#144 George Harrison

Henry Hart (Abt. 1834-1894), aka George Harris, George Thompson, William Thompson, George Wilson, William Harris — Thief, Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-five years old in 1886. Born in Scotland. Single. Machinist. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, about 160 pounds. Black curly hair, gray eyes, light complexion. Generally wears a brown mustache. Had weak eyes. Has scar under right eye.

RECORD. “Boston,” the name he is best known by, is a well-known New York pickpocket. He has been arrested in almost every large city in the Union. He is said to have served terms in prison in Philadelphia and Boston. When he first appeared in New York City he came from Boston, Mass., and the fraternity christened him after that city. He is not able to do much alone, but is considered an excellent “stall.” He works sometimes with Jersey Jimmie (145), Charley Allen, and other New York pick-pockets.

He was arrested in New York City, and sentenced to four years and six months in Sing Sing prison on November 8, 1882, under the name of George Wilson, for grand larceny from the person. His time expired, allowing him full commutation, on March 8, 1886. “Boston’s” picture is a good one, taken in 1876.

Little more is known about this man beyond his arrest record, but one curious fact is that none of his arrest or prison records mention the last name “Harrison”–only Harris. There are one or two newspaper mentions of this man as “Harrison,” but they came after Byrnes’s book came out in 1886 and appear to be citing it.

A Sing Sing register asserted his real name was Henry Hart and that his mother was Mary Hart; he referred to the same Brooklyn address to contact her in two different Sing Sing registers, so this appears to be correct, and aligns with a New York City death record for a Henry Hart that is one day removed from a death date given in Byrnes’s 1895 edition.

Hart was first arrested in October 1855, when he was about 21 years old. He was sent to Sing Sing under the name George Thompson for two years, but was pardoned in April 1857.

He returned to Sing Sing in January 1871 as William Thompson, again for grand larceny. This time his sentence was five years. He was recognized as a repeat offender in 1880, but–curiously–only received a sentence of one year. This stemmed from a case in which two of Hart’s pals stole a parcel of tools from a hardware store, and one of them came out of the store and handed the parcel to Hart. So Hart was, in effect, punished as a conspirator to larceny, not as an active participant.

Hart was captured in New York a third time in September 1882, under the name George Wilson, and was sentenced to four and a half years in Sing Sing.

Hart had other arrests in Syracuse and in Philadelphia, and was rounded up many times during New York city crackdowns on pickpockets.

He died in Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan on December 2, 1894.




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