#49 George W. Gamphor

George Washington Gampher (1847-1927), aka  James F. Rogers — Hotel thief

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-eight years old in 1886. Born in Philadelphia. Medium build. Clerk. Not married. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, about 148 pounds. Blonde hair, dark gray eyes, sandy complexion and mustache.

RECORD. Gamphor was arrested in New York City on February 1, 1876, for the larceny of a gold watch and chain, valued at $100, from one E. W. Worth, of Bennington, Vt., at one of the hotels on Cortlandt Street. He was convicted, and sentenced to two years and six months in State prison in the Court of General Sessions, on December 20, 1880, by Recorder Smyth.

He is a clever hotel thief, and has traveled all over this country, robbing hotels and boarding-houses, and is regarded as a first-class operator. He is well known in a number of large cities. Gamphor’s picture was taken in 1876.

Inspector Byrnes correctly identifies George Gampher’s first known arrest, which took place in New York City in 1876. [The victim’s name was Charles E. Welling, not E. W. Worth]. However, Gampher was not convicted in this case; his conviction came two years later, in a totally unrelated case. In October, 1880, Gampher was caught drilling holes next to door locks of rooms of the Astor House hotel, to be used to insert wire loops to pull open bolted doors. He was caught with other burglary tools.

George was the son of a Philadelphia cooper of the same name, George Washington Gampher. His father had been a volunteer in the Civil War, and for a time was also on the Philadelphia police force. George Jr., on the other hand, seems to have been a habitual customer of saloons and gambling joints, and a store thief as well as a hotel thief.

By the late 1880s, George Jr. managed a “disorderly house,” i.e. a brothel in Philadelphia, along with a woman named Lucy Simpson. They appear to have been operating it as a panel thieves.

Whatever other character faults George W. Gampher had, he remained devoted to his tight-knit family, who apparently put up with his missteps. He lived with his parents their entire lives, moving from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 1880s. There, George Jr. seems to have settled down a bit, listing his occupation as real estate agent.

The family allegiance went so far as to collectively sue the husband of George’s sister, Marie Gampher. Marie had died in her forties, and before her husband, Alexander Poulson, could have the body buried in a plot he had purchased, the Gamphers took it and buried it in their family plot. Poulson had it moved, and the Gamphers sued (unsuccessfully).

For the last three decades of his life, George W. Gampher stayed out of trouble–except for one instance in 1905 when he collected $600 from the friends of a jailed pickpocket, whom he promised he could get out of jail; and then took no action.

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