Byrnes’s text: #176 Mark Shinburn

Link to revised entry for #176 Mark Shinburn

From Byrnes’s 1886 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-eight years old in 1886. Born in Germany. Height, 5 feet 8 or 9 inches. Weight, about 170 pounds. Very erect, broad shoulders, thick neck, broad full face; small, sharp, light blue eyes; a very deep dimple in a small chin; dark hair, parted behind. Generally wears a black mustache and side whiskers, now quite gray. Has India ink rings on the first and third fingers of left hand. Speaks at times with just a perceptible German accent. Dresses well. Quite gentlemanly in manner. Always stops at first-class hotels.

RECORD. This celebrated criminal is a German by birth. He arrived in New York in 1861, and boarded at the Metropolitan and other first-class hotels for several years. He was the associate of sporting men and gamblers, in consequence of which he was under the surveillance of the police. On April 21, 1865, the Walpole Savings Bank of Walpole, New Hampshire, was robbed by Shinburn, George Bliss, alias White, and Dave Cummings (50). Shinburn was arrested in Saratoga, N.Y., on July 26, 1865, and seven one-thousand dollar bonds were found upon his person, all of which were identified as a portion of the proceeds of that robbery. He had also in his possession a number of clipped coupons from other government bonds, which were also part of the proceeds of that robbery. For this offense he was convicted at Keene, N.H., and sentenced to ten years at hard labor in the Concord, N.H., State prison, by Judge Porter.

On the night after the day of his conviction (November 2, 1865), he, by the aid of confederates, effected his escape, and was not heard of again until May, 1866, when he, with others, attempted to rob the St. Albans Bank, at St. Albans, Franklin County, Vt. They were surprised by the watchman of the bank, who fired upon them. They all escaped, Shinburn taking refuge in a car of a slowly passing train of the Vermont Central Railroad, in which he pretended to fall asleep. One of the passengers who had been a juryman on his trial at Keene, N.H., recognized him, and suspecting something wrong called an officer, on stopping at the first station, and he was arrested.

He was subsequently returned to the New Hampshire State prison to serve out his ten-year sentence. After serving about nine months he again escaped, with the aid of his friends, and was not heard from again until 1867, when he was arrested at Wilkesbarre, Pa, for the robbery of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Hudson Canal Company’s safe of $33,000. An officer arrested him for this last offense, and was obliged to remain in Wilkesbarre that night owing to the trains not running.

A room was engaged at the Valley Hotel, Wilkesbarre, and on their retiring to bed the prisoner was handcuffed to the officer, who, on awakening in the morning, discovered his prisoner had escaped by picking the lock of the cuffs with a small piece of steel which it is supposed he had concealed in his mouth. He also carried away with him the officer’s watch and money.

The next heard from Shinburn was after the robbery of the Ocean National Bank of New York City, in 1868, when he and his confederates secured over one million of dollars, since which time he has been a fugitive from justice, and, I understand, has been living in France and Switzerland, where he bought himself a title and castle.

Shinburn, if cleanly shaven, has a deep dimple in his chin. He speaks English fluently, and is a most polished conversationalist. He might be called a good-looking man. When arrested at Saratoga, N.Y., for the Walpole Savings Bank robbery, his house was searched, and on the top floor was found a complete workshop for the manufacture of burglars’ tools. A number of wax impressions of keys were found, which, upon investigation, proved to be of keys fitting the Cheshire County Bank at Keene, N.H., and also fitting its vaults and steel money chests, which contained at that time $232,000 in money.

Mark Shinburn’s specialty was the taking of wax impressions of bank and safe keys, which he obtained by ascertaining that the bank officials carried them, and then effecting an entrance to their sleeping-room at night, and abstracting them from their pockets. George White, alias Bliss, was associated with Shinburn in all the above transactions. He was convicted in September, 1875, and sentenced to fourteen years in State prison for robbing the Barre Bank of Vermont.

White, while arranging to rob the Walpole Bank, to give color to his appearance in Walpole, and also to assist the robbery, got up a grand gift enterprise there, and while doing this he ascertained the habits of the bank people, and gave Shinburn an opportunity to get impressions. The jury disagreed on this trial for this robbery, and with the aid of confederates he escaped from the county jail. Dave Cummings (50), who was with Shinburn and White in this robbery, was discharged for want of jurisdiction, as it could not be proved that he sold any of the bonds in the State of New Hampshire. He did sell some in New York and Pennsylvania.

Shinburn was next heard from in attempting to dispose of the proceeds of a bank robbery at Baltimore, Md., in the office of a prominent lawyer in New York City. The go-between in this transaction was a noted receiver of stolen goods in New York City, who negotiated with this lawyer to purchase the bonds; the lawyer made an appoint- ment, and then notified the police. Shinburn not willing to trust the receiver with the bonds, accompanied him to the lawyer’s office, where the police arrested them both and secured the recovery of $137,000 in bonds. The prisoners were wanted in Baltimore, and being willing to go there without a requisition, were handed over to the Baltimore detectives. When they arrived in Jersey City their counsel demanded the authority on which they took them through the State of New Jersey, and they not having any, the prisoners were discharged.

During the month of November, 1863, a number of $500 bills of the Haverhill Bank were circulated in the city of Boston, Mass., for which Charley Bullard was arrested in New York City, and by requisition he was conveyed to Boston, where, upon an examination, he was held in $5,000 bail to answer, and on being liberated fled from justice and concealed himself in some of our Western cities. In 1866 or 1867, a baggage car of the New Haven Railroad Company was entered and a safe thrown off at a point between New York and Bridgeport, Conn., which con- tained a large amount of money, the property of Adams Express Company of New York City. For this offense Bullard was arrested in Canada, brought to this country, and lodged in jail at White Plains, N. Y., from which, in a few months, he escaped, and left for Europe, landing at Liverpool, England, where he married a pretty “bar-maid,” with whom he went to Paris, and was next heard of as the proprietor of the American cafe in Paris, a place much frequented by Americans abroad.

Here he became dissipated and impoverished, and again returned to this country, where he was arrested charged with robbing the Boylston Bank of Boston, Mass., to which he pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. He remained in Concord, Mass., State prison about one year, when he again made his escape to Canada, and while at Toronto, Canada, was arrested for burglary, and upon conviction sentenced to five years’ hard labor, which sentence he served. On his being released he left for Europe, fell in with Shinburn, and was arrested with him leaving the yard of a small bank in Viveres, in Belgium, in September, 1883.

The arrest of Shinburn and Bullard in Belgium is very interesting. It appears that Shinburn became straitened in circumstances and was very short of money. He therefore took a look around for a good place to get some, and finally decided that the Provincial Bank at Viveres, in Belgium, was an easy one to rob. The next thing to do was to get a good man to help him. He finally hunted up Charley Bullard, who was then in Europe, and told him he had a chance to get some money, and if he (Bullard) would help him, he would give him $6,000 if the job was successful, Shinburn firmly believing that if he was successful in robbing the bank he would obtain at least $100,000.

So hungry was Shinburn for the money, that he would not take Bullard in the robbery and share it with him. After all their arrangements were made, they both visited the bank one night, “to look it over.” They approached it from the rear, entering the yard by fitting a key to the gate, after which their progress was barred by an old-fashioned oak and iron door, which had an immense lock on it on the inside.

Shinburn proceeded to remove a large keyhole plate that was upon the outside of the door, by unscrewing a number of small screws that were in it; these he placed in his vest pocket, so he could find them again when wanted. After the plate was removed there was not much difficulty in picking the old-fashioned lock. Before entering the bank they both removed their shoes and placed them in the corner of the yard, then entered and made a general survey of the premises, after which they decided to return the next night and proceed to force the safe.

While they were engaged inside the bank, an officer appeared whose custom it was to come down the back way and try the gate, which, in their hurry, they had neglected to fasten. Finding it open, he flashed his bull’s-eye light around the yard and discovered the shoes. He picked them up, and after examining them, became suspicious, and started at once for the police station with them. During the time that the officer had taken to go to the police station and return with a posse of men, who stationed themselves outside the bank, front and rear, to await developments, Shinburn and Bullard had left the bank and were in the act of replacing the keyhole plate, previous to their departure, when it was discovered that one of the small screws was missing. After searching in vain for it, Shinburn finally took a small piece of wax from a larger piece that he had in his pocket, and filled the hole with it, forming a head on it by drawing his finger-nail through it.

They then proceeded to leave the yard, first going to where they had left their shoes, which were missing. This aroused their suspicions, and thinking that they were detected, approached the gate cautiously. Shinburn tried it and found it open, and it was not until Bullard had assured him that he had forgotten to fasten it, that they decided to leave the yard. Immediately after leaving the yard they were arrested. Bullard broke away, and while the officers were pursuing him he fired several shots at them from a revolver. He was finally run down, and lodged in jail with Shinburn.

They were both searched, but nothing of importance was found upon them, except the piece of wax that Shinburn had in his vest pocket. This, however, they paid no particular attention to, as it was evident that they did not know its use. The authorities then proceeded to make a thorough examination of the bank, and found everything as usual. They were about discharging the prisoners, who had satisfactorily explained their presence in the bank yard, when they decided to call in some experts and re-examine the bank and its surroundings.

One of the experts, a chemist, took the piece of wax for the purpose of examining and analyzing it, and while so doing he found deeply imbedded in it a small screw. They then proceeded to the bank, in company of the other expert, a locksmith, who examined the door in the yard, and found one of the screw holes filled up with wax and the screw missing. The wax that was taken from the hole was saved, analyzed, and found to contain the same ingredients as the piece found in Shinburn’s pocket. The screw was a facsimile of the others in the plate, all of which showed recent marks upon them.

It was this series of circumstantial evidence, and their previous record, sent to Viveres, Belgium, by the police authorities of New York City, that convicted them. Shinburn and Bullard were tried for the attempt upon this bank and found guilty. Shinburn received a sentence of seventeen years and six months, and Bullard sixteen years and six months.

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

MAXIMILIAN SHINBURN was arrested on June 28, 1895, at Thirty-fifth Street and Seventh Avenue, New York City. The technical charge upon which the arrest was made was that of attempted burglary on the First National Bank at Middleburg, N.Y., on April 16, 1895, but this is only one of a hundred crimes perpetrated by him during an unparalleled record. In the attempt on the Middleburg Bank four men were detected in the act of forcing an entrance. Three escaped under heavy fire, but William Brown, alias Ryder, Haywood and Reynolds (see No. 358), fell into the hands of the police. He is now awaiting trial at Albany, N.Y.

Shinburn has for thirty years been recognized by police authorities all over the world as “King of Bank Burglars.” He is an American product, in the criminal sense, having begun his “professional” work here early in the Sixties, as leader of that great galaxy of safe breaking stars, all of whom are now either dead or imprisoned under virtually life sentences.

He fled twenty years ago from this country, carrying away half a million dollars in plunder. It now appears that three years ago he quietly returned to his original field of operations, organized a new band of burglars, and went to work. All of the recent bank robberies in this vicinity are now attributed to the skill and generalship of Shinburn, and a vast amount of evidence is in the hands of the authorities indicating that his is the genius which substituted nitro-glycerine for the safe breaking appliances of earlier date.

“Billy” Maher, one of Shinburn’s early companions, who operated with him in the sixties, was arrested on June 8, 1895, charged with robbing the post office at Rochester, N.H. He was arraigned before United States Commissioner Shields and committed to the custody of the post office officials for trial. This arrest, coupled with a partial confession by the prisoner, gave the first intimation of Shinburn’s presence in the country, and of his probable operations.

Detectives have been striving to apprehend the leader of this new band of burglars, little dreaming that he would prove to be the notorious Shinburn. His capture will completely break up the band and give to the necessarily exposed banks of small towns a long season of security. An elaborate and costly set of burglars’ tool was found in his possession, together with papers revealing the existence of an organized band of bank robbers, with the prisoner as its chief.

He was taken to Middleburg June 29, 1895, under heavy guard after an arraignment before United States Commissioner Shields. Among the banks which have been robbed during the last two years, where nitro-glycerine has been used, are the First National, at Griswold, Iowa; the Phoenix, at Phoenix, N.Y. ; banks at Milan and Sandusky, O.; the Thomaston National, Thomaston, Conn.; the St. Hyacinth, at Montreal, Canada, and another at Toronto. There is a strong suspicion that Shinburn’s band has operated in a majority of these cases.

Under a dozen aliases and over a period of thirty years he has stolen millions, evaded count less pursuits, broken out of a dozen prisons, lived in luxury, purchased a foreign title, engineered the greatest robberies of the age, and fairly won the title of the century’s greatest thief. Shinburn is a German by birth, and received a collegiate education in his native land. He first appeared here in 1860, and at once became a patron of the best hotels in the city, then clustered in Broadway, between Canal and Houston Streets. He first attracted the attention of the police as a gambler of remarkable nerve and seemingly inexhaustible purse.

At that time his intimate associates were men, then famous as burglars, who met nightly at the sporting resorts in Houston, Prince and Canal Streets. The professional criminals, among whom he rapidly gained influence, were George Miles, alias George Bliss; Edward, alias “Fairy” McGuire; “Dave” Bartlett; Charley Bullard, alias “Piano Charley;” “Ike” Marsh, alias “Big Ike;” Adam Worth, alias “Little Adam;” “Big Jim” Brady; “Gus” Fisher, “Ned” Lyons, “Sam” Perris, alias “Wooster Sam;” “Bob” Cochrane, alias “Big Bob;” Rory Simmis, “Billy” Maher, “Sand” McCormick, Jesse and Martin Allen, William McDavid and “Dave” Cummings. Every one of these men, all subsequently under Shinburn’s leadership, made a conspicuous record at safe breaking, but George Bliss and “Fairy” McGuire were conspicuously prominent as “lieutenants” of the band.

As confidential agent for the negotiation of stolen securities, Shinburn selected a bright young Englishman, who was at the time interested in several gambling houses and kindred ventures. Thus equipped, Shinburn opened his campaign of crime. Within ten years the leader’s share in the booty amounted to $500,000. Great was his mechanical as well as executive ability. Among the banks robbed by Shinburn from 1860 to 1869 was the Walpole Savings Bank, located at Walpole, N.H. This robbery occurred April 21, 1865, and was committed by Shinburn, George Bliss, Edward, alias “Fairy” McGuire, and it is supposed, “Dave” Cummings.

For this crime Bliss and Shinburn were arrested about July, 1865, at Saratoga, N.Y., and the latter was convicted and sentenced to ten years in the New Hampshire State Prison. He escaped during the first night of his imprisonment, and was not recaptured until 1868, when he was arrested while attempting to loot the St. Albans Bank, of Franklin Co., Vt. Shinburn served nine months and again escaped.

In 1867 he robbed the money vaults of the Lehigh & Wilkesbarre Coal Co., carrying off $40,000. He made two previous visits to the vaults, but took nothing, because the deposit on both occasions was too small to tempt him. He was arrested by detectives several weeks after this burglary, as he was leaving William J. Sharkey’s saloon at No. 202 Broadway. The prisoner was handcuffed to a detective, but he managed to free himself and escape while his captor slept.

Another of Shinburn’s exploits was the robbery of the bank at Cadiz, 0. $50,000 was secured. He also planned the robbery of the Ocean Bank, in Greenwich Street, where a million dollars in money and securities were carried off. After the Ocean Bank robbery Shinburn remained in hiding until he and others robbed the West Maryland Bank, in which robbery they obtained in money and securities about $25,000.

He returned to New York, and as was his practice, attempted to negotiate back the securities he had stolen, through an attorney. This attorney, or one of Shinburn’s associates, with whom he had quarreled, informed John S. Young, who was then chief of detectives, and he succeeded in arresting Shinburn, and by threatening to take him back to New Hampshire as an escaped convict, compelled him to give up the securities.

A reward of $30,000 had been offered for the recovery of the securities, and they were returned to the bank through Young, and the reward was paid him. Detective James Irving, who assisted Young in the arrest, was not satisfied with the share of the reward Young wanted to pay him, and called the attention of the Police Commissioners to the fact of a reward having been paid to Young. The Commissioners demanded an explanation, which Young refused to give, and this resulted in his resignation or dismissal.

After the arrest of Shinburn, he was started back to Maryland, but escaped in Jersey City. The arrest of Shinburn will no doubt end his professional career. There is no question that he is the greatest burglar of the age. In several large burglaries he is known to have made an advance bargain with the members of his band, guaranteeing them a certain amount, and taking the total plunder on speculation.