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Tag Archives: Pickpocketing

Early American Crimes: Lush Workers

The lush worker is headed to the annals of early American crime. The New York Times recently reported that, according to the New York Police Department, a specific breed of pickpocket, the lush worker, will soon be extinct. The lush worker rides the New York City subways late at night looking for a drunken reveler […]

Early American Criminals: Thomas Mount’s Flash Songs

Note: This post continues “Thomas Mount’s Crime Tips.” Long before Nicholas Pileggi wrote Wiseguy and revealed the inner-workings of present-day organized crime, Thomas Mount in 1791 disclosed the secrets of the Flash Company, a gang of burglars, thieves, and highwaymen. As a part of his revelations, Mount asked that the language and songs of […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: artful dodger

artful dodger – someone who avoids lodging in the same place twice out of fear of arrest. Fagan, the Artful Dodger, and Oliver Twist. Image via Wikipedia In England, the term also meant either a lodger or an expert thief. The Artful Dodger was, of course, the name of Fagan’s top child-pickpocket in Charles Dickens’s […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: amuse

amuse – 1. to fling dust into someone’s eyes in order to distract them; 2. to tell a false tale in order to distract and then rob an unsuspecting victim; to “entertain” deceptively. Amusers threw dust or pepper, which they kept in their pockets, into the eyes of someone they wanted to rob. As the […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: Adam

Adam – a henchman, an accomplice. The word is also used in combination, as in Adam tiler (or tyler), a pickpocket’s accomplice. This latter term refers to the person to whom the pickpocket quickly passes off his or her gains for safekeeping and to avoid suspicion. Sources: Matsell, George W. Vocabulum: Or, the Rogue’s Lexicon.. […]

Cant: The Language of the Criminal Underworld

Cant, or flash as it is sometimes called, is a specialized language used by criminals to keep communication about their intentions and actions from being understood by their victims or the authorities. Because any language requires a distinct group of users who can speak and understand it, cant indicates the presence of at least a […]

Transported Convicts in the New World: Moll Flanders and Moll King

Note: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies. While the American press criticized the practice of British convict transportation, Daniel Defoe enthusiastically supported it in his novel The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders. Moll Flanders is the most well-known character in literature to have been […]

Early American Crimes: Pickpocketing

In order to settle a debate with her boss, Rebecca, a self-described “curious technical writer,” asked Early American Crime, “Were American pickpockets executed in the 1700’s and 1800’s? I know Britain was big on this, but how about America?” As far as I can tell, pickpockets were not executed in America as they were in […]

Convict Voyages: Jenny Diver, Henry Justice, and the Influence of Money

Note: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies. When dealing with bureaucratic institutions in the eighteenth century, money artfully placed in the right hands could often buy special privileges, and convict transportation was no exception. The sale of convicts once they arrived in America helped convict merchants and […]

Convict Voyages: Mary Standford, Pick-Pocket and Thief

Note: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies. Mary Standford was convicted of privately stealing a shagreen pocket book, a silk handkerchief, and 4 guineas from William Smith on July 11, 1726. After her conviction, she strongly rejected transportation to the American colonies as an alternative to execution. […]