#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:

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.