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Tag Archives: Shoplifting

Early American Criminals: Stephen Smith on the Common

Stephen Smith was born a slave in 1769 in Virginia. His last name was originally Allen, but he changed it to Smith in order to escape from the master who owned him, William Allen. Smith’s father was a religious man, but his mother encouraged him to steal. With her prompting, Smith committed several small […]

Early American Criminals: The Canadian Burglars

On Friday, December 4, 1789, William Mooney Fitzgerald and John Clark were scheduled to appear before the court in St. John, New Brunswick. They were to learn their sentence after being tried and found guilty of burglary the day before. That morning, Rev. Charles William Milton entered their prison cell and later wrote that […]

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 […]

Convict Voyages: Convict Passengers on the Jonathan

Note: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies. Many of the surviving accounts of events involving transported convicts tend to focus on unusual circumstances or notorious criminals. Most of the convicts sent overseas, however, were minor criminals who committed petty acts of crime. These common criminals did not […]

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 […]