#236 Clark Parker

[Editor’s note: I hadn’t planned on researching criminals from Byrnes’s 1895 edition, but after receiving feedback from a descendant of one of them, I found this crook’s story very intriguing…]

 

Joseph Clark Parker (1846-1922), aka Bill the Brute, William Stetson, English Bill, Bill Snow, George Goodwin, George Whiting, Sheeny Bill, etc. — Bank sneak thief, fence, burglar

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-three years old in 1895. Born in England. Machinist. Single. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Weight, 175 pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes, pug nose, fresh complexion. Marks, etc.: Bald on top of head. Scars right side of forehead and right side of nose. Abscess mark right side of neck. Ink dot between thumb and first finger of right and left hands. Cut mark left side of forehead.

RECORD. English Bill is a notorious burglar and sneak. He has traveled through the country receiving stolen goods the last few years, having lost his nerve. “Bill the Brute,” one of his aliases, enjoys an international reputation as a criminal. He robbed a bank in Paris, France, of 20,000 francs, in company Of Eddie Guerrin, a well-known western thief. On dividing the proceeds in a cemetery after the robbery the thieves fell out and Stetson shot Guerrin, dangerously wound
ing him. He repented and assisted him to London, where they again quarreled before Guerrin had recovered, and Stetson fled to Boston, after betraying his companion in crime to the police. Guerrin was arrested, taken to France, and sentenced to ten years imprisonment for a bank robbery.
Parker has traveled all over America, England, France and Canada, and has been in jail in every country he visited. His full record would occupy too much space. I will, therefore, give only sufficient data to convict him of a second offense should he come your way.

Under the name of George Whiting he was arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., for the larceny of a gold chain from a jewelry store. He gave bail on November 16, 1880, and forfeited it. He was arrested again in this case, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years and six months in the Eastern Penitentiary, on October 18, 1882, by Judge Fell, Court of General Sessions, on November 4, 1882. His sentence in this case was reconsidered, and reduced to two years. He was arraigned in the same court on another complaint charging him with the larceny of a ring. He also plead guilty in this case and was sentenced to one year in the penitentiary, on October 18, 1882, by Judge Fell. He was arrested again under the name of George Goodman at Manchester, Eng., in company of Wm. Murray, alias Brown, alias “Thee Wylie’s Kid ” (No. 214), on August 1, 1887, and sentenced to nine months imprisonment for the larceny of a £50 note. Arrested again in New York City on November 1, 1894, for robbing a till in a florist store on Second Avenue. Tommy Featherstone, another notorious thief who was with him, made his escape and went to court and bailed him out. Featherstone was arrested on November 10, 1894, for “ flim-flamming,” and was recognized in court by the woman in the Stetson case, and the court officers, as Stetson’s bondsman. Both were discharged by Judge Ryan, November 30, 1894

Clark Parker (his preferred name in his later years, dropping Joseph) was not (as Byrnes asserted) an Englishman. He was born in Massachusetts in 1846 to Nathaniel and Mary Parker. His father died two years later, leaving behind four children, of which Joseph Clark Parker was the youngest. Clark followed his brothers into the blacksmithing profession, but started to appear in arrest records of New York and Boston in the late 1860s and early 1870s. He was using the alias “Bill Stetson” as early as 1869. Parker’s first crimes were store burglaries, shoplifting, and picking pockets.

Most of Parker’s crimes committed during the 1870s escaped detection, though his reputation grew as a successful professional crook; he was said to have partnered only with other highly skilled thieves. He took out a passport application in 1873; by 1882 he had earned the nickname “English Bill,” apparently from time he spent overseas.

In November, 1880, Parker robbed a Philadelphia jewelry store; and in 1881, a Hoboken post office. He jumped bail after the Hoboken arrest, and was nabbed for the Philadelphia robbery two years after it occurred, after a witness recognized him on the street. In October, 1882 he was sentenced to three years and six months in the Eastern State Penitentiary for this crime under the alias George Whiting. Upon his release in 1885, he was served a warrant for the Hoboken crime. Once again he met bail, then was not heard from again until arrested in Manchester, England in July 1887 as George Goodwin. Arrested with him was William Murray, aka William A. Brown, “The Wildey’s Kid.”

billthebrute

Sometime before his 1887 arrest in Manchester, Parker had picked up the nickname “Bill the Brute,” though there are conflicting reasons offered for how he earned that moniker. Detroit newspapers mentioned that Parker ferociously resisted arrest in that city on two occasions, one of which pre-dated 1887. In 1892, a Buffalo newspaper asserted that Parker had kicked a man to death in Massachusetts in the early 1870s (but there seems to be no corroboration of this). One obituary of Clark asserts that he killed a deckhand aboard a sailing vessel in 1855 (he was only 9 in 1855) and was jailed for this crime in Massachusetts. Yet another bit of hearsay suggests that Parker killed a jail-keeper in Scotland by smashing his head with a brick and later escaping from the court where he was being tried.

One verifiable act of violence was committed in 1889 against a partner-in-crime, Eddie Guerin, while the two men were dividing the spoils of a bank robbery in French churchyard. Parker shot Guerin, then helped his victim to get medical attention and escape to England–only to betray Guerin to the police there.

After his release in England for the Manchester robbery, and after committing bank robberies in France, Parker returned to New York and was arrested there in 1890 for running a panel room–a type of “badger game” requiring him to act the part of a irate, threatening husband. Later in 1890, he was picked up in Boston on a warrant from Pennsylvania for a jewelry robbery there, but the Governor of Massachusetts refused to surrender Parker.

In 1892, Parker was arrested on suspicion in both New York City and in Buffalo, on both occasions traveling with a well-known bank thief, Big Ed Rice. Both Rice and Parker were well-known to police at this point, and their preferred crime–snatching bills from bank counters–was becoming more difficult to execute. Parker returned to robbing jewelry stores, and was arrested for stealing gems in both Philadelphia and Newport, Rhode Island–but managed to escape conviction. He was, however, taken in New York in 1894 for working with partner Thomas Featherstone to steal from the till of a florist shop.

Parker was arrested in New York in 1896, once again accompanied by Big Ed Rice. However, it some became apparent to the authorities that he could not have committed the crime he was then accused of, so he was released.

After 1896, Clark Parker was not heard from again, although it was known that he was living back in his hometown of Boston in the late 1890s. One of his brothers, Benjamin W. Parker, was a successful, honest molasses broker. During the late 1880s, Clark had sent home much of the spoils of his European crimes for safekeeping by Benjamin. Benjamin, though often mentioned as being an upright citizen, kept the money for his brother and helped him start a new life in Pasadena, California under a new name. In Pasadena, Parker became a fixture of the community and a benefactor to several civic organizations.

Benjamin Parker, as his health faltered in 1910,  seems to have struck a deal with Clark: if Clark remained reformed and married a good woman, Benjamin would make him the heir to his molasses fortune. True to his word, when Benjamin expired, his fortune of roughly a million dollars went to Clark Parker–much to the displeasure of Benjamin Parker’s other relatives, particularly one nephew who sued the estate. As a result of that court action, Clark Parker’s real identity was exposed.

During the years that the estate battle dragged on, public sentiment seemed to be with Clark Parker over his nephew. Clark was seen as a having genuinely atoned for his past life, and to have been close to his brother Benjamin; while the nephew was portrayed as being cold and aloof.

When Clark Parker died in 1922, his fortune was divided among the civic organizations in Pasadena that he had championed; and the children of his lawyers and financial managers. He left $100 to the nephew who had tried to wrest his fortune away: Bill the Brute was nothing if not civilized.

 

 

 

 

The Writing Master published

From January 2018 to January 2019, I spent a year researching 204 nineteenth-century professional criminals; however, for four years prior to that I had been researching one single man from that century, the forger James B. Crosse, aka James Buchanan Cross.

Crosse has been an obscure figure, with little known about him except small mentions by Thomas Byrnes, Robert Pinkerton, etc. asserting that Crosse had been one of the greatest forgers of the 1860s.

I had been looking for a story about a criminal who came to a good end, and found Crosse mentioned in a William Pinkerton newspaper column as a man who reformed and became a doctor. Once I started to dig into Crosse’s history, I was able to connect his movements and aliases to reveal an astounding criminal mastermind–and his consort, Jane H. Fleming (aka Eusebia Fitzgerald), who was once described as the “wickedest woman in the world.”

In terms of historical significance, the research turned up a document residing in the Pennsylvania State Archives: an 1858 requisition from the Governor of Pennsylvania to the Governor of Virginia for one John Wilkes Booth, to face a charge of breach of promise. Combined with other evidence, I can present the case that Booth was seduced and then blackmailed by Jane Fleming, James Crosse, and a lawyer named Robert M. Lee. To avoid these charges, Booth fled from a theater company in Philadelphia.

After the Civil War ended, Robert M. Lee found himself in prison, but fortunately he was pardoned–twice!–by President Andrew Johnson, after two private meetings with Lee’s beautiful wife, who had known Johnson for many years. Who was the wife? Jane H. Fleming.

I doubt I’ll ever come across a true story with so many amazing characters. I’m proud to share it with interested readers:

Capture

Available now at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PR4SNXF/

Kindle ebook available now. Paperback should be available in a couple of days.

#89 Frank McCoy

Frank McCoy (Abt. 1843-1905), aka Big Frank McCoy, Frank McDonald, Francis H. Carter — Bank Robber

From Byrnes’s 1886 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-seven years old in 1886. Born in Troy, N.Y. Medium build. Cabinet-maker by trade. Married. Height, 5 feet 11 3/4 inches. Weight, 176 pounds. Dark-red hair, light-gray eyes, full face, sandy complexion, bald on front of head, dimple in point of chin. Has letters “F. M. C.” in India ink on right fore-arm, a cross and heart on left fore-arm. Generally wears long, heavy red whiskers and mustache.

RECORD. Frank McCoy, alias Big Frank, is a famous bank burglar, and a desperate criminal. He is one of the men who originated the “butcher-cart business,” robbing bank messengers and others in the street, and quickly making off with the plunder by jumping into a butcher cart or wagon.

He was arrested with Jimmy Hope, Ike Marsh, Jim Brady, George Bliss, and Tom McCormack, in Wilmington, Del., for an attempt to rob the National Bank of Delaware, on November 7, 1873. They were convicted on November 25, 1873, and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, one hour in the pillory, and forty lashes. McCoy and McCormack made their escape from New Castle jail, with tools furnished by Bill Robinson, alias Gopher Bill.

McCoy was associated with Jimmy Hope in the robbery of the Beneficial Savings Fund and other savings banks in Philadelphia, and several other robberies. He is said to have stolen over two million dollars during his criminal career. He is well known all over the United States, and is a treacherous criminal, as several officers can attest. He owes his nickname, “Big Frank,” to his stature.

He was arrested in June, 1876, near Suffolk, Va., a small town between Norfolk and Petersburg, in company of Tom McCormack and Gus Fisher, alias Sandford. A lot of burglars’ tools was found concealed near the railroad depot there, and suspicion pointed to them as the owners. The citizens armed themselves and tracked the burglars with bloodhounds to their tent, which they had pitched in a dismal swamp near the village. They were arrested, taken to the Suffolk jail, and chained to the floor. McCoy was shortly after returned to Delaware prison, from where he afterwards escaped. Fisher, alias Sandford, was sent to Oxford, N.J., and was tried for a burglary. McCormack managed to regain his liberty through his lawyer, in October, 1876.

McCoy was arrested again in New York City on August 12, 1878, charged with robbing C.H. Stone, the cashier of Hale’s piano-forte manufactory. The cashier was knocked down and robbed at the corner of Thirty-fourth Street and Ninth Avenue, New York City, on his return from the West Side Bank, on August 3, 1878. In this case McCoy was discharged, as Mr. Stone was unable to identify him.

McCoy was arrested again in New York City on April 12, 1881, charged with robbing Heaney’s pawnbroker’s establishment, on Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, on March 8, 1875, of $2,000 worth of jewelry, etc. He was arrested for this robbery in 1879, and upon an examination before Judge Terry, of Brooklyn, he was discharged. The grand jury afterwards indicted him, and he was arrested again as above, and committed to Raymond Street jail. He afterwards gave bail, and was released.

He was finally arrested again in New York City on May 26, 1885, on suspicion of being implicated in a conspiracy to rob the Butchers and Drovers’ Bank of New York City, in connection with one Gustave Kindt, alias French Gus, a notorious burglar and toolmaker. No case being made out against him, he was delivered to the Sheriff of Wilmington, Del., on November 6, 1885, and taken back to the jail that he had twice escaped from, to serve out the remainder of his ten years’ sentence.

McCoy has killed two men during his criminal career, one on the Bowery, New York, and another in a saloon in Philadelphia, Pa., some years ago. Frank’s picture was taken in August, 1878.

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

He was pardoned by Governor Reynolds of Delaware on November 18, 1892. His time would have expired in February, 1893. Since his release he has been trying to live honestly. He was employed in the pool-rooms in New York—when in existence—and on the race-tracks by book makers.

Big Frank McCoy had a rich criminal history long before Byrnes picks up his story, as can be seen from this summary from an 1885 New York Herald story:

The “West Garden National Bank” referred to in this article appears to be the Beneficial Savings Fund Bank, robbed in April 1869. Jimmy Hope was involved in this job, and helped return the plunder to the needy families whose savings were stolen.

The Wilmington, Delaware bank robbery debacle was one of the most notable crimes of the 1870s–not because it succeeded, but due to the fact that it involved five of the most skilled bank robbers of the era: Jimmy Hope, Frank McCoy, Jim Brady, George Bliss, and Tom McCormick–and that they were punished not only with imprisonment, but with a public flogging, followed by a daring escape.

McCoy was quickly recaptured, but escaped a second time. After being caught in a failed bank robbery in Suffolk, Virginia, McCoy was sent back to Delaware to serve out his sentence–and escaped a third time.

Despite being wanted in Delaware, McCoy lived openly in Long Island City, Queens, from 1881 to 1885, operating a pool hall. McCoy was far from remaining honest, though, as this story about how he and Red Leary stole $5000 by cheating a gambling hall attests:

In 1885, McCoy was arrested in New York on suspicion of planning a job with Gus Kindt; he was discharged by the court, but Inspector Byrnes conveniently chose to send him back to Delaware to serve out the sentence he had escaped from three times. McCoy later maintained that Byrnes did so to apply pressure on Jimmy Hope to cough up the bonds stolen from the Manhattan Savings Bank.

McCoy finally paid Delaware the time he owed, and was pardon by the Governor there in 1892.

McCoy died poor in Bellevue Hospital in 1905, but not before giving a few deathbed interviews to several New York newspapers. He regretted his life of crime and wished he had gone into politics instead. He recalled his adventures with Jimmy Hope fondly.

“I’ve never killed a man…,” Frank stated, “That thought is my one consolation.”

Perhaps what Frank meant to say was that he had never killed a man except that deserved it, for he had shot dead John Steiger in 1867 over the proceeds of a burglary they had committed; and also killed Philadelphia thief Patsey Williams in a saloon in 1870.

 

#132 Kate Armstrong

Alias Kate Armstrong (Abt. 1841-19??), aka Sarah Williams, Catharine Armstrong, Mary Ann Dowd, Becky Stark, Annie Reilly, Mary/Rebecca Colson/Colston, Annie/Rebecca Lewis, Rebecca McNally, etc. — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-five years old in 1886. Born in England. Married. Cook. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 2 1/2 inches. Weight, 200 pounds. Dark brown hair, hazel eyes, florid complexion. Wears gold eye-glasses. Has a large space between upper front teeth. Vaccination mark on left arm.

RECORD. Mary Ann Dowd (right name Catharine Armstrong) is a very clever woman. She was arrested in the spring of 1876, during Moody and Sankey’s revivals, in Madison Square Garden, in New York City, for picking a lady’s pocket, and sent to Sing Sing for two years.

She was arrested again in Providence, R.I., on May 14, 1878, and sentenced to two years in State prison in June of the same year, for picking a woman’s pocket on the street. After her time expired in Providence she went West, and visited Chicago (Ill.) and St. Louis. Mrs. Dowd generally works alone, and confines herself principally to opening hand-bags, or stealing them. Her operations have been greatly aided by her respectable appearance and her perfect self-control.

She was arrested in New York City on October 20, 1884, charged with the larceny of a diamond, sapphire and pearl bar-pin, valued at $250, from the jewelry store of Tiffany & Co., New York, on July 7, 1884. The pin was found on her person, with the diamond removed and a ruby set in its place. For this she was tried by a jury, convicted, and sentenced to five years in State prison. She obtained a new trial in this case, which resulted in her discharge by Judge Cowing, on December 18, 1884.

She was arrested again in Philadelphia, Pa., at Wanamaker’s grand depot, in company of Harry Busby (135), on November 3, 1885, for picking pockets. Busby was discharged and Mary Ann was convicted, and sentenced to two years and six months in the Eastern Penitentiary on November 11, 1885. Her sentence will expire on September 11, 1887. Mrs. Armstrong’s, or Dowd’s, picture is a good one, taken in November, 1885.

None of the names offered by the woman Byrnes declared as “Kate Armstrong” might have been her real name. She was arrested most frequently under two names that Byrnes never mentioned: Rebecca Stark and Rebecca Colston. Several sources do agree that she came from England in the early 1870s, and that she was a pastry cook by profession–when not picking pockets. She was first arrested in Boston in January 1873 under the name Sarah Williams, but was later released.

She next appeared as Mary Ann Dowd, picking pockets as New York’s Hippodrome in March of 1876 (as mentioned by Byrnes) and sentenced to two years in Sing Sing. Byrnes and other sources say that she was arrested in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1878 and jailed for another two years–but if that occurred, her sentence was likely much shorter, for in April of 1879 she was arrested in Boston under the name Rebecca McNally. She was discharged on this occasion, but late in 1879 was taken in Boston again as Ann Riley, alias McNally, and sentenced to one year in the House of Correction.

According to Byrnes, she spent the years between 1880 and 1884 in St. Louis and Chicago, but no accounts from those years have surfaced. In October 1884, she was caught picking pockets in New York at Tiffany’s, and was arrested under her old New York alias, Mary Ann Dowd. She was later discharged.

In November 1885, she was caught in Philadelphia working with an English pickpocket, “English Tom.” She now deployed the alias Catharine/Kate Armstrong, aka Carrie K. Saunders. She was sent to Eastern State Penitentiary for 18 months, but was released early–and was quickly rearrested in October 1886 at the Chester County (PA) Fair under the name Annie Riley, alias Rebecca McNally. However, she was returned to Eastern State Penitentiary as Catharine Armstrong. According to authorities there, she feigned madness, but dropped the act when it proved ineffective.

When released in May 1887, she went to Boston, and was taken in on suspicion as Ann Riley, aka Rebecca McNally. She was discharged and told to leave the city, but instead left the country heading to England. She later claimed to have attended Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations, where she made a tidy profit.

She was rediscovered in Boston in September 1891 and arrested for her usual activities, after being identified as Ann Riley/Rebecca McNally/Kate Armstrong/May Ann Dowd/Rebecca Colston. She was punished with one year in the House of Correction. “Correction” was a misnomer, for she was caught in Boston in April 1892, jailed, released, and picked up again in December 1892. This time she was told to leave town.

She did leave Boston, but only for a little over a year. In April 1894 she returned and was arrested as Becky Stark, alias Colston, and was sentenced to six months in the House of Correction.

In May 1896, she reacquainted herself with New York city police. She was discharged, but not before biting the police photographer. Still, he was able to trick her into taking a photo while she was smiling. Her looks had changed little since she had posed eleven years earlier.

She was arrested twice in Boston in 1897; and once in Hoboken in 1898. By 1899 she had migrated to Brooklyn, where she was sent to the House of the Good Shepherd for six months for vagrancy and drunkenness.

In September, 1902, she wandered to Boston again, and was caught picking pockets. She was arrested and tried under the name Rebecca Stark. Once again she was sentenced to six months in the House of Correction. The Boston Globe concluded an item about this episode with as good an epitaph as any:

“When she heard the sentence, ‘Becky,’ who had played the part of a feeble old woman whose heart was nearly broken and was being misjudged, straightened up, wiped away the tears which she had forced to flow, and in a manner that showed that she was anything but spirit-broken, exclaimed, “Six months! For the Lord’s sake! Six months for that!’ The expression on her face clearly denoted satisfaction and surprise that the sentence was not twice as severe.”

 

 

#150 James Wells

James Wells (Abt. 1842–????), aka Funeral Wells, James Hayden — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s 1886 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-four years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. No trade. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 9 1/2 inches. Weight, 145 pounds. Gray hair, gray eyes, light complexion. Generally wears a full beard, light color. His eyes are small, weak and sunken.

RECORD. “Funeral Wells” is an old and expert New York pickpocket. His particular line is picking pockets at a funeral, with a woman. The woman generally does the work and passes what she gets to Wells, who makes away with it, the woman remaining behind a little time to give him a chance to escape. Wells has served a term in Sing Sing prison and in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, New York, and is known in all the principal cities.

He has been traveling through the country lately (1886) with Billy Peck (157), and Jimmy Murphy, two other New York pickpockets, working the fairs, churches, etc.

He was arrested in New York City on April 3, 1880, charged with having attempted to rob one Ambrose P. Beekman, a merchant, residing in Jersey City, N. J., while the latter was riding on a cross-town horse-car. The complainant was unable to identify him, and he was discharged.

Wells was arrested again in New York City, on June 19, 1885, under the name of James Hayden, in company of James McKitterick, alias “Oyster Jim,” and sentenced to three months each in the penitentiary, on June 30, 1885, in the Court of Special Sessions, for an assault with intent to steal as pickpockets.

[McKitterick is a hotel and sleeping-car thief, pickpocket, and banco man. His home is in Hudson, N.Y. He is a great fancier of dogs and fighting cocks. Sometimes he has a full beard, and again a smooth face; at other times, chin whiskers. He was arrested in Schenectady in 1883, tried in Albany for picking pockets, and settled the matter by paying a fine of $800. He has been the counsel and adviser of thieves for years, and has been what is termed a “steerer.” For a partner he has had James, alias “Shang” Campbell, Thomas Hammill, Funeral Wells, Peck, alias Peck’s Bad Boy, and others of note. He was arrested some years ago in Brooklyn, N.Y., for picking a man’s pocket. A Brooklyn judge who met him on the steamer for Florida identified him as his gentleman companion, and he was discharged. Soon after the close of the war, on the Mississippi he robbed a woman of $1,700. She demanded a search of all on the steamer. Jim had been so kind and attentive to her that he was not searched. A short time ago he was stakeholder for a dog fight in Boston to the amount of $300, and made off with the funds. He took $1,000 worth of bonds from a gentleman in Philadelphia in 1868. His first experience in the East was when the Ball robbery was committed in Holyoke, Mass. He was in it, and was the principal. He, with another, about two years ago, followed a well known lady of Springfield from New Haven to her home for the purpose of stealing her sealskin cloak. The theft was left to his partner, who failed for want of heart to do his work. This noted thief has been known in New York and all the principal cities of the United States under fifty different names. About two years ago, at Bridgeport, Conn., he was on a wharf to see an excursion party land from a steamboat. A man fell in the dock. A policeman standing on the edge of the wharf helped to get the man up. Jim, for fear he might fall into the dock again, kindly put his arms around him to hold him, and robbed him of his watch and eight dollars in money. In 1880, when the Armstrong walk occurred on the Manhattan Athletic grounds, New York City, Jimmy was stakeholder for $480 wagered on the event. Jimmy “welshed,” and the winners never saw the color of their money.]

Wells’s picture is an excellent one, taken in December, 1885.

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

Old Wells has been arrested a number of times all over the country since 1885. He is getting very old and feeble and is not able to do much except “Stalling” and “Moll buzzing.”

He was arrested in New York City on June 24, 1891, charged with stealing a pocket-book from a woman in St. John’s College at Fordham, N. Y. He plead guilty to this charge and was sentenced to one year in the penitentiary on July I, 1891, by Judge Cowing, Court of General Sessions.

Under the name of Alex P. Wells he was arrested in Union Square Park, New York City, on July 16, 1892, charged with the larceny of a watch from a man named Sippel. For this offense he was sentenced to two years and six months in State Prison, by Recorder Smyth.

Crime historians should take note: Byrnes’s 1895 addendum on Funeral Wells contains a big red herring. The “Alex P. Wells” sent to Sing Sing in 1892 was not James “Funeral” Wells, but a different man, Charles Henderson aka James Harris, who was making one of six or seven of his visits to Sing Sing. By comparison, Funeral Wells had a shorter criminal record, was three inches taller, and weighed thirty pounds less!

Another odd thing about Byrnes’s entry on Funeral Wells is that most of the print space is devoted not to Wells, but to his one-time partner, “Oyster Jim” McKitterick. Oyster Jim was more of an all-around thief than Funeral Wells, which Byrnes may have found more interesting.

The Sing Sing imprisonment mentioned by Byrnes occurred in May of 1865, following Wells’s arrest during the Abraham Lincoln funeral in New York (the funeral train went to many U.S. cities). One might even guess that this was the source of his nickname.

Between 1865 and 1885 there is a large gap in Wells’s career, which likely signifies numerous or long prison stays under undetected aliases. Newspaper items in 1885 mention that he had spent half his life in prisons.

Byrnes’s lack of exposition on Wells frustrated reviewers of his book. The New York Sun decided to rewrite Wells’s entry with more flourish:

“The solemn and sanctimonious-looking James Wells very appropriately makes a specialty of funerals. He can drop a tear over the deceased with a touching melancholy which goes straight to the heart, and at the same time grope pensively and unobtrusively in his neighbor’s pockets for any small articles or pocketbooks which they may have there. He is sometimes called ‘Mourner’ Wells, and he frequently works at funerals, with a woman for a confederate. The woman rifles pockets and nips off watches, which she passes to the dismal and respectable looking gentleman, who is apparently an entire stranger to her; and when he has got about all he can safely carry he quietly leaves, the confederate remaining behind to cover his retreat. Wells also works churches, church fairs, and other places where his pious visage is appropriate, and is altogether one of the most dangerous men in his way in the country.”

One of Wells’s last known exploits was to pick pockets at the commencement ceremonies and Golden Jubilee of St. John’s College (now Fordham University) in June 1891. For this crime, Wells was sent to Blackwell’s Island for a year.

 

 

 

 

#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.