Byrnes’s text: #41 Charles Fisher

Link to the REVISED entry for #41 Charles Fisher

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Twenty-seven years old in 1886. Medium build. Hatter by trade. Dark complexion. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 140 pounds. Black hair, blue eyes; dot of India ink on right hand; mole on right elbow. High forehead. Very quick in his movements. Born in Germany.

RECORD. Charles Fisher has been a thief since he was twelve years old. This worthy’s life is best told by a letter which he wrote while confined in the Tombs prison, New York, in December, 1878, for breaking a window. Here is the communication he penned to Judge Otterbourg on December 18, 1878:

“I was requested by a gentleman to give a brief history of my life. I was born in March, 1859, in Germany. When five years of age I was sent to a public school, and remained there for three years. When I was seven years of age my father gave me lessons in Latin. When I left the public school my father put me in a Latin school. I was there four years, and while I was there I was boarding in a Franciscan convent, with about sixty others. At four o’clock every day we used to get a pint of ale, and I was not there six months before I was able to drink two quarts in as many hours. I only remarked this to let you understand better afterward that I knew how to spend money like a man three times my age. I made my examination for a higher class in 1870, but I failed, being intoxicated the night before I made it.

“My father would not allow me to repeat the class, but sent me to a commercial school. Wealthy men from several parts of the world sent their sons to this institution. My father allowed me a certain amount of pocket money, which ought to have been enough for me, but I wanted to live as fast as those foreigners. Two miles from the school my grandfather practised as county doctor, and there I went every Sunday and stole $5 or $6 from him every time. I was not found out for a year and a half, when I was detected at last (the term at school was just ended) and sent home to my father, who gave me a sound thrashing and locked me up for some weeks in my room. When I stole from my grandfather I stole for the first time.

“My father then sent me to a friend of his, a wholesale druggist. There I met some friends who had been my former companions. I wanted to keep up my reputation as a fast boy, and I could not do it with my allowance of pocket money. I had no grandfather to steal from now, but had to find out another way to get it. A part of my work was to deliver and receive the mail. I cashed different money orders, the amount always being between $20 and $50. I was detected after two months’ stealing and sent home to my father.

“When I arrived at home I was astonished to see my father’s face calm, but icy. Next day he told me that I was going to the United States, although my mother and the rest of my relatives were against it. As soon as everything was ready for departure he took me to Bremen and put me on board of a ship. He gave me $250. It did not take me long to find out those free and easy places along the Bowery and Chatham street. There I made the acquaintance of thieves—males and females. I very seldom stole with them, but stole all alone until my arrest and conviction to the House of Refuge stopped it rather suddenly.

“After serving one and a half years I was discharged. Having behaved myself very badly I had quite a reputation among the young thieves of New York. I was out only a month and I commenced the old career over again. I stole steadily from October, 1875, till October, 1876, and got along first rate. On the 9th of October, 1876, I was arrested for grand larceny, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to State prison for two and a half years.

“I took it as easy as any man could take it. The first few months I behaved myself badly, being punished no less than five times in three months. When I received letters from home and heard that my mother was dying I was watching for opportunities to escape, but the keeper had his eye on me continually on account of my bad behavior. My mother begged me to lead an honest life. I promised her to do so, and I meant it at the time I made it, and I mean it yet. My mother begged my father to take me home after I had served my term.

“When I was discharged from Sing Sing prison my father had not sent me the money as he promised to do, but I was full of courage and hope, because I thought a man must get work if he would try hard. Even an errand boy is expected to have references, and it would never do to show them my prison discharge. I was discharged on the 9th of October, 1878, and I have lived on bread and a cup of coffee once in a while, until I came here. My object of getting arrested was to get a place to stay until I could get relief from home. My father accused my mother after her death that she spoiled me, and I want to show him that my dead mother has sufficient influence over me by keeping my promise to her; and I mean to keep it, so help me God.”

Fisher obtained employment through the intercession of Judge Otterbourg — how well he kept his promise, and how strong his desire was to reform, will be seen by what follows. Not long after he returned into the old channels, and shortly after obtained considerable notoriety as a middle man, between the maker and utterer of forged checks, etc. Next heard from him was in Chicago, Ill., in 1879, where he was arrested with four other forgers. It was discovered that the “gang” had passed forged checks on nearly all the banks in Chicago. Fisher pleaded guilty and took the stand against his associates, who were all convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Fisher was discharged on promise to leave the State, which he did, and he came to New York City.

He was shortly after arrested on a charge of larceny, and sentenced to Blackwell’s Island for six months. On his liberation he went back to his old associates in the forgery business, and was shortly after arrested in New York City for being concerned with three others in a scheme to defraud the banks of that city by means of forged checks. In this instance, as before, he saved himself by turning State’s evidence and convicting his associates.

The next that was heard of him was his arrest in Boston, Mass., on August 19, 1885, with Jake Everhardt, alias Marsh Market Jake (38), coming out of one of the banks there. No case being made out against them they were discharged.

He was arrested again in New York City on October 23, 1885, with Everhardt, Charles Denken and Walter Pierce, alias Porter, charged by Leaycraft & Co., of Pearl Street, New York, with forging a check of the firm for $460 on the Bank of New York. In this case Fisher, Denken and Pierce were convicted and sentenced to ten years in State prison each on November 18, 1885, by Recorder Smyth, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City. Everhardt was discharged, rearrested, and convicted in another case. See his record. No. 38. Fisher’s picture is a very good one, taken in 1885.