#91 James Casey

James Casey (Abt. 1837-????), aka Big Jim Casey, James Mason — Pickpocket, Bunco and Green goods operator

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-eight years old in 1886. Born in United States. Single, No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 200 pounds. Black hair, dark eyes, dark complexion ; generally wears a full black beard, turning gray.

RECORD. Big Jim Casey is a well known Bowery (New York) pickpocket and “stall” for pickpockets. He was formerly an associate of Poodle Murphy (134), Pretty Jimmie (143), Big Dick Morris (141), and all the first-class men. Of late years he cannot be relied on, and the clever ones give him the go-by, as he is fond of drink. Lately he has turned his hand to banco business, and generally handles the bag of cloth samples. He is now working with Pete Lake (93) and Ed Parmelee, two notorious banco steerers.

Casey was arrested at Clifton, Canada, with a gang of American pick-pockets, during the Marquis of Lome’s celebration, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. He has served time in Sing Sing prison, and in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, and is well known in all the Eastern cities as Big Jim Casey.

He was arrested again in New York City on January 26, 1884, in company of Poodle Murphy (134), Tom Burns, alias Combo (148), Joe Gorman (146), and Nigger Baker (195), charged with sneaking a package of Elevated Railroad tickets, valued at $75, from a safe in the station at Houston Street and the Bowery, New York. For this offense he was sentenced to six months in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, on February 26, 1884. (See record of No. 134.) His picture is a fair one.

Big Jim Casey was another long-time Bowery pickpocket that transitioned to the main confidence games of his era: the Green Goods game and the Bunco game. He partnered at various times with all the luminaries mentioned by Byrnes in his entry on Casey. Casey was a bit older than most within this community, and many years of drinking took their toll, limiting his abilities by the 1890s.

It was a minor mystery to Inspector Byrnes how a declining pickpocket and lower-level con man like Casey could afford the best legal representation, on the several occasions where Casey was arrested. Byrnes stumbled upon the answer not long before he left as police Superintendent in 1895:


Big Jim Casey, as one of the founders of the trust, benefited most as his skills declined.

There are many ways to define an organized crime organization. The formation of a mutual aid agreement is surely one of them.

One thought on “#91 James Casey

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