Byrnes’s text: #50 David Cummings

Link to REVISED entry for #50 David Cummings

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-eight years old in 1886. Born in Chicago, Ill. Slim build. Married. Height, 5 feet 6 1/2 inches. Weight, 130 pounds. Black hair, blue eyes, light complexion. Has small cross and dots of India ink on right hand. Dark brown beard.

RECORD. Dave Cummings, whose right name is David Cronin, was arrested at Oshkosh, Wis., under the name of J. H. Smith, for robbing a Chicago salesman of his watch, diamond pin, and $200 in money, at the Tremont Hotel in that town. Dave pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in State prison there on September 14, 1881.

A complete history of this celebrated criminal would fill this book. I will, therefore, describe only a few of his many exploits. “Dave Cummings” started in life as a waiter in a Chicago hotel, afterwards filling a similar position on the boats of the Upper Mississippi. About this time a singular series of robberies occurred, and it was ascertained that every boat that young Cummings had worked on had been plundered. After a time he was betrayed by another boat-thief named Johnny O’Brien. Dave was arrested, and a large amount of stolen property was found in his possession. This was in 1865, at St. Louis, Mo., and was the first time he became known to the police.

The first robbery of importance with which he was connected was in New Orleans La., in 1868, when, in the company of Billy Forrester (76), and Frank Dean, alias Daigo Frank, they robbed the safe of Schooler’s jewelry store on Canal Street in that city. The safe stood in front of a glass door, where the watchman could see it in passing. Cummings rigged up a dummy safe and dragged the other one into the rear room opened it, and secured diamonds and jewelry valued at $100,000, none of which was ever recovered.

They next robbed the bank in the French district of New Orleans of money and bonds valued at $65,000, and with this sum they fled to Memphis, where they were joined by Jess Allen (deceased). In that city the police tried to arrest them, but they escaped.

In a short time after this the party robbed Barney Spiers, a diamond broker and pawnbroker in St. Louis. Next to the store was a saloon which was frequented by the thieves. Tunneling through the wall, they entered and pulled the back out of the safe, securing about $12,000 worth of diamonds.

Shortly after the great fire Cummings went to Chicago and operated very successfully as a hotel thief. In the fall of 1872, in company with Daigo Frank, he entered a room in the house of the notorious Jenny Jenks, in Chicago, and took from under her mattress diamonds and jewelry to the value of about $7,000, with which they fled to New York.

In the winter of 1872 the gang was changed by Cummings, and consisted of Mose Vogel, a New Yorker; Ed. Johnson, a Chicagoan, and Daigo Frank. They rented rooms directly over the First National Bank of Jersey City, and ostensibly carried on the business of stucco work. In the meantime they had taken up the floor, were removing the bricks over the vault, piling them up at the side of the room, where they were covered with a screen, and replaced the floor every night. They had worked through to about the last layer of brick, when an old woman who lived in the building became suspicious, and one evening notified the police. A squad of them surrounded the bank, and captured the men at their work. But the usual good luck of Cummings stood by him. It was his duty that night to keep an outside watch. Becoming careless, he had gone into a billiard room, and thus, without being able to alarm his companions, escaped himself and fled to New York. The prisoners, Mose Vogel, Ed. Johnson and Daigo Frank were sentenced to fifteen years each.

Dave went back to the hotel business and continued at it until the spring of 1873, when, in connection with George Leslie (deceased) and Pete Emmerson, alias Banjo Pete, he robbed a bank in Macon, Ga., of about $50,000. They were all arrested in Washington, D.C., for this robbery, and a compromise effected by the return of the money.

In the fall of 1873 Dave visited the fairs at Quincy, Ill., and Kansas City, and found in the former place that rooms could be had over the vault of the First National Bank there, which was located similarly to that of the bank at Jersey City. He rented the rooms, giving at the time the name of a noted Chicago thief, in order to divert suspicion if anything should occur, and started at once for New York, where he organized another party, consisting of James Dunlap, formerly of Chicago; Robert S. Scott, also of Chicago ; Jack Burke, George Mason, and a man since reformed. They rented a house at Quincy, Ill., and one of their wives acted as housekeeper, staying there during the day and working, as they did in Jersey City, at night. In Quincy they were successful, securing $89,000 in currency, $100,000 in government bonds, and $350,000 in railroad and other securities, leaving one safe untouched, probably for lack of time.

This is the first bank in which the “air-pump” was used with success. It forces or draws the powder into the crevices of the safe. The device was invented by a man who was at one time in the employ of Herring, the great safe manufacturer. In this case the owner got $10,000 for the use of it.

The following is a circular issued by the bank immediately after the robbery :

“FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS ($40,000) REWARD! The First National Bank of Quincy, Illinois, offer and will pay thirty thousand dollars for the recovery and return of the Eighty-Four Thousand Dollars ($84,000) which were stolen from its Bank at the time the same was burglariously entered and robbed on the morning of the 13th day of February, 1874; and said Bank will also pay pro rata for the return of any part of said $84,000.

“Of this amount there was in new notes of this Bank $2,600, of the denomination of ones and twos; about $1,000 in mutilated notes of this Bank; one $1,000 U.S. Treasury note; $1,800 in new fractional currency; $4,000 in notes of $50 and $100, and the balance in Legal Tender and National Bank Notes.

“There were also taken from the safe two U.S. 7-30 Bonds, viz.: No. 160,114, June series, $1,000- No. 181,116, June series, $1,000.

“And also the following municipal bonds, on deposit for safe keeping, viz.: One hundred and forty-nine Bonds of the Quincy, Missouri and Pacific Railroad Company, each for $1,000, dated July 1, 1871, and payable to bearer on the first day of July, 1901, in gold, with interest at 7 per cent., payable semi-annually, on the first days of January and July; signed by Charles A. Savage, President, and Chas. H. Bull, Treasurer, under the corporate seal of the Company, and with the name, Chas. H. Bull, Treasurer, engraved upon the interest coupons. As near as can be ascertained, said Bonds are numbered as follows: No. 1002 to 1005 inclusive; No. 1092 to 1100 inclusive; No. 1127 to 1130 inclusive; No. 1151 to 1200 inclusive; No. 1251 to 1300 inclusive; Nos. 1009, l010, 1023, 1024, 1102, 1105, 1106, 1115, 1148, 1149, 1207, 1208, 1214,, 1215, 1219, 1225, 1226, 1227, and fourteen others, the numbers of which are unknown.

“Also, 180 Bonds of the County of Adams, in the State of Illinois, issued to the Quincy, Alton and St. Louis Railway Company, or bearer, dated January 1, 1870, each for $1,000, payable twenty years from date, bearing interest at six per cent, per annum, with coupons attached representing the interest; signed by Baptist Hardy, Chairman, and C.H. Morton, Clerk, with the seal of the County Court of said County. Said Bonds are numbered as follows: No. 221 to 400 inclusive.

“Also, $100,000 of Bonds of the City of LaGrange, in the State of Missouri, consisting of eighty Bonds of $1,000 each, and forty Bonds of $500 each, dated Dec. 1871, or Jan. 1872, and signed by J.A. Hay, Mayor, and R. McChesney, Clerk, under the corporate seal of the City. Said $1,000 Bonds are believed to be numbered from No. 96 to 175, inclusive, and said $500 Bonds from No. 186 to 225 inclusive. The above is believed to be a substantially correct description of Bonds stolen.

“All persons are cautioned against purchasing or becoming interested in said Bonds, as the same can- not be enforced, and will be worthless in the hands of any purchaser.

“And all persons are earnestly requested, in case of any knowledge of the existence or whereabouts of any of said Bonds, to communicate with the officers of this Bank, and to aid in tracing and recovering the same.

“From the appearance of the inside of the safe, and the condition of some of the papers left by the thieves, it is believed that nearly all of the money and Bonds taken are more or less scorched and blackened by the gunpowder explosion.

“Said Bank will also pay twenty-five hundred dollars for the arrest and delivery at the County Jail, in Quincy, Illinois, of each or either of the persons engaged in committing said burglary and robbery, upon his conviction for the same.

“By order of the Board of Directors of said Bank.

“C. M. POMROY, President, Quincy, III., March 10, 1874. U. S. Penfield, Cashier.

“Direct all communications to J.C. McGraw, Dep’y Sheriff, in care of the First National Bank, Quincy, Adams County, Ill.

“The following is the description of the persons suspected of being concerned in the robbery as near as can be ascertained;
“No. 1. — J. R. BIGELOW. — Thirty to thirty-one years old; five feet ten inches in height, trim, well built, well proportioned, walks erect but with downcast look. Dark hair, brown or hazel eyes and very red cheeks.

“No. 2. — A. D. HARPER. — Age thirty to thirty-five years; height six feet, sHm build, and rather long face with high forehead. Brown hair cut short; close cut brown or dark sandy Burnside whiskers; blue or gray eyes; dressed in dark clothes, with plug hat; wore heavy gold watch in vest pocket and large gold chain with long links.

“No. 3. — C. G. GREEN. — Age about thirty; height five feet eight to ten inches, rather heavy build, dark complexion, Roman nose, hair black and cut short; black mustache, and side whiskers not connected with mustache. Dressed dark, with plug hat.

“No. 4. — Name Unknown. — Thirty-five years old; height five feet seven to eight inches, slim build, coarse features, very nrominent Roman nose, very large mouth; cheeks a little sunken, upper teeth seemed remarkably short; black hair cut very short, and dark eyes. Wore plain gold ring on right little finger, and gold ring — flat, square on top — on left middle finger. Dressed in dark clothes, with plug hat.”

For a while Cummings led a riotous life, as usual. Wine, women, and faro soon made havoc with his portion of the Quincy plunder and his wits were again brought into play. He brought his organized talent to his aid, and started to Montreal, Canada, for the purpose of robbing Marshalla’s Bank, but an overcharge of dynamite blew out the entire front of the building, and the robbers narrowly escaped with their lives.

Again they fled, and their next field of operations was on the Falls City Bank of Louisville, Ky., which they operated upon as they did at Quincy, Ill., with the difference that their base of operations was under the altar of a Masonic temple. They removed the carpet and the floor, replacing them at the close of each night’s work. During the time they were operating several lodge meetings were held, when the burglars stopped work and went for a walk and refreshments. For their trouble there they obtained $400,000.

As usual, “broke” again in a few months, Dave started, in the summer of 1875, with a “kit” of tools, and in company with Billy Flynn and Jimmy Blake, was arrested for robbing rooms at the Capitol Hotel in Harrisburg, Pa. They were all sentenced to seven years each in the Eastern Penitentiary at Philadelphia. This was Cummings’ first conviction.

He was discharged from there on July 4, 1880. After a short rest he went to New York and fell in with old friends. He then took a tour of New York State, robbing safes in the country post-offices and at railroad stations; but this did not suit him, and he went back to his old business, and in January, 1881, he was arrested at the Sinclair House, New York City, a porter having caught him coming out of the room of a son of United States Senator Pinchback’s, with a full outfit of tools and some valuables of the guests. He was committed, obtained bail, and again went into hiding.

His next appearance was at Philadelphia, where he formed a partnership with Walter Sheridan, Joe McClusky, and other noted bank sneaks. Their first robbery was that of a diamond broker on Chestnut Street, near Twelfth, where Cummings and Sheridan engaged the attention of the clerk, and McCluskey secured about $6,000 worth of diamonds.

In May, 1881, Sheridan, Dave, and Jack Duffy made a trip to Baltimore, where they ran across a traveling salesman of the jewelry house of Enos, Richardson & Co., of Maiden Lane, New York. They followed him to the Clarendon Hotel, where they watched till he went to dinner, entered his room and stole his entire stock, valued at $15,000. The chase becoming hot for Cummings, he finally returned the proceeds of the robbery, and received $2,500 for it.

He then started for the Pacific slope with Old Jimmy Hope and Big Tom Bigelow, and after looking about, these enterprising burglars concluded to rob Sauthers & Co.’s Bank, a Hebrew institution, where there was $600,000. They again put into operation their favorite tactics of securing a vacant room over the vault. They had tunneled through four layers of brick and several tiers of railroad iron, when the chief of detectives learned they were in the city. He took possession of several offices in the vicinity of the bank with his men, and about 10:30 p. m., on the night of June 27, 1881, he made a raid on them. He found Jimmy Hope at work. Cummings heard them coming and ran to the roof, crawled through the scuttle, and running over the tops of several buildings, finally descended through a vacant store, and was once more at large. Bigelow, who was supposed to have been working inside with Hope, in some manner escaped also.

Cummings left his trail at every hotel where he stopped, in Southern California, New Mexico, Denver, Col.; and at a small town, twenty miles from Denver, he robbed a well known Chicago liquor dealer, named Al. Arundel, of $1,400 in money, a $500 watch, and a $400 diamond stud.

He then paid a flying visit to Chicago, then to Saint Joseph, Mo., from there to St. Paul, then to Oshkosh, Wis., where, as above stated, he was sentenced on September 14, 1881, for three years.

Since his release he is remaining very quiet, no doubt locating something rich. Look out for him, as he is liable to turn up when least expected. Cummings, while admired by his comrades for his skill and daring, has always been regarded by them as willing to sacrifice everybody to save himself.

The fate of a number of persons mentioned, in connection with Cummings, is as follows: Scott died in Concord prison recently, and Dunlap is serving twenty years there for robbing the Northampton Bank, Mass.; Jim Brady is serving runaway time and a sentence for felonious assault, in Auburn prison, in all about seven years; Ike Marsh is working out a seventeen years’ sentence in the Eastern Penitentiary at Philadelphia, for a bank robbery; Jesse Allen is dead; Sam Perris is a fugitive from justice, being accused of the murder of the cashier of the Dexter Savings Bank, in Maine; George Leslie’s body was found in the woods near Yonkers, N.Y., shot by his associates; Frank Dean, alias Daigo Frank, Ed Johnson, and Mose Vogel, have just finished serving a term of fifteen years in Trenton (N. J.) State prison; Jimmy Hope is serving a sentence of seven years and six months in San Quintan prison in California; Walter Sheridan is serving time in St. Louis for counterfeiting, and Pete Emmerson, alias Banjo Pete, was sentenced to ten years in Trenton State prison for attempt to rob a bank cashier in New Jersey.

Cummings’ picture is a fair one, taken in January, 1881.