#21 John Clare

John G. Clare (1845-1896), aka John Gilmore, George Price, George J. Bedford — Thief, Murderer (Acquitted)

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-six years old in 1886. Born in United States. Photographer by trade. Single. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Black hair, dark hazel eyes, dark complexion. Wears black side whiskers and mustache. Has a slight scar on left arm near elbow.

RECORD. Clare is a clever and desperate bank burglar, and was at one time an associate or Ike Marsh’s and his brother, and was with them in several bank robberies. He is credited with being able to make a good set of tools. He was arrested in Baltimore, Md., on November 4, 1865, charged with the murder of Henry B. Grove on October 17, 1865. On January 29, 1866, his trial commenced in Baltimore City, but was changed upon application of his counsel to Townstown, Baltimore County, on January 30, 1866. His trial occupied from December 13 to 20, 1866, when the jury rendered a verdict of murder in the first degree. A motion for a new trial was denied, and on January 14, 1867, he was sentenced to be hanged. The Court of Appeals granted him a new trial, and he was tried again on March 29, 1870, and acquitted.

On June 27, 1874, an attempt was made to rob the safe of the New York County Bank, corner Fourteenth Street and Eighth Avenue, New York City. Clare, under the name of Gilmore, hired a basement next door to the bank, and had a steam engine at work boring out the back of the safe, which they reached by removing the brick walls of both houses. At the time of the raid by the police, William Morgan, alias Bunker, James Simpson, and Charles Sanborn were arrested, convicted, and sent to State prison. Clare, or Gilmore, made his escape, but was captured on March 27, 1876, twenty-one months afterward, in New York City, tried, convicted, and sentenced to four years and six months in State prison by Judge Sutherland, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City. Clare’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1876.

There is no shortage of interesting aspects to the career of John G. Clare. As Byrnes indicates, Clare was arrested and tried for murder when he was barely twenty years old. Reading through accounts of his arrest and first trial (in which he was convicted), it is hard to see how he ever could have been acquitted: he had worked for the victim, a photographer; he had access to the key to the storefront; a bloody footprint matching his shoe was found at the scene; a pawnshop owner identified Clare as the man who had pawned the dead man’s watch; a gun was found under Clare’s bed with one recently-fired chamber, matching the caliber of the bullet found in the victim’s head. Moreover, Clare was caught in lies about both the gun, the watch, and the time and reason he left Baltimore immediately after the killing.

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Fortunately for Clare, his family (parents Thomas Isaac Clare and Elizabeth Jane Brown) secured an exceptional team of Baltimore lawyers to mount his defense: R. J. Gittings, Orville Horwitz, Archibald Sterling, Jr., and the lead attorney: Milton Whitney. First they had the venue changed to Baltimore County. After Clare was found guilty and sentenced to hang, they appealed the validity of the indictment–and won that appeal, nullifying the first trial. This process took over three years. Clare was indicted and tried a second time, but by then, several of the critical witnesses were no longer around, and the testimony they had provided earlier was now inadmissible. Clare’s family offered an alibi (of sorts), all saying they had seen Clare at home before they went to church and after they returned, seemingly not leaving enough time for him to have committed the crime. With a less capable defense team (or better prosecutors), John Clare surely would have hanged. He was acquitted on March 29, 1870–having spent nearly five years in prison.

Clare kept a low profile for four years, establishing residence in New York under the name J. J. Gilmore. In the spring of 1874, he purchased a run-down restaurant/saloon next door to the New York County Bank. Clare’s three accomplices were caught using a steam-powered drill to break through the building walls and attack the bank’s vault. Clare escaped, but was captured nearly two years later and sent to Sing Sing. Was the restaurant nothing more than a sham front? A week before the bank burglars were caught, Clare advertised for a cook:

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Following his release from Sing Sing, Clare teamed up with another burglar, “Jack Reynolds,” for a thieving-tour through the upper Midwest. In Marshalltown, Iowa, they were confronted by Sheriff George McCord. Clare meekly surrendered, which distracted McCord, and allowed Reynolds time to draw a gun and shoot McCord. Both thieves fled, splitting up, but were soon captured. The Sheriff survived his wounds, but both Reynolds and Clare (under the name George Bedford) were sentenced in January, 1885 to twenty-two year stays at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Anamosa. When Clare was processed as a prisoner, he refused to divulge anything: birthplace, religion, occupation, education, habits, etc.

His sentence was commuted in May, 1892, but during the years between 1885 and 1892, “George J. Bedford” applied for and was granted four United States patents, for : a railroad seat adjustable foot rest; a pickpocket-proof mail pouch; a freight-car lock; and a “burglar-proof” door lock.

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Allegedly, it was in recognition of Clare’s contributions as an inventor that the Governor of Iowa commuted his sentence after six years.

From Iowa, Clare returned to New York and within a matter of weeks was picked up by police, having in his possession burglar tools and dynamite. Although no specific crimes could be pinned on him, in November, 1892 he was sent to Sing Sing once again for possession of those implements. He was sentenced to five years, but was released in 1896.

In August 1896, Clare and three accomplices attempted to burgle the grocery store of Walker Adams and Son in Bedford, Westchester County, New York. The owner, Walker Adams, and his son William heard them from their residence and grabbed guns to confront the robbers. Walker adams approached the rear of the building, surprised one of the burglars, who drew a gun and shot Adams dead. The son, William Adams, exchanged fire with three other burglars and wounded all of them.  One of these was John Clare, whom the other burglars called “Charles Jenkins.” Clare fled the scene. The two others shot by Adams were captured: “John Jenkins” and “Peter James” (aka Edward Jacques). John Jenkins died from his injuries. Peter James escaped from jail.

John Clare, though wounded, made his way from Westchester County to Brooklyn, where he checked into a hospital. There, his condition worsened due to kidney failure, which doctors informed him was due to Bright’s Disease. Though they interrogated him and told him he was dying, Clare refused to divulge any details of his history, or to accept a visit from a priest or minister. He died in the hospital on August 24, 1896.

In his last known dwelling, police found a large collection of bicycle parts–about $1500 worth–an enormous amount for that time. Clare was 51 when he died. No one knows what plans he had for the bicycle parts.

 

 

 

 

#19 John Hope

John H. Hope (1856-1930), aka John Watson, John Warren — Pardoned for bank robbery

Link to Byrnes’s entry on #19 John Hope
Johnny Hope, the son of Jimmy “Old Man” Hope, was not a professional criminal, and may have been framed through the efforts of Chief Byrnes in order to exert pressure on his father. In early 1877, at age 21, John–who was raised with his family in Philadelphia under the name Watson–was arrested under that name for stealing a watch. He was sentenced lightly as a first offender. The arrest likely upset his father, who wanted his two sons to attend college.
In October 1878, Jimmy “Old Man” Hope led one of the most spectacular back robberies in 19th century: the robbery of $3,000,000 in cash and bonds from the Manhattan Savings Bank. Old Man Hope was, at that time, a fugitive from New York State, having escaped from Auburn prison in 1873. Chief Byrnes not only suspected that Hope was the mastermind of the Manhattan Savings Bank job, but also of a bank robbery in Dexter, Maine, that resulted in the death of a cashier. [It was later shown that James Hope was not involved in the Dexter crime.]JimmyHope
For several months following the Manhattan robbery, the only leads that Chief Byrnes had led to the bank employees who provided assistance to the principal thieves. Those professional thieves were: Jimmy Hope, Eddie Garing, Johnnie Dobbs, Banjo Pete Emerson, Sam Perris, and Abe Coakley. The robbery had been planned by George Leslie, prior to his murder. However, although Byrnes learned the identity of the principals, he had little evidence against them–and he did not know where Jimmy Hope was hiding.
Byrnes was able to obtain the testimony from several witnesses that a man resembling John Hope had been situated on the street outside as a lookout while the Manhattan Savings Bank was being robbed. Having failed to locate and convict the principals, Byrnes arrested Johnny Hope. John’s series of legal proceedings lasted two years, from 1879 to 1881, concluding with his conviction and sentencing to a twenty year sentence in Sing Sing. Whether John was involved as a lookout or not, the harsh sentence was clearly meant to flush out his father Jimmy, and to encourage the return of the stolen bonds.
Philadelphia columnist Louis Megargee, who was on familiar terms either with Old Man Hope’s longtime lawyer or with Hope himself, explained the animosity that existed between the father, Jimmy “Old Man” Hope, and Chief Byrnes in one of his classic columns:
From Knoxville, Tenn., comes a newspaper clipping that tells of the death of Patrick Dolan, who is handed down to typographical history as having arrested Jimmy Hope for the robbery in October, 1878, of more than one million dollars in cash and negotiable securities from the Manhattan Savings Institution, in New York City; a felony for which his son, John Hope, served nine years in prison, though not being concerned in it, in order to serve the personal purpose of a crook Superintendent of Police known as Thomas J. Byrnes; a crime for which he was pardoned by Governor Hill; a crime the usufruct of which has not been disclosed until this day.
Newspapers have referred to Johnny Hope as having been released after conviction for the Manhattan Institution robbery from the New York State Penitentiary through “commutation for good behavior.” This is absolutely untrue. He was sent to prison by a man who knew that he was innocent, and he was released from that incarceration by the admission to the Governor of New York by that man that he was satisfied of the boy’s innocence of the crime for which he had suffered a felon’s doom. The man who did this deed was Thomas Brynes. The man to whom he made the admission was David B. Hill, then Governor of the Empire Commonwealth.
Young Hope was pardoned—there was no commutation for good behavior—there was an absolute disavowal on the part of the Commonwealth that he had been guilty of crime. These are stern, unrelenting facts. Young Hope is a Philadelphia boy. His father was one of the most accomplished criminals in the history of the world—he is now out of that line of business, but young Hope never committed a crime.
Now let us go back to the robbery of the Manhattan Savings Institution. James Hope, the father of John, was the head of that combination of clever cracksmen who succeeded by a quiet midnight raid in becoming the possessors of valuables amounting to $2,740,700. Thomas Byrnes, then a captain of police, did much to discover the identity of the robbers, and for that work and on his confidently-made promises of the recovery of the stolen property, he was subsequently elevated to the position of Inspector of Police.
But he could not at that time find Jimmy Hope, and never to this day has he or any one else discovered the whereabouts of the missing fortune. With the hope, however, of making good the promise of his ability, Byrnes arrested John Hope, knowing, as he has since publicly admitted, that he was innocent of the crime, but in the expectation that the imprisonment of the boy would bring from the father an admission of guilt and a revelation as to the hiding place of the valuables. Byrnes at that time was all-powerful, even in the courts of law, and John Hope was sentenced to an imprisonment in the Sing Sing Penitentiary for twenty years. He was released about sixteen years ago, after having been in durance vile for nine years and eight months. But how did he escape from his penal condition?
Here again are facts: His father had been in prison in San Quentin, which is a penal establishment in California. After legal release from there, he was coming East. He voluntarily threw himself into the arms of two of Byrnes’ detectives, who did not know him, and went into voluntary imprisonment in the city of New York to answer for the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery. There was an attempt to subject him to what was then known as “Byrnes’ Fifth Degree,” a sort of mental thumb screw. But Hope, the burglar, was a bigger man than Byrnes, the detective, and the former said to the latter—and the writer knows what he is talking about—”Whether or not I know where the missing securities of the Manhattan Bank are is a matter we will not now discuss. You know my boy John is innocent. Put him upon the street a free man and withdraw your calumny against other members of my family, and I may talk to you. Until that is done it is idle to converse with me. You have no threat which can change my purpose, for remember that prisons have no longer any terrors for me.”
What was the result? Byrnes went before Governor Hill and openly stated that a mistake had been made in the conviction of the boy who had been immured in a felon’s cell for nearly ten years, and upon that representation the young man, whom it was admitted had been guilty of no offense against the law, was released; free, clean, innocent; not escaping through any commutation.
You may naturally ask why James Hope should have voluntarily thrown himself in the way of the New York detectives if he was guilty of the Manhattan Institution robbery. Of course, it was not done unthinkingly. Hope is a man of rare ability, and he knew exactly what he was doing. Inspector Byrnes had never laid eyes upon this remarkable criminal until after his voluntary surrender.
There is a remarkable incident connected with this statement which the narrator had from the lips of the late Charles W. Brooke, who was the elder Hope’s attorney from the time he saved him from an undeserved hanging in front of the Union Army, near Alexandria, in 1863, until the day of the famous lawyer’s death. During the excitement following the robbery of the bank, Byrnes, then a captain of police, in public interviews spoke freely of his knowledge of Hope, who, he said, could not escape him, and told the most marvelous but cruel tales about the members of his family.
During the excitement following the great robbery and when scores of detectives surrounded the offices of Mr. Brooke, who was known as Hope’s attorney, that famous robber, disguised as a laborer, walked coolly between them and into his lawyer’s office. He left there with his counsellor in the dusk of the evening and openly walked up Broadway. At the corner of Canal street he saw Captain Byrnes on the other side of the street, and saying to his companion, “That fellow says he knows me; let us see if he does,” walked across Broadway.
Byrnes was smoking. Hope drew a cigar from his pocket and stepping up to the chief of his pursuers, said, as he looked him in the eyes, “Will you be kind enough to give me a light?” The captain of police filliped the ashes from his weed and extended it to the burglar. Hope slowly lighted his cigar, thanked the police official and recrossed the street to the side of Mr. Brooke, who was trembling with apprehension. As they continued their walk up Broadway, the robber said to the lawyer, “That fellow says he knows me. You have seen how true that is. But I can tell you one thing; he was never nearer death in his life than he was a moment ago. I have never carried a weapon when engaged in a robbery, but I have one with me now, and if Byrnes had recognized me, I would have shot him dead as a fit reward for the lies he has told about the members of my family, who, no matter what I may be, are all honest people, and Byrnes knows it.”
But why did he surrender himself returning from California? Well, he knew that on account of the death of some witnesses, and on account of the absolute lack of knowledge on the part of the police regarding the real inside history of the great bank crime, he could not be convicted for that offense, and he was really desirous of settling some unpaid scores of imprisonment in New York State in order that he might quietly settle down and enjoy his declining years with his family. The officers, however, to whom he surrendered were on their way to California with a writ of extradition from New York State.
When placed on trial, however, the prisoner was discharged. He was immediately rearrested on an extradition from the State of Delaware, where he had broken jail. By this act bad faith had been practiced. Delaware did not want him back in New Castle Jail. When there, he was always a white elephant on the hands of the prison authorities. It is a well known fact that economical Delaware prefers that prisoners should escape if they will only remain without her boundaries; she thus avoids the cost of their support and the expense of repairing broken walls and locks. Then why did she send for Hope? Ah, there is where Mr. Byrnes’ fine Italian hand appeared. He had pledged himself to the return of the Manhattan securities, and he believed, whether lightly or not, Hope to be the only man who knew their whereabouts.
When the burglar was brought for the first time in his presence, he attempted to frighten his prisoner. Hope laughed at him, and bluntly told him that he was dealing with a smarter man than himself. The conversation lasted two hours, and Byrnes at its conclusion frankly admitted that he had met the greatest criminal of the age, and one possessing a character which he did not suppose existed in fiction or reality. After that, the screws were twisted. Hope was started back towards Delaware, simply in the expectation that he would throw up his hands in despair and tell where the missing securities could be found. But he did no such thing.
Counsellor Brooke, however, had a writ of habeas corpus promptly issued, and he made a novel legal plea before Governor Hill, completely upsetting the Delaware programme, and as a result it was legally determined that Hope should be given time to return to California, whence he was summoned on extradition. He was given forty-eight hours to leave the jurisdiction of New York City, and promptly went to Canada.
This was a dreadful blow to the ambition of Thomas Byrnes. Hope subsequently returned to the Metropolis, and was judicially freed from all responsibility for the Manhattan robbery. He is still living in retirement in that city, and his son is prosperously engaged there in business. The vast fortune craftily purloined nearly twenty-seven years ago from the Manhattan Savings Institution has never been returned.
After John Hope was pardoned, he resumed his livelihood as a liquor dealer in New York City. He had no further run-ins with the law, with the exception of being cited for failure to display an excise certificate properly. He was with his father when Old Man Hope died in 1905. Several reports (currently cited by Wikipedia) suggested that Johnny died a year after his father, but in fact, John Hope lived until 1930.

#20 James Hope

James Joseph Hope (1837-1905), aka Jimmy Hope, Old Man Hope, James J. Watson — Bank robber

Link to Byrnes’s entry on #20 James Hope
Chief Byrnes begins his profile of Jimmy Hope with the Philadelphia Navy Yard robbery attempt of June 1870; but elsewhere in the text of Professional Criminals of America, Byrnes cites other crimes that Hope participated in prior to that date. However, he gets the years and chronological order of these confused; and mentions a robbery that can’t be identified. These errors were compounded when newspapers and other writers accepted Byrnes as gospel and reprinted his “facts” in their articles on Hope.
Those early crimes represent the beginnings not only of Hope’s career as a bank robber, but also those of George Mason and Ned Lyons; therefore it is important to straighten out the record (as much as is possible, given the fact that Hope, Mason, and Lyons never offered full confessions of their bank robberies).
In 1863, James Hope was operating a “disorderly dance house” in Philadelphia that was known as “a resort for many disreputable persons.” His father had wanted him to become a machinist, and therefore he might have had some mechanical training. Several sources suggest that Hope was one of the ringleaders of the Schuylkill Rangers gang of southwest Philadelphia, which was led by Jimmy Hagerty. Hope married Hagerty’s sister, Margaret T. Hagerty.
There is no published evidence that Hope was involved in bank robberies prior to the April 1868 attempt on the Fairhaven (Massachusetts) National Bank. Hope and John Hughes were caught after the bank clerk discovered them inside the bank at night; but there were others involved, likely Lyons and Mason. Both were released on bail and then jumped.
In late November, 1868, Hope was arrested under the name James Watson in Philadelphia while coming out of the offices of the Franklin Institute building, where he had attempted to open the safe of the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Railroad. The newspaper report stated that police knew him as James Hope and that he “has the reputation as being a safe blower.”
In April 1869, Hope was rumored to have been an architect of the robbery of Philadelphia’s Beneficial Savings Fund Society. However, many years later, legendary Philadelphia columnist Louis Megargee penned a column in which he related what Hope had told him about his role:
Now, another tale regarding him that will tax your belief. When a so-called Philadelphia detective had become a statesman—a Harrisburg statesman— a Speaker of the State Senate of Pennsylvania, and then went the way of all flesh, it was stated in the public prints that he and another of his kind had through their work and instrumentality restored to the Catholic Beneficial Savings Fund $850,000 of bonds which had been stolen from that institution.
This is an error.
Neither of these corrupt officers of the law restored to the robbed bank one dollar out of the stolen money. It was returned through James Hope, a professional criminal, and who had not taken the treasure.
He who tells this tale knows whereof he talks; otherwise it would not be narrated. At the time of the robbery of the Catholic Beneficial Savings Fund it was located in a ramshackle building at the southwest corner of Twelfth and Chestnut streets, where its more imposing and substantial place of habitation now presents its granite visage. James Frederick Wood was then the revered Catholic Bishop of Philadelphia, and owing to his protecting care the savings bank at Twelfth and Chestnut streets was made the depository of the pennies and dimes of the Catholic servant girls of Philadelphia.
These in the aggregate amounted to a large sum of money. Bishop Wood was looked upon as the protector of the honor of the institution, but the physical protector was an old watchman, who every Sunday morning went to early Mass in St. John’s Church, on Thirteenth street below Market—the church that was the archiepiscopal residence of the Philadelphia Catholic diocese prior to the building of the Cathedral on Eighteenth street—and while he was away, there was no one left in the fragile structure to guard the pennies and the dimes of the good Irish servant girls; the pennies and the dimes that they were accumulating to bring the old folks from Ireland to the Land of the Free; the pennies and the dimes that they were hoarding not with a miser’s care, but with a thought that in their old age they might not, through the protecting care of money, go to the Poor House. In charge of this money, and in charge of these thoughts and sentiments, was the decrepit watchman, who on Sunday morning thought alone of his religious duty.
Thieves, regardless of the old man’s religious duty, and regardless of the heart throbbings they might cause, went into the easily-broken savings fund at Twelfth and Chestnut streets, while the old man was on his knees in the nearby church, and with the expedition born of practice purloined of the treasures accumulated in the Catholic Beneficial Savings Fund the enormous sum of $1,250,000. In that enterprise they had the assistance of some of the so-called police officials of the city of Philadelphia.
That is no idle statement. They were aided by the men employed by the city to defend its people and its property. Again let it be said that he who tells you this is not repeating idle gossip. He can give you the name of every man concerned in the crime.
Well, of course, there was a hullabaloo. The so-called detectives of those days knew who had taken part in the robbery, but expected to participate in the proceeds. It was necessary, however, in order to allay popular excitement that a prisoner should be found on whom the crime could be temporarily fastened. The game was old then, and it is sometimes practiced now. It consists in having a well known thief brought before the magistrate at the Central Station, held for a hearing on suspicion and then, when popular excitement has died out, to have him quietly discharged. Then the story is ended.
At the time referred to, the most prominent robber, not only in this community, but possibly in this country, was one James Hope, a Philadelphian born and bred, of whom more entertaining matter could be written than ever Jack Sheppard’s episodes graced a book with. The morning of the robbery at Twelfth and Chestnut streets Hope was on his way in a sleeper of a fast train from Pittsburg, occupying a palatial birth, as he was afterwards able to prove by the Pullman porter to whom he had given a tip.
He reached Philadelphia after the robbery had been committed, and knew nothing of it, and went directly to his home in the western part of the town. He remained with his wife and children and retired to his bed early, having no knowledge of what had happened to the pennies and dimes of the poor folks who had left their money at Twelfth and Chestnut streets. It was Sunday, mind you, and no afternoon newspapers published.
About 10 o’clock in the evening there was a ring at the door bell at his house. His wife answered it, and, returning to his bedside, said rather angrily: “There’s a woman down there who wants to see you. I do not see why she comes for you at this hour.” Hope, not fully dressed, went to the door and found there a woman whose story he knew.
A word as to the woman. She was highly educated, of refined appearance, of lady-like demeanor. She could move along Chestnut street without exciting the suspicion of anyone that she was not of high social rank. She was devoted to a man, himself well educated and of fine appearance, but a bank robber. She knew he was a robber. She lived quietly in a well appointed house in the northwestern portion of the city, and her neighbors believed that her husband was a traveling salesman. She lived among nice people; honest people. She asked only of her husband—for, mind you, she was married to the man—that he should be true to her. She believed that he was. She had discovered that he was not.
The Sunday of the robbery at Twelfth and Chestnut streets he had returned home with a small trunk, in which were contained the $1,250,000 stolen from the Irish servant girls, had quickly put it under her bed, had told her of the robbery in hurried tones and then fled, saying she would not see him until the storm had blown over. She said not a word. The man left. She meditated revenge. She knew the man had been false to her. She would not betray him into the hands of the police, but she was determined that he and his confederates should not profit by the robbery.
She went to Hope’s house, called him out, brought him to her house, showed him the treasure and told him the story, and asked him to take the money. When James Hope heard this tale, it was the first knowledge he had of the robbery. But he knew at once that he would be arrested in the morning, because the Philadelphia detectives—the so-called detectives—would apprehend him in order to protect themselves.
He said to the woman, “Leave that trunk under your bed and don’t speak a word to a soul about it. You will hear from me again.” Then he returned to his home and allayed the jealousies of his wife. The next morning Jimmy Hope was arrested, charged with the robbery of the Catholic Beneficial Savings Fund. The detectives on the witness stand stated that they expected testimony to prove his guilt, and asked that he be held for a further hearing. This was done; the old story. Without bail being given he was sent down to Moyamensing Prison. Among the solicitors of the Savings Fund was the late Lewis C. Cassidy. Mr. Cassidy knew Hope, and visited him.
To the greatest criminal lawyer of our generation Hope said, “I had nothing to do with this robbery. I know who committed it. I know where the stolen property is. I can restore it to you if you promise me that those engaged in the robbery will not be prosecuted.” To this Mr. Cassidy—so Hope told the narrator—said, “Jimmy, I always believe what you tell me, but what do you want out of this?” To this the robber replied, “I don’t want any money, because no matter what I have done regarding banks I have never yet got to a condition of robbing servant girls and orphans. I’ll leave that to my friend Jay Gould. However, if you can give me a promise that the men engaged in this shall not be arrested and I restore this money and these securities to you, I think I would be entitled to a suit of clothes, and it need not cost more than thirty-five dollars.” There are grades even among criminals.
Hope returned $1,250,000 of property and received a thirty-five dollar suit in return.
Megargee may allowed Hope too much credulity in the Beneficial Savings robbery, but there is little doubt that Hope was in the midst of a bank-robbing storm at the time. A little more than two months after the Beneficial Savings robbery, New York’s Ocean Bank was robbed and showed the same handiwork in its execution. This time, the robbers offered a return of only part of the booty–the numbered bonds they would have difficulty exchanging.
After another two months, two attempted bank robberies were frustrated by miscalculated explosive charges. One was in September, at the Rochester (New Hampshire) Savings Bank; and the second was in October at the Townsend (Massachusetts) Bank. In both cases, explosions woke the town, but did not breach the inner vault door. The same thing happened a third time, in December 1869, when the vault of the Lumberman’s Bank in Oldtown, Maine, was dynamited. This time, the outer door of the vault lodged itself to block the inner door, once again stymieing the thieves. They escaped via a railroad handcar–a device used by many different gangs when entering and leaving small towns.
In May, 1870, the Lime Rock bank was robbed, and noted thief Langdon Moore was captured and prosecuted. Several years later, Jimmy Hope would also face arrest for being involved in this crime–but Langdon Moore later wrote an account admitting his gang did that job, and portrayed Hope as the leader of a competing gang. Hope would eventually be cleared of having any hand in this robbery.
Instead, Hope was busy planning the August 1870 robbery of the Philadelphia US Navy Yard paymaster’s office along with Ned Lyons and John A. Hughes. They were interrupted just as they had moved the safe into position to pry it open. Jimmy Hope and Hughes escaped, but sentries stopped and held Lyons at gunpoint. Lyons was arraigned and allowed out on bail, which he wasted no time in jumping.Capture
Lyons headed north from Philadelphia and in early September, 1870, met Hope and Hughes in Perry, Wyoming County, New York. They had already scouted Smith’s Bank as a target. While the robbery was underway, Hope and Hughes were arrested. Hope was tried and convicted under the name James A. Watson, and sentenced to Auburn prison.
While Hope was behind bars in Auburn, the Kensington National Bank of Philadelphia was robbed by an ingenious plan in which two of the thieves impersonated police officers to gain the trust of bank clerks. Hope is often mentioned in connection with this robbery, although he could only have participated in the early planning stages.
The remainder of Hope’s known career is outlined by Byrnes, including a mention that Hope was implicated in the Wellsboro bank robbery of 1874. Once again, Philadelphia newsman Louis Megargee had Jimmy Hope’s own account of that misadventure:
In this quaint little old “Sleepy Hollow” there had been for many years prior to 1877 a banking establishment known as the “Wellsboro Bank.” Through it the financial affairs of the little community and its surroundings were conducted. Its management represented the combined ability of two generations. The president was the father of the cashier, and with perhaps one clerk, represented the entire working force of the institution. The two officers lived in the building of which one portion was occupied as the bank. The family occupying the residence portion of the Wellsboro Bank Building consisted of the president and his wife, a very pleasant and intelligent old lady, and the son referred to, with perhaps one other member of the family.
In the spring of 1877, or thereabouts, when the frost was emerging from the ground and made the roads soft and muddy, one evening a vehicle to which two horses were attached, containing five men, drove quietly under the wagon shed of the church opposite the bank mansion, and in a half hour thereafter the various inmates of the house were aroused and beheld themselves surrounded by four masked strangers, who held in their hands pistols apparently loaded, and commanded them to utter no sound, but to implicitly obey the 1nstructions given them.
Chairs were placed together back to back and the members of the household were securely bound and gagged; then he who appeared to be the leader of the intruders, at the point of the pistol, demanded that the old gray-haired president should descend with them to the banking room below and open the safe which contained the treasure, or there furnish one of their number with the combination of the lock, promising that if this demand were complied with no other harm should befall him save the loss to the bank of the valuables contained in its vaults; but if the demand met with refusal, then the life of the president should be the penalty.
The conscientious and heroic old gentleman, in the dignity and fidelity to his trust, which he regarded as sacred and who believed the faithful discharge of his duty was of more consequence than the preservation of his life, refused positively to do anything which should enable them to obtain possession of the treasure which he was entrusted to guard. The twist of the rope and the tightening of the gag caused the poor old man to cry out involuntarily with physical pain. His aged wife and his son were filled with sympathy for his sufferings. The son made a sign to the man holding especial guard over him to remove for an instant the gag from his mouth.
When this was done the son said: “I am not going to sit here quietly and see my father murdered, but to save his life and that of my mother I will go with you to the banking room and do what you demand.” The leader dropped the point of his pistol, all this time leveled at the old gentleman’s head, and loosened in a measure the cords and the gag. At the request of the son, who gave his assurance that he would not cry out or speak, the gag was removed from the mouth of the old lady. As the leader stooped down and leaned over to remove it she said, with her eyes fixed upon her son (evidently referring to the fact that he was about to leave her sight in the company of the armed men about him), in an undertone and pleadingly, “For heaven’s sake, don’t hurt him!” The leader stooped lower, kissed her upon the cheek, and said, “Poor, dear old mother, don’t be alarmed; we are thieves, not murderers!” and the old lady felt trickling upon her cheek the tears from beneath the mask of the apparent assassin, who but a moment before held his weapon at the head of her husband.
The son accompanied the robbers to the bank below; the safe was opened and $275,000 in money and valuable securities taken therefrom. The cashier, who was escorted back to the room where the other members of his family were, was re-seated as before in the chair, again subjected to the discomfort of the gag, as was the old lady, to whom an apology was made for the necessity, and then, with a few words of warning and the assurance that they had confederates outside of the building who would remain and enter upon the slightest outcry or noise, the masked men departed. Hastening with their booty across to the wagon under the church shed, they were soon driving as fast as the heavy condition of the roads and of the load drawn by their horses would permit them to Elmira.
For an hour or more the miserable and frightened occupants of the house sat enduring their tortures without daring to move lest they should induce the return of their dread assailants. At length the son, after repeated struggles, succeeded in disengaging his hands from the cords and proceeded to loosen those which bound the others and to remove the gags; and quietly stealing his way down the stairs and traversing the rear of the building, he peered out at the faintly-glimmering dawn which was just approaching. Seeing no human form and hearing no voice or tread, he speedily made his way to the home of his nearest neighbor. Within an incredibly short space of time the little town was alive with excitement, the people running hither and thither, men hurriedly harnessing their horses and preparing to follow in pursuit of the fleeing thieves. As the day broke more brightly an examination of the ground about the shed leading to and from it, disclosed an impression in the soft road which furnished a sure track over the route and to the destination of the robbers.
In all that country where men live in the saddle or in vehicles of some sort, and where horses are the most prevalent possession of all, and naturally, for this reason, where thoroughly well-informed horsemen abound, no one had ever seen a “bar shoe” nor heard of the existence of such an article of horse wear. In describing it thereafter (ignorant even of its designation) they referred to it as the “circular shoe;” but there in the track of the road with the toe pointing directly toward the distant city of Elmira, was the plainly discernible impression of the strange and unknown shoe.
The Sheriff, with a hastily summoned posse and a dozen vehicles drawn by horses fleet of foot, started off at top speed in pursuit of the team, thus so unconsciously to those it contained leaving the traces of the direction it traversed in its path. The fresh and speedy horses of the pursuers soon lessened the distance between them and the objects of their chase, and at length, as they entered Elmira, from the hilltop behind them, they were in full view of the Sheriff and his posse. The robbers had been conscious for some little time that they were pursued, or, at least, they believed such to be the fact, and descried the rapid paces of the pursuing force almost as soon as they themselves were discovered. Pushing and urging their jaded horses on, they reached by a short cut down a side street the livery stable from which they had been procured the evening previously.
A sudden turn of the vehicle which contained the robbers hid it from the sight of the pursuing party and baffled them for a moment; they took for a short distance an opposite direction, but soon discovered their error. The thieves, immediately upon reaching the stable, jumped from the vehicle and, separating, sought safety by flight in contrary directions. The officers of the law raised a hue and cry, and a hundred of the citizens of Elmira joined in a promiscuous chase after the thieves. At length they were close upon the heels of one of them, who, jumping into the buggy of some one evidently waiting for him, himself took the reins from the hands of the man who was holding them and whipping up the horse started at breakneck speed in the direction of the adjoining town of Waverly.
Then commenced a most exciting chase. The Sheriff and his deputy, in a buggy and with a fleet horse, continued the pursuit. The horses were whipped to a gallop, then to a dead run, and thus pursuer and pursued reached the town of Waverly, where the vehicle was abandoned by the flying thief, a dash through the streets made, and an asylum found where, until the next day, he succeeded in evading capture. One other of the fugitives was run down in the streets of Elmira by the hallooing crowd.
The leader at times running and apparently unobserved; at other times rapidly walking, turning up one street and down another, striving to make his way to the outskirts of the city and beginning to feel assured that he would succeed, when suddenly turning, and coming to the crossing of a street within half a block from him, he heard and saw the excited crowd eager for his capture. Walking indifferently across to the opposite side, when the corner of a house for an instant obscured him from his pursuers, he darted with the nimbleness of a deer and before the crowd following had turned the corner, he had entered at the doorway of an humble house which he found to be open.
Walking directly through the hallway and back into the kitchen, he there saw an old Irish woman engaged in ironing the family linen. The house was evidently the home of some prosperous mechanic or foreman in one of the numerous shops abounding in that region. Instantly entering into conversation with the old woman, offering her his hand as if well acquainted with her, which she in her surprise accepted and shook, he rapidly put a series of questions which were inquiries as to whether she remembered him? If she was sure she had forgotten him? Could not she, after steadily looking at him, recall him? Didn’t she remember the family who lived three doors from her twenty years before, and thus piecemeal consuming a half hour’s time and extracting from the old woman the information that a family of neighbors named Maguire had moved to Binghamton some twenty years ago; that they had a son named James, who might be, if he were alive, about the age of her visitor, but whom she assured him was a wayward, wandering boy and she didn’t know whether he was dead or alive. Whereupon the visitor assured her that he was the missing and the wandering James; the old woman immediately commenced a volume of inquiries as to the members of his family.
Desiring to evade this questioning, which might lead to unpleasant consequences, the intruder asked for a glass of water. The old lady took a pitcher from the sideboard near by and was starting apparently to draw some water from the hydrant in the yard, but politely and quickly arising from his chair, he took the pitcher from the old lady’s hand–said he could not think of permitting her to wait upon him—that he himself would go to the hydrant. Passing out from the door into the yard he saw a gateway, and upon opening it found that it led through a long alleyway into an adjoining street. A half hour before he had heard the voices of the pursuers dying away in an opposite direction.
Setting the pitcher down upon the pavement he quickly passed through the alleyway, thence into the street, and leisurely continued his walk toward the outskirts of the city. Evading as much as possible all observation and thus wandering about during the entire day through the deserted portion of the town, he directed his steps in the early evening toward some sheds which previously he had noticed from a distance, and which proved to be tool houses of workmen engaged in the construction of a railway extension in the vicinity.
Easily forcing his way into one of these shanties, he fortunately found a pair of soiled and filthy overalls, an old jacket, ragged and equally filthy, a cap without a face, which had been thrown aside, and taking off his own coat and outer clothing, begriming his face and his hands with soot and dirt, matting and tangling his hair and likewise plentifully rubbing into it the unattractive mixture which disfigured his features, he put on the overalls, the jacket, and the cap, fastening the jacket up closely about his neck, and luckily finding inside its pocket the broken-stemmed remnant of an old black “dudeen.” He gathered up the clothing which he had just discarded and taking up a shovel from the tool house cautiously sought the shelter of a large tree in the vicinity, at the foot of which he dug a hole and buried the clothing. His own boots needed no changing—his tramp through the mud and mire had soiled them sufficiently. Taking his penknife he slashed them to correspond with the dilapidation of his other garments.
He had eaten nothing all day, so he wandered on his way, hunting for some cheap place to which workmen would naturally resort, but sufficiently remote from the shanty he had lately visited to insure against the probability of encountering any one who might possibly recognize some of his newly-appropriated garments. After a time he found such a place where he deemed himself safe. His principal desire seemed to be to put himself in a situation to repel the advances of any who might otherwise be disposed to come near, and he added to the repulsiveness of his appearance an element of supreme unattractiveness.
He reveled in a meal of raw onions and ate them most plentifully, washing them down with occasional drafts more or less copiously of the “shebeen shop” gin. Then procuring a paper of tobacco, the offence of which smelled to heaven as rank as that of the King in Hamlet, he loaded his “dudeen,” lighted it with a paper from the stove, and started for the railway station in the heart of Elmira.
In the course of a little while he reached there. The station was filled with Sheriffs, detectives, and officers of the law in search of him. He became to them an incessant source of annoyance, and three times did the chief of police take the apparently drunken laborer by the arm and put him off the station platform. At length a New York bound train came along. Straggling up to the steps of the smoking car he, in a seemingly intoxicated way, tried to get aboard. His feet slipped, and it looked as if he were about to fall between the cars, but the officers of the law again protected him, addressing him with expletive adornments and asking him if he wanted to “break his infernal neck,” an inquiry to which he responded in a most unintelligible way.
They took him by the arm and helped him to a seat in the smoking car, where he almost instantly seemed to fall into a deep and drunken slumber, and thus the leader of the midnight robbers, who in a moment of chivalrous feeling had watered the cheeks of the old lady with his tears, bound his way far from the vicinity of his crime to a place of safety.
In subsequent experiences he was not quite so fortunate. Justice may be baffled for a time, but she will overtake the guilty sooner or later.
A few months thereafter, in the city of Pittsburg, a professional criminal named George Mason was arrested on suspicion of being the wily leader of the Wellsboro robbery. The identification of him by the various witnesses seemed to be thorough and reliable. The circumstances pointed to him with what seemed to be great precision. He was taken from the place of his arrest and lodged in the jail of the town of Wellsboro.
In the meanwhile the cashier of the bank (the son, who to save his parents had opened its vaults on the memorable night) met with a sudden and accidental death. The other members of the family visited the arrested person in the jail at Wellsboro; indeed, the dear old lady was kindly and motherly in her constant attention to him while he was in prison. She visited him frequently, talked with him, advised him as to his future welfare, spoke to him not only as to the consequences a criminal career would bring in this world, but urged him to reform his life and repent of the sins he had committed in order that he might insure the salvation of his soul in the world to come.
She supplied him with delicacies from her own table; indeed, with her own hands, purposely made them up for him. She gave him books, newspapers, and did all that was possible to deprive prison life of its pangs and discomforts, yet she protested with a positiveness which no argument could shake, which no reasoning could induce her to abandon, that he was the leader of the band of robbers upon that autumn night; and that his lips touched her forehead, and his tears fell upon her cheek; that he was the only one who had spoken a word among them all, and that the sound of his voice still rung in her ears; not a tone of it had left her memory, and by that very voice alone she was assured of the certainty of her identification.
Matters wore a gloomy look indeed for the prisoner; clouds gathered around upon every side; he looked forward with almost a certainty of passing a greater and better part of his days in a convict’s cell.
The leader of the band, however, in a distant city—who did not know him—heard of the situation of the man whom he knew to be innocent. He appreciated the force of the circumstances which seemed pointing to an inevitable fate unjust and most undeserved. With two or three companions, daring and reliable, he again sought the neighborhood, where, if his presence were known, punishment would surely befall him.
A little beyond the limits of the town of Corning and upon the line of the short lateral road running to Wellsboro these adventurers broke open one of the car shops of the railway company, and taking therefrom a laborer’s hand-car, propelled themselves for thirty miles along the track to the town of Wellsboro. Turning the car off the tramway, secreting it behind a woodpile, they made their way to the jail.
Arranging a dynamite cartridge without its walls and with one low whistle as a signal, an explosion occurred, which once again, in a few moments, suddenly called the excited inhabitants of the town in the most picturesque kind of night apparel into the streets, fearing they knew not what and apprehending anything which was more terrible than everything else had been before. The part of the jail sought for destruction was an unused and remote portion, but the prisoner having had accorded to him entire jail liberty could well reach it at any hour of the day or night.
The noise, of course, startled and aroused hastily those within the prison, who rushed to the point where the noise indicated the explosion had taken place. The prisoner himself had been apparently not startled, for he was found in that vicinity full dressed and with a candle in his hand. He explained that he had been sitting up late reading and ran to discover the cause of the explosion, believing at first it was occasioned by the bursting of the boiler.
As soon as the explosion occurred, those who were its cause swiftly found their way to the place where their car was concealed, and with all the muscular force that could contribute to their speedy exit from Wellsboro and its surroundings, they fled. It was suspected for some time that the prisoner not only knew of the attempt upon the jail, but that he was in collusion with those who had caused it, for the purpose of enabling him to make his escape.
These suspicions, however, gradually died away, and in a short time his trial took place. The circumstantial evidence against him was constantly suggestive of his guilt. The old lady, with tears streaming down her face, reasserted her belief in his identity as the leader of the masked men upon the night of the robbery. He was, however, enabled to present the most conclusive and irrefutable proof of his innocence, and after a trial which lasted for nearly two weeks, the door of the Wellsboro prison opened for him and he walked forth a free man.
Indicative of the inexplicable reaction and change which at times take place in the dispositions and feelings of people, the next morning a large proportion of the population of the town, men, women, and children, followed and escorted George Mason to the railroad depot. He was the lion of the hour, and he departed not only amid cheers from the assembled populace, but was escorted by a large representative body as an apparent guard of honor on his journey as far as Corning. He afterwards found a temporary haven in Portsmouth jail.
Who was the leader of the robber band? James Hope, born in Philadelphia. Did the Wellsboro Bank get back the stolen money? No.
Following his imprisonment in San Quentin, Jimmy Hope returned east and lived out the rest of his years in New York City and on a farm property in Connecticut. He died in 1905.

#18 Charles Becker

John Charles Becker (1849-1916), aka Charlie Becker, Charley Becker, Dutchman Becker — Forger

Link to Byrnes’ entry on Charles Becker

John Charles Becker was not born in Germany, as Byrnes suggests, but in New York to parents who had long before arrived from Germany. His father, Valentin Becker, met and married Maria Margaretha Blinn in New York in 1838. John Charles was the fourth child born to the pair, arriving in 1849. Around 1856-7, the Becker clan (now numbering five offspring) moved to Chicago, but by 1865–with two more additions–they moved back to Brooklyn.

In his teens, John Charles (known to friends as Charlie) learned the printing trade and the process of lithography. He came in contact with another German lithographer living in New York, Clemenz Haering. Haering also operated a saloon on Stanton Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 1871, 21-year-old Charlie married Haering’s daughter, Anna C. Haering, then just 16 or 17 years old. Charlie was not a drinker–he avoided bad habits that might affect his penmanship–but he did enjoy rubbing shoulders with criminals. Charlie’s knowledge of printing, lithography, and bank forms made him a target for recruitment by these shady characters. Moreover, his father-in-law, Clemenz Haering, was not above engaging in a bit of forgery/counterfeiting.

In August 1872, Charlie joined with Joe Chapman, Joe Elliott (aka Frederick Elliott/Little Joe Reilly) and Carlo Sescovitch to rob the Third National Bank of Baltimore. They entered the bank at night and cracked open its vault, taking away cash, bonds, and blank bank forms, totaling between $200,000 and $300,000–an enormous sum for the period. Many of the bonds were registered bonds, which thieves usually ignored because their numbers can be traced. The theft of these bonds, along with the blank forms, indicated to detectives that the robbers had a forger among them that could use the forms and change the numbers on the bonds. Witnesses had seen men around the bank in the days before the robbery, and were able to give descriptions of them. From those descriptions, detectives thought they knew who to look for–but Chapman and the others could not be found anywhere.

There was no rational reason that Charlie Becker, with his unmatched handwriting and engraving skills, needed to be involved in the heist itself; like other “penman,” he could have stayed safely in a studio with his pens, brushes, and inks. But he seemed to enjoy the thrill of crime.

The four thieves had already left the country before police could make those identifications. However, they realized the danger of traveling with the stolen bonds. Before leaving on a steamer to Europe, the stack of bonds was left with Chapman’s wife, Lydia, who was unknown to authorities. She was under instructions to bring the bonds to England in a trunk once the waiting thieves sent her the signal.

One of the reasons that the series of events from 1872-1873 involving Becker, Chapman, Joe Elliott, Sescovitch, and Adam Worth is so compelling is that it involves so many classic crime story elements: a huge bank heist; partners who distrust one another; capture and imprisonment; treachery; a prison escape; kidnapping; romantic rivals; an unsolved murder; a theft of a classic artwork; a criminal mastermind…and baffled authorities.

One of those frustrated lawmen was Andrew Lewis Drummond, operative of the United States Secret Service, who was assigned the job of finding and stopping the Baltimore bank thieves–not so much for the sake of the stolen items themselves, but to prevent Becker from becoming the most dangerous forger in America. Years later (in 1908), Drummond wrote about his role in the story–which was to follow the trunk of bonds that was in the possession of Lydia Chapman:

TRUE DETECTIVE STORIES: TWO WOMEN AND A RED TRUNK

BY A. L. DRUMMOND, FORMERLY CHIEF OF THE U. S. SECRET SERVICE

Early in August, 1872, the Third National bank of Baltimore was robbed. The vault was blown at dead of night and between $200,000 and $300,000 taken. A large part of this sum was in coin and currency. The rest was in registered bonds and coupon bonds. The robbers escaped without leaving a clew of their identity.

Coupon bonds can be cashed at any bank as readily as one government note can be exchanged for another. Registered bonds cannot. Ordinary thieves therefore do not take bonds the numbers and the names of the owners of which are matters of record. Forgers are the exception. With their secret chemicals for removing printing and writing inks without leaving a stain that even a magnifying glass will show, they can make use of registered bonds. The fact that a large lumber of blank drafts and checks had been stolen also indicated that one of the robbers was an expert forger.

From these bare facts it soon developed that the robbers were Joe Elliot, Joe Chapman, Charlie Becker and a Russian. Becker was the forger — one of the best that the world ever produced. Careful search revealed their movements for several days preceding the robbery. It was even found that men answering their descriptions were seen near the bank on the day it was rifled. But when all these facts became known the earth seemed to have swallowed the men who were wanted.

More than a month passed and nothing was heard of them. On September 17, the chief of the Secret Service called me to his office. Beside him sat a man with a long white beard. The chief introduced him to me as Clement Herring, father of Charlie Becker’s wife.

“This man runs a saloon on Stanton street,” said the chief. “He expects his daughter and Mrs. Chapman to call on him tomorrow morning. Be on watch outside, and if they come he will signal you. He says they are going to leave for Europe in the afternoon, and that among their baggage will be a small red trunk containing the registered bonds stolen from the Third National. Mr. Herring thinks they will get the trunk either on Lexington avenue near Twenty-second street or on Eighth avenue near Forty-eighth street.

“Here’s what I want you to do. Once you get sight of these women, follow them wherever they go. If they get the red trunk, follow them on to the ship and learn the number of their stateroom and the names under which they depart — they are not going to use their own names. When you get these facts put them in this letter that I have written to the chief of police of Southampton, and give it to the purser on the ship, who will deliver it to an officer waiting at the pier on the other side. He will be notified that you are coming and will know what to do. Don’t arrest the women; don’t seize the trunk.”

At 8 o’clock the next morning I took up the watch in front of Herring’s saloon. I waited more than an hour before anything happened. Then a stylish carriage drove up. Two women alighted, and in the moment that elapsed before they descended the three steps that led to Herring’s basement saloon I took careful note of their appearance.

Each woman was apparently 30 years old and strikingly handsome. Both were gowned in the height of fashion. The blonde woman, who I afterward learned was Mrs. Becker, was a trifle shorter than her companion. Mrs. Chapman, who was a statuesque brunette of perhaps live feet eight or nine. Both women were wreathed in smiles and apparently radiantly happy. They were going to Europe to meet their husbands, and evidently the prospect pleased them.

Two or three times while they were inside I walked past the place and caught glimpses of them through the window. The two women seemed to be sipping at glasses of Rhine wine, while they talked to the gray whiskered man who sat on the other side of the table. Mrs. Becker did most of the talking. The lightheartedness that marked her manner in the street had departed. She spoke earnestly and seriously. The man listened, almost sadly.

While I was waiting I sent a newsboy to call a hack driver who had often driven me on business trips, and when, about 11 o’clock, the women left the saloon, I was ready to follow them. But I had not taken into account the possibility that the driver might not come with the accustomed cab. He didn’t. He came with what was the most fashionable turnout of the time — a Clarence coach, drawn by two horses. This fact is of importance only because the semicircular front of the coach was glass and I was dressed like a stevedore — slouch hat, blue shirt, rough trousers and no coat or waistcoat. I had contemplated the possibility that my work that day might take me along the docks, and had dressed accordingly.

However, there was nothing to do but to jump into the coach and tell the driver to follow the women wherever they went. They cut in and out through side streets and finally turned into Lexington avenue. I remember with what amazement I was stared at by others who drove fashionable carriages like my own. Behind the semicircle of glass I sat like the modern “demonstrator” in a show window — apparently a stevedore seeing the sights at $8 a day!

Near the corner of Twenty-second street — at the number at which the aged man had said they might get the red trunk — the carriage containing the women halted. As they alighted and went up the steps to the house I saw that they were again the happy, frolicsome women who were overjoyed at the prospect of seeing their husbands. All of the earnestness, and the seriousness with which they talked to Mrs. Becker’s sad eyed father had been swept away in a swirl of smiles.

Ten minutes after the door closed upon them a servant came out with some hand baggage. He placed it on the carriage at the driver’s feet and went back after some more. I watched carefully for the red trunk, but it did not come. In a few minutes the women appeared, still smiling. They entered their carriage and were driven up •Lexington avenue to Twenty-eighth street, then over to and up Broadway.

I followed along in my Clarence coach, keeping half a block behind them. They went straight up Broadway to Eighth avenue, and from there to the Forty-eighth street house that Herring had told me about. About an hour after they entered the premises the red trunk was brought out. A few minutes later the women followed.

Telling my driver to be sure not to lose them, I resumed my pursuit. They drove straight to Cortlandt street and, still secluded in their carriage, went on the ferry. I let a few teams get in after them and then drove on the boat.

 I knew they were headed for the Cunard piers at Jersey City, which at that time were just below the present slips of the Pennsylvania railroad. I also knew they had taken passage on the old sidewheel steamboat Cuba. So while we were crossing the river I left my carriage to look for the ship. To my amazement I saw that it was not at the pier. The next instant I saw it lying in the middle of the river. The tide had gone out at noon and the dock, not having been dredged as deeply as docks are now, the ship had gone out into the stream. Late passengers would be compelled to go out on a tender.

This was a possibility that I had not contemplated. It is comparatively easy to board a ship lying at her pier and almost impossible to get aboard a tender. While I was wondering what I should do, the ferry boat nosed her way into the slip and I was compelled to do something quickly. This is what I did:

I had worked my way among the teams up to a point perhaps 50 feet behind the vehicle in which were the two women. When their carriage drove off I followed it. When they alighted, I was almost beside them, and when their handbags were put off the carriage I grabbed two of them and made for the gangplank leading to the tender.

Fortunately the crew of the tender thought I was a stevedore, and the stevedores thought I belonged to the tender. So nobody molested me and I got aboard. As soon as I could I looked for the women and was rejoiced to find that they had taken seats at the opposite end of the boat. I kept away from them all the way over and proceeded them up the ladder to the ship. Once on board the Cuba, I contrived to get behind them in order to let them lead the way to the stateroom. They walked down the starboard side of the cabin to a point half way between the middle of the ship and the stern and then turned in to a little hall. I knew their stateroom could be only a few feet away, so I asked them if the baggage I carried belonged to them. They looked at it and replied that it did. I asked where I should put it and they led me to their staterooms, the numbers of which I  noted. Then I held up a handbag which bore the name of “Mrs. Bruce Cutting” and asked to which of the women it belonged. Mrs. Chapman replied that she was Mrs. Cutting. The other bag was marked “Mrs. Steward,” which Mrs. Becker told me was her name. Mrs. Chapman was evidently impressed with my desire to make no mistake in delivering their baggage, as she gave me a 25 cent tip.

This part of the work over, I went to the writing room and, in the letter written by the chief of the Secret Service to the chief of police of Southampton, filled in the names under which Mrs. Becker and Mrs. Chapman had departed, together with the number of their stateroom. Then I sought the purser and presented my letter of introduction.

“Did you get track of them?” he asked.

I replied that I had and gave him their names. He consulted his passenger list and ran his forefinger down the column of names.

“You’re right,” said he. “Here they are, and the number of their stateroom is the same that you gave to me.”

I handed him the chief’s letter to the Southampton chief, urged him to deliver it before the women could leave the ship, and went aboard the tender just as the Cuba was preparing to get under way.

The rest of this narrative had to do with events that took place in Europe. And it should be borne in mind that in following the women and the red trunk the purpose was twofold— first, to learn the whereabouts of the band that robbed the Third National bank of Baltimore; and, second, to nab Becker if he should attempt to alter and sell any of the registered bonds. The women had committed no crime — we could not prove guilty knowledge on their part concerning the contents of the trunk — therefore we had no occasion to arrest them. And there was nothing to be gained by seizing the trunk, since the payment on all of the stolen bonds had been stopped. We wanted only Becker and his band.

When the Cuba reached Southampton, an officer representing the chief of police was at the pier. He read the letter that was handed to him by the purser and followed the two women ‘when they left the ship. Half an hour later he was on the same train with them, bound for London, where they remained a night. The next morning they went to Paris. And the red trunk was among the baggage that followed them to the hotel at which they stopped in the French capital.

The Southampton detective engaged accommodations at the same place and for a week nothing of importance developed. The women, who seemed to be plentifully supplied with money, went out every morning, evidently intent upon replenishing their already large stock of finery. In the evenings they went to the theaters.

One morning the Southampton detective waited in vain to see them go out for their accustomed shopping tour. An hour after the time when they usually entered the carriage he began to be nervous. Finally he went to the clerk and, after having led up to the subject gradually, made some reference to the “beautiful English women” whose beauty had been the subject of considerable comment. The clerk didn’t know whom he meant. The detective had purposely misstated their nationality in order not to display a knowledge of them that they might regard as suspicious if it should come to their ears. But in a moment the clerk realized the detective’s mistake and said:

“Oh. you mean Mrs. Cutting and Mrs. Steward. But they are not English women; they are Americans. They left the city this morning.”

The closing sentence jarred the detective to his boot heels, but he controlled his emotions.

“Where had they gone?” Oh, the clerk did not know. They left after midnight and another clerk was on watch. But he might be able to find out.

In a little while the clerk imparted the information that to the best of his knowledge and belief the ladies had gone to Berlin. Strangely enough, the detective was to depart for the German capital the same evening. Perhaps he would be fortunate enough to go again to the same hotel with them.

At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, the detective, on his way to the train, stopped a moment at the clerk’s desk to bid him goodby. Pleasantries were exchanged, the two men had shaken hands, when the clerk hurled a parting bit of badinage.

“Too bad you will not meet the American ladles in Berlin.” he said. “They have gone to Genoa.”

The detective made enough inquiries to convince him that the information was undoubtedly correct and changed his own plans accordingly. On the way down to the Italian city he cudgeled his mind to determine how he should go about it to get track of his lost immigrants. They would reach Genoa several hours ahead of him and might even have sped on to another city before his arrival. There was only one chance by means of which he might get trace of them — the red trunk.

So when he reached Genoa he made anxious inquiries of the man who had charge of the baggage concerning two ladies whose present address he wished to learn. Speaking no Italian he had difficulty in making himself understood, but at last sought to identify his friends by explaining that among their baggage was a red trunk. The baggage hands were questioned, and at last a man was found who had sent the box that was covered with the hide of the brindle cow.

It had been transferred to the wharf of a steamship company that operated a line of boats between Genoa and Constantinople.

Again the detective resumed his travels, only to to find when he reached the city of the sultan that he had lost all track of the women. Nobody had seen the red trunk — nobody at any of the hotels had seen the women. And he was on the point of returning  to Southampton to report his failure when something happened.

Becker and Chapman were arrested by the Turkish authorities for selling forged bonds! Their trial brought their wives in public to their sides, and by shadowing them their new habitation was learned.

Becker and Chapman were quickly found guilty and sentenced to a long term of Imprisonment In Smyrna. The jail was a flimsy affair and in a few weeks they escaped. Simultaneously with their departure Mrs. Becker and Mrs. Chapman went to London, the detective following and tracking them to a boarding house in an obscure part of the city. Within a week their husbands joined them, together with the other two men who robbed the Third National bank of Baltimore, and within another week Mrs. Chapman was dead.

The cause of her death will perhaps never be known. The end came suddenly. It has always been supposed that she was poisoned by some member of the band.

After Mrs. Chapman’s death the party separated. Chapman came to the United States, robbed another bank, was caught, convicted and sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment. Becker came to Brooklyn, where a policeman arrested him in the act of making the plates for a 1000 franc French note. The red trunk was never found.

Others may wonder, as I did at first, why Mrs. Becker’s father betrayed her husband to the secret service. I put the question to the man flatly.

“Charlie didn’t treat me right.” he said. “He and I were in on a counterfeiting deal one time and he got all the best of it. I never could bear a dishonest man. And. besides, I didn’t want my daughter to go to Europe to meet him.”

Byrnes’ 1886 profile of Becker took his career up to his imprisonment in the King’s County Penitentiary, from which he was freed in 1887. In 1892 he roamed the upper midwest and northeast with forging partners Richard Lennox, Joe English, and Robert Bowman. He and his team then went to California, where they were captured and tried. Charlie was sentenced to seven years in San Quentin, but with good behavior was released in 1903.

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Opon his return to Brooklyn, there were rumors that the American Banking Association offered Becker a living stipend just to help keep him honest. Towards the end of his life, he was employed by the Pinkerton’s as an informant patrolling racetracks. He and his with lived as John and Anna Becker in Brooklyn. He died of diabetes in September, 1916. His wife Anna Haering, ever loyal, died just a couple of weeks after Charlie. They are buried in Brooklyn’s Evergreen Cemetery.

 

 

 

#16 Frederick Elliott

Joe Elliott (1853-1892/3), aka Frederick Elliott Frederick Reilly, Joseph Reilly, Little Joe Elliott — Forger, Burglar

Link to Byrnes’ entry on Frederick “Little Joe” Elliot

Chief Byrnes’ account of Joe Elliott’s career is one of the longest in Professional Criminals of America, but even so, it only begins to convey the dramatic events surrounding the forging tour that went from America to London, to Turkey, and back in the mid 1870s. Byrnes elaborated on some of the details given under this entry elsewhere in his book, under the entry for Charlie Becker. In fact, Byrnes was unaware that that during that trip, Elliott was recruited by master criminal Adam Worth and that they perpetrated perhaps the most famous art robbery of the nineteenth century: the theft of Gainsborough’s painting The Duchess of Devonshire.

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That story is told more completely in Ben Macintyre’s The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief. Macintyre’s version focuses on Worth’s role, but lays out the exploits of Joe Elliott. Another (much earlier) writer, American journalist and author Jack Lait, also sensed that the narrative around these events was compelling. In 1919, he wrote a series of four long articles for the Chicago Tribune on the principal figures in these events: Little Joe Elliott; Joe Chapman and his wife Lydia; Charlie Becker; and Adam Worth. Unlike much of Lait’s other column writings, these articles were never reprinted in any of his books.

Lait was a feature writer, not a historical researcher, so there are factual errors in his account of Joe Elliott. And–unlike the Pinkertons, British police, and most written accounts–Lait accuses Elliott of the murder of Lydia Chapman, based on a rumor told to him by “a trustworthy thief.” Even so, in this one article Lait captures the narrative of Elliott’s life in a way that the dry recitation of his arrests and convictions can not. The result is a classic of American feature writing:

Little Joe: The Career of America’s Most Notorious Bank Robber (1919)  by Jack Lait

Fancy a lad, born in an alley back of a brickyard, of Irish immigrant parents; at 25 he is a man about town in New York, mingling with the bloods and dudes, actresses and rounders; he is a scintillating conversationalist; he is as well and as tastefully dressed as any man; he is chivalrous and courtly towards women; he never flashes extravagant sums of money, but he is plentifully supplied for all needs of this financially exacting existence. What would you say was this young fellow’s means of livelihood? What calling had be adopted to refine his manners?

The man is Frederick Reilly, and he is the most notorious bank robber in America, the most desperate safeblower on earth, the most daring forger of his time. His presentable features deck every rouges’ gallery over the civilized maps. He is known to the International police as Joe Reilly, as Little Joe, as Joe Elliott.

Little Joe is dead. Before his end he had punctuated one of the most varied and thrilling criminal careers ever compiled, had stolen millions, had married and lost and remarried, and again lost one of the most bewitching stage stars of his period, had rifled strong boxes in many states as well as in England, France, and Belgium, had flooded Turkey with spurious securities, and had escaped prison at Smyrna, had been held by Greek mountain banditti for ransom, had been loved by and had murdered the beautiful wife of one of his “pals,” had served more than a score of years behind bars, died a miserable wreck and a penniless pauper in a charity hospital ward. That man had lived!

As a boy he started shoplifting in his native town. Veteran crooks saw in him material for higher endeavors than counter snatching, and he was taken into a band of bank sneaks. His first undertaking in this art cost a private bank in Worcester, Mass., $20,000, which Little Joe ” hooked” with a long, slender wire that came out of his sleeve to a fish hook end, and which he slipped between the bars of the teller’s cage into the band of about twenty $1,000 currency notes while his associates distracted the man’s attention.

He dallied with this type of thievery for years, when he was at large, stole a lavish livelihood, and affected the bright lights of the rialtos for his divertissement. Leading players, sporting men of his generation, and the other celebrities of the bubble cafes were his cronies.

His bravado drew the attention of Charlie Becker—”the Dutchman,” he was called—the most expert forger that ever uttered a false instrument. Becker needed just such a man —one who looked above suspicion and one who had steel nerve—for a “layer down.” Becker could issue “dirty paper” without limit; his earning capacity was held down only to what could be negotiated. So he coupled up with Little Joe, to the great woe of many financial institutions.

Booth’s theater, in New York, had a saloon on the ground floor. It was owned by Ivan Siscovitch, a Russian forger, and was the forgers’ rendezvous, where men of that craft foregathered. Becker, Siscovitch, Elliott, Joe Chapman, and others “blew” to Turkey, where they cashed letters of credit purporting to have been sold by Coutts Bank, London. Adam Worth, the great thief, who with Elliott and “Junka” Phillips stole the Gainsborough painting in London, was the backer and steersman of the expedition. Worth, however, did not accompany it beyond Paris.

In Smyrna the gang was arrested, tried with Turkish justice, and sentenced to the world’s foulest prison. Worth hurried to Smyrna, and by devious devices procured the liberation through bribery of all except Chapman. The escaped convicts fled into Greece, where in savage mountain wilds all were seized by bandits, who chose Elliott as messenger and kept the others as hostages. Elliott traveled to London, where Worth gave him $10,000, the required sum, and Elliott returned, paid the kidnappers, and with his freed companions reached Paris. Elliott proceeded to London and there met Lydia Chapman, wife of the lone blackguard left at Smyrna.

Worth ordered Elliott, Becker, and Siscovitch to board at Mrs. Chapman’s, as he proposed to see her provided for. She was a woman of extraordinary beauty, and the physical bearing of a duchess, though she bad been an accomplice to the criminal enterprises of her husband, likewise a distingue individual, and others. Mrs. Chapman fell violently in love with Little Joe. Elliott, Becker, and Siscovitch left one night for the continent on a little junket into Berlin with “wrong” British government bonds. The following morning Mrs. Chapman died in convulsions, having been poisoned. Her jewelry and money had disappeared. Elliott, Becker, and Siscovitch returned and gave themselves up, all denying any knowledge of the tragedy. No one was convicted.

But I have it from a friend of Chapman’s,  a trustworthy thief, that Chapman, who tore his beard and mourned for years over his wife’s death, bought, many years later, in New York, the locket which his wife had worn; he bought it from my informant, who swore to him, as he did to me, that he had bought it from Little Joe Elliott.

That Elliott was not above such a deed is certain. Worth had his redeeming qualities —he loved his family and he “went the limit” for his accomplices; many other scalawags and thieves have strains of good motivations by some human impulses. But Elliott, except for his gentlemanly appearance and manners and, at times, fierce courage and spendthrift liberality, had no saving graces. The sign on his heart was the double cross, and before he died he attempted to sell out Worth, his friend. He betrayed Chapman after he had deserted him,  then murdered Chapman’s wife, who loved him, because he had tired of her–and robbed her before he left her to die.

The other storied romance of his life was not born of the sane love of a man—it was the frenzied passion of a maniac; and its queen, its fool, its victim, though its heroine, was the most beloved woman of her day in public life. Little Joe met Kate Castleton, the darling  of minstrelsy, when she was at the gateway of her vast popularity, playing her first protracted New York engagement. He courted her violently; madly, persistently; he smothered her with costly flowers, he showered her with diamond studded gifts, he lay in wait for her at the stage door after every performance, he sat alone in a stage box during every performance. And in brief time the little wicked fellow conquered her and and won her.

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She knew what he was—or, as she thought, what he had been. Hundreds warned her against this smartly tailored thief with the engaging presence. But he promised her everything. And she went with him to the Little Church Around the Corner one evening after the performance. Her supporting company and a few chosen notables of the night life were witnesses. The wedding supper was at Delmonico’s, and the bride hectically happy. After a honeymoon tour of a month the pair went to live in handsome apartments on Twenty-first street.

Elliott was possessed of considerable money at that time, and he induced his bride to renounce the stage. All seemed serene until he was arrested for having passed a forged draft for $64,000 on the New York Life Insurance company. Sadly, the disillusioned wife returned to her footlights. She faced the public bravely–the public which knew her woes, for the newspapers rang with them. And the American audiences applauded.

While being taken to the Tombs from court, Elliott bowled his guard over and escaped. He was arrested again seven months later as party to a $3000 safe blowing in Boston, and was returned to New York and tried on the $64,000 job. Becker turned State’s evidence, procured immunity for himself, and Elliott went to Sing Sing for four years.

His wife’s love returned with his tribulations. She visited him whenever she was allowed to, and used every influence at her command to have Little Joe pardoned, but found it impossible. She was received by the governor and made a personal plea for a commutation, but failed.

On his release the dashing young swindler made renewed promises of honest behavior, and his brave wife believed him. But he grew jealous of her career, which she refused to again interrupt, and made himself so disagreeable that she was forced to divorce him. But within less than a year she married him once more. He then became her manager, and for three years conducted her tours in “Pop,” beginning with her huge success in that comedy at the old Bijou. But jealousy again possessed him. He disappeared,returned unexpectedly, met his wife leaving the theater in company with a young New York aristocrat, and fell upon her escort with a blackjack. Elliott felled him, then brutally kicked him, smashing his skull and nose. He escaped. Kate divorced him shortly afterward and married Harry Phillips, her manager in “Crazy Patch.”

Elliott, having alienated the tough thieves with whom he had operated, and having actually remained honest and remote from the haunts of criminals for some years, now “hooked up” with Gus Raymond and George Wilkes, forgers, and with them “took” a bank in Rochester for $2500. They arrived there while the town was alive with a race meeting. Wilkes prepared a draft as issued by the Bank of Montreal on the Bank of the Republic of New York. Elliott, under the name Edwardes, and Raymond, under the alias of James W. Conklin, each rented an office, and each engaged a clerk. Raymond opened an account at the Flour City National Bank; Elliott opened one at the Commercial National bank.

Elliott deposited the worthless “draft” and sent his clerk to Raymond with a check for $2500 to Raymond’s credit. Raymond sent his clerk to Elliott’s bank, had the check certified, then sent his clerk to his own bank and cashed the check. Two weeks later the trio turned up in Dayton, O., and attempted the same game with different names. They were arrested, and, as usual, made a scramble to sell each other for their own liberty. Elliott was “whipsawed” between the two and was about to be sentenced when he escaped. Later he was rearrested and sentenced to Sing Sing.

While there he sent for the Pinkertons and sought from them those influential factors a pardoning parole and a reward on representations that he could “turn up” the immortal Gainsborough painting. He glibly “squawked” against his old partner and benefactor, Worth, whose theft of the masterpiece had until then remained a mystery. He satisfied the detectives that Worth, Phillips, and Elliott himself had stolen the painting. But Little Joe did not know the whereabouts of the canvas, having accepted from Worth long before that a price for any equity that he might have in the stolen treasure by virtue of his participation in the burglary.

Elliott served his term. With new worthies he made up some presentable American railroad bonds and crossed to Amsterdam, where he and the gang were seized, but Elliott, by a master stroke of agility and desperation, contrived to destroy the evidence even as the clumsy Dutch police had them in hand. After a long trial the band was acquitted, but run out of the country.

Elliott dropped down to Paris, where he had figured in many atmospheric and daring bits of crooked business, not the least malodorous of which had been the episode at the American bar, where he had robbed a diamond merchant of $25,000 worth of gems in a satchel while Adam Worth was running the world famous establishment as monitor for its proprietor, his friend and fellow robber, “Piano Charlie” Bullard, who had been forced to fly France.

In Paris, Elliott became a gambler and a desperado. He frequented the gilded gaming palaces of the day and place, and, when “in luck,” won large stakes, and when “hoodooed” robbed the clubs at the point of a revolver. He was feared and fearless. Once he was arrested, but he broke the bastille and crippled the man who had testified against him with four bullets in a populous cafe, then bullied his way out in safety with the smoking weapon.

He returned to New York and called on the chief of detectives, Inspector Byrnes, pledging good behavior if the police would let him alone, and holding out that he intended to go into the theatrical business, having brought with him from Paris a young comedienne who had become the furore of French cabarets. Byrnes wished him luck and said he would be “decent” as long as Elliott remained decent.

The girl and Elliott were soon afterward arrested for fighting on the street, and she told a sensational and probably veracious tale of how Elliott had beaten and cowed her. A hint which she dropped to the police unwittingly convinced the Pinkertons that Elliott had again been involved in swindles, and a close watch was placed on him. He was followed out of the city and arrested with two old confederates after they had bilked a country bank. Strong pressure was brought by the Pinkertons and the New York police in the prosecution, and Elliott “went down” this time for fifteen years, his longest and last sentence.

His health broke after he served a fifth of this “stretch,” and he was pardoned to die. With scarcely a dollar, his eyes deeply sunken into his shapely head, the bristling, raven hair of old splotched with sickly gray, his small frame bent and weak, he staggered out. He was “picked up” in New York as a vagrant and sent to a public hospital, where he died, cursing Kate Castleton, who had loved him, and all the other friends whom he had wronged and outraged.

 

 

 

 

 

#13 William Ogle

William J. Ogle (1854-1889), aka Billy Ogle, Frank Somers — Burglar, forger

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-two years old in 1886. Born in New York. Medium build. Married. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 148 pounds. Brown hair, brown eyes, fair complexion. Wears sandy mustache and sometimes side whiskers.

RECORD. Billy Ogle is a good general thief. He fell in with Charles Vanderpool, alias Brockway, some years ago, and worked with him up to the Providence job in August, 1880. He does not confine himself to any particular kind of work. He is a handy burglar, good sneak, and first-class second-story man.

Ogle was arrested in Chicago with Charles Vanderpool, alias Brockway, in 1879, for forgery on the First National Bank of that city. Brockway was bailed in $10,000, in consequence of some information he gave to the authorities, and the case never was tried. Ogle was also finally discharged. He was arrested shortly after, in 1879, in Orange, N.J., for an attempt at burglary, and on a second trial he luckily escaped with six months’ imprisonment.

Ogle was again arrested in New York City and convicted for uttering a forged check for $2,490, drawn on the Phoenix Bank of New York, purported to be signed by Purss & Young, brokers, of Wall Street, New York City. He was sentenced to five years in State prison by Judge Cowing, on June 14, 1880. His counsel appealed the case, and Judge Donohue, of the Supreme Court, granted him a new trial, and he was released on $2,500 bail in July, 1880. Andy Gilligan and Charles Farren, alias the “Big Duke,” were also arrested in connection with this forgery. While out on bail in this case, Ogle was again arrested in Providence, R.I., on August 16, 1880, with Charles O. Brockway and Joe Cook, alias Havill, a Chicago sneak, in an attempt to pass two checks, one on the Fourth National Bank for $1,327, and the other, of $1,264, on the old National Bank of that city. He was convicted for this offense, and sentenced to three years in State prison on October 2, 1880, under the name of Frank Somers.

His time expired in August, 1883. He was arrested again in the spring of 1884 for a “second-story job,” with John Tracy, alias Big Tracy. They robbed the residence of John W. Pangborn, on Belmont Avenue, Jersey City Heights, of diamonds and jewelry valued at $1,500. He was convicted for this offense on June 26, 1884. His counsel obtained a new trial for him in July, 1884, upon which he was tried and acquitted. Big Tracy was also discharged, and they both went West.

In the fall of 1885 Ogle was arrested in Tennessee, and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary for house work. He shortly afterwards made his escape from a gang while working out on a railroad, and is now at large. Ogle’s picture is a good one, taken in 1880.

William J. Ogle was one of (allegedly) twenty-one children fathered by Dr. Ralph Ogle, an Irish veterinarian who emigrated to New York. Several of those offspring likely did not survive childhood; and those that did came from two separate mothers. Dr. Ogle became one of New York’s leading horse surgeons; and enjoyed driving and racing horses of his own. His sons grew up in the world of the horse racing “fancy,”  Tammany ward politics, and corner saloons. And criminals. Thomas, the sole son from Ralph’s first marriage, grew up to be a horseman and successful veterinarian like his father. However, the boys from the second marriage were a different story.

William J., “Billy,” was born in 1854, and was the next oldest brother of the clan to make it to adulthood. He was the first to run afoul of the law in 1879 as Byrnes indicates, both for a burglary in New Jersey and in Chicago for passing forged checks (supplied to him by Charles O. Brockway). Though he escaped conviction in both cases, he still chose to work with Brockway, passing checks in New York and later in 1880 with George B. Havill in Providence, Rhode Island. He was imprisoned for three years in that state, and returned to New York on his release in 1883.

In 1884, Billy and John Tracy were arrested for a house burglary in Jersey City, N.J.; once again, with the best lawyers his father could afford (the ubiquitous Howe & Hummel), Billy Ogle escaped prison. Byrnes indicates that John Tracy was arrested for the New Jersey burglaries with Ogle; but other sources say it was James “Big Kentuck” Williams. At any rate, Billy and John Tracy then went out west, and were caught during a burglary in Tennessee. Both Billy Ogle and Tracy were put on a chain gang and later escaped.

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Even before Billy went west, his two younger brothers, Sam and George, were steeped in trouble of their own. In late 1882, the two brothers were entrusted with $100 meant to be delivered to a Twelfth Ward alderman, but instead stopped off at their favorite watering holes and started spending freely. Another loyal Tammany man in the bar questioned their honesty, and spat beer in George’s face. In the next moment, the man had a surgical scalpel poking through his heart. “You’ve killed me,” he muttered, and fell to the floor, dead.

Witnesses first claimed that it was Sam who used the weapon (which was never found), and he was arrested, but ultimately released once the witnesses were asked to verify their stories. Focus then shifted to George, who was tipped off and fled to Montana (or Texas, according to different reports). George returned in 1885 and was arrested for the murder. At his trial, his brother Sam was called as a witness, and tried to implicate himself–but the prosecution would not permit him to do so. Instead, brother George was found guilty of murder and sentenced to Sing Sing for life. Dr. Ralph Ogle had spent $19,000 trying to get him off.

Dr. Ogle thought he had $1000 left in the bank after that. But he received a notice that his account was overdrawn, and upon investigation, bank detectives found that his account had been emptied by a checked forged by his youngest son, Ralph “Harry” Ogle. There was little his father could do–the lad was arrested and sent to Sing Sing, joining his brother George. Within weeks, son Samuel succumbed to illness, and passed away at age 29.

Billy Ogle, the fugitive from the chain gang, reappeared at his parents house sometime between Samuel’s death in 1887 and 1889. However, disease struck him, too, and he died in 1889 at age 34. Dr. Ralph Ogle worked hard to make enough money to grease the wheels and got his son George pardoned from his life sentence in 1898. In 1887, the New York Sun ran an article on Dr. Ogle’s woes. It didn’t even mention Billy Ogle:

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#12 Edward Rice

Ed Rice (18??-19??), aka Albert C. Moore, William H. Moore, J. B. Brown, “Big Rice,” etc. — Sneak thief, stall, confidence man

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-eight years old in 1886. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weighty about 180 pounds. A fine, large, well-built man. Very gentlemanly appearance. Born in United States. Married. Brown hair, light brown beard, light complexion.

RECORD. Big Rice, as he is familiarly called, is well known in all the principal cities in the United States. He is a very clever general thief, a good “stall,” confidence man and “pennyweight” and hotel worker. He has traveled from the Atlantic to the Pacific at the expense of others, and has served at least twenty years in State prison during his life, ten years of which was in one sentence. Rice, in 1870, was implicated in a bank robbery in Halifax, N.S., with Horace Hovan and another man; the latter two were arrested, and Rice escaped and finally sent back the $20,000 stolen from the bank vault, and Hovan and the other man were discharged.

Rice was arrested in New York City, on April 24, 1878, for complicity in the robbery of the National Bank of Cambridgeport, Mass., which occurred in September, 1877. He gave the name of Albert C. Moore. He was discharged in New York City on April 31, 1878, the Governor of Massachusetts refusing to grant a requisition for him. He was immediately arrested by the Sheriff of New York on a civil process, the bank having commenced a civil action against him for the recovery of the money stolen from the bank, about $12,000. On May 8, 1878, Judge Pratt, of Brooklyn, N.Y., vacated the order of arrest and removed the attachment off his house on Thirteenth Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., and he was discharged. He was at once arrested on a requisition from Massachusetts, one having been obtained during his confinement on the civil charge, and he was taken to Cambridgeport, Mass., for trial, which never came off, on account of there not being sufficient evidence to convict him. Rice was also charged with robbing the Lechmere National Bank of East Cambridge of $50,000, on Saturday, March 16, 1878. When arrested he had in his possession a number of United States bonds of $1,000, and a bogus check for $850.

Ed. Rice, Joe Dubuque, and a party named Frank Stewart were arrested in Rochester, N.Y., on April 29, 1881, by officers from Detroit, Mich., charged with having early in April, 1881, stolen $728 worth of diamonds and jewelry from a jewelry store in that city. They were also charged with the larceny of $5,000 in money from the banking-house of Fisher, Preston & Co., of that city, in July, 1880. Rice was taken back to Detroit on a requisition, when an additional charge was made against him of complicity in the robbery of the First National Bank. He was bailed out in September, 1881, and forfeited it.

He was re-arrested in Syracuse, N.Y., in July, 1885, and taken back to Detroit, and in an effort to save himself from punishment in this case, he accused one Joseph Harris, who was keeping a saloon in Chicago, of it. Harris was arrested in Chicago, on July 29, 1885, and taken to Detroit for trial. Rice was discharged after an examination by a magistrate on September 1, 1885. He was arrested again on a requisition from Ohio the same day, but discharged in a few days on a writ of habeas corpus. Rice was arrested again in Boston, Mass., on June 11, 1886, where he had just arrived from Canada, and delivered to the Cincinnati police authorities, who wanted him for a burglary committed in that city in the fall of 1883. Paddy Guerin, who was with him in this burglary, was arrested and sentenced to four years in State prison. Rice’s picture is a very good one.

Chief Byrnes’ recital of “Big Rice’s” career refers again (as he did with Horace Hovan) to the Halifax bank robbery; but once again gives the incorrect date of 1870. That robbery took place in July, 1876. Byrnes (and other sources) also mention that Rice had been imprisoned twice before 1878, and that one of those was a ten-year sentence (presumably in New York State). However, all facts about those imprisonments–and everything else before 1876–remain a mystery. Likewise, Ed’s real name is a cipher. On several occasions he gave variations of the name Moore: Albert C. Moore, Edward Moore, William H. Moore, etc.; but at Sing Sing they believed his real name to be Edward C. Rice. He left a long trail under the name Edward Rice, including many years’ residence in Detroit, Michigan.

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In 1880, Ed told the census he was 33 years old (born abt. 1847); but at his sentencing in 1897, he claimed to be 63 (born abt. 1836). On two separate occasions he said he was born in Ohio (Hamilton County) to parents who had come from Virginia. In 1880, he lived in Detroit with a 28-year-old wife, Kate, from Massachusetts. In 1896, the Detroit Free Press noted that he was stopping in town briefly to attend to his daughter’s grave at Elmwood Cemetery–but no Rice or Moore girl who had died in that decade can be found. So while there are many clues that a genealogist can trace, so far none have led to a firmer identification.

Rice and his wife lived in Detroit (and likely also had a place across the river in Ontario) from about 1879-1889, about the same period when several other professional criminal were living there: Tom Bigelow, Louise Jourdan (Farley), Sophie Lyons, Billy Burke, etc. The community of crooks in residence was large enough–and familiar with each other enough–to enforce a code among themselves not to commit any heavy crime in that city. If they did, chances are that one or more of them would be arrested upon suspicion, and perhaps even railroaded on a conviction.

The Detroit Free Press noted this peculiar truce:

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After the publication of Chief Byrnes’ book in 1886; and in conjunction with much more securly designed bank lobbies and procedures, “sneak thieves” like Rice, Billy Burke, Horace Hovan, Rufus Minor, George Carson, etc. found it much hard to work in the United States. Ed. Rice made forays into Canada; and with Horace Hovan made a thieves’ tour of Europe in the early 1890s.

In 1897, he attempted to pass a forged check in New York for little more than pocket change, and was tried and sentenced to Sing Sing for ten years (as a repeat offender). Upon his release, Rice scrounged for a living. He went to Chicago and took an honest, though disreputable job–as a scab driver during a teamsters strike.

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In 1913, Rice and his lifelong friend Horace Hovan decided to make one last thieving tour of Europe. Rice was in his seventies, and Hovan in his sixties. Their adventure ended predictably:

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Ed. Rice’s fate following the arrest in Munich is not known.

#10 Isaac Vail

Isaac S. Vail (1835-1905), aka Old Ike — Confidence Man, Pickpocket

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-one years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 11 inches. Weight, 178 pounds. Gray hair, brown eyes, light complexion, gray whiskers. Generally wears a goatee. A tall, thin, gentlemanly-looking man.

RECORD. Ike Vail is well known from Maine to California. Of late years he has confined himself to the eastern cities, and the confidence man may be seen almost any morning around railroad depots or steamboat landings in search of victims. He has done service in several prisons, and his history would fill an ordinary-sized book. I will simply give one or two of his later convictions, to assist in convicting him should he fall into the meshes of the law again.

Vail was arrested in New York City on February 20, 1880, for swindling one Levi P. Thompson, a Justice of Peace of Evensville, Minn., out of $60, by the confidence game. He pleaded guilty in this case, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City, and was sentenced to eighteen months in State prison by Judge Cowing, on February 26, 1880. Vail was arrested several times afterwards in Boston, New York, and other cities, and again in New York City on August 30, 1885, for attempting to ply his vocation on the steamer Glasgow, lying at Pier 20, North River. For this offense he was sentenced to six months in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, on a complaint of vagrancy, as he had obtained no money from his victim. He was, however, discharged by Judge Van Brunt in the Supreme Court, on a writ on September 4, 1885. Vail’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1880.

Isaac S. Vail was born on September 20, 1835, to a successful farming family, his parents being Joseph and Sarah Ann Vail of Hughsonville, New York (near Fishkill in Dutchess County). According to Isaac, he left home at age fifteen because his father refused to send him to school. Isaac drifted west across the state to Niagara Falls, where he found work as a hostler (stable lad) of the Table Rock House, which overlooked the Horseshoe Falls. One night in January, 1856, when he was twenty years old, Isaac went out drinking with some friends. They journeyed from tavern to tavern, getting increasingly drunk. On their return to the stable bunk office, he and his two companions started to argue; one of then, John Ryan, attacked Vail. Vail grabbed a stick and beat Ryan off, cracking his skull. Ryan died from the injury.

Vail was not convicted of murder, having acted in self-defense; but he did lose his job, and later found work as a railroad brakeman. He came into contact with men leading transient life-styles, one of whom he named as Old John King, “the founder of modern swindling.” [Either’s King’s fame was very limited, or Vail chose to assign this as an alias–other references to a famed confidence man named John King have not been found.] From “Old John King”, Isaac Vail learned the various scams used by confidence men of that time. By the mid-1860s, Isaac Vail started to be recognized as a professional con artist.

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By later standards, Ike Vail was a grifter–a practitioner of “small cons,” meant to separate the victim from his ready cash quickly; and requiring no skilled partners or no partners at all. In a pinch, he would cut to the chase and simply pickpocket his victim. Over the decades from the 1860s through the 1880s, Ike was credited with inventing many standard scams, including: “the lottery game,” “the checks game,” “the send game,” and “the prize package”; all of these were forerunners of the “gold brick” and “green goods” games that dominated the 1880s and 1890s.

In 1888, the New York World published an account of one of Ike’s scams and his arrest that typified his modus operandi:

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The same characteristics that helped to hoodwink his victims: his fine dress, tall frame, and well-spoken diction–also served to stand out his presence to police. In 1903, at age 67, he complained to an interviewer:

“It’s an easy thing for young fellows starting in to graft as compared to the old timers. Nobody knows them as professionals and if they are caught at all, they stand a good show of beating the case. Of course, practice in any profession makes perfect, but what is the use of it when you face gets to be  as well-known as the Astor House or any other old landmark?…with the years, my circle of acquaintances has gradually widened until now you can find my photograph in nearly every city from Maine to ‘Frisco. I’m an easy mark for the cops once they get my description,  because of the two moles between my eyebrows. There’s no way of disguising them and they seem to grow more prominent every year. Another thing: while my appearance is in my favor among strangers in New York or Boston, I am too distinguished in appearance not to attract attention in most other towns.

“Another thing: there’s more science in graft now than there used to be, and we old fellows are behind the times. The young men have new schemes that are more attractive than anything we can offer…The young men have the nerve and the confidence, that have grown weaker in the old men with every arrest and prison sentence. Many of their schemes are so clever that the law can’t touch them, and they generally work in bunches.”

It is startling to hear a con-man speak the word “confidence” in relation to the attitude of the swindler, not the credulity of the victim–and moreover to admit that he, as an aging confidence artist, had lost some of that quality.

Two years later, in 1905, Ike had lost the ability to support himself, and asked a nephew living in the Bronx for shelter. Ike died in his nephew’s house, and his body was conveyed back to Dutchess County. Isaac S. Vail was buried in the same plot as his parents, and his name appears on the same memorial stone alongside the father that spurned his son’s desire to be educated.

 

#9 William Coleman

William Coleman (Abt. 1847-19??), aka Billy Coleman, Walter Williams, William Fanning, Eugene Johnson, George Watson, Henry E. Hill, William Frost, George Holden, etc. — Sneak thief

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. No trade. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 11 inches. Weight, 155 pounds. A fine, tall, smooth-faced fellow. Brown hair, blue eyes, fair complexion; wears a No. 9 shoe. Has W. C. and N. Y. in India ink on right arm, slight scar on the right side of face, mole in the centre of his back.

RECORD. Billy Coleman was born in New York, and is well known in all the principal cities in America, especially in Chicago, where he has lived. He was arrested in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and sentenced to Sing Sing prison for five years, on October 14, 1869, for burglary in the third degree. He escaped from Sing Sing on a tugboat on August 17, 1871. After his escape he went South, and was convicted and sentenced to three years in Pittsburgh, Pa., and served his time in the Western Penitentiary.

He was arrested again in New York City for attempting to pick pockets, and sentenced to one year in the penitentiary in the Court of Special Sessions, New York, on January 22, 1876, under the name of Thomas Moriarty. After his discharge he went West, and the record shows that he was arrested in Chicago, Ill., and sentenced to one year in Joliet prison on March 9, 1882. His time expired in January, 1883. Coleman then started around the country with Rufe Minor (1) and Johnny Price, sneaking banks. Coleman and Price were arrested in Augusta, Ga., on March 26, 1884, for sneaking a package of money, $2,700, from a safe in that city. After abstracting $150 from the package and dividing it, Coleman, Rufe Minor and Price parted for a few days. Two days afterwards Price and Coleman were arrested, and shortly afterwards tried and convicted; they were sentenced to seven years in State prison each on May 7, 1884. Rufe Minor came north and was arrested in New York City on June 28, 1884, and taken to Augusta, Ga., by a requisition. Coleman has been arrested and convicted of several other robberies throughout the country, under aliases. This fact makes it difficult to give data correctly. He still owes time in Sing Sing prison, N. Y. His picture is a good one.

Billy Coleman’s criminal career followed a depressingly familiar pattern: months of freedom interspersed by years of imprisonment. Chief Byrnes’ recitation stopped less than halfway through Billy’s cycle of prison sentences. After his release from the 1884 seven-year stretch handed down in Augusta, Georgia, Billy went to Cincinnati–only to be run out of town by the police there (who may have confused his record with that of a different Billy Coleman). In 1893, he was caught attempting the robbery of a Rochester, New Hampshire post office, an escapade that placed him in the State Prison at Concord for three years. In 1900, he was found inside the Internal Revenue offices in Washington, D.C. in possession of purloined revenue stamps. Because he did not escape the building, he was only given five months in jail.

By this stage of his career, among the few people that Billy brought joy to were the patrolmen and detectives that nabbed him–and then discovered what a famous criminal they had caught. However, these arrests paled compared to the publicity surrounding Coleman’s most famous caper.

In 1905, while casing out the rural, but relatively wealthy, community of Cooperstown, New York, Billy stumbled across the Clark family estate. The Clark family had earned its riches as partners of sewing-machine magnate Isaac Singer; and also through Manhattan real-estate deals. The 5000-acre Cooperstown property that Billy found was managed by F. Ambrose Clark, a noted equestrian and step-son of Bishop Henry Potter , leader of the New York City Episcopal diocese. When Billy first saw the estate’s office building–where accounts where received and paid–he believed it to be a local bank.

During a lunch break, Billy noticed all the office workers leave the building. Curious, he slipped in and saw the office contained a floor safe that had not been locked. He peered inside, but saw no cash–just a tin box. He took the tin box and went down to a basement room to break it open; it was a struggle to pry it open, and the effort gave Billy a nosebleed. But he eventually cracked open the box and inside he found the jewelry collection of Mrs. F. Ambrose Clark, including many diamonds. Billy beat a retreat, hardly believing his good luck.

The story of the lawmen’s chase after Billy Coleman was the subject of (at least) four different, widely-publicized, and sometimes conflicting accounts–each of which emphasized the role of different detectives. In an April 15, 1906 article written for the Chicago Inter Ocean, William A. Pinkerton presented a straightforward, neutral account of the tracking down and arrest of Coleman, in which a team of several Pinkerton agents (hired by the Clarks) took the lead. Pinkerton used the neutral “we” in describing the agent’s actions, leaving it to the reader to interpret whether that included William A. Pinkerton himself, or just the agency’s employees in general.

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However, in 1908, a self-promoting former detective in Chicago’s police department, Clifton Wooldridge, published a book, Twenty Years a Detective, in which he claimed to have been in on the tracking down Coleman through the use of “we” :

“From descriptions of the thief we obtained from witnesses who had seen him loitering in the vicinity of the Estate office, and from the manner in which the robbery was
committed, we believed it bore the earmarks of Coleman’s work. Subsequent developments satisfied us that our conclusions were correct, and we caused Coleman’s arrest, two weeks after the robbery, in New York, by Police Headquarters’ detectives.”

Wooldridge’s bombastic book made many other suspicious claims to burnish his credentials; but there is no evidence at all that the Chicago Police Department or Wooldridge had any role in solving this crime, and therefore had no right to use the collective “we.” [Elsewhere in his 1908 book, Wooldridge indicates that he had been “released” of his detective job a year earlier.]

A few years later, in 1911, Walter G. Chapman of the International Press Bureau hired a hack writer, George Barton, to do a series of serialized articles on the “Adventures of the World’s Great Detectives.” One of these focused on Coleman, the Clark Jewels, and William A. Pinkerton. Barton cast Pinkerton as the lead actor in catching Coleman. According to Barton, Pinkerton realized that Coleman was responsible from the very start:

“After Mr. Pinkerton had obtained all of the details concerning the Cooperstown robbery, he mentally compared the circumstances with the methods of the great criminals he had known. Finally, he looked up with the light of discovery in his eyes. He spoke to one of his assistants. ‘There is only one man in American who could have had the nerve and ingenuity to do that job.’

‘Who’s that?’

‘Billy Coleman.'”

Barton’s fictionalized version also portrayed William Pinkerton on the scene to interrupt Coleman as he sought to dig up the ground where he had hidden the jewels; in reality, several Pinkerton agents watched as Coleman dug, and let him dig in the wrong spot uninterrupted. They later dug nearby and found the stash, and arrested him at his home. However, Barton’s version made a much more heroic tableau:

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In a letter to publisher Chapman,  dated May 21, 1911, an irate William Pinkerton listed his objections to the Barton article, stating he did not know Barton, did not offer him an interview, and had no personal connection with the case, which was handled by his brother Robert A. Pinkerton and George S. Doughterty, who later joined the New York Police.

Ironically, one of the main Pinkerton agents involved in the case, the aforementioned George S. Dougherty, was not above touting his own role in the case. His version of events honed close to the truth, and appeared in a syndicated, full-page article that first appeared in 1913. It, too, had melodramatic graphics, but depicted the Pinkerton men digging up the jewels:

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The headline of this article was “How I Solved a $100,000 Gem Robbery.”

Billy Coleman was still alive (and still thieving) when all these accounts were published. He must have been chagrined to see so many people making money off the episode for so many years, events which had brought him no benefit except more years in jail.

Arrested in 1918, now over seventy, Billy’s legacy caused one newspaper editor to reflect:

“Why does this man commend himself to our attention? Not because he is a great criminal, for he is in truth only a weak and pallid offender. His biggest robbery was a fiasco because he was so clumsy as to cache his jewels under the eyes of his shadows. Neither is he one of that type of successful criminals who achieve through their very lack of celebrity. Coleman has always been more widely known than any deed of his. And, where success is concerned, the man has spent the greater part of his time since 1869 in prison…What then is his eminence? Persistence, unchangeableness, frozen habit. For fifty years this pitiful old man has been going in and out of the portals of prisons. Not for one hour of breath has he been from under the shadow of the clutching hand of the law. He is at home only in the cell or its purlieus, the walks of crime.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#15 Joseph Cook

George B. Havill (1836-1913), aka Joseph/Joe Cook, Harry Thorn(e) — Burglar, Sneak thief

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-nine years old in 1886. Born in Canada. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 145 pounds. Light hair, blue eyes, light complexion.

RECORD. “Cook,” or Havill, which is his right name, is a Chicago sneak thief. He came East with Brockway in 1869. Brockway used him in a few transactions in New York, and afterwards in Providence, R.I., where he was arrested with Brockway and Billy Ogle on August 16, 1880, for attempting to pass two forged checks, one on the Fourth National Bank and another on the old National Bank of that city. Havill was convicted under the name of Joseph Cook for this offense, and was sentenced to four years in State prison at Providence, R. I., on October 2, 1880.

His time expired March 14, 1884. Havill was arrested near Elmira, N.Y., on February 14, 1885, in company with John Love (68), Charles Lowery, Frank McCrann and Mike Blake, for robbing the Osceola Bank of Pennsylvania, and sentenced to nine years and nine months in State prison on April 9, 1885, under the name of Harry Thorn. His picture is a good one, taken in 1880.

George B. Havill was born in Paris, Brant County, Ontario in 1836 [ten years earlier than Byrnes date] to William and Mary Ann Havill. He later used “Jr.” as part of his name, likely in honor of an uncle. In the mid 1860s, he migrated to Chicago, Illinois, and became the proprietor of one of Chicago’s infamous dives, Havill’s. His saloon was the scene of many violent incidents: shootingss, stabbings, and fistfights, involving both men and women. At the same time–perhaps bolstered by his bar’s clientele, Havill fostered a career as a thief. A slim, athletic man, Havill was known as a “climber,” or, what would later be called a “second-story man,” i.e. a burglar specializing in entering a building through upper windows and balconies.

He was arrested multiple times in the late 1870s, but never in the act of breaking in–only charged with possession of stolen items. Because of this, he escaped long sentences for many years; and likely had connections among Chicago’s politicians. He was also adept at shifting blame to other parties, whom he claimed had paid him to confess to robberies he did not commit. In the late 1870s, he was living with one of Chicago’s most notorious prostitutes, Ruby Bell, the “pet of Biler Avenue.”

At around the same time, Havill’s sister, Mary Jean Havill, was making a name for herself as one of America’s first and most noted burlesque actresses, under the stage name May Howard. She toured with the most famous burlesque troupes of the age, and had a long and successful career.Capture

In 1879 [Byrnes incorrectly uses the year 1869], Havill met forger Charles O. Brockway, who had recently been captured in Chicago along with a partner, Billy Ogle. Brockway and Ogle were able to get off easy after providing evidence against a former government detective. Brockway, Ogle and Havill headed to New York in 1880, where Havill learned how to present forged checks and bonds. The gang was captured in Rhode Island, where Havill was imprisoned until 1884.

Upon his release, he fell in with the gang that attempted the robbery of the Osceola Bank in Pennsylvania in February 1885, including Johnny Love, Charles Lowery, Michael Blake and Frank McCran. The gang was discovered while working at night on the vault, and captured after a long chase of each individual. Havill was sentenced to nine years and nine months, but was released early on good behavior.

George Havill returned to Chicago in the early 1890s, reunited with his wife, Teresa Kinzig, and daughter Cora. His name was never mentioned in association with crimes again, and he rebuilt a career in real estate. In the 1900 federal census, he declared his occupation as “capitalist.” He died in 1913, leaving a small fortune to his wife and daughter. The will was contested by an illegitimate son, whose case was thrown out.