#190 Henry Hoffman

Hiram Hoffman (1852-????), aka Henry Hoffman, Harry Hoffman, William Tannis/Tennis, Henry Steiner — Burglar, Receiver

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-two years old in 1886. Jew, born in United States. Married. No trade. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 8 3/4 inches. Weight, 154 pounds. Black hair, dark eyes, dark complexion. Generally wears a black mustache. Big nose. Parts his hair in the middle. Has a Jewish appearance. Has ” H.H.” near wrist on right arm. Scar on left cheek.

RECORD. Hoffman, which is his right name, is a well known New York thief and receiver, and has been arrested from time to time in almost every city in the United States. He has served two terms in State prison for burglary, and is a man well worth knowing.

He was arrested in New York City on October 14, 1882, in company of Frank Watson, alias Big Patsey, and Julius Klein (191), and delivered to the police authorities of Boston, Mass. Hoffman, Watson and Klein were arraigned in court in Boston, Mass., on November 24, 1882, and pleaded guilty to breaking and entering the store of Mr. Thomas, No. 35 Avon Street, that city, and carrying away velvet and cloth valued at $1,000. Hoffman and Watson were sentenced to three years each in Concord prison. Their sentence expired on July 3, 1885. Klein was sentenced to two years in the House of Correction at South Boston. His sentence expired on October 2, 1884.

During the months of October and November, 1885, two express wagons and their contents were stolen in Boston, Mass. The wagons were recovered, but their contents, valued at $4,000, were only partly recovered. Shortly after the robbery two notorious wagon thieves, named Stephen Dowd and Wlliam W. Alesbury, were arrested in Boston for the offenses. In Dowd’s pocket was found the directions of Hoffman’s house in New York City. Hoffman was arrested in New York, and part of the stolen property found in his possession. He was taken to Boston on December 15, 1885, and used as a witness against Dowd and Alesbury, who were convicted and sentenced to four years each in the Charlestown State prison. Alesbury has previously served a three years’ sentence in the same prison for a similar offense.

Hoffman was arrested again in Baltimore on May 7, 1886, under the name of Henry Stiner, charged with burglary. He pleaded guilty on June 3, 1886, and was sentenced to five years in State prison. His picture is an excellent one, taken in May, 1886.

Hiram Hoffman’s known record is even more depressing than Byrnes relates. He was sent to Sing Sing at age 19 for stealing two rifles and two pouches, under his real name, Hiram Hoffman (son of Abraham and Minna Hoffman). Even then, he was described as “an old and well-known offender.” For this crime, he was sentenced for five years, the latter portion spent in Auburn State Prison.

His activities between 1875 and 1880 haven’t been traced, but by that point, he was using a very common name, Henry Hoffman.

In June 1880, he was caught stealing $125 worth of goods from a Manhattan jeweler. He returned to Sing Sing for another two years.

He was next arrested in Boston with two more polished burglars, Frank Watson aka Big Patsey and Julius Klein. Whether Hoffman was being coy when offering an alias, or whether the court reporters were just sloppy, Hoffman’s processing was reported under six different names: William Tannis, William Franks, Big Bill, Tom Travis, William Francis, and William Tennis. Whatever name he was sentenced under, the term was three years. He was discharged from the Massachusetts State Penitentiary in October 1884.

Hoffman apparently made some burglar friends in jail, because in December 1885, two thieves were apprehended in Boston and one had Hoffman’s New York address in his pocket (which was an inexcusable blunder). New York police raided Hoffman’s abode and found half the loot from the Boston robberies. To save himself, Hoffman agreed to go to Boston and testify against the two crooks.

Hoffman was arrested again for burglaries of his own in Baltimore in May 1886. He was given a term of five years in the Maryland State Prison, emerging in August 1890.

A month later, he was caught again in New York, and given a much stiffer sentence: eight years and eleven months at Clinton Prison in Dannemora. He was discharged on August 5, 1896.

One can only hope that Hoffman finally made some peace with society. He wasn’t heard from again.

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