#187 Emanuel Marks

Emanuel Marx (Abt 1846-????), aka Emanuel Marks, Minnie Marks, The Red-Headed Jew, etc. –Pickpocket, Thief, Bank Sneak, Con Man

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-four years old in 1886. Jew, born in Illinois. Married. No trade. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weight, about 160 pounds. Florid complexion, bushy brown hair, almost sandy. He is a little stooped shouldered. Blue eyes that have a bold, searching look. Walks with a very slouchy gait. He is a good talker, and rattles away at a furious rate. Speaks good English, German and Hebrew. Used to dress well, but getting careless of late.

RECORD. Minnie Marks, alias The Red-headed Jew, is a Chicago thief, and is well known in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, and New York. He received considerable notoriety when arrested In New York City, on October 21, 1881, and was delivered to the police authorities of Detroit, Mich., charged with robbing the First National Bank of that city of $2,080. It was a sneak robbery, which was done by four men, with a light wagon, on June 22, 1881.

In Chicago, where Marks is well known, he is not considered a very smart thief,, although other people who know him say he is a good man. He works with men like Rufe Minor (1), Mollie Matches (11), Johnny Jourdan (83), Georgie Carson (3), Big Rice (12), Billy Burke (162), Paddy Guerin, and other celebrated thieves. Marks’s picture is in the Rogues’ Gallery at New York, Chicago and Detroit.

He is said to have been with Jourdan, Minor, Carson and Horace Hovan in the Middletown Bank robbery in July, 1880. He is also said to have been one of the men who, in April, 1881, attempted to rob the bank at Cohoes, N.Y. Marks succeeded in making his escape from the jail in Detroit, Mich., on March 12, 1882, with twelve other prisoners, and has never been recaptured. Since that time he has served two years in St. Vincent De Paul prison in Montreal, Canada. The latest accounts say that he is now employed as a porter in a first-class hotel in Montreal, Canada. Marks’s picture is a very good one, taken in Detroit, Mich.

Emanuel Marks (the spelling used throughout his career) was born in New York about the year 1846 to German Jew immigrants Isaac and Cecelia Marx. The Marx family, including Emanuel’s younger brother Louis and sister Cornelia, moved from New York to Chicago in the 1850s where Isaac worked as a driver and Cecelia was an “intelligence officer,” i.e. a phrase used at that time for an agency placing servants in homes or finding rental properties.  As a young man, Emanuel found temp servant jobs through his mother, working large dinners as a dishwasher; or as a health aide to sick, wealthy clients.

His other pursuit, starting in 1866, was picking pockets. He was arrested many times during the late 1860s, and always seemed to get charges dismissed or light sentences, indicating that he had good lawyers. He also had saloon owners putting up his bail money, a sure sign that he was connected to an underworld fraternity. By the early 1870s he was picking pockets and working small cons on travelers passing through Chicago train stations. The only effective measure against him were arrests for vagrancy. By 1873, the Chicago Tribune declared him a successful “thief, burglar, assassin and outlaw,” though the paper does not defend those accusations.

By 1875, Emanuel had made at least one roving tour to pick pockets and con travelers, and was told to leave the city of Buffalo, New York. He returned to Chicago to continue his same habits, now well-rehearsed. He picked up the nickname “Minnie” as a play on his childhood name “Mannie”. During the 1860s and 1870s, a petite woman named Minnie Marks was an immensely popular trick-rider in circuses. When arrested, his sentences were still mere slaps on the wrist.

Life changed quickly for Minnie Marks; his father died suddenly in 1876, followed by his mother in 1877.  His arrest record came to include burglaries. In 1880, Marks joined fellow Chicagoan Billy Burke on several bank sneak operations. Along with frequent gang members George Carson, Rufe Minor, Horace Hovan, Big Rice, Mollie Matches, and Johnny Jourdan, Burke’s gang robbed banks in Middletown, Connecticut; Cohoes, New York; Detroit; and Baltimore between July 1880 and September 1881. Emanuel’s job was to “stall,” to distract cashiers.

He was arrested in November 1881 and sent to Detroit to stand trial for the bank robbery that had occurred there the previous June. While awaiting trial, he escaped from jail in March 1882 and fled to Canada. In Montreal in 1884, he was caught stealing a gold chain in a store and was sentenced to two years in St. Vincent De Paul prison.

In 1886 Inspector Byrnes reported, hopefully, that Marks was now a porter in an upscale Montreal hotel–but if he was, Byrnes’s publication likely sabotaged that employment. Marks was not heard from again until the early 1890s, when police spotted him again in Chicago and told him to leave town. The last mention of Marks is from New York in 1897, where he was found cheating newly-landed immigrants out of $5 and $10.

Minnie Marks’ father, mother, sister and brother can be found resting eternally at the Zion Gardens cemetery in Chicago, Illinois (under the name Marx). No one knows where Emanuel’s remains can be found.


#80 Michael Kurtz

Michael Kurtz (1846-1904), aka Sheeny Mike, Michael Sheehan, James Morgan, Charley Miller, etc. — Burglar, Safe-Blower

Link to Byrnes’s text on #80 Michael Kurtz

Chief Byrnes did a good job of summarizing “Sheeny Mike” Kurtz’s major crimes from 1877 forward. An April, 1876 article from the New York Times gives a better idea of his activities up to that point (which Byrnes might have wished to overlook):
Byrnes updated his entry on Kurtz in his 1895 edition, which is included in the linked page above. Kurtz was not a major criminal after 1895; he was arrested a few times in the late 1890s for small thefts, and was typically released for lack of evidence.

The nickname “Sheeny” is an ethnic slur. In the 1890s, there was another criminal, a confidence man named Max Cohen, who was also given the nickname “Sheeny Mike.” Doubtless it was applied to others, as well. Michael Kurtz slyly turned the slur on its head by often giving the alias when arrested of “Michael Sheehan.”

It would be fascinating to learn more details of Kurtz’s years as a Florida orange grower. Byrnes mentions that Kurtz had a wife at this time, but the only official marriage record for Kurtz dates from 1892–years after his Florida adventures. Did he have any children from this earlier liaison?
Chief Byrnes and others who wrote about Kurtz’s career agree that his most audacious crime was the Marks jewelry store robbery in Troy, New York in February, 1884. At the time it occurred, few details were published about that crime. However, many years later (in 1912), a post-humus publication of a serialized book by Philadelphia thief Edward W. Dunlap devoted a chapter to this robbery [Dunlap himself had died in 1906]. Dunlap, from the Philadelphia area, was not a reliable source about New York criminals. In his retelling of the Troy jewelry robbery, he portrays Kurtz as an extraordinarily cunning thief who used a trick worthy of a magician. It sounds outlandish enough to be true:

Chapter XX: The Robbery of the Jewelry Store of Marks & Son, at Troy, N.Y.
The method adopted to rob this establishment was of the most ingenious and original description. The robbery was effected in February, 1884, and the men that did the work were Billy Porter, Sheeny Mike and Jimmy Irvin[g], who was afterward killed by Porter. [Note: Dunlap is wrong on this point–Jimmy Irving was killed by John Walsh in Shang Draper’s saloon in October, 1883, months before the Troy robbery. Billy Porter was present and killed Walsh. As Chief Byrnes indicates, the third man in the Troy jewelry robbery was likely Joe Dubuque, not Jimmy Irving. Dunlap does mention further down that Dubuque was involved.]
The jewelry store was situated at the busiest part of the main street of Troy, and its proprietors believed it to be burglar-proof. It was a large double store, having showcases on each side. This establishment contained valuables to an extent that would not seem probable in such a small city. Between the two counters, at the rear of the store, was a railing, and about six or eight feet back of this railing and against the wall stood a large Hall safe. The office of the firm was at a room at the rear of the store, and this room was protected by heavy iron shutters and an iron door. The safe contained the valuables of the firm during the night.
The younger of the brothers always saw to it that the goods were placed in the safe personally at night. He alone knew the combination; consequently he himself always unlocked the safe in the morning. When all was ready to close the store for the night, a large locomotive headlight, containing a big reflector, was placed on the end of one of the counters. This was not an oil lamp, but was supplied with gas from a nearby burner. The light was reflected directly upon the safe, and the back of the store was in gloom; but the big safe stood out clearly exhibited by the beams of light from the lamp and was distinctly visible from the street. The outside watchman, a most faithful man, made his rounds every half hour, and at each round he would look through one of the glass windows, would see the safe, and would then, of course, believe everything to be right. One would suppose that it would be impossible to beat a safe that was so protected, yet it was beaten in a very few minutes, and the watchman knew nothing until the next morning.
Both Porter and Mike visited the store several times, and at each visit made a trivial purchase. They were thus able to get an accurate mental picture of the safe, its size, its color, the plates upon it, the exact position of the handle, knob, etc. On a piece of heavy canvas the ingenious Sheeny Mike painted an excellent representation of a safe. This canvas was taken to a French locksmith and toolmaker in New York City, and he made a mount for the canvas so that it could be put together in a few minutes. This pretended safe had real handles and knobs, which were to be placed on the outside once it was set up.
It was quite certain that the store could not be entered from the rear; the only way to enter it was by the roof. A store three or four doors below was “cracked” from the rear. The burglars went to the roof, and from there passed to the roof of the Marks store and entered through a trapdoor. After an entrance had been made, the tools and the dummy safe were carried in.
Porter and Mike were to do the actual work; Irvin was the outside man. Just a few minutes before the watchman came around Irvin would tap upon the window so the inside men could hear, and they would at once set up the dummy. It was agreed that in case the watchman should give trouble, Irvin was to convey information by rapping loudly upon the door, or, at least, making a loud noise in the street.
Nothing took place to disturb the work. As soon as the watchman departed the frame was taken down and work was begun anew. The safe was beaten by smashing the knob and driving in the spindle. This so disarranged the lock that a simple haul at the handle would open the doors. This old way of beating a safe is no longer possible. The makers now know too much and have provided against it. After the safe was beaten Mike took down the framework and closed up the smashed safe, and the robbers went away, taking the counterfeit safe along with them [except one piece; see below]. During the remainder of the night the watchman passed and re-passed, and every time he looked in he saw the safe, apparently as it should be, and went comfortably on his way.
This job netted about $40,000, mostly in diamonds and precious stones. The pluder was taken to a roadhouse about four miles below Albany, kept by Joe Dubuque, an all-around sport and a clever man. I do not know how or where the swag was disposed of. Shortly afterward Porter went to England. Mike went to Florida and bought an Orange grove.
Billy Pinkerton had been put on this case. He made some very correct inferences from a study of the big plate of the fake safe, which had been left behind by accident. Pinkerton learned that both Porter and Mike had been at the roadhouse below Albany before the robbery, and again afterward; so he procured warrants for them and made every effort to locate them, but was unsuccessful. Eighteen months after the robbery Porter returned to New York and was arrested by central office detectives, who, of course, knew that he was wanted. The Pinkertons were so convinced of the rottenness of the New York force that they watched the place of Porter’s confinement so that if he should be turned out they would be able to pinch him again right away. He was turned over to the authorities of Troy, where he was indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced to ten years in Dannemora prison. Mike was located in Florida, was brought back and received a similar sentence.
As a matter of fact, the evidence upon which they were convicted was of the flimsiest sort. There was no evidence at all, except that they had been at the roadhouse before and after the robbery; but, as they were crooks and good burglars, it was decided that they must be guilty. Sheeny Mike’s case was appealed at once. In about six months it was heard by the supreme court, and Mike was discharged. Porter remained in prison about three months after Mike was liberated, when he also was set free by order of the supreme court.
I knew Sheeny Mike well. He was one of the greatest crooks of the country. He never beat a bank, but his peculiar graft was store safes, and many a one of them he opened. He made money rapidly, and spent it freely. He was a short, slender man, and at the time of committing the Marks robbery was about 35 years of age. With his clear-cut features, large nose and high forehead he had an intellectual and scholarly appearance. A book could be written about this remarkable Jew’s career. He had a taste for jewelry and a knowledge of silk and fabrics. He was not only a master in executing a robbery, but also an artist in planning one. He died a few months ago [Dunlap was writing in 1904-05], leaving a widow and three children [no records have been found of children], with not a cent to support them.
I have not seen Porter for a long time and have no notion what has become of him. He was undoubtedly a first-class man. When Porter, Mike, Irvin, and Pat the Mick were together it was a wonderful combination and was very hard to beat.

#23 Daniel Watson

“Dutch Dan” Carl (Abt. 1831-1892?), aka Andrew Carl, Daniel Watson, Daniel Erlich, Daniel Davis, James Watson, David Watson, Daniel Carl, John Clark, etc. — Bank robber, key-fitter, tool maker

From Byrnes’s text:
DESCRIPTION. Fifty-one years old in 1886. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, 186 pounds. Machinist by trade. Single. Born in Germany or Prussia. Quite wrinkled forehead, dark hair, blue eyes, light complexion. Generally wears a goatee and mustache tinged with gray. Heavy lines on each side of nose to corner of mouth (nose lines). A cross-looking man. Has a sort of a suspicious look about him when he meets a stranger.
RECORD. “Dutch Dan,” the name he is best known by, is considered one of the best key fitters in America. He is also an excellent toolmaker, and his many exploits would fill an ordinary sized book.
Dan was arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., on April 11, 1881, in company of George Hall, alias Porter, a burglar and confidence man, Charles Lilly, alias Redman, and Bill Morris, alias Gilmore, burglars, charged with a silk burglary. Wax was found on Dan, with a key impression on it. Watson and Hall were each sentenced to two years in the Eastern Penitentiary on a charge of conspiracy on July 8, 1881; Lilly and Morris to one year.
Watson makes a specialty of entering buildings and obtaining impressions of keys (which are sometimes hung up in a convenient place by the janitor or occupant of the premises). In this manner he collects a large number of impressions from which he makes duplicate keys. He then selects a number of expert burglars and furnishes them with a set of keys and a diagram of the place to be robbed. If the burglars are successful, he receives about twenty per cent, of the robbery for his share. He is known to have had as many as six parties of men to work at one time. Dan has spent fifteen years of his eventful life in Sing Sing, N. Y., Cherry Hill, Philadelphia, and other Pennsylvania prisons. His picture is an excellent one, taken in 1878.
“Dutch Dan’s” real name and origins are not known, but he was arrested after some of his earliest exploits as “Andrew Carl”; and Langdon W. Moore wrote about that same period of the mid-1860s, mentioning Dutch Dan many times, and introduced his true name as simply “Carl.” In fact, Dutch Dan was Moore’s main partner during much of his career.
Thanks to Langdon’s Moore’s autobiography, Langdon W. Moore : his own story of his eventful life, we also have an anecdote relating the first attempt by both Moore and Dutch Dan to rob a bank–an effort foiled by the cunning of Langdon Moore himself:
In March [1865] I met in New York City two burglars, with whom I had been acquainted for years — one named Carl, who was known to his companions as “Dutch Dan,” and the other named Ned Livingston. They told me at this meeting that they had decided upon the robbery of a bank and needed assistance. When I asked where the bank was located, they said, “At Francestown, N.H.” After a few interviews with them, I consented to become a party to the affair, agreeing to pay all expenses, do the outside work, and furnish the team to take them from Nashua to Francestown, a distance of twenty miles and return.
“Outside work” meant remaining on the outside of the building to see and not be seen while the others were at work inside. In case of danger it became the outside man’s duty to warn the inside men by signals. One rap, for example, was a call to stop work; two meant that the danger was past and work might be resumed. More than two raps called the men out hastily.
The party went on from New York to Nashua, and according to agreement I put the men over the road from Nashua to Francestown, driving the same horse which was subsequently used in the Concord job. We “piped” the Francestown Bank, which simply means that by personal observation during the night we learned that everything was satisfactory for a break when we got ready to make one.
There was one thing, however, that was not satisfactory to me: Dan and Livingston carried a quart bottle of whiskey, and this they worked for all it contained; so that when the time came to start for home, I found them unable to get into the wagon without assistance. On thinking the matter over I was sorry I had entertained their proposition, not only because a whiskey bottle is not a good ally in robbing a bank, but also because Francestown is near my birthplace and I didn’t care particularly about robbing my parents’ old neighbors.
As I could not consistently withdraw from the agreement, I decided to prevent the robbery. The plan was simple but effective. Harry Howard at that time lived in Boston; and as he was already a trusty friend, I confided to him my intentions and told him I would like to hire him as a night watchman for a short time. Howard agreed to assist, and was given his instructions in the matter. He was to go on a certain day to Wilton by rail, walking thence seven miles to Francestown.
He reached Francestown about ten o’clock on the night the robbery was to be committed. He had provided himself with a heavy overcoat and dark lantern; and promptly at eleven o’clock, according to the arrangement with me, he began his march down the street on which the bank stood. When he reached the building, he went to the door of the store underneath the banking-rooms and shook it violently, then tried the bank door in the same way, and finally went out into the street and flashed his lantern at all the bank windows, thus satisfying himself that everything was all right.
During this time my companions and I were in hiding behind some shrubbery in front of the cashier’s house on the opposite side of the street. This was at the time known to Howard, and he had been cautioned not to turn his lantern that way. Leaving the bank, the “watchman” continued on his round, passing down the street toward the church and examining everything carefully as he went along. Arriving at the church, he lingered there, flashing his lantern along the sheds, at the side and in the rear of the edifice.
I had told him he would find my horse and wagon there, and he was to examine both carefully. He was also to look into the vehicle, and, on finding therein two bags, he was to take them out, and, while looking them over, hold them in such a position that the burglars, having followed the “watchman” from the bank, would be able to see all his movements from ambush. This programme was faithfully carried out, and the time occupied in the examination was fully ten minutes.
The “watchman” then walked slowly away until, at the corner of the church, he stopped, acting all the while as though his curiosity had not been fully satisfied. He then walked back along the street in the direction of the bank, near which he was to wait until I should come to him. While he was acting his part, my companions and I were terribly excited, and in backing the horse from under the shed and turning the wagon we upset it.
During the consequent delay, one was saying to the other: “Hurry up or we will get pinched; the watchman is alarming the town!” As soon as we were ready for a start, Dan and Livingston got into the wagon; but I hesitated, saying that I was not thoroughly satisfied that the “watchman” had given an alarm, or that he would remain on duty after twelve o’clock. I argued that as we had done nothing, wrong, and as the “watchman” could have no knowledge of what the bags contained, it would be wise to “pipe” the “watchman” and see if he performed his duty faithfully.
I then proposed doing this myself, and asked them to drive to the bottom of the hill toward Nashua and wait there until I came. This they consented to, after repeatedly cautioning me not to let the “watchman” see me, for if he did, I, they said, would get “pinched.”
I then went to Howard, the “watchman,” and told him everything was all right; that he had performed his duty as a watchman faithfully and to my entire satisfaction. I stayed with him until 12:30 o’clock; then bidding him a pleasant walk back to Wilton, where he was to take the five o’clock Sunday morning milk train for Boston, I returned to Dan and Livingston.
I told them the “watchman” was still on duty and seemed likely to remain on all night, for he was at that moment eating his lunch on the bank steps. The only thing left for us to do was to drive to Nashua in time for Dan and Livingston to get the milk train from Wilton to Boston. I saw them aboard the train, and noticed that Howard was in the car with them, but, of course, did not recognize him. The people of Francestown never knew how near they came to losing their hard-earned savings.
One might think this experience would have discouraged Moore from working with Dutch Dan again, but in May, 1866, they attacked a “burglar-proof” Lillie safe in an office building on Staten Island. The loot was disappointing, but the job itself was successful.
In the fall months of 1866, Moore, Dutch Dan, Bill Vosburgh and a man named Carr made an attempt to rob a bank in New Rochelle, New York, but were interrupted by the night watchman making his rounds. All four men escaped, but Moore believed that Vosburgh, the outside man, had been derelict in his duty.

Moore, Dutch Dan, and Hank Hall were more successful just a few weeks later, and beat a new Lillie safe at an Olean, New York bank using drills and black powder. In January, 1867, the pair enlisted Spence Pettis to attack a bank in Watkins Glen, New York; but they could not crack the safe before morning. Moreover, Moore and Dutch Dan suspected that Pettis had arranged to cross them. They later discovered they were correct–had the robbery been successful, Pettis had arranged to have them arrested by the Secret Service, as means of getting Hank Hall, who was also a counterfeiter.
The next month, Moore and Dutch Dan cracked a safe in Armenia, but were spotted during their escape. They separated, but both were later captured and held for trial in Poughkeepsie, New York. Once again, Moore believed that Dutch Dan had gotten drunk during the escape, and had let himself be captured through carelessness. They were released on bail in Poughkeepsie, and Dutch Dan decided to jump without letting Moore know. Moore faced trial alone, but was lucky in that the main witness against him, a railroad brakeman, was killed in an accident. Moore was let off.
In August, 1867, Dutch Dan joined Moore’s other recent partners, Ned Livingston and Truman Young, to rob a general store in Cornish, Maine, of over $20,000. According to Moore, as soon as Dutch Dan was arrested in Boston, he immediately informed the police of the names and whereabouts of his partners on the job. His treachery earned him little: in 1868 he was tried and convicted, and sentenced to seven years in the Maine State Prison. He was pardoned after five years.
In 1874, Dutch Dan appeared in court to give evidence against John A. Olmstead (whom the Boston Journal claimed was a brother of the wife of counterfeiter William E. Brockway, but this is unsubstantiated.) Dan said that Olmstead, an engraver by trade, had helped harden the drill bits used by himself and several other burglars. It was around this time that Dutch Dan and his wife hosted in their Manhattan home Piano Charley Bullard, who had arrived from Europe after many years on the run following the Boylston Bank robbery with Adam Worth. Dutch Dan pointed authorities to Bullard, who was taken to prison in Massachusetts.
Dan was arrested on suspicion several times between 1874 and 1878, but nothing stuck. Then, in August 1878, Frank McCoy and James Irving were arrested for breaking into a piano store in New York, and police believed that Dutch Dan had fitted the keys for them. Dan’s house was searched, and many wax molds, key blanks, and burglars’ tools were found. He was later discharged, though there seemed to be an abundance of evidence against him.
Although by the late 1870s, Dutch Dan had been proven many times to be treacherous, he was one of the two best key-fitters in the business, the other being Louis Wolff, aka French Louis. In October, 1880, Dan was arrested for his role in the robbery of a tortoise-shell goods store in Philadelphia, but was discharged for lack of evidence and told to leave the city.
However, in July 1881 he was back in Philly, and assisted three professional burglars in the robbery of a string of stores. Dutch Dan was arrested as “James Watson” and sentenced to two years in Eastern State Penitentiary.
Beyond that, nothing is known of his fate, other than a note in Byrnes’s 1895 edition that says that Dutch Dan died in Philadelphia in 1892.

#90 Peter Ellis

Peter Ellis (Abt. 1844-1919), aka Banjo Pete, Long Pete, Luthey, Pete Emerson/Emmerson, John J. Smith, Jack Welch — Bank robber

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-one years old in 1886. Born in New York City. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 11 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Light complexion, brown hair, stooped shoulders, thin face, high cheek bones, dark eyes. Generally wears a brown mustache.

RECORD. Banjo Pete, the name he is best known by (Peter Ellis being his right name), was formerly a minstrel, but drifted into crooked channels about eighteen years ago. He was considered a good man, and was generally sought for when a job of any magnitude was to be done. He was an intimate associate of all the great bank burglars in America.

He was arrested with Abe Coakley in Philadelphia, Pa., on April 28, 1880, charged with robbing the Manhattan Bank in New York City, on October 27, 1878. It was claimed that Emmerson was the man who carried out the tin boxes from the vault, and sorted the bonds, etc.; that Coakley was the man who wore the whiskers, and dusted off the shelves in the bank while Johnny Hope and his father were in the vault with Nugent; that Billy Kelly stood guard over the old janitor; and Johnny Dobbs, or Kerrigan, and Big John Tracy, who was a friend of Shevelin, the watchman of the bank, were supposed to be the men who planned the robbery; while Old Man Hope was the man who did the work. Johnny Hope (19) was convicted, and sentenced to twenty years in State prison for this robbery. Kerrigan, alias Johnny Dobbs, was arrested while negotiating one of the stolen bonds in Philadelphia, and was turned over to the Sheriff of Wethersfield, Conn., who took him back to Wethersfield prison, to serve out an unfinished term of seven years. John Nugent was tried and acquitted. Patrick Shevlin, the night-watchman, was used to convict the others, and was finally discharged. Jack Cannon was also arrested in Philadelphia trying to dispose of some of the stolen bonds, and was sentenced to fifteen years there. Old Man Hope (20) went to California, and was sentenced to seven years and six months for a burglary there.

Pete Emmerson was discharged from the Tombs, in the Manhattan Bank case, on October 4, 1880. He traveled through the country with John Nugent and Ned Farrell, a notorious butcher-cart thief, and was finally arrested in the Hoboken, N.J., Railroad depot, on Saturday, July 28, 1883, for an attempt to rob Thos. J. Smith, the cashier of the Orange, N.J., National Bank, of a package containing $10,000 in money. Nugent and Farrell were arrested also. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to ten years in Trenton State prison, on July 30, 1883. Emmerson stood trial, was convicted,, and sentenced to ten years also, on October 30, 1883.

Emmerson’s picture is not a very good one, although recognizable. It was taken in 1880.

If Superintendent Thomas Byrnes had written his book about famous professional crimes rather than criminals, the October 27, 1878 robbery of the Manhattan Savings Institution would likely have been his centerpiece. Not only did it involve several of the most skilled, veteran thieves of the age, but the planning of the crime involved mastermind George Leslie, who was murdered before the attempt was finally made; and the consequences of the robbery had lasting effects on the careers of all involved. It was never fully revealed; and so it was talked about and rehashed for a generation.


Banjo Pete Ellis’s adult life centered around the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery, and he died an old man in the company of others involved in that crime. Byrnes was correct about Pete’s real name, but off the mark about his origins. He was born near Kennebunkport, Maine to Thomas and Sophia Ellis, who maintained a large family that dispersed during the Civil War years. Pete Ellis joined the 1st Maine Volunteers in 1864 as a sharpshooter, and saw nine months of action, rising from a private to a corporal.

After the war, Ellis gravitated toward Philadelphia and New York, and by all accounts he became a minstrel performer, eventually joining a famous minstrel act, Sam Devere’s company. There’s no evidence that Ellis ever rose to the level of being a billed name. Devere happened to have an apartment in New York next to the budding criminal genius, George L. Leslie, and the two often socialized together. It can be assumed that it was through Devere that Pete Ellis was introduced to George Leslie; and through Leslie, to Marm Mandelbaum and other veteran bank thieves, like Jimmy Hope and Abe Coakley.

Pete was said to have been in on the 1869 Ocean National Bank robbery in New York, organized by Leslie and Mark Shinburn, and executed by Jimmy Hope, Abe Coakley, Johnny Dobbs, Shang Draper, and Red Leary. Pete’s name was never associated with this crime until years later.

In Byrnes’ entry for thief Dave Cummings, Byrnes mentions that Banjo Pete and George Leslie joined Cummings for an 1873 robbery of a bank in Macon, Georgia; and that they were arrested in Washington, D.C. and forced to return the $50,000 taken. This event can not be found in any newspaper archives.

Pete and Abe Coakley were arrested by Byrnes in Philadelphia in April, 1880, for the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery of 1878. Byrnes had been under intense pressure to make more arrests in the case, and knowing that elements of the Philadelphia police were protecting Jimmy Hope, he took the drastic measure of making the arrest of Coakley and Ellis himself while in Philadelphia, accompanied by a local officer he trusted. Ellis was identified as the man who carried deposit boxes from the vault; though years later, Sophie Lyons wrote that Pete’s role had been to put on the fake whiskers and imitate the night watchman. When arrested, newspapers commented that Ellis had no known history. After being detained for five months in the Tombs (New York City’s Detention Center), Ellis was released.

According to Byrnes, Ellis committed a string of robberies between 1881 and 1883 with John Nugent (an ex-policeman also involved with the Manhattan Savings job) and Ned Farrelly. However, the only time he was caught was in July, 1883, when he, Nugent, and Farrelly attacked a bank cashier transporting a satchel of money while he was seating himself on a train in Hoboken, New Jersey.


Pete Ellis received ten years in New Jersey’s State Prison for this crime, and the public never heard from him again. After his release in the late 1890s, Pete returned to New York City and in 1898 married Jimmy Hope’s daughter, Ellen “Nellie” Hope. In 1900, he listed his occupation as “dry goods.” In 1910, he was an agent for the water company, and lived in the same house with Jimmy Hope’s sons, Johnny and Harry–a situation that continued for many years, until Pete’s death in 1919 at about 75 years of age. By that time, Pete had been the de facto leader of the Hope family for a dozen years, model citizens all.

#176 Mark Shinburn

Maximilian Schoenbein (1842-1916), aka Max Shinburn, Mark Shinborn, Henry E. Moebus, etc. — Sneak thief, bank robber

Link to Byrnes’s text on Mark Shinburn

Maximilian Schoenbein, the preeminent bank robber of the 1860s, was born in 1842 to parents Johann Schoenbein and Agnes Keiss of Württemberg, Germany. He arrived in the United States sometime in the mid-1850s, but the date and place of entry is unknown. In later life Schoenbein never mentioned his parents or upbringing. As a young man he supported himself by “sneak thieving” from stores and houses. He posed as a “sporting” man, a devotee of gambling and horse racing.

Schoenbein’s first bank job was the Walpole, N.H. Bank robbery of 1864, assisted by James Cummings. By his own account, Schoenbein attempted eleven bank robberies between 1864 and 1870, and was successful in nine of them. In June, 1870, he married Adelaide Tisserman and sailed for Europe a wealthy man, not to return until 1890.

In 1913, three years before his death, Schoenbein wrote a series of eleven articles for the Sunday Boston Herald, detailing several of his most famous exploits, as well as several capers involving his fellow master thieves, Adam Worth and George Miles White. These articles appeared just weeks after similar articles about old-time crooks penned by Sophie Lyons. However, unlike Lyon’s columns, Schoenbein’s writings were never syndicated to other newspapers, and never collected and republished in book form…
…until now. As a result of the Professional Criminals of America–REVISED project, Schoenbein’s heist stories have been transcribed and published by Wickham House under the title King of Burglars: The Heist Stories of Max Shinburn. Each of the eleven articles is a treat for any fan of stories about old-time crooks.

In one of his stories, Shinburn alludes briefly to the fact that after his return to the United States in the early 1890s, he spent two years trying to develop an invention. He later (in 1910) secured a patent for this after his release from the New Hampshire State Prison in 1908. The patent was US979325A, for a chambered pneumatic tire for automobiles:
Shinburn’s attempt to develop this in the early 1890s depleted his funds, resulting in a return to robbery–and re-imprisonment in New York and New Hampshire from 1895 to 1908.

#174 William Wright

William Wright (1831-19??), aka Roaring Bill, Charles W. Thompson, Watson — Thief

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-three years old in 1886. Born in United States. Single. No trade. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 4 inches. Weight, 130 pounds. Brown hair, turning gray; gray eyes, sallow complexion. Generally wears a mustache, which is quite gray. Scars on right eyebrow, under lower lip, and on chin.

RECORD. “Roaring Bill” is an old New York thief. He has spent the best portion of his life in State prisons and penitentiaries, and is well known in all the principal cities in America. He is a general thief, can turn his hand to almost anything, and is considered a very clever man. He is credited with having served four years for an express-train robbery in Colorado; also, with robbing an Adams Express Co. money-car, out West, of $15,000.

Bill was arrested in Providence, R.I., and sentenced to four years in the Rhode Island State prison on March 21, 1881, for the larceny of a valise containing a sealskin sack and several other things from a railroad train between New York and Providence. His sentence expired on October 25, 1884.

He was arrested again in New York City on August 10, 1885, and committed to Blackwell’s Island for three months, in default of $500 bail, as a suspicious person, by Justice Murray. Wright’s picture is a good one, taken in August, 1885.

Just before Chief Inspector Byrnes retired from the police force in 1894, a writer for a Buffalo newspaper asked him who were the most capable thieves not then in jail. Byrnes listed eight men: Rufus Minor, Joe Elliott, John Love, Ned Lyons, Gus Kindt, Mike Kurtz, Chauncy Johnson…and William Wright. None of these are surprising, except for Wright. Byrnes added, “Bill was one of the funniest, one of the shrewdest, and one of the most deceitful crooks I ever saw. It’s well-nigh impossible to fasten a crime on him.”

Wright received the nickname “Roaring Bill” from his loud, boisterous behavior when drunk.
Wright’s documented criminal history began–as Byrnes wrote–in 1881. However, Wright was already fifty years old by that time. Byrnes hints at some interesting details in Wright’s background, none of which can be confirmed. Still, these fragments are fascinating: Wright had been a cowboy in Texas; he had been in the regular army (but when and where is unknown); and he robbed a train in Colorado and spent four years in State prison in that state. In New York in the 1870s, he had been a member of Jimmy Hope’s gang of bank thieves.

By comparison, Wright’s crimes from 1881 and forward seem petty. He was caught that year taking a sealskin coat from a passenger on the Fall River line train on its way from Boston to Newport, Rhode Island. He was arrested in New York, but was tried in Rhode Island and sentenced to four years in the State Prison.

While jailed in Providence, one of Bill’s fellow prisoners did not find him so amusing. That prisoner’s name was James Dunbar, alias Dunmunday, alias Shea. Dunbar was said to have been a former member of the Jesse James gang (a claim yet to be proved). One day in the prison workshop, Dunbar grabbed a hefty hammer and brought it swiftly down on Wright’s head. Bill was saved only by his thick skull. Dunbar was thrown into solitary confinement, and through his own vile temper remained there until he died. Some say he attacked Bill for no reason other than to get transferred to an asylum from which he could escape; others say that he wanted to silence Bill, since Bill was the only one who recognized him as a member of the James gang.

The more likely scenario is that Bill said or did something to the man to provoke the attack. A different prisoner, who testified a few years later to a committee investigating conditions at the State Prison, claimed that Bill was the worst man he had ever met; and said that Bill–who also worked as a prison hospital orderly–gave the patients indigestible food contrary to doctors’ orders.

After his release, Bill could be found living at the Rochester House hotel in New York and spending summer days at Coney Island, working the crowds there as a pickpocket, and stealing items from the bathhouses where people changed out of their street clothes. One night in March, 1886, Bill was standing at the bar at the Rochester House when the stakes backer of the boxer George Le Blanche rolled in, despondent that his man had just lost a bout to Jack Dempsey. The backer mistook Bill Wright for a man named Tuthill, the brother of Dempsey’s backer, and thrust $2000 into Wright’s hands to settle accounts to the winner. Bill looked at the money and hesitated. However, he considered Dempsey a friend, and so he gave the money back and directed the man to visit the bar of the Hoffman House, where he knew Dempsey was staying.

A year later, in February 1887, Wright was in Albany plying his trade, and believed he might find good pickings in the New York State Senate chamber. During a recess in proceedings, he got onto the floor of the chamber and walked away with Senator Jacob Worth’s overcoat. He was caught and charged with grand larceny; Senator Worth insured that Wright was given the maximum sentence: nine years and eleven months at Clinton Prison, Dannemora.

By 1898, Bill was back in New York, once again working the crowds at Coney Island. However, he was soon arrested again, tried and sentenced to ten years at Sing Sing. Bill was 67 years old when his last term started. He would roar no more.

#199 Samuel Perris

Samuel Lafayette Parris (1840-????), aka Sam Perris, Sam Gorman, Samuel Ferris, Worcester Sam — Bank robber

From Byrnes’s Text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-six years old in 1886. Born in Canada. A French Canadian. Single. No trade. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, about 180 pounds. Looks something like a Swede or German. Brown hair, blue eyes, light complexion. Face rather short. Has a prominent dimple in his chin. Is thick set and very muscular. Has a quick, careless gait. Speaks English without French accent ; also, French fluently. He changes the style of his beard continually, and is “smooth-faced” a part of the time. Generally wears some beard on account of his pictures having been taken with smooth face. He drinks freely and spends money rapidly. He has a scar from a pistol-shot on his right eyebrow.

RECORD. “Worcester” Sam is one of the most notorious criminals in America. He has figured in the annals of crime in the Eastern and New England States for years. He is an associate of Old Jimmie Hope (20), Mike Kerrigan, alias Johnny Dobbs (64), and all the most expert men in the country. He has no doubt participated in every bank robbery of any magnitude that has taken place in the United States for the past twenty years. He is a man of undoubted nerve, and has a first-class reputation among the fraternity. His specialty is banks and railroad office safes.

Sam is wanted now by the Worcester (Mass.) police; also, for the robbery and alleged murder of Cashier Barron, of the Dexter Bank of Maine. He was in custody at Worcester, Mass., but escaped from jail there on April 5, 1872. He has never been recaptured, although there is a standing reward of $3,000 offered for him by the county commissioners. (See records of George Wilkes and No. 50.)

Perris’s picture is the best in existence. It was copied from one taken with a companion, and resembles him very much.

Reuben and Adaline Parris were part of the wave of migration from French Canada to the United States that started in the 1830s and 1840s, fleeing a poor economy. Their first stop in the United States was Randolph, Vermont, where son Samuel Lafayette Parris was born in 1840. Adaline and her children were noted as “mulatto” in census records. In the 1850s, the family moved first to Worcester, Massachusetts; then to Watervliet, New York; and later to back Worcester, Massachusetts, where there was a large French-Canadian population that had sought out textile factory jobs. Reuben Parris (whose surname was often spelled Perris, Paris, or Pareice) was a fish and fruit dealer by trade. Reuben Parris did little to discourage his son from a life of crime, and in at least one instance abetted one of Sam’s bank robberies.

When and where Sam Parris started his life of thieving is not known, but anecdotes about his involvement in specific robberies surfaced in 1871 which dated his activities back to at least 1869, about the time he was said to have left Worcester. He traveled under the alias “Sam Gorman,” and among his early mentors were George Miles White (alias George Bliss, George Miles) and Max Shinburn. In 1869, Parris was involved in a heavy robbery in Boston, and by December of that year was enjoying the spoils in New Orleans. There he was arrested as Sam Gorman for the theft of $20,000 from the banking form of Pike, Brother, & Co. He was released on bail after donating $400 to the recorder (judge) that handled his case.



Shortly afterwards, Parris was back in northern New England, committing robberies with new partners Daniel Dockerty and Charles Gleason. In July 1870 they hit the safe of E. B. True in Newport, Vermont; followed several weeks later by a robbery in Barton, Vermont. Gleason was captured by a detective from New Hampshire in White River Junction, but was released on bail. Reunited, the gang hit the First National Bank of Grafton, Massachusetts, not far from Sam’s Worcester home.

In January, 1871 the gang of thieves robbed a bank in Waterbury, Connecticut. Afterwards, Parris was rumored to have fled to England. By May he was back in the United States, but was captured by detectives in Hoboken, New Jersey. Several states (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine requested Parris, but ultimately it was decided to send him back to Worcester to stand trial for the Grafton bank robbery.

Gleason, Dockerty, Parris, and Sam’s father Reuben all faced charges. Reuben Parris was accused of driving the thieves to Grafton, and for accompanying his son to New York to sell some bonds stolen from the Grafton bank. Gleason and Dockerty were convicted and sent to the Massachusetts State Prison for long stretches: thirteen and fourteen years. Reuben Parris was acquitted of the most serious charges. Sam Parris was still waiting to learn his fate when he escaped from the Worcester jail, aided by his wife Harriet. The escape was meticulously planned:


Three months later, in July 1872, a gang of eight or nine men hit the bank at Uxbridge, Massachusetts. The technique was the same employed by Parris’ former partners, Gleason and Dockerty: they would lay in wait for the bank cashier, gag him, beat and threaten him, and then force him to open the safe. Parris’ partners are not known, but sometime in the mid 1870s, he was frequently mentioned as being one of George Leslie’s gang, which included Jimmy Hope, Abe Coakley, and Johnny Dobbs (Michael Kerrigan).

In 1876, Parris re-teamed with an old partner, George Miles White, to rob a bank in Barre, Vermont. White was captured, while Parris eluded authorities. White was imprisoned for a long sentence, and emerged from jail reformed by religion. He went on to write two books about his criminal career and religious conversion, From Boniface to Bank Burglar and Penalty and Redemption.

Parris left the United States and went to Europe, where he conspired with other touring American criminals; but what crimes they successfully committed are not known. He returned to the United states and took part in the infamous robbery at the Dexter bank in Maine in February 1879. As was his pattern, the bank cashier was threatened; when he proved uncooperative in opening the inner vault door, one of the gang of robbers locked the man behind the vault’s outer door. Most accounts suggest that Worcester Sam Parris was the guilty party when the cashier was found dead the next morning.

The Dexter job had been planned by mastermind George Leslie, who rarely participated in the actual robbery. Now that the gang had blood on their hands, it was feared that Leslie might lose his nerve. Leslie was subsequently murdered in Westchester County, just across the border from New York City. Who killed Leslie is not known, but the leading suspects were Johnny Dobbs or Sam Parris.

Parris laid low for several years, some of which were spent in Philadelphia under the protection of Jimmy Hope and his friends. The last crime that Parris was thought to be involved in was a robbery at a Walpole, New Hampshire drug store with partner Thomas McCormick. McCormick was captured and sent to prison; Parris (if it was him) put up a desperate fight, twice breaking away from officers, before outrunning them.

Worcester Sam then disappeared. An article from Cincinnati published in 1904 suggested that he was still alive, and still wanted as a fugitive in Worcester.

There is one curious mention of Parris after 1883: the June 1900 issue of The Blue Pencil Magazine contained an article by respected editor and newspaperman James F. Corrigan, titled “The Murder of Nathan.” Corrigan relates meeting an old bank robber at the New York docks in 1898, and discussing an old unsolved murder with him. It was the killing of banker Benjamin Nathan that took place in 1870, that remained unsolved. The old bank robber told Corrigan who had committed the crime, and said both perpetrators were long dead [Charles Dennis and Hugh “Kew” Carr; the pair had been briefly considered as suspects, but it was found that Dennis was in jail when Nathan was murdered.] Corrigan named his informant as “Worcester Sam,” a name that hardly anyone would have recognized in 1900.

#64 Michael Kerrigan

John Kerrigan (Abt. 1843-1892), aka Michael Kerrigan, Johnny Dobbs, Henry Hall, John Rodgers, J. C. Rice — River thief, bank robber

Link to Byrnes’s entry on #64 Michael Kerrigan

Best known by his street name, “Johnny Dobbs”, many accounts differ as to the real first name of the man known as “the king of bank robbers”: John or Michael Kerrigan. Upon his death in 1892, his wife tried to clear up matters:


John and Anna were married in the Allen Street Methodist Church in 1870. By that point, he was already using the name adopted from his uncle: Johnny Dobbs. Kerrigan’s background and career was very similar to his friend and frequent partner, Jimmy Hope, except that Hope rose from a Philadelphia gang (the Schuylkill Rangers) and Kerrigan from a Lower East Side gang (Slaughter-house Point gang, later Patsy Conroy’s river thieves).

Because Kerrigan is such a major figure in several of the biggest crimes of the 1870s and 1880s, a more complete chronology than that offered by Chief Byrnes is called for:

  • Arrested and sent to prison in February, 1864 for shooting New York police officer Sweeney in the thigh. Sweeney was trying to break up a gang, led by Dobbs, which was chasing a Chinese man down the street. Dobbs was a member of the Fourth Ward’s Slaughter-house Point Gang, soon to be dissolved, succeeded by Patsy Conroy’s gang of river thieves.
  • In prison, Dobbs said to have come under the tutelage of an old English thief named Petrie.
  • Dobbs identified as one of seven prisoners who escaped Sing Sing in February, 1868.
  • In 1869, Dobbs conspired with a corrupt bank clerk to rob Wall Street bankers Cambreling & Pyne of $140,000 in bonds. Both are arrested, and Dobbs returns his share and gives evidence against the clerk (viewed as the worse risk).
  • Married Anna Gould, February 1870
  • In October 1870, a gang of thieves, including Dobbs, “Worcester Sam” Perris, and Charles Gleason, robbed the First National Bank of Grafton, Massachusetts of between $100,000 and $150,000.
  • Purchases farm in Plainfield, New Jersey


  • John’s brother Matthew, known as “Mattie Dobbs,” allegedly shoots Patrick Vaughan in the aftermath of an inter-gang brawl.
  • In October, 1873, a gang of thieves entered the residence of a wealthy farmer, Abram Post, near Embogcht (Inbocht) Bay on the Hudson River, south of Catskill, New York. Similar raids were made against the homes of J. P. Emmet in New Rochelle, New York; and W. K. Soutter on Staten Island. The gang was said to use George Milliard’s saloon to plan its raids, and included Dobbs, Dan Kelly, Pugsey Hurley, Patsy Conroy, Larry Griffin, Dennis Brady, John Burns, and Shang Campbell. All were arrested except Dobbs and Campbell. They fled south to Key West, Florida. Campbell was eventually captured, but Dobbs eluded detectives.
  • Prior to May 1874, Dobbs made frequent visits to his sister and brother-in-law on a farm near Litchfield, Connecticut. The brother-in-law was John Denning, a former Fourth Ward detective.
  • May 1874: Dobbs is arrested in Hartford, Connecticut, accused of robbing the Collinsville Connecticut savings bank. He gives his name as “J. C. Rice.” Tried and convicted, he is sent to the Connecticut State Prison on a seven-year sentence.
  • A year later, in May, 1875, Dobbs escapes from the Connecticut State Prison. It is suspected that he was assisted by a corrupt guard.
  • From 1875 through 1878, Dobbs teamed up with the crew of bank robbers led by mastermind George L. Leslie. How many of their crimes Dobbs was involved in is not known. One of their major targets was the Manhattan Savings bank. An abortive attempt was made against that bank in 1877, organized by Leslie. It was foiled by an unexpected change in bank locks.


  • In February 1878, the Dexter Savings Bank of Maine was robbed–the heist was marred by the death of the bank’s cashier during the crime. The man’s death was a subject of debate for years: was he locked into the bank’s vault because he had failed to cooperate; or had he been complicit, and then committed suicide in remorse? All evidence for the robbery pointed to Leslie’s gang; but no criminal ever admitted involvement, for fear of facing murder charges.
  • In June 1878, George L. Leslie’s body was found near Tramps Rock, Yonkers, near the Bronx River on the Westchester County/New York City border. Members of his own gang were suspected of the murder–including Johnny Dobbs–but the motive is unclear. Did they fear he would implicate them all, especially concerning the Dexter job? Or was the cause Leslie’s attempt to romance the moll of another gang member?
  • On October 27, 1878, the robbery of the Manhattan Savings Bank–initially planned by Leslie, but now led by Dobb’s friend Jimmy Hope–was pulled off successfully. Johnny Dobbs was said to be one of the robbers. The majority of the huge trove of loot, nearly three million dollars, was in registered bonds.
  • The following May, 1879, Dobbs was arrested while trying to negotiate the return of many of the Manhattan Savings bonds. He was taken to the Tombs, New York’s municipal detention center. After a few months, it was decided to return him to the Connecticut State Prison, to serve out the remainder of his term there (after he had escaped in 1875).
  • In 1881, Dobbs is released from the Connecticut State Prison, having time reduced for good behavior.
  • In March of 1884, Dobbs was captured in Lawrence, Massachusetts, with several other known criminals and a large collection of burglary tools. He plead guilty, believing that the sentence would be light. Instead, he was given a term of ten years in the Massachusetts State Prison.
  • John Kerrigan, alias John Dobbs, is released from Massachusetts in 1892 for health reasons, said the be consumptive. He returns to New York, goes to a saloon, and collapses there with a stroke. He died in Bellevue Hospital in May, 1892.

#22 Langdon Moore

Langdon W. Moore (Abt. 1833-1910), aka Charley Adams — Bank robber, counterfeiter

Link to Byrnes’s entry on #22 Langdon Moore
Along with Sophie Lyons and George Bidwell, Langdon Moore was one of the most recognizable names in Chief Byrnes’ Professional Criminals of America. These three produced autobiographies detailing their careers. Moore’s was titled: Langdon W. Moore: His Own Story of His Eventful Life, initially published in 1893 by Moore himself. It was an greatly expanded version of: Life, deeds, and wonderful escapes of Langdon W. Moore, the world-renowned bank robber, published in 1891 by Boston Enterprise Pub. Co. Both of these publications followed Byrnes’s book (1886); and, indeed, may have been written as a response to a couple of insulting assertions made by Byrnes.

One of those statements was in regards to Moore’s actions following his most famous adventure, the robbery of the Concord (Massachusetts) National Bank on September 25, 1865. A slightly romanticized version of that crime was related by storyteller Alton H. Blackington in one of his “Yankee Yarns” broadcasts from October 9, 1947. Blackington portrays Moore as a master thief. On the flip side, Max Shinburn wrote an account of the Concord robbery in 1913 that portrayed Moore as a lucky fool.

Byrnes’s entry on Moore states that, upon arrest, Moore agreed to return his share of the Concord loot, and to divulge the whereabouts of his partner, “English Harry” Howard. However, whereas Byrnes says that Howard was never captured because he missed the meeting signal left by Moore, Moore relates that his bargain to give up Howard was all a ruse:

“Twenty-five years after this incident, it was said by some small detectives who knew nothing of the facts of Woolbridge’s three days’ stand-up in the snow [waiting for Howard to appear], that I tried to give Howard up, but he was too smart for me. To those detectives and all others interested, I have only to say that the time gained in that way served all the purposes I wished it to. Howard has ever since been satisfied, and so have I.”
Moore’s goal in delaying the police was to allow time for a requisition to be issued by Massachusetts, and for the Concord National Bank to send a representative that Moore could bargain with directly.Capture
The other slight made by Byrnes concerns Moore’s 1880 conviction for both possession of burglar’s tools and for the robbery of the Warren Institution of Savings in Boston. Byrnes states that Moore was convicted on the testimony of his recent partner, George Mason, who turned on Moore after Moore neglected to provide him (Mason) and his family aid and a lawyer after his arrest.

Moore’s version of these events suggests that during an earlier bank robbery that they committed together, he suspected Mason had pocketed a valuable diamond and some bonds at the crime scene, and did not later include those in the total bag of loot to be divided. Moreover, Moore writes that Mason was arrested for a post office robbery in which he (Moore) was not a participant; and that at the time of Mason’s arrest, he (Moore) was also detained, and did not have access to funds, even to help himself. However, although Moore points out that Mason’s testimony put him in prison, Moore held a greater grudge against some other men involved, including a corrupt Boston police detective.

In general, Langdon W. Moore: His Own Story of His Eventful Life attempts to portray Moore as a rarity, an “honorable” thief who always treated his partners fairly, though they often acted treacherously in return. At the same time, his autobiography details several episodes in which Moore unhesitatingly deceived gamblers, citizens, and policemen. His book is a fascinating window into the life of a professional thief–but is more than a bit self-serving. Even so, proceeds from the publication of his book might have gone a long way towards keeping him honest in the last fifteen years of his life; and several sections of the text detail the treatment he received in prison and his ideas for prison reform.

Moore was born in northern Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, to parents Jonathan Moore (1796-1879) and Dolly Whitney (1796-1848). Langdon married Rebecca Sturge, widow of Daniel “Dad” Cunningham, in 1866. In the 1870 federal census, Langdon, Rebecca, and a 6-year-old boy named John are found living in New York. The boy, who likely was fathered by Dad Cunningham, has not been found in later censuses. Langdon and Rebecca did have one child of their own, a daughter, Nellie B. Moore, who grew to adulthood and married a man named Adler, but her fate is also unknown. Langdon and Rebecca divorced–acrimoniously–in 1891. Rebecca took up with another man while Moore was serving his lengthy sentence in Massachusetts throughout the 1880s; Moore, upon his release, sought the couple out and viciously attacked the man with a knife. Langdon later filed for the divorce. Rebecca sued for alimony, though Moore–quite naturally–claimed he had no source of income.

#21 John Clare

John G. Clare (1845-1896), aka John Gilmore, George Price, George J. Bedford — Thief, Murderer (Acquitted)

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-six years old in 1886. Born in United States. Photographer by trade. Single. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Black hair, dark hazel eyes, dark complexion. Wears black side whiskers and mustache. Has a slight scar on left arm near elbow.

RECORD. Clare is a clever and desperate bank burglar, and was at one time an associate or Ike Marsh’s and his brother, and was with them in several bank robberies. He is credited with being able to make a good set of tools. He was arrested in Baltimore, Md., on November 4, 1865, charged with the murder of Henry B. Grove on October 17, 1865. On January 29, 1866, his trial commenced in Baltimore City, but was changed upon application of his counsel to Townstown, Baltimore County, on January 30, 1866. His trial occupied from December 13 to 20, 1866, when the jury rendered a verdict of murder in the first degree. A motion for a new trial was denied, and on January 14, 1867, he was sentenced to be hanged. The Court of Appeals granted him a new trial, and he was tried again on March 29, 1870, and acquitted.

On June 27, 1874, an attempt was made to rob the safe of the New York County Bank, corner Fourteenth Street and Eighth Avenue, New York City. Clare, under the name of Gilmore, hired a basement next door to the bank, and had a steam engine at work boring out the back of the safe, which they reached by removing the brick walls of both houses. At the time of the raid by the police, William Morgan, alias Bunker, James Simpson, and Charles Sanborn were arrested, convicted, and sent to State prison. Clare, or Gilmore, made his escape, but was captured on March 27, 1876, twenty-one months afterward, in New York City, tried, convicted, and sentenced to four years and six months in State prison by Judge Sutherland, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City. Clare’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1876.

There is no shortage of interesting aspects to the career of John G. Clare. As Byrnes indicates, Clare was arrested and tried for murder when he was barely twenty years old. Reading through accounts of his arrest and first trial (in which he was convicted), it is hard to see how he ever could have been acquitted: he had worked for the victim, a photographer; he had access to the key to the storefront; a bloody footprint matching his shoe was found at the scene; a pawnshop owner identified Clare as the man who had pawned the dead man’s watch; a gun was found under Clare’s bed with one recently-fired chamber, matching the caliber of the bullet found in the victim’s head. Moreover, Clare was caught in lies about both the gun, the watch, and the time and reason he left Baltimore immediately after the killing.


Fortunately for Clare, his family (parents Thomas Isaac Clare and Elizabeth Jane Brown) secured an exceptional team of Baltimore lawyers to mount his defense: R. J. Gittings, Orville Horwitz, Archibald Sterling, Jr., and the lead attorney: Milton Whitney. First they had the venue changed to Baltimore County. After Clare was found guilty and sentenced to hang, they appealed the validity of the indictment–and won that appeal, nullifying the first trial. This process took over three years. Clare was indicted and tried a second time, but by then, several of the critical witnesses were no longer around, and the testimony they had provided earlier was now inadmissible. Clare’s family offered an alibi (of sorts), all saying they had seen Clare at home before they went to church and after they returned, seemingly not leaving enough time for him to have committed the crime. With a less capable defense team (or better prosecutors), John Clare surely would have hanged. He was acquitted on March 29, 1870–having spent nearly five years in prison.

Clare kept a low profile for four years, establishing residence in New York under the name J. J. Gilmore. In the spring of 1874, he purchased a run-down restaurant/saloon next door to the New York County Bank. Clare’s three accomplices were caught using a steam-powered drill to break through the building walls and attack the bank’s vault. Clare escaped, but was captured nearly two years later and sent to Sing Sing. Was the restaurant nothing more than a sham front? A week before the bank burglars were caught, Clare advertised for a cook:


Following his release from Sing Sing, Clare teamed up with another burglar, “Jack Reynolds,” for a thieving-tour through the upper Midwest. In Marshalltown, Iowa, they were confronted by Sheriff George McCord. Clare meekly surrendered, which distracted McCord, and allowed Reynolds time to draw a gun and shoot McCord. Both thieves fled, splitting up, but were soon captured. The Sheriff survived his wounds, but both Reynolds and Clare (under the name George Bedford) were sentenced in January, 1885 to twenty-two year stays at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Anamosa. When Clare was processed as a prisoner, he refused to divulge anything: birthplace, religion, occupation, education, habits, etc.

His sentence was commuted in May, 1892, but during the years between 1885 and 1892, “George J. Bedford” applied for and was granted four United States patents, for : a railroad seat adjustable foot rest; a pickpocket-proof mail pouch; a freight-car lock; and a “burglar-proof” door lock.


Allegedly, it was in recognition of Clare’s contributions as an inventor that the Governor of Iowa commuted his sentence after six years.

From Iowa, Clare returned to New York and within a matter of weeks was picked up by police, having in his possession burglar tools and dynamite. Although no specific crimes could be pinned on him, in November, 1892 he was sent to Sing Sing once again for possession of those implements. He was sentenced to five years, but was released in 1896.

In August 1896, Clare and three accomplices attempted to burgle the grocery store of Walker Adams and Son in Bedford, Westchester County, New York. The owner, Walker Adams, and his son William heard them from their residence and grabbed guns to confront the robbers. Walker adams approached the rear of the building, surprised one of the burglars, who drew a gun and shot Adams dead. The son, William Adams, exchanged fire with three other burglars and wounded all of them.  One of these was John Clare, whom the other burglars called “Charles Jenkins.” Clare fled the scene. The two others shot by Adams were captured: “John Jenkins” and “Peter James” (aka Edward Jacques). John Jenkins died from his injuries. Peter James escaped from jail.

John Clare, though wounded, made his way from Westchester County to Brooklyn, where he checked into a hospital. There, his condition worsened due to kidney failure, which doctors informed him was due to Bright’s Disease. Though they interrogated him and told him he was dying, Clare refused to divulge any details of his history, or to accept a visit from a priest or minister. He died in the hospital on August 24, 1896.

In his last known dwelling, police found a large collection of bicycle parts–about $1500 worth–an enormous amount for that time. Clare was 51 when he died. No one knows what plans he had for the bicycle parts.