#178 Joseph Colon

Joseph Colon (abt. 1847-19??), aka Joseph Rogers, Edward Burns, Joseph Johnson, James Boyd, Henry Reid, Henry R. Lee, etc. — Thief

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-nine years old in 1886. Born in New York. Single. No trade. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 138 pounds. Brown hair, brown eyes, nose flat and turns up at the end, sandy complexion; sandy mustache or beard, when grown. Has scar on side of head; mole on the left cheek. A woman’s head on right fore-arm, and a star on the right hand in India ink.

RECORD. Joe Colon is a very clever sneak thief and house man. He may be found around boat regattas, fairs, etc., and sometimes works with a woman. Of late he has been doing considerable house work. He travels all over and has been quite successful, as he drops into a town or city, does his work, and takes the next train out of it.

Colon first made the acquaintance of the New York police on October 23, 1877, when he was arrested at the Grand Central Railroad depot, on the arrival of a Boston train, for having in his possession a vest, watch and chain belonging to Elliot Sanford, a broker, in New York, which he had stolen from a sleeping-car. Mr. Sanford, after getting his property back, refused to go to court, and Colon was discharged, after his picture was taken for the Rogues’ Gallery.

Colon was arrested at Troy, N.Y., on August 20, 1884, under the name of Joseph Rogers, for the larceny of a gold watch and chain, the property of George L. French, from a locker in the Laureate Club boat-house during a regatta. He was convicted under Section 508 of the New York Penal Code, and sentenced to one year in the Albany, N.Y., penitentiary, and fined $500, on Saturday, August 30, 1884. He was, however, discharged before his time expired.

He was arrested again in Boston, Mass., on November 11, 1885. Tools for doing house work, consisting of a pallet-knife for opening windows, a screwdriver, soft black hat, rubber shoes, and a one-inch wood-chisel for opening drawers, etc., were found in a satchel he was carrying. His picture was taken, and he was discharged, as no complaint could be obtained against him. Colon’s picture is a good one, taken on November 11, 1885.

Colon was a very business-like thief: he left towns quickly, and when captured used a variety of common-place aliases. He often worked alone, avoiding the mistakes and disloyalty of others. He was said not to have any of the bad habits that plagued other thieves, i.e. drinking, gambling. Nothing else about his personal life or origins has been found.

However, more crimes can be attributed to Colon:

  • In December 1890, Colon was caught in Buffalo, New York, stealing a woman’s pocketbook containing $11.00. He was sent to the Erie County Penitentiary for 30 days.
  • In February, 1891, he was caught attempting to steal five pocketbooks from a department store in Chicago.
  • In July 1891, Colon was spotted loitering around the boathouses on Lake Michigan in Milwaukee–one of his favorite targets. He was sentenced to 90 days in the house of correction.
  • Byrnes indicates that Colon was arrested and later jailed on November 18, 1892, for assaulting his wife. A different source says that he was arrested that day as a thief under the name Joseph Johnson. However, newspapers and prison registers can’t confirm either of these. He was however, spotted in a store in Boston on November 7 by detectives, brought him in as a suspicious character, and told him to leave town.
  • Arrested in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 11, 1895 for larceny from a boathouse. Sentence to the house of correction for two years.
  • Arrested in Philadelphia on December 16, 1898 as Henry Reid for attempted shoplifting. Sentenced to Philadelphia County prison for 18 months.
  • Arrested on October 22, 1900 in Northampton, Massachusetts for a larceny attempt at the Amherst College gymnasium. Sentenced to house of correction for 18 months.

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