Thomas F. Byrnes.

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the strong boxes of the firms. Among the houses victimized were the New York
Guarantee and Indemnity Company and the National Trust Company. Perrine as
Charles D. Williamson acted as the banker for the forgers, and all the bogus bonds
passed through his hands and were by him put on the street. His share of the
proceeds of the transactions, it is said, amounted to about $100,000. He was among
the first of the gang to disappear when the exposure came. He went abroad, and for
a time was lost in Great Britain.

In 1875 2- "^3^" sold, or attempted to sell, to Rollins Brothers, of Broad and Wall
streets. New York, a number of seven per cent, gold bonds of the Central Pacific road,
California and Oregon branch. These were detected as counterfeits, and as the seller
was to call on the following day with an additional number of the bonds, the Captain
of the New Street police station was notified and took the man into custody. He had
given the name of Howard, but he turned out to be the Charles J. WiUiamson who
was " wanted " for the big forgeries of three years previous. He was taken to the
District Attorney's Office, where from the pigeon-holes were drawn out a number of
indictments against him in connection with the previous forgeries on the Buffalo, New
York and Erie, and other roads named. The District Attorney insisted upon bail for
the entire batch, and this making up a great aggregate, Williamson was unable to
command it, and remained in the Tombs until his trial. This occupied several days,
and a hard fight was made to save the now celebrated criminal, but he was convicted,
and sentenced on October 31, 1876, to the limit of ten years in the State prison. Upon


motion of an Assistant District Attorney, who had conducted the case, an additional
five years was added to the sentence — making fifteen years in all — because it was the
second offense of the prisoner. He was sent to Sing Sing, and at once began plotting
for an escape. He, with several other convicts, entered into a conspiracy. The bake-
house was fired, and in the confusion which followed a number escaped. The majority
were retaken, but Williamson got away. This was on June 26, 1877, about eight
months after his arrival at the prison.

He went to London, and there, under the name of Charles Cherwood, ahas
Sherwood, was arrested in March, 1878, for some forgeries directed against the Union
Bank of London, by which that institution was to be swindled by means of false drafts
and bills of exchange on the Continent. The Scotland Yard force had made the arrest,
and knowing that they had an American professional, they sent a photograph and
description to New York City, and word was sent back telling who the man was, and
giving his entire unsavory American record. He was tried, and received, after
conviction, a ten years' sentence. He at once turned State's evidence, and by his
information an extended conspiracy on the part of American forgers to operate in
England and on the Continent of Europe was laid bare. Dan Noble, Joe Chapman
and Clutch Donohue were arrested, and, on the evidence of Williamson, convicted. In
return his sentence was shortened, and in October, 1883, he was released.

Fearing to come direct to New York City, he took ship for Canada, and thence
crossed the line, and about January 15, 1884, he was seen in New York, and then
went West, to begin business at St. Louis.

He was held without bail to answer the charges of the bank officials in St. Louis,
but steps were taken to bring him back to Sing Sing, to serve the fourteen years and
four months still charged against him on the books of the prison.

Williamson was convicted in St. Louis, Mo., for attempting to swindle the St.
Louis National Bank out of $6,500, by means of a forged letter of credit, and was
sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary on February 11, 1885.

See records of Nos. 16, 18, and George Wilkes.

Williamson's picture, which was taken in England, is an excellent one. The Slate
shows his handwriting.


alias Al. Wilson, alias Jew Al, alias James T. Watson,

alias Chas. H, Whittemore.

Forty-three years old in 1886. A Jew, born in Germany. Married. No trade.
Slim build. Height, 5 feet bYz inches. Weight, 120 pounds. Light brown hair, light


brown whiskers and mustache, light complexion, blue eyes. Has a small India ink
spot on the left hand between the thumb and forefinger, and a small dark mole on the
back of the left hand. Two vaccination marks on each arm. Wears a No. 7 shoe.


Wise, or Sondheim (the latter is supposed to be his right name), is a very clever
professional pickpocket, bank sneak, confidence man, forger and swindler. He is well
known all over the United States, and has been arrested in almost every city in the
Union, several of which have his picture in the Rogues' Gallery.

He was arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., on April 7, 1877, for a sneak robbery.

He was arrested again in Boston, Mass., on July 10, 1880, charged with obtaining
$1,000 in money from one H. P. Line, in July, 1875, by falsely representing to him that
he had a large amount of jewelry in Adams Express Company's office, and showed him
a bill of the goods marked C. O. D. This case was nolle prosequi, on account of some
valuable information given by him to the police authorities in relation to some bank

He was next arrested in Buffalo, N. Y., under the name of James T. Watson,
tried, found guilty in the Superior Court, of forgery and swindling, and sentenced to
five years in Auburn prison. New York, on February 7, 1883.

The history of Watson's operations reveals a series of swindles such as none but a
professional could have worked. About the middle of November, 1882, a stranger
called at the Merchants' Bank of Buffalo, New York, and stating that he was in the
lumber business, and wished to open an account, deposited $600 in currency. A simi-
lar statement was made to the cashier of the Manufacturers and Traders' Bank of that
city, and $1,000 was deposited there. Subsequently Watson deposited in the Mer-
chants' Bank a draft for $1,700, made by the Second National Bank, of Wilkesbarre,
Pa., upon the Fourth National Bank of New York.

A draft for $3,400, made by the Cleveland National Bank of Commerce upon the
Manhattan Bank of New York, was also deposited in the Manufacturers and Traders'
Bank, Within two days Watson checked against these amounts, leaving but a small
balance to his credit. Shortly afterward the Merchants' Bank discovered that the
$1,700 draft had been raised from $17. The other draft was also shown to have been
raised from $34. Search was made for Watson, but- he had flown, leaving no trace.
Descriptions of the swindler and his operations were immediately scattered through
the country. A New York detective, seeing the description, immediately associated
the criminal with the well known professional " Al " Wilson. Wilson was arrested and
held until some of the bank officers from Buffalo arrived to identify him. They were
accompanied by Joseph Short, a boy whom Watson employed in his office. The latter
immediately identified the swindler. Notwithstanding Wilson's protestations that he
was not the man and had not been out of New York in six months, he was taken to
Buffalo, indicted and held for trial.

The trial took place on February 6, 1883, and the court room was crowded. The
prisoner, who is a bright, good-looking fellow, appeared sanguine of acquittal, which
feeling was shared by his counsel. The bank officials were positive that Wilson was the


man, but their testimony was exceedingly conflicting. The office boy swore positively
that Wilson and Watson were identical. The Maverick National Bank of Boston,
learning of the arrest, sent a clerk, Henry A. Lowell, to ascertain whether the accused
was the individual who swindled its institution of nearly $5,000 under like circumstances
a short time before. Lowell identified the prisoner, and swore that he operated in
Boston under the name of Whittemore. The defense produced a number of witnesses
from New York, who swore that Wilson was in the metropolis when the crime was
committed. Detectives from New York testified that Wilson was a professional thief,
and had been so for years. Certain witnesses swore that the prisoner had worn a
beard during November, and others swore that he wore only a mustache.

The testimony being so conflicting, public interest was excited as to the result.
The judge's charge was against the prisoner, and the jury retired at noon, returning at
3:30 p. M., on February 7, 1883, with a verdict of guilty. Watson, who had looked for
an acquittal, was surprised, but maintained his composure. Before the sentence was
passed he made an eloquent appeal for leniency on the part of the court. He said that
he had a wife and mother, who were left penniless. Rising to his full height, he denied
that he was a professional thief and said that his innocence would be proved some day.
He requested that he might be sent to Sing Sing instead of Auburn, which request was
denied. The spectators in court were unanimously of the opinion that Watson is the
coolest rascal ever seen.

Sondheim's Boston operations were as follows: Some time in August, 1882, under
the name of Whittemore, he went into the Maverick National Bank and deposited the
sum of $2,000, announcing his determination to carry on business at the bank. The
following day he entered the bank, bringing with him a boy whom he introduced as a
messenger, and who, so he said, would transact his business for him. He then began
to draw against the deposit until it was almost gone, when he reappeared and deposited
a check for $5,000.

The next day the boy also reappeared and drew one-half of the $5,000 deposited,
and finished on the following day with drawing the entire deposit, minus about $17.
Whittemore, after making a similar attempt upon another banking house in Boston,
took his departure for Portland, Me., where he also tried to victimize a banking institu-
tion. He then went to Buffalo, where he carried on the operations for which he was
found guilty, as above stated.

His sentence will expire September 7, 1886.

Wise's picture is a pretty good one, taken in April, 1877.



Fifty-nine years old in 1886. Born in France. Married. Machinist. Slim build.
Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weight, about 145 pounds. Gray hair, very thin ; hazel


eyes, fair complexion. Large nose. Thin face. Small mole near right eye. Wife's
name, Annie L. Wolf.


Brown, or French Louie, the name he is best known by, is one of the most
expert burglars in America. His particular line is the manufacture of burglars' tools
and making false keys from impressions in wax. He seldom takes a hand in a
burglary, unless it is a large one. He generally paves the way for the operations of
confederates, and works from 6 a. m. to 8 a. m. in the morning, when his operations can
generally be carried on with impunity, as any person seeing him at that hour would
fancy that he was simply opening the store for the day's business. French Louie has
spent at least twenty years in State prison in America, two-thirds of it in Sing Sing
prison. New York.

Louie was arrested in New York City on July 15, 1877, in the act of committing a
burglary at Nos. 27 and 29 White Street. He was convicted and sentenced to three
years and three months in State prison at Sing Sing, N. Y., on August 16, 1877. He
escaped from Sing Sing on July 16, 1878, and was re-arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., on
February 18, 1879, ^'^^ returned to Sing Sing prison to serve out his unexpired time.

He was arrested again in New York City, on August 27, 1881, for tampering with
the padlock on the store of E. H. Gato & Co., No. 52 Beaver Street. There was
$50,000 worth of imported cigars in the store at the time. Louie pleaded guilty of an
attempt at burglary, and was sentenced to two years and six months in State prison, on
September 12, 1881, by Recorder Smyth, in the Court of General Sessions, New York
City. His time expired on October 12, 1883.

French Louie was arrested again, under the name of John Yole, in Hoboken, N. J.,
on March 18, 1886, and sentenced to ninety days under the Disorderly Act. He had
some tools and keys in his possession when arrested. His case was referred to the
Grand Jury, which body failed to indict him.

Brown's picture is an excellent one, taken in Philadelphia, Pa.



WHILE the records given in the preceding pages are those of the professional
forgers of to-day, a few of the men who figured prominently in criminal
proceedings in the past cannot be left unnoticed. Several of these have been lost sight
of for years, and some are perhaps dead, but as their exploits shed light upon crimes of
the past and point to a moral, their careers are certainly worthy of mention here.

Walter G. Patterson was a quarter of a century ago classed as an expert forger.
His first crime of note was on June i, 1861, when he succeeded in cashing at the
Pacific National Bank of New York a check for $1,075. ^^ was made payable to the
Hon. Simeon Draper, Commissioner of Charities and Corrections, and bore the forged
signature of Henry Cam The forger was run down, but he was afterwards released
on bail, which he forfeited and fled from the city. He was recaptured in June, 1865,
and when called for trial pleaded guilty. Recorder Hoffman, before whom Patterson
was arraigned, after the prisoner's confession of guilt, and upon a promise to reform,
suspended sentence. In the August following the forger was again arrested upon the
old charge, and the Recorder then sentenced him to five years in Sing Sing prison.
Previous to his being brought up for the Pacific Bank forgery, Patterson was living
with a woman named Ryan at Collins's Hotel, at the foot of Canal Street. The pair
occupied costly apartments at the hotel, were spending money freely, and it was
suspected that the self-confessed forger was concerned in the passing of several other
checks, although it was impossible to fasten the crimes legally upon him.

Vermillyea & Co., bankers of this city, in February, 1870, gave a certified check
for $156, payable at the Bank of Commerce, to a stranger who had had a small business
transaction with them. The draft was afterwards "raised" to $16,000, and deposited
with the Mechanics' Banking Association for collection. The Bank of Commerce paid
the check on their own certification. This led to a long litigation, which resulted in a
verdict for the Bank of Commerce, the courts holding that it was only responsible for
the original amount of the certification of the check. It was well known that Walter
G. Patterson and Spence Pettis were the men who secured the large sum of money
upon the raised paper. Pettis was an expert in the use of chemicals, and it was claimed
that he altered the figures upon the check.

When the forgery was discovered Patterson had disappeared. Pettis was arrested,
however, but was afterwards released for want of evidence. When the case fell
through the prisoner was sent to Boston, Mass., to answer for a forgery which he had


committed there. Pettis was convicted of the latter offense, and while serving his
sentence in the Charlestown State prison the convict hanged himself to the grating of
his cell door. Thus ended the career of a most notorious criminal.

John Ross, while plotting several gigantic schemes in 1866, lived in princely style
at the Metropolitan Hotel. He ran an office in Exchange Place for two months, and
during that period had large transactions with, brokers, buying and selling gold. In
that way he secured their confidence. This obtained, he bought gold to the amount of
$1,000,000, and gave his own certified checks in payment. The checks were worthless.
A few days previous to the stupendous transaction in gold, Ross employed Garten &
Co., of Broad Street, to buy for him a number of Western railroad bonds, for which he
paid in good money. On the day of his disappearance Ross hypothecated for a loan of
$17,000 from the bankers a bundle of bonds supposed to be the identical ones they had
purchased for him. When, however, his forgeries became known, Garten & Co.
discovered that the bonds on which they had advanced money to Ross were counterfeits.

x^fter plundering right and left, Ross boarded a steamer for South America,
leaving the vessel at Pernambuco, Brazil. He was tracked to Bahia and Rio Janeiro,
and at the latter place all trace of the fugitive was lost.

John Henry Livingston, alias Lewis, alias Matthews, alias De Peyster, on
December 3, 1867, in the garb of an express messenger, with the words "American
Express Co." upon a plate on the front of his cap, appeared at the National City Bank.
From a large leather wallet the spurious messenger took a check drawn to the order of
Henry Keep, President of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, and
signed " C. Vanderbilt." The check also bore the endorsement, " American Express —
collect and deliver at Albany — Henry Keep." Livingston presented the forged draft
to Mr. Work, the paying teller, and requested that bills of a certain denomination be
used in making up the package, saying that he would return in a few minutes, having
another errand close by. On his return to the bank Livingston was handed the
package, containing $75,000, the amount called for by the fraudulent check.

With the money he fled to the West, where he purchased a farm and engaged in
stock raising. He was captured there a year or so afterwards. There was a peculiar
and interesting incident in connection with the search for the forger. The features and
manners of Livingston were so impressed upon Mr. Work's mind, and his recollection
of the entire transaction was so clear that it enabled him to draw a pen and ink sketch
of the "layer down." The portrait revealed Livingston's identity and led to his arrest.

The prisoner, when brought to trial, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to four
years and nine months' imprisonment. His farm and stock were confiscated, and the
proceeds of the sale given to the bank he had duped.

Charles B. Orvis was in 1873 the proprietor of the City Hotel, and the place was
then the rendezvous of the gang of forgers of which Roberts and Gleason were the
leading spirits. The hotel keeper had long been a shady character. He was originally
a "coniacker" (dealer in counterfeit money), and was first arrested at Cleveland, Ohio,


with a confederate named Webster for passing forged bank-bills. They were convicted
and sentenced to three and a half years each in the Columbus Penitentiary, and they
served their full terms.

Orvis, in June, 1873, while we was still running the hotel, had several financial
transactions with the banking firm of George B. Ripley, at No. 66 Broadway. He was
simply paving the way for the successful culmination of a well planned scheme. When
he had at last established confidence and made his credit good, Orvis one day succeeded
in borrowing from the firm $20,000 upon some forged bonds. Since then he has been
arrested several times for defrauding various banking firms, and at present there are
indictments against him on file in the District Attorney's office.

The forger's audacity was most surprising. The New York Sun and Times, several
years ago, exposed his character, and Orvis afterwards began suits against the news-
papers for showing him up. The suits, of course, collapsed when it was proven that
Orvis was really a dangerous criminal.

George B. Watson was discharged from State prison in 1873, having completed a
term of five years' imprisonment for burglary. Upon his return to the city the
ex-convict married a very respectable young woman, and with his innocent bride went
to live in a fashionable apartment house on Fifty-fourth Street, near Broadway. He
had not been out of prison long before he entered into co-partnership with a forger, who
took him in training. After the necessary education Watson started out as a full-
fledged "scratcher." At the banking office of Samuel White & Co., on Wall Street,
several years since, he disposed of some Government bond coupons, for which he
received a due-bill calling for the payment of $125. Instead of presenting the latter to
the cashier immediately, Watson waited until lunch-time, and then presented the claim.
In the meantime he had raised the amount which the due-bill called for to $12,000, and
just as the money was being handed to him the forgery was detected. Watson, who
had been on the alert, fled from the office and escaped.

When the gigantic fraudulent scheme to flood the market with forged New York,
Buffalo and Erie Railroad bonds became known, Watson, who was concerned in the
great conspiracy, fled to Europe. Upon his return, several years later, he was arrested.
He was then a complete wreck from dissipation, and had to be assisted into the court
room. His condition was so pitiful that the complainant asked for the discharge of the
prisoner on his own recognizance. Watson was thereupon released, but he rallied, and
a few months later on he was again arrested and brought up for a small forgery.
Upon his conviction he was sentenced to the penitentiary, where he died before his
term expired.

Charles R. Beckwith was arrested January i, 1876, for robbing his employer,
B. T. Babbitt, the soap manufacturer, out of $205,645 by means of forged receipts.
Beckwith had been stealing for years before it was suspected that the funds of the firm
were being made away with. He was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. Beckwith
is at present living in Canada.


Thomas R. Lewis, the accomplice of Beckwith, who also realized about $200,000
by making false entries in Mr. Babbitt's books, fled to Europe when the fraud was
discovered. He was captured in London, England, and brought back. Upon his
return to this city Lewis made restitution as far as he was able, returning altogether
property worth $58,000. He was convicted and sentenced to two and a half years'
imprisonment. Lewis died a few years since in Switzerland.

J. Lloyd Haigh for many years held an exalted position in society, but like other
good men he wandered from the path of rectitude, thereby destroying his good name
and casting a dark shadow over that of his family. In 1879 ^^ ^^^ arrested and accused
of hypothecating forged paper. He was indicted and convicted of forgery in the third
degree, and on August 8, 1880, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

Lewis M. Van Eten, on March i, 1871, was paid $19,000 by the Park National
Bank on a check purporting to have been drawn by Hall, Garten & Co., brokers, of
No. 30 Broad Street, and certified by the Continental Bank. Upon the discovery of
the forgery the Continental Bank refunded the Park Bank the amount they had paid
on the check. After the forgery Van Eten disappeared, and remained away for some
time. On- his return to New York he was arrested, and upon conviction was sentenced
to a term of ten years' imprisonment in Sing Sing. He had not been long in prison
before he was pardoned, but upon his release he was re-arrested for a forgery committed
at San Francisco, Cal. While on the way to that place for trial. Van Eten committed
suicide by swallowing a dose of laudanum, which he had kept concealed upon his person.

Levi Cole, a man with innumerable aliases, figured as a burglar, forger and dealer
in counterfeit money for many years. His first start in crime was handling spurious
bank-notes. When the State banks went out of existence Cole turned burglar, and
made a specialty of robbing the safes of country banks. His jimmies and other tools
he expressed from place to place in a sole-leather gun-case. He was in the habit of
calling at the express office with a game-bag over his shoulder and a cartridge belt
around his waist. Cole would pass the day in the woods, and in the night the country
bank would be robbed. He served two terms for burglary, and at the expiration of the
second sentence went direct from prison to a Western city, where his brother kept a
hotel. Cole demanded assistance, but it was refused, because, under promises of

Online LibraryThomas F. ByrnesProfessional criminals of America → online text (page 33 of 53)