Byrnes’s text: #20 James Hope

Link to the REVISED entry on #20 James Hope

DESCRIPTION. Fifty years old in 1886. Born in Philadelphia. Married. Machinist. Short; stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 170 pounds. Round, full face; light complexion. Is inclined to be round-shouldered; generally wears a full, reddish-brown beard. Light brown hair, blue eyes. Has a long scar at right angle of mouth.

RECORD. Old Hope is a daring and skillful bank burglar, and hails from Philadelphia, Pa. He has been concerned in some of the most important bank robberies committed in this country for the past twenty-five years. He is renowned not only for his successful burglaries, but for his success in escaping from jails and prisons. He first came into prominent notice in 1870, in connection with the robbery of the paymaster’s safe in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Although never arrested for this job, it was pretty well known that himself, Ned Lyons (70), who was arrested and jumped his bail, and two others were concerned in the robbery.

His next exploit was the robbery of “Smith’s Bank,” at Perry, Wyoming Co., N.Y. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in State prison at Auburn, N.Y., for this robbery, on November 28, 1870, under the name of James J. Watson. He escaped from there with Big Jim Brady, Dan Noble and Charles McCann, on January 3, 1873, leaving two years and six months of unexpired time behind him.

Hope and four other desperate burglars rented a house next door to the First National Bank of Wilmington, Del., and on November 7, 1873, succeeded in capturing the cashier of the bank and his whole family. The servant escaped, gave the alarm, and the gang, consisting of Hope, Big Frank McCoy (89), Tom McCormack, Big Jim Brady and George Bliss, were captured, tried, and sentenced to forty lashes and ten years each in prison, on November 25, 1873. They all succeeded in making their escape from jail in Delaware a short time afterwards.

In February, 1878, Hope and Abe Coakley were arrested for an attempt to rob the Deep River Bank, at Deep River, Conn.; both were sent to jail, and while there the murder of Cashier Barron, of the Dexter Bank of Maine, occurred. The authorities tried to ascertain from Hope who committed this double crime, as they were sure he knew. In this, however, they failed. Hope was taken from Deep River to Dexter, and from there to Lime Rock, Maine, and placed on trial for the Lime Rock Bank robbery, which took place in May, 1870. After a week’s trial Hope was acquitted.

Hope is said to have been engaged in the Wellsboro, Pa., Bank robberies, which took place in September, 1874, and again in 1875. His most conspicuous and successful robbery was that of the Manhattan Savings Institution, situated on the corner of Broadway and Bleecker Street, New York City, on Sunday, October 27, 1878, where himself and confederates succeeded in carrying away just $2,747,700, the larger part of which was in registered securities. The plans for the robbery were laid nearly three years before it took place. It is said that Hope had once before entered the bank vault and attacked the safes. His son, John Hope (19), is now serving a twenty years’ sentence in Sing Sing prison for this robbery. For a list of the securities stolen, and the names of the other parties implicated in the robbery, see record of No. 19.

Old Jimmy Hope went West, and was arrested in San Francisco, California, on June 27, 1881, for an attempt to rob the safe in the banking house of Sauther & Co. of that city. The safe contained on that day about $600,000 in money and securities. He was committed for trial in default of $10,000 bail by Judge Rix, tried, convicted, and sentenced to seven years and six months in “San Quintan” prison, California, on November 1, 1881. Big Tom Biglow and Dave Cummings, alias Little Dave (50), who was with Hope in this job, succeeded in making their escape. Hope’s time will expire in California on November 16, 1886, allowing him full benefit of the commutation law. Upon his discharge he will be re-arrested and returned to Auburn prison, to serve out his unexpired time. Hope’s picture is the only good one of him in existence, taken in June, 1881.