#141 Richard Morris

Richard Morris (Abt. 1844-19??), aka Big Dick, Charles Johnson, Richard Johnson, James Johnson, Charles Williams, James Williams, George W. Davis, John Sullivan, etc. – Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-two years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Carpenter. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 10 1/2 inches. Weight, 155 pounds. Brown hair, blue eyes, fair complexion. Generally wears a light-colored beard and mustache, inclined to be sandy.

RECORD. “Big Dick” is a well known New York pickpocket. He works with Charles Douglas, alias Curly Charley; Poodle Murphy (134), Shang Campbell (107), James Wilson, alias Pretty Jimmie (143), and all the other good New York men. He has traveled all over the United States, and is well known in all the principal cities. Morris formerly kept a drinking saloon in New York that was a resort for nearly all the pick- pockets in America, but business fell off and he went back to his old business again.

He was arrested in New York City, and sentenced to five years in Sing Sing prison, January 7, 1872, for larceny from the person, under the name of Richard Morris.

He was arrested again in Albany, N.Y., by New York officers, and brought to New York City, where he pleaded guilty to grand larceny, and was sentenced to one year in the penitentiary on August 10, 1885, for stealing a coat from Rogers, Peet & Co., some months previously. He gave bail in this case, which he forfeited, and was subsequently re-arrested as above. Morris’s picture is a good one, taken in October, 1877.

While Richard Morris’s origins, character, and fate remain obscure–and his career as a Bowery gang pickpocket was not particularly interesting–one episode in which he became the talk of New York’s entire underworld community occurred on August 11, 1879. On that day, through no fault of his own, Morris helped to make a public mockery of the entire King’s County (Brooklyn) Sheriff’s department.

Almost exactly one year earlier, in August 1878, a group of four notorious burglars had been caught while robbing the safe of a flour store in Brooklyn. They were: Billy Porter, Johnny Irving, Shang Draper, and John Wilbur (real name Gib Yost), each with long records, and all highly-skilled thieves. Billy Porter (real name William O’Brien) was one of Marm Mandelbaum’s favorite pet burglars–she called him “my most promising chick.” After being arraigned in police court, the four burglars were lodged in the Raymond Street jail to await trial. When transported between the court building and the jail, utmost security was used; the prisoners were handcuffed together; and a whole detail of sheriff deputies surrounded them.

The four burglars were afforded the best legal defense (likely funded by Marm Mandelbaum), and their trials were dragged out for over eight months. Billy Porter’s first trial resulted in a hung jury, and so he was tried again in May 1879. This time he was convicted, and returned to the Raymond Street jail to await his sentencing. Porter’s fate galvanized his supporters, and put fear into his partner Johnny Irving. Porter and Irving decided to try an escape, and found it surprisingly easy to do, for the guards had let down their vigilance. Porter and Irving had been given the freedom of the jail corridors, and noted the lax security around the building exits. They were able to walk through a kitchen door, across the open grounds of the nearby jail hospital, and then climbed over the short fence to the side street.

The effortless escape of Porter and Irving was denounced by Brooklyn and New York newspapers as a sign of mismanagement in the King’s County sheriff’s office, which spurred both the Brooklyn police and the sheriff to try to recapture the fugitives as quickly as possible. They had no leads until late July, when a New Jersey detective named Fred Whitehead noticed Marm Mandelbaum making several visits to an upscale hotel in Passaic; followed by visits made by “Mickey” Welch, a crook who was suspected in aiding Porter and Irving’s escape from jail. Through an informer, Whitehead learned that they were making arrangements for Porter and Irving to make the hotel their new headquarters. Staking out the hotel around the clock, he finally saw Porter arrive on July 14, 1879. Whitehead waited patiently, and was rewarded a week later when Irving also checked in.

He alerted the authorities in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Sheriff Riley arrived in Passaic with five of his deputies. Together with ten Passaic detectives and constables and Fred Whitehead, they had seventeen men surrounding the hotel. Sheriff Riley insisted that they hold off a day or two before arresting the pair, in hopes that other fugitive criminals might be joining them, and to verify their identities. Fred Whitehead seethed, thinking that they had Porter and Irving in a perfect trap. Meanwhile, the two thieves started keeping different schedules, and were rarely in the hotel together.

Finally, Riley declared they would raid the men’s rooms at four the next morning, when they were most like to be asleep. Porter and Irving were seen going to their rooms around midnight. The hotel proprietor, who may or may not have been bribed by Marm Mandelbaum, noticed several men lurking outside the hotel. The next thing the officers knew, Porter and Irving burst out of a side doorway and ran towards a back street. One man spotted then and chased them into a small alley, but Porter or Irving shot a pistol at him, just missing his head. They then ran into a back yard and jumped over a fence, and were not seen again. They had eluded all seventeen men.

This incident, too, made all the newspapers, further adding to the bumbling reputation of Sheriff Riley and his men. One of Riley’s deputies, Thomas Morris, felt sure that they might get another shot at capturing Porter and Irving if they kept an eye on Marm Mandelbaum, who no longer was making visits to Passaic, but instead kept close to her store at the corner of Clinton and Rivington streets in lower Manhattan. Accordingly, she was placed under constant surveillance. Through this watch they learned that Mandelbaum’s son was planning a huge picnic gathering at the Jones Wood Colosseum, a park and resort on the upper East side of Manhattan, known for hosting many large festivals.

Deputy Morris learned that Marm Mandelbaum was to be the central honoree of this celebration, and that all of her thieving proteges and their families were invited. He was convinced that Porter and Irving would not miss such an occasion, and was able to get a ticket to the picnic from an informer. After mingling with the merrymakers, Deputy Morris spotted four men at the makeshift bar tent; he identified them as Porter, Irving, and the two men who had helped them escape from jail: Johnny The Mick and Mickey Welch.

Morris ran to the nearest police precinct station and demanded to see the captain. He convinced the captain to call out every man available, and reserves, and to make a beeline to Jones Wood. There, the police surrounded the four men and took them to the precinct house, where the suspects gave suspected aliases and totally denied being any of the men being sought.

Eventually, several New York police detectives arrived and informed Deputy Morris that they had arrested the wrong men. The detectives recognized only one of the four that had been taken: his name was Richard Morris, a Bowery pickpocket. “Big Dick” was asked to explain why he was attending the Mandelbaum’s picnic. His answer was simple–he owned a bar just down the street from Marm Mandelbaum, and knew her as a local business owner.

Big Dick was let loose with apologies, while Deputy Sheriff Thomas Morris brought yet more shame to the reputation of Brooklyn’s law officers. Big Dick returned to his saloon to be hailed as the hero of the day.

Big Dick was active as late as 1903, when he was caught picking pockets at a fireman’s muster in Salem, Massachusetts.









#156 Thomas Matthews

Thomas Matthews (Abt. 1837-????), aka Tommy Matthews, James Turner, Thomas Morgan, Joseph Morton, Thomas Williams — Burglar, Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION, Forty-seven years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. Cooper by trade. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 5 inches. Weight, 133 pounds. Hair gray, eyes gray, nose a little flat, ruddy complexion. Generally wears a full, dark beard and mustache, turning very gray.

RECORD. Tommy Matthews is an old and expert thief. He has been on the road for at least twenty years, and has served terms in a dozen prisons throughout the United States. He is known in all the large cities from Maine to Colorado, and although getting old, is quite clever yet. He generally associates with the best local talent, and is a very careful worker of late, preferring to lose a “trick” than to take any chances of going to State prison.

Matthews was arrested in New York City, on January 11, 1879, in company of Tim Oats (136), charged with robbing a man named Michael Jobin of $200, on a Third Avenue horse-car. Both were committed in $5,000 bail for trial. They pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to two years each in the penitentiary on February 6, 1879, by Judge Gildersleeve, in the Court of General Sessions. In this case he gave the name of James Moran.

Matthews was arrested again in New York City, under the name of Morgan, for picking pockets. He pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to two years and six months in State prison at Sing Sing, on October 29, 1885, by Recorder Smyth. (See records of Nos. 136, 161.) Matthews’ picture is a pretty good one, taken in January, 1879.

Inspector Byrnes characterized Tommy Mathews primarily as a pickpocket, but he had a more versatile criminal career, dating back to the 1850s. He was sent to Sing Sing three times and to Blackwell’s Island at least four times. Byrnes and the Sing Sing registrars believed his real name to be Thomas Matthews/Mathews, but on one occasion his listed his parents as William and Mary Morton.

His first known offense was in December 1857, under the name Thomas Williams, when he was convicted of stealing watches from a New York City jeweler. His 1862 he was arrested twice in “Dad” Cunningham’s gambling room on Broadway; he was assisting the faro games as a cuekeeper. He was convicted of an offense in 1862 under the name he gave on these occasions–James Turner–but it is unclear what the charge against him was.

In August 1867 he was sentenced to Blackwell’s Island for six months for an attempted burglary. In 1868 he was sent back for another two and a half years for burglary.

In 1875, he was arrested once again under the name James Turner along with two others, all captured while in the middle of burglarizing a warehouse of cashmeres, satin, and velvet. They were released on bail and did not reappear for their trial, but were rearrested several months later. This time, he was sent to Sing Sing for four years. He was described as an old member of Wes Allen‘s gang.

As Byrnes mentions, Tommy was caught in 1879 working as a pickpocket with Tim Oates. Upon arrest, Tommy used the alias James Moran while Oates used Timothy Clark. They both got two years at Blackwell’s.

In 1881, under the alias Joseph Morton, he was sentenced to five years in Sing Sing for another burglary.

He had only been out a small while before being caught picking pockets at Coney Island with Roaring Bill Wright. He was sent back to Sing Sing in October 1885 under the name Thomas Morgan.

In 1890 he was picked up in Brooklyn for carrying burglar’s tools and sent to King’s County Penitentiary for four and a half years.

Finally, in 1896, Tommy suffered the same fate as many Bowery pickpockets: he was arrested in New Jersey for being a member of a “green goods” operation based in Brooklyn.


#133 Patrick Martin

Patrick McCabe (Abt. 1858-????), aka Frank Hilton, Joseph Martin, Joseph Marsh, Michael McCabe — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Twenty-nine years old in 1886. Born in Ireland. Single. Laborer. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Weight, 148 pounds. Light hair, blue eyes, sandy complexion.

RECORD. Paddy Martin, or English Paddy, is an English thief. He has been traveling through the country with a gang of Bowery (New York) pickpockets, and is considered a pretty clever man.

He was arrested in New York City on June 19, 1885, in company of another pickpocket, named Frank Mitchell, for an attempt to pick a man’s pocket on Bowling Green, near the Battery, New York. Both of them were sentenced to one month in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, by Justice Duffy, on June 20, 1885.

Paddy was arrested again in Jersey City, N.J., on December 12, 1885, in the act of robbing a Mrs. Margaret Peters, of Montgomery Street, Jersey City, on a Pennsylvania ferry-boat. He tried to make her believe that he mistook her for his wife, and offered her ten dollars to release him. She rejected his overtures, and held on to him until a policeman arrived. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to three years and six months in Trenton State prison on December 14, 1885, under the name of Frank Hilton. His picture is an excellent one, taken in June, 1885.

Byrnes lists two arrests for this criminal, but the names he offers are at variance with the names or aliases reported by newspapers in each of these cases. The June 1885 arrest in the company of Frank Mitchell was under the alias of Joseph Martin or Joseph Marsh, depending on whether you were reading the New York Herald or the New York Times.

After being caught in December 1885, the suspect offered the name Frank Hilton. Four newspapers indicated that the man was Patrick McCabe, a well-known pickpocket. One newspaper later changed that to Michael McCabe.

In neither arrest did the courts of newspapers use the name that Byrnes offered: Patrick Martin; or the nickname “English Paddy.”

Byrnes indicates the man was born in Ireland but was English. Several newspapers suggested that Patrick McCabe had come from Chicago, but had been in New York City and associating with Bowery pickpockets for a time.

Though not well-known in New York or elsewhere under any of these aliases, there is little doubt that McCabe was experienced. He knew what to do when arrested: 1) contact his girlfriend, and through her, 2) contact his partners; 3) gather legal defense funds from the New York City underworld; and 4) approach the victim with a bribe to drop charges. McCabe was arrested in Jersey City, New Jersey; from the jail there, he had to get word to his girlfriend by sending a letter out with a prisoner that was being released. However, that prison took the letter directly to the jail-keeper, so McCabe’s strategy was revealed. He told his girlfriend, Mamie reed, to contact his partners: Joe Welling, Jerry Williams, and Joe Morton. All of these appeared to be obscure nicknames, lending credence to the idea that they had come from outside New York. He also instructed her to contact “all the mob on the Bowery” to have them each contribute $5 to his defense. Finally, he told her to approach the woman whose purse he had attempted to steal, and to tell her a sob-story about having children to feed with no income. If necessary, she was to bribe the woman with a seal fur stole, a gold watch, and $10.

The intercept of the letter spoiled McCabe’s plan, even though the pickpocket victim did indeed write a letter to the judge pleading mercy for McCabe.He was sent to State prison for three years.

In 1889, a pickpocket named Michael McCabe, 35, said to be from Chicago, was arrested in Philadelphia. Possibly, this was the same man.

#148 Thomas Burns

Thomas Burns (Abt. 1836-1895), aka Combo, Thomas Hamilton — Pickpocket, Stall

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION Forty-nine years of age in 1886. Born in United States. Married. No trade. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 10 1/2 inches. Weight, 165 pounds. Black hair, brown eyes, dark complexion. Has scar on forehead; mole on right cheek. Generally wears a black beard, turning gray.

RECORD. “Combo” is a well known New York pickpocket. He works with “Jersey Jimmie” (145), “Nigger” Baker (195), “Curly Charley,” Dick Morris (141), “Aleck the Milkman” (160), and the best people in the cities he visits. He was considered second to none in the business; but of late years he has fallen back, and does only “stalling,” on account of his love for liquor. He is pretty well known in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Chicago, and, in fact, in almost all the large cities in the States.

He was arrested in New York City, for the larceny of a watch from one Lawson Valentine, on a Sixth Avenue horse-car, on February 8, 1875. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to four years in State prison, on March 9, 1875, under the name of Thomas Hamilton, by Judge Sutherland.

Combo was again arrested, at the Grand Central Railroad depot in New York City, on November 24, 1885, in an attempt to ply his vocation. He was sentenced to one year in the penitentiary on December 1, 1885, in the Court of Special Sessions, New York. Burns’s picture is an excellent one, taken in November, 1885.

Sometimes members of the underground fraternity of thieves would meet unexpectedly, as happened in the fall of 1872, in the Hudson County, New Jersey jailhouse in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Two veteran, hardened bank robbers, Ed. Johnson and Frank Dean, aka Dago Frank, were detained there so that they could testify on a sensational case of police corruption that implicated the city’s chief of police and senior detective. Johnson and Dean had been caught nearly a year earlier while attempting to break into the First National Bank of Jersey City. They had been working with two other seasoned pros, Dave Cummings and Moses Vogel.

Ed. Johnson was arrested under the alias Charles J. Proctor; Dean was jailed as Frank Denning. They were placed in separate cells in the first tier of the jailhouse, with an empty cell between them. Dave Cummings had escaped capture because he had been busy playing billiards while his partners did the hard work, but Cummings had vowed to spare no expense in getting Johnson and Dean out of jail.

One day, a new prisoner was escorted into the empty cell between Johnson and Dean. He was Thomas “Combo” Burns, age 36, a noted Bowery pickpocket. Burns may have recognized the two bank robbers, or, at the least, had heard of them. Burns frequented the same Lower Manhattan saloons as bank robbers and sneak thieves; he was even rumored to have played a role in one famous Philadelphia bank robbery of February 1871, the Kensington Savings Bank.

Burns could hear all the conversation that passed between Johnson and Dean, and in a way became their confidant.

Burns was visited in jail each week by his mother, who took the ferry over from New York. She brought him his favorite delicacies to make up for the drab jail meals. Johnson and Dean eyed Burns’s treats with envy, and asked Burns if they could arrange for his mother to bring them their favorite treats that their relatives in New York would bring to her. So soon all three men got an inspected parcel of goodies whenever Burn’s mother visited. Invariably, Johnson and Dean always received at least one can of peaches, their favorite.

On September 25th, Johnson and Dean had a visitor come. Combo Burns heard them whispering that something big was to happen on the next Saturday evening. That same day, Burn’s mother visited and once again brought food with her, including several cans of peaches. She gave cans to Johnson and Dean, but also gave one to Burns. Burns noticed that Johnson shook his can after receiving it. He shook his can, and heard a metallic click as he did so. He cut out one end of the can, but found only peaches. He then took off the other end and discovered a small flask filled with black powder.

It was then that Burns realized that Johnson and Dean had been collecting a store of gunpowder to use to bring down the rear wall of their cell and make a dash for freedom. Burns himself had no great motive to involve himself in a jailbreak; he was in on a charge of picking pockets, and might get acquitted–or, at worst, a light sentence. However, he likely did not even consider his own fate; what stirred his indignation was that Johnson and Dean used his mother as an unwilling accomplice. She was the go-between that had no idea what was in the cans of peaches.

Combo burns poured the gunpowder into his toilet pipe and started yelling at Johnson and Dean. They told him to pipe down, and then tried to bribe him to remain silent. Burns was having none of it. He called the guards and had them inspect the cells of Johnson and Dean, where matches, a fuse, and a rubber bag with five pounds of gunpowder were discovered. Their escape plan (doubtless coordinated by Dave Cummings) was foiled.

Do not come between an Irishman and his mother.

#138 George Milliard

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

From Byrnes’s 1886 edition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




#144 George Harrison

Henry Hart (Abt. 1834-1894), aka George Harris, George Thompson, William Thompson, George Wilson, William Harris — Thief, Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-five years old in 1886. Born in Scotland. Single. Machinist. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, about 160 pounds. Black curly hair, gray eyes, light complexion. Generally wears a brown mustache. Had weak eyes. Has scar under right eye.

RECORD. “Boston,” the name he is best known by, is a well-known New York pickpocket. He has been arrested in almost every large city in the Union. He is said to have served terms in prison in Philadelphia and Boston. When he first appeared in New York City he came from Boston, Mass., and the fraternity christened him after that city. He is not able to do much alone, but is considered an excellent “stall.” He works sometimes with Jersey Jimmie (145), Charley Allen, and other New York pick-pockets.

He was arrested in New York City, and sentenced to four years and six months in Sing Sing prison on November 8, 1882, under the name of George Wilson, for grand larceny from the person. His time expired, allowing him full commutation, on March 8, 1886. “Boston’s” picture is a good one, taken in 1876.

Little more is known about this man beyond his arrest record, but one curious fact is that none of his arrest or prison records mention the last name “Harrison”–only Harris. There are one or two newspaper mentions of this man as “Harrison,” but they came after Byrnes’s book came out in 1886 and appear to be citing it.

A Sing Sing register asserted his real name was Henry Hart and that his mother was Mary Hart; he referred to the same Brooklyn address to contact her in two different Sing Sing registers, so this appears to be correct, and aligns with a New York City death record for a Henry Hart that is one day removed from a death date given in Byrnes’s 1895 edition.

Hart was first arrested in October 1855, when he was about 21 years old. He was sent to Sing Sing under the name George Thompson for two years, but was pardoned in April 1857.

He returned to Sing Sing in January 1871 as William Thompson, again for grand larceny. This time his sentence was five years. He was recognized as a repeat offender in 1880, but–curiously–only received a sentence of one year. This stemmed from a case in which two of Hart’s pals stole a parcel of tools from a hardware store, and one of them came out of the store and handed the parcel to Hart. So Hart was, in effect, punished as a conspirator to larceny, not as an active participant.

Hart was captured in New York a third time in September 1882, under the name George Wilson, and was sentenced to four and a half years in Sing Sing.

Hart had other arrests in Syracuse and in Philadelphia, and was rounded up many times during New York city crackdowns on pickpockets.

He died in Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan on December 2, 1894.




#149 John Williams

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

From Byrnes’s text:

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

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

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

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

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


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

#134 Terrence Murphy

Henry Murphy (Abt. 1849-19??), aka Poodle Murphy, Henry Robinson, Henry Brady, Henry Williams, James Williams — Pickpocket, Green Goods operator

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-seven years old in 1886. Born in Albany, N.Y. Married. Slim build. Height, five feet 7 inches. Weight, 135 pounds. Hair, auburn, slightly mixed with gray ; blue eyes, light complexion. Can grow a full red beard quickly.

RECORD. “Poodle Murphy” is the most notorious and successful pickpocket in America. He is well known in every city in the United States as the leader of a Bowery (New York) gang of pickpockets. He is an associate of James Wilson, alias Pretty Jimmie (143), Dick Morris, alias Big Dick (141), Charley Allen, Aleck Evans, alias Aleck the Milkman (160), Johnny Williams (149), Joe Gorman (146), Jim Casey (91), Nigger Baker (195), Tom Burns (148), and others.

Murphy and Charley Woods were arrested in New York City on July 20, 1881, and delivered to the police authorities of Philadelphia, charged with robbing ex-Secretary of the Navy Robeson of a watch, on a railroad car in that city. After several days had been set for the trial, and as many adjournments obtained, the Secretary became tired and abandoned the case, and the thieves were once more given their liberty on September 30, 1881.

Murphy is without doubt the smartest pickpocket in America. He is the man who does the work, while his confederates annoy the victim and attract his attention. This is what is called “stalling.” He has been arrested in every large city in the Union, but never sent to a State prison before.

He was arrested in Philadelphia on January 16, 1885, in company of James Wilson, alias Pretty Jimmie (143), another notorious pickpocket, charged with robbing one Shadrach Raleigh, of Delaware, of $526 in money and $3,300 in notes, etc., on a Columbia Avenue car in that city, on December 24, 1884. For this he was sentenced to three years in the Eastern Penitentiary, on March 16, 1885. There were four other charges against him at the time, but they were not tried. Pretty Jimmie, his partner, was also sent to the penitentiary for two years and six months the same day. Poodle’s picture is an excellent one, although somewhat drawn. It was taken in January, 1885.

“Poodle” Murphy’s name (and aliases) started appearing in New York arrest reports rather suddenly, starting in 1876; and he very quickly became the acknowledged leader of the most adept gang of pickpockets in the country, known as the Bowery gang. Skills such as Poodle had are not gained overnight, so it is likely that he had come to New York from another city; and perhaps had just been released from prison.


The first name “Terrence” did not appear in print until 1882. From 1876-1882, Murphy used the aliases Henry Murphy, Thomas Murphy, Henry Brady, and Henry Robinson. He gained the nickname “Poodle” early in these years, due to the fact that he sported large mutton-chop sideburns. That facial hair saved him on one occasion; while awaiting a hearing, in his cell he took a dinner knife and cut off his facial hair, scarring his cheeks with the dull blade. The ploy worked; his victim was unable to identify him.

As his face became known in New York, Poodle ranged to other cities, such as Newark, Philadelphia, and Boston. While his partners jostled their target, Poodle was the one with the quick fingers that made the grab. Their favorites locales were street-cars; elevated rail stations; and outside the entrances to banks.

By the late 1880s, Poodle and his gang were so well-known in New York that they found it hard to operate as pickpockets, and turned to  the “Green Goods” confidence game. It must have been a bit of a downfall for Poodle, who had been viewed as the king of pickpockets, to realize that his skills had little value in the green goods scam. He was a minor figure in those operations, he was never viewed as a good “steerer.” Still, like others participating in that racket, he made good money.

Poodle tried to diversify by investing in an honest business–a cafe/saloon in a busy lower Manhattan office building, the Electrical Exchange. However, he chose another ex-con as his partner, who took advantage of Murphy’s reluctance to sign his name to a loan agreement. Poodle lost his entire savings, about $7000, on the venture. For once, he was the victim.

In the late 1890s, Poodle returned to picking pockets, and was arrested on suspicion several times, but usually soon released. His luck rand out in 1904 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania,  where he was caught stealing from two men. New York detectives came to Pennsylvania to testify about his previous record; he was quickly convicted and sentenced to six years at Eastern State Penitentiary. By 1907, a friend of his indicated that Poodle has lost all his teeth in prison.

In 1914, one “Henry Murphy” was arrested in Boston with another 76-year-old pickpocket (a resident of Boston’s home for ex-convicts). They were described as the oldest pickpockets ever taken in Boston.




#142 James Anderson

James Cassidy (18??–????), aka James Anderson, Big Jim Cassidy, Jimmie the Kid — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-three years old in 1886. Born in Ireland. Married. Tailor. Medium build. Height, 6 feet. Weight, about 180 pounds. Hair black, turning gray; gray eyes, light complexion. Generally wears a sandy mustache.

RECORD. “Jimmie the Kid” is a clever old New York thief. He has been traveling through the country for a number of years, and is well known in all the principal cities East and West. He is a great big rough fellow, and will get the money at any cost.

He was arrested several times in New York, but never with a clear case against him until April 10, 1876, when he was arrested for robbing George W. Mantel, on one of the horse-cars, for which he was convicted, and sentenced to ten years in Sing Sing prison, on June 16, 1876, by Recorder Hackett, in the Court of General Sessions, New York His time expired on December 16, 1882. His picture is an excellent one, taken in January, 1876.

One Saturday night in January 1888, pickpockets William Rodgers, alias Ryan, and James Cassidy, alias Jimmie the Kid, walked into Nooney’s saloon at the corner of First Street and Second Avenue in Lower Manhattan to quench their thirst. While at the bar, they encountered James “Jersey Jimmy” Johnson, another pickpocket of the same generation. All the men were over forty years in age; Jimmie the Kid Cassidy may have been well over fifty, since the ages given on his prison records varied from birth years of 1830 to 1843.

Rodgers had a beef with Jersey Jimmy. He accused Johnson of being a “squealer,” a police informant, who had ratted him out. The previous day, Friday, Rodgers had been arrested and had been given  the “third degree” over his knowledge of a recent robbery, but was ultimately discharged. Rodgers spotted Johnson at a table and heated words were exchanged, and then Jersey Jimmy’s hand, holding a knife, punched Rodgers’s chest. More shoving occurred, and the blade was seen to swipe Rodgers in the stomach and across his hands. Cassidy and other bystanders separated the two men, and Cassidy assisted Rodgers out the door. Jimmie Cassidy took Rodgers to a doctor, who did his best to bandage the wounds, and then took Rodgers back to the apartment he shared with his wife.

Inspector Byrnes heard about the fracas and sent detectives to Cassidy’s apartment, where they found Rodgers sleeping. They took both Rodgers and Cassidy to the Central Station, where a police doctor took a look at Rodgers and immediately sent him to Bellevue hospital. Rodgers was listed in critical condition, but flatly refused to press any charges against Johnson. Inspector Byrnes had Johnson and Cassidy dragged into court all the same, since Cassidy was willing to testify about the stabbing. The judge took Johnson and Cassidy over to Bellevue, where Rodgers once again denied that Johnson had been his assailant.

A year later, in 1889, Jimmie the Kid Cassidy was arrested for larceny, and sentenced to ten years in Sing Sing. He emerged in May 1898, with time reduced.

Four months later, in September 1898, Cassidy walked into a saloon and encountered Charles Robinson, alias Henry Carter, an ex-convict he knew from Sing Sing. By one account, Cassidy and Robinson had an ongoing dispute left over from prison; by another account, the two shared drinks, but then disagreed over who was paying. Robinson just turned his back and started to walk out of the saloon. Jimmie the Kid pulled out a revolver and shot him in the back.

On his way to the hospital, Robinson identified his attacker. Cassidy was arrested at his home. “Yes, I shot the man,” Cassidy told police, “but I didn’t think he would peach on me.”

Cassidy was convicted of manslaughter. Because of his age and the fact that his victim was an ex-convict, Judge Goff gave him a comparatively light sentence, twelve years. However, because Cassidy had been released on a reduced sentence earlier, he would also owe the reduced time on top of the twelve years, making a sentence that totaled over fifteen years. Since Cassidy was already between 68 and 55 years old in 1898, he was virtually assured of living out his last years behind bars.





#91 James Casey

James Casey (Abt. 1837-????), aka Big Jim Casey, James Mason — Pickpocket, Bunco and Green goods operator

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-eight years old in 1886. Born in United States. Single, No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 200 pounds. Black hair, dark eyes, dark complexion ; generally wears a full black beard, turning gray.

RECORD. Big Jim Casey is a well known Bowery (New York) pickpocket and “stall” for pickpockets. He was formerly an associate of Poodle Murphy (134), Pretty Jimmie (143), Big Dick Morris (141), and all the first-class men. Of late years he cannot be relied on, and the clever ones give him the go-by, as he is fond of drink. Lately he has turned his hand to banco business, and generally handles the bag of cloth samples. He is now working with Pete Lake (93) and Ed Parmelee, two notorious banco steerers.

Casey was arrested at Clifton, Canada, with a gang of American pick-pockets, during the Marquis of Lome’s celebration, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. He has served time in Sing Sing prison, and in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, and is well known in all the Eastern cities as Big Jim Casey.

He was arrested again in New York City on January 26, 1884, in company of Poodle Murphy (134), Tom Burns, alias Combo (148), Joe Gorman (146), and Nigger Baker (195), charged with sneaking a package of Elevated Railroad tickets, valued at $75, from a safe in the station at Houston Street and the Bowery, New York. For this offense he was sentenced to six months in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, on February 26, 1884. (See record of No. 134.) His picture is a fair one.

Big Jim Casey was another long-time Bowery pickpocket that transitioned to the main confidence games of his era: the Green Goods game and the Bunco game. He partnered at various times with all the luminaries mentioned by Byrnes in his entry on Casey. Casey was a bit older than most within this community, and many years of drinking took their toll, limiting his abilities by the 1890s.

It was a minor mystery to Inspector Byrnes how a declining pickpocket and lower-level con man like Casey could afford the best legal representation, on the several occasions where Casey was arrested. Byrnes stumbled upon the answer not long before he left as police Superintendent in 1895:


Big Jim Casey, as one of the founders of the trust, benefited most as his skills declined.

There are many ways to define an organized crime organization. The formation of a mutual aid agreement is surely one of them.