#198 John Pettengill

John J. Pettingill (Abt. 1835-1886), aka John Anderson, Joe Pettengill, James Pettingill, William Pettingill, James Gray, Little Pettingill, Boston Pett, Edward Perkins — Thief, Forger, Counterfeiter

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-one years old in 1886. Born in the United States. Single. No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, about 150 pounds. Blue eyes, very weak; light hair, Light complexion. Thick lower lip, broad, high forehead. Has India ink marks on left arm and back of left hand. Small scar on back of neck from a boil.

RECORD. Pettengill is an old New York thief. He is what may be called a general thief, as he can turn his hand to almost anything — burglary, boarding-house work, handling forged paper or bonds, counterfeiting, etc. He has been arrested in almost every State from Maine to California, and has spent considerable of his life in State prison. He is well known in all the cities, and is considered more of a tool than a principal.

He was arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., on June 24, 1875, and sentenced to two years in Cherry Hill prison. Since then he has served terms in Sing Sing prison, New York, and other places. He was finally arrested in the ferry house in Hoboken, N.J., on April 18, 1885, in company of Theodore Krewolf, charged with passing a number of counterfeit ten-dollar bills, of the series of 1875, on several shopkeepers in Hoboken. He was sentenced to six years in Trenton State prison for this offense, on July 22, 1885. His picture is a good one, taken in June, 1875.

Byrnes describes Pettingill as “an old New York thief,” but Pettingill was a Boston native through and through, earning the nickname “Boston Pett.” His prime years as a criminal took place a generation before most of Byrnes’s crooks. In 1860 he was arrested for robbing $3000 worth of silks from a Manchester, New Hampshire store; and at the same time held for a store robbery in Boston. Even as this juncture, Pettingill was described as a “well-known Boston thief.”

In 1865, Pettingill was caught trying to pass counterfeit $50 bills at a Springfield, Massachusetts bank. He was arrested and taken to a station house, but while his Bertillon measurements were being taken, ran out the door. He was later recaptured and held on a $4000 bail bond; the money was put up, and Pettingill disappeared, forfeiting the bond. In 1866, Pettengill was rumored to have been in Dan Noble’s gang when it committed the Lord Bond robbery, netting a million and a half dollars [however, the crooks who committed the Lord Bond job have never been conclusively identified.] He was finally recaptured in 1868, and was sent to prison.

In 1875, Pettingill  passed a forged check at a Philadelphia bank. He was tracked to New York, arrested, and sent back to Philadelphia, where he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to three years at Eastern State Penitentiary (not two years at Cherry Hill, as Byrnes indicated).

Upon his release, he was next discovered in 1878 in Washington, D. C., where he robbed Chief Naval Constructor Isaiah Hanscome of $48,000 in bonds and cash. This job was pulled off in partnership with two notorious Philadelphia criminals, Pete Burns and Jimmy Logue. Pettingill was jailed for over a year while he was tried, convicted, and held on appeal, but finally, in July 1879, his appeals were denied and he was sentenced to three years in prison.

Pettengill was next apprehended, four months after his release, in New York in 1882, trying to pass a forged check in company with two other noted forgers, Andy Roberts and William Bartlett. Curiously, neither Byrnes nor New York newspapers offered details of any prosecutions resulting from these arrests, which suggests that the case against them was dismissed.

Boston Pett’s last misadventure came in Hoboken, New Jersey, in June of 1885, when he and a partner are caught trying to pass counterfeit $10 bills at a series of stores in New Jersey. Pettingill was sentenced to six years of hard labor at the State Prison in Trenton. His constitution could not endure the conditions there; he died in January 1886.



#31 Louis R. Martin

Lewis R. Martin (Abt. 1827-1894), aka Luther R. Martin, L. R. Martin, Lew Martin — Counterfeiter, Forger

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Sixty-three years old in 1886. Born in United States. Horse dealer. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 10 3/4 inches. Weight, 164 pounds. Gray hair, eyes dark gray and weak, complexion light. Is a fine, gentlemanly-looking man.

RECORD. Martin was believed to be the capitalist of the Brockway gang of forgers and counterfeiters. He was well known by all the reputable horse and sporting men in this country, as a man of means engaged in the transportation of cattle between the United States, England and Australia.

He was indicted in the United States Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania in 1875, with an accomplice named Henry Moxie, alias Sweet, for passing counterfeit $500 notes. He was never tried. Previous to that time he had been known as an expert engraver and printer of counterfeits, under the name of Martin Luther. He made and owned the plate with which the $500 notes for which himself and Moxie were indicted were printed.

He has been connected in several large counterfeiting schemes with William E. Brockway (32), J. B. Doyle, Nathan B. Foster, English Moore, and others. He is well known by the United States officers as a counterfeiter.

Martin was arrested in New York City, on November 10, 1883, with Brockway (32) and Nathan B. Foster, charged with having in his possession forged $1,000 bonds of the Morris & Essex Railroad of New Jersey. At the time of his arrest, in the St. James Hotel, New York City, there was found in two valises in his room fifty-four $1,000 bonds of the above road, thirty-three of which had been numbered and signed ready for use. For this offense Martin was convicted, and sentenced to ten years in State prison, on August 6, 1884, by Judge Cowing, in the Court of General Sessions in New York City. His counsel obtained a stay of proceedings, and he was granted a new trial, and admitted to bail; while confined in the Tombs prison from some cause he became totally blind. His picture is an excellent one, taken in November, 1883.

There is no doubt that Lew Martin was a central partner in several counterfeiting schemes; less clear is whether he was ever an engraver himself, or always worked with others. Whatever the case, his crimes appear to have been episodic, and fueled by his real passion: horse breeding. Martin’s known crimes occurred far from his adopted home, San Francisco. As a counter to his profile in Professional Criminals of America, consider Lew Martin’s obituary in Breeder and Sportsman:


Martin’s patron, starting around 1870, was one of California’s greatest businessmen, Lucky Baldwin. Not only did Baldwin stand by his friend in his last decade as an invalid, Baldwin surely must have been aware of Lew’s counterfeiting crimes. [Was Lew Martin the “broker” of these rings? Or was it his rich mentor?] Martin must have also rubbed shoulders with Baldwin’s friend and horse-racing enthusiast, Wyatt Earp.

In the 1860s, prior to his move to California, Lew Martin was a well-known trotting horse breeder living in Brooklyn. In the late 1880s, the head of the United States Secret Service, Andrew L. Drummond, claimed that it was during the 1860s that Martin first started working with William E. Brockway.

Martin’s downfall was his 1883 arrest in New York with Brockway and Nathaniel B. Foster. The events surrounding this arrest are more fully described in two sources: 1) Allan Pinkerton’s Thirty Years a Detective (published in 1884), in the chapter “Counterfeiters;” and 2) A. L. Drummond’s True Detective Stories, in the chapter “A Wonderful Man Loses His Luck.” Brockway, Foster, and Martin likely would have been daunted to learn that the forces of the Pinkertons, the Secret Service, and Inspector Byrnes were all aligned against them.


#168 Thomas Shortell

Frank Shortell (1859-????), aka Thomas Shortell, Frank Wilson — Thief, Counterfeiter

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Twenty-seven years old in 1886. Born in New York. Single. Conductor. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 148 pounds. Brown hair, gray eyes, dark complexion. Eyebrows meet ; high cheek bones. Has an anchor in India ink on back of right hand.

RECORD. Shortell, although young in the business, is a very clever sneak thief. He was formerly a conductor on one of the New York railroad cars, and first made the acquaintance of the police in New York City on November 20, 1880, when he was arrested for perjury in a seduction case — Murry vs. Cronin — which was being investigated in one of the police courts. In this case he was not convicted.

He was arrested again in New York City on January 22, 1883, in company of Benton B. Bagley (163) and John T. Sullivan, two other expert sneak thieves, for the larceny of a sealskin dolman, valued at $350, from the Church of the Incarnation, on Madison Avenue, New York City, during a wedding, on December 27, 1882. Bagley and Sullivan were discharged on January 30, 1883, and Shortell was sent to the Reformatory at Elmira, New York, by Judge Cowing, on February 5, 1883.

Shortell was arrested again, under the name of Frank Wilson, in company of Tommy Connors, another New York thief, who gave the name of Thomas Wilson, at Nashville, Tenn., for picking pockets during the race week, in May, 1885. On searching their baggage in their rooms it was found to contain $1,000 in counterfeit $10 United States Treasury notes. They were indicted in the Federal Court, and the charge of picking pockets withdrawn. They were delivered to the United States authorities, tried, and both sentenced to a fine of $100 and five years’ imprisonment in Chester (Ill.) prison on May 26, 1885. Shortell’s picture is a very good one, taken in January, 1883.

Like his friend and co-conspirator Benton Bagley, Frank Shortell’s crimes appear to be more amateurish than professional. He was born in New York’s 21st Ward to Irish immigrants T. Henry and Mary Shortell. It appears that several family members did not survive the 1870s, and by 1880, Frank was living alone and employed as a streetcar conductor. The fact that Shortell was sent to the Elmira reformatory–at age 24–rather than a penitentiary indicates that veteran Judge Cowing did not consider Shortell to be a career criminal.

Shortell’s arrest in Nashville was also amateurish. He and his friend were caught with very poorly-produced counterfeit notes that were easily recognized. Following his sentencing to a federal prison in Illinois, all trace of Shortell is lost.

#37 Albert Wilson

Albert C. Wilson (Abt. 1842-1894), aka Al. Wilson, Edward R. Marshall, W. H. Hall — Counterfeiter, Forger

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-four years old in 1886. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 1/2 inches. Weight, 170 pounds. Brown hair, slightly bald on top of head; wears light brown mustache and whiskers, generally cut short. Prominent nose, which is inclined to be hooked. Has a gunshot wound on back of left fore-arm; also a small scar half an inch long on lower lip, which runs down from corner of mouth, left side. Speaks in a calm, easy tone. Born in State of Louisiana.

RECORD. Al. Wilson is well known in many of the Eastern cities as an expert burglar and shoplifter, and has served two terms of imprisonment for the above offenses. He afterwards became an expert negotiator of forged paper of every description, and was known to the authorities of several cities as a member of “Brockway’s Gang of Forgers.” He also was identified with George Wilkes, George Engles (deceased), and Charley Becker, with whom he left for Europe in the spring of 1880, for the purpose of negotiating forged circular notes. This scheme failed, and he returned to America about August 15, 1880.

Wilson was arrested in New York City on October 18, 1880, and delivered to the police authorities of Baltimore, Md., charged, in connection with Henry Cleary, George Bell (193), and Charles O. Brockway (14), with forging and uttering checks amounting to $10,051 on the Merchants’ National Bank and the Third National Bank of Baltimore, Md., on July 16 and 17, 1880. One check for $2,160, another $3,901, and another of $1,300, were drawn to the order of J. Hunter and others, and, with the forged signature of J. H. Fisher, were presented at the Merchants’ National Bank; and a check for $1,394, and another for $1,296, drawn to the order of J. W. Kimball, and bearing the forged signature of Middleton & Co., of Baltimore, were presented at the Third National Bank. All five of these checks were paid on presentation. Wilson pleaded guilty to two cases of forgery, and he was sentenced to two years on each indictment (making four years in all), on November 3, 1880, by Judge Pinkney, at Baltimore, Md.

Shortly after his release from prison in Maryland he was arrested in Milwaukee, Wis. (June 26, 1884), under the name of Edward R. Marshall, charged with attempting to pass forged fifty-pound Bank of England notes. As he had failed to get rid of any of them there, he was delivered over to the Chicago (Ill.) authorities, who wanted him for disposing of some of the same notes. He was taken to Chicago, and escaped from a police station there on July 5, 1884, and went to England, where a gang was organized consisting of George Wilkes, George Engles, Charley Becker, Shell Hamilton, William Bartlett, Edward Burns, Edward Cleary, George Bell, and himself ; and, as above referred to, they entered into a gigantic scheme to flood France, Germany and Italy with forged circular notes, full particulars of which appear in the record of George Wilkes. A reward of one hundred dollars was offered for his arrest by the chief of police.

Al. Wilson, alias W. H. Hall, registered at St. Lawrence Hall in Montreal, Canada, on May 18, 1885, and on May 19 he went to the Bank of British North America and asked the manager of the bank to cash him a letter of credit for fifty pounds on the Union Bank of Scotland. He said that “he had fifteen hundred pounds more which he would like to have cashed in a few days.” The manager became suspicious and detained him, and sent for an officer, who arrested him when leaving the bank. One Robert Fox, a Scotchman, was arrested with him. He is about fifty-five years old. Height, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Weight, about 190 pounds. Stout build. Gray hair. Side whiskers and mustache, generally dyed black. Very bald. Sharp features. Round shoulders, and slightly stooped. Fox did not attempt to pass any of the letters of credit, but when arrested a large package of the letters was found on his person. He tried to destroy them, but was prevented by the officers. Wilson claimed that all the letters belonged to him, and that Fox had nothing to do with them. Wilson pleaded guilty on June 6, 1885. Fox was tried and found guilty on June 9, 1885. On June 13, 1885, Wilson was sentenced to twelve years in St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary, and Fox was sentenced to six years. Wilson’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1880.

Chief Byrnes was attuned to the fact that there were two men using the name “Al Wilson” active as forgers in the 1880s, and correctly assigns crimes to the older man, born about 1842. In his 1895 edition, Byrnes mentions that this Al Wilson was discharged from the Montreal prison in November, 1893, returned to New York City, and died a short time later.

This aligns with the death of one Albert C. Wilson, a Civil War veteran, hospitalized at Ward’s Island, and later buried at Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn. This soldier enlisted at Albany in 1861 at age 19. His first term of service was as a private; he ended the war as a Second Lieutenant in command of African-American troops in the 3rd Regiment of the Colored Heavy Artillery.

While the above is mainly speculation, an earlier reference to Al. Wilson appears to fit the character of man described by Byrnes. In 1871, in the aftermath of an escape by several prisoners, the New York Sun looked into the state of the management of Sing Sing prison:

“It is well-known here to-day that for nearly the full term of the present agent’s administration, the real governor of the prison has been Casper C. Childs, the chief clerk, who has made a fine fortune out of the pick–I mean perquisites of his office. Agent Russell is looked upon as a nonentity, as far as the management of the prison is concerned, but is thought by most of the good citizens to have been shrewd enough to feather his nest at least as warmly as his subordinate.

“Another fact equally patent to the people here who have dealings with the prison authorities is that the business of the institution is conducted in a great measure by Al Wilson, a convict who has served five years, and hopes to be released in 1874. This man is a sharp fellow, of good education and excellent address. He was sentenced in 1866 to eight years for counterfeiting.

“Since his entrance into the prison he has been a pet, and has been subjected to but few of the mortifications and hardships which fall to the general lot. Wilson smokes fine cigars, wears a fine mustache and a head of elegant black curly hair. The cigar, the mustache, and the hirsute adornment are  strictly prohibited by the prison rules, but Mr. Wilson has somehow been enabled to override the rules and indulge his sartorial tastes to their fullest extent–except, let me say, in the matter of trousers. The agent requires him to wear the regulation stripes; and Mr. Wilson, in return for the favors granted him, accepts the trousers as a compromise.

“He is assistant to the chief clerk, and by means only known to himself, but guessed at by others, since his incarceration, made a larger fortune than he could have possibly secured by his clumsy evidences of want of respect to the legalized currency of the country. He is the happiest man in the prison, except the chaplain and the chaplain’s clerk, of whom more hereafter.

“A short time ago a citizen of Sing Sing called at the office of the prison to collect a bill due him on account of services rendered or goods furnished. He inquired of the attendant: ‘Where is Agent Russell?’ ‘Gone to New York.’ ‘Where is Tom Croton, the head keeper?’ ‘Gone off.’ ‘Where is Casper Childs, the chief clerk?’ ‘He’s away.’ ‘In heaven’s name, then, who is in charge of the prison?’ ‘Al. Wilson.’

“And to Mr. Al. Wilson, the convict clerk, the citizen paid his respects and presented his bill. The claim was duly examined, and the citizen received a check for the amount, drawn on the Sing Sing Bank, and signed ‘C. C. Childs, per Al. Wilson.’

“‘Is this check good?’ said the citizen, glanced at the striped integuments of the clerk. ‘Present it at the bank and see,’ said the convict. “My signature is as good there as anybody’s.’

“The check was presented and paid.”

For reasons unknown, Al. Wilson is one of the few criminals profiled by Byrnes that had “wanted” bulletins produced that have survived:






#177 Henry Cline

Henry Western (Abt. 1855-????), aka Henry/Harry Cline/Kline, Henry Weston, Henry Watson — Burglar, Coin Counterfeiter

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-one years old in 1886. German, born in the United States. Married. Machinist. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, 148 pounds. Black hair, brown eyes, dark complexion. Has a scar on his forehead ; mole under the right eye.

RECORD. Cline is one of the most expert house and office sneaks there is in this country. He generally works with another man, who enters the room or office under pretense of selling something, thereby occupying the attention of whoever may be there, while Cline sneaks in and gets what he can. He is an expert machinist. One of the finest set of “house-workers'” tools that was ever captured was taken from him at the time of his arrest on April 24, 1885. He claimed to have made them while confined in prison. Cline has served several terms in the penitentiary of New York City. He was sentenced to three months on January 11, 1876, for petty larceny, in New York City, and again in May, 1879, for six months.

He was arrested again in New York City on July 6, 1885, under the name of Henry Weston, in company of a girl named Kitty Wilson, charged with counterfeiting United States silver coins. The United States officers searched the rooms occupied by them, and found twenty-five sets of plaster moulds, such as are used in making counterfeit coins, batteries, chemical solutions, and a number of spurious coins, among which were two hundred bogus United States standard dollars. They were rather poor imitations of the genuine, and could be readily detected.

Kitty Wilson, who is about twenty-five years of age, is of German descent, and is well known as one of the women who frequent the disreputable resorts in the vicinity of the Bowery, and Bleecker and Great Jones streets, New York. She formerly lived with a man named Wilson, and took his name. She met Cline a short time before their arrest, and went to live with him at No. 44 First Avenue, New York, and began the coining of counterfeit silver pieces in their apartments on the third floor. Weston and Kitty were committed to jail, in default of $5,000 bail, by United States Commissioner Shields, on July 7, 1885. Weston, or Cline, was sentenced to three years in State prison at Buffalo, N. Y., by Judge Benedict, in the United States Court in New York City, on October 28, 1885. Kitty Wilson was discharged. Cline’s picture is an excellent one, taken in May, 1879.

The task of gathering further information on Byrnes’s “Harry Cline” is an exercise in frustration. Newspaper coverage of the 1885 counterfeiting arrest only refer to the man as “Henry Weston.” The January 1876 and May 1879 arrests that Byrnes cites can not be confirmed, either by newspaper accounts or by New York prison registers. However, a “Henry Western alias Henry Kline” was sent to Sing Sing in November, 1876 on a three years sentence for burglary.

There is no evidence that “Henry Kline” was ever more than a third-rate thief. His 1885 arrest for counterfeiting coins did not represent a step upwards on the criminal ladder. The following interview with Chief Drummond of the U.S. Secret Service (whose main responsibility in the 1860s-1890s was stopping counterfeiters) was given to the New York Times in early October 1885, just a couple of weeks before Drummond had “Henry Weston” prosecuted for the crime he described:



#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.

#8 Walter Sheridan

Walter Sheridan (Abt. 1833-1890), aka William A. Stoneford, Charles H. Ralston, Walter A. Stewart, William Holcomb, Doc Dash, Charles H. Keene, etc. — Horse thief, con man, bank sneak thief, counterfeiter, forger

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-five years old in 1886. Born in New Orleans, La. Married. No trade. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, about 165 pounds. Light brown hair, dark eyes, Roman nose, square chin. Generally wears blonde whiskers. He is a good-looking man, and assumes a dignified appearance.

RECORD. Walter Sheridan is an accomplished thief, a daring forger, bank sneak, hotel thief, pennyweight-worker and counterfeiter. He is also one of the most notorious criminals in America. Among his aliases are Stewart, John Holcom, Chas. Ralston, Walter Stanton, Charles H. Keene, etc. When a boy, Sheridan drifted into crime and made his appearance in Western Missouri as a horse thief. He finally became an accomplished general thief and confidence man, but made a specialty of sneaking banks. In 1858 he was arrested with Joe Moran, a noted Western sneak thief and burglar, for robbing a bank in Chicago, Ill., and was sentenced to five years in the Alton, Ill., penitentiary, which time he served. He was afterwards concerned in the robbery of the First National Bank of Springfield, Ill., with Charley Hicks and Philly Phearson (5). Sheridan engaged the teller. Hicks staid outside, and Phearson crawled through a window and obtained $35,000 from the bank vault. Hicks was arrested and sentenced to eight years in Joliet prison. Philly Phearson escaped and went to Europe. Sheridan was arrested in Toledo, O., shortly afterwards with $22,000 in money on him. He was tried for this offense but acquitted.

He next appeared in a “sneak job” in Baltimore, Md., in June, 1870, where he and confederates secured $50,000 in securities from the Maryland Fire Insurance Company. After this he secured $37,000 in bonds from the Mechanics’ Bank of Scranton, Pa. He was also implicated and obtained his share of $20,000 stolen from the Savings and Loan Bank of Cleveland, O., in 1870. He was arrested in this case, but secured his release by the legal technicalities of the law. Sheridan’s most important work was in the hypothecation of $100,000 in forged bonds of the Buffalo, New York and Erie Railroad Company to the New York Indemnity and Warehouse Company, in 1873, for which he obtained $84,000 in good hard cash. It took months to effect this loan. He took desk room in a broker’s office on the lower part of Broadway, New York, representing himself as a returned Californian of ample means. He speculated in grain, became a member of the Produce Exchange, under the name of Charles Ralston, and secured advances on cargoes of grain. He gained the confidence of the President of the Indemnity and Warehouse.

Walter Sheridan is among the handful of the most infamous criminals profiled by Chief Byrnes.  He was often successful, and tried his hand at many different types of crimes. The accounts of Walter Sheridan’s origins are fairly consistent: he came from a respectable family in Kentucky; was sent to New Orleans for his education; went astray, and, in the late 1850s, was known as a horse thief in central Missouri. Unfortunately, none of this can be verified–not even his supposed full name: Walter (Cartman or Eastman) Sheridan.


Several more complete accounts of Sheridan’s criminal career have been written, most recently by Jay Robert Nash in his Great Pictorial History of World Crime. However, the most succinct summary appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch of January 22, 1890, on the occasion of Sheridan’s death:


The identity of Sheridan’s wife and son Walter (who claimed his body from the coroners in Montreal) have defied solving. The body was said to have been taken back to Baltimore, but no burial records have been found.


#14 Charles O. Vanderpool

Charles O. Brockway (Abt. 1837-1901), aka Charles D. Vanderpool, Chester C. Brockway, Charles Seymour, Curley-Headed Kid — Counterfeiter, Forger

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-one years old in 1876. Born in United States. Married. Medium build. Dark curly hair, blue eyes, sallow complexion. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Black beard.

RECORD. Charles O. Brockway, whose right name is Vanderpool, is one of the cleverest forgers in America. He has no doubt been responsible for several forgeries that have been committed in America during the past fifteen years. He at one time kept a faro bank in partnership of Daniel Dyson, alias Dan Noble, who is now serving twenty years in Europe for forgery. He subsequently branched out as a counterfeiter, and served two terms in State prison for it. The last one, of five years, was done in Auburn, New York, State prison. His time expired there in 1878.

He afterwards went West, and was arrested in Chicago, Ill., with Billy Ogle, in June, 1879, for forgery on the First National Bank of that city. At the time of his arrest a full set of forgers’ implements was found in his room. He made a confession, and charged an ex-government detective with having brought him to Chicago and picked out the banks for him to work. This statement was corroborated by a subsequent confession of Billy Ogle. The authorities indicted the ex-detective, and Brockway was admitted to bail in $10,000. The case never went to trial for lack of other evidence to corroborate Brockway and Ogle, who were both men of bad character.

Brockway came back to New York, where he was credited with doing considerable work. The following banks are said to have been victimized through him : The Second National Bank, the Chemical National Bank, the Bank of the Republic, the Chatham National Bank, the Corn Exchange Bank, and the Phoenix National Bank. He was finally arrested at Providence, R. I., on August 16, 1880, with Billy Ogle (13) and Joe Cook, alias Havill (15), a Chicago sneak, in an attempt to pass a check on the Fourth National Bank for $1,327, and another on the old National Bank for $1,264. Brockway pleaded guilty to two indictments for forgery, and was sentenced to eight years in State prison at Providence, R. I., on October 2, 1880. His time will expire, allowing full commutation, on August 26, 1886. See commutation laws of Rhode Island. Brockway’s picture is a good one, taken in 1880.


Contrary to Byrnes’ assertion, Charles O. Brockway was born to John O. Brockway and Abigail Carey in Washington, Sullivan County, New Hampshire in 1837. John Brockway passed away in South America just two years after Charles was born. In 1846, Abilgail remarried to Sylvanus Clogston. By 1850, Charles Brockway was living with a young farming couple named Fletcher, rather than with his step-father’s family.

Fourteen years later, at age 27, he had not moved far away; he was said to be living in Laconia, New Hampshire. One account suggests he had soldiered for New Hampshire in the Civil War; but his name is not found in muster rolls, and a different account suggests he had been in prison in Concord. Residents of Laconia say he was suspected of being involved in a failed attempt to rob the Laconia Savings Bank in 1864.


It was about this time that Brockway fell in with one of the nation’s most infamous counterfeiters, Bill Gurney. Brockway was said to be a “passer of the queer”, i.e. one assigned to put counterfeit currency into circulation. Brockway was also said to be an avid faro player, the card game favored by gamblers before poker replaced it in later decades. In October, 1864, officers from Albany and New York captured Brockway in Troy, New York. He was accused of drugging and rolling a businessman in a Houston Street saloon; and of passing counterfeit bills in Albany. Though committed to trial in New York, he was eventually returned to Albany and was jailed there. The 1865 state census found Brockway still in the Albany prison.

Upon his release, Brockway connected with a New Hampshire-based counterfeiter named Bill Dow, who was equally notorious in that endeavor as Bill Gurney. After the Civil War ended, federal bank notes replaced individual bank notes, and the United States Secret Service was founded to counter widespread counterfeiting operations. Dow was indicted in Maine, while Brockway tried to set up an operation in Mount Vernon, New York. The house he had rented was raided by agents of the Secret Service, but Brockway convinced one of the agents, Abner Newcomb, that he could provide information leading to much larger counterfeiting operations. They also made a deal to help settle Dow’s Maine indictment by setting up a fake raid and crediting Dow for making the raid possible. Eventually, the whole tawdry affair was exposed in a federal court, to the great embarrassment of the Secret Service. Brockway was sentenced to fifteen years for counterfeiting, to be served in Albany.

Brockway was pardoned in early 1869 by President Johnson (in the last days of his administration) having served just one year and eight months of his fifteen year term. Shortly after his release, as he approached Mrs. Bunker’s residence on W. Houston Street in New York City, he was shot in the back by George Lockwood. The cause of the dispute between Lockwood and Brockway isn’t known; both were womanizers and gamblers.

Upon recovering, Brockway partnered up with a check forger named Lewis M. Van Eaton, and made a forging tour that went from New Orleans to Detroit. Both men were captured; Brockway was brought from Detroit to New York, where he was tried and convicted for forgery. He was sent to Sing Sing for a term of four years and nine months.

Upon gaining his freedom in 1875, Brockway tried to reform himself and landed a job as a streetcar conductor on the Lenox Street Line in Boston. Within weeks, he was arrested for forging streetcar tickets.

Fleeing Boston, Brockway settled in Chicago and attempted to set himself up as a financial broker. Now over forty, Brockway romanced a girl of eighteen and married her. Whether his intentions to go straight were honest or not, his criminal acquaintances sought him out, involving him in further forging schemes. Their operations ranged from Chicago, to Boston, to Washington, and Baltimore, but it was in Providence, Rhode Island where a case was made against him. In 1880, he was sentenced to eight years in the Rhode Island State Prison. His young wife divorced him.

After his release from prison this time, Brockway returned to Chicago and once again set himself up as a broker on the commodities market. In the last dozen years of his life, he stayed out of trouble with the law, though never was particularly successful in his new vocation. He died in debt in 1901 at age 64.