No. 583
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
November 30, 2022

"Four Aces."

September 25, 2012
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Fifteen-year-old Jody Randall of Long Beach, California, was in most ways a typical suburban teenager.  The one thing that set her apart was a passion for antiques which was unusual for someone of her youth.  As a result of spending all her available free time (and her parents’ money) on her hobby, she eventually amassed some impressive pieces, including a doll collection noteworthy enough to
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Strange Company - 11/28/2022
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Shell and Pea Game on the Trail"Sketched from life by M. W. Newberry"San Francisco ChronicleApril 10, 1898(Click image to enlarge)    UNKO MEN AND THEIR TRICKS      A wonderfully detailed description of the modus operandi of Soapy Smith's three shell and pea manipulators along the Chilkoot and White Pass trails. Witnessed and reported by Joseph D. Barry, and published in the San Francisco
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 11/21/2022
Working as a domestic servant in 19th century New York City had plenty of challenges. Sure, servants received room and board in addition to their wages, and they usually had at least Sunday afternoon off. But living in another family’s home was isolating and lonely—particularly if you didn’t speak English or weren’t accustomed to urban […]
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Ephemeral New York - 11/28/2022
On this date in 2002, Pakistani Mir Aimal Kansi, Kasi, or Qazi was executed by lethal injection in Virginia, U.S.A. “Real angry with the policy of the U.S. government in the Middle East, particularly toward the Palestinian people,”* Qazi on January 25, 1993 revenged himself on Central Intelligence Agency commuters queued for a left turn […]
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Executed Today - 11/14/2022
Museum of the City of New YorkWilliam Howe and Abraham Hummel were the most successful criminal lawyers in Gilded Age New York. With a combination of skill, showmanship, and unethical practices, they defended most of the city’s significant criminals and many of its murderers. Whether they won or lost, Howe and Hummel made every trial sensational. Here are a few of the many accused murderers
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Murder By Gaslight - 11/26/2022
Wishing you a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving Day! Lizzie is thankful for turkey and all the trimmings – and no mutton broth in sight!
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 11/22/2022
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
Serpent and Dove. | Love in a Railroad Car.

"Four Aces."

Four Aces

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“Baffled”” hissed “Little Jake,” alias “The Ace of Hearts,” alias Jacob Girrbach, of No. 354 Port avenue, Elizabethport, N. J.

The train had swept on relentlessly, almost ruthlessly, in spite of the efforts of the “Four Aces,” who had leagued themselves together to wreck it.

“But I will have revenge!” cried the leader of the band as he and his followers turned back in their tracks.

“Revenge!” chorused the others, making the sign—that mystic sign that meant blood.

For weeks the “Ace of Hearts,” and the other aces—of Diamonds, John Decker, of No. 411 Pine street; of Clubs, William Dobson, of No. 449 Bond street, and of Spades, Hugh O’Brien, of No 412 South Park street, of the frontier town of Elizabethport—had plotted to hurl a train to destruction, loot the combination-car, and massacre the mangled passengers, all except four beauteous maidens of high degree. These they would carry away to the fastnesses of the Orange Mountains, the defiles of which were known only to the members of the band, all young, but, oh! so devilish.

The day set for the slaughter was last Tuesday, and the “Four Aces” came by devious ways to the junction of the Long Branch Railroad and Broadway, in the very heart of Elizabethport. Their daring was superb.

In the distance the low rumbling of an approaching train could be heard, while the sun hung red in a Sandy Hook mist, that half obscured the surroundings as well as the deep, dark waters of Newark Bay.

“’S’ death!” ejaculated the “Ace of Hearts,” stamping his feet impatiently. “Will the monster never come?” He held a two inch plank in his good right hand, brandishing it disdainfully as if it were but a toy.

“Hist!” cried the “Ace of Clubs.” “The time is near!”

The Ace of Diamonds” and the “Ace of Spades” crouched expectantly, like beasts ready to spring on their prey. I the cab of the engine was Michael J. Kennedy, known all over the Jersey flats as the “King of the Lever.” The train flashed over the rails like lightning out of a clear sky. Its onslaught was terrible—it was the best “come-on” that ever was.

The “Ace of Hearts” simply said, “Ha!” But one could see how cool and self-possessed he was. Hot a tremor swept over his well-knit frame—in some circles the “Ace of Hearts” was “Ice of Hearts.” But let that pass.

Just as the engine crashed over the crossing the A of H, raised the plank in his good right hand, and was about to hurl it under the tremendous grinding wheels, when—

The “King of the Lever” saw him.

The A. of H. drew back. The train swept on in safety.

And Engineer Kennedy called on Old Sleuth Matson, who ran the band to earth. This morning Judge Hatfield, who sits in the Elizabeth Police Court, will pass sentence on the “Aces.” I will likely go hard with the leader of the band because once before, in September, he hurled a stone at Engineer Kennedy, and was soundly lectured by Justice Hatfield.

 

Reprinted from the New York World, December 2, 1897.