#31 Louis R. Martin

Lewis R. Martin (Abt. 1827-1894), aka Luther R. Martin, L. R. Martin, Lew Martin — Counterfeiter, Forger

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Sixty-three years old in 1886. Born in United States. Horse dealer. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 10 3/4 inches. Weight, 164 pounds. Gray hair, eyes dark gray and weak, complexion light. Is a fine, gentlemanly-looking man.

RECORD. Martin was believed to be the capitalist of the Brockway gang of forgers and counterfeiters. He was well known by all the reputable horse and sporting men in this country, as a man of means engaged in the transportation of cattle between the United States, England and Australia.

He was indicted in the United States Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania in 1875, with an accomplice named Henry Moxie, alias Sweet, for passing counterfeit $500 notes. He was never tried. Previous to that time he had been known as an expert engraver and printer of counterfeits, under the name of Martin Luther. He made and owned the plate with which the $500 notes for which himself and Moxie were indicted were printed.

He has been connected in several large counterfeiting schemes with William E. Brockway (32), J. B. Doyle, Nathan B. Foster, English Moore, and others. He is well known by the United States officers as a counterfeiter.

Martin was arrested in New York City, on November 10, 1883, with Brockway (32) and Nathan B. Foster, charged with having in his possession forged $1,000 bonds of the Morris & Essex Railroad of New Jersey. At the time of his arrest, in the St. James Hotel, New York City, there was found in two valises in his room fifty-four $1,000 bonds of the above road, thirty-three of which had been numbered and signed ready for use. For this offense Martin was convicted, and sentenced to ten years in State prison, on August 6, 1884, by Judge Cowing, in the Court of General Sessions in New York City. His counsel obtained a stay of proceedings, and he was granted a new trial, and admitted to bail; while confined in the Tombs prison from some cause he became totally blind. His picture is an excellent one, taken in November, 1883.

There is no doubt that Lew Martin was a central partner in several counterfeiting schemes; less clear is whether he was ever an engraver himself, or always worked with others. Whatever the case, his crimes appear to have been episodic, and fueled by his real passion: horse breeding. Martin’s known crimes occurred far from his adopted home, San Francisco. As a counter to his profile in Professional Criminals of America, consider Lew Martin’s obituary in Breeder and Sportsman:


Martin’s patron, starting around 1870, was one of California’s greatest businessmen, Lucky Baldwin. Not only did Baldwin stand by his friend in his last decade as an invalid, Baldwin surely must have been aware of Lew’s counterfeiting crimes. [Was Lew Martin the “broker” of these rings? Or was it his rich mentor?] Martin must have also rubbed shoulders with Baldwin’s friend and horse-racing enthusiast, Wyatt Earp.

In the 1860s, prior to his move to California, Lew Martin was a well-known trotting horse breeder living in Brooklyn. In the late 1880s, the head of the United States Secret Service, Andrew L. Drummond, claimed that it was during the 1860s that Martin first started working with William E. Brockway.

Martin’s downfall was his 1883 arrest in New York with Brockway and Nathaniel B. Foster. The events surrounding this arrest are more fully described in two sources: 1) Allan Pinkerton’s Thirty Years a Detective (published in 1884), in the chapter “Counterfeiters;” and 2) A. L. Drummond’s True Detective Stories, in the chapter “A Wonderful Man Loses His Luck.” Brockway, Foster, and Martin likely would have been daunted to learn that the forces of the Pinkertons, the Secret Service, and Inspector Byrnes were all aligned against them.


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