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Title: The Autobiography of a Thief
Author: Hapgood, Hutchins, 1868-1944
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Autobiography of a Thief.

     The Autobiography of
     a Thief

     Recorded by
     Author of "The Spirit of the Ghetto," etc.


     Copyright, 1903, BY

     Entered at the Library of Congress, Washington, U. S. A.

     Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England.

     Published May, 1903.

"_Oh, happy he who can still hope to emerge from this sea of error!_"


"_There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong's sake, but thereby to
purchase himself profit, or pleasure, or honour, or the like; therefore
why should I be angry with a man for loving himself better than me? And
if any man should do wrong merely out of ill-nature, why, yet it is but
like the thorn or briar, which prick and scratch because they can do no



  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE
              Editor's Note                                        9
  I.          Boyhood and Early Crime                             15
  II.         My First Fall                                       34
  III.        Mixed Ale Life in the Fourth and Seventh Wards      50
  IV.         When the Graft Was Good                             73
  V.          Mamie and the Negotiable Bonds                      89
  VI.         What the Burglar Faces                             107
  VII.        In Stir                                            132
  VIII.       In Stir (Continued)                                154
  IX.         In Stir and Out                                    182
  X.          At the Graft Again                                 202
  XI.         Back to Prison                                     228
  XII.        On the Outside Again                               255
  XIII.       In the Mad-House                                   300
  XIV.        Out of Hell                                        332
              Editor's Postscript                                348

Editor's Note.

I met the ex-pickpocket and burglar whose autobiography follows soon
after his release from a third term in the penitentiary. For several
weeks I was not particularly interested in him. He was full of a desire
to publish in the newspapers an exposé of conditions obtaining in two
of our state institutions, his motive seeming partly revenge and partly
a very genuine feeling that he had come in contact with a systematic
crime against humanity. But as I continued to see more of him, and
learned much about his life, my interest grew; for I soon perceived
that he not only had led a typical thief's life, but was also a man
of more than common natural intelligence, with a gift of vigorous
expression. With little schooling he had yet educated himself, mainly
by means of the prison libraries, until he had a good and individually
expressed acquaintance with many of the English classics, and with some
of the masterpieces of philosophy.

That this ex-convict, when a boy on the East Side of New York City,
should have taken to the "graft" seemed to me, as he talked about
it, the most natural thing in the world. His parents were honest, but
ignorant and poor. One of his brothers, a normal and honorable man,
is a truck driver with a large family; and his relatives and honest
friends in general belong to the most modest class of working people.
The swell among them is another brother, who is a policeman; but Jim,
the ex-convict, is by far the cleverest and most intelligent of the
lot. I have often seen him and his family together, on Saturday nights,
when the clan gathers in the truckman's house for a good time, and
he is the life of the occasion, and admired by the others. Jim was an
unusually energetic and ambitious boy, but the respectable people he
knew did not appeal to his imagination. As he played on the street,
other boys pointed out to him the swell thief at the corner saloon, and
told him tales of big robberies and exciting adventures, and the prizes
of life seemed to him to lie along the path of crime. There was no one
to teach him what constitutes real success, and he went in for crime
with energy and enthusiasm.

It was only after he had become a professional thief and had done time
in the prisons that he began to see that crime does not pay. He saw
that all his friends came to ruin, that his own health was shattered,
and that he stood on the verge of the mad-house. His self-education in
prison helped him, too, to the perception that he had made a terrible
mistake. He came to have intellectual ambitions and no longer took
an interest in his old companions. After several weeks of constant
association with him I became morally certain that his reform was
as genuine as possible under the circumstances; and that, with fair
success in the way of getting something to do, he would remain honest.

I therefore proposed to him to write an autobiography. He took up
the idea with eagerness, and through the entire period of our work
together, has shown an unwavering interest in the book and very decided
acumen and common sense. The method employed in composing the volume
was that, practically, of the interview. From the middle of March to
the first of July we met nearly every afternoon, and many evenings,
at a little German café on the East Side. There, I took voluminous
notes, often asking questions, but taking down as literally as
possible his story in his own words; to such a degree is this true,
that the following narrative is an authentic account of his life, with
occasional descriptions and character-sketches of his friends of the
Under World. Even without my explicit assurance, the autobiography
bears sufficient internal evidence of the fact that, essentially, it is
a thief's own story. Many hours of the day time, when I was busy with
other things, my friend--for I have come to look upon him as such--was
occupied with putting down on paper character-sketches of his pals
and their careers, or recording his impressions of the life they had
followed. After I had left town for the summer, in order to prepare
this volume, I wrote to Jim repeatedly, asking for more material on
certain points. This he always furnished in a manner which showed his
continued interest, and a literary sense, though fragmentary, of no
common kind.

     H. H.

The Autobiography of a Thief.


_Boyhood and Early Crime._

I have been a professional thief for more than twenty years. Half
of that time I have spent in state's prison, and the other half in
"grafting" in one form or another. I was a good pickpocket and a fairly
successful burglar; and I have known many of the best crooks in the
country. I have left the business for good, and my reasons will appear
in the course of this narrative. I shall tell my story with entire
frankness. I shall not try to defend myself. I shall try merely to tell
the truth. Perhaps in so doing I shall explain myself.

I was born on the east side of New York City in 1868, of poor but
honest parents. My father was an Englishman who had married an Irish
girl and emigrated to America, where he had a large family, no one of
whom, with the exception of myself, went wrong. For many years he was
an employee of Brown Brothers and Company and was a sober, industrious
man, and a good husband and kind father. To me, who was his favorite,
he was perhaps too kind. I was certainly a spoiled child. I remember
that when I was five years old he bought me a twenty-five dollar suit
of clothes. I was a vigorous, handsome boy, with red, rosy cheeks and
was not only the pet of my family, but the life of the neighborhood as

At that time, which is as far back as I can remember, we were living
on Munro Street, in the Seventh Ward. This was then a good residential
neighborhood, and we were comfortable in our small, wooden house. The
people about us were Irish and German, the large Jewish emigration
not having begun yet. Consequently, lower New York did not have such
a strong business look as it has now, but was cleanly and respectable.
The gin-mills were fewer in number, and were comparatively decent. When
the Jews came they started many basement saloons, or cafés, and for the
first time, I believe, the social evil began to be connected with the
drinking places.

I committed my first theft at the age of six. Older heads put me up to
steal money from the till of my brother's grocery store. It happened
this way. There were several much older boys in the neighborhood who
wanted money for row-boating and theatres. One was eighteen years old,
a ship-caulker; and another was a roustabout of seventeen. I used to
watch these boys practice singing and dancing in the big marble lots
in the vicinity. How they fired my youthful imagination! They told me
about the theatres then in vogue--Tony Pastor's, the old Globe, Wood's
Museum and Josh Hart's Theatre Comique, afterwards owned by Harrigan
and Hart.

One day, George, the roustabout, said to me: "Kid, do you want to go
row-boating with us?" When I eagerly consented he said it was too bad,
but the boat cost fifty cents and he only had a ten-cent stamp (a small
paper bill: in those days there was very little silver in circulation).
I did not bite at once, I was so young, and they treated me to one of
those wooden balls fastened to a rubber string that you throw out and
catch on the rebound. I was tickled to death. I shall never forget that
day as long as I live. It was a Saturday, and all day long those boys
couldn't do too much for me.

Towards evening they explained to me how to rob my brother's till. They
arranged to be outside the store at a certain hour, and wait until I
found an opportunity to pass the money to them. My mother watched in
the store that evening, but when she turned her back I opened the till
and gave the eight or ten dollars it contained to the waiting boys. We
all went row-boating and had a jolly time. But they were not satisfied
with that. What I had done once, I could do again, and they held out
the theatre to me, and pretended to teach me how to dance the clog.
Week in and week out I furnished them with money, and in recompense
they would sometimes take me to a matinée. What a joy! How I grew to
love the vaudeville artists with their songs and dances, and the wild
Bowery melodramas! It was a great day for Indian plays, and the number
of Indians I have scalped in imagination, after one of these shows, is

Some of the small boys, however, who did not share in the booty grew
jealous and told my father what was doing. The result was that a
certain part of my body was sore for weeks afterwards. My feelings were
hurt, too, for I did not know at that time that I was doing anything
very bad. My father, indeed, accompanied the beating with a sermon,
telling me that I had not only broken God's law but had robbed those
that loved me. One of my brothers, who is now a policeman in the
city service, told me that I had taken my ticket for the gallows. The
brother I had robbed, who afterwards became a truckman, patted me on
the head and told me not to do it again. He was always a good fellow.
And yet they all seemed to like to have me play about the streets with
the other little boys, perhaps because the family was large, and there
was not much room in the house.

So I had to give up the till; but I hated to, for even at that age I
had begun to think that the world owed me a living! To get revenge I
used to hide in a charcoal shed and throw pebbles at my father as he
passed. I was indeed the typical bad boy, and the apple of my mother's

When I couldn't steal from the till any more, I used to take clothes
from my relatives and sell them for theatre money; or any other object
I thought I could make away with. I did not steal merely for theatre
money but partly for excitement too. I liked to run the risk of being
discovered. So I was up to any scheme the older boys proposed. Perhaps
if I had been raised in the wild West I should have made a good trapper
or cow-boy, instead of a thief. Or perhaps even birds' nests and fish
would have satisfied me, if they had been accessible.

One of my biggest exploits as a small boy was made when I was eight
years old. Tom's mother had a friend visiting her, whom Tom and I
thought we would rob. Tom, who was a big boy, and some of his friends,
put me through a hall bed-room window, and I made away with a box of
valuable jewelry. But it did me no good for the big boys sold it to a
woman who kept a second-hand store on Division Street, and I received
no part of the proceeds.

My greatest youthful disappointment came about four weeks later. A boy
put me up to steal a box out of a wagon. I boldly made away with it and
ran into a hall-way, where he was waiting. The two of us then went into
his back-yard, opened the box and found a beautiful sword, the handle
studded with little stones. But the other boy had promised me money,
and here was only a sword! I cried for theatre money, and then the
other boy boxed my ears. He went to his father, who was a free mason,
and got a fifty cent "stamp." He gave me two three-cent pieces and
kept the rest. I shall never forget that injustice as long as I live.
I remember it as plainly as if it happened yesterday. We put the sword
under a mill in Cherry Street and it disappeared a few hours later. I
thought the boy and his father had stolen it, and told them so. I got
another beating, but I believe my suspicion was correct, for the free
mason used to give me a ten cent stamp whenever he saw me--to square
me, I suppose.

When it came to contests with boys of my own size I was not so meek,
however. One day I was playing in Jersey, in the back-yard of a boy
friend's house. He displayed his pen-knife, and it took my fancy. I
wanted to play with it, and asked him to lend it to me. He refused,
and I grabbed his hand. He plunged the knife into my leg. I didn't like
that, and told him so, not in words, but in action. I remember that I
took his ear nearly off with a hatchet. I was then eight years old.

About this time I began to go to Sunday School, with what effect on my
character remains to be seen. One day I heard a noted priest preach.
I had one dollar and eighty cents in my pocket which I had stolen from
my brother. I thought that each coin in my pocket was turning red-hot
because of my anxiety to spend it. While the good man was talking of
the Blessed One I was inwardly praying for him to shut up. He had two
beautiful pictures which he intended to give to the best listener among
the boys. When he had finished his talk he called me to him, gave me
the pictures and said: "It's such boys as you who, when they grow up,
are a pride to our Holy Church."

A year later I went to the parochial school, but did not stay long,
for they would not have me. I was a sceptic at seven and an agnostic
at eight, and I objected to the prayers every five minutes. I had
no respect for ceremonies. They did not impress my imagination in
the slightest, partly because I learned at an early age to see the
hypocrisy of many good people. One day half a dozen persons were
killed in an explosion. One of them I had known. Neighbors said of him:
"What a good man has gone," and the priest and my mother said he was
in heaven. But he was the same man who had often told me not to take
money from the money-drawer, for that was dangerous, but to search my
father's pockets when he was asleep. For this advice I had given the
rascal many a dollar. Ever after that I was suspicious of those who
were over-virtuous. I told my mother I did not believe her and the
priest, and she slapped my face and told me to mind my catechism.

Everything mischievous that happened at the parochial school was laid
to my account, perhaps not entirely unjustly. If a large firecracker
exploded, it was James--that was my name. If some one sat on a bent
pin, the blame was due to James. If the class tittered teacher Nolan
would rush at me with a hickory stick and yell: "It's you, you devil's
imp!" and then he'd put the question he had asked a hundred times
before: "Who med (made) you?"

I was finally sent away from the parochial school because I insulted
one of the teachers, a Catholic brother. I persisted in disturbing
him whenever he studied his catechism, which I believed he already
knew by heart. This brother's favorite, by the way, was a boy who used
to say his prayers louder than anybody else. I met him fifteen years
afterwards in state's prison. He had been settled for "vogel-grafting,"
that is, taking little girls into hall-ways and robbing them of their
gold ear-rings. He turned out pretty well, however, in one sense, for
he became one of the best shoe-makers in Sing Sing.

Although, as one can see from the above incidents, I was not given to
veneration, yet in some ways I was easily impressed. I always loved old
buildings, for instance. I was baptized in the building which was until
lately the Germania Theatre, and which was then a church; and that
old structure always had a strange fascination for me. I used to hang
about old churches and theatres, and preferred on such occasions to
be alone. Sometimes I sang and danced, all by myself, in an old music
hall, and used to pore over the names marked in lead pencil on the
walls. Many is the time I have stood at night before some old building
which has since been razed to the ground, and even now I like to go
round to their sites. I like almost anything that is old, even old men
and women. I never loved my mother much until she was an old woman. All
stories of the past interested me; and later, when I was in prison, I
was specially fond of history.

After I was dismissed from the parochial school, I entered the public
school, where I stayed somewhat longer. There I studied reading,
writing, arithmetic and later, grammar, and became acquainted with
a few specimens of literature. I remember Longfellow's _Excelsior_
was a favorite of mine. I was a bright, intelligent boy, and, if it
had not been for conduct, in which my mark was low, I should always
have had the gold medal, in a class of seventy. I used to play truant
constantly, and often went home and told my mother that I knew more
than the teacher. She believed me, for certainly I was the most
intelligent member of my family.

Yes, I was more intelligent than my parents or any of my brothers and
sisters. Much good it has done me! Now that I have "squared it" I see a
good deal of my family, and they are all happy in comparison with me.
On Saturday nights I often go around to see my brother the truckman.
He has come home tired from his week's work, but happy with his twelve
dollar salary and the prospect of a holiday with his wife and children.
They sit about in their humble home on Saturday night, with their pint
of beer, their songs and their jovial stories. Whenever I am there,
I am, in a way, the life of the party. My repartee is quicker than
that of the others. I sing gayer songs and am jollier with the working
girls who visit my brother's free home. But when I look at my stupid
brother's quiet face and calm and strong bearing, and then realize my
own shattered health and nerves and profound discontent, I know that
my slow brother has been wiser than I. It has taken me many years on
the rocky path to realize this truth. For by nature I am an Ishmælite,
that is, a man of impulse, and it is only lately that wisdom has been
knocked into me.

Certainly I did not realize my fate when I was a kid of ten, filled
with contempt for my virtuous and obscure family! I was overflowing
with spirits and arrogance, and began to play "hooky" so often that I
practically quit school about this time.

It was then, too, that we moved again, this time to Cherry Street, to
the wreck of my life. At the end of the block on which we lived was a
corner saloon, the headquarters of a band of professional thieves. They
were known as the Old Border Gang, and among them were several very
well-known and successful crooks. They used to pass our way regularly,
and boys older than I (my boy companions always had the advantage of me
in years) used to point the famous "guns" out to me. When I saw one of
these great men pass, my young imagination was fired with the ambition
to be as he was! With what eagerness we used to talk about "Juggy,"
and the daring robbery he committed in Brooklyn! How we went over again
and again in conversation, the trick by which Johnny the "grafter" had
fooled the detective in the matter of the bonds!

We would tell stories like these by the hour, and then go round to
the corner, to try to get a look at some of the celebrities in the
saloon. A splendid sight one of these swell grafters was, as he stood
before the bar or smoked his cigar on the corner! Well dressed, with
clean linen collar and shirt, a diamond in his tie, an air of ease and
leisure all about him, what a contrast he formed to the respectable
hod-carrier or truckman or mechanic, with soiled clothes and no collar!
And what a contrast was his dangerous life to that of the virtuous

The result was that I grew to think the career of the grafter was the
only one worth trying for. The real prizes of the world I knew nothing
about. All that I saw of any interest to me was crooked, and so I began
to pilfer right and left: there was nothing else for me to do. Besides
I loved to treat those older than myself. The theatre was a growing
passion with me and I began to be very much interested in the baseball
games. I used to go to the Union grounds in Brooklyn, where after the
third inning, I could usually get admitted for fifteen cents, to see
the old Athletics or Mutuals play. I needed money for these amusements,
for myself and other boys, and I knew of practically only one way to
get it.

If we could not get the money at home, either by begging or stealing,
we would tap tills, if possible, in the store of some relative; or tear
brass off the steps in the halls of flats and sell it at junk shops. A
little later, we used to go to Grand Street and steal shoes and women's
dresses from the racks in the open stores, and pawn them. In the old
Seventh Ward there used to be a good many silver plates on the doors of
private houses. These we would take off with chisels and sell to metal
dealers. We had great fun with a Dutchman who kept a grocery store
on Cherry Street. We used to steal his strawberries, and did not care
whether he saw us or not. If he grabbed one of us, the rest of the gang
would pelt him with stones until he let go, and then all run around the
corner before the "copper" came into sight.

All this time I grew steadily bolder and more desperate, and the day
soon came when I took consequences very little into consideration.
My father and mother sometimes learned of some exploit of mine, and a
beating would be the result. I still got the blame for everything, as
in school, and was sometimes punished unjustly. I was very sensitive
and this would rankle in my soul for weeks, so that I stole harder
than ever. And yet I think that there was some good in me. I was
never cruel to any animals, except cats; for cats, I used to tie their
tails together and throw them over a clothesline to dry. I liked dogs,
horses, children and women, and have always been gentle to them. What
I really was was a healthy young animal, with a vivid imagination and
a strong body. I learned early to swim and fight and play base-ball.
Dime and nickel novels always seemed very tame to me; I found it much
more exciting to hear true stories about the grafters at the corner
saloon!--big men, with whom as yet I did not dare to speak; I could
only stare at them with awe.

I shall never forget the first time I ever saw a pickpocket at work.
It was when I was about thirteen years old. A boy of my own age, Zack,
a great pal of mine, was with me. Zack and I understood one another
thoroughly and well knew how to get theatre money by petty pilfering,
but of real graft we were as yet ignorant, although we had heard many
stories about the operations of actual, professional thieves. We used
to steal rides in the cars which ran to and from the Grand Street
ferries; and run off with overcoats and satchels when we had a chance.
One day we were standing on the rear platform when a woman boarded the
car, and immediately behind her a gentlemanly looking man with a high
hat. He was well-dressed and looked about thirty-five years old. As
the lady entered the car, the man, who stayed outside on the platform,
pulled his hand away from her side and with it came something from her
pocket--a silk handkerchief. I was on the point of asking the woman
if she had dropped something, when Zack said to me, "Mind your own
business." The man, who had taken the pocket-book along with the silk
handkerchief, seeing that we were "next," gave us the handkerchief and
four dollars in ten and fifteen cent paper money ("stamps").

Zack and I put our heads together. We were "wiser" than we had been
half an hour before. We had learned our first practical lesson in the
world of graft. We had seen a pickpocket at work, and there seemed to
us no reason why we should not try the game ourselves. Accordingly a
day or two afterwards we arranged to pick our first pocket. We had,
indeed, often taken money from the pockets of our relatives, but that
was when the trousers hung in the closet or over a chair, and the owner
was absent. This was the first time we had hunted in the open, so to
speak; the first time our prey was really alive.

It was an exciting occasion. Zack and I, who were "wise," (that is,
up to snuff) got several other boys to help us, though we did not tell
them what was doing, for they "were not buried" yet, that is, "dead,"
or ignorant. We induced five or six of them to jump on and off the rear
platform of a car, making as much noise and confusion as possible, so
as to distract the attention of any "sucker" that might board. Soon I
saw a woman about to get on the car. My heart beat with excitement, and
I signalled to Zack that I would make the "touch." In those days women
wore big sacques with pockets in the back, open, so that one could
look in and see what was there. I took the silk handkerchief on the
run, and with Zack following, went up a side street and gloried under
a lamp-post. In the corner of the handkerchief, tied up, were five
two-dollar bills, and for weeks I was J. P. Morgan.

For a long time Zack and I felt we were the biggest boys on the block.
We boasted about our great "touch" to the older boys of eighteen or
nineteen years of age who had pointed out to us the grafters at the
corner saloon. They were not "in it" now. They even condescended to be
treated to a drink by us. We spent the money recklessly, for we knew
where we could get more. In this state of mind, soon after that, I met
the "pick" whom we had seen at work. He had heard of our achievement
and kindly "staked" us, and gave us a few private lessons in picking
pockets. He saw that we were promising youngsters, and for the sake
of the profession gave us a little of his valuable time. We were proud
enough, to be taken notice of by this great man. We felt that we were
rising in the world of graft, and began to wear collars and neckties.


_My First Fall._

For the next two years, until I was fifteen, I made a great deal
of money at picking pockets, without getting into difficulties with
the police. We operated, at that time, entirely upon women, and were
consequently known technically as Moll-buzzers--or "flies" that "buzz"
about women.

In those days, and for several years later, Moll-buzzing, as well as
picking pockets in general, was an easy and lucrative graft. Women's
dresses seemed to be arranged for our especial benefit; the back
pocket, with its purse and silk handkerchief could be picked even by
the rawest thief. It was in the days when every woman had to possess
a fine silk handkerchief; even the Bowery "cruisers" (street-walkers)
carried them; and to those women we boys used to sell the handkerchiefs
we had stolen, receiving as much as a dollar, or even two dollars, in

It was a time, too, before the great department stores and delivery
wagon systems, and shoppers were compelled to carry more money with
them than they do now, and to take their purchases home themselves
through the streets. Very often before they reached their destination
they had unconsciously delivered some of the goods to us. At that time,
too, the wearing of valuable pins and stones, both by men and women,
was more general than it is now. Furthermore, the "graft" was younger.
There were not so many in the business, and the system of police
protection was not so good. Altogether those were halcyon days for us.

The fact that we were very young helped us particularly in this
business, for a boy can get next to a woman in a car or on the street
more easily than a man can. He is not so apt to arouse her suspicions;
and if he is a handsome, innocent-looking boy, and clever, he can go
far in this line of graft. He usually begins this business when he
is about thirteen, and by the age of seventeen generally graduates
into something higher. Living off women, in any form, does not appeal
very long to the imagination of the genuine grafter. Yet I know
thieves who continue to be Moll-buzzers all their lives; and who are
low enough to make their living entirely off poor working girls. The
self-respecting grafter detests this kind; and, indeed, these buzzers
never see prosperous days after their boyhood. The business grows
more difficult as the thief grows older. He cannot approach his prey
so readily, and grows shabbier with declining returns; and shabbiness
makes it difficult for him to mix up in crowds where this kind of work
is generally done.

For several years we youngsters made a great deal of money at this
line. We made a "touch" almost every day, and I suppose our "mob,"
composed of four or five lads who worked together, averaged three or
four hundred dollars a week. We worked mainly on street cars at the
Ferry, and the amount of "technique" required for robbing women was
very slight. Two or three of us generally went together. One acted as
the "dip," or "pick," and the other two as "stalls." The duty of the
"stalls" was to distract the attention of the "sucker" or victim, or
otherwise to hide the operations of the "dip". One stall would get
directly in front of the woman to be robbed, the other directly behind
her. If she were in such a position in the crowd as to render it hard
for the "dip," or "wire" to make a "touch," one of the stalls might
bump against her, and beg her pardon, while the dip made away with her
"leather," or pocket-book.

Shortly before I was fifteen years old I was "let in" to another kind
of graft. One day Tim, Zack and I were boasting of our earnings to an
older boy, twenty years of age, whose name was Pete. He grinned, and
said he knew something better than Moll-buzzing. Then he told us about
"shoving the queer" and got us next to a public truckman who supplied
counterfeit bills. Our method was to carry only one bad bill among
several good ones, so that if we were collared we could maintain our
innocence. We worked this as a "side-graft," for some time. Pete and I
used to go to mass on Sunday morning, and put a bad five dollar bill
in the collector's box, taking out four dollars and ninety cents in
change, in good money. We irreverently called this proceeding "robbing
the dago in Rome." We use to pick "leathers," at the same time, from
the women in the congregation. In those days I was very liberal in my
religious views. I was not narrow, or bigoted. I attended Grace Church,
in Tenth Street, regularly and was always well repaid. But after a
while this lucrative graft came to an end, for the collector began
to get "next". One day he said to me, "Why don't you get your change
outside? This is the fourth time you have given me a big bill." So we
got "leary" (suspicious) and quit.

With my big rosy cheeks and bright eyes and complexion I suppose I
looked, in those days, very holy and innocent, and used to work this
graft for all it was worth. I remember how, in church, I used tracts or
the Christian Advocate as "stalls"; I would hand them to a lady as she
entered the church, and, while doing so, pick her pocket.

Even at the early age of fifteen I began to understand that it was
necessary to save money. If a thief wants to keep out of the "pen"
or "stir," (penitentiary) capital is a necessity. The capital of a
grafter is called "spring-money," for he may have to use it at any
time in paying the lawyer who gets him off in case of an arrest, or in
bribing the policeman or some other official. To "spring," is to escape
from the clutches of the law. If a thief has not enough money to hire
a "mouth-piece" (criminal lawyer) he is in a bad way. He is greatly
handicapped, and can not "jump out" (steal) with any boldness.

But I always had great difficulty in saving "fall-money," (the same as
spring-money; that is money to be used in case of a "fall," or arrest).
My temperament was at fault. When I had a few hundred dollars saved
up I began to be troubled, not from a guilty conscience, but because
I could not stand prosperity. The money burned a hole in my pocket. I
was fond of all sorts of amusements, of "treating," and of clothes.
Indeed, I was very much of a dude; and this for two reasons. In the
first place I was naturally vain, and liked to make a good appearance.
A still more substantial reason was that a good personal appearance is
part of the capital of a grafter, particularly of a pickpocket. The
world thinks that a thief is a dirty, disreputable looking object,
next door to a tramp in appearance. But this idea is far from being
true. Every grafter of any standing in the profession is very careful
about his clothes. He is always neat, clean, and as fashionable as
his income will permit. Otherwise he would not be permitted to attend
large political gatherings, to sit on the platform, for instance, and
would be handicapped generally in his crooked dealings with mankind.
No advice to young men is more common in respectable society than
to dress well. If you look prosperous the world will treat you with
consideration. This applies with even greater force to the thief. Keep
up a "front" is the universal law of success, applicable to all grades
of society. The first thing a grafter is apt to say to a pal whom he
has not seen for a long time is, "You are looking good," meaning that
his friend is well-dressed. It is sure flattery, and if a grafter wants
to make a borrow he is practically certain of opening the negotiations
with the stereotyped phrase: "You are looking good;" for the only time
you can get anything off a grafter is when you can make him think you
are prosperous.

But the great reason why I never saved much "fall-money" was not
"booze," or theatres, or clothes. "Look for the woman" is a phrase, I
believe, in good society; and it certainly explains a great deal of a
thief's misfortunes. Long before I did anything in Graftdom but petty
pilfering, I had begun to go with the little girls in the neighborhood.
At that time they had no attraction for me, but I heard older boys say
that it was a manly thing to lead girls astray, and I was ambitious to
be not only a good thief, but a hard case generally. When I was nine or
ten years old I liked to boast of the conquests I had made among little
working girls of fourteen or fifteen. We used to meet in the hall-ways
of tenement houses, or at their homes, but there was no sentiment in
the relations between us, at least on my part. My only pleasure in it
was the delight of telling about it to my young companions.

When I was twelve years old I met a little girl for whom I had a
somewhat different feeling. Nellie was a pretty, blue-eyed little
creature, or "tid-bit," as we used to say, who lived near my home on
Cherry Street. I used to take her over on the ferry for a ride, or
treat her to ice-cream; and we were really chums; but when I began
to make money I lost my interest in her; partly, too, because at that
time I made the acquaintance of a married woman of about twenty-five
years old. She discovered me one day in the hallway with Nellie, and
threatened to tell the holy brother on us if I didn't fetch her a pint
of beer. I took the beer to her room, and that began a relationship
of perhaps a year. She used to stake me to a part of the money her
husband, a workingman, brought her every Saturday night.

Although the girls meant very little to me until several years later,
I nevertheless began when I was about fifteen to spend a great deal of
money on them. It was the thing to do, and I did it with a good grace.
I used to take all kinds of working girls to the balls in Walhalla Hall
in Orchard Street; or in Pythagoras, or Beethoven Halls, where many
pretty little German girls of respectable families used to dance on
Saturday nights. It was my pride to buy them things--clothes, pins, and
to take them on excursions; for was I not a rising "gun," with money in
my pocket? Money, however, that went as easily as it had come.

Perhaps if I had been able to save money at that time I might not
have fallen (that is, been arrested) so early. My first fall came,
however, when I was fifteen years old; and if I was not a confirmed
thief already, I certainly was one by the time I left the Tombs, where
I stayed ten days. It happened this way. Zack and I were grafting,
buzzing Molls, with a pal named Jack, who afterwards became a famous
burglar. He had just escaped from the Catholic Protectory, and told us
his troubles. Instead of being alarmed, however, I grew bolder, for if
Jack could "beat" the "Proteck" in three months, I argued I could do
it in twenty-four hours. We three ripped things open for some time;
but one day we were grafting on Sixth Avenue, just below Twentieth
Street, when I fell for a "leather." The "sucker," a good-looking Moll
was coming up the Avenue. Her "book," which looked fat, was sticking
out of her skirt. I, who was the "wire," gave Jack and Zack the tip
(thief's cough), and they stalled, one in front, one behind. The girl
did not "blow" (take alarm) and I got hold of the leather easily.
It looked like a get-away, for no one on the sidewalk saw us. But as
bad luck would have it, a negro coachman, standing in the street by
the pavement, got next, and said to me, "What are you doing there?" I
replied, "Shut up, and I'll give you two dollars." But he caught hold
of me and shouted for the police. I passed the leather to Jack, who
"vamoosed." Zack hit the negro in the face and I ran up Seventh Avenue,
but was caught by a flyman (policeman), and taken to the station house.

On the way to the police station I cried bitterly, for, after all,
I was only a boy. I realized for the first time that the way of the
transgressor is hard. It was in the afternoon, and I spent the time
until next morning at ten, when I was to appear before the magistrate,
in a cell in the station-house, in the company of an old grafter. In
the adjoining cells were drunkards, street-walkers and thieves who had
been "lined up" for the night, and I spent the long hours in crying and
in listening to their indecent songs and jokes. The old grafter called
to one of the Tenderloin girls that he had a kid with him who was
arrested for Moll-buzzing. At this they all expressed their sympathy
with me by saying that I would either be imprisoned for life or be
hanged. They got me to sing a song, and I convinced them that I was

In the morning I was arraigned in the police court. As there was
no stolen property on me, and as the sucker was not there to make a
complaint, I was "settled" for assault only, and sent to the Tombs for
ten days.

My experience in the Tombs may fairly be called, I think, the turning
point of my life. It was there that I met "de mob". I learned new
tricks in the Tombs; and more than that, I began definitely to look
upon myself as a criminal. The Tombs of twenty years ago was even less
cheerful than it is at present. The Boys' Prison faced the Women's
Prison, and between these two was the place where those sentenced to
death were hanged. The boys knew when an execution was to take place,
and we used to talk it over among ourselves. One man was hanged while
I was there; and if anybody thinks that knowledge of such things helps
to make boys seek the path of virtue, let him go forth into the world
and learn something about human nature.

On my arrival in the Tombs, Mrs. Hill, the matron, had me searched for
tobacco, knives or matches, all of which were contraband; then I was
given a bath and sent into the corridor of the cells where there were
about twenty-five other boys, confined for various crimes, ranging
from petty larceny to offenses of the gravest kind. On the second day
I met two young "dips" and we exchanged our experiences in the world
of graft. I received my first lesson in the art of "banging a super,"
that is, stealing a watch by breaking the ring with the thumb and
forefinger, and thus detaching it from the chain. They were two of the
best of the Sixth Ward pickpockets, and we made a date to meet "on the
outside." Indeed, it was not many weeks after my release before I could
"bang a super," or get a man's "front" (watch and chain) as easily as
I could relieve a Moll of her "leather".

As I look back upon the food these young boys received in the tombs,
it seems to me of the worst. Breakfast consisted of a chunk of poor
bread and a cup of coffee made of burnt bread crust. At dinner we had
soup (they said, at least, there was meat in it), bread and water;
and supper was the same as breakfast. But we had one consolation. When
we went to divine service we generally returned happy; not because of
what the good priest said, but because we were almost sure of getting
tobacco from the women inmates.

Certainly the Gerry Society has its faults; but since its organization
young boys who have gone wrong but are not yet entirely hardened, have
a much better show to become good citizens than they used to have. That
Society did not exist in my day; but I know a good deal about it, and I
am convinced that it does a world of good; for, at least, when it takes
children into its charge it does not surround them with an atmosphere
of social crime.

While in the Tombs I experienced my first disillusionment as to the
honor of thieves. I was an impulsive, imaginative boy, and that a
pal could go back on me never seemed possible. Many of my subsequent
misfortunes were due to the treachery of my companions. I have learned
to distrust everybody, but as a boy of fifteen I was green, and so the
treachery I shall relate left a sore spot in my soul.

It happened this way. On a May day, about two months before I was
arrested, two other boys and I had entered the basement of a house
where the people were moving, had made away with some silverware, and
sold it to a Christian woman in the neighborhood for one twentieth of
its value. When I had nearly served my ten days' sentence for assault,
my two pals were arrested and "squealed" on me. I was confronted with
them in the Tombs. At first I was mighty glad to see them, but when
I found they had "squealed," I set my teeth and denied all knowledge
of the "touch." I protested my innocence so violently that the police
thought the other boys were merely seeking a scape-goat. They got
twenty days and my term expired forty-eight hours afterwards. The
silverware I stole that May morning is now an heirloom in the family of
the Christian woman to whom I sold it so cheap.

If I had always been as earnest a liar as I was on that occasion in the
Tombs I might never have gone to "stir" (penitentiary); but I grew more
indifferent and desperate as time went on; and, in a way, more honest,
more sincerely a criminal: I hardly felt like denying it. I know some
thieves who, although they have grafted for twenty-five years, have not
yet "done time"; some of them escaped because they knew how to throw
the innocent "con" so well. Take Tim, for instance. Tim and I grafted
together as boys. He was not a very skilful pickpocket, and he often
was on the point of arrest; but he had a talent for innocence, and the
indignation act he would put up would melt a heart of stone. He has,
consequently, never been in stir, while I, a much better thief, have
spent half of my adult life there. That was partly because I felt,
when I had once made a touch, that the property belonged to me. On
one occasion I had robbed a "bloke" of his "red super" (gold watch),
and made away with it all right, when I carelessly dropped it on the
sidewalk. A crowd had gathered about, and no man really in his right
mind, would have picked up that super. But I did it, and was nailed
dead to rights by a "cop." Some time afterwards a pal asked me why
the deuce I had been so foolish. "Didn't the super belong to me," I
replied, indignantly. "Hadn't I earned it?" I was too honest a thief.
That was one of my weaknesses.


_Mixed-Ale Life in the Fourth and Seventh Wards._

For a time--a short time--after I left the Tombs I was quiet. My
relatives threw the gallows "con" into me hard, but at that time I
was proof against any arguments they could muster. They were not able
to show me anything that was worth while; they could not deliver the
goods, so what was the use of talking?

Although I was a disgrace at home, I was high cock-a-lorum among the
boys in the neighborhood. They began to look up to me, as I had looked
up to the grafters at the corner saloon. They admired me because I was
a fighter and had "done time." I went up in their estimation because
I had suffered in the good cause. And I began to get introductions to
the older grafters in the seventh ward--grafters with diamond pins and
silk hats. It was not long before I was at it harder than ever, uptown
and downtown. I not only continued my trade as Moll-buzzer, but began
to spread myself, got to be quite an adept in touching men for vests
and supers and fronts; and every now and then "shoved the queer" or
worked a little game of swindling. Our stamping-ground for supers and
vests at that time was Fulton, Nassau, Lower Broadway and Wall Streets,
and we covered our territory well. I used to work alone considerably.
I would board a car with a couple of newspapers, would say, "News,
boss?" to some man sitting down, would shove the paper in front of his
face as a stall, and then pick his super or even his entire "front"
(watch and chain). If you will stand for a newspaper under your chin
I can get even your socks. Many is the "gent" I have left in the car
with his vest entirely unbuttoned and his "front" gone. When I couldn't
get the chain, I would snap the ring of the watch with my thumb and
fore-finger, giving the thief's cough to drown the slight noise made
by the breaking ring, and get away with the watch, leaving the chain
dangling. Instead of a newspaper, I would often use an overcoat as a

It was only when I was on the "hurry-up," however, that I worked alone.
It is more dangerous than working with a mob, but if I needed a dollar
quick I'd take any risk. I'd jump on a car, and tackle the first sucker
I saw. If I thought it was not diplomatic to try for the "front," and
if there was no stone in sight, I'd content myself with the "clock"
(watch). But it was safer and more sociable to work with other guys.
We usually went in mobs of three or four, and our methods were much
more complicated than when we were simply moll-buzzing. Each thief had
his special part to play, and his duty varied with the position of the
sucker and the pocket the "leather" was in. If the sucker was standing
in the car, my stall would frequently stand right in front, facing him,
while I would put my hand under the stall's arm and pick the sucker's
leather or super. The other stalls would be distracting the attention
of the sucker, or looking out for possible interruptions. When I had
got possession of the leather I would pass it quickly to the stall
behind me, and he would "vamoose." Sometimes I would back up to the
victim, put my hand behind me, break his ring and pick the super, or I
would face his back, reach round, unbutton his vest while a pal stalled
in front with a newspaper, a bunch of flowers, a fan, or an overcoat,
and get away with his entire front.

A dip, as I have said, pays special attention to his personal
appearance; it is his stock in trade; but when I began to meet boys
who had risen above the grade of Moll-buzzers, I found that the dip, as
opposed to other grafters, had many other advantages, too. He combines
pleasure and instruction with business, for he goes to the foot-ball
games, the New London races, to swell theatres where the graft is good,
and to lectures. I have often listened to Bob Ingersoll, the greatest
orator, in my opinion, that ever lived. I enjoyed his talk so much
that I sometimes forgot to graft. But as a general rule, I was able to
combine instruction with business. I very seldom dropped a red super
because of an oratorical flourish; but the supers did not come my way
all the time, I had some waiting to do, and in the meantime I improved
my mind. Then a dip travels, too, more than most grafters; he jumps
out to fairs and large gatherings of all descriptions, and grows to be
a man of the world. When in the city he visits the best dance halls,
and is popular because of his good clothes, his dough, and his general
information, with men as well as women. He generally lives with a Moll
who has seen the world, and who can add to his fund of information. I
know a dip who could not read or write until he met a Moll, who gave
him a general education and taught him to avoid things that interfered
with his line of graft; she also took care of his personal appearance,
and equipped him generally for an A No. 1 pickpocket. Women are much
the same, I believe, in every rank of life.

It was at this time, when I was a kid of fifteen, that I first met
Sheenie Annie, who was a famous shop-lifter. She was twenty-one years
old, and used to give me good advice. "Keep away from heavy workers,"
(burglars) she would say; "there is a big bit in that." She had lived
in Graftdom ever since she was a tid-bit, and she knew what she was
talking about. I did not work with her until several years later,
but I might as well tell her sad story now. I may say, as a kind of
preface, that I have always liked the girl grafter who could take care
of herself instead of sucking the blood out of some man. When I find
a little working girl who has no other ambition than to get a little
home together, with a little knick-knack on the wall, a little husband
and a little child, I don't care for her. She is a nonentity. But such
was not Sheenie Annie, who was a bright, intelligent, ambitious, girl;
when she liked a fellow she would do anything for him, but otherwise
she wouldn't let a man come near her.

The little Jewish lassie, named Annie, was born in the toughest part
of New York. Later on, as she advanced in years and became an expert
pilferer, she was given the nickname of "Sheenie." She was brought
up on the street, surrounded by thieves and prostitutes. Her only
education was what she received during a year or two in the public
school. She lived near Grand Street, then a popular shopping district.
As a very little girl she and a friend used to visit the drygoods
stores and steal any little notion they could. There was a crowd of
young pickpockets in her street, and she soon got on to this graft,
and became so skilful at it that older guns of both sexes were eager
to take her under their tuition and finish her education. The first
time I met her was in a well-known dance-hall--Billy McGlory's--and we
became friends at once, for she was a good girl and full of mischief.
She was not pretty, exactly, but she was passable. She was small, with
thick lips, plump, had good teeth and eyes as fine and piercing as any
I ever saw in man or woman. She dressed well and was a good talker, as
nimble-witted and as good a judge of human nature as I ever met in her

Sheenie Annie's graft broadened, and from dipping and small
shop-lifting she rose to a position where she doubled up with a mob
of clever hotel workers, and made large amounts of money. Here was a
girl from the lowest stratum of life, not pretty or well shaped, but
whom men admired because of her wit and cleverness. A big contractor
in Philadelphia was her friend for years. I have seen letters from him
offering to marry her. But she had something better.

For she was an artist at "penny-weighting" and "hoisting." The police
admitted that she was unusually clever at these two grafts, and they
treated her with every consideration. Penny-weighting is a very "slick"
graft. It is generally worked in pairs, by either sex or both sexes.
A man, for instance, enters a jewelry store and looks at some diamond
rings on a tray. He prices them and notes the costly ones. Then he
goes to a fauny shop (imitation jewelry) and buys a few diamonds which
match the real ones he has noted. Then he and his pal, usually a woman,
enter the jewelry store and ask to see the rings. Through some little
"con" they distract the jeweler's attention, and then one of them (and
at this Sheenie Annie was particularly good) substitutes the bogus
diamonds for the good ones; and leaves the store without making a

I can give an example of how Sheenie Annie "hoisted," from my own
experience with her. On one occasion, when I was about eighteen years
old, Sheenie and I were on a racket together. We had been "going it"
for several days and needed some dough. We went into a large tailoring
establishment, where I tried on some clothes, as a stall. Nothing
suited me.--I took good care of that--but in the meantime Annie had
taken two costly overcoats, folded them into flat bundles, and, raising
her skirt quickly, had hidden the overcoats between her legs. We left
the store together. She walked so straight that I thought she had got
nothing, but when we entered a saloon a block away, and the swag was
produced, I was forced to laugh. We "fenced" the overcoats and with the
proceeds continued our spree.

Once Sheenie "fell" at this line of graft. She had stolen some costly
sealskins from a well-known furrier, and had got away with them. But
on her third visit to the place she came to grief. She was going out
with a sealskin coat under her skirt when the office-boy, who was
skylarking about, ran into her, and upset her. When the salesman,
who had gone to her rescue, lifted her up, she lost her grip on
the sealskin sacque, and it fell to the floor. It was a "blow," of
course, and she got nailed, but as she had plenty of fall-money, and a
well-known politician dead to rights, she only got nine months in the

Sheenie Annie was such a good shop-lifter that, with only an
umbrella as a stall, she could make more money in a week than a poor
needle-woman could earn in months. But she did not care for the money.
She was a good fellow, and was in for fun. She was "wise," too, and
I liked to talk to her, for she understood what I said, and was up to
snuff, which was very piquant to me. She had done most of the grafts
that I had done myself, and her tips were always valuable.

To show what a good fellow she was, her sweetheart, Jack, and another
burglar named Jerry were doing night work once, when they were unlucky
enough to be nailed. Sheenie Annie went on the stand and swore perjury
in order to save Jack. He got a year, but Jerry, who had committed the
same crime, got six. While he was in prison Annie visited him and put
up a plan by which he escaped, but he would not leave New York with
her, and was caught and returned to "stir." Annie herself fell in half
a dozen cities, but never received more than a few months. After I
was released from serving my second bit in the "pen," I heard Annie
had died insane. An old girl pal of hers told me that she had died a
horrible death, and that her last words were about her old friends and
companions. Her disease was that which attacks only people with brains.
She died of paresis.

Two other girls whom I knew when I was fifteen turned out to be
famous shop-lifters--Big Lena and Blonde Mamie, who afterwards married
Tommy, the famous cracksman. They began to graft when they were about
fourteen, and Mamie and I used to work together. I was Mamie's first
"fellow," and we had royal good times together. Lena, poor girl, is
now doing five years in London, but she was one of the most cheerful
Molls I ever knew. I met her and Mamie for the first time one day as
they were coming out of an oyster house on Grand Street. I thought
they were good-looking tid-bits, and took them to a picnic. We were
so late that instead of going home Mamie and I spent the night at the
house of Lena's sister, whose husband was a receiver of stolen goods,
or "fence," as it is popularly called. In the morning Lena, Mamie and I
made our first "touch" together. We got a few "books" uptown, and Mamie
banged a satchel at Sterns. After that we often jumped out together,
and took in the excursions. Sometimes Mamie or Lena would dip and I
would stall, but more frequently I was the pick. We used to turn our
swag over to Lena's sister's husband, Max, who would give us about
one-sixth of its value.

These three girls certainly were a crack-a-jack trio. You can't find
their likes nowadays. Even in my time most of the girls I knew did not
amount to anything. They generally married, or did worse. There were
few legitimate grafters among them. Since I have been back this time
I have seen a great many of the old picks and night-workers I used to
know. They tell the same story. There are no Molls now who can compare
with Big Lena, Blonde Mamie, and Sheenie Annie. Times are bad, anyway.

After my experience in the Tombs I rose very rapidly in the world of
graft, and distanced my old companions. Zack, the lad with whom I had
touched my first Moll, soon seemed very tame to me. I fell away from
him because he continued to eat bolivers (cookies), patronize the free
baths, and stole horse-blankets and other trivial things when he could
not get "leathers." He was not fast enough for me. Zack "got there,"
nevertheless, and for little or nothing, for several years later I
met him in State's prison. He told me he was going to Colorado on his
release. I again met him in prison on my second bit. He was then going
to Chicago. On my third hit I ran up against the same old jail-bird,
but this time his destination was Boston. To-day he is still in prison.

As I fell away from the softies I naturally joined hands with
more ambitious grafters, and with those with brains and with good
connections in the upper world. As a lad of from fifteen to eighteen
I associated with several boys who are now famous politicians in
this city, and "on the level," as that phrase is usually meant. Jack
Lawrence was a well-educated boy, and high up as far as his family
was concerned. His father and brothers held good political positions,
and it was only a taste for booze and for less genteel grafting that
held Jack back. As a boy of sixteen or seventeen he was the trusted
messenger of a well-known Republican politician, named J. I. D. One
of Jacks pals became a Federal Judge, and another, Mr. D----, who was
never a grafter, is at present a city magistrate in New York.

While Jack was working for J. I. D., the politician, he was arrested
several times. Once he abstracted a large amount of money from the vest
pocket of a broker as he was standing by the old _Herald_ building.
He was nailed, and sent word to his employer, the politician, who went
to police headquarters, highly indignant at the arrest of his trusted
messenger. He easily convinced the broker and the magistrate that Jack
was innocent; and as far as the Republican politician's business was
concerned, Jack was honest, for J. I. D. trusted him, and Jack never
deceived him. There are some thieves who will not "touch" those who
place confidence in them, and Jack was one of them.

After he was released, the following conversation, which Jack related
to me, took place between him and the politician, in the latter's

"How was it?" the Big One said, "that you happened to get your fingers
into that man's pocket?"

Jack gave the "innocent con."

"None of that," said J. I. D., who was a wise guy, "I know you have a
habit of taking small change from strangers' pockets."

Jack then came off his perch and gave his patron a lesson in the art
of throwing the mit (dipping). At this the politician grinned, and
remarked: "You will either become a reputable politician, for you have
the requisite character, or you will die young."

Jack was feared, hated and envied by the other young fellows in
J. I. D.'s office, for as he was such a thorough rascal, he was a
great favorite with those high up. But he never got J. I. D.'s full
confidence until after he was tested in the following way. One day the
politician put his gold watch on a table in his office. Jack saw it,
picked it up and put it in the Big One's drawer. The latter entered the
room, saw that the watch was gone, and said: "I forgot my watch. I must
have left it home."

"No," said Jack, "you left it on the table, and I put it in your desk."
A smile spread over the patron's face.

"Jack, I can trust you. I put it there just to test your honesty."

The boy hesitated a moment, then, looking into the man's face, replied;
"I know right well you did, for you are a wise guy."

After that J. I. D. trusted Jack even with his love affairs.

As Jack advanced in life he became an expert "gun," and was often
nailed, and frequently brought before Magistrate D----, his old friend.
He always got the benefit of the doubt. One day he was arraigned before
the magistrate, who asked the flyman the nature of the complaint. It
was the same as usual--dipping. Jack, of course, was indignant at such
an awful accusation, but the magistrate told him to keep still, and,
turning to the policeman, asked the culprit's name. When the copper
told him, the magistrate exclaimed: "Why, that is not his name. I knew
him twenty years ago, and he was a d---- rascal then; but that was not
his name."

Jack was shocked at such language from the bench, and swore with
such vehemence that he was innocent, that he again got the benefit of
the doubt, and was discharged, and this time justly, for he had not
made this particular "touch." He was hounded by a copper looking for
a reputation. Jack, when he was set free, turned to the magistrate,
and said: "Your honor, I thank you, but you only did your duty to an
innocent man." The magistrate had a good laugh, and remarked: "Jack, I
wouldn't believe you if you swore on a stack of Bibles."

A curious trait in a professional grafter is that, if he is "pinched"
for something he did not do, although he has done a hundred other
things for which he has never been pinched, he will put up such a wail
against the abominable injustice that an honest man accused of the
same offense would seem guilty in comparison. The honest man, even if
he had the ability of a Philadelphia lawyer, could not do the strong
indignation act that is characteristic of the unjustly accused grafter.
Old thieves guilty of a thousand crimes will nourish revenge for years
against the copper or judge who sends them up to "stir" on a false

When I was from fifteen to seventeen years old, I met the man who,
some think, is now practically leader of Tammany Hall. I will call him
Senator Wet Coin. At that time he was a boy eighteen or nineteen and
strictly on the level. He knew all the grafters well, but kept off the
Rocky Path himself. In those days he "hung out" in an oyster shanty
and ran a paper stand. It is said he materially assisted Mr. Pulitzer
in making a success of the _World_, when that paper was started. He
never drank, in spite of the name I have given him. In fact, he derived
his real nickname from his habit of abstinence. He was the friend of
a Bowery girl who is now a well-known actress. She, too, was always
on the level in every way; although her brother was a grafter; this
case, and that of Senator Wet Coin prove that even in an environment of
thieves it is possible to tread the path of virtue. Wet Coin would not
even buy a stolen article; and his reward was great. He became captain
of his election district, ran for assemblyman, was elected, and got as
high a position, with the exception of that of Governor, as is possible
in the State; while in the city, probably no man is more powerful.

Senator Wet Coin made no pretensions to virtue; he never claimed to
be better than others. But in spite of the accusations against him,
he has done far more for the public good than all the professional
reformers, religious and other. He took many noted and professional
criminals in the prime of their success, gave them positions and by his
influence kept them honest ever since. Some of them are high up, even
run gin-mills to-day. I met one of them after my second bit, who used
to make his thousands. Now he has a salary of eighteen dollars a week
and is contented. I had known him in the old days, and he asked:

"What are you doing?"

"The same old thing," I admitted. "What are you up to?"

"I have squared it, Jim," he replied earnestly. "There's nothing in the
graft. Why don't you go to sea?"

"I'd as lief go to stir," I replied.

We had a couple of beers and a long talk, and this is the way he gave
it to me:

"I never thought I could live on eighteen dollars a week. I have to
work hard but I save more money than I did when I was making hundreds
a week; for when it comes hard, it does not go easy. I look twice at my
earnings before I part with them. I live quietly with my sister and am
happy. There's nothing in the other thing, Jim. Look at Hope. Look at
Dan Noble. Look at all the other noted grafters who stole millions and
now are willing to throw the brotherly hand for a small borrow. If I
had the chance to make thousands to-morrow in the under world, I would
not chance it. I am happy. Better still, I am contented. Only for Mr.
Wet Coin I'd be splitting matches in the stir these many years. Show
me the reformer who has done as much for friends and the public as Wet

       *       *       *       *       *

A "touch" that pleased me mightily as a kid was made just before my
second fall. Superintendent Walling had returned from a summer resort,
and found that a mob of "knucks" (another name for pick-pockets) had
been "tearing open" the Third Avenue cars outside of the Post Office.
About fifty complaints had been coming in every day for several weeks;
and the Superintendent thought he would make a personal investigation
and get one of the thieves dead to rights. He made a front that
he was easy and went down the line. He did not catch any dips, but
when he reached police head-quarters he was minus his gold watch and
two hundred and fifty dollars in money. The story leaked out, and
Superintendent Walling was unhappy. There would never have been a
come-back for this "touch" if an old gun, who had just been nailed,
had not "squealed" as to who touched the boss. "Little Mick" had done
it, and the result was that he got his first experience in the House of

It was only a short time after Little Mick's fall that it came my turn
to go to the House of Refuge. I had grown tougher and much stuck on
myself and was taking bigger risks. I certainly had a swelled head in
those days. I was seventeen years old at the time, and was grafting
with Jack T----, who is now in Byrnes's book, and one of the swellest
"Peter" men (safe-blowers) in the profession. Jack and I, along with
another pal, Joe Quigley, got a duffer, an Englishman, for his "front,"
on Grand Street, near Broadway. It was a "blow," and I, who was the
"wire," got nailed. If I had not given my age as fifteen I should have
been sent to the penitentiary. As it was I went to the House of Refuge
for a year. Joe Quigley slipped up on the same game. He was twenty, but
gave his age as fifteen. He had had a good shave by the Tombs barber,
there was a false date of birth written in his Aunt's Bible, which was
produced in court by his lawyer, and he would probably have gone with
me to the House of Refuge, had not a Central Office man who knew him,
happened in; Joe was settled for four years in Sing Sing.

When I arrived at the House of Refuge, my pedigree was taken and my
hair clipped. Then I went into the yard, looked down the line of boys
on parade and saw about forty young grafters whom I knew. One of them
is now a policeman in New York City, and, moreover, on the level.
Some others, too, but not many, who were then in the House of Refuge,
are now honest. Several are running big saloons and are captains of
their election districts, or even higher up. These men are exceptions,
however, for certainly the House of Refuge was a school for crime.
Unspeakably bad habits were contracted there. The older boys wrecked
the younger ones, who, comparatively innocent, confined for the crime
of being orphans, came in contact with others entirely hardened. The
day time was spent in the school and the shop, but there was an hour
or two for play, and the boys would arrange to meet for mischief in the

Severe punishments were given to lads of fifteen, and their tasks
were harder than those inflicted in State's prison. We had to make
twenty-four pairs of overalls every day; and if we did not do our work
we were beaten on an unprotected and tender spot until we promised to
do our task. One morning I was made to cross my hands, and was given
fifteen blows on the palms with a heavy rattan stick. The crime I had
committed was inattention. The principal had been preaching about the
Prodigal Son. I, having heard it before, paid little heed; particularly
as I was a Catholic, and his teachings did not count for me. They
called me a "Papist," and beat me, as I described.

I say without hesitation that lads sent to an institution like the
House of Refuge, the Catholic Protectory, or the Juvenile Asylum, might
better be taken out and shot. They learn things there they could not
learn even in the streets. The newsboy's life is pure in comparison. As
for me, I grew far more desperate there than I had been before: and I
was far from being one of the most innocent of boys. Many of the others
had more to learn than I had, and they learned it. But even I, hard as
I already was, acquired much fresh information about vice and crime;
and gathered in more pointers about the technique of graft.


_When the Graft Was Good._

I stayed in the House of Refuge until I was eighteen, and when
released, went through a short period of reform. I "lasted," I think,
nearly three weeks, and then started in to graft again harder than
ever. The old itch for excitement, for theatres, balls and gambling,
made reform impossible. I had already formed strong habits and desires
which could not be satisfied in my environment without stealing. I was
rapidly becoming a confirmed criminal. I began to do "house-work,"
which was mainly sneak work up town. We would catch a basement open
in the day time, and rummage for silverware, money or jewels. There
is only a step from this to the business of the genuine burglar, who
operates in the night time, and whose occupation is far more dangerous
than that of the sneak thief. However, at this intermediate kind of
graft, our swag, for eighteen months, was considerable. One of our
methods was to take servant girls to balls and picnics and get them
to tip us off to where the goods were and the best way to get them.
Sometimes they were guilty, more often merely suckers.

During the next three years, at the expiration of which I made my first
trip to Sing Sing, I stole a great deal of money and lived very high.
I contracted more bad habits, practically ceased to see my family at
all, lived in a furnished room and "hung out" in the evening at some
dance-hall, such as Billy McGlory's Old Armory, George Doe's or "The"
Allen's. Sheenie Annie was my sweetheart at this period, and after we
had made a good touch what times we would have at Coney Island or at
Billy McGlory's! Saturday nights in the summer time a mob of three or
four of us, grafters and girls, would go to the island and stop at a
hotel run by an ex-gun. At two or three o'clock in the morning we'd
all leave the hotel, with nothing on but a quilt, and go in swimming
together. Sheenie Annie, Blonde Mamie and Big Lena often went with
us. At other times we took respectable shop-girls, or even women who
belonged to a still lower class. What boy with an ounce of thick blood
in his body could refuse to go with a girl to the Island?

And Billy McGlory's! What times we had there, on dear old Saturday
nights! At this place, which contained a bar-room, dance-room,
pool-room and a piano, congregated downtown guns, house-men and thieves
of both sexes. No rag-time was danced in those days, but early in the
morning we had plenty of the cancan. The riots that took place there
would put to shame anything that goes on now.[A] I never knew the town
so tight-shut as it is at present. It is far better, from a moral point
of view than it has ever been before; at least, in my recollection.
"The" Allen's was in those days a grade more decent than McGlory's; for
at "The's" nobody who did not wear a collar and coat was admitted. I
remember a pal of mine who met a society lady on a slumming expedition
with a reporter. It was at McGlory's. The lady looked upon the grafter
she had met as a novelty. The grafter looked upon the lady in the same
way, but consented to write her an article on the Bowery. He sent her
the following composition, which he showed to me first, and allowed me
to copy it. I always did like freaks. I won't put in the bad grammar
and spelling, but the rest is:

"While strolling, after the midnight hour, along the Lane, that
historic thoroughfare sometimes called the Bowery, I dropped into a
concert hall. At a glance, I saw men who worked hard during the week
and needed a little recreation. Near them were their sisters (that
is, if we all belong to the same human family), who had fallen by the
wayside. A man was trying to play a popular song on a squeaky piano,
while another gent tried to sing the first part of the song, when the
whole place joined in the chorus with a zest. I think the song was most
appropriate. It was a ditty of the slums entitled, 'Dear Old Saturday

When I was about nineteen I took another and important step in the
world of graft. One night I met a couple of swell grafters, one of
whom is at the present time a Pinkerton detective. They took me to
the Haymarket, where I met a crowd of guns who were making barrels of
money. Two of them, Dutch Lonzo and Charlie Allen, became my friends,
and introduced me to Mr. R----, who has often kept me out of prison.
He was a go-between, a lawyer, and well-known to all good crooks. If
we "fell" we had to notify him and he would set the underground wires
working, with the result that our fall money would need replenishing
badly, but that we'd escape the stir.

That I was not convicted again for three years was entirely due to my
fall money and to the cleverness of Mr. R----. Besides these expenses,
which I considered legitimate, I used to get "shaken down" regularly by
the police and detectives. The following is a typical case:

I was standing one day on the corner of Grand Street and the Bowery
when a copper who knew me came up and said: "There's a lot of knocking
(complaining) going on about the Grand Street cars being torn open. The
old man (the chief) won't stand for it much longer."

"It wasn't me," I said.

"Well, it was one of the gang," he replied, "and I will have to make an
arrest soon, or take some one to headquarters for his mug," (that is,
to have his picture taken for the rogues' gallery).

I knew what that meant, and so I gave him a twenty dollar bill. But
I was young and often objected to these exorbitant demands. More than
anybody else a thief hates to be "touched," for he despises the sucker
on whom he lives. And we were certainly touched with great regularity
by the coppers.

Still, we really had nothing to complain of in those days, for we made
plenty of money and had a good time. We even used to buy our collars,
cuffs and gloves cheap from grafters who made it their business to
steal those articles. They were cheap guns,--pipe fiends, petty larceny
thieves and shop-lifters--but they helped to make our path smoother.

After I met the Haymarket grafter I used to jump out to neighboring
cities on very profitable business. A good graft was to work the fairs
at Danbury, Waverly, Philadelphia and Pittsburg, and the foot-ball
games at Princeton. I always travelled with three or four others, and
went for gatherings where we knew we would find "roofers," or country
gentlemen. On my very first jump-out I got a fall, but the copper was
open to reason. Dutch Lonzo and Charlie Allen, splendid pickpockets,
(I always went with good thieves, for I had become a first-class dip
and had a good personal appearance) were working with me in Newark,
where Vice-President Hendricks was to speak. I picked a watch in the
crowd, and was nailed. But Dutch Lonzo, who had the gift of gab better
than any man I ever met, took the copper into a saloon. We all had a
drink, and for twenty-five dollars I escaped even the station-house.
Unfortunately, however, I was compelled to return the watch; for the
copper had to "square" the sucker. Then the copper said to Dutch
Lonzo, whom he knew: "Go back and graft, if you want, but be sure
to look me up." In an hour or two we got enough touches to do us for
two weeks. Senator Wet Coin was at this speech with about two hundred
Tammany braves, and we picked so many pockets that a newspaper the next
day said there must have been at least one hundred and ninety-nine
pickpockets in the Tammany delegation. We fell quite often on these
trips, but we were always willing to help the coppers pay for their
lower flats. I sometimes objected because of their exorbitant demands,
but I was still young. I knew that longshoremen did harder work for
less pay than the coppers, and I thought, therefore, that the latter
were too eager to make money on a sure-thing graft. And I always hated
a sure-thing graft.

But didn't we strike it rich in Connecticut! Whether the people of that
State suffer from partial paralysis or not I don't know, but certainly
if all States were as easy as Connecticut the guns would set up as
Vanderbilts. I never even got a tumble in Connecticut. I ripped up the
fairs in every direction, and took every chance. The inhabitants were
so easy that we treated them with contempt.

After a long trip in Connecticut I nearly fell on my return, I was that
raw. We were breech-getting (picking men's pockets) in the Brooklyn
cars. I was stalling in front, Lonzo was behind and Charlie was the
pick. Lonzo telephoned to me by gestures that Charlie had hold of
the leather, but it wouldn't come. I was hanging on a strap, and,
pretending to slip, brought my hand down heavily on the sucker's hat,
which went over his ears. The leather came, was slipped to me, Lonzo
apologized for spoiling the hat and offered the sucker a five dollar
bill, which he politely refused. Now that was rough work, and we would
not have done it, had we not been travelling so long among the Reubs
in Connecticut. We could have made our gets all right, but we were so
confident and delayed so long that the sucker blew before we left the
car, and Lonzo and Charlie were nailed, and the next morning arraigned.
In the meantime, however, we had started the wires working, and
notified Mr. R.---- and Lonzo's wife to "fix" things in Brooklyn. The
reliable attorney got a bondsman, and two friends of his "fixed" the
cops, who made no complaint. Lonzo's wife, an Irishwoman and a handsome
grafter, had just finished a five year bit in London. It cost us six
hundred dollars to "fix" that case, and there was only two hundred and
fifty dollars in the leather.

That made Lonzo's wife exceedingly angry.

"Good Lord," she said. "There's panthers for you in New York! There's
the blokes that shakes you down too heavy. I'd want an unlimited cheque
on the Bank of England if you ever fell again."

A little philosophy on the same subject was given me one day by an
English Moll, who had fallen up-State and had to "give up" heavily.

"I've been in a good many cities and 'amlets in this country," said
she, "but gad! blind me if I ever want to fall in an 'amlet in this
blooming State again. The New York police are at least a little
sensible at times, but when these Rufus's up the State get a Yorker or
a wise guy, they'll strip him down to his socks. One of these voracious
country coppers who sing sweet hymns in jail is a more successful gun
than them that hit the rocky path and take brash to get the long green.
It is only the grafter that is supposed to protect the people who makes
a success of it. The hypocritical mouthings of these people just suit
the size of their Bibles."

Lonzo and I, and Patsy, a grafter I had picked up about this time,
made several fat trips to Philadelphia. At first we were leary of the
department stores, there had been so many "hollers," and worked the
"rattlers" (cars) only. We were told by some local guns that we could
not "last" twenty-four hours in Philadelphia without protection, but
that was not our experience. We went easy for a time, but the chances
were too good, and we began voraciously to tear open the department
stores, the churches and the theatres; and without a fall. Whenever
anybody mentioned the fly-cops (detectives) of Philadelphia it reminded
us of the inhabitants of Connecticut. They were not "dead": such a
word is sacred. Their proper place was not on the police force, but
on a shelf in a Dutchman's grocery store labelled the canned article.
Philadelphia was always my town, but I never stayed very long, partly
because I did not want to become known in such a fat place, and partly
because I could not bear to be away from New York very long; for,
although there is better graft in other cities, there is no such place
to live in as Manhattan. I had no fear of being known in Philadelphia
to the police; but to local guns who would become jealous of our
grafting and tip us off.

On one of my trips to the City of Brotherly Love I had a poetical
experience. The graft had been good, and one Sunday morning I left Dan
and Patsy asleep, and went for a walk in the country, intending, for a
change, to observe the day of rest. I walked for several hours through
a beautiful, quiet country, and about ten o'clock passed a country
church. They were singing inside, and for some reason, probably because
I had had a good walk in the country, the music affected me strangely.
I entered, and saw a blind evangelist and his sister. I bowed my head,
and my whole past life came over me. Although everything had been
coming my way, I felt uneasy, and thought of home for the first time
in many weeks. I went back to the hotel in Philadelphia, feeling very
gloomy, and shut myself up in my room. I took up my pen and began
a letter to a Tommy (girl) in New York. But I could not forget the
country church, and instead of writing to the little Tommy, I wrote the
following jingles:

     "When a child by mother's knee
     I would watch, watch, watch
     By the deep blue sea,
     And the moon-beams played merrily
     On our home beside the sea.


     "The Evening Star shines bright-i-ly
     Above our home beside the sea,
     And the moon-beams danced beamingly
     On our home beside the sea.
     But now I am old, infirm and grey
     I shall never see those happy days;
     I would give my life, all my wealth, and fame
     To hear my mother gently call my name."

Towards evening Patsy and Dan returned from a good day's work. Patsy
noticed I was quiet and unusually gloomy, and asked:

"What's the matter? Didn't you get anything?"

"No," I replied, "I'm going back to New York."

"Where have you been?" asked Dan.

"To church," I replied.

"In the city?" he asked.

"No," I replied, "in the country."

"I cautioned you," said Dan, "against taking such chances. There's
no dough in these country churches. If you want to try lone ones on a
Sunday take in some swell church in the city."

The following Sunday I went to a fashionable church and got a few
leathers, and afterwards went to all the swell churches in the city. I
touched them, but they could not touch me. I heard all the ministers
in Philadelphia, but they could not move me the way that country
evangelist did. They were all artificial in comparison.

Shortly after my poetical experience in Philadelphia I made a trip up
New York State with Patsy, Dan and Joe, and grafted in a dozen towns.
One day when we were on the cars going from Albany to Amsterdam, we saw
a fat, sleepy-looking Dutchman, and I nicked him for a clock as he was
passing along the aisle to the end of the car. It took the Dutchman
about ten minutes after he had returned to his seat to blow that his
super was gone, and his chain hanging down. A look of stupid surprise
spread over his innocent countenance. He looked all around, picked up
the end of his chain, saw it was twisted, put his hand in his vest
pocket, then looked again at the end of the chain, tried his pocket
again, then went through all of his pockets, and repeated each of these
actions a dozen times. The passengers all got "next," and began to
grin. "Get on to the Hiker," (countryman) said Patsy to Joe, and they
both laughed. I told the Dutchman that the clock must have fallen down
the leg of his underwear; whereupon the Reuben retired to investigate,
searched himself thoroughly and returned, only to go through the same
motions, and then retire to investigate once more. It was as good as a
comedy. But it was well there were no country coppers on that train.
They would not have cared a rap about the Dutchman's loss of his
property, but we four probably should have been compelled to divide
with them.

Grafters are a superstitious lot. Before we reached Buffalo a feeling
came over me that I had better not work in that town; so Joe, Dan and
an English grafter we had picked up, named Scotty, stopped at Buffalo,
and Patsy and I went on. Sure enough, in a couple of days Joe wired
me that Scotty had fallen for a breech-kick and was held for trial.
I wired to Mr. R----, who got into communication with Mr. J----, a
Canadian Jew living in Buffalo, who set the wires going. The sucker
proved a very hard man to square, but a politician who was a friend
of Mr. J---- showed him the errors of his way, and before very long
Scotty returned to New York. An English Moll-buzzer, a girl, got hold
of him and took him back to London. It was just as well, for it was
time for our bunch to break up. We were getting too well-known; and
falls were coming too frequent. So we had a general split. Joe went to
Washington, Patsy down East, Scotty to "stir" in London and I stayed in
Manhattan, where I shortly afterwards met Big Jack and other burglars
and started in on that dangerous graft. But before I tell about my
work in that line, I will narrate the story of Mamie and Johnny, a
famous cracksman, whom I met at this time. It is a true love story of
the Under World. Johnny, and Mamie, who by the way is not the same as
Blonde Mamie, are still living together in New York City, after many
trials and tribulations, one of the greatest of which was Mamie's
enforced relation with a New York detective. But I won't anticipate on
the story, which follows in the next chapter.


     [A] Summer of 1902


_Mamie and the Negotiable Bonds._

Johnny met Mamie when he was sixteen. At that time he was looked up
to in the neighborhood as one of the most promising of the younger

He was an intelligent, enterprising boy and had, moreover, received an
excellent education in the school of crime. His parents had died before
he was twelve years old, and after that the lad lived at the Newsboys'
Lodging House, in Rivington Street, which at that time and until it
ceased to exist was the home of boys some of whom afterwards became
the swellest of crooks, and some very reputable citizens and prominent
politicians. A meal and a bed there cost six cents apiece and even the
youngest and stupidest waif could earn or steal enough for that.

Johnny became an adept at "hooking" things from grocery stores and
at tapping tills. When he was thirteen years old he was arrested for
petty theft, passed a night in the police station, and was sent to the
Catholic Protectory, where he was the associate of boys much older and
"wiser" in crime than he. At that place were all kinds of incurables,
from those arrested for serious felonies to those who had merely
committed the crime of being homeless. From them Johnny learned the
ways of the under world very rapidly.

After a year of confinement he was clever enough to make a key and
escape. He safely passed old "Cop O'Hagen," whose duty it was to watch
the Harlem bridge, and returned to the familiar streets in lower New
York, where the boys and rising pickpockets hid him from the police,
until they forgot about his escape.

From that time Johnny's rise in the world of graft was rapid. He
was so successful in stealing rope and copper from the dry-docks
that the older heads took him in hand and used to put him through
the "fan-light" windows of some store, where his haul was sometimes
considerable. He began to grow rich, purchased some shoes and
stockings, and assumed a "tough" appearance, with great pride. He rose
a step higher, boarded tug-boats and ships anchored at the docks, and
constantly increased his income. The boys looked upon him as a winner
in his line of graft, and as he gave "hot'l" (lodging-house) money to
those boys who had none, he was popular. So Johnny became "chesty",
began to "spread" himself, to play pool, to wear good linen collars and
to associate with the best young thieves in the ward.

It was at this time that he met Mamie, who was a year or two younger
than he. She was a small, dark, pale-faced little girl, and as neat
and quick-witted as Johnny. She lived with her parents, near the
Newsboys' Lodging House, where Johnny still "hung out". Mamie's father
and mother were poor, respectable people, who were born and bred in the
old thirteenth ward, a section famous for the many shop girls who were
fine "spielers" (dancers). Mamie's mother was one of the most skillful
of these dancers, and therefore Mamie came by her passion for the waltz
very naturally; and the light-footed little girl was an early favorite
with the mixed crowd of dancers who used to gather at the old Concordia
Assembly Rooms, on the Bowery.

It was at this place that Johnny and Mamie met for the first time. It
was a case of mutual admiration, and the boy and girl started in to
"keep company." Johnny became more ambitious in his line of graft;
he had a girl! He needed money to buy her presents, to take her to
balls, theatres and picnics; and he began to "gun", which means to
pickpockets, an occupation which he found far more lucrative than
"swagging" copper from the docks or going through fan-light windows. He
did not remain content, however, with "dipping" and, with several much
older "grafters", he started in to do "drag" work.

"Drag" work is a rather complicated kind of stealing and success at
it requires considerable skill. Usually a "mob" of four grafters work
together. They get "tipped off" to some store where there is a line
of valuable goods, perhaps a large silk or clothing-house. One of the
four, called the "watcher", times the last employee that leaves the
place to be "touched". The "watcher" is at his post again early in
the morning, to find out at what time the first employee arrives. He
may even hire a furnished room opposite the store, in order to secure
himself against identification by some Central Office detective who
might stroll by. When he has learned the hours of the employees he
reports to his "pals". At a late hour at night the four go to the
store, put a spindle in the Yale lock, and break it with a blow from a
hammer. They go inside, take another Yale lock, which they have brought
with them, lock themselves in, go upstairs, carry the most valuable
goods downstairs and pile them near the door. Then they go away, and,
in the morning, before the employees are due, they drive up boldly
to the store with a truck; representing a driver, two laborers, and a
shipping clerk. They load the wagon with the goods, lock the door, and
drive away. They have been known to do this work in full view of the
unsuspecting policeman on the beat.

While Johnny had advanced to this distinguished work, Mamie, too,
had become a bread-earner, of a more modest and a more respectable
kind. She went to work in a factory, and made paper boxes for two and
one-half dollars a week. So the two dressed very well, and had plenty
of spending money. Unless Johnny had some work to do they always met in
the evening, and soon were seriously in love with one another. Mamie
knew what Johnny's line of business was, and admired his cleverness.
The most progressive people in her set believed in "getting on" in
any way, and how could Mamie be expected to form a social morality for
herself? She thought Johnny was the nicest boy in the world, and Johnny
returned her love to the full. So Johnny finally asked her if she would
"hitch up" with him for life, and she gladly consented.

They were married and set up a nice home in Allen Street. It was before
the time when the Jews acquired an exclusive right to that part of
the town, and in this neighborhood Mamie and Johnny had many friends
who used to visit them in the evening; for the loving couple were
exceedingly domestic, and, when Johnny had no business on hand, seldom
went out in the evening. Johnny was a model husband. He had no bad
habits, never drank or gambled, spent as much time as he could with
his wife, and made a great deal of money. Mamie gave up her work in the
shop, and devoted all her attention to making Johnny happy and his home

For about four years Johnny and Mamie lived very happily together.
Things came their way; and Johnny and his pals laid by a considerable
amount of money against a rainy day. To be sure, they had their little
troubles. Johnny "fell," that is to say, was arrested, a score of
times, but succeeded in getting off. It was partly due to good luck,
and partly to the large amount of fall-money he and his pals had
gathered together.

On one occasion it was only Mamie's cleverness and devotion that saved
Johnny, for a time, from the penitentiary. One dark night Johnny
and three pals, after a long conversation in the saloon of a ward
politician, visited a large jewelry store on Fulton Street, Brooklyn,
artistically opened the safe, and made away with fifteen thousand
dollars. It was a bold and famous robbery, and the search for the
thieves was long and earnest. Johnny and his friends were not suspected
at first, but an old saying among thieves is, "wherever there are three
or four there is always a leak," a truth similar to that announced by
Benjamin Franklin: "Three can keep a secret when two are dead."

One of Johnny's pals, Patsy, told his girl in confidence how the
daring "touch" was made. That was the first link in the long chain of
gossip which finally reached the ears of the watching detectives; and
the result was that Patsy and Johnny were arrested. It was impossible
to "settle" this case, no matter how much "fall-money" they had at
their disposal; for the jeweler belonged to the Jewelers' Protective
Association, which will prosecute those who rob anyone belonging to
their organization.

As bribery was out of the question, Johnny and Patsy, who were what is
called in the underworld "slick articles," put their heads together,
and worked out a scheme. The day of their trial in the Brooklyn Court
came around. They were waiting their turn in the prisoner's "pen,"
adjoining the Court, when Mamie came to see them. The meeting between
her and Johnny was very affecting. After a few words Mamie noticed
that her swell Johnny wore no neck-tie. Johnny, seemingly embarrassed,
turned to a Court policeman, and asked him to lend him his tie for a
short time. The policeman declined, but remarked that Mamie had a tie
that would match Johnny's complexion very well. Mamie impulsively took
off her tie, put it on Johnny, kissed him, and left the Court-house.

Johnny was to be tried in ten minutes, but he induced his lawyer to
have the trial put off for half an hour; and another case was tried
instead. Then he took off Mamie's neck-tie, tore the back out of it,
and removed two fine steel saws. He gave one to Patsy, and in a few
minutes they had penetrated a small iron bar which closed a little
window leading to an alley. Patsy was too large to squeeze himself
through the opening, but "stalled" for Johnny while the latter "made
his gets". When they came to put these two on trial there was a
sensation in Court. No Johnny! Patsy knew nothing about it, he said;
and he received six years for his crime.

But Johnny's day for a time in the "stir" soon came around. He made a
good "touch", and got away with the goods, but was betrayed by a pal, a
professional thief who was in the pay of the police, technically called
a "stool-pigeon". Mamie visited Johnny in the Tombs, and when she found
the case was hopeless she wanted to go and steal something herself so
that she might accompany her boy to prison. But when Johnny told her
there were no women at Sing Sing she gave up the idea. Johnny went to
prison for four years, and Mamie went to a tattooer, and, as a proof of
her devotion, had Johnny's name indelibly stamped upon her arm.

Mamie, in consequence of her fidelity to Johnny, whom she regularly
visited at Sing Sing, was a heroine and a martyr in the eyes of the
grafters of both sexes. The money she and Johnny had saved began to
dwindle, and soon she was compelled to work again at box-making. She
remained faithful to Johnny, although many a good grafter tried to make
up to the pretty girl. When Johnny was released from Sing Sing, Mamie
was even happier than he. They had no money now, but some politicians
and saloon-keepers who knew that Johnny was a good money-getter, set
them up in a little house. And they resumed their quiet domestic life

Their happiness did not last long, however. Johnny needed money more
than ever now and resumed his dangerous business. He got in with a
quartette of the cleverest safe-crackers in the country, and made
a tour of the Eastern cities. They made many important touches, but
finally Johnny was again under suspicion for a daring robbery in Union
Square, and was compelled to become a solitary fugitive. He sent word,
through an old-time burglar, to Mamie, exhorted her to keep up the
home, and promised to send money regularly. He was forced, however,
to stay away from New York for several years, and did not dare to
communicate with Mamie.

At first, Mamie tried to resume her work at box-making. But she had
had so much leisure and had lived so well that she found the work
irksome and the pay inadequate. Mamie knew many women pickpockets and
shop-lifters, friends of her husband. When some of these adventurous
girls saw that Mamie was discontented with her lot, they induced her to
go out and work with them. So Mamie became a very clever shop-lifter,
and, for a time, made considerable money. Then many of the best "guns"
in the city again tried to make up to Mamie, and marry her. Johnny
was not on the spot, and that, in the eyes of a thief, constitutes
a divorce. But Mamie still loved her wayward boy and held the others

In the meantime Johnny had become a great traveller. He knew that the
detectives were so hot on his track that he dared to stay nowhere very
long; nor dared to trust anyone: so he worked alone. He made a number
of daring robberies, all along the line from Montreal to Detroit, but
they all paled in comparison with a touch he made at Philadelphia, a
robbery which is famous in criminal annals.

He had returned to Philadelphia, hoping to get a chance to send word
to Mamie, whom he had not seen for years, and for whom he pined. While
in the city of brotherly love he was "tipped off" to a good thing. He
boldly entered a large mercantile house, and, in thirteen minutes, he
opened a time-lock vault, and abstracted three hundred thousand dollars
worth of negotiable bonds and escaped.

The bold deed made a sensation all over the country. The mercantile
house and the safe manufacturers were so hot for the thief that the
detectives everywhere worked hard and "on the level". Johnny was not
suspected then, and never "did time" for this touch. For a while he
hid in Philadelphia; boarded there with a poor, respectable family,
representing himself as a laborer out of work. He spent the daytime in
a little German beer saloon, playing pinocle with the proprietor; and
was perfectly safe.

But his longing for Mamie had grown so strong that he could not bear
it. He knew that the detectives were still looking for him because
of the old crime, and that they were hot to discover the thief of the
negotiable bonds. He sent word to Mamie, nevertheless, through an old
pal he found at Philadelphia, and arranged to see her at Mount Vernon,
near New York.

The two met in the side room of a little saloon near the railway
station; and the greeting was affectionate in the extreme. They had not
seen one another for years! And hardly a message had been exchanged.
After a little Johnny told Mamie, proudly, that it was he who had
stolen the negotiable bonds.

"Now," he added, "we are rich. After a little I can sell these bonds
for thirty cents on the dollar and then you and I will go away and
give up this life. I am getting older and my nerve is not what it was
once. We'll settle down quietly in London or some town where we are not
known, and be happy. Won't we, dear?"

Mamie said "Yes," but she appeared confused. When Johnny asked her what
was the matter, she burst into tears; and choked and sobbed for some
time before she could say a word. She ordered a glass of whiskey, which
she never used to drink in the old days, and when the bar-tender had
left, she turned to the worried Johnny, embraced him tenderly and said,
in a voice which still trembled:

"Johnny, will you forgive me if I tell you something? It's pretty bad,
but not so bad as it might be, for I love only you."

Johnny encouraged her with a kiss and she continued, in a broken voice:

"When you were gone again, Johnny, I tried to make my living at the
old box-making work; but the pay wasn't big enough for me then. So I
began to graft--dipping and shop-lifting--and made money. But a Central
Office man you used to know--Jim Lennon--got on to me."

"Jim Lennon?" said Johnny, "Sure, I knew him. He used to be sweet on
you, Mamie. He treated you right, I hope."

Mamie blushed and looked down.

"Well?" said Johnny.

"Jim came to me one day," she continued, "and told me he wouldn't
stand for what I was doing. He said the drygoods people were hollering
like mad; and that he'd have to arrest me if I didn't quit. I tried to
square him with a little dough, but I soon saw that wasn't what he was

"'Look here, Mamie,' he finally said. 'It's just this way. Johnny is a
good fellow, but he's dead to you and dead to me. He's done time, and
that breaks all marriage ties. Now, I want you to hitch up with me, and
lead an honest life. I'll give you a good home, and you won't run any
more risk of the pen!'"

Johnny grew very pale as Mamie said the last words; and when she
stopped speaking, he said quietly:

"And you did it?"

Mamie again burst into tears. "Oh, Johnny," she cried, "what else could
I do. He wouldn't let me go on grafting, and I had to live."

"And so you married him?" Johnny insisted.

The reply was in a whisper.

"Yes," she said.

For the next thirty seconds Johnny thought very rapidly. This woman had
his liberty in her hands. He had told her about the negotiable bonds.
Besides, he loved Mamie and understood the difficulty of her position.
His life as a thief had made him very tolerant in some respects. He
therefore swallowed his emotion, and turned a kind face to Mamie.

"You still love me?" he asked, "better than the copper?"

"Sure," said Mamie, warmly.

"Now listen," said Johnny, the old business-like expression coming back
into his face. "I am hounded for the old trick; and the detectives are
looking everywhere for these negotiable bonds, which I have here, in
this satchel. Can I trust you with them? Will you mind them for me,
until things quiet down?"

"Of course, I will," said Mamie, gladly.

So they parted once more. Johnny went into hiding again, and Mamie
went to the detective's house, with the negotiable bonds. She had no
intention of betraying Johnny; for she might be arrested for receiving
stolen goods; and, besides, she still loved her first husband. So she
planted the bonds in the bottom of the detective's trunk.

Here was a pretty situation. Her husband, the detectives, and
many other "fly-cops" all over the country, were looking for these
negotiable bonds, at the very moment when they were safely stowed
away in the detective's trunk. Mamie and Johnny, who continued to meet
occasionally, often smiled at the humor of the situation.

Soon, however, suspicion for the Philadelphia touch began to attach
to Johnny. Mamie's detective asked her one evening if she had heard
anything about Johnny, of late.

"Not for years," said Mamie, calmly.

But one night, several Central Office men followed Mamie as she went
to Mt. Vernon to meet Johnny; and when the two old lovers parted,
Johnny was arrested on account of the fifteen thousand dollar robbery
in Brooklyn, from the penalty of which he had escaped by means of
Mamie's neck-tie many years before. The detectives suspected Johnny
of having stolen the bonds, but of this they could get no evidence. So
he was sent to Sing Sing for six years on the old charge. When he was
safely in prison the detectives induced him to return the bonds, on the
promise that he would not be prosecuted at his release, and would be
paid a certain sum of money. The mercantile house agreed, and Johnny
sent word to Mamie to give up the bonds. Then, of course, the detective
knew about the trick that Mamie had played him. But he, like Johnny,
was a philosopher, and forgave the clever woman. When he first heard of
it, however, he had said to her, indignantly:

"You cow, if you had given the bonds to me, I would have been made a
police captain, and you my queen."

As soon as Johnny got out of stir, Mamie quit the detective, and the
couple are now living again together in a quiet, domestic manner, in


_What The Burglar Faces._

For a long time I took Sheenie Annie's advice and did not do any night
work. It is too dangerous, the come-back is too sure, you have to
depend too much on the nerve of your pals, the "bits" are too long; and
it is very difficult to square it. But as time went on I grew bolder.
I wanted to do something new, and get more dough. My new departure was
not, however, entirely due to ambition and the boldness acquired by
habitual success. After a gun has grafted for a long time his nervous
system becomes affected, for it is certainly an exciting life. He is
then very apt to need a stimulant. He is usually addicted to either
opium or chloral, morphine or whiskey. Even at this early period I
began to take a little opium, which afterwards was one of the main
causes of my constant residence in stir, and was really the wreck of my
life, for when a grafter is doped he is inclined to be very reckless.
Perhaps if I had never hit the hop I would not have engaged in the
dangerous occupation of a burglar.

I will say one thing for opium, however. That drug never makes a man
careless of his personal appearance. He will go to prison frequently,
but he will always have a good front, and will remain a self-respecting
thief. The whiskey dip, on the other hand, is apt to dress carelessly,
lose his ambition and, eventually to go down and out as a common "bum".

I began night-work when I was about twenty years old, and at first
I did not go in for it very heavily. Big Jack, Jerry, Ed and I made
several good touches in Mt. Vernon and in hotels at summer resorts and
got sums ranging from two hundred to twenty-seven hundred dollars.
We worked together for nearly a year with much success and only an
occasional fall, and these we succeeded in squaring. Once we had a
shooting-match which made me a little leary. I was getting out the
window with my swag, when a shot just grazed my eye. I nearly decided
to quit then, but, I suppose because it was about that time I was
beginning to take opium, I continued with more boldness than ever.

One night Ed, a close pal of mine, was operating with me out in Jersey.
We were working in the rear of a house and Ed was just shinning up the
back porch to climb in the second story window, when a shutter above
was thrown open and, without warning, a pistol shot rang out.

Down came Ed, falling like a log at my feet.

"Are you hurt?" said I.

"Done!" said he, and I saw it was so.

Now a man may be nervy enough, but self-preservation is the first rule
of life. I turned and ran at the top of my speed across two back yards,
then through a field, then over a fence into what seemed a ploughed
field beyond. The ground was rough and covered with hummocks, and as I
stumbled along I suddenly tripped and fell ten feet down into an open
grave. The place was a cemetery, though I had not recognized it in the
darkness. For hours I lay there trembling, but nobody came and I was
safe. It was not long after that, however, that something did happen to
shake my nerve, which was pretty good. It came about in the following

A jeweler, who was a well-known "fence", put us on to a place where we
could get thousands. He was one of the most successful "feelers-out" in
the business. The man who was my pal on this occasion, Dal, looked the
place over with me and though we thought it a bit risky, the size of
the graft attracted us. We had to climb up on the front porch, with an
electric light streaming right down on us.

I had reached the porch when I got the well-known signal of danger. I
hurriedly descended and asked Dal what was the matter.

"Jim," he said, "there's somebody off there, a block away."

We investigated, and you can imagine how I felt when we found nothing
but an old goat. It was a case of Dal's nerves, but the best of us get
nervous at times.

I went to the porch again and opened the window with a putty knife
(made of the rib of a woman's corset), when I got the "cluck" again,
and hastily descended, but again found it was Dal's imagination.

Then I grew hot, and said: "You have knocked all the nerve out of me,
for sure."

"Jim," he replied, "I ain't feeling good."

Was it a premonition? He wanted to quit the job, but I wouldn't let
him. I opened up on him. "What!" I said. "You are willing to steal one
piece of jewelry and take your chance of going to stir, but when we get
a good thing that would land us in Easy Street the rest of our lives,
you weaken!"

Dal was quiet, and his face unusually pale. He was a good fellow, but
his nerve was gone. I braced him up, however, and told him we'd get the
"éclat" the third time, sure. Then climbing the porch the third time, I
removed my shoes, raised the window again, and had just struck a light
when a revolver was pressed on my head. I knocked the man's hand up,
quick, and jumped. As I did so I heard a cry and then the beating of a
policeman's stick on the sidewalk.

I ran, with two men after me, and came to the gateway of a yard, where
I saw a big bloodhound chained to his kennel. He growled savagely, but
it was neck or nothing, so I patted his head just as though I were not
shaking with fear, slipped down on my hands and knees and crept into
his dog-house. Why didn't he bite me? Was it sympathy? When my pursuers
came up, the owner of the house, who had been aroused by the cries,
said: "He is not here. This dog would eat him up." When the police saw
the animal they were convinced of it too.

A little while later I left my friend's kennel. It was four o'clock in
the morning and I had no shoes on and only one dollar and sixty cents
in my pocket. I sneaked through the back window of the first house I
saw, stole a pair of shoes and eighty dollars from a room where a man
and his wife were sleeping. Then I took a car. Knowing that I was still
being looked for, I wanted to get rid of my hat, as a partial disguise.
On the seat with me was a working man asleep. I took his old soft hat,
leaving my new derby by his side, and also took his dinner pail. Then
when I left the car I threw away my collar and necktie, and reached New
York, disguised as a workingman. The next day the papers told how poor
old Dal had been arrested. Everything that had happened for weeks was
put on him.

A week later Dal was found dead in his cell, and I believe he did the
Dutch act (suicide), for I remember one day, months before that fatal
night, Dal and I were sitting in a politicians saloon, when he said to

"Jim, do you believe in heaven?"

"No," said I.

"Do you believe in hell?" he asked.

"No," said I.

"I've got a mind to find out," he said quickly, and pointed a big
revolver at his teeth. One of the guns in the saloon said: "Let him try
it," but I knocked the pistol away, for something in his manner made me
think seriously he would shoot.

"You poor brute," I said to him. "I'll put your ashes in an urn some
day and write "Dear Old Saturday Night" for an epitaph for you; but it
isn't time yet."

It did not take many experiences like the above to make me very leary
of night-work; and I went more slowly for some time. I continued
to dip, however, more boldly than ever and to do a good deal of day
work; in which comparatively humble graft the servant girls, as I have
already said, used to help us out considerably. This class of women
never interested me as much as the sporting characters, but we used to
make good use of them; and sometimes they amused us.

I remember an entertaining episode which took place while Harry, a
pal of mine at the time, and I, were going with a couple of these
hard-working Molls. Harry was rather inclined to be a sure-thing
grafter, of which class of thieves I shall say more in another chapter;
and after my recent dangerous adventures I tolerated that class more
than was customary with me. Indeed, if Harry had been the real thing I
would have cut him dead; as it was he came near enough to the genuine
article to make me despise him in my ordinary mood. But, as I say, I
was uncommonly leary just at that time.

He and I were walking in Stuyvesant Square when we met a couple of
these domestic slaves. With a "hello," we rang in on them, walked them
down Second Avenue and had a few drinks all around. My girl told me
whom she was working with. Thinking there might be something doing I
felt her out further, with a view to finding where in the house the
stuff lay. Knowing the Celtic character thoroughly, I easily got the
desired information. We took the girls into Bonnell's Museum, at Eighth
Street and Broadway, and saw a howling border melodrama, in which wild
Indians were as thick as Moll-buzzers in 1884. Mary Anne, who was my
girl, said she should tell her mistress about the beautiful play; and
asked for a program. They were all out, and so I gave her an old one,
of another play, which I had in my pocket. We had a good time, and made
a date with them for another meeting, in two weeks from that night;
but before the appointed hour we had beat Mary Anne's mistress out of
two hundred dollars worth of silverware, easily obtained, thanks to
the information I had received from Mary Anne. When we met the girls
again, I found Mary Anne in a great state of indignation; I was afraid
she was "next" to our being the burglars, and came near falling through
the floor. But her rage, it seemed, was about the play. She had told
her mistress about the wild Indian melodrama she had seen, and then had
shown her the program of _The Banker's Daughter_.

"But there is no such thing as an Indian in _The Banker's Daughter_,"
her mistress had said. "I fear you are deceiving me, Mary Anne, and
that you have been to some low place on the Bowery."

The other servants in the house got next and kidded Mary Anne almost
to death about Indians and _The Banker's Daughter_. After I had quieted
her somewhat she told me about the burglary that had taken place at her
house, and Harry and I were much interested. She was sure the touch had
been made by two "naygers" who lived in the vicinity.

It was shortly after this incident that I beat Blackwell's Island out
of three months. A certain "heeler" put me on to a disorderly house
where we could get some stones. I had everything "fixed." The "heeler"
had arranged it with the copper on the beat, and it seemed like a sure
thing; although the Madam, I understood, was a good shot and had plenty
of nerve. My accomplice, the heeler, was a sure thing grafter, who had
selected me because I had the requisite nerve and was no squealer. At
two o'clock in the morning a trusted pal and I ascended from the back
porch to the Madam's bed-room. I had just struck a match, when I heard
a female voice say, "What are you doing there?" and a bottle, fired at
my head, banged up against the wall with a crash. I did not like to
alarm women, and so I made my "gets" out the window, over the fence,
and into another street, where I was picked up by a copper, on general

The Madam told him that the thief was over six feet tall and had a
fierce black mustache. As I am only five feet seven inches and was
smoothly shaven, it did not seem like an identification; although when
she saw me she changed her note, and swore I was the man. The copper,
who knew I was a grafter, though he did not think I did that kind of
work, nevertheless took me to the station-house, where I convinced
two wardmen that I had been arrested unjustly. When I was led before
the magistrate in the morning, the copper said the lady's description
did not tally with the short, red-haired and freckled thief before
his Honor. The policemen all agreed, however, that I was a notorious
grafter, and the magistrate, who was not much of a lawyer, sent me to
the Island for three months on general principles.

I was terribly sore, for I knew I had been illegally treated. I felt
as much a martyr as if I had not been guilty in the least; and I
determined to escape at all hazards; although my friends told me I
would be released any day; for certainly the evidence against me had
been insufficient.

After I had been on the Island ten days I went to a friend, who
had been confined there several months and said: "Eddy, I have been
unjustly convicted for a crime I committed--such was my way of putting
it--and I am determined to make my elegant, (escape) come what will. Do
you know the weak spots of this dump?"

He put me "next", and I saw there was a chance, a slim one, if a man
could swim and didn't mind drowning. I found another pal, Jack Donovan,
who, like me, could swim like a fish; he was desperate too, and willing
to take any chance to see New York. Five or six of us slept together
in one large cell, and on the night selected for our attempt, Jack and
I slipped into a compartment where about twenty short term prisoners
were kept. Our departure from the other cell, from which it was very
difficult to escape after once being locked in for the night, was not
noticed by the night guard and his trusty because our pals in the cell
answered to our names when they were called. It was comparatively easy
to escape from the large room where the short term men were confined.
Into this room, too, Jack and I had taken tools from the quarry during
the daytime.

It was twelve o'clock on a November night when we made our escape.
We took ropes from the canvas cot, tied them together, and lowered
ourselves to the ground on the outside, where we found bad weather,
rain and hail. We were unable to obtain a boat, but secured a telegraph
pole, rolled it into the water, and set off with it for New York.
The terrific tide at Hellgate soon carried us well into the middle
of Long Island Sound, and when we had been in the water half an hour,
we were very cold and numb, and began to think that all was over. But
neither of us feared death. All I wanted was to save enough money to
be cremated; and I was confident my friends would see to that. I don't
think fear of death is a common trait among grafters. Perhaps it is
lack of imagination; more likely, however, it is because they think
they won't be any the worse off after death.

Still, I was not sorry when a wrecking boat suddenly popped our way.
The tug did not see us, and hit Jack's end of the pole a hard blow that
must have shaken him off. I heard him holler "Save me," and I yelled
too. I didn't think anything about capture just then. All my desire to
live came back to me.

I was pulled into the boat. The captain was a good fellow. He was
"next" and only smiled at my lies. What was more to the purpose he
gave me some good whiskey, and set me ashore in Jersey City. Jack was
drowned. All through life I have been used to losing a friend suddenly
by the wayside; but I have always felt sad when it happened. And yet it
would have been far better for me if I had been picked out for an early
death. I guess poor Jack was lucky.

Certainly there are worse things than death. Through these three years
of continual and for the most part successful graft, I had known a
man named Henry Fry whose story is one of the saddest. If he had been
called off suddenly as Jack was, he would certainly have been deemed
lucky by those who knew; for he was married to a bad woman. He was
one of the most successful box-men (safe-blowers) in the city, and
made thousands, but nothing was enough for his wife. She used to say,
when he would put twelve hundred dollars in her lap, "This won't meet
expenses. I need one thousand dollars more." She was unfaithful to
him, too, and with his friends. When I go to a matinée and see a lot
of sleek, fat, inane looking women, I wonder who the poor devils are
who are having their life blood sucked out of them. Certainly it was so
with Henry, or Henny, as we used to call him.

One day, I remember, we went down the Sound with a well-known
politician's chowder party, and Henny was with us. Two weeks
earlier New York had been startled by a daring burglary. A large
silk-importer's place of business was entered and his safe, supposed
to be burglar-proof, was opened. He was about to be married, and his
valuable wedding presents, which were in the safe, and six thousand
dollars worth of silk, were stolen. It was Henny and his pals who
had made the touch, but on this beautiful night on the Sound, Henny
was sad. We were sitting on deck, as it was a hot summer night, when
Henny jumped off his camp-stool and asked me to sing a song. I sang
a sentimental ditty, in my tenor voice, and then Henny took me to the
side of the boat, away from the others.

"Kid," he said, "I feel trouble coming over me."

"Cheer up," I replied. "You're a little down-hearted, that's all."

"I wish to God," he said, "I was like you."

I pulled out a five dollar bill and a two dollar bill and remarked:
"I've got just seven dollars to my name."

He turned to me and said:

"But you are happy. You don't let anything bother you."

Henny did not drink as a rule; that was one reason he was such a good
box-man, but on this occasion we had a couple of drinks, and I sang
"I love but one." Then Henny ordered champagne, grew confidential, and
told me his troubles.

"Kid" he said, "I've got thirty five hundred dollars on me. I have
been giving my wife a good deal of money, but don't know what she does
with it. In sixty days I have given her three thousand dollars, and she
complains about poverty all the time."

Henny had a nice flat of seven or eight rooms; he owed nothing and
had no children. He said he was unable to find any bank books in his
wife's trunk, and was confident she was not laying the money by. She
did not give it to her people, but even borrowed money from her father,
a well-to-do builder.

Two days after the night of the excursion, one of Henny's pals in the
silk robbery, went into a gin mill, treated everybody, and threw a
one thousand dollar bill down on the bar. Grafters, probably more than
others, like this kind of display. It is the only way to rise in their
society. A Central Office detective saw this little exhibition, got
into the grafters confidence and weeded him out a bit. A night or two
afterwards Henny was in bed at home, when the servant girl, who was in
love with Henny, and detested his wife because she treated her husband
so badly (she used to say to me, "She ain't worthy to tie his shoe
string") came to the door and told Henny and his wife that a couple of
men and a policeman in uniform were inquiring for him. Henny replied
sleepily that they were friends of his who had come to buy some stones;
but the girl was alarmed. She knew that Henny was crooked and feared
that those below meant him no good. She took the canvas turn-about
containing burglar's tools which hung on the wall near the bed, and
pinned it around her waist, under her skirt, and then admitted the
three visitors.

The sergeant said to Henny, who had dressed himself, "You are under
suspicion for the silk robbery." Yet there was, as is not uncommon, a
"but," which is as a rule a monetary consideration. Henny knew that
the crime was old, and, as he thought his "fence" was safe, he did
not see how there could be a come-back. So he did not take the hint to
shell out, and worked the innocent con. But those whose business it is
to watch the world of prey, put two and two together, and were "next"
that Henny and his mob had pulled off the trick. So they searched the
house, expecting to find, if not _éclat_, at least burglars tools;
for they knew that Henny was at the top of the ladder, and that he
must have something to work with. While the sergeant was going through
Henny's trunk, one of the flymen fooled with the pretty servant girl.
She jumped, and a pair of turners fell on the floor. It did not take
the flyman long to find the whole kit of tools. Henny was arrested,
convicted, and sent to Sing Sing for five years. While in prison
he became insane, his delusion being that he was a funny man on the
Detroit Free Press, which he thought was owned by his wife.

I never discovered what Henny's wife did with the money she had from
him. When I last heard of her she was married to another successful
grafter, whom she was making unhappy also. In a grafter's life a woman
often takes the part of the avenger of society. She turns against the
grafters their own weapons, and uses them with more skill, for no man
can graft like a woman.

       *       *       *       *       *

I had now been grafting for three years in the full tide of success.
Since the age of eighteen I had had no serious fall. I had made
much money and lived high. I had risen in the world of graft, and
I had become, not only a skillful pickpocket, but a good swindler
and drag-worker and had done some good things as a burglar. I was
approaching my twenty-first year, when, as you will see, I was to go to
the penitentiary for the first time. This is a good place, perhaps, to
describe my general manner of life, my daily menu, so to speak, during
these three fat years: for after my first term in state's prison things
went from bad to worse.

I lived in a furnished room; or at a hotel. If there was nothing doing
in the line of graft, I'd lie abed late, and read the newspapers to see
if any large gathering, where we might make some touches, was on hand.
One of my girls, of whom there was a long succession, was usually with
me. We would breakfast, if the day was an idle one, about one or two
o'clock in the afternoon. Then we'd send to the restaurant and have
a beefsteak or chops in our rooms, and perhaps a whiskey sour. If it
was another grafter's girl I'd won I'd be greatly pleased, for that
kind of thing is a game with us. In the afternoon I'd take in some
variety show; or buy the "Tommy" a present; if it was summer we might
go to a picnic, or to the Island. If I was alone, I would meet a pal,
play billiards or pool, bet on the races, baseball and prize fights,
jump out to the Polo grounds, or go to Patsy's house and have a game
of poker. Patsy's wife was a handsome grafter; and Patsy was jealous.
Every gun is sensitive about his wife, for he doesn't know how long he
will have her with him. In the evening I would go to a dance-hall; or
to Coney Island if the weather was good.

If it was a busy day, that is, if there was a touch to be pulled off,
we would get up in the morning or the afternoon, according to the best
time for the particular job in hand. In the afternoon we would often
graft at the Polo grounds, where we had a copper "right." We did not
have the same privileges at the race track, because it was protected by
the Pinkerton men. We'd console ourselves at the Polo grounds, which
we used to tear wide open, and where I never got even a hint of a
fall; the coppers got their percentage of the touches. In the morning
we would meet at one of the grafters homes or rooms and talk over our
scheme for the day or night. If we were going outside the city we would
have to rise very early. Sometimes we were sorry we had lost our sleep;
particularly the time we tried to tear open the town of Sing Sing,
near which the famous prison is. We found nothing to steal there but
pig iron, and there were only two pretty girls in the whole village.
We used to jump out to neighboring towns, not always to graft, but
sometimes to see our girls, for like sailors, the well-dressed, dapper
pickpocket has a girl in every port. If we made a good touch in the
afternoon we'd go on a spree in the evening with Sheenie Annie, Blonde
Mamie, Big Lena or some other good-natured lasses, or we'd go over and
inspect the Jersey maidens. After a good touch we would put some of the
dough away for fall-money, or for our sick relatives or guns in stir
or in the hospital. We'd all chip in to help out a woman grafter in
trouble, and pool a piece of jewelry sometimes, for the purpose. Then,
our duty done, we would put on our best front, and visit our friends
and sporting places. Among others we used to jump over to a hotel kept
by an ex-gun, one of the best of the spud men (green goods men), who is
now on the level and a bit of a politician. He owns six fast horses, is
married and has two beautiful children.

A few months before I was sent to the penitentiary for the first time,
I had my only true love affair. I have liked many girls, but sentiment
of the kind I felt for Ethel has played little part in my life. For
Ethel I felt the real thing, and she for me. She was a good, sensible
girl, and came from a respectable family. She lived with her father,
who was a drummer, and took care of the house for him. She was a
good deal of a musician, and, like most other girls, she was fond of
dancing. I first met her at Beethoven Hall, and was introduced to her
by a man, an honest laborer, who was in love with her. I liked her at
first sight, but did not love her until I had talked with her. In two
weeks we were lovers, and went everywhere together. The workingman
who loved her too was jealous and began to knock me. He told her I
was a grafter, but she would not believe him; and said nothing to me
about it, but it came to my ears through an intimate girl pal of hers.
Shortly after that I fell for a breech-kick (was arrested for picking
a man's trouser's pocket), but I had a good lawyer and the copper
was one of those who are open to reason. I lay a month in the Tombs,
however, before I got off, and Ethel learned all about it. She came to
the Tombs to see me, but, instead of reproaches, I got sympathy from
her. After I was released I gave her some of my confidence. She asked
me if I wouldn't be honest, and go to work; and said she would ask
her father to get me a job. Her father came to me and painted what my
life would be, if I kept on. I thought the matter over sincerely. I
had formed expensive habits which I could not keep up on any salary I
could honestly make. Away down in my mind (I suppose you would call it
soul) I knew I was not ready for reform. I talked with Ethel, and told
her that I loved her, but that I could not quit my life. She said she
would marry me anyway. But I thought the world of her, and told her
that though I had blasted my own life I would not blast hers. I would
not marry her, she was so good and affectionate. When we parted, I said
to myself: Man proposes, habit disposes.

It was certainly lucky that I did not marry that sweet girl, for a
month after I had split with her, I fell for a long term in state's
prison. It was for a breech-kick, which I could not square. I had gone
out of my hotel one morning for a bottle of whiskey when I met two
grafters, Johnny and Alec, who were towing a "sucker" along with them.
They gave me the tip that it was worth trying. Indeed, I gathered that
the man must have his bank with him, and I nicked him in a car for his
breech-leather. A spectator saw the deed and tipped off a copper. I was
nailed, but had nothing on me, for I had passed the leather to Alec.
I was not in the mood for the police station, and with Alec's help I
"licked" the copper, who pulled his gun and fired at us as we ran up a
side street. Alec blazed back, and escaped, but I was arrested. I could
not square it, as I have said, for I had been wanted at Headquarters
for some time past, because I did not like to give up, and was no
stool-pigeon. I notified Mr. R----, who was told to keep his hands off.
I had been tearing the cars open for so long that the company wanted
to "do" me. They got brassy-mouthed and yelled murder. I saw I had
a corporation against me and hadn't a living chance to beat it. So I
pleaded guilty and received five years and seven months at Sing Sing.

A boy of twenty-one, I was hand-cuffed with two old jail-birds, and as
we rode up on a Fourth Avenue car to the Grand Central Station, I felt
deeply humiliated for the first time in my life. When the passengers
stared at me I hung my head with shame.


_In Stir._

I hung my head with shame, but not because of contrition. I was ashamed
of being caught and made a spectacle of. All the way to Sing Sing
station people stared at us as if we were wild animals. We walked from
the town to the prison, in close company with two deputy sheriffs. I
observed considerably, knowing that I should not see the outside world
again for a number of years. I looked with envy at the people we passed
who seemed honest, and thought of home and the chances I had thrown

When I reached the stir I was put through the usual ceremonies. My
pedigree was taken, but I told the examiners nothing. I gave them a
false name and a false pedigree. Then a bath was given to my clothes
and I was taken to the tailor shop. When my hair had been cropped close
and a suit of stripes given me I felt what it was to be the convicted
criminal. It was not a pleasant feeling, I can tell you, and when I was
taken to my cell my heart sank indeed. A narrow room, seven feet, four
inches long; dark, damp, with moisture on the walls, and an old iron
cot with plenty of company, as I afterwards discovered--this was to be
my home for years. And I as full of life as a young goat! How could I
bear it?

After I had been examined by the doctor and questioned about my
religion by the chaplain, I was left to reflect in my cell. I was
interrupted in my melancholy train of thought by two convicts who
were at work in the hall just outside my cell. I had known them on
the outside, and they, taking good care not to be seen by the screws
(keepers) tipped me off through my prison door to everything in stir
which was necessary for a first timer to know. They told me to keep
my mouth shut, to take everything from the screws in silence, and if
assigned to a shop to do my work. They told me who the stool-pigeons
were, that is to say, the convicts who, in order to curry favor and
have an easy time, put the keepers next to what other convicts are
doing, and so help to prevent escapes. They tipped me off to those
keepers who were hard to get along with, and put me next to the
Underground Tunnel, and who were running it. Sing Sing, they said, is
the best of the three New York penitentiaries: for the grub is better
than at the others, there are more privileges, and, above all, it is
nearer New York, so that your friends can visit you more frequently.
They gave me a good deal of prison gossip, and told me who among my
friends were there, and what their condition of health was. So and so
had died or gone home, they said, such and such had been drafted to
Auburn or Clinton prisons. If I wanted to communicate with my friends
in stir all that was necessary for me to do was to write a few stiffs
(letters) and they would be sent by the Underground Tunnel. They asked
me about their old pals, hang-outs and girls in New York, and I, in
turn gave them a lot of New York gossip. Like all convicts they shed a
part of the things they had received from home, gave me canned goods,
tobacco and a pipe. It did not take me long to get on to the workings
of the prison.

I was particularly interested in the Underground Tunnel, for I saw
at once its great usefulness. This is the secret system by which
contraband articles, such as whiskey, opium and morphine are brought
into the prison. When a rogue is persuasive with the coin of the realm
he can always find a keeper or two to bring him what he considers
the necessaries of life, among which are opium, whiskey and tobacco.
If you have a screw "right," you can be well supplied with these
little things. To get him "right" it is often necessary to give him a
share--about twenty per cent--of the money sent you from home. This
system is worked in all the State prisons in New York, and during
my first term, or any of the other terms for that matter, I had no
difficulty in supplying my growing need for opium.

I do not want people to get the idea that it is always necessary to
bribe a keeper, in order to obtain these little luxuries; for many a
screw has brought me whiskey and hop, and contraband letters from other
inmates, without demanding a penny. A keeper is a human being like the
rest of us, and he is sometimes moved by considerations other than of
pelf. No matter how good and conscientious he may be, a keeper is but
a man after all, and, having very little to do, especially if he is in
charge of an idle gang of "cons" he is apt to enter into conversation
with them, particularly if they are better educated or more interesting
than he, which often is the case. They tell him about their escapades
on the outside and often get his sympathy and friendship. It is
only natural that those keepers who are good fellows should do small
favors for certain convicts. They may begin by bringing the convicts
newspapers to read, but they will end by providing them with almost
everything. Some of them, however, are so lacking in human sympathy,
that their kindness is aroused only by a glimpse of the coin of the
realm; or by the prospect of getting some convict to do their dirty
work for them, that is, to spy upon their fellow prisoners.

At Auburn penitentiary, whither I was drafted after nine months at
Sing Sing, a few of the convicts peddled opium and whiskey, with, of
course, the connivance of the keepers. There are always some persons in
prison as well as out who want to make capital out of the misfortunes
of others. These peddlars, were despised by the rest of the convicts,
for they were invariably stool-pigeons; and young convicts who never
before knew the power of the drug became opium fiends, all on account
of the business propensities of these detestable rats (stool-pigeons)
who, because they had money and kept the screws next to those cons who
tried to escape, lived in Easy Street while in stir.

While on this subject, I will tell about a certain famous "fence"
(at one of these prisons) although he did not operate until my second
term. At that time things were booming on the outside. The graft was so
good that certain convicts in my clique were getting good dough sent
them by their pals who were at liberty; and many luxuries came in,
therefore, by the Underground Tunnel. Now those keepers who are next
to the Underground develop, through their association with convicts, a
propensity to graft, but usually have not the nerve to hustle for the
goods. So they are willing to accept stolen property, not having the
courage and skill to steal, from the inhabitants of the under world.
A convict, whom I knew when at liberty, named Mike, thought he saw
an opportunity to do a good "fencing" business in prison. He gave a
"red-front" (gold watch and chain), which he had stolen in his good
days, to a certain keeper who was running the Underground, and thus
got him "right." Then Mike made arrangements with two grafters on the
outside to supply the keeper and his friends with what they wanted. If
the keeper said his girl wanted a stone, Mike would send word to one
of the thieves on the outside to supply a good diamond as quickly as
possible. The keeper would give Mike a fair price for these valuable
articles and then sell the stones or watches, or make his girl a

Other keepers followed suit, for they couldn't see how there was any
"come-back" possible, and soon Mike was doing a thriving business. It
lasted for five or six months, when Mike stopped it as a regular graft
because of the growing cupidity of the keepers. One of them ordered
a woman's watch and chain and a pair of diamond ear-rings through the
Underground Tunnel. Mike obtained the required articles, but the keeper
paid only half of what he promised, and Mike thereupon shut up shop.
Occasionally, however, he continued to sell goods stolen by his pals
who were at liberty, but only for cash on the spot, and refused all
credit. The keepers gradually got a great feeling of respect for this
convict "fence" who was so clever and who stood up for his rights; and
the business went on smoothly again, for a while.

But finally it was broken up for good. A grafter on the outside, Tommy,
sent through the Underground a pawn ticket for some valuable goods,
among them a sealskin sacque worth three hundred dollars, which he
had stolen and hocked in Philadelphia. Mike sold the pawn-ticket to
a screw. Soon after that Tommy, or one of his pals, got a fall and
"squealed". The police got "next" to where the goods were, and when
the keeper sent the ticket and the money to redeem the articles they
allowed them to be forwarded to the prison, but arrested the keeper for
receiving stolen goods. He was convicted and sentenced to ten years,
but got off through influence. That, however, finished the "fence" at
the institution.

To resume the thread of my narrative, the day after I reached Sing Sing
I was put through the routine that lasted all the time I was there. At
six-thirty in the morning we were awakened by the bell and marched in
lock-step (from which many of us were to acquire a peculiar gait that
was to mark us through life and help prevent us from leading decent
lives) to the bucket-shop, where we washed, marched to the mess for
breakfast at seven-thirty, then to the various shops to work until
eleven-thirty, when at the whistle we would form again into squads
and march, again in the lock-step, fraternally but silently, to our
solemn dinner, which we ate in dead silence. Silence, indeed, except
on the sly, was the general rule of our day, until work was over, when
we could whisper together until five o'clock, the hour to return to
our cells, into which we would carry bread for supper, coffee being
conveyed to us through a spout in the wall. The food at Sing Sing was
pretty good. Breakfast consisted of hash or molasses, black coffee and
bread; and at dinner we had pork and beans, potatoes, hot coffee and
bread. Pork and beans gave place to four eggs on Friday, and sometimes
stews were given us. It was true what I'd heard, that Sing Sing has the
best food of any institution I have known. After five o'clock I would
read in my cell by an oil lamp (since my time electricity has been put
in the prison) until nine o'clock, when I had to put out my light and
go to bed.

I had a great deal more time for reading and meditation in my lonely
cell than one would think by the above routine. I was put to work in
the shop making chairs. It was the first time I had ever worked in my
life, and I took my time about it. I felt no strong desire to work for
the State. I was expected to cane a hundred chairs a day, but I usually
caned about two. I did not believe in work. I felt at that time that
New York State owed me a living. I was getting a living all right, but
I was ungrateful. I did not thank them a wee bit. I must have been a
bad example to other "cons," for they began to get as tired as myself.
At any rate, I lost my job, and was sent back to my cell, where I
stayed most of the time while at Sing Sing.

I worked, indeed, very little at any time during my three bits in the
penitentiary. The prison at Sing Sing, during the nine months I was
there on my first term, was very crowded, and there was not enough work
to go round; and I was absolutely idle most of the time. When I had
been drafted to Auburn I found more work to do, but still very little,
for it was just then that the legislature had shut down on contract
labor in the prisons. The outside merchants squealed because they could
not compete with unpaid convict labor; and so the prison authorities
had to shut down many of their shops, running only enough to supply
the inside demand, which was slight. For eighteen months at Auburn I
did not work a day. I think it was a very bad thing for the health of
convicts when this law was passed; for certainly idleness is a very bad
thing for most of them; and to be shut up nearly all the time in damp,
unhealthy cells like those at Sing Sing, is a terrible strain on the
human system.

Personally, however, I liked to be in my cell, especially during my
first year of solitary confinement, before my health began to give
way; for I had my books from the good prison libraries, my pipe or
cigarettes, and last, but not least, I had a certain portion of opium
that I used every day.

For me, prison life had one great advantage. It broke down my health
and confirmed me for many years in the opium habit, as we shall see;
but I educated myself while in stir. Previous to going to Sing Sing my
education had been almost entirely in the line of graft; but in stir,
I read the English classics and became familiar with philosophy and the
science of medicine and learned something about chemistry.

One of my favorite authors was Voltaire, whom I read, of course, in a
translation. His "Dictionary" was contraband in prison but I read it
with profit. Voltaire was certainly one of the shrewdest of men, and
as up to snuff as any cynical grafter I know, and yet he had a great
love for humanity. He was the philosopher of humanity. Goethe said
that Luther threw the world back two hundred years, but I deny it; for
Luther, like Voltaire, pointed out the ignorance and wickedness of the
priests of their day. These churchmen did not understand the teachings
of Christ. Was Voltaire delusional? The priests must have thought so,
but they were no judges, for they were far worse and less humane than
the French revolutionists. The latter killed outright, but the priests
tortured in the name of the Most Humane. I never approved of the
methods of the French revolutionists, but certainly they were gentle in
comparison with the priests of the Spanish Inquisition.

I think that, in variety of subjects, Voltaire has no equal among
writers. Shrewd as he was, he had a soul, and his moral courage was
grand. His defense of young Barry, who was arrested for using language
against the church, showed his kindness and breadth of mind. On his
arrival in Paris, when he was only a stripling, he denounced the
cowardly, fawning sycophants who surrounded Louis XIV,[B] and wrote
a sarcastic poem on His Nibs, and was confined in the Bastille for
two years. His courage, his wit, his sarcasms, his hatred of his
persecutors, and his love and kindness, stamp him as one of the great,
healthy intellects of mankind. What a clever book is _Candide_! What
satire! What wit! As I lay on my cot how often I laughed at his caustic
comments on humanity! And how he could hate! I never yet met a man of
any account who was not a good hater. I own that Voltaire was ungallant
toward the fair sex. But that was his only fault.

I enjoyed Victor Hugo because he could create a great character, and
was capable of writing a story with a plot. I rank him as a master
of fiction, although I preferred his experience as a traveller, to
his novels, which are not real enough. Ernest Renan was a bracing
and clever writer, but I was sadly disappointed in reading his _Life
of Jesus_. I expected to get a true outline of Christ's time and
a character sketch of the man himself, but I didn't. I went to the
fountain for a glass of good wine, but got only red lemonade.

I liked Dumas, and revelled in the series beginning with _The Three
Musketeers_. I could not read Dumas now, however. I also enjoyed
Gaboriau and Du Boisgobey, for they are very sensational; but that was
during my first term in stir. I could not turn a page of their books
now, for they would seem idiotic to me. Balzac is a bird of another
feather. In my opinion he was one of the best dissectors of human
nature that the world ever produced. Not even Shakespeare was his
equal. His depth in searching for motives, his discernment in detecting
a hypocrite, his skill in showing up women, with their follies, their
loves, their little hypocrisies, their endearments, their malice and
their envy is unrivalled. It is right that Balzac should show woman
with all her faults and follies and virtues, for if she did not possess
all these characteristics, how could man adore her?

In his line I think Thackeray is as great as Balzac. When I had read
_Vanity Fair_, _Pendennis_, _The Newcomes_ and _Barry Lyndon_, I was
so much interested that I read anything of his I could lay my hands
on, over and over again. With a novel of Thackeray's in my hand I would
become oblivious to my surroundings, and long to know something of this
writers personality. I think I formed his mental make-up correctly,
for I imagined him to be gentle and humane. Any man with ability and
brains equal to his could not be otherwise. What a character is Becky
Sharp! In her way she was as clever a grafter as Sheenie Annie. She did
not love Rawdon as a good wife should. If she had she would not be the
interesting Becky that she is. She was grateful to Rawdon for three
reasons; first, he married her; second, he gave her a glimpse into a
station in life her soul longed for; third, he came from a good family,
and was a soldier and tall, and it is well-known that little women
like big men. Then Rawdon amused Becky. She often grinned at his lack
of brains. She grinned at everything, and when we learn that Becky got
religion at the end of the book, instead of saying, God bless her, we
only grin, too.

_Pendennis_ is a healthy book. I always sympathize with Pen and Laura
in their struggles to get on, and when the baby was born I was willing
to become Godpapa, just for its Mamma's sake. _The Newcomes_ I call
Thackeray's masterpiece. It is truer to life than any other book I
ever read. Take the scene where young Clive throws the glass of wine
in his cousin's face. The honest horror of the father, his indignation
when old Captain Costigan uses bad language, his exit when he hears a
song in the Music Hall--all this is true realism. But the scene that
makes this book Thackeray's masterpiece is that where the old Colonel
is dying. The touching devotion of Madam and Ethel, the love for old
Tom, his last word "_adsum_" the quiet weeping of his nurse, and the
last duties to the dead; the beautiful tenderness of the two women, of
a kind that makes the fair sex respected by all men--I can never forget
this scene till my dying day.

When I was sick in stir a better tonic than the quack could prescribe
was Thackeray's _Book of Snobs_. Many is the night I could not sleep
until I had read this book with a relish. It acted on me like a bottle
of good wine, leaving me peaceful after a time of pleasure. In this
book are shown up the little egotisms of the goslings and the foibles
of the sucklings in a masterly manner.

I read every word Dickens ever wrote; and I often ruminated in my
mind as to which of his works is the masterpiece. _Our Mutual Friend_
is weak in the love scenes, but the book is made readable by two
characters, Noddy Boffin and Silas Wegg. Where Wegg reads, as he
thinks, _The Last of the Russians_, when the book was _The Decline and
Fall Of the Roman Empire_, there is the quintessence of humor. Silas's
wooden leg and his occupation of selling eggs would make anybody smile,
even a dip who had fallen and had no money to square it.

The greatest character in _David Copperfield_ is Uriah Heep. The prison
scene where this humble hypocrite showed he knew his Bible thoroughly,
and knew the advantage of having some holy quotations pat, reminded
me often of men I have known in Auburn and Sing Sing prisons. Some
hypocritical jail-bird would dream that he could succeed on the outside
by becoming a Sunday School superintendent; and four of the meanest
thieves I ever knew got their start in that way. Who has not enjoyed
Micawber, with his frothy personality and straitened circumstances,
and the unctuous Barkis.--Poor Emily! Who could blame her? What woman
could help liking Steerforth? It is strange and true that good women
are won by men they know to be rascals. Is it the contrast between Good
and Evil, or is it because the ne'er-do-well has a stronger character
and more magnetic force? Agnes was one of the best women in the world.
Contrast her with David's first wife. Agnes was like a fine violin,
while Dora was like a wailing hurdy-gurdy.

_Oliver Twist_ is Dickens's strongest book. He goes deeper into human
nature there than in any other of his writings. Fagin, the Jew, is a
very strong character, but overdrawn. The picture of Fagin's dens and
of the people in them, is true to life. I have seen similar gatherings
many a time. The ramblings of the Artful Dodger are drawn from the real
thing, but I never met in real life such a brutal character as Bill
Sykes; and I have met some tough grafters, as the course of this book
will show. Nancy Sykes, however, is true to life. In her degradation
she was still a woman. I contend that a woman is never so low but a
man was the cause. One passage in the book has often touched me, as it
showed that Nancy had not lost her sex. When she and Bill were passing
the prison, she turned towards it and said: "Bill, they were fine
fellows that died to-day." "Shut your mouth," said Bill. Now I don't
think there is a thief in the United States who would have answered
Nancy's remark that way. Strong arm workers who would beat your brains
out for a few dollars would be moved by that touch of pity in Nancy's

But Oliver himself is the great character, and his story reminds me
of my own. The touching incident in the work-house where his poor
stomach is not full, and he asks for a second platter of mush to the
horror of the teachers, is not overdrawn. When I was in one of our
penal institutions, at a later time of my life, I was ill, and asked
for extra food; but my request was looked upon as the audacity of a
hardened villain. I had many such opportunities to think of Oliver.

I always liked those authors who wrote as near life as decency would
permit. Sterne's _Tristram Shandy_ has often amused me, and _Tom
Jones_, _Roderick Random_ and _Peregrine Pickle_ I have read over and
over again. I don't see why good people object to such books. Some
people are forever looking after the affairs of others and neglecting
their own; especially a man whom I will call Common Socks who has put
himself up as a mentor for over seventy millions of people. Let me tell
the busy ladies who are afraid that such books will harm the morals of
young persons that the more they are cried down the more they will be
read. For that matter they ought to be read. Why object to the girl
of sixteen reading such books and not to the woman of thirty-five?
I think their mental strength is about equal. Both are romantic and
the woman of thirty-five will fall in love as quickly as the girl of
sixteen. I think a woman is always a girl; at least, it has been so in
my experience. One day I was grafting in Philadelphia. It was raining,
and a woman was walking along on Walnut Street. She slipped on the wet
sidewalk and fell. I ran to her assistance, and saw that her figure was
slim and girlish and that she had a round, rosy face, but that her hair
was pure white. When I asked her if she was hurt, she said "yes," but
when I said "Let me be your grandson and support you on my way," I put
my foot into it, for, horrors! the look she gave me, as she said in an
icy voice, "I was never married!" I wondered what manner of men there
were in Philadelphia, and, to square myself, I said: "Never married!
and with a pair of such pretty ankles!" Then she gave me a look,
thanked me, and walked away as jauntily as she ever did in her life,
though she must have been suffering agonies from her sprained ankle.
Since that time I have been convinced that they of the gentle sex are
girls from fifteen to eighty.

I read much of Lever, too, while I was in stir. His pictures of Ireland
and of the noisy strife in Parliament, the description of Dublin with
its spendthrifts and excited populace, the gamblers and the ruined but
gay young gentlemen, all mixed up with the grandeur of Ireland, are the
work of a master. I could only compare this epoch of worn-out regalia
with a St. Patrick's day parade twenty years ago in the fourth ward of

Other books I read in stir were Gibbon's _Roman Empire_, Carlyle's
_Frederick the Great_, and many of the English poets. I read
Wordsworth, Gray and Goldsmith, but I liked Tom Moore and Robert Burns
better. The greatest of all the poets, however, in my estimation, is
Byron. His loves were many, his adventures daring, and his language was
as broad and independent as his mind.


     [B] _Sic._ (Editor's Note.)


In Stir (_continued_).

Sing Sing was overflowing with convicts, and after I had been there
nine months, I and a number of others were transferred to Auburn
penitentiary. There I found the cells drier, and better than at
Sing Sing, but the food not so good. The warden was not liked by the
majority of the men, but I admired him for two things. He believed in
giving us good bread; and he did not give a continental what came into
the prison, whether it was a needle or a cannister, as long as it was
kept in the cell and not used.

It was in Auburn stir that opium grew to be a habit with me. I used to
give the keepers who were running the Underground one dollar of every
five that were sent me, and they appreciated my kindness and kept me
supplied with the drug. What part the hop began to play in my life may
be seen from the routine of my days at Auburn; particularly at those
periods when there was no work to be done. After rising in the morning
I would clean out my cell, and turn up my bed and blankets; then I went
to breakfast, then if there was no work to do, back to my cell, where
I ate a small portion of opium, and sometimes read the daily paper,
which was also contraband. It is only the stool-pigeons, those convicts
who have money, or the cleverest among the rascals, who get many of
these privileges. After I had had my opium and the newspaper I would
exercise with dumb-bells and think or read in my cell. Then I would
have a plunge bath and a nap, which would take me up to dinner time.
After dinner I would read in my cell again until three o'clock, when I
would go to the bucket-shop or exercise for half an hour in the yard,
in lock step, with the others; then back to the cell, taking with me
bread and a cup of coffee made out of burnt bread crust, for my supper.
In the evening I would read and smoke until my light went out, and
would wind up the day with a large piece of opium, which grew larger,
as time passed.

For a long time I was fairly content with what was practically solitary
confinement. I had my books, my pipe, cigarettes and my regular supply
of hop. Whether I worked in the daytime or not I would usually spend my
evenings in the same way. I would lie on my cot and sometimes a thought
like the following would come to me: "Yes, I have stripes on. When I
am released perhaps some one will pity me, particularly the women. They
may despise and avoid me, most likely they will. But I don't care. All
I want is to get their wad of money. In the meantime I have my opium
and my thoughts and am just as happy as the millionaire, unless he has
a narcotic."

After the drug had begun to work I would frequently fall into a deep
sleep and not wake until one or two o'clock the following morning; then
I would turn on my light, peer through my cell door, and try to see
through the little window out in the corridor. A peculiar nervousness
often came over me at this hour, particularly if the weather had been
rainy, and my imagination would run on a ship-wreck very often, or on
some other painful subject; and I might tell the story to myself in
jingles, or jot it down on a piece of paper. Then my whole being would
be quiet. A gentle, soothing melancholy would steal upon me. Often
my imagination was so powerfully affected that I could really see
the events of my dream. I could see the ship tossing about on waves
mountain high. Then and only then I was positive I had a soul. I was
in such a state of peace that I could not bear that any human being
should suffer. At first the scenes before my imagination would be most
harrowing, with great loss of life, but when one of the gentle sex
appeared vividly before me a shudder passed over me, and I would seek
consolation in jingles such as the following:

     A gallant bark set sail one day
     For a port beyond the sea,
     The Captain had taken his fair young bride
     To bear him company.
     This little brown lass
     Was of Puritan stock.
     Her eyes were the brightest e'er seen.
     They never came back;
     The ship it was wrecked
     In a storm in the old Gulf Stream.

     Two years had passed, then a letter came
     To a maid in a New England town.
     It began Darling Kate, it ended Your Jack,
     I am alive in a foreign land.
     The Captain, his gentle young wife and your own
     Were saved by that hand unseen,
     But the rest----they went down
     In that terrible storm
     That night in the old Gulf Stream.

But these pleasures would soon leave me, and I would grow very
restless. My only resource was another piece of opium. Sometimes I
awoke much excited, paced my cell rapidly and felt like tearing down
the door. Sometimes a book would quiet me. The best soother I had
was the most beautiful poem in the English language--Walt Whitman's
_Ode To Death_. When I read this poem, I often imagined I was at the
North Pole, and that strange shapes in the clouds beckoned me to come
to them. I used to forget myself, and read aloud and was entirely
oblivious to my surroundings, until I was brought to myself by the
night guard shouting, "What in ---- is the matter with you?"

After getting excited in this way I usually needed another dose of
hop. I have noticed that the difference between opium and alcohol is
that the latter is a disintegrator and tears apart, while the opium
is a subtle underminer. Opium, for a long time anyway, stimulates the
intelligence; while the reverse is true of alcohol. It was under the
influence of opium that I began to read philosophy. I read Hume and
Locke, and partly understood them, I think, though I did not know
that Locke is pronounced in only one syllable till many years after
I had read and re-read parts of _The Human Understanding_. It was not
only the opium, but my experience on the outside, that made me eager
for philosophy and the deeper poetry; for a grafters wits, if they
don't get away from him altogether, become keen through his business,
since he lives by them. It was philosophy, and the spectacle of men
going suddenly and violently insane all about me, that led me first
to think of self-control, though I did not muster enough to throw
off the opium habit till many years afterwards. I began to think of
will-power about this time, and I knew it was an acquired virtue, like
truth and honesty. I think, from a moral standpoint, that I lived as
good a life in prison as anybody on the outside, for at least I tried
to overcome myself. It was life or death, or, a thousand times worse,
an insane asylum. Opium led me to books besides those on philosophy,
which eventually helped to cure me. At this time I was reading Balzac,
Shakespeare, Huxley, Tyndall and Lavater. One poem of Shakespeare's
touched me more than any other poem I ever read--_The Rape of Lucrece_.
It was reading such as this that gave me a broader view, and I began to
think that this was a terrible life I was leading. But, as the reader
will see, I did not know what hell was until several years later.

I had been in stir about four years on my first bit when I began to
appreciate how terrible a master I had come under. Of course, to a
certain extent, the habit had been forced upon me. After a man has
had for several years bad food, little air and exercise, no natural
companionship, particularly with the other sex, from whom he is
entirely cut off, he really needs a stimulant. Many men fall into the
vilest of habits. I found, for my part, that only opium would calm
me. It takes only a certain length of time for almost all convicts to
become broken in health, addicted to one form or another of stimulant
which in the long run pulls them down completely. Diseases of various
kinds, insanity and death, are the result. But before the criminal
is thus released, he grows desperate in the extreme; particularly if
he resorts to opium, for that drug makes one reckless. The hop fiend
never takes consequences into consideration. Under its influence I
became very irritable and unruly, and would take no back talk from the
keepers. They and the stool-pigeons began to be afraid of me. I would
not let them pound me in any way, and I often got into a violent fight.

As long as I had my regular allowance of opium, which in the fourth
year of my term was about twenty grains a day, I was peaceable enough.
It was when I began to lessen the amount, with the desire to give
it up, that I became so irritable and violent. The strain of reform,
even in this early and unsuccessful attempt, was terrible. At times I
used to go without the full amount for several days; but then I would
relapse and go on a debauch until I was almost unconscious. After
recovery, I would make another resolution, only to fall again.

But my life in stir was not all that of the solitary; there were means,
even when I was in the shop, of communicating with my fellow convicts;
generally by notes, as talking was forbidden. Notes, too, were
contraband, but we found means of sending them through cons working
in the hall. Sometimes good-natured or avaricious keepers would carry
them; but as a rule a convict did not like to trust a note to a keeper.
He was afraid that the screw would read it, whereas it was a point of
honor with a convict to deliver the note unread. The contents of these
notes were usually news about our girls or pals, which we had received
through visitors--rare, indeed!--or letters. By the same means there
was much betting done on the races, baseball games and prize fights. We
could send money, too, or opium, in the same way, to a friend in need;
and we never required an I. O. U.

We were allowed to receive visitors from the outside once every two
months; also a box could be delivered to us at the same intervals
of time. My friends, especially my mother and Ethel, sent me things
regularly, and came to see me. They used to send me soap, tooth brushes
and many other delicacies, for even a tooth brush is a delicacy in
prison. Ethel stuck to me for three years and visited me regularly
during that period. Then her visits ceased, and I heard that she had
married. I couldn't blame her, but I felt bad about it all the same.

But my mother came as often as the two months rolled by; not only
during this first term, but during all my bits in stir. Certainly
she has stuck to me through thick and thin. She has been my only true
friend. If she had fallen away from me, I couldn't have blamed her;
she would only have gone with the rest of the world; but she didn't.
She was good not only to me, but to my friends, and she had pity for
everybody in stir. I remember how she used to talk about the rut worn
in the stone pavement at Sing Sing, where the men paced up and down.
"Talk about the Bridge of Sighs!" she used to say.

When a man is in stir he begins to see what an ungrateful brute he
has been; and he begins to separate true friends from false ones. He
thinks of the mother he neglected for supposed friends of both sexes,
who are perhaps friendly at the beginning of his sentence, but soon
desert him if he have a number of years to serve. Long after all others
have ceased coming to see him, his old mother, bowed and sad, will
trudge up the walk from the station to visit her thoughtless and erring
son! She carries on her arm a heavy basket of delicacies for the son
who is detested by all good citizens, and in her heart there is still
hope for her boy. She has waited many years and she will continue to
wait. What memories come to the mother as she sees the mansion of woes
on the Hudson looming up before her! Her son is again a baby in her
imagination; or a young fellow, before he began to tread the rocky
path!--They soon part, for half an hour is all that is given, but they
will remember forever the mothers kiss, the son's good-bye, the last
choking words of love and familiar advice, as she says: "Trust in God,
my lad."

After one of my mothers visits I used to have more sympathy for my
fellow convicts. I was always a keen observer, and in the shops or
at mess time, and when we were exercising together in lock step, or
working about the yard or in the halls, I used to "feel out" my brother
"cons," often with a kindly motive. I grew very expert in telling when
a friend was becoming insane; for imprisonment leads to insanity, as
everybody knows. Many a time a man I knew in stir would grow nervous
or absent-minded, then suspicious, and finally would be sent to the
madhouse at Dannemora or Matteawan.

For instance, take a friend of mine named Billy. He was doing a bit
of ten years. In the fifth year of his sentence I noticed that he was
brooding, and I asked him what was the matter.

"I am afraid," he said, "that my wife is going outside of me."

"You are not positive, are you?" I asked.

"Well," he answered, "she visited me the other day, and she was looking
good (prosperous). My son was with her, and he looked good, too.
She gave me five dollars and some delicacies. But she never had five
dollars when I was on the outside."

"She's working," said I, trying to calm him.

"No; she has got a father and mother," he replied, "and she is living
with them."

"Billy," I continued, "how long have you been in stir?"

"Growing on six years," he said.

"Billy," I proceeded, "what would you do if you were on the outside and
she was in prison for six years?"

"Well," he replied, "I'd have to give myself some rope."

"Philosophers claim that it is just as hard for a woman to live alone
as for a man," I said. "You're unreasonable, Billy. Surely you can't
blame her."

Billy's case is an instance of how, when a convict has had bad food,
bad air and an unnatural routine for some time, he begins to borrow
trouble. He grows anæmic and then is on the road to insanity. If he
has a wife he almost always grows suspicious of her, though he does not
speak about it until he has been a certain number of years in prison.
It was not long after the above conversation took place that Billy was
sent to the insane asylum at Matteawan.

Sometimes, after a man has begun to grow insane, he will show it by
reticence, rather than by talkativeness, according to his disposition.
One of my intimate friends, in stir much longer than I, was like a ray
of sunshine, witty and a good story teller. His laugh was contagious
and we all liked to see him. He was one of the best night prowlers
(burglars) in the profession, and had many other gifts. After he
had been in stir, however, for a few years, he grew reticent and
suspicious, thought that everybody was a stool-pigeon, and died a
raving maniac a few years later at Matteawan.

Sometimes a convict will grow so nervous that he will attempt to
escape, even when there is no chance, or will sham insanity. An
acquaintance of mine, Louis, who had often grafted with me when we
were on the outside, told me one day he did not expect to live his bit
out. When confined a man generally thinks a lot about his condition,
reads a book on medicine and imagines he has every disease the book
describes. Louis was in this state, and he consulted me and two others
as to whether he ought not to "shoot a bug" (sham insanity); and so
get transferred to the hospital. One advised him to attack a keeper and
demand his baby back. But as Billy had big, black eyes and a cadaverous
face, I told him he'd better shoot the melancholy bug; for he could
do that better. Accordingly in the morning when the men were to go to
work in the stone yard, Billy appeared in the natural (naked). He had
been stalled off by two friends until he had reached the yard. There
the keepers saw him, and as they liked him, they gently took him to
the hospital. He was pronounced incurably insane by two experts, and
transferred to the madhouse. The change of air was so beneficial that
Louis speedily recovered his senses. At least, the doctors thought so
when he was discovered trying to make his elegant (escape); and he was
sent back to stir.

As a rule, however, those who attempted to sham insanity failed. They
were usually lacking in originality. At any hour of the day or night
the whole prison might be aroused by some convict breaking up house,
as it was called when a man tried to shoot the bug. He might break
everything in his cell, and yell so loud that the other convicts in the
cells near by would join in and make a horrible din. Some would curse,
and some laugh or howl. If it was at night and they had been awakened
out of an opium sleep, they would damn him a thousand miles deep. His
friends, however, who knew that he was acting, would plug his game
along by talking about his insanity in the presence of stool-pigeons.
These latter would tell the keepers that he was buggy (insane), and,
if there was not a blow, he might be sent to the hospital. Before that
happened, however, he had generally demolished all his furniture. The
guards would go to his cell, and chain him up in the Catholic chapel
until he could be examined by the doctor. Warden Sage was a humane man,
and used to go to the chapel himself and try to quiet the fake lunatic,
and give him dainties from his own table. During the night the fake had
historic company, for painted on the walls were, on one side of him,
Jesus, and on the other, Judas and Mary Magdalene.

A favorite method of shooting the bug, and a rather difficult one for
the doctors to detect, was that of hearing voices in one's cell. This
is more dangerous for the convict than for anybody else, for when a
fake tries to imagine he hears voices, he usually begins to really
believe he does, and then from a fake he becomes a genuine freak.
Another common fake is to tell the keeper that you have a snake in
your arm, and then take a knife and try to cut it out; but it requires
nerve to carry this fake through. Sometimes the man who wants to make
the prison hospital merely fakes ordinary illness. If he has a screw or
a doctor "right" he may stay for months in the comparatively healthy
hospital at Sing Sing, where he can loaf all day, and get better food
than at the public mess. It is as a rule only the experienced guns who
are clever enough to work these little games.

For faking, conversing, loafing in the shop, and for many other
forbidden things, we were often punished, though the screws as often
winked at small misdemeanors. At Sing Sing they used to hang us up by
the wrists sometimes until we fainted. Auburn had a jail, now used as
the condemned cells, where there was no bed and no light. In this place
the man to be punished would remain from four to ten days and live on
ten ounces of bread and half a jug of water a day. In addition, the
jail was very damp, worse even than the cells at Sing Sing, where I
knew many convicts who contracted consumption of the lungs and various
kidney complaints.

Indeed, a great deal of dying goes on in State's prison. During my
first term it seemed as if three niggers died to every white man. A
dozen of us working around the front would comment on the "stiffs"
when they were carried out. One would ask, "Who's dead?" The reply
might be, "Only a nigger." One day I was talking in the front with a
hall-room man when a stiff was put in the wagon. "Who's dead?" I asked.
The hall-man wanted to bet it was a nigger. I bet him a dollar it was
a white man, and then asked the hospital nurse, who said it was not a
nigger, but an old pal of mine, named Jerry Donovan. I felt sore and
would not accept the money I had won. Poor Jerry and I did house-work
together for three months, some of which I have told of, and he was a
good fellow, and a sure and reliable grafter. And now he had "gone up
the escape," and was being carried to the little graveyard on the side
of the hill where only an iron tag would mark his place of repose.

My intelligence was naturally good, and when I began to get some
education I felt myself superior to many of my companions in stir. I
was not alone in this feeling, for in prison there are many social
cliques; though fewer than on the outside. Men who have been high
up and have held responsible positions when at liberty make friends
in stir with men they formerly would not have trusted as their
boot-blacks. The professional thieves usually keep together as much as
possible in prison, or communicate together by means of notes; though
sometimes they associate with men who, not professional grafters, have
been sent up for committing some big forgery, or other big swindle. The
reason for this is business; for the gun generally has friends among
the politicians, and he wants to associate while in stir only with
others who have influence. It is the guns who are usually trusted by
the screws in charge of the Underground Tunnel, for the professional
thief is less likely to squeal than the novice. Therefore, the big
forger who has stolen thousands, and may be a man of ability and
education appreciates the friendship of the professional pickpocket
who can do him little favors, such as railroading his mail through the
Underground, and providing him with newspapers, or a bottle of booze.

The pull of the professional thief with outside politicians often
procures him the respect and consideration of the keepers. One day a
convict, named Ed White, was chinning with an Irish screw, an old man
who had a family to support. Jokes in stir lead to friendship, and when
the keeper told Ed that he was looking for a job for his daughter, who
was a stenographer, Ed said he thought he could place her in a good
position. The old screw laughed and said; "You loafer, if you were made
to carry a hod you wouldn't be a splitting matches in stir." But Ed
meant what he had said, and wrote to the famous Tammany politician, Mr.
Wet Coin, who gave the girl a position as stenographer at a salary of
fourteen dollars a week. The old screw took his daughter to New York,
and when he returned to Auburn he began to "Mister" Ed. "I 'clare to
God," he said, "I don't know what to make out of you. Here you are
eating rotten hash, cooped up like a wild animal, with stripes, when
you might be making twelve to fifteen dollars a week." Ed replied,
sarcastically, "That would about keep me in cigar money."

One of the biggest men I knew in stir was Jim A. McBlank, at one time
chief of police and Mayor of Coney Island. He was sent to Sing Sing
for his repeating methods at election, at which game he was A No. 1.
He got so many repeaters down to the island that they were compelled
to register as living under fences, in dog kennels, tents, or any old
place. There was much excitement in the prison when the Lord of Coney
Island was shown around the stir by Principal Keeper Connoughton. He
was a good mechanic, and soon had a gang of men working under him;
though he was the hardest worker of them all. After he had been there
awhile the riff-raff of of the prison, though they had never heard
the saying that familiarity breeds contempt, dropped calling him
Mr. McBlank, and saluted him as plain Jimmy. He was never in touch,
however, with the majority of the convicts, for he was too close to the
authorities; and the men believe that convicts can not be on friendly
terms with the powers that be unless they are stool-pigeons. Another
thing that made the "cons" dislike the Mayor was the fact, that, when
he was chief of police, he had settled a popular dip named Feeley for
ten years and a half. The very worst thing against him, however, was
his private refrigerator in which he kept butter, condensed milk and
other luxuries, which he did not share with the other convicts. One
day a young convict named Sammy, tried to beat Sing Sing. He bricked
himself up in the wall, leaving a movable opening at the bottom.
While waiting a chance to escape Sammy used to sally forth from his
hiding-place and steal something good from McBlank's box. One night,
while helping himself to the Mayor's delicacies, he thought he heard
a keeper, and hastily plunging his arm into the refrigerator he made
away with a large piece of butter. What did the ex-Chief of police do
but report the loss of his butter to the screws which put them next to
the fact that the convict they had been looking for for nine nights was
still in the stir. The next night they would have rung the "all-right"
bell, and given up the search, and indeed, they rang the bell, but
watched; and when Sammy, thinking he could now go to New York, came out
of his hiding place, he was caught. When the story circulated in the
prison all kinds of vengeance were vowed against McBlank, who was much
frightened. I heard him say that he would rather have lost his right
arm than see the boy caught. What a come-down for a man who could throw
his whole city for any state or national candidate at election time,
to be compelled to apologize as McBlank was, to the lowest element
in prison. Here indeed was the truth of that old saying: pride goeth
before a fall.

One of the best liked of the convicts I met during my first bit was
Ferdinand Ward, who got two years for wrecking the firm in which
General Grant and his son were partners. He did many a kindness in stir
to those who were tough and had few friends. Another great favorite
was Johnny Hope, son of Jimmy Hope, who stole three millions from the
Manhattan Bank. The father got away, and Johnny, who was innocent,
was nailed by a copper looking for a reputation, and settled for
twenty years in Sing Sing, because he was his father's son and had the
misfortune to meet an ambitious copper. When Johnny had been in prison
about ten years, the inspector, who was the former copper, went to the
Governor, and said he was convinced that the boy was innocent. But
how about young Hope's wrecked life? Johnny's father, indeed, was a
well-known grafter whom I met in Auburn, where we worked together for a
while in the broom-shop. He was much older than I, and used to give me

"Don't ever do a day's work in your life, my boy," he would say,
"unless you can't help it. You are too intelligent to be a drudge."

Another common remark of his was: "Trust no convict," and a third was:
"It is as easy to steal five thousand dollars as it is to steal five

Old man Hope had stolen millions and ought to know what he was talking
about. In personal appearance he was below the medium height, had light
gray hair and as mild a pair of eyes as I ever saw in man or woman. I
ranked him as a manly old fellow, and he was an idol among the small
crooks, though he did not have much to do with them. He seemed to like
to talk to me, partly because I never talked graft, and he detested
such talk particularly among prison acquaintances. He referred one day
to a pick pocket in stir who was always airing what he knew about the
graft. "He's tiresome," said old Hope. "He is always talking shop."

One of the worst hated men at Auburn was Weeks, a well-known club man
and banker, who once stole over a million dollars. He was despised
by the other convicts, for he was a "squealer." One of the screws in
charge of the Underground Tunnel was doing things for Weeks, who had
a snap,--the position of book-keeper, in the clothing department. In
his desk he kept whiskey, beer and cigars, and lived well. One day a
big bug paid him a visit, and Weeks belched how he had to give up his
watch and chain in order to secure luxuries. His friend, the big bug,
reported to the prison authorities, and the principal keeper went to
Weeks and made the coward squeal on the keeper who had his "front." The
screw lost his job, and when the convicts heard of it, they made Weeks'
life miserable for years.

But the man who was hated worst of all those in prison was Biff
Ellerson. I never understood why the other cons hated him, unless
it was that he always wore a necktie; this is not etiquette in stir,
which in the convicts' opinion ought to be a place of mourning. He had
been a broker and a clubman, and was high up in the world. Ellerson
was a conscientious man, and once, when a mere boy, who had stolen
a ten dollar watch, was given fifteen years, had publicly criticized
the judge and raised a storm in the newspapers. Ellerson compared this
lad's punishment with that of a man like Weeks, who had robbed orphans
out of their all and only received ten years for it. Many is the time
that this man, Biff Ellerson, has been kind to men in stir who hated
him. He had charge of the dungeon at Auburn where convicts who had
broken the rules were confined. I have known him to open my door and
give me water on the quiet, many a time, and he did it for others who
were ungrateful, and at the risk, too, of never being trusted again by
the screws and of getting a dose of the cuddy-hole himself.

By far the greater number of these swell grafters who steal millions
die poor, for it is not what a man steals, but what he saves, that
counts. I have often noticed that the bank burglar who is high up in
his profession is not the one who has the most money when he gets to be
forty-five or fifty years of age. The second or third class gun is more
likely to lay by something. His general expenses are not so large and
he does not need so much fall-money; and in a few years he can usually
show more money than the big gun who has a dozen living on him. I knew
a Big One who told me that every time he met a certain police official,
his watch, a piece of jewelry, a diamond stud or even his cuff buttons
were much admired. The policeman always had some relative or friend who
desired just the kind of ornament the Big One happened to be wearing at
the time.

I cannot help comparing those swell guys whom I knew at Sing Sing
with a third class pickpocket I met on the same bit. The big ones are
dead or worse, but the other day I met, in New York, my old pickpocket
friend in stir, Mr. Aut. I am positive that the hand-shake he gave me
was only a muscular action, for Mr. Aut has "squared it", and the gun
who has reformed and has become prosperous does not like to meet an
old acquaintance, who knows too much about his past life. When I ran
across him in the city I started in to talk about old times in stir
and of pals we knew in the long ago, but he answered me by saying,
"Nix", which meant "Drop It". To get him to talk I was forced to throw
a few "Larrys" into him, such as: "Well, old man, only for your few
mistakes of the past, you might be leader of Tammany Hall." Gradually
he expanded and told me how much he had gained in weight since he
left stir and what he had done for certain ungrateful grafters. He
boasted that he could get bail for anyone to the sum of fifty thousand
dollars, and he told the truth, for this man, who had been a third
class dip, owns at the present time, three gin-mills and is something
of a politician. He has three beautiful children and is well up in
the world. His daughter was educated at a convent, and his son is at a
well-known college.

Yet I remember the time when this ex gun, Mr. Aut, and I, locked near
one another in Sing Sing and consoled one another with what little
luxuries we could get together. Our letters, booze and troubles were
shared between us, and many is the time I have felt for him; for he
had married a little shop girl and had two children at that time.
When he got out of stir he started in to square it, that is, not to
go to prison any more. He was wise and no one can blame him. He is a
good father and a successful man. If he had been a better grafter it
would not have been so easy for him to reform. I wish him all kinds
of prosperity, but I don't like him as well as I did when we wore the
striped garb and whispered good luck to one another in that mansion of
woes on the Hudson.

One of Mr. Aut's possessions makes me smile whenever I think of it.
In his swell parlor, over a brand new piano, hangs an oil painting
of himself, in which he takes great pride. I could not help thinking
that that picture showed a far more prosperous man and one in better
surroundings than a certain photograph of his which is quite as highly
treasured as the more costly painting; although it is only a tintype,
numbered two thousand and odd, in the Rogues' Gallery.


_In Stir and Out._

Some of the most disagreeable days I ever spent in prison were
the holidays, only three of which during the year, however, were
kept--Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In Sing Sing there
was no work on those days, and we could lie abed longer in the morning.
The food was somewhat better than usual. Breakfast consisted of boiled
ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a cup of coffee with milk. After
mess we went, as usual, to chapel, and then gave a kind of vaudeville
show, all with local talent. We sang rag-time and sentimental songs,
some of us played on an instrument, such as the violin, mandolin, or
cornet, and the band gave the latest pieces from comic opera. After the
show was over we went to the mess-room again where we received a pan
containing a piece of pie, some cheese, a few apples, as much bread as
we desired and--a real luxury in stir--two cigars. With our booty we
then returned to our cells, at about eleven o'clock in the morning, and
after the guards had made the rounds to see that none of the birds had
gone astray, we were locked up until the next morning, without anything
more to eat. We were permitted to talk to one another from our cells
until five o'clock, when the night guards went on duty. Such is--just
imagine it--a great day in Sing Sing! The gun, no matter how big a guy
he is, even if he has robbed a bank and stolen millions, is far worse
off than the meanest laborer, be he ever so poor. He may have only a
crust, but he has that priceless boon, his liberty.

At Auburn the routine on holidays is much the same as that of Sing
Sing; but one is not compelled to go to chapel, which is a real
kindness. I don't think a man ought to be forced to go to church, even
in stir, against his will. On holidays in Auburn a man may stay in his
cell instead of attending divine service, if he so desires, and not be
punished for it. Many a con prefers not to go even to the vaudeville
show, which at Auburn is given by outside talent, but remains quietly
all day in his cell. There is one other great holiday privilege at
Auburn, which some of the convicts appreciate more than I did. When
the clock strikes twelve o'clock the convicts, locked in their cells,
start in to make the rest of the night hideous, by pounding on the
doors, playing all sorts of instruments, blowing whistles, and doing
everything else that would make a noise. There is no more sleep that
night, for everything is given over to Bedlam, until five thirty in the
morning, when discipline again reigns, and the nervous man who detests
these holidays sighs with pleasure, and says to himself: "I am so glad
that at last everything is quiet in this cursed stir."

What with poor food, little air and exercise, no female society, bad
habits and holidays, it is no wonder that there are many attempts, in
spite of the danger, to escape from stir. Most of these attempts are
unsuccessful, but a few succeed. One of the cleverest escapes I know of
happened during my term at Auburn. B---- was the most feared convict in
the prison. He was so intelligent, so reckless and so good a mechanic
that the guards were afraid he would make his elegant any day. Indeed,
if ever a man threw away gifts for not even the proverbial mess of
pottage, it was this man B----. He was the cleverest man I ever met in
stir or out. It was after one of the delightful holidays in Auburn that
B----, who was a nervous man, decided to make his gets. He picked a
quarrel with another convict and was so rough that the principal keeper
almost decided to let him off; but when B---- spat in his face he
changed his mind and put him in the dungeon. I have already mentioned
this ram-shackle building at Auburn. It was the worst yet. All B----'s
clothing was taken off and an old coat, shirt, and trousers without
buttons were given him. An old piece of bay rope was handed him to tie
around his waist, and he was left in darkness. This was what he wanted,
for, although they had stripped him naked and searched him, he managed
to conceal a saw, which he used to such good purpose that on the second
night he had sawed himself into the yard. Instead of trying to go over
the wall, as most cons would have done, B---- placed a ladder, which
he found in the repair shop, against the wall, and when the guards
discovered next morning that B---- was not in the dungeon, and saw the
ladder on the wall, they thought he had escaped, and did not search
the stir but notified the towns to look after him. He was not found,
of course, for he was hiding in the cellar of the prison. A night or
two afterwards he went to the tailor shop, selected the best suit of
clothes in the place, opened the safe which contained the valuables
of the convicts, with a piece of steel and a hammer, thus robbing his
fellow sufferers, and escaped by the ladder. After several months of
freedom he was caught, sent back to stir, and forfeited half of his
commutation time.

A more tragic attempt was made by the convicts, Big Benson and Little
Kick. They got tools from friends in the machine shop and started in
to saw around the locks of their doors. They worked quietly, and were
not discovered. The reason is that there is sometimes honor among
thieves. Two of their friends in their own gallery, two on the gallery
above and two on that underneath, tipped them off, by a cough or
some other noise, whenever the night guard was coming; and they would
cease their work with the saws. Convicts grow very keen in detecting
the screw by the creaking of his boots on the wooden gallery floor;
if they are not quite sure it is he, they often put a small piece of
looking-glass underneath the door, and can thus see down the gallery in
either direction a certain distance. Whenever Benson and Kick were at
work, they would accompany the noise of the saw with some other noise,
so as to drown the former, for they knew that, although they had some
friends among the convicts, there were others who, if they got next,
would tip off the keepers that an escape was to be made. In the morning
they would putty up the cuts made in the door during the night. One
night when everything was ready, they slipped from their cells, put the
mug on the guard, took away his cannister, and tied him to the bottom
of one of their cells. They did the same to another guard, who was
on the watch in the gallery below, went to the outside window on the
Hudson side of Sing Sing, and putting a Jack, which they had concealed
in the cell, between the bars of the window, spread them far apart,
so that they could make their exit. At this point however they were
discovered by a third guard, who fired at them, hitting Little Kick in
the leg. The shot aroused the sergeant of the guards and he gave the
alarm. Big Benson was just getting through the window when the whole
pack of guards fired at him, killing him as dead as a door-nail. Little
Kick lost his nerve and surrendered, and was taken to the dungeon. Big
Benson, who had been serving a term for highway robbery, was one of the
best liked men in stir, and when rumors reached the convicts that he
had been shot, pandemonium broke loose in the cells. They yelled and
beat their coffee cups against the iron doors, and the officials were
powerless to quiet them. There was more noise even than on a holiday at

Soon after I was transferred from Sing Sing to Auburn, a friend came to
me and said: "Jimmy, are you on either of the shoe-shop galleries? No?
Well, if you can get on Keeper Riley's gallery I think you can spring

Then he let me in on one of the cleverest beats I ever knew; if I could
have succeeded in being put on that gallery I should not have finished
my first term in State's prison. At that time work was slack and the
men were locked in their cells most of the time. Leahy started in to
dig out the bricks from the ceiling of his cell. Each day, when taking
his turn for an hour in the yard, he would give the cement, which he
had done up in small packages, to friends, who would dump it in their
buckets, the contents of which they would then throw into the large
cesspool. While exercising in the yard, the cons would throw the bricks
Leahy had removed on an old brick pile under the archway. After he had
removed sufficient stuff to make a hole big enough to crawl through,
all he had left to do was to saw a few boards, and remove a few tiles,
and then he was on the roof. It is the habit of the guard, when he goes
the rounds, to rap the ceiling of every cell with his stick, to see
if there is an excavation. Leahy had guarded against this by filling
a small box with sand and placing it in the opening. Then he pasted a
piece of linen over the box and whitewashed it. Even when the screw
came around to glance in his cell Leahy would continue to work, for
he had rigged up a dummy of himself in bed. When he reached the roof,
he dropped to a lower building, reached the wall which surrounds the
prison, and with a rope lowered himself to the ground. With a brand
new suit of clothes which a friend had stolen from the shop, Leahy went
forth into the open, and was never caught.

At Sing Sing an old chum of mine named Tom escaped, and would never
have been caught if he had not been so sentimental. Indeed, he was
improvident in every way. He had been a well-known house-worker, and
made lots of money at this graft, but he lived well and blew what he
stole, and consequently did many years in prison. He was nailed for
a house that was touched of "éclat" worth thousands, and convicted,
though of this particular crime he was, I am convinced, innocent; of
course, he howled like a stuck pig about the injustice of it, all his
life. While he was in Raymond Street jail he got wind of the men who
really did the job. They were pals and he asked them to try to turn
him out. His girl, Tessie, heard of it and wanted to go to Police
Headquarters and squeal on the others, to save her sweetheart. But Tom
was frantic, for there was no squeal in him. You find grafters like
that sometimes, and Tom was always sentimental. He certainly preferred
to go to stir rather than have the name of being a belcher. So he went
to Sing Sing for seven and a half years. He was a good mechanic and
was assigned to a brick-laying job on the wall. He had an easy time
in stir, for he had a screw right, and got many luxuries through the
Underground; and was not watched very closely. One day he put a suit
of clothes under his stripes, vamoosed into a wood near by, and removed
his stripes. He kept on walking till he reached Connecticut, which, as
I have said, is the softest state in the Union.

Tom would never have finished that bit in stir, if, as I have also
said, he had not been so sentimental. When in prison a grafter
continually thinks about his old pals and hang-outs, and the last
scenes familiar to him before he went to stir. Tom was a well-known
gun, with his picture in the Hall of Fame, and yet, after beating
prison, and leaving years behind, and knowing that if caught he would
have to do additional time, would have the authorities sore against him
and be confined in the dark cell, he yet, in spite of all that, after a
short time, made for his old haunts on the Bowery, where he was nailed
by a fly-cop and sent back to Sing Sing. So much for the force of habit
and of environment, especially when a grafter is a good fellow and
loves his old pals.

On one occasion Tom was well paid for being a good fellow. Jack was
a well-known pugilist who had become a grafter. His wife's sister had
married a millionaire, and Jack stole the millions, which amounted, in
this case, to only one hundred thousand dollars. For this he was put
in prison for four years. While in stir, Tom, who had a screw right,
did him many favors, which Jack remembered. Years afterwards they were
both on the outside again. Tom was still a grafter, but Jack had gone
to work for a police official as general utility man, and gained the
confidence of his employer, who was chief of the detective force. The
latter got Jack a position as private detective in one of the swellest
hotels in Florida. Now, Tom happened to be grafting in that State, and
met his old friend Jack at the hotel. Instead of tipping off the chief
that Tom was a grafter, Jack staked his old pal, for he remembered the
favors he had received in stir. Tom was at liberty for four years, and
then was brought to police headquarters where the chief said to him:
"I know that you met Jack in Florida, and I am sore because he did
not tip me off." Tom replied indignantly: "He is not a hyena like your
ilk. He is not capable of the basest of all crimes, ingratitude. I can
forgive a man who puts his hand in my pocket and steals my money. I can
forgive him, for it may do him good. He may invest the money and become
an honored member of the community. But the crime no man can forgive
is ingratitude. It is the most inhuman of crimes and only your ilk is
capable of it."

The Chief smiled at Tom's sentiment--that was always his weak
point--poor Tom!--and said: "Well, you are a clever thief, and I'm glad
I was wise enough to catch you." Whereupon Tom sneered and remarked: "I
could die of old age in this city for all of you and your detectives. I
was tipped off to you by a Dicky Bird (stool pigeon) damn him!" I have
known few grafters who had as much feeling as Tom.

More than five years passed, and the time for my release from Auburn
drew near. The last weeks dragged terribly; they seemed almost as
long as the years that had gone before. Sometimes I thought the time
would never come. The day before I was discharged I bade good-bye to
my friends, who said to me, smiling: "She has come at last," or "It's
near at hand," or "It was a long time a-coming." That night I built
many castles in the air, with the help of a large piece of opium: and
continued to make the good resolutions I had begun some time before.
I had permission from the night guard to keep my light burning after
the usual hour, and the last book I read on my first term in stir was
_Tristram Shandy_. Just before I went to bed I sang for the last time
a popular prison song which had been running in my head for months:

     "Roll round, '89, '90, '91, sweet '92 roll around.
     How happy I shall be the morning I go free, sweet '92 roll

Before I fell asleep I resolved to be good, to quit opium and not to
graft any more. The resolution was easily made and I went to bed happy.
I was up at day-break and penned a few last words to my friends and
acquaintances remaining in stir. I promised some of them that I would
see their friends on the outside and send them delicacies and a little
money. They knew that I would keep my promise, for I have always been a
man of my word; as many of the most successful grafters are. It is only
the vogel-grafter, the petty larceny thief or the "sure-thing" article,
who habitually breaks his word. Many people think that a thief can not
be trusted; and it certainly is true that the profession does not help
to make a man virtuous in his personal relations. But it is also true
that a man may be, and sometimes is, honorable in his dealings with
his own world, and at the same time a desperate criminal in the other.
It is not of course common, to find a thief who is an honest man; but
is there very often an honest man anywhere, in the world of graft or
out of it? If it is often, so much the better, but that has not been
my experience. Does not everyone know that the men who do society the
greatest injury have never done time; in fact, may never have broken
any laws? I am not trying to excuse myself or my companions in crime,
but I think the world is a little twisted in its ideas as to right and
wrong, and who are the greatest sinners.

When six o'clock on the final day came round it was a great relief. I
went through the regular routine, and at eight o'clock was called to
the front office, received a new suit of clothes, as well as my fare
home and ten dollars with which to begin life afresh.

"Hold on," I said, to the Warden. "I worked eighteen months. Under the
new piece-price plan I ought to be allowed a certain percentage of my

The Warden, who was a good fellow and permitted almost anything to come
in by the Underground Tunnel, asked the clerk if there was any more
money for me. The clerk consulted with the keepers and then reported to
the Warden that I was the most tired man that ever entered the prison;
adding that it was very nervy of me to want more money, after they had
treated me far better than the parent of the Prodigal treated his son.
The Warden, thereupon, remarked to me that if I went pilfering again
and were not more energetic than I had been in prison, I would never
eat. "Goodbye," he concluded.

"Well," I said, "I hope we'll never meet again."

With my discharge papers in my hand, and in my mind a resolution never
to go back to the stir where so many of my friends, strong fellows,
too, had lost their lives or had become physical or mental wrecks, I
left Auburn penitentiary and went forth into the free world. I had
gone to stir a boy of twenty-one, and left it a man of twenty-six.
I entered healthy, and left broken down in health, with the marks of
the jail-bird upon me; marks, mental and physical, that would never
leave me, and habits that I knew would stick closer than a brother.
I knew that there was nothing in a life of crime. I had tested that
well enough. But there were times during the last months I spent in my
cell, when, in spite of my good resolutions, I hated the outside world
which had forced me into a place that took away from my manhood and
strength. I knew I had sinned against my fellow men, but I knew, too,
that there had been something good in me. I was half Irish, and about
that race there is naturally something roguish; and that was part of
my wickedness. When I left stir I knew I was not capable, after five
years and some months of unnatural routine, of what I should have been
by nature.

A man is like an electric plant. Use poor fuel and you will have poor
electricity. The food is bad in prison. The cells at Sing Sing are
a crime against the criminal; and in these damp and narrow cells he
spends, on the average, eighteen hours out of the twenty-four. In the
name of humanity and science what can society expect from a man who has
spent a number of years in such surroundings? He will come out of stir,
as a rule, a burden on the tax-payers, unable to work, and confirmed
in a life of crime; desperate, and willing to take any chance. The
low-down, petty, canting thief, who works all the charitable societies
and will rob only those who are his benefactors, or a door-mat, is
utterly useless in prison or out. The healthy, intelligent, ambitious
grafter is capable of reform and usefulness, if shown the error of his
ways or taken hold of before his physical and mental health is ruined
by prison life. You can appeal to his manhood at that early time.
After he has spent a certain number of years in stir his teeth become
decayed; he can not chew his food, which is coarse and ill-cooked; his
stomach gets bad: and once his stomach becomes deranged it is only a
short time before his head is in a like condition. Eventually, he may
be transferred to the mad-house. I left Auburn stir a happy man, for
the time, for I thought everything would be smooth sailing. As a matter
of fact I could not know the actual realities I had to face, inside and
outside of me, and so all my good resolutions were nothing but a dream.

It was a fine May morning that I left Auburn and I was greatly excited
and bewildered by the brightness and joy of everything about me. I took
my hat off, gazed up at the clear sky, looked up and down the street
and at the passers-by, with a feeling of pleasure and confusion. I
turned to the man who had been released with me, and said, "Let's go
and get something to eat." On the way to the restaurant, however, the
jangling of the trolleys upset my nerves. I could not eat, and drank a
couple of whiskies. They did not taste right. Everything seemed tame,
compared with the air, which I breathed like a drunken man.

I bought a few pounds of tea, canned goods, cheese and fruit, which I
sent by a keeper to my friends in stir. I also bought for my friends a
few dollars' worth of morphine and some pulverized gum opium. How could
I send it to them, for the keeper was not "next" to the Underground?
Suddenly I had an idea. I bought ten cents worth of walnuts, split
them, took the meat out, put the morphine and opium in, closed them
with mucilage, put them in a bag and sent them to the convicts with the
basket of other things I had left with the innocent keeper.

I got aboard my train, and as I pulled out of the town of Auburn gave
a great sigh of relief. I longed to go directly to New York, for I
always did like big cities, particularly Manhattan, and I was dying to
see some of my old girls. But I stopped off at Syracuse, according to
promises, to deliver some messages to the relatives of convicts, and
so reached New York a few hours later than my family and friends had
expected. They had gone to meet an earlier train, and had not waited,
so that when I reached my native city after this long absence I found
nobody at the station to welcome me back. It made me sad for a moment,
but when I passed out into the streets of the big town I felt excited
and joyous, and so confused that I thought I knew almost everybody on
the street. I nearly spoke to a stranger, a woman, thinking she was
Blonde Mamie.

I soon reached the Bowery and there met some of my old pals; but was
much surprised to find them changed and older. For years and years
a convict lives in a dream. He is isolated from the realities of the
outside world. In stir he is a machine, and his mind is continually
dwelling on the last time he was at liberty; he thinks of his family
and friends as they were then. They may have become old, sickly and
wrinkled, but he does not realize this. When, set free, he tries to
find them, he expects that they will be unchanged, but if he finds
them at all, what a shock! An old-timer I knew, a man named Packey,
who had served fifteen years out of a life sentence, and had been twice
declared insane, told me that he had reached a state of mind in which
he imagined himself to be still a young fellow, of the age he was when
he first went to stir.


_At the Graft Again._

I spent my first day in New York looking up my old pals and girls,
especially the latter. How I longed to exchange friendly words with a
woman! But the girls I knew were all gone, and I was forced to make new
acquaintances on the spot. I spent all the afternoon and most of the
evening with a girl I picked up on the Bowery; I thought she was the
most beautiful creature in the world; but when I saw her again weeks
afterwards, when women were not so novel to me, I found her almost
hideous. I must have longed for a young woman's society, for I did not
go to see my poor old mother until I had left my Bowery acquaintance.
And yet my mother had often proved herself my only friend! But I had
a long talk with her before I slept, and when I left her for a stroll
in the wonderful city before going to bed my resolution to be good was
keener than ever.

As I sauntered along the Bowery that night the desire to talk to an
old pal was strong. But where was I to find a friend? Only in places
where thieves hung out. "Well," I said to myself, "there is no harm in
talking to my old pals. I will tell them there is nothing in the graft,
and that I have squared it." I dropped into a music hall, a resort for
pickpockets, kept by an old gun, and there I met Teddy, whom I had not
seen for years.

"Hello, Jim," he said, giving me the glad hand, "I thought you were

"Not quite so bad as that, Teddy," I replied, "I am still in evidence."

We had a couple of beers. I could not quite make up my mind to tell him
I had squared it; and he put me next to things in town.

"Take my advice," he said, "and keep away from ---- ---- (naming
certain clubs and saloons where thieves congregated). The proprietors
of these places and the guns that hang out there, many of them anyway,
are not on the level. Some of the grafters who go there have the
reputation of being clever dips, but they have protection from the
Front Office men because they are rats and so can tear things open
without danger. By giving up a certain amount of stuff and dropping
a stall or two occasionally to keep up the flyman's reputation, they
are able to have a bank account and never go to stir. The flymen hang
out in these joints, waiting for a tip, and they are bad places for a
grafter who is on the level."

I listened with attention, and said, by force of habit:

"Put me next to the stool-pigeons, Teddy. You know I am just back from

"Well," he answered, "outside of so and so (and he mentioned
half-a-dozen men by name) none of them who hang out in those joints can
be trusted. Come to my house, Jim, and we'll have a long talk about old
times, and I will introduce you to some good people (meaning thieves)."

I went with him to his home, which was in a tenement house in the lower
part of the first ward. He introduced me to his wife and children and a
number of dips, burglars and strong-armed men who made his place a kind
of rendezvous. We talked old times and graft, and the wife and little
boy of eight years old listened attentively. The boy had a much better
chance to learn the graft than I had when a kid, for my father was an
honest man.

The three strong-arm men (highwaymen) were a study to me, for they were
Westerners, with any amount of nerve. One of them, Denver Red, a big
powerful fellow, mentioned a few bits he had done in Western prisons,
explained a few of his grafts and seemed to despise New York guns, whom
he considered cowardly. He said the Easterners feared the police too
much, and always wanted to fix things before they dared to graft.

I told them a little about New York State penitentiaries, and then
Ted said to Denver Red: "What do you think of the big fellow?" Denver
grinned, and the others followed suit, and I heard the latest story. A
well-known politician, leader of his district, a cousin of Senator Wet
Coin; a man of gigantic stature, with the pleasing name, I will say, of
Flower, had had an adventure. He is even better developed physically
than mentally, and virtually king of his district, and whenever he
passes by, the girls bow to him, the petty thief calls him "Mister"
and men and women alike call him "Big Flower." Well, one night not
long before the gathering took place in Teddy's house, Big Flower was
passing through the toughest portion of his bailiwick, humming ragtime,
when my new acquaintances, the three strong-arm workers from the West,
stuck him up with cannisters, and relieved him of a five carat diamond
stud, a gold watch and chain and a considerable amount of cash. The
next day there was consternation among the clan of the Wet Coins, for
Big Flower, who had been thus nipped, was their idol. We all laughed
heartily at the story, and I went home and to sleep.

The next day I found it a very easy thing to drift back to my old
haunts. In the evening I went to a sporting house on Twenty-seventh
Street, where a number of guns hung out. I got the glad hand and an
invitation to join in some good graft. I said I was done with the Rocky
Path. They smiled and gently said: "We have been there, too, Jim."

One of them added: "By the way, I hear you are up against the hop,
Jim." It was Billy, and he invited me home with him. There I met Ida,
as pretty a little shop girl as one wants to see. Billy said there
was always an opening for me, that times were pretty good. He and Ida
had an opium layout, and they asked me to take a smoke. I told them my
nerves were not right, and that I had quit. "Poor fellow," said Billy.

Perhaps it was the sight or smell of the hop, but anyway I got the
yen-yen and shook as in an ague. My eyes watered and I grew as pale as
a sheet. I thought my bones were unjointing and took a pint of whiskey;
it had no effect. Then Billy acted as my physician and prepared a pill
for me. So vanished one good resolution. My only excuse to myself was:
Human nature is weak, ain't it? No sooner had I taken the first pill
than a feeling of ecstasy came over me. I became talkative, and Billy,
noticing the effect, said: "Jim, before you try to knock off the hop,
you had better wait till you reach the next world." The opium brought
peace to my nerves and dulled my conscience and I had a long talk with
Billy and Ida about old pals. They told me who was dead, who were in
stir and who were good (prosperous).

Not many days after my opium fall I got a note from Ethel, who had
heard that I had come home. In the letter she said that she was not
happy with her husband, that she had married to please her father and
to get a comfortable home. She wanted to make an appointment to meet
me, whom, she said, she had always loved. I knew what her letter meant,
and I did not answer it, and did not keep the appointment. My relation
to her was the only decent thing in my life, and I thought I might
as well keep it right. I have never seen her since the last time she
visited me at Auburn.

For some time after getting back from stir I tried for a job, but the
effort was only half-hearted on my part, and people did not fall over
themselves in their eagerness to find something for the ex-convict to
do. Even if I had had the best intentions in the world, the path of the
ex-convict is a difficult one, as I have since found. I was run down
physically, and could not carry a hod or do any heavy labor, even if I
had desired to. I knew no trade and should have been forever distrusted
by the upper world. The only thing I could do well was to graft; and
the only society that would welcome me was that of the under world. My
old pals knew I had the requisite nerve and was capable of taking my
place in any good mob. My resolutions began to ooze away, especially as
at that time my father was alive and making enough money to support the
rest of the family. So I had only myself to look out for--and that was
a lot; for I had my old habits, and new ones I had formed in prison, to
satisfy. When I stayed quietly at home I grew intensely nervous; and
soon I felt that I was bound to slip back to the world of graft. I am
convinced that I would never have returned to stir or to my old trade,
however, if my environment had been different, on my release, from
what it had been formerly; and if I could have found a job. I don't
say this in the way of complaint. I now know that a man can reform
even among his old associates. It is impossible, as the reader will
see, I believe, before he finishes this book, for me ever to fall back
again. Some men acquire wisdom at twenty-one, some not till they are
thirty-five, and some never. Wisdom came to me when I was thirty-five.
If I had had my present experience, I should not have fallen after my
first bit; but I might not have fallen anyway, if I had been placed
in a better environment after my first term in prison. A man can stand
alone, if he is strong enough, and has sufficient reasons; but if he is
tottering, he needs outside help.

I was tottering, and did not get the help, and so I speedily began to
graft again. I started in on easy game, on picking pockets and simple
swindling. I made my first touch, after my return, on Broadway. One
day I met the Kid there, looking for a dollar as hard as a financier.
He asked me if I was not about ready to begin again, and pointed out
a swell Moll, big, breezy and blonde, coming down the street, with
a large wallet sticking out of her pocket. It seemed easy, with no
come-back in sight, and I agreed to stall for the Kid. Just as she went
into Denning's which is now Wanamaker's, I went in ahead of her, turned
and met her. She stopped; and at that moment the Kid nicked her. We
got away all right and found in the wallet over one hundred dollars and
a small knife. In the knife were three rivets, which we discovered on
inspection to be magnifying glasses. We applied our eyes to the same
and saw some pictures which would have made Mr. Anthony Comstock howl;
if he had found this knife on this aristocratic lady he would surely
have sent her to the penitentiary. It was a beautiful pearl knife,
gold tipped, and must have been a loss; and yet I felt I was justified
in taking that wallet. I thought I had done the lady a good turn. She
might have been fined, and why shouldn't I have the money, rather than
the magistrate?

The Kid was one of the cleverest dips I ever knew; he was delicate and
cunning, and the best stone-getter in the city. But he had one weakness
that made him almost a devil. He fell in love with every pretty face he
saw, and cared no more for leading a girl astray than I minded kicking
a cat. I felt sorry for many a little working girl he had shaken after
a couple of weeks; and I used to jolly them to cheer them up.

I once met Kate, one of them, and said, with a smile: "Did you hear
about the Kid's latest? Why don't you have him arrested for bigamy?"

She did not smile at first, but said: "He'll never have any luck. My
mother is a widow, and she prays to God to afflict him with a widow's

"One of the Ten Commandments," I replied, "says, 'thou shalt not take
the name of the Lord thy God in vain,' and between you and me, Kate,
the commandment does not say that widows have the monopoly on cursing.
It is a sin, anyway, whether it is a man, a girl or a widow."

This was too deep for Kate.

"Stop preaching, Jim," she said, "and give me a drink," and I did.
After she had drunk half-a-dozen glasses of beer she felt better.

Women are queer, anyway. No matter how bad they are, they are always
good. All women are thieves, or rather petty pilferers, bless them!
When I was just beginning to graft again, and was going it easy, I used
to work a game which well showed the natural grafting propensities of
women. I would buy a lot of Confederate bills for a few cents, and put
them in a good leather. When I saw a swell-looking Moll, evidently out
shopping, walking along the street, I would drop the purse in her path;
and just as she saw it I would pick it up, as if I had just found it.
Nine women out of ten would say, "It's mine, I dropped it." I would
open the leather and let her get a peep of the bills, and that would
set her pilfering propensities going. "It's mine," she would repeat.
"What's in it?" I would hold the leather carefully away from her, look
into it cautiously and say: "I can see a twenty dollar bill, a thirty
dollar bill, and a one hundred dollar bill, but how do I know you
dropped it?" Then she'd get excited and exclaim, "If you don't give it
to me quick I'll call a policeman." "Madam," I would reply, "I am an
honest workingman, and if you will give me ten dollars for a reward, I
will give you this valuable purse." Perhaps she would then say: "Give
me the pocket-book and I'll give you the money out of it." To that I
would reply: "No, Madam, I wish you to receive the pocket-book just as
it was." I would then hand her the book and she would give me a good
ten dollar bill. "There is a woman down the street," I would continue,
"looking for something." That would alarm her and away she would go
without even opening the leather to see if her money was all right.
She wouldn't shop any more that day, but would hasten home to examine
her treasure--worth, as she would discover to her sorrow, about thirty
cents. Then, no doubt, her conscience would trouble her. At least, she
would weep; I am sure of that.

When I got my hand in again, I began to go for stone-getting, which
was a fat graft in those days, when the Lexow committee was beginning
their reform. Everybody wore a diamond. Even mechanics and farmers
were not satisfied unless they had pins to stick in their ties. They
bought them on the installment plan, and I suppose they do yet. I could
always find a laborer or a hod-carrier that had a stone. They usually
called attention to it by keeping their hands carefully on it; and very
often it found its way into my pocket, for carelessness is bound to
come as soon as a man thinks he is safe. They probably thought of their
treasure for months afterwards; at least, whenever the collector came
around for the weekly installments of pay for stones they no longer

It was about this time that I met General Brace and the Professor.
One was a Harvard graduate, and the other came from good old Yale; and
both were grafters. When I knew them they used to hang out in a joint
on Seventh Street, waiting to be treated. They had been good grafters,
but through hop and booze had come down from forging and queer-shoving
to common shop-lifting and petty larceny business. General Brace
was very reticent in regard to his family and his own past, but as I
often invited him to smoke opium with me, he sometimes gave me little
confidences. I learned that he came from a well-known Southern family,
and had held a good position in his native city; but he was a blood,
and to satisfy his habits he began to forge checks. His relatives
saved him from prison, but he left home and started on the downward
career of graftdom. We called him General Brace because he looked like
a soldier and was continually on the borrow; but a good story always
accompanied his asking for a loan and he was seldom refused. I have
often listened to this man after he had smoked a quantity of opium,
and his conversational powers were something remarkable. Many a gun and
politician would listen to him with wonder. I used to call him General
Brace Coleridge.

The Professor was almost as good a talker. We used to treat them both,
in order to get them to converse together. It was a liberal education
to hear them hold forth in that low-down saloon, where some of the
finest talks on literature and politics were listened to with interest
by men born and bred on the East Side, with no more education than
a turnip, but with keen wits. The graduates had good manners, and we
liked them and staked them regularly. They used to write letters for
politicians and guns who could not read or write. They stuck together
like brothers. If one of them had five cents, he would go into a morgue
(gin-mill where rot-gut whiskey could be obtained for that sum) and
pour out almost a full tumbler of booze. Just as he sipped a little
of the rot-gut, his pal would come in, as though by accident. If it
was the General who had made the purchase, he would say: "Hello, old
pal, just taste this fine whiskey. It tastes like ten-cent stuff." The
Professor would take a sip and become enthusiastic. They would sip and
exclaim in turn, until the booze was all gone, and no further expense
incurred. This little trick grew into a habit, and the bar-tender got
on to it, but he liked Colonel Brace and the Professor so much that he
used to wink at it.

I was in this rot-gut saloon one day when I met Jesse R----, with whom
I had spent several years in prison. I have often wondered how this man
happened to join the under world; for he not only came of a good family
and was well educated, but was also of a good, quiet disposition, a
prime favorite in stir and out. He was tactful enough never to roast
convicts, who are very sensitive, and was so sympathetic that many
a heartache was poured into his ear. He never betrayed a friend's

I was glad to meet Jesse again, and we exchanged greetings in the
little saloon. When he asked me what I was doing, I replied that I had
a mortgage on the world and that I was trying to draw my interest from
the same. I still had that old dream, that the world owed me a living.
I confided in him that I regarded the world as my oyster more decidedly
than I had done before I met him in stir. I found that Jesse, however,
had squared it for good and was absolutely on the level. He had a good
job as shipping clerk in a large mercantile house; when I asked him if
he was not afraid of being tipped off by some Central Office man or by
some stool-pigeon, he admitted that that was the terror of his life;
but that he had been at work for eighteen months, and hoped that none
of his enemies would turn up. I asked him who had recommended him for
the job, and I smiled when he answered: "General Brace". That clever
Harvard graduate often wrote letters which were of assistance to guns
who had squared it; though the poor fellow could not take care of

Jesse had a story to tell which seemed to me one of the saddest I have
heard: and as I grew older I found that most all stories about people
in the under world, no matter how cheerfully they began, ended sadly.
It was about his brother, Harry, the story that Jesse told. Harry was
married, and there is where the trouble often begins. When Jesse was
in prison Harry, who was on the level and occupied a good position as a
book-keeper, used to send him money, always against his wife's wishes.
She also complained because Harry supported his old father. Harry
toiled like a slave for this woman who scolded him and who spent his
money recklessly. He made a good salary, but he could not keep up with
her extravagance. One time, while in the country, she met a sporting
man, Mr. O. B. In a few weeks it was the old, old story of a foolish
woman and a pretty good fellow. While she was in the country, her young
son was drowned, and she sent Harry a telegram announcing it. But she
kept on living high and her name and that of O. B. were often coupled.
Harry tried to stifle his sorrow and kept on sending money to the
bladder he called wife, who appeared in a fresh new dress whenever she
went out with Mr. O. B. One day Harry received a letter, calling him to
the office to explain his accounts. He replied that he had been sick,
but would straighten everything out the next day. When his father went
to awaken him in the morning, Harry was dead. A phial of morphine on
the floor told the story. Jesse reached his brother's room in time to
hear his old father's cry of anguish and to read a letter from Harry,
explaining that he had robbed the firm of thousands, and asking his
brother to be kind to Helene, his wife.

Then Jesse went to see the woman, to tell her about her husband's
death. He found her at a summer hotel with Mr. O. B., and heard the
servants talk about them.

"Jim," said Jesse to me, at this point in the story, "here is wise
council. Wherever thou goest, keep the portals of thy lugs open; as
you wander on through life you are apt to hear slander about your women
folks. What is more entertaining than a little scandal, especially when
it doesn't hit home? But don't look into it too deep, for it generally
turns out true, or worse. I laid a trap for my poor brothers wife,
and one of her letters, making clear her guilt, fell into my hands.
A telegram in reply from Mr. O. B., likewise came to me, and in a
murderous frame of mind, I read its contents, and then laughed like a
hyena: 'I am sorry I cannot meet you, but I was married this morning,
and am going on my wedding tour. _Au Revoir._' You ask me what became
of my sister-in-law? Jim, she is young and pretty, and will get along
in this world. But, truly, the wages of sin is to her Living Ashes."

It was not very long after my return home that I was at work again,
not only at safe dipping and swindling, but gradually at all my old
grafts, including more or less house work. There was a difference,
however. I grew far more reckless than I had been before I went to
prison. I now smoked opium regularly, and had a lay-out in my furnished
room and a girl to run it. The drug made me take chances I never used
to take; and I became dead to almost everything that was good. I went
home very seldom. I liked my family in a curious way, but I did not
have enough vitality or much feeling about anything. I began to go out
to graft always in a dazed condition, so much so that on one occasion
a pal tried to take advantage of my state of mind. It was while I was
doing a bit of house-work with Sandy and Hacks, two clever grafters.
We inserted into the lock the front door key which we had made, threw
off the tumblers, and opened the door. Hacks and I stalled while Sandy
went in and got six hundred dollars and many valuable jewels. He did
not show us much of the money, however. The next day the newspapers
described the "touch," and told the amount of money which had been
stolen. Then I knew I had been "done" by Sandy and Hacks, who stood
in with him, but Sandy said the papers were wrong. The mean thief,
however, could not keep his mouth shut, and I got him. I am glad
I was not arrested for murder. It was a close shave, for I cut him
unmercifully with a knife. In this I had the approval of my friends,
for they all believed the worst thing a grafter could do was to sink a
pal. Sandy did not squeal, but he swore he would get even with me. Even
if I had not been so reckless as I was then, I would not have feared
him, for I knew there was no come-back in him.

Another thing the dope did was to make me laugh at everything. It was
fun for me to graft, and I saw the humor of life. I remember I used to
say that this world is the best possible; that the fine line of cranks
and fools in it gives it variety. One day I had a good laugh in a
Brooklyn car. Tim, George and I got next to a Dutchman who had a large
prop in his tie. He stood for a newspaper under his chin, and his stone
came as slick as grease. A minute afterwards he missed his property,
and we did not dare to move. He told his wife, who was with him, that
his stone was gone. She called him a fool, and said that he had left
it at home, in the bureau drawer, that she remembered it well. Then
he looked down and saw that his front was gone, too. He said to his
wife: "I am sure I had my watch and chain with me," but his wife was
so superior that she easily convinced him he had left it at home. The
wisdom of women is beyond finding out. But I enjoyed that incident. I
shall never forget the look that came over the Dutchman's face when he
missed his front.

I was too sleepy those days to go out of town much on the graft; and
was losing my ambition generally. I even cared very little for the
girls, and gave up many of my amusements. I used to stay most of the
time in my furnished room, smoking hop. When I went out it was to get
some dough quick, and to that end I embraced almost any means. At night
I often drifted into some concert hall, but it was not like the old
days when I was a kid. The Bowery is far more respectable now than it
ever was before. Twenty years ago there was no worse place possible for
ruining girls and making thieves than Billy McGlory's joint on Hester
Street. About ten o'clock in the morning slumming parties would chuckle
with glee when the doors at McGlory's would be closed and young girls
in scanty clothing, would dance the can-can. These girls would often
fight together, and frequently were beaten unmercifully by the men
who lived on them and their trade. Often men were forcibly robbed in
these joints. There was little danger of an arrest; for if the sucker
squealed, the policeman on the beat would club him off to the beat of
another copper, who would either continue the process, or arrest him
for disorderly conduct.

At this time, which was just before the Lexow Committee began its work,
there were at least a few honest coppers. I knew one, however, that
did not remain honest. It happened this way. The guns had been tearing
open the cars so hard that the street car companies, as they had once
before, got after the officials, who stirred up Headquarters. The riot
act was read to the dips. This meant that, on the second offense, every
thief would be settled for his full time and that there would be no
squaring it. The guns lay low for a while, but two very venturesome
grafters, Mack and Jerry, put their heads together and reasoned thus:
"Now that the other guns are alarmed it is a good chance for us to get
in our fine work."

Complaints continued to come in. The police grew hot and sent Mr.
F----, a flyman, to get the rascals. Mr. F---- had the reputation of
being the most honest detective on the force. He often declared that
he wanted promotion only on his merits. Whenever he was overheard in
making this remark there was a quiet smile on the faces of the other
coppers. F---- caught Mack dead to rights, and, not being a diplomat,
did not understand when the gun tried to talk reason to him. Even a
large piece of dough did not help his intellect, and Mack was taken to
the station-house. When a high official heard about it he swore by all
the gods that he would make an example of that notorious pickpocket,
Mack; but human nature is weak, especially if it wears buttons. Mack
sent for F----'s superior, the captain, and the following dialogue took

_Captain_: What do you want?

_Mack_: I'm copped.

_Captain_: Yes, and you're dead to rights.

_Mack_: I tried to do business with F----. What is the matter with him?

_Captain_: He is a policeman. He wants his promotion by merit. (Even
the Captain smiled.)

_Mack_: I'd give five centuries (five hundred dollars) if I could get
to my summer residence in Asbury Park.

_Captain_: How long would it take you to get it?

_Mack_: (He, too, was laconic.) I got it on me.

_Captain_: Give it here.

_Mack_: It's a sure turn-out?

_Captain_: Was I ever known to go back on my word?

Mack handed the money over, and went over to court in the afternoon
with F----. The Captain was there, and whispered to F----: "Throw him
out." That nearly knocked F---- down, but he and Mack took a car, and
he said to the latter: "In the name of everything how did you hypnotize
the old man?" Mack replied, with a laugh: "I tried to mesmerize you in
the same way; but you are working on your merits."

Mack was discharged, and F---- decided to be a diplomat henceforth.
From an honest copper he became as clever a panther as ever shook coin
from a gun. Isn't it likely that if a man had a large income he would
never go to prison? Indeed, do you think that well-known guns could
graft with impunity unless they had some one right? Nay! Nay! Hannah.
They often hear the song of split half or no graft.

But at that time I was so careless that I did not even have enough
sense to save fall-money, and after about nine months of freedom I fell
again. One day three of us boarded a car in Brooklyn and I saw a mark
whom I immediately nicked for his red super, which I passed quickly
to one of my stalls, Eddy. We got off the car and walked about three
blocks, when Eddy flashed the super, to look at it. The sucker, who had
been tailing, blew, and Eddy threw the watch to the ground, fearing
that he would be nailed. A crowd gathered around the super, I among
them, the other stall, Eddy having vamoosed, and the sucker. No man in
his senses would have picked up that gold watch. But I did it and was
nailed dead to rights. I felt that super belonged to me. I had nicked
it cleverly, and I thought I had earned it! I was sentenced to four
years in Sing Sing, but I did not hang my head with shame, this time,
as I was taken to the station. It was the way of life and of those
I associated with, and I was more a fatalist than ever. I hated all
mankind and cared nothing for the consequences of my acts.


_Back to Prison._

I was not recognized by the authorities at Sing Sing as having been
there before. I gave a different name and pedigree, of course, but
the reason I was not known as a second-timer was that I had spent only
nine months at Sing Sing on my first term, the remainder having been
passed at Auburn. There was a new warden at Sing Sing, too, and some
of the other officials had changed; and, besides, I must have been
lucky. Anyway, none of the keepers knew me, and this meant a great
deal to me; for if I had been recognized as a second-timer I should
have had a great deal of extra time to serve. On my first term I had
received commutation time for good behavior amounting to over a year,
and there is a rule that if a released convict is sent back to prison,
he must serve, not only the time given him on his second sentence, but
the commutation time on his first bit. Somebody must have been very
careless, for I beat the State out of more than a year.

Some of the convicts, indeed, knew that I had served before; but they
did not squeal. Even some of those who did not know me had an inkling
of it, but would not tell. It was still another instance of honor among
thieves. If they had reported me to the authorities, they might have
had an easier time in stir and had many privileges, such as better
jobs and better things to eat. There were many stool-pigeons there, of
course, but somehow these rats did not get wind of me.

It did not take me long to get the Underground Tunnel in working order
again, and I received contraband letters, booze, opium and morphine
as regularly as on my first bit. One of the screws running the Tunnel
at the time, Jack R----, was a little heavier in his demands than I
thought fair. He wanted a third instead of a fifth of the money sent
the convicts from home. But he was a good fellow, and always brought
in the hop as soon as it arrived. Like the New York police he was hot
after the stuff, but who can blame him? He wanted to rise in the world,
and was more ambitious than the other screws. I continued my pipe
dreams, and my reading; indeed, they were often connected. I frequently
used to imagine that I was a character in one of the books; and often
choked the detestable Tarquin into insensibility.

On one occasion I dreamed that I was arraigned before my Maker and
charged with murder. I cried with fear and sorrow, for I felt that even
before the just God there was no justice; but a voice silenced me and
said that to be guilty of the crime of murder, it was not necessary
to use weapons or poison. Suddenly I seemed to see the sad faces of
my father and mother, and then I knew what the voice meant. Indeed, I
was guilty. I heard the word, "Begone," and sank into the abyss. After
many thousand years of misery I was led into the Chamber of Contentment
where I saw some of the great men whose books I had read. Voltaire, Tom
Paine and Galileo sat on a throne, but when I approached them with awe,
the angel, who had the face of a keeper, told me to leave. I appealed
to Voltaire, and begged him not to permit them to send me among the
hymn-singers. He said he pitied me, but that I was not fit to be with
the great elect. I asked him where Dr. Parkhurst was, and he answered
that the doctor was hot stuff and had evaporated long ago. I was led
away sorrowing, and awoke in misery and tears, in my dark and damp

On this bit I was assigned to the clothing department, where I stayed
six months, but did very little work. Warden Sage replaced Warden
Darson and organized the system of stool-pigeons in stir more carefully
than ever before; so it was more difficult than it was before to
neglect our work. I said to Sage one day: "You're a cheap guy. You
ought to be President of a Woman's Sewing Society. You can do nothing
but make an aristocracy of stool-pigeons." I gave up work after six
months because of my health, which had been bad for a long time, but
now grew worse. My rapid life on the outside, my bad habits, and my
experience in prison were beginning to tell on me badly. There was a
general breaking-down of my system. I was so weak and coughed so badly
that they thought I was dying. The doctors said I had consumption and
transferred me to the prison hospital, where I had better air and food
and was far more comfortable in body but terribly low in my mind. I
was so despondent that I did not even "fan my face" (turn my head away
to avoid having the outside world become familiar with my features)
when visitors went through the hospital. This was an unusual degree
of carelessness for a professional gun. One reason I was so gloomy was
that I was now unable to get hold of my darling hop.

I was so despondent in the hospital that I really thought I should soon
become an angel; and my environment was not very cheerful, for several
convicts died on beds near me. Whenever anybody was going to die,
every convict in the prison knew about it, for the attendants would
put three screens around the dying man's bed. There were about twenty
beds in the long room, and near me was an old boyhood pal, Tommy Ward,
in the last stages of consumption. Tommy and I often talked together
about death, and neither of us was afraid of it. I saw a dozen men die
during my experience in state prisons and I never heard one of them
clamor for a clergyman. Tommy was doing life for murder, and ought to
have been afraid of death, if anyone was. But when he was about to die,
he sent word to me to come to his bedside, and after a word or two of
good-bye he went into his agony. The last words he ever said were: "Ah,
give me a big Peter (narcotic)." He did not receive the last rites of
the Catholic Church, and his ignorant family refused to bury him. So
Tommy's cell number was put on the tombstone, if it could be called
such, which marked his grave in the little burying ground outside the
prison walls.

Indeed, it is not easy to throw the religious con (confidence game)
into a convict. Often, while we were in chapel, the dominie would tell
us that life was short; but hardly one of the six or seven hundred
criminals who were listening believed the assertion. They felt that
the few years they were doing for the good of their country were as
long as centuries. If there were a few "cons" who tried the cheerful
dodge, they did not deceive anybody, for their brother guns knew that
they were sore in their hearts because they had been caught without
fall-money, and so had to serve a few million years in stir.

After I got temporarily better in health and had left the hospital,
I began to read Lavater on physiognomy more industriously than ever.
With his help I became a close student of faces, and I learned to tell
the thoughts and emotions of my fellow convicts. I watched them at
work and when their faces flushed I knew they were thinking of Her.
Sometimes I would ask a man how She was, and he would look confused,
and perhaps angry because his day dream was disturbed. And how the
men used to look at women visitors who went through the shops! It was
against the rules to look at the inhabitants of the Upper World who
visited stir, but I noticed that after women visitors had been there
the convicts were generally more cheerful. Even a momentary glimpse of
those who lived within the pale of civilization warmed their hearts.
After the ladies had gone the convicts would talk about them for hours.
Many of their remarks were vulgar and licentious, but some of the men
were broken down with feeling and would say soft things. They would
talk about their mothers and sweethearts and eventually drift back on
their ill-spent lives. How often I thought of the life behind me! Then
I would look at the men about me, some of whom had stolen millions and
had international reputations--but all discouraged now, broken down in
health, penniless and friendless. If a man died in stir he was just a
cadaver for the dissecting table, nothing more. The end fitted in well
with his misspent life. These reflections would bring us around again
to good resolutions.

People who have never broken the law--I beg pardon, who were never
caught--can not understand how a man who has once served in stir will
take another chance and go back and suffer the same tortures. A society
lady I once met said she thought criminals who go on grafting, when
they know what the result will be, must be lacking in imagination. I
replied to her: "Madam, why do you lace tight and indulge in social
dissipation even after you know it is bad for the health? You know it
is a strain on your nerves, but you do it. Is it because you have no
imagination? That which we all dread most--death--we all defy."

The good book says that all men shall earn their bread by the sweat
of their brow, but we grafters make of ourselves an exception, with
that overweening egotism and brash desire to do others with no return,
which is natural to everybody. Only when the round-up comes, either in
the sick bed or in the toils, we often can not bear our burdens and
look around to put the blame on someone else. If a man is religious,
why should he not drop it on Jesus? Man! How despicable at times! How
ungallant to his ancestor of the softer sex! From time immemorial he
has exclaimed: "Only for her, the deceiving one, my better half, I
should be perfect."

Convicts, particularly if they are broken in health, often become
like little children. It is not unusual for them to grow dependent on
dumb pets, which they smuggle into prison by means of the Underground
Tunnel. The man in stir who has a white mouse or robin is envied by
the other convicts, for he has something to love. If an artist could
only witness the affection that is centered on a mouse or dog, if he
could only depict the emotions in the hard face of the criminal, what a
story! I had a white rat, which I had obtained with difficulty through
the Underground. I used to put him up my sleeve, and he would run all
over my body, he was so tame. He would stand on his hind legs or lie
down at my command. Sometimes, when I was lonely and melancholy, I
loved this rat like a human being.

In May, 1896, when I still had about a year to serve on my second
term, a rumor circulated through the prison that some of the Salvation
Army were going to visit the stir. The men were greatly excited at
the prospect of a break in the dreary routine. I imagined that a big
burly Salvationist, beating a drum, with a few very thin Salvation
lasses, would march through the prison yard. I was dumbfounded by the
reality, for I saw enter the Protestant chapel, which was crowded with
eager convicts, two delicate, pretty women. No actor or actress ever
got a warmer welcome than that given to Mrs. Booth and her secretary,
Captain Jennie Hughes. After the clapping of hands and cheering had
ceased, Mrs. Booth arose and made a speech, which was listened to in
deep silence. Certainly she was eloquent, and what she said impressed
many an old gun. She was the first visitor who ever promised practical
Christianity and eventually carried out the promise. She promised to
build homes for us after our release; and in many cases, she did, and
we respect her. She spoke for an hour, and afterwards granted private
interviews, and many of the convicts told her all their troubles, and
she promised to take care of their old mothers, daughters and wives.

Before leaving the chapel, she sang: "O Lord, let the waves of
thy crimson sea roll over me." I did not see how such a pretty,
intelligent, refined and educated woman could say such a bloody thing,
but she probably had forgotten what the words really meant. At any
rate, she is a good woman, for she tried hard to have the Parole Bill
passed. That bill has recently become a law, and it is a good one, in
my opinion; but it has one fault. It only effects first-timers. The
second and third timers, who went to Sing Sing years ago when there was
contract labor and who worked harder than any laborer in New York City,
ought to have a chance, too. Show a little confidence in any man, even
though he be a third-timer, as I have been, and he will be a better man
for it.

After the singing, on that first morning of Mrs. Booth's visit,
she asked those convicts who wanted to lead a better life to stand
up. About seventy men out of the five or six hundred arose, and
the others remained seated. I was not among those who stood up. I
never met anybody who could touch me in that way. I don't believe in
instantaneous Christianity. I knew half a dozen of the men who stood
up, and they were not very strong mentally. I often wondered what the
motives were that moved the men in that manner. Man is a social animal,
and Mrs. Booth was a magnetic woman. After I had heard her speak once,
I knew that. She had a good personal appearance and one other requisite
that appealed strongly to those who were in our predicament--her sex.
Who could entirely resist the pleadings of a pretty woman with large
black eyes?

Certainly I was moved by this sincere and attractive woman, but my
own early religious training had made me suspicious of the whole
business. Whenever anybody tried to reform me through Christianity I
always thought of that powerful Celt who used to rush at me in Sunday
school with a hickory stick and shout "Who made you?" And I don't think
that most of the men who profess religion in prison are sincere. They
usually want to curry favor with the authorities, or get "staked" after
they leave stir. One convict, whom I used to call "The Great American
Identifier," because he used to graft by claiming to be a relative of
everybody that died, from California to Maine and weeping over the dead
body, was the worst hypocrite I ever saw--a regular Uriah Heep. He was
one of Mrs. Booth's converts and stood up in chapel. After she went
away he said to me: "What a blessing has been poured into my soul since
I heard Mrs. Booth." Another hypocrite said to me on the same occasion:
"I don't know what I would do only for Mrs. Booth. She has lightened
my weary burdens." Now, I would not trust either of those men with a
box of matches; and so I said to the Great American Identifier: "You
are the meanest, most despicable thief in the whole stir. I'd respect
you if you had the nerve to rob a live man, but you always stole from
a cadaver." He was horrified at my language and began to talk of a
favorite subject with him--his wealthy relatives.

Some of these converts were not hypocrites, but I don't think even they
received any good from their conversion. Some people go to religion
because they have nothing else to distract their thoughts, and the
subject sometimes is a mania with them. The doctors say that there is
only one incurable mental disease--religious insanity. In the eyes
of the reformers Mrs. Booth does a great thing by making some of us
converts, but experts in mental diseases declare that it is very bad
to excite convicts to such a pitch. Many of the weak-minded among them
lose their balance and become insane through these violent religious

I did not meet so many of the big guns on my second term as on my
first; but, of course, I came across many of my old pals and formed
some new acquaintances. It was on this term that four of us used to
have what I called a tenement house oratory talk whenever we worked
together in the halls. Some of us were lucky enough at times to serve
as barbers, hall-men and runners to and from the shops, and we used to
gather together in the halls and amuse ourselves with conversation.
Dickey, Mull, Mickey and I became great pals in this way. Dickey was
a desperate river pirate who would not stand a roast from anybody,
but was well liked. Mull was one of the best principled convicts I
ever knew in my life. He was quiet, delicate and manly, and opposed to
abusing young boys, yet if you did him an injury he would cut the liver
out of you. He was a good fellow. Mickey was what I called a tenement
house philosopher. He'd stick his oar into every bit of talk that was
started. One day the talk began on Tammany Hall and went something like

"All crooked officials," said Mull, "including all of them, ought to be
railroaded to Sing Sing."

_Dickey_: "Through their methods the county offices are rotten from the
judge to the policeman."

_Mull_: "I agree with you."

_Mickey_: "Ah, wat's the matter wid Tammany? My old man never voted any
other ticket. Neither did yours. When you get into stir you act like
college professors. Why don't you practice what you spout? I always
voted the Tammany ticket--five or six times every election day. How is
it I never got a long bit?"

_Mull_: "How many times, Mickey, have you been in stir?"

_Mickey_: "This is the fourth, but the highest I got was four years."

_Dickey_: "You never done anything big enough to get four."

_Mickey_: "I didn't, eh? You have been hollering that you are innocent,
and get twenty years for piracy. I only get four, but I am guilty every
time. There is a big difference between that and twenty, aint it?"

Mull slapped Mickey on the back and said: "Never mind. You will get
yours yet on the installment plan." Then, turning to me, Mull asked:
"Jim, don't you think that if everything was square and on the level
we'd stand a better chance?"

"No," I replied. "In the first place we have not reached the
millennium. In the second place they would devise some legal scheme to
keep a third timer the rest of his natural days. I know a moccasin who
would move heaven and earth to have such a bill passed, and he is one
of the crookedest philanthropists in America to-day. I am a grafter,
and I believe that the present administration is all right. I know that
I can stay out of prison as long as I save my fall-money. When I blow
that in I ought to go to prison. Every gun who is capable of stealing,
knows that if he puts by enough money he can not only keep out of stir
but can beat his way into heaven. I'm arguing as a professional thief."

This was too much for Mickey, who said: "Why don't you talk United
States and not be springing whole leaves out of a dictionary?"

Just then Big Jim came up. He had heard what I said and he joined
in: "You know why I got the tenth of a century? I had thousands in my
pocket and went to buy some silk underwear at a haberdasher's in New
York. But it seemed to me a waste of good coin to buy them, so I stole
a dozen pair of silk stockings. They tried to arrest me, I shot, and
got ten years. I always did despise a petty thief, but I never felt
like kicking him till then. Ten years for a few stockings! Can you
blame the judge? I didn't. Even a judge admires a good thief. If I had
robbed a bank I'd never have got such a long bit. The old saying is
true: Kill one man and you will be hanged. Kill sixteen, and the United
States Government is likely to pension you."

The tenement-house philosopher began to object again, when the guard,
as usual, came along to stop our pleasant conversation. He thought we
were abusing our privileges.

It was during this bit that I met the man with the white teeth, as he
is now known among his friends. I will call him Patsy, and tell his
story, for it is an unusual one. He was a good deal older man than I
and was one of the old-school burglars, and a good one. They were a
systematic lot, and would shoot before they stood the collar; but they
were gentlemanly grafters and never abused anybody. The first thing
Patsy's mob did after entering a house was to round up all the inmates
and put them into one room. There one burglar would stick them up
with a revolver, while the others went through the house. On a fatal
occasion Patsy took the daughter of the house, a young girl of eighteen
or nineteen, in his arms and carried her down stairs into the room
where the rest of the family had been put by the other grafters. As he
carried the girl down stairs, she said: "Mr. Burglar, don't harm me."
Patsy was masked, all but his mouth, and when he said: "You are as safe
as if you were in your father's arms," she saw his teeth, which were
remarkably fine and white. Patsy afterwards said that the girl was not
a bit alarmed, and was such a perfect coquette that she noticed his
good points. The next morning she told the police that one of the bad
men had a beautiful set of teeth. The flymen rounded up half a dozen
grafters on suspicion, among them Patsy; and no sooner did he open his
mouth, than he was recognized, and settled for a long bit. Poor Patsy
has served altogether about nineteen years, but now he has squared
it, and is a waiter in a Bowery saloon, more content with his twelve
dollars a week than he used to be with his thousands. I often go around
and have a glass with him. He is now a quiet, sober fellow, and his
teeth are as fine as ever.

One day a man named "Muir," a mean, sure-thing grafter, came to the
stir on a visit to some of his acquaintances. He had never done a bit
himself, although he was a notorious thief. But he liked to look at the
misfortunes of others, occasionally. On this visit he got more than he
bargained for. He came to the clothing department where Mike, who had
grafted with Muir in New York, and I, were at work. Muir went up to
Mike and offered him a bill. Mike threw it in Muir's face and called
him--well, the worst thing known in Graftdom. "If it wasn't for you,"
he said, "I wouldn't be doing this bit."

There are several kinds of sure-thing grafters. Some are crooked
gamblers, some are plain stool-pigeons, some are discouraged thieves
who continue to graft but take no risks. Muir was one of the meanest
of the rats that I have known, yet in a way, he was handy to the
professional gun. He had somebody "right" at headquarters and could
generally get protection for his mob; but he would always throw the mob
over if it was to his advantage. He and two other house-work men robbed
a senator's home, and such a howl went up that the police offered all
manner of protection to the grafter who would tip them off to who got
the stuff. Grafters who work with the coppers don't want it known among
those of their own kind, for they would be ostracized. If they do a
dirty trick they try to throw it on someone else who would not stoop to
such a thing. Muir was a diplomat, and tipped off the Central Office,
and those who did the trick, all except Tom and Muir, were nailed. A
few nights after that the whisper was passed among guns of both sexes,
who had gathered at a resort up-town, that somebody had squealed. The
muttered curses meant that some Central Office man had by wireless
telegraphy put the under world next that somebody had tipped off the
police. But it was not Muir that the hard names were said against: the
Central Office man took care of that. With low cunning Muir had had the
rumor circulated that it was Tom who had thrown them down, and Tommy
was ostracized.

I knew Muir and I knew Tommy, and I was sure that the latter was
innocent. Some time after Tom had been cut by the rest of the gang I
saw Muir drinking with two Central Office detectives, in a well-known
resort, and I was convinced that he was the rat. His personal
appearance bore out my suspicion. He had a weak face, with no fight in
it. He was quiet of speech, always smiling, and as soft and noiseless
as the animal called the snake. He had a narrow, hanging lip, small
nose, large ears, and characterless, protruding eyes. The squint look
from under the eye-brows, and the quick jerk of the hand to the chin,
showed without doubt that he possessed the low cunning too of that
animal called the rat. Partly through my influence, Muir gradually got
the reputation of being a sure-thing grafter, but he was so sleek that
he could always find some grafter to work with him. Pals with whom he
fell out, always shortly afterwards came to harm. That was the case
with Big Mike, who spat in Muir's face, when the latter visited him in
Sing Sing. When Muir did pickpocket work, he never dipped himself, but
acted as a stall. This was another sure-thing dodge. Muir never did a
bit in stir because he was of more value to headquarters than a dozen
detectives. The fact that he never did time was another thing that
gradually made the gang suspicious of him. Therefore, at the present
time he is of comparatively little value to the police force, and may
be settled before long. I hope so.

One of the meanest things Muir ever did was to a poor old "dago"
grafter, a queer-maker (counterfeiter). The Italian was putting
out unusually good stuff, both paper and metal, and the avaricious
Muir thought he saw a good chance to get a big bit of money from
the dago. He put up a plan with two Central Office men to bleed the
counterfeiter. Then he went to the dago and said he had got hold of
some big buyers from the West who would buy five thousand dollars worth
of the "queer." They met the supposed buyers, who were in reality
the two Central Office men, at a little saloon. After a talk the
detectives came out in their true colors, showed their shields, and
demanded one thousand dollars. The dago looked at Muir, who gave him
the tip to pay the one thousand dollars. The Italian, however, thinking
Muir was on the level, misunderstood the sign, and did not pay. The
outraged detectives took the Italian to police headquarters, but did
not show up the queer at first; they still wanted their one thousand
dollars. So the dago was remanded and remanded, getting a hearing every
twenty-four hours, but there was never enough evidence. Finally the
poor fellow got a lawyer, and then the Central Office men gave up the
game, and produced the queer as evidence. The United States authorities
prosecuted the case, and the Italian was given three years and a half.
After he was released he met Muir on the East Side, and tried to kill
him with a knife. That is the only way Muir will ever get his deserts.
A man like him very seldom dies in state's prison, or is buried in
potter's field. He often becomes a gin-mill keeper and captain of his
election district, for he understands how to control the repeaters who
give Tammany Hall such large majorities on election day in Manhattan.

It was on this second bit in prison, as I have said in another place,
that the famous "fence" operated in stir. I knew him well. He was a
clever fellow, and I often congratulated him on his success with the
keepers; for he was no stool-pigeon and got his pull legitimately. He
was an older grafter than I and remembered well Madame Mandelbaum, the
Jewess, one of the best fences, before my time, in New York City. At
the corner of Clinton and Rivington Streets there stood until a few
years ago a small dry goods and notions store, which was the scene of
transactions which many an old gun likes to talk about. What plannings
of great robberies took place there, in Madame Mandelbaum's store!
She would buy any kind of stolen property, from an ostrich feather
to hundreds and thousands of dollars' worth of gems. The common
shop-lifter and the great cracksman alike did business at this famous
place. Some of the noted grafters who patronized her store were Jimmy
Hope, Shang Draper, Billy Porter, Sheenie Mike, Red Leary, Johnnie
Irving, Jack Walsh, alias John the Mick, and a brainy planner of big
jobs, English George.

Madame Mandelbaum had two country residences in Brooklyn where she
invited her friends, the most famous thieves in two continents. English
George, who used to send money to his son, who was being educated in
England, was a frequent visitor, and used to deposit with her all
his valuables. She had two beautiful daughters, one of whom became
infatuated with George, who did not return her love. Later, she and
her daughters, after they became wealthy, tried to rise in the world
and shake their old companions. The daughters were finely dressed and
well-educated, and the Madame hunted around for respectable husbands
for them. Once a bright reporter wrote a play, in which the central
character was Madame Mandelbaum. She read about it in the newspapers
and went, with her two daughters, to see it. They occupied a private
box, and were gorgeously dressed. The old lady was very indignant when
she saw the woman who was supposed to be herself appear on the stage.
The actress, badly dressed, and made up with a hooked nose, was jeered
by the audience. After the play, Madame Mandelbaum insisted on seeing
the manager of the theatre. She showed him her silks and her costly
diamonds and then said: "Look at me. I am Madame Mandelbaum. Does that
huzzy look anything like me?" Pointing to her daughters she continued:
"What must my children think of such an impersonation? Both of them are
better dressed and have more money and education than that strut, who
is only a moment's plaything for bankers and brokers!"

In most ways, of course, my life in prison during the second term was
similar to what it was on my first term. Books and opium were my main
pleasures. If it had not been for them and for the thoughts about life
and about my fellow convicts which they led me to form, the monotony
of the prison routine would have driven me mad. My health was by that
time badly shattered. I was very nervous and could seldom sleep without
a drug.

My moral health was far worse, too, than it had been on my first term.
Then I had made strong efforts to overcome the opium habit, and laid
plans to give up grafting. Then I had some decent ambitions, and did
not look upon myself as a confirmed criminal; whereas on the second
term, I had grown to take a hopeless view of my case. I began to feel
that I could not reform, no matter how hard I tried. It seemed to
me, too, that it was hardly worth while now to make an effort, for I
thought my health was worse than it really was and that I should die
soon, with no opportunity to live the intelligent life I had learned to
admire through my books. I still made good resolutions, and some effort
to quit the hop, but they were weak in comparison with the efforts
I had made during my first term. More and more it seemed to me that
I belonged in the under world for good, and that I might as well go
through it to the end. Stealing was my profession. It was all I knew
how to do, and I didn't believe that anybody was interested enough in
me to teach me anything else. On the other hand, what I had learned on
the Rocky Path would never leave me. I was sure of my knowledge of the
technique of graft, and I knew that a sucker was born every minute.


_On the Outside Again._

My time on the second bit was drawing to a close. I was eager to get
out, of course, but I knew way down in my mind, that it would be only
to graft again. I made a resolution that I would regain my health and
gather a little fall-money before I started in hard again on the Rocky

On the day of my release, Warden Sage called me to his office and
talked to me like a friend. He did not know that I was a second timer,
or he might not have been so kind to me. He was a humane man, and in
spite of his belief in the stool-pigeon system, he introduced good
things into Sing Sing. He improved the condition of the cells and we
were not confined there so much as we had been before he came. On my
first term many a man staid for days in his cell without ever going
out; one man was confined twenty-eight days on bread and water. But
under Mr. Sage punishments were not so severe. He even used to send
delicacies to men chained up in the Catholic Chapel.

I should like to say a good word for Head Keeper Connoughton, too.
He was not generally liked, for he was a strict disciplinarian, but I
think he was one of the best keepers in the country. He was stern, but
not brutal, and when a convict was sick, Mr. Connoughton was very kind.
He was not deceived by the fake lunatics, and used to say: "If you go
to the mad-house, you are liable to become worse. If you are all right
in the morning I will give you a job out in the air." Although Mr.
Connoughton had had little schooling he was an intelligent man.

I believe the best thing the community can do to reform criminals
is to have a more intelligent class of keepers. As a rule they are
ignorant, brutal and stupid, under-paid and inefficient; yet what is
more important for the State's welfare than an intelligent treatment
of convicts? Short terms, too, are better than long ones, for when
the criminal is broken down in health and made fearful, suspicious and
revengeful, what can you expect from him? However, in the mood I was in
at the end of my second term, I did not believe that anything was any
good as a preventive of crime. I knew that when I got on the outside I
wouldn't think of what might happen to me. I knew that I couldn't or
wouldn't carry a hod. What ambition I had left was to become a more
successful crook than I had ever been before.

Warden Sage gave me some good advice and then I left Sing Sing for New
York. I did not get the pleasure from going out again that had been
so keen after my first bit. My eye-sight was failing now, and I was
sick and dull. My only thought was to get back to my old haunts, and
I drank several large glasses of whiskey at Sing Sing town, to help
me on my way. I intended to go straight home, as I felt very ill, to
my father and mother, but I didn't see them for several days after my
return to New York. The first thing I did in the city was to deliver
some messages from my fellow convicts to their relatives. My third
visit for that purpose was to the home of a fine young fellow I knew
in stir. It was a large family and included a married sister and her
children. They were glad to hear from Bobby, and I talked to them for
some time about him, when the husband of the married sister came home,
and began to quarrel with his wife. He accused her of having strange
men in the house, meaning me. The younger brother and the rest of the
family got back at the brother-in-law and gave him better than they
got. The little brother fired a lamp at him, and he yelled "murder".
The police surrounded the house and took us all to the station-house
in the patrol wagon. And so I spent the first night after my return in
confinement. It seemed natural, however. In the morning we were taken
before the magistrate, and the mother and sister testified that I had
taken them a message from their boy, and had committed no offense.
The brother-in-law blurted out that he had married into a family of
thieves, and that I had just returned from Sing Sing. I was discharged,
but fined five dollars. Blessed are the peacemakers,--but not in my

I passed the next day looking for old girls and pals, but I found few
of them. Many were dead and others were in stir or had sunk so far
down into the under world that even I could not find them. I was only
about thirty-two years old, but I had already a long acquaintance with
the past. Like all grafters I had lived rapidly, crowding, while at
liberty, several days into one. When I got back from my second bit
the greater part of my life seemed to be made up of memories of other
days. Some of the old pals I did meet again had squared it, others were
"dead" (out of the game) and some had degenerated into mere bums.

There are several different classes of "dead ones":

1. The man who has lost his nerve. He generally becomes a whiskey
fiend. If he becomes hopelessly a soak the better class of guns shun
him, for he is no good to work with. He will not keep an engagement, or
will turn up at the place of meeting too late or too early. A grafter
must be exactly on time. It is as bad to be too early as too late, for
he must not be seen hanging around the place of meeting. Punctuality is
more of a virtue in the under world than it is in respectable society.
The slackest people I know to keep their appointments, are the honest
ones; or grafters who have become whiskey fiends. These latter usually
wind up with rot-gut booze and are sometimes seen selling songs on the

2. The man who becomes a copper. He is known as a stool-pigeon, and is
detested and feared by all grafters. Nobody will go with him. Sometimes
he becomes a Pinkerton man, and is a useful member of society. When
he loses his grip with the upper world, he belongs to neither, for the
grafters won't look at him.

3. The man who knows a trade. This grafter often "squares" it, is apt
to marry and remain honest. His former pals, who are still grafters,
treat him kindly, for they know he is not a rat. They know, too, that
he is a bright and intelligent man, and that it is well to keep on the
right side of him. Such a man has often educated himself in stir, and,
when he squares it, is apt to join a political club, and is called
in by the leader to help out in an election, for he possesses some
brains. The gun is apt to make him an occasional present, for he can
help the grafter, in case of a fall, because of his connection with
the politicians. This kind of "dead one" often keeps his friends the
grafters, while in stir, next to the news in the city.

4. The gun who is _supposed_ to square it. This grafter has got a
bunch of money together and sees a good chance to open a gin-mill,
or a Raines Law hotel, or a gambling joint. He knows how to take care
of the repeaters, and is handy about election time. In return he gets
protection for his illegal business. He is a go-between, and is on good
terms with coppers and grafters. He supplies the grafter who has plenty
of fall-money with bondsmen, makes his life in the Tombs easy, and gets
him a good job while in stir. This man is supposed to be "dead," but he
is really very much alive. Often a copper comes to him and asks for the
whereabouts of some grafter or other. He will reply, perhaps: "I hear
he is in Europe, or in the West." The copper looks wise and imagines he
is clever. The "dead" one sneers, and, like a wise man, laughs in his
sleeve; for he is generally in communication with the man looked for.

5. The sure-thing grafter. He is a man who continues to steal, but
wants above everything to keep out of stir, where he has spent many
years. So he goes back to the petty pilfering he did as a boy. General
Brace and the Professor belonged to this class of "dead ones." The
second night I spent on the Bowery after my return from my second
bit I met Laudanum Joe, who is another good example of this kind of
"dead one." At one time he made thousands of dollars, but now he is
discouraged and nervous. He looked bad (poorly dressed) but was glad to
see me.

"How is graft?" he asked.

"I have left the Rocky Path," I replied, thinking I would throw a few
"cons" into him. "I am walking straight. Not in the religious line,

He smiled, which was tantamount to saying that I lied.

"What are you working at?" he asked.

"I am looking for a job," I replied.

"Jimmy, is it true, that you are pipes (crazy)? I heard you got buggy
(crazy) in your last bit."

"Joe," I replied, "you know I was never bothered above the ears."

"If you are going to carry the hod," he said, "you might as well go to
the pipe-house, and let them cure you. Have you given up smoking, too?"
he continued.

He meant the hop. I conned him again and said: "Yes." He showed the old
peculiar, familiar grin, and said:

"Say, I have no coin. Take me with you and give me a smoke."

I tried to convince him that there was nothing in it, but he was a

"What are _you_ doing, Joe?" I asked.

"O, just getting a few shillings," he replied, meaning that he was

"Why don't you give up the booze?" I asked.

I had made a break, for he said, quickly:

"Why? Because I don't wear a Piccadilly collar?"

All grafters of any original calibre are super-sensitive, to a point
very near insanity. Laudanum Joe thought I had reference to his dress,
which was very bum.

"Joe," I said, "I never judge a man by his clothes, especially one that
I know."

"Jimmy," he said, "the truth is I can't stand another long bit in stir.
I do a little petty pilfering that satisfies my wants--a cup of tea,
plenty of booze, and a little hop. If I fall I only go to the workhouse
for a couple of months. The screws know I have seen better days and I
can get a graft and my booze while there. If I aint as prosperous as I
was once, why not dream I'm a millionaire?"

Some grafters who have been prosperous at one time fall even lower
than Laudanum Joe. When they get fear knocked into them and can't
do without whiskey they sink lower and lower. Hungry Bob is another
example. I grafted with him as a boy, but when I met him on the Bowery
after my second bit I hardly knew him, and at first he failed to
recognize me entirely. I got him into a gin-mill, however, and he told
how badly treated he had been just before we met. He had gone into a
saloon kept by an old pal of his who had risen in the world, and asked
him for fifteen cents to buy a bed in a lodging-house. "Go long, you
pan-handler (beggar)," said his old friend. Poor Bob was badly cut up
about it, and talked about ingratitude for a long time. But he had his
lodging money, for a safe-cracker who knew Hungry Bob when he was one
of the gayest grafters in town, happened to be in the saloon, and he
gave the "bum" fifteen cents for old times sake.

"How is it, Bob," I said to him, "that you are not so good as you were?"

"You want to know what put me on the bum?" he answered. "Well, it's
this way. I can't trust nobody, and I have to graft alone. That's one
thing. Then, too, I like the booze too much, and when I'm sitting down
I can't get up and go out and hustle the way I used to."

Hungry Bob and I were sitting in a resort for sailors and hard-luck
grafters in the lower Bowery, when a Sheenie I knew came in.

"Hello, Jim," he said.

"How's graft, Mike?" I replied.

"Don't mention it."

"What makes you look so glum?"

"I'm only after being turned out of police court this morning."

"What was the rap, Mike?"

"I'm looking too respectable. They asked me where I got the clothes. I
told them I was working, which was true. I have been a waiter for three
months. The flymen took me to headquarters. I was gathered in to make
a reputation for those two shoo-flies. Whenever I square it and go to
work I am nailed regularly, because my mug is in the Hall of Fame. When
I am arrested, I lose my job every time. Nobody knows you now, Jim. You
could tear the town open."

I made a mental resolution to follow Mike's advice very soon--as soon
as my health was a little better. Just then Jack, a boyhood pal of
mine, who knew the old girls, Sheenie Annie and the rest, came in. I
was mighty glad to see him, and said so to him.

"I guess you've got the advantage of me, bloke," was his reply.

"Don't you remember Jimmy the Kid, ten years ago, in the sixth?" I
jogged his memory with the names of a few pals of years ago, and when
he got next, he said:

"I wouldn't have known you, Jim. I thought you were dead many years ago
in stir. I heard it time and time again. I thought you were past and

After a short talk, I said:

"Where's Sheenie Annie?"

"Dead," he replied.

"Mamie?" I asked.

"Dead," he replied.


"In stir."

"Swedish Emmy?"

"She's married."

"Any good Molls now? I'm only after getting back from stir and am not
next," I said.

"T'aint like old times, Jim," he said. "The Molls won't steal now. They
aint got brains enough. They are not innocent. They are ignorant. All
they know how to do is the badger."

I went with Jack to his house, where he had an opium layout. There
we found several girls and grafters, some smoking hop, some with the
subtle cigarette between their lips. I was introduced to an English
grafter, named Harry. He said he was bloomin' glad to see me. He was
just back from the West, he said, but I thought it was the pen. He
began to abuse the States, and I said:

"You duffer, did you ever see such pretty girls as here? Did you ever
wear a collar and tie in the old country?"

He grew indignant and shouted: "'Oly Cobblestones! In this ---- country
I have two hundred bucks (dollars) saved up every time, but I never
spend a cent of it. 'Ow to 'Ell am I better off here? I'm only stealin'
for certain mugs (policemen) and fer those 'igher up, so they can buy
real estate. They enjoy their life in this country and Europe off my
'ard earned money and the likes of me. They die as respected citizens.
I die in the work'us as an outcast. Don't be prating about your ----

As soon as I had picked out a good mob to join I began to graft again.
Two of my new pals were safe-blowers, and we did that graft, and
day-work, as well as the old reliable dipping. But I wasn't much at
the graft during the seven months I remained on the outside. My health
continued bad, and I did not feel like "jumping out" so much as I had
done formerly. I did not graft except when my funds were very low, and
so, of course, contrary to my plans, I saved no fall-money. I had a
girl, an opium lay-out and a furnished room, where I used to stay most
of the time, smoking with pals, who, like myself, had had the keen edge
of their ambition taken off. I had a strange longing for music at that
time; I suppose because my nerves were weaker than they used to be. I
kept a number of musical instruments in my room, and used to sing and
dance to amuse my visitors.

During these seven months that I spent mainly in my room, I used to
reflect and philosophize a lot, partly under the influence of opium.
I would moralize to my girl or to a friend, or commune with my own
thoughts. I often got in a state of mind where everything seemed a joke
to me. I often thought of myself as a spectator watching the play of
life. I observed my visitors and their characteristics and after they
had left for the evening loved to size them up in words for Lizzie.

My eyes were so bad that I did not read much, but I took it out in
epigrams and wise sayings. I will give a few specimens of the kind of
philosophy I indulged in.

"You always ought to end a speech with a sneer or a laconic remark. It
is food for thought. The listener will pause and reflect."

"It is not what you make, but what you save, that counts. It isn't
the big cracksman who gets along. It is the unknown dip who saves his

"To go to Germany to learn the language is as bad as being in stir for
ten years."

"Jump out and be a man and don't join the Salvation Army."

"Always say to the dip who says he wants to square it; Well, what's
your other graft?"

"When a con gets home he is apt to find his sweetheart married, and a
'Madonna of the wash tubs.'"

"He made good money and was a swell grafter, but he got stuck on a
Tommy that absorbed his attention, and then he lost his punctuality and
went down and out."

"Do a criminal a bodily injury and he may forget. Wound his feelings
and he will never forgive."

"Most persons have seen a cow or a bull with a board put around its
head in such a way that the animal can see nothing. It is a mode of
punishment. Soon the poor beast will go mad, if the board is not
removed. What chance has the convict, confined in a dark cell for
years, to keep his senses? He suffers from astigmatism of the mind."

"I am as much entitled to an opinion as any other quack on the face of
the earth."

"General Grant is one of my heroes. He was a boy at fifteen. He was
a boy when he died. A boy is loyalty personified. General Grant had
been given a task to do, and like a boy, he did it. He was one of our
greatest men, and belongs with Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Robert

"Why don't we like the books we liked when we were boys? It is not
because our judgment is better, but because we have a dream of our own
now, and want authors to dream along the same lines."

"The only gun with principles is the minor grafter."

"The weakest man in the universe is he who falls from a good position
and respectable society into the world of graft. Forgers and defaulters
are generally of this class. A professional gun, who has been a thief
all his life, is entitled to more respect."

"In writing a book on crime, one ought to have in mind to give the
public a truthful account of a thief's life, his crimes, habits,
thoughts, emotions, vices and virtues, and how he lives in prison and
out. I believe this ought to be done, and the man who does it well must
season his writings with pathos, humor, sarcasm, tragedy, and thus give
the real life of the grafter."

"Sympathy with a grafter who is trying to square it is a tonic to his
better self."

"The other day I was with a reporter and a society lady who were
seeing the town. The lady asked me how I would get her diamond pin.
It was fastened in such a way that to get it, strong arm work would be
necessary. I explained how I would "put the mug on her" while my husky
pal went through her. 'But,' she said, 'that would hurt me.' As if the
grafters cared! What a selfish lady to be always thinking of herself!"

"Life is the basis of philosophy. Philosophy is an emanation from our
daily routine. After a convict has paced his cell a few thousand times
he sometimes has an idea. Philosophy results from life put through a
mental process, just as opium, when subjected to a chemical experiment,
produces laudanum. Why, therefore, is not life far stronger than a

"I believe in platonic love, for it has been in my own life. A woman
always wants love, whether she is eighteen or eighty--real love. Many
is the time I have seen the wistful look in some woman's eye when she
saw that it was only good fellowship or desire on my part."

"In this age of commerce there is only one true friendship, the kind
that comes through business."

"An old adage has it that all things come to him who waits. Yes:
poverty, old age and death. The successful man is he who goes and gets

"If thy brother assaults you, do not weep, nor pray for him, nor turn
the other cheek, but assail him with the full strength of your muscles,
for man at his best is not lovable, nor at his worst, detestable."

"There is more to be got in Germany, judging from what Dutch Lonzo
used to say, than in England or America, only the Dutchmen are too
thick-headed to find it out. A first class gun in Germany would be
ranked as a ninth-rater here."

"Grafters are like the rest of the world in this: they always attribute
bad motives to a kind act."

"From flim-flam (returning short change) to burglary is but a step,
provided one has the nerve."

"Why would a woman take to him (a sober, respectable man but lacking in
temperament) unless she wanted a good home?"

"If there is anything detestable, it is a grafter who will steal an
overcoat in the winter time."

"'Look for the woman.' A fly-cop gets many a tip from some tid-bit in
whom a grafter has reposed confidence."

       *       *       *       *       *

I did not do, as I have said, any more grafting than was necessary
during these seven months of liberty; but I observed continually,
living in an opium dream, and my pals were more and more amusing to me.
When I thought about myself and my superior intelligence, I was sad,
but I thought about myself as little as possible. I preferred to let
my thoughts dwell on others, who I saw were a a fine line of cranks and

Somewhere in the eighties, before I went to stir, there was a synagogue
at what is now 101 Hester Street. The synagogue was on the first floor,
and on the ground floor was a gin-mill, run by an ex-Central Office
man. Many pickpockets used to hang out there, and they wanted to drive
the Jews out of the first floor, so that they could lay out a faro game
there. So they swore and carried on most horribly on Saturdays, when
the rabbi was preaching, and finally got possession of the premises.
Only a block away from this old building was a famous place for dips
to get "books", in the old days. Near by was Ridley's dry-goods store,
in which there were some cash-girls who used to tip us off to who had
the books, and were up to the graft themselves. They would yell "cash"
and bump up against the sucker, while we went through him. The Jews
were few in those days, and the Irish were in the majority. On the
corner of Allen and Hester Streets stood the saloon of a well-known
politician. Now a Jew has a shop there. Who would think that an Isaacs
would supersede a Finnigan?

At the gin-mill on Hester Street, I used to know a boy dip named Buck.
When I got back from my second bit I found he had developed into a
box-man, and had a peculiar disposition, which exists outside, as well
as inside, Graftdom. He had one thousand eight hundred dollars in the
bank, and a fine red front (gold watch and chain), but he was not a
good fellow. He used to invite three or four guns to have a drink, and
would order Hennessy's brandy, which cost twenty cents a glass. After
we had had our drinks he would search himself and only find perhaps
twenty cents in his clothes. He got into me several times before I
"blew". One time, after he had ordered drinks, he began the old game,
said he thought he had eighteen dollars with him, and must have been
touched. Then he took out his gold watch and chain and threw it on the
bar. But who would take it? I went down, of course, and paid for the
drinks. When we went out together, he grinned, and said to me: "I pity
you. You will never have a bank account, my boy."

The next time Buck threw down his watch and said he would pay in the
morning, I thought it was dirt, for I knew he had fifty dollars on him.
So I said to the bartender: "Take it and hock it, and get what he owes
you. This chump has been working it all up and down the line. I won't
be touched by the d---- grafter any more."

Buck was ready witted and turning to the bartender, said: "My friend
here is learning how to play poker and has just lost eighteen dollars.
He is a dead sore loser and is rattled."

We went out with the watch, without paying for our drinks, and he said
to me: "Jim, I don't believe in paying a gin-mill keeper. If the powers
that be were for the people instead of for themselves they would have
such drinkables free on every corner in old New York." The next time
Buck asked me to have a drink I told him to go to a warm place in
the next world. Buck was good to his family. He was married and had a
couple of brats.

Many a man educates himself in stir, as was my case. Jimmy, whom I ran
up against one day on the street, is a good example. He had squared
it and is still on the level. When I saw him, after my second bit, he
was making forty dollars a week as an electrical engineer; and every
bit of the necessary education he got in prison. At one time he was
an unusually desperate grafter; and entirely ignorant of everything,
except the technique of theft. Many years ago he robbed a jewelry
store and was sent to Blackwell's Island for two years. The night of
the day he was released he burglarized the same store and assaulted
the proprietor. He was arrested with the goods on him and brought to
General Sessions before Recorder Smythe, who had sentenced him before.
He got ten years at Sing Sing and Auburn, and for a while he was one of
the most dangerous and desperate of convicts, and made several attempts
to escape. But one day a book on electricity fell into his hands, and
from that time on he was a hard student. When he was released from stir
he got a job in a large electrical plant up the State, and worked for
a while, when he was tipped off by a country grafter who had known him
in stir. He lost his job, and went to New York, where he met me, who
was home after my first term. I gave him the welcome hand, and, after
he had told me his story, I said: "Well, there is plenty of money in
town. Jump out with us." He grafted with me and my mob for a while,
but got stuck on a Tommy, so that we could not depend on him to keep
his appointments, and we dropped him. After that he did some strong arm
work with a couple of gorillas and fell again for five years. When he
returned from stir he got his present position as electrical engineer.
He had it when I met him after my second bit and he has it to-day. I am
sure he is on the level and will be so as long as he holds his job.

About this time I was introduced to a peculiar character in the shape
of a few yards of calico. It was at Carey's place on Bleecker Street
that I first saw this good-looking youth of nineteen, dressed in the
latest fashion. His graft was to masquerade as a young girl, and for
a long time Short-Haired Liz, as we called him, was very successful.
He sought employment as maid in well-to-do families and then made away
with the valuables. One day he was nailed, with twenty charges against
him. He was convicted on the testimony of a chamber-maid, with whom,
in his character of lady's maid, he had had a lark. Mr. R----, who was
still influential, did his best for him, for his fall-money was big,
and he only got a light sentence.

I heard one day that an old pal of mine, Dannie, had just been hanged.
It gave me a shock, for I had often grafted with him when we were kids.
As there were no orchards on the streets of the east side, Dannie and I
used to go to the improvised gardens that lined the side-walks outside
of the green grocers' shops, and make away with strawberries, apples,
and other fruits. By nature I suppose boys are no more bothered with
consciences than are police officials. Dannie rose rapidly in the world
of graft and became very dangerous to society. As a grafter he had one
great fault. He had a very quick temper. He was sensitive, and lacking
in self-control, but he was one of the cleverest guns that ever came
from the Sixth Ward, a place noted for good grafters of both sexes. He
married a respectable girl and had a nice home, for he had enough money
to keep the police from bothering him. If it had not been for his bad
temper, he might be grafting yet. He would shoot at a moment's notice,
and the toughest of the hard element were afraid of him. One time he
had it in for an old pal of his named Paddy. For a while Paddy kept
away from the saloon on Pell Street where Dannie hung out, but Paddy,
too, had nerve, and one day he turned up at his old resort, the Drum,
as it was called. He saw Dannie and fired a cannister at him. Dannie
hovered between life and death for months, and had four operations
performed on him without anæsthetics. After he got well Dannie grafted
on the Albany boats. One night he and his pals tried to get a Moll's
leather, but some Western guns who were on the boat were looking for
provender themselves and nicked the Moll. Dannie accused them of taking
his property, and, as they would not give up, pulled his pistol. One
of the Western guns jumped overboard, and the others gave up the stuff.
Dannie was right, for that boat belonged to him and his mob.

A few months after that event Dannie shot a mug, who had called him
a rat, and went to San Antonio, Texas, where he secured a position
as bartender. One day a well-known gambler who had the reputation
of being a ten time killer began to shoot around in the saloon for
fun. Dannie joined in the game, shot the gambler twice, and beat the
latter's two pals into insensibility. A few months afterwards he came
to New York with twenty-seven hundred dollars in his pocket; and he
enjoyed himself, for it is only the New York City born who love the
town. But he had better have stayed away, for in New York he met his
mortal enemy, Splitty, who had more brains than Dannie, and was running
a "short while house" in the famous gas house block in Hester Street.
One night Dannie was on a drunk, spending his twenty-seven hundred
dollars, and riding around in a carriage with two girls. Beeze, one of
the Molls, proposed to go around to Splitty's. They went, and Beeze and
the other girl were admitted, but Dannie was shut out. He fired three
shots through the door. One took effect in Beeze's breast fatally, and
Dannie was arrested.

While in Tombs waiting trial he was well treated by the warden, who
was leader of the Sixth Ward, and who used to permit Dannie's wife
to visit him every night. At the same time Dannie became the victim
of one of the worst cases of treachery I ever heard of. An old pal of
his, George, released from Sing Sing, went to visit him in the Tombs.
Dannie advised George not to graft again until he got his health back,
suggesting that meanwhile he eat his meals at his (Dannie's) mother's
house. The old lady had saved up about two hundred and fifty dollars,
which she intended to use to secure a new trial for her son. George
heard of the money and put up a scheme to get it. He told the old woman
that Dannie was going to escape from the Tombs that night and that he
had sent word to his mother to give him (George) the money. The villain
then took the money and skipped the city, thus completing the dirtiest
piece of work I ever heard of. "Good Heavens!" said Dannie, when he
heard of it. "A study in black!" Dannie, poor fellow, was convicted,
and, after a few months, hanged.

Another tragedy in Manhattan was the end of Johnny T----. I had been
out only a short time after my second bit, when I met him on the
Bowery. He was just back, too, and complained that all his old pals
had lost their nerve. Whenever he made a proposition they seemed to
see twenty years staring them in the face. So he had to work alone. His
graft was burglary, outside of New York. He lived in the city, and the
police gave him protection for outside work. He was married and had two
fine boys. One day a copper, contrary to the agreement, tried to arrest
him for a touch made in Mt. Vernon. Johnny was indignant, and wouldn't
stand for a collar under the circumstances. He put four shots into the
flyman's body. He was taken to the station-house, and afterwards tried
for murder. The boys collected a lot of money and tried to save him,
but he had the whole police force against him and in a few months he
was hanged.

A friend of mine, L----, had a similar fate. He was a prime favorite
with the lasses of easy virtue, and was liked by the guns. One night
when I met him in a joint where grafters hung out, he displayed a split
lip, given him by the biggest bully in the ward. It was all about a
girl named Mollie whom the bully was stuck on and on whose account he
was jealous of L----, whom all the women ran after. A few nights later,
L---- met the bully who had beaten him and said he had a present for
him. "Is it something good?" asked the gorilla. "Yes," said L----, and
shot him dead. L---- tried to escape, but was caught in Pittsburg, and
extradited to New York, where he was convicted partly on the testimony
of the girl, whom I used to call Unlimited Mollie. She was lucky, for
instead of drifting to the Bowery, she married a policeman, who was
promoted. L---- was sentenced to be hanged, but he died game.

I think kleptomania is not a very common kind of insanity, at least
in my experience. Most grafters steal for professional reasons, but
Big Sammy was surely a kleptomaniac. He had no reason to graft, for
he was well up in the world. When I first met he was standard bearer
at a ball given in his honor, and had a club named after him. He had
been gin-mill keeper, hotel proprietor, and theatrical manager, and had
saved money. He had, too, a real romance in his life, for he loved one
of the best choir singers in the city. She was beautiful and loved him,
and they were married. She did not know that Sammy was a gun; indeed,
he was not a gun, really, for he only used to graft for excitement, or
at least, what business there was in it was only a side issue. After
their honeymoon Sammy started a hotel at a sea-side resort, where
the better class of guns, gamblers and vaudeville artists spent their
vacation. That fall he went on a tour with his wife who sang in many of
the churches in the State. Sammy was a good box-man. He never used puff
(nitro-glycerine), but with a few tools opened the safes artistically.
His pal Mike went ahead of the touring couple, and when Sammy arrived
at a town he was tipped off to where the goods lay. When he heard that
the police were putting it on to the hoboes, he thought it was a good
joke and kept it up. He wanted the police to gather in all the black
sheep they could, for he was sorry they were so incompetent.

The loving couple returned to New York, and were happy for a long
time. But finally the wife fell ill, and under-went an operation, from
the effects of which she never recovered. She became despondent and
jealous of Sammy, though he was one of the best husbands I have known.
One morning he had an engagement to meet an old pal who was coming
home from stir. He was late, and starting off in a hurry, neglected
to kiss his wife good-bye. She called after him that he had forgotten
something. Sammy, feeling for his money and cannister, shouted back
that everything was all right, and rushed off. His wife must have been
in an unusually gloomy state of mind, for she took poison, and when
Sammy returned, she was dead. It drove Sammy almost insane, for he
loved her always. A few days afterwards he jumped out for excitement
and forgetfulness and was so reckless when he tried to make a touch
that he was shot almost to pieces. He recovered, however, and was
sent to prison for a long term of years. He is out again, and is
now regularly on the turf. During his bit in stir all his legitimate
enterprizes went wrong, and when he was released, there was nothing for
it but to become a professional grafter.

During the seven months which elapsed between the end of my second, and
the beginning of my third term, I was not a very energetic grafter, as
I have said. Graft was good at the time and a man with the least bit
of nerve could make out fairly well. My nerve had not deserted me, but
somehow I was less ambitious. Philosophy and opium and bad health do
not incline a man to a hustling life. The excitement of stealing had
left me, and now it was merely business. I therefore did a great deal
of swindling, which does not stir the imagination, but can be done more
easily than other forms of graft. I was known at headquarters as a dip,
and so I was not likely to be suspected for occasional swindling, just
as I had been able to do house-work now and then without a fall.

I did some profitable swindling at this time, with an Italian named
Velica for a pal. It was a kind of graft which brought quick returns
without much of an outlay. For several weeks we fleeced Velica's
country men brown. I impersonated a contractor and Velica was my
foreman. We put advertisements in the newspapers for men to work on the
railroads or for labor on new buildings. We hired desk room in a cheap
office, where we awaited our suckers, who came in droves, though only
one could see us at a time. Our tools for this graft were pen, paper,
and ink; and one new shovel and pick-axe. Velica did the talking and I
took down the man's name and address. Velica told his countryman that
we could not afford to run the risk of disappointing the railroad,
so that he would have to leave a deposit as a guarantee that he would
turn up in the morning. If he left a deposit of a few dollars we put
his name on the new pick and shovel, which we told him he could come
for in the morning. If we induced many to give us deposits, using the
same pick and shovel as a bribe, we made a lot of money during the
day. The next morning we would change our office and vary our form of

Sometimes we met our victims at saloons. Velica would be talking to
some Italian immigrant who had money, when I would turn up and be
introduced. Treating all around and flashing a roll of bills I could
soon win the sucker's respect and confidence, and make him ante up on
any old con. One day in a saloon in Newark we got an Italian guy for
one hundred and fifty dollars. Before he left the place, however, he
suspected something. We had promised him the position of foreman of
a gang of laborers, and after we got his dough we could not let well
enough alone, and offered to give his wife the privilege of feeding
the sixty Italians of whom he was to be the foreman. I suppose the dago
thought that we were too good, for he blew and pulled his gun. I caught
him around the waist, and the bartender, who was with us, struck him
over the head with a bottle of beer. The dago dropped the smoke-wagon
and the bartender threatened to put him in prison for pulling a rod on
respectable people. The dago left the saloon and never saw his money

About this time, too, I had an opportunity to go into still another
lucrative kind of swindling, but didn't. It was not conscience either
that prevented me from swindling the fair sex, for in those days all
touches,--except those made by others off myself--seemed legitimate.
I did not go in for it because, at the time it was proposed to me,
I had enough money for my needs, and as I have said, I was lazy. It
was a good graft, however, and I was a fool for not ringing in on it.
The scheme was to hire a floor in a private house situated in any
good neighborhood. One of the mob had to know German, and then an
advertisement would be inserted in the _Herald_ to the effect that
a young German doctor who had just come from the old country wanted
to meet a German lady of some means with a view to matrimony. A pal
of mine who put such an advertisement in a Chicago paper received no
less than one hundred and forty five answers from women ranging in age
from fifteen to fifty. The grafters would read the letters and decide
as to which ladies they thought had some money. When these arrived at
the office, in answer to the grafters' letters, they would meet two or
three men, impersonating the doctor and his friends, who had the gift
of "con" to a remarkable degree. The doctor would suggest that if the
lady would advance sufficient money to start him in business in the
West it would be well. If he found she had plenty of money he married
her immediately, one of his pals acting the clergyman. She then drew
all her money from the bank, and they went to a hotel. There the doctor
leaving her in their room, would go to see about the tickets for the
West, and never return. The ladies always jumped at these offers, for
all German women want to marry doctors or clergymen; and all women are
soft, even if they are so apt to be natural pilferers themselves.

When I was hard up, and if there was no good confidence game in sight,
I didn't mind taking heavy chances in straight grafting; for I lived
in a dream, and through opium, was not only lazy, but reckless. On one
occasion a Jew fence had put up a plan to get a big touch, and picked
me out to do the desperate part of the job. The fence was an expert in
jewels and worked for one of the biggest firms that dealt in precious
stones. He kept an eye on all such stores, watching for an opening
to put his friends the grafters "next." To the place in question he
was tipped off by a couple of penny weighters, who claimed it was a
snap. He agreed with them, but kept his opinion to himself, and came
to see me about it. I and two other grafters watched the place for a
week. One day the two clerks went out together for lunch, leaving the
proprietor alone in the store. This was the opportunity. I stationed
one of my pals at the window outside and the other up the street to
watch. If I had much trouble with "the mark" the pal at the window was
to come to my assistance. With red pepper (to throw, if necessary, in
the sucker's eyes) and a good black jack I was to go into the store and
buy a baby's ring for one dollar. While waiting for my change, I was
to price a piece of costly jewelry, and while talking about the merits
of the diamond, hit my man on the head with the black jack. Then all I
had to do was to go behind the counter and take the entire contents of
the window--only a minute's work, for all the costly jewels were lying
on an embroidered piece of velvet, and I had only to pick up the four
corners of the velvet, bundle it into a green bag, and jump into the
cab which was waiting for us a block away. Well, I had just about got
the proprietor in a position to deal him the blow when the man at the
window weakened, and came in and said, "Vix." I thought there was a
copper outside, or that one of the clerks was returning, and told the
jeweler I would send my wife for the ring. I went out and asked my pal
what was the matter. He said he was afraid I would kill the old fellow,
and that the come-back would be too strong. My other pal I found a
block away. We all went back together to the fence, and then I opened
on them, I tell you. I called them petty larceny barnacles, and came
near clubbing them, I was so indignant. I have often had occasion to
notice that most thieves who will steal a diamond or a "front" weaken
when it comes to a large touch, even though there may be no more danger
in it than in the smaller enterprises. I gave those two men a wide
berth after that, and whenever I met them I sneered; for I could not
get over being sore. The "touch" was a beauty, with very little chance
of a come-back, for the police don't look among the pickpockets for
the men who make this kind of touches, and I and my two companions were
known to the coppers as dips.

Just before I fell for my third and most terrible term, I met Lottie,
and thought of marrying. I did not love her, but liked her pretty
well, and I was beginning to feel that I ought to settle down and
have a decent woman to look after me, for my health was bad and I had
little ambition. Lottie seemed the right girl for the place. She was
of German extraction, and used to shave me sometimes at her father's
barber shop, where I first met her. She seemed to me a good, honest
girl, and I thought I could not do better, especially as she was very
fond of me. Women like the spruce dips, as I have said before, and even
when my graft had broadened, I always retained the dress, manners and
reputation of a pickpocket. Lottie promised to marry me, and said that
she could raise a few hundred dollars from her father, with which I
might start another barber shop, quit grafting, and settle down to my
books, my hop and domestic life. One day she gave me a pin that cost
nine dollars, she said, and she wouldn't let me make her a present. All
in all, she seemed like a sensible girl, and I was getting interested
in the marriage idea. One day, however, I discovered something. I
was playing poker in the office of a hotel kept by a friend of mine,
when a man and woman came down stairs together and passed through the
office. They were my little German girl and the owner of a pawn-shop,
a Sheenie of advanced years. Suddenly I realized where she had got the
pin she gave me; and I began to believe stories I had heard about her.
I thought I would test her character myself. I did, and found it weak.
I did not marry her! What an escape! Every man, even a self-respecting
gun, wants an honest woman, if it comes to hitching up for good.

Soon after I escaped Lottie, I got my third fall for the stir. The
other times that I had been convicted, I was guilty, but on this
occasion I was entirely innocent. Often a man who has done time and is
well-known to the police is rounded up on suspicion and convicted when
he is innocent, and I fell a victim to this easy way of the officials
for covering up their failure to find the right person. I had gone one
night to an opium joint near Lovers Row, a section of Henry Street
between Catherine and Oliver Streets, where some guns of both sexes
were to have a social meeting. We smoked hop and drank heavily and told
stories of our latest touches. While we were thus engaged I began to
have severe pains in my chest, which had been bothering me occasionally
for some time, and suddenly I had a hemorrhage. When I was able I left
the joint to see a doctor, who stopped the flow of blood, but told
me I would not live a month if I did not take good care of myself.
I got aboard a car, went soberly home to my furnished room, and--was

I knew I had not committed any crime this time and thought I should
of course be released in the morning. Instead however of being taken
directly to the station house, I was conducted to a saloon, and
confronted with the "sucker". I had never seen him before, but he
identified me, just the same, as the man who had picked his pocket.
I asked him how long ago he had missed his valuables, and when he
answered, "Three hours," I drew a long sigh of relief, for I was at
the joint at that time, and thought I could prove an alibi. But though
the rapper seemed to weaken, the copper was less trustful and read
the riot act to him. I was so indignant I began to call the policeman
down vigorously. I told him he had better try to make a reputation on
me some other time, when I was really guilty, whereupon he lost his
temper, and jabbed me in the chest with his club, which brought on
another flow of blood from my lungs.

In this plight I was taken to the station house, still confident I
should soon be set at liberty, although I had only about eighty dollars
for fall-money. I hardly thought I needed it, but I used it just the
same, to make sure, and employed a lawyer. For a while things looked
favorable to me, for I was remanded back from court every morning for
eight days, on account of lack of evidence, which is almost equivalent
to a turn-out in a larceny case. Even the copper began to pig it
(weaken), probably thinking he might as well get a share of my "dough,"
since it began to look as if I should beat the case. But on the ninth
day luck turned against me. The Chief of detectives "identified" me as
another man, whispering a few words to the justice, and I was committed
under two thousand dollars bail to stand trial in General Sessions. I
was sent to the Tombs to await trial, and I knew at last that I was
lost. My character alone would convict me; and my lawyer had told
me that I could not prove an alibi on the oaths of the thieves and
disorderly persons who had been with me in the opium joint.

No matter how confirmed a thief a man may be, I repeat, he hates to be
convicted for something he has not done. He objects indeed more than
an honest man would do, for he believes in having the other side play
fair; whereas the honest man simply thinks a mistake has been made.
While in the Tombs a murderous idea formed in my mind. I felt that I
had been horribly wronged, and was hot for revenge. I was desperate,
too, for I did not think I should live my bit out. Determined to make
half a dozen angels, including myself, I induced a friend, who came
to see me in the Tombs, to get me a revolver. I told him I wanted to
create a panic with a couple of shots, and escape, but in reality I had
no thought of escape. I was offered a light sentence, if I would plead
guilty, but I refused. I believed I was going to die anyway, and that
things did not matter; only I would have as much company as possible on
the road to the other world. I meant to shoot the copper who had beaten
me with his club, District Attorney Olcott, the judge, the complainant
and myself as well, as soon as I should be taken into the court room
for trial. The pistol however was taken away from me before I entered
the court: I was convicted and sentenced to five years at Sing Sing.

Much of the time I spent in stir on my third bit I still harbored
this thought of murder. That was one reason I did not kill myself. The
determination to do the copper on my release was always in my mind. I
planned even a more cunning revenge. I imagined many a scheme to get
him, and gloat over his dire misfortunes. One of my plans was to hunt
him out on his beat, invite him to drink, and put thirty grains of
hydrate of chloral in his glass. When he had become unconscious I would
put a bottle of morphine in his trousers pocket, and then telephone to
a few newspapers telling them that if they would send reporters to the
saloon they would have a good story against a dope copper who smoked
too much. The result would be, I thought, a rap against the copper
and his disgrace and dismissal from the force would follow. Sometimes
this seemed to me better than murder; for every copper who is "broke"
immediately becomes a bum. When my copper should have become a bum I
imagined myself catching him dead drunk and cutting his hamstrings.
Certainly I was a fiend when I reflected on my wrongs, real and
imaginary. At other times I thought I merely killed him outright.


_In the Mad-House._

On the road to Sing Sing again! The public may say I was surely an
incorrigible and ought to have been shut up anyway for safe keeping,
but are they right if they say so? During my confinement I often heard
the prison chaplain preach from the text "Though thou sinnest ninety
and nine times thy sin shall be forgiven thee."

Probably Christ knew what He meant: His words do not apply to the
police courts of Manhattan. These do not forgive, but send you up for
the third term, which, if it is a long one, no man can pass through
without impairment in body or in brain. It is better to make the
convict's life as hard as hell for a short term, than to wear out his
mind and body. People need not wonder why a man, knowing what is before
him, steals and steals again. The painful experiences of his prison
life, too often renewed, leave him as water leaves a rubber coat. Few
men are really impressionable after going through the deadening life in

Five months of my third term I spent at Sing Sing, and then, as on my
first bit, I was drafted to Auburn. At Sing Sing I was classified as
a second term man. I have already explained that during my first term
I earned over a year's commutation time; and that that time would have
been legally forfeited when I was sent up again within nine months for
my second bit if any one, except a few convicts, had remembered I had
served before.

When, on my third sentence, I now returned to Sing Sing, I found that
the authorities were "next," and knew that I had "done" them on the
second bit. They were sore, because it had been their own carelessness,
and they were afraid of getting into trouble. To protect themselves
they classified me as a second term man, but waited for a chance to do
me. I suppose it was some d---- Dickey Bird (stool-pigeon) who got them
next that I had done them; but I never heard who it was, though I tried
to find out long and earnestly.

When I got back to my cell in Sing Sing this third time I was gloomy
and desperate to an unusual degree, still eaten up with my desire
for vengeance on those who had sent me to stir for a crime I had not
committed. My health was so bad that my friends told me I would never
live my bit out, and advised me to get to Clinton prison, if possible,
away from the damp cells at Sing Sing. But I took no interest in what
they said, for I did not care whether I lived or died. I expected to
die very soon, and in the meantime thought I was well enough where I
was. I did not fear death, and I had my hop every day. All I wanted
from the keepers was to be let alone in my cell and not annoyed with
work. The authorities had an inkling that I was in a desperate state of
mind, and probably believed it was healthier for them to let me alone
a good deal of the time.

Before long schemes began to form in my head to make my gets (escape).
I knew I wouldn't stop at murder, if necessary in order to spring; for,
as I have said, I cared not whether I lived or died. On the whole,
however, I rather preferred to become an angel at the beginning of
my bit than at the end. I kept my schemes for escape to myself, for I
was afraid of a leak, but the authorities must somehow have suspected
something, for they kept me in my cell twenty-three hours out of the
twenty-four. Perhaps it was just because they had it in for me for
beating them on my second bit. As before, I consoled myself, while
waiting a chance to escape, with some of my favorite authors; but my
eye-sight was getting bad and I could not read as much as I used to.

It was during these five months at Sing Sing that I first met Dr.
Myers, of whom I saw much a year or two later in the mad-house. At Sing
Sing he had some privileges, and used to work in the hall, where it was
easy for me to talk to him through my cell door. This remarkable man,
had been a splendid physician in Chicago. He had beaten some insurance
companies out of one hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars, but was
in Sing Sing because he had been wrongfully convicted on a charge of
murder. He liked me, especially when later we were in the insane asylum
together, because I would not stand for the abuse given to the poor
lunatics, and would do no stool-pigeon or other dirty work for the
keepers. He used to tell me that I was too bright a man to do any work
with my hands. "Jim," he said once, "I would rather see you marry my
daughter than give her to an ignorant business man. I know you would
treat her kindly and that she would learn something of the world. As
my wife often said, I would rather die at thirty-eight after seeing the
world and enjoying life than live in a humdrum way till ninety."

He explained the insurance graft to me, and I still think it the surest
and most lucrative of all grafts. For a man with intelligence it is
the very best kind of crooked work. About the only way the insurance
companies can get back at the thieves is through a squeal. Here are a
few of the schemes he told me for this graft:

A man and his female pal take a small house in town or on the outskirts
of a large city. The man insures his life for five thousand dollars.
After they have lived there a while, and passed perhaps as music
teachers, they take the next step, which is to get a dead body. Nothing
is easier. The man goes to any large hospital, represents himself as a
doctor and for twenty-five dollars can generally get a stiff, which he
takes away in a barrel or trunk. He goes to a furnished room, already
secured, and there dresses the cadaver in his own clothes, putting his
watch, letters and money in the cadavers pockets. In the evening he
takes the body to some river or stream and throws it in. He knows from
the newspapers when the body has been found, and notifies his woman
pal, who identifies it as her husband's body. There are only two snags
that one must guard against in this plot. The cadaver must not differ
much in height from the person that has been insured; and its lungs
must not show that they were those of anybody dead before thrown into
the water. The way to prepare against this danger is to inject some
water with a small medical pump into the lungs of the stiff before it
is thrown overboard. Then it is easy for the "widow" to get the money,
and meet the alleged dead man in another country.

A more complicated method, in which more money is involved, is as
follows. The grafter hires an office and represents himself as an
artist, a bric-à-brac dealer, a promoter or an architect. Then he jumps
to another city and takes out a policy under the tontien or endowment
plan. When the game is for a very large amount three or four pals are
necessary. If no one of the grafters is a doctor, a physician must
be impersonated, but this is easy. If there are, say, ten thousand
physicians in Manhattan, not many of whom have an income of ten
thousand a year, it is perhaps not difficult to get a diploma. After
a sheepskin is secured, the grafter goes to another State, avoiding,
unless he is a genuine physician, New York and Illinois, for they have
boards of regents. The acting quack registers so that he can practice
medicine and hangs out his shingle. The acting business man takes out a
policy, and pays the first premium. Before the first premium is paid he
is dead, for all the insurance company knows. Often a live substitute,
instead of a dead one, is secured. The grafter goes to the charity
hospital and looks over the wrecks waiting to die. Some of these poor
dying devils jump at the chance to go West. It is necessary, of course,
to make sure that the patient will soon become an angel, or everything
will fall through. Then the grafter takes the sick man to his house and
keeps him out of sight. When he is about to die he calls in the grafter
who is posing as a physician. After the death of the substitute the
doctor signs the death certificate, the undertaker prepares the body,
which is buried. The woman grafter is at the funeral, and afterwards
she sends in her claim to the companies. On one occasion in Dr. Myers's
experience, he told me, the alleged insured man was found later with
his head blown off, but when the wife identified the body, the claim
had been paid.

       *       *       *       *       *

One afternoon, after I had been at Sing Sing five months, I was
taken from my cell, shackled hand and foot, and sent, with fifty
other convicts, to Auburn. When I had been at Auburn prison about six
months I grew again exceedingly desperate, and made several wild and
ill-thought-out attempts to escape. I would take no back talk from the
keepers, and began to be feared by them. One day I had a fight with
another convict. He struck me with an iron weapon, and I sent him to
the hospital with knife thrusts through several parts of his body.
Although I had been a thief all my life, and had done some strong arm
work, by nature I was not quarrelsome, and I have never been so quick
to fight as on my third term. I was locked up in the dungeon for a week
and fed on bread and water in small quantities. After my release I was
confined to my cell for several days, and used to quarrel with whoever
came near me. The keepers began to regard me as a desperate character,
who would cause them a great deal of trouble; and feared that I might
escape or commit murder at any time. One day, I remember, a keeper
threatened to club me with a heavy stick he had. I laughed at him and
told him to make a good job of it, for I had some years still to serve,
and if he did not kill me outright, I would have plenty of time to get
back at him. The cur pigged it (weakened). They really wanted to get
rid of me, however, and one morning the opportunity came.

I was feeling especially bad that morning and went to see the doctor,
who told me I had consumption, and transferred me to the consumptive
ward in the prison. There the doctor and four screws came to my
bedside, and the doctor inserted a hyperdermic needle into my arm. When
I awoke I found myself in the isolated dungeon, nicknamed the Keeley
Cure by the convicts, where I was confined again for several weeks, and
had a hyperdermic injection every day. At the end of that time I was
taken before the doctors, who pronounced me insane. With three other
convicts who were said to be "pipes" (insane) I was shackled hand and
foot, put on a train and taken to the asylum for the criminal insane
at Matteawan. I had been in bad places before, but at Matteawan I first
learned what it is to be in Hell.

Why was I put in the Pipe House? Was I insane?

In one way I have been insane all my life, until recently. There is a
disease called astigmatism of the conscience, and I have been sorely
afflicted with that. I have always had the delusion, until the last
few months, that it is well to "do" others. In that way I certainly was
"pipes." And in another way, too, I was insane. After a man has served
many years in stir and has contracted all the vices, he is not normal,
even if he is not violently insane. His brain loses its equilibrium,
no matter how strong-minded he may be, and he acquires astigmatism of
the mind, as well as of the conscience. The more astigmatic he becomes,
the more frequently he returns to stir, where his disease grows worse,
until he is prison-mad.

To the best of my knowledge and belief I was not insane in any definite
way--no more so than are nine out of ten of the men who had served
as much time in prison as I. I suppose I was not sent to the criminal
insane asylum because of a perverted conscience. The stir, I believe,
is supposed to cure that. Why did they send me to the mad-house? I
don't know, any more than my reader, unless it was because I caused
the keepers and doctors too much trouble, or because for some reason or
other they wanted to do me.

But whether I had a delusion or not--and I am convinced myself that
I have always been right above the ears--there certainly are many
perfectly sane men confined in our state asylums for the criminal
insane. Indeed, if all the fake lunatics were sent back to prison, it
would save the state the expense of building so many hospitals. But I
suppose the politicians who want patronage to distribute would object.

Many men in prison fake insanity, as I have already explained. Many
of them desire to be sent to Matteawan or Dannemora insane asylums,
thinking they will not need to work there, will have better food and
can more easily escape. They imagine that there are no stool-pigeons in
the pipe-house, and that they can therefore easily make their elegant
(escape). When they get to the mad-house they find themselves sadly
mistaken. They find many sane stool-pigeons there, and their plans for
escape are piped off as well there as in stir. And in other ways, as
I shall explain, they are disappointed. The reason the "cons" don't
get on to the situation in the mad-house through friends who have been
there is that they think those who have been in the insane asylum are
really pipes. When I got out of the mad-house and told my friends about
it, they were apt to remark, laconically, "He's in a terrible state."
When they get there themselves, God help them. I will narrate what
happened to me, and some of the horrible things I saw there.

After my pedigree was taken I was given the regulation clothes, which,
in the mad-house, consist of a blue coat, a pair of grey trousers, a
calico shirt, socks and a pair of slippers. I was then taken to the
worst violent ward in the institution, where I had a good chance to
observe the real and the fake lunatics. No man or woman, not even an
habitual criminal, can conceive, unless he has been there himself,
what our state asylums are. My very first experience was a jar. A big
lunatic, six feet high and a giant in physique, came up to me in the
ward, and said: "I'll kick your head off, you ijit (idiot). What the
---- did you come here for? Why didn't you stop off at Buffalo?" I
thought that if all the loons were the size of this one I wasn't going
to have much show in that violent ward; for I weighed only one hundred
and fifteen pounds at the time. But the big lunatic changed his note,
smiled and said: "Say, Charley, have you got any marbles?" I said,
"No," and then, quick as a flash, he exclaimed: "Be Japes, you don't
look as if you had enough brains to play them."

I had been in this ward, which was under the Head Attendant, nick-named
"King" Kelly, for two days, when I was taken away to a dark room in
which a demented, scrofulous negro had been kept. For me not even
a change of bed-clothing was made. In rooms on each side of me were
epileptics and I could hear, especially when I was in the ward, raving
maniacs shouting all about me. I was taken back to the first ward,
where I stayed for some time. I began to think that prison was heaven
in comparison with the pipe house. The food was poor, we were not
supposed to do any work, and we were allowed only an hour in the yard.
We stayed in our ward from half past five in the morning until six
o'clock at night, when we went to bed. It was then I suffered most,
for there was no light and I could not read. In stir I could lie on
my cot and read, and soothe my nerves. But in the mad-house I was not
allowed to read, and lay awake continually at night listening to the
idiots bleating and the maniacs raving about me. The din was horrible,
and I am convinced that in the course of time even a sane man kept in
an insane asylum will be mad; those who are a little delusional will go
violently insane. My three years in an insane asylum convinced me that,
beyond doubt, a man contracts a mental ailment just as he contracts
a physical disease on the outside. I believe in mental as well as
physical contagion, for I have seen man after man, a short time after
arriving at the hospital, become a raving maniac.

For weeks and months I had a terrible fight with myself to keep my
sanity. As I had no books to take up my thoughts I got into the habit
of solving an arithmetical problem every day. If it had not been for
my persistence in this mental occupation I have no doubt I should have
gone violently insane.

It is only the sensitive and intelligent man who, when placed in such
a predicament, really knows what torture is. The cries of the poor
demented wretches about me were a terrible lesson. They showed me more
than any other experience I ever passed through the error of a crooked

I met many a man in the violent ward who had been a friend of mine
and good fellow on the outside. Now the brains of all of them were
gone, they had the most horrible and the most grotesque delusions. But
horrible or grotesque they were always piteous. If I were to point out
the greatest achievement that man has accomplished to distinguish him
from the brute, it would be the taking care of the insane. A child is
so helpless that when alms is asked for his maintenance it is given
willingly, for every man and woman pities and loves a child. A lunatic
is as helpless as a child, and often not any more dangerous. The maniac
is misrepresented, for in Matteawan and Dannemora taken together there
are very few who are really violent.

And now I come to the most terrible part of my narrative, which many
people will not believe--and that is the cruelty of the doctors and
attendants, cruelty practiced upon these poor, deluded wretches.

With my own eyes I saw scores of instances of abuse while I was at
Matteawan and later at Dannemora. It is, I believe, against the law to
strike an insane man, but any man who has ever been in these asylums
knows how habitual the practice is. I have often seen idiots in the
same ward with myself violently attacked and beaten by several keepers
at once. Indeed, some of us used to regard a beating as our daily
medicine. Patients are not supposed to do any work; but those who
refused to clean up the wards and do other work for the attendants were
the ones most likely to receive little mercy.

I know how difficult it is for the public to believe that some of their
institutions are as rotten as those of the Middle Ages; and when a
man who has been both in prison and in the pipe house is the one who
makes the accusation, who will believe him? Of course, his testimony
on the witness stand is worthless. I will merely call attention,
however, to the fact that the great majority of the insane are so
only in one way. They have some delusion, but are otherwise capable of
observation and of telling the truth. I will also add that the editor
of this book collected an immense number of instances of brutality from
several men, besides myself, who had spent years there, and that those
instances also pointed to the situation that I describe. Moreover, I
can quote the opinion of the writer on criminology--Josiah Flynt--as
corroborative of my statements. He has said in my presence and in that
of the editor of this book, Mr. Hapgood, that his researches have led
him to believe that the situation in our state asylums for the criminal
insane is horrible in the extreme.

Indeed, why shouldn't these attendants be brutal? In the first place,
there is very little chance of a come-back, for who will believe men
who have ever been shut up in an insane asylum? And very often these
attendants themselves are unhinged mentally. To begin with, they are
men of low intelligence, as is shown by the fact that they will work
for eighteen dollars a month, and after they have associated with
insane men for years they are apt to become delusional themselves.
Taking care of idiots and maniacs is a strain on the intelligence
of the best men. Is it any wonder that the ordinary attendant often
becomes nervous and irascible, and will fly at a poor idiot who won't
do dirty work or whose silly noises get on his nerves? I have noticed
attendants who, after they had been in the asylum a few months,
acquired certain insane characteristics, such as a jerking of the
head from one side to the other, looking up at the sky, cursing some
imaginary person, and walking with the body bent almost double.

Early in my stay at Matteawan I saw something that made me realize I
was up against a hard joint. An attendant in the isolation ward had an
incurable patient under him, whom he was in the habit of compelling to
do his work for him, such as caning chairs and cleaning cuspidors. The
attendants had two birds in his room, and he used to make Mickey, the
incurable idiot, clean out the cage for him. One day Mickey put the
cages under the boiling water, to clean them as usual. The attendant
had forgot to remove the birds, and they were killed by the hot water.
Another crank, who was in the bath room with Mickey, spied the dead
pets, and he and Mickey began to eat them. They were picking the bones
when the attendant and two others discovered them--and treated them as
a golfer treats his golf-balls.

Another time I saw an insane epileptic patient try to prevent four
attendants from playing cards in the ward on Sunday. He was delusional
on religious subjects and thought the attendants were doing wrong. The
reward he received for caring for the religious welfare of his keepers
was a kick in the stomach by one of the attendants, while another hit
him in the solar plexus, knocking him down, and a third jammed his head
on the floor until the blood flowed. After he was unconscious a doctor
gave him a hyperdermic injection and he was put to bed. How often,
indeed, have I seen men knocked out by strong arm work, or strung up
to the ceiling with a pair of suspenders! How often have I seen them
knocked unconscious for a time or for eternity--yes--for eternity, for
insane men sometimes do die, if they are treated too brutally. In that
case, the doctor reports the patient as having died of consumption, or
some other disease. I have seen insane men turned into incurable idiots
by the beatings they have received from the attendants. I saw an idiot
boy knocked down with an iron pot because he insisted on chirping out
his delusion. I heard a patient about to be beaten by four attendants
cry out: "My God, you won't murder me?" and the answer was, "Why not?
The Coroner would say you died of dysentery." The attendants tried
often to force fear into me by making me look at the work they had done
on some harmless lunatic. I could multiply instances of this kind. I
could give scores of them, with names of attendants and patients, and
sometimes even the dates on which these horrors occurred. But I must
cut short this part of my narrative. Every word of it, as sure as I
have a poor old mother, is true, but it is too terrible to dwell upon,
and will probably not be believed. It will be put down as one of my
delusions, or as a lie inspired by the desire of vengeance.

Certainly I made myself obnoxious to the authorities in the insane
asylum, for I objected vigorously to the treatment of men really
insane. It is as dangerous to object to the curriculum of a mad-house
in the State of New York as it is to find fault with the running of
the government in Russia. In stir I never saw such brutality as takes
place almost every day in the pipe house. I reported what I saw, and
though I was plainly told to mind my own business, I continued to
object every time I saw a chance, until soon the petty spite of the
attendants was turned against me. I was reported continually for things
I had not done, I had no privileges, not even opium or books, and was
so miserable that I repeatedly tried to be transferred back to prison.
A doctor once wrote a book called _Ten Years in a Mad-House_, in which
he says "God help the man who has the attendants against him; for these
demented brutes will make his life a living hell." Try as I might,
however, I was not transferred back to stir, partly because of the
sane stool-pigeons who, in order to curry favor with the attendants,
invented lies about attempts on my part to escape. If I had not had
such a poor opinion of the powers that be and had stopped finding fault
I should no doubt have been transferred back to what was beginning to
seem to me, by contrast, a delightful place--state's prison.

The all absorbing topic to me in the pipe house was paresis. I thought
a great deal about it, and observed the cranks about me continually. I
noticed that almost all insane persons are musical, that they can hum a
tune after hearing it only once. I suppose the meanest faculty in the
human brain is that of memory, and that idiots, lunatics and madmen
learn music so easily because that part of the brain which is the
seat of memory is the only one that is active; the other intellectual
qualities being dead, so that the memory is untroubled by thought.

I was often saddened at the sight of poor George, who had been a good
dip and an old pal of mine. When he first saw me in the pipe house he
asked me about his girl. I told him she was still waiting, and he said:
"Why doesn't she visit me then?" When I replied: "Wait awhile," he
smiled sadly, and said: "I know." He then put his finger to his head,
and, hanging his head, his face suddenly became a blank. I was helpless
to do anything for him. I was so sorry for him sometimes that I wanted
to kill him and myself and end our misery.

Another friend of mine thought he had a number of white blackbirds and
used to talk to them excitedly about gold. This man had a finely shaped
head. I have read in a book of phrenology that a man's intelligence
can be estimated by the shape of his head. I don't think this theory
amounts to anything, for most of the insane men I knew had good heads.
I have formed a little theory of my own (I am as good a quack as
anybody else) about insanity. I used to compare a well shaped lunatic's
head to a lady's beautiful jewel box from which my lady's maid had
stolen the precious stones. The crank's head contained both quantity
and quality of brains, but the grey matter was lacking. The jewel box
and the lunatic's head were both beautiful receptacles, but the value
had flown.

Another lunatic, a man named Hogan, thought that girls were continually
bothering him. "Now go away, Liz, and leave me alone," he would
say. One day a lady about fifty years old visited the hospital with
Superintendent Allison, and came to the violent ward where Hogan
and I were. She was not a bit afraid, and went right up to Hogan
and questioned him. He exclaimed, excitedly, "Go away, Meg. You're
disfigured enough without my giving you another sockdolager." She
stayed in the ward a long while and asked many questions. She had as
much nerve as any lady I ever saw. As she and Allison were leaving
the ward, Hogan said: "Allison, chain her up. She is a bad egg." The
next day I learned that this refined, delicate and courageous woman
had once gone to war with her husband, a German prince, who had been
with General Sherman on his memorable march to the sea. She was born
an American, and belonged to the Jay family, but was now the Princess

The most amusing crank (if the word amusing can be used of an insane
man) in the ward was an Englishman named Alec. He was incurably insane,
but a good musician and mathematician. One of his delusions was that
he was the sacred camel in the London Zoo. His mortal enemy was a
lunatic named Jimmy White, who thought he was a mule. Jimmy often came
to me and said: "You didn't give your mule any oats this morning." He
would not be satisfied until I pretended to shoe him. Alec had great
resentment for Jimmy because when Alec was a camel in the London
Zoo Jimmy used to prevent the ladies and the kids from giving him
sweets. When Jimmy said: "I never saw the man before," Alec replied
indignantly, "I'm no man. I'm a sacred camel, and I won't be interfered
with by an ordinary, common mule, like you."

There are divers sorts of insanity. I had an interview with a doctor,
a high officer in the institution, which convinced me, perhaps without
reason, that insanity was not limited to the patients and attendants.
One day an insane man was struck by an attendant in the solar plexus.
He threw his hands up in the air, and cried: "My God, I'm killed." I
said to another man in the ward: "There's murder." He said: "How do
you know?" I replied: "I have seen death a few times." In an hour, sure
enough, the report came that the insane man was dead. A few days later
I was talking with the doctor referred to and I said:

"I was an eye-witness of the assault on D----." And I described the

"You have been reported to me repeatedly," he replied.

"By whom?" I asked, "attendants or patients?"

"By patients," he replied.

"Surely," I remarked, "you don't believe half what insane men tell you,
do you? Doctor, these same patients (in reality sane stool-pigeons)
that have been reporting me, have accused you of every crime in the

"Oh, but," he said, "I am an old man and the father of a family."

"Doctor," I continued, "do you believe that a man can be a respectable
physician and still be insane?"

"What do you mean?" he said.

"In California lately," I replied, "A superintendent of an insane
asylum has been accused of murder, arson, rape and peculation. This
man, too, was more than fifty, had a mother, a wife and children, and
belonged to a profession which ought to be more sympathetic with a
patient than the church with its communicants. When a man will stoop to
such crimes, is it not possible that there is a form of mental disease
called partial, periodical paralysis of the faculty humane, and was not
Robert Louis Stevenson right when he wrote _Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde_?"

The doctor grabbed me by the wrist and shouted: "Don't you dare to tell
anybody about this interview." I looked into his eyes and smiled, for
I am positive that at that moment I looked into the eyes of a madman.

King Kelly, an attendant who had been on duty in insane asylums for
many years, was very energetic in trying to get information from the
stool-pigeons. The patients used to pass notes around among themselves,
and the attendants were always eager to get hold of those notes,
expecting to find news of beats (escapes) about to be attempted. I knew
that King Kelly was eager to discover "beats" and as I, not being a
stool-pigeon, was in bad odor with him, I determined to give him a jar.
So one day I wrote him the following note:

"Mr. Kelly; You have been in this hospital for years. The socks and
suspenders which should go to the patients are divided impartially
between you and the other attendants. Of the four razors, which lately
arrived for patients, two are in your trunk, one you sent to your
brother in Ireland, and the fourth you keep in the ward for show, in
case the doctor should be coming around."

That night when I was going to bed I slipped the note into the Kings
hand and whispered: "There's going to be a beat tonight." The King
turned pale, and hurriedly ordered the men in the ward to bed, so that
he could read the note. Before reading it he handed it to a doctor, to
be sure to get the credit of stopping the beat as soon as possible.
The doctor read it and gave the King the laugh. In the morning, when
the doctor made his rounds, Mr. Kelly said to him: "We have one or two
funny men in the ward who, instead of robbing decent people, could
have made their fortunes at Tony Pastor's." The result was that the
doctor put me down for three or four new delusions. Knowing the Celtic
character thoroughly I used to crack many a joke on the King. I would
say to another patient, as the King passed: "If it hadn't been for
Kelly we should have escaped that time sure." That would make him wild.
My gift of ridicule was more than once valuable to me in the mad-house.

But I must say that the King was pretty kind when a patient was ill.
When I was so ill and weak that I didn't care whether I died or not,
the old King used to give me extras,--milk, eggs and puddings. And
in his heart the old man hated stool-pigeons, for by nature he was a
dynamiter and believed in physical force and not mental treachery.

The last few months I served in the insane asylum was at Dannemora,
where I was transferred from Matteawan. The conditions at the two
asylums are much the same. While at Dannemora I continued my efforts
to be sent back to stir to finish my sentence, and used to talk to the
doctors about it as often as I had an opportunity. A few months before
I was released I had an interview with a Commissioner--the first one in
three years, although I had repeatedly demanded to talk to one.

"How is it," I said, "that I am not sent back to stir?"

He turned to the ward doctor and asked: "What is this mans condition?"

"Imaginary wrongs," replied the doctor.

That made me angry, and I remarked, sarcastically: "It is curious
that when a man tries to make a success at little things he is a dead

"What do you mean?" asked the Superintendent, trying to feel me out for
a new delusion.

I pointed to the doctor and said: "Only a few years ago this man was
interlocutor in an amateur minstrel troupe. As a barn-stormer he was a
failure. Since he has risen to the height of being a mad-house doctor
he is a success."

Then I turned to the Commissioner and said: "Do you know what
constitutes a cure in this place and in Matteawan?"

"I'd like to know," he replied.

"Well," I said, "when a man stoops to carrying tales on other patients
and starts in to work cleaning cuspidors, then, and not till then, he
is cured. Everybody knows that, in the eyes of attendants and doctors,
the worst delusions in the asylum are wanting to go home, demanding
more food, and disliking to do dirty work and bear tales."

I don't know whether my talk with the Commissioner had any effect
or not, but a little while after that, when my term expired, I was
released. I had been afraid I should not be, for very often a man is
kept in the asylum long after his term expires, even though he is no
more insane than I was. When the stool-pigeons heard that I was to be
released they thought I must have been a rat under cover, and applied
every vile name to me.

I had been in hell for several years; but even hell has its uses. When
I was sent up for my third term, I thought I should not live my bit
out, and that, as long as I did live, I should remain a grafter at
heart. But the pipe house cured me, or helped to cure me, of a vice
which, if it had continued, would have made me incapable of reform,
even if I had lived. I mean the opium habit. Before I went to the
mad-house there had been periods when I had little opium, either
because I could not obtain it, or because I was trying to knock it
off. My sufferings in consequence had been violent, but the worst moral
and physical torture that has ever fallen to my lot came to me after I
had entered the pipe house; for I could practically get no opium. That
deprivation, added to the horrors I saw every day, was enough to make
any man crazy. At least, I thought so at the time. I must have had a
good nervous system to have passed through it all.

Insufficient hop is almost as bad as none at all. During my first
months in the madhouse, the doctor occasionally took pity on me and
gave me a little of the drug, but taken in such small quantities it
was worse than useless. He used to give me sedatives, however, which
calmed me for a time. Occasionally, too, I would get a little hop from
a trusty, who was a friend of mine, and I had smuggled in some tablets
of morphine from stir; but the supply was soon exhausted, and I saw
that the only thing to do was to knock it off entirely. This I did,
and made no more attempts to obtain the drug. For the last two years in
the asylum I did not have a bit of it. I can not describe the agonies
I went through. Every nerve and muscle in my body was in pain most of
the time, my stomach was constantly deranged, my eyes and mouth exuded
water, and I could not sleep. Thoughts of suicide were constant with
me. Of course, I could never have given up this baleful habit through
my own efforts alone. The pipe house forced me to make the attempt, and
after I had held off for two years, I had enough strength to continue
in the right path, although even now the longing for it returns to
me. It does not seem possible that I can ever go back to it, for that
terrible experience in the mad-house made an indelible impression. I
shall never be able to wipe out those horrors entirely from my mind.
When under the influence of opium I used frequently to imagine I
smelled the fragrance of white flowers. I never smell certain sweet
perfumes now without the whole horrible experience rushing before my
mind. Life in a mad-house taught me a lesson I shall never forget.


_Out of Hell._

I left Dannemora asylum for the criminal insane on a cold winter
morning. I had my tickets to New York, but not a cent of money.
Relatives or friends are supposed to provide that. I was happy,
however, and I made a resolution, which this time I shall keep, never
to go to stir or the pipe house again. I knew very well that I could
never repeat such an experience without going mad in reality; or dying.
The first term I spent in stir I had my books and a new life of beauty
and thought to think about. Once for all I had had that experience. The
thought of going through prison routine again--the damp cells, the poor
food, the habits contracted, with the mad-house at the end--no, that
could never be for me again. I felt this, as I heard the loons yelling
good-bye to me from the windows. I looked at the gloomy building
and said to myself: "I have left Hell, and I'll shovel coal before I
go back. All the ideas that brought me here I will leave behind. In
the future I will try to get all the good things out of life that I
can--the really good things, a glimpse of which I got through my books.
I think there is still sufficient grey matter in my brain for that."

I took the train for New York, but stopped off at Plattsburg and Albany
to deliver some messages from the poor unfortunates to their relatives.
I arrived in New York at twelve o'clock at night, having had nothing to
eat all day. My relatives and friends had left the station, but were
waiting up for me in my brother's house. This time I went straight
to them. My father had died while I was in the pipe house, and now I
determined that I would be at last a kind son to the mother who had
never deserted me. I think she felt that I had changed and the tears
that flowed from her eyes were not all from unhappiness. She told me
about my father's last illness, and how cheerful he had been. "I bought
him a pair of new shoes a month before he died," she said. "He laughed
when he saw them and said: 'What extravagance! To buy shoes for a dying

Living right among them, I met again, of course, many of my old
companions in crime, and found that many of them had thought I was
dead. It was only the other day that I met "Al", driving a peddlers
wagon. He, like me, had squared it. "I thought you died in the pipe
house, Jim," he said. This has happened to me a dozen times since my
return. I had spent so much time in stir that the general impression
among the guns at home seemed to be that I had "gone up the escape."

As a general thing I found that guns who had squared it and become
prosperous had never been very successful grafters. Some of the best
box-men and burglars in the business are now bar-tenders in saloons
owned by former small fry among the dips. There are waiters now in
saloons and concert halls on the bowery who were far cleverer thieves
than the men who employ them, and who are worth thousands. Hungry Joe
is an instance. Once he was King of confidence men, and on account of
his great plausibility got in on a noted person, on one occasion, for
several thousand dollars. And now he will beg many a favor of men he
would not look at in the old days.

A grafter is jealous, suspicious and vindictive. I had always known
that, but never realized it so keenly as I have since my return from
the mad-house. Above everything else a grafter is suspicious, whether
he has squared it or not--suspicious of his pals and of everybody
else. When my old pals saw that I was not working with them, they
wondered what my private graft was. When I told them I was on the level
and was looking for a job, they either laughed or looked at me with
suspicion in their eyes. They saw I was looking good (well-dressed)
and they could not understand it. They put me down, some of them, as
a stool-pigeon. They all feel instinctively that I am no longer with
them, and most of them have given me the frosty mit. Only the bums
who used to be grafters sail up to me in the Bowery. They have not
got enough sense left even for suspicion. The dips who hang out in the
thieves' resorts are beginning to hate me; not because I want to injure
them, for I don't, but because they think I do. I told one of them, an
old friend, that I was engaged in some literary work. He was angry in
an instant and said: "You door mat thief. You couldn't get away with a

One day I was taking the editor of this book through the Bowery,
pointing out to him some of my old resorts, when I met an old pal
of mine, who gave me the glad hand. We had a drink, and I, who was
feeling good, started in to jolly him a little. He had told me about
an old pal of ours who had just fallen for a book and was confined in a
Brooklyn jail. I took out a piece of "copy" paper and took the address,
intending to pay a visit to him, for everybody wants sympathy. What
a look went over that grafter's face! I saw him glance quickly at the
editor and then at me, and I knew then he had taken alarm, and probably
thought we were Pinkerton men, or something as bad. I tried to carry
it off with a laugh, for the place was full of thieves, and told him
I would get him a job on a newspaper. He answered hastily that he had
a good job in the pool-room and was on the level. He started in to try
to square it with my companion by saying that he "adored a man who had
a job." A little while afterwards he added that he hated anybody who
would graft after he had got an honest job. Then, to wind up his little
game of squaring himself, he ended by declaring that he had recently
obtained a very good position.

That was one of the incidents that queered me with the more intelligent
thieves. He spread the news, and whenever I meet one of that gang on
the Bowery I get the cold shoulder, a gun is so mighty quick to grow
suspicious. A grafter who follows the business for years is a study
in psychology, and his two most prominent characteristics are fear and
suspicion. If some stool-pigeon tips him off to the police, and he is
sent to stir, he invariably suspects the wrong person. He tells his
friends in stir that "Al done him," and pretty soon poor Al, who may
be an honest thief, is put down as a rat. If Al goes to stir very often
the result is a cutting match between the two.

There are many convicts in prison who lie awake at night concocting
stories about other persons, accusing them of the vilest of actions. If
the prisoner can get hold of a Sunday newspaper he invariably reads the
society news very carefully. He can tell more about the Four Hundred
than the swells will ever know about themselves; and he tells very
little good of them. Such stories are fabricated in prison and repeated
out of it.

When I was in Auburn stir I knew a young fellow named Sterling, as
straight a thief as ever did time. He had the courage of a grenadier
and objected to everything that was mean and petty. He therefore
had many enemies in prison, and they tried to make him unpopular by
accusing him of a horrible crime. The story reached my ears and I
tried to put a stop to it, but I only did him the more harm. When
Sterling heard the tale he knocked one of his traducers senseless
with an iron bar. Tongues wagged louder than ever and one day he
came to me and talked about it and I saw a wild look in his eyes.
His melancholia started in about that time, and he began to suspect
everybody, including me. His enemies put the keepers against him and
they made his life almost unbearable. Generally the men that tip off
keepers to the alleged violent character of some convict are the worst
stool-pigeons in the prison. Even the Messiah could not pass through
this world without arousing the venom of the crowd. How in the name of
common sense, then, could Sterling, or I, or any other grafter expect
otherwise than to be traduced? It was the politicians who were the
cause of Christ's trials; and the politicians are the same to-day as
they were then. They have very little brains, but they have the low
cunning which is the first attribute of the human brute. They pretend
to be the people's advisers, but pile up big bank accounts. Even the
convict scum that come from the lower wards of the city have all the
requisites of the successful politician. Nor can one say that these
criminals are of low birth, for they trace their ancestors back for
centuries. The fact that convicts slander one another with glee and
hear with joy of the misfortunes of their fellows, is a sign that
they come from a very old family; from the wretched human stock that
demanded the crucifixion of Christ.

This evil trait, suspiciousness, is something I should like to
eliminate from my own character. Even now I am afflicted with it.
Since my release I often have the old feeling come over me that I am
being watched; and sometimes without any reason at all. Only recently
I was riding on a Brooklyn car, when a man sitting opposite happened
to glance at me two or three times. I gave him an irritated look. Then
he stared at me, to see what was the matter, I suppose. That was too
much, and I asked him, with my nerves on edge, if he had ever seen me
before. He said "No", with a surprised look, and I felt cheap, as I
always do after such an incident. A neighbor of mine has a peculiar
habit of watching me quietly whenever I visit his family. I know that
he is ignorant of my past but when he stares at me, I am rattled.
I begin to suspect that he is studying me, wondering who I am. The
other day I said to him, irritably: "Mr. K----, you have a bad habit
of watching people." He laughed carelessly and I, getting hot, said:
"Mr. K---- when I visit people it is not with the intention of stealing
anything." I left the house in a huff and his sister, as I afterwards
found, rebuked him for his bad manners.

Indeed, I have lost many a friend by being over suspicious. I am
suspicious even of my family. Sometimes when I sit quietly at home
with my mother in the evening, as has grown to be a habit with me, I
see her look at me. I begin immediately to think that she is wondering
whether I am grafting again. It makes me very nervous, and I sometimes
put on my hat and go out for a walk, just to be alone. One day, when
I was in stir, my mother visited me, as she always did when they gave
her a chance. In the course of our conversation she told me that on my
release I had better leave the city and go to some place where I was
not known. "For," she said, "your character, my boy, is bad." I grabbed
her by the arm and exclaimed: "Who is it that is circulating these
d---- stories about me?" My poor mother merely meant, of course, that
I was known as a thief, but I thought some of the other convicts had
slandered me to her. It was absurd, of course, but the outside world
cannot understand how suspicious a grafter is. I have often seen a man,
who afterwards became insane, begin being queer through suspiciousness.

Well, as I have said, I found the guns suspicious of me, when I
told them I had squared it, or when I refused to say anything about
my doings. Of course I don't care, for I hate the Bowery now and
everything in it. Whenever I went, as I did several times with my
editor, to a gun joint, a feeling of disgust passed over me. I pity my
old pals, but they no longer interest me. I look upon them as failures.
I have seen a new light and I shall follow it. Whatever the public may
think of this book, it has already been a blessing to me. For it has
been honest work that I and my friend the editor have done together,
and leads me to think that there may yet be a new life for me. I
feel now that I should prefer to talk and associate with the meanest
workingman in this city than with the swellest thief. For a long time
I have really despised myself. When old friends and relatives look at
me askance I say to myself: "How can I prove to them that I am not the
same as I was in the past?" No wonder the authorities thought I was
mad. I have spent the best years of my life behind the prison bars. I
could have made out of myself almost anything I wanted, for I had the
three requisites of success: personal appearance, health and, I think,
some brains. But what have I done? After ruining my life, I have not
even received the proverbial mess of pottage. As I look back upon my
life both introspectively and retrospectively I do not wonder that
society at large despises the criminal.

I am not trying to point a moral or pose as a reformer. I cannot say
that I quit the old life because of any religious feeling. I am not
one of those who have reformed by finding Jesus at the end of a gas
pipe which they were about to use as a black jack on a citizen, just
in order to finger his long green. I only saw by painful experience
that there is nothing in a life of crime. I ran up against society,
and found that I had struck something stronger and harder than a stone
wall. But it was not that alone that made me reform. What was it?
Was it the terrible years I spent in prison? Was it the confinement
in a mad-house, where I daily saw old pals of mine become drivelling
idiots? Was it my reading of the great authors, and my becoming
acquainted with the beautiful thoughts of the great men of the world?
Was it a combination of these things? Perhaps so, but even that does
not entirely explain it, does not go deep enough. I have said that I
am not religious, and I am not. And yet I have experienced something
indefinable, which I suppose some people might call an awakening of
the soul. What is that, after all, but the realization that your way of
life is ruining you even to the very foundation of your nature?

Perhaps, after all, I am not entirely lacking in religion; for
certainly the character of Christ strongly appeals to me. I don't care
for creeds, but the personality of the Nazarene, when stripped of the
aroma of divinity, appeals to all thinking men, I care not whether they
are atheists, agnostics or sceptics. Any man that has understanding
reveres the life of Christ, for He practiced what He preached and died
for humanity. He was a perfect specimen of manhood, and had developed
to the highest degree that trait which is lacking in most all men--the
faculty humane.

I believe that a time comes in the lives of many grafters when they
desire to reform. Some do reform for good and all, and I shall show the
world that I am one of them; but the difficulties in the way are great,
and many fall again by the wayside.

They come out of prison marked men. Many observers can tell an
ex-convict on sight. The lock-step is one of the causes. It gives a
man a peculiar gait which he will retain all his life. The convicts
march close together and cannot raise their chests. They have to keep
their faces turned towards the screw. Breathing is difficult, and most
convicts suffer in consequence from catarrh, and a good many from lung
trouble. Walking in lock-step is not good exercise, and makes the men
nervous. When the convict is confined in his cell he paces up and down.
The short turn is bad for his stomach, and often gets on his mind.
That short walk will always have control of me. I cannot sit down now
to eat or write, without jumping up every five minutes in order to
take that short walk. I have become so used to it that I do not want
to leave the house, for I can pace up and down in my room. I can take
that small stretch all day long and not be tired, but if I walk a long
straight distance I get very much fatigued. When I wait for a train
I always begin that short walk on the platform. I have often caught
myself walking just seven feet one way, and then turning around and
walking seven feet in the opposite direction. Another physical mark,
caused by a criminal life rather than by a long sojourn in stir, is
an expressionless cast of countenance. The old grafter never expresses
any emotions. He has schooled himself until his face is a mask, which
betrays nothing.

A much more serious difficulty in the way of reform is the ex-convict's
health which is always bad if a long term of years has been served.
Moreover, his brain has often lost its equilibrium and powers of
discernment. When he gets out of prison his chance of being able to
do any useful work is slight. He knows no trade, and he is not strong
enough to do hard day labor. He is given only ten dollars, when he
leaves stir, with which to begin life afresh. A man who has served a
long term is not steady above the ears until he has been at liberty
several months; and what can such a man do with ten dollars? It would
be cheaper for the state in the end to give an ex-convict money enough
to keep him for several months; for then a smaller percentage would
return to stir. It would give the man a chance to make friends, to look
for a job, and to show the world that he is in earnest.

A criminal who is trying to reform is generally a very helpless
being. He was not, to begin with, the strongest man mentally, and
after confinement is still less so. He is preoccupied, suspicious
and a dreamer, and when he gets a glimpse of himself in all his
naked realities, is apt to become depressed and discouraged. He is
easily led, and certainly no man needs a good friend as much as the
ex-convict. He is distrusted by everybody, is apt to be "piped off"
wherever he goes, and finds it hard to get work which he can do. There
are hundreds of men in our prisons to-day who, if they could find
somebody who would trust them and take a genuine interest in them,
would reform and become respectable citizens. That is where the Tammany
politician, whom I have called Senator Wet Coin is a better man than
the majority of reformers. When a man goes to him and says he wants to
square it he takes him by the hand, trusts and helps him. Wet Coin does
not hand him a soup ticket and a tract nor does he hold on tight to his
own watch chain fearing for his red super, hastily bidding the ex-gun
to be with Jesus.


The life of the thief is at an end; and the life of the man and good
citizen has begun. For I am convinced that Jim is strictly on the
level, and will remain so. The only thing yet lacking to make his
reform sure is a job. I, and those of my friends who are interested,
have as yet failed to find anything for him to do that is, under the
circumstances, desirable. The story of my disappointments in this
respect is a long one, and I shall not tell it. I have learned to think
that patience is the greatest of the virtues; and of this virtue an
ex-gun needs an enormous amount. If Jim and his friends prove good in
this way, the job will come. But waiting is hard, for Jim is nervous,
in bad health, with an old mother to look after, and with new ambitions
which make keen his sense of time lost.

One word about his character: I sometimes think of my friend the
ex-thief as "Light-fingered Jim"; and in that name there lingers a note
of vague apology. As he told his story to me, I saw everywhere the mark
of the natural rogue, of the man grown with a roguish boy's brain.
The humor of much of his tale seemed to me strong. I was never able
to look upon him as a deliberate malefactor. He constantly impressed
me as gentle and imaginative, impressionable and easily influenced,
but not naturally vicious or vindictive. If I am right, his reform is
nothing more or less than the coming to years of sober maturity. He is
now thirty-five years old, and as he himself puts it: "Some men acquire
wisdom at twenty-one, others at thirty-five, and some never."


The XVth Century morality play, with reproductions of old wood cuts.
$1.00, postage paid or at your bookseller's. The first book to bear the
imprint of Fox, Duffield & Company.

"In typography, in paper and in make-up the edition is admirable. It is
a good beginning and sets a very high standard."

     _The Sun, New York._

"The best of the old moralities, easy to read and fair to look upon."

     _Evening Post, New York._

"The book is well done, and should find a place on the shelves and in
the spirits of all who care for the best in life and art."

     JOHN CORBIN, in
     _The New York Times_.

"Everyman" in book form will be welcomed by the large number of people
whose attention has been called to this ancient morality play by its
admirable presentation in different cities."

     _The Outlook, New York._

"The first publication of (the new house) "Everyman," the fifteenth
century morality play given in Boston this winter, is of artistic
design and of handsome, agreeable type. The old woodcuts are reproduced
from the first ancient edition of the play."

     _Boston Journal._

     36 East 21st Street.

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