The Biggest Art Heist in History Still Remains Unsolved, 25 Years Later !

John Dillinger

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John Dillinger, in full John Herbert Dillinger (born June 28, 1902, or June 22, 1903,Indianapolis, Ind., U.S.—died July 22, 1934, Chicago, Ill.) most famous of all U.S. bank robbers, whose short career of robberies and escapes from June 1933 to July 1934 won media headlines.

Dillinger was born in Indianapolis but spent his adolescence on a farm in nearby Mooresville. He joined the navy in 1923 and he served on the USS Utah but deserted after only a few months. In September 1924, caught in the foiled holdup of a Mooresville grocer, he served much of the next decade (1924–33) in Indiana state prisons. While in prison he learned the craft of bank robbery from tough professionals. Upon parole on May 22, 1933, he turned his knowledge to profit, taking (with one to four confederates) five Indiana and Ohio banks in four months and gaining his first notoriety as a daring, leaping, sharply dressed gunman.

Early Life and Family
dillinger-early-lifeBorn into a middle-class family on June 22, 1903, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Dillinger experienced tragedy at the age of four when his mother died. Shortly thereafter, his father moved the family to a small farm in Mooresville, Indiana; he soon remarried. Dillinger’s father had several children with his new wife, and Dillinger’s upbringing fell mainly to his older sister. Reportedly, Dillinger disliked his stepmother and endured physical punishment from his harsh father. In 1923, Dillinger joined the Navy but grew tired of it quickly, ultimately deserting. He returned to Indiana and told friends and family that he had been discharged. Shortly after his return, he married 17-year-old Beryl Hovius. He was 21 at the time. The marriage lasted a mere two years.

Introduction to Crime
Following the end of his marriage, Dillinger moved to Indianapolis and met Ed Singleton, a former convict, while working at a grocery store. Young and impressionable, Dillinger was taken under Singleton’s wing and accompanied him as he committed his first heist: a botched grocery store hold-up. After fighting with the owner during the robbery and knocking him unconscious, Dillinger fled the scene, thinking the owner was dead. Upon hearing Dillinger’s gun go off during the brawl, Singleton panicked and drove away with the getaway car, stranding Dillinger. With no legal guidance, Dillinger pled guilty and received a 10-year prison sentence. Singleton, also arrested, received just 5 years. Dillinger used his time in jail to strategize and plan his revenge against the justice system. With one year taken off his sentence for good behavior, he was released on parole in 1933, four years after the start of the Great Depression.
While in jail, Dillinger learned from seasoned bank robbers, preparing for a future in crime. Within a week of leaving prison he assembled a gang and began executing plans to send arms to his friends at Indiana State Prison for escape. However, on the day of the planned prison break, September 22, 1933, police, on a tip, raided the old house where Dillinger and his newly choreographed gang had set up residence. Dillinger was arrested again. He was immediately transferred to Allen County Jail in Lima, Ohio. The arrest only proved Dillinger’s loyalty to his friends and they were quick to return the favor. Dressed as police officers, Dillinger’s cronies snuck into the jail and broke him out.

John Dillinger

Bank Robberies
All told, Dillinger racked up more than $300,000 throughout his bank-robbing career. Among the banks he robbed were:

  • July 17, 1933 – Commercial Bank in Daleville, Indiana – $3,500
  • August 4, 1933 – Montpelier National Bank in Montpelier, Indiana – $6,700
  • August 14, 1933 – Bluffton Bank in Bluffton, Ohio – $6,000
  • September 6, 1933 – Massachusetts Avenue State Bank in Indianapolis, Indiana – $21,000
  • October, 23, 1933 – Central Nation Bank and Trust Co. in Greencastle, Indiana – $76,000
  • November 20, 1933 – American Bank and Trust Co. in Racine, Wisconsin – $28,000
  • December 13, 1933 – Unity Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago, Illinois – $8,700
  • January, 15, 1934 – First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana – $20,000
  • March 6, 1934 – Securities National Bank and Trust Co. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota – $49,500
  • March 13, 1934 – First National Bank in Mason City, Iowa – $52,000
  • June 30, 1934 – Merchants National Bank in South Bend, Indiana – $29,890

The East Chicago robbery on January 15, 1934 is particularly noteworthy. It was at this heist that Dillinger shot a police officer, thereby adding murder to his growing list of charges.

Jail Time
Shortly after the East Chicago robbery, a fire broke out in the hotel where Dillinger and his friends were staying in Tucson, Arizona. Tipped off again, police found and arrested Dillinger. Allowing no room for error this round, the police had him carefully secured and sent to Indiana by aircraft, where he could be tried for murder (he was only guilty of theft in Arizona). He arrived at Chicago’s municipal airport on January 23, 1934, where he was greeted by throngs of reporters eager to spread word of the infamous criminal’s capture. At this point in time, Dillinger was already a public sensation, due to the media frenzy surrounding him. Authorities placed Dillinger under high security at the jail in Crown Point, Indiana, and treated him as though he had all due intent to try another escape. However, as things settled down, the armed patrol guards on the streets surrounding the prison were dismissed, and indoor guards became more lax. Despite having six armed guards between his cell and the outside world, the leniency of prison regulations permitted Dillinger to spend hours in his cell carving a fake gun out of an old piece of washboard using just a few razor-blades. A replica of his creation is on display in the museum. Dillinger used this gun to escape by taking one hostage and forcing him “at gunpoint” to lead him out of the prison. Dillinger then managed to hijack a car from a nearby alley, and before the prison knew what had happened, Dillinger was on the road again with two hostages in tow. It was then that Dillinger made the fatal mistake of crossing state borders in a stolen car, bringing his crimes under FBI jurisdiction.

Escape at Little Bohemia Lodge
At the time of Dillinger’s escape, J. Edgar Hoover was working on implementing a more credible, reformed FBI and developing a new strategy of assigning “special agents” to cases. Hoover appointed a special squad, led by Agent Melvin Purvis, specifically to track down John Dillinger. Constantly on the move after his escape, Dillinger drove across the Midwest trying to avoid the FBI. Along the way, Dillinger teamed up with his old girlfriend, Billie Frechette. After several close calls with the cops and losing Frechette, Dillinger set up camp at Little Bohemia Lodge, just outside the remote town of Mercer, Wisconsin, hiding out with a cadre of criminals, including “Babyface” Nelson, Homer Van Meter, and Tommy Carroll. Alerted by concerned residents and the inn’s owners, the FBI swarmed the house, but again, Dillinger managed to slip away. At this point, Dillinger concluded that he had simply become too recognizable. Seeking a better disguise, he decided to undergo major plastic surgery. It was at this time that he was christened with the nickname “Snake Eyes.” The surgery was able to change everything except his devious eyes.

Death John Dillinger
Following Dillinger’s last staged bank robbery in South Bend, Indiana, where he killed another policeman, Hoover made the unprecedented step of placing a $10,000 reward on Dillinger’s head. About a month after the announcement, a friend of Dillinger’s, an illegal immigrant working at a brothel under the stage name Ana Sage, tipped off the police. She was under the impression that the FBI would prevent her from deportation if she helped them. Sage told officials that Dillinger planned to attend a film at the Biograph Theater in Chicago. Armed agents waited outside of the theater waiting for Ana’s signal (a red dress).

“Dillinger gave one hunted look about him, and attempted to run up an alley, where several of my men were waiting. As he ran, he drew an automatic pistol from his pocket, although I have always been told that he carried his weapons in his waist band.”

“As his hand came up with the gun in it, several shots were fired by my men, before he could fire. He dropped, fatally wounded. I had hoped to take him alive, but I was afraid that he would resist to the last.

Hit Three Times.

Dillinger was shot through the back of the neck, the bullet coming out just under the right eye, another bullet crashed through his left breast. The latter would not have killed him, the bullet through the neck being fatal.

A third bullet was found in the left breast, it had passed through the tip of the heart. The breast wounds were two inches apart.”

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Betty and Rosella Nelson, sisters and entertainers in Chicago, view the body of the notorious criminal John Dillinger in the morgue.

 

At the Cook County Morgue, attempts were made to identify Dillinger by his fingerprints, but the ends of his fingers were scarred, apparently having been treated with acid. Purvis had definitely identified him, before the body was taken to the morgue.

Examination at the morgue disclosed a recent wound in Dillinger’s chest about two inches long, which had just healed, and it was believed he had received it in a recent bank robbery raid. Purvis said his last known raid was the robbery of the Peoples Trust and Savings Bank at South Bend.

Dillinger’s hair was died coal black and cut very short. His eyebrows appeared to have been plucked to a fine line. He had a small black mustache.

Hundreds of spectators crowded, pushed and jostled after the bleeding body of the outlaw was removed.

Souvenir hunters madly dipped newspapers in the blood that stained the pavement. Handkerchiefs were whipped out and used to mop up the blood.

John Dillinger wanted poster.

John Dillinger wanted poster.

Traffic soon became so jammed that street cars were re-routed, police lines established and traffic blocked out of the area.

Frustrated souvenir hunters hurried to the county morgue, police estimated 2,000 persons rushed to the morgue for a view of the body, and shouted and fought with police to gain entrance. Stringent lines were drawn there also.

Dillinger did not have a chance to get away.

“Every back door both ways down the street was watched,” the Federal chief said.

Two agents were across the street in a restaurant; two were in a garage two doors from the theatre, and two on the sidewalk, in front of the theatre.

AN UNDATED FILE PHOTO

In this undated file photo, John Dillinger is seen.

 

On this day : The 2nd August 1876

Wild Bill Hickok is murdered

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“Wild Bill” Hickok, one of the greatest gunfighters of the American West, is murdered in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Born in Illinois in 1837, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok first gained notoriety as a gunfighter in 1861 when he coolly shot three men who were trying to kill him. A highly sensationalized account of the gunfight appeared six years later in the popular periodical Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, sparking Hickok’s rise to national fame. Other articles and books followed, and though his prowess was often exaggerated, Hickok did earn his reputation with a string of impressive gunfights.

After accidentally killing his deputy during an 1871 shootout in Abilene, Texas, Hickok never fought another gun battle. For the next several years he lived off his famous reputation, appearing as himself in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show. Occasionally, he worked as guide for wealthy hunters. His renowned eyesight began to fail, and for a time he was reduced to wandering the West trying to make a living as a gambler. Several times he was arrested for vagrancy.

In the spring of 1876, Hickok arrived in the Black Hills mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota. There he became a regular at the poker tables of the No. 10 Saloon, eking out a meager existence as a card player. On this day in 1876, Hickok was playing cards with his back to the saloon door. At 4:15 in the afternoon, a young gunslinger named Jack McCall walked into the saloon, approached Hickok from behind, and shot him in the back of the head. Hickok died immediately. McCall tried to shoot others in the crowd, but amazingly, all of the remaining cartridges in his pistol were duds. McCall was later tried, convicted, and hanged.

Hickok was only 39 years old when he died. The most famous gunfighter in the history of the West died with his Smith & Wesson revolver in his holster, never having seen his murderer. According to legend, Hickok held a pair of black aces and black eights when he died, a combination that has since been known as the Dead Man’s Hand.

On this day : The 13th April 1866

Butch Cassidy is born

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Born Robert Leroy Parker, he was the son of Mormon parents who had answered Brigham Young’s call for young couples to help build communities of Latter Day Saints on the Utah frontier. Cassidy was the first of 13 children born to Max and Annie Parker.

When Cassidy was 13 years old, the family moved to a ranch near the small Mormon community of Circleville. He became an admirer of a local ruffian named Mike Cassidy, who taught him how to shoot and gave him a gun and saddle. With Cassidy’s encouragement, the young man apparently began rustling, eventually forcing him to leave home during his mid-teens under a cloud of suspicion.

For several years, he drifted around the West using the name Roy Parker. Finally, on June 24, 1889, he committed his first serious crime, robbing a bank in Telluride, Colorado, for more than $20,000. As a fugitive, he took to calling himself George Cassidy, a nod to his first partner in crime back in Utah. Wishing to lay low, for a time he worked in a Rock Springs, Wyoming, butcher shop, earning the nickname that would complete one of the most famous criminal aliases in history, “Butch” Cassidy.

In 1894, Butch Cassidy was arrested for horse theft in Wyoming. After serving two years in the Wyoming Territorial Prison at Laramie, Cassidy was pardoned. He immediately returned to a life of crime, this time gathering around him a local band of carousing outlaws that became known as the Wild Bunch. Cassidy’s most famous partner was Harry Longbaugh, better known as the “Sundance Kid.” Other members included the quick-to-kill Harvey Logan (“Kid Curry”), Ben Kilpatrick (“Tall Texan”), Harry Tracy, Deaf Charley Hanks, and Tom Ketchum (“BlackJack”).

By 1897, Cassidy was solidly in control of a sophisticated criminal operation that was active in states and territories from South Dakota to New Mexico. The Wild Bunch specialized in holding up railroad express cars, and the gang was sometimes called the Train Robbers’ Syndicate. Between robberies, Cassidy rendezvoused with various lovers around the West and took his gang on unruly vacations to Denver, San Antonio, and Fort Worth.

By the turn of the century, however, the wild days of the West were rapidly fading. Once deserted lands were being tamed and settled, and western states and territories were creating an increasingly effective law-enforcement network. Tired of his robberies, railroad executives hired detectives to catch Cassidy and began placing mounted guards in railcars to pursue the Wild Bunch. In 1901, Cassidy fled the U.S. for Argentina accompanied by his lover, Etta Place, and the Sundance Kid.

The trio homesteaded a ranch at Cholila, though Place returned to the United States after several years. In 1904, Cassidy and Sundance learned that detectives had tracked them to South America. They abandoned the Cholila ranch and resumed a life of robbery in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. Though there is no evidence definitely to confirm it, Bolivian troops reportedly killed the partners in the village of San Vicente in 1908. The families of both men insist, however, that the men survived and returned to live into old age in the United States.

Cherokee Bill

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Born Crawford Goldsby, Cherokee Bill was a 19th century outlaw who was known to have a quick trigger finger. He and his gang terrorized the Indian Territory for over two years before he was hanged on March 17, 1896 at the age of 20. His crime spree began when he was just 18 years old after shooting Jake Lewis for beating up his younger brother. He joined with outlaws Jim and Bill Cook and began terrorizing Oklahoma until his apprehension.

Probably the most famous outlaw that was hanged on the Fort Smith gallows was Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill. He was born on February 8, 1876 at Fort Concho, Texas, the son of George Goldsby, a buffalo soldier of Mexican, white and Sioux descent, and a woman named Ellen Beck, half black, one-fourth Cherokee and one-fourth white. When George Goldsby abandoned his pregnant wife and son two years later, Ellen returned to Fort Gibson and sent Crawford to Indian Schools in Kansas and Pennsylvania. When he returned, he worked odd jobs until his first run in with the law in the summer of 1893 at age 17.

On September 29, Goldsby attended a harvest dance at Fort Gibson to see Maggie Glass, a pretty 15 year old girl with whom he was infatuated. While there, he got into a fight with Jake Lewis and was easily overpowered by the man. The next morning, Goldsby appeared at Lewis’ farm with the intention of killing him for the embarrassment in front of Maggie. Although Lewis suffered two gunshot wounds, he lived to file charges against Goldsby.

By this time, Goldsby had adopted the nickname of Cherokee Bill. Apparently the name derived from his Cherokee heritage and his attendance at the Indian School at Cherokee, Kansas. In the Cherokee country the name “Bill” meant “wild hand,” not a person to run counter to.

After the assault on Jake Lewis, Cherokee Bill began riding with the Cook Gang. Led by Bill Cook, this group of outlaws terrorized the Cherokee and Creek Nations during 1893 and 1894. Their crimes started off small with whiskey charges and stealing horses, but soon led to train robberies, stage holdups, and bank theft. On July 31, 1894, the gang stole $500 from the Lincoln County bank in Chandler, Oklahoma. On September 21, the J.A. Parkinson & Company store in Okmulgee lost over $600 to them. On October 10 “the record of bold and desperate deeds” was broken when the gang held up and robbed the depot of the Missouri Pacific Railroad at Claremore. Less than 2 hours later, they robbed the railroad agent at Chouteau. Ten days later it was the wrecking and robbing of the Kansas City and Missouri Pacific express five miles south of Wagoner.

On November 9, Cherokee Bill and two other gang members held up a store and post office fifteen miles south of Coffeyville, Kansas. Cherokee Bill shot and killed a painter named Ernest Melton who was watching the heist from a window of a restaurant across the street. “The ball struck Melton below one eye and came out the back of his head, killing him instantly.”

It was this crime that Cherokee Bill would hang for in Fort Smith, but the road to the gallows had several more twists and turns for the law enforcement officials in Fort Smith.

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Hanging

The second trial lasted three days, resulting in a guilty verdict and U.S. District Judge Isaac Parker sentenced Goldsby to be hanged on September 10, 1895. A stay was granted, pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. On December 2, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Fort Smith court and Judge Parker again set the execution date as March 17, 1896.

On the morning of March 17, Goldsby awoke at six to have a smoke break. He ate a light breakfast sent from the hotel by his mother. At 9:20, his mother and “Aunty” Amanda Foster were admitted to his cell and shortly afterwards Father Pius arrived.

The hanging was scheduled for 11 am, but was delayed until 2 pm so his sister Georgia could see him before the hanging. She was scheduled to arrive at 1 pm on the eastbound train.

Shortly after 2 pm while on the gallows, it was reported Goldsby was asked if he had anything to say and he replied, “I came here to die, not make a speech.” About 12 minutes later, Crawford “Cherokee Bill” Goldsby, the most notorious outlaw in the Territory, was dead.

The body was placed in a coffin, which was placed in a box and taken to the Missouri Pacific depot. Placed aboard the train, Ellen and Georgia escorted the body to to Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, for interment at the Cherokee National Cemetery

On April 20, 1897, Ike “Robinson” {Rogers}, who was reported to have been involved in the capture of Cherokee Bill, was shot and killed by Clarence Goldsby at Ft Gibson Oklahoma

Black beard

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Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, is killed off North Carolina’s Outer Banks during a bloody battle with a British navy force sent from Virginia.

Believed to be a native of England, Edward Teach likely began his pirating career in 1713, when he became a crewman aboard a Caribbean sloop commanded by pirate Benjamin Hornigold. In 1717, after Hornigold accepted an offer of general amnesty by the British crown and retired as a pirate, Teach took over a captured 26-gun French merchantman, increased its armament to 40 guns, and renamed it the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

During the next six months, the Queen Anne’s Revenge served as the flagship of a pirate fleet featuring up to four vessels and more than 200 men. Teach became the most infamous pirate of his day, winning the popular name of Blackbeard for his long, dark beard, which he was said to light on fire during battles to intimidate his enemies. Blackbeard’s pirate forces terrorized the Caribbean and the southern coast of North America and were notorious for their cruelty.

In May 1718, the Queen Anne’s Revenge and another vessel were shipwrecked, forcing Blackbeard to desert a third ship and most of his men because of a lack of supplies. With the single remaining ship, Blackbeard sailed to Bath in North Carolina and met with Governor Charles Eden. Eden agreed to pardon Blackbeard in exchange for a share of his sizable booty.

At the request of North Carolina planters, Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia dispatched a British naval force under Lieutenant Robert Maynard to North Carolina to deal with Blackbeard. On November 22, Blackbeard’s forces were defeated and he was killed in a bloody battle of Ocracoke Island. Legend has it that Blackbeard, who captured more than 30 ships in his brief pirating career, received five musket-ball wounds and 20 sword lacerations before dying.

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Frank Leslie

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A western gunfighter, Indian Scout and prospector, Leslie was best known for having killed Billy Claibourne, one of the infamous Clanton Gang, who feuded with the Earps in Tombstone, Arizona.

Allegedly born in Nashville, Tennessee, though at various points in his life he listed other places, Leslie migrated west somewhere along the line and was working as a scout for the U.S. Army in Texas, Oklahoma and the Dakotas during the 1870’s. By the time he arrived in Tombstone in 1880, the town was teeming with outlaws and other shiftless characters as the Earps were attempting to tame the lawless settlement.

Leslie, though standing just 5 feet 7 inches and weighing 135 pounds, had already earned a reputation as a gunfighter. He earned the moniker of “Buckskin Frank” because of the buckskin fringed jacket that he wore all of the time.

With a matched pair of six-shooters on his hips, and shooting skills that Wyatt Earp would later describe as being comparable to Doc Holliday’s, Leslie fit right in with the rest of Tombstone’s rowdy crowd. Quick to show off his skills, Leslie was known to frequently demonstrate his shooting abilities, often on the ceilings of the many Allen Street saloons.

Leslie was also an ill-tempered and violent man, especially when he drank. Even among the notorious rabble in Tombstone at the time of Leslie’s arrival, he stood out for his quick temper and swiftness with his gun.

Upon his arrival, he worked some at the Cosmopolitan Hotel on Allen Street and later filed a number of mining claims in the area. However, history tells us that he spent more time in the gambling halls than he ever spent working. Almost immediately began to have an affair with a married woman by the name of Mae Killeen. Though the dark-haired beauty was separated from her husband Mike, that didn’t stop the estranged husband’s jealousy, as he told everyone that he would shoot any man that he caught her with. Not long after, that’s exactly what happened when he found Buckskin Frank with “his” Mae on the porch of the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Mike made the mistake of confronting Leslie and wound up dead on June 22, 1880. The killing was officially ruled to have been self-defense. Just one week later, Leslie and the “aggrieved” widow Killeen were married.

After the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, the Earps, who were allegedly friends with Leslie, moved into the Cosmopolitan Hotel feeling they were safer there than in their homes.

Some time later, Leslie badly pistol-whipped a man outside the Oriental Saloon, at which time the Tombstone residents really began to think that Buckskin Frank was a dangerous man, even in the midst of the rest of the notorious rabble of Tombstone.

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When the famous Tombstone gunslinger John Ringo was found murdered, suspicions focused on Leslie, even though law officers were unable to prove his guilt.

After the Earps had left Tombstone, Leslie became involved in an argument with  a survivor of the O.K. Corral gunfight. who demanded to be called “Billy the Kid” after the death of William Bonney,and had been claiming that he had killed three men who had ridiculed him. In actuality, records indicate that he had only killed one man prior to his confrontation with Leslie. Ridicule had evidently become a part of Billy’s life as his reputation suffered when the details of his fleeing the scene of the O.K. Corral gunfight made their rounds.

On November 14, 1882, Claibourne argued with Leslie, when the gunfighter refused to refer to him as “Billy the Kid.” Later that night, Buckskin Frank was in the Oriental Saloon when a drunken Billy  staggered in and continued his argument with the gunfighter.

Fed up, Leslie escorted him to the door and threw him out of the saloon. However Claiborne was determined and soon returned with a Winchester. Outside the saloon, he began to brag to anyone who would listen that he would kill Leslie on sight. When word of this reached Frank, he took up the challenge, exited the saloon and the inevitable gun battle began.

In the melee, Claiborne’s shots missed, but Leslie hit Billy several times. While Claiborne lay in the dusty street, Leslie walked up to him and the wounded man said, “Don’t shoot me anymore I’m killed.”  His friends took him to the doctor where he died six hours later. Allegedly, his last words were: “Frank Leslie killed John Ringo. I saw him do it.”

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When the Apache uprisings began in the mid-1880’s Leslie again worked for the U.S. Army as an Indian scout on at least two separate occasions.

Returning to Tombstone, things were not looking well on the home front, as, after seven years of marriage, he and Mae divorced in 1887. Mae claimed that one of the reasons for the divorce was Leslie’s habit of wanting to shoot her silhouette in the wall as she stood there, proving yet again, his excellent shooting skills.

By this time, Leslie was working as a bartender in the Oriental Saloon, but preferred to spend much of his free time at the Bird Cage theatre  There, he met a young singer and prostitute by the name of Mollie Williams and before long, the two were living together. The “lady” also went by the names of Blonde Mollie and Mollie Bradshaw. Her promoter’s name was Bradshaw, though he was not her husband. However, sometime later he turned up dead and Leslie was automatically suspected. Though he never admitted to killing the man, he never denied it, either.

From the beginning Frank and Mollie’s relationship was based on their mutual love of whiskey which led to frequent and violent quarrels. On July 10, 1889, the violence escalated and Leslie shot Mollie in the head. The murder was witnessed by another man named James Neil, who had the nickname of “Six-Shooter Jim”. Leslie then turned on him and shot him as well. Though Mollie died, Jim survived and would later testify against Leslie.

Buckskin Frank was sentenced to 25 years in the Yuma prison.  The town of Tombstone was glad to be rid of the gunfighter who had confessed to having killed 14 people.

However, after serving just seven years, Leslie won parole with the help of a young divorcee named Belle Stowell. Once he was released, the two traveled toCalifornia, where they were married in Stockton on December 1, 1896. The pair then went on a lavish honeymoon to China before returning to the United States and settling down to a more peaceful life.

Reportedly, Leslie traveled to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush before moving on to San Francisco, California in 1904. In 1913, he was running a pool hall in Oakland, California. The 1920 census has him living in a lodging house in Sausalito, California. He is listed as 77 years old, unemployed, and single.

By 1922, he had disappeared from public records. Though the manner of his death remains unconfirmed, some believe that he may have been a broke and homeless man by the same name who died in San Francisco in 1930.

On this day : The 14th of November 1882

Franklin Leslie kills Billy “The Kid” Claiborne

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On this day, the gunslinger Franklin “Buckskin” Leslie shoots the Billy “The Kid” Claiborne dead in the streets of Tombstone, Arizona.

The town of Tombstone is best known today as the site of the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral. In the 1880s, however, Tombstone was home to many gunmen who never achieved the enduring fame of Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday. Franklin “Buckskin” Leslie was one of the most notorious of these largely forgotten outlaws.

There are few surviving details about Leslie’s early life. At different times, he claimed to have been born in both Texas and Kentucky, to have studied medicine in Europe, and to have been an army scout in the war against the Apache Indians. No evidence has ever emerged to support or conclusively deny these claims. The first historical evidence of Leslie’s life emerges in 1877, when he became a scout in Arizona. A few years later, Leslie was attracted to the moneymaking opportunities of the booming mining town of Tombstone, where he opened the Cosmopolitan Hotel in 1880. That same year he killed a man named Mike Killeen during a quarrel over Killeen’s wife, and he married the woman shortly thereafter.

Leslie’s reputation as a cold-blooded killer brought him trouble after his drinking companion and fellow gunman John Ringo was found dead in July 1882. Some Tombstone citizens, including a young friend of Ringo’s named Billy “The Kid” Claiborne, were convinced that Leslie had murdered Ringo, though they could not prove it. Probably seeking vengeance and the notoriety that would come from shooting a famous gunslinger, Claiborne unwisely decided to publicly challenge Leslie, who shot him dead.

The remainder of Leslie’s life was equally violent and senseless. After divorcing Killeen in 1887, he took up with a Tombstone prostitute, whom he murdered several years later during a drunken rage. Even by the loose standards of frontier law in Tombstone, the murder of an unarmed woman was unacceptable, and Leslie served nearly 10 years in prison before he was paroled in 1896. After his release, he married again and worked a variety of odd jobs around the West. He reportedly made a small fortune in the gold fields of the Klondike region before he disappeared forever from the historical record.

BLACK BART THE LEGEND BEGINS

Black Bart

The legend begins on a mountain pass called Funk Hill in Calaveras County, four miles outside of Copperopolis, California, on July 26, 1875. A man appeared before Wells Fargo stage driver John Shine (later a U.S. marshal and a California state senator). The man wore a long, soiled duster over his clothes, and covering his head was a flour sack with holes that had been cut for eyes. The man carried a double-barrel 12 gauge shotgun.

A deep voice commanded: “Please throw down the box!” Bart then said, “If he dares shoot give him a solid volley, boys.” Shine looked around and protruding from the boulders were what appeared to be six rifles. Shine quickly reached beneath his seat and withdrew the Wells Fargo strongbox (a wooden box reinforced with iron bands and padlocked) containing $348, according to Wells Fargo, and tossed it and the mail sacks to the ground. Shine warned his passengers, eight women and children and two men, to refrain from doing anything stupid. One of the women travellers threw out her purse in panic. Black Bart reportedly picked it up, bowed to the lady, and handed it back to her. “Madam, I do not wish your money,” he said. “In that respect I honor only the good office of Wells Fargo.”

With a sweep of his hand Bart motioned Shine on his way. As Shine drove away the driver took a quick glance back and saw the man attack the strong box with a hatchet. Shine drove off some distance and then stopped the stage, Walking back down the road, he saw a half dozen guns leveled at him from outlaws positioned behind boulders. He stood still and then realized the outlaws were not moving. Shine then discovered it was sticks pointed at him from the boulders.

The legend was born Black Bart had committed his first robbery.

Charles E. Boles (aka Black Bart, aka Charles E. Bolton) lived in San Francisco. He was a man well into his 50’s, about five-foot eight inches tall, ramrod straight, with gray hair and a moustache. A natty dresser, he favored diamonds and carried a short cane. People seeing him walk down the street in 1870’s San Francisco would have thought him nothing more than a kindly, prosperous, old grandpa out for a leisurely stroll. But, he was more than that, much, much more. No one could have imagined that this man was really the famous, or infamous, Black Bart the stage robber-poet of Northern California, or P o 8, as he preferred to refer to himself. He was a man who liked to live well and intended to do just that. He stayed in fine hotels, ate in the best restaurants and wore the finest clothes. Now all he had to do was find a way to earn a living to support his preferred lifestyle, and Charles E. Boles found a dandy.

Bart was not a rampant pillager of Wells Fargo. He only robbed stages periodically, sometimes with as much as nine months time between robberies. He later stated that he “took only what was needed when it was needed.” Most stagecoach drivers were submissive to Bart, seldom defying him with a cross word and obediently tossing down the strongbox when ordered to do so. This was not so with hard case George W. Hackett who, on July 13, 1882, was driving a Wells Fargo stage some nine miles outside of Strawberry, California. Bart suddenly darted from a boulder and stood in front of the stage, stopping it and leveling a shotgun at Hackett. He politely said: “Please throw down your strongbox.” Hackett was not pleased to do so; he reached for a rifle and fired a shot at the bandit. Bart dashed into the woods and vanished, but he received a scalp wound that would leave a permanent scar on the top right side of his forehead.

The lone bandit continued to stop Wells Fargo stages with regularity, always along mountain roads where the driver was compelled to slow down at dangerous curves. It was later estimated that Bart robbed as much as $18,000 from Wells Fargo stages over the course of his career, striking twenty-eight times. He left no clues whatsoever, although he did leave a spare gun after one robbery. He was always extremely courteous to passengers, especially women travelers, refusing to take their jewelry and cash. He made a favorable impression on drivers and passengers alike as a courteous, gentlemanly robber who apparently wanted to avoid a gunfight at all costs.

On July 30, 1878 while robbing the stage from La Porte to Oroville, Black Bart added to his legend. Again a woman traveler attempted to get out of the stage and give up her valuables to Bart. Black Bart stopped her and said: “No lady, don’t get out. I never bother the passengers. Keep calm. I’ll be through here in a minute and on my way.” With that he took the express box containing $50 in gold and a silver watch, the mail sacks and was on his way.

With his loot, Bart had invested in several small businesses which brought him a modest income, but he could not resist the urge to go back to robbing stages when money became short. After so many successful robberies, the P o 8 thought his luck would continue forever, but it was not to be. On November 3,1883, his luck ran out.

Why did Charles Boles decide to call himself Black Bart? Bart himself told Harry Morse and Captain Stone why when they were going out to pick up the gold alamagam from his last robbery. He said that he had read the story “The Case of Summerfield” several years earlier. When he was searching for a name, that one just popped into his mind. He chuckled at the stir his verse had created when signed by the name Black Bart.

On June 30, 1864, supposed Confederate troops held up the Placerville stage, and Captain Henry M. Ingraham, C.S.A. receipted to Wells Fargo for the treasure. Then in 1871, a San Francisco lawyer, William H. Rhodes, under the pen name “Caxton” resurrected the captain as Bartholomew Graham in a dime novel story called “The Case of Summerfield,” which appeared also in the Sacramento Union. Graham, known as “Black Bart” according to Rhodes, had been “engaged in the late robbery of Wells Fargo’s express at Grizly Bend!” He was an “unruly and wild villain” who wore all black, had a full black beard and a mess of wild curly black hair. It should be noted that Charles Boles never wore black nor did he have a beard nor was his hair black. Of more importance was the rest of his description: “He is 5 foot 10.5 inches in height, clear blue eyes and served in the civil war.” Stage drivers never forgot those “clear blue eyes.” By using the name Black Bart, Boles took advantage of an established dime novel bad guy. So the robber Black Bart was already known as someone to be feared. If you were robbed by Black Bart, you didn’t argue, you just gave up the loot.

Black Bart the P o 8

At the fourth and fifth robbery Bart left a note. He signed the note with a name that would go down in western history: “Black Bart, P o 8.” The letters and number mystified lawmen as much as the name Black Bart. Any tracking posse found no trace of the elusive bandit, and superstition had it that the stage indeed had been robbed by a ghost. There were only two poems but it is one of the most recognizable parts of the legend.

At the fourth robbery:

“I’ve labored long and hard for bread,
For honor and for riches
But on my corns too long you’ve tread,
You fine-haired sons-of-bitches.
Black Bart, the P o 8”

At the fifth robbery:

“Here I lay me down to sleep
To wait the coming morrow,
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat
And everlasting sorrow.
Yet come what will, I’ll try it once,
My conditions can’t be worse,
And if there’s money in that box,
‘Tis money in my purse.
Black Bart, the P o 8”

Note: A little know fact is that on the first poem there was also a note scribbled under the verse. The poem and the note had each line written in a different hand. It is thought that Bart did this to disguise his handwriting.

The note reads:
Driver, give my respects to our old friend, the other driver.
I really had a notion to hang my old disguise hat on his weather eye.

After Bart’s release from prison there was another robbery where a poem was left in the same fashion that Bart always left his poems. Detective Hume examined the note and compared it with the genuine Black Bart bits of poetry of the past. He declared the new verse a hoax and the work of another man, declaring that he was certain Black Bart had permanently retired. This gave rise to the later notion that Wells Fargo had actually pensioned off the robber on his promise that he would stop no more of its stages, paying him a handsome annuity until his death.

This is the third poem that was NOT written by the P o 8

So here I’ve stood while wind and rain
Have set the trees a’sobbin’
And risked my life for that damned stage
That wasn’t worth the robbin’.

Sixteen String Jack

The Eccentric Sixteen String Jack

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John Rann, otherwise known as “Sixteen String Jack”, was a notorious highwayman in the mid 18th century. On September 26, 1774, John stole from his last victim, and was found guilty and sentenced to death for his crime. Known as an eccentric character who was often dressed fashionably and who openly boasted about his crimes, John wasn’t your usual thief. Rann’s trial related to many aspects of the 18th century such as status, law and gender. People today are still openly robbed on streets and sidewalks, and while they may not be known as highwaymen today, these criminals are essentially the same.

The man in question who was robbed was Dr. William Bell. During the evening of September 26th, 1774, Bell claims that two men on horses caught up to him on the street and demanded all his money. One of the men threatened to shoot Bell if he didn’t comply by saying, “he immediately said your money; I said, my money? he immediately answered yes, or I will blow your brain out” so he handed over what money he had and his watch as well. Bell was later called down to Bow Street (where a group called the Bow Street Runners ran their operations; essentially an early form of a police force) to identify some prisoners. It proved difficult however, because Rann was known for his eccentric clothing and the robber Bell had met was dressed very dirty and grimy, very unlike Rann. Bell found Rann and Collier looked familiar and accused them of the crime. As he said in court, ‘I did in the progress of my survey see such looks and marks that I do declare that I firmly believe that John Rann is the identical man that robbed me.’”

The second part of this story is that of Eleanor Roache (who was an accomplice and mistress to Rann) and her servant Christian Stewart. Rann left the watch in Roache’s care to pawn off for money. The pawnbroker John Cordy did not believe the ladies story as he described, “the man must come or I cannot lend you money upon it” when they tried pawning the watch and he later took some men to apprehend the women at their house. They found at the house a pair of wet and dirty boots recently used and had a local watchmaker identify the watch as belonging to Mr. Bell. The town constable waited at the house until Rann and Collier came back, and they were apprehended as well.

Further evidence was identified when a man by the name of William Hill (who was a postilion for Princess Amelia) spotted Rann just before the robbery took place. He was able to identify Rann and an accomplice by their facial features and dirty and wet clothing they were wearing, as he testified, “I know Rann by sight very well”. Lastly, a neighbour who lived close to Roache’s house noted that she saw both Rann and Collier selling their horses after the robbery.

Rann defended that he had never seen Mr. Bell before, as he stated in his defence, “I knows no more of it than a child does unborn, nor I never seed Mr. Bell before he came to Sir John’s” and had committed no crime “They have said false things to you; I know no more of it if I was to suffer death to-morrow”. He also claimed he did not have any relationship with Eleanor Roache and accused his neighbor of lying, “This woman wants to swear my life away for an affair I know nothing of”. In Roache’s defense she claimed not to know the men either, or that the watch left to her was stolen by saying, “These are not the two men that gave me the watch”, “if I had known the watch was stolen I should not have offered it to a pawnbroker I had dealt with a great while”. Miss Stewart claimed she was Roache’s servant and was unaware of any wrongdoing of who Rann and Collier were. In the end Rann and Collier were sentenced to death (Collier was later pardoned however), Roache to fourteen years (transported to another colony in America) and Stewart was acquitted of any crime.

Rann was a notorious figure because of his personality and clothing. His nickname of Sixteen String Jack came from the fact that he wore, “breeches with eight silk strings or tassels attached to each knee. The strings were threaded into the eyelet holes, where the breeches were gathered at the knee.” Rann was also known for getting out of trouble with the law, having six previous cases dismissed. This is because Rann was difficult for witnesses to identify. Rann often wore dirty and grimy clothes when he committed crimes, but colorful and extravagant clothing in public. This confused people because he appeared completely different when committing crimes. Rann often boasted about his life of crime to others and was very easy to recognize in the public because of his appearance.

Even though Rann was sentenced to death, he found time to host a party for him and his seven female guests in his cell before his hanging. He also wore his best clothes on the day of his execution, and performed a jig right before his hanging at Tyburn (sound familiar?). A very eccentric figure for sure, Rann was not your usual type of criminal.

This trial paints an interesting picture of the 18th century. Clothing was very unique, elegant, luxurious and intricate during this time. Many people of status swore by the outfits they wore as a sign of status. Rann exploited this sensationalism of clothing as a means of treachery. In the public eye, John Rann was a prominent figure because of his eccentric clothing and unique look. It is because of this persona that he got out of so many crimes due to looking completely different to those he stole from.

As I mentioned earlier, there was a group of lawmen forming during this time known as the Bow Street Runners. This group essentially were the 18th century version of a police force. The Runners were the ones who caught Rann and his mistress, and brought them to justice. The Bow Street Runners revealed to me that a system of catching and apprehending criminals for the government was starting. It seemed to me an early beginning on how to police a city and control the crime rate effectively.

Another factor is the role of 18th century gender and crime involved in the case. Even though Rann was the main and most prominent figure in the trial, he did have accomplices. One such accomplice being Eleanor Roache. Roache was not only Rann’s mistress, but also sold his stolen goods to unaware buyers. The two worked as a team during his crime spree, and both fell into 18th century gender roles. While men were more likely to fall in the pattern of the more physical and threatening aspects of a crime, the women were more likely to commit theft or, in this case, the selling of stolen goods. This system worked well because Roache was essentially the middleman for Rann’s crimes and both profited from their treachery.

The case also shares many similarities to our modern age as well. John Rann was an eccentric person, who openly announced his crimes to others, and escaped the law numerous times. In today’s world, we know of many famous or notorious people who have broken the law, but have never been committed for their crimes. This could be because their fame protects them, or they have friends in high places. In criminal circles today there is still the camaraderie of bragging about committed offenses. In these circles accomplices and friends will often refuse to rat out their friends.

Rann was known as a highwayman. Highwaymen were men who stole from those traveling along the roads either by horse or foot. These men were notorious thieves in the 18th century who preyed on the weak and vulnerable. This still happens today all over the world. Daily, numerous people are robbed on the streets or in alleyways, again usually on those traveling from place to place. A couple of modern example of this would be pickpockets on a busy tourist street or muggers in dark alleyways. Like Highwayman, these criminals prey on those traveling and use fear as a means for theft (maybe without the charisma or bravado though). This behavior of taking advantage of others with threats and fear has continued throughout the ages.

Another way in which this crime relates to modern times is the use of a pawnshop as a means to sell stolen goods. Roache was known as a fence (buys stolen goods knowingly and later resells them, acting as a middleman). There are many instances today of petty thieves breaking into cars or stealing misplaced backpacks and scalping off the goods to local pawnshops. Even using a middleman to hide your tracks from a crime as a means to make dirty money is a common practice for criminals, both present and past.

Sixteen String Jack bit off more than he could chew with his last robbery. Due to eyewitnesses, evidence and the Bow Street Runners, Rann met his final match. Rann’s eccentric clothing and suave personality were both for crime and social status. His trial showcased many aspects of 18th century issues such as law and gender. Modern world issues, such as muggings and protective status, are still as prevalent today, as they were in the past. Rann may have performed his last jig before his death, but his story still lives on today.