#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.

 

 

 

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