#138 George Milliard

George A. Millard (Abt. 1842-????), aka George Milliard, George Williams, George Malloy, George Stevens, Miller — Receiver, pickpocket, burglar, green goods operator

From Byrnes’s 1886 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-four years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Saloon keeper. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 118 pounds. Brown hair, blue eyes, light complexion, bald on front of head. Generally wears a full black beard. Has an anchor in India ink on right fore-arm.

RECORD. Milliard is an old New York pickpocket, burglar, and receiver of stolen goods. He formerly kept a liquor saloon on the corner of Washington and Canal streets. New York, which was the resort of the most desperate gang of river thieves and masked burglars in America.

Milliard was arrested in New York City on January 5, 1874, in company of John Burns, Big John Garvey (now dead), Dan Kelly, Matthew McGeary, Francis P. Dayton, Lawrence Griffin, and Patsey Conroy (now dead), charged with being implicated in several masked burglaries. One in New Rochelle, N.Y., on December 23, 1873; another at Catskill, on the Hudson River, on October 17, 1873; and one on Staten Island, N.Y., in December, 1873, about a week after the New Rochelle robbery.

The particular charge against Milliard was receiving stolen goods, part of the proceeds of these burglaries. He was tried in New York City, convicted, and sentenced to five years in Sing Sing prison on February 13, 1874.

The other parties arrested with him at the time were disposed of as follows : Dan Kelly, Larry Griffin, and Patsey Conroy were each sentenced to twenty years in State prison for the New Rochelle burglary on February 20, 1874. Burns was sentenced to sixteen years in State prison for the Catskill burglary on October 23, 1874. Big John Garvey (now dead) was sentenced to ten years in State prison in New York City on June 22, 1874. McGeary was discharged on January 13, 1874. Dayton was put under $1,000 bail for good behavior on January 13, 1874. Shang Campbell, John O’Donnell, John Orr (now dead), and Pugsey Hurley (88), were also arrested in connection with these burglaries, and sent to State prison.

Since Milliard’s discharge he has been traveling through the country picking pockets with Jimmie Lawson, alias “Nibbs” (137), and a Chicago thief named Williard. He is considered a first-class man, and is known in all the principal cities in the United States. He has been arrested several times, but manages to escape conviction. His picture is a good one, taken in August, 1885.

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

Arrested again in New York City on June 16, 1894, in company of “Sheeny Mike,” alias Mike Kurtz (No. 80), John Mahoney, alias Jack Shepperd (No. 62), and Charley Woods, alias Fowler, all well-known and expert safe burglars, charged with a series of burglaries. On June 18 Sheeny Mike was held to await requisition papers from New Jersey (see No. 80). Charley Woods was remanded in the custody of an officer from Erie Co., N.Y., having escaped from the penitentiary there in 1883. Jack Shepperd (see No. 62) and Milliard were discharged.

Though Byrnes stuck to the unusual spelling Milliard, most newspaper accounts gave this man’s name as Millard–it was probably not his real name, which (as Byrnes indicates) may have been Miller.

Millard was first arrested for picking pockets in 1866 and given a stiff sentence of five years in Sing Sing–which he remained bitter about for many years. After his release he opened a small saloon on the Bowery, but it lasted just a year. He then did some work copying records in the New York County Clerk’s office; around 1872 he opened a different saloon, “George’s,” at the northwest corner of Canal and Washington Streets in Lower Manhattan. His saloon soon became a popular hangout for burglars and pickpockets, and in 1873 became the headquarters of the Hudson river house-breakers, the “Masked Eleven,” led by Patsy Conroy. Millard was suspected of being among the masked men that terrorized riverfront residences in the fall of 1873, but was only prosecuted for the booty and tools that police found in the saloon. He was charged with being a receiver of stolen goods–a fence–and was sentenced to Sing Sing for another five years as George A. Millard.

Byrnes mentions that Millard then traveled with on an pickpocket expedition with James Lawson, i.e. “Nibbs,” and George Williard. This must have been around 1884-1886, for there was a narrow window when Nibbsy was not in prison.

In 1889, Millard was arrested as “George Williams” and charged with conspiracy to commit grand larceny. No description of the crime has surfaced, but this coincides with the period in which Millard–like many Bowery pickpockets–became a “green goods” operator, playing a con in which greedy yokels were encouraged to buy (nonexistent) counterfeit money with their good money. He was sentenced to two and a half years in Sing Sing.

Upon his release, in 1891 Millard was caught almost immediately running a green goods game with Bill Vosburgh and Joseph Rickerman, aka Nigger Baker.

As Byrnes mentions, Millard was arrested again in 1984 with some illustrious burglars, Mike Kurtz and John Mahaney, aka Jack Sheppard. However, Millard escaped prosecution–and made no more known crimes under that name or identifiable aliases.




#190 Henry Hoffman

Hiram Hoffman (1852-????), aka Henry Hoffman, Harry Hoffman, William Tannis/Tennis, Henry Steiner — Burglar, Receiver

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-two years old in 1886. Jew, born in United States. Married. No trade. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 8 3/4 inches. Weight, 154 pounds. Black hair, dark eyes, dark complexion. Generally wears a black mustache. Big nose. Parts his hair in the middle. Has a Jewish appearance. Has ” H.H.” near wrist on right arm. Scar on left cheek.

RECORD. Hoffman, which is his right name, is a well known New York thief and receiver, and has been arrested from time to time in almost every city in the United States. He has served two terms in State prison for burglary, and is a man well worth knowing.

He was arrested in New York City on October 14, 1882, in company of Frank Watson, alias Big Patsey, and Julius Klein (191), and delivered to the police authorities of Boston, Mass. Hoffman, Watson and Klein were arraigned in court in Boston, Mass., on November 24, 1882, and pleaded guilty to breaking and entering the store of Mr. Thomas, No. 35 Avon Street, that city, and carrying away velvet and cloth valued at $1,000. Hoffman and Watson were sentenced to three years each in Concord prison. Their sentence expired on July 3, 1885. Klein was sentenced to two years in the House of Correction at South Boston. His sentence expired on October 2, 1884.

During the months of October and November, 1885, two express wagons and their contents were stolen in Boston, Mass. The wagons were recovered, but their contents, valued at $4,000, were only partly recovered. Shortly after the robbery two notorious wagon thieves, named Stephen Dowd and Wlliam W. Alesbury, were arrested in Boston for the offenses. In Dowd’s pocket was found the directions of Hoffman’s house in New York City. Hoffman was arrested in New York, and part of the stolen property found in his possession. He was taken to Boston on December 15, 1885, and used as a witness against Dowd and Alesbury, who were convicted and sentenced to four years each in the Charlestown State prison. Alesbury has previously served a three years’ sentence in the same prison for a similar offense.

Hoffman was arrested again in Baltimore on May 7, 1886, under the name of Henry Stiner, charged with burglary. He pleaded guilty on June 3, 1886, and was sentenced to five years in State prison. His picture is an excellent one, taken in May, 1886.

Hiram Hoffman’s known record is even more depressing than Byrnes relates. He was sent to Sing Sing at age 19 for stealing two rifles and two pouches, under his real name, Hiram Hoffman (son of Abraham and Minna Hoffman). Even then, he was described as “an old and well-known offender.” For this crime, he was sentenced for five years, the latter portion spent in Auburn State Prison.

His activities between 1875 and 1880 haven’t been traced, but by that point, he was using a very common name, Henry Hoffman.

In June 1880, he was caught stealing $125 worth of goods from a Manhattan jeweler. He returned to Sing Sing for another two years.

He was next arrested in Boston with two more polished burglars, Frank Watson aka Big Patsey and Julius Klein. Whether Hoffman was being coy when offering an alias, or whether the court reporters were just sloppy, Hoffman’s processing was reported under six different names: William Tannis, William Franks, Big Bill, Tom Travis, William Francis, and William Tennis. Whatever name he was sentenced under, the term was three years. He was discharged from the Massachusetts State Penitentiary in October 1884.

Hoffman apparently made some burglar friends in jail, because in December 1885, two thieves were apprehended in Boston and one had Hoffman’s New York address in his pocket (which was an inexcusable blunder). New York police raided Hoffman’s abode and found half the loot from the Boston robberies. To save himself, Hoffman agreed to go to Boston and testify against the two crooks.

Hoffman was arrested again for burglaries of his own in Baltimore in May 1886. He was given a term of five years in the Maryland State Prison, emerging in August 1890.

A month later, he was caught again in New York, and given a much stiffer sentence: eight years and eleven months at Clinton Prison in Dannemora. He was discharged on August 5, 1896.

One can only hope that Hoffman finally made some peace with society. He wasn’t heard from again.

#149 John Williams

John Williams (Abt. 1852-1887), aka John Williamson — Pickpocket, Shoplifter, Fence

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-five years old in 1886. Born in New York. Single. Jeweler. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, about 140 pounds. Black hair, gray eyes, light complexion. Generally wears a light brown mustache.

RECORD. Johnny Williams is a very clever New York pickpocket and shoplifter. He is also well known in every Important city in the United States. He is an associate of Poodle Murphy (134), Tim Oats (136), Nibbs (137), Big Dick Morris (141), Pretty Jimmie (143), Boston (144), Jersey Jimmie (145), Joe Gorman (146), and all the clever people. He is credited with purchasing almost everything that the New York thieves steal. Since his return from State prison he has been traveling around the country with a gang of pickpockets, and although arrested several times, he manages to keep out of State prison. He is now keeping a jewelry store on Sixth Avenue, New York City.

He was arrested in New York City on April 1, 1876, in company of John Meyers, charged with stealing a roll of cloth from the store of Albert Schichts, No. 88 Greenwich Street, New York City. Meyers and Williams both pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to five years each in State prison, by Judge Gildersleeve, on June 5, 1876. There were three other cases against these people, at this time, which were not prosecuted. Williams’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1876.

The one specific conviction that Inspector Byrnes associates with John Williams was committed under the name John Williamson, although in the Sing Sing entry record, John offered his mother’s name, Ann Williams.

Given these bare facts, nothing more can be discovered about this man. Upon his death at an early age, he received a dismissive obituary:


Even his death provided little clue to his origins; no entries have been found for him in New York death records or burial records.

#182 Frank Lowenthal

August W. Erwin (18??-????), aka Frank Lowenthal/Loenthal/Loeventhal, Sheeny Erwin/Irwin/Irving, Sheeny Gus, William Irving — Thief

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-two years old in 1886. Jew, born in United States. Married. Telegraph operator and jewelry dealer. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 3 inches. Weight, 121 pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes, dark complexion. Jewish appearance.

RECORD. Frank Lowenthal, alias “Sheeny Irving,” is a noted shoplifter and receiver of stolen goods. He shot his wife, Delia, and then himself, in the Allman House, in East Tenth Street, New York City, on July 15, 1885.

He was arrested in New York City on September 28, 1882, for the larceny of some opera glasses from a jewelry store in Maiden Lane, New York. Julius Klein, alias “Sheeny” Julius (191), another notorious young thief, was arrested with him for the same offense, but was not held. Erwin, however, was committed in $500 bail for trial, which he furnished. His case had not come to trial up to the time of his arrest for assaulting his wife.

Erwin is a man of good education, and speaks German fluently. He says that he was born in Cincinnati of wealthy parents, who sent him to Germany to be educated. After spending two years at the high school at Magdeburg, he entered the University of Heidelberg as a student of the natural sciences, and graduated with the degree of B. A. After his return to the United States he was connected with a St. Louis newspaper; he afterwards came to New York, and commenced his criminal career.

Erwin was prompted to shoot his wife by rum and unhappy domestic experience. She was going to Europe with her father, who was anxious to separate them when he found out that Erwin was a thief. Mrs. Erwin recovered from her wounds, and Erwin pleaded guilty to assault in the second degree, and was sentenced to five years in State prison and fined $1,000, by Recorder Smyth, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City, on September 21, 1885.

His picture is a good one, taken in September, 1882.

Nothing can be confirmed about the background stories offered by Erwin/Lowenthal, although a “August W. Erwin” does suddenly appear in an 1882 Cincinnati city directory as a clerk, boarding alone. His travels to and return from Germany are not supported by passenger manifests under the names Erwin/Lowenthal; and the German-language newspaper he claimed to have once worked for, the Westliche Post of St. Louis, never confirmed his employment.

By early 1883, Erwin appeared in New York City and was associated with shoplifters Julius Klein and Frank Watson, aka Big Patsey. He quickly gained a reputation under the name Frank Lowenthal as a common thief, with the street nickname “Sheeny Erwin/Irving.” In March, 1883, he was introduced by Frank Watson to Agnes Murphy, a matron at the Kings County Penitentiary. Erwin met Murphy a few times, and plied her with presents–perhaps all an effort to smuggle something in to one of the inmates. The prison warden discovered the meetings, and Murphy was fired.

Erwin was such a minor thief that he likely would never have been included in Byrnes’s tome, were it not for the fact that in the fall of 1884, he attempted to supplement his sources of income by marrying into a wealthy Irish Catholic family, the O’Thaynes. Patriarch Patrick O’Thayne had built a modest fortune in the laundry business. His means allowed him to send his daughter Margaret Adele, “Delly,” to a fine private school, Mount St. Vincent Academy (now the College of Mount St. Vincent). One of Delly’s classmates had a mother who ran a boarding house, and one of the boarders that Delly met when visiting her friend was August W. Erwin.

One of Delly’s other friends and classmates was a young woman named Victoria Morosini, daughter of banker Giovanni Morosini. Giovanni Morosini had fought with Garibaldi to unify Italy, and then came to the United States to make his fortune as a close ally of financier and robber-baron Jay Gould. Morosini’s daughter Victoria became a sensational celebrity in New York early in 1884. Victoria eloped with the family’s coachman, and her father reacted by disinheriting her. Public sentiment ran strongly in Victoria’s favor, supported by the idea that Morosini (and Jay Gould) had come from a humble background himself, and should have welcomed an honest, hard-working man into the family.

Delly O’Thayne must have had Victoria’s romantic experience on her mind when she met August W. Erwin, a well-dressed, educated older man with engaging manners. They eloped in November, 1884 and were married by a Methodist minister. Delly, who was Catholic, seemed not to care that Erwin was Jewish; nor did it matter to him. The father, Patrick O’Thayne, did not learn about the marriage for weeks.  The young couple took rooms at the Allman House Hotel. Erwin apparently began asking Delly for money soon afterward. She believed that he was a salesman, but later discovered that he spent his time at race-tracks, gambling.

Others in the Allman House hotel reported hearing Erwin hit and yell at his bride. He pressured her to get money from her parent’s; and wanted Patrick O’Thayne to rent them a place at Newport, Rhode Island, the resort for New York’s wealthy. In June, 1885, Delly had enough and left Erwin to go back to her father’s house. Patrick O’Thayne made plans to take his daughters away from New York on an extended trip back to his native Ireland. Delly went back to the Allman House to inform Erwin that she was leaving. Erwin restrained her, and told her that her ship’s departure time was an hour later than it really was; she missed the ship that carried her father and sister away.

Delly returned to Allman House the next day accompanied by her step-brother, with the intention of collecting her belongings, as she had resolved to leave Erwin. Erwin met the pair and told the brother he wanted to speak with Delly alone. In their rooms, Erwin sat down in a chair, leaned over to a drawer, and extracted a large pistol. Her turned it on Delly; she screamed and ran out of the room. Erwin followed her and fired at her in the hallway, striking her in the back. She was able to escape and collapsed in the room of another boarder.

A policeman and other lodgers searched the building for Erwin and found him slunk down in the far corner of a dark upper hallway. The officer approached warily, and as he came closer, Erwin turned the pistol on himself and shot himself in the abdomen.

The result was a newspaper scandal that equaled Victoria Morosini’s. Both Erwin and Delly survived their wounds, and Erwin was tried and convicted of assault with intent to kill. He was sent to Sing Sing on a five-year sentence, and was released in 1889.

Erwin apparently resided in Chicago between 1889 and 1893, but later returned to New York and was caught shoplifting in Bloomingdale’s in the summer of 1893; and again in Philadelphia at Bailey, Banks & Biddle in December 1893. For the latter crime, he was sent to the county penitentiary for 90 days. His fate following that is unknown.





#152 Abraham Greenthal / #153 Harris Greenthal

Abraham Greenthal (1822-1889), aka General Greenthal, Abraham Leslauer, Abraham Meyers; and Hirsch Harris (1824-1886), aka Herman Brown, Harris Greenthal, Herman Harris, Harris Meyer — Pickpockets

From Byrnes’s text on Abraham Greenthal:

DESCRIPTION. Sixty years old in 1886. Jew, born in Poland. Calls himself a German. Widower. No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, about 185 pounds. Dark hair, turning quite gray. Prominent nose-lines ; mole near one of them. Beard, when grown, is a sandy gray. Generally has a smooth face.

RECORD. “General” Greenthal is known all over the United States as the leader of the “Sheeny mob.” He is acknowledged to be one of the most expert pickpockets in America. His home is in the Tenth Ward in New York City, and he has been a thief and receiver of stolen goods for the last thirty years. He has served time in several prisons and penitentiaries, but has generally obtained his release before his sentence expired. He is a clever thief, and will fight when forced to. The “General” was arrested in Rochester, N.Y., on March 1, 1877, in company of his brother, Harris, and Samuel Casper, his son-in-law, for robbing a man (see record of No. 153), and sentenced on April 19, 1877, to twenty years in Auburn, N.Y., State prison. He was pardoned in the spring of 1884 by Governor Cleveland.

He was arrested again in Brooklyn, N.Y., on December 30, 1885, in company of Bendick Gaetz, alias “The Cockroach,” for robbing Robert B. Dibble, of Williamsburg, N.Y., of a pocket-book containing $795 in money, on a cross-town horse-car in that city. The “General” pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the second degree, on March 23, 1886, and was sentenced to five years in Crow Hill prison by Judge Moore, in the Brooklyn Court of Sessions. The “General” is an old friend of Mrs. Mandelbaum, who is now in Canada. Greenthal’s picture is a splendid one, taken in March, 1877.

From Byrnes’ text on Harris Greenthal:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-eight years old in 1886. Jew, born in Poland. Married. No trade. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 5 inches. Weight, about 150 pounds. Brown curly hair, turning quite gray ; brown and gray whiskers, high forehead.

RECORD. Harris Greenthal, a brother of the “General” (152), is also an old New York thief and member of the “Sheeny gang” of pickpockets, who have been traveling through the country robbing people for a number of years. He resides in New York City, and is well known in all the principal cities in the United States and Canada. Harris Greenthal, alias Brown, the “General,” alias Meyers, and Samuel Casper, the “General’s” son-in-law, were arrested in Rochester, N.Y., on March 1, 1877, charged with robbing William Jinkson of $1,190 in money, at the Central Railroad depot. Jinkson was a farmer who sold his farm in Massachusetts, and with the proceeds had started West. The “Sheeny gang” had seen him showing his money in Albany, N.Y., and had followed him from that city. At the Central depot in Rochester they told him he would have to change cars. One of the trio took his valise, and the entire party entered another car. In jostling through the crowd the “General” relieved Jinkson of his pocket-book containing the money, which was in bills. They escaped, but were arrested about an hour afterwards. They were indicted, tried, and convicted. The “General,” alias Meyers, was sentenced on April 19, 1877, to twenty years at hard labor in Auburn, N.Y., State prison. Harris Greenthal, alias Brown, received a sentence of eighteen years, and Casper fifteen years. Harris and Casper were pardoned by Governor Cleveland in December, 1884, the “General” having been pardoned some months before. (See record of No. 84.) Harris’s picture is an excellent one, taken in March, 1877.

Several of the personages profiled in Byrnes’ Professional Criminals of America have been written about extensively, either through autobiographies, biographies, or essays: Sophie Lyons, Langdon Moore, Jim Brady, George W. Wilkes, etc. The blog entries composing this project are too abbreviated to match the historical details that exist in those studies. This inadequacy was never more evident than in the case of Abraham “General” Greenthal, the leader of the so-called “Sheeny Mob” (“sheeny” being a derogatory term for Jews, especially emigrant German Jews.)

                           Hirsch Harris

Greenthal’s entire criminal career, genealogy, and Prussian-Jewish origins have been documented by Edward David Luft in an essay of astounding scholarship, “Stop Thief! : The true story of Abraham Greenthal, king of the pickpockets in 19th century New York City, as revealed from contemporary sources.”  Luft’s essay is all the more impressive given the elusive clues available: Greenthal was an adopted alias, and was often misspelled in newspaper accounts: Grenthal, Gruenthal, Green, etc.; and it was sometimes dropped by Abraham and his family in favor of “Meyers/Myers” or variant spellings of an earlier established family name: Leslauer (found as “Leslan” “Leslau” “Leslie,” etc. in some newspaper records)

                 Abraham Greenthal

Greenthal and his gang of associates were pickpockets, sneak thieves, and fences. How extensive their network was is unknown, but the core of it consisted of Abraham, his wife, their daughters, and their husbands; and his brother Hirsch’s family. A leading figure of the gang, in addition to Abraham, was Hirsch’s daughter Augusta Harris, who acted as the main fence, or receiver, during the 1870s.

Little more can be added to Luft’s study of “General” Greenthal, but Luft mentions his brother, Hirsch Harris, very briefly. A few records exist for this man: his prison intake and discharge papers; the 1870 census, and the 1880 census. Unfortunately, after 1884, traces of his family disappear.

He was called “Hirsch Harris” by newspapers more frequently than any other name; but he was sent to Auburn prison in 1877 under the name Herman Brown. In the 1870 census, his name was transcribed (in an obvious error) as “Hanna Harris.” In 1880, he was listed as “Hermon Harris” (although he was actually still in Auburn at that point.) The family consisted of four girls: Augusta, Amalia, Hattie, and Lille; and a boy, Moses. Moses and Amalia were not listed with the family in 1880. Amalia was old enough to be out on her own, but perhaps Moses met an early death.

Augusta was described in several articles as the leader of the Greenthal mob’s fence operation, mentioned in the same breath with Marm Mandelbaum (whom one article suggests pushed Augusta out of business using her political connections). Augusta was married in the early 1870s to Charles “French Charley” Perle, a pickpocket and thief. However, the two had a falling out, and a newspapers suggested they were divorced (“out of the courts”) in 1876.

Newspapers also referred to a daughter Mary/Mollie, who may have been the same person listed in the 1870 census as Amalia. Mary/Mollie was said to have been the fiance of burglar Johnny McAlpine. Their romance would have been interrupted by McAlpine’s being sentenced to 20 years in Sing Sing in 1873.

Chief Byrnes, in his 1995 revised edition, suggests that Hirsch Harris died “within a few months” as his brother, in 1889; however, an earlier article on the conviction of Abraham in 1886 states that Hirsch (under the name Harris Meyer) died on March 31, 1886.