#67 Joseph Real

“Piggy Real” (1859-19??), aka Robert Williams, John Williams, James Wallace, Jim Wallace, Joseph Henry, William H. Kalton, Joseph Stein, etc. — Burglar

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Twenty-six years old in 1886. Born in New York City. Bricklayer by trade. Single. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 143 pounds. Black hair, hazel eyes, dark complexion. Left-handed.

RECORD. Hoggie Real is a very smart and nervy house-thief. He generally works with Joe Otterburg (69), both of whom are well known in New York and Philadelphia. Real was arrested in New York City, and sentenced to four years in Sing Sing prison by Judge Gildersleeve, on April 24, 1883, on conviction of burglary in the third degree, but escaped from there on June 22, 1883. He was returned to Sing Sing prison, under the name of John Williams, on another charge from New York City, on January 22, 1884, for four years, which, together with his runaway time, makes his sentence nearly eight years. Watch this man when you arrest him, as he carries a pistol in his outside coat-pocket, left hand side, and will use it. His picture is an excellent one, taken in 1883.

“Piggy Real,” as most newspapers named him, was a dedicated, dangerous burglar who succeeded often; and, on the occasions when he was caught, often escaped with light sentences. Doubtless, this was due to his ability to disguise his identity using a flurry of aliases. His true name Chief Byrnes thought to be Joseph Real. In various Sing Sing registries, they thought his true name to be Real–but one prison register asserted it was John Williams.

As Byrnes notes, he was frequently a partner of Joseph Ottenburg.

Piggy’s career started years before Byrnes first notation. In 1875, he hid himself in a grocery store with the intent to rob it after hours, but was discovered. Piggy drew a knife and stabbed the owner, his son, and a clerk. He plead guilty to the stabbing, and was sentenced to five years in prison.


He stayed out of notice until 1883, when he was caught burgling and arrested as Joseph Stein. A year into his four-year sentence at Sing Sing, he escaped during a work detail outside the gates. He was captured shortly afterward committing another burglary, and arrested as John Williams. These two sentences kept him in Sing Sing until 1890. Later in 1890, he was caught again, and returned to Sing Sing as Robert Williams.

Out again in 1894, he spent a brief sojourn at the City Penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island for assaulting a woman said to be his wife.

In 1896, he was arrested as James Wallace on suspicion of committing a burglary, but was released for lack of evidence. In 1898, he was part of a gang led by Timothy J. Hogan went on a spree robbing post offices in Ohio and Illinois.


Piggy was arrested once more in New York, in 1901 while attempting to burglarize an apartment. He was captured and sent to Sing Sing once more as Joseph Henry. From there, his trail goes cold.

But who was Piggy Real? Trying to identify him as “Joseph Real” offers no proof. However, when sent to Sing Sing in 1890, he offered the name of a sister: Louisa Borst of Manhattan.

Louisa Borst’s maiden name was Louise Stiehl. Louise had three older brothers, one of whom, Wilhelm (William), was born in 1859 and seems to have disappeared from all records after 1870. The other two brothers were much older. Though far from being conclusive, it may be that Piggy Real was Wilhelm Stiehl.


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