To London Prison
Fifteen Years in Solitude.
FREED A HUMAN WRECK, A WONDERFUL SURVIVAL AND A MORE WONDERFUL RISE IN THE WORLD. TO-DAY HE HAS A NATIONAL REPUTATION AS A WRITER, SPEAKER AND IS CONSIDERED AN AUTHORITY ON ALL SOCIAL PROBLEMS. HE WAS TRIED AT THE OLD BAILEY AND SENTENCED FOR LIFE. CHARGED WITH THE L1,000,000 FORGERY ON THE BANK OF ENGLAND.
THIS STORY SHOWS THAT THE EVENTS OF HIS LIFE SURPASS THE IMAGINATIONS OF OUR FAMOUS NOVELISTS, ITS THRILLING SCENES, HAIR-BREADTH ESCAPES AND MARVELOUS ADVENTURES ARE NOT A RECORD OF CRIME, BUT ARE PROOFS OF THAT
IN THE WORLD OF WRONGDOING SUCCESS IS FAILURE.
490 Pages. 80 Graphic Illustrations.
Copyrighted 1897 by BIDWELL PUBLISHING COMPANY, HARTFORD, CONN.
Editorial New York Herald.
Referring to a Whole Page.
"If an American dramatist or novelist had taken for the ground work of a play or work of fiction the story of the Bidwell family to-day related on another page of the Herald, all European critics would have told him that the story was too 'American,' too vast in its outlines, too high in its colors, too merely 'big' in fact.
"The story has its lesson. The play is not a mere spectacle. The lesson is that in the doing and undoing of wrong the Bidwell family expended enough ability and energy to stock a good many reigning European families for generations.
"Let the Comedie Humaine write itself and it will outwrite Balzac."
Hon. Lyman J. Gage.
Having read the Bidwell book I believe it will benefit every one to read this marvellous history of human experience.
Aside from its dramatic interest there are great moral lessons involved of especial value to young men and employees in positions of trust.
Therefore, I recommend this book as unique and a valuable acquisition for home and office.
From Chas. M. Stead, Union League Club, New York.
"Dear Sir—I read your book with a good deal of interest, and would like to change it for a higher-priced binding if you have one."
The Worcester Spy.
"Mr. Bidwell's book has been compared with Dumas' famous 'Monte Christo.' The extraordinary character of its adventures, indeed, would render it dramatic and powerful as fiction; as human truth, it is simply overwhelming. No one can read this book unmoved. From every conceivable standpoint, physiological, sociological, and literary, it is a marvel."
Philip W. Moen.
Mr. Moen, of Washburn & Moen, Worcester, Mass., writes: "I have read Mr. George Bidwell's book with the deepest interest. It is a book that deserves to be widely read, and I am very glad to recommend it."
A Niece of Oliver Wendell Holmes
writes: "Few books have so stirred my mind for years as the book by George Bidwell. Hearing of the book, prejudice immediately seized me against it. The history given by himself, to be interesting at all must be sensational, therefore disastrous to morals. So avowed prejudiced thought; and, determined to find fault, I began this remarkable history. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND FAULT WITH THE BOOK, WHICH IS VALUABLE AND WONDERFULLY ABSORBING."
From Ira D. Sankey, Esq.
"MR. GEORGE BIDWELL, Dear Sir—I have read with great interest your book, and believe it will do much good among young men wherever read. Your life is a proof and your book a burning record of the truth that 'Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.' I believe in throwing light into all the dark places of this life, that men, seeing the dangers, they may avoid them. I wish you success."
From Hon. Robert G. Ingersoll.
"GEORGE BIDWELL, ESQ.:
My Dear Sir—Knowing as I do that you will tell a candid story of your career, I believe you will do good. Crime springs mostly from a lack of intelligence and imagination. Only the foolish can think that the practice of vice is the road to joy. As a matter of fact, the wrong does not pay. You have, in your remarkable book, made this fact perfectly clear, and you will enforce this great truth on the platform. In the world of crime success is failure. Good luck to you."
Rev. Dr. Edward Beecher
writes; "I recommend this book to the friends of morality."
Office of Street's Insurance Agency, Hartford, Conn.
"MR. GEORGE BIDWELL, Dear Sir—A clergyman consulted with me regarding his son, who had fallen into bad associations, taken part in many small thefts, and seemed hardened against shame or dread of exposure. I believe the mean, dangerous boy has become a man by reading your book." Yours very truly,
F. F. STREET, Hartford, Conn.
Hartford Daily Times.
"This autobiography is a story of thrilling interest."
A NEW YORK HERALD EDITORIAL.
Brooklyn Public Schools in the Sixties—Old. No. 13—Parents Suited to the Golden Age—A Curious Preparation for the Battle of Life—Knew that Brutus Slew Caesar—George the Third Was a Bad Fellow Who Got a Tea Kettle Thrown at His Head In Boston Harbor—My Model Home Library—An Innocent Leaves Home. 19
In a Broker's Office—A Nice Old Gentleman—Situation in Wall Street—An Up-to-Date Young Man—Visions of Wealth—Speculations—Wall Street in the Sixties—The Hon. John Morrissey, ex-Pugilist—His Famous Gambling House—I Try a Game of Faro—Midnight Banquets—I Have Entered the Primrose Way. 24
Pleasure Before Business—Result of That Method—On Financial Rocks—James, Otherwise "Jimmy," Irving—He Was a Model Chief of Detectives—Police Headquarters, 300 Mulberry Street, in the Early Seventies—He Takes Me for a Drive out Harlem Lane—A Trio of Detectives—They Make a Startling Proposition—A $10,000 Temptation—Mental Conflicts—I Dare Not Be Poor—C'est le Premier Pas Qui Coute. 28
History of the Famous Lord Bond Steal—"On the Office"—Three Sneaks Stumble on a Fortune—A $1,250,000 Tin Box—Dazed Crooks—What to Do with Their White Elephant—Excitement at Police Headquarters—Bullard et al.—A Violin Virtuoso—Superintendent of Police Kelso Presents a $500 Silver Punch Bowl to the Daughter of Boss Tweed—Paid for with Stolen Cash. 36
Police Protectors—New York Gangs—Irving & Co. Give Me $80,000 Lord Bonds to Sell Abroad—A Midnight Farewell—Alone on the Sea—When Jim Fisk Owned Our Judges—Chief Irving Plans a Famous Bank Robbery—His Three Burglar Confederates. 48
The Bank Looted—Irving Notified by Bank Officials—His Feigned Surprise—Hunts the Burglars, but Divides the Plunder at His Own House—Count Shinburne and His Palace on the Rhine—Twenty Years Later. 58
I Arrive in Paris—Field of Waterloo—Meet the Antwerp Chief of Police—He Is on Trail—A Dutch Van Tromp and the Countess Winzerode—His Dream of Bliss and Tragic Death—My Negotiations in Frankfurt-on-the-Main. 65
Marpurgo & Weisweller, Bankers—Francoise Blanc, the Gambler King—His Casinos at Monte Carlo, Homburg and Wiesbaden—I Meet Van Tromp's Countess—Outlived Her Beauty—Now a Hanger-on at the Rouge et Noir Tables—Takes My Advice—Marries a Rich Burgher—Becomes a Good Stepmother—Her Pious End and Epitaph. 73
I Sell the $80,000 Bonds—Reach London Safely—Drifting—Success in Crime a Failure—A Desolate Woman—Beautiful Barmaid Show—Westminster Abbey—Good Resolutions—Sail Home—Irving at the Wharf—Meet at Taylor's Hotel—The Total: "I Have Another Job for You"—A Fool's Game. 84
Edwin James, Q.C., and a Possible Lord Chancellor of England—His Extravagance—On the Border Land of Crime—He Oversteps—Disbarred—Comes to New York—Richard O'Gorman's Great Heart—The Brea Will Case—A Dark Plot—$20,000 out of Wall Street—Jay Cooke & Co. Narrowly Escape Loss of $240,000—Chief Irving in the Plot—Detective George Elder Not in Our Ring—Accidentally He Appears and Thwarts Our Plans. 94
Eastward Ho!—The James and Brea Exit—Ezra, the Shrewd Lawyer—Three Unhappy Daughters—He Marries One—Detects Forged Will—Flight of Brea to Montana—A Sunrise Surprise at Butte City—James Returns to London—Fills a Pauper's Grave Instead of a Lord Chancellor's. 114
Bordeaux, Marseilles and Lyons "Donate" $50,000—A Bad Quarter of an Hour—Eggs and Peasant Women—"Sweets to the Sweet"—A Mysterious Stranger Disappears Among the Tombs. 123
A Starry Talk—Contrast Between Mac's Philosophy and His Errand—A Financial Trip Through Germany—From Leipsic Fair to London—Return Loaded with Thalers. 132
A Drive to Hampton Court—Send $10,000 Police Tribute to New York—Discussing the Bank of England in the Throne Room at Windsor Castle—Believe It to Be a Fossil Institution—Greene, the Tailor—Introduces Me to Bank—No References Required—Joy That Ends in Sorrow. 142
Voyage to Rio Janeiro—The Lady of the Lucitania—A Swedish Colonel's Party of English Engineers—A Bibulous Chaplain—Modern Buccaneers—Scenes at Bordeaux—Crossing the Line—Father Neptune's Visit—Fun at Sea—Arrival in Rio—Maua & Co.—Our Plans. 154
Fifty Thousand Dollars on Bogus Letters of Credit—Visit to a Coffee Plantation—Slaves Dining—Dangerous Errors in Letters of Credit—A Nervous Day—An Eagle-Eyed Hebrew—"Show Me Your Letter of Credit"—Mac in a Corner—A Bold Coup—Strategy—Can We Get Out of Brazil? 160
Brazilian Law—Visit Police Headquarters—A Douceur to the Chief—In a Tight Spot—A "Doctored" Passport—A Detective on Trail. Who Ingratiates Himself into Mac's Confidence—Manoeuvres—The Detective on a "Wild Goose Chase"—Safely on Board—A Distinguished Party in a Rowboat—A Stern Chase—Off at Last. 173
Rio to Buenos Ayres—Return and Meet Mac in Paris—Determine to Abandon a Dangerous Business—Vienna—Watching the Game—Must Have More Money—Good Resolutions Vanish—Return to London—Determine to Assault the Bank of England—Deposit $67,000. 186
Bank of England Requires No References—Letter from Paris—A Gilded American Young Man—Duped into Marriage with a Parisienne Moendaine—A Ghost at Monte Carlo—In a Greenwood Mausoleum—Earthly Happiness and the World to Come. 193
A Council of War—Description of Bills of Exchange—Frederick Albert Warren, the Great American Railway Contractor—The Great Bank Proves Fallible—Discounts Bogus Bills of Exchange. 200
Draw Fabulous Sums—Bags of Sovereigns by the Cab Load—In a French Railway Wreck—Baron Alfonse de Rothschild, Head of the Paris House—A Famous L6,000 Draft. 206
Last Call at the Bank of England—Noyes Arrives in London—An Artful Plot—Introduce Noyes—Plan Now Complete—Our Wise Forefathers—No Change in a Century—Our Paper Is Discounted—Prepare for Flight—Thou Shalt Not. 214
Fifty Thousand Dollars a Day—The Golden Shower Continues to Fall—Operations Shrouded in Midnight Darkness—No Possibility of Discovery—Finish and Begin Again—Amazing Oversight—Pitcher Goes Once Too Often—Noyes Arrested—Unparalleled Excitement on the Stock Exchange. 224
Consternation—A Mob of Bankers—The Financial World Shaken—Noyes Taken to Newgate—Mac Cables Irving—His Flight to France—Sails from Havre on Board Thuringia—Arrested at Quarantine—The Pinkertons on Trail. 236
Hunted Through Ireland—$2,500 Reward for My Capture—Detectives "Spot" Me at the Cork Railway Station—Obliged to Abandon Taking Passage by the Ill-Fated Atlantic—A Game of "Hare and Hounds"—Eluding a Detective "Trap"—English Misrule in Ireland—Am Taken for a Priest—A Typographical Thunderbolt at Lismore—An Early Morning Walk—A Ride on an Irish Jaunting Car—"On the Road to Clonmel"—Shelter in a "Shebeen"—How Thirsty Souls Get the "Craythur" In Ireland—A Good Old Irish Lady—Pursuit and Refuge in a Ruined Cottage at Cahir. 248
An Unceremonious Call—"I am a Fenian Leader"—A "Story" Told in the Dark—Maloy Helps My Escape on an Irish Jaunting Car—Eggs—A Policeman Anxious to Obtain the Five Hundred Pounds Reward—Dublin Again—A Jewess' Blessing—I Turn Russian, and Later Become a Frenchman—Belfast Detectives—Escape into Scotland—The Other Side of the Story—A Bow Street Detective's Adventures While Hunting Me Through Ireland —Cross-Questioning—My Jaunting Car Driver—"A Cold Water Cure"—Hot on the Trail—Not in the Fort—A Fruitless Hunt—Many Innocents Arrested—Maloy Becomes a "Know-Nothing." 261
A Marriage at the American Embassy in Paris—Anxious Moments at Versailles—Off for Spain—Crossing the Pyrenees—Gunshots—Train off the Track—Captured by Carlist Bandits—Released—Through the Pass on Ox Carts—A Mountain Blizzard—Camp in a Snowstorm—Mutiny—A Morning Dream. 275
A Carlist Officer—A Picturesque Caravan—Arrival at Burgos—Startling Telegrams—Revolution at Madrid—The Railway Seized—My Party in a Trap—Madrid Cathedral and a Bull Fight—A Special Train Proves a Slow Train—No News Good News. 292
Arrival in Santander—Gloomy Forebodings—Sail for Cuba—Watch the Pyrenees Sink in the Sea—Two Sisters of Charity, Innocents on a Voyage—Circus at St. Thomas—Sunset Gun in Havana—Thirty Seconds Change My Destiny. 301
Slavery in Cuba—Life in Havana—The Million-Pound Forgery Discovered—My Opinion Asked—Trip to the Isle of Pines—The Cuban Rebels—A Battle Field—A Slave Cook—The Missionary and the Cannibal—Going into the Interior. 312
On the Caribbean—A Motley Cargo—Turning Turtles and Shark Fishing—A Dinner Party in Havana Proves a Surprise Party—Capt. John Curtin of the Pinkertons Appears on the Scene—Consternation Among the Diners—Offer the Captain $50,000 for Ten Minutes' Start—No—I Shoot Him—Struggle and Capture—In the Arsenal. 327
Friendly Spanish Officials—Plots to Escape—Leap for Liberty—Escape out of Havana—Travel the Beach Nights—Refuge in the Jungle Days—Construct a Raft—Food and Water Gone, but Pluck at the Fore—I Will Join the Rebels And Win Military Laurels—Man Proposes, but—— 338
Creeping Across a Bridge—Sentries Discover Me—They Challenge: "Quien Va?"—They Fire—Flight and Escape on the Raft—A Tropical Night Swim—Sharks Everywhere—Knife Between My Teeth—Regain the Shore—Nearing the Rebel Camp—The Black Soldiers Surprise and Capture Me—I Strike the Captain—He Dashes at Me with a Bayonet—Stopped by a Woman—Desperation. 355
Back in Havana—Curtin's Story—Extradited—Spain Delivers Me to England—Pinkertons Escort Me on Board Steamer—Arrival at Plymouth—Newgate at Last—When Time is Old and Hath Forgotten Himself. 372
Life in Newgate—Legal Sharks—A Pattern Solicitor—A Lame Defense —Before Lord Mayor Waterlow—Trial at the Old Bailey—Thronging Crowds—Days of Mental Torture—Jury Retires—Suspense—Guilty. 383
A Modern Jeffreys—Penal Servitude for Life—End of the Primrose Way—A Resolve—Will Fortune Ever Smile Again?—Newgate to Chatham Prison—A Cocky Little Major—You Were Sent Here to Work—In the Mud—Night and Silence. 387
Events of the First Day—Hopeless Outlook—Lack of Mental and Physical Food—A Shakespeare Won and Hope Dawns—In the Infirmary—Effects of Prolonged Imprisonment. 401
Prison Management—Warders Under Military Discipline—Their Long Hours and Small Pay—Their Character and Antecedents—English Prison System Not Reformatory—Turns Out Murderers—Prison Pets—Rats, Mice and Beetles. 404
A Genius—Strange Story of Arthur Heep—Unwise Parents—Driven from Home—Temptation and Fall—In a Lunatic Asylum—Escapes Naked in a Storm—Clothes Secured from a Scarecrow—Rearrested—Serves Five Years—To America and Return—Again Behind the Bars. 417
English Prisons Schools for Crime—Two Prison Aid Societies—United States Laws Evaded—Snug Berths for Reverend Barnacles—Contributions Go for Salaries—No Benefit to ex-Prisoners—How Discharged Prisoners Are Hustled to the United States. 426
Rev. Mr. Whiteley—How to Stop Influx of Foreign Criminals—Foster an Example—Whiteley, Secretary of Aid Society, Sends Foster to Sea—His Arrival in Chicago—Meets an Old Prison Chum—Turns Detective—Chicago Justices—Foster's Story—Human Tigers—A Plot and $20,000—A Letter and Diamond Pin—In the Toils Again. 430
A Gettysburg Veteran—In the Wethersfield, Ct., State Prison—Makes and Conceals a Set of Burglar's Tools—Liberated—Returns and Burglarizes the Prison—Boat Load of Plunder—Captured—Sixteen Years More in Prison—Then Goes to England—Gets Twenty Years—Joins Me at Chatham. 436
The Fenians at Chatham—Dr. Gallagher—McCarty, O'Brien and Others—We Become Friends—Excavating the Chatham Ship Basin—Starvation and Despair—Self-Mutilation of an Arm or Leg to Reach the Hospital—Release and Death of McCarty—Gallagher Breaks Down—Speedy Release or Death for Him. 443
Fenian Prisoners in English Prisons—McCarthy, O'Brien—A Plan Miscarried—In the Tolls—Severe Punishments—Curtin, Daly, Egan—Poor Dr. Gallagher. 447
A Dictionary and Life of the Prophet Jeremiah vs. a Shakespeare—Prison Hospital Proves a Paradise—Nature's Compensations—Reality Not So Terrible as Imagined—Human Nature Unchangeable. 453
Public Opinion Within Says the Same as Outside—A Sensible Fellow—Pluck Wins—Roses Scarce, Thorns Plenty—Woe to Mutineers for "More Bread"—Sentiment Banished—Resistance Crushed—English Judges Are Autocrats—No Appeal. 459
Hard Lines—A Boaster—A Veneered Flunkey—Billy Treacle's Aunt Dies Again—Frederic Barton and His Vain Petitions—I Give Him a Pointer—His Inherited Fortune Fake—Surreptitious Mail Route—Warders as Letter Carriers. 463
Sixteen-Thousand-Acre Tea Plantation in India and Sixty Thousand Pounds Imaginary Inheritance—Barton Becomes a Great Man—The Plot Thickens—Letters from London—Smith Discharged—Petition for Barton—Smith Presents It at Home Office—Home Secretary Swallows the Bait—Barton's Triumphant Release—His Imaginary Fortune Does Not Materialize. 466
Tantalizing the Home Secretary—Refused a Letter Sheet—Petition the Home Office for One—Sarcasm About Barton's Release on My Sub-Rosa Petition—Good Conduct Fails—Feigned Wealth Wins Freedom for Barton—Apropos Quotation from Goethe—Sir Vernon Harcourt and His Opinion—I Tread Dangerous Ground. 471
Niblo Clark—The Mysterious Three R's—His Characteristic Verses—My Tenth Anniversary at Chatham—All Efforts Fail and Fifteen Years Gone Forever—Despairing When Good News Comes—My Sister in England—George Freed—Hope Returns and Abides—George Gets James G. Blaine, J. Russell and Others to Intercede—Fresh Failures—Home Secretary Matthews Won't—George and My Sister Will—Which Will Wear the Other Out—George and Sister Win—Night and Gloom in My Cell—These Walls Have Frowned on Me for Twenty Years—Warder's Tramps on Stone Corridor Arouse Me—Door Opens—"You Are Free"—First Sight of Stars in Twenty Years—I Shout, 'Twas Like a Prayer: "God Is Good." 478
NOTE TO THE PUBLIC
The Hon. Lyman J. Gage, Dr. Funk and hundreds of others have said that my book should be put at a price which would place it within the reach of every young man, etc.
Hitherto, it has been sold by subscription at $3.50, $5 and $10 per copy—the five editions printed having been easily sold at those prices.
Notwithstanding the thousands of friends their circulation has made, I did not care to have my family name go any further in this connection than financial needs required in working for the release of the men still undergoing life sentences in English prisons.
At last, however, certain influence causes me to let it go in the revised and improved form here presented, and may it prove as valuable and engrossing to the general public as it has to 20,000 subscribers to former editions. GEORGE BIDWELL.
HAD THERE BEEN WISDOM THERE?
We lived in South Brooklyn, near to old No. 13, the Degraw Street Public School. To that I was sent, and there got all the education I was ever fated to have at any school, except the school of life and experience.
I attended for some years, and even now I cannot recall without a smile the absurd incompetency of every one connected with the institution and their utter ignorance of the art of imparting knowledge to children.
At home I had picked up that grand art of reading, and went to school to learn the other two R's, with any trifle that I might come across floating around promiscuously.
I certainly hope our much-lauded public schools are conducted on better lines now than then; if not, they are frauds from the foundation. The instruction in No. 13 was so lax and radically bad that the whole governing body and the principal ought to have been sent to the penitentiary on the charge of false pretense for drawing their salaries and giving nothing in return. And yet I remember when examination day came, instead of the committee investigating the progress of the pupils, it usually turned into a mere hallelujah chorus upon our "grand public school system."
Here is a remarkable fact: I seldom missed a promotion and passed from grade to grade until within two years I found myself in Junior "A," the next to the highest class in the school, just as ignorant as my classmates, and that is saying much.
It was all very pitiful. My blood boils even now when I think of the traitors chosen and paid to see me fully equipped and armed to begin the battle of life who left me with phantom weapons which would shiver into fragments at the first shock of conflict.
I left Junior A of old No. 13, with its algebra, logic, philosophy (heaven save the word!) and advanced grammar, unable to write a grammatical sentence. I had been taught spelling out of an expositor—a sort of pocket dictionary containing about fifteen hundred words. Most of these, with their definitions, parrotlike, I had learned to spell, but never once in all my school experience had I been taught the derivation of a single word. Indeed, I took it for granted that in the good old days Adam had invented the words much as he named the animals, and, of course, supposed that he spoke good English. The knowledge of history I gained at No. 13 was strictly limited and exceedingly primitive. I knew the Jews in the old days were a bad lot. That Brutus had slain Caesar. That the Mayflower had landed our fathers on Plymouth Rock. That wicked George III. was a tyrant, and that the boys in Boston had thrown a tea-kettle at his head. I knew all about our George and the cherry tree, and there my historical knowledge ended.
So here I was launched out in the world a model scholar! Stamped as proficient in grammar, history, logic, philosophy and arithmetic, but yet in useful knowledge a barbarian, unable to spell or even write a grammatical letter and unversed in the ways of the world—a world, too, where I would be cast entirely upon my own resources.
My home life was happy. My father had lost his grip on the world, but his faith in the Unseen remained. My mother, caring little for this life, lived in and for the spiritual. To her heaven was a place as much as the country village where she was born. She was never tired of talking to us children about its golden streets and the rest there after the toils and pains of life. But, boylike, we discounted all she said, and felt we wanted some of this world before we knocked at the gates of the next.
We loved our mother, but her soul was too gentle to keep in restraint hot, fiery youths like my brothers and myself. On the whole we were good boys, and I suppose caused her no more pain than the average youngsters. Perhaps the keynote of her character can best be found in the following incident, if that which was of daily occurrence could be called an incident:
Every night of my life in those days she would come to my bed to pray over me, ever saying, as she kissed me or clasped my hand: "My son, remember if you were to pass your whole life here in poverty and hardship it would not much matter so long as you attain to the Heavenly Rest." This teaching would have been well had she only taught me some worldly wisdom with it, but that all-essential knowledge was kept from me, I being left to learn the ways of man in that terrible school of experience. The consequence being that when after some months I was launched out in life I was a ripe and apt victim to be caught in the world's huge snare. In fact, had my parents designed me to become a traveler in the Primrose Way they could not have educated me to better purpose.
Save when in the school I had never been permitted to associate with other boys, but was kept in the house, and up to my sixteenth year hardly dreamed there was evil in the world. I was told much about the "wicked," but thought that meant those who smoked tobacco or drank whisky. I hardly thought any women came under that category, but if any, then it must mean those who came around selling apples and oranges. The reader will see that when once away from the shelter of home, in threading the world's devious ways, I would be crossing the roaring torrent "on the perilous footing of a spear," all but certain to fall into the flood beneath.
During my last year at school and for a long time after leaving it, my father and mother were never tired of talking about my good education. Possibly they were not very good judges, but I am confident that they, after all, did not realize the importance of a boy being well equipped in that regard. Their thoughts and minds were so bent on the other world, and things unseen bulked so hugely on their mental vision, that there was small space left for things of this earth. They, good, simple souls, were made for and ought to have lived in the Golden Age, when all men were brave and all women true, where neighborly eyes reflected the love and faith within; but in our utilitarian days they were sadly out of place, and little wonder if they had lost their way in this world.
In their intense longing for the life beyond the grave, their passionate desire to walk the streets of gold, they, by their actions, seemed to forget that we were on this earth, and that we were here with many sharp reminders of the fact.
The same guilelessness was manifested in their choice of our home reading. The books I was allowed access to in the house were "The Life of King David," "The History of Jerusalem," "Baxter's Saints' Rest," "The Immortal Dreamer's Pilgrim" and Fox's "Book of Martyrs." His first martyr is Stephen, and such was my gross ignorance of history that I always supposed Stephen had been martyred by the Church of Rome. Here was mental food for a boy who had his own way to make in the world.
Craving other mental food than "The Life of David," I used to club pennies with a chum and buy that delectable sheet, "Ned Buntline's Own," then in fear and trembling would creep to an upper room and read "The Haunted House" or "The Ghost of Castle Ivy" until my hair stood on end in a sort of ecstatic horror; or the stirring adventures of "Jack the Rover" or "Pirate Chief" until my brain took fire and a mighty impulse stirred every fibre impelling me to follow in their footsteps.
I had remained idly at home for some six months after my release from school, when one night my father returned from New York and said: "My son, I have found a situation for you." That was delightful news, and when I went to bed that night I was too excited to sleep.
The future was full of color, red and purple, of course. Happily for me the future in all its black misery was hidden behind those gilded clouds.
So now at sixteen I was about to sail out of harbor, and how equipped!
Absolutely without education, void of worldly wisdom, and in my boyish brain dividing the world into two sections. In one was King David slaying the Phillistines or dancing before the Ark. In the other was Jack the Rover and the Pirate Chief. How easy to guess the rest! Yet I was not a bad boy—far from it. I only needed wise guidance and good companionship, and as the ignorance and crudity of my character dropped off, the innate virtue—mine by lawful heritage—would have been developed. But pitchforked into the wild whirl of Wall street and its fast set of gilded youth, the gates of the Primrose Way to destruction were held wide open to my eager feet.
"'TWAS EVER THUS." OF COURSE IT WAS.
The situation my father had obtained for me was with a sugar broker by the name of Waterbury. He was a partner in a large refinery, his office being in South Water street. He was a nice, conservative old man, and let things run on easily. His chief clerk, Mr. Ambler, was every inch a gentleman, who, quickly perceiving what an ignoramus I was, out of the goodness of his heart resolved to teach me something.
There were two sharp young men in our office. They liked me well enough, but used to guy me unmercifully for my simplicity and clumsiness. One of them, Harry by name, was something of a scapegrace, and soon acquired quite a power over me. I stood in much fear of his ridicule, and frequently did things for which my conscience reproached me, rather than stand the fire of his raillery. The greatest harm he did me was in firing my imagination with stories of Wall street, of the fortunes that were and could be made in the gold room or on 'Change. He made tolerably clear the modus operandi of speculators, and I secretly resolved that some day I, too, would try my fortune.
My friend Mr. Ambler's health was bad, and frequent attacks of illness caused him to be away from the office for weeks at a time, and that meant much loss to me. When I had been there about a year, he resigned his position and went as manager for a factory in New Haven. But before leaving he interested himself so far in my welfare as to secure me a position with a firm of brokers in New street, at a salary of $10 a week. My employers were good fellows, lovers of pleasure and men of the world, not scrupling to talk freely with me of their various adventures out of business hours. I had lost much of my awkwardness and gauche manners, and under the $10 a week arrangement began to dress fairly well. My employers did a brokerage business and speculated as well on their own account. My duties were decidedly light and pleasant, and brought me into contact with some of the sharpest as well as the most famous men in the street. Among them was a brilliant young man of my own age, who took a great fancy to me, and frequently proposed that we should start for ourselves. Being doubtful of my powers, I shrank from risking my scanty funds in any speculative venture. Much to my mother's concern, I had begun attending the theatre, and one night, on my friend Ed Weed's invitation, I went with him to Niblo's. After the performance we went to supper at Delmonico's, and I was perfectly fascinated by the company and surroundings, going home long past midnight a different man than I had last left it.
The next day Ed came to the office and invited me to lunch, where, after making some disparaging remarks about the country cut of my garments, he offered to introduce me to his tailor, who was never in a hurry for his money. After business that day we walked uptown together, and, prompted by Ed, I ordered $150 worth of garments, then went to his outfitter and ordered nearly an equal amount in shirts, ties, gloves, etc.
One amusing result was that when, a few days later, I walked down to our office, comme il faut in garb, my employers raised my salary to $30 a week, but this left me poorer than when I had husbanded my poor little $10. Soon after, piloted by Ed, I ventured $50 on a margin in gold. Unluckily, I won, invested again and again, and within fourteen days was $284 ahead. I paid my tailor and outfitter's bill, bought a $100 watch on credit, and gave a wine supper on borrowed money. Soon after this I went to board at the old St. Nicholas, the then fashionable hotel. From that time I began to drift more and more away from home influences.
Soon after the wine supper episode I threw up my position, and Ed and I started on our own account under the name of E. Weed & Co. My partner's parents were wealthy, and his father had been well known in the street, which fact gave us standing.
The years I speak of were fortunate ones for Wall street, stocks of every kind on the boom, the general wealth of the country massing up by leaps and bounds, and every kind of speculative enterprise being launched. Our firm history was the usual one of broker firms in that tumultuous arena—the Wall street of those days—commissions in plenty, a large income, but one's bank account never growing, for what was made by day in the wild excitement of shifting values was thrown away amid wilder scenes at night. Those, too, were, indeed, the flush times for the professional gambler; for men were not content unless they burned the candle at both ends. Day faro banks were open everywhere around the Exchange, and enormous sums were nightly staked in the uptown games. These were everywhere—all protected, and the proprietors invested their money for rent, fixtures, etc., with as much confidence, and kept their doors open as freely, as if embarked in a legitimate speculation. Hundreds who spent the business hours of the day in the mad excitement of the Exchange flocked around the green cloth at night, devoting the same intensity of thought and brain to the turning of a card which earlier in the day they had given to the market reports of the world. Small wonder that death cut such wide swaths in the army of brokers. Statistics show that it was more fatal to belong to that army than to an army in the field.
Ed loved to have me with him, and I used to accompany him to a game, then quite famous, run by John Morrissey, who later became a member of Congress. At this time I never ventured a single bet, and did not like to visit the place. But Ed would beg me to go, and always promised faithfully not to remain more than twenty minutes. Of course, his twenty minutes would lengthen into hours. Frequently I would take a chair into a corner and go to sleep until he left the game, that being almost any hour between midnight and morning. As usual, in such places, an elegant supper was served free at midnight. The proprietor was always rather attentive to me, and, to give him the credit due, seemed anxious that I should not play. At supper he always reserved the chair next to himself for me. One night while standing beside the roulette wheel, no one was playing, and the dealer was idly whirling the ball, a sudden impulse seized me, and the ball then rolling, I pulled a $20 bill from my pocket and threw it down on the red remarking, "I'll lose that to pay for my suppers." Unhappily I won, and, laughing, turned to the dealer and said: "Here, give me my money. I am done," and a moment later went out with my friend, fully determined never more to gamble. But, being in there the next night, I, of course, ventured again. Again I was so unfortunate as to win, and within a short time staked and lost or won nightly. But something worse than gambling was ahead of me, just at the very door.
A LICENSED PIRATE.
We had latterly somewhat neglected business—our real business being at night, when we made the pursuit of pleasure hard work. Soon the finances of our firm not only ran low, but were on three several occasions exhausted, so that we not only had recourse to borrowing, but were barely saved from bankruptcy by liberal donations from Ed's parents. His father was a fine, jolly old gentleman, and took it quite a matter of course that it was his duty to help us off the rocks when we ran on them. My partner took everything easy, but I, having no indulgent parent behind me ever ready to draw a check, began to be uneasy over the financial situation. Strangely enough, however, it never occurred to me to cut down my personal expenses, and I continued living at the same extravagant rate as when money was plenty—dining and wining and being dined and wined. Just here an important character, one destined to have an influence for evil on my future life, came upon the scene, and I will halt for a moment in my narrative to give some account of him.
This man was James Irving, popularly known as Jimmy Irving, chief of the New York Detective Force, and a bad-hearted, worthless scamp he was. I was with several friends in the Fifth Avenue Hotel one cold January night when he came in, and one of our party, knowing him, introduced us. He was a man of medium height, rather heavy set, blond mustache, pleasant eyes, but with a weak mouth and chin, and a flushed face, telling a tale of dissipation. It was when Boss Tweed ruled supreme in New York and the whole administration was honeycombed with corruption. Except under similar political conditions could such a man attain to so responsible an office in a great city as that of chief of the detective force—a position which at that time invested him with all but autocratic power. An old rounder and barroom loafer, without one attribute of true manliness and not possessed of any quality which would point him out as a fit man for the place. Nevertheless, when the position became vacant his political pull caused his selection. From being a mere detective on the staff he became chief. And truly this meant something in those days. The great civil war had but lately ended, and the country was still reeling from the mighty conflict. The flush times, resultant from the enormous money issue of the Government, kept everything booming. The foundations of society were shaken and vice no longer hid itself in the dark caves and dens of the great city. The Tenderloin, with its multifarious and widereaching influence for evil, was then created, and the police of the city reaped a royal revenue from its thousand dens of vice for their protection. To be captain of the Tenderloin precinct meant an extra weekly income of $1,000 at least. He had the lion's share; about an equal amount went to Headquarters, to be divided between the Chief of Police and the gang, Irving being one of the half dozen who had pull enough to get in the ring. The Tenderloin lieutenant, roundsman and sergeant came in for about $100, $50 and $25 a week, while the common patrolman got what blackmail he could on his own account from the unhappy women of the street. These were considered lawful game, and woe betide the poor unfortunate who refused to pay the tax. Too well she found it meant a violent arrest, accompanied with brutal treatment, a night in a filthy cell, and then to be dragged before the magistrate, who was some ward heeler, hand in glove with the police. The form of a trial and a speedy "six months on the island" from the lips of the judge followed.
From Spring street to Tenth, Broadway was full of night games—faro—each and all paying large sums for protection. This money, however, did not all go to Police Headquarters, there being a host of parasites aside from the police. The shoulder-hitter politicians, each with his pull, and each having a claim to his percentage. Most of the Broadway games were known as square games, but then there was the host of skin games in the Bowery, Chatham square, Houston, Prince and other streets. The Eighth Ward and all Broadway were considered the lawful happy hunting grounds for Headquarters detectives, and this by long prescription. Outside of that they had no claim save only to a percentage from the Tenderloin. But the protection money paid by the swindling games around Chatham square, Bayard street, and the whole length of the Bowery, by a sort of sacred prescription, belonged to the captains of those precincts, save only that part absorbed by the politicians of the district who had a pull. These usually were the Aldermen and Councilmen with their henchmen.
But to return to my friend, Capt. Jim Irving, who, before our party separated, had opened three bottles of wine. Before leaving I had asked him to call on me at the St. Nicholas. The next day he came and invited me to take a drive with him to Fordham the following Sunday. On Sunday he appeared behind a fast trotting horse, and in every respect an elegant turnout. During our drive he casually remarked that he had paid a thousand dollars for the rig, and as his pay was some two thousand dollars per annum I easily figured that his rig and diamond pin had cost him about a year's salary. It was a lovely morning, not cold, but bracing, just the day for a ride. We started for Fordham, but changed our minds and drove to the High Bridge, through Harlem lane, and well out into Westchester County. Returning, we stopped at O'Brien's Hotel for dinner. We fared sumptuously the whole day through, our dinner being particularly fine, my companion paying for everything, and really it was all highly enjoyable. He had a vast fund of anecdote, and many strange stories of city life and adventure, which naturally would be expected from one in his position. Many of those we passed or met during the day were personally known to him, and some, both women as well as men, who were then clothed in purple and fine linen, had histories, and many had at some period of their lives looked on life from the seamy side, having passed through strange vicissitudes.
Soon after dark we returned to my hotel, and after dinner, lighting our cigars, we started for Police Headquarters. There he attended to some routine business, having introduced me to two of his chief detectives. Many who read this will recognize the men, but in this narrative they will be known as Stanley and White. I will not further describe them now; as they will appear in the story from time to time, the reader will be able to judge what manner of men they were.
For the next eight weeks my life went on much the same as usual. In our business we made some money, but by one unfortunate investment lost our entire capital, and what proved worse for me, my partner's health began to fail. Dissipation, late and heavy dinners and irregular hours began to break a not over-strong constitution; consequently one Saturday he abruptly announced his intention of withdrawing from the partnership to take a trip to Europe. There was nothing to divide save the furniture in our office, which he presented to me. The following Wednesday he sailed with two members of his family. I saw him off, bidding him what proved to be a last farewell. I left the wharf feeling very lonely and miserable. It may be well to remark here that he died a year later in Italy, one more victim of a fast life, while I was spared, but took no warning from his fate. In truth, I was in the Primrose Way, which is ever found a most tormenting and unhappy thoroughfare.
How I grieved all through the twenty years of captivity that I had not had the moral courage to start afresh upon a basis of truth, sobriety and honorable endeavor.
Instead of cutting down my expenses, I rather became more extravagant, fearing my companions would suspect I was pressed for money. How much more manly had I called them together and told them we must part company.
Meeting Irving from time to time, he was most flattering in his attentions, while I was young enough and silly enough to be pleased with his notice. One evening about this time I met him while coming out of Wallack's Theatre. Shaking hands warmly, he invited me to supper at what was then known as upper Delmonico's. After supper, walking to the St. Denis Hotel at Broadway and 11th street, we found Detectives Stanley and White. Here wine was ordered, and long after midnight we parted, they first having exacted a promise to dine with them the following night at Delmonico's, at the same time stating that they wished to make me a business proposition.
The next evening White came in and said we would dine at a restaurant at Sixth avenue and 31st street, instead of at Delmonico's; then he left me, upon my promise to be on hand.
At eleven I arrived, and entering the restaurant was at once recognized by a waiter, evidently on the lookout, and ushered into a private room upstairs. Only White had arrived, but soon Irving and Stanley came, and supper was ordered. With such gentry as these wine is always in order. Then they became confidential, and the conversation turned to the subject of making money. Very skillfully they extracted the confession that I had none. When excited by the talk and the wine I cried out, "By heaven, I want money!" Stanley grasped my hand and said: "Of course you do; a man's a fool without it." Irving interjected: "Are you game to do us a favor and make ten thousand for yourself?" "But how?" I gasped. "Go to Europe and negotiate some stolen bonds we have, will you?"
For $10,000 to become accessory to a crime!
It was an appalling proposition, and I shrank from it with an aversion I could not conceal any more than he and his confederates could conceal their chagrin over the way I took it, and over the fact that their secret had been imparted to another. More wine was ordered, and before we parted I had promised not only secrecy, but, worse still, I had also promised to consider the proposition and give my answer the following night.
As my evil genus would have it, that very morning I had a visit in my office from the agent of my landlord, requesting arrears of rent, and from a tradesman whom I was owing, demanding immediate payment of an overdue bill.
Pressed for money as I was, the $10,000 seemed a large sum and offered an easy way out of my difficulties. I shall never forget that day nor how its slow minutes dragged during the mental struggle. Time after time I said: "What could I not do with $10,000?" How vast the possibilities before me with that sum at my command! Then, after all, had not the owner of these bonds lost them forever, and why should not I have a share instead of letting these villain detectives keep all? And through all I kept saying to myself: "This, of course, is only speculation. I will never do this thing."
At last the stars came out, and I started for a long walk alone up Broadway to Fifth avenue and into the Park. Since that Park was formed few men have ever passed its walks in whose bosoms raged such a tumult as in mine. I was young, in love with pleasure, and poverty seemed a fearful thing. I kept saying; "I cannot do this thing!" and then I would add: "How am I to keep up appearances, and how am I to pay my debts?" Unhappily, I had taken an enemy into the citadel. In the misery of the struggle I drank heavily.
In my excitement I exaggerated my poverty until it seemed impersonated and assumed the guise of an enemy threatening to enslave me. From 8 o'clock to 11 I paced that mall, and then left it to keep my appointment with Irving & Co., with one thought surging through my brain, and that was that I dared not be poor, the result being that before we parted, to their renewed question: "Will you do this for us?" "Of course I will!" I cried, and my feet had slipped a good many steps further down the Primrose Way to death.
FOOLS STUMBLING ON FORTUNES.
The present generation has become tolerably familiar with defalcations and robberies involving enormous sums. Previous to 1861 they were comparatively unknown, the reason being that the currency of the country was strictly limited. There were absolutely no Government bonds or currency, while the few bonds issued by corporations were not usually made payable to bearer, and, therefore, were not negotiable, and were of no use to the robber. But in 1861, to meet the expenses of the war, the State banks were taxed out of existence and our present national currency system came into being. In addition to the enormous issue of greenbacks, bonds payable to bearer, amounting to hundreds of millions, were issued by the general Government, by the individual States, counties, towns and cities, all becoming popular investments. Patriotism, and profit as well, led banks, corporations and individuals all over the world to invest surplus funds in bonds, those of the Government being most popular of all. The various issues authorized by act of Congress were known as "seven-thirties," "ten-forties," "five-twenties," etc., these terms denoting either the rate of interest or the period of years, dating from the first issue, wherein it was optional with the Government to redeem them. Everywhere, at home, in the theatres and public resorts not less than on the Exchange, were heard animated discussions about "seven-thirties" and "ten-forties." The business of the express companies of the United States took a new phase, and for the first time in their history they began to be the carriers of vast sums from city to city.
Then it was that those gentlemen who work without the pale of the law discovered new prospects of wealth, and realized that even to crack a safe or vault of a private firm would be rewarded by a find of bonds that might amply repay all risks of robbery under police protection, while to execute a successful raid on a car or even an express delivery wagon on the street would mean wealth. To burglarize the vaults of a bank meant, if undetected, anything from opening a magnificent bar or hotel in New York to a steam yacht and Winter cruises in the tropics and Summer nights on the Mediterranean.
The first coup in this line, which at once became famous, was startling in its ease and magnitude. It was known, and still is, as "The Lord Bond Robbery." Lord was a very wealthy man, who had inherited his millions. His office was in Broad street, where he managed his estates. He had invested $1,200,000 in seven-thirty bonds, all payable to bearer. For the thief, if he had any knowledge of finance, and knew how to negotiate them, such a sum as this in bonds was better than the same amount in gold, it being more portable. One million two hundred thousand dollars in gold would weigh upward of a ton, and would be difficult to handle, but that sum in bonds would hardly fill a carpet-sack. In our day, with safety deposit vaults everywhere, it seems strange that any sane man would keep so vast a sum in an old-fashioned vault in his private office, but Lord did so. His office was a very quiet one, with but few visitors, there being no business transacted in it but that of his estate.
At this time there were three or four gangs in New York, all well known and friendly with the police—that is, some or all were more or less under "protection," and had pulls at Police Headquarters. But the pull could not be depended upon at all times, particularly if the robbery made a noise and the press took it up. Then there would be violent kicks at Headquarters, and a general all-around scramble to get the thieves, and so far as safe, stick to more or less of the plunder. The gang that got Mr. Lord's bonds was what in police and thieves' slang was known as "On the Office," so named because they went around visiting offices in the business part of the city, one of the gang going in on pretense of making some inquiry and so engaging the attention of one of the clerks. Then the second member would come in and endeavor to attract the attention of any remaining clerks, while the third would try to get in without attracting attention, and, if unnoticed by those now busy talking, would slip around behind the counter to the money drawer or vault and carry off any cash box or package visible which appeared to be of value. This gang consisted of three men, Hod Ennis, Charley Rose and a man by the name of Bullard, afterward made notorious by engineering the Boylston Bank robbery in Boston.
In the absence of Lord the office was under charge of two men, old-fashioned fellows, who had grown gray in the service of the Lord estate. The bonds were all in a tin box something larger than a soap box. The interest on the bonds being due, the box had been taken out in order to cut off the coupons, and was left in the door of the open vault. None of these circumstances was known to these men; in fact, while "looking for chances," they stumbled on the prize. The night previous they had spent at a well-known faro game and had lost their last dollar. At 9 o'clock in the morning they met at a saloon on Prince street, where none but crooks consorted, and, borrowing a dollar from the barkeeper, they took a South Ferry stage and started downtown on one of many similar piratical expeditions. Of course, each paid his own fare, as from the moment of starting until their return they appeared to be strangers. Alighting at the ferry, they started up Front street, Rose in lead, he being pilot-fish. From Front they turned into Broad, and up Broad to No. 22, where there were a number of offices. Rose mounted the staircase, it now being five minutes to 10, Bullard coming close behind. Rose entered the first office to the left at the head of the stairs, which was Lord's, and at once inquired by name for a member of a well-known firm located a few doors down across the street. Lord was away. The clerk, in his desire to serve the gentleman, went to the front windows to point out the location of the firm. Bullard, who had lingered in the hall, entered, leaving the office door open behind him, and at once engaged the attention of the remaining clerk with a letter. Ennis, seeing the coast clear, slipped in, went softly to the vault, and perceiving the tin box, seized and carried it out, unseen by all save his companions. They, seeing him safely off, found a quick pretext to follow without any suspicion arising in the minds of the clerks. As a matter of fact, they did not miss the box for nearly an hour.
Ennis carried it to Peck Slip, closely followed by his chums, and there the three boarded a Second avenue car, all unsuspecting as to what a prize they had. At the corner of the Bowery and Bayard street they got out and entered that old red brick hotel on the corner—I forget the name. They were acquainted and occasionally rendezvoused there, hiring and paying for the room. They speedily opened the box, and were amazed to find it packed full of bonds—five hundreds, thousands, five-thousands, all payable to bearer. The very magnitude of their plunder terrified them, and, knowing as much as I do about such men, I am free to affirm that if a buyer of stolen property had appeared on the scene and said: "Here, I'll give you $10,000 apiece," they would have closed the deal at once and turned over the bonds, glad to get them off their hands. What they did was this: Rose went out and bought a second-hand carpet bag and put the bonds into it, save sixty five-hundreds, which they divided, and Bullard resolved to leave the bag with a friend of his. This friend, strangely enough, was the widow of a policeman and sister of two others. But she knew nothing of Bullard's character, believing him to be a workingman. Ennis and Rose were two ignorant fellows, without the remotest idea of how to negotiate bonds, but Bullard had, and, realizing how important it was to get some cash before the thing was noised around, he started out to sell some, agreeing to meet Rose and Ennis at No. 100 Third avenue, a large beer saloon then, as now.
Going to different brokers' offices, he disposed of ten for $5,000 without any difficulty, and stopped at that. He met his two friends and divided the $5,000 with them. Then, as a natural consequence with that class of men, all got drunk, and before the next morning had spent, loaned or gambled away every dollar of the $5,000.
I remember perfectly the tremendous sensation created when a rumor of the robbery spread in Wall street and over the city, and what mystified and intensified the matter was the fact that no complaint had been made to the police. When Mr. Lord was interviewed by them and by reporters he would not admit that he had been robbed, and said if he had been he would prefer to lose the money rather than have a fuss made about the affair.
This was really the first of many great bond robberies, and it struck the popular fancy; but if it stirred Wall street greatly, who shall describe the frenzy of excitement that broke out at 300 Mulberry street—Police Headquarters—when the first vague rumors of a gigantic robbery were fully confirmed, and it became known that Hod Ennis and his gang had a million and more of plunder?
All rings and pulls and gangs were smashed, combined and recombined again, while each and all were in an agony of fear lest the booty should be returned to the owner—minus a percentage divided between the gang and the ring, or sold to some clever fence, who would plant them away safely and sell them in Europe from time to time, keeping all for himself and they to have no share. What visions of diamond pins, of eight or twelve carats, all Brazilian stones; of swift, high-stepping horses; of the heaven of Harlem lane on Sunday afternoons, with a bottle or two under the vest, haunted the sleep of all the detective force. I say the police knew Hod Ennis and his gang had stolen the bonds, for in those days there was not a gang of confidence men, card sharpers, bank burglars, counterfeiters or forgers traveling the country but that the gang and every member of it was well known to the Police Department of each of our large cities. Whenever a job was done a score of detectives all over the country could say such and such a gang did the job, and they were almost always right.
Whether there was "something in" for the force to arrest and convict or not, as a matter of fact the thieves were sooner or later hocus-pocussed out of their share, either by the police, by some untrustworthy fence, or by some lawyer who was pitched upon to work back the securities on a percentage. In case the thief succeeded in saving part of the proceeds he immediately lost it at faro or in revelry, and then risked his liberty for more.
I know two men who to-day walk the streets of New York, the types of conservative respectability, members of many fashionable clubs, who, in the sixties, were known as fences, and were always ready to invest cash for stolen bonds. Both of these men compromised with their conscience by beating down the price and giving the thieves but a moiety of their value. Both of them have their fads; one is a connoisseur in violins, the other has a penchant for orchids, and has much local fame for the rarities in his collection.
Before midnight of the day of the robbery it became known to the force and many of the hangers-on of the gambling saloons and barrooms of the Eighth Ward that Hod Ennis and his gang had money, and it was surmised that it must be from the Lord business. In the mean time Bullard took the bag of bonds up to Norwalk, Ct., and placed them for safe-keeping with a trusty friend, first taking out one hundred bonds of five hundred each and fifty of one thousand each, and, returning to the city, divided them with his comrades. During his absence the photographs of the three men had been shown at Police Headquarters to the two clerks, but they were unable to identify them.
Within the next few days the $100,000 in bonds were completely dissipated; some were sold to buyers of stolen goods for a percentage of the value, some were lost at the gambling games—mostly at Morrissey's, or at Mike Murray's on Broadway, near Spring street, and probably some went Mulberry street way. Matters were thickening, and, fearing arrest, Ennis fled to Canada, Bullard to Europe and Rose went West to California. Eventually Ennis was convicted of a crime committed some time before. He was sentenced to a long imprisonment, and came out an old, broken-down man, without a dollar and without a friend. Rose was sentenced to five years for another crime, and then disappeared. Bullard settled down in Paris. He afterward returned and planned the Boylston Bank affair in Boston. With his share of the plunder he went back to Paris and opened an American bar at the Grand Hotel and flourished for some years; but, wanting money, he committed a robbery in Belgium, was arrested, and is now serving a long sentence for the same; no doubt, if he survives, he will emerge friendless, penniless, a stranger in a strange world.
If I were inclined to indulge in reminiscences, what a catalogue could be given of men who had, like myself, drifted into the Primrose Way, and all, or nearly all, have paid a terrible penalty for their wrongdoing—none more terrible than myself. As for our violin virtuoso, he seems to have conquered fate. So, too, with the connoisseur in orchids; but let us wait until the end before we say all is well with them.
Some time later on, meeting one of these detectives, now dead, who then ranked as the best in New York, in the confidence of the bankers, he said: "I am getting old and am now working for reputation, and consequently am not taking any more percentages. Of course, I don't molest any of my old friends, but those who are not under protection I run in and send them up the river (Sing Sing) as fast as I get them to rights."
This need not be considered a condemnation of all detectives, for there were, even in my time, a few honest ones of the Pinkerton and John Curtin class—the latter being now one of San Francisco's most reliable, who, by unusually considerate judgment, has made honorable citizens of a very large number of clerks whom he had been called upon to detect and arrest. This he accomplished by extracting a confession in writing, filing it among his secret papers, then saying to the trembling clerk: "I shall have you reinstated in your position, but if you go wrong again this confession will be made public."
The following incident will further enlighten the reader as to the way things were done in those good old days:
When Boss Tweed was in the full zenith of his power and glory and of the wealth so easily acquired by certain methods, his daughter was married. All of the then chiefs and district officers of Tammany, city officials, judges and heads of departments vied with each other in the presentation of wedding gifts, among which was a check for $100,000 from the father. Seldom has any bride received a more magnificent tribute, for, coming from such sources, they were nothing less than a tribute. Especially was this the case with one much-admired gift which was contributed by us just after an illicit operation of $40,000 in Wall street, $4,000 of which was paid to Irving.
In the column list of wedding gifts in the next morning's papers was: "One solid silver punch bowl, value $500, presented by Superintendent Kelso." Shortly after paying Irving the $4,000 percentage we met him one evening at the St. Cloud Hotel. Mentioning the approaching Tweed marriage, he suggested that it would be the thing, and make us more solid with the Superintendent of Police, for us to make a fine present to "the old man," one that he could use as a gift to the bride. As $500 was not much to our party in those days, we assented, and handed over that amount.
Tiffany's was then located down Broadway, and among other things on exhibition in the window was a large, handsome silver punch bowl. This was purchased with our money, which was known to have been obtained by forgery, and presented to Superintendent Kelso. A few days later the bowl reappeared in the window of Tiffany's thus inscribed:
- TO CATHERINE TWEED. Presented by JAMES KELSO, Superintendent of Police. "May loyalty and love know no end." -
WHEN BOSS TWEED WAS NEW YORK'S OWNER AND JIM FISK, PROPRIETOR OF OUR JUDGES.
What a look of relief and triumph swept over the faces of Irving, Stanley and White when I gave my consent to their proposal to take the stolen bonds to Europe and negotiate them there. We understood each other now, and casting aside all reserve, their tongues wagged freely, and they eagerly told me how confident they were of my ability to dispose of the bonds successfully, and also of my good faith; and, furthermore, told me I was the only man they would have trusted. Of course, they had no security save my word, for under the circumstances they could hardly ask me for a receipt, and even had I given one it would have been valueless had I chosen to retain the proceeds of the bonds. Thus, becoming the important member of the firm, I told them to produce the securities and I would sail immediately. It was finally settled that I should go by the steamer Russia of the Cunard line, which was down for sailing at 7 a.m. Wednesday, and they were to deliver the bonds to me on Tuesday night. Upon my demanding cash to pay expenses, their faces fell, but quickly brightened when I told them to give me a thousand-dollar bond and I would borrow that amount from a friend, using it for security. There was no danger of the number of the bond being inspected, and, of course, I would pay the note upon my return and receive the bond again.
They told me many amusing lies as to how the securities came into their possession, and as to who were the rightful owners. The truth was, as I afterward learned, they were a part of the stolen Lord bonds.
Bonds issued by our Government and held in Europe, chiefly in Holland and Germany, were so enormous in volume and passed so freely from hand to hand, that it was easy for a well-dressed, business-appearing man to sell any quantity, even if stolen, as by law the innocent holder could not be deprived of them. One great advantage a dishonest man had at that date in Europe, especially an American, was that if he dressed well they considered he must be a gentleman, and if he had money that was a proof of respectability—one they never thought of questioning, nor how he came by it; then, again, it was an article of their creed that all Americans are rich.
The next morning (Tuesday), Irving met me near the Exchange, and, with some trepidation, drew from an inner pocket an envelope containing the thousand-dollar bond. Without waiting to examine it, I walked off, saying: "I'll be back in ten minutes." He was evidently alarmed, and, like all rogues, suspicious of every one. He probably had some wild idea that I was laying a trap for him. In his ignorance of money methods he thought it would be a long, perhaps difficult, negotiation to borrow money on the bond, but, of course, I made short work of it; and "Jimmy" was more than delighted when within the ten minutes I walked in with ten one hundreds in my hand. A trifle like this made a great impression upon Irving, and from that time on I had his entire confidence. Tuesday evening I said good-bye to my mother, merely remarking in explanation of my journey that I had a commission given me to execute in Europe.
Leaving her, I went to our rendezvous, near Broadway and Astor place, where I found Irving, who handed me over his "boodle" (as he termed it), remarking confidentially that I was to give him on my return his share into his own hands; and, singularly enough, each of the others did precisely the same thing. About 11 o'clock the other two came in, and after some parley White handed over his bonds, and Stanley informed me he would give me his on board before the steamer sailed the next morning. I had already paid my bill and sent my baggage over to Jersey City, so about midnight I set out, they accompanying me as far as the ferry, and there, after shaking hands a half dozen times, we said good-bye. Having bought my ticket and engaged my cabin, I went direct to the steamer and went to bed. In the morning Stanley appeared and gave me his bonds. Ten minutes later the hawsers were cast off and we were steaming down the bay. Two hours later Fire Island sank beneath the horizon, and we were alone on the sea.
Alone on the sea! and a fitting place to tell the story of a famous New York bank robbery.
In the good old days when Bill Tweed was New York's owner, when Jim Fisk was the proprietor of our judges and Kelso sat in Mulberry street, the king of those good men, the police, who defend our lives and property, this city became a spectacle to gods and men such as we thought then could never be equaled. We thought so then, but we were not endowed with second sight, nor with the gift of prophecy, or we might, perhaps, have reserved our judgment. Still, our masters were a unique collection, and if they have been equaled or surpassed since, they held with easy grasp the pre-eminence among all American rulers who had shone and flourished up to the time when those great men gave us new ideas upon the science of government. The average and quiet citizen, shocked as he might be and grumble as he did at the impudent plundering by our masters, their contempt of public opinion and the cynical display of their luxury, would doubtless have confined himself to grumbling and to calling for slow-arriving thunderbolts to crash the oppressors who were despoiling him had he felt certain that the plunder would be confined to them, that his property would be safe, at least, from the attacks of those insignificant, despicable but eminently dangerous plunderers who became known to the police as common criminals. This, however, was not so. After being flayed by iniquitous taxes, which he knew were destined to add to the stores of Tweed, Connolly & Company, he had every day abundant proof that what the big rascals left him, the little ones would soon try, by burglary or robbery, to ravish from him, and that they would do it with perfect immunity, unterrified either by the fear of present arrest or of later punishment. The Mulberry street office was divided into three or four little pools, each with its clientele of dependents, all of whom faithfully and immediately reported to their patrons the result of any little job they had been engaged in, handing over to the representative of the pool the 20 per cent. of the result, which was Headquarters' established commission. This was the ordinary rate when gentlemen skilled in transferring other people's watches and portemonnaies from the pockets of their owners to their own, or when others who had devoted their talents to demonstrating practically the enormous power of the jimmy and wedge originated and carried out by themselves the operations peculiar to those classes of industries.
It sometimes happened that special cases offered, for which special terms were arranged. Such cases stood by themselves. They were confided only to the acknowledged heads of the profession. Standing outside of all recognized rules, they were treated apart. Headquarters men were always sent to the seat of operations to prevent interference, and, in case of need, to protect their partners. Many a mysterious robbery was perpetrated to which no clue was ever found; many an anxious search was undertaken by the bloodhounds of the law to find the robbers, that they might crack a bottle together and rejoice over the success of their operations, and sometimes they were joined by men the mention of whose names in such company would have excited incredulous and unbounded amazement.
The gigantic heavings of the war were struggling to rest, but the men whose minds were unhinged and thrown off their balance by the possession of large sums flowing from transactions, a little irregular, perhaps, but which the necessities of Government permitted, were endeavoring, by any means, to open up new fountains of wealth in place of those which the close of the war had exhausted.
One of the resources presenting itself most naturally to men in a position to profit by it was speculating with other people's money, and very naturally the result of such speculation was disastrous in the highest degree. When detection became inevitable the defaulter generally fled, hoping to find in a foreign land safety from the stroke of justice and a shelter from the reproaches of his victims.
Occasionally, one more resolute, dreading flight as much as detection, flung himself into schemes which, if they failed, meant the most hideous and utter ruin, but which, if they succeeded, rendered discovery impossible, and made his position more solid than ever before. One day, late in the sixties, in the parlor of a bank in Greenwich street, a gentleman was anxiously scanning the books of the establishment. He alone in all the institution knew of a secret which would horrify his brother officials and carry desolation to scores of homes, the first to suffer being his own. Perhaps had it been possible to exempt this one home, the misery of the others would not have greatly affected him. But suffering must be kept from his own house, and all and any means to banish it would be and must be good.
The gentleman in whose mind these thoughts were passing was the president of the bank, who knew himself to be a defaulter to an enormous amount, and who was now anxiously reflecting upon the means to cover up his robberies. Fortunately for him he was acquainted with the one man who more than any other in all America was able to help him. This was Capt. Irving. The president was a man of nerve. He knew, as everybody else knew, the relations in which the police stood to the thieves, and he felt that if he could arrange to have his own bank robbed, his difficulties would vanish, and his share in the defalcations be covered up.
Little time was left to him before the inevitable discovery, but the prompt and skillful use he made of it to extricate himself from the fearful danger of his position makes one almost regret that a man of such resolution and such opportunities should prove to the world that high qualities may exist when the moral sense is entirely wanting. Irving was quickly taken into his confidence, the position explained, the proposition to rob the bank broached, all possible co-operation in the way of leaving safes unlocked and doors open, or what, of course, amounts to the same thing, of furnishing keys and information to open everything, promised, and then Irving was asked if he could find men to carry the job into execution. New York in those days was well supplied with such artists, but the right men to carry out so momentous an operation had to be sought. The difficulty, however, was not great, and Irving promptly assured the honorable president that he might confidently count on the right men at the right time.
Among the professionals who twenty-three or four years ago were considered "valuable" men at Police Headquarters were Mike Hurley, Patsey Conroy and Max Shinburn. These were the men whom Irving instantly determined to employ, and whom he forthwith set about to find. That not being a matter of any difficulty, the same night the three men met Irving at his own house, and were delighted over the revelation he made to them.
One would like to know with what sentiment a man occupying an honorable and responsible position, a Sunday-school superintendent, the head of a great financial institution, well known in the money world and respected in society, slunk to a midnight meeting with burglars.
Did no feeling of shame crimson his face, no sinking of disgust oppress his heart, as he slipped into a house, where, although he kept aloof from actual contact with the ruffians, the details of an enormous crime of which he was the author were debated and settled?
Prudential reasons doubtless kept him from forming a personal acquaintance with his agents. The risk of exposing himself to future blackmail must not be incurred, and one may well believe that he shrank from clasping the hands of these men, who were eagerly awaiting him. Whatever were his feelings, his desperate position suffered no halting. The storm was ready to break at any moment. In an instant he might be a wretched fugitive, with terror before him and infamy howling behind. But one way led out of this labyrinth. He had resolutely planted his feet in that way, determined to tread it to the end. He did tread it to the end, and he came out victorious.
If the suspicions of any afterward pointed toward him, no syllable of the suspicions was breathed. Who dared suspect that an honorable citizen had ever, in the dead of night, crept like a robber to a meeting of outlaws, to concoct the details of an outrageous breach of trust, of a crime which—none knew it better than he—would carry life-long misery and suffering to the families of nearly every man who trusted him?
"The evil that men do lives after them," but where does the responsibility of its author end? Who will ever say what crimes may spring from the one act of wrongdoing, crimes committed, it may be, by persons who were directly led into them by the consequences of an act the perpetrator of which had never heard of those affected by it? How far does the responsibility of the wrongdoer extend? What weight of horror is he accumulating on his head?
Such questions may perhaps occur afterward, when the pleasure has been tasted and is gone, and nothing remains of the detected crime but the ruin it has wrought; but in the excitement of laying the plot, in the glamour which the hope of success casts over the schemer, they probably never intrude, conscience is smothered, and he is left to carry out his schemes to the end.
Doubtless no such thoughts disturbed the president, as he waited that night while Irving acted as go-between, carrying messages from him to the agents and from the agents back again to him. At last the arrangements were made. Duplicate keys of the safe were to be provided, and a way, to be presently explained, was to be left open to each of them. Whatever the robbers found in the safes was to be theirs, and the task of getting it was to be of the easiest. This, of course, was highly satisfactory to the thieves, but something more must be prepared for the stockholders and the public. Bank safes are not so easily emptied; there must be the appearance, at least, of great effort to effect the robbery, and marks of the effort must be left behind.
It was, therefore, settled that powerful tools were to be provided, tools able to tear open any strong-box in the world. Such articles are expensive, and the burglars had no money to procure them. No man who knows those people will be surprised at this, for, however much money they may obtain, they never have anything. It melts out of their hands, and they would be themselves embarrassed to say what becomes of it.
The president's first necessity, therefore, was to pay out about a thousand dollars for the jimmies, wedges and all the paraphernalia of the burglars' industry. This he did. Irving took charge of the money, and he had far too great an interest in the scheme to suffer the cash to be squandered. The agreement was that on the following day Conroy should present himself at the bank to hire a vacant basement, the roof of which formed the floor of the room where the safes were lodged. The president undertook to smooth any difficulties in the way of requiring references, and promised that he should be accepted as a tenant.
This agreement was punctually carried out. Conroy made his application, the basement was granted to him, the rent paid in advance for the edification of the clerks, and he at once entered in possession. Hurley and Shinburne joined him, and the following Saturday they removed so much of the ceiling that but a few minutes' work was required to complete a hole which should serve as a doorway to the vaults above when the bank closed in the evening.
CHEATED VISIONS AND VANISHED HOPES.
Saturday night was the time chosen to get into the bank, and the plunderers were to remain there until Sunday. The members of Irving's ring were to keep watch to prevent any officious interference from passers-by or from ward policemen. Carriages were to be in waiting at some convenient place on Sunday morning, and when the men inside received a signal from their police accomplices on the outside, they were to leave the bank, abandoning their tools, and carrying away nothing but the money and the securities they had stolen. So far, the way was plain; the keys had long before been prepared, tested and found to work properly; full instructions were given as to the way to use them, but the way inside was not yet open.
A night watchman was employed on the premises, and he, of course, was to be got rid of. Little ceremony was to be used in treating him. He was to be seized, overcome by any means, bound, gagged and rendered helpless until Monday, and the fact that he always passed Sunday in the bank, prevented any remark at home upon his continued absence. The details of the plot were thus satisfactorily settled, and at a late hour the conspirators separated.
In the early morning of that day the three burglars were standing in the cellar to which they had lowered their booty, waiting for the signal to come out. At last it was given, when the precious trio slipped out, carrying their precious bags. A covered carriage was posted in an adjoining street, into which the whole party entered, flurried and excited, and rapidly drove to Irving's residence. There the contents of the bags were carefully examined. The actual cash was easily disposed of, but what was to be done with the bonds?
The arrangement finally agreed upon, to be detailed presently, shows that if there be circumstances in which a little learning is a dangerous thing, one of them is not just after the perpetration of a gigantic burglary.
The Monday following its execution confusion and amazement reigned in the bank. The clerks on their arrival were astounded to find the safe doors wide open, torn and smashed by the tools which lay scattered over the floor, and the night watchman, gagged and bound, was discovered, nearly dead, in a neighboring room. One of the clerks jumped into a cab and rushed to Police Headquarters in Mulberry street to report the robbery. Irving was sitting in his office, busy with the night reports, when the messenger was introduced to tell of the bank's calamity.
The excellent chief listened with breathless attention, and was naturally horror-struck at the perpetration of such a crime. Calling a couple of his trusted sleuths, he hastily communicated the surprising news, and the three hurried with the clerk back to Greenwich street. Arrived there they minutely examined the premises, and gave it as their opinion, judging from the style of the work and from the tools which lay around, that the burglary had been committed by a well-known burglar named Harry Penrose, and that the night watchman, whom they immediately placed under arrest, must have been his accomplice.
The president had sent word to the bank that he was unwell, and would not be able to attend to business that day, but the terrible news was immediately telegraphed to him, and, in spite of his illness, he hurried to town. It is impossible to describe his astonishment and distress at the sight which met his eyes. In the presence of the clerks he held anxious consultations with the detectives, who assured him that they had already taken the first steps to unravel the mystery, and that every possible effort would be made to discover the criminals. In the privacy of his own office he explained to the reporters that he had left in the bank four hundred thousand dollars in cash and bonds, every farthing of which had disappeared.
As soon as the news was published the excitement among the depositors and the stockholders of the bank was, of course, immense. A run set in, which the directors by the help of friends and of their own private resources were able to meet, but the Wall street appreciation of the calamity was shown in the drop in value of the bank's stock from 130 to 40.
I repeat, a little learning is a dangerous thing. Much knowledge is not to be looked for among men who engage in such crimes, but one would fancy that the everyday experience of Irving and his people would have given them some idea of financial business. The fact is, they were, if possible, more ignorant than their felonious partners. The financial ideas of the latter scarcely went further than "making cheap pennyworths of their plunder, giving to courtesans and living like lords till all be gone," so that negotiating the sale of bonds was a mystery far too high for them—something which they could never hope to attain to. But the company included one man who was a rare exception to the ordinary ride of such society. This was Max Shinburne, a German, a man of considerable education, who, in some inexplicable way, had fallen so far from honor and respectability that when he saw a thief he "consented unto him."
How is it that such men are often found in the ranks of professional criminals? They would probably have difficulty to explain it themselves. A want of savoir faire, the fact that they have never been taught to make a practical use of their acquirements, the pressure of temptation at a critical moment, the absence, possibly, from harm, leading to the hope of immunity—all, perhaps, enter into the explanation of the secret promptings which have led to the first false step, to the first planting of the feet in the path which leads to destruction. Once the step is taken, to retrace it seems impossible. The line which society draws, and which it proclaims no man shall overstep without punishment, may be approached very closely, but once on the wrong side, once the fateful step is taken, the act is irretrievable; to attempt to retrace it is to attempt to undo the past; it is all but impossible.
Thus probably it is that the fall of an educated man is more hopeless than that of one who knows no better. A carpenter or a blacksmith who has got himself in a tangle has only to move to another town, and if he shakes off perverted thoughts and perverted influences, he is not much worse off than before. He has kept his trade, and his trade will keep him.
Nobody is going to inquire about a workman who can do his work. The employer requires nothing more than that the work be done, and if it be done he neither thinks nor cares anything more about either it or the worker.
With the educated man the case is different. The sentiments of the class he belongs to are less yielding, the fineness of his own feelings has been too deeply wounded, and when he has stabbed his reputation, he is apt, foolishly, of course, to fling the rest of his respectability after it.
With qualities and advantages which might have fitted him for a useful and honorable position in life, Shinburne was at less than 30 years of age the companion of outcasts. But whatever his moral failings, his knowledge remained, and it was for him, at least, to be valuable.
To get rid of the bonds in America was impossible, except by sacrificing them to a stolen goods receiver, who would have given but a small percentage of their value.
A steamer was to sail for Europe that day, and it was agreed that Shinburne should go by her, with one of the other robbers as company, sell the bonds before the news of the robbery could get across the ocean, then return and fairly divide the proceeds.
This was the arrangement, but Shinburne had already begun to have other dreams and other ambitions. He saw a chance to restore himself, or, at least, to snatch at a position which would give him weight to crush down sinister reports or envious whisperings, and he determined forthwith to seize it. What the bank president had done to save himself from infamy, Shinburne would do to recover himself from infamy. It can be, therefore, easily understood that he accepted without hesitation the other's proposal.
The steamer did not sail until noon. There was, therefore, plenty of time to make preparations, and, besides, he had a little private business to attend to. Leaving the securities in Irving's charge, with a promise to meet the party at 11, he took his share of the cash and departed.
Some time before this, with a skill and forethought rarely to be found in the class he then belonged to, he had bought some building lots near the park. Fortunate, indeed, the speculation eventually proved to be. In the mean time, placing his lots in the hands of a responsible agent, and taking drafts on Europe for his money, he rapidly made the little preparation he needed, and at 11 joined his party, there to receive nearly $200,000 in bonds, and to set out with Mike Hurley for the steamer.
After hurried parting injunctions from the Headquarters men, the two travelers, accompanied by Conroy, to see them off, were rapidly driven to the steamer. Punctually to the hour the hawsers were cast off, and with barely time to say good-bye the cronies parted. A moment after the screw began to turn, and the Cunarder's bow pointed toward England.
Arrived in Liverpool, the pair proceeded at once to London. Hurley, who was as ignorant of foreign travel as of everything else, was easily tricked by some tale of no evening trains for the Continent. Shinburne plied him well with liquor, taking care to mix the bottles, and when he had got him helplessly drunk he took the bonds and with his little luggage slipped quietly off to the Continent, never to see his dupe or his New York friends again.
He went to Germany, called himself "Count" Shinburne, bought an estate and began to exercise large hospitality toward his neighbors.
No man on all the length of the Rhine was so popular as he. No man's house and table, horses and gardens were so praised as his. In the eyes of the beggar nobles of the Fatherland the man who could give such dinners and in such succession, must belong to the choice members of the human race. Day by day Max's position grew more solid. No breath was ever whispered against him, and with a little prudence he might have kept up his state and died in the odor of sanctity. But the taste of grandeur was too sweet, the incense of his little world's flattery too precious to run the smallest risk of losing it. His display exceeded his means, but for nothing in the world would he have curtailed it.