#193 George Bell

George Bell (Abt. 1846-????), aka George H. Williams — Forger

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty years old in 1886. Born in United States. Single. No trade. A well-built man. Height, 5 feet 11 3/4 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes, light complexion. Vaccination mark on right arm. Small scar on right arm, above the wrist. Scar on right temple, over the eye. He is generally clean-shaven, and affects a staid and religious air during his operations.

RECORD. George Bell is as good a general thief as there is in this country. He is well known in most of the principal cities in the United States and Europe, having operated with Charles O. Brockway, alias Vanderpool (14), the celebrated forger, on both sides of the water, and was considered one of Brockway’s cleverest men. Bell has traveled considerably, but claims New York City as his home. He has been a professional thief, forger and manipulator of forged paper for years.

He was arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., on March 25, 1876, and sentenced to one year in Cherry Hill prison. Shortly after his discharge he was arrested again, in Philadelphia, for a “pennyweight” robbery, and sentenced to eighteen months in the Philadelphia County prison.

Early in 1880 Bell went to Europe with Al. Wilson, Cleary and others, for the purpose of flooding the Continent with forged circular notes. The scheme, which was managed by George Wilkes, Engle and Becker, proved a failure, and they returned to America.

Bell, Charles Farren, alias the “Big Duke,” and Henry Cleary, were arrested in New York City on July 27, 1880, charged with having defrauded the Merchants’ National Bank and the Third National Bank of Baltimore, Md., to the amount of $12,000, by forged checks, on July 16 and 17, 1880.

Farren was discharged for want of evidence. Cleary was claimed by the Albany (N.Y.) police authorities, and delivered to them, to answer a charge of forgery (a check for $490), for which he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to two years and six months in Dannemora prison, New York State, in November, 1880.

Bell was delayed in New York City, by habeas corpus proceedings, until August 1880, when he was delivered to Deputy Marshal Prey, of Baltimore, Md., and taken to that city by him. He was tried in Baltimore on November 30, 1880. The trial lasted until December 1, when the jury disagreed. He was tried again on December 16 and 17, 1880, with the same result. The venue was changed, and he was again tried, in an adjoining county. This trial resulted in a conviction, and he was sentenced to ten years in State prison on July 9, 1881.

Bell’s sentence will expire on October 9, 1889…His picture is a good one, taken in 1876.

Collection of Shayne Davidson

Bell’s 1876 arrest in Philadelphia came under the name George H. Williams.

Inspector Byrnes undoubtedly had information that would identify the real name of Bell/Williams, but by the publication of his 1895 edition, Byrnes believed that Bell had reformed, and was then in a legitimate business that prepared insurance and patent rights documents.

Byrnes believed this despite the fact that he was aware that Bell/Williams had masterminded a check-forging operation even in the weeks before his release from the Central Maryland State Penitentiary:


The fate of Bell/Williams is not known, but to put an ambitious forger in a position of dealing with insurance and patent documents does not forebode a good outcome.




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