Langdon W. Moore (Abt. 1833-1910), aka Charley Adams — Bank robber, counterfeiter
Along with Sophie Lyons and George Bidwell, Langdon Moore was one of the most recognizable names in Chief Byrnes’ Professional Criminals of America. These three produced autobiographies detailing their careers. Moore’s was titled: Langdon W. Moore: His Own Story of His Eventful Life, initially published in 1893 by Moore himself. It was an greatly expanded version of: Life, deeds, and wonderful escapes of Langdon W. Moore, the world-renowned bank robber, published in 1891 by Boston Enterprise Pub. Co. Both of these publications followed Byrnes’ book (1886); and, indeed, may have been written as a response to a couple of insulting assertions made by Byrnes.
One of those statements was in regards to Moore’s actions following his most famous adventure, the robbery of the Concord (Massachusetts) National Bank on September 25, 1865. A slightly romanticized version of that crime was related by storyteller Alton H. Blackington in one of his “Yankee Yarns” broadcasts from October 9, 1947. Blackington portrays Moore as a master thief.
Byrnes’ entry on Moore states that, upon arrest, Moore agreed to return his share of the Concord loot, and to divulge the whereabouts of his partner, “English Harry” Howard. However, whereas Byrnes says that Howard was never captured because he missed the meeting signal left by Moore, Moore relates that his bargain to give up Howard was all a ruse:
“Twenty-five years after this incident, it was said by some small detectives who knew nothing of the facts of Woolbridge’s three days’ stand-up in the snow [waiting for Howard to appear], that I tried to give Howard up, but he was too smart for me. To those detectives and all others interested, I have only to say that the time gained in that way served all the purposes I wished it to. Howard has ever since been satisfied, and so have I.”
Moore’s goal in delaying the police was to allow time for a requisition to be issued by Massachusetts, and for the Concord National Bank to send a representative that Moore could bargain with directly.
The other slight made by Byrnes concerns Moore’s 1880 conviction for both possession of burglar’s tools and for the robbery of the Warren Institution of Savings in Boston. Byrnes states that Moore was convicted on the testimony of his recent partner, George Mason, who turned on Moore after Moore neglected to provide him (Mason) and his family aid and a lawyer after his arrest.
Moore’s version of these events suggests that during an earlier bank robbery that they committed together, he suspected Mason had pocketed a valuable diamond and some bonds at the crime scene, and did not later include those in the total bag of loot to be divided. Moreover, Moore writes that Mason was arrested for a post office robbery in which he (Moore) was not a participant; and that at the time of Mason’s arrest, he (Moore) was also detained, and did not have access to funds, even to help himself. However, although Moore points out that Mason’s testimony put him in prison, Moore held a greater grudge against some other men involved, including a corrupt Boston police detective.
In general, Langdon W. Moore: His Own Story of His Eventful Life attempts to portray Moore as a rarity, an “honorable” thief who always treated his partners fairly, though they often acted treacherously in return. At the same time, his autobiography details several episodes in which Moore unhesitatingly deceived gamblers, citizens, and policemen. His book is a fascinating window into the life of a professional thief–but is more than a bit self-serving. Even so, proceeds from the publication of his book might have gone a long way towards keeping him honest in the last fifteen years of his life; and several sections of the text detail the treatment he received in prison and his ideas for prison reform.
Moore was born in northern Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, to parents Jonathan Moore (1796-1879) and Dolly Whitney (1796-1848). Langdon married Rebecca Sturge, widow of Daniel “Dad” Cunningham, in 1866. In the 1870 federal census, Langdon, Rebecca, and a 6-year-old boy named John are found living in New York. The boy, who likely was fathered by Dad Cunningham, has not been found in later censuses. Langdon and Rebecca did have one child of their own, a daughter, Nellie B. Moore, who grew to adulthood and married a man named Adler, but her fate is also unknown. Langdon and Rebecca divorced–acrimoniously–in 1891. Rebecca took up with another man while Moore was serving his lengthy sentence in Massachusetts throughout the 1880s; Moore, upon his release, sought the couple out and viciously attacked the man with a knife. Langdon later filed for the divorce. Rebecca sued for alimony, though Moore–quite naturally–claimed he had no source of income.