#65 Joseph Whalen

Joseph Whalen (Abt. 1861-????), aka Joe Wilson — House burglar

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Twenty-five years old in 1886. Born in United States. Medium build. Married. Height, 5 feet 6 3/4 inches. Weight, 143 pounds. Brown hair, blue eyes, sallow complexion. Wears black mustache. Has a scar on right temple, another on corner of left eye.

RECORD. Joe Whalen, alias Wilson, is a clever shoplifter, and is well known in all the principal Eastern and Western cities, having formerly lived in Chicago. He was arrested in New York City on November 21, 1883, for shoplifting.

He was arrested again in New York City on August 25, 1885, in company of George Elwood, alias Gentleman George (114), a desperate Colorado burglar, with a complete set of burglars’ tools in their possession. When the detectives searched their rooms in Forsyth Street, New York, they found considerable jewelry, etc. Among it was a Masonic ring engraved “Edson W. Baumgarten, June 25, 1884.” This ring was traced to Toledo, O.

In answer to inquiries about the same. Chief of Police Pittman of that city sent the following telegram: “Hold Elwood and Wilson; charge, grand larceny, burglary, and shooting an officer.” The circumstances were as follows: On August 13, 1885, masked burglars broke into Mr. Baumgarten’s house in Toledo, O., and being discovered in the act of plundering the place fired several shots at the servants and escaped. An alarm was raised and the police started in pursuit. Coming up on Elwood, the officer demanded to know what was in a bag he was carrying. He said, “Nothing of much value—take it and see.” The officer took the bag to a lamp near by, and when in the act of examining it, Elwood shot him in the back and escaped.

Whalen and Elwood were taken to Toledo on August 29, 1885, to answer for this and a series of other masked burglaries in that vicinity, in almost all of which there was violence used. They were both tried there on December 12, 1885. Elwood was found guilty, and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary at Toledo on December 19, 1885. Wilson was remanded for a new trial, as the jury failed to convict him.

Elwood hails from Denver, Col., and is a desperate man. Whalen was formerly from Chicago, but is well known in New York and other Eastern cities. These two men committed several masked burglaries, generally at the point of the pistol, in Cleveland, Detroit, St. Paul, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. Whalen, or Wilson, was tried again in Toledo, and found guilty of grand larceny on May 5, 1886, and sentenced to five years in State prison at Columbus, O., on May 15, 1886, by Judge Pike, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Lucas County, Ohio. See record of No. 114. Whalen’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1883.

Inspector Byrnes’s reference to a November 1883, shoplifting arrest of Joe Whalen/Wilson in New York City can not be verified. However, there is other evidence that Whalen was well-known in New York as a shoplifter: in February, 1885, he was found in New York City by a New Haven, Connecticut detective tracking down shoplifters who had recently hit a tailor shop in that city. Hartford newspapers indicated that Whalen already was in New York’s Rogues Gallery as a shoplifter, but do not make clear under what name his record existed.

When George Ellwood and Whalen were arrested in New York in August 1885, police detectives also wondered if they had been responsible for a February 1883, house robbery in New York City’s Pike Flats apartment building. However, while this suspicion was mentioned in newspapers, Byrnes does not mention it in his entry; so it may be that the evidence was too flimsy for Byrnes to cite.

It is also curious that Byrnes made claims about Whalen’s history under the entry for George Elwood (Ellwood), but did not repeat those claims in his entry for Whalen:

“Before Wilson associated with the desperado Elwood he operated for months alone in Brooklyn, N.Y. House robbery was his line of business, and silverware his plunder. He committed a series of mysterious robberies, and although an active search was made for the “silver king,” he succeeded in avoiding arrest. His repeated successes stimulated other thieves, who began operating in Brooklyn. One of the latter was caught, and it was then believed that the cunning “silver king” had been at last trapped. Such was not the case, for Wilson had set out for the Western country.”

Between February and August 1885, Whalen teamed up with George Ellwood to commit a string of house burglaries said to include Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Cleveland, and Toledo. However, it was only the ring found in their possession in New York that tied them to any specific crime.

Whalen, aka Joe Wilson, was tried in Ohio in December, 1885, resulting in a hung jury. He was re-tried in May 1886. Whalen’s wife, whose name remains unknown, impressed the courtroom with her attractive appearance and her passionate defense of her husband. He was found guilty at the second trial, after which Mrs. Whalen accused the court bailiff of taking money from her to guarantee a not-guilty verdict. Whalen was sentenced to five years in the Ohio State Penitentiary.

One “Joe Wilson,” described as an ex-convict, was arrested for an apartment robbery in New York in 1894, but it is not clear that this was Whalen.

In his 1895 edition, the only update that Byrnes offers is that Whalen was arrested in New York on August 2, 1895 for an unspecified offense, in company with his brother Michael, also a well-known burglar; and both were released. No newspaper accounts of this arrest can be found, nor can any Whalen family be found in the New York region (or in Chicago, where Byrnes indicates Whalen originally came from) that has a Joseph and a Michael of similar ages.

Without more clues, it is impossible to tell where Whalen originally came from or where he went, after serving his sentence in Ohio.





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