#39 Robert Bowman

Robert Bowman (Abt. 1841-????), aka J.C. Hale, J. C. Bowman, George Munroe, J. C. Hogan — Thief, Forger

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-six years old in 1886. Height, 5 feet 9 1/2 inches. Gray eyes, gray whiskers and mustache. Complexion medium. Stooped shoulders. Looks hump-backed. High forehead. Bald on front of head. Scars on bridge of nose, back of neck, and between the shoulder-blades. Born in New York. Weight, 140 pounds.

RECORD. Bowman was an associate of Wm. H. Lyman, a notorious forger, who died in prison in 1883. Both of them were sent to Clinton prison, New York State, for four years and six months in August, 1878, for forgeries committed in Catskill, N.Y. Bowman and Lyman were again arrested at Hudson, N.Y., on September 16, 1881, and taken to Fitchburg, Mass., where they were sentenced to prison for three years for forging drafts on the American Express Company, at that place. They were also charged with raising drafts that were drawn by the National Bank of St. Albans, Vt., on the Park Bank of New York City. Also with forging a draft, on September 5, 1881, on Clipperly, Cole & Haslehurst, Troy bankers. When arrested $1,200 in money was found on them.

Bowman was arrested again in Chicago, Ill., on January 14, 1886. About January 6, 1886, a man giving the name of J. F. Hall, presented to the Floyd County Savings Bank, of Charles City, Iowa, a draft payable to himself, purporting to have been drawn by the First National Bank of Joliet, Ill. Hall also had a letter of introduction from the Joliet bank; the draft was deposited to his credit, and on January 9, 1886, he wrote to the Floyd County Bank from Chicago, enclosing his receipt for the draft, and asking that the money be sent to him by the United States Express. It was sent, and when Hall called for it he was arrested and recognized as Bowman. One of the detectives went to Fort Wayne, Ind., where Hall had lived, and captured the latter’s valise, in which was found a large number of counterfeit checks and certificates. It was estimated that Bowman and his gang had defrauded the banks in the western country out of $50,000.

Bowman’s case in Chicago, Ill., was nolle prosequi, by Judge Rogers, on June 1, 1886, because the State’s attorney was unable to obtain sufficient evidence to convict him of the forgeries committed there. He was discharged, and immediately re-arrested and taken to Vermont, where he was committed for trial, charged with having committed forgeries on the First National Bank of Brandon, Vt., the Vermont National Bank, the Rutland County National Bank, of Rutland, Vt., and the Farmers and Mechanics’ Bank of Burlington, Vt. These forgeries were committed in 1881, by Bowman and Ned Lyman, and amounted in the aggregate to $30,000. Bowman’s picture is a good one, taken in 1886.

There are many curiosities and inconsistencies in the career of forger Robert Bowman, starting with his real name and origins. So much printed about Bowman was wrong or unsubstantiated, it is difficult to say much about his life prior to 1877, when he was arrested with penman William H. Lyman for forgeries committed in Catskill, New York.

Bowman shared a background that led to his association with counterfeiter and burglar Gilbert “Gib” Yost. Yost had once been an Erie Canal boatman, as Bowman was said to have been. Yost peddled counterfeit currency at stops along the canal, but soon graduated to burglary work. He rubbed shoulders with the famous New York burglars of the 1870s, in particular Billy Porter and Johnny Irving. [Several articles on Bowman refer to the notorious burglars known to Yost and Bowman were “James Barnes” and “Alexander McGregor,” two names with no other underworld credentials.] When not working with burglars, Yost returned to his home in Fonda, New York.

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Meanwhile, Bowman likely met penman/swindler William H. Lyman in Auburn prison in the late 1860s/early 1870s. Lyman and Bowman, along with another man named John Fraley (or Freeleigh) from Fonda, New York, committed a series of forgeries at Catskill, New York in June, 1877. After they were arrested, it was said that Gib Yost tried to break them out by smuggling tools to Bowman, but that they were discovered under his cell mattress. They were finally tried in August, 1878 and found guilty. Both Lyman and Bowman were sent to Clinton State Prison in Dannemora, New York on sentences of four and a half years each.

They were released in August, 1881–and then in the space of twenty days committed check forgeries at banks in Troy, New York; Fitchburg, Massachusetts; and several in southern Vermont. They were arrested in Hudson, New York; at first that were taken to Fitchburg to be prosecuted, but it was decided that there was a better case at Troy. In September, 1881 they were convicted and sent back to Clinton State Prison for another four and a half years. William H. Lyman died behind bars in November, 1883. Robert Bowman was discharged on December 3, 1884.

Between 1884 and early 1886, Bowman was rumored to have accompanied George Wade Wilkes and Frederick “Little Joe” Elliott on a check forging tour of the upper Midwest and Pacific coast. Bowman’s role was to serve as the middleman between the penman and the check passers. Wilkes and Elliott were arrested in March, 1886.

Robert Bowman was arrested in Chicago in June, 1886 on charges of check forging. However, the evidence against him in this case was weak, and the judge threw out the case. Pinkerton detectives immediately took him into custody and conveyed him to Vermont, to face charges on the forgery cases from 1881. Bowman was convicted on those charges in March 1887 and sentenced to four years in the Vermont State Prison.

After he got out from Vermont, Bowman joined a check forging team that included Richard “Big Dick” Lennox, Joe English, Charles Becker, Richard Davis, and Daniel Beneycke.To quote from Byrnes’ 1895 edition:

“They began operations in 1892 at Minneapolis, and worked in Duluth and St. Joseph. They became alarmed and went to Europe, and remained there until the fall of 1893, when they returned and went to Providence, R. I., where they raised two checks of $14 and $18, to $1,400 and $1,800, and passed them on the Industrial Trust Co., and the Merchants’ National Bank. Their custom is to remain in a place just long enough to raise and pass two or three checks, and being successful in Providence, they went to Boston, thence to Buffalo, Cincinnati, New Orleans, back to Philadelphia, and then to Milwaukee, where the police “ got on to their little game,” and drove them out of the town. The swindlers then fled to Albany, N. Y., where Becker and English left Lennox and Beaumann [Bowman] and went toward Boston.”

Between 1893 and 1896, one by one, members of this gang were captured and jailed. In 1894, reports about Bowman presented a conundrum. In early June, an elderly check forger was arrested in Des Moines, Iowa, and gave the name “James Wilson.” He was tried, found guilty, and sent to prison on a twelve-year sentence. The Illustrated Police News confidently reported that this man was none other than Robert Bowman, but in reality it was Joe English.

Then, in August 1894, Boston detectives arrested a man who gave his name as “Alfred G. Highton” for presenting forged altered checks. The police authorities, as well as the local Pinkerton representative, positively identified Highton as Robert Bowman. They were later proven wrong: Highton was the man’s name, though he was a notorious confidence man and floater of worthless checks.

Bowman, it appears, was still raking in money with master forgers Charles Becker and James Cregan–until those two were arrested in the summer of 1896. Bowman, instead of working to gain the freedom of his companions, fled to England with his wife and a reported $1,000,000 of the gang’s earnings. At last report, he was said to be living comfortably in the suburbs of London; but the Pinkerton Agency sent warnings to British authorities to watch out for him.

 

#177 Henry Cline

Henry Western (Abt. 1855-????), aka Henry/Harry Cline/Kline, Henry Weston, Henry Watson — Burglar, Coin Counterfeiter

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-one years old in 1886. German, born in the United States. Married. Machinist. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, 148 pounds. Black hair, brown eyes, dark complexion. Has a scar on his forehead ; mole under the right eye.

RECORD. Cline is one of the most expert house and office sneaks there is in this country. He generally works with another man, who enters the room or office under pretense of selling something, thereby occupying the attention of whoever may be there, while Cline sneaks in and gets what he can. He is an expert machinist. One of the finest set of “house-workers'” tools that was ever captured was taken from him at the time of his arrest on April 24, 1885. He claimed to have made them while confined in prison. Cline has served several terms in the penitentiary of New York City. He was sentenced to three months on January 11, 1876, for petty larceny, in New York City, and again in May, 1879, for six months.

He was arrested again in New York City on July 6, 1885, under the name of Henry Weston, in company of a girl named Kitty Wilson, charged with counterfeiting United States silver coins. The United States officers searched the rooms occupied by them, and found twenty-five sets of plaster moulds, such as are used in making counterfeit coins, batteries, chemical solutions, and a number of spurious coins, among which were two hundred bogus United States standard dollars. They were rather poor imitations of the genuine, and could be readily detected. Kitty Wilson, who is about twenty-five years of age, is of German descent, and is well known as one of the women who frequent the disreputable resorts in the vicinity of the Bowery, and Bleecker and Great Jones streets, New York. She formerly lived with a man named Wilson, and took his name. She met Cline a short time before their arrest, and went to live with him at No. 44 First Avenue, New York, and began the coining of counterfeit silver pieces in their apartments on the third floor. Weston and Kitty were committed to jail, in default of $5,000 bail, by United States Commissioner Shields, on July 7, 1885. Weston, or Cline, was sentenced to three years in State prison at Buffalo, N. Y., by Judge Benedict, in the United States Court in New York City, on October 28, 1885. Kitty Wilson was discharged. Cline’s picture is an excellent one, taken in May, 1879.

Tracking further information on Byrnes’ “Harry Cline” is an exercise in frustration. Newspaper coverage of the 1885 counterfeiting arrest only refer to the man as “Henry Weston.” The January 1876 and May 1879 arrests that Byrnes cites can not be confirmed in either newspaper accounts or in New York prison registers. However, a “Henry Western alias Henry Kline” was sent to Sing Sing in November, 1876 on a three years sentence for burglary.

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There is no evidence that “Henry Kline” was ever more than a third-rate thief. His 1885 arrest for counterfeiting coins did not represent a step upwards on the criminal ladder. The following interview with Chief Drummond of the U.S. Secret Service (whose main responsibility in the 1860s-1890s was stopping counterfeiters) was given to the New York Times in early October 1885, just a couple of weeks before Drummond had “Henry Weston” prosecuted for the crime he described:

18851004newyorktimes

#80 Michael Kurtz

Michael Kurtz (1846-1904), aka Sheeny Mike, Michael Sheehan, James Morgan, Charley Miller, etc. — Burglar, Safe-Blower

Link to Byrnes’ text on #80 Michael Kurtz

Chief Byrnes did a good job of summarizing “Sheeny Mike” Kurtz’s major crimes from 1877 forward. An April, 1876 article from the New York Times gives a better idea of his activities up to that point (which Byrnes might have wished to overlook):

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Byrnes updated his entry on Kurtz in his 1895 edition, which is included in the linked page above. Kurtz was not a major criminal after 1895; he was arrested a few times in the late 1890s for small thefts, and was typically released for lack of evidence.

The nickname “Sheeny” is an ethnic slur. In the 1890s, there was another criminal, a confidence man named Max Cohen, who was also given the nickname “Sheeny Mike.” Doubtless it was applied to others, as well. Michael Kurtz slyly turned the slur on its head by often giving the alias when arrested of “Michael Sheehan.”

It would be fascinating to learn more details of Kurtz’s years as a Florida orange grower. Byrnes mentions that Kurtz had a wife at this time, but the only official marriage record for Kurtz dates from 1892–years after his Florida adventures. Did he have any children from this earlier liaison?

MikeKurtz

Chief Byrnes and others who wrote about Kurtz’s career agree that his most audacious crime was the Marks jewelry store robbery in Troy, New York in February, 1884. At the time it occurred, few details were published about that crime. However, many years later (in 1912), a post-humus publication of a serialized book by Philadelphia thief Edward W. Dunlap devoted a chapter to this robbery [Dunlap himself had died in 1906]. Dunlap, from the Philadelphia area, was not a reliable source about New York criminals. In his retelling of the Troy jewelry robbery, he portrays Kurtz as an extraordinarily cunning thief who used a trick worthy of a magician. It sounds outlandish enough to be true:

Chapter XX: The Robbery of the Jewelry Store of Marks & Son, at Troy, N.Y.

The method adopted to rob this establishment was of the most ingenious and original description. The robbery was effected in February, 1884, and the men that did the work were Billy Porter, Sheeny Mike and Jimmy Irvin[g], who was afterward killed by Porter. [Note: Dunlap is wrong on this point–Jimmy Irving was killed by John Walsh in Shang Draper’s saloon in October, 1883, months before the Troy robbery. Billy Porter was present and killed Walsh. As Chief Byrnes indicates, the third man in the Troy jewelry robbery was likely Joe Dubuque, not Jimmy Irving. Dunlap does mention further down that Dubuque was involved.]

The jewelry store was situated at the busiest part of the main street of Troy, and its proprietors believed it to be burglar-proof. It was a large double store, having showcases on each side. This establishment contained valuables to an extent that would not seem probable in such a small city. Between the two counters, at the rear of the store, was a railing, and about six or eight feet back of this railing and against the wall stood a large Hall safe. The office of the firm was at a room at the rear of the store, and this room was protected by heavy iron shutters and an iron door. The safe contained the valuables of the firm during the night.

The younger of the brothers always saw to it that the goods were placed in the safe personally at night. He alone knew the combination; consequently he himself always unlocked the safe in the morning. When all was ready to close the store for the night, a large locomotive headlight, containing a big reflector, was placed on the end of one of the counters. This was not an oil lamp, but was supplied with gas from a nearby burner. The light was reflected directly upon the safe, and the back of the store was in gloom; but the big safe stood out clearly exhibited by the beams of light from the lamp and was distinctly visible from the street. The outside watchman, a most faithful man, made his rounds every half hour, and at each round he would look through one of the glass windows, would see the safe, and would then, of course, believe everything to be right. One would suppose that it would be impossible to beat a safe that was so protected, yet it was beaten in a very few minutes, and the watchman knew nothing until the next morning.

Both Porter and Mike visited the store several times, and at each visit made a trivial purchase. They were thus able to get an accurate mental picture of the safe, its size, its color, the plates upon it, the exact position of the handle, knob, etc. On a piece of heavy canvas the ingenious Sheeny Mike painted an excellent representation of a safe. This canvas was taken to a French locksmith and toolmaker in New York City, and he made a mount for the canvas so that it could be put together in a few minutes. This pretended safe had real handles and knobs, which were to be placed on the outside once it was set up.

It was quite certain that the store could not be entered from the rear; the only way to enter it was by the roof. A store three or four doors below was “cracked” from the rear. The burglars went to the roof, and from there passed to the roof of the Marks store and entered through a trapdoor. After an entrance had been made, the tools and the dummy safe were carried in.

Porter and Mike were to do the actual work; Irvin was the outside man. Just a few minutes before the watchman came around Irvin would tap upon the window so the inside men could hear, and they would at once set up the dummy. It was agreed that in case the watchman should give trouble, Irvin was to convey information by rapping loudly upon the door, or, at least, making a loud noise in the street.

Nothing took place to disturb the work. As soon as the watchman departed the frame was taken down and work was begun anew. The safe was beaten by smashing the knob and driving in the spindle. This so disarranged the lock that a simple haul at the handle would open the doors. This old way of beating a safe is no longer possible. The makers now know too much and have provided against it. After the safe was beaten Mike took down the framework and closed up the smashed safe, and the robbers went away, taking the counterfeit safe along with them [except one piece; see below]. During the remainder of the night the watchman passed and re-passed, and every time he looked in he saw the safe, apparently as it should be, and went comfortably on his way.

This job netted about $40,000, mostly in diamonds and precious stones. The pluder was taken to a roadhouse about four miles below Albany, kept by Joe Dubuque, an all-around sport and a clever man. I do not know how or where the swag was disposed of. Shortly afterward Porter went to England. Mike went to Florida and bought an Orange grove.

Billy Pinkerton had been put on this case. He made some very correct inferences from a study of the big plate of the fake safe, which had been left behind by accident. Pinkerton learned that both Porter and Mike had been at the roadhouse below Albany before the robbery, and again afterward; so he procured warrants for them and made every effort to locate them, but was unsuccessful. Eighteen months after the robbery Porter returned to New York and was arrested by central office detectives, who, of course, knew that he was wanted. The Pinkertons were so convinced of the rottenness of the New York force that they watched the place of Porter’s confinement so that if he should be turned out they would be able to pinch him again right away. He was turned over to the authorities of Troy, where he was indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced to ten years in Dannemora prison. Mike was located in Florida, was brought back and received a similar sentence.

As a matter of fact, the evidence upon which they were convicted was of the flimsiest sort. There was no evidence at all, except that they had been at the roadhouse before and after the robbery; but, as they were crooks and good burglars, it was decided that they must be guilty. Sheeny Mike’s case was appealed at once. In about six months it was heard by the supreme court, and Mike was discharged. Porter remained in prison about three months after Mike was liberated, when he also was set free by order of the supreme court.

I knew Sheeny Mike well. He was one of the greatest crooks of the country. He never beat a bank, but his peculiar graft was store safes, and many a one of them he opened. He made money rapidly, and spent it freely. He was a short, slender man, and at the time of committing the Marks robbery was about 35 years of age. With his clear-cut features, large nose and high forehead he had an intellectual and scholarly appearance. A book could be written about this remarkable Jew’s career. He had a taste for jewelry and a knowledge of silk and fabrics. He was not only a master in executing a robbery, but also an artist in planning one. He died a few months ago [Dunlap was writing in 1904-05], leaving a widow and three children [no records have been found of children], with not a cent to support them.

I have not seen Porter for a long time and have no notion what has become of him. He was undoubtedly a first-class man. When Porter, Mike, Irvin, and Pat the Mick were together it was a wonderful combination and was very hard to beat.

 

 

 

 

#140 Edward Tully

Edward Tully (Abt. 1845-19??), aka Broken-Nose Tully, Ned Tully, Eddy Tully, Charles Edwards, Charles Tynas, Edward Wilkes/Wilks, etc. — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION Forty-one years old in 1886. Born in Ireland. Single. No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 1/2 inches. Weight, 155 pounds. Dark hair, gray eyes, dark complexion, broken nose. Rather large, long head. Wears a brown mustache. Easily recognized by his picture. Has an Irish brogue and face.

RECORD. “Broken-Nose Tully” is an old and expert New York pickpocket, and is well known in every large city in the Union. He travels with the best people in the business, and is considered a clever pickpocket. He has a remarkable nose, which he claims always “gives him away.”

Tully was arrested in Philadelphia and sentenced to fourteen months in the Eastern Penitentiary, on June 29, 1880, for picking the pocket of a small boy of $83. He was arrested again in Boston, Mass., with Shinny McGuire (155), on July 16, 1881, awaiting an opportunity to do a “turn trick” in the Naverick National Bank. After getting a good showing up they were escorted out of town.

He was arrested again in Lancaster, Pa., for picking pockets, and sentenced to eighteen months in the Eastern Penitentiary at Philadelphia, on November 18, 1884. He is now at large. Tully’s picture is an excellent one, taken in Buffalo, N.Y.

Eddie Tully was active as a pickpocket from the mid-1860s until the end of the century, when reports concerning him stopped. He usually worked crowds in coordination with one or two other pickpockets, favoring: gatherings of fraternal organizations; fairs & expositions; beach resorts; presidential inaugurations and political rallies; and shopping districts.

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One of his frequent partners was Dick Lane, a pickpocket who reformed and wrote a book about his experiences, Confessions of a Criminal.  Chief Byrnes did not include a profile of Lane in his book, likely because Lane had already given up his career by that time. Lane’s engaging book is full of the street slang of petty criminals that had evolved from the “flash” slang of English and American criminals of the first half of the 19th-century. One chapter relates an anecdote about how he, another pickpocket named Baltimore Pat, and Eddie Tully saw the score of a lifetime slip from their grasp:

“A Lucky Old Lady: How She Gave Dick’s Gang the Slip

“You know when a party of sneaks or dips travel together they have to split up their work. The man that does the actual job is called the tool and the ones that watch out and draw the victim are called stalls. A favorite game used to be the bank deal. One of the stalls goes into a bank and stands around like a business man waiting for somebody until some chap gets a check cashed. Then the stall goes out and tips the sucker off to the tool, who goes after him and touches him for the swag, if the outfit is playing in luck.

“One time me and Eddie Tully and Baltimore Pat was working together in Philadelphia for six or eight months and we were pulling off some pretty big money. I was to do the stalling and Tully and Pat was the tools. A better bunch of tools never worked the country than them two, and any old-time crook will tell you the same thing. One fine morning the three of us was out bright and early, trying to turn a trick and in one of the big banks I stalled to an old lady who drawed out $3,000 in nice new long green. It was better than a theater to see her plant it carefully in one of these here little hand bags we crooks used to call a “cabbie.” I don’t know where the name came from, but all the old-timers used to call them hand satchels “cabbies.”

“Now, in doing this kind of sneak and dip work, we always used to carry a “cabbie” of our own so we could make a quick shift and leave our dummy in place of the one with the goods in it. We used to carry ours wrapped in newspaper and we always had it ready for business. Well, after I tipped Tully and Pat to the old girl with the wad of cash, we started out to trail her and you can bet she walked us all over the district where the stores were. It was the toughest kind of work for the three of us to go zigzagging around them bargain counters and butt into places where the floorwalker was liable to have you threw out any minute. But we was well togged out and looked like the real article and I guess that saved us. You see the dip and sneak men had to be there with the good clothes so that they could mosey into big hotels, banks and other places where the fall guys was liable to lead the way.

“Well, the old lady gets hungry along about 12 o’clock and she sails into one of the swellest grub shops on the town. You could see that she was a thoroughbred all right, and when she went into this place on Eighth Street it was us in after her. You’ve got to do these kind of jobs right on the jump and don’t lose any time in monkeying around for a better opening than the first one. If you do, nine times out of ten you’re going to lose out by having the sucker pay a bill or make a getaway in a cab.

“So we hopscotches in after her wealthy nibs and our good togs don’t put any one wise to us. There wasn’t appetite enough in the bunch to get away with a red herring, but we makes a bluff at it all the same and grabs one of the tables near the old lady, where we can keep an eye on the “cabbie.” Well, she lays the handbag on the table and gets ready to order some grub, and you can bet the gang had their lamps glued on that bunch of leather with the long green inside it. I moves down the line a little way to get a newspaper that was on one of the tables and I was just getting ready to say something to her so she’d screw her nut around and look at me. When she did this Tully was going to lift the “cabbie” and leave ours in its place.

“She monkeyed around for a few seconds, then she grabs the purse and fishes around in it until she pulls out a pair of eyeglasses. Then she read over the grub list and has seventeen duck fits trying to make up her mind what to eat. The waiter blows along about this time and he stands there like a dummy. I stall with the newspaper gag until I have to go back to the gang, and then something happened that liked to knock us off our chairs. After she gave her order she gets up and changes her place to another table and I’m blowed from Sing Sing to Joliet if she didn’t leave the “cabbie” where she’d been sitting. Well, anybody’ll be next to the way we felt just about that time of day. There was the “cabbie” at one table and the old lady at another and we—-

“Say, do you s’pose we got it? Well, this is what happened. Another old hen who had been chewing angel-food and flirting with weak tea at one of the tables gets her lamps on the pocketbook and sings out at the top of her voice to our old girl: ‘Madam, you’ve left your purse on the table.’ Then she scrambles over to the cabbie and hangs it around her wrist, while we drink coffee and say things to ourselves that might have cleaned out the restaurant if they’d heard us.

“That kind of gag made us sore and we weren’t going to be dished again ifshe gave us another chance, so we trailed her after she got out of the restaurant. She took a Ninth Avenue car to Twenty-second Street and went into a house up there. We stalled around till our whiskers got gray and then we knows that is where she lived and the money was out of sight. That time we got dished because we tried to be too sure of our game. I always liked to do them jobs right off the reel.”

 

 

#145 James Johnson

James Johnson (1844-19??), aka Jersey Jimmy/Jimmie, James Eagan – Pickpocket, Saloon Owner

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-two years old in 1886. Born in New York. Married. No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 4 1/2 inches. Weight, 170 pounds. Dark brown hair, gray eyes, florid complexion. Whiskers, when worn, are light brown.

RECORD. “Jersey Jimmie” is one of the luckiest thieves in America. He is known from Maine to California, and has had the good fortune to escape State prison many a time. He works with Joe Gorman (146), Boston (144), Curly Charley, Big Dick (141), and nearly all the Bowery “mob” of New York, where he makes his home. He was arrested in New York City, and sentenced to six months in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, under the name of James Johnson, on April 22, 1869, for an attempt to pick pockets. He was sentenced again to one year in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, on February 7, 1878, for picking pockets, and pardoned by Governor Robinson on May 8, 1878. Since then he has been arrested in almost every city in the Union, but his usual good luck stands to him, and he succeeds in obtaining his discharge. Johnson’s picture is an excellent one, taken in August, 1885.

Jimmy Johnson had a long career as a pickpocket, starting in the mid-1860s. In 1865, he saw his older brother John confront a Jersey City detective on a Manhattan street, only to be shot dead. From that point forward, he never trusted law officials, and they sometimes harassed him for no other cause than his (well-deserved) reputation.

However, Jimmy’s impact on society was not so much found in his petty crimes as it was in his management of an infamous dive, Jersey Jimmy’s. The site of his saloon was relocated a few times, but settled at First Street and the Bowery. Jimmy ran his saloon for nearly thirty years (excepting his jail sentences, when he handed off the day-to-day management to others.)

“Jersey Jimmy’s” thrived as an all-night dive through the 1890s and early 1900s, thanks to loopholes in a poorly-conceived blue law, the Raines Law. Reformers believed that an early-closing time imposed on bars and saloons would curb many ills, but ran into the resistance from the many legitimate uptown hotels that catered to tourists and business travelers–their lounges were an important source of income. Therefore the Raines Law carved out an exception for establishments that offered both rooms and food to their clients. Realizing this loophole, all-night saloons set aside a few rooms on an upstairs floor–and the bare minimum of food offerings. The rooms usually went unused–or were used for activities other than sleeping. These joints became known as “Raines-Law Hotels,” and Jersey Jimmy’s was the prime example.

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In December, 1896, the New York World took readers into Jersey Jimmy’s dive, which resembled a stage set for The Iceman Cometh:

“A Night at Jersey Jimmy’s : New York’s Most Notorious Pickpocket Manages a Raines-Law Hotel at No. 14 First Street

“Jersey Jimmy,” whose real name is James Johnson, first opened his new Raines-law hotel about four months ago. It is true the license for the place is not in his name, but Jimmy boldly told the detectives of Capt. Herlihy’s command when they visited the place a few nights ago that he was the manager and proposed to be such.

“Jersey Jimmy’s” place is at No. 14 First street, just a few doors east of the Bowery. It is a small place, but Jimmy is evidently doing a thriving business. There is a little bar and back room where there a number of tables and chairs. The rear is very dark, so that people passing on the street cannot see the faces of Jimmy’s guests.

“There is a large sign on the mirror directly behind the bar which reads “Jimmy’s.” Jimmy is evidently anxious that all hands know that he is the boss of a saloon on the east side.

“Jimmy is at his hotel every night. He was there last night when a World reporter and a World artist called. It was shortly before 1 a.m. He was doing a rousing business. Jimmy was behind the bar in a corner near the front window–a short, undersized man about fifty-five years old, his face seamed with hard lines. From his position he could command a full view of all that occurred in the back room, and at the same time not be seen by any stranger who entered unless he chose to come to the front. Although there is a bartender, when a bill is to be charged by one of the customers then Jimmy step up and makes the necessary change. Jimmy’s is not a trusting disposition.

“Jimmy has always been considered one of the most daring pickpockets and all-around thieves in the country. He makes it a specialty to rob women. He goes to church now and then to commit a robbery, but principally he does his business on the street cars…

“Jersey Jimmy has a new barkeeper. His old one is in trouble just now. He was known to police as ‘Humpback Tommie’ Martin, a former convict, whose picture is in the Rogues’ Gallery. Martin was arrested in Long Island City some weeks ago and Jimmy had to look about for a substitute.

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“Among the most welcome of the friends of Jersey Jimmy is Ike Vail, the most noted confidence man of the country. He may be found there almost any night.

“Then there is Jersey Jimmy’s old friend, ‘Pete’ Smith, also a former convict. Pete’s specialty is till-tapping. Another guest is known to the police as ‘Roaring Bill.’ His real name is William Wright. He is called ‘Roaring Bill’ because, the police say, he roars like a lion when under the influence of liquor.

“Some years ago ‘Roaring Bill’ went to Albany and there stole the coat of an assemblyman. Bill was tried, convicted, and sent to State Prison for ten years.

“Then there are ‘Mat’ Downey, a former convict and expert pickpocket; ‘Hank’ Vreeland, a former convict and pickpocket; his partner ‘Jim’ Davis, who is also a pickpocket and served time; ‘Red’ Farrell; William Schafer, alias ‘Horseface;’ ‘Joe’ Gorman; ‘Pete’ Berman; and ‘Johnnie’ Gorman.

“Among the other men known to the police who frequent ‘Jersey Jimmy’s’ place are Charles Backus, alias ‘Old’ Backus, the bunco man and former convict; ‘Dick’ Morris alias ‘Broken-nose Dick,’ another confidence man; Mike Donovan, alias ‘Wreck,’ a notorious highwayman; ‘Joe’ Morton, alias ‘Lover Joe,’ a former convict and expert shoplifter; ‘Reddie’ Galligan, another old timer and a jail bird; ‘Teddy’ Kelly, alias ‘Little Kelly,” whose picture is in the Rogues’ Gallery, and who, according to the records, has been in State Prison for picking pockets. Also may be found in Jimmy’s ‘Ed’ Tully, alias ‘Broken-nose Tully,’ a former convict and pickpocket, whose picture is in the Rogues’ Gallery, and ‘Jimmy’ Harris, the burglar.

“An occasional visitor at Jimmy’s was William Johnson, alias ‘The Count.” His absence is mourned. Jimmy says his hard luck details are not known, but the Count appears to be detained in Philadelphia because of [being found with] too great a quantity of a base-born shopkeeper’s ware.

“There was a reception at Jimmy’s last week. There was an affair in honor of Max Davis, alias “The Rabbi.” Max is a burglar by profession. Unlike the Count, Max is said to be in good luck, for he has just returned after a prolonged visit to Sing Sing.

“Lizzie Peck, the notorious badger woman and thief, is also a friend and admirer of Jersey Jimmy, and visits his new Raines law saloon.

“Jersey Jimmy does not like Capt. Herlihy. The old pickpocket says the Captain is down on him. When Jimmy first opened his place he gave a concert, that is, he had a violin player in the place. When Capt. Herlihy heard of this he told the former convict that he would close his place if he did not stop playing music [as stipulated by the Raines definition of a hotel.]

“‘We are only playing a little sacred music,’ said Jimmy.

“‘I am the Captain,’ said Capt. Herlihy, ‘and there is going to be no music in your place or in any other place in this precinct, unless the mayor grants you a concert license.’

“Jimmy has not applied for one yet. He probably would have done so if there was just as little difficulty experienced in obtaining a license from the mayor as there is from the Excise Commissioner [for a liquor license.]

Jersey Jimmy’s had a reputation as more than just a gathering place for colorful characters. Several young prostitutes, after two years or so on the street, committed suicide inside or just outside Jimmy’s doors. Visiting sailors and tourists were given knockout drops and rolled. In 1958, writer Gay Talese interviewed a 93-year-old former bare-knuckle fighter, who told an anecdote about cadavers being carried into the saloon from a wake, and when Jimmy called for the bill and asked who was paying, all those at the bar pointed to the man with his head down on a table.

 

#62 John Mahaney

John Mahaney (1844-19??), aka Jack Sheppard, John H. Matthews, James Wilson, John Mahoney, etc. — Thief, Escape Artist

Link to Byrnes’ entry for #62 John Mahaney

John Mahaney would have been a much more notorious criminal, had he not been saddled with the nickname “Jack Sheppard,” in honor of the 18th-century English thief. The original Sheppard had started his thieving career in 1723, and was arrested and imprisoned five times in 1724 before being held and executed. Since his death, many thieves in England and America were called the “new Jack Sheppard,” but with John Mahaney, the name stuck throughout a career spanning sixty years–likely long after the general public had lost memory of the original Jack Sheppard.

Mahaney was first jailed years before the Civil War started; he was last jailed (as far as is known) in 1915, as a member of a ring of auto thieves. Most of his adult life was spent in various prisons, but he still committed a remarkable number of crimes.

Moreover, more anecdotes exist concerning Mahaney’s youthful exploits than any other criminal in Chief Byrnes’ book. Mahaney’s childhood was both appalling and enthralling. He must have related his career to a reporter from the New York Sun shortly before escaping from the Central Station of the New York Police Department in April 1872 [Note: ethnic slurs have been edited out]:

“This notorious criminal, whose exploits have almost surpassed those of Jack Sheppard, was born in this city of Irish parents in the year 1844. Jack’s father died when Jack was quite young. Jack’s early care and training devolved upon his mother. He was sent to school, but proved such a mischievous urchin that he received more floggings than any other boy in his class. On a certain occasion Jack says one of the schoolboys played a trick on the master. Jack was suspected. He and three other boys were made to kneel down and were allowed 15 minutes in which to confess the deed. Jack was really innocent, but one of the boys promised to give him a tin box with six cents in it to say that he had done it. He got a severe flogging, but never got the box nor the pennies. He ran away from this school so often that his mother sent him to a boarding-school at Jamaica, L.I.

“The teacher at this school had a son about twenty years old. This young man and Jack became chums, and any mischief that was done was invariably laid at Jack’s door. While attending this school Jack manifested the old disposition to play hookey. The master made him wear nothing but a frock, which gave him the appearance of a girl. One day Jack got out of a window, and, catching hold of the gutter on the roof, worked his way to the room containing his clothes. He then swung himself into the room, and, dressing himself, escaped from the school and returned home, only to be taken back the next day by his mother.

“One day Jack stole some gunpowder. He put it into a large ink bottle, then put a piece of lighted paper into the bottle and stood over it, expecting it to burn like a Fourth of July blue light. The powder exploded the bottle, and a piece of glass was driven into his leg. He was crippled from the effects for a long while, and carries the mark to this day.

“On another occasion he took a loaded rifle from the teacher’s closet. Holding it above his head he pulled the trigger. The recoil stretched him on the floor. The slug went through the ceiling floor overhead, and in close proximity to the servant girl, who was making the beds in the rooms upstairs.

“Jack was so wild that his mother took him home and sent him to a private school near his residence. He played truant so often that his mother, acting under the advice of friends, sent him to the House of Refuge, at that time located in Twenty-Third street. When Jack entered that institution he was a wild but innocent boy. He remained there but nine months. During that time he was forced to associate with boys from eight to twenty, chiefly from the Five Points, Water street, and the slums of New York City. Among the inmates of the House of Refuge at that time was Jerry O’Brien, who was executed in 1868. When Jack left that institution he had become schooled in every kind of wickedness. He was taken home, and placed in the Juvenile asylum, under the care of Dr. Russ. From there Jack ran away so often that they placed shackles on his legs; but he managed to saw them off with table knives, which he would nick like a saw. One night he made his escape, but was recaptured and taken back. Dr. Russ then put a chain around his waist, and attached it to another boy. One day Jack took the boy on his back and started for the city, but was recaptured.

“He became a constant visitor at the theaters, with which he was so infatuated that he resorted to thieving and dishonesty to obtain the means requisite to gratify his passion. He usually slept in hay barges and wagons, and would steal all day to raise “pit money.” One night his mother found him snugly stowed away in a dry-goods case on the sidewalk. He was taken home and supplied with a new suit of clothes. He was at home but a short while when the temptation to visit the theater came over him, and he ran away and returned to the Five Points. Being well-dressed and smart-looking for a boy his age, he was picked up by a notorious thief and villain known as “Italian Dave.” Jack was known as Dave’s “kid.” Every morning Dave and his pal would go down to rob the large stores which were just opening. While Dave would buttonhole the porter, Jack would sneak into the store and help himself to the valuables. The afternoons would be devoted to robbing dwellings in the upper part of the city.

“Sometimes Dave would take Jack with him to the Battery, where he would waylay gentlemen who were wending their way to the Brooklyn ferryboat. Jack’s part of the job was to go through their pockets and take all the valuables from their persons. For the work he performed he was remunerated with a few shillings.

“One night Dave armed himself with a long knife, and started across the street to a den to kill another thief, who it seems had done him some injury. Dave was drunk, and while reeling across the street was set upon and beaten with clubs until he was almost dead. The following night Jack was arrested while at the National Theater by a detective who had been hired by his mother to hunt him up. Jack, while on the road home, told the detective all that he had done, and instead of being taken home, was taken to the station house. He was afterward taken in custody by three officers, who wanted him to show them the thieves’ den. With a revolver at his head, Jack led the way through an old building in the Five Points. The house was searched and a large quantity of jewelry found. The receiver was arrested, and Jack put in the House of Detention as a witness. Jack was an unwilling witness, and one night set fire to his bed and escaped during the confusion. He then made his way to Newark, where he robbed a jewelry story of six gold watches, which he sold for $15.

“After this robbery he returned to New York, where he was arrested and confined in the Tombs. One day he picked the lock of his cell and got out in the hallway. Being small, he crawled through the bars of the window facing Franklin street. He went home, and his mother dressed him in his sister’s clothes, and sent him to a relative who lived on Ling Island. He remained there but a few months. One day, being sent on an errand, he broke into a house and stole the silverware. He was caught with the plunder, but managed to escape. He next went to Jersey City. While there he was arrested and committed to jail. He made his escape and returned to New York, where, after committing a series of crimes extending over a period of two years, he was finally arrested and sentenced to Sing Sing for two years [age 16, year 1860]. At the State Prison he was confined in a cell with an old criminal who initiated him into the mysteries of a “cross life.” On leaving Sing Sing he returned to his wicked career, and was arrested for robbing a gentleman on Grand street. For this he got off with six months in the penitentiary [Blackwell’s Island].

“While there he attempted to escape, but fell on an iron picket fence. One of the spikes passed through his right wrist, and in the fall he broke his arm and sprained his ankle. He was found in this condition by the guard and taken to the hospital. Before he had thoroughly recovered he escaped from the hospital and went to New Orleans. That city did not offer a good field for his peculiar line of business, and he returned to New York after a stay of only three weeks. One morning after his return he stole a case of silks and was arrested. The informant in this case was known as Morris. Morris gave the information to Captain (later Superintendent) Jordan, and a watch was set on the house in which the goods were concealed. Jack was arrested while examining his booty.

“In order to get rid of this charge, Jack enlisted [in the Union Army] and was sent to camp on Riker’s Island [then a boot camp for new enlistees]. While there he picked a man’s pocket of $100. Capt. George Washburn, now captain of police, was provost marshal of Riker’s Island. He suspected Jack, and tied him up until he confessed where the money was hidden. A short time after this occurrence Jack escaped from the island. He was recaptured and sent to Castle Williams on Governor’s Island [a garrison and prison]. From there he made an unsuccessful attempt to escape, but was caught and tied up by the thumbs as punishment.

“He was subsequently sent [on active duty] to Alexandria, and from there to the front. Jack, while at Brandy Station [Battle of Brandy Station, Virginia, June 9, 1863], about seventy miles south of Alexandria, took an observation of the state of the army, and not being favorably impressed with the condition of things, managed to elude the guards and escape. He hid himself in a car containing the bodies of embalmed soldiers, and arrived safe at Alexandria at two o’clock the following morning. He tried to escape from Alexandria, but was picked up by one of the night patrols and was placed in jail. While in jail his head was shaved. The next day Jack broke out of the jail. He tied a silk handkerchief around his head and started for New York City, where he arrived without further molestation [at age 19].

“After leading a life of dissipation and crime for a long time, he was arrested again for burglary. He was convicted and sentenced to Sing Sing for four years and six months. He had been in State Prison but a few weeks when he escaped through the roof. He was re-arrested on the same day on the Harlem railroad, twelve miles from the prison. His captor started with him to the city to have him remanded to Sing Sing. Jack had made up his mind to run any risk to escape. While passing through Thirty-fourth street tunnel, he suddenly struck the constable between the eyes, then jumped from the train and escaped. Jack then made the acquaintance of some safe operators and went with them for a few weeks, until one of the party was arrested. While operating on a safe, the store was surrounded, and the burglars were fired upon by the night watchman. One of the burglars was captured, tried, convicted, and sentenced to Sing Sing for three years.

“After this, Jack went to Boston. While there he stole $6000 worth of goods, which he expressed to New York to dispose of. While on his way to this city [New York] he was arrested and remanded to Sing Sing. The authorities of the prison then put a ball and chain on his left leg and kept him sitting in the prison hall under the eye of the keeper. When Jack had worn his jewelry about five months he became tired of it. One day he asked the warden to remove the shackles and let him go work in the shops. ‘I could take them off myself if I wanted to,’ said Jack, ‘but if you will take them off for me, I promise you I will not attempt to escape.’

“The warden laughed at the idea. On the following day Jack managed to get an old coat and the keeper’s spectacles. He played sick and remained in his cell. While the rest of the prisoners were at dinner, he took the ball and chain off and walked to the end of the shoe shop where the contractor had his horse in the stable. He harnessed the horse to a light wagon, and got through just as the convicts were leaving the mess-room for their shops. Jack put on the spectacles, wrapped the horse blanket around his prison pants, jumped into the wagon, and started. He had to pass about twenty guards armed with muskets, and was discovered before he got half way. The guards opened a fusillade on him, but he whipped up his horse and escaped without a scratch. He rode about seven miles, when he let the horse go, and entered a barn where he concealed himself in a haystack. While in the barn, a gentleman drove in with a horse and sleigh, which he left in the barn. Scarcely had the owner of the sleigh left when Jack jumped into the vehicle and started for New York. He reached the city on the following morning. From New York he went to Boston, and thence, in company with a notorious criminal, to Philadelphia. In the later city his companion committed a crime, and the house where they were concealed was surrounded by police. Jack escaped by jumping from a second-story window.

18981224billustratedpolicenews

“He returned to Boston and stole $3500 worth of broadcloth, which he expressed to New York. Jack started to follow the goods, but was arrested at Yonkers by Detective Baker, and taken back to Boston. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to the Charlestown State prison for five years [in April 1866, when he was 22]. While there he made three ineffectual attempts to escape, and finally concluded to serve his time out. At the expiration of his term of service he went out West and remained quiet until recently.”

The writers of this Sun article were not aware that after Jack was discharged from Massachusetts in January 1871, he returned to New York and in March, 1871, married shoplifter Ellen Rodda, alias Ellen Darrigan. He then went to Illinois, but was hardly quiet. He was arrested in that state and sentenced to four years in Joliet State Prison, and returned to New York in the spring of 1875.

This summary has covered only the first twenty years of Jack’s sixty-year long career, but should suggest the pattern of the remainder his resume. John Mahaney put the original Jack Sheppard to shame.

 

 

 

#123 Ellen Darrigan / #180 William Darrigan

Ellen Rodda (1845-????), aka Ellen Darrigan, Annie Derrigan, Ellen Matthews, Kate Friday, Ellen Mahaney, Mary Reese, etc. — Pickpocket, Shoplifter

William Darrigan (Abt. 1847-????), aka Billy Darrigan/Derrigan, Hugh Derrigan, William Davis, W. Darrington, etc. — Pickpocket

Link to Byrnes’ texts on Ellen Darrigan and William Darrigan

Ellen Rodda was born in late 1845 to Thomas and Elizabeth Rodda of Penzance, Cornwall (home to pirates of many kinds). The family emigrated to the United States and settled in northern New Jersey in the early 1860s.

In October 1866 Ellen married James Badham. Four months later, Badham–a bad man–was caught breaking and entering in Essex County, New Jersey, and sentenced to the New Jersey State Prison for five years.

While Badham was in prison, Ellen Rodde cavorted with gambler Jere Dunn, who made his fortune running gaming dens and saloons in Chicago. Dunn was a sporting man, heavily involved in the boxing world and in horse racing. Dunn was “married” several times, though he disdained churches and paperwork; he defined marriage on his own, somewhat fluid, terms. In 1869, Dunn was on the run from police and eluded them by traveling around the country with a group of pickpockets, presumably including Ellen Rodda. Dunn was known to have employed the alias “John Matthews” during this time. There is no evidence that his dalliance with Ellen Rodde was ever recognized as even a common-law marriage. Dunn was arrested in late 1870, and sentenced to four years in Sing Sing for killing another man in a saloon fight.

When John Badham was released from prison in late 1870, he sought and obtained a divorce from Ellen. The same month the divorce was granted (January 1871), an infamous sneak thief named John Mahaney was released from Sing Sing. Ellen married Mahaney two months later, in March 1871. Mahaney went by several aliases, and was known by the public as “Jack Sheppard,” a name that invoked the memory of the most famous thief of 18th-century England. But Maheney was also known as John H. Matthews, the same alias used by Ellen’s previous beau, Jere Dunn.

Ellen used the same surname in her alias of this period: “Ellen Matthews.”

This time, Ellen’s matrimonial bliss lasted a bit longer, but in April 1872, Mahaney stole a load of silks in Philadelphia, shipped them to New York, and was caught there by detectives. He escaped from a New York City police station and fled west to Illinois, where he was soon arrested and sent to Joliet prison for several years.

Chief Byrnes indicates that Ellen was arrested in December 1875 for shoplifting, resulting in a sentence of four years in Sing Sing. However, no newspaper reports or prison registers seem to match that event. On the contrary, there is a marriage record for her from January 1876, when she was united with Billy Darrigan. Byrnes also mentions that Billy broke her nose in December 1875, after she had sliced his ear. This would make more sense as an event that ended a marriage, not preceded it.

If Ellen was sent to Sing Sing for four years, it must have been under an unknown alias, and occurred either between 1871-1875, or between 1877-1885, periods when her activities are not known.

William “Billy” Darrigan, born in New York in 1847, was a known pickpocket by the late 1860s. He married the infamous female pickpocket known as Louise Jourdan. Their attachment did not last; In 1867, Darrigan went over to Europe with Red Leary and Fatty Dolan, and the three pickpockets were arrested in France as soon after they got there. Louise then partnered with Tom McCormick.

He was arrested in New York City in February 1872, for picking pockets, and
sentenced to four years in Sing Sing prison, under the name of Hugh Derrigan. Upon getting out, he married Ellen Rodda. Nothing is known about the length and nature of their marriage other than the anecdote about the fight resulting in her broken nose. Billy went back to Sing Sing for a year in 1880. By 1885, Ellen was described as a “grass widow,” implying they were no longer together.

Ellen was arrested with Mary Bell for shoplifting in a New York dry goods store in April, 1885, and sentenced to five months at Blackwell’s Island penitentiary as Ellen Darrigan.

She was arrested again with a partner identified as Sarah Burke, alias Daly alias Maria Bourke, in February 1888, for shoplifting from a Brooklyn dry goods store. She gave her name as Mary Connolly. They skipped bail. The same pair were arrested a year later in New Haven, Connecticut. This time Ellen used the name Mary Reese.

In December 1889, Ellen and another woman (likely the same as above) were arrested in Washington, D.C. Ellen now used the alias Kate Friday. While under indictment in Washington, a detective from Rochester, New York arrived with a requisition to be used if the pair were not convicted in Washington. They were placed on trial in February 1890. During the court proceedings, a blonde girl of about ten was seen rushing to and hugging Ellen. One newspaper identified Ellen as “Durriger” and claimed that she had assisted Billy Porter and Mike Kurtz in the 1884 robbery of a jewelry store in Troy, New York. Kate was sentenced to two consecutive one year sentences at the state prison in Albany, New York.

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Ellen went to prison, but her sharp lawyer noted that the federal government’s contract with states to house prisoners only applied to sentences over one year, and that as Ellen had been sentenced to two sentences of precisely one year, her sentencing had been invalid and had to be set aside. She was released in October 1890.

Billy Darrigan’s last misadventure came in the fall of 1890, when he was arrested for burglary, but had the charge reduced to assault. He was sent to the penitentiary for one year.

In 1891, Washington officials tried to retrieve Ellen from Coney Island to bring her back to face additional indictments for which she had never been tried, but the political boss of Coney Island set her loose.

Billy and Ellen were never heard from again, but there is a curious note. In Chief Byrnes’ 1895 edition, he updated his profile of Billy Darrigan and charged his name heading to “W. Darrington.” Darrington was not Billy’s real name, and was not a name that had been used in any of his arrests.

However, a William Darrington and wife Ellen did live in Brooklyn in the early 1890s. In June 1891, the pair had an argument in their apartment and William Darrington threw his wife to the floor and kicked her severely. He was arraigned. In 1895, Ellen was in turn arraigned for attacking her husband with a teapot, “a probable fracture of the skull.”

Somehow it would seem fitting to know that Ellen and Billy were there to comfort each other as they aged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#160 Alexander Evans

Alexander Evans (Abt. 1844-1891), aka Aleck the Milkman, Charles Williamson — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-eight years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Peddler. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 5 1/2 inches. Weight, 207 pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes, florid complexion. Bald on front of head.

RECORD. “Aleck The Milkman” is a professional thief, and one of the Bowery, New York, gang of pickpockets. He is known from Maine to California. He “stalls” generally, but is credited with being a clever “wire” (a term for one who actually picks the pocket). He has served terms in Sing Sing prison and Blackwell’s Island, N.Y.

His last arrest was in New York City, for an attempt at grand larceny, for which he was convicted and sentenced to two years and six months in State prison at Sing Sing, N.Y., on June 23, 1885, under the name of Charles H. Williamson. Evans’ sentence will expire, allowing him full commutation, on April 23, 1887.

Evans’s oldest son, Geo. W. Evans, who, unlike his father, is not a thief, was sentenced to fifteen years in State prison on January 22, 1886, for shooting and killing a negro named Thos. Currie in an altercation as to the janitorship of a flat house in West Twenty-first Street, on the night of January 30, 1885.

His picture resembles him, although his eyes are closed. It was taken in April, 1881.

Very few details about the life and career of Aleck the Milkman have been uncovered, not even the source of his colorful nickname–though the explanation may be as simple as that he had worked as a milkman at one time. His first known arrest came in Philadelphia in 1876, but even then he was described as a known pickpocket. He was convicted and sent to Sing Sing twice, under the name Charles Williamson, in 1881 and 1885.

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As Byrnes notes, Aleck’s son George had more intrigue in his life. In 1886, Byrnes declared that George W. Evans was not a thief like his father, but by his 1895 edition, Byrnes had need to create a separate entry for George, due to his many crimes and arrests.

How was this possible, if in 1886 he had been sentenced to fifteen years for killing a man? When George had been arrested for this crime in 1885, his father Aleck knew just the lawyer his son needed: William F. Howe of Howe & Hummel, the attorneys of choice for all New York’s professional criminals.

The crime had occurred early in 1885. George W. Evans, an indifferent worker, showed up to his job as janitor of an apartment building only to discover that he had been fired. He was informed of this by his replacement, a black man named Thomas Currie. A dispute arose, and ended when George W. Evans took out a gun and shot Currie. There were no witnesses. Evans claimed he shot in self-defense, but fled the scene. Currie was taken to a hospital. He identified Evans as the man that shot him. Currie died four days later.

With no witnesses, the case against George W. Evans depended upon the declaration made by Currie before he died. That was enough for the jury and judge, who found Evans guilty and sentenced him to fifteen years. [It is likely that in many other circumstances in the United States, the word of a white man would have been accepted over than of a black man; so with this initial conviction, at least, race did not seem to be a factor.]

However, William F. Howe appealed the decision on an arcane point of law: when Currie had identified Evans as his attacker, Currie was not sure that he was dying. Therefore, his identification of Evans did not fit the definition of a “dying declaration,” and could not be used as evidence, for it was equivalent to hearsay. In order for his statement to be used in court, Currie would have had to have indicated that he believed he was mortally wounded.

Lacking any other evidence upon which to let the conviction stand, George W. Evans was released in early 1887 after Howe’s successful appeal…and went on to have a worse criminal career than his father.

#36 Edward Darlington

Berkeley Edward Puseley (1853-1886), aka Berkeley E. Paisley, Edward Darlington — Forger

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-three years old in 1880. Born in England. Medium build. Not married. Height, 5 feet 8 1/2 inches. Weight, 138 pounds. Sandy hair, blue eyes, sallow complexion. Genteel appearance. Known in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and several other cities in the United States.

RECORD. Darlington was arrested in New York City on November 21, 1883, in connection with Richard O. Davis (34) and Charles Preston, alias Fisher (41), charged with forging the name of J.J. Smith to a check for $700 on the Continental Bank, No. 6 Nassau Street, New York City. He was committed in $2,000 bail by Justice Duffy. Darlington pleaded guilty in the Court of General Sessions, New York City, and was sentenced to nine years in State prison on December 27, 1883. His sentence will expire, allowing him full commutation time, on November 26, 1889.

This man, who no doubt is the cleverest of the three, and his partner (34), had been traveling through the country for some time, victimizing people with forged checks. At the time of his arrest in New York he was wanted in Boston, Mass., for a similar transaction. His picture is a good one, taken in 1883.

Berkeley E. Puseley came to the United States from London, England in 1879/80 to make his reputation as a writer and playwright. He was the son of Daniel Puseley, an author who wrote under the name Frank Foster. During his twenties, Berkeley was a newspaper correspondent filing stories from Cyprus, Egypt, and Afghanistan.

Upon arriving in New York, Puseley adopted the pen name Berkeley E. Paisley, and had limited success selling some material to popular comedic actors of the era, John E. Owens and Frank Mayo. In August, 1881, he was arrested as Berkeley E. Paisley for passing forged checks in New York. Puseley was not a penman; he was a dupe employed by Charles Tisher. Several actors and actresses attended his hearing, and testified that he had an excellent character. Upon hearing their praise, Puseley broke down in tears. The judge gave him a light sentence, one and a half years at Blackwell’s Island.

Capture

Upon being freed, Puseley fell back into the same crowd of forgers, namely, Charles Tisher and Richard Davis. He was arrested as Edward Darlington in November, 1883. He was treated much more harshly this time, receiving a sentence of nine years in Sing Sing.

Earlier in life, Puseley’s siblings had died at young ages. His father had passed away in 1882, several years after losing most of his savings in bad investments. Berkeley Puseley did not want his one remaining relative, his mother, to know that he had been jailed. We wrote to her that he was journeying into the American west. He entered Sing Sing with despair. He wrote a poem reflecting his fate:

Preachers tell us man’s a coward

Should he seek to take his life,

Though he is by grief devoured,

Though he’s conquered in the strife.

 

If this is so, who can blame him,

When his heart is racked with pain?

Tyrants those who would reclaim him

To his misery again

 

Coward rather he who bears it,

Lingering on with gasping breath;

Making crown of thorns to wear it,

Shuddering yet at death.

Puseley survived in Sing Sing less than three years, dying of consumption. Initially he was buried in the prison graveyard, but friends later had him re-interred in a cemetery in Pleasantville, New York, under his real name.

 

#41 Charles Fisher

Charles H. Tisher (Abt. 1848 – 192?), aka James Farrell, Henry Mason, James Smith, Charles Palmer, Charles H. Fisher, J. B. Ford, etc. — Forger

Link to Byrnes’ entry on #41 Charles Fisher

Chief Inspector (later Superintendent) Byrnes, as seen in other REVISED entries, was often unaware of his profiled criminals’ full records, sometimes including incidents that occurred during his tenure. With his entry on Charles Fisher, there’s a further problem: he appears to be confusing two different individuals; the historical records supporting the details he describes can not be one person. Both men were German immigrants, tall, with good English; but one was nearly ten years older than the other; and one was an inept burglar, while the other was a masterful forger.

Byrnes describes the 19-year old youth who was arrested for larceny in October, 1876 and sentenced to two years and six months in Sing Sing. He was released early, in October 1878, and then was unable to find work. Starving, he broke a window to get arrested, and was brought before Judge Otterbourg, who investigated his circumstances and showed him mercy, raising funds for him to travel west.

That was one Charles Fisher, and he has not been traced further.

However, while this young man was behind bars in Sing Sing, another man–Charles H. Tisher, alias Fisher, alias Palmer, etc., was already plying his trade as a forger. All the facts presented by Byrnes from that point forward align with the career of this man, not the young , repentant thief. Moreover, Charles H. Tisher had a remarkable criminal career, that until now has never been recounted.

Charles H. Tisher appeared for the first time in Philadelphia, in early 1874, as the co-proprietor of a new enterprise, the Mercantile Bureau and Independent Collection Agency Company. Initially, it appeared to be a legitimate enterprise: a private collection agency, an industry which had recently started in the United States. Tisher had respectable attorneys as partners, but the daily management of the business was left in his hands. In early 1875, he appeared in Jersey City, New Jersey, with a plan to expand the company’s services to the New York market. He solicited both investors and new customers; and then was charged with embezzlement. Most of the charges against him were dropped, but he was jailed for months and minor charges stuck, so his business was ruined.

He reappeared in February, 1878, when he was arrested in New York with an accomplice, Charles Burton, alias John Richardson, for committing small check forgeries. Their apartments were searched and police found all the implements of a forging operation: type, small presses, dies, engraver’s tools, inks, blanks, etc. Also found were letters proving him to be the same Charles H. Tisher arrested in Jersey City in 1875. Tisher and Richardson later plead guilty, and gave evidence against three other conspirators, including Ike Hoffman (Isaac Schoan, alias John Jones); Charlie Edmunds alias Loring, and George Luxton. After nearly a year of legal maneuvers, Tisher was sent to Sing Sing in February, 1879, for a term of two and a half years.

Capture

Upon his release, he hooked up with another forgery operation headquartered in Chicago. They victimized banks in the city until the gang was captured in early 1882. This time, the member gave their names as John Bush alias Hatfield; John Miller alias Morton; and William Lawrence alias Vaughan alias Livingston. Tisher turned States evidence against the others, and was released and told to leave the state.

Tisher appeared next as Charles Fisher with a gang of forgers in New York, in company with Walter Pierce, alias Potter; Charles J. Everhard alias Marsh Market Jake, alias Samuel Peters;  and Charles Denken. Fisher was now recognized as the operation’s leader, and refused to make any statement in court. This time, Tisher was given a stiff sentence: ten years in Sing Sing.

Tisher formed another check-forging gang upon getting out of Sing Sing, this time composed of Robert Wallace alias Arthur Dearborn; William Hartley alias William Boland; and Lizzie Turner, alias Sheeny Rachel. They swept through the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in early 1895, then attacked banks and merchants in San Francisco, then moved on to Cincinnati. Pinkerton detectives traced the gang to Baltimore. Tisher used the alias J. B. Ford. He was taken from Baltimore to Cincinnati on a requisition, and made a daring escape from jail while awaiting trial.

Tisher then headed to England. While there, he frequented a saloon that was a burglar’s hangout, and was swept up with others during an 1897 police raid. Rather than reveal his identity, Tisher allowed himself to be jailed for burglary under the name Edward Simpson. However, while ensconced in the Wormwood Scrubs prison, he was recognized. He was extradicted to New York, and then taken back to Cincinnati, where he had broken jail. This time, in late December 1897, he was taken to the Ohio State Prison to serve three and a half years.

Capture3

Upon his release, Tisher and his acknowledged wife, Rachel Hurd alias Lizzie Turner, went back to England. Tisher, under the name Henry Conroy, was arrested there in October, 1902, for stealing from letter boxes–a favorite activity of his was stealing checks from envelopes and raising their amounts, and forging signatures. He was sentenced to two years hard labor. Rachel was arrested with him, but released for lack of evidence.

After serving his time, Tisher was freed, but in July 1904 was taken once again. This time he was sentenced to ten years. Apparently he was released early, because he was back in New York City by August, 1910, when he was arrested for attempted forgery under the name Charles Wells. He was sentenced to two and a half years at Sing Sing. He was released in August, 1912. He was given an annuity by the American Banking Association on the promise that he would never forge checks again.

He was sent back to Sing Sing in May, 1914, for one year and eight months, again for forgery.

In 1920, when he was about 74 years old, Charles Tisher (as Charles Fisher) was named as the leader of a forgery gang working in Philadelphia. He was the penman that signed checks stolen by his accomplices, who had obtained jobs as janitors and elevator operators in business office buildings.

In 1923, he was arrested in New York for using a nickel slug to cheat a subway turnstile. He was sentenced to serve ten days.

Tisher did not end his career on that sad note. In 1924 he was caught up as a minor member of notorious post office hold-up gang that had reaped millions from one coast to another, headed by Gerald Chapman.