#177 Henry Cline

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

From Byrnes’s 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.

The task of gathering further information on Byrnes’s “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, either by newspaper accounts or by 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.

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:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s