#172 Wm. H. Little

William Henry Little (Abt. 1841-19??), aka Tip Little, William Johnson, Henry Osgood, William Thompson, George Thompson, William B. Austin, George F. Clark, George Little — Pickpocket, Panel House thief, Shoplifter, Forger

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-five years old in 1886. Born in New York, Married. No trade. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 140 pounds. Dark curly hair, gray eyes, dark complexion. Generally wears a black curly beard. Has a peculiar expression about the eyes.

RECORD. “Tip” Little is an old New York “panel thief,” confidence man, sneak thief and forger. He is well known as the husband of Bell Little, alias Lena Swartz, alias Eliza Austin, a notorious pennyweight worker, shoplifter and “bludgeon thief.” This team is well known all over the United States. They worked the “panel game” in New York and other cities for years, and their pictures adorn several Rogues’ Galleries. Of late they have been working the “bludgeon game” or “injured husband racket” with considerable success, as their victims are generally married men and will stand black-mailing before publicity. “Tip” and “Bell” have been arrested in New York City several times, but with the exception of a few short terms in the penitentiary, they have both escaped their just deserts (State prison) many a time.

Little was arrested in New York City on November 28, 1885, in company of a negro accomplice named Isaac Hooper, for attempting to negotiate a check that had been raised from $4 to $896. About one week before the arrest Hooper obtained a check for $4, on the Nassau Bank of New York, from Henry Carson, a grocer, of Fulton Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., by pretending that he wanted to send money to a relative, and that he had only silver dollars. He raised the check himself from $4 to $896, and also made a spurious check for $1,200, on the Nassau Bank of New York, and signed Carson’s name to it. With the $1,200 check. Tip Little, on November 25, 1885, went to Wm. Wise & Son’s jewelry store on Fulton Street, Brooklyn, and selecting articles worth $400, tendered the check in payment. He was so indignant when it was suggested that it would be nothing more than a common business transaction to ask Mr. Carson if the check was all right, that he snatched it up and left the store. Then he planned to swindle Daniel Higgins, a furniture dealer on Eighth Avenue, New York City, with the raised check of $896, which had been certified by the cashier of the Nassau Bank. He visited Mr. Higgins on November 27, 1885, and selected furniture worth $300. Higgins went to the West Side Bank, which was close by his store, and its cashier ascertained by telephone that Mr. Carson repudiated the check. When Mr. Higgins returned to the store, “Tip” had left without his change. Hooper (the negro) was tried, convicted, and sentenced to seven years in State prison on January 15, 1886, by Recorder Smyth, in the Court of General Sessions, Part L He had been previously convicted and sentenced to State prison for forgery in Providence, R.I. “Tip” Little pleaded guilty on January 15, 1886 (the same day), and was sentenced to five years in Sing Sing prison, by Judge Gildersleeve, in the Court of General Sessions, Part H. ” Little’s” picture is a very good one, taken in April, 1879.

William Henry Little was born about 1841 in Goshen, New York, about sixty miles northwest of New York City, to a respectable family including his mother, Mary and father, William C. Little, a butcher. It is not clear if he enlisted in the army during the Civil War, but by 1866 he was living on his own in New York City. In August of 1866, he was rounded up with other “well-known pickpockets” under the name William Johnson. By 1870 he had gained the honor of being #3 in the New York police department’s Rogue’s Gallery of photographed criminals, and was described as a shoplifter and pickpocket.

In 1871, Tip was found running one of New York City’s “panel-houses,” into which men were lured by a woman, distracted by foreplay or sex, and robbed by hidden accomplices. Tip’s house was in the Eighth Precinct at 476 1/2 Broome Street; the whole surrounding area was infamous for allowing these operations to continue (likely through pay-offs to the precinct captain).

In 1873, Tip married one of the woman with whom he conducted the panel-house business, Elizabeth Bropson, who later became known to the public as Lizzie Little, Belle Little, Martha Ward, Clara Morris, Mary Hart, Eliza Austin, or, more colorfully, “The Whale.” Mrs. Little was plump, but had a pleasant face, creamy white complexion, and an engaging manner. However, Tip also worked with other women: he employed the noted panel-house thief, Mollie Rush; and in the 1880s worked as a shoplifting partner of Lena Kleinschmidt, aka Black Lena. On several occasions, Lena was misidentified as Mrs. Tip Little (who also sometimes partnered with Lena on shoplifting expeditions).

In December of 1884, Mrs. Little got into a argument with Johnny Jourdan, the noted thief, over a $100 loan that he supposedly owed her. She called in the police to have Jourdan arrested; one of the results was that she and Jourdan were identified in public as lovers, and it was suggested the fight was over Jourdan’s other women, not money. That may or may not have been true; and moreover, Tip Little may or may not have cared about her romantic entanglements. Perhaps he cared more about coming under the scrutiny of the police. Whatever the cause, he arrived home and started to beat and kick Mrs. Little, to the extent that the police were called in again.

Tip fled the scene. Several months later, it was reported that Mrs. Little was no longer associated with Tip, but instead had taken up with her shoplifting partner, George Williams, aka Pettengill. However, by July 1885, the Littles had reconciled.

In late 1885, Tip tried passing altered checks made by Isaac Cooper [not Hooper, as Byrnes cited]. Cooper was an ex-convict, having already seen one term in Sing Sing. Cooper stands out as the only African-American criminal mentioned by Inspector Byrnes; and newspapers cited him as the only black convicted in New York state for forgery. Both Tip and Cooper were convicted of forgery; Tip got five years while Cooper was sentenced to seven and a half years.


While Tip was locked up at Sing Sing, Lizzie Little died; by most accounts, she was only forty-five years old. After his release, Tip took care of his mother, Mary, who now resided in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He also spent time at racetracks, working the crowd with small cons. In 1993, he chose the wrong victim: a prominent politician. Instead of being too embarrassed to press charges, the politician instead exerted his influence to keep his name out of the papers while still prosecuting Little. Tip, under the name Henry Osgood, was sentenced to another five years in Sing Sing, the latter portion of which was served in Dannemora.

After two years of freedom, from 1897-1899, Tip was caught till-tapping, a crime usually performed a young, agile thieves. He was given a term four years and two months in Sing Sing, once again under the name Henry Osgood. A news item from 1907 claimed that he had died in prison, sometime between 1899 and 1903.


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