#27 Frank Buck

Charles Taylor (Abt. 1843–????), aka George Rush, Frank Bailey, Frank Buck, Buck/Bucky/Buckey Taylor — Sneak thief

From Byrnes’s 1886 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-four years old in 1886. Born in Philadelphia, Pa. Married. Engineer. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 5 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Light hair, gray eyes, light complexion. Three India ink dots on left hand, one on right hand. Bald on front of head. Generally wears a light-colored mustache.

RECORD. “Buck” is a very clever bank sneak. He has been working with Horace Hovan, alias Little Horace (25), since 1881. He has also worked with Langdon W. Moore, alias Charley Adams (22), Johnny Price and other notorious bank sneaks.

“Buck” was arrested in June, 1881, at Philadelphia, Pa., with Horace Hovan (25), for the larceny of $10,950 in securities from a broker’s office in that city. He was convicted of burglary and sentenced to three years in the Eastern Penitentiary at Philadelphia with Hovan, on July 2, 1881. His time dated back to June 6, 1881. Hovan was pardoned.

Buck served his time, and afterwards joined Hovan in Washington, D.C., in May, 1884. They both traveled around the country and were arrested coming out of a bank in Boston on June 18, 1884, and their pictures taken for the Rogues’ Gallery.

Buck and Hovan went to Europe in the spring of 1885, and Buck returned alone the same fall, Horace having been arrested there and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for the larceny of a package of money from a bank safe. Buck’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1884.

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

Since 1885 he has spent a good deal of the time in Europe. Buck, Porter, Johnny Curtain and other fly American thieves have been engineered in Europe by Adam Worth (215), the American ex-thief, still under indictment in Boston for the famous Boylston bank robbery. Worth is a receiver of stolen goods in London, whose place is the rendezvous of all American thieves when they go to that city. He was formerly a bank burglar in this country, and has made a fortune out of his business.

Frank Buck, alias Bailey, alias Allen, etc., and Billy O’Brien, alias Porter, was arrested at London, Eng., on June 21, 1888, on an extradition warrant charging them with burglarizing a jewelry store on the Marionplatz, in Munchen, Germany, on April 29, 1888. It was alleged that property of the value of £50,000 was stolen.

Billy Porter was discharged from custody in London, on September 27, 1888. He proved that he was born on an English vessel, was an English subject, and therefore not extraditable. Buck was sentenced in this case to ten years imprisonment, and ten years loss of civil rights and police surveillance, by the Judge of the Circuit Court of Munchen, Bavaria, on September 22, 1889. He was delivered to the German authorities by England on October 10, 1888, and was in prison there until his trial in September, 1889.

Tracing Frank Buck’s origins takes one down a plausible, but by no means conclusive, path. On the other hand, tracing his fate from the point where he was imprisoned in Germany leads to an enormous red herring. That false trail can be blamed on certain law authorities and/or newspaper writers on the East Coast of America jumping to a conclusion based on one alias that was used by two different men, one of whom was Frank Buck: the alias was “Buck Taylor”.

In 1901, an employee of the Selby Smelter works in Contra Costa County, California, by the name of Jack Winters tunneled beneath the company’s office, removed a portion of brick floor, and drilled through the bottom of the office safe. Inside the safe were the latest finished products of the smelter: bars of gold bullion. Winters got away with $280,000 in gold–the largest gold robbery in California. Initially, authorities believed a whole gang of professional safe burglars was involved. Evidence led detectives to believe that it had been an inside job, and the trail led to Winters. When he was arrested, local authorities announced his capture, and sent out a bulletin listing Winters known aliases, one of which was “Buck Taylor.”

Newspapers in Boston were the first to print headlines claiming that Buck Taylor, aka Frank Buck, the famous burglar pal of Horace Hovan and Billy Porter, had almost pulled off a huge gold heist single-highhandedly. No one had heard of Frank Buck since he was thrown in a German prison in 1888, so it was possible that he had gone to California upon his release, gotten a job at the smelter, and then robbed it. Newspapers in New York and elsewhere in the northeast reprinted the story.

However, they overlooked the discrepancy in the men’s ages: Jack Winters was in his mid-thirties; Frank Buck, in 1901, would have been nearly sixty. The false story never would have been printed had they compared Frank Buck’s picture in Byrnes’s Professional Criminals of America (top, taken in 1884) with a picture of Jack Winters (bottom taken in 1901):

The truth is that no credible word about Frank Buck’s fate was ever published after he entered the German prison in 1889.

What of his origins? Byrnes states that Frank Buck came from Philadelphia; and the first arrest that Byrnes cites is from June, 1881, when he and Horace Hovan were nabbed for stealing bonds from a securities broker in Philadelphia. On this occasion, Buck gave the alias “George Rush,” but was recognized as an old Philadelphia burglar, “Bucky Taylor.” The Philadelphia Inquirer of June 4, 1881, recalled, “Taylor is the man who committed the $17,000 silk robbery at Benson’s and served a time for the offense.”

The robbery that the Inquirer was referring to took place in September, 1870 at the Besson & Son’s store in Philadelphia. Soon after the robbery, three men were arrested. One was the most notorious thief and gang leader in Philadelphia, Jimmy Logue. The other two men were named as Buck Taylor and Bill Price. Various newspaper accounts also offered Taylor’s name as Charles Taylor; and, indeed, that was the name he was imprisoned under at Eastern State Penitentiary for this crime.

This was not Charles Taylor’s first brush with crime. Philadelphia newspapers between 1865 and 1870 printed numerous items where Taylor was arrested for picking pockets and other forms of thievery.

However, there were several young men named Charles Taylor living in Philadelphia in the 1860s; so there the trail ends.

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