#26 Augustus Raymond

Augustus Raymond (Abt. 1855-19??), aka Gus Raymond, Arthur L. Barry, William Walker — Sneak thief

Link to Byrnes’s text on #26 Augustus Raymond

Gus Raymond was a capable all-around thief, but specialized in a type of theft known as the “trunk game.” This crime was committed by gaining entry to a baggage area of a rail-car, depot, or steamship company and switching address labels on the luggage, so that they would be delivered right to the thief.

Although he acquired a reputation as a sneak thief in New York when he was still a teen in the late 1860s and early 1870s, it was not until 1877 that Raymond was caught committing a large heist. The mechanics of the theft of a trunk of jewels was described in detail by one of Raymond’s partners, Langdon Moore, in his autobiography. In his account, Moore himself is the unnamed “fourth man,” while “Bigelow” is Tom Bigelow, and “Briggs” is Thomas “Kid” Leary:

AN EXCHANGE OF BAGGAGE CHECKS: HOW A JEWELRY FIRM HAPPENED TO LOSE A VALUABLE TRUNK BETWEEN WORCESTER AND NEW YORK.

Under the protection of a Boston private detective, whose greed of gain was only excelled by his treachery to me as time rolled on, several important robberies took place in and near Boston. The day previous to my first prospecting visit to the Cambridgeport National Bank, Feb. 26, 1877, the Brigham robbery took place. This was followed by the Garey robbery, April 16; and on May 12 Ailing Brothers and Company’s jewelry trunk was stolen from their traveling salesman.

This salesman and his trunk were followed from the Tremont House, Boston, where he was registered, to the Bay State House, Worcester, by Raymond, Bigelow, Briggs and company. Seeing there was no opportunity to steal the trunk out of the hotel, while the salesman was visiting his customers among the jewelers in that city, the party decided to wait and follow him to his next stopping-place. Just before the afternoon express train was due, he was seen to leave the hotel and enter the Bay State House coach, with his trunk behind him. He was followed to the depot, where he bought a ticket for Hartford, Conn. Being late, he checked his trunk, and before it could be put on board the train started. He got on, leaving his baggage to be forwarded by the next train.

When it was found he had left his trunk, Bigelow went to a store on Main Street, and bought a large glazed cloth valise, while Briggs entered a grocery store and purchased a bag of salt and four dozen oranges, with a package of brown paper. While walking through a back street, the oranges, after being wrapped in the paper, were put in the bag, along with the salt. The bag was locked, and Raymond carried it to the depot, where he bought a ticket for New York. He checked the valise to that city.

Early that evening, when the baggage-master was alone in the room, Raymond and Bigelow entered, and the former asked to be allowed to open his valise, as he wished to get something out. At the same time he showed his check and pointed the bag out to the baggage-master, who, after examining the check, handed the bag to him. The moment he did this, Bigelow engaged the baggage-master in conversation, turning him around and calling his attention to another part of the room. Raymond then walked across the room to where the salesman’s trunk was standing, and set the bag down on the end of the trunk. While Bigelow was seeking information from the baggage-master, Raymond changed the check from the valise to the trunk, and the check from the trunk to the valise, sending that to Hartford and the trunk to New York. He then carried the valise back to where he had taken it from, and gave Bigelow the “tip” that the exchange had been made. They thanked the baggage-master for his kindness, bade him goodnight, and left the room.

A fourth man had remained outside, where he had seen all that had taken place in the room. There he did post duty until released by Briggs, and between the two they watched to see if the baggage-master examined the checks. He did not; and when the express train for New York came along, the trunk and the bag were put aboard. When the train started, the four “crooks” entered the smoker. Not knowing but the salesman might have business in Springfield that would detain him until this train came, they kept a close watch upon all who entered the cars at that place. Nothing, however, occurred that could in any way interest the thieves until the train reached Hartford, where two of the men left the train, and saw the valise taken from the baggage car and placed alone upon the truck, where it remained until the train pulled out of the station.

One man was left behind to see that the salesman did not call or send for his trunk before the train reached New York, for, if he did, it might make it difficult for the party who presented the check at that end to explain how he came in possession of it. Upon the arrival of the train, the check was given to a hackman, with instructions to get the trunk and return to the front of the depot. This he did, being “piped” by the thieves, who saw the trunk delivered to him without question. When he drove to the front of the depot, Briggs got in and was driven to a hotel on Fourth Avenue, where he registered and had his trunk sent to his room.

In the meantime Bigelow entered the hotel, carrying a large valise, registered, and engaged a room for the purpose of changing his clothes. After these men had been shown to their rooms, and the boy who piloted them up had returned to the office, Bigelow went to Briggs’ room, broke open the trunk, transferred all the jewelry he found in it to the bag, returned to his room, and, after cleaning himself up, returned to the office. He paid his bill and left the hotel, carrying the bag. At the corner of Twenty-Seventh Street he was met by the other man, who had been “piping” the hotel while the shift was being made, and together they went to a hotel on Sixth Avenue, near Forty-Fifth Street, and engaged a room, when the “stuff” was looked over.

Briggs, who had been left at the Fourth Avenue Hotel, was told to hire an express wagon and take the empty trunk to a furnished room in Fortieth Street occupied by Bigelow; and that night the trunk was to be taken away and destroyed. Had he done this, all trace of the trunk would have been lost. But while going for the express wagon, Briggs met Raymond, who told him not to go to the trouble of carting the trunk away and destroying it, but to go to the Fifth Avenue Hotel and get a hackman to take it to the Adams Express office and ship it on to Baltimore.

While this was being done, the salesman sent to the depot for his trunk; and when the check was presented, the valise was delivered to the messenger, who carried it to the hotel where the man was staying, and delivered the bag to him. Seeing a mistake had been made and that he had got another person’s baggage, he went to the depot, looking for his trunk. After going through the baggage-room without finding what he was in search of, he made inquiries, and learned that no other baggage but the valise had been left there upon the arrival of the express train from the East. He then wired to Worcester to have his baggage forwarded, and received a reply that it had been sent on by the night express.

The police were soon notified and given a full description of the large, heavily-ironed black trunk, with a large letter “A” printed in white on the ends. The trunk had been over the road a hundred times, and was known to all the baggage-men and many of the hackmen between New York and Boston, to say nothing about the thieves who had followed the salesman over the road many times previous to this party striking the trail. Upon inquiry at the depot, the hackman was found who had taken the trunk and the man to the Fourth Avenue Hotel, where it was learned the trunk had been taken away by another hackman; but no one could tell who he was or whither he had taken the trunk.

In the meantime the salesman, with the assistance of the officers, burst open the valise, and found the bag of salt carefully packed away among the oranges, which were beginning to decay. A search was then made by the police for the man who had sold the valise, the salt, and the oranges, to the man who had the bag. They were not successful in this, however, and the hunt was soon given up. Not so, however, with the New York police, for they caused to be inserted in the papers a notice offering a reward for any information leading to the recovery of the trunk, with a request that the hackman who had taken it from the Fourth Avenue Hotel call at police headquarters. As this man seldom read the papers, he heard nothing of the inquiries being made by the police about the trunk until his attention was called to it by overhearing some other hackmen accusing one another of stealing a jewelry trunk with a big “A” printed on the ends. Upon inquiry as to the meaning of their talk, an explanation followed, and he was shown the notice in the papers.

After reading this, he jumped on his hack and drove to police headquarters, where he gave the information that led to the recovery of the trunk at the express office at Baltimore by New York detectives, who returned to New York with it, and renewed their search for the plunder, and the thieves who had dared work a new trick on the police and railroad people. While they were running around among the “stool pigeons” for information, the “stuff” was sold to a “fence” for four thousand dollars, and the party returned to Boston.

Police eventually tracked down the hackmen, which led them to Raymond; both Raymond and Kid Leary were identified by the baggage-master. Raymond and Leary were eventually caught and prosecuted, with Raymond sentenced to five years in the Massachusetts State Prison and Leary given the same number of years in Sing Sing. Moore and Bigelow escaped.

However, before Raymond was tracked down for this theft, he and Moore planned other jobs–and Moore became convinced that Gus Raymond was trying to cheat him. All the later mentions of Raymond in Moore’s book following the trunk theft are damning–though it should be mentioned that Moore also felt he was betrayed by George Mason; and thought Big John Tracy was worthless.

Raymond’s teaming up with forgers George W. Wilkes and Little Joe Elliott in 1886 was out of character. Raymond was not known to have engaged in any forgery schemes after Wilkes and Elliott were jailed.

From 1887 on, Raymond stuck to stealing from passenger ships, either using the “trunk game” or by breaking into cabins just before the steamers left dock. He was still at it in 1910:

 

 

 

 

#59 Charles McLaughlin

Edward McLean (Abt. 1833-19??), aka Eddy McLean, Charles McLean, Charles McLaughlin, Charles J. Lambert, A. C. Johnson, T. W. Seaman, C. H. Davis, Edward McLane, etc. — Sneak thief, Hotel thief, Cabin thief

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty years old in 1886. Stands his age well. Born in Troy, N.Y. Is a saddler by trade. Well built. Height, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Brown hair. Wears full, dark, sandy whiskers and mustache, turning gray. He has quite a respectable appearance, and is a good talker.

RECORD. McLaughlin is one of the cleverest hotel workers in the country, and is said to be the son of a planter in Louisiana. He was a book-keeper, but lost everything during our civil war and became a hotel thief.

On April 3, 1875, he robbed a room in the Westminster Hotel in New York City of a watch and chain and some diamonds and money. As he was leaving the hotel with his booty, his victim came downstairs and reported his loss to the clerk, who followed McLaughlin and had him arrested, and found the property upon his person. McLaughlin was tried, convicted, and sentenced to three years in Sing Sing prison for this robbery. It is said that the day he was sentenced his father was shot and killed by negroes in Grant Parish, La.

He was convicted and sent to prison in Quebec, Canada, for a hotel robbery in January, 1881.

He was arrested again in New York City on June 10, 1884, for entering three rooms in the Rossmore Hotel. A full set of hotel-workers’ tools was found on his person at the time of his arrest. He had robbed two rooms in this house some time before and secured $400 in money and two watches. In this case McLaughlin pleaded guilty to burglary, and was sentenced, under the name of Chas. J. Lambert, to two years in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, in the Court of General Sessions in New York City, on June 25, 1884, by Judge Gildersleeve. His sentence expired February 24, 1886. McLaughlin’s picture is a fair one, taken in 1875. He looks much older now.

When Edward McLean was arrested in New York in April 1875, the newspapers were full of reports concerning a Supreme Court case relating to the Colfax Massacre, an outrage that had occurred in Grant Parish, Louisiana, in which three white men and about 150 black men were killed. During the time he was jailed, McLean linked his background to this bloody event. McLean never offered any details that could not have been picked up from New York newspaper; and the none of the three white men that died in the Colfax Massacre had names that matched McLean (or his aliases). McLean apparently believed that the story would gain him sympathy.

McLean was, instead, a long-time New York City resident, who began his career as a sneak thief in the early 1870s, along with Joe Howard, aka Joe Killoran. He soon became known as an accomplished hotel thief, but always had an eye for jewelry. After the Sing Sing sentence that followed his April 1875 arrest, McLean next was heard from in 1881 in New York, when he was suspected of stealing stones from Levy & Picard, Jewelers. While released on bail he went to Boston and snatched a handful of diamonds from Henry Morse, jeweler.

It appears this resulted in jail time in Massachusetts, because McLean wasn’t heard from again until the 1884 hotel robberies mentioned by Byrnes. These resulted in a two year sentence on Blackwell’s Island.

McLean spent over a dozen years robbing hotel rooms and passenger ship cabins from the late 1880s through the early 1900s, moving between Europe and America. In July 1890, he was arrested in London under the name Charles McLean and sentenced to six months in Clerkenwell Prison.

In 1892 he was captured in Paris as Edward McLean and sent to a prison for six months.

In August 1893, he was caught in Brussels, Belgium and lost another six months of freedom. In 1894, as George Hamilton, he was found robbing in Southhampton, England, and given three months. He returned to Belgium in September 1895 and was nabbed again, and sentenced to one year.  In January 1898, he was briefly detained in Frankfort, Germany.

McLean arrived back on the east coast of the United States shortly afterward, eluding authorities in Philadelphia and Washington DC before being stopped in Baltimore. There, he was sentenced to three years as Charles McLaughlin alias Charles H. Davis.

With time reduced, McLean was out of prison by 1900 and returned to England, where he was captured robbing rooms in York in July. He was sentenced to three years in prison, then issued a ticket to leave the country. It was suggested that this trip to England had been made in the company of a gang led by his old pal Joe Howard, aka Killoran. McLean was arrested on suspicion as soon as his ship docked in Brooklyn. He was then photographed, and the grainy picture appeared in newspapers:

Not much was heard from him until 1907, when once again he was arrested on suspicion in New York City in the aftermath of robbery at the Hotel Astor. McLean denied any involvement: “I never robbed a woman in this country,” he explained. “They haven’t anything worth while. Outside of the Astors and the Vanderbilts, there are not ten women who have $30,000 worth of jewelry. I have robbed all over the world, I will admit, but I will attempt no crime in this country.”

McLean died poor in New York City on January 24, 1909. His death was recorded under the spelling Edward McLane.

 

 

 

#4 William Vosburg

William H. Vosburgh (1827-1904) alias “Foxy” “Old Bill” — Bank thief, burglar, confidence man

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-seven years old in 1886. Born in United States. Can read and write. Married. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weight, 170 pounds. Hair, dark, mixed with gray. Gray eyes. Light complexion. Generally has a smooth-shaven face.

RECORD. Vosburg is one of the oldest and most expert bank sneaks and “stalls” in America, and has spent the best portion of his life in State prisons. He was formerly one of Dan Noble’s gang, and was concerned with him in the Lord bond robbery in March, 1886, and the larceny of a tin box containing a large amount of bonds from the office of the Royal Insurance Company in Wall Street, New York, several years ago.

Vosburg was arrested in New York City on April 2, 1877, for the Gracie King robbery, at the corner of William and Pine streets. He had just returned from serving five years in Sing Sing prison. In this case he was discharged. On April 20, 1877, he was again arrested in New York City, and sent to Boston, Mass., for the larceny of $8,000 in bonds from a man in that city. He obtained a writ in New York, but was finally sent to Boston, where they failed to convict him.

On June 10, 1878, he was arrested in New York City, charged with grand larceny. On this complaint he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to fifteen months in the penitentiary, by Recorder Hackett, on December 28, 1878. He did not serve his full time, for on May 3, 1879, he was again arrested in New York City, with one John O’Brien, alias Dempsey, for an attempt at burglary at 406 Sixth Avenue. In this case he was admitted to bail in $1,000 by the District Attorney, on May 17, 1879. The case never was tried, for on September 23, 1879, he was again arrested, with Jimmy Brown, at Brewster’s Station, New York, on the Harlem Railroad, for burglary of the post-office and bank. For this he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to four years in State prison at Sing Sing, on February 19, 1880, under the name of William Pond, by Judge Wright, at Carmel, New York. Brown never was tried.

After his release he claimed to be playing cards for a living, when in fact he was running around the country “stalling” for thieves. He was arrested in Washington, D.C, on March 4, 1885, at President Cleveland’s inauguration, for picking pockets. Through the influence of some friends this case never went to trial. He then started through the country with Johnny Jourdan (83), Philly Phearson (5), and Johnny Carroll, alias The Kid (192). On April 1, 1885, the party tried to rob a man in a bank at Rochester, N.Y., but failed. They followed him to a hotel, and while he was in the water-closet handled him roughly and took a pocket-book from him, but not the book with the money in it. Phearson and Carroll escaped, and Vosburg and Jourdan were arrested, and sentenced to two years and six months each for assault in the second degree, by Judge John S. Morgan, on June 15, 1885, at Rochester, N.Y. Vosburg’s picture is a good one, taken in March, 1885.

No less an authority than the New York Times labeled Bill Vosburgh (often spelled Vosburg, as Byrnes did) “the Father of Modern Criminals.” Typically, Byrnes’s recitation of Vosburgh’s career begins in 1877, but he was active close to thirty years earlier. He was a bank sneak, but also a pickpocket, burglar, and con-artist.

Byrnes did not reveal any of Vosburgh’s fascinating family connections. Vosburgh was born in Albany New York to a prominent family; it was said his grandfather fought in the Revolution; his father in the War of 1812, and that his uncle was Albany’s Postmaster. These figures were never named, but an educated guess is that his uncle was Isaac W. Vosburgh, son of William Vosburgh and Mary McDonald.

More interesting are Old Bill’s in-laws. He married Mary Ann Sturge, the daughter of an old English pickpocket and thief, Bill Sturge. Mary Ann had a sister, Rebecca “Becky” Sturge, who married twice. Her first marriage was to Daniel “Dad” Cunningham, a small, short-tempered fighter and gambler. A year after Cunningham died, Becky remarried to Langdon W. Moore, aka Charley Adams, one of the most famous bank robbers of the nineteenth century.

Vosburgh was also mentioned as being a brother-in-law to bank thief Preston Hovan (brother of Horace Hovan). However, it has not yet been discovered how they were related–or whether these sources just confused Preston Hovan with Langdon Moore due to an alias they both used, Charles Adams.

One of Bill Vosburgh’s daughters (Emma or Rebecca) married sneak thief Harry Russell, who ran in the same gang of 1890s post office thieves with George Carson and Joe Killoran.

In the late 1890s, Vosburgh enjoyed regaling reporters with the exploits of his criminal career, noting the crimes that were now too old to prosecute; ones for which he had been acquitted; and ones that sent him to prison–but avoiding mention of the successful crimes that might still incriminate him, such as his tutelage of pickpocket George Appo (subject of Timothy Gilfoyle’s book, A Pickpocket’s Tale )

He told a story of becoming a criminal after taking a packet of money he was entrusted to deliver and losing it at an Albany gambling resort; in desperation he sought help from a known thief, Flemming, who used Vosburgh to help rob a grocery store owner. They then partnered to rob “every grocery store in Albany.”

However, Vosburgh never told reporters about his more infamous adventures with Flemming–robbing the family vault of the Van Rensselaer family for silver buried with the corpses.

See Paula Lemire’s account, “The Night In Question Was Dark and Slightly Stormy.

Vosburgh then went with his new pals to New Orleans, and once there began to specialize in robbing the staterooms of Mississippi riverboats [there was good reason why Herman Melville set his novel The Confidence Man on a riverboat–they were magnets for thieves.]

By 1857, Vosburgh’s name appeared in the National Police Gazette as a known criminal. In the early 1860s he was said to be a member of Dan Noble’s gang of bank sneak thieves. He was implicated in 1866’s infamous Rufus Lord bond robbery (in Byrnes’s book, the year of this is incorrectly given as 1886), but never arrested; the same year he was also implicated in the robbery of the Royal Insurance Company on Wall Street; both of these heists were said to be directed by Dan Noble.

In 1873, Vosburgh was caught trying to rob a diamond broker of Springfield, Massachusetts. He was convicted and sent to prison, then released in early 1877. In April of that year he was arrested for stealing bonds from Gracie King, but was discharged for lack of evidence. A few days later he was arrested in Boston for stealing $8000 in bonds, but was tried and acquitted.

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He was again arrested in New York for Grand Larceny in June, 1878; and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Vosburgh spent the years 1880-1884 in Sing Sing under the name William Pond for the robbery of the post office and bank at Brewster’s Station, New York.

A few months after his release, he was caught as a pickpocket in the crowd during Grover Cleveland’s inauguration in March, 1885. He was released, but was discovered the next month in Rochester, New York, attempting to rob a man leaving a bank. At that time he was touring with Johnny Jourdan, Philly Pearson, and Johnny “The Kid” Carroll. Vosburgh was convicted and served a term in Rochester until 1888.

From 1888-1895, Vosburgh tutored pickpockets and acted as a “steerer” for con-artists running the “green goods” scam, in which yokels visiting the city were convinced to buy a large stack of counterfeit bills, thinking they could multiply their investment ten-fold.

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In November, 1895, Bill was picked up for fleecing a Nebraska farming visiting New York out of $500 in a “green goods” scam. However, he made a deal with the city District Attorney Goff to testify in a case against the New York City Sheriff, Tamsen, alleging that Tamsen mismanaged his jail. Vosburgh took the stand and told several amusing stories about visiting his son-in-law, Harry Russell, in Tamsen’s jail and bringing him 3 revolvers and a bottle of whiskey. Russell and two of his post-office robbery gang accomplices escaped from the jail. Many newspapers criticized Goff for accepting Vosburgh’s questionable testimony.

Vosburgh died in April, 1904. Some accounts said he was buried in Bronx’s Greenwood cemetery; others in Brooklyn’s Woodlawn; neither cemetery has him listed in their online burials database.

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