Pickpockets are an interesting class of thieves, and among the men and women who pursue that particular phase of crime there is much diversity of standing. The male operators all dress well and display considerable jewelry, but the females, while pillaging, generally appear in humble attire. Professional pickpockets are naturally great rovers and are continually traveling over the country to attend large gatherings. It is in crowds that these dexterous rascals successfully practice their nefarious calling. They are to be found one day among the assemblage present at the inauguration of the President of the United States, another at the funeral obsequies of some distinguished person, and the next at a country fair. A year ago members of the light-fingered fraternity flocked from all parts of the country to New York City, expecting to reap a rich harvest among the immense gathering at the funeral of ex-President Ulysses S. Grant. The perfect police arrangements, however, frustrated the plans of these rogues, and notwithstanding the fact that there were hundreds of thousands of people that day along the route of the funeral procession, not a single watch or pocket-book was stolen. Never before in the history of the Police Department had there been such a clean record. The day before the funeral all the professional pickpockets then in the city were arrested upon suspicion, and the police magistrates, when the precautionary scheme was explained to them, concurred in the flank movement against the rogues and held the prisoners. The alarm was then raised, and just as soon as the news had spread beyond the limits of the city, the hundreds of criminals on their way to New York gave up the project, left the trains and scattered in another direction. A few, however, who were reckless enough to attempt to reach the metropolis, found detectives awaiting them at the several depots. They were taken in charge and were kept safely housed at the Police Central Office, the various precinct station-houses and the Tombs prison until the funeral was over and all the strangers had departed for their homes. When there was no one to prey upon the disgusted rogues were liberated. The effort made to thwart the many bands of pickpockets upon that occasion was truly a bold one, but the end certainly justified the means.

Of professional pickpockets there are several types, and their peculiarities and characteristics are imperfectly understood by the general public. Odd are the notions that some people entertain of the personal appearance of criminals of that class. Some believe them to be a forbidding and suspicious-looking set, but the photographs in this book will convince them that they are not unlike ordinary individuals, and that unless their faces are known, their appearance or dress would not excite curiosity. Still between the several classes of operators there is a vast and striking difference. The pickpocket, either male or female, who dexterously abstracts a purse or captures a watch or diamond pin on any of the principal thoroughfares, in a street car, train or church, does not in any way resemble the person who will perform the same operation in a side street or at an enthusiastic gathering. Various as are the dispositions of these robbers also are their methods in getting possession of a pocket-book or valuables. Those who seek only large plunder are entertaining conversationalists and easy in their manners. They are generally self-possessed fellows, and are dexterous and cautious operators. Women make the most patient and dangerous pickpockets. Humble in their attire, and seemingly unassuming in their demeanor, without attracting any notice or particular attention, they slip into an excited crowd in a store or in front of a shopwindow. A quick eye or a delicate touch will locate for them without difficulty the resting-place of a well filled purse. That discovered, they follow the victim about until the proper opportunity presents itself and they capture the prize. Sometimes they go off on thieving excursions in pairs, but an expert female pickpocket invariably prefers to work alone. The latter class are difficult to run down because of their craftiness and closeness. Men, after committing a large theft, are in nearly all instances extravagant and reckless, but women have no such reputation. On the contrary, they are careful of the money they have stolen, and have been known to remain concealed for a long time.

There is on record the case of a female pickpocket who after capturing a wallet containing many thousand dollars in greenbacks, aware that she was suspected, succeeded in eluding arrest until the only witness against her had died. The day following the robbery the woman, who was well advanced in years and was possessed of an excellent education, under an assumed name entered a religious institution. Being an apparently genial and good-natured person, and after telling a plausible and sad story of her unhappy marriage to a drunkard, she had no trouble in gaining admission to the home. Her conduct there was exemplary, and in the course of a short while she was given an easy position. There she remained for months and years, but when at last she read of the death of the wealthy lady whose pocket-book she had stolen, the cunning pickpocket, aware that the danger of conviction for the larceny had passed, soon vanished from the home and returned to her old trade. There are other instances illustrative of the care with which women avoid detection that are on a par with the one mentioned.

The pickpockets who pursue their calling under the cover of a shawl or overcoat carried carelessly over one arm, invariably the left one, take a seat in the car on the right side of the person they intend robbing, and operate under the coat, shawl, or newspaper. In case the pocket is high or too small to admit the hand freely, a sharp knife is used to cut the side of the dress or pantaloons of the victim. Others of the light-fingered fraternity wear light overcoats with the large pockets removed. Entering a crowded car, the thief, while standing up, selects a woman who, while paying her fare, has displayed a well filled purse. The man, when the opportunity occurs, carelessly laps his coat over her dress. Then by inserting his hand through the outside opening of his false pocket, quietly proceeds to do his work. Female pickpockets who operate in cars, stages and boats invariably use cloaks, which shield them while stealing. They press against the person whose pockets they are rifling, and the cloak completely hides the movements of their, hands.

Some expert pickpockets ply their vocation alone. One of this class succeeded in stealing a valuable timepiece from the vest pocket of a distinguished jurist some time since while the latter was viewing a procession from in front of a leading hotel. Another class of pickpockets are to be found in churches and at funerals. Women generally do the stealing, and they pass the plunder to their male confederates, who disappear with the watch or pocket-book the moment it has been captured. The men as a rule are old thieves who have lost their nerve and are unable to work themselves. Those that operate in conjunction with an assistant always require the latter to do the pressing or engage the attention of the intended victim while his pocket is being plundered. A “mob” is always composed of not less than three men working in harmony. Just as soon as a watch or pocket-book has been stolen by one of these men the thief hands the plunder to his accomplices, who passes it to the third or fourth man, as the case may be. This style of thieving is to protect the rogue, and only yields small profits on account of the number engaged in the crime. Should the victim discover on the spot that his pocket had been picked and cause the arrest of the robber standing alongside or in front of him, the failure to find the plunder upon the prisoner would create a serious doubt as to his guilt. Cunning old professionals, veritable Fagins, are the brains of these “mobs.” They delegate a daring young man with quick hands to do the stealing, and the instant the purse, timepiece or jewel has been passed to them they disappear. If it is a purse that has been taken, it is promptly rifled and the “leather” thrown into an ash-barrel or sewer. The veteran first divides with himself the lion’s share of the booty, and afterwards splits up the remainder with the other members of the gang. Serious trouble resulting in bloodshed at intervals occur over quarrels concerning the spoils. Should a newspaper item announce that the stolen pocket-book contained a large sum of money when the leader of the gang had said he found but a few dollars in it, copartnership would be dissolved by a sanguinary affray, the cause of which, for the protection of the others, would not be revealed.

“Sidewalk committees” at the time of military parades or political processions have a couple of young men who are known as pushers. These go in advance of the thief and locate the whereabouts of the plunder for him. They rush and push to and fro in the crowd, or at a street crossing, jostling against every one they come in contact with advancing in an opposite direction. When the pusher discovers the pocket that plunder is sure to be found in, the fellow signals to the pickpocket indicating the victim and just where the purse or wallet is carried. Then the robbery follows. Some nervous people, while carrying large sums, betray themselves to a shrewd thief by their actions, and afterwards think it strange that the rogue should have known the very pocket that they had the roll of greenbacks in. If they had remained cool while riding in a car or passing through a crowd, and had not clapped their hand every few minutes on the outside of the pocket in which they carried the money, to feel if it was still there, they would doubtless have avoided their loss. Pickpockets, like other individuals, are not gifted with second sight, and watch for signs to guide them in their operations. If their mode of working was better understood by the public and properly guarded against, the vocation of the pickpocket would in a short time become unprofitable.

The favorite method of robbery by the men who operate upon trains has been described in this way. When a mob of pickpockets start out to “work a crowd” on a train they break into twos. The part of one is to ascertain the location of his victim’s money. He gets alongside the man whose pocket is to be picked, and with rapid movement he dexterously passes his fingers over every pocket. His touch is so delicate that it enables him to locate the prize, and to ascertain its character, whether a roll, a purse, or a pocket-book. The surging of the crowd, especially on a railroad train, accounts to the suspicious traveler for the occasional jostling he receives. It is found that the most common receptacle for the pocket-book is the left trousers pocket. When the victim is selected, the second man plants himself squarely in front of him, while the other crowds up behind him on the right side. The operator in front, under cover of a newspaper or coat thrown over his arm, feels the pocket, and if the victim is a straight-backed man, in standing position, he finds the lips of the pocket drawn close together. In such a case it is dangerous to attempt the insertion of the hand. A very low-toned clearing of the throat, followed by a gutteral noise, is the signal for his confederate to exert a gentle pressure upon the victim’s right shoulder. This is so gradually extended that the traveler yields to the pressure without knowing it, and without changing the position of his feet. This throws the lips of the pocket conveniently open for the operator in front, who does not insert his hands to draw the book out, but works upon the lining. He draws it out a little at a time, without inserting his fingers more than half way. Should this process of drawing the contents of the pocket to its mouth be felt by the victim, another low clearing of the throat gives the sign to the confederate, and the game is dropped. If the victim’s suspicions are not aroused, the pickpocket continues at his work of drawing the lining out until the roll of bills or pocket-book is within reach of his deft fingers. The successful completion of the undertaking is indicated by a gentle chirrup, and the precious pair separate from their victim to ply the same tricks upon the next one.

The stealing of watches and pins is made a specialty of by the gangs of pickpockets who ride in street cars. In the taking of a timepiece the system of jostling and crowding is resorted to while the “wire” (one who actually does the work) is stealing the watch. He raises the timepiece out of the pocket by means of the chain with his left hand, which is concealed by a coat or shawl. After the watch has been taken from the pocket the thief drops it into the palm of his right hand, and by a quick turn of the wrist the ring is twisted off. Another method is to resort to the usual jostling, and the man who actually does the stealing, when the opportunity presents itself, raises his left arm, which is generally covered by a coat or shawl, about as high as the victim’s shoulders, while with the right hand he deftly abstracts the watch, letting it drop into palm of his hand. Then, with the use of the thumb and forefinger, he twists the ring from the watch. The chain, which is seldom taken, is quietly allowed to drop down, and usually the first intimation a person has that his watch is gone, is when the thief’s victim’s attention is called to his dangling chain. The moment that the timepiece has been stolen the man who takes it passes it to an associate, who leaves the car at once, and the others comprising the gang ride a square or two before getting out. Some people wonder how the pickpockets succeed in stealing a watch without first unscrewing the snap at the end of the chain, not knowing that the ring has been twisted out. To capture a diamond pin the method is slightly different. Rogues of that class while at work, it has been said, generally lift one arm above the height of the pin, and while the owner’s attention is attracted by something started for the purpose, the jewel· is abstracted by an exceedingly quick and clever movement of the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. As the pin starts from its place it is caught in the palm of the thief’s hand, and before the owner has discovered his loss the jewel has passed out of the possession of the man who stole it. Persons carrying large sums of money or valuables should not allow their attention to be diverted by seeming disturbances or other distractions, as these occurrences are gotten up for the purpose of robbing them.

The annexed list gives the names and aliases of a number of the leading professional shoplifters and pickpockets whose records will be found in the book:

SHOPLIFTERS.—Kate Armstrong, alias Mary Ann Dowd (132).—Annie Mack, alias Brockie Annie (130).—Jake Sondheim, alias Al. Wilson, alias Al. Wise (203).— Margaret Brown, alias Old Mother Hubbard (117).—Mary Busby (126).—Harry Busby (135).—Mary Ann Connelly, alias Irving (120).—Eddie Miller, alias Dinkleman (7). —Dave Goldstein, alias Sheeny Dave (30).—Sophie Elkins (see record of No. 128).— Eddie Kelly, alias Little Eddie (see record of No. 184).—Sheeny Erwin (182).— Louise Jourdan, alias Little Louise (131).—Julius Klein, alias Young Julius (191).— Lena Kleinschmidt (119).—Sophie Levy, alias Lyons (128).—Peter Lamb, alias Dutch Pete (181).—Rudolph Lewis, alias Young Rudolph (184).—George Levy, alias Lee (185).—Kate Leary, alias Red Kate (see record of No. 128).—Bell Little (see record of No. 172).—Eddie McGee (167).—Johnny Curtin, alias Reynolds (169).—Anna B. Miller (see record of No. 7).—Tilly Miller (see record of No. 38).—Andy McAllier (see record of No. 75).—Jack McCormack, alias Big Mack (see record of No. 184). — Billy Perry (175).—Walter Price (197).—Prank Watson, alias Big Patsey (see records of Nos. 184, 190, 191).—Christene Mayer, alias Kid Glove Rosey (118).—Nellie Barns, alias Bondy (see record of No. 130).—Grace Daly, alias Big Grace (see record of No. 130).

See regular index for others.

PICKPOCKETS.—Jimmy Anderson, alias “Jimmy the Kid” (142).—Westley Allen, alias Wess. Allen (164).—Kate Armstrong, alias Mary Ann Dowd (132).—John Anderson (see. record of No. 135).—Lred Benner, alias Dutch Lred (81).—Margaret Brown, alias Old Mother Hubbard (117).—Mary Busby (126).—Harry Busby (135).— George Harrison, alias Boston (144).—Thomas Burns, alias Combo (148).—Joe Rick- erman, alias Nigger Baker (195).—Oscar Burns, alias Harley (151).—George Bell, alias Williams (193).—William Brown, alias Burton (see record of No. 164).—Brummagen Bill (see record of No. 196).— Mary Ann Connelly, alias Irving (120).—Joe Gorman (146).—Jim Casey, alias Big Jim (91).—Mary Connors (see record of No. 139).— Samuel Casper (see records of Nos. 152, 153).—Eddie Miller, alias Dinkleman (7).— Dick Morris, alias Big Dick (141).—Thomas Price, alias Deafy Price (158).—Billy Darrigan (i8o).—William Dougherty, alias Big Dock (i86).—Joe Dubuque (see records of Nos. 12, 8o, and Sam Perry).—William Davis (see record of No. 157).—Alexander Evans, alias Aleck the Milkman (160). — Tom Fitzgerald, alias Phair (139).—Bridget Fitzgerald, alias Phair (see record of No. 139).—Abe Greenthal, alias The General (152). — Herman Greenthal (153).—John Gantz (see record of No. 81).—Molly Holbrook, alias Hoey (116).—Frank Reilly, alias Harrison (79).—James Johnson, alias Jersey Jimmie (145).—James Wilson, alias Pretty Jimmie (143).—William Kennedy (see records of Nos. 161, 194).—Louise Jourdan, alias Little Louise (131).— Sophie Levy, alias Lyons (128).—Terrence Murphy, alias Poodle (134).—George Milliard (138).—John McGuire, alias Shinny McGuire (155).—John Riley, alias Murphy (166).—Patrick Martin, alias English Paddy (133).—Frank Mitchell (see record of No. 133).—Tommy Matthews (156).—Jimmy Murphy (see record of No. 150).—James Lawson, alias Nibbs (137).—Freddie Louther ( 161 ).—Timothy Oats, alias Tim Oats (136).-—James Price, alias Jimmy Price (154).—Billy Peck (157).—William Perry (175). —Walter Price (197).—Kate Ryan (129).—Annie Riley (see records of Nos. 166, 171 ). — James Campbell, alias Shang Campbell (107).—William Scott, alias Scotty (183).— Bill Sturgess, alias Old Bill (see record of No. 22).—-Edward Tully, alias Broken Nose Tully (140).—James Wells, alias Funeral Wells (150).—Alonzo Henn, alias Alonzo. —Charley Allen.—Charley Douglass, alias Curley Charley.—James Wilson, alias The Bald Face Kid.—James McKitterick, alias Oyster Jim.

See regular index for further information.

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