Samuel Edward McGee (Abt. 1843-????), aka Charles A. Bernhard, Benjamin Earle, Edward Meyers, Edward Murphy
From Byrnes’s 1886 text:
DESCRIPTION. Thirty-nine years old in 1886. Southerner by birth. A baker by trade. Height, 5 feet 10 1/2 inches. Weight, 130 pounds. Tall, slim man. Brown hair, dark eyes, dark, sallow complexion. Has a coat-of-arms and sunburst in India ink on his right fore-arm. Dark mustache and chin whiskers; grows thin.
RECORD. Eddie McGee is one of the cleverest burglars, sneak thieves and pennyweight workers there is in the country. He is a partner of Johnny Curtin, alias Cunningham, alias Roberts (169), another daring and desperate thief. McGee is well known in all the principal cities of the United States, especially Chicago, Philadelphia (Pa.), New York and Boston, in all of which he is said to have been sent to prison.
McGee and Curtin were arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., for shoplifting, and sentenced to eighteen months each in the Eastern Penitentiary. When their time expired, on August 14, 1883, they were both arrested by New York officers, at the penitentiary gate, and brought to New York City, to answer an indictment charging them with the larceny of $1,200 worth of jewelry from Theodore Starr, a Fifth Avenue jeweler, in January, 1882. In this case there was no conviction.
Shortly after their release they went to England. Curtin was arrested there and sent to prison. McGee returned to America, and was arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., on February 12, 1884, for burglary, and sentenced to five years and six months in the Kings County Penitentiary on April 16, 1884, under the name of B. C. Earl. McGee’s picture is an excellent one, taken in August, 1883.
From Byrnes’s 1895 text:
He went to Europe with Johnny Curtin (No. 169), one of the most expert jewelry and sneak thieves in the world. They were both arrested at Paris, France, in the spring of 1884, for a sneak robbery, and sentenced to four years imprisonment each. This was reduced for some cause, as they were at liberty on April 15, 1886.
He was arrested again at Hoboken, N.J., on June 11, 1888. He was charged in company of Billy Goodman, alias Gordon, alias Gardiner, with attempting to rob a show case in a jewelry store in that city of a handful of diamond rings. He was arrested on the spot. Goodman made his escape. He was arrested again in New York City on June 23, 1888, and delivered to the Hoboken authorities. For this Offense he and Goodman were sentenced to five (5) years each in Trenton, N.J., State Prison, and costs, on September 21, 1888. McGee gave the name of Chas. A. Bernard. Picture taken August, 1883.
There is a glaring inconsistency between the 1886 and 1895 editions of Byrnes’s book in their profiles of Eddie McGee: the 1886 edition states that McGee was arrested in Brooklyn in April, 1884; while the 1895 edition asserts that McGee went to Europe with John Curtin and was jailed there in the Spring of 1884.
Given the grim predictability of McGee’s career, one almost wishes he might have at least known the variety of a Parisian prison. Sadly, it appears that his placement in Paris in 1884 is the error.
McGee was born as Samuel Edward McGee, son of a very successful Washington, D. C. baker, Samuel McGee, about 1843. Though it’s possible he saw service in the Civil War, most accounts suggest he only spent twenty out of his first fifty-two years out of prison. One of those terms was supposedly served at Joliet State Prison in Illinois, which was not a consequence of any of his known transgressions, from 1877 forward.
In June 1877, McGee and a partner, George Clarke alias Henry Miner, were captured in New York City with the proceeds of several house burglaries. They were sentenced in July to five years in Sing Sing; Both McGee and Clarke were described as “well-known burglars.”
No long after his release, in January 1882 McGee partnered with John Curtin on a robbery of diamond jewelry from the store of Theodore Starr in New York City. Before long, the same pair were caught picking pockets in Philadelphia, and both were sentenced to eighteen months in Eastern State Penitentiary. Inspector Byrnes suspected that they were responsible for the diamond robbery, and had a clerk from the store visit the Penitentiary to identify them. Upon their release from Eastern State, New York detectives arrested them and took them back to New York. They were tried in August 1883, but escaped conviction for lack of evidence.
If Eddie McGee then went to Europe with John Curtin, then McGee returned alone before April, 1884. That month he was caught fleeing a burglary scene by a Brooklyn police officer after a long foot chase, one in which McGee was seen flinging one tool after another into the streets. He was arrested as Benjamin Earle and sentenced to five and a half years in the Kings County Penitentiary.
He wasn’t free long before he was caught trying to rob a Hoboken jewelry store in June 1888. This episode cost McGee five years at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
In May 1895, McGee was nabbed once again while stealing silk bundles from a New York store. He was returned to Sing Sing for two years and five months. He was barely out of prison before being caught with a partner, Martin McCloskey, stealing opera glasses worth $2000 from a Philadelphia optician. The two old burglars informed on each other, but did not improve their cases. They were both given three and a half years at Eastern State in January 1898.
Nothing more was heard of McGee after this prison term.