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Monthly Archives: January 2010

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: arch-cove and arch gonnof

arch-cove – the head of a gang or mob; governor; president. arch gonnof – the head of a gang of thieves. The use of “arch” to signify the leader or head of a gang is still in use today. Action-adventure movies or television shows often use the terms “arch enemy” or “arch villain.” Image via […]

Early American Criminals: Joseph Cooper and Philadelphia’s Lime and Onion Burglar

In May 1744, Elizabeth Robinson was sentenced at the Old Bailey in London to transportation to the American colonies for her involvement in the theft of 104 China oranges from a warehouse. She was loaded onto the Justitia that same month and eventually landed in Virginia. She ended up in Maryland, where she reportedly continued […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: antelope and antelope lay

antelope – a hog (ironic: “a hog’s ugliness and clumsiness are contrasted with an antelope’s beauty and grace”). antelope lay – hog stealing. Image by johnmuk via Flickr Sources Barnes, Daniel R. “An Early American Collection of Rogue’s Cant.” The Journal of American Folklore 79, no. 314 (Oct.-Dec., 1966), 600-607. Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of […]

Early American Criminals: Matthew Cushing, the First Celebrity Burglar

All of you who read these Lines may see The sad and dire Effects of Sin: Therefore if Sinners still you’l be, Leave off to read ere you begin. (from A Few Lines) These lines form the opening of A Few Lines upon the Awful Execution of John Ormesby & Matthew Cushing, one of two […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: angler

angler – 1. a petty thief who uses a hook on the end of a string to steal from shop-windows, grates, doors, etc.; 2. a member of a gang of petty thieves who roams the street looking for opportunities; 3. a receiver of stolen goods; a fence; 4. a putter up, i.e., a servant, clerk, […]