#26 Augustus Raymond

Augustus Raymond (Abt. 1855-19??), aka Gus Raymond, Arthur L. Barry, William Walker — Sneak thief

Link to Byrnes’s text on #26 Augustus Raymond

Gus Raymond was a capable all-around thief, but specialized in a type of theft known as the “trunk game.” This crime was committed by gaining entry to a baggage area of a rail-car, depot, or steamship company and switching address labels on the luggage, so that they would be delivered right to the thief.

Although he acquired a reputation as a sneak thief in New York when he was still a teen in the late 1860s and early 1870s, it was not until 1877 that Raymond was caught committing a large heist. The mechanics of the theft of a trunk of jewels was described in detail by one of Raymond’s partners, Langdon Moore, in his autobiography. In his account, Moore himself is the unnamed “fourth man,” while “Bigelow” is Tom Bigelow, and “Briggs” is Thomas “Kid” Leary:

AN EXCHANGE OF BAGGAGE CHECKS: HOW A JEWELRY FIRM HAPPENED TO LOSE A VALUABLE TRUNK BETWEEN WORCESTER AND NEW YORK.

Under the protection of a Boston private detective, whose greed of gain was only excelled by his treachery to me as time rolled on, several important robberies took place in and near Boston. The day previous to my first prospecting visit to the Cambridgeport National Bank, Feb. 26, 1877, the Brigham robbery took place. This was followed by the Garey robbery, April 16; and on May 12 Ailing Brothers and Company’s jewelry trunk was stolen from their traveling salesman.

This salesman and his trunk were followed from the Tremont House, Boston, where he was registered, to the Bay State House, Worcester, by Raymond, Bigelow, Briggs and company. Seeing there was no opportunity to steal the trunk out of the hotel, while the salesman was visiting his customers among the jewelers in that city, the party decided to wait and follow him to his next stopping-place. Just before the afternoon express train was due, he was seen to leave the hotel and enter the Bay State House coach, with his trunk behind him. He was followed to the depot, where he bought a ticket for Hartford, Conn. Being late, he checked his trunk, and before it could be put on board the train started. He got on, leaving his baggage to be forwarded by the next train.

When it was found he had left his trunk, Bigelow went to a store on Main Street, and bought a large glazed cloth valise, while Briggs entered a grocery store and purchased a bag of salt and four dozen oranges, with a package of brown paper. While walking through a back street, the oranges, after being wrapped in the paper, were put in the bag, along with the salt. The bag was locked, and Raymond carried it to the depot, where he bought a ticket for New York. He checked the valise to that city.

Early that evening, when the baggage-master was alone in the room, Raymond and Bigelow entered, and the former asked to be allowed to open his valise, as he wished to get something out. At the same time he showed his check and pointed the bag out to the baggage-master, who, after examining the check, handed the bag to him. The moment he did this, Bigelow engaged the baggage-master in conversation, turning him around and calling his attention to another part of the room. Raymond then walked across the room to where the salesman’s trunk was standing, and set the bag down on the end of the trunk. While Bigelow was seeking information from the baggage-master, Raymond changed the check from the valise to the trunk, and the check from the trunk to the valise, sending that to Hartford and the trunk to New York. He then carried the valise back to where he had taken it from, and gave Bigelow the “tip” that the exchange had been made. They thanked the baggage-master for his kindness, bade him goodnight, and left the room.

A fourth man had remained outside, where he had seen all that had taken place in the room. There he did post duty until released by Briggs, and between the two they watched to see if the baggage-master examined the checks. He did not; and when the express train for New York came along, the trunk and the bag were put aboard. When the train started, the four “crooks” entered the smoker. Not knowing but the salesman might have business in Springfield that would detain him until this train came, they kept a close watch upon all who entered the cars at that place. Nothing, however, occurred that could in any way interest the thieves until the train reached Hartford, where two of the men left the train, and saw the valise taken from the baggage car and placed alone upon the truck, where it remained until the train pulled out of the station.

One man was left behind to see that the salesman did not call or send for his trunk before the train reached New York, for, if he did, it might make it difficult for the party who presented the check at that end to explain how he came in possession of it. Upon the arrival of the train, the check was given to a hackman, with instructions to get the trunk and return to the front of the depot. This he did, being “piped” by the thieves, who saw the trunk delivered to him without question. When he drove to the front of the depot, Briggs got in and was driven to a hotel on Fourth Avenue, where he registered and had his trunk sent to his room.

In the meantime Bigelow entered the hotel, carrying a large valise, registered, and engaged a room for the purpose of changing his clothes. After these men had been shown to their rooms, and the boy who piloted them up had returned to the office, Bigelow went to Briggs’ room, broke open the trunk, transferred all the jewelry he found in it to the bag, returned to his room, and, after cleaning himself up, returned to the office. He paid his bill and left the hotel, carrying the bag. At the corner of Twenty-Seventh Street he was met by the other man, who had been “piping” the hotel while the shift was being made, and together they went to a hotel on Sixth Avenue, near Forty-Fifth Street, and engaged a room, when the “stuff” was looked over.

Briggs, who had been left at the Fourth Avenue Hotel, was told to hire an express wagon and take the empty trunk to a furnished room in Fortieth Street occupied by Bigelow; and that night the trunk was to be taken away and destroyed. Had he done this, all trace of the trunk would have been lost. But while going for the express wagon, Briggs met Raymond, who told him not to go to the trouble of carting the trunk away and destroying it, but to go to the Fifth Avenue Hotel and get a hackman to take it to the Adams Express office and ship it on to Baltimore.

While this was being done, the salesman sent to the depot for his trunk; and when the check was presented, the valise was delivered to the messenger, who carried it to the hotel where the man was staying, and delivered the bag to him. Seeing a mistake had been made and that he had got another person’s baggage, he went to the depot, looking for his trunk. After going through the baggage-room without finding what he was in search of, he made inquiries, and learned that no other baggage but the valise had been left there upon the arrival of the express train from the East. He then wired to Worcester to have his baggage forwarded, and received a reply that it had been sent on by the night express.

The police were soon notified and given a full description of the large, heavily-ironed black trunk, with a large letter “A” printed in white on the ends. The trunk had been over the road a hundred times, and was known to all the baggage-men and many of the hackmen between New York and Boston, to say nothing about the thieves who had followed the salesman over the road many times previous to this party striking the trail. Upon inquiry at the depot, the hackman was found who had taken the trunk and the man to the Fourth Avenue Hotel, where it was learned the trunk had been taken away by another hackman; but no one could tell who he was or whither he had taken the trunk.

In the meantime the salesman, with the assistance of the officers, burst open the valise, and found the bag of salt carefully packed away among the oranges, which were beginning to decay. A search was then made by the police for the man who had sold the valise, the salt, and the oranges, to the man who had the bag. They were not successful in this, however, and the hunt was soon given up. Not so, however, with the New York police, for they caused to be inserted in the papers a notice offering a reward for any information leading to the recovery of the trunk, with a request that the hackman who had taken it from the Fourth Avenue Hotel call at police headquarters. As this man seldom read the papers, he heard nothing of the inquiries being made by the police about the trunk until his attention was called to it by overhearing some other hackmen accusing one another of stealing a jewelry trunk with a big “A” printed on the ends. Upon inquiry as to the meaning of their talk, an explanation followed, and he was shown the notice in the papers.

After reading this, he jumped on his hack and drove to police headquarters, where he gave the information that led to the recovery of the trunk at the express office at Baltimore by New York detectives, who returned to New York with it, and renewed their search for the plunder, and the thieves who had dared work a new trick on the police and railroad people. While they were running around among the “stool pigeons” for information, the “stuff” was sold to a “fence” for four thousand dollars, and the party returned to Boston.

Police eventually tracked down the hackmen, which led them to Raymond; both Raymond and Kid Leary were identified by the baggage-master. Raymond and Leary were eventually caught and prosecuted, with Raymond sentenced to five years in the Massachusetts State Prison and Leary given the same number of years in Sing Sing. Moore and Bigelow escaped.

However, before Raymond was tracked down for this theft, he and Moore planned other jobs–and Moore became convinced that Gus Raymond was trying to cheat him. All the later mentions of Raymond in Moore’s book following the trunk theft are damning–though it should be mentioned that Moore also felt he was betrayed by George Mason; and thought Big John Tracy was worthless.

Raymond’s teaming up with forgers George W. Wilkes and Little Joe Elliott in 1886 was out of character. Raymond was not known to have engaged in any forgery schemes after Wilkes and Elliott were jailed.

From 1887 on, Raymond stuck to stealing from passenger ships, either using the “trunk game” or by breaking into cabins just before the steamers left dock. He was still at it in 1910:

 

 

 

 

#107 James Campbell

James Campbell (Abt. 1844-19??), aka Shang Campbell, James Morgan, George Wilson, James Williams, James Bell, George Jones — Masked burglar, Pickpocket

Link to Byrnes’s text for #107 James Campbell

Inspector Byrnes, in his two editions, offered a fairly complete record of Shang Campbell’s known crimes, but several small mysteries about the man remain. Campbell’s age, early history, and real name remain in doubt. When sent to Sing Sing in 1903, he claimed to be 71 years old (birth year 1832); but newspaper accounts from his other crimes put his birth year at around 1850. Byrnes is probably closer to the mark, indicating Campbell was born around 1844.

By his own account, Campbell’s mother died when he was young, and at age 12 he was sent north of New York City sixty miles to a farm in Orange County, New York. He said he lived there for four years, then came back to the city. Campbell told a story that his first brush with the law was an injustice–that he was hanging out on a corner with some other youths, and the police rounded up everyone and charged them with a robbery. Campbell stated that he went to the reformatory for two years, having done nothing wrong.

Byrnes says that Campbell was involved in a warehouse robbery in lower Manhattan and was sent to Sing Sing for five years; but the Sing Sing registers can not confirm this. Depending on Campbell’s real age, both of these stories could be true–but Campbell’s verifiable criminal record does not start until 1873.

Campbell gained infamy as one of the gang of masked burglars that raided houses along the Hudson River in the fall of 1873.  They were known as the “Masked Eleven” or the “Rochelle Pirates.” This gang of thieves entered the residence of a wealthy farmer, Abram Post, near Embogcht (Inbocht) Bay on the Hudson River, south of Catskill, New York. Similar raids were made against the homes of J. P. Emmet in New Rochelle, New York; and W. K. Soutter on Staten Island. The gang was said to use George Milliard’s saloon to plan its raids, and included Johnny Dobbs, Dan Kelly, Pugsey Hurley, Patsy Conroy, Larry Griffin, Dennis Brady, John Burns. All were arrested except Dobbs and Campbell. They fled south to Key West, Florida.

Dobbs and Campbell intended to get to Cuba, but on the way stopped in Key West, partied heavily, and started bragging about their exploits. They were arrested by the Key West sheriff and thrown in jail while their backgrounds were investigated. Campbell escaped, but was recaptured and returned to New York.

Once he was released, Campbell joined a gang of pickpockets that toured the States and Canada for several years. He was arrested in Worcester, Massachusetts in October 1884, and let out of a $3000 bail, which was forfeited.  In 1887, he, along with Ned Lyons and Ned Lyman, were caught picking pockets in Kent, Ohio. Campbell was let out on bail and jumped again.

Byrnes relates Campbell’s drawn-out legal hassles in Boston from 1891 through 1893, when we was tried and convicted for a bank sneak robbery. He appealed his conviction three times, but ultimately was sentenced to four years in prison.

Upon his release, Campbell returned to New York to resume his streetcar pick pocket activities under his abbreviated name, James Bell. When arrested in 1901 under the alias George Jones, it was reported that his wife had recently died–but that he had deceived her for thirty years as to the nature of his business, explaining his prison terms as foreign business trips. He seemed to be able to maintain a middle-class household from his earnings, and police complimented his “beautiful system.”

Whatever system he had failed in February 1903, when he was sent to Sing sing for five years for picking pockets. He was later transferred to Clinton Prison in Dannemora, and was released in September 1906, a withered, gray-haired man.

 

 

#38 Charles J. Everhardt

Charles J. Everhardt (Abt. 1842-19??), aka Marsh Market Jake, Charles Williams, George Walsh, Charles Webb, Greenback Charley, George Hartman, Samuel Peters, Charles Koch, Charles McGloin, George Jones, Samuel Wells, William Helburne, etc. — Sneak thief, forger

Link to Byrnes’s text for #38 Charles J. Everhardt

Despite his distinctive name, nickname, and numerous mentions in Professional Criminals of America, there are several mysteries surrounding “Marsh Market Jake.” Most sources agree he was raised in Baltimore, which had a neighborhood (and street gang) named Marsh Market. Baltimore had a large German population, with many families named Everhardt/Everhart/Everhard–but there are no leads indicating whether Jake came from one of them. The same sources locating his early years in Baltimore also say that he was a thief since youth; yet there are no Baltimore crime reports of a chronic offender by this name.

Before any known criminal activities, Jake served in the military, according to the 1890 Veteran Schedule records filled out in Sing Sing. Those indicate that he served three months (May-August 1861) in the 12th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry; and then enlisted in the Navy in 1862 and served over thirty months on the USS Brandywine during its blockade of the Virginia coast.

In January 1870, Everhardt, alias Charles Williams alias George Walsh, was arrested twice in Philadelphia: once for snatching bills away from a man at a bank; and secondly for trying to shoplift a bolt of satin. He was sentenced to six years and nine months in Eastern State Penitentiary.

After leaving ESP, Everhardt teamed up with Philly Pearson and George Williams for an 1876 bank robbery in Montreal, but were captured. Everhardt was sentenced to three and a half years.

In April 1880, Everhardt was back in Philadelphia and led a gang that opened a safe in a whisky store, stealing $2200. His partners were Kid Carroll (identified by Byrnes as “Little Al Wilson”), George Williams, and Billy Morgan. They were each sentenced to eighteen months in Eastern State Penitentiary.

A Cincinnati detective was convinced that Everhardt, Tom Bigelow, John Jourdan, and Charles Benedict were responsible for the October 1881 theft of $20,000 in bonds from Senator Burton in Cincinnati, but the case was never proved, nor were they ever arrested.

In May 1882, Everhardt and Philly Pearson were caught with a third man, known by the alias Charles Wilson, in Kingston, Ontario. They were accused of robbing a Toronto jewelry store; Pheason gave his name as John Miller, and Everhardt gave the name Charles Webb. They were sentenced to five years in the Kingston Penitentiary, but with time reduced were out in March 1885.

Three months later, Everhardt and Pearson were arrested on suspicion in Philadelphia, where Jake offered the aliases William Helburne and Albert Rudolph. Pearson gave the name George Thompson. Though the evidence against them was circumstantial, they were given ninety days in jail.

Upon his release in August 1885, Jake hooked up with Charles Fisher’s gang of check forgers. Fisher and Everhardt were briefly detained by police in Boston, but were let go. In New York, the gang–including Everhardt, Fisher, Walter Pierce, and Charles Denken–were tracked by Byrnes’s detectives, who succeeded in corralling the gang and charged them with several counts of presenting forged checks. Everhardt’s protege, Kid Carroll, was arrested for attempting to lay one of the checks in Baltimore. In January 1886, Marsh Market Jake was sentenced to ten years in Sing Sing.

Jake’s sentence was commuted and he was released from Sing Sing in November 1892.

Everhardt returned to New York and resided there under the alias Samuel Wells, and situated himself as a trader in jewelry. In October 1894, Secret Service and Postal Inspectors had Everhardt arrested on charges that he had broken into and stolen $5000 in stamps from the New Albany, Indiana post office. When he was taken in New York, officials found $3000 in stamps in his possession. Everhardt was brought up on charges in a federal court in Indiana and convicted, despite calling in many respectable witnesses who swore they saw him in New York at the time of the robbery.

Everhardt was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. In October 1896, just four months shy of completing his term, Jake was pardoned by President Grover Cleveland. The Secret Service and Post Office had discovered after his conviction that others committed the robbery.

Jake returned to New York, but within a few years had exhausted every means of legal income. He checked in with Chief Detective George F. Titus, a former lawyer, and Titus got him a job as a watchman on the New York subway construction project.

Many years later, it was said that he died in a poorhouse, but the date and location is unknown.

 

 

 

#200 Joseph Bond

Joseph Krakoski (1854-1915), aka Paper Collar Joe, Joseph Krakowski, Joseph Bond, Joseph Martin, Joseph Gray, Joseph Kray, etc. –Confidence Man, Card Sharp, Art Swindler

Link to Byrnes’s text for #200 Joseph Bond

Though he was one of the most famous confidence men in American history, Paper Collar Joe’s exploits were often confused with those of Hungry Joe Lewis. Many examples can be found where Paper Collar Joe is credited with the saying “there’s a sucker born every minute;” or with nearly swindling Oscar Wilde; or of being a partner of Grand Central Pete Lake–all of which are true of Hungry Joe, not Paper Collar Joe.

Perhaps Joseph Krakoski preferred to have his own accomplishments remain in the shadows, for he became very adept at avoiding prosecution. He practiced every major con of his era: three-card monte, bunco, the gold-brick game, the green-goods game, and even the fake wiretap. However, he also created new scams involving the real-estate investment swindles and artwork swindles.

Paper Collar Joe was born to a Polish father and a German mother, and was raised in Niagara Falls, New York. Joe’s father sold souvenirs and Indian artifacts, and became the leading merchant of trinkets at the popular resort. The business he built was eventually handed down to his daughters, and the store became famous in their names as “Libbie & Katie’s”. As a popular resort on the Canadian border, Niagara Falls attracted grifters and crooks of all kinds, from those that came to prey on the crowds to those that were in transit between one country or the other, escaping authorities. Young Joseph Krakowski fell in with some of these, and in his early twenties opted to move to one of their favorite haunts, Chicago.

In Chicago, Joe was mentored by a master bunco operator, William E. Langley, alias Appetite Bill. Joe went by the alias Joseph Martin, and served as a “roper” to entice passersby into a gambling den managed by Langley, but owned by Chicago crime boss Mike McDonald. Joe helped manage McDonald’s gambling rooms throughout the 1870s, but also made trips with Langley down the Mississippi to New Orleans and St. Louis, bilking rubes into playing three-card monte. He married a Chicago woman, but abandoned her after a month. He also made an ill-advised trip to Philadelphia during the 1876 Centennial, and was jailed there for a year.

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Joe made New York his headquarters. He was known there as Joe Gray, alias Paper Collar Joe. He had earned that nickname when in Philadelphia learning from con man Jack Canter, the originator of a fake insurance scam:

[It should also be noted that in the 1860s, there was a popular English music hall song, “Penny Paper Collar Joe,” a comic ditty about a flirtatious dandy.]

William Muldoon, the boxing trainer and raconteur, told an anecdote about Joe and President Grant:

“Yes, siree, it ‘s all very well to make guesses about a man from the cut of his coat or the shape of his hat, but don’t be too cock-sure of your judgment if you limit your evidence to his linen.

“Now, there was the case of Paper-Collar Joe, extraordinary character; sort of a thinly lacquered pan-handler. Little, wiry, lived by his wits. Wore a hat like Augustin Daly’s, Prince-Albert coat, but always a paper collar. And that shifty gait! Golly! he could flim-flam money out of the Sphinx; and so oily! He used to hang around the old Fifth Avenue Hotel in the seventies at the time General Grant lived there.

“Mornings the general used to pass through the lobby with a pocketful of sugar on the way to some stables near by where he kept the horses that had served him through the war. The general was always alone. He had a curious walk; sort of threw himself along, head down, looking at nobody. But he couldn’t get past Paper-Collar Joe. Up Joe went one morning and braced the general; talked and talked, and soon, by golly! they went out together, Paper-Collar Joe spouting his hot-air investments like a steam-engine to General Grant! It happened that morning and the next. Paper-Collar Joe was the only person around the hotel that had a steady speaking acquaintance with the silent general. Everybody was amazed, but everybody was just as sure the general would see through the flim-flammery of Joe.

“Then the thing was forgotten, especially since Joe became rather more as he used to be, by himself, but always with a sharp eye for newly arriving victims on all trains due East.

“Finally, the hotel people voted Joe a nuisance as well as a danger, and ordered him off the premises. But he tarried and talked; so one day a house detective grabbed him by the neck and hustled him the full length of the lobby, right up to the Fifth Avenue door, all the time calling him ‘bunco-steerer,’ ‘green-goods man,’ and other fashionable terms of the day. But before the detective could maneuver the door, it was opened for him, and in stepped General Grant.

“‘What’s all this?’ asked the general.

‘”Why, er—this man is objectionable.’

“‘Objectionable!’ roared the general. ‘My friend objectionable? How dare you, sir? He ‘s my guest. Come along with me, Joe!’

“And, by golly! arm in arm they marched back through the lobby, past staring desk clerks and the paralyzed manager—General Grant and Paper-Collar Joe—right up to the general’s suite.”

“And the answer?” somebody asked.

“Character, odd character. Joe was that, and Grant always liked odd characters. Fellow feeling; Grant was one himself.”

In New York, Joe teamed up with a veteran riverboat gambler and con man named Henry Monell. Together, they came up with a scheme to use their card sharp skills on wealthy passengers of transatlantic ships.

By 1888, Joe had earned enough to open his own saloon/gambling hall in St. Paul, Minnesota, under the name Joe Kray. He was popular among that city’s sporting crowd, but kept his activities legitimate. However, three Indiana farmers who had been cheated out of $20,000 at cards a few years earlier hired a private detective who traced Joe to St Paul and exposed his past history. Joe was forced to leave abruptly.

He then went to England, where he assumed the role of “J. Chesterfield Kray,” Regent street art dealer. Joe familiarized himself with the paintings trade, and realized that his unique talents could reap profits from pretentious nouveau riche Americans. He purchased a few genuine works by famed artists; but ones which were considered damaged or inferior. To these he added a large selection of forgeries crafted by a talented imitator, Pierre Lacont. Joe then made tours of American cities in the Midwest, pawning off his fakes and flawed goods to wealthy clients who were too proud to admit their ignorance about art.

The art game was productive for Joe, and he kept it up for nearly twenty years. It allowed him to travel in luxury and to see the world, and to pick up extra cash with a card game here or there. He married a French woman with whom he lived until expelled from that country.

In 1912, Joe was arrested for being involved in a fake wiretap con being run by the Gondorf brothers (the inspiration for the movie The Sting).

Over the next few years, Joe went back to card sharping on the Atlantic passenger ships. Ill-health forced him to retire to his siblings’ residence in Niagara Falls, where he died in November 1915.

 

 

 

 

 

#141 Richard Morris

Richard Morris (Abt. 1844-19??), aka Big Dick, Charles Johnson, Richard Johnson, James Johnson, Charles Williams, James Williams, George W. Davis, John Sullivan, etc. – Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-two years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Carpenter. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 10 1/2 inches. Weight, 155 pounds. Brown hair, blue eyes, fair complexion. Generally wears a light-colored beard and mustache, inclined to be sandy.

RECORD. “Big Dick” is a well known New York pickpocket. He works with Charles Douglas, alias Curly Charley; Poodle Murphy (134), Shang Campbell (107), James Wilson, alias Pretty Jimmie (143), and all the other good New York men. He has traveled all over the United States, and is well known in all the principal cities. Morris formerly kept a drinking saloon in New York that was a resort for nearly all the pick- pockets in America, but business fell off and he went back to his old business again.

He was arrested in New York City, and sentenced to five years in Sing Sing prison, January 7, 1872, for larceny from the person, under the name of Richard Morris.

He was arrested again in Albany, N.Y., by New York officers, and brought to New York City, where he pleaded guilty to grand larceny, and was sentenced to one year in the penitentiary on August 10, 1885, for stealing a coat from Rogers, Peet & Co., some months previously. He gave bail in this case, which he forfeited, and was subsequently re-arrested as above. Morris’s picture is a good one, taken in October, 1877.

While Richard Morris’s origins, character, and fate remain obscure–and his career as a Bowery gang pickpocket was not particularly interesting–one episode in which he became the talk of New York’s entire underworld community occurred on August 11, 1879. On that day, through no fault of his own, Morris helped to make a public mockery of the entire King’s County (Brooklyn) Sheriff’s department.

Almost exactly one year earlier, in August 1878, a group of four notorious burglars had been caught while robbing the safe of a flour store in Brooklyn. They were: Billy Porter, Johnny Irving, Shang Draper, and John Wilbur (real name Gib Yost), each with long records, and all highly-skilled thieves. Billy Porter (real name William O’Brien) was one of Marm Mandelbaum’s favorite pet burglars–she called him “my most promising chick.” After being arraigned in police court, the four burglars were lodged in the Raymond Street jail to await trial. When transported between the court building and the jail, utmost security was used; the prisoners were handcuffed together; and a whole detail of sheriff deputies surrounded them.

The four burglars were afforded the best legal defense (likely funded by Marm Mandelbaum), and their trials were dragged out for over eight months. Billy Porter’s first trial resulted in a hung jury, and so he was tried again in May 1879. This time he was convicted, and returned to the Raymond Street jail to await his sentencing. Porter’s fate galvanized his supporters, and put fear into his partner Johnny Irving. Porter and Irving decided to try an escape, and found it surprisingly easy to do, for the guards had let down their vigilance. Porter and Irving had been given the freedom of the jail corridors, and noted the lax security around the building exits. They were able to walk through a kitchen door, across the open grounds of the nearby jail hospital, and then climbed over the short fence to the side street.

The effortless escape of Porter and Irving was denounced by Brooklyn and New York newspapers as a sign of mismanagement in the King’s County sheriff’s office, which spurred both the Brooklyn police and the sheriff to try to recapture the fugitives as quickly as possible. They had no leads until late July, when a New Jersey detective named Fred Whitehead noticed Marm Mandelbaum making several visits to an upscale hotel in Passaic; followed by visits made by “Mickey” Welch, a crook who was suspected in aiding Porter and Irving’s escape from jail. Through an informer, Whitehead learned that they were making arrangements for Porter and Irving to make the hotel their new headquarters. Staking out the hotel around the clock, he finally saw Porter arrive on July 14, 1879. Whitehead waited patiently, and was rewarded a week later when Irving also checked in.

He alerted the authorities in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Sheriff Riley arrived in Passaic with five of his deputies. Together with ten Passaic detectives and constables and Fred Whitehead, they had seventeen men surrounding the hotel. Sheriff Riley insisted that they hold off a day or two before arresting the pair, in hopes that other fugitive criminals might be joining them, and to verify their identities. Fred Whitehead seethed, thinking that they had Porter and Irving in a perfect trap. Meanwhile, the two thieves started keeping different schedules, and were rarely in the hotel together.

Finally, Riley declared they would raid the men’s rooms at four the next morning, when they were most like to be asleep. Porter and Irving were seen going to their rooms around midnight. The hotel proprietor, who may or may not have been bribed by Marm Mandelbaum, noticed several men lurking outside the hotel. The next thing the officers knew, Porter and Irving burst out of a side doorway and ran towards a back street. One man spotted then and chased them into a small alley, but Porter or Irving shot a pistol at him, just missing his head. They then ran into a back yard and jumped over a fence, and were not seen again. They had eluded all seventeen men.

This incident, too, made all the newspapers, further adding to the bumbling reputation of Sheriff Riley and his men. One of Riley’s deputies, Thomas Morris, felt sure that they might get another shot at capturing Porter and Irving if they kept an eye on Marm Mandelbaum, who no longer was making visits to Passaic, but instead kept close to her store at the corner of Clinton and Rivington streets in lower Manhattan. Accordingly, she was placed under constant surveillance. Through this watch they learned that Mandelbaum’s son was planning a huge picnic gathering at the Jones Wood Colosseum, a park and resort on the upper East side of Manhattan, known for hosting many large festivals.

Deputy Morris learned that Marm Mandelbaum was to be the central honoree of this celebration, and that all of her thieving proteges and their families were invited. He was convinced that Porter and Irving would not miss such an occasion, and was able to get a ticket to the picnic from an informer. After mingling with the merrymakers, Deputy Morris spotted four men at the makeshift bar tent; he identified them as Porter, Irving, and the two men who had helped them escape from jail: Johnny The Mick and Mickey Welch.

Morris ran to the nearest police precinct station and demanded to see the captain. He convinced the captain to call out every man available, and reserves, and to make a beeline to Jones Wood. There, the police surrounded the four men and took them to the precinct house, where the suspects gave suspected aliases and totally denied being any of the men being sought.

Eventually, several New York police detectives arrived and informed Deputy Morris that they had arrested the wrong men. The detectives recognized only one of the four that had been taken: his name was Richard Morris, a Bowery pickpocket. “Big Dick” was asked to explain why he was attending the Mandelbaum’s picnic. His answer was simple–he owned a bar just down the street from Marm Mandelbaum, and knew her as a local business owner.

Big Dick was let loose with apologies, while Deputy Sheriff Thomas Morris brought yet more shame to the reputation of Brooklyn’s law officers. Big Dick returned to his saloon to be hailed as the hero of the day.

Big Dick was active as late as 1903, when he was caught picking pockets at a fireman’s muster in Salem, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#96 William J. Johnson

Joseph W. Harris (Abt. 1857-????), aka William J. Johnson – Pickpocket, Swindler

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Twenty-nine years old in 1886. Born in United States. Single. Printer. Well built. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Brown hair, brown eyes, dark complexion; generally wears a brown mustache. Has scar over left eye; dot of India ink on left hand. Claims to have been born in Philadelphia.

RECORD. Johnson, or Harris, is a clever pickpocket and boarding-house thief. He is well known in New York and Boston, Mass., and other cities, and is an associate of Frank Auburn, alias Austin (46), with whom he has been working in several of the Eastern cities. He was arrested in Boston, Mass., on April 28, 1884, in company of Auburn, charged with picking pockets in the churches in that city, tried, convicted, and sentenced to three years in State prison at Concord, Mass., on May 16, 1884. His sentence will expire on December 23, 1886. His picture is an excellent one, taken in April, 1884.

Though Byrnes contended that Harris was “well-known in New York and Boston, Mass., and other cities,” no arrests other than the one mentioned by Byrnes can be found.

What is true is that Harris was a partner of John Francis Aborn, aka Frank Auburn, the ever-fascinating swindler/process server. Harris appears to be another pal of Aborn’s in the mold of Mason Helmborn, i.e. Harris came from a respectable family, had a little money, and was easily cajoled into going on a swindling and pickpocket spree. This matches the impression that was conveyed by Boston newspapers:

 

Harris’s bright-eyed appearance in his arrest photograph does not suggest a man that has ever seen the inside of a prison. Instead of meriting a separate profile in Byrnes’s book, it might have been more appropriate for Harris to be given a brief mention in a longer entry for Aborn, alias Frank Auburn.

 

 

#175 William Perry

William Perry (Abt. 1849-????), aka William Prentiss, Edward Perry, Charles Ewing, John Gray, George Graham — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-seven years old in 1886. Born in Virginia. Married. No trade. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 4 1/2 inches. Weight, 115 pounds. Light hair, gray eyes, light complexion. Generally has a clean-shaven face.

RECORD. Billy Perry is one of the most expert and successful professional thieves in America. He has been traveling around the country for years, generally working with a woman. He is well known in all the large cities, and is considered a first-class man.

Perry was arrested, and sentenced to three years in State prison, in Richmond, Va., in 1871, for picking pockets. He served two years in Sing Sing prison since.

On June 1, 1882, Eldridge G. Rideout, a publisher on Barclay Street, New York, was robbed of his gold watch at the South Ferry, New York. Perry was arrested, and recognized as the thief. Soon after his release on bail in this case he was arrested again, for robbing a man of a gold watch on one of the Coney Island boats. When Perry was brought to court in New York City he was discharged, because the crime with which he was charged had been committed out of the jurisdiction of the court. When Perry’s case, for stealing of Mr. Rideout’s watch, was set down for trial in the Court of General Sessions he had disappeared, and his bail was forfeited. He was re-arrested, bailed again, and when the case was set down again for trial the pickpocket could not be found.

Nothing was heard of him until the arrival of the survivors of the Greely Arctic expedition at Newburyport, Mass., on August 13, 1884, when he was arrested there, with a number of other professional thieves. Before the New York officers could reach Newburyport, Perry had been handed over to the Portsmouth (N. H.) authorities for a theft which he had committed there a few weeks before. On that charge he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment in the Portsmouth jail on August 27, 1884. Perry’s sentence expired on August 27, 1885, when he was arrested, at the jail door, brought to New York City, committed to the Tombs prison on August 30, 1885, and subsequently discharged again on bail. Perry’s picture is an excellent one, taken in August, 1884.

Wherever crowds congregate, professional pickpockets can be expected to be found. This fact was quickly learned by police, and so by the 1870s, plains clothes detectives were routinely assigned to patrol train stations, ship docks, and holiday gatherings. Pickpockets realized that the authorities were sometimes less prepared for special events that drew crowds. Billy Perry made a practice of following these festivities–and of stealing one item only: men’s watches.

Only a few arrests are recorded about this time thief, but they convey a different way to look at history:

  • In 1871, Perry was arrested for stealing watches from visitors to Virginia’s State Agricultural Fair. Bynres and others stated that Perry came from Virginia, but some sources said he came from Detroit. Whatever the case, Perry would have quickly learned that people took money and timepieces to State fairs.
  • In 1875, Perry was arrested in New Orleans for lifting a timepiece two weeks before the annual Mardi Gras celebrations. 1875 marked the first year that Mardi Gras was recognized as an official state holiday in Louisiana.
  • In 1879, Billy was captured in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on the occasion of General Ulysses S. Grant’s visit. In 1877, after stepping down from the Presidency, Grant had embarked on a 2 1/2 year world tour with his wife, where he met nearly every major world leader. When he returned to the United States in 1879, he then crossed the nation on a celebratory tour, and attracted vast crowds, parades, and innumerable dinners and speeches.
  • In August of 1883, Billy Perry was arrested for picking pockets at Coney Island. Coney Island was a routine hunting ground for pickpockets during the summer months, but August of 1883 was especially attractive: Buffalo Bill Cody would up his first season of touring his outdoor Wild West Show with a five-week stay at Coney Island.
  • A year later, in August 1884, Perry was arrested for stealing a watch from a man attending the reception for the rescued Lady Franklin Bay arctic expedition, led by Lt. Adolphus Greely. The expedition had been stranded for three years before a rescue fleet reached them. Only seven of twenty-five expedition members had survived. A huge homecoming parade was held for them in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where Perry was tried and jailed.
  • In June 1887, Perry was apprehended picking pockets at the gala election celebration in Newport, Rhode Island–the first time in decades that Democrats had won the State elections.
  • In August 1887, Perry was jailed during the laying of the cornerstone of the Bennington Monument, which was being erected in commemoration of the Battle of Bennington during the Revolutionary War.

Billy Perry was jailed with another pickpocket. This other man was initially identified as William “Earsey” Peck. These two pickpockets escaped from the Bennington jail along with a local man (a rapist). Perry was captured in New York a couple of months later. No explanation was ever published, but at some point the authorities stopped mention of Peck as the second man and instead identified Michael “Pugsey” Hurley–who was sent to Vermont to stand trial.

The above events only represent the occasions when Billy Perry was arrested. What other historical events did he witness where he was not caught stealing timepieces?

In his 1895 edition, Byrnes indicates that Perry had reformed.

 

#59 Charles McLaughlin

Edward McLean (Abt. 1833-19??), aka Eddy McLean, Charles McLean, Charles McLaughlin, Charles J. Lambert, A. C. Johnson, T. W. Seaman, C. H. Davis, Edward McLane, etc. — Sneak thief, Hotel thief, Cabin thief

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty years old in 1886. Stands his age well. Born in Troy, N.Y. Is a saddler by trade. Well built. Height, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Brown hair. Wears full, dark, sandy whiskers and mustache, turning gray. He has quite a respectable appearance, and is a good talker.

RECORD. McLaughlin is one of the cleverest hotel workers in the country, and is said to be the son of a planter in Louisiana. He was a book-keeper, but lost everything during our civil war and became a hotel thief.

On April 3, 1875, he robbed a room in the Westminster Hotel in New York City of a watch and chain and some diamonds and money. As he was leaving the hotel with his booty, his victim came downstairs and reported his loss to the clerk, who followed McLaughlin and had him arrested, and found the property upon his person. McLaughlin was tried, convicted, and sentenced to three years in Sing Sing prison for this robbery. It is said that the day he was sentenced his father was shot and killed by negroes in Grant Parish, La.

He was convicted and sent to prison in Quebec, Canada, for a hotel robbery in January, 1881.

He was arrested again in New York City on June 10, 1884, for entering three rooms in the Rossmore Hotel. A full set of hotel-workers’ tools was found on his person at the time of his arrest. He had robbed two rooms in this house some time before and secured $400 in money and two watches. In this case McLaughlin pleaded guilty to burglary, and was sentenced, under the name of Chas. J. Lambert, to two years in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, in the Court of General Sessions in New York City, on June 25, 1884, by Judge Gildersleeve. His sentence expired February 24, 1886. McLaughlin’s picture is a fair one, taken in 1875. He looks much older now.

When Edward McLean was arrested in New York in April 1875, the newspapers were full of reports concerning a Supreme Court case relating to the Colfax Massacre, an outrage that had occurred in Grant Parish, Louisiana, in which three white men and about 150 black men were killed. During the time he was jailed, McLean linked his background to this bloody event. McLean never offered any details that could not have been picked up from New York newspaper; and the none of the three white men that died in the Colfax Massacre had names that matched McLean (or his aliases). McLean apparently believed that the story would gain him sympathy.

McLean was, instead, a long-time New York City resident, who began his career as a sneak thief in the early 1870s, along with Joe Howard, aka Joe Killoran. He soon became known as an accomplished hotel thief, but always had an eye for jewelry. After the Sing Sing sentence that followed his April 1875 arrest, McLean next was heard from in 1881 in New York, when he was suspected of stealing stones from Levy & Picard, Jewelers. While released on bail he went to Boston and snatched a handful of diamonds from Henry Morse, jeweler.

It appears this resulted in jail time in Massachusetts, because McLean wasn’t heard from again until the 1884 hotel robberies mentioned by Byrnes. These resulted in a two year sentence on Blackwell’s Island.

McLean spent over a dozen years robbing hotel rooms and passenger ship cabins from the late 1880s through the early 1900s, moving between Europe and America. In July 1890, he was arrested in London under the name Charles McLean and sentenced to six months in Clerkenwell Prison.

In 1892 he was captured in Paris as Edward McLean and sent to a prison for six months.

In August 1893, he was caught in Brussels, Belgium and lost another six months of freedom. In 1894, as George Hamilton, he was found robbing in Southhampton, England, and given three months. He returned to Belgium in September 1895 and was nabbed again, and sentenced to one year.  In January 1898, he was briefly detained in Frankfort, Germany.

McLean arrived back on the east coast of the United States shortly afterward, eluding authorities in Philadelphia and Washington DC before being stopped in Baltimore. There, he was sentenced to three years as Charles McLaughlin alias Charles H. Davis.

With time reduced, McLean was out of prison by 1900 and returned to England, where he was captured robbing rooms in York in July. He was sentenced to three years in prison, then issued a ticket to leave the country. It was suggested that this trip to England had been made in the company of a gang led by his old pal Joe Howard, aka Killoran. McLean was arrested on suspicion as soon as his ship docked in Brooklyn. He was then photographed, and the grainy picture appeared in newspapers:

Not much was heard from him until 1907, when once again he was arrested on suspicion in New York City in the aftermath of robbery at the Hotel Astor. McLean denied any involvement: “I never robbed a woman in this country,” he explained. “They haven’t anything worth while. Outside of the Astors and the Vanderbilts, there are not ten women who have $30,000 worth of jewelry. I have robbed all over the world, I will admit, but I will attempt no crime in this country.”

McLean died poor in New York City on January 24, 1909. His death was recorded under the spelling Edward McLane.

 

 

 

#128 Sophie Lyons

Sophia Elkins-Levy (1847-1924), aka Sophie Lyons, Sophie Burke, Sophie Brady – Pickpocket, Moll

Link to Byrne’s text on #128 Sophie Lyons

The life story of Sophie Lyons–intricately connected to the careers of her other erstwhile husbands: Maury Harris, Ned Lyons, Jim Brady and Billy Burke; not to mention other notable friends and lovers–involves a huge swath of American criminal history. She was more than a notable member of the underworld community, she was one of its foremost chroniclers. Sophie never honestly told her own story, and her criminal reminiscences were only infrequently based on her own recollections, and otherwise relied on other sources (like Byrnes’s Professional Criminals of America), and a large dose of fabrication.

A full, accurate, well-researched biography of Sophie’s life has never been published, but it may not be long before one appears. Much was written about her long before her career was over, and those articles also were full of mistakes and untruths. Offered below is a typical example from a very atypical source (which makes it such an oddity): the lawyer who represented her in several early scrapes, William F. Howe, of the infamous firm Howe & Hummel.

It is a minor mystery why, in 1897, William F. Howe would have written this article (the first of two) on Sophie for the National Police Gazette. There were dozens of other criminals he could have written about–including his foremost client, Marm Mandelbaum–but Howe chose only to write about Sophie. A decade earlier, in 1888, he had written a book with Hummel about the New York underworld, Danger!: A True History of the Great City’s Wiles and Temptations, but it carefully avoided naming active professional criminals.

One might expect that Howe–a legal genius–would pen a dispassionate, clear-eyed history of Sophie, but instead he engaged in romantic myth-building as enthusiastically as any eager young yellow journalist. One of Sophie Lyons’s qualities was the ability to encourage in others the image of her as a bandit queen, born to be a thief, and not driven to thievery by necessity–and to ignore any pain she inflicted on victims of her crimes. William F. Howe’s puffery (based on anecdotes he heard, true or false) is a prime example:

“FAMOUS SOPHIE LYONS, PRINCESS Of CRIME

“If ever there was a woman who was worthy of the title of high priestess of crime and queen of blackmailers, that woman is Sophie Lyons, who has made victims on two continents contribute to her purse; and who, perhaps with the exception of ‘Little Annie’ Reilly, has stolen more money than any other woman in the world. Thomas Byrnes, once Superintendent of Police of New York, says that she is the most expert and dangerous female crook he ever met, and her record shows that he knows what he is talking about.

“There is really no reason why Sophie Lyons should have been anything else than a thief, for her grandfather was one of the most daring cracksmen the sleuths of Scotland Yard ever had to deal with, and he gave them more trouble than any other lurcher who ever roamed London at night looking for a crib to open. Her mother was Sophie Elkins, as slick a shoplifter as ever dropped a bolt of silk into a bag, and her father was a blackmailer who could give points on trickery to any nobsman in the business. If that choice bunch wasn’t enough to put criminal blood into a woman, then nothing ever would. So you see that there was an excuse for her, and that, according to the law of heredity, it wasn’t really her fault that she became a crook. When she became a star in her chosen profession she reflected credit upon her parents.

“She was taken in hand when she was very young, and as she grew up it became very natural for her to look around for a ‘good thing.’ But there was something besides her cleverness which helped her, and that was nature. She was a pretty girl from the start, with big, gray, sympathetic eyes that could make anyone fall in love with them if she willed it, and as she grew into young womanhood she developed a figure that was superb in its wonderful loveliness. She was a woman to win a man’s heart and take his purse from under his very nose, but from the first she hated small purses. Sophie Lyons never lowered herself to petty larceny. She had been taught that it was infinitely easier to get away with a large bank roll than a few dollars, and she faithfully followed that teaching all her life.

“So to her parents and associates Sophie has always been a credit. And why wouldn’t she, when it is asserted that her parents burned her arms with hot irons to force her to steal. She learned the lesson better than they thought she would, and when she had no more to learn she began to teach others.

“She married a famous burglar–it is seldom that these women are really married–and she raised children for him. He was Ned Lyons. They had children and there is every reason to believe that Lyons was the father, for she was true to her crib-cracking spouse. As a result of the union there were two boys and two girls. The boys both became thieves, and the daughters were placed in a convent in Canada. She took great pride in her oldest son, George, who inherited the thieving instinct. He wasn’t as lucky in his operations as he might have been, and he died while serving a term in Auburn prison.

“But it will be better, perhaps, to begin at the beginning of the woman’s career–to begin, for instance, at her birth, and go with her through her calendar of crime. Everything can not be known, however, for Sophie has turned tricks which have never seen the light of day, and that, perhaps, is one of the reasons why she is worth $50,000 today.

“Forty-six years ago her father was in hiding from the detectives and her mother was in prison for shoplifting when she was born. She saw prison bars as soon as she opened her eyes, and it seemed to have been rather a pat introduction into the world for her. But she wasn’t really heard of until she was about twelve years old. Then she was caught picking a pocket. She was so young and she looked so innocent that the magistrate couldn’t believe her guilty, so he discharged her. But it didn’t stop her. She kept her hands in folks’ pockets with great success, for she had been made more shrewd by her first fail.

“At the extremely tender age of fifteen years she had her first love affair, and it is perhaps one of the most romantic affairs in the life of this remarkable woman. She went out walking on the avenue one fine afternoon looking for ‘graft.’ As usual, she was alone, for even at that tender age she made up her mind she could work better alone than with any ‘pals.’ She came to a street corner where a horse had fallen down and where a crowd had collected.

“She couldn’t have wished for anything better, and in a few minutes she was among the people, pushing and shoving with the rest, only she didn’t care a rap what all the excitement was about. All she was looking for was plunder. In a few minutes she had spotted a school boy of about seventeen years who wore a heavy gold watch chain on his vest. She edged her way over to him, and when she started back a few moments later she not only had his watch, but she had the chain, too. That was all she got that afternoon, and on her way home she looked at her booty. Upon the case of the watch was engraved the boy’s name and address, and for the first time in her life a great feeling of sympathy came over Sophie Levy for one of her victims. She remembered that the boy was very handsome, that he had big blue eyes and a manly way with him that appealed to her, and the result was that when she arrived home she said nothing about the watch, but kept it hidden in the bosom of her dress. She couldn’t get the boy’s face out of her mind, and it haunted her day and night, until finally she took to hanging about the house where he lived. One day, by accident, he met her on the avenue and he smiled on her.

“That is the way it began, and that is how they became acquainted. While they walked and talked she could feel his watch ticking against her breast, and it seemed to her as if everyone on the street could hear it.

“After that they had a great many meetings, and at last the boy became so infatuated with her that he wanted to marry her.

“She was willing, so he took her to the grand house where he lived so that he could introduce her to his father.

“‘What is your name?’ asked the old gentleman.

“‘Sophie Levy.’

“‘You’re a very nice little girl, but I think you’re too young to marry. Besides, when my son marries he shall marry his equal. Here is a present for you,’ and he held out a $10 bill. ‘Now run away home.’

“She took the money, threw it on the floor and trampled on it angrily. ‘I don’t want your money,’ she screamed, ‘and I’m going to marry your son just to spite you.’

“‘Come, come, none of that. You must go out of here and not raise any row.’

“He took her by the shoulders and began to push her towards the door, but she flew at him like a tigress. She fought him back to the center of the room and then she said: ‘I’ll go now because I am ready to go. Good bye.’ And she started out.

“She got $20 from a fence for the watch and chain and she was willing to get rid of it now her romance was over. But she had her revenge.

“Three times in as many weeks she picked the old gentleman’s pocket. Once she got his watch, twice she fished his purse out and then she wound up by nipping his diamond stud from his ample shirt front. In telling of this afterwards she said she ought to have stolen the old fellow’s clothes off his back for breaking up her first love affair. If she had married the swell kid Sophie Levy might today be a leader in a social set, instead of a woman who is constantly under the surveillance of the police.

“When she was seventeen years old she was a decided beauty, and it was then she met old Mother Mandelbaum, the notorious fence, who years later took refuge in Canada from the inquisitive police. Mother Mandelbaum had no use for anyone but a high-class crook, and when she took little Sophie Levy up it made her reputation at once. Levy was her name before she married Ned Lyons. The Mandelbaum woman put new ideas in her head.

“‘You are beautiful, my child,’ she said to her one day. ‘You ought to do very well. Men will like you and that is the best of all, for you can do with them as you please, and with your face it will not be necessary for you to nip their clocks–they will give you anything you want.’

“That set Sophie to thinking, and she concluded the old mother of crooks was right. So from that time on she began to play upon the sympathies of men, and it is on record that she was never once known to fail.

“She was in the hey-day of her youth and beauty when she met Ned Lyons, the man who was destined to become her husband–the man who stole millions and who eventually drifted into the worst kind of poverty; the man who was as handsome as an Adonis, but who lost his looks with his luck.

“Lyons’ father was an honest weaver, who came to New York with his family in 1850 from Manchester, England. The boy fell among among thieves and it wasn’t long before he was working with them and turning a trick as good as the best of them. At the beginning of the war he was a young man, handsome, daring and athletic, and he turned his talents to robbing drunken soldiers until the game became risky and then he became a full-fledged bounty jumper. It was his boast that he enlisted and deserted in New York alone eighteen times within one month. That was pretty fast moving, and so, in order to escape the bullets they generally throw into a captured bounty jumper, Lyons moved westward.

“He did not return east until 1866, and then it was known that he had turned off altogether about $150,000, most of which had gone into the faro bank, for which he was a good thing. But when he struck New York he was still ‘flush’ enough and was far from broke. With the rest of the criminal push he wandered to Mother Mandelbaum’s.

“One night he was sitting there when a handsome young woman came in. ‘Who’s the moll?’ he asked.

“‘Sophie Levy,’ was the answer.

“‘I think I’ll make a play for her,’ he remarked, as he walked over to where she was. He was introduced by Mrs. Mandelbaum and he began his courting by saying to her, ‘I rather like your looks. What do you think of me?'”

End of FAMOUS SOPHIE LYONS, PRINCESS Of CRIME

 

 

 

 

#197 Walter Price

Walter D. Price (Abt. 1830-1894), aka George W. Henry, Charles Rodgers — Pickpocket, Policy Writer

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-seven years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 8 1/2 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Sandy hair, gray eyes, light complexion. Sometimes wears a light beard; generally shaved clean. Quite a clerical-looking old fellow.

RECORD. Price is no doubt one of the most expert old pickpockets and shoplifters in America. He is known from Maine to California, and has served terms in prison in almost every State in the Union. This man generally works with a smart woman, doing the “stalling” for her; he, however, is quite handy himself, and does considerable work alone.

He was arrested in New York City, in company of one George Williams, for shop-lifting. He was charged with the larceny of a silver watch from a jewelry store. In this case Price and Williams, on a plea of guilty, were sentenced to six months in the penitentiary on February 18, 1875, in the Court of General Sessions. Price gave the name of Louis Lewis.

After this he is credited with serving another term in Sing Sing prison.

He was arrested again in New York City, on November 24, 1879, under the name of George W. Henry, in company of Mary Grey, alias Ellen Clegg (115), another notorious female pickpocket and shoplifter. The complainant testified that Price and Ellen visited his establishment on November 24, and while Price engaged the attention of one of the salesmen by exhibiting a sample piece of silk, stating he wanted a large quantity of the pattern, Ellen, who carried a large bag or “kick,” quietly slipped into its recesses $120 worth of silk which lay on the counter. As they were leaving the store, which was at No. 454 Broome Street, New York City, one of the salesmen missed the goods and caused their arrest. On the way to the police station, Ellen tried to drop the bag which was under her dress, but she was detected in the act. Both pleaded guilty in the Court of General Sessions, before Judge Gildersleeve, on December 16, 1879, when Price was sentenced to three years in State Prison at Sing Sing, and Clegg to three years in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, New York City. Price’s picture is a very good one, although taken ten years ago.

Little can be said about Walter Price that would improve upon his obituary printed by the New York Herald, which shines a light onto aspects of New York City history that have faded into the shadows:

“This notice, which appeared in the Herald yesterday, tells of the death of one of the most remarkable criminals with whom the police of this and other cities have had to deal: ‘PRICE–On Monday, August 6, Walter D. Price, beloved husband of Margaret McKiernan, in his 65th year. Funeral from his late residence, 305 W. 126th St., on Thursday, August 9, at one o’clock. Relatives and friends invited. Interment in Woodlawn.’

“Price was born here, and grew up a Bowery boy in every sense of the word, except so far as outward appearances are concerned. He slipped into crime naturally.

“He was considered, in his prime, one of the most dangerous pickpockets living. He had a dozen aliases and had undergone arrest many times. Then, for a dozen years he made a princely income by conducting a policy shop [numbers lottery] in Vesey street, near Washington, and directly across the way from the market, until a few weeks ago, when his place was closed by the proprietor, who remodeled the building.

“The funeral party is expected to include many of the old ‘Gilhoolies and Rileys’ as they fondly term themselves, a group of whom were on the sidewalk in front of McKeever Brothers’ saloon, at 98 Vesey street, last evening, and talked over old times. Prominent among them was T. J. Gowan, head bartender, who used to be treasurer for both of the clubs. He was applauded vigorously when he remarked: ‘Any Gilhooly or Riley that don’t help bury him deserves to be buried, too.’

“Their feeling of friendship to Price, who was regarded by society at large as a most dangerous character, dates back a decade and a half, when he was conducting his policy shop, in the rear of a supposed hairdressing salon. Price didn’t make himself unduly conspicuous in those days, or in any others when he could help it.

“He was five feet, eight and one-half inches in height and weighed 180 pounds. His light complexion and smooth face went well with carefully-brushed sandy hair, and his gray eyes had a kindly expression. He always dressed in black, the cut of his clothing, especially about the collar, leading all but his intimates to suppose him to be a clergyman. Sometimes he wore a light beard, but nearly always his face was clean shaven.

“The police say his principal characteristic was ability to pick almost any pocket without being detected. Gowan, his friend, described him in these words: ‘When some married man died, he was always the first to ask, “Is the widder broke?” And then, he would go down into his clothes for a tenner or for twenty-five either. Many a poor woman will cry when she hears the news of him being dead, and so will men he has fed and kept alive until they got work.’

“The other old Gilhoolies and Rileys murmured assent at this, and to a question then asked Gowan replied: ‘Was he liberal? Well, he was. In the good old days, if you had a chowder he would take two tickets, or four, or six most likely, whether he intended to go or not. He got to be sorry for his pocket picking, but never denied it. I’ve heard several ask him about that life, and he’d say back, “Yes, I was a foolish young feller then. I done the things you spoke of.”‘

“‘But remember,’ chimed in another Gilhooley close by, ‘he reformed later and conducted a perfectly respectable policy shop next door.’

“‘Yes,’ added Gowan, ‘for years and years he did a tremendous business and was known as the King of Policy Shops. All the best butchers and other men in Washington Market played there regular. Then others crept in and cut up the business, so I don’t believe he left a dollar. It was all he could do to navigate around the last few months. Poor fellow! He was good and kind and nobly liberal.’

“‘So he was!’ chorused the others.

“It is said that Price never drank or gambled or cursed or smoked in his life.

“Superintendent Byrnes, however, placed a different estimate on Price’s value to the community. In a book he says Price was known as Henry, alias Lewis, alias Gregory, lifelong pickpocket and shoplifter, from Maine to California, as a dangerous character, and served terms in prison in almost every State in the Union. He generally worked with a smart woman.”