#154 James Price / #158 Thomas Price

James C. Price (1838-????), aka Jimmy Price, James A. Hoyt — Pickpocket, burglar; Thomas Price (1842-1889), aka Deafy Price, Thomas McCormick — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’ text:

#154 James Price

DESCRIPTION. Forty-five years old in 1886. Born in New York. Married. No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 170 pounds. Brown hair, dark eyes, thick nose, dark complexion.

RECORD. Jimmy Price is an old New York pickpocket. He has been a “Moll Buzzer” (one who picks a woman’s pocket) ever since he was a boy, and confines himself generally to that particular branch of the business. This big, lazy thief has sent many a poor woman home minus her few hard-earned dollars, after her visit to a crowded market, fair, or railroad car. He is a brother of Tommy Price, alias ” Deafy ” Price, the pickpocket (158), and Johnny Price, the bank sneak. He is well known in all the principal cities in the United States and Canada. He has served terms in Sing Sing prison and on Blackwell’s Island.

He was arrested in New York City, and sentenced to one year in Sing Sing prison, on October 20, 1876, under the name of William A. Hoyt, for grand larceny from the person. Since then he has done service for several States, and is now at large. Price’s picture is not so good as it might have been, on account of some difficulty he had with the officer, at the time of his arrest, in 1877.

#158 Thomas Price

DESCRIPTION. About forty-four years old in 1886. Born in New York. Single. No trade. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, about 150 pounds. Brown hair, dark eyes, sallow complexion, high forehead, an Irish expression, and is very deaf.

RECORD. “Deafy Price” ought to be well known all over America, as he has been a thief for at least twenty-five years. He is one of the old Bowery gang of pickpockets, and an associate of Old Jim Casey, “Jimmy the Kid” (142), “Big Dick” Morris (141), “Pretty Jimmy” (143), “Jersey Jimmy” (145), “Combo” (148), “Nibbs” (137), “Funeral” Wells (150), and, in fact, all the old timers. He is a brother of Jimmy Price, the “Moll Buzzer” (154), and Johnny Price, the bank sneak. He is a saucy, impudent thief, and wants to be taken in hand at once.

He was arrested in New York City and sent to the work-house on Blackwell’s Island, N.Y., on July 3, 1866. He was arrested again in New York City, in company of another man who has since reformed, for an attempt to pick pockets, and sentenced to four months in the penitentiary, on October 17, 1866, by Judge Dodge. He was arrested in New York City again on July 21, 1875, charged with violently assaulting Samuel F. Clauser, of No. 38 East Fourth Street, New York, while that gentleman was walking down Broadway. He was placed on trial on July 27, 1875, in the Court of Special Sessions, in the Tombs prison building, on a charge of assault with intent to steal, as a pickpocket. The evidence of the complainant was not strong enough to convict him of the intent to steal, and he was discharged.

He was arrested again on September 8, 1876, in company of George Williams, alias “Western George” (now dead), at the Reading Railroad depot, near the Centennial Exhibition Grounds, in Philadelphia, Pa. They were taken inside the grounds, and sentenced to ninety days in the penitentiary on September 9, 1876, under a special law passed to protect visitors to the Exposition from professional thieves. He was arrested again in New York City on December 25, 1879, charged with attempting to rob one Marco Sala, an Italian gentleman, while riding on a horse-car. He was committed for trial by the police magistrate, and afterwards discharged by Judge Cowing, in the Court of General Sessions, on January 30, 1880. Price’s picture is a good one, although taken fifteen years ago, in New York City.

While it’s no surprise that Chief Byrnes included the profiles of lifelong New York pickpockets Jimmy and Tommy Price in Professional Criminals of America, it is a minor mystery that he did not profile brother Johnny Price, a first-class bank sneak thief on par with his frequent partners Rufe Minor, George Carson, Frank Buck, Peppermint Joe Buford, Billy Coleman, etc. Though Byrnes does mention Johnny Price in the profiles of some of the above, he is not merited his own short biography. The reason for this appears to be Byrnes devotion to his format, which required a rogue’s gallery photograph for each criminal. Apparently, Johnny was never photographed (or he was and it was mislaid.)

The Prices came from a large Irish family, with no father present by the time the boys were teens. The oldest brother, William, born in 1838, was never a criminal; and in fact appears to have been employed as a broker at New York’s Custom House his entire career. There were two daughters, one of whom married a New York police sergeant. However, the three younger brothers fell into crime at an early age, likely through association with the Nineteenth Street gang, led by Stephen Boyle. Jimmy and Tommy were hard of hearing–Tommy profoundly so–but both were called “Deafy” at one point or another. The nickname stuck with Tommy.

As pickpockets, Jimmy and Tommy were highly-skilled. Byrnes indicates that the Prices were known all over the country, but there are few mentions of them in other cities, aside from Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition in 1876, which attracted pickpockets everywhere.

Jimmy was released from Sing Sing in 1895, when he was about 57 years old. He fate from that point is unknown.

Tommy “Deafy” Price, when he wasn’t picking pockets, bartended and ran a seedy saloon in SoHo. Years later, a police captain recalled Deafy:

From the autobiographical notes of Captain Charles Albertson regarding the time he served in the New York City Police Department 8th Precinct.

Informant Deafy Price

When I was first appointed there was a dance hall of questionable reputation on the south side of Prince Street between Greene and Mercer Streets, kept by a peculiar and notorious crook known as “Deafy Price” who was the most versatile all round thief I ever knew. I came to know him quite well as his place required considerable attention. The hall was soon closed and for several years I used to see Deafy standing in front of Alderman Joe Welling’s liquor store on the corner of Houston and Sullivan Streets as I passed there from time to time. One afternoon about 1885 I went over the Chamber Street ferry to see an uncle and aunt off on the Erie on their way home. As I was getting on a Belt Line car on my way home I felt my watch being lifted from the fob pocket of my trousers. I grabbed the hand attached to the watch and discovered that it belonged to Deafy. He started to apologize, when I said, “Deafy you get off and work the next car, I will work this.” He got off.

Several months after the above mentioned event I met Deafy on Broadway when he thanked me for overlooking his former indiscretion and said he would be pleased to help me solve any criminal mystery that I had to work out from time to time and directed me where to write so that he would not be known as my “stool.” He was of great service to me in many important cases, obtaining information I would not have been able to obtain otherwise. He was said to be so expert as a pickpocket that he taught novices or new beginners his art.

I met Deafy after not having seen him for some years and when I asked him who he was doing now he said,, in a joking way that he was working a large department store that had recently opened. This store had a very opinionated detective whom I wished to try out. When I said to Deafy that I had my doubts of his being able to shop lift anything from there he said, “You get a sample of goods from there, send me that sample and I will send to you at your station the piece of goods it is curt from.” I went to the store, selected a sample of very small black and white checked silk which was very fashionable at the time and sent this to Deafy. About a week later the piece of silk was left at my station. I sent for my friend the detective and when he called said to him “your store is being worked by shoplifters.” He insisted that it was impossible. I then told him what had occurred, he insisted that my informant must have purchased the goods. We cut a sample from the piece and went to the store. I went to the silk counter at which time he came from the opposite direction. I gave the saleslady my sample, requesting to know if she could match it. She said, “Yes”, and commenced searching and after some time remarked, “I am quite sure it has not been sold” which was a fact. I believe the effect of this escapade was beneficial as it caused the detective to get busy and Deafy some time after informed me that he had been compelled to seek new fields for his efforts.

In 1889, Deafy was living with his sister on E. 136th Street, not far from the East River. His sister said that he was despondent and wandered off one day in late March. His body was found in the river a month and a half later, just a block away.

 

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