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Long Island Daily Press, March 10, 1933
RONKONKOMA — This small village on the shore of Long Island’s noted lake teemed today with treasure hunters — men, women and children engaged with picks and shovels in a frenzied search for caches in which Arthur Barry, notorious gem thief, buried the proceeds of his sensational jewel robberies.

State police are supervising the hunt, which was reinforced yesterday by searching parties of a force of laborers from the Suffolk emergency work bureau, who have been specially assigned to the activity. The digging epidemic was precipitated by a discovery made by four emergency workers two weeks ago.

The emergency gang was digging for a sidewalk when their picks turns up a mesh bag containing 42 pieces of jewelry. Believing the gems worthless, the men took the pieces home and distributed them among their children.

Yesterday the jewels were identified by local police as more than $50,000 worth of the $1 million loot garnered by Barry in his hundred-odd depredations against Long Island’s most famous families. The cache was discovered at the base of a tree 200 yards from the cottage where the jewel thief lived with his sweetheart, Anna Blake, when he and “Boston Billy” Williams staged the raid on the Jesse L. Livermore home at Kings Point.

The gems found by the laborers included several pieces completely crusted with diamonds and emeralds. An ivory cigarette holder, which was the pride of its original owner, Livermore, the Wall Street operator, was among the loot thus discovered.

As soon as news of the identification of the treasure trove permeated the quiet village of Ronkonkoma, practically every resident of the community went to work with garden instruments in a search for more of the buried loot.

When the hunters began tearing up hedges and lawns, spading private gardens and ripping up flower beds on some of the estates surrounding the village, state police stepped in to supervise the digging and see that no private property was damaged by the diggers. No further discoveries had been made by today, according to reports from the scene of the intensive treasure hunt.

Initially, I found this 1933 story interesting because it was linked to Jesse L. Livermore, the sometimes super rich speculator who made other news that year, including a brief, but very strange disappearance, which is covered elsewhere, along with his marriage several months earlier.

Also, I enjoyed picturing dozens of Long Islanders roaming around Ronkonkoma, digging up their neighbors' yards in a frantic search for buried treasure. Surely, the newspaper must have been exaggerating. Anything found would have had to be turned over to the police. People must have realized that.

Finally, the story was a footnote to the career of Arthur Barry, America's most over-rated jewel thief. In truth, he was a member of a gang headed by James Francis Monahan, his long-time pal from Worcester, Massachusetts. Monahan was better known at the time as "Boston Billy" Sullivan, and in 1927, when he and Barry pulled their last job, it was Monahan who was acknowledged by police, the press and even Barry, in his preliminary remarks, as both the brains and the boss of just one of the gangs annoying wealthy families with brazen jewel robberies.

For unknown reasons, Barry would emerge as more famous than Monahan, perhaps because Barry loved to talk about himself and shamelessly took credit for anything that would boost his reputation as a "master jewel thief." But even in his wildest dreams, he was no match for Harry Sitamore. Barry was never more than Monahan's lieutenant.

ODDLY, their most famous robbery was at the Jesse Livermore home in the King's Point section of Great Neck, Long Island, on May 29, 1927, and those who have written about it overlook the obvious: it was this robbery that led to their capture. Neither Monahan nor Barry benefited from the robbery, which, therefore, was not successful. And if Barry were the "master thief," why did Monahan wind up with the item — Mrs. Livermore's $50,000 pearl necklace — that was worth more than the combined value of everything else stolen that day?

Because Monahan was the boss, that's why.

As for items found six years later in Ronkonkoma — the value of which fluctuated wildly from story to story — these were mostly pieces of relatively cheap jewelry, part of a payment Monahan determined Barry should receive. These pieces, all found in a gold mesh bag, were the only ones ever recovered from a "Boston Billy" jewel robbery after Monahan and Barry were arrested. When Barry was arrested, with his lady friend, Anna Blake, she was carrying jewelry from some of the robberies.

Journalists love jewel thieves, almost always portrayed as romantic, relatively harmless criminals whose victims are obnoxiously rich people who spend money frivolously on gems that serve no purpose except to glorify the persons wearing them.

Since the vast majority of Americans in the 1920s were living on less than $50 a week, it's easy to understand why they might root for thieves who made off with a $50,000 necklace, especially when that necklace undoubtedly was insured, perhaps for more than it actually was worth.

So once they were identified, "Boston Billy" and Barry were subjects of wildly exaggerated stories which invariably made comparisons to Raffles, the fictitious English gentleman who moonlighted as a jewel thief, a character created by E. W. Hornung in his 1899 novel. Since then, Raffles has been featured on stage and in movies. Every jewel thief in the news becomes the latest Raffles. (The aforementioned Sitamore — that's just one spelling of his name — was a better fit for a Raffles comparison.)

THE DOWNFALL of "Boston Billy's" gang — which included others besides Barry — began about seven months before the Livermore robbery when they took jewels from the Greenwich, Connecticut, mansion of Percy Rockefeller. The stolen gens were worth a rather modest $19,000 — though it must be said all estimates of stolen jewelry are suspect and subject to change. The Rockefeller loot, for example, sometimes was valued at up to $50,000, depending on what newspaper story you read.

Rockefeller retaliated by hiring private detectives from the Burns Agency in New York City. The Burns operatives and another private detective, Val O'Farrell, a former New York City policeman, did much to uncover the identities of the members of the "Boston Billy" gang.

Everything came to a head with . . .

 

In the 1920s, the most publicized jewel robberies were those committed in the New York City area and in Newport, Rhode Island. There obviously were several gangs operating in the four states involved — New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island — but police, the press and the public tended to heap almost all of the blame — or credit — on the first jewel thieves arrested.

That long-awaited arrest was made a week after two men climbed a ladder and crawled through an upstairs window at Livermore's Long Island mansion, which he and his wife had named Evermore.

This robbery could be used for another remake of "Rashomon," the classic Japanese film about how various witnesses offer different versions of the same event. I believe the only reason Barry emerged as the "master jewel thief" is that he loved talking about this particular crime, though he seldom told the same story twice. Monahan, captured a month after Barry, at first denied participating in the Livermore robbery. He finally confessed, but never spoke about the robbery in any detail.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What follows is an early newspaper account of the Livermore robbery:

Buffalo Courier-Express, May 30, 1927
Chicago Tribune Leased Wire
NEW YORK, May 29— Cooing protestations of friendliness into their victims’ ears, while they menaced them with revolvers, two “gentlemen burglars” today carried away $100,000 in cash and jewels from the estate of Jesse L. Livermore, millionaire broker, at Great Neck, Long Island.

After lingering in the home for an hour, the thieves left the Livermore bedroom by means of the ladder by which they had entered, forcing Mrs. Livermore to hold it so as to steady their descent.

The pair proved fastidious robbers. They left $20,000 worth of sapphires on the dresser — mostly cuff links and studs belonging to Livermore. They ignored this pile of jewels after Mrs. Livermore, half hysterical at thoughts of her children’s safety, begged them to depart.

“Why don’t you take those things and leave?” she cried. The two Livermore children, Jesse Jr. and Paul, were sleeping in another part of the vast dwelling. These little ones, seven and four respectively, are constantly guarded by private detectives while at Palm Beach, because of kidnapping threats made against them.

After taking such articles as they desired from the Livermore bedroom and obtaining cash and jewelry from Mr. and Mrs. Harry Aronson, house guests, they departed in an expensive roadster. They had obtained this car from the garage of Walter Roessler, who has the adjoining estate. The automobile is the property of George Owens, but Roessler had borrowed it, and the machine was parked in Roessler’s garage for the night.

The roadster was found by police, abandoned near Manhasset railway station, eight hours after the robbery.
An interesting story, no doubt, but among the unanswered questions were:

According to the Nassau (NY) Daily Review (June 7, 1927), when Barry confessed soon after his capture, he said he met "Boston Billy" at the Pennsylvania Station, where Monahan told him the Livermores were having guests that evening. They took a train to the Great Neck station, then walked to the Livermore home.

On December 23, 1928, after the arrest of Eddie Kane, an associate of Monahan and Barry, a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article said both thieves had told police that Kane drove them to the Livermore home that night and remained outside as a lookout. (Other stories said only Barry implicated Kane in the crime, but for reasons we'll get to later, he refused to repeat his story in court.)

On January 18, 1959, in a story in The American Weekly newspaper supplement, Barry claimed he and his partner (whom he referred to as "Ryan"), drove to the estate themselves in Barry's car. This story, as told to journalist Neil Hickey, became part of Hickey's book, "The Gentleman is a Thief."

Most other stories did not hazard a guess how the robbers were transported to the Livermore estate. In "Jesse Livermore: World's Greatest Stock Trader," a 2001 book by Richard Smitten, a party of four — Monahan, Barry, Eddie Kane and Anna Blake — just sort of materialize on a patch of open land under a big oak tree on the Livermore estate. There, according to Smitten, they sat around a campfire roasting hot dogs, waiting for the Livermore and their guests to go to their bedrooms.

I'm not at all familiar with the area — especially how it was in 1927 — and do not know if Great Neck had its own railroad station or whether the robbers, if they traveled from New York by train, got off there or at the Manhasset station, which is where they went after the robbery. It seems highly unlikely that four thieves — possibly five — walked from a train station to the Livermore estate on King's Point, at least three miles away.

This scenario is particularly unlikely in two versions of something else that figured prominently in the robbery.

Common sense says Eddie Kane, who worked for Livermore for a while — "several years," said one newspaper account — had tipped Monahan about the jewels at the Livermore estate, and also about the ladder kept behind the garage of the Walter Roessler estate next door. Kane probably told them about Roessler's car, though the one found— and stolen — that night was one borrowed by Roessler.

It was generally agreed that Roessler's ladder was used that evening. After all, it's not likely the robbers would have brought a ladder along with them on a train and walked it all the way to the Livermore home, not even if it were the kind of ladder described in these two versions of the robbery:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 15, 1927
Associated Press
(Arthur) Barry explained to Westchester County authorities he operated with a home-made folding ladder ... According to authorities, on two occasions he was forced to leave behind his collapsible ladder.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 8, 1927
It so happens that in every robbery in which “Boston Billy” Williams is at all implicated, a ladder has been used. Usually the ladder has been thrown up against the second story while the family was at dinner, and invariably the ladder came from the place robbed.
Smitten's book claims Monahan had a specially-made steel ladder consisting of five sections, each four feet long and two feet wide, and that he assembled the ladder on the site of the robbery. "Boston Billy always left the ladder behind him after a job, as his signature," wrote Smitten.

According to two stories, the Livermores and their guests, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Aronsohn, spent part of the evening at the Sands Point Casino.

Ruth Reynolds, crime writer for the New York Daily News, was one of the more credible reporters who did stories about the robbery, though hers was written 22 years later.

Her syndicated story, published in several newspapers on December 28, 1949, said:

About 9:15, the Livermore limousine whizzed past two well-dressed strollers. The car’s occupants did not notice the men on foot. The Livermore and Aronson were on their way to the nearby Sands Point Casino. The unhurried burglars were en route to Great Neck for a bite to eat.

However, I don't for a minute believe the robbers strolled back to Great Neck for dinner. I'm more apt to believe they roasted hot dogs on the Livermore lawn.

Neil Hickey, in the American Weekly article (January 18, 1959), dictated by Arthur Barry, presented this fanciful tale:

The Livermore were dining with guests, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Aronsohn. Ryan [Monahan] and I decided to await lights out before making our entry. At 9:15, however, the Livermore limousine came round to the house and the two couples stepped in and drove off down the path.

Surprised at this development, my accomplice and I raced to our car and followed them to the Sands Point Casino.

When the entered, we changed quickly into tuxedos — I was never without one in those days — and wandered into the club. Once inside and mingling with the elite of North Shore society, I noticed Mrs. Livermore was wearing gems that would add thousands of dollars to our haul, if we would wait out this little after-dinner excursion.

We left the casino, drove to Great Neck, Long Island, and spent the time enjoying a quiet dinner.

The fictitious casino visit became part of the story more than 20 years after the robbery. It's safe to assume the Livermores and their guests remained at the Livermore home all evening, and were joined by another guest, Robert Gadson, who slept that evening in a wing of the house out of hearing range of the two bedrooms where the robbery took place.

Also out of range were the two Livermore children, Jesse Jr., 9, and Paul, 6, and six household servants.

On June 1, 1927, this appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Nassau County police today received from the Federal Insurance Company of New York a list of the stolen items of jewelry. The articles are:

• A platinum ring set with a Robert Victor stone surrounded by 16 small diamonds, and valued at from $12,000 to $15,000.

• A pear-shaped pearl stickpin valued at $2,000.*

• A pearl necklace with 87 pearls and a diamond-set clasp, valued at $50,000.

• A ring set with an oblong sapphire and an oblong diamond of 7.2 karats, and surrounded by 14 small diamonds in a platinum setting, valued at $12,000.

* This stickpin was among items recovered by laborers in Ronkonkoma in 1933.

Eight days later, the Long Island Daily Press reported that the first bit of loot taken from the Livermore home turned up the day before (June 8), when the Federal Insurance Company announced that Mr. Livermore's watch had been found, unwrapped, in a letter box at 7th Avenue and 33rd Street. The watch was valued at $1,000, but was not listed among the stolen items earlier.

Almost six years later, on March 10, 1933, the Long Island Daily Press would say Livermore's ivory cigarette holder was among items found by laborers in Ronkonkoma, but this may have been in error because no other newspaper reported it.

Note the total worth of the loot, including the watch, is $77,000 to $80,000, depending on the value of the platinum ring. Most stories finally settled on $83,000 as the value of the jewelry stolen; some stories rounded the figure off to $100,000.

Accounts of the getaway of Monahan and Barry add almost as much confusion to the story of the Livermore robbery as do the misleading and sometimes vague accounts of their arrival.

To get there they either walked from the train station — unlikely as that sounds — or they were dropped off ... because if they had driven, or been driven, then why would they need to steal a car to make their escape?

Here's how their getaway was described in various stories. The last two obviously are incorrect, which is no surprise since Arthur Barry is the source.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 30, 1927:

... the two young men decided it was time to depart. One held the ladder as the other descended. Then he started down.

The ladder shook and wavered. The robber went back, flashed his gun at Mrs. Livermore and, with the politest of grins, told her to hold the ladder — or be shot. She held the ladder.

Mr. and Mrs. Livermore stood in their window and watched the two men stroll across their lawn — one stopped to light a cigarette — and go to the Roessler garage. There a brilliant orange and red roadster belonging to George Owens, a guest of the Roesslers, was standing. The young men climbed into the car and drove away.

A day later, the New York Post said police had found "a crop of fingerprints" on a taxicab used by the thieves.

The cab was abandoned in front of the Queens County Motor Company, a garage in South First Street, Jamaica. It had been stolen from Jack McConnell, who had parked it near his home in the vicinity of the Manhasset station of the Long Island Railroad.

The thieves got to the McConnell home in an automobile they stole from the garage of Walter Roessler, whose estate adjoins that of the Livermores. Detectives were confident the car would show finger marks of the gang believed to have contained four men and a woman, three of whom were lookouts.

The Nassau (NY) Daily Review, on December 29, 1928, said Eddie Kane, recently arrested, was considered one of the men who participated in the Livermore robbery, adding:

Kane was alleged to have driven the car that carried the trio away after the crime was committed.

Ruth Reynolds, in her 1949 article, didn't mention how the thieves traveled from the Livermore estate to the train station, but said they completed their trip to Jamaica aboard the Long Island Railroad. Not true.

Barry, in the story he dictated to Neil Nickey, claimed he and "Ryan" drove "our car" to Manhattan to pry the jewels from their settings.

Later, in a second apartment in New York’s theater district, Ryan and I rendezvoused with the fence and sold the cache of gems for 20 percent of their value.

Also not true. Richard Smitten in his book, "Jesse Livermore: World's Greatest Stock Trader" (2001), described the getaway this way:

The thieves exited down the steel ladder and trotted to the end of the driveway, where Blake and Kane were waiting in the [stolen] Chrysler roadster. They jumped into the car and raced toward the Manhasset railway station.

Mrs. John Gernan, who lived near the railway stop, observed the men and the woman between 5:30 and 5:45 A.M. on Sunday. She watched the group from her window. She told the New York Daily News on May 31, 1927:

“I was unable to sleep and was awake early Sunday, and I heard an automobile and looked out. I saw a canary colored Chrysler automobile with three men and a blonde girl. Her hair was short. She wore a sport coat and no hat. She appeared young, about 18. Because of the early hour I wondered what the girl was doing out with three men. I watched them drive toward the railroad station, stop the car, and get out. They walked in the direction of the station, disappearing from my view.”

Mrs. Gernan had good powers of observation: “I didn’t hear a train come through, but then I wasn’t listening particularly. In fact, I went back to bed and to sleep. I knew it was the car that was taken from Walter Roessler’s garage, the car that belonged to George Owens, because later in the day, after the police found the car, I saw the owner come and drive it away.”

What Mrs. Gernan could not see was the gang stealing a taxicab and driving it into New York City, where they abandoned it.

This description of the female member of the gang introduced the possibility she could have been Erma O'Brien, a girl friend of Monahan. She was described by the New York Sun (July 13, 1927) as "a pretty blonde with a boyish bob." There is no other indication she participated, and it seems likely that if she had, the vengeful Barry would have mentioned it when he implicated Monahan in the robbery.

 
The first sign of trouble within the "Boston Billy" gang became public before an arrest was made. You can't always depend on what you read, and in this case the source was an anonymous criminal. Further, the police who disclosed the information may have had their own agenda. But it turned out there was a lot of truth in a newspaper story published three days after the Livermore robbery.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 1, 1927
GREAT NECK, Long Island — A bitter fight, probably over a woman in the gang which robbed Jesse Livermore of nearly $100,000 worth of jewels, has put the Nassau County police close on the trail of the thieves.

Captain Harold King, chief of detectives, and two other men went to New York today to a bank, where, they have been told, the jewelry stolen from the stock broker was put into a safe deposit vault. They went to co-operate with the New York detectives in the belief that before night there would be at least one arrest and possibly more.

A mysterious telephone call received at headquarters last night gave detectives the story, it was admitted today. The man who called, he said, telephoned from the Bronx. He said he was a member of the gang, and that there had been a split. The man said he had been beaten up by the others and that he was ready to come through because he hadn’t been given a fair deal.

Curiously enough, the telephone call was sent to Mineola at just about the time announcement was made that Noel C. Scaffa, the private detective who figured so peculiarly in the Donahue robbery two years ago, had been retained by the Livermores. Scaffa, under mysterious circumstances, returned part of the loot from that robbery after police had been unable to make an impression on the problem before them.

Captain King said today the telephone call certainly came from someone who knew the details of the Livermore robbery. The man gave the police facts on circumstances that happened inside the house which had not been given out by police or robbery victims. For that reason “and others,” said the detective, he was sure the man was telling the truth.

According to the story, the split in the gang came in Jamaica. That checked, too, because the motorcar in which they are known to have escaped from Manhasset, Long Island, was found in Jamaica yesterday afternoon. That machine was stolen from a taxi driver after the gang had left the Livermore home in another stolen car, which they had abandoned in Manhasset.

The informant told police the fight was a bitter one. King would not say whether he had been told what the fight actually was about, but he did say he inferred it was over the woman who is believed to have been one of the gang.

The woman, with four men, was seen leaving Manhasset station early in the morning after the burglary. The informant over the telephone told police the woman could be found.

King said today he understood that when it came time to divide the spoils, the woman was so much entranced with the beautiful $50,000 pearl necklace that was taken from Mrs. Livermore that she objected to breaking it up.

In any event, it was said today, the fight started then. What actually happened, of course, is for the future to reveal, but King said he had learned enough to make him certain that capture of the gang is to come soon.

He said, too, he believed the two men who entered the Livermore house were working under some “boss” who remained in the background.

The anonymous caller almost certainly was Eddie Kane, who fled the city before any arrests were made and would not be found for 19 months.

I admit I've selected things I choose to believe, and my view of the above story is that, yes, "Boston Billy" (Monahan) directed this robbery from outside the house, sending Eddie Kane into the Livermore home with Barry. After all, it was Kane who knew the layout of the mansion.

Apparently the robbery was conducted with the lights out, except for illumination provided by the robbers' flashlights, which may be why the Livermores did not recognize Kane, who had worked for them as a chauffeur.

I also believe the woman at the heart of the argument that broke out in Jamaica was not Mrs. Anna Blake, but Mrs. Dorothy Livermore, who flirted with Barry and talked him out of stealing two valuable rings. My guess is Monahan felt Barry had been used, and had lessened the value of the loot by perhaps $50,000. That may be why Monahan kept the pearl necklace valued at $50,000, which represented 60 percent of a take that was supposed to be divided at least three ways.

And if Kane were physically attacked by Barry and Monahan after the robbery, it was not because of any woman. Since this is my version, I choose to believe certain statements, even some made by the self-serving Barry. He and Monahan expected to find much more jewelry at the Livermore home; they had been told some prominent New York jewelers had made available several pieces from which the millionaire would select a gift or two he would purchase for his wife.

This tip would have come from Kane. So Barry insisted Livermore open an upstairs safe, though Livermore claimed there was no jewelry inside. Further, he said, the safe door was stuck, even when unlocked. Barry or the other robber finally broke into the safe. As Livermore said, there was no jewelry to be found there. Monahan and Barry blamed Kane for this mistake.

Clearly Monahan was the leader of the gang, something Barry acknowledged early on. Until the Livermore robbery, the two men had gotten along fairly well, though their lifestyles no longer were similar. Barry, during a 1924 trip to Europe, had met Mrs. Anna Blake, and fallen in love. Whether she was a widow or a divorcée, I do not know, but she and Barry were true to each other until her death in 1940, though Barry spent several of those years in prison.

Monahan, on the other hand, fancied himself a ladies man, and it was his attempt to juggle two women that contributed to his arrest. That and the feud that broke out with Barry.

 
Barry was arrested first. What really angered him was that Mrs. Blake and his younger brother, William, also were taken into custody. In the story that follows, Barry is sometimes referred to by his alias, Gibson, and even his brother, who had no alias, is identified as William Gibson.
Suffolk County News, Sayville, NY, June 10, 1927
One of the most important captures of big crooks ever made on Long Island was carefully and successfully engineered last Sunday [June 5] by the Nassau County Police and Deputy Sheriff Charles Duryea, of Sayville.

The affair had its denouement at the Ronkonkoma Railroad station shortly after seven o’clock when, with a dramatic bit of gunplay, half a dozen officers arrested Arthur C. Barry, alias Gibson, 35, who said he was a salesman employed in Manhattan.

Accompanying him were his younger brother, William Gibson, and a blonde woman who said she was Mrs. Anna King of Ronkonkoma, but who is better known to Ronkonkoma people as Mrs. Anna Blake.

With Deputy Sheriff Charles Duryea, who was the only Suffolk County officer present, were Captain Harold B. King of the Nassau County police and Detectives Paul Crowley, Emil Morse, Jesse A. Mayforth, Howard Lane, Gordon Hurley, and Charles Sheridan, the latter from the Burns Detective Agency.

They had received a tip from the Val O’Farrell Agency.

The detectives were at the Ronkonkoma station awaiting the 7:15 train. Officer Duryea, who has known Mrs. Blake for years, passed the word to his associates as she alighted from the train. The woman and her two male accomplices were allowed to enter their car, a Cadillac driven by Otto Becker, member of a well-known local family, who has for some time acted as Mrs. Blake’ chauffeur.

Then the machine was at once surrounded by the officers, who with drawn guns forced the surrender of its occupants. Neither of the Gibson men was armed, and the pasteboard box which was in the possession of Mrs. Blake was promptly confiscated by the officers who were astounded by the mass of pearls, diamonds, emeralds and other valuable jewelry it contained.

Gibson, for all his polished manners and faultless attire, is known to be a desperate criminal; he was promptly secured with bracelets which were very plain and utterly without jeweled settings.

The three were taken into separate cars in order that they might not have any opportunity to exchange a word. They were carefully guarded.

The party drove to the home of Mrs. Blake on Woodlawn Avenue. The house was ransacked from cellar to attic, but without finding any other valuables or weapons, or anything else that looked suspicious except a wonderfully fine collection of flashlights of all kinds and sizes.

Gibson [Barry] realized at once that the officers had evidence enough to keep him in prison for the remainder of his life, and when he was taken back to Nassau County he was thoroughly grilled by the detectives, but seemed most interested in protecting the woman, Mrs. Blake. The latter, a stout, short blonde, apparently at least a dozen years his senior, is said to have a grown son. Gibson [Barry], however, seemed very fond of her and agreed to make a complete confession on condition that she might go free. He declared she had no knowledge of his criminal operations and that his brother was equally innocent of complicity in them.

The confession of Gibson or Barry implicates “Boston Billy” Williams, who, he says, was his partner in a series of daring burglaries on Long Island. Williams is known to police as an educated and brainy crook, a regular “Raffles,” who specializes in jewel robbers and is believed by them to have committed at least 150 crimes of the character in the Metropolitan district in the last two years.

Police went after him at once, only to find he had left an apartment on 72nd Street, New York, about two hours ahead of their arrival.

Gibson, who has a long police record, among other things was arrested in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in connection with the murder of patrolman Peter Wagner in April, 1922. His plea at that time was that the murder was committed by an accomplice, and Gibson pleaded guilty to an assault charge, but before serving his full term, made his escape.

In his confession, Gibson said the Livermore robbery was planned only a few hours in advance. He said he met Williams in the Pennsylvania Station and the latter showed him a clipping from the society columns of a New York newspaper saying that Mr. and Mrs. Harry Aronsohn were guests at the Kings Point home of the Livermores that night.

He and Williams boarded a train for Great Neck, walked to the Livermore home which they identified by a sign on the grass, took a ladder from an adjoining house and entered the guest room on the second floor, in which the Aronsohns were sleeping.

Mr. and Mrs. Livermore went to Mineola on Tuesday and there positively identified Barry. He promptly “admitted the corn,” and joked with them, recalling incidents that occurred on the night of the robbery, particularly when he gave Mrs. Livermore a cigarette and lighted it for her.

There was a rush from many quarters where people had been robbed to attempt to identify the jewels. The box found in the possession of Mrs. Blake when the arrest was made at Ronkonkoma contained jewels from the Hewletts Park home of Robert Seeley. Gibson says that those taken in the Livermore robbery are in the possession of his pal, Earl Williams (James Monahan) , known among his associates and to police as “Boston Billy.”

Arthur Barry, alias Gibson, pleaded guilty to the Livermore jewel robbery on Wednesday, and confessed all the burglaries he could remember committed by him in Nassau County, Westchester and New Jersey.

Police are looking for Williams and Edgar Kane, a chauffeur, who, it is said, will be able to aid authorities in solving several other burglaries.

Barry blamed Monahan for his capture, which was one reason he so freely confessed. Another reason was his successful attempt to convince police not to pursue charges against Mrs. Blake and his brother, William.

Police concentrated efforts on finding Monahan and Kane. The man known as "Boston Billy" Williams was caught on July 7. Kane would remain in hiding until December of the following year. But Monahan and Barry were the big fish, and some newspaper and magazine writers let their imaginations go wild.

— From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 8, 1927
“Boston Billy” is as notorious a criminal figure as was Gerald Chapman or “Bum” Rogers, but in an entirely different way. Rogers was a roughneck killer; Chapman was a smooth, unscrupulous daredevil. “Boston Billy” is said to be smooth enough and unscrupulous enough, but he has specialized in the society game.

He even wore a dinner coat to a robbery. Its great advantage was twofold. It served as a passport to get into the grounds of a beautiful estate on which he had designs, and then, had nosy constables or police officers come strolling around, it would have served as a warning to them to think twice before making an arrest.

But that wasn’t all of “Boston Billy’s” technique, not by a long shot. He was a more assiduous reader of society news that almost any society matron. He read “Town Topics,” the society columns and all the small social magazines to learn who was giving big parties, who would be there, and just what to expect if he should become an uninvited guest.
To make his job easier, he studied the many photographs printed of beautiful homes to become familiar with them. But “Boston Billy” was even more thorough than that.

He is a good golfer. He had a fine set of clubs and carried them with him on his ground-viewing sorties. He crashed golf clubs so he could be known to society people, talk with them and overhear intimate bits of gossip. He received a few invitations to homes and knew lots of young society girls and men. He went to parties, crashing where he wasn’t invited, and got along fine.

Then, having learned all there was to learn about whatever palace he intended to rob, “Boston Billy” set out to rob it. Almost never, however, was he a “working crook.” He was the director. Sleek and handsome, with his black hair parted beautifully, and his dinner suit setting perfectly on his jaunty shoulders, “Boston Billy” would go around, so those who knew his activities say, see to it that the ladder was put in place, and then direct two or three other men in the actual robberies.

The robbery having been done, he would see that his helpers got away in a stolen car. And nine times out of ten, if the cry of the chase wasn’t too long, he’d stay around to help throw off detectives who were called when the robbery was reported.
— Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine Section,
July 10, 1927

Wherever the bejeweled matrons, wives of New York, Newport and Florida millionaires, went for their dancing and music amusement, there followed in their footsteps a dashing young man with coal black hair, a charming smile and immaculate evening clothes.

Guests at a Long Island party mistook him for a fellow guest, a particularly debonair and sophisticated one. He might have been the young scion of some blue-blooded Manhattan family.

This was Arthur J. Barry, alias Arthur Gibbons, the twentieth century’s newest Mr. Raffles, whose profession of jewel thievery was disclosed by police recently in connection with the sensational gem robbery at the luxurious Long Island estate of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Livermore. The charming fellow’s career has been closed by an iron door and the hands that so dexterously fished diamonds and pearls out of society women’s strong boxes are fastened together with a bracelet of steel.

In two and a half years, working at the rate of one burglary a month, Barry’s booty reached the $500,000 mark before he was discovered, and the most elaborate scheme for jewel robbery in the annals of police history was revealed. With the cunning of a fox, he planned his looting expeditions. He knew the history of every wealthy woman he was to rob. In immaculate attire, the handsome Beau Brummel mingled with society at every opportunity, playing his part with so much skill and grace that the members of the sacred inner circle mistook him for an equal.

As part of his stock in trade, he had a gorgeous apartment, lavishly furnished, and an expensive automobile of foreign make with a chauffeur by the name of Wing Fu.

Both stories went on and on and on, and there might have been a smidgen of truth in there somewhere, though the Barry tale went off the rails with that bit about a chauffeur named Wing Fu. The closet thing Arthur Barry had to a Wing Fu was Eddie Kane.

As for "a gorgeous apartment, lavishly furnished," it was well known by mid-1927 that Barry lived with Mrs. Anna Blake in a rather modest home she had rented in Ronkonkoma.

It was a wonder anyone believed the Arthur Barry legend, but they did, and that legend actually grew while he was in prison, and especially during his three Richard Kimble-like years after he escaped the penitentiary in Auburn, New York. (More on that later.)

When Barry spilled his guts about "Boston Billy" after his arrest in 1927, he did so, he said, because he mistakenly believed only "Boston Billy" knew when he and Mrs. Blake would be returning to Ronkonkoma. But Barry did more than implicate Monahan in many jewel robberies; he said "Boston Billy" had committed murder a few years earlier. More than one murder, actually.

When caught, James Francis Monahan, alias "Boston Billy," would claim it was Barry who was the murderer. There were three shooting incidents hanging over the two jewel thieves, but none of the cases wound up in court. One reason both caved so quickly into confessing the Livermore robbery was their belief this somehow would help them avoid a murder trial.

This also explains why both men refused to testify against Kane after he finally was caught and charged with participating in the Livermore robbery. (He was found not guilty.)

Barry had implicated Kane in his early conversations with police, then thought better of it ... because while Kane was a possible suspect for one of the murders and for the shooting that had crippled a Greenwich, Connecticut, policeman, he was more strongly believed to be a witness, which is why neither Monahan nor Barry wanted to incur Kane's wrath more than they already had.

In the end, Kane returned the favor, pleading guilty to carrying a concealed weapon in the Connecticut case, for which he received a prison sentence of three to five years. Kane did not implicate either Barry or Monahan in the shooting.

INTERESTINGLY, at first Jesse and Dorothy Livermore said they could not identify Barry as one of the men who robbed them. Apparently it was Barry who reminded them of the bantering that went on between he and Mrs. Livermore, and how he lit a cigarette for her. Years later Barry would embellish his version of what happened in the Livermore bedroom, perhaps encouraged by a remark Mrs. Livermore made about him to authorities in 1927: "You'll have to admit the man is charming."

Despite his flirting and his fantasies, Barry was a one-woman guy. He and Anna Blake would claim she knew nothing about his thievery, but eventually police and many journalists would come to believe she actually was a partner in crime, often acting as a lookout.

However, Barry and Anna Blake stuck to their stories, despite circumstances that exposed them as liars. Even Nassau County District Attorney Elvin Edwards said he believed she was telling the truth when she said she was unaware of Barry's criminal activities and had regarded him as a gambler who simply "got lucky."

James Francis Monahan, on the other hand, fancied himself a ladies man. “Women just naturally fall for me,” he told police after he was tracked down and captured July 7 in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

At the time Monahan was juggling two women whose first names, while spelled differently, were pronounced the same. Erma O'Brien was a Manhattan manicurist; Irma Curry was the daughter of the mayor of Key West, Florida, and had met Monahan while he was vacationing there and posing as a diamond dealer. There may have been a third woman, one he intended to meet in Old Lyme.

It's likely Monahan intended to give Mrs. Livermore's pearl necklace to one of his girl friends, probably Irma Curry, because when he left her in Key West, he said he'd be returning to open the biggest jewelry store in Florida. Reportedly Miss Curry's father and several other Key West officials believed Monahan and gave him a big send off when he left Florida and returned to New York.

Unknown to Monahan, police learned about his relationship with Miss Curry, and had tipped her off to the man's real occupation. She agreed to help police set a trap for him in New Jersey, where they were supposed to meet, but he was arrested instead in Connecticut.

Syracuse Journal, July 8, 1927
MINNEOLA, Long Island (Universal) — “Boston Billy” Williams’ liking for women led to his capture. “Boston Billy” was brought here after his capture in a cottage of one of his women friends in Sound View, Connecticut. He is wanted in connection with the recent robbery of $90,000 in jewelry from the home of Jesse L. Livermore, stock speculator.

He has been sought the world over for the burglary of 100 fashionable homes. It was revealed that detectives had shadowed many of the women acquaintances of “Boston Billy,” and through one of them his whereabouts was learned.

“Boston Billy” was captured after a short revolver fight, in which the prisoner was hit in the leg. A bullet-proof vest, police say, probably saved him from a more serious wound.

At first Monahan took confinement in stride. He was housed in the Nassau County jail while he awaited trial, and for a few days was allowed to order food from outside. The New York Sun, on July 14, 1927, reported that the day before, according to those guarding him, Monahan ordered ice cream "six or eight times," consuming a pint each time.

During this period he had two interested visitors:

Nassau Daily Review, July 12, 1927
Boston Billy Williams in his cell this morning continued his role as a gentleman burglar.

Mr. and Mrs. Jesse L. Livermore, accompanied by Captain Harold King of the Nassau County Police, went to the jail to visit him this morning. When Sheriff William R. Strohson went to Williams’ cell to tell the prisoner about the visit, he asked Williams if he wished to see Mr. and Mrs. Livermore.

“Yes, yes,” answered Billy, smiling pleasantly.

“Do you know them?” queried the sheriff.

“I never saw them in my life,” Billy innocently answered, “but as long as a lady and gentleman have come to call, I must put on my collar and tie to receive them” Which he immediately proceeded to do.

The visitors failed to identify the prisoner as one of the midnight callers at their home on the night of the jewel robbery, but to reporters who were present, it was evident Williams was trying to disguise himself, answering questions in a whisper so that his identity could not be detected through his speech.

I think reporters misread the situation; I believe, as police earlier stated, that Barry and another man, likely Eddie Kane, were the two robbers who entered the house, while Monahan remained outside.

But if Monahan truly never saw the Livermores before their jail cell meeting, that undercuts his legend, at least, that part about his social hopping. Or maybe the Livermores moved in different circles from the other victims of "Boston Billy's" robberies, the ones he supposedly planned while he hobnobbed with millionaires after crashing their parties.

ONE INCIDENT that received little attention after Barry and Monahan were arrested was a jewel robbery that occurred near Oyster Bay, Long Island, five days after the Livermore home was invaded. On June 4, Carl Schmidlapp, a former director of Chase National Bank, reported that a pearl necklace and two diamond rings, valued altogether at $200,000, had been taken from from his home the night before. (Later this figure would be increased to $240,000.)

Barry would confess to the Schmidlapp robbery, but police might not have believed him. Jewelry from that robbery was never recovered, at least, not in connection with Barry and Monahan.

In Anna Blake's obituary on April 30, 1940, in the Nassau, NY, Daily Review Star, it was reported that she turned down a $24,000 reward offered for the recovery of the Schmidlapp jewels. There are several reasons she couldn't collect; among them: she didn't know where they were because Barry hadn't stolen them, or because Monahan was in charge of the robbery, and he hid them.

It's possible Barry, Mrs. Blake and his brother, William, participated in the Schmidlapp robbery, and went directly to Jamaica afterward to prepare the gems for a fence. That could explain why the trio was returning by train to Ronkonkoma on June 5, the day they were arrested, and why Barry said his lady friend was carrying jewels he had been given by Monahan.

As for Mrs. Livermore's $50,000 pearl necklace — the one kept by Monahan — it may well have wound up around the neck of a Connecticut woman who had no idea of its true value. Monahan had the necklace in his car when he drove to Old Lyme, but near Darien, Connecticut, he noticed a state trooper on his tail, so he tossed the necklace — and his gun — out of a car window before he was pulled over. He returned the next day, but found no trace of the gun or the necklace.

On July 31 an insurance company, advertising in New York City-area newspapers, offered a $3,000 reward for the return of the necklace. No one ever collected that reward.

 

By the time Monahan was arrested, Barry had already been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

While awaiting his court date, Monahan claimed Erma O'Brien was his wife. She made the same claim, but authorities knew it wasn't true. The only reason Monahan said this was to give Miss O'Brien the privilege of visiting him. (Days later, when he was escorted from the jail to the automobile that would deliver him to Sing Sing, Monahan threw kisses to young women who watched him through a second-story window.)

At first, Monahan denied involvement in the Livermore robbery, which is why a trial was scheduled. A courtroom confrontation was expected because the chief witness against Monahan would be Barry, but then Monahan changed his plea to guilty. Apparently Monahan wasn't asked to elaborate about his role in the robbery.

Monahan and Barry became jewel thieves while both were fugitives from Massachusetts, where they were still wanted for crimes committed separately several years before. Because he had a longer criminal record, Monahan was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Upon their release in New York, both could be returned to Massachusetts to face additional jail time.

Barry, afraid Monahan might seek revenge, successfully argued that he and his former pal be housed in separate prisons.

MONAHAN'S demeanor changed immediately after sentencing. While awaiting transfer to Sing Sing, he attempted to make a key out of a tablespoon to unlock his jail cell in Nassau County. After the key was found, Monahan set fire to the mattress in his punishment cell. He had all the makings of an inmate who'd always have escape on his mind, and the next chapter of the "Boston Billy" legends, as told in a syndicated Newspaper Feature Service on June 16, 1928, claimed imprisonment had driven the jewel thief insane.

For the time being, the two "legendary" jewel thieves were out of commission, though robberies continued to plague wealthy residents of Long Island, Westchester County and Manhattan.

Monahan and Barry would remain safely behind bars throughout 1928, but late that year the Jesse Livermore jewel robbery was back in the news.

 
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 23, 1928
KENOSHA, Wisconsin, December 22 (AP) — A trip East to see his wife, and her indiscreet remark to a private detective, today resulted in the arrest of Edgar Kane, sought two years as a member of the notorious “Boston Billy” gang of jewel thieves to whom robberies totaling more than $2,800,000 have been charged.

Kane arrested at midnight on the request of Edward Sheraton, private detective who trailed him here, was said to be the last of the gang. The leader, James F. Monahan, is serving a sentence in Sing Sing prison.

Kane faces seven indictments for murder and also is charged with participation in robberies which, police said, included the theft of the famous Jesse L. Livermore pearls in 1927 in Long Island.
Edgar "Eddie" Kane added an interesting element not only to the Livermore robbery, but to the story of the "Boston Billy" gang. According to which newspaper you read, Kane was:

(A) a chauffeur for Barry and Monahan on their various jobs.

(B) formerly employed as a chauffeur for Jesse Livermore.

(C) a one-time chauffeur for Mrs. Livermore's mother.

(D) fired by Livermore because Kane had an affair with a society woman in Palm Beach, Florida, arousing the ire of the woman's husband who threatened to shoot the chauffeur.

Kane also was believed to have used his chauffeur's position to dig up information about wealthy families by talking to their chauffeurs. This information was passed along to Monahan.

Both Barry and Monahan agreed to testify when Kane was tried in January, 1929, for participation in the Livermore jewel theft.

Barry changed his mind at the last minute and refused to testify. Monahan made the trip to the Mineola courthouse, but had no intention of incriminating Kane. His testimony was a preview of so many TV police and lawyer series. ("Mr. Monahan, didn't you tell Detective So N. So that Eddie Kane was with you that evening?" "Absolutely not. The only time I ever saw Eddie Kane was at church.")

Monahan had an ulterior motive for making the trip from the prison to Long Island.

It was during the return trip to Dannemora Penitentiary that Monahan jumped through the window of a railroad car while the train was pulling into the Albany station. Sergeant John Smith of the Nassau County Police detective division smashed another window and fired at the thief, grazing his head and sending Monahan sprawling on the tracks.

"Well, you got me," he said when he was recaptured.

Monahan would remain in the New York prison system until 1956, spending long stretches in solitary confinement because of his frequent outbursts. The 1928 story that said "Boston Billy" had gone mad also mentioned police were still trying to locate a cache of stolen gems that the jewel thief supposedly had hidden.

Reporters just wouldn't let go of that tale about hidden treasure. Both Monahan and Barry fenced almost all the jewelry they stole in order to support their lifestyle. Barry would later estimate they collected no more than twenty cents on the dollar for what their fences believed the gems were worth. And seldom was their loot worth as much as the press estimated.

Except for the pieces found the day Barry and his lady friend were arrested, and those uncovered in Ronkonkoma six years later, no jewelry was ever recovered that could be tied to robberies committed by the "Boston Billy" gang.

The next chapter in the story of that gang would put the spotlight solely on Arthur Barry. There'd even be a Solvay angle — Solvay being the name of my hometown. It was unlikely Barry would ever forget his brief visit.

 

Originally sent to Sing Sing, Arthur Barry was afraid James Monahan would also be sent there. New York State prison officials agreed to put distance between the ex-partners in crime, transferring Barry to Auburn, while Monahan would do most of his time at Dannemora (aka Clinton Correctional Facility).

At Auburn, Barry and inmates George Small. Steve Pawlak and Joseph Caprico made good on an escape on July 28, 1929.

The theory at the time was they instigated a riot as a distraction, and it was all too easy to start one in an overcrowded facility packed with 1,700 disgruntled convicts, two whom would be killed in the chaos that took authorities five hours to quell.

Prison officials believed the riot was designed to produce a mass breakout, perhaps as many as 200 inmates, but only four escaped. Barry was shot twice — in a knee and in his back — and also injured a foot during his leap from a 20-foot high prison wall.

Barry, in a magazine article many years later, and presumably in the book that grew out of those articles ("The Gentleman Was a Thief," by Neil Hickey), would claim that he led the charge, but articles at the time say it was Pawlak, serving a life sentence, who was first up the steps of a turret to the top of the prison wall.

The four escapees broke into the prison arsenal to launch their escape, and armed themselves with riot guns. Barry would recollect that he and Pawlak stopped the first automobile they saw on State Street, outside the prison. It was driven by a man named Jacob Reese, whose passengers were his wife and four-year-old son.

Barry didn't mention Small or Caprico, but I believe they, too, got into that car. Barry said they forced Reese to drive to the edge of the city before letting him go, but that wasn't true. Mrs. Reese and the boy were left on State Street, but Reese was forced to drive to Syracuse, about 25 miles to the east.

Police and reporters later found the Auburn garage man just outside of Solvay. Reese said he jumped out of his car near the State Fairgrounds and ran. One of the convicts, he said, pursued him for about 100 yards, and fired four shots. All four missed, but there was a hole through his left trouser pocket.

The convicts then apparently drove into the village of Solvay and abandoned Reese's car. The escapees entered a house at 144 Boulder Road in what we used to call East Solvay. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. D. C. Schwartz, were out for the evening. In their absence, the convicts stole clothing and left behind two bloody prison outfits. Police figured Caprico for sure was one of the intruders because he was the shortest of the fugitives, at five-foot-two-inches, which prompted an emergency tailoring job on Mr. Schwartz's trousers. Judging by the jagged pieces of trouser ends left behind, Caprico's scissor work was rather sloppy, which would make his new outfit rather conspicuous.

At this point Small and Caprico apparently separated themselves from Pawlak and Barry.

According to Barry's story, he and Pawlak set out to steal a car they found in an open garage. That garage, about two-thirds of a mile from the Boulder Road house, was on property at the intersection of Orchard Road and West Genesee Street, at the southern edge of the village. The car and the garage belonged to Dr. Eric W. France, a dentist.

The two escapees got into Dr. France's auto, but did not do it quietly. As Barry prepared to drive away, the windshield shattered, spraying slivers of glass in both eyes. The owner of the house had fired his shotgun at the convicts from a second story window.

Said Barry in an American Weekly article on January 25, 1959:

Desperately, I propped one eye open between thumb and forefinger and rolled out of the car on the side away from the house.

“This way, Pawlak!” I shouted. But my companion had crashed through a rear window of the garage at the first sound of gunfire, and started running. I never saw him again.

It was raining now. Terrifying thunderclaps added to my bewilderment. I stumbled into the night in an agony of pain, limping through back yards and muddying myself from head to foot. Inadvertently, I splashed into a fish pond and stood there dumbly looking about, in water up to my knees.

With a broken foot, two bullet wounds, and eyes full of shattered glass, I raised my head and let the rain streak my face. At that moment I was a beaten man, utterly alone and friendless. The enormous folly of my life weighed on my unbearably. Right then I vowed that if I lived through this, I’d never commit another crime.

An hour later, in the same neighborhood, I had the amazing good fortune of locating a parked auto with the keys in the ignition. Steering and shifting gears with one hand, while propping an eye open with the other, I drove all night through the rain to the small town of Fonda, New York.

It was in Fonda that police recovered a Franklin sedan reported stolen by J. M. Hastings at 105 Scarboro Drive, Solvay

By then Barry had hopped a freight train to Albany, where he had friends who arranged a discreet doctor's visit for treatment of his eye injuries. The bullet wounds would have to wait. Barry's story continues:

The same day, in clean clothes and a little refreshed, I took the train for New York City and visited a nurse whom I knew would removed the bullet and treat my broken foot. Then I hurried to East 77th Street, in the German section of Manhattan, to an apartment Anna had rented at my orders. It was a walk-up flat. The door was unlocked, and I stepped inside and bolted it behind me. The apartment was empty. After two hours I heard footsteps outside and a gentle knock. I opened the door. It was Anna.

We lived on East 77th Street for four months while newspapers were full of my escape. Pawlak had been captured. Of six convicts* who had attempted the break from Auburn that day, I was the only one at large.

Anna and I moved to New Jersey — first to Newark, then to a small house near Sparta.

* There were only four convicts who attempted to escape. Two others were killed in the riot that proved a distraction for those who got away, something that did not endear Barry and associates to the inmates they had used as decoys. As usual, Barry was being disingenuous in considering the two riot fatalities as unsuccessful escape attempts.

One by one the other three escapees were found — Steve Pawlak on September 11, in Buffalo; George Small two months later in Brooklyn, and Joseph Caprico on December 10 in Los Angeles. Pawlak and Small were apprehended only after shootouts with police. Initially, both men were expected to die of their wounds, but both recovered, though Small was severely hampered for the rest of his life. Pawlak helped initiate another Auburn prison riot in December and was one of eight convicts killed in the chaos that followed. Caprico was taken peacefully, and nervously, after he was stopped for driving a stolen car.

 

Arthur Barry might have remained free forever if it weren't for a dastardly crime — the March 1, 1932 kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr. from the family home in Hopewell, New Jersey. This marked the return of private detective Val O'Farrell into the life of Arthur Barry, who until early 1932 was presumed hiding in Canada ... or South America ... or Europe.

Barry's version of how he was re-captured does acknowledge that the Lindbergh kidnapping contributed, but the tale he tells — an attempt to claim a crazy coincidence was involved — is ridiculously untrue.

Barry would have us believe police suspected New Jersey newcomer James Tooner, windshield squeegee salesman, was the Lindbergh kidnapper, and just happened to discover — Surprise! Surprise! — that Tooner was an alias being used by Arthur Barry, fugitive jewel thief. That's not how it went. At all.

Detective O’Farrell felt early on there was circumstantial evidence indicating Barry had become a kidnapper, which meant the fugitive jewel thief probably was living close enough to Hopewell to study the layout of the Lindbergh estate.

Barry had a reputation for frequently wearing socks over his shoes during his robberies. This fit into O'Farrell's theory, because a footprint beneath the Lindbergh nursery indicated the kidnapper not only wore socks over his shoes, but walked with a limp. O'Farrell hadn't seen Barry in years, but knew about the gunshot wound in the leg the inmate had received during his escape in Auburn, and concluded Barry may have broken a leg or an ankle in his jump from the top of the wall. The detective correctly assumed Barry now walked with a slight limp.

Further, the Lindbergh dog was silent during the kidnapper’s visit — and members of the "Boston Billy" gang knew how to distract or harmlessly disable watchdogs.

Symbols on the ransom notes were astrological, said O'Farrell, and Barry was into astrology.

It was well known that Barry and Monahan only worked on moonless nights. So did other thieves. Moonless nights were darker. O’Farrell pointed out the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped on a moonless night.

Finally, of course, the ladder, a Barry trademark (though years earlier it was more widely associated with "Boston Billy," by now forgotten by most people).

All that was interesting, but Barry's whereabouts were still unknown. In October, police in New Jersey received a tip from a woman who believed a man living near Newton, about 50 miles north of Hopewell, was the Lindbergh kidnapper. Why she believed it, she didn't say, but when detectives checked it out, they followed O'Farrell's hunch — and took along a photograph of Arthur Barry.

What follows is from a syndicated newspaper story by Ruth Reynolds, crime reporter for the New York Daily News. It appeared in the Binghamton, New York, Press on December 28, 1949.

Detectives called upon George Losey, the newspaper dealer in that little town. Losey recognized the picture.

“Sure, that’s James Tooner, the windshield squeegee salesman,” said the news dealer. “Owes me for two weeks’ papers. Fine fellow, anyway. Lives on a farm near here. We’re planning to run him for township clerk this fall.”

Losey was disbelieving and shocked to hear the picture he identified as James Tooner was one of Arthur Barry, described by his visitors as “America’s most dangerous criminal.” The newspaper dealer was finally persuaded to lead police to “Tooner.”

“Tooner” was washing a dog in a tub of soapy water when Losey and his new-found friends drove up.

“‘Lo,” Tooner’s greeting was cheerful as he limped forward, shaking his sudsy hands. He was short and stocky. He wore a reddish mustache and horned-rimmed spectacles. His hair was red.

But to police eyes there was no mistaking Arthur Barry. Leaping from the car, they surrounded him.

Barry was rueful, but courteous, as usual, as he explained his activities since that day more than three years before when he had crawled away from Auburn prison.

For one thing, he said, he had married Anna Blake in Baltimore and had lived with her until June, 1931, in an apartment house in Newark, New Jersey.

“Then I took a room at this farm, and worked this area as a windshield wiper salesman. Kidnap the Lindbergh baby? I should say not. The fellow who did that ought to be hung! I never did anything worse than steal from the rich.”

Despite O'Farrell's list of reasons to support his theory, police didn't believe Barry had any connection to the Lindbergh case. Barry was returned to Auburn prison, owing the state almost 23 years, plus seven for the jail break. He was later transferred to Attica Prison, but was out on parole in less than 17 years.

He would say years later that he decided to break out of prison when he learned Anna Blake was dying of cancer. Like most of Barry's autobiographical tales, this is suspect. She did die of cancer — in 1940. It's possible she knew about the disease in the spring of 1929, but more likely Barry and his three escape partners just wanted to be free.

Small point, perhaps, but most stories of his capture say he was in the house when police arrived, not outside washing a dog.

Barry was spared further punishment, thanks to the Christmas gift given him by an Auburn, New York, jury on December 24, 1932. This was probably due to his co-defendant, George Small, a college-educated convict who had read enough law to defend himself. Small was shot five times when he resisted re-capture after the 1929 escape from Auburn prison. He defied doctors , who expected him to die, though the wounds left him severely disabled. This helped him win over the jury, and he also showed surprising skill in cross-examining witnesses. Judge Kennard Underwood was not impressed, however, and strongly criticized the jurors.

 

One of the myths included in several fairy tales you'll find online is that Arthur Barry didn't kill anyone. But there were at least four people killed — two policemen and two convicts — and one policeman crippled because of Barry's crimes. And while he, among others, describes himself as "The King of the Jewel Thieves," his stories more befit a court jester.

Had he told one story, and stuck to it, Barry might have been a teensy bit believable. There's little doubt he loved Anna Blake, so much so that he lied to protect her. Even the pathetic tale he told to Neil Hickey, claiming that in 1929, after his prison escape, "For the first time, I disclosed to her [Anna] all the details of my nefarious career," was obviously untrue. She attended his trial, was questioned by police, talked to reporters, read newspapers, all in 1927. She was well aware of his "nefarious career," long before the arrest ... because she also was occasionally part of the Boston Billy gang, as a lookout.

Geesh, I've turned this into "War and Peace." Before I sprint to the finish, an explanation for spelling inconsistencies. Monahan is frequently spelled Monaghan in news stories, sometimes Monohan, Monohon and Monahon. I confess I'm not sure about the Aronsohns, the Livermore guests who also were robbed. Their name comes up Aronhson, Aronson, Aaronsohn and Aaronson. I went into this project thinking old time newspapers didn't have many typographical errors. I was wrong.

Also, this piece of trivia from an article in the Bridgeport, Connecticut, Sunday Herald (February 5, 1956), published when Bridgeport police were considering re-opening a 1922 case involving a murder that may have been committed by Arthur Barry or James Monahan. The action was triggered by Monahan's release from prison in New York.

The trivia concerns Barry, who was remembered in Worcester, Massachusetts, as "a kid crook." Quoted was George A. Washburn, a veteran policeman, who, in 1956, was a captain of detectives. He recalled Barry was used by his big brother (Francis) on "transom jobs."

"He'd boost Arthur up on his shoulders and rob places with a fish pole," said Washburn.

SO LET'S finally wrap this thing up:

Arthur Barry was in prison from late 1932 until 1949. The Livermores divorced in 1932, she married a former prohibition agent minutes after she became legally free. Livermore married in 1933, his ex-wife divorced the former prohibition agent in 1934, had a new boy friend in 1935, when her drinking went out of control. She and Jesse Livermore Jr. were drunk one evening, had an argument, and she shot him. Could have been an accident, could have been drunken carelessness. He recovered, but went on to have fairly wasteful and wasted life.

Jesse Livermore fatally shot himself in 1940, Anna Blake's cancer killed her, and the press wondered again where Arthur Barry hid his non-existent jewels. James F. Monahan, alias "Boston Billy" Williams, was finally paroled in 1958 and died two years later.

Arthur Barry, thanks to several newspaper and magazine writers, was called the greatest jewel robber of all time and the American "Raffles," both descriptions being ridiculously undeserved.

The 1959 Arthur Barry-Neil Hickey two-part American Weekly piece concluded with this anecdote, which was set up earlier by his claim he found loose cash hidden in a closet among some of Mrs. Livermore's hats:

Recently, at the request of my friend and attorney, Alexander Sacks, I addressed the PTA in Central Islip, Long Island, on the subject of juvenile delinquency. On the evening of the lecture, I was standing on a patio adjoining the auditorium waiting for the audience to file in, when a middle-aged woman approached me. She smiled and said:

“You’re Arthur Barry, aren’t you. Do you know who I am?”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Should I know you?” Her features were regular and attractive, the face of a woman retaining her youthful charm.

“Then perhaps you remember of row of tiny ladies’ hats on a closet shelf and a rather polite burglar who let me keep some cash to buy pretty veils for them,” she said.

“You’re Mrs. Livermore!”

“I am,” she said, gripping my hand warmly, “and I came all the way down here to listen to you.”

Later, in the auditorium, I spotted her face amid the 400 parents and teachers in attendance. She touched her fingertips to her lips and blew a kiss toward me on the speakers’ platform. As unobtrusively as possible, I kissed the fingers of my right hand and flicked a kiss toward the last victim of Arthur T. Barry, master jewel thief.

Barry died in 1981. He was 85 years old. Dorothy Wendt Livermore (she kept the name, despite the divorce) died in 1985. She lived to be 90, despite her many years of alcohol abuse.

Which gets me back to where I started: Why do stories about jewel thieves sound like fairy tales?

Because that's what most of them are.

So who's the greatest jewel thief of all-time?

It has to be some unknown (and very secure) genius who was never caught and knew how to keep a secret.

 
 
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