#95 Joseph Lewis

Joseph Elzas (1854–19??), aka Hungry Joe Lewis, Francis J. Alvany, Henry F. Post, W. C. Howard, Joseph Abzes/Elsas, etc. — Bunco steerer

Link to Byrnes’s text on # 95 Joseph Lewis

Hungry Joe Lewis was one of the most celebrated criminals in Inspector Byrnes’s collection. Among his accomplishments, he was credited with (nearly) swindling Oscar Wilde; and of coining the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He can be found in any history of swindlers and con men, and has an extensive entry in Wikipedia. He had the distinction of being the only member of Byrnes’s Rogues Gallery that was profiled in a dime novel (which is little more than a tissue of fabrications and imagined dialogues):

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Hungry Joe was known as a bunco operator as early as 1875, in Chicago. An 1888 article from the Chicago Tribune included some credible insights:

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The same article explains that Hungry Joe acquired his nickname from his prodigious appetite: “When he was in Chicago it was nothing unusual for him to go into Billy Boyle’s a half dozen times a day and each time eat a hearty meal. Paddy Ryan says he has seen Joe eat a double porterhouse steak, a whole chicken, and a full portion of ham and eggs in a single night, and when Mike McDonald ran a gambling house over ‘The Store,’ Joe is said to have eaten an entire luncheon that had been prepared for thirty men. These and even worse stories are related about his gluttonous appetite by the men about town.”

Hungry Joe and Grand Central Pete Lake were the nation’s acknowledged best bunco steerers, though Joe was known to be less patient with his victims. This led to his downfall, resulting in an 1885 arrest and imprisonment in New York, after he simply grabbed a wad of cash out of the hands of his English victim.

It was Joe’s 1888 arrest in Baltimore that turned him bitter. Though he pleaded guilty at the time, after he was sentenced to nine years in prison he complained that he had been railroaded–and blamed Inspector Byrnes:

“Byrnes has a grudge against me which dates back some years. It was on account of some money matters. I had made some $15,000 in Chicago–but never mind that. If I was disposed to tell all I knew the public would have less confidence in Inspector Byrnes. If he had received all he deserves, he, and not I, would today be serving time. He made his reputation by sending John Hope to prison for twenty years for robbing the Manhattan Bank, and I know that Hope is innocent of that crime. It has long been Tom Byrnes’ aim to do me, and this was his opportunity. It was he who prevented me from engaging in a legitimate business…I had been offered $25,000 to go into the bookmaking business, but Byrnes stepped in and broke me up. He pulled me down at every turn.”

In most published accounts of Hungry Joe’s life, it will note that he died on March 22, 1902, as reported in many newspapers. A few newspapers, like the New York Sun, reserved some skepticism:

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However, the Baltimore Sun correctly identified the rumor to be untrue:

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The Baltimore Sun also ran a second article, six years later, in 1908, saying that Joe was still very much alive, and had been living honestly for the past six years. In this second article, the paper gave his name as Joseph Abzes–in the 1902 article, they used the spelling Elsas. The Sun was very close: Hungry Joe was born in Baltimore in 1854 as Joseph Elzas, son of Lewis and Emma Elzas. The Elzas family moved to Chicago in the late 1860s or early 1870s, where Joe started his criminal career.

Joe’s resurrection was confirmed by his old friends in New York in 1908 when they spotted him on Broadway. Joe had a personality quirk that made him immediately recognizable: he refused to walk close to building lines on a sidewalk, instead always walking on the outside curb–and detoured his stride far away from the mouths of alleyways.

 

 

 

 

#24 George Mason

George B. Gordon (1841-????), aka George Mason, George B. Graham, George Gardiner, George Smith — Burglar, Bank robber

Link to Byrnes’s text for #24 George Mason

George Mason was one of the leading bank robbers from the 1860s through the 1880s, yet little is known of his personal life. Byrnes states that he was born in Boston, brought to New York at an early age, orphaned, and sent to Sing Sing before he was twenty. None of this can be confirmed. Byrnes’s mentions of bank robberies Mason conducted with Jimmy Hope are far off the mark–the Wilmington robbery occurred in 1873, not 1863; and the 1865 robbery of a Baltimore bank appears to be a reference to the huge 1869 robbery of a bank in New Windsor, Maryland. 1These represent just two errors in Byrnes’s sloppy account of Mason’s crimes.

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The traceable beginnings of Mason’s career are found in Philadelphia, following the Civil War. There he gained a reputation as a burglar, and one who was prepared to fight any arrest attempt. In February 1867, an officer spotted Mason and a pal on the street, and had instructions to bring him in.  Mason resisted, using a blackjack to knock down the officer. A second patrolman arrived on the scene and knock Mason down with his club. As a result, Mason was sent to Eastern State Penitentiary for three years on a charge of assault and battery.

If Mason was released early in 1869, it is possible he could have been a member of the gang that hit the bank in New Windsor, Maryland; the other members were rumored to include Ned Lyons, Jimmy Hope, and Max Shinburn. Later in 1869, Lyons, Hope, Mason and Big Haggerty attempted several bank robberies in New England: one was in September, at the Rochester (New Hampshire) Savings Bank; and the second was in October at the Townsend (Massachusetts) Bank. In both cases, explosions woke the town, but did not breach the inner vault door. The same thing happened a third time, in December 1869, when the vault of the Lumberman’s Bank in Oldtown, Maine, was dynamited. This time, the outer door of the vault lodged itself to block the inner door, once again stymieing the thieves.

Mason was found back committing burglaries in Philadelphia in 1870. In June of that year, he was arrested leaving the scene of a house burglary in which a safe was unsuccessfully blasted. He appears to have escaped punishment, because in late August he was arrested for the robbery of a silk store in Philadelphia. He was released on a straw bond and disappeared. In September 1870, Mason, Lyons, and Hope were arrested for an attempted bank robbery in Warsaw, New York, in which Mason was released. This was followed with a failed attempt in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in November 1870.

Mason’s whereabouts between late 1870 and early 1874 are not clear, though officers in Philadelphia did say they just missed arresting him there in October 1872. Byrnes’s account of Mason’s activities is useless, for Byrnes got the dates of several robberies mixed up, and some [Covington KY bank robbery; Planters Bank of Virginia robbery] can’t even be identified.

In February 1874, Mason was said to be in the gang that included Dave Cummings, Robert C. Scott and Mose Vogel that robbed the bank in Quincy, Ill. of $200,000. With Scott and Vogel, he was also said to have next attempted a robbery in Des Moines, Iowa, but had to flee on foot through bitter cold and snow.

In September, with Jimmy Hope, Ned Lyons and others, Mason took hostage the family of the cashier of the Wellsboro, Pennsylvania bank. The story of Mason’s gentle treatment of the frightened hostages is recounted in a column by newspaperman Louis Megargee, reprinted in the REVISED entry for James Hope. A month later, in October Mason was with a gang that used similar tactics to rob a bank in Milford, New Hampshire.

In 1875, Mason was rumored to have been involved with planning the first assault on the Manhattan Saving Institution–though he was not involved by the time the job finally came off in October of 1878.

In July 1876, Mason was arrested as G. B. Graham in a Pittsburgh hotel and held for authorities from Tioga County, Pennsylvania who charged him with participation in the 1874 Wellsboro robbery. Jimmy Hope tried to break Mason out of the Tioga County jail by blasting the outer jail wall, but the resulting explosion stunned Mason to the extent that he failed to get away. During his trial one of his hostages testified on his behalf, and he was acquitted and given a fond farewell by the townspeople.

In 1877, a thief using the alias of Phillips was caught attempting a bank robbery in New York City, and sent to Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary for two years. Some accounts suggest this was Mason–and this corresponds to other accounts that explain he was not in on the Manhattan Savings job of October 1878 because he was in prison.

In November 1879, Mason was taken on as a partner by Langdon Moore. They successfully robbed a pawnbroker’s store, but mistrusted each other over the division of the spoils. Mason and Moore were later arrested for an attempt to rob the Warren Institution of Savings. Mason was arrested first, and when Moore did not come to his financial aid (Moore said he was broke), Mason informed against Moore. They were both sent to the State prison in Charlestown. Mason served less than three years, being released in November 1882.

Mason was arrested for possession of burglars’ tools in Philadelphia in March 1883. He pleaded guilty and was given seven months in prison, gaining his freedom on October 30, 1883.

As Byrnes relates, Mason was next arrested in Hoboken, New Jersey in September 1885 for a house burglary. He was sentenced to five years in the State Prison at Trenton under the name George Smith.

Byrnes, in his 1895 edition, states that Mason died on March 1, 1895 in New York City, and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx; but no death record or burial record can be found under his known aliases, so this remains in question.

 

 

 

 

 

#85 William Beatty

William T. Soby (1849-????), aka William Burke, William Brady, William Baker, William Brown — Thief, Abuser

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-six years old in 1886. Born in United States. Medium build. Married. Barkeeper. Height, 5 feet 8 1/2 inches. Weight, 148 pounds. Black hair, gray eyes, dark complexion. Has letters ” W. S.” and coat of arms in India ink on left fore-arm. Generally wears a brown mustache.

RECORD. Beatty was arrested in New York City and sentenced to three years and six months in Sing Sing prison, on April 8, 1875, for burglary, under the name of William Brown. He was arrested in company of Andy Hess, another New York burglar, who gave the name of Alfred Brown, for a silk burglary in the Eighth Ward, New York City.

He was arrested again in New York City on May 18, 1878, for the larceny of $57 from a poor woman named Brady, who lived at No. 214 East Thirty-eighth Street, New York. He was committed for trial by Judge Wandell, but discharged by the District Attorney on a promise to return some stolen property to one Mr. St. John which he never did.

He is a mean thief, and is called by other thieves a “squealer.” He is well known in New York, Boston and Albany, and other Eastern cities. His picture is a good one, taken in February, 1878.

William Soby’s criminal career dates back to the late 1860s. A jimmy he used in a burglary at that time was added to the police museum collected by New York City District Attorney Oakey Hall. Byrnes correctly notes his 1875 arrest, which placed him into Sing Sing for the next three years. The 1875 Sing Sing register, which named him as William Brown, indicated that he claimed a wife, Emma H. Brown. Whether she existed, or was merely a girlfriend, is unknown.

Upon his release in 1878, Soby embarked on a notable year. In May, he entered a house on Thirty-Eighth Street in New York City on the pretense of visiting a friend; but being left alone in the parlor, he saw $57 left out on a table and snatched it, then ran out the door. He was later apprehended. The deal that Byrnes suggests was offered by the District Attorney for dropping charges against Soby depended on Soby’s willingness to testify against burglar Joseph Ottenburg in another case.

In early November 1878, a crime occurred that knocked the previous week’s headlines concerning the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery off front pages. Though the largest bank robbery in American history was still an unsolved mystery–one that would hound Byrnes’s reputation for many years–the events of the next week would tax his abilities even further. The body of A. T. Stewart, the founder of one of the largest department stores in America, had been stolen from its grave in a small churchyard in New York. Stewart had been dead over two years, and his body had been placed in an underground family crypt.

Grave desecration in the 19th century was a highly inflammatory outrage, particularly if–as seemed to be the case–it was done to take the remains hostage for a ransom. With virtually no physical clues left at the scene and no witnesses, Inspector Byrnes was left with only one tool: street informants–and that resource had already been leaned on heavily the past week to find the Manhattan Savings robbers. Some flimsy, misinterpreted gossip led Byrnes to arrest two men: Henry Vreeland and his friend, William Burke, aka Baker, Brady, Brown, i.e. William Soby.

While less devious suspects would have stammered to proclaim their innocence, Soby saw this as an opportunity: at the least, he could get out of whatever deals he had made during the summer with the District Attorney; but even better, he could make Inspector Byrnes look like a clueless fool.

The story of how Soby and Vreeland led Inspector Byrnes (and the citizens of Chatham, New Jersey) on a wild goose chase has been recently retold by author J. North Conway in Bag of Bones: The Sensational Grave Robbery of the Merchant Prince of Manhattan. After wasting Byrnes’s time for a crucial couple of weeks, the pair finally admitted they knew nothing about the crime. Ransom demands were sent to the police–but from many different sources, confusing them, and likely causing them to miss the opportunity to deal with the real grave robbers. The next year, a set of remains was eventually returned to Stewart’s widow, but whether they were A. T. Stewart’s bones is a matter of debate.

During the time that Soby was being held for his supposed involvement in the Stewart desecration, Soby’s alleged wife arranged to be interviewed by the New York Herald, in order to tell her story and to give a more sympathetic sketch of Soby himself. The resulting long article published by the Herald, titled “A Cracksman’s Bride: Sad History of the Wife of William Burke,” is an absolute classic example of the overworked, maudlin, human tragedy feature journalism that typified New York’s great newspapers. [Follow link to see the full clipping.] In this article, she was named “Ella,” and told an amazing story of her own history.

Soby himself must have been touched by her story. Upon his release by the police, he formally married her; her real name was Julia Maria Bernard. Julia worked hard to reform Soby from his criminal habits. He became a sewing machine salesman. He joined the William Mission in 1880, and became the superintendent of its Sunday school. He later joined the Peter Dwyer Mission and was instructed as a lecturer by Bob Hart and Patrick Goff (himself an ex-fire company official and ex-convict.)

However, Soby’s worst traits soon resurfaced. One evening in June, 1884, he stumbled home drunk after two a.m., falling over a chair and upsetting a table. Julia lit a lamp, and Soby took off his coat and fumbled at his collar. “Julie,” he said, “shere’s a knot ‘ner k-k-k’ar butt’n. Take it off, liker goo’ girl.” Mrs. Soby took off his collar and lifted the table upright. Soby leaned over to take off his shoes, lost his balance, and rolled on the floor.

“Julie,” he slurred, “shere’s knot ‘ner shoe string. Take off my shoes.” “I’ll take off no man’s shoes,” she replied indignantly. “Take them off yourself.”

“A’right,” Soby replied. “Don’t want to quarrel.” He took off his shoes, then used them to beat his wife. Hours later she went to the police and filed assault charges against him. He was held for trial.

Less than a month later, Soby and his new ex-convict friend, Patrick Goff, were arrested for stealing coats at a tavern. They were sent to Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary for one year. When he was released he did not return to Julia. They spotted each other on the street on day in 1888, after three years of not having seen each other. He found out where she was now living and tried to get in her room. The next day, she filed charges of abandonment against him and had him arrested. While he was locked up, a police detective investigated other outstanding charges against Soby, and Julia was never bothered by him again.

His fate from that point is unknown.

#28 John Tracy

John Tracy (1849-1906), aka Big Tracy, Long John, Jim Tracy, Charles McCarty, John Riley, Edwin Taylor — House thief, Bank robber, Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-seven years old in 1886. Born in United States. Plumber by trade. Single. Stout build. Height, 6 feet 1 1/2 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Dark brown hair, light complexion. Has a cross in India ink on right fore-arm. Generally wears a dark brown beard and mustache. Scar on back of hand.

RECORD. “Big” Tracy does considerable “second-story” or house work, and is well known in New York, Chicago, and all the large cities. He has served considerable time in Eastern prisons — one term of five years from Troy, N.Y., for highway robbery, in 1878. (See Addenda.)

He was arrested again in the spring of 1884, in company of Billy Ogle (13), for robbing a residence on Jersey City Heights, N.J., of diamonds and jewelry valued at $1,500. They were both tried and convicted on June 26, 1884; their counsel obtained a new trial for them, and they were discharged in July, 1884.

Tracy and Ogle went West, and in the fall of 1885 Ogle was arrested in Tennessee for “house work,” and sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years. He shortly after escaped from a gang while working on the railroad. Tracy escaped arrest, and is now at large in the West. His picture is a good one, taken in 1877. (See records of Nos. 13 and no.)

“Big Tracy” (as he was best known) had a variety of aliases, none of which can be proven as his real given name. His first known arrest was in Boston in 1872 for a petty larceny, under the name John Riley. In 1875 he was an accomplice of Eddie Garing (Eddie Goodie) in a robbery on a horse-car in New York City. The victim, a bookkeeper carrying thousands of dollars, had been targeted and followed onto the car. Big Tracy and Garing escaped arrest for this crime.

Sometime between 1875 and 1876, Big Tracy was one of those who made the first approach to Patrick Shevlin, the night watchman of the Manhattan Savings Institution, which would eventually be robbed in October 1878. Big Tracy had been a friend of Shevlin’s since they were teens; and another of the early conspirators, Tim Gorman (known as Little Tracy) had been a schoolmate.

In the summer of 1877, Big Tracy was recommended as a “good man” to bank robber Langdon Moore. Moore recruited Big Tracy to assist with an attempt on a safe at the Dedham, Massachusetts post office. The attempt was a failure, and Moore placed much of the blame on Big Tracy, whom he portrayed as cowardly. A chapter in Langdon Moore’s autobiography is devoted to this misadventure, titled “Lame Duck at Dedham.”

Big Tracy was not among the gang that eventually pulled off the Manhattan Savings Institution job, the most famous bank robbery of the 19th-century. Several months earlier, in July 1878, he had participated in a horse-car robbery in Troy, New York that was very similar to the 1875 episode with Eddie Goodie. In this case, the crime in Troy was committed by a gang of six or seven men led by William “Mush” Reilly. They targeted a messenger carrying a large amount of cash, got onto a street-car with him, and then one man garroted him from behind while another emptied his pockets.

This time, all the conspirators were captured. Big Tracy was originally sentenced to fifteen years in prison, but on appeal the sentence was reduced to five years, to be served in Clinton Prison in Dannemora. With time reduced, Big Tracy was discharged in October, 1882.

As Byrnes mentions, Big Tracy and Billy Ogle were arrested for house burglaries in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1884; but were released for lack of evidence. They both traveled together to Tennessee to commit more burglaries, were caught, and sentenced to a chain gang. They both escaped.

In 1888, Big Tracy was seen on the streets of Boston and taken in as a suspicious character, and later released. In 1889 he was arrested for picking pockets outside a dime museum in Philadelphia.

Between 1889 and 1894 there is a big gap in his record, which one newspaper attributed to an eight-year (reduced) sentenced in Sing Sing; but if he was convicted in New York, it must have been under an unrecognized alias.

In December 1884 he was caught following a house burglary in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which yielded jewelry worth only $25.00. For this crime he was sentenced to fifteen years in the Connecticut State Prison.

Upon his release in 1906, he was brought in for picking pockets in Brooklyn and sentenced to a year in the Blackwell’s Island penitentiary. He died there later that year at age 57.

#90 Peter Ellis

Peter Ellis (Abt. 1844-1919), aka Banjo Pete, Long Pete, Luthey, Pete Emerson/Emmerson, John J. Smith, Jack Welch — Bank robber

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-one years old in 1886. Born in New York City. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 11 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Light complexion, brown hair, stooped shoulders, thin face, high cheek bones, dark eyes. Generally wears a brown mustache.

RECORD. Banjo Pete, the name he is best known by (Peter Ellis being his right name), was formerly a minstrel, but drifted into crooked channels about eighteen years ago. He was considered a good man, and was generally sought for when a job of any magnitude was to be done. He was an intimate associate of all the great bank burglars in America.

He was arrested with Abe Coakley in Philadelphia, Pa., on April 28, 1880, charged with robbing the Manhattan Bank in New York City, on October 27, 1878. It was claimed that Emmerson was the man who carried out the tin boxes from the vault, and sorted the bonds, etc.; that Coakley was the man who wore the whiskers, and dusted off the shelves in the bank while Johnny Hope and his father were in the vault with Nugent; that Billy Kelly stood guard over the old janitor; and Johnny Dobbs, or Kerrigan, and Big John Tracy, who was a friend of Shevelin, the watchman of the bank, were supposed to be the men who planned the robbery; while Old Man Hope was the man who did the work. Johnny Hope (19) was convicted, and sentenced to twenty years in State prison for this robbery. Kerrigan, alias Johnny Dobbs, was arrested while negotiating one of the stolen bonds in Philadelphia, and was turned over to the Sheriff of Wethersfield, Conn., who took him back to Wethersfield prison, to serve out an unfinished term of seven years. John Nugent was tried and acquitted. Patrick Shevlin, the night-watchman, was used to convict the others, and was finally discharged. Jack Cannon was also arrested in Philadelphia trying to dispose of some of the stolen bonds, and was sentenced to fifteen years there. Old Man Hope (20) went to California, and was sentenced to seven years and six months for a burglary there.

Pete Emmerson was discharged from the Tombs, in the Manhattan Bank case, on October 4, 1880. He traveled through the country with John Nugent and Ned Farrell, a notorious butcher-cart thief, and was finally arrested in the Hoboken, N.J., Railroad depot, on Saturday, July 28, 1883, for an attempt to rob Thos. J. Smith, the cashier of the Orange, N.J., National Bank, of a package containing $10,000 in money. Nugent and Farrell were arrested also. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to ten years in Trenton State prison, on July 30, 1883. Emmerson stood trial, was convicted,, and sentenced to ten years also, on October 30, 1883.

Emmerson’s picture is not a very good one, although recognizable. It was taken in 1880.

If Superintendent Thomas Byrnes had written his book about famous professional crimes rather than criminals, the October 27, 1878 robbery of the Manhattan Savings Institution would likely have been his centerpiece. Not only did it involve several of the most skilled, veteran thieves of the age, but the planning of the crime involved mastermind George Leslie, who was murdered before the attempt was finally made; and the consequences of the robbery had lasting effects on the careers of all involved. It was never fully revealed; and so it was talked about and rehashed for a generation.

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Banjo Pete Ellis’s adult life centered around the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery, and he died an old man in the company of others involved in that crime. Byrnes was correct about Pete’s real name, but off the mark about his origins. He was born near Kennebunkport, Maine to Thomas and Sophia Ellis, who maintained a large family that dispersed during the Civil War years. Pete Ellis joined the 1st Maine Volunteers in 1864 as a sharpshooter, and saw nine months of action, rising from a private to a corporal.

After the war, Ellis gravitated toward Philadelphia and New York, and by all accounts he became a minstrel performer, eventually joining a famous minstrel act, Sam Devere’s company. There’s no evidence that Ellis ever rose to the level of being a billed name. Devere happened to have an apartment in New York next to the budding criminal genius, George L. Leslie, and the two often socialized together. It can be assumed that it was through Devere that Pete Ellis was introduced to George Leslie; and through Leslie, to Marm Mandelbaum and other veteran bank thieves, like Jimmy Hope and Abe Coakley.

Pete was said to have been in on the 1869 Ocean National Bank robbery in New York, organized by Leslie and Mark Shinburn, and executed by Jimmy Hope, Abe Coakley, Johnny Dobbs, Shang Draper, and Red Leary. Pete’s name was never associated with this crime until years later.

In Byrnes’ entry for thief Dave Cummings, Byrnes mentions that Banjo Pete and George Leslie joined Cummings for an 1873 robbery of a bank in Macon, Georgia; and that they were arrested in Washington, D.C. and forced to return the $50,000 taken. This event can not be found in any newspaper archives.

Pete and Abe Coakley were arrested by Byrnes in Philadelphia in April, 1880, for the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery of 1878. Byrnes had been under intense pressure to make more arrests in the case, and knowing that elements of the Philadelphia police were protecting Jimmy Hope, he took the drastic measure of making the arrest of Coakley and Ellis himself while in Philadelphia, accompanied by a local officer he trusted. Ellis was identified as the man who carried deposit boxes from the vault; though years later, Sophie Lyons wrote that Pete’s role had been to put on the fake whiskers and imitate the night watchman. When arrested, newspapers commented that Ellis had no known history. After being detained for five months in the Tombs (New York City’s Detention Center), Ellis was released.

According to Byrnes, Ellis committed a string of robberies between 1881 and 1883 with John Nugent (an ex-policeman also involved with the Manhattan Savings job) and Ned Farrelly. However, the only time he was caught was in July, 1883, when he, Nugent, and Farrelly attacked a bank cashier transporting a satchel of money while he was seating himself on a train in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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Pete Ellis received ten years in New Jersey’s State Prison for this crime, and the public never heard from him again. After his release in the late 1890s, Pete returned to New York City and in 1898 married Jimmy Hope’s daughter, Ellen “Nellie” Hope. In 1900, he listed his occupation as “dry goods.” In 1910, he was an agent for the water company, and lived in the same house with Jimmy Hope’s sons, Johnny and Harry–a situation that continued for many years, until Pete’s death in 1919 at about 75 years of age. By that time, Pete had been the de facto leader of the Hope family for a dozen years, model citizens all.

#101 John Cannon

John Cannon (abt. 1844-19??), aka Jack Cannon, Old Jack, Old Pistols, John H. Davis, John Bartlett, J. B. Collins, Bernard G. Stewart, etc. — Sneak thief, hotel thief, forger

Link to Chief Byrnes’ entry for #101 John Cannon

Byrnes’ entry on Jack Cannon is one of his most curious profiles, notably for its length. Cannon was a sufficiently interesting criminal to merit extra attention, but the text Byrnes chose to include was a patchwork: an account of Cannon’s resistance to getting his photograph taken; witness testimony from one of his recent trials; and physical descriptions of Cannon’s recent partners. In other words, much of what Byrnes relates does not particularly help to flesh out Cannon’s career; and stands in contrast to all the other short, pithy profiles in his book. One guess as to why this entry is so atypical is that the New Orleans police asked Byrnes to include all these details, as they expected more trouble in the future from Cannon’s gang. The simpler explanation is that Byrnes knew (from Cannon’s role in the Manhattan Savings Bank robbery aftermath) that he was a significant criminal figure–but one with a slim New York City record that he could reference.

 

Cannon’s record was long in duration (perhaps starting in the 1850s) and varied (jewelry store sneak thief, hotel thief, negotiator of stolen bonds, passer of forged checks, riverboat thief, safecracker, etc.). He was also active in many states in the nation. In several cases, it is known that he had once been imprisoned in certain jails, but the crime and alias under which he was convicted under remain unidentified. He worked with several of the most notable criminals of his age, and took a part in several famous crimes. Yet Cannon did not seem to possess unusual skills or  deep cunning. The quality that gained the admiration of his peers was his willingness to fight arrest–with a pistol or knife, if necessary.

Cannon’s real name has not been verified, but an 1886 New Orleans Times Picayune article claimed that his real last name was Hannon; that he was raised (if not born) in New Orleans and attended St. Joseph’s parochial school (started in late 1850s). Byrnes gives his birth year as about 1839, but Cannon himself indicated it was about 1845–which matches better with the founding of the school he was said to have attended.

Cannon was said to have committed minor crimes while still a young man in New Orleans, but first came to attention for activities on Mississippi riverboats. He robbed staterooms as a sneak thief; and also ran small con games on greenhorns–for example, taking $30 in cash in exchange for a counterfeit $100 bill. Cannon, late in his career, said that he spent the Civil War in the 54th Illinois regiment of Union volunteers; but this is a highly suspicious claim, since the Times Picayune article lists several crimes attributed to him from 1861-1865.

In 1866, with partner Johnny Reagan, Cannon was caught after robbing the store of a New Orleans broker, Mr. Marchand. He was captured in Memphis, but escaped before he could be convicted. In April, 1867, Cannon and an experienced jewel thief, John Watson, broke into the New Orleans store of J. Lilienthal and took $80,000 in jewelry and valuables, most of which was soon recovered. Cannon was captured and gave the name J. H. Davis. He later escaped from jail, along with four other men, but was caught again. He was released on bail in August, 1867 and disappeared.

In November 1867, it is alleged that Cannon took part in the robbery of a safe belonging to the Southern Express Company in Jackson, Tennessee, led by his partner, Johnny Reagan. From late 1867 to 1876 there is a long gap in Cannon’s traceable career, although references exist to long prison sentences in Joliet, Illinois; Massachusetts; and Missouri.

In 1877, Cannon was picked up by New York detectives who interrogated him over his role in a series of forged bonds and checks that had been wreaking havoc on Wall Street. Authorities at first suspected that one huge conspiracy of forgers was at work, but it later became apparent that there were two different groups: one led by Walter Sheridan and the other by Charles Sprague, an alias of the forger genius, James B. Crosse. The two gangs likely knew one another, and may have even shared use of the lowest men on the rungs, the ones who presented the phony documents to cashiers. Jack Cannon and Charles “Doc” Titus were among the latter.

When questioned, Cannon accused Sprague/Crosse of being the mastermind of all the forgeries (as did Titus), though in Cannon’s case he likely did more work for Sheridan’s gang. As detectives delved deeper into the forgery cases, they realized that Cannon’s admissions were worthless as evidence, and he was cut loose.

Cannon resurfaced two years later, in 1879, trying to negotiate sale of some of the $3,000,000 in bonds stolen from the Manhattan Savings Institution by Jimmy Hope and his gang. [Johnny Dobbs was also captured trying to sell some of these bonds.] It is unlikely that Cannon was directly involved in the heist, and came in to help dispose of the bonds.

 

In 1879, Cannon was arrested for a robbery in Newark, New Jersey, and sentenced to three years in the State Prison at Trenton.

In 1882, Cannon was arrested for robberies at the Lochiel hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was arrested by detectives in Philadelphia, but only after exchanging pistol fire with them. He was given a sentence of ten years in Eastern State Penitentiary, but with a very generous commutation, was released after little more than a year.

From there, Cannon raided a hotel in Jacksonville, Florida; and then moved on to his hometown of New Orleans. There, he was arrested in 1886 for taking part in the theft of $5000 in diamonds from Effie Hankins. He was also suspected of hotel thefts at the Gregg House and Hotel Royal in 1885. However, it turned out that the Hankins diamonds were recovered after the police received tips about other men that had been involved and left town; therefore Cannon was eventually released.

Cannon was next arrested following robberies in September 1888 at the Egg Harbor, New Jersey, Fair. After several weeks in a Philadelphia jail, he was released for lack of evidence. He was less lucky later in 1889, when he was picked up in Philadelphia and sent to Springfield, Massachusetts to face charges of a hotel robbery there. This time, he was found guilty and given five years in the Massachusetts State Prison.

Free once more in 1895, Cannon came to rest in Detroit, Michigan. He was arrested there for possession of burglar’s tools, and–because of his history–sentenced to ten years at the Michigan State Prison in Jackson. In 1897, Cannon (who was well into his fifties) escaped from the State Prison, only to be recaptured a few days later.

Once he was released from Jackson, Cannon went to Scranton, Pennsylvania and lived under the name Bernard G. Stewart. In 1906, was was arrested in New York City after entering the room of another hotel guest. He was found to have a knife in his pocket. With this arrest, Cannon finally felt obliged to explain himself to a newspaper reporter. He sensed that this might be his last gasp of freedom:

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Cannon was never heard from after this.

 

 

 

#64 Michael Kerrigan

John Kerrigan (Abt. 1843-1892), aka Michael Kerrigan, Johnny Dobbs, Henry Hall, John Rodgers, J. C. Rice — River thief, bank robber

Link to Byrnes’s entry on #64 Michael Kerrigan

Best known by his street name, “Johnny Dobbs”, many accounts differ as to the real first name of the man known as “the king of bank robbers”: John or Michael Kerrigan. Upon his death in 1892, his wife tried to clear up matters:

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John and Anna were married in the Allen Street Methodist Church in 1870. By that point, he was already using the name adopted from his uncle: Johnny Dobbs. Kerrigan’s background and career was very similar to his friend and frequent partner, Jimmy Hope, except that Hope rose from a Philadelphia gang (the Schuylkill Rangers) and Kerrigan from a Lower East Side gang (Slaughter-house Point gang, later Patsy Conroy’s river thieves).

Because Kerrigan is such a major figure in several of the biggest crimes of the 1870s and 1880s, a more complete chronology than that offered by Chief Byrnes is called for:

  • Arrested and sent to prison in February, 1864 for shooting New York police officer Sweeney in the thigh. Sweeney was trying to break up a gang, led by Dobbs, which was chasing a Chinese man down the street. Dobbs was a member of the Fourth Ward’s Slaughter-house Point Gang, soon to be dissolved, succeeded by Patsy Conroy’s gang of river thieves.
  • In prison, Dobbs said to have come under the tutelage of an old English thief named Petrie.
  • Dobbs identified as one of seven prisoners who escaped Sing Sing in February, 1868.
  • In 1869, Dobbs conspired with a corrupt bank clerk to rob Wall Street bankers Cambreling & Pyne of $140,000 in bonds. Both are arrested, and Dobbs returns his share and gives evidence against the clerk (viewed as the worse risk).
  • Married Anna Gould, February 1870
  • In October 1870, a gang of thieves, including Dobbs, “Worcester Sam” Perris, and Charles Gleason, robbed the First National Bank of Grafton, Massachusetts of between $100,000 and $150,000.
  • Purchases farm in Plainfield, New Jersey

 

  • John’s brother Matthew, known as “Mattie Dobbs,” allegedly shoots Patrick Vaughan in the aftermath of an inter-gang brawl.
  • In October, 1873, a gang of thieves entered the residence of a wealthy farmer, Abram Post, near Embogcht (Inbocht) Bay on the Hudson River, south of Catskill, New York. Similar raids were made against the homes of J. P. Emmet in New Rochelle, New York; and W. K. Soutter on Staten Island. The gang was said to use George Milliard’s saloon to plan its raids, and included Dobbs, Dan Kelly, Pugsey Hurley, Patsy Conroy, Larry Griffin, Dennis Brady, John Burns, and Shang Campbell. All were arrested except Dobbs and Campbell. They fled south to Key West, Florida. Campbell was eventually captured, but Dobbs eluded detectives.
  • Prior to May 1874, Dobbs made frequent visits to his sister and brother-in-law on a farm near Litchfield, Connecticut. The brother-in-law was John Denning, a former Fourth Ward detective.
  • May 1874: Dobbs is arrested in Hartford, Connecticut, accused of robbing the Collinsville Connecticut savings bank. He gives his name as “J. C. Rice.” Tried and convicted, he is sent to the Connecticut State Prison on a seven-year sentence.
  • A year later, in May, 1875, Dobbs escapes from the Connecticut State Prison. It is suspected that he was assisted by a corrupt guard.
  • From 1875 through 1878, Dobbs teamed up with the crew of bank robbers led by mastermind George L. Leslie. How many of their crimes Dobbs was involved in is not known. One of their major targets was the Manhattan Savings bank. An abortive attempt was made against that bank in 1877, organized by Leslie. It was foiled by an unexpected change in bank locks.

Capture

  • In February 1878, the Dexter Savings Bank of Maine was robbed–the heist was marred by the death of the bank’s cashier during the crime. The man’s death was a subject of debate for years: was he locked into the bank’s vault because he had failed to cooperate; or had he been complicit, and then committed suicide in remorse? All evidence for the robbery pointed to Leslie’s gang; but no criminal ever admitted involvement, for fear of facing murder charges.
  • In June 1878, George L. Leslie’s body was found near Tramps Rock, Yonkers, near the Bronx River on the Westchester County/New York City border. Members of his own gang were suspected of the murder–including Johnny Dobbs–but the motive is unclear. Did they fear he would implicate them all, especially concerning the Dexter job? Or was the cause Leslie’s attempt to romance the moll of another gang member?
  • On October 27, 1878, the robbery of the Manhattan Savings Bank–initially planned by Leslie, but now led by Dobb’s friend Jimmy Hope–was pulled off successfully. Johnny Dobbs was said to be one of the robbers. The majority of the huge trove of loot, nearly three million dollars, was in registered bonds.
  • The following May, 1879, Dobbs was arrested while trying to negotiate the return of many of the Manhattan Savings bonds. He was taken to the Tombs, New York’s municipal detention center. After a few months, it was decided to return him to the Connecticut State Prison, to serve out the remainder of his term there (after he had escaped in 1875).
  • In 1881, Dobbs is released from the Connecticut State Prison, having time reduced for good behavior.
  • In March of 1884, Dobbs was captured in Lawrence, Massachusetts, with several other known criminals and a large collection of burglary tools. He plead guilty, believing that the sentence would be light. Instead, he was given a term of ten years in the Massachusetts State Prison.
  • John Kerrigan, alias John Dobbs, is released from Massachusetts in 1892 for health reasons, said the be consumptive. He returns to New York, goes to a saloon, and collapses there with a stroke. He died in Bellevue Hospital in May, 1892.

#19 John Hope

John H. Hope (1856-1930), aka John Watson, John Warren — Pardoned for bank robbery

Link to Byrnes’s entry on #19 John Hope

Johnny Hope, the son of Jimmy “Old Man” Hope, was not a professional criminal, and may have been framed through the efforts of Chief Byrnes in order to exert pressure on his father. In early 1877, at age 21, John–who was raised with his family in Philadelphia under the name Watson–was arrested under that name for stealing a watch. He was sentenced lightly as a first offender. The arrest likely upset his father, who wanted his two sons to attend college.

In October 1878, Jimmy “Old Man” Hope led one of the most spectacular back robberies in 19th century: the robbery of $3,000,000 in cash and bonds from the Manhattan Savings Bank. Old Man Hope was, at that time, a fugitive from New York State, having escaped from Auburn prison in 1873. Chief Byrnes not only suspected that Hope was the mastermind of the Manhattan Savings Bank job, but also of a bank robbery in Dexter, Maine, that resulted in the death of a cashier. [It was later shown that James Hope was not directly involved in the Dexter job, although he may have helped plan it.]JimmyHope
For several months following the Manhattan robbery, the only leads that Chief Byrnes had led to the bank employees who provided assistance to the principal thieves. Those professional thieves were: Jimmy Hope, Eddie Garing, Johnnie Dobbs, Banjo Pete Emerson, Sam Perris, and Abe Coakley. The robbery had been planned by George Leslie, prior to his murder. However, although Byrnes learned the identity of the principals, he had little evidence against them–and he did not know where Jimmy Hope was hiding.

Byrnes was able to obtain the testimony from several witnesses that a man resembling John Hope had been situated on the street outside as a lookout while the Manhattan Savings Bank was being robbed. Having failed to locate and convict the principals, Byrnes arrested John Hope. John’s series of legal proceedings lasted two years, from 1879 to 1881, concluding with his conviction and sentencing to a twenty year sentence in Sing Sing. Whether John was involved as a lookout or not, the harsh sentence was clearly meant to flush out his father Jimmy, and to encourage the return of the stolen bonds.

Philadelphia columnist Louis Megargee, who was on familiar terms either with Old Man Hope’s longtime lawyer or with Hope himself, explained the animosity that existed between the father, Jimmy “Old Man” Hope, and Chief Byrnes in one of his classic columns:

From Knoxville, Tenn., comes a newspaper clipping that tells of the death of Patrick Dolan, who is handed down to typographical history as having arrested Jimmy Hope for the robbery in October, 1878, of more than one million dollars in cash and negotiable securities from the Manhattan Savings Institution, in New York City; a felony for which his son, John Hope, served nine years in prison, though not being concerned in it, in order to serve the personal purpose of a crook Superintendent of Police known as Thomas J. Byrnes; a crime for which he was pardoned by Governor Hill; a crime the usufruct of which has not been disclosed until this day.
Newspapers have referred to Johnny Hope as having been released after conviction for the Manhattan Institution robbery from the New York State Penitentiary through “commutation for good behavior.” This is absolutely untrue. He was sent to prison by a man who knew that he was innocent, and he was released from that incarceration by the admission to the Governor of New York by that man that he was satisfied of the boy’s innocence of the crime for which he had suffered a felon’s doom. The man who did this deed was Thomas Brynes. The man to whom he made the admission was David B. Hill, then Governor of the Empire Commonwealth.
Young Hope was pardoned—there was no commutation for good behavior—there was an absolute disavowal on the part of the Commonwealth that he had been guilty of crime. These are stern, unrelenting facts. Young Hope is a Philadelphia boy. His father was one of the most accomplished criminals in the history of the world—he is now out of that line of business, but young Hope never committed a crime.
Now let us go back to the robbery of the Manhattan Savings Institution. James Hope, the father of John, was the head of that combination of clever cracksmen who succeeded by a quiet midnight raid in becoming the possessors of valuables amounting to $2,740,700. Thomas Byrnes, then a captain of police, did much to discover the identity of the robbers, and for that work and on his confidently-made promises of the recovery of the stolen property, he was subsequently elevated to the position of Inspector of Police.
But he could not at that time find Jimmy Hope, and never to this day has he or any one else discovered the whereabouts of the missing fortune. With the hope, however, of making good the promise of his ability, Byrnes arrested John Hope, knowing, as he has since publicly admitted, that he was innocent of the crime, but in the expectation that the imprisonment of the boy would bring from the father an admission of guilt and a revelation as to the hiding place of the valuables. Byrnes at that time was all-powerful, even in the courts of law, and John Hope was sentenced to an imprisonment in the Sing Sing Penitentiary for twenty years. He was released about sixteen years ago, after having been in durance vile for nine years and eight months. But how did he escape from his penal condition?
Here again are facts: His father had been in prison in San Quentin, which is a penal establishment in California. After legal release from there, he was coming East. He voluntarily threw himself into the arms of two of Byrnes’ detectives, who did not know him, and went into voluntary imprisonment in the city of New York to answer for the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery. There was an attempt to subject him to what was then known as “Byrnes’ Fifth Degree,” a sort of mental thumb screw. But Hope, the burglar, was a bigger man than Byrnes, the detective, and the former said to the latter—and the writer knows what he is talking about—”Whether or not I know where the missing securities of the Manhattan Bank are is a matter we will not now discuss. You know my boy John is innocent. Put him upon the street a free man and withdraw your calumny against other members of my family, and I may talk to you. Until that is done it is idle to converse with me. You have no threat which can change my purpose, for remember that prisons have no longer any terrors for me.”
What was the result? Byrnes went before Governor Hill and openly stated that a mistake had been made in the conviction of the boy who had been immured in a felon’s cell for nearly ten years, and upon that representation the young man, whom it was admitted had been guilty of no offense against the law, was released; free, clean, innocent; not escaping through any commutation.
You may naturally ask why James Hope should have voluntarily thrown himself in the way of the New York detectives if he was guilty of the Manhattan Institution robbery. Of course, it was not done unthinkingly. Hope is a man of rare ability, and he knew exactly what he was doing. Inspector Byrnes had never laid eyes upon this remarkable criminal until after his voluntary surrender.
There is a remarkable incident connected with this statement which the narrator had from the lips of the late Charles W. Brooke, who was the elder Hope’s attorney from the time he saved him from an undeserved hanging in front of the Union Army, near Alexandria, in 1863, until the day of the famous lawyer’s death. During the excitement following the robbery of the bank, Byrnes, then a captain of police, in public interviews spoke freely of his knowledge of Hope, who, he said, could not escape him, and told the most marvelous but cruel tales about the members of his family.
During the excitement following the great robbery and when scores of detectives surrounded the offices of Mr. Brooke, who was known as Hope’s attorney, that famous robber, disguised as a laborer, walked coolly between them and into his lawyer’s office. He left there with his counsellor in the dusk of the evening and openly walked up Broadway. At the corner of Canal street he saw Captain Byrnes on the other side of the street, and saying to his companion, “That fellow says he knows me; let us see if he does,” walked across Broadway.
Byrnes was smoking. Hope drew a cigar from his pocket and stepping up to the chief of his pursuers, said, as he looked him in the eyes, “Will you be kind enough to give me a light?” The captain of police filliped the ashes from his weed and extended it to the burglar. Hope slowly lighted his cigar, thanked the police official and recrossed the street to the side of Mr. Brooke, who was trembling with apprehension. As they continued their walk up Broadway, the robber said to the lawyer, “That fellow says he knows me. You have seen how true that is. But I can tell you one thing; he was never nearer death in his life than he was a moment ago. I have never carried a weapon when engaged in a robbery, but I have one with me now, and if Byrnes had recognized me, I would have shot him dead as a fit reward for the lies he has told about the members of my family, who, no matter what I may be, are all honest people, and Byrnes knows it.”
But why did he surrender himself returning from California? Well, he knew that on account of the death of some witnesses, and on account of the absolute lack of knowledge on the part of the police regarding the real inside history of the great bank crime, he could not be convicted for that offense, and he was really desirous of settling some unpaid scores of imprisonment in New York State in order that he might quietly settle down and enjoy his declining years with his family. The officers, however, to whom he surrendered were on their way to California with a writ of extradition from New York State.
When placed on trial, however, the prisoner was discharged. He was immediately rearrested on an extradition from the State of Delaware, where he had broken jail. By this act bad faith had been practiced. Delaware did not want him back in New Castle Jail. When there, he was always a white elephant on the hands of the prison authorities. It is a well known fact that economical Delaware prefers that prisoners should escape if they will only remain without her boundaries; she thus avoids the cost of their support and the expense of repairing broken walls and locks. Then why did she send for Hope? Ah, there is where Mr. Byrnes’ fine Italian hand appeared. He had pledged himself to the return of the Manhattan securities, and he believed, whether lightly or not, Hope to be the only man who knew their whereabouts.
When the burglar was brought for the first time in his presence, he attempted to frighten his prisoner. Hope laughed at him, and bluntly told him that he was dealing with a smarter man than himself. The conversation lasted two hours, and Byrnes at its conclusion frankly admitted that he had met the greatest criminal of the age, and one possessing a character which he did not suppose existed in fiction or reality. After that, the screws were twisted. Hope was started back towards Delaware, simply in the expectation that he would throw up his hands in despair and tell where the missing securities could be found. But he did no such thing.
Counsellor Brooke, however, had a writ of habeas corpus promptly issued, and he made a novel legal plea before Governor Hill, completely upsetting the Delaware programme, and as a result it was legally determined that Hope should be given time to return to California, whence he was summoned on extradition. He was given forty-eight hours to leave the jurisdiction of New York City, and promptly went to Canada.
This was a dreadful blow to the ambition of Thomas Byrnes. Hope subsequently returned to the Metropolis, and was judicially freed from all responsibility for the Manhattan robbery. He is still living in retirement in that city, and his son is prosperously engaged there in business. The vast fortune craftily purloined nearly twenty-seven years ago from the Manhattan Savings Institution has never been returned.
After John Hope was pardoned, he resumed his livelihood as a liquor dealer in New York City. He had no further run-ins with the law, with the exception of being cited for failure to display an excise certificate properly. He was with his father when Old Man Hope died in 1905. Several reports (currently cited by Wikipedia) suggested that Johnny died a year after his father, but in fact, John Hope lived until 1930.

#20 James Hope

James Joseph Hope (1837-1905), aka Jimmy Hope, Old Man Hope, James J. Watson — Bank robber

Link to Byrnes’s entry on #20 James Hope
Chief Byrnes begins his profile of Jimmy Hope with the Philadelphia Navy Yard robbery attempt of June 1870; but elsewhere in the text of Professional Criminals of America, Byrnes cites other crimes that Hope participated in prior to that date. However, he gets the years and chronological order of these confused; and mentions a robbery that can’t be identified. These errors were compounded when newspapers and other writers accepted Byrnes as gospel and reprinted his “facts” in their articles on Hope.
Those early crimes represent the beginnings not only of Hope’s career as a bank robber, but also those of George Mason and Ned Lyons; therefore it is important to straighten out the record (as much as is possible, given the fact that Hope, Mason, and Lyons never offered full confessions of their bank robberies).
In 1863, James Hope was operating a “disorderly dance house” in Philadelphia that was known as “a resort for many disreputable persons.” His father had wanted him to become a machinist, and therefore he might have had some mechanical training. Several sources suggest that Hope was one of the ringleaders of the Schuylkill Rangers gang of southwest Philadelphia, which was led by Jimmy Hagerty. Hope married Hagerty’s sister, Margaret T. Hagerty.
There is no published evidence that Hope was involved in bank robberies prior to the April 1868 attempt on the Fairhaven (Massachusetts) National Bank. Hope and John Hughes were caught after the bank clerk discovered them inside the bank at night; but there were others involved, likely Lyons and Mason. Both were released on bail and then jumped.
In late November, 1868, Hope was arrested under the name James Watson in Philadelphia while coming out of the offices of the Franklin Institute building, where he had attempted to open the safe of the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Railroad. The newspaper report stated that police knew him as James Hope and that he “has the reputation as being a safe blower.”
In April 1869, Hope was rumored to have been an architect of the robbery of Philadelphia’s Beneficial Savings Fund Society. However, many years later, legendary Philadelphia columnist Louis Megargee penned a column in which he related what Hope had told him about his role:
Now, another tale regarding him that will tax your belief. When a so-called Philadelphia detective had become a statesman—a Harrisburg statesman— a Speaker of the State Senate of Pennsylvania, and then went the way of all flesh, it was stated in the public prints that he and another of his kind had through their work and instrumentality restored to the Catholic Beneficial Savings Fund $850,000 of bonds which had been stolen from that institution.
This is an error.
Neither of these corrupt officers of the law restored to the robbed bank one dollar out of the stolen money. It was returned through James Hope, a professional criminal, and who had not taken the treasure.
He who tells this tale knows whereof he talks; otherwise it would not be narrated. At the time of the robbery of the Catholic Beneficial Savings Fund it was located in a ramshackle building at the southwest corner of Twelfth and Chestnut streets, where its more imposing and substantial place of habitation now presents its granite visage. James Frederick Wood was then the revered Catholic Bishop of Philadelphia, and owing to his protecting care the savings bank at Twelfth and Chestnut streets was made the depository of the pennies and dimes of the Catholic servant girls of Philadelphia.
These in the aggregate amounted to a large sum of money. Bishop Wood was looked upon as the protector of the honor of the institution, but the physical protector was an old watchman, who every Sunday morning went to early Mass in St. John’s Church, on Thirteenth street below Market—the church that was the archiepiscopal residence of the Philadelphia Catholic diocese prior to the building of the Cathedral on Eighteenth street—and while he was away, there was no one left in the fragile structure to guard the pennies and the dimes of the good Irish servant girls; the pennies and the dimes that they were accumulating to bring the old folks from Ireland to the Land of the Free; the pennies and the dimes that they were hoarding not with a miser’s care, but with a thought that in their old age they might not, through the protecting care of money, go to the Poor House. In charge of this money, and in charge of these thoughts and sentiments, was the decrepit watchman, who on Sunday morning thought alone of his religious duty.
Thieves, regardless of the old man’s religious duty, and regardless of the heart throbbings they might cause, went into the easily-broken savings fund at Twelfth and Chestnut streets, while the old man was on his knees in the nearby church, and with the expedition born of practice purloined of the treasures accumulated in the Catholic Beneficial Savings Fund the enormous sum of $1,250,000. In that enterprise they had the assistance of some of the so-called police officials of the city of Philadelphia.
That is no idle statement. They were aided by the men employed by the city to defend its people and its property. Again let it be said that he who tells you this is not repeating idle gossip. He can give you the name of every man concerned in the crime.
Well, of course, there was a hullabaloo. The so-called detectives of those days knew who had taken part in the robbery, but expected to participate in the proceeds. It was necessary, however, in order to allay popular excitement that a prisoner should be found on whom the crime could be temporarily fastened. The game was old then, and it is sometimes practiced now. It consists in having a well known thief brought before the magistrate at the Central Station, held for a hearing on suspicion and then, when popular excitement has died out, to have him quietly discharged. Then the story is ended.
At the time referred to, the most prominent robber, not only in this community, but possibly in this country, was one James Hope, a Philadelphian born and bred, of whom more entertaining matter could be written than ever Jack Sheppard’s episodes graced a book with. The morning of the robbery at Twelfth and Chestnut streets Hope was on his way in a sleeper of a fast train from Pittsburg, occupying a palatial birth, as he was afterwards able to prove by the Pullman porter to whom he had given a tip.
He reached Philadelphia after the robbery had been committed, and knew nothing of it, and went directly to his home in the western part of the town. He remained with his wife and children and retired to his bed early, having no knowledge of what had happened to the pennies and dimes of the poor folks who had left their money at Twelfth and Chestnut streets. It was Sunday, mind you, and no afternoon newspapers published.
About 10 o’clock in the evening there was a ring at the door bell at his house. His wife answered it, and, returning to his bedside, said rather angrily: “There’s a woman down there who wants to see you. I do not see why she comes for you at this hour.” Hope, not fully dressed, went to the door and found there a woman whose story he knew.
A word as to the woman. She was highly educated, of refined appearance, of lady-like demeanor. She could move along Chestnut street without exciting the suspicion of anyone that she was not of high social rank. She was devoted to a man, himself well educated and of fine appearance, but a bank robber. She knew he was a robber. She lived quietly in a well appointed house in the northwestern portion of the city, and her neighbors believed that her husband was a traveling salesman. She lived among nice people; honest people. She asked only of her husband—for, mind you, she was married to the man—that he should be true to her. She believed that he was. She had discovered that he was not.
The Sunday of the robbery at Twelfth and Chestnut streets he had returned home with a small trunk, in which were contained the $1,250,000 stolen from the Irish servant girls, had quickly put it under her bed, had told her of the robbery in hurried tones and then fled, saying she would not see him until the storm had blown over. She said not a word. The man left. She meditated revenge. She knew the man had been false to her. She would not betray him into the hands of the police, but she was determined that he and his confederates should not profit by the robbery.
She went to Hope’s house, called him out, brought him to her house, showed him the treasure and told him the story, and asked him to take the money. When James Hope heard this tale, it was the first knowledge he had of the robbery. But he knew at once that he would be arrested in the morning, because the Philadelphia detectives—the so-called detectives—would apprehend him in order to protect themselves.
He said to the woman, “Leave that trunk under your bed and don’t speak a word to a soul about it. You will hear from me again.” Then he returned to his home and allayed the jealousies of his wife. The next morning Jimmy Hope was arrested, charged with the robbery of the Catholic Beneficial Savings Fund. The detectives on the witness stand stated that they expected testimony to prove his guilt, and asked that he be held for a further hearing. This was done; the old story. Without bail being given he was sent down to Moyamensing Prison. Among the solicitors of the Savings Fund was the late Lewis C. Cassidy. Mr. Cassidy knew Hope, and visited him.
To the greatest criminal lawyer of our generation Hope said, “I had nothing to do with this robbery. I know who committed it. I know where the stolen property is. I can restore it to you if you promise me that those engaged in the robbery will not be prosecuted.” To this Mr. Cassidy—so Hope told the narrator—said, “Jimmy, I always believe what you tell me, but what do you want out of this?” To this the robber replied, “I don’t want any money, because no matter what I have done regarding banks I have never yet got to a condition of robbing servant girls and orphans. I’ll leave that to my friend Jay Gould. However, if you can give me a promise that the men engaged in this shall not be arrested and I restore this money and these securities to you, I think I would be entitled to a suit of clothes, and it need not cost more than thirty-five dollars.” There are grades even among criminals.
Hope returned $1,250,000 of property and received a thirty-five dollar suit in return.
Megargee may allowed Hope too much credulity in the Beneficial Savings robbery, but there is little doubt that Hope was in the midst of a bank-robbing storm at the time. A little more than two months after the Beneficial Savings robbery, New York’s Ocean Bank was robbed and showed the same handiwork in its execution. This time, the robbers offered a return of only part of the booty–the numbered bonds they would have difficulty exchanging.
After another two months, two attempted bank robberies were frustrated by miscalculated explosive charges. One was in September, at the Rochester (New Hampshire) Savings Bank; and the second was in October at the Townsend (Massachusetts) Bank. In both cases, explosions woke the town, but did not breach the inner vault door. The same thing happened a third time, in December 1869, when the vault of the Lumberman’s Bank in Oldtown, Maine, was dynamited. This time, the outer door of the vault lodged itself to block the inner door, once again stymieing the thieves. They escaped via a railroad handcar–a device used by many different gangs when entering and leaving small towns.
In May, 1870, the Lime Rock bank was robbed, and noted thief Langdon Moore was captured and prosecuted. Several years later, Jimmy Hope would also face arrest for being involved in this crime–but Langdon Moore later wrote an account admitting his gang did that job, and portrayed Hope as the leader of a competing gang. Hope would eventually be cleared of having any hand in this robbery.
Instead, Hope was busy planning the August 1870 robbery of the Philadelphia US Navy Yard paymaster’s office along with Ned Lyons and John A. Hughes. They were interrupted just as they had moved the safe into position to pry it open. Jimmy Hope and Hughes escaped, but sentries stopped and held Lyons at gunpoint. Lyons was arraigned and allowed out on bail, which he wasted no time in jumping.Capture
Lyons headed north from Philadelphia and in early September, 1870, met Hope and Hughes in Perry, Wyoming County, New York. They had already scouted Smith’s Bank as a target. While the robbery was underway, Hope and Hughes were arrested. Hope was tried and convicted under the name James A. Watson, and sentenced to Auburn prison.
While Hope was behind bars in Auburn, the Kensington National Bank of Philadelphia was robbed by an ingenious plan in which two of the thieves impersonated police officers to gain the trust of bank clerks. Hope is often mentioned in connection with this robbery, although he could only have participated in the early planning stages.
The remainder of Hope’s known career is outlined by Byrnes, including a mention that Hope was implicated in the Wellsboro bank robbery of 1874. Once again, Philadelphia newsman Louis Megargee had Jimmy Hope’s own account of that misadventure:
In this quaint little old “Sleepy Hollow” there had been for many years prior to 1877 a banking establishment known as the “Wellsboro Bank.” Through it the financial affairs of the little community and its surroundings were conducted. Its management represented the combined ability of two generations. The president was the father of the cashier, and with perhaps one clerk, represented the entire working force of the institution. The two officers lived in the building of which one portion was occupied as the bank. The family occupying the residence portion of the Wellsboro Bank Building consisted of the president and his wife, a very pleasant and intelligent old lady, and the son referred to, with perhaps one other member of the family.
In the spring of 1877, or thereabouts, when the frost was emerging from the ground and made the roads soft and muddy, one evening a vehicle to which two horses were attached, containing five men, drove quietly under the wagon shed of the church opposite the bank mansion, and in a half hour thereafter the various inmates of the house were aroused and beheld themselves surrounded by four masked strangers, who held in their hands pistols apparently loaded, and commanded them to utter no sound, but to implicitly obey the 1nstructions given them.
Chairs were placed together back to back and the members of the household were securely bound and gagged; then he who appeared to be the leader of the intruders, at the point of the pistol, demanded that the old gray-haired president should descend with them to the banking room below and open the safe which contained the treasure, or there furnish one of their number with the combination of the lock, promising that if this demand were complied with no other harm should befall him save the loss to the bank of the valuables contained in its vaults; but if the demand met with refusal, then the life of the president should be the penalty.
The conscientious and heroic old gentleman, in the dignity and fidelity to his trust, which he regarded as sacred and who believed the faithful discharge of his duty was of more consequence than the preservation of his life, refused positively to do anything which should enable them to obtain possession of the treasure which he was entrusted to guard. The twist of the rope and the tightening of the gag caused the poor old man to cry out involuntarily with physical pain. His aged wife and his son were filled with sympathy for his sufferings. The son made a sign to the man holding especial guard over him to remove for an instant the gag from his mouth.
When this was done the son said: “I am not going to sit here quietly and see my father murdered, but to save his life and that of my mother I will go with you to the banking room and do what you demand.” The leader dropped the point of his pistol, all this time leveled at the old gentleman’s head, and loosened in a measure the cords and the gag. At the request of the son, who gave his assurance that he would not cry out or speak, the gag was removed from the mouth of the old lady. As the leader stooped down and leaned over to remove it she said, with her eyes fixed upon her son (evidently referring to the fact that he was about to leave her sight in the company of the armed men about him), in an undertone and pleadingly, “For heaven’s sake, don’t hurt him!” The leader stooped lower, kissed her upon the cheek, and said, “Poor, dear old mother, don’t be alarmed; we are thieves, not murderers!” and the old lady felt trickling upon her cheek the tears from beneath the mask of the apparent assassin, who but a moment before held his weapon at the head of her husband.
The son accompanied the robbers to the bank below; the safe was opened and $275,000 in money and valuable securities taken therefrom. The cashier, who was escorted back to the room where the other members of his family were, was re-seated as before in the chair, again subjected to the discomfort of the gag, as was the old lady, to whom an apology was made for the necessity, and then, with a few words of warning and the assurance that they had confederates outside of the building who would remain and enter upon the slightest outcry or noise, the masked men departed. Hastening with their booty across to the wagon under the church shed, they were soon driving as fast as the heavy condition of the roads and of the load drawn by their horses would permit them to Elmira.
For an hour or more the miserable and frightened occupants of the house sat enduring their tortures without daring to move lest they should induce the return of their dread assailants. At length the son, after repeated struggles, succeeded in disengaging his hands from the cords and proceeded to loosen those which bound the others and to remove the gags; and quietly stealing his way down the stairs and traversing the rear of the building, he peered out at the faintly-glimmering dawn which was just approaching. Seeing no human form and hearing no voice or tread, he speedily made his way to the home of his nearest neighbor. Within an incredibly short space of time the little town was alive with excitement, the people running hither and thither, men hurriedly harnessing their horses and preparing to follow in pursuit of the fleeing thieves. As the day broke more brightly an examination of the ground about the shed leading to and from it, disclosed an impression in the soft road which furnished a sure track over the route and to the destination of the robbers.
In all that country where men live in the saddle or in vehicles of some sort, and where horses are the most prevalent possession of all, and naturally, for this reason, where thoroughly well-informed horsemen abound, no one had ever seen a “bar shoe” nor heard of the existence of such an article of horse wear. In describing it thereafter (ignorant even of its designation) they referred to it as the “circular shoe;” but there in the track of the road with the toe pointing directly toward the distant city of Elmira, was the plainly discernible impression of the strange and unknown shoe.
The Sheriff, with a hastily summoned posse and a dozen vehicles drawn by horses fleet of foot, started off at top speed in pursuit of the team, thus so unconsciously to those it contained leaving the traces of the direction it traversed in its path. The fresh and speedy horses of the pursuers soon lessened the distance between them and the objects of their chase, and at length, as they entered Elmira, from the hilltop behind them, they were in full view of the Sheriff and his posse. The robbers had been conscious for some little time that they were pursued, or, at least, they believed such to be the fact, and descried the rapid paces of the pursuing force almost as soon as they themselves were discovered. Pushing and urging their jaded horses on, they reached by a short cut down a side street the livery stable from which they had been procured the evening previously.
A sudden turn of the vehicle which contained the robbers hid it from the sight of the pursuing party and baffled them for a moment; they took for a short distance an opposite direction, but soon discovered their error. The thieves, immediately upon reaching the stable, jumped from the vehicle and, separating, sought safety by flight in contrary directions. The officers of the law raised a hue and cry, and a hundred of the citizens of Elmira joined in a promiscuous chase after the thieves. At length they were close upon the heels of one of them, who, jumping into the buggy of some one evidently waiting for him, himself took the reins from the hands of the man who was holding them and whipping up the horse started at breakneck speed in the direction of the adjoining town of Waverly.
Then commenced a most exciting chase. The Sheriff and his deputy, in a buggy and with a fleet horse, continued the pursuit. The horses were whipped to a gallop, then to a dead run, and thus pursuer and pursued reached the town of Waverly, where the vehicle was abandoned by the flying thief, a dash through the streets made, and an asylum found where, until the next day, he succeeded in evading capture. One other of the fugitives was run down in the streets of Elmira by the hallooing crowd.
The leader at times running and apparently unobserved; at other times rapidly walking, turning up one street and down another, striving to make his way to the outskirts of the city and beginning to feel assured that he would succeed, when suddenly turning, and coming to the crossing of a street within half a block from him, he heard and saw the excited crowd eager for his capture. Walking indifferently across to the opposite side, when the corner of a house for an instant obscured him from his pursuers, he darted with the nimbleness of a deer and before the crowd following had turned the corner, he had entered at the doorway of an humble house which he found to be open.
Walking directly through the hallway and back into the kitchen, he there saw an old Irish woman engaged in ironing the family linen. The house was evidently the home of some prosperous mechanic or foreman in one of the numerous shops abounding in that region. Instantly entering into conversation with the old woman, offering her his hand as if well acquainted with her, which she in her surprise accepted and shook, he rapidly put a series of questions which were inquiries as to whether she remembered him? If she was sure she had forgotten him? Could not she, after steadily looking at him, recall him? Didn’t she remember the family who lived three doors from her twenty years before, and thus piecemeal consuming a half hour’s time and extracting from the old woman the information that a family of neighbors named Maguire had moved to Binghamton some twenty years ago; that they had a son named James, who might be, if he were alive, about the age of her visitor, but whom she assured him was a wayward, wandering boy and she didn’t know whether he was dead or alive. Whereupon the visitor assured her that he was the missing and the wandering James; the old woman immediately commenced a volume of inquiries as to the members of his family.
Desiring to evade this questioning, which might lead to unpleasant consequences, the intruder asked for a glass of water. The old lady took a pitcher from the sideboard near by and was starting apparently to draw some water from the hydrant in the yard, but politely and quickly arising from his chair, he took the pitcher from the old lady’s hand–said he could not think of permitting her to wait upon him—that he himself would go to the hydrant. Passing out from the door into the yard he saw a gateway, and upon opening it found that it led through a long alleyway into an adjoining street. A half hour before he had heard the voices of the pursuers dying away in an opposite direction.
Setting the pitcher down upon the pavement he quickly passed through the alleyway, thence into the street, and leisurely continued his walk toward the outskirts of the city. Evading as much as possible all observation and thus wandering about during the entire day through the deserted portion of the town, he directed his steps in the early evening toward some sheds which previously he had noticed from a distance, and which proved to be tool houses of workmen engaged in the construction of a railway extension in the vicinity.
Easily forcing his way into one of these shanties, he fortunately found a pair of soiled and filthy overalls, an old jacket, ragged and equally filthy, a cap without a face, which had been thrown aside, and taking off his own coat and outer clothing, begriming his face and his hands with soot and dirt, matting and tangling his hair and likewise plentifully rubbing into it the unattractive mixture which disfigured his features, he put on the overalls, the jacket, and the cap, fastening the jacket up closely about his neck, and luckily finding inside its pocket the broken-stemmed remnant of an old black “dudeen.” He gathered up the clothing which he had just discarded and taking up a shovel from the tool house cautiously sought the shelter of a large tree in the vicinity, at the foot of which he dug a hole and buried the clothing. His own boots needed no changing—his tramp through the mud and mire had soiled them sufficiently. Taking his penknife he slashed them to correspond with the dilapidation of his other garments.
He had eaten nothing all day, so he wandered on his way, hunting for some cheap place to which workmen would naturally resort, but sufficiently remote from the shanty he had lately visited to insure against the probability of encountering any one who might possibly recognize some of his newly-appropriated garments. After a time he found such a place where he deemed himself safe. His principal desire seemed to be to put himself in a situation to repel the advances of any who might otherwise be disposed to come near, and he added to the repulsiveness of his appearance an element of supreme unattractiveness.
He reveled in a meal of raw onions and ate them most plentifully, washing them down with occasional drafts more or less copiously of the “shebeen shop” gin. Then procuring a paper of tobacco, the offence of which smelled to heaven as rank as that of the King in Hamlet, he loaded his “dudeen,” lighted it with a paper from the stove, and started for the railway station in the heart of Elmira.
In the course of a little while he reached there. The station was filled with Sheriffs, detectives, and officers of the law in search of him. He became to them an incessant source of annoyance, and three times did the chief of police take the apparently drunken laborer by the arm and put him off the station platform. At length a New York bound train came along. Straggling up to the steps of the smoking car he, in a seemingly intoxicated way, tried to get aboard. His feet slipped, and it looked as if he were about to fall between the cars, but the officers of the law again protected him, addressing him with expletive adornments and asking him if he wanted to “break his infernal neck,” an inquiry to which he responded in a most unintelligible way.
They took him by the arm and helped him to a seat in the smoking car, where he almost instantly seemed to fall into a deep and drunken slumber, and thus the leader of the midnight robbers, who in a moment of chivalrous feeling had watered the cheeks of the old lady with his tears, bound his way far from the vicinity of his crime to a place of safety.
In subsequent experiences he was not quite so fortunate. Justice may be baffled for a time, but she will overtake the guilty sooner or later.
A few months thereafter, in the city of Pittsburg, a professional criminal named George Mason was arrested on suspicion of being the wily leader of the Wellsboro robbery. The identification of him by the various witnesses seemed to be thorough and reliable. The circumstances pointed to him with what seemed to be great precision. He was taken from the place of his arrest and lodged in the jail of the town of Wellsboro.
In the meanwhile the cashier of the bank (the son, who to save his parents had opened its vaults on the memorable night) met with a sudden and accidental death. The other members of the family visited the arrested person in the jail at Wellsboro; indeed, the dear old lady was kindly and motherly in her constant attention to him while he was in prison. She visited him frequently, talked with him, advised him as to his future welfare, spoke to him not only as to the consequences a criminal career would bring in this world, but urged him to reform his life and repent of the sins he had committed in order that he might insure the salvation of his soul in the world to come.
She supplied him with delicacies from her own table; indeed, with her own hands, purposely made them up for him. She gave him books, newspapers, and did all that was possible to deprive prison life of its pangs and discomforts, yet she protested with a positiveness which no argument could shake, which no reasoning could induce her to abandon, that he was the leader of the band of robbers upon that autumn night; and that his lips touched her forehead, and his tears fell upon her cheek; that he was the only one who had spoken a word among them all, and that the sound of his voice still rung in her ears; not a tone of it had left her memory, and by that very voice alone she was assured of the certainty of her identification.
Matters wore a gloomy look indeed for the prisoner; clouds gathered around upon every side; he looked forward with almost a certainty of passing a greater and better part of his days in a convict’s cell.
The leader of the band, however, in a distant city—who did not know him—heard of the situation of the man whom he knew to be innocent. He appreciated the force of the circumstances which seemed pointing to an inevitable fate unjust and most undeserved. With two or three companions, daring and reliable, he again sought the neighborhood, where, if his presence were known, punishment would surely befall him.
A little beyond the limits of the town of Corning and upon the line of the short lateral road running to Wellsboro these adventurers broke open one of the car shops of the railway company, and taking therefrom a laborer’s hand-car, propelled themselves for thirty miles along the track to the town of Wellsboro. Turning the car off the tramway, secreting it behind a woodpile, they made their way to the jail.
Arranging a dynamite cartridge without its walls and with one low whistle as a signal, an explosion occurred, which once again, in a few moments, suddenly called the excited inhabitants of the town in the most picturesque kind of night apparel into the streets, fearing they knew not what and apprehending anything which was more terrible than everything else had been before. The part of the jail sought for destruction was an unused and remote portion, but the prisoner having had accorded to him entire jail liberty could well reach it at any hour of the day or night.
The noise, of course, startled and aroused hastily those within the prison, who rushed to the point where the noise indicated the explosion had taken place. The prisoner himself had been apparently not startled, for he was found in that vicinity full dressed and with a candle in his hand. He explained that he had been sitting up late reading and ran to discover the cause of the explosion, believing at first it was occasioned by the bursting of the boiler.
As soon as the explosion occurred, those who were its cause swiftly found their way to the place where their car was concealed, and with all the muscular force that could contribute to their speedy exit from Wellsboro and its surroundings, they fled. It was suspected for some time that the prisoner not only knew of the attempt upon the jail, but that he was in collusion with those who had caused it, for the purpose of enabling him to make his escape.
These suspicions, however, gradually died away, and in a short time his trial took place. The circumstantial evidence against him was constantly suggestive of his guilt. The old lady, with tears streaming down her face, reasserted her belief in his identity as the leader of the masked men upon the night of the robbery. He was, however, enabled to present the most conclusive and irrefutable proof of his innocence, and after a trial which lasted for nearly two weeks, the door of the Wellsboro prison opened for him and he walked forth a free man.
Indicative of the inexplicable reaction and change which at times take place in the dispositions and feelings of people, the next morning a large proportion of the population of the town, men, women, and children, followed and escorted George Mason to the railroad depot. He was the lion of the hour, and he departed not only amid cheers from the assembled populace, but was escorted by a large representative body as an apparent guard of honor on his journey as far as Corning. He afterwards found a temporary haven in Portsmouth jail.
Who was the leader of the robber band? James Hope, born in Philadelphia. Did the Wellsboro Bank get back the stolen money? No.


Following his imprisonment in San Quentin, Jimmy Hope returned east and lived out the rest of his years in New York City and on a farm property in Connecticut. He died in 1905.

#110 Edward Gearing

Edward Henry Garing (1848-1923), aka Edward Gearing, Eddie Goodie (Goodrich, Goode, Goody), Henry Miller — Butcher-cart thief

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-eight years old in 1886. Born in New York. Married. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 65 inches. Weight, 145 pounds. Brown hair, gray eyes, fair complexion. Has a goddess of liberty in India ink on left fore-arm, anchor and clasped hands on right fore-arm, and a heart on right hand. Bald in front of head. Generally wears a red mustache and whiskers, which he dyes black occasionally.

RECORD. Eddie Goodie, or Gearing, which is his right name, was the originator of butcher-cart work, in company of Steve Boyle and Big Frank McCoy (89), several years ago. He has been connected with nearly every robbery of that character which has taken place in New York City and vicinity for the last twenty years. He is one of the smartest thieves in America, a man of wonderful audacity and resources. He is so cunning and clever that he has always managed to slip out of the meshes of the law, while others not so crafty or culpable have slipped in. He was arrested in New York City on February 13, 1870, in company of a man who has since reformed, for stealing a case of silk valued at $17,000 from a Custom-house truck. The party arrested with Goodie was sent to prison for five years, he assuming all the blame and swearing that Goodie had nothing to do with the robbery.

In 1874 Goodie and Mike Hurley, alias Pugsie Hurley (88), robbed a butter merchant in Brooklyn, N.Y. They were let out on bail, which ended it. In 1875 Goodie, Billy Williams, Big John Tracy, and John McKewan robbed William B. Golden, a book-keeper, of $5,000, while he was on his way to pay off the hands of the Badger Iron Works Company, in New York City. The book-keeper left the Dry Dock Bank, then in East Tenth Street, New York, taking a horse-car. Two men entered after him, and seated themselves by his side. Another man, who was on horseback, followed the car. At Fourteenth Street and Avenue D the two men grabbed the money bag and threw it to the man on horseback, who was Goodie, and they all escaped. In 1876 the book-keeper of the Standard Oil Works left their main office, in Pearl Street, New York City, with $8,000 in money, to pay off the hands in Greenpoint. He was followed from New York by Goodie and two other men, who assaulted and robbed him. He was also implicated in robbing the cashier of the Planet Flour Mills, in Brooklyn, N.Y., of $3,500, in March, 1878. Goodie was the driver of the wagon used in the Northampton, Mass., bank robbery in January, 1876, and was an associate of Red Leary, George Bliss, Bob Dunlap, and several other expert bank robbers.

He was also connected with the Manhattan Bank robbery in New York City, in October, 1878. In the latter part of 1880, Goodie and Willie Farrell (109) robbed a man of $2,200 near the Bank of the Metropolis, New York. They escaped by driving away in a butcher-cart. It was Goodie who drove the butcher-cart when Ruppert’s collector was robbed of $9,600 in money, in East Forty-second Street, New York, in July, 1881. Goodie was the man that was described as wearing a big brown mustache, who jumped over the fence in Jersey City, N.J., on July 18, 1883, when Cashier Smith, of the National Bank of Orange, N.J., was assaulted and an attempt made to rob him of $10,000 in money. Pete Emmerson, alias Banjo Pete (90), Ned Farrell, and John Nugent, the other parties in this robbery, were arrested at the time, and are now in State prison. Goodie was arrested in New York City on February 7, 1884, charged, in connection with William Farrell (109) and James Titterington, with assaulting with a piece of lead pipe and robbing one Luther Church of $2,300, on December 31, 1883. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to twenty years in State prison on February 21, 1884, by Recorder Smyth, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City. Goodie’s picture is a good one, taken in February, 1884.

 

“Butcher-cart thieves” used one-horse wagons popular with butchers and other delivery services to accost bank messengers and other delivery men on the street and make quick getaways. Eddie Garing was among the best in this type of crime–Byrnes credits him with originating the technique–but Byrnes leaves out a critical piece of information. [Note that Byrnes and many newspapers used the spelling “Gearing”, but the family preferred “Garing.”]

Brynes lists Eddie Garing’s first crime as an 1870 robbery of a case of silk from a Custom-house truck, and mentions that he committed this crime “in the company of a man who has since reformed.” That man, whom Byrnes refused to name, was George Washington Garing, Edward Garing’s older brother. In fact, this brother, also known as “Wash Goodrich,” “Wash Goody,” “William Miller,” and “George Sloan” appears to have been the originator of the cart robbery technique; and he was arrested and convicted more times than his younger brother.

eddie-goodie
Edward Gearing. Illustration by David Birkey http://cargocollective.com/dbillustration

Byrnes profiled the younger brother only–which demonstrates Byrnes’ peculiar ethical sense. Byrnes, at least in this instance, appeared sensitive to the idea that reformed former convicts should not be outed in public. Moreover, Byrnes’ courtesy was–unfortunately–misplaced. In 1888 (two years after Byrnes published his book) Wash Garing was arrested for stealing a horse and wagon; and was suspected of robbing a feed-store safe along with Herman Palmer.

Meanwhile, Eddie Garing followed in his brother’s footsteps for 14 years (between 1870 and 1884) without being convicted. For many of those years he was a leader, along with James Titterington and Willie Farrell, of the Mackerelville gang, the terror of the East Side. The luck of Garing and Titterington ran out after they assaulted and nearly killed a man named Luther Church with a lead pipe during one robbery in 1884. For this crime, Eddie was sent to Sing Sing for a twenty year sentence. With time reduced he was released in 1896.

If Eddie then resumed his criminal career, he was equally lucky in escaping punishment in his late career as he was in his earlier career. He lived in Queens as a house-painter for the rest of his life, dying at age 75, with no further arrests or jail stays on his record.

Byrnes realized that it was possible for repeat offenders to reform; but in the case of Wash Garing, he miscalculated the man’s resolve. There is no formula to predict how many arrests or years in prison will move a criminal to reform–or whether that experience just encourages a return to crime. Both Garing brothers lived out their last years in freedom, so on their own terms they each decided to live a straight life.