#55 Stephen Raymond

Stephen George Francis Rayment (1835-1909), aka Stephen Raymond, Stephen Handsworth, Frank Stewart, George Morgan, Charles Seymour, Robert Maguire — Forger, Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-four years old in 1886. Born in England. Stout build. Married. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Has considerable English accent when talking. Gray mixed hair, blue eyes, dark complexion. Mole on the upper lip, right side. The right eye is glass.

RECORD. Steve Raymond has a remarkable history as a forger and negotiator of forged bonds and securities. He had only left Sing Sing prison, where he had been confined for forgery, a few months, when he was arrested in London, England, on January 8, 1874, charged with being implicated in the great Buffalo, Erie and New York Railroad bond forgeries. Over $400,000 of fraudulent bonds of these railroads were sold in New York City, and an equal amount in other places, before their genuineness was doubted. They were so cleverly executed that one of the railroad companies accepted $40,000 of them without suspicion. These forgeries were the largest that were ever committed and successfully carried out in this or any other country. The capital to carry this scheme was said to have been furnished by Andrew L. Roberts and Valentine Gleason. Raymond’s share was $40,000 cash, the larger part of which was stolen from him before he left for Europe in July, 1873. Raymond was taken before Justice Henry, a London magistrate, and remanded for extradition on January 16, 1874, and was shortly after brought back to America.

While awaiting trial in the Tombs prison in New York, with his confederates, Walter Sheridan, alias Ralston (8), Charles Williamson, alias Perrine (202), Andy Roberts and Valentine Gleason, Raymond was taken to Elmira, N.Y., on habeas corpus proceedings, to be examined as a witness in some case, and while there he succeeded in making his escape from the Sheriff. He was arrested some time afterwards and committed to the Eastern Penitentiary on Cherry Hill, Philadelphia, for fifteen months, under the name of Frank Stewart, for a petty pocketbook swindle, which he carried on through the newspapers, and remained there without recognition until a short time before his release, when the fact became known to the New York authorities, who arrested him at the prison on January 27, 1877 (just two years after he had left the Tombs for Elmira), and brought him back to New York.

Raymond was convicted of forgery in the third degree and sentenced to State prison for five years on March 20, 1877, and was discharged from there in October, 1880. The list of the forgeries he was implicated in is as follows : New York Central Railroad bonds, $250,000 ; Buffalo, New York and Erie bonds, $200,000 ; Western Union Telegraph Company bonds, $200,000 ; New Jersey Central Railroad bonds, $150,000. A total of $800,000.

Raymond was arrested again in New York City on July 3, 1882, charged with the larceny of a watch on a street car. He could not be identified as the party who stole it, but a bunch of keys was found upon his person and the magistrate construed these keys as being equivalent to burglars’ tools and committed him in $1,500 bail for trial. This was reduced to $500 by Judge Haight, of the Supreme Court, and Raymond was shortly after discharged.

Raymond was arrested again in New York City on September 1, 1883, charged with altering the numbers and cashing coupons of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, which had been stolen from the Northampton Bank in Massachusetts, in 1876. He presented at the office of the Union Pacific Railroad Company on September 1, 1883, twelve coupons and received a check for $480 in payment. When placed on the stand at the time of his trial, he said:

“I met a man named George Clark, with whom I had been acquainted for years, in a liquor store on Eighth Avenue, about two years ago; during the conversation he asked me if I would cash some coupons; I was promised a percentage of $50 on $480, the amount of interest; Clark said to me, ‘You can’t expect the coupons to be straight; they are cut from stolen bonds.’ I cashed several lots of coupons; I never suspected that the numbers of the coupons had been altered or I would not have had anything to do with them; I saw three detectives near the bank when I entered it, but they were looking in another direction. In my extensive experience with crooked bonds I never before heard of the numbers of the coupons being altered. If I had had plenty of money I would not have touched the coupons, but as my wife was sick I wanted money. When I came out of prison in 1880 I sold directories and afterwards gambled.”

Raymond was convicted of forgery (second offense) and sentenced to State prison for life on October 22, 1883. The law under which he was sentenced reads as follows : “If the subsequent crime is such that upon a first conviction the offender might be punished, in the discretion of the court, by imprisonment for life, he must be imprisoned for life.” The Court of Appeals of New York State confirmed Raymond’s sentence on April 29, 1884. Raymond’s picture is a good one, taken in 1882.

This forger was baptized as “Stephen George Francis Rayment,” but at an early age the family reverted to the spelling Raymond. He was first arrested at age 12 for stealing a tea kettle, and was sentenced to six days in jail. He was apprenticed in his father’s trade of type foundry, but later in life identified himself as a jeweler. One mention suggests he was a “Botany Bay convict,” i.e. had been sent from England to an Australian penal colony.


Raymond arrived in the United States in the late 1860s, having already married and divorced in England before 1862. In New York City, he was recruited by some unknown gang of Wall Street forgers to help them secure bonds from a bank messenger. He was caught stealing gold certificates from a messenger in October 1868 and sentenced the next February to four and a half years in Sing Sing under the name Stephen Handsworth.

In Sing Sing, Raymond became friends with Dr. Alvah Blaisdell, a New York whiskey distiller who had attempted to remove a zealous tax collector by paying witnesses to testify that the taxman took bribes. The “Whiskey Ring” plot was uncovered, sending Blaisdell to Sing Sing.

When Blaisdell was freed, he was anxious to recoup his losses via the shortcut of forged bonds, and joined with a gang of professionals to help him: Andy Roberts, Valentine Gleason, George Engels, George W. Wilkes, Walter Sheridan, Charles Perrin (Williamson), Spence Pettis…and Blaisdell’s jail pal, Stephen Raymond. The efforts of this impressive collection of men resulted in–as Byrnes states–the largest successful forgeries ever committed up to that time. It became known as the Roberts-Gleason gang.

Nearly all of Raymond’s share of the loot was stolen from him in a saloon by pickpockets Red Leary and Jim Hoey. Seeing other members of the Roberts-Gleason gang being arrested, Raymond fled to England in July 1873 along with “Mrs. Bowden” nee LaGrand, the mistress of Alvah Blaisdell. William A. Pinkerton tracked him down in England and had him arrested and extradited back to the United States. While awaiting trial, he was sent to Elmira in order to testify in a case, and managed to escape from an escorting sheriff.

Raymond adopted the alias “Frank Stewart” and made Philadelphia his base for a mail-fraud known as “the pocket-book swindle.” It was fairly simple–he placed ads in newspapers around the country announcing that the Union Pocket Book Company of Philadelphia would send a fine morocco pocket-book to all who remitted them the sum of one dollar, with the pocket book containing a coupon for a lottery drawing of $100,000. These ads were to be paid for after they were run (but never were). No pocket-books were ever sent out. Raymond was caught for this scam and sentenced to three years in the Eastern State Penitentiary.

In 1877, visiting detectives to the prison recognized Raymond and he was returned to face trial for the Roberts-Gleason gang forgeries. In March 1877, he was sentenced to five years in Sing Sing.

Raymond got out in 1882, and–as Byrnes notes–was harassed with a charge of carrying burglars’ tools, when all he had was a bunch of keys. However, in 1883, he tried to cash a check for coupons taken from stolen bonds–coupons given to him by other thieves who had altered the numbers. Whether Raymond was cognizant of the forgery or not, he was found guilty; moreover, a recently enacted law required anyone found guilty of forgery a second time was to be imprisoned for life.

It took nine years, but this injustice was resolved with a pardon from New York Governor Flower in 1892.

In his 1895 edition, Byrnes states that “Steve” Raymond was next heard from in 1895, when he ran a “panel room” operation against a man named Louis Oppenheimer.

By 1906, Raymond was over seventy years old and nearly blind, and was forced to take refuge in the New York Almshouse. He died in March 1909 at the New York City Home for the Aged, with his burial there funded by the Episcopal City Mission Society.





#172 Wm. H. Little

William Henry Little (Abt. 1841-19??), aka Tip Little, William Johnson, Henry Osgood, William Thompson, George Thompson, William B. Austin, George F. Clark, George Little — Pickpocket, Panel House thief, Shoplifter, Forger

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-five years old in 1886. Born in New York, Married. No trade. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 140 pounds. Dark curly hair, gray eyes, dark complexion. Generally wears a black curly beard. Has a peculiar expression about the eyes.

RECORD. “Tip” Little is an old New York “panel thief,” confidence man, sneak thief and forger. He is well known as the husband of Bell Little, alias Lena Swartz, alias Eliza Austin, a notorious pennyweight worker, shoplifter and “bludgeon thief.” This team is well known all over the United States. They worked the “panel game” in New York and other cities for years, and their pictures adorn several Rogues’ Galleries. Of late they have been working the “bludgeon game” or “injured husband racket” with considerable success, as their victims are generally married men and will stand black-mailing before publicity. “Tip” and “Bell” have been arrested in New York City several times, but with the exception of a few short terms in the penitentiary, they have both escaped their just deserts (State prison) many a time.

Little was arrested in New York City on November 28, 1885, in company of a negro accomplice named Isaac Hooper, for attempting to negotiate a check that had been raised from $4 to $896. About one week before the arrest Hooper obtained a check for $4, on the Nassau Bank of New York, from Henry Carson, a grocer, of Fulton Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., by pretending that he wanted to send money to a relative, and that he had only silver dollars. He raised the check himself from $4 to $896, and also made a spurious check for $1,200, on the Nassau Bank of New York, and signed Carson’s name to it. With the $1,200 check. Tip Little, on November 25, 1885, went to Wm. Wise & Son’s jewelry store on Fulton Street, Brooklyn, and selecting articles worth $400, tendered the check in payment. He was so indignant when it was suggested that it would be nothing more than a common business transaction to ask Mr. Carson if the check was all right, that he snatched it up and left the store. Then he planned to swindle Daniel Higgins, a furniture dealer on Eighth Avenue, New York City, with the raised check of $896, which had been certified by the cashier of the Nassau Bank. He visited Mr. Higgins on November 27, 1885, and selected furniture worth $300. Higgins went to the West Side Bank, which was close by his store, and its cashier ascertained by telephone that Mr. Carson repudiated the check. When Mr. Higgins returned to the store, “Tip” had left without his change. Hooper (the negro) was tried, convicted, and sentenced to seven years in State prison on January 15, 1886, by Recorder Smyth, in the Court of General Sessions, Part L He had been previously convicted and sentenced to State prison for forgery in Providence, R.I. “Tip” Little pleaded guilty on January 15, 1886 (the same day), and was sentenced to five years in Sing Sing prison, by Judge Gildersleeve, in the Court of General Sessions, Part H. ” Little’s” picture is a very good one, taken in April, 1879.

William Henry Little was born about 1841 in Goshen, New York, about sixty miles northwest of New York City, to a respectable family including his mother, Mary and father, William C. Little, a butcher. It is not clear if he enlisted in the army during the Civil War, but by 1866 he was living on his own in New York City. In August of 1866, he was rounded up with other “well-known pickpockets” under the name William Johnson. By 1870 he had gained the honor of being #3 in the New York police department’s Rogue’s Gallery of photographed criminals, and was described as a shoplifter and pickpocket.

In 1871, Tip was found running one of New York City’s “panel-houses,” into which men were lured by a woman, distracted by foreplay or sex, and robbed by hidden accomplices. Tip’s house was in the Eighth Precinct at 476 1/2 Broome Street; the whole surrounding area was infamous for allowing these operations to continue (likely through pay-offs to the precinct captain).

In 1873, Tip married one of the woman with whom he conducted the panel-house business, Elizabeth Bropson, who later became known to the public as Lizzie Little, Belle Little, Martha Ward, Clara Morris, Mary Hart, Eliza Austin, or, more colorfully, “The Whale.” Mrs. Little was plump, but had a pleasant face, creamy white complexion, and an engaging manner. However, Tip also worked with other women: he employed the noted panel-house thief, Mollie Rush; and in the 1880s worked as a shoplifting partner of Lena Kleinschmidt, aka Black Lena. On several occasions, Lena was misidentified as Mrs. Tip Little (who also sometimes partnered with Lena on shoplifting expeditions).

In December of 1884, Mrs. Little got into a argument with Johnny Jourdan, the noted thief, over a $100 loan that he supposedly owed her. She called in the police to have Jourdan arrested; one of the results was that she and Jourdan were identified in public as lovers, and it was suggested the fight was over Jourdan’s other women, not money. That may or may not have been true; and moreover, Tip Little may or may not have cared about her romantic entanglements. Perhaps he cared more about coming under the scrutiny of the police. Whatever the cause, he arrived home and started to beat and kick Mrs. Little, to the extent that the police were called in again.

Tip fled the scene. Several months later, it was reported that Mrs. Little was no longer associated with Tip, but instead had taken up with her shoplifting partner, George Williams, aka Pettengill. However, by July 1885, the Littles had reconciled.

In late 1885, Tip tried passing altered checks made by Isaac Cooper [not Hooper, as Byrnes cited]. Cooper was an ex-convict, having already seen one term in Sing Sing. Cooper stands out as the only African-American criminal mentioned by Inspector Byrnes; and newspapers cited him as the only black convicted in New York state for forgery. Both Tip and Cooper were convicted of forgery; Tip got five years while Cooper was sentenced to seven and a half years.


While Tip was locked up at Sing Sing, Lizzie Little died; by most accounts, she was only forty-five years old. After his release, Tip took care of his mother, Mary, who now resided in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He also spent time at racetracks, working the crowd with small cons. In 1993, he chose the wrong victim: a prominent politician. Instead of being too embarrassed to press charges, the politician instead exerted his influence to keep his name out of the papers while still prosecuting Little. Tip, under the name Henry Osgood, was sentenced to another five years in Sing Sing, the latter portion of which was served in Dannemora.

After two years of freedom, from 1897-1899, Tip was caught till-tapping, a crime usually performed a young, agile thieves. He was given a term four years and two months in Sing Sing, once again under the name Henry Osgood. A news item from 1907 claimed that he had died in prison, sometime between 1899 and 1903.


#49 George W. Gamphor

George Washington Gampher (1847-1927), aka  James F. Rogers — Hotel thief

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-eight years old in 1886. Born in Philadelphia. Medium build. Clerk. Not married. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, about 148 pounds. Blonde hair, dark gray eyes, sandy complexion and mustache.

RECORD. Gamphor was arrested in New York City on February 1, 1876, for the larceny of a gold watch and chain, valued at $100, from one E. W. Worth, of Bennington, Vt., at one of the hotels on Cortlandt Street. He was convicted, and sentenced to two years and six months in State prison in the Court of General Sessions, on December 20, 1880, by Recorder Smyth.

He is a clever hotel thief, and has traveled all over this country, robbing hotels and boarding-houses, and is regarded as a first-class operator. He is well known in a number of large cities. Gamphor’s picture was taken in 1876.

Inspector Byrnes correctly identifies George Gampher’s first known arrest, which took place in New York City in 1876. [The victim’s name was Charles E. Welling, not E. W. Worth]. However, Gampher was not convicted in this case; his conviction came two years later, in a totally unrelated case. In October, 1880, Gampher was caught drilling holes next to door locks of rooms of the Astor House hotel, to be used to insert wire loops to pull open bolted doors. He was caught with other burglary tools.

George was the son of a Philadelphia cooper of the same name, George Washington Gampher. His father had been a volunteer in the Civil War, and for a time was also on the Philadelphia police force. George Jr., on the other hand, seems to have been a habitual customer of saloons and gambling joints, and a store thief as well as a hotel thief.

By the late 1880s, George Jr. managed a “disorderly house,” i.e. a brothel in Philadelphia, along with a woman named Lucy Simpson. They appear to have been operating it as a panel thieves.

Whatever other character faults George W. Gampher had, he remained devoted to his tight-knit family, who apparently put up with his missteps. He lived with his parents their entire lives, moving from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 1880s. There, George Jr. seems to have settled down a bit, listing his occupation as real estate agent.

The family allegiance went so far as to collectively sue the husband of George’s sister, Marie Gampher. Marie had died in her forties, and before her husband, Alexander Poulson, could have the body buried in a plot he had purchased, the Gamphers took it and buried it in their family plot. Poulson had it moved, and the Gamphers sued (unsuccessfully).

For the last three decades of his life, George W. Gampher stayed out of trouble–except for one instance in 1905 when he collected $600 from the friends of a jailed pickpocket, whom he promised he could get out of jail; and then took no action.

#136 Timothy Oats

Timothy Oakes (1848-1907), aka Tim Oates/Oats, Timothy Ryan, Timothy Clark, Charles Oats, Thomas Bradley, etc. — Pickpocket, Till Tapper, Badger-Puller, Con Man

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-six years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Speculator. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 8 1/2 inches. Weight, 198 pounds. Sandy hair, blue eyes, sandy complexion. Generally wears a light-colored mustache.

RECORD. Tim Oats is an old New York panel thief and pickpocket. He was arrested in New York City in 1874, with his wife Addie Clark, charged with robbing a man by the panel game. They escaped conviction on account of the complainant’s departure from the city.

He was arrested again in New York City, under the name of Timothy Ryan, charged with robbing William Vogel, on July 30, 1875, of a diamond stud valued at $200, while riding on an East Broadway railroad car. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to four years in Sing Sing prison, on September 17, 1875, by Recorder Hackett.

Tim was arrested again in New York City, under the name of Timothy Clark, on January 11, 1879, in company of James Moran, whose name is Tommy Matthews (156), charged with robbing a man named Michael Jobin, of Mount Vernon, N. Y., of $200, on a Third Avenue horse-car. Both were committed in default of $5,000 bail for trial by Judge Murray. They pleaded guilty to larceny from the person and were sentenced to two years in the penitentiary on February 6, 1879, by Judge Gildersleeve.

Tim Oats, Theodore Wiley (171) and William Brown, alias Wm. H. Russell, alias “The Student,” were arrested at Syracuse, N. Y., on January 4, 1883, charged with grand larceny. They stole a tin cash-box from behind a saloon bar, containing $250, the property of Seiter Brothers, No. 99 North Salina Street, Syracuse. Two other people were with the above party but escaped. Oats played the “fit act” in the back room, kicking over chairs and tables. The proprietor and all the parties in the store ran into the back room to help the “poor fellow,” when one of the party sneaked behind the bar and stole the cash-box. Tim Oats gave the name of Charles Oats, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Auburn State prison, on March 1, 1883. His sentence expired November 1, 1885. “The.” Wiley gave the name of George Davis, alias George Marsh, and was tried and convicted also. (See No. 171.) Brown, alias Russell, alias “The Student,” pleaded guilty in this case and was sentenced to five years in Auburn prison, on March 1, 1883. Oats’s picture is a very good one, taken in January, 1879.

Timothy Oakes died in 1907 under his real name, but for most of his life he was known as Tim Oates/Oats. He married Ada Clark when both were 20 or younger. Addie was his partner in crime through the early 1870s, and likely is the same woman later identified as his wife in the 1880s and 1890s, Alice Oates.

Tim made his name as a New York pickpocket, but was involved off-and-on between 1874 and the late 1890s as a panel-thief/badger game operator. Panel thieves hid behind a curtain or thin partition in a room in which a co-conspirator woman has lured a man into a sexual tryst. In some cases, the robbery occurs during sex with a prostitute, by sneaking wallet contents from the man’s discarded clothes. Tim Oats preferred to interrupt the scene before any physical intimacy took place by stampeding through the door as an enraged husband. He then would threaten violence on his pretend wife, and the victim was supposed to smooth things over by offering money to stop any beating. This variation was known as the badger game.

Panel thieves were sometimes found in brothels, but that soon gave a bad reputation to those businesses. Panel thieves and badger games were much more effective when the premises were rented on a short-term basis; and when the woman lured the victim through an impromptu meeting. The woman usually presented herself as high society: elegantly dressed, wearing expensive jewelry, well-spoken, etc. The victims were targeted as being wealthy, respectable men–and unlikely to be armed or pugnacious.

Following his 1870s arrests for picking pockets (listed by Byrnes), in early 1882, Tim Oats tried operating a saloon in Philadelphia. A Philadelphia detective made a deal with Tim to protect a badger-game operation run by Tim, but reneged on the deal and arrested Addie. Tim got his revenge by selling the saloon and testifying against the detective on corruption charges.

Byrnes got some facts wrong about Tim’s 1883 arrest in Syracuse: he was sentenced April 1, 1883, and was only given two years, regaining his freedom long before November 1885; in fact, he was picked up and later released for picking pockets in Philadelphia in September, 1885. The 1883 arrest helped Timothy Oats to get credit for the “Fainting-Fit” deception, practiced mainly in saloons, where an accomplice feigning a fainting or epileptic fit distracts the counter man or bartender, leaving the sneak thief easy access to the till.

Byrnes does not mention in his book Tim’s next vocation, but in newspaper interviews, he suggested that he devised a con in which he advertised for tutors to be assigned to jobs in other cities, and took deposits from his applicants to assure their position. Then he would disappear with the deposits.

One of the women he interviewed was Jennie McLean, from Passaic, New Jersey, who was so charming that she was able to turn the tables and get a loan of $25.00 from Tim. Time recognized talent, and this was the supposed start of his badger game operation. He employed Jennie, Mamie St. Charles, Kitty Hester, Louise Loflin, and “Essie” to bait targeted men. They were all described as pretty, intelligent, and criminally clever. Tim paid them a weekly salary and assigned them different territories in Manhattan.
By late 1888, Tim Oats had a virtual monopoly on the badger-game business in New York. However, by 1889 authorities finally recognized all his women and their methods, and Tim left New York for Cincinnati. After a year or so in that city, they returned to New York.

Rather than trust another team of sometimes rebellious female recruits, this time Tim relied on the charms of two women: his wife, Alice Oates, aka Addie Clark or Anna Davis; and her alledged sister Jenny Jones, aka English Jen (who was perhaps, Jennie McLean). As muscle, Tim employed William Ferguson, aka Billy Devere, Joe “Jimmy” Walsh, and Mike McCarthy, aka Wreck Donovan. The gang was arrested in New York in November, 1891, but none of their victims appeared to press charges. Still, authorities convinced them to leave town.

At that point, the gang split up. There may have been a marital split-up between Tim and his wife. Alice Oates and William Ferguson went on to Boston and then to Washington, D. C. to ply their badger game. Tim Oates opted to go to England with a man named William Shaw and two women, one of whom was likely English Jen and the other Rachel Hurd, the wife of forger Charles Fisher. In England, Tim went by the name Thomas Bradley, and his associate sailed by as James Bradley. Within a short time, the two men argued, and Tim assaulted his partner. Tim was charged with this attack and sent to jail for two years.

In 1895, Tim returned to the United States, and was soon back in the badger-game business in Washington, D.C. and in New York, teaming up with some of his former gang.
Late in the 1890s, Tim Oakes teamed up with Larry Summerfield to create several “big cons,” elaborately scripted con games targeting rich men, and involving teams of role-players. One con involved selling a huge number of Standard Oil stocks that were supposedly being hoarded by an old miser in England.

But undoubtedly the most famous “big con” developed by Summerfield and Oakes was the “wireless wiretap,” in which a team of con artists set up what was supposed to have been an illegal wiretap that obtained horse race results before they were received by bookies. The victims of the con were gamblers who believed that they had advance knowledge of the race results; therefore these victims could never complain about their losses without admitting that they themselves had tried to cheat. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the plot of the Robert Redford/Paul Newman movie, The Sting. Some sources, like the New York Times, gave most of the credit for the invention of this con to Oakes.
In August, 1905, New York police got wind that a “wireless wiretap” con was being run in the Tenderloin district, and raided the lair. They were surprised to find such an operation being run, since Larry Summerfield was already behind bars in Sing Sing, but they found the rest of his gang–including Tim Oakes.

Two years later, in September 1907, the New York Times announced that Tim Oakes had died at the Ward’s Island Asylum for the Insane, where he had been incarcerated for over two years.

#116 Mary Holbrook

Mollie/Molly Holbrook (1838-?) aka Hoey/Hoy — Pickpocket, shoplifter

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-eight years old in 1886. Born in Ireland. Married. Housekeeper. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 2 inches. Weight, about 135 pounds. Light hair, blue eyes, light complexion. Shows her age.

RECORD. Mollie Holbrook was in early life a resident of the West End, in Boston, Mass. She is well known in Chicago and in all the principal cities of the United States. She has served terms in prison in Boston, Chicago, and New York, and is without doubt the most notorious and successful female thief in America. She is well known of late years as the wife of Jimmy Hoey, alias Orr, a negotiator of stolen property.

Mollie was formerly married to one George Holbrook, alias Buck Holbrook, a well known Chicago gambler and thief. He kept a sporting house in Chicago, also a road house on Randolph Street, over which Mollie presided. “Buck” was arrested for a bank robbery in Illinois in 1871, and sent to State prison. He was shot and killed while attempting to escape from there. He had dug up the floor of his cell and tunneled under the prison yard, and was in the act of crawling out of the hole outside the prison wall, when he was riddled with buckshot by a prison guard.

In January, 1872, Mollie was arrested in Chicago, on complaint of her landlady, who charged her with stealing forty dollars from her. Mollie deposited $1,200 in money as bail, and after her discharge she came to New York City, fell in with Jimmy Hoey, and married him. She was arrested in New York City for robbing a Western man in her house in Chicago of $25,000, on March 3, 1874, on a requisition from Illinois, and delivered to a detective of the Chicago police force. While at Hamilton, Canada, on their way back to Chicago, Mollie threw herself into the arms of a Canadian policeman and demanded protection. She had the officer arrested for attempting to kidnap her. They were taken before a magistrate and Mollie was discharged. The officer returned to Chicago, and lost his position for his bad judgment. Mollie was arrested again in New York City on the same complaint on July 16, 1874, and returned safely to Chicago, where she was sent to prison.

She was arrested in Boston, Mass., on April 17, 1878, for picking pockets, and gave the name of Mary Williams (which is supposed to be her maiden name). She was released on $1,000 bail, and forfeited it. She was arrested again in Boston on March 19, 1883, for picking pockets at Jordan & Marsh’s dry goods store. This time she gave the name of Mary Harvey, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to one year in State prison, in April, 1883. After her sentence expired in Boston she was arrested coming out of the prison by New York officers, taken to that city, and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, on March 3, 1884, for the larceny of a pocket-book from Catharine Curtis, some years before. This time Mollie gave the name of Lizzie Ellen Wiggins. After her conviction she gave the District Attorney of New York some information that led to the finding of a number of indictments against Mrs. Mandelbaum, who. fled to Canada. For this she was pardoned by Governor Cleveland on January 5, 1885.

Mollie was arrested again in Chicago, Ill., on September 25, 1885, charged with attempting to pick a lady’s pocket in Marshal Field’s store. She gave bail, and is now a fugitive from justice in Windsor, Canada. She occasionally pays Detroit a visit, where Jimmy Hoey is located. Mollie Holbrook is looked upon by her associates in crime as a woman that would sacrifice any one to save herself from prison. It is well known that this woman has been in the employ of the police in a number of large cities, and has furnished them with considerable information. Her husband, Jimmy Hoey, is an unprincipled scamp, and lives entirely upon the proceeds of his wife’s stealings, often selling the plunder and acting as a go-between for Mollie and receivers, of stolen goods, he of late years not having sufficient courage to steal. Mollie’s picture is an excellent one, taken in March, 1883.

Widely acknowledged as the most notorious female thief in America from the 1860s through the 1880s. She was known to the nation’s police departments mainly as a pickpocket and shoplifter, but began her traceable career as a Clark Street “panel-room” brothel madam in Chicago, where clients were robbed while they were distracted by an accomplice hiding behind a partition.


Holbrook’s origins are unknown, as is her real name. Byrnes states that her maiden name was Williams and that she came from Boston’s West End, but without more information, that would be impossible to verify. She only came to public notice once she moved to Chicago and took up with Buck Holbrook, a street-tough thief. She was arrested under the name Mollie Holbrook several times in Chicago between 1868-1869 for operating a disorderly house.

In August 1869 (not 1871, as Byrnes asserts), Buck Holbrook went with a few of his pals to rob banks in western Illinois, but were captured and jailed in the town of Hennepin. The jail building was not secure, but a guard had been hired and told to shoot first and ask questions later. Holbrook and two other men managed to get past the buildings walls, but were spotted by the guard, who opened fire with a double-barrel shotgun. Holbrook was hit and dead before he hit the ground, his head and torso struck by seventy-eight pieces of buckshot. One of the others stopped and surrendered; the third was recaptured the next day.

Mollie came down from Chicago to retrieve the body of Holbrook, horribly disfigured. In Hennepin, she told those gathered around the body, “We all know that Buck was not on the square; but he was always a good and kind man to me.”  Which is about as good an elegy that someone like Buck deserved. Mollie gave Holbrook a fine funeral in Chicago, attended by over a hundred of the city’s thieves, roughs, and prostitutes.

Mollie then took up with one James “Jimmy” Hoye, with whom she worked as a pickpocket. Hoye served as the “moll buzzer,” following Mollie into crowds and taking the goods that Mollie lifted as soon as the act was done–so that Mollie would never be caught with the evidence. She was arrested in New York State by a Chicago detective Ed Miller in early 1874; he foolishly attempted to bring her back via the Grand Trunk Railroad which runs partly through Canada. In Kingston, Ontario, she leapt off the train and sought protection from the police. Ed Miller had no requisition papers, so the Canadian official refused to hand her over. She later contrived to escape across the river to the United States. A few months later, former-Detective Miller–in an effort to regain his job– brought a woman to Chicago from Troy, New York, that he claimed was Mollie Holbrook–but was proven wrong.

By the early 1880s, Mary was working northeast cities as a pickpocket. She was arrested several times in Boston and New York, but either jumped bail or got off through the talents of her New York lawyers, Howe & Hummel. She took her stolen goods to the infamous New York fence, Marm Mandelbaum. In 1884 she was rearrested on one of the old charges and sentenced to five years at the prison on Blackwell’s island. During her court appearances, she appealed once more to Mandelbaum to provide legal assistance, but it was not forthcoming. Mollie took revenge by negotiating with New York’s District Attorney to offer testimony against Mrs. Mandelbaum–it was due to this pressure that Marm Mandelbaum was forced out of New York and retired to Hamilton, Ontario. According to the New York Times, Mollie also offered the DA information on Chief Byrnes extra-legal arrangements.


In September 1886, Mollie and Hoey were arrested in Cleveland, Ohio. Mollie was placed in the county jail. Using a pair of scissors and a hairpin, Mollie and an 18-year-old young male prisoner were able to remove a section of wall bricks and crawl to freedom; this occurred just days after the sheriff had boasted that no one had escaped from his jail.

After 1886, traces of Mollie Holbrook disappear. Rumors suggested that she and James Hoey left the United States and went to Europe.