were so peculiarly bold that the whole West was startled by their exploits. Detroit in particular suffered from them, mainly because the police were nonplused by the audacity of their performances. They invariably awakened the parties they intended to rob, and compelled them to comply with their wishes at the points of their revolvers. Oftentimes they would repair to the dining-room with the owner of the premises and indulge in a feast before their departure. Besides doing this, at a residence in Cleveland, they compelled the victim to sign a check for $100 and made him promise not to dishonor it. While leaving a Detroit residence early one morning they met the gentleman of the house returning from out of the city, and not at all taken aback by the encounter, they robbed him on the porch, and then sent him into the house to see what they had left. These eccentricities caused their fame to spread far and wide, and the “gentlemanly burglar” was patterned after in many localities. But there were few equals, and none superior. For coolness and daring Elwood and Wilson stood in the front rank of masked burglars. Elwood was found guilty on December 19, 1885, and was sentenced to ten years in the Ohio penitentiary. In the case of Wilson there was a disagreement of the jury. A second trial resulted in his conviction. (See record of No. 65.)

Before Wilson associated with the desperado Elwood he operated for months alone in Brooklyn, N.Y. House robbery was his line of business, and silverware his plunder. He committed a series of mysterious robberies, and although an active search was made for the “silver king,” he succeeded in avoiding arrest. His repeated successes stimulated other thieves, who began operating in Brooklyn. One of the latter was caught, and it was then believed that the cunning “silver king” had been at last trapped. Such was not the case, for Wilson had set out for the Western country. Elwood’s picture was taken in August, 1885.

Throughout his criminal career, “Gentleman George” never revealed his real identity, with the intention of shielding his family’s reputation. However, while imprisoned for the final time, his wife wrote a letter to him that was intercepted by authorities and published in several New England newspapers. The details in the letter revealed “Gentleman George” to be George B. Hibbard of Detroit, Michigan. His respectable, embarrassed family hoped no one would notice these newspaper articles. He died in 1893 in a Rhode Island prison as George Ellwood. Three years later, George B. Hibbard was officially declared dead in Michigan. The family’s story was that he had been long institutionalized in an Eastern Michigan asylum, and had died there.

The truth was much darker. “Gentleman George,” after losing several appeals of his conviction–and facing more than twenty more years remaining on his Rhode Island sentence–attempted a jailbreak by overpowering a guard. He was shot dead while swinging a hammer at the prison guard’s head.

By all appearances, Hibbard was an honest family man during the 1870s and early 1880s, working as a traveling windmill salesman and living with his in-laws in Adrian, Michigan. Years later, rumors surfaced that he had led a long life of crime, and had deceived his wife all during their marriage. One specific allegation said that he was not a salesman, but a “bunco steerer,” a con-man; and that he had joined a gang led by James Fitzgerald in Denver. However, there is no record of any brushes with the law prior to 1885 (also, some confusion might have arisen between Hibbard and other bad characters named George Ellwood.) Sometime in 1883, he met and decided to team up with burglar Joe Whalen (alias Joe Wilson). Why Hibbard turned to burglary is not known, but he and Whalen proved to be an effective team.

The pair of burglars spent the summer of 1885 breaking into houses in Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago. From their base in Detroit, they then decided to hit a house in Toledo, where Hibbard, empowered by his mask, made one of his trademark, chilling visits:

gentleman

Hibbard and Wilson were picked up by detectives in New York on suspicion, and items from this Toledo robbery were found in their possession. It was in New York that Hibbard first used the alias Ellwood, which stuck with him. They were escorted back to Ohio, where they were tried for the Toledo and Cleveland robberies. Hibbard received a sentence a long sentence, and entered the State Prison in 1885. More than halfway through his stretch, he broke free:

18910406newyorksun

Six months later, Hibbard migrated to New England. He burglarized homes in Providence, Rhode Island; then he attempted a house robbery in Norwich, Connecticut, but was shot by the owner in his left breast and left shoulder. Hibbard fled the scene, and though seriously wounded, got on a train to Worcester, Massachusetts. He broke into a couple of houses there, but was later found collapsed in a doorway. Prosecutors agreed the strongest case against him could be made in Providence, so he was sent there to await trial.

It took over a year to convict Hibbard, after his first trial was thrown out on mishandled evidence. At his separate sentencing session, he was accorded the chance to address the court before the sentence was announced. Hibbard stood and began reading from a text said to be forty pages long. He spoke for nearly an hour, condemning the whole process that had brought him to this point: he accused the judges he had faced in Rhode Island of being incapable of fairness; he accused the officers who arrested him of stealing his money, thereby denying his access to good counsel; he stated that the prosecutors had paid witnesses to perjure themselves; he referred to the jury that convicted him as little more than $134 worth of dirt and water, and that they had decided their verdict before they heard any evidence.

Hibbard concluded his tirade with an elaborate, hearty curse:

“My curse upon you all for driving me to the very verge of hell, and may the time come, whether in heaven or hell, upon this miserable earth, when you will likewise curse and I can demonstrate to you my hatred, and how much I loathe, hate, and despise you all. Now look upon your work and see if I am fit to live. Oh, that I had the strength of a thousand Samsons, that I could crush, tear, and rend you all like mad dogs. Now do the most agreeable duty of your life and sentence the man you have hounded into a fiend and a demon. Do your dirty work accordingly.”

Given his nickname, perhaps someone had expected him to be polite.

After a shocked pause, Hibbard’s attorney begged the court to ignore Hibbard’s desperate speech, and be merciful. The judge rebuked Hibbard for being a coward dulled by crime, and sentenced him to twenty-five years hard labor. Six months later, Hibbard made his attempt to escape that resulted in his death.

 

George B. Hibbard (#114)

George B. Hibbard (1843-1893), aka George Elwood/Ellwood, George A. Moore, Gentleman George — Masked house burglar

Throughout his criminal career, “Gentleman George” never revealed his real identity, with the intention of shielding his family’s reputation. However, while imprisoned for the final time, his wife wrote a letter to him that was intercepted by authorities and published in several New England newspapers. The details in the letter revealed “Gentleman George” to be George B. Hibbard of Detroit, Michigan. His respectable, embarrassed family hoped no one would notice these newspaper articles. He died in 1893 in a Rhode Island prison as George Ellwood. Three years later, George B. Hibbert was officially declared dead in Michigan. The family’s story was that he had been long institutionalized in an Eastern Michigan asylum, and had died there.

The truth was much darker. “Gentleman George,” after losing several appeals of his conviction–and facing more than twenty more years remaining on his Rhode Island sentence–attempted a jailbreak by overpowering a guard. He was shot dead while swinging a hammer at the prison guard’s head.

By all appearances, Hibbard was an honest family man during the 1870s and early 1880s, working as a traveling windmill salesman and living with his in-laws in Adrian, Michigan. Years later, rumors surfaced that he had led a long life of crime, and had deceived his wife all during their marriage. However, there is no evidence of any brushes with the law prior to 1885 (also, some confusion might have arisen between Hibbard and other bad characters named George Ellwood.) Sometime in 1885, he met and decided to team up with a notorious New York-based house burglar, Joe Whalen (alias Joe Wilson). Why Hibbard turned to burglary is not known, but he and Whalen proved to be an effective team.

The pair of burglars spent the summer of 1885 breaking into houses in Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago. From their base in Detroit, they then decided to hit a house in Toledo, where Hibbard, empowered by his mask, made one of his trademark, chilling visits:

gentleman

Hibbard and Wilson were picked up by detectives in New York on suspicion, and items from this Toledo robbery were found in their possession. It was in New York stat Hibbard first used the alias Ellwood, which stuck with him. They were escorted back to Ohio, where they were tried for the Toledo and Cleveland robberies. Hibbard received a sentence a long sentence, and entered the State Prison in 1885. More than halfway through his stretch, he broke free:

18910406newyorksun

Six months later, Hibbard migrated to New England. He burglarized homes in Providence, Rhode Island; then he attempted a house robbery in Norwich, Connecticut, but was shot by the owner in his left breast and left shoulder. Hibbard fled the scene, and though seriously wounded, got on a train to Worcester, Massachusetts. He broke into a couple of houses there, but was later found collapsed in a doorway. Prosecutors agreed the strongest case against him could be made in Providence, so he was sent there to await trial.

It took over a year to convict Hibbard, after his first trial was thrown out on mishandled evidence. At his separate sentencing session, he was accorded the chance to address the court before the sentence was announced. Hibbard stood and began reading from a text said to be forty pages long. He spoke for nearly an hour, condemning the whole process that had brought him to this point: he accused the judges he had faced in Rhode Island of being incapable of fairness; he accused the officers who arrested him of stealing his money, thereby denying his access to good counsel; he stated that the prosecutors had paid witnesses to perjure themselves; he referred to the jury that convicted him as little more than $134 worth of dirt and water, and that they had decided their verdict before they heard any evidence.

Hibbard concluded his tirade with an elaborate, hearty curse:

“My curse upon you all for driving me to the very verge of hell, and may the time come, whether in heaven or hell, upon this miserable earth, when you will likewise curse and I can demonstrate to you my hatred, and how much I loathe, hate, and despise you all. Now look upon your work and see if I am fit to live. Oh, that I had the strength of a thousand Samsons, that I could crush, tear, and rend you all like mad dogs. Now do the most agreeable duty of your life and sentence the man you have hounded into a fiend and a demon. Do your dirty work accordingly.”

Perhaps someone had expected him to be polite.

After a shocked pause, Hibbard’s attorney begged the court to ignore Hibbard’s desperate speech, and be merciful. The judge rebuked Hibbard for being a coward dulled by crime, and sentenced him to twenty-five years hard labor. Six months later, Hibbard made his attempt to escape that resulted in his death.

 

#201 Thomas McCormack

Thomas Joseph McCormick (1844-1897), aka Tom McCormack — Bank Robber

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-three years old in 1883. Born in United States. Married. Machinist. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Hair black, turning gray ; dark gray eyes, very dark complexion. Looks like a Spaniard. Generally wears a full black whisker and mustache. Dresses well, and is a great wine drinker.

RECORD. Thomas McCormack has had a checkered career and is a desperate man. He was associated from time to time with all the first-class bank burglars, and was implicated in many important bank robberies. Several years ago he shot and killed Big John Casey, another burglar, over a quarrel on the division of the moneys stolen from the Kensington Savings Bank in Philadelphia, which they and others had robbed on February 4, 1871, of a large amount of money. The bank referred to was robbed by McCormack, Casey, Dobbs, Brady, Burns, alias Combo, and three others. One of them during the day went to the president and represented having been sent by the Chief of Police to tell him that information had been received that either that night or the one following the bank was to be robbed. That he must not impart this information to any one, but that the Chief would send three or four policemen in uniform that afternoon, who were to be locked in the bank, and that the president could leave a porter with them. This programme was followed out, and two watchmen were left. When night set in they sent one of the watchmen out for beer, and during his absence bound and gagged the other and tied him up in a back room. On the return of the other they served him the same way, and then proceeded to rob the bank. They secured between $80,000 and $100,000.

McCormack was arrested in New Haven, Conn., by Marshal Hamilton, on Sunday evening, December 9, 1882, for breaking open and robbing a safe in Walpole, N. H., on the night of December 8, 1882. When arrested in New Haven he gave the name James Crandell. He was taken to Keene, N. H., on December 21, 1882, and upon an examination he was committed to await the action of the Grand Jury. He was indicted on April 1, 1883. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in State prison on April 12, 1883. Sam Perris, alias Worcester Sam, was with McCormack in this robbery, but escaped after a desperate fight with the officers, who only succeeded in holding McCormack.

Chief Byrnes made at least one mistake in introducing the record of Tom McCormick, i.e. the notion that McCormick shot “Big John” Casey during a dispute over the spoils of the robbery of the Kensington Savings Bank of Philadelphia that took place in February, 1871. The fatal shots exchanged by McCormick and Casey actually took place in New York in August, 1870, six months prior to the Kensington Bank robbery.

In this instance and in other places in the text of Professional Criminals of America, Byrnes confuses facts of two separate Philadelphia bank robberies: the April 6, 1869 robbery of the Beneficial Savings Fund Bank; and the February, 1871 robbery of the Kensington Savings Bank. The perpetrators of both robberies were never conclusively identified, but most sources agree that a core group of men were behind both robberies: Frank McCoy, Jimmy Hope, and Joe Howard aka Joseph Killoran. [Though Hope’s name was often invoked in regard to these two jobs, he was lodged in Auburn prison when the Kensington robbery occurred; and–according to columnist Louis Megargee–denied involvement in the Beneficial Savings job, though he helped to recover the money. See #20 James Hope entry.]

Beyond those names, a plethora of other criminals have been cited as involved with one or the other of these crimes: Albany Jim Brady, John Kerrigan aka Johnny Dobbs; “Worcester Sam” Perris, John “Clutch” Donohue, Ike Marsh, Thomas Burns, Big John Casey, Curly Harris, Tom McCormick and John “Brockie George” Adams.

So while it is possible that McCormick and Casey argued over their shares of the Beneficial Savings robbery, the New York Herald suspected a more traditional explanation:

gunfight

The woman, if there truly was one behind the dispute, might have been Louisa Farley, who was said to be involved with McCormick at around this time.

McCormick was born in Troy, New York in 1844, and went to school to learn the trade of machinist. He became a skilled professional, which brought him to the attention of criminals who required his skills to penetrate vaults.

There is abundant evidence that McCormick was often involved in bank robberies with the most skilled thieves of that era. When McCormick shot John Casey, he was accompanied by veteran robbers Joe Howard (aka Joseph Killoran) and Henry Kelly (aka Charles Gleason.) In November, 1873, McCormick joined Frank McCoy, Jimmy Hope, Jim Brady, and George Bliss in an attempt to rob the First National Bank of Wilmington by holding the bank’s cashier hostage. They were captured before the attempt was made, and quickly tried and found guilty. They were sent to prison, but also suffered a public whipping as part of their sentence. Several of the gang, including McCormick, were able to escape.

In 1882, McCormick was arrested as one of the robbers of a Walpole, New Hampshire store safe. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to eight years at the New Hampshire State Prison.

Upon his release in the late 1880s, McCormick resolved to give up crime. However, trouble still found him; in 1890 he was accused of stabbing a thief/pickpocket named Alonzo Henn, aka Dutch Alonzo, on the street in front of his brother’s saloon. McCormick was reported to have opened his own saloon in the 1890s, as well as playing the horses and bookmaking, and was said to generously give money away as quickly as he earned it. His obituary reported that he dissuaded many young men from a life of crime. He died a poor man in 1897–but a reformed one.

Thomas Joseph McCormick (#201)

Thomas Joseph McCormick (1844-1897), aka Tom McCormack — Bank Robber

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-three years old in 1883. Born in United States. Married. Machinist. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 8^ inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Hair black, turning gray ; dark gray eyes, very dark complexion. Looks like a Spaniard. Generally wears a full black whisker and mustache. Dresses well, and is a great wine drinker.

RECORD. Thomas McCormack has had a checkered career and is a desperate man. He was associated from time to time with all the first-class bank burglars, and was implicated in many important bank robberies. Several years ago he shot and killed Big John Casey, another burglar, over a quarrel on the division of the moneys stolen from the Kensington Savings Bank in Philadelphia, which they and others had robbed on February 4, 1871, of a large amount of money. The bank referred to was robbed by McCormack, Casey, Dobbs, Brady, Burns, alias Combo, and three others. One of them during the day went to the president and represented having been sent by the Chief of Police to tell him that information had been received that either that night or the one following the bank was to be robbed. That he must not impart this information to any one, but that the Chief would send three or four policemen in uniform that afternoon, who were to be locked in the bank, and that the president could leave a porter with them. This programme was followed out, and two watchmen were left. When night set in they sent one of the watchmen out for beer, and during his absence bound and gagged the other and tied him up in a back room. On the return of the other they served him the same way, and then proceeded to rob the bank. They secured between $80,000 and $100,000.

McCormack was arrested in New Haven, Conn., by Marshal Hamilton, on Sunday- evening, December 9, 1882, for breaking open and robbing a safe in Walpole, N. H., on the night of December 8, 1882. When arrested in New Haven he gave the name James Crandell. He was taken to Keene, N. H., on December 21, 1882, and upon an examination he was committed to await the action of the Grand Jury. He was indicted on April i, 1883. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in State prison on April 12, 1883. Sam Ferris, alias Worcester Sam, was with McCormack in this robbery, but escaped after a desperate fight with the officers, who only succeeded in holding McCormack.

Chief Byrnes made at least one mistake in introducing the record of Tom McCormick, i.e. the notion that McCormick shot “Big John” Casey during a dispute over the spoils of the robbery of the Kensington Savings Bank of Philadelphia that took place in February, 1871. The fatal shots exchanged by McCormick and Casey actually took place in New York in August, 1870, six months prior to the Kensington Bank robbery.

In this instance and in other places in the text of Professional Criminals of America, Byrnes confuses facts of two separate Philadelphia bank robberies: the April 6, 1869 robbery of the Beneficial Savings Fund Bank; and the February, 1871 robbery of the Kensington Savings Bank. The perpetrators of both robberies were never conclusively identified, but most sources agree that a core group of men were behind both robberies: Frank McCoy, Jimmy Hope, and Joe Howard aka Joseph Killoran.

Beyond those names, a plethora of other criminals have been cited as involved with one or the other of these crimes: Albany Jim Brady, Johnny Dobbs aka Mike Kerrigan; John “Clutch” Donohue, Ike Marsh, Thomas Burns, Big John Casey, Tom McCormick and John “Brockie George” Adams.

So while it is possible that McCormick and Casey argued over their shares of the Beneficial Savings robbery, the New York Herald suspected a more traditional explanation:

gunfight

The woman, if there truly was one behind the dispute, might have been Louisa Farley, who was said to be involved with McCormick at around this time.

McCormick was born in Troy, New York in 1844, and went to school to learn the trade of machinist. He became a skilled professional, which brought him to the attention of criminals who required his skills to penetrate vaults.

There is abundant evidence that McCormick was often involved in bank robberies with the most skilled thieves of that era. When McCormick shot John Casey, he was accompanied by veteran robbers Joe Howard (aka Joseph Killoran) and Henry Kelly (aka Charles Gleason.) In November, 1873, McCormick joined Frank McCoy, Jimmy Hope, Jim Brady, and George Bliss in an attempt to rob the First National Bank of Wilmington by holding the bank’s cashier hostage. They were captured before the attempt was made, and quickly tried and found guilty. They were sent to prison, but also suffered a public whipping as part of their sentence. Several of the gang, including McCormick, were able to escape.

In 1882, McCormick was arrested as one of the robbers of a Walpole, New Hampshire store safe. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to eight years at the New Hampshire State Prison.

Upon his release in the late 1880s, McCormick resolved to give up crime. However, trouble still found him; in 1890 he was accused of stabbing a thief/pickpocket named Alonzo Henn, aka Dutch Alonzo, on the street in front of his brother’s saloon. McCormick was reported to have opened his own saloon in the 1890s, as well as playing the horses and bookmaking, and was said to generously give money away as quickly as he earned it. His obituary reported that he dissuaded many young men from a life of crime. He died a poor man in 1897–but a reformed one.

#204 Louis Brown

Louis Wolff (Abt. 1826-????), aka French Louis, Louis Brown, Daniel Brown, John Krill, Louis Wolfrain, etc. — Burglar, Fixer (locksmith)

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-nine years old in 1886. Born in France. Married. Machinist. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weight, about 145 pounds. Gray hair, very thin ; hazel eyes, fair complexion. Large nose. Thin face. Small mole near right eye. Wife’s name, Annie L. Wolf.

RECORD. Brown, or French Louie, the name he is best known by, is one of the most expert burglars in America. His particular line is the manufacture of burglars’ tools and making false keys from impressions in wax. He seldom takes a hand in a burglary, unless it is a large one. He generally paves the way for the operations of confederates, and works from 6 a. m. to 8 a. m. in the morning, when his operations can generally be carried on with impunity, as any person seeing him at that hour would fancy that he was simply opening the store for the day’s business. French Louie has spent at least twenty years in State prison in America, two-thirds of it in Sing Sing prison. New York. Louie was arrested in New York City on July 15, 1877, in the act of committing a burglary at Nos. 27 and 29 White Street. He was convicted and sentenced to three years and three months in State prison at Sing Sing, N. Y., on August 16, 1877. He escaped from Sing Sing on July 16, 1878, and was re-arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., on February 18, 1879, he returned to Sing Sing prison to serve out his unexpired time. He was arrested again in New York City, on August 27, 1881, for tampering with the padlock on the store of E. H. Gato & Co., No. 52 Beaver Street. There was $50,000 worth of imported cigars in the store at the time. Louie pleaded guilty of an attempt at burglary, and was sentenced to two years and six months in State prison, on September 12, 1881, by Recorder Smyth, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City. His time expired on October 12, 1883. French Louie was arrested again, under the name of John Yole, in Hoboken, N. J., on March 18, 1886, and sentenced to ninety days under the Disorderly Act. He had some tools and keys in his possession when arrested. His case was referred to the Grand Jury, which body failed to indict him. Brown’s picture is an excellent one, taken in Philadelphia, Pa.

Chief Byrnes never indicated that the real name of “French Louie” was Louis Wolff, though he knew his wife’s name as “Annie L. Wolf.” Byrnes, as per usual, begins criminal records in the late 1870s, but “French Louis” (used much more often than “Louie”) was active much earlier–dating back to the 1850s. His paper trail of newspaper clippings dates back to 1867, when he was arrested in New York for vagrancy and (allegedly) asked to be sent to the workhouse.

 

Wolff is difficult to track for a couple of reasons: 1) his nickname, “French Louis,” was used at different times and places by many criminals, some of whom were active during the same period that Wolff was at work; 2) in a city full of German immigrants, “Louis Wolff” and “Anna Wolff” were common names–no census records have been positively matched with the burglar; 3) and finally, Wolff had a talent for dropping a new alias each time he was arrested:

  • “John Woolford” in 1867, New York (vagrancy)
  • “John Walton alias Louis Wolfrain” in 1868, Boston (burglarizing a furrier)
  • “Louis Wolfert” in 1876, New York (stealing silk samples)
  • “J. Daniel Brown alias James Walker” in 1877, New York (stealing fine linens). Sent to Sing Sing as “Daniel Brown.”
  • “James Welsh” in 1878, Philadelphia (sent to Eastern State Penitentiary)
  • “David Brown” in 1879, Philadelphia (recognized as escapee from Sing Sing and recaptured)
  • “John Krill” in 1881, New York (attempted burglary). Sent to Sing Sing under this name
  • “John Yole” in 1886, Hoboken, New Jersey (possessing burglary tools)

As elusive as French Louis was, the most illuminating information about him comes not from law records, newspapers, or genealogy sources.  Instead, there exist a long passage of  anecdotes picked up in prison about him by the famous Bank of England forger, George Bidwell. In 1891, Bidwell published his memoirs, titled Forging His Own Chains: The Wonderful Life Story of George Bidwell.  Wolff appears in Chapter LI as the burglar, “Luelo”:

In the year 1856 an independent detective came to two young men then engaged in the jewelry business, as above described, and informed them that within a few weeks a jeweler was to arrive in New York from Germany, bringing with him a rich stock of watches, diamonds, and other jewelry, and that the store on the first floor of No. 181 Broadway had already been rented for him, as he intended doing a wholesale business.

The first thing was to plan how to get possession of his whole stock at one stroke after his arrival. There was another room for rent in the rear, and connected by a door with the premises rented for the German. That room must be secured immediately, but how to do this was a puzzler, for neither of the two confederates could act in the matter, because they were too well known to the police. It was, therefore, necessary to obtain a man of good address to do that part of the business.

These two young rogues were called Luelo and Bruno. Luelo went to Philadelphia to a buyer of stolen goods named Strauss, and upon learning from Luelo the object of his visit, he, in two hours’ time, brought and introduced to Luelo a man called Evans, who had every appearance of being an honest business man, but who was in reality a crook, though not known to the New York police as such. Luelo told Evans, in the presence of the buyer, that they were to go to New Orleans on a good paying job, and would be gone perhaps three months, he to pay all expenses in case no money should be made. This deception was used for the double purpose of throwing the buyer off from the actual job in hand, and to avoid paying the usual percentage of the proceeds of the robbery; also to avoid the risk of being betrayed or blackmailed by him.

Luelo and Evans then left for New York. On the way the former informed the latter as to the true nature of the job in contemplation. Evans was delighted at the prospect, and said he was glad to get into the company of such large operators in other people’s property, having himself been doing a picayune business for some months just to keep from starving. He appeared to think that at last he had struck a vein of good luck, but Luelo said : “No, you are mistaken; you are not to know us too well. After the job is finished, and you have received your share, you are to go back to Philadelphia, and we are again strangers. Besides, you are not to let old ‘Sheeney Strauss’ know anything.”

Evans agreed to these terms, and upon his arrival in New York began operations by calling on the real estate agent, who demanded reference, also one quarter’s rent in advance. It was easy enough to pay the quarter’s rent, but as to the reference, that was for a party of “dead-beats” a difficult thing to accomplish. However, Evans, being a man who had his wits about him, accepted the terms, and told the agent that he would take the place, call the next day, and settle the matter to the agent’s satisfaction. He then took his leave without the remotest idea as to how he could fulfill his promise. The thing must be done, and after some cogitations he was furnished with §200.

Going to the house of “Henn & Co.” in Liberty Street, he purchased all the old unsalable stock of tobacco which was left on their hands. This amounted to $1,500.00, and they were very pleased to get hold of a customer who would pay cash for their damaged goods. Evans informed the firm that he was from California, and was about opening business at No. 181 Broadway. “I have purchased these goods,” said he, “to sell to peddlers, but shall soon require a large quantity of your better qualities. My name is Evans, and as I am a stranger, here is $200 on account. Please have the goods ready for delivery when I send for them.”

Taking a receipt for the $200 and the invoice, Evans departed, but as he reached the door turned, and, coming back hastily, said: “By the way, I am in trouble about the place I have rented. I supposed that the rent in advance would be quite sufficient, but the agent also requires reference. Of course, had I known such to be the custom here, I should have come prepared with the best recommendations, but I shall have to write to San Francisco, which will delay the opening of my business. Can you advise me of any better plan?”

“Oh, do not trouble yourself,” was replied. “We shall feel it a pleasure, as well as a duty, to assist you out of your dilemma.” Writing a few words, he handed a card to Evans, and said: “Hand this card to the agent, and it will save the time of writing to San Francisco.” Evans took the card, went direct to the agent with it, and found nothing more was required, the agent being personally acquainted with Messrs. Henn & Co. Evans then paid a quarter’s rent, received the key, and departed. In order to make a show of business, some empty boxes were sent in, and a carpenter set at work putting up shelves, drawers, etc. Within ten days the German jeweler arrived, passed his goods through the custom-house, and took possession of the adjoining room, with two large trunks filled with jewelry, containing his whole stock in trade. They arrived too late in the afternoon to be unpacked and put away in the safe.

Everything had been arranged to convey this safe into Evans’s room, where it had been the intention to pry or blow it open, the tools being all ready, and little fear that the noise of exploding powder would be heard in that busy part of Broadway. Late in the afternoon Luelo, Bruno, and Evans locked themselves in their office. At the usual hour the janitor knocked at every door, then closed the building, and went home. The trio of robbers then burst open the door leading to the German’s office, when what was their astonishment at the sight of the two trunks still packed, just as they came from the custom-house. This unexpected discovery simplified their plan, as all they had to do was to engage a cart for the next morning early. Accordingly, they were on hand, got the trunks on a cart before the janitor came, and took them to the Jersey ferry, where they were deposited, the cartman dismissed, another cart engaged to take them to another place, and this operation was repeated several times; so that any attempt to trace them by the police would be frustrated.

Upon getting them to a place of safety they were opened, and found to be lined with zinc, and air tight, to preserve the valuable contents from injury during the voyage. The tops of the trunks were filled with diamond jewelry, watches set in diamonds, and underneath were solid gold rings and chains. For eight days there was nothing about it in the papers; then appeared an offer of a reward of $10,000, and the goods stated to be valued, according to the custom-house invoices, at $150,000. The whole lot was sold to two receivers for $80,000, the detective who planned the job being paid $10,000, although it was not the custom to pay them in such cases but 10 per cent of the proceeds, unless they rendered active assistance in executing the plan, in which case only were they entitled to a full share.

Evans was well content with his share ($20,000), and was hurried off to Philadelphia, thankful and hoping for another of the same kind. The two friends had $25,000 each, and this was all squandered within six months; for, says a German proverb: “Wie gewonnen, so geronnen” (easy come, easy go). Their ill-gotten gains being used up, the two pseudo friends quarreled and parted, Bruno becoming “dishonest,” having turned informer, or stool-pigeon for the police; so that none of the tribe of “cross-men” would have anything to do with him. This is another illustration of what I have elsewhere stated — that all persons acting dishonestly have, step by step, reasoned themselves into a state of mind which permits them to take part in any crime against property, and that it is quite right for them to do so. In the estimation of his fellow thief, Bruno was honest so long as he only robbed the outside public — dishonest when he turned to assist the police.

Several years later Luelo — whom I may as well state was a French-German Alsatian named Louis Wolfe — met a crook called the General, and asked him where he was going so fast. “Come along, Luelo,” said the “General,” “for I am in a hurry to get some things. My family is on board, and we are off for Brazil this afternoon.” Luelo accompanied him to bid him farewell, and when near the ship, seeing a ragged looking fellow on board, said, “General, I think I know that fellow. Who is he?” “O, that is your old pal, Bruno. I did not wish to tell you that he was so badly off. He begged me to take him along, and he is to work his passage.” “Well, you are taking your ‘hoodoo’ (bad luck) with you,” said Luelo. As Luelo came on board Bruno turned away, but Leulo called to him to face about. “Shame made the rascal change color,” said Leulo to the writer. “This is your reward from the ‘fly cops’ (detectives),” said he, “for your treachery to your pals ; but I pity you, as you were once a square man, and it is the best thing you can do to leave the country.”

Handing him $50, Luelo turned to take leave of the others and departed. Eight months later the General and his family returned to New York in poverty, a revolution having broken out in Brazil. Bruno had enlisted in the Brazilian army, and disappeared from view, doubtless dying a miserable death by violence. Thus ended another of the great army of “dead-beats,” who, after living a butterfly life, alternating between abject poverty and reveling in luxury on their ill-gotten gains, varied by longer or shorter terms of imprisonment, invariably end their lives in want and wretchedness.

The detective, never having had so large a sum before, began to gamble to increase it, was finally expelled from the police force, emigrated to California, and soon after was sent to prison for the term of ten years on the charge of highway robbery.

In one of these years of the golden time Luelo found him self at the St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans. Every winter this hotel was filled with planters and their families, and it was the place where many marriages among them were celebrated. A Spanish jeweler by the name of Lopez occupied a room, in which he kept a large stock of diamonds, etc., and found his customers among the guests. Upon investigation, Luelo ascertained that Lopez took his supper at the Spanish Club, depositing the key of the specially padlocked door at the office. The door being within sight of the office, he must devise some other way of entering the room. It could have been done by going in on pretense of pur chase, and knock the jeweler down with a sandbag, but Luelo was not the man for such brutal work. Strange traits of human nature! Nearly all thieves have conscientious scruples of some kind.

Luelo found that the hotel rested on a basement of stone arches. His plan was at once formed. As his room was next to that of Lopez, he cut a slit in the carpet, bored a hole in the floor with an extension bit, crept through and found him self in the hollow which ran along above the pillars which supported the arches. Creeping along about ten feet, and lying on his back, he bored a hole as before, slit the carpet, crept up through, and found himself under the bed. He now hastened to the bureau, opened the drawers, selecting the most valuable articles, which he put into a pillow case. With a jimmy, he then turned to the trunk, and while in the act of breaking it open he heard the padlock being taken from the door.

He instantly seized the pillow-case, and swiftly, but deliberately, walked into the bedroom. Pushing the bag down, he quickly followed, the slit in the carpet closing after him, so that any one searching the room would not notice the opening. Creeping hastily along the passage, he ascended into his own room, emptied the contents of the case on the bed, hurried on his clothes; then, opening the cases, he filled his pockets with diamond jewelry. Passing out, he locked his own room, took the key, and when passing the next room saw the padlock was not on the door, but all was quiet. Leaving the key at the office, he went out, took a carriage to Lake Ponchartrain, and the boat for Mobile at 11 p. m.; then, going from place to place, he was fortunate enough to reach Cincinnati in safety.

Here he wrote a note to a buyer of stolen goods, who came and paid $55,000 for the whole booty. The following week Luelo was on board a steamer bound for Bremen, and in a few days was with his relations at the old homestead on the Rhine. He presented his father with $5,000, each of his four brothers with $2,000, leaving himself $41,000. Soon tiring of the quiet country life, at the end of four weeks he left, traveled through Germany, Switzerland, France, and Italy, arriving in New York eleven months later with $12,000, which soon disappeared at the gaming table of John Morrissey.

The purchaser of the goods informed Luelo that there had never appeared in the papers anything about the robbery, and he inferred that the hotel paid half the loss rather than that the affair should become public. Not a strange trait of human nature, but still a singular fact, that Luelo was always grieving over what he might have had out of that trunk if Lopez had only kept away a few minutes longer.

In disposing of the jewelry, Luelo had kept back a valuable diamond ring, taking it out of the setting, and sewing it in his vest as a button. While in Paris he had three paste rings made which were exact imitations, and could not be distinguished from the original by the naked eye. Arriving in New York, he stopped at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. In a few days he told the proprietor that he was out of money, and desired a loan of $2,500 on his ring until he could get funds from home. After sending the ring to a dealer to ascertain its genuineness, he readily advanced the required sum, which Luelo duly paid, receiving back his ring. Two days later he again applied for the same sum, which, on receiving, he handed over as security one of the paste rings, telling the landlord that he could not pay him under ten days. He then went to the Metropolitan Hotel, and repeated the operation with one of the bogus rings, after which he proceeded to Montreal, where he obtained $3,000 on the third paste ring.

He afterwards invested the genuine stone in a faro bank, the proprietor allowing him $5000 for it. Of course, this sum was all gambled away in a few hours. Where are the hundreds of thousands that Luelo stole? “O, gold is only glimmer,” says the song. Where is Luelo? In State prison, where all law breakers go first or last, leaving their families, if they have any, in poverty. Luelo, who is known as French Louis and Louis Brown, was sentenced in 1867 to eight years in the Charlestown, Mass., State prison. He always asserted that he did not commit the burglary with which he was charged, and was finally, by the active exertions of his wife, pardoned in 1871.

Strange! bad men nearly always get good wives. His was a beautiful and good woman, who adhered to him through all. While serving a sentence at Sing Sing prison he escaped in July, 1878, and nine months later was recaptured and returned to his old quarters. Not long after the expiration of his term he was again apprehended and sent back to Sing Sing. He is now 63 years of age, and has passed at least 25 of that in prison. His talents, had they always been honestly employed, would have saved him those years of deprivation and degradation, and doubtless would have placed him in circumstances which would have enabled him to live continuously in as great luxury as during the intervals when he was out of prison.

 

 

Louis Wolff (#204)

Louis Wolff (Abt. 1826-????), aka French Louis, Louis Brown, Daniel Brown, John Krill, Louis Wolfrain, etc. — Burglar, Fixer (locksmith)

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-nine years old in 1886. Born in France. Married. Machinist. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weight, about 145 pounds. Gray hair, very thin ; hazel eyes, fair complexion. Large nose. Thin face. Small mole near right eye. Wife’s name, Annie L. Wolf.

RECORD. Brown, or French Louie, the name he is best known by, is one of the most expert burglars in America. His particular line is the manufacture of burglars’ tools and making false keys from impressions in wax. He seldom takes a hand in a burglary, unless it is a large one. He generally paves the way for the operations of confederates, and works from 6 a. m. to 8 a. m. in the morning, when his operations can generally be carried on with impunity, as any person seeing him at that hour would fancy that he was simply opening the store for the day’s business. French Louie has spent at least twenty years in State prison in America, two-thirds of it in Sing Sing prison. New York. Louie was arrested in New York City on July 15, 1877, in the act of committing a burglary at Nos. 27 and 29 White Street. He was convicted and sentenced to three years and three months in State prison at Sing Sing, N. Y., on August 16, 1877. He escaped from Sing Sing on July 16, 1878, and was re-arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., on February 18, 1879, he returned to Sing Sing prison to serve out his unexpired time. He was arrested again in New York City, on August 27, 1881, for tampering with the padlock on the store of E. H. Gato & Co., No. 52 Beaver Street. There was $50,000 worth of imported cigars in the store at the time. Louie pleaded guilty of an attempt at burglary, and was sentenced to two years and six months in State prison, on September 12, 1881, by Recorder Smyth, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City. His time expired on October 12, 1883. French Louie was arrested again, under the name of John Yole, in Hoboken, N. J., on March 18, 1886, and sentenced to ninety days under the Disorderly Act. He had some tools and keys in his possession when arrested. His case was referred to the Grand Jury, which body failed to indict him. Brown’s picture is an excellent one, taken in Philadelphia, Pa.

Chief Byrnes never indicated that the real name of “French Louie” was Louis Wolff, though he knew his wife’s name as “Annie L. Wolf.” Byrnes, as per usual, begins criminal records in the late 1870s, but “French Louis” (used much more often than “Louie”) was active much earlier–dating back to the 1850s. His paper trail of newspaper clippings dates back to 1867, when he was arrested in New York for vagrancy and (allegedly) asked to be sent to the workhouse.

Capture

Wolff is difficult to track for a couple of reasons: 1) his nickname, “French Louis,” was used at different times and places by many criminals, some of whom were active during the same period that Wolff was at work; 2) in a city full of German immigrants, “Louis Wolff” and “Anna Wolff” were common names–no census records have been positively matched with the burglar; 3) and finally, Wolff had a talent for dropping a new alias each time he was arrested:

  • “John Woolford” in 1867, New York (vagrancy)
  • “John Walton alias Louis Wolfrain” in 1868, Boston (burglarizing a furrier)
  • “Louis Wolfert” in 1876, New York (stealing silk samples)
  • “J. Daniel Brown alias James Walker” in 1877, New York (stealing fine linens). Sent to Sing Sing as “Daniel Brown.”
  • “James Welsh” in 1878, Philadelphia (sent to Eastern State Penitentiary)
  • “David Brown” in 1879, Philadelphia (recognized as escapee from Sing Sing and recaptured)
  • “John Krill” in 1881, New York (attempted butglary). Sent to Sing Sing under this name
  • “John Yole” in 1886, Hoboken, New Jersey (possessing burglary tools)

As elusive as French Louis was, the most illuminating information about him comes not from law records, newspapers, or genealogy sources.  Instead, there exist a long passage of  anecdotes picked up in prison about him by the famous Bank of England forger, George Bidwell. In 1891, Bidwell published his memoirs, titled Forging His Own Chains: The Wonderful Life Story of George Bidwell.  Wolff appears in Chapter LI as the burglar, “Luelo”:

In the year 1856 an independent detective came to two young men then engaged in the jewelry business, as above described, and informed them that within a few weeks a jeweler was to arrive in New York from Germany, bringing with him a rich stock of watches, diamonds, and other jewelry, and that the store on the first floor of No. 181 Broadway had already been rented for him, as he intended doing a wholesale business.

The first thing was to plan how to get possession of his whole stock at one stroke after his arrival. There was another room for rent in the rear, and connected by a door with the premises rented for the German. That room must be secured immediately, but how to do this was a puzzler, for neither of the two confederates could act in the matter, because they were too well known to the police. It was, therefore, necessary to obtain a man of good address to do that part of the business.

These two young rogues were called Luelo and Bruno. Luelo went to Philadelphia to a buyer of stolen goods named Strauss, and upon learning from Luelo the object of his visit, he, in two hours’ time, brought and introduced to Luelo a man called Evans, who had every appearance of being an honest business man, but who was in reality a crook, though not known to the New York police as such. Luelo told Evans, in the presence of the buyer, that they were to go to New Orleans on a good paying job, and would be gone perhaps three months, he to pay all expenses in case no money should be made. This deception was used for the double purpose of throwing the buyer off from the actual job in hand, and to avoid paying the usual percentage of the proceeds of the robbery; also to avoid the risk of being betrayed or blackmailed by him.

Luelo and Evans then left for New York. On the way the former informed the latter as to the true nature of the job in contemplation. Evans was delighted at the prospect, and said he was glad to get into the company of such large operators in other people’s property, having himself been doing a picayune business for some months just to keep from starving. He appeared to think that at last he had struck a vein of good luck, but Luelo said : “No, you are mistaken; you are not to know us too well. After the job is finished, and you have received your share, you are to go back to Philadelphia, and we are again strangers. Besides, you are not to let old ‘sheeney Strauss’ know anything.”

Evans agreed to these terms, and upon his arrival in New York began operations by calling on the real estate agent, who demanded reference, also one quarter’s rent in advance. It was easy enough to pay the quarter’s rent, but as to the reference, that was for a party of “dead-beats” a difficult thing to accomplish. However, Evans, being a man who had his wits about him, accepted the terms, and told the agent that he would take the place, call the next day, and settle the matter to the agent’s satisfaction. He then took his leave without the remotest idea as to how he could fulfill his promise. The thing must be done, and after some cogitations he was furnished with §200.

Going to the house of “Henn & Co.” in Liberty Street, he purchased all the old unsalable stock of tobacco which was left on their hands. This amounted to $1,500.00, and they were very pleased to get hold of a customer who would pay cash for their damaged goods. Evans informed the firm that he was from California, and was about opening business at No. 181 Broadway. “I have purchased these goods,” said he, “to sell to peddlers, but shall soon require a large quantity of your better qualities. My name is Evans, and as I am a stranger, here is $200 on account. Please have the goods ready for delivery when I send for them.”

Taking a receipt for the $200 and the invoice, Evans departed, but as he reached the door turned, and, coming back hastily, said: “By the way, I am in trouble about the place I have rented. I supposed that the rent in advance would be quite sufficient, but the agent also requires reference. Of course, had I known such to be the custom here, I should have come prepared with the best recommendations, but I shall have to write to San Francisco, which will delay the opening of my business. Can you advise me of any better plan?”

“Oh, do not trouble yourself,” was replied. “We shall feel it a pleasure, as well as a duty, to assist you out of your dilemma.” Writing a few words, he handed a card to Evans, and said: “Hand this card to the agent, and it will save the time of writing to San Francisco.” Evans took the card, went direct to the agent with it, and found nothing more was required, the agent being personally acquainted with Messrs. Henn & Co. Evans then paid a quarter’s rent, received the key, and departed. In order to make a show of business, some empty boxes were sent in, and a carpenter set at work putting up shelves, drawers, etc. Within ten days the German jeweler arrived, passed his goods through the custom-house, and took possession of the adjoining room, with two large trunks filled with jewelry, containing his whole stock in trade. They arrived too late in the afternoon to be unpacked and put away in the safe.

Everything had been arranged to convey this safe into Evans’s room, where it had been the intention to pry or blow it open, the tools being all ready, and little fear that the noise of exploding powder would be heard in that busy part of Broadway. Late in the afternoon Luelo, Bruno, and Evans locked themselves in their office. At the usual hour the janitor knocked at every door, then closed the building, and went home. The trio of robbers then burst open the door leading to the German’s office, when what was their astonishment at the sight of the two trunks still packed, just as they came from the custom-house. This unexpected discovery simplified their plan, as all they had to do was to engage a cart for the next morning early. Accordingly, they were on hand, got the trunks on a cart before the janitor came, and took them to the Jersey ferry, where they were deposited, the cartman dismissed, another cart engaged to take them to another place, and this operation was repeated several times; so that any attempt to trace them by the police would be frustrated.

Upon getting them to a place of safety they were opened, and found to be lined with zinc, and air tight, to preserve the valuable contents from injury during the voyage. The tops of the trunks were filled with diamond jewelry, watches set in diamonds, and underneath were solid gold rings and chains. For eight days there was nothing about it in the papers; then appeared an offer of a reward of $10,000, and the goods stated to be valued, according to the custom-house invoices, at $150,000. The whole lot was sold to two receivers for $80,000, the detective who planned the job being paid $10,000, although it was not the custom to pay them in such cases but 10 per cent of the proceeds, unless they rendered active assistance in executing the plan, in which case only were they entitled to a full share.

Evans was well content with his share ($20,000), and was hurried off to Philadelphia, thankful and hoping for another of the same kind. The two friends had $25,000 each, and this was all squandered within six months; for, says a German proverb: “Wie gewonnen, so geronnen” (easy come, easy go). Their ill-gotten gains being used up, the two pseudo friends quarreled and parted, Bruno becoming “dishonest,” having turned informer, or stool-pigeon for the police; so that none of the tribe of “cross-men” would have anything to do with him. This is another illustration of what I have elsewhere stated — that all persons acting dishonestly have, step by step, reasoned themselves into a state of mind which permits them to take part in any crime against property, and that it is quite right for them to do so. In the estimation of his fellow thief, Bruno was honest so long as he only robbed the outside public — dishonest when he turned to assist the police.

Several years later Luelo — whom I may as well state was a French-German Alsatian named Louis Wolfe — met a crook called the General, and asked him where he was going so fast. “Come along, Luelo,” said the “General,” “for I am in a hurry to get some things. My family is on board, and we are off for Brazil this afternoon.” Luelo accompanied him to bid him farewell, and when near the ship, seeing a ragged looking fellow on board, said, “General, I think I know that fellow. Who is he?” “O, that is your old pal, Bruno. I did not wish to tell you that he was so badly off. He begged me to take him along, and he is to work his passage.” “Well, you are taking your ‘hoodoo’ (bad luck) with you,” said Luelo. As Luelo came on board Bruno turned away, but Leulo called to him to face about. “Shame made the rascal change color,” said Leulo to the writer. “This is your reward from the ‘fly cops’ (detectives),” said he, “for your treachery to your pals ; but I pity you, as you were once a square man, and it is the best thing you can do to leave the country.”

Handing him $50, Luelo turned to take leave of the others and departed. Eight months later the General and his family returned to New York in poverty, a revolution having broken out in Brazil. Bruno had enlisted in the Brazilian army, and disappeared from view, doubtless dying a miserable death by violence. Thus ended another of the great army of “dead-beats,” who, after living a butterfly life, alternating between abject poverty and reveling in luxury on their ill-gotten gains, varied by longer or shorter terms of imprisonment, invariably end their lives in want and wretchedness.

The detective, never having had so large a sum before, began to gamble to increase it, was finally expelled from the police force, emigrated to California, and soon after was sent to prison for the term of ten years on the charge of highway robbery.

In one of these years of the golden time Luelo found him self at the St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans. Every winter this hotel was filled with planters and their families, and it was the place where many marriages among them were celebrated. A Spanish jeweler by the name of Lopez occupied a room, in which he kept a large stock of diamonds, etc., and found his customers among the guests. Upon investigation, Luelo ascertained that Lopez took his supper at the Spanish Club, depositing the key of the specially padlocked door at the office. The door being within sight of the office, he must devise some other way of entering the room. It could have been done by going in on pretense of pur chase, and knock the jeweler down with a sandbag, but Luelo was not the man for such brutal work. Strange traits of human nature! Nearly all thieves have conscientious scruples of some kind.

Luelo found that the hotel rested on a basement of stone arches. His plan was at once formed. As his room was next to that of Lopez, he cut a slit in the carpet, bored a hole in the floor with an extension bit, crept through and found him self in the hollow which ran along above the pillars which supported the arches. Creeping along about ten feet, and lying on his back, he bored a hole as before, slit the carpet, crept up through, and found himself under the bed. He now hastened to the bureau, opened the drawers, selecting the most valuable articles, which he put into a pillow case. With a jimmy, he then turned to the trunk, and while in the act of breaking it open he heard the padlock being taken from the door.

He instantly seized the pillow-case, and swiftly, but deliberately, walked into the bedroom. Pushing the bag down, he quickly followed, the slit in the carpet closing after him, so that any one searching the room would not notice the opening. Creeping hastily along the passage, he ascended into his own room, emptied the contents of the case on the bed, hurried on his clothes; then, opening the cases, he filled his pockets with diamond jewelry. Passing out, he locked his own room, took the key, and when passing the next room saw the padlock was not on the door, but all was quiet. Leaving the key at the office, he went out, took a carriage to Lake Ponchartrain, and the boat for Mobile at 11 p. m.; then, going from place to place, he was fortunate enough to reach Cincinnati in safety.

Here he wrote a note to a buyer of stolen goods, who came and paid $55,000 for the whole booty. The following week Luelo was on board a steamer bound for Bremen, and in a few days was with his relations at the old homestead on the Rhine. He presented his father with $5,000, each of his four brothers with $2,000, leaving himself $41,000. Soon tiring of the quiet country life, at the end of four weeks he left, traveled through Germany, Switzerland, France, and Italy, arriving in New York eleven months later with $12,000, which soon disappeared at the gaming table of John Morrissey.

The purchaser of the goods informed Luelo that there had never appeared in the papers anything about the robbery, and he inferred that the hotel paid half the loss rather than that the affair should become public. Not a strange trait of human nature, but still a singular fact, that Luelo was always grieving over what he might have had out of that trunk if Lopez had only kept away a few minutes longer.

In disposing of the jewelry, Luelo had kept back a valuable diamond ring, taking it out of the setting, and sewing it in his vest as a button. While in Paris he had three paste rings made which were exact imitations, and could not be distinguished from the original by the naked eye. Arriving in New York, he stopped at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. In a few days he told the proprietor that he was out of money, and desired a loan of $2,500 on his ring until he could get funds from home. After sending the ring to a dealer to ascertain its genuineness, he readily advanced the required sum, which Luelo duly paid, receiving back his ring. Two days later he again applied for the same sum, which, on receiving, he handed over as security one of the paste rings, telling the landlord that he could not pay him under ten days. He then went to the Metropolitan Hotel, and repeated the operation with one of the bogus rings, after which he proceeded to Montreal, where he obtained $3,000 on the third paste ring.

He afterwards invested the genuine stone in a faro bank, the proprietor allowing him $5000 for it. Of course, this sum was all gambled away in a few hours. Where are the hundreds of thousands that Luelo stole? “O, gold is only glimmer,” says the song. Where is Luelo? In State prison, where all law breakers go first or last, leaving their families, if they have any, in poverty. Luelo, who is known as French Louis and Louis Brown, was sentenced in 1867 to eight years in the Charlestown, Mass., State prison. He always asserted that he did not commit the burglary with which he was charged, and was finally, by the active exertions of his wife, pardoned in 1871.

Strange! bad men nearly always get good wives. His was a beautiful and good woman, who adhered to him through all. While serving a sentence at Sing Sing prison he escaped in July, 1878, and nine months later was recaptured and returned to his old quarters. Not long after the expiration of his term he was again apprehended and sent back to Sing Sing. He is now 63 years of age, and has passed at least 25 of that in prison. His talents, had they always been honestly employed, would have saved him those years of deprivation and degradation, and doubtless would have placed him in circumstances which would have enabled him to live continuously in as great luxury as during the intervals when he was out of prison.

 

 

#44 Charles Hylebert

John W. Heil (1849-1904), aka Charles Hylebert, Red Heil, Cincinnati Red, etc. — Hotel thief

 

Capture3

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION.
Thirty-six years old in 1886. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 153 pounds. Red hair and whiskers, when grown; florid complexion. Butcher by trade. He is a great hand for disguising himself. His red beard grows very rapidly, and he could appear from time to time in cockney style, with long flowing side-whiskers, or with simple mustache, or with smooth face, as he might choose. He is quite genteel looking.

RECORD
Red Hyle, or Cincinnati Red, is one of the most celebrated hotel thieves in this country. He was born and raised in Cincinnati, and when a boy learned the butcher’s trade. He was called Red Hyle, on account of his red hair and florid face. He has been a professional thief for fifteen years. For many years this clever thief has robbed hotels all over the United States. He made Cincinnati his home, and his wife and children reside there now.

Hyle seldom works with a partner, preferring to work alone since he and William Carter, alias Three-Fingered Jack, were arrested and sentenced to the Georgia penitentiary for five years, in 1880, for a hotel robbery in Atlanta. Joe Parish (84) was implicated in this robbery, but returned the property and was discharged. Parish was subsequently sent to an Illinois penitentiary for robbing a bank. Hyle was released from the Georgia prison, and was next heard from in Washington, D.C., on March 6,1885, where he was arrested on suspicion of committing several hotel robberies there during the inauguration week. He was charged with stealing a watch and chain, value $65, from the room of one S. M. Briggs, in the St. James Hotel, and was committed in default of $3,000 bail for a further hearing. This case was not tried, as Hyle was arrested on the cars at Indianapolis, Ind., for grand larceny, stealing a valuable watch and chain from A. P. Miller, of New York, at the Circle House, in Indianapolis, on June 17, 1885. He was found guilty after a strongly contested trial, and sentenced to four years in the Northern State prison at Michigan City, on July 18, 1885.

Red Hyle generally managed to keep on the right side of the detectives while in Cincinnati, on the ground that he was not stealing anything in that city. He gave the officers considerable information about other thieves. There is no doubt that many a professional thief in this country will be glad to hear that Red Hyle, after dodging the Northern penitentiaries for so many years, has at last been sent to State prison. Hyle’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1885.

One might guess that a man with a distinctive name–suggested by Chief Byrnes as “Hylebert”–with family and long residence in a major city would be easy to identify, but such was not the case. There were no “Hyleberts” in Cincinnati circa 1880s, and only a few of that name in the entire country. Moreover, other names were employed by this thief long before the “Hylebert” spelling was attached to him. Even his nickname, Red Heil, was variously spelled as Hyle, Heyl, Hiel, or Hile.

 

His actual name was John William Heil, son of Frederick and Mary Heil of Cincinnati, Ohio. As a youth he earned the nickname of “Red Heil,” due to his red hair, and was well-known around town. John first documented brush with the law came in 1877 when he was 27, when he was suspected of stealing watches with an older partner, Henry Kessler of the Cincinnati Red Stockings baseball club:

18770110cincinnatienquirer

By 1800, when Heil was 30, he was already known as a skilled hotel thief, as indicated in the following clipping concerning the thefts in Atlanta, Georgia, that Byrnes correctly indicates resulted in a five-year sentence:

18801130neworleansitem.png

Heil was freed from the Georgia prison system by early 1885, when he (along with other thieves and pickpockets) descended upon Grover Cleveland’s Inauguration festivities in Washington, DC. In exchange for producing the goods stolen from a hotel room, Heil was allowed to leave town. The Washington newspapers had transcribed the alias Heil offered as “Charles Hallbert” and “Charles Heller.” This seems to be the origin of the name “Hylebert” used by Byrnes.

Capture1

As Byrnes indicates, Heil made his route back from the east coast, but was caught stealing a watch in a railroad car in Indianapolis. He was sentenced to a four-year term in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Upon his release in 1889–having just spent nine of the past ten years in prison–Heil faced rumors that his wife had a male friend:

18890718cincinnatienquirer

Heil returned to the city the next day, and wrote a note to the papers denying that he was angry with his wife.

Red escaped conviction during the years between 1889 and 1904, though he was arrested and tried many times: in Chicago, Washington, Baltimore, Louisville, and New York. Speaking from his temporary confinement in New York City in 1903, Red Heil philosophically compared himself to a Wall Street financier: “I use my brains, just as the trust manipulators do. I don’t waste time organizing and incorporating companies. I get it in a hurry and save the victims a lot of trouble in separating themselves from their coin. They don’t have to worry and fret. They know that I’ve got it.”

In November 1904, Heil was found unconscious in a rooming house in Chicago. The stove in his room was leaking gas. The coroner declared that he died from accidental asphyxiation. With admirable restraint, the Cincinnati Enquirer noted: “The deceased was well-known here and left a highly respected family.”

 

 

 

John W. Heil (#44)

John W. Heil (1849-1904), aka Charles Hylebert, Red Heil, Cincinnati Red, etc. — Hotel thief

 

Capture3

From Byrnes’ profile:

DESCRIPTION.
Thirty-six years old in 1886. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 153 pounds. Red hair and whiskers, when grown ; florid complexion. Butcher by trade. He is a great hand for disguising himself. His red beard grows very rapidly, and he could appear from time to time in cockney style, with long flowing side-whiskers, or with simple mustache, or with smooth face, as he might choose. He is quite genteel looking.

RECORD
Red Hyle, or Cincinnati Red, is one of the most celebrated hotel thieves in this country. He was born and raised in Cincinnati, and when a boy learned thebutcher’s
trade. He was called Red Hyle, on account of his red hair and florid face. He has been a professional thief for fifteen years. For many years this clever thief has robbed hotels all over the United States. He made Cincinnati his home, and his wife and children reside there now.

Hyle seldom works with a partner, preferring to work alone since he and William Carter, alias Three-Fingered Jack, were arrested and sentenced to the Georgia
penitentiary for five years, in 1880, for a hotel robbery in Atlanta. Joe Parish (84) was implicated in this robbery, but returned the property and was discharged. Parish was subsequently sent to an Illinois penitentiary for robbing a bank. Hyle was released from the Georgia prison, and was next heard from in Washington, D. C, on March 6,1885, where he was arrested on suspicion of committing several hotel robberies there during the inauguration week. He was charged with stealing a watch and chain, value $65, from the room of one S. M. Briggs, in the St. James Hotel, and was committed in default of $3,000 bail for a further hearing. This case was not tried, as Hyle was arrested on the cars at Indianapolis, Ind., for grand larceny, stealing a valuable watch
and chain from A. P. Miller, of New York, at the Circle House, in Indianapolis, on June 17, 1885. He was found guilty after a strongly contested trial, and sentenced to
four years in the Northern State prison at Michigan City, on July 18, 1885.

Red Hyle generally managed to keep on the right side of the detectives while in Cincinnati, on the ground that he was not stealing anything in that city. He gave the
officers considerable information about other thieves. There is no doubt that many a professional thief in this country will be glad to hear that Red Hyle, after dodging the Northern penitentiaries for so many years, has at last been sent to State prison.
Hyle’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1885.

One might guess that a man with a distinctive name–suggested by Chief Byrnes as “Hylebert”–with family and long residence in a major city would be easy to identify, but such was not the case. There were no “Hyleberts” in Cincinnati circa 1880s, and only a few of that name in the entire country. Moreover, other names were employed by this thief long before the “Hylebert” spelling was attached to him. Even his nickname, Red Heil, was variously spelled as Hyle, Heyl, Hiel, or Hile.

Capture2

His actual name was John William Heil, son of Frederick and Mary Heil of Cincinnati, Ohio. As a youth he earned the nickname of “Red Heil,” due to his red hair, and was well-known around town. John first documented brush with the law came in 1877 when he was 27, when he was suspected of stealing watches with an older partner, Henry Kessler of the Cincinnati Red Stockings baseball club:

18770110cincinnatienquirer

By 1800, when Heil was 30, he was already known as a skilled hotel thief, as indicated in the following clipping concerning the thefts in Atlanta, Georgia, that Byrnes correctly indicates resulted in a five-year sentence:

18801130neworleansitem.png

Heil was freed from the Georgia prison system by early 1885, when he (along with other thieves and pickpockets) descended upon Grover Cleveland’s Inauguration festivities in Washington, DC. In exchange for producing the goods stolen from a hotel room, Heil was allowed to leave town. The Washington newspapers had transcribed the alias Heil offered as “Charles Hallbert” and “Charles Heller.” This seems to be the origin of the name “Hylebert” used by Byrnes.

Capture1

As Byrnes indicates, Heil made his route back from the east coast, but was caught stealing a watch in a railroad car in Indianapolis. He was sentenced to a four-year term in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Upon his release in 1889–having just spent nine of the past ten years in prison–Heil faced rumors that his wife had a male friend:

18890718cincinnatienquirer

Heil returned to the city the next day, and wrote a note to the papers denying that he was angry with his wife.

Red escaped conviction during the years between 1889 and 1904, though he was arrested and tried many times: in Chicago, Washington, Baltimore, Louisville, and New York. Speaking from his temporary confinement in New York City in 1903, Red Heil philosophically compared himself to a Wall Street financier: “I use my brains, just as the trust manipulators do. I don’t waste time organizing and incorporating companies. I get it in a hurry and save the victims a lot of trouble in separating themselves from their coin. They don’t have to worry and fret. They know that I’ve got it.”

In November 1904, Heil was found unconscious in a rooming house in Chicago. The stove in his room was leaking gas. The coroner declared that he died from accidental asphyxiation. With admirable restraint, the Cincinnati Enquirer noted: “The deceased was well-known here and left a highly respected family.”

 

 

 

#126 Mary Busby / #135 Harry Busby

Mary Wilson (Abt. 1841-???), aka Mary Busby, Elizabeth Johnson, Mary Mitchell, etc.    / Henry Busby (Abt. 1837-????), aka Harry Busby, Henry Williams, George Fisk — Pickpockets, shoplifters

From Byrnes’ text on Mary Busby:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-eight years old in 1886. Born in England. Married. Stout build. Height,5 feet. Weight, 221 pounds. Dark brown hair, gray eyes, dark complexion.
RECORD. Mary Busby is a clever pickpocket and shoplifter, and is well known in all the large cities. Harry Busby, alias Broken-nose Busby (135), her husband, is an old New York pickpocket and “stall.” She was arrested in New York City for shoplifting on October 25, 1882, under the name of Mary Johnson, and sentenced to six months in the penitentiary on October 30, 1882, by Judge Ford. Arrested again in Boston, Mass., on May 3, 1883, for larceny of $40 worth of silk garments from Jourdan & Marsh’s dry goods store. For this she was sentenced to one year in the House of Correction on May 18, 1883. After her discharge in Boston, she went to New York City, and was arrested for the larceny of a bonnet from Rothschild’s millinery establishment on West Fourteenth Street. For this she was sentenced to five months in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island on May 20, 1884. This time she gave the name of Mary Mitchell.
Mary Busby had previously served two years on Blackwell’s Island, and two years in the House of Correction in Boston, Mass. She was again sentenced to fourteen months in the Eastern Penitentiary on September 14, 1885, for picking pockets in Wannemaker’s store in Philadelphia, Pa. Her picture is an excellent one, taken in October, 1882.

From Byrnes’ text on Harry Busby:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-two years old in 1886. Born in London, England. Married. Housepainter. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 170 pounds. Hair black, mixed with gray; brown eyes, round face, ruddy complexion. Marks on face and neck from skin disease. Short, pug nose. Has quite an English accent. 
RECORD. Busby is a well known Eastern pickpocket, and husband of Mary Busby (126), one of the cleverest women in America in her line. He is known in all the principal cities in the United States and in Montreal, Canada. He was arrested in New York City and sentenced to two years and six months in Sing Sing prison, under the name of Henry Williams, on May 19, 1873, for an attempt at grand larceny, by Judge Sutherland.
He was arrested again in New York, on January 26, 1877, in company of John Anderson, another pickpocket, charged with robbing one Wm. Smyth of a pocket-book on a Fourth Avenue car, on January 22. They were discharged, as the complainant failed to identify them. Harry was arrested in Washington Market, New York, with Mary Kelly, as
suspicious characters, on March 27, 1886, and discharged by a Police Justice. Busby’s picture is an excellent one, taken in Philadelphia, Pa., where he has also served a term in the penitentiary.

The pair of Mary and Harry Busby lasted longer in the minds of law enforcement officials and court reporters than in actuality. According to Mary, they separated as a couple in the mid 1880s. Born in England, both came to the United States in the early 1870s.

Harry was caught shoplifting a Japanese vase from a New York auction house in November, 1886 and sent to prison for a short term. In September, 1887 he was caught pilfering in Hudson County, New Jersey and sentenced to a stiff sentence of four and a half years. He was released in 1892, but in September of that year was caught in a raid of a fence establishment in New York City. Forced to leave New York, he headed west. He was sent to the Chicago House of Correction for 60 days in March, 1894. Moving up Lake Michigan, he was similarly sent to the Milwaukee House of Correction in September, 1895 for 90 days. In March of 1896, he was convicted in Chicago of larceny for picking the pocket of a church-goer. Apparently, Harry had shifted from shoplifting to picking pockets, especially at funeral services.

 

Writing in 1895, Byrnes indicates that Harry had become a heavy drinker. Nothing is heard of him after 1896.

For her part, Mary was sent to Sing Sing for a four year sentence in 1887 under the name Elizabeth Johnson. After a short period of freedom, she spent another 18 months in the Connecticut State Prison. Escaping a conviction after an 1894 arrest, she was convicted a year later to serve another four and a half years at Sing Sing. There, she developed a bad case of rheumatism. In 1899 she was caught shoplifting again in Newark, New Jersey and was again jailed. In 1902, she was caught in a Pittsburgh department store with pockets full of 17 yards of ribbon and 13 pairs of gloves.

Mary was uncharacteristically quiet between 1902 and December, 1908, where she was picked up in a department store on Sixth Avenue in New York. My Mary’s account, she had been living straight for many years until she saw the Christmas displays at a New York department store:

downfall

Conveniently, Mary had prepared for her fall from grace by wearing her specially-tailored garments with the billowing internal pockets.

Mary Wilson (#126), Henry Busby (#135)

 

MARY BUSBY, alias JOHNSON, alias Mitchell.
PICKPOCKET AND SHOPLIFTER.
DESCRIPTION.
Forty-eight years old in 1886. Born in England. Married. Stout build. Height,5 feet. Weight, 221 pounds. Dark brown hair, gray eyes, dark complexion.
RECORD.
Mary Busby is a clever pickpocket and shoplifter, and is well known in all the large cities. Harry Busby, alias Broken-nose Busby (135), her husband, is an old New York pickpocket and “stall.”
She was arrested in New York City for shoplifting on October 25, 1882, under the name of Mary Johnson, and sentenced to six months in the penitentiary on October 30, 1882, by Judge Ford. Arrested again in Boston, Mass., on May 3, 1883, for larceny of $40 worth of silk garments from Jourdan & Marsh’s dry goods store. For this she was sentenced to one year in the House of Correction on May 18, 1883. After her discharge in Boston, she went to New York City, and was arrested for the larceny of a bonnet from Rothschild’s millinery establishment on West Fourteenth Street. For this she was sentenced to five months in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island on May 20, 1884. This time she gave the name of Mary Mitchell.
Mary Busby had previously served two years on Blackwell’s Island, and two years in the House of Correction in Boston, Mass. She was again sentenced to fourteen months in the Eastern Penitentiary on September 14, 1885, for picking pockets in Wannemaker’s store in Philadelphia, Pa. Her picture is an excellent one, taken in October, 1882.

HARRY BUSBY, alias WILLIAMS,
alias Mitchell.
PICKPOCKET AND SHOPLIFTER.
DESCRIPTION.
Forty-two years old in 1886. Born in London, England. Married. Housepainter.
Stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 170 pounds. Hair black,
mixed with gray; brown eyes, round face, ruddy complexion. Marks on face and neck
from skin disease. Short, pug nose. Has quite an English accent. 
RECORD.
Busby is a well known Eastern pickpocket, and husband of Mary Busby (126),
one of the cleverest women in America in her line. He is known in all the principal
cities in the United States and in Montreal, Canada. He was arrested in New York City and sentenced to two years and six months in Sing Sing prison, under the name of Henry Williams, on May 19, 1873, for an attempt at grand larceny, by Judge Sutherland.
He was arrested again in New York, on January 26, 1877, in company of John
Anderson, another pickpocket, charged with robbing one Wm. Smyth of a pocket-book
on a Fourth Avenue car, on January 22. They were discharged, as the complainant
failed to identify them.
Harry was arrested in Washington Market, New York, with Mary Kelly, as
suspicious characters, on March 27, 1886, and discharged by a Police Justice.
Busby’s picture is an excellent one, taken in Philadelphia, Pa., where he has also
served a term in the penitentiary.

Harry was caught shoplifting a Japanese vase from a New York auction house in November, 1886 and sent to prison for a short term. In September, 1887 he was caught pilfering in Hudson County, New Jersey and sentenced to a stiff sentence of four and a half years. He was released in 1892, but in September of that year was caught in a raid of a fence establishment in New York City. Forced to leave New York, he headed west. He was sent to the Chicago House of Correction for 60 days in March, 1894. Moving up Lake Michigan, he was similarly sent to the Milwakee House of Correction in September, 1895 for 90 days. In March of 1896, he was convicted in Chicago of larceny for picking the pocket of a church-goer. Apparently, Harry had shifted from shoplifting to picking pockets, especially at funeral services.

Writing in 1895, Byrnes indicates that Harry had become a heavy drinker. Nothing is heard of him after 1896.

For her part, Mary was sent to Sing Sing for a four year sentence in 1887 under the name Elizabeth Johnson. After a short period of freedom, she spent another 18 months in the Connecticut State Prison. Escaping a conviction after an 1894 arrest, she was convicted a year later to serve another four and a half years at Sing Sing. There, she developed a bad case of rheumatism. In 1899 she was caught shoplifting again in Newark, New Jersey and was again jailed. In 1902, she was caught in a Pittsburgh department store with pockets full of 17 yards of ribbon and 13 pairs of gloves.

Mary was uncharacteristically quiet between 1902 and December, 1908, where she was picked up in a department store on Sixth Avenue in New York. My Mary’s account, she had been living straight for many years until she saw the Christmas displays at a New York department store:

downfall

Conveniently, Mary had prepared for her fall from grace by wearing her specially-tailored garments with the billowing internal pockets.