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.
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:
After the publication of Chief Byrnes’s book in 1886; and in conjunction with much more securely 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.
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:
Ed. Rice’s fate following the arrest in Munich is not known.