#7 Edward Dinkelman

Edward Dinkelman (1843-19??), aka Eddie Miller, William Hunter, William B. Bowman — Shoplifter, Store Thief, Pickpocket

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-one years old in 1886. Born in Germany. Height, 5 feet 4 inches. Stout build. Dark hair, dark eyes, round face, dark complexion. Dresses well, and is very quick in his movements. Weight, about 150 pounds.

RECORD. Eddie Miller, the name by which he is best known, is a celebrated New York shoplifter. He generally works with his wife, Anna B. Miller. He is also a clever sneak, and occasionally turns his hand to hotel work. He was in prison in Chicago, Syracuse, and Canada, and is known in all the principal cities of America. Miller was arrested in New York City on March 23, 1880, for the larceny of three gold chains, valued at $100, from a jewelry store at 25 Maiden Lane. For this offense he pleaded guilty in the Court of General Sessions, New York, and was sentenced to two years in State prison on April 16, 1880, under the name of William Hunter. After his conviction and sentence he asked to be allowed to visit his home, on Sixth Avenue, for the purpose of getting some clothes and giving his wife some instructions in relation to his affairs. An officer of the court was sent with him, and while the officer was speaking to Miller’s wife, Miller sprang through an open doorway, cleared a flight of stairs in a few jumps, reached the street, and escaped. He was afterwards arrested in Chicago, Ill., and returned to New York to serve his sentence. Miller was arrested again in New York City for grand larceny, and sentenced to ten years in State prison, on May 16, 1884, under the name of William Bowman. His time will expire on September 16, 1890. Miller’s picture is a very good one.

Like many professional pickpockets and shoplifters, Edward Dinkelman lived a transient existence, making it difficult to trace his origins and connections. In all of his Sing Sing records, he indicated a birth year of 1843 and birthplace as Germany. He also identified his religion as Protestant, in contrast to one Kansas City Chief of Police, who judged his looks and accent to be Jewish.

Edward Dinkleman Pickpocket Portrait
Edward Dinkelman. Illustration  by David Birkey  http://cargocollective.com/dbillustration

No confirmed incidents involving Dinkelman in the U.S. predate 1880, but Byrnes indicates he had previously been jailed in Canada, and a Sing Sing entry notes that this occurred in 1874-1875. He was also said to have made a foreign tour as a thief, hitting London, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna–but which year or years that trip took place is not known. As Byrnes notes, he was first arrested in New York in 1880 for stealing gold chains from a Maiden Lane jeweler; but was wanted in Boston for stealing silk from a store there several months earlier. He was sent to Sing Sing for two years, and was released in 1882, whereupon he was immediately rearrested and taken to Boston to face charges there, but the result was without serious consequences.

During the early 1880s, Dinkelman was abetted by a wife, Anna B. Miller; but sometime in the mid-1880s they stopped working together, and Dinkelman teamed up with other noted female pickpockets, such as Mag Williams and Jane “Jenny” Wildey. Dinkelman and Williams operated in Kansas City in the early part of 1883, prompting the Chief of Police to send out a warning to Nashville, Tennessee, that the pair might be headed there.

Typically, they would shoplift items by secreting them into special pockets inside their coats or skirts. They would then collect all their gleanings, put them in a trunk, and send them to their fence in a different city. Inevitably, if their lodgings were found and searched, loot would be found–which explains their frequent change of lodgings and use of a dizzying number of aliases.

By 1884, Dinkelman was back in New York, and in April was caught shoplifting goods from a cloakmaker. This earned him a second stay in Sing Sing, this time with a sentence of ten years. With time reduced, he was set free in 1890. Two years later, he was picked by New York detective. No stolen goods were found on him, but he was wearing his specially-tailored shoplifting overcoat. This was a crime in itself, similar to possessing burglar’s tools. For this, Dinkelman was sent away for five months.


In his 1895 edition, Chief Byrnes noted that Dinkelman was said to be living with and working with an infamous old female pickpocket, Mary Busby (who had separated from her pickpocket husband, Henry Busby, many years earlier). Just months after Byrnes mentioned that, Dinkelman and Mary Busby were arrested for stealing a coat; the police later found a trunkful of stolen goods in their residence. Eddie was sentenced to another four years and six months at Sing Sing.

Eddie was picked up by Philadelphia police in November, 1899, for trying to sell a stolen woman’s fur cloak on the street. His career from that point forward is not known.


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