#334 M. A. Schwab

Maurice A. Schwab (1857-1928), alias Frederick S. Mordaunt, Fred Schwab, Julius Schwartz. Swindler.

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

Thirty-eight years old in 1895. Born in United States. German parents. No trade. Single. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 135 pounds. Black hair, brown eyes, dark complexion.

Schwab is one of the most successful rascals at large. He first made the acquaintance of the police while he was operating a bogus theatrical agency in New York City, where he succeeded in swindling a number of women. He is well known in Chicago, Ill., Boston, Mass., Baltimore, Md., Philadelphia, Pa., and New York City, where he has carried on his swindling schemes, sometimes as the manager of a litho graph company, or a coal and iron company, or his old business of a theatrical agent.
He was arrested in New York City on April I3, 1882, in company of Robert Sufferage, alias “Henry Williams,” alias “
“Rummels,” another New York pickpocket, who has since developed into a bank sneak (No. 205), charged with swindling a number of women by the “theatrical dodge.” Schwab and Sufferage advertised for girls that wanted to go on the stage, and managed to swindle them out of hundreds of dollars.
For this offense Schwab was sentenced to three years in State Prison at Sing Sing, N. Y., on May I6, 1882, by Recorder Smyth, of the Court of General Sessions, New York City.

Though the crime and subsequent prison sentence that Byrnes relates for Maurice A. Schwab occurred before Byrnes published his 1886 edition, Schwab was certainly active after his release in 1884–and was involved in shady deals up until the year of his death in 1928. Schwab, a Chicago native, began his career at age 20, in 1877,  by posing as a St. Louis newspaper reporter visiting Louisville, KY, and later New Orleans, loudly announcing himself as being in those locales to write up their local businesses (and accepting payment for favorable publicity). His tour ended in New Orleans, where his stack of unpaid bills for fancy lodgings finally identified him as a “d.b.”–dead beat.

The following year, 1878, Schwab was mentioned as a small-time theatrical manager, in charge of a company presenting the old standard, The Black Crook, in Indianapolis. The company ran up bills, and Schwab was only saved by the intervention of his father, a Chicago businessman, who paid off the star actors and then cut off his son. Schwab dragged the remnants of the company to St. Louis, but met a poor reception.

Schwab then migrated to the nation’s theatrical capital, New York, and advertised himself as a company manager, and ran into trouble when he published ads for a new troupe invoking the names of famous actors, who had never heard of him.

In 1881 he was discovered in a Denver luxury hotel, posing as a Brazilian diplomat, and announcing that he was in the United States to gather a workforce of Chinese immigrants to serve in Brazil, which had a labor shortage. He enticed other hotel lodgers to invest in the scheme, and solicited loans. When reporters started to investigate, Schwab left town on the first train.

In 1882, he ventured to Philadelphia, where he was arrested for setting up a “bogus agency with intent to defraud the mercantile community.” He escaped conviction only because he was able to produce several character witnesses that testified to his sterling character.

A few months later, the episode that Byrnes referred to occurred in New York, in which Schwab and Robert J. Selfridge took money from aspiring actresses with promises of starring in a new troupe (which never materialized).

Upon his release from Sing Sing in 1884, Schwab adopted the alias Frederick S. Mordaunt–the name he would live under the rest of his life. He immediately embroiled himself in one of New York City’s most sensational stories of 1884: the elopement of marriage of Victoria Morosini (daughter of the chief aide of financier Jay Gould) to her coachman, Ernest Schelling-Huelskamp. For a newspaper, Mordaunt wrote a slander of Morosini in which he asserted that she intended to blackmail her father for $25,000 in return for cancelling theatrical appearances which she had booked. Moreover, letters and witnesses later surfaced that implicated Mordaunt himself in a plot to break up the marriage by arranging for a woman to seduce Ernest. Mordaunt, it appears, hoped to be rewarded by Victoria’s father for ending the marriage.

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When that scheme failed, Mordaunt next appeared in the upper Midwest as the leader of a “junior” theatrical troupe which presented well-known productions with all the roles performed by youngsters–one example being Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado. He soon married one of the stars, Mary Edith Huff, a 19-year-old who looked much younger. She became a versatile actress under the stage name Marion Fleming. This lent Mordaunt enough legitimacy to survive as a theatrical agent, though by 1889 his inclination to make promises that he could not keep forced him from New York to Boston, where he attempted to open an investment banking firm. He was arrested in New York for claiming that he had been given funds by his Boston investors, which proved to be false–he had left Boston with nothing but a string of debts.

Mordaunt was quiet for the decade between 1887 and 1897, attending the career of his wife, and also working honestly as a railroad freight manager, based in Chicago. However, his wife died in 1899 (buried in Indianapolis, alongside an infant that died shortly after birth. “Frederick” also has a stone beside her, but was not interred there.) In 1897 he headed the Vicksburg Land and Improvement Company, which intended to bring manufacturing to Vicksburg, Mississippi; at the same time he formed a company to provide transportation and lodging to gold hunters traveling to Alaska and the Yukon. Both were bubbles, but tangentially related to his expertise in railroad management.

In the early 1900s, Mordaunt wrote a book on the railroad industry, and also floated the idea of a National Railroading School that would train a new generation of railway managers. However, those investigating his credentials to operate such a school uncovered his sordid history, and ruined his prospects for that project. Mordaunt remarried before 1910, and had a son with his second wife; oddly, the son was given the same name as the deceased infant mothered by his first wife. About the same time he began his next venture, publishing The National Police Magazine, a collection of true police stories (and a obvious knock-off of the National Police Gazette.) Mordaunt soon earned the ire of the chiefs of the Chicago Police Department, who did not appreciate their subordinates boasting about and taking credit for big busts; also, Mordaunt encouraged his subjects to provide him with copies of collected evidence, which was supposed to be kept private.

Chicago police detectives discovered that Mordaunt had a habit of employing young women as housekeepers, and then taking them on business trips–and of not paying their wages regularly. The spat continued when a Chicago Police Deputy ordered the magazine to be suppressed. And, not coincidentally, a supposed 17-year-old woman claimed that Mordaunt enticed her into a sham marriage, and would not leave her alone after she tried to break off the relationship. The woman (was was actually 19) later recanted her story, explaining that she made it up to cover up the fact that she had been fired from her retail sales job, and that she had never met Mordaunt before. Mordaunt accepted her apology, but remained firm in his belief that she had been put up to making the accusations by those who meant to ruin him.

Mordaunt’s last years were spent as the head of investment companies looking to buy and trade local light rail (streetcar) companies. As these deals often involved public bids and approval of local officials–conditions that were ripe for bribes from various parties–Mordaunt seemed to earn a comfortable living. He died just weeks after planning one such deal in Rockford, Illinois.

#205 R. Sufferage

Robert James Selfridge (Abt. 1861-19??), Henry Murphy, R. J. Sufferage, Robert J. Rummels, Robert James Thompson, Henry Harper, Henry Williams–Thief, Swindler, Bank Sneak

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

Thirty-five years old in 1895. Born in New York City. Single. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 136 pounds. Brown hair, gray eyes, fair complexion. Marks, etc. : Letters “A. S.” on right forearm.

“BOBBY” SUFFERAGE is a well-known New York sneak thief. He operated a bogus theatrical agency in New York in 1882, in company of one Maurace A. Schwab (No. 334), another well-known swindler. Sufferage was convicted on a charge of burglary when he was ten years old and sent to the House of Refuge, New York City, where he remained a year and a half. He was arrested again in New York City on December 14, 1879, for stealing a watch and chain. For this offense he was sentenced to two years and Six months in State Prison, on January 14, 1880, from the Court of General Sessions, New York City.
He was arrested again in New York City on April 13, 1882, in company of Maurace A. Schwab, a well-known swindler, charged with swindling a number of stage-struck girls out of $700 by means of a bogus theatrical agency. For this offense he. was sentenced to three years in State Prison on May 16, 1882, by Recorder Smyth, Court of General Sessions.
Under the name of Robert James Thompson, he was arrested at Liverpool, Eng., on April 17, 1888, for the larceny of £70 in bank notes, from the counter of the Adelphia Bank of Liverpool. He was tried at the Liverpool Assizes on May 3, 1888, and sentenced to five years penal servitude, on May 14, 1888, by Mr. Justice Day.
Under the name of Henry Harper he was arrested at Brussels, Belgium, on December 10, 1894, charged with attempted robbery with use of violence and threats. For this offense he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by the Judge of the Court of Sessions of Brabant, Belgium, on April 1, I895.
Picture is a good one, taken April, 1882.

Little of the history of Robert J. Selfridge is known outside of Byrne’s recital of his crimes, but his prison intake records offer a few additional clues. For instance, his 1882 Sing Sing admission record (as Robert J. Rummels) asserts that his correct last name is Selfridge. Other prison records list his mother’s name as Ellen G. Selfridge. Ellen’s marriage with fellow Irish-born laborer John James Selfridge dissolved in the 1890s, and she spent her last dozen years in and out of the almshouse, where she died in 1911.

Selfridge’s involvement with the theatrical agent swindler Maurice A. Schwab was likely limited to taking instructions from Schwab, who masterminded many different cons.

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The Sing Sing prison records were also updated to indicate that R. J. Selfridge had returned to New York after his release from Belgium and was arrested for Grand Larceny in April, 1902. He was admitted to Clinton State Prison at Dannemora on May 12. 1902 as Henry Murphy and was released on Oct. 2, 1905, at the age of 45. Like many American sneak bank thieves, he had migrated to Europe in the late 1880s and 1890s, where the security was more lax and their faces less familiar.

His fate after Oct. 1905 is unknown.

#236 Clark Parker

Joseph Clark Parker (1846-1922), aka Bill the Brute, William Stetson, English Bill, Bill Snow, George Goodwin, George Whiting, Sheeny Bill, etc. — Bank sneak thief, fence, burglar

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-three years old in 1895. Born in England. Machinist. Single. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Weight, 175 pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes, pug nose, fresh complexion. Marks, etc.: Bald on top of head. Scars right side of forehead and right side of nose. Abscess mark right side of neck. Ink dot between thumb and first finger of right and left hands. Cut mark left side of forehead.

RECORD. English Bill is a notorious burglar and sneak. He has traveled through the country receiving stolen goods the last few years, having lost his nerve. “Bill the Brute,” one of his aliases, enjoys an international reputation as a criminal. He robbed a bank in Paris, France, of 20,000 francs, in company Of Eddie Guerrin, a well-known western thief. On dividing the proceeds in a cemetery after the robbery the thieves fell out and Stetson shot Guerrin, dangerously wound
ing him. He repented and assisted him to London, where they again quarreled before Guerrin had recovered, and Stetson fled to Boston, after betraying his companion in crime to the police. Guerrin was arrested, taken to France, and sentenced to ten years imprisonment for a bank robbery.
Parker has traveled all over America, England, France and Canada, and has been in jail in every country he visited. His full record would occupy too much space. I will, therefore, give only sufficient data to convict him of a second offense should he come your way.

Under the name of George Whiting he was arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., for the larceny of a gold chain from a jewelry store. He gave bail on November 16, 1880, and forfeited it. He was arrested again in this case, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years and six months in the Eastern Penitentiary, on October 18, 1882, by Judge Fell, Court of General Sessions, on November 4, 1882. His sentence in this case was reconsidered, and reduced to two years. He was arraigned in the same court on another complaint charging him with the larceny of a ring. He also plead guilty in this case and was sentenced to one year in the penitentiary, on October 18, 1882, by Judge Fell. He was arrested again under the name of George Goodman at Manchester, Eng., in company of Wm. Murray, alias Brown, alias “Thee Wylie’s Kid ” (No. 214), on August 1, 1887, and sentenced to nine months imprisonment for the larceny of a £50 note. Arrested again in New York City on November 1, 1894, for robbing a till in a florist store on Second Avenue. Tommy Featherstone, another notorious thief who was with him, made his escape and went to court and bailed him out. Featherstone was arrested on November 10, 1894, for “ flim-flamming,” and was recognized in court by the woman in the Stetson case, and the court officers, as Stetson’s bondsman. Both were discharged by Judge Ryan, November 30, 1894

Clark Parker (his preferred name in his later years, dropping Joseph) was not (as Byrnes asserted) an Englishman. He was born in Massachusetts in 1846 to Nathaniel and Mary Parker. His father died two years later, leaving behind four children, of which Joseph Clark Parker was the youngest. Clark followed his brothers into the blacksmithing profession, but started to appear in arrest records of New York and Boston in the late 1860s and early 1870s. He was using the alias “Bill Stetson” as early as 1869. Parker’s first crimes were store burglaries, shoplifting, and picking pockets.

Most of Parker’s crimes committed during the 1870s escaped detection, though his reputation grew as a successful professional crook; he was said to have partnered only with other highly skilled thieves. He took out a passport application in 1873; by 1882 he had earned the nickname “English Bill,” apparently from time he spent overseas.

In November, 1880, Parker robbed a Philadelphia jewelry store; and in 1881, a Hoboken post office. He jumped bail after the Hoboken arrest, and was nabbed for the Philadelphia robbery two years after it occurred, after a witness recognized him on the street. In October, 1882 he was sentenced to three years and six months in the Eastern State Penitentiary for this crime under the alias George Whiting. Upon his release in 1885, he was served a warrant for the Hoboken crime. Once again he met bail, then was not heard from again until arrested in Manchester, England in July 1887 as George Goodwin. Arrested with him was William Murray, aka William A. Brown, “The Wildey’s Kid.”


Sometime before his 1887 arrest in Manchester, Parker had picked up the nickname “Bill the Brute,” though there are conflicting reasons offered for how he earned that moniker. Detroit newspapers mentioned that Parker ferociously resisted arrest in that city on two occasions, one of which pre-dated 1887. In 1892, a Buffalo newspaper asserted that Parker had kicked a man to death in Massachusetts in the early 1870s (but there seems to be no corroboration of this). One obituary of Clark asserts that he killed a deckhand aboard a sailing vessel in 1855 (he was only 9 in 1855) and was jailed for this crime in Massachusetts. Yet another bit of hearsay suggests that Parker killed a jail-keeper in Scotland by smashing his head with a brick and later escaping from the court where he was being tried.

One verifiable act of violence was committed in 1889 against a partner-in-crime, Eddie Guerin, while the two men were dividing the spoils of a bank robbery in French churchyard. Parker shot Guerin, then helped his victim to get medical attention and escape to England–only to betray Guerin to the police there.

After his release in England for the Manchester robbery, and after committing bank robberies in France, Parker returned to New York and was arrested there in 1890 for running a panel room–a type of “badger game” requiring him to act the part of a irate, threatening husband. Later in 1890, he was picked up in Boston on a warrant from Pennsylvania for a jewelry robbery there, but the Governor of Massachusetts refused to surrender Parker.

In 1892, Parker was arrested on suspicion in both New York City and in Buffalo, on both occasions traveling with a well-known bank thief, Big Ed Rice. Both Rice and Parker were well-known to police at this point, and their preferred crime–snatching bills from bank counters–was becoming more difficult to execute. Parker returned to robbing jewelry stores, and was arrested for stealing gems in both Philadelphia and Newport, Rhode Island–but managed to escape conviction. He was, however, taken in New York in 1894 for working with partner Thomas Featherstone to steal from the till of a florist shop.

Parker was arrested in New York in 1896, once again accompanied by Big Ed Rice. However, it some became apparent to the authorities that he could not have committed the crime he was then accused of, so he was released.

After 1896, Clark Parker was not heard from again, although it was known that he was living back in his hometown of Boston in the late 1890s. One of his brothers, Benjamin W. Parker, was a successful, honest molasses broker. During the late 1880s, Clark had sent home much of the spoils of his European crimes for safekeeping by Benjamin. Benjamin, though often mentioned as being an upright citizen, kept the money for his brother and helped him start a new life in Pasadena, California under a new name. In Pasadena, Parker became a fixture of the community and a benefactor to several civic organizations.

Benjamin Parker, as his health faltered in 1910,  seems to have struck a deal with Clark: if Clark remained reformed and married a good woman, Benjamin would make him the heir to his molasses fortune. True to his word, when Benjamin expired, his fortune of roughly a million dollars went to Clark Parker–much to the displeasure of Benjamin Parker’s other relatives, particularly one nephew who sued the estate. As a result of that court action, Clark Parker’s real identity was exposed.

During the years that the estate battle dragged on, public sentiment seemed to be with Clark Parker over his nephew. Clark was seen as a having genuinely atoned for his past life, and to have been close to his brother Benjamin; while the nephew was portrayed as being cold and aloof.

When Clark Parker died in 1922, his fortune was divided among the civic organizations in Pasadena that he had championed; and the children of his lawyers and financial managers. He left $100 to the nephew who had tried to wrest his fortune away: Bill the Brute was nothing if not civilized.

#47 Emile Voegtlin

Emil Thomas Voegtlin (1860-1909) — Boarding room and hotel thief

From Byrnes’s text:
DESCRIPTION. Twenty-six years old in 1886. Born in United States. Single. Scenic artist by trade. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weight, 155 pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes, dark complexion. Wears black mustache and side-whiskers. Has a very genteel appearance.
RECORD. Voegtlin, who branched out lately as a boarding-house and hotel thief, is the son of very respectable people in New York City. That he is a professional there is no doubt. He is a clever man, and his picture is well worth having, as he is not very well known outside of New York. He was arrested in New York City on April 23, 1882, for stealing jewelry at No. 7 Fifth Avenue, where he was boarding. On account of his family judgment was suspended, after he had pleaded guilty and promised to reform.
He was arrested again in New York City on December 12, 1883, charged by a Mrs. Josephine G. Valentine, a guest of the Irving House, corner Twelfth Street and Broadway, with stealing from her room there a diamond-studded locket and other jewelry. The scoundrel almost implicated an innocent girl, whom he was keeping company with, by giving her some of the stolen jewelry. Voegtlin was convicted of grand larceny in Part I of the Court of General Sessions, and sentenced to five years in State prison on January 8, 1884. Immediately after his sentence he was taken to Part II of the same court, and sentenced to one year on the old suspended sentence, making six years in all. His imprisonment will expire, if he earns his commutation, on March 7, 1888. Voegtlin’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1884.

In order to appreciate the crimes of Emil Voegtlin, one has to consider the dynamics of the Voegtlin family.

In the years before motion pictures, the grand masters of the visual performing arts were the costume designers, set designers, and scenic artists. The premiere scenic artist working in America from the 1850s through the 1880s was Swiss-born William A. Voegtlin. Voegtlin often received headline billing equal to (and sometimes exceeding) the main actors of a production. He was frequently hired to paint the interiors of opera houses and theaters, in addition to pieces used in specific productions. His works, combined with lighting effects, were masterpieces of deception, creating dramatic panoramic landscapes within the confines of a small stage.
In 1857, William Voegtlin married Bertha Fleischman in the town of Peru, Illinois. Over the next twenty-five years, they had nine children–but only two survived to adulthood: Emil, born in 1860; and Arthur, born in 1862.
By 1881, the family made their headquarters in a prosperous New York City boarding house. William was often on the road, but the young men sometimes joined him as assistants, and both learned their father’s craft.

In early 1882, Bertha, now 42, formed a relationship with a wealthy, married New York businessman, Carl Voegel. At about the same time as Bertha was beginning this affair, Arthur ( age 19) played a cruel prank on Emil. Arthur arranged for the New York Dramatic Mirror print a notice that Emil ( age 21) was engaged to a popular new actress, a beauty named Emma Carson. The notice forced the young actress to protest that it was not true. The Dramatic Mirror retracted the story the next week.
A month later, in April 1882, Emil was arrested for perpetrating a series of thefts that had occurred in the boarding house. He plead guilty, and confessed that he had spent the proceeds of his robberies “in dissipation.” Thanks to the entreaties of his parents, his sentencing was suspended.
Later that autumn, Bertha ran away with Carl Voegel to San Francisco. They presented themselves as “Mr. and Mrs. Voegel,” though both were still legally married to others. In November, 1882, Bertha filed papers for divorce from William A. Voegtlin, claiming that he was cruel and intemperate. William A. Voegtlin visited California in March of 1883, working for theaters there. He was served with the divorce papers. In April, he filed a cross-suit accusing Bertha of adultery.
Emil Voegtlin spent the summer of 1883 at a Hudson Valley resort in Tarrytown, New York. He romanced a young teen girl, Julia Regna, and by summer’s end gave both her and others in town the impression that their engagement was imminent. Then he left abruptly.
Meanwhile, Bertha and her new man, Carl Voegel, went on a tour of Europe. However, at some point they split up. Bertha arrived back in New York alone and asked William to provide her with support. He agreed, providing that she lived with son Arthur. The arrangement lasted only a few weeks before Bertha tired of the treatment she received. She fled New York again–supposedly going to Mexico–and later sent William a letter indicating the divorce had gone through.
Emil, after fleeing Tarrytown, had returned to the family’s new rooms at the Irving House hotel. He began romancing a young, teen-aged Macy’s employee, Nellie Haight. Soon he was giving her jewelry, and once again it was assumed they would soon announce an engagement. However, it was discovered that Emil had stolen the pieces of jewelry from other hotel residents. He was tried and found guilty; combined with his earlier suspended sentence, he was sent to Sing Sing for a six-year sentence.
Meanwhile, Emil’s father William returned to California. Believing himself divorced, William began cohabiting with a young Los Angeles fashion designer, Lizzie M. Richey. They were married in May, 1884. However, within a few months, Lizzie discovered letters written to William from his first wife Bertha, and consequently started bigamy proceedings against her husband. William countered with accusations that Lizzie was blackmailing him. Their dispute ran on for a year, until they agreed to separate.
William A. Voegtlin continued his career as a scenic artist until he died while working on a job in Boston, Massachusetts in May 1892. Where first wife Bertha went to after 1883 is unknown.
Emil was released from Sing Sing in 1888, whereupon he resumed his career as a scenic artist. He was arrested for larceny while traveling on a job in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He was sentenced to three years at the State Penitentiary in Jackson, Michigan.
After his release from Jackson, Emil once again pursued the vocation of scenic artist. Both he and his brother went on to have successful careers, although Arthur was much more in demand. Arthur Voegtlin designed many of the facades and interiors at Luna Park, the foremost amusement park of the early twentieth-century; and later moved to Hollywood, where his son had a career as an actor and director. Emil worked exclusively for the scenic artist firm responsible for productions at the New York Hippodrome. He spent his last ten years married to Katherine Foley.
Emil’s larcenous and romantic misadventures came to a stop with his father’s death.

Seven Months and Seventy Criminals [Author’s Note]

Entering the month of July, 2018, I have been adding about ten criminal profiles per month. To date, seventy of the 210 entries in Byrnes 1886 edition have been updated. So far, my overall impression is surprise at the diversity of stories. Of the remaining 140 criminals, I expect to hit dead-ends with many–their names and arrests will not yield clues to their full identities. So the project as a whole is, perhaps, half-way done.

For my part, I need to take a short break. I have a full-length book written on a criminal mastermind who predates Byrnes tenure, and need to prepare that text for publication. Also, one of my recent entries took me down a fascinating rabbit-hole of research that may result in another book-length work.

Summarizing these individuals’ complete lives in mini-essays emphasizes their criminals acts, in contrast to the overwhelming percentage of their existence spent as prisoners. I’m not sure that doing time reformed any of them; but fear of doing more time reformed a few.

#16 Frederick Elliott

Joe Elliott (1853-1892/3), aka Frederick Elliott Frederick Reilly, Joseph Reilly, Little Joe Elliott — Forger, Burglar

Link to Byrnes’s entry on Frederick “Little Joe” Elliot

Chief Byrnes’ account of Joe Elliott’s career is one of the longest in Professional Criminals of America, but even so, it only begins to convey the dramatic events surrounding the forging tour that went from America to London, to Turkey, and back in the mid 1870s. Byrnes elaborated on some of the details given under this entry elsewhere in his book, under the entry for Charlie Becker. In fact, Byrnes was unaware that that during that trip, Elliott was recruited by master criminal Adam Worth and that they perpetrated perhaps the most famous art robbery of the nineteenth century: the theft of Gainsborough’s painting The Duchess of Devonshire.


That story is told more completely in Ben Macintyre’s The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief. Macintyre’s version focuses on Worth’s role, but lays out the exploits of Joe Elliott. Another (much earlier) writer, American journalist and author Jack Lait, also sensed that the narrative around these events was compelling. In 1919, he wrote a series of four long articles for the Chicago Tribune on the principal figures in these events: Little Joe Elliott; Joe Chapman and his wife Lydia; Charlie Becker; and Adam Worth. Unlike much of Lait’s other column writings, these articles were never reprinted in any of his books.

Lait was a feature writer, not a historical researcher, so there are factual errors in his account of Joe Elliott. And–unlike the Pinkertons, British police, and most written accounts–Lait accuses Elliott of the murder of Lydia Chapman, based on a rumor told to him by “a trustworthy thief.” Even so, in this one article Lait captures the narrative of Elliott’s life in a way that the dry recitation of his arrests and convictions can not. The result is a classic of American feature writing:

Little Joe: The Career of America’s Most Notorious Bank Robber (1919)  by Jack Lait

Fancy a lad, born in an alley back of a brickyard, of Irish immigrant parents; at 25 he is a man about town in New York, mingling with the bloods and dudes, actresses and rounders; he is a scintillating conversationalist; he is as well and as tastefully dressed as any man; he is chivalrous and courtly towards women; he never flashes extravagant sums of money, but he is plentifully supplied for all needs of this financially exacting existence. What would you say was this young fellow’s means of livelihood? What calling had be adopted to refine his manners?

The man is Frederick Reilly, and he is the most notorious bank robber in America, the most desperate safeblower on earth, the most daring forger of his time. His presentable features deck every rouges’ gallery over the civilized maps. He is known to the International police as Joe Reilly, as Little Joe, as Joe Elliott.

Little Joe is dead. Before his end he had punctuated one of the most varied and thrilling criminal careers ever compiled, had stolen millions, had married and lost and remarried, and again lost one of the most bewitching stage stars of his period, had rifled strong boxes in many states as well as in England, France, and Belgium, had flooded Turkey with spurious securities, and had escaped prison at Smyrna, had been held by Greek mountain banditti for ransom, had been loved by and had murdered the beautiful wife of one of his “pals,” had served more than a score of years behind bars, died a miserable wreck and a penniless pauper in a charity hospital ward. That man had lived!

As a boy he started shoplifting in his native town. Veteran crooks saw in him material for higher endeavors than counter snatching, and he was taken into a band of bank sneaks. His first undertaking in this art cost a private bank in Worcester, Mass., $20,000, which Little Joe ” hooked” with a long, slender wire that came out of his sleeve to a fish hook end, and which he slipped between the bars of the teller’s cage into the band of about twenty $1,000 currency notes while his associates distracted the man’s attention.

He dallied with this type of thievery for years, when he was at large, stole a lavish livelihood, and affected the bright lights of the rialtos for his divertissement. Leading players, sporting men of his generation, and the other celebrities of the bubble cafes were his cronies.

His bravado drew the attention of Charlie Becker—”the Dutchman,” he was called—the most expert forger that ever uttered a false instrument. Becker needed just such a man —one who looked above suspicion and one who had steel nerve—for a “layer down.” Becker could issue “dirty paper” without limit; his earning capacity was held down only to what could be negotiated. So he coupled up with Little Joe, to the great woe of many financial institutions.

Booth’s theater, in New York, had a saloon on the ground floor. It was owned by Ivan Siscovitch, a Russian forger, and was the forgers’ rendezvous, where men of that craft foregathered. Becker, Siscovitch, Elliott, Joe Chapman, and others “blew” to Turkey, where they cashed letters of credit purporting to have been sold by Coutts Bank, London. Adam Worth, the great thief, who with Elliott and “Junka” Phillips stole the Gainsborough painting in London, was the backer and steersman of the expedition. Worth, however, did not accompany it beyond Paris.

In Smyrna the gang was arrested, tried with Turkish justice, and sentenced to the world’s foulest prison. Worth hurried to Smyrna, and by devious devices procured the liberation through bribery of all except Chapman. The escaped convicts fled into Greece, where in savage mountain wilds all were seized by bandits, who chose Elliott as messenger and kept the others as hostages. Elliott traveled to London, where Worth gave him $10,000, the required sum, and Elliott returned, paid the kidnappers, and with his freed companions reached Paris. Elliott proceeded to London and there met Lydia Chapman, wife of the lone blackguard left at Smyrna.

Worth ordered Elliott, Becker, and Siscovitch to board at Mrs. Chapman’s, as he proposed to see her provided for. She was a woman of extraordinary beauty, and the physical bearing of a duchess, though she bad been an accomplice to the criminal enterprises of her husband, likewise a distingue individual, and others. Mrs. Chapman fell violently in love with Little Joe. Elliott, Becker, and Siscovitch left one night for the continent on a little junket into Berlin with “wrong” British government bonds. The following morning Mrs. Chapman died in convulsions, having been poisoned. Her jewelry and money had disappeared. Elliott, Becker, and Siscovitch returned and gave themselves up, all denying any knowledge of the tragedy. No one was convicted.

But I have it from a friend of Chapman’s,  a trustworthy thief, that Chapman, who tore his beard and mourned for years over his wife’s death, bought, many years later, in New York, the locket which his wife had worn; he bought it from my informant, who swore to him, as he did to me, that he had bought it from Little Joe Elliott.

That Elliott was not above such a deed is certain. Worth had his redeeming qualities —he loved his family and he “went the limit” for his accomplices; many other scalawags and thieves have strains of good motivations by some human impulses. But Elliott, except for his gentlemanly appearance and manners and, at times, fierce courage and spendthrift liberality, had no saving graces. The sign on his heart was the double cross, and before he died he attempted to sell out Worth, his friend. He betrayed Chapman after he had deserted him,  then murdered Chapman’s wife, who loved him, because he had tired of her–and robbed her before he left her to die.

The other storied romance of his life was not born of the sane love of a man—it was the frenzied passion of a maniac; and its queen, its fool, its victim, though its heroine, was the most beloved woman of her day in public life. Little Joe met Kate Castleton, the darling  of minstrelsy, when she was at the gateway of her vast popularity, playing her first protracted New York engagement. He courted her violently; madly, persistently; he smothered her with costly flowers, he showered her with diamond studded gifts, he lay in wait for her at the stage door after every performance, he sat alone in a stage box during every performance. And in brief time the little wicked fellow conquered her and and won her.


She knew what he was—or, as she thought, what he had been. Hundreds warned her against this smartly tailored thief with the engaging presence. But he promised her everything. And she went with him to the Little Church Around the Corner one evening after the performance. Her supporting company and a few chosen notables of the night life were witnesses. The wedding supper was at Delmonico’s, and the bride hectically happy. After a honeymoon tour of a month the pair went to live in handsome apartments on Twenty-first street.

Elliott was possessed of considerable money at that time, and he induced his bride to renounce the stage. All seemed serene until he was arrested for having passed a forged draft for $64,000 on the New York Life Insurance company. Sadly, the disillusioned wife returned to her footlights. She faced the public bravely–the public which knew her woes, for the newspapers rang with them. And the American audiences applauded.

While being taken to the Tombs from court, Elliott bowled his guard over and escaped. He was arrested again seven months later as party to a $3000 safe blowing in Boston, and was returned to New York and tried on the $64,000 job. Becker turned State’s evidence, procured immunity for himself, and Elliott went to Sing Sing for four years.

His wife’s love returned with his tribulations. She visited him whenever she was allowed to, and used every influence at her command to have Little Joe pardoned, but found it impossible. She was received by the governor and made a personal plea for a commutation, but failed.

On his release the dashing young swindler made renewed promises of honest behavior, and his brave wife believed him. But he grew jealous of her career, which she refused to again interrupt, and made himself so disagreeable that she was forced to divorce him. But within less than a year she married him once more. He then became her manager, and for three years conducted her tours in “Pop,” beginning with her huge success in that comedy at the old Bijou. But jealousy again possessed him. He disappeared,returned unexpectedly, met his wife leaving the theater in company with a young New York aristocrat, and fell upon her escort with a blackjack. Elliott felled him, then brutally kicked him, smashing his skull and nose. He escaped. Kate divorced him shortly afterward and married Harry Phillips, her manager in “Crazy Patch.”

Elliott, having alienated the tough thieves with whom he had operated, and having actually remained honest and remote from the haunts of criminals for some years, now “hooked up” with Gus Raymond and George Wilkes, forgers, and with them “took” a bank in Rochester for $2500. They arrived there while the town was alive with a race meeting. Wilkes prepared a draft as issued by the Bank of Montreal on the Bank of the Republic of New York. Elliott, under the name Edwardes, and Raymond, under the alias of James W. Conklin, each rented an office, and each engaged a clerk. Raymond opened an account at the Flour City National Bank; Elliott opened one at the Commercial National bank.

Elliott deposited the worthless “draft” and sent his clerk to Raymond with a check for $2500 to Raymond’s credit. Raymond sent his clerk to Elliott’s bank, had the check certified, then sent his clerk to his own bank and cashed the check. Two weeks later the trio turned up in Dayton, O., and attempted the same game with different names. They were arrested, and, as usual, made a scramble to sell each other for their own liberty. Elliott was “whipsawed” between the two and was about to be sentenced when he escaped. Later he was rearrested and sentenced to Sing Sing.

While there he sent for the Pinkertons and sought from them those influential factors a pardoning parole and a reward on representations that he could “turn up” the immortal Gainsborough painting. He glibly “squawked” against his old partner and benefactor, Worth, whose theft of the masterpiece had until then remained a mystery. He satisfied the detectives that Worth, Phillips, and Elliott himself had stolen the painting. But Little Joe did not know the whereabouts of the canvas, having accepted from Worth long before that a price for any equity that he might have in the stolen treasure by virtue of his participation in the burglary.

Elliott served his term. With new worthies he made up some presentable American railroad bonds and crossed to Amsterdam, where he and the gang were seized, but Elliott, by a master stroke of agility and desperation, contrived to destroy the evidence even as the clumsy Dutch police had them in hand. After a long trial the band was acquitted, but run out of the country.

Elliott dropped down to Paris, where he had figured in many atmospheric and daring bits of crooked business, not the least malodorous of which had been the episode at the American bar, where he had robbed a diamond merchant of $25,000 worth of gems in a satchel while Adam Worth was running the world famous establishment as monitor for its proprietor, his friend and fellow robber, “Piano Charlie” Bullard, who had been forced to fly France.

In Paris, Elliott became a gambler and a desperado. He frequented the gilded gaming palaces of the day and place, and, when “in luck,” won large stakes, and when “hoodooed” robbed the clubs at the point of a revolver. He was feared and fearless. Once he was arrested, but he broke the bastille and crippled the man who had testified against him with four bullets in a populous cafe, then bullied his way out in safety with the smoking weapon.

He returned to New York and called on the chief of detectives, Inspector Byrnes, pledging good behavior if the police would let him alone, and holding out that he intended to go into the theatrical business, having brought with him from Paris a young comedienne who had become the furore of French cabarets. Byrnes wished him luck and said he would be “decent” as long as Elliott remained decent.

The girl and Elliott were soon afterward arrested for fighting on the street, and she told a sensational and probably veracious tale of how Elliott had beaten and cowed her. A hint which she dropped to the police unwittingly convinced the Pinkertons that Elliott had again been involved in swindles, and a close watch was placed on him. He was followed out of the city and arrested with two old confederates after they had bilked a country bank. Strong pressure was brought by the Pinkertons and the New York police in the prosecution, and Elliott “went down” this time for fifteen years, his longest and last sentence.

His health broke after he served a fifth of this “stretch,” and he was pardoned to die. With scarcely a dollar, his eyes deeply sunken into his shapely head, the bristling, raven hair of old splotched with sickly gray, his small frame bent and weak, he staggered out. He was “picked up” in New York as a vagrant and sent to a public hospital, where he died, cursing Kate Castleton, who had loved him, and all the other friends whom he had wronged and outraged.






Frank Downing (#79)

Frank Downing (Abt. 1853-????), aka Frank Reilly/Riley, Frank Rawley, Frank Jourdan, Clarke, Donovan, Stuart, etc. — Burglar, Jailbreaker

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-three years old in 1886. Born in New York. Medium build. No trade. Married. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 132 pounds. Light-brown hair, brown eyes, thin face, ruddy complexion. Small, light-colored mustache.
RECORD. Reilly has been known under a great many names. He is now thirty-three years old, and was only seventeen when he made the acquaintance of the police. That was in 1870, when he was arrested in Morrisania, N.Y., for a burglary at White Plains. While in the jail at White Plains awaiting trial, he noticed that the inner door of the prison was open at dinner-time and the outer door was shut, while at other times the outer door was open and the inner door closed. By the simple expedient of hiding himself between the two doors at dinner-time he found himself a free man.
The following year he was recaptured, and sentenced to Sing Sing prison for five years. Two constables started to drive with him to the prison, and when about half-way Reilly suddenly slipped the handcuffs off, darted out of the coach, and disappeared. For two days the woods were searched in the vicinity by the constables and country folk, and then Reilly was found hidden in a swamp, half starved.
After serving two years at Sing Sing he was transferred to Clinton prison, from which he almost succeeded in escaping, having got out of his cell and was in the act of breaking open the door to the roof when discovered. He had torn his bedclothes into strips and braided them into a rope, with which to let himself down. In the latter part of 1874 his term expired, he having been granted commutation for good behavior, and he returned to New York, where he speedily became embroiled with the police. In that same year (1874) he was arrested for trying to rescue two burglars from the police, and was sent to Blackwell’s Island penitentiary for one year for disorderly conduct. He stayed there exactly two hours, walking calmly out past the keepers without being questioned by any one, and coming back to the city on the same boat which took him to the Island.
The next year (1875) he broke out of the Yorkville prison, New York City, where he was confined for stabbing a United States deputy marshal, by spreading the bars of his cell with a lever made out of a joist. He went to Philadelphia, where, in February, 1876, he and some of his companions were caught breaking into a warehouse. One of the burglars fired at a policeman, wounding him. The other policemen returned the fire, and Reilly received four bullets in his body. After spending five months in a hospital he spent two years in the Eastern Penitentiary, at Philadelphia.
On his release he returned to New York, and between 1878 and 1882 he served two terms for burglary in Sing Sing prison. It was after being released from Sing Sing the second time that he made a desperate attempt to break out of the Tombs prison, in New York, where he was awaiting trial for assault. His cell was on the eastern side of the second tier. He had a common pocket-knife, and a broken glazier’s knife, which served as a chisel. With these tools he dug through the wall, under a drain-pipe in his cell, and one night was discovered by a keeper in the prison yard. He was taken to a new cell, and when he was sentenced to Blackwell’s Island the warden breathed a sigh of relief.
After his release from the penitentiary he was arrested again in New York City, and sentenced to Sing Sing State prison on September 25, 1883, for five years, for robbing a man in Bleecker Street of $140. He escaped from the mess-room there on November 14, 1883, with Charles Wilson, alias “Little Paul” (29), by sawing the bars of a window opening into the yard, and after getting out of prison they walked to New York. Scarcely three weeks had elapsed when Reilly again got into trouble in New York City. He and some companions resisted an officer who tried to arrest them for disorderly conduct. In the row Reilly got clubbed, and was sent as a prisoner to the Presbyterian Hospital, where an officer was sent to watch him. The officer fell asleep, and Reilly, whose wounds had been bandaged, got up, stole the orderly’s clothes from under his pillow, and made his way to a second-story window, from which he dropped to the ground. He could find no shoes in the hospital, and had to walk three miles in his bare feet before reaching the house of a friend.


He was arrested again in New York City for beating a woman named Clara Devine, on New-year’s day (1884), and committed for ten days, for disorderly conduct, by Justice White, in Jefferson Market Police Court. Shortly after his committal he was identified by a detective sergeant, and taken back to Sing Sing prison on January 5, 1884, to serve out his runaway time. His sentence will expire, if he does not receive any commutation, on September 24, 1888. Should he receive his commutation, it will expire on April 24, 1887. Reilly’s picture is a very good one. It was taken in November, 1878.

Downing was a mediocre, impulsive burglar and bully, barely capable of living in society. However, those same opportunistic traits made him one of the most adept jailbreakers of his generation.

Byrnes, in this case, was relying on a January 6, 1884 New York Times article as his source material. This article offers much more complete detail:


During two separate intakes into Sing Sing, Frank admitted to having a sister: Mrs. Mary E. Cavanaugh of Milford, Massachusetts. Mrs. Cavanaugh was a widow, he most recent husband–who died shortly after their marriage in 1879–was William Cavanaugh. Mary’s maiden name was Downing. Frank’s January, 1869 (not 1870, as Byrnes states) conviction was under his real name, Frank Downing, as indicated in the Sing Sing records.

Byrnes ends Frank’s story in January, 1884–with Frank once again ensconced in Sing Sing. But, given Frank’s proclivities, that was not the final word:


After this, Frank Downing made his final escape: from history. Nothing more is known about his fate after March, 1884.


William James Burke (#162)

William James Burke (1858-1919), aka Billy Burke, Billy the Kid, Charles H. Page, John Petrie, William Brady, etc. — Sneak thief

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Twenty-eight years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Printer. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 140 pounds. Dark brown hair, dark gray eyes, straight nose, round face, florid complexion. Small ears. Upper lip turns up a little. Cross in India ink on his left hand, near thumb. Dot of ink on right hand, between thumb and forefinger.

RECORD. “Billy the Kid” is one of the most adroit bank sneaks in America. He is now about twenty-eight years old, of pleasing address, and claims Chicago, Ill., as his home. He is known in all the principal cities in America and in Canada. This young man is credited with being the nerviest bank sneak in the profession. He is an associate of Rufe Minor (1), Minnie Marks (187), Big Ed Rice (12), Georgie Carson (3), Johnny Jourdan (83), and several other clever men. He has been arrested one hundred times, at least, in as many different cities, and although young, has served terms in three prisons.

At 12:30 p.m. on August 1, 1881, a carriage containing two men drove rapidly up to the Manufacturers’ Bank at Cohoes, N.Y. At the same moment a man walked briskly into the bank, and toward the directors’ room, in the rear. One of the men in the carriage jumped out, and entering the building, asked the cashier, N. J. Seymour, to change a $20 bill. While the change was being made the man at the rear of the bank forced the door of the directors’ room and obtained entrance to the space behind the desk. He rushed up to the safe, the door of which stood open, and snatched a large pile of bills, done up in packages of $100 and $500 each, and amounting in all to over $10,000.

James I. Clute, the discount clerk, who sat at the desk at the time, not more than ten feet from the safe, sprang from his seat, grasped a revolver, and followed the thief. The burglar was so quickly pursued that he dropped the packages of money in the directors’ room. Clute kept after him, and tried to bar the way at the door, when the thief pushed him aside and ran quickly down two or three streets, crossed the canal, and fled toward the woods. The thief who remained in the carriage drove furiously down the street, and the man who asked for the change meanwhile had left the bank. He met the carriage a short distance from the scene, jumped in, and was driven out of the city. The thief who fled toward the woods succeeded in eluding his pursuers, and shortly after entered the house of a Mrs. Algiers and took off his clothes and crawled under the bed. A man who was at work in a mill opposite the house saw the man’s proceedings, and notified the police. The house was surrounded, and the intruder captured. A search of his clothing revealed a false mustache, a watch, $45 cash, two pocket-books, some strong cord, and other things. He was afterwards identified as Billy Burke.

After remaining in jail some little time he was released on $10,000 bail. On September 9, 1881, an attempt was made to rob the vault of the Baltimore Savings Bank, in Baltimore, Md. Four men (no doubt Burke, Jourdan, Marks, and Big Rice) entered the treasurer’s room, where were several customers of the bank, and one of them engaged the attention of the treasurer by asking him about investments, holding in his hands several United States bonds. Another then walked back toward the vault, in a rear apartment, but his movements were observed by one of the clerks, who followed and arrested him in front of the vault. The other three retreated hastily and escaped. The party arrested gave the name of Thomas Smith, but was recognized by the police as Billy Burke, alias “Billy the Kid.” In this case, as at Cohoes, N.Y., he was bailed, went West, and was arrested in Cleveland on December 12, 1881, and delivered to the police authorities of Albany, N.Y., taken there, and placed in the Albany County jail, from where he escaped on January 7, 1882.

A reward of $1,000 was offered at the time for his arrest. He was finally re-arrested at Minneapolis, Minn., on March 13, 1882, in an attempt to rob a bank there, but afterwards turned over to the Sheriff of Albany County, N.Y., taken there, tried, convicted, and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in the Albany Penitentiary by Judge Van Alstyne (for the Cohoes bank robbery), on March 31, 1882. He was tried again the same day for breaking jail, convicted, and sentenced to one year more, making six years in all. Burke was sentenced in this case under the name of John Petrie. His sentence expired on June 2, 1886.

Warrants were lodged against him at the penitentiary some time previous from Lockport, N.Y., Detroit, and Baltimore. He was re-arrested, as soon as discharged, on the Lockport warrant, which, it is said, was obtained by his brother-in-law, for an alleged assault. The scheme was to prevent him from being taken to either Detroit or Baltimore, where there are clear cases against him. His picture is an excellent one, taken in March, 1880.

Nearly every background article on Billy Burke begins with his role in the robbery of the Manufacturers’ Bank in Cohoes, New York; but it is apparent that he was already well known as a thief and street tough by that time. He was involved in an equally famous bank robbery in July 1879, in Galesburg, Illinois, along with Jimmy Carroll, Paddy Guerin, and John Larney (aka Molly Matches).


Burke was born and raised in Massachusetts–near Peabody–by James M. and Alice Burke, both of whom came from County Tipperary, Ireland. He left home as a teen. One account suggests he was a bell-hop in Buffalo; and most sources indicate he spent the last years of the 1870s and 1880 in Chicago. Articles from Chicago papers during those years note a Billy Burke involved in knife and gun fights in company with Paddy Guerin, one of his partners in the Galesburg robbery.

Immediately after the Cohoes robbery, Burke started to be mentioned under the nickname “Billy the Kid.” This was no doubt a nod to his passing similarity to the western outlaw of the same name, Henry McCarty (aka William Bonney), who was the same age as Burke–and who was killed a month earlier than the Cohoes robbery. However, McCarty/Bonney was mainly a hired gun, whereas Billy Burke was a sneak thief.

Following his release from prison in Albany in 1886, Burke teamed up with: Sophie Van Elkens, aka Sophie Levy/Sophie Lyons, a well-known consort of sneak thieves and a lifelong shoplifter and pickpocket; George Moore aka Miller/W. H. Burton; and (according to one report) Louisa Farley aka Jourdan/Bigelow. Burke, Moore, and Sophie were arrested in St. Louis in early 1887, but were released for lack of evidence and told to leave town. When they indicated they might move on to Louisville, Kentucky, the Louisville Courier Journal decided to run an article on them complete with engravings of their mugs. It was said that Burke and Moore specialized in shoplifting silk bolts. A St. Louis paper ran an image of the type of coat they wore with large inner pockets:


Burke and Sophie decided to leave the Ohio Valley and go abroad. Later in 1887, Burke was caught with two other men robbing a Geneva bank messenger. He was placed in a Swiss jail for two years. Upon his release, he went to London, where he was caught attempting to remove a bag of cash from a bank. For this, he was jailed another year and a half.

Burke and Sophie returned to the United States, where he was seen with his old friend Paddy Guerin. Burke, Guerin, and Sophie then decided to trail a traveling circus: a common trick of sneak thieves was to make a grab of cash or store goods while town people and businessmen were distracted by an arriving circus parade. Burke was captured in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. He was sent to prison to serve a three-year sentence, while Sophie was released. Released early in 1894, Burke returned to New York and was soon caught trying to steal $450 from the offices of the New York Commercial Gazette. This misadventure cost Billy another two and a half years behind bars.

Meanwhile, the love of Billy’s life, Sophie, had over the years established herself in Detroit and made a small (legitimate) fortune in real estate. Billy attempted to join her there in 1899, but was told to leave that city by the local police. He went abroad again, and was caught attempting a robbery in Budapest. This time, he earned a tour of an Austrian prison for two years. In 1904, he returned again to Sophie in Detroit, but the local police picked him up on suspicion almost immediately. By this time, Sophie had enough pull in Detroit to get Burke released, and he stayed with her in Detroit for the next couple of years

In 1907, he was again caught, this time in Philadelphia, trying to rob a bank messenger. He was installed inside the eastern State penitentiary for three years. With early release, Billy was back on the street in early 1909. He again traveled to Europe, this time to Sweden. He failed in an attempt to rob a bank in Stockholm, and was sent away for three years. Meanwhile, back in Detroit, Sophie–who had not been arrested since 1892–started writing columns and working on a book about her criminal reminiscences, as well as providing charity to Detroit hospitals, shelters for women, and aid to the families of convicts. However, the one person she could not help or reform was her own (now) husband, Billy Burke.

Burke returned from Sweden in ill-health, spent his last years in Detroit with Sophie, and died in 1919 at age sixty.