Byrnes’s text: #169 John Curtin

Link to the REVISED entry for #169 John Curtin

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-six years old in 1886. Born in the United States. Single. Carver by trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 5 inches. Weight, 182 pounds. Brown hair, gray eyes, dark complexion, dark brown whiskers, bald head. Bracelets In India ink on each wrist; stars and eagle in ink on left fore-arm.

RECORD. Johnny Curtin is one of the most notorious shoplifters and burglars in America. He is known all over America and in several European cities. He is credited with escaping from court-rooms and jails in California, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pa., and Chicago, Ill. He is a desperate man, and requires watching. He is a partner of Eddie McGee (167).

On September 11, 1878, Curtin went into the jewelry establishment of Taylor Brothers, No. 676 Broadway, New York City, and asked to be shown a gold watch and chain. After looking at several watches he left, promising to return at three o’clock in the afternoon and purchase a watch and chain from a clerk named Heiser. He was on hand at three o’clock, when the clerk left him in the store while he went out to get some money changed. Heiser returned in a few minutes, and found Curtin standing in front of the store. He asked him to go inside, but he refused to do so, saying that he had an engagement and could not wait. Shortly after his departure it was discovered that fifteen diamond rings, valued at $747, and $15 worth of razors had been stolen from a table near which Curtin had stood. Curtin left New York, and was arrested in Chicago, Ill., on October 14, 1878, thirty-three days after, under the name of Cunningham, for the larceny of a diamond ring from one of the jewelry stores. He had on his person when arrested $50 in money and nineteen loose diamonds — four more than were stolen from Taylor Brothers, in New York.

Curtin made his escape from the Chicago jail on October 26, 1878, twelve days after his arrest, and returned to New York, where he was again arrested on October 29, 1878, for the Taylor Brothers robbery. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years and six months in State prison at Sing Sing, on November 17, 1878, under the name of James Roberts, by Judge Gildersleeve.

Curtin and Eddie McGee (167) were arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., in June, 1882, and sentenced to eighteen months each in the Eastern Penitentiary for shoplifting. Upon their release from prison on August 14, 1883, they were both arrested at the penitentiary gate and brought to New York City, to answer an indictment charging them with the larceny of $1,200 worth of jewelry from Theodore Starr, a Fifth Avenue, New York, jeweler, in January, 1882. In this case there was no conviction.

Shortly after their discharge Curtin and McGee went to Europe, where Curtin fell into the hands of the police, and was sentenced to four years in prison in Paris, France, in March, 1884. He, however, succeeded in having his sentence reduced to two years, and obtained his release about April 15, 1886. McGee returned to America when Curtin was arrested, and is now (September, 1886) in Crow Hill prison, Brooklyn, N.Y. (See his record, No. 167.)

After Curtin’s release in Paris he came to America, and visited his home in Cohoes, N.Y., where he was arrested on suspicion. He was released from Cohoes, and while returning from the Troy jail, where he had been paying his friend Billy Porter a visit, he had some difficulty with a policeman on the streets of Troy, N.Y., and was arrested and heavily fined for assault.

After getting out of this trouble in Troy he returned to Europe, sailing from Boston. He stated to associates in Troy, before sailing, that Porter would be bailed and would join him in Europe, and together with Frank Buck, alias Bucky Taylor (27), who is also in Europe, they would make a tour of the Continent, as they had considerable work laid out for them by Adam Worth, a noted receiver of stolen goods in London, who formerly resided in the United States, and to whom all the American thieves go, on their arrival in London, for points. Worth was formerly a bank burglar in the United States, but has lived in London for a number of years, and is very rich. Curtin said this would enable Porter to make up for losses he had met with in connection with his arrest for the Marks burglary, at Troy, N.Y. Porter, however, found some trouble in giving the large amount of bail asked by the Court for his appearance for trial in October, 1886. He was therefore delayed in leaving this country.

Curtin concluded to make expenses while waiting for Porter’s arrival, and on June 7, 1886, he sauntered into the establishment of the association of diamond merchants. No. 6 Grand Hotel Building, Charing Cross, London, and was arrested under the name of John Colton, charged with the larceny of a small package of diamonds, valued at sixty pounds sterling. Mr. George W. Bullard, the manager of the store, testified that Curtin, or Colton, as he called himself, entered the store on Monday afternoon, June 7, 1886, and asked to be shown some diamonds. He opened a parcel containing six thousand pounds’ worth of loose diamonds. Mr. Bullard’s attention was attracted to the window, and in the meantime Curtin secreted a small package of diamonds, valued at sixty pounds, upon his person. His action was witnessed by one of Mr. Bullard’s assistants, who immediately gave him information. Curtin attempted to leave the store, but was prevented. He was then observed to slip a parcel on the counter, which upon being examined was found to be the one missing. The door of the store was secured, and a constable was sent for. Curtin was taken to the police station in a cab at his own request. On the way he was seen to tear up some papers. He put one piece in his mouth and swallowed it, and threw the remainder out of the cab window into the roadway, which was picked up, and after being placed together, was found to be a letter dated from New York, addressed to John W. Curtin, Box 126, Cohoes, N.Y. The letter requested the return of a check drawn on a Paris house for 16,000 francs. Curtin was committed for trial, and shortly after he was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment at hard labor from the Middlesex Sessions. Curtin’s picture is a good one, taken in August, 1883.