(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of ""Yellow Kid" Weil; the autobiography of America's master swindler"

ILLINCI.: 



JilVEY 



A^^A^£/Cu)j 





'O-uj 







') i//ou KiJ" We/ 1. 




The Autobiography of America's Master Swindler 



AS TOLD TO 

W. T. BRANNON 



ZIFF-DAVIS PUBLISHING COMPANY 
CHICAGO 



COPYRIGHT, 1948, BY ZIFF-DAVIS PUBLISHING COMPANY 

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may 
be reprinted zvithout permission of the publisher. 



ZIFF *^ DAVIS 
PUBLISHING COMPANY 

CHICAGO . NEW YORK . LOS ANGELES 

• 

ZIFF-DAVIS LIMITED 

London 

• 

ZIFF-DAVIS-PATEL LIMITED 

Calcutta • Bombay 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



FOREWORD 



Long before I ever met the Yellow Kid, I had heard of him. His 
adventures fascinated me. I had a yen to know the inside story be- 
hind those fabulous tales I heard and read in the newspapers. 

When I started to dig, I learned that the Kid had been a figure 
in criminal circles so long, that he had become a legend. Criminolo- 
gists had devoted considerable space in their books to his exploits. 
But all this was third person stuff, based on a mixture of fact, rumor, 
and hearsay. 

I determined to get acquainted with the Yellow Kid. But that 
was something of an undertaking. I trailed him all over Chicago 
before I finally found him. Not that he was trying to evade me. 
He's just an elusive sort of fellow. I can imagine how the police of 
two continents must have pulled their hair when they were trying to 
nab him during his heyday. 

Far from finding the Kid a man of superficialities, I discovered 
that he has many real accomplishments. One of these is his uncanny 
knowledge of human nature. In this respect, he may be far ahead 
of some of our more celebrated psychologists. He can size up a man 
and accurately forecast his reactions to almost any given set of cir- 
cumstances. 

Another trait of the Kid's which rather surprised me was his 
knowledge of world affairs. Not only does he keep abreast of im- 
portant happenings at home and abroad, he has very strong opinions 
about them. He is never indifferent about anything; he is either for 
it, or against it. 

Some of his opinions have been interwoven into the story of his 
career. But, in the main, this has been written to entertain the reader. 
For I have tried to present Mr. Weil as he portrayed himself to me: 
a very colorful gent. 

I hope you'll enjoy reading of the Yellow Kid's exploits. Don't try 
to imitate them! 

Chicago, Illinois W. T. Brannon 

January 1. 1948 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

1. EARLY ADVENTURES IN CHICANERY 1 

2. CHICANERY IN CHICAGO 11 

3. A TIP FOR MR. MACALLISTER 20 

4. HOW TO BEAT THE HORSES 40 

5. TWO UNWARY STRANGERS 47 

6. FROM NAGS TO RICHES 59 

7. GIVING AWAY REAL ESTATE 7Z 

8. THE GET-RICH-QUICK BANK 86 

9. RED LETTER DAYS 95 

10. MILLIONAIRES AND MURDER 105 

11. I TRIED TO GO STRAIGHT 129 

12. EASY MONEY ON RAINY DAYS 141 

13. A DEAL WITH FATHER FLANAGAN ISO 

14. SOME CREDIT — AND LOTS OF CASH 154 

15. THE MAN WITH A BEARD 161 

16. THE FARO BANK PAY-OFF 173 

17. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS 191 

18. THE LAW CATCHES UP 208 

19. MAGIC MONEY 211 

20. THE HOTEL MARTINIQUE 232 

21. THE LEAVENWORTH COUNTRY CLUB 236 

22. THE COMTESSE AND THE KID 240 

23. THE CASE OF THE REFUGEE 252 

24. A PROPOSITION FOR A. HITLER 265 

25. TRICKS OF THE TRADE •. 269 

26. THE LITTLE THINGS COUNT 282 

27. WHERE THE MONEY WENT 289 

28. THE LAST WORD 293 



L Early Adventures in Chicanery 



I WAS BORN NEAR HARRISON AND CLARK STREETS IN CHICAGO, THE SON 
of Mr. and Mrs. Otto Weil, who were reputable, hard-working 
people. They ran a grocery store which brought them a modest 
sustenance. I was sent to the public school at Harrison Street and 
Third Avenue. I can, without boasting, say that I was a bright pupil. 
Proficient in all my studies, I was particularly good at mathematics. 

After classes, I helped Mother in the store, though there were times 
when I sneaked off to the racecourse. Horse racing had a strong 
appeal for me, especially the betting. But my folks could not afford 
to give me money to bet on the races. 

When I was seventeen, I "quit" school and went to work. For 
about two years I worked as a collector. The salary was not large — 
by no means enough to satisfy my wants. But I soon discovered that, 
by the use of my wits, I could earn more on the side than my regular 
salary. 

There were other collectors, cashiers, and bookkeepers. If there 
was a scrupulous one in the lot, I don't recall him. Each was en- 
trusted with the handling of money. The bookkeepers were supposed 
to record everything that the collectors brought in. I quickly dis- 
covered how much skulduggery went on. 

The collectors were not turning in all they collected, the cashiers 
were holding back a little out of each collection, and the book- 
keepers were not recording all that finally reached them. By various 
means, they managed to cover up their peculations. 

I was just a young fellow, but I had a sharp eye and a quick wit. 
When I quietly made it known to my fellow employees that I was 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

aware of their peccadillos, they became ready, without further urging, 
to contribute small sums so that I would keep their secrets. All told, 
these sums amounted to considerably more than I was ever paid in 
salary. 

During this time, I met a beautiful girl. I called on her regularly 
and, before long, we were engaged to be married. 

One day I took her to meet my folks. My mother looked her over 
and approved. She called me to one side. 

"Joe," Mother whispered, "she is a beautiful girl. But she is a 
girl for a rich man. She should not be a poor man's wife." 

"And I'm not going to be a poor man!" I replied. "I will give her 
everything she wants." 

Having seen my parents struggle for their existence — my mother 
got up at five in the morning to open the store — I knew that such 
a life was not for me. Further, I had seen how much more money 
was being made by skulduggery than by honest toil. 

In my travels about the city as a collector, I had run into a customer 
who interested me very much. At other times, I saw him at the race- 
courses and in the saloons. 

Doc Meriwether always seemed to have an inexhaustible supply 
of money, a large part of which he spent at the race tracks. One 
day we got to talking over a glass of beer. 

"Joe," he said, "you're a bright young fellow. How much do you 
make on that collecting job?" 

"Not much," I admitted and told him the amount. 

"It's not enough. How would you like to go to work for me?" 

"I'd like to," I replied. "But what do you have that I can do?" 

"Plenty," he declared. "And I'll pay you three times what you're 
making now." 

He explained his proposition in detail. I didn't need much 
time to make a decision. At the end of the month, I left my job and 
went to work for Doc Meriwether. 

Doc Meriwether was one of the most picturesque characters in the 
Middle West. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and gaunt. He wore 
a Van Dyke beard and pince-nez glasses. He usually dressed in black 
— black trousers and black frock coat with extra long tails. He wore 



Early Adventures In Chicanery 

a flowing black cravat that covered half his shirt front. 

Out on the far west side of Chicago, Doc Meriwether had a "plant" 
where he manufactured "Meriwether's Elixir," — good for the ills of 
man or beast. Doc particularly urged it as a sure cure for tapeworm. 

Meriwether's Elixir was put up in tall, thirty-two-ounce bottles. It 
was a dark liquid with a pleasant taste — Doc saw to that by putting 
in a little of the right flavoring. He left most of the bottling and 
manufacturing to his wife, a buxom, pleasant-faced, industrious 
woman. The Doc felt that he had done his share of the work when 
he made up the formula. 

I don't remember the exact recipe now. But the chief ingredient 
was rain water, caught and strained in big cisterns in the back yard 
of Doc's combined home and factory. This rain water was drained 
oflf a barrel at a time, and into it Mrs. Meriwether mixed the other 
ingredients. 

One of these was cascara, just the right amount in each thirty- 
two-ounce bottle to get results — plus alcohol. It was an evil-looking 
concoction, but pleasant enough to take, thanks to the alcohol and 
flavoring which Doc had thoughtfully included. 

I cannot truthfully say whether anyone who took the Elixir ever 
got rid of a tapeworm or not. But many thought they did, for the 
cascara worked on everybody. As matter of fact, I doubt if very 
many people had tapeworm, though nearly all imagined they did. 

For in that period we had a tapeworm fad. Everybody who was 
undernourished, anemic, or suffered from some form of malnutrition, 
was firmly convinced that a parasitic tapeworm was eating away his 
substance. Consequently, Doc Meriwether's Elixir was a pushover at 
a dollar a bottle. 

Meriwether's Elixir was not on sale at drug stores, though a few 
grocers and general merchants carried it. Most of it was sold by the 
Doc himself, during the summer months when he toured the bucolic 
areas. Farmers and residents of the smaller towns were easily con- 
vinced that they harbored the tapeworm. 

The Doc had a medicine show which appealed to men. In addition 
to Indians, he had a couple of girl dancers. He made it a point to 
park his big wagon at a spot where the males congregated. It was a 



''Yellow Kid" Weil 

man's world — in those days. Any crowd in a public place was likely 
to consist largely of men. 

I acted in various capacities, depending on the locality. In some 
instances, fSvas a barker and helped to attract a crowd. At other times, 
I remained in the background and was the "shill," posing as a 
customer from another community. 

As soon as Doc had entertained the crowd a while, he would go 
into his spiel. "Some of you men are healthy," he would say. "I can 
tell that by looking at you. But there are many of you who are not. 
Why? I think I would be quite safe in saying that a tapeworm is 
eating your life away. A sallow complexion, hollow cheeks, lean 
faces, wrinkled brows — these are all symptoms of the existence of a 
tapeworm. 

"Are you men going to let a parasite eat away your body, your very 
life? Or do you intend to do something about it?" Here, he put up 
a hand as somebody started to speak. "I know what you're going to 
say. You've had the family doctor in. He's given you something for 
it, but it didn't work. 

"Well, I've got something that will work. It's absolutely guaranteed 
to get results. Meriwether's Elixir is the product of years of research. 
It has been found to be an absolute cure, through elimination, of the 
worst tapeworm that ever preyed on a man's life." 

He exhibited the bottle with the fancy label and the black liquid. 
If there was good response. Doc Meriwether kept up a constant, jovial 
flow of patter and took in the dollars. But if business was slow, that 
was my cue to step in. 

"I'll take two bottles," I would say. 

"Two bottles, sir? But one bottle is enough to rid you of tape- 
worm." 

"It's not for me," I would say. "It's for my two children." 

"Have you used this preparation before?" 

"Indeed I have, Doctor. In fact, I owe my life to it." 

"Would you mind telling us about it?" Doc would invite. 

"Well, all right. A year ago, I was so run down and emaciated 
that I was not able to walk, let alone tend my farm. Doctors had 
done all they could for me, but my case had been given up as hopeless. 

4 



Early Adventures In Chicanery 

The mortgage on my farm was nearly due. I thought that I would 
lose everything and that my poor wife and children would go hungry." 
I would pause here to brush a sleeve across my eyes. 

"Then I heard about Meriwether's Elixir. I bought a botde of it. 
I didn't think it would do me much good, but everything was lost, 
anyhow. So I took it. Before I had finished the bottle, my tapeworm 
had been ehminated. I was able to walk again. I got my strength 
back. Soon I began to recover. I felt so much better that I was able 
to do twice as much work. My crops were extra good. The mortgage 
was paid off. 

"And I owe it all to Meriwether's Elixir. I'm going to give it to 
my two kids. I'd buy it, even if it was five dollars a bottle." 

"Sir," would be Doc Meriwether's tremulous reply, "you have 
stirred me deeply. You have made me feel that I have done some- 
thing worth while for humanity. As a token of my regard, let me 
present you with two bottles — absolutely free." 

This bit of play-acting usually brought the crowd around. They 
almost pushed each other over in their rush to hand in their dollars 
for the wonderful mixture. 

This may sound unbelievable, due to the naivete of the rural people 
of the nineties. 

It is true that the medicine man and his traveling show have nearly 
disappeared from the American scene. But the same old fraud is still 
going on. In a new and fancier dress it's being promoted by medicine 
men with millions at their command. Their audience is nationwide 
and includes more city people than farmers. I refer to the patent- 
medicine radio shows. 

In addition to the bottles. Doc Meriwether offered a "special" treat- 
ment at his suite for those who wanted to get rid of their tapeworms 
in a hurry and were willing to pay extra for it. 

The success of the special treatment was mainly a matter of having 
the right stage setting and the props. The most important of the latter 
was a potato. This was peeled into one long coil which, for all I know, 
might look like a tapeworm. In an unbroken spiral it was deposited 
in a basin and water was poured over it. The basin was carefully 
hidden in a darkened room. 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

When the patient arrived, he was treated first in an outer room. 
Now the mixture was more potent: the chief ingredient was epsom 
salts. The patient was allowed to recline on a couch while the medi- 
cine took effect. Then he was led into the darkened room. 

As soon as the dose had acted, he was led into the outer room. That 
was my cue. I fetched the previously prepared basin with the potato 
peel to the outer room, and handed it to Doc Meriwether. 

"There my friend," Doc would say, displaying the basin, "is your 
tapeworm! Evil-looking thing, isn't it.''" 

Every victim of this hoax was deeply impressed. Not one ever 
questioned it. He paid the ten-dollar fee and left with the feeling 
that he had been vastly benefited. Maybe he had. 

For he had had a good cleansing, in more ways than one! 

During my travels with Doc Meriwether, I met an itinerant mer- 
chant. He appeared to be very prosperous. He told me he lived in 
Chicago. When I got back the following winter, I looked him up. 
Over a glass of beer, he related how he was able to make enough 
during his summer travels to support him the year round. He invited 
me to join him the following spring. 

He was a traveling salesman who sold various items to farmers for 
small profits. But I had ideas of my own, though I did not tell my 
partner that. It was not my intention to labor among farmers for small 
profits. Before we left Chicago, I bought a sizable stock of the equip- 
ment we would need, in addition to the stock items my partner 
carried. 

Once on the road, I told him my plans. He fell in with them. As 
soon as we reached the farming section we began to put them into 
practice. 

Among the items my partner sold was a magazine — Hearth and 
Home, I believe. Catering exclusively to bucolic interests, it was a 
great favorite with rural folks and not difficult to sell. A year's sub- 
scription was twenty-five cents; the bargain rate was six years for a 
dollar. My partner was allowed to keep half of the money and was 
generally satisfied to sell one year's subscription at each farm. 

"Let me do the talking," I proposed, "until you catch on to my 
scheme." 



Early Adventures In Chicanery 

He was willing enough. Later, we pulled in at a farmhouse. 

"How do you do, sir?" I said to the farmer who answered my 
knock on his door. "I am representing that unexcelled journal of 
rural life, Hearth and Home. I'm sure you're acquainted with it." 

I produced a copy and offered it. 

"That is the magazine for the womenfolks," he replied. "My wife 
might want it. How much is it?" 

"Only twenty-five cents a year, sir." 

"Wait till I call the missus." 

By the time the farmer returned with his wife, I had my "clincher" 
out of my bag. 

"Yes, I would like to have this for a year," the farmer's wife said. 
"Pa, give the young man a quarter." 

"Madam," I said, "I have a special offer to make. For a limited 
time only, with a six-year subscription at the special rate of a dollar 
and a half, we are giving away, absolutely free, a set of this beautiful 
silverware." 

I unwrapped my clincher. It was a box containing six bright and 
shining spoons. "These silver spoons, Madam," I continued, while she 
gasped in admiration, "are worth the price of the subscription alone. 
As you can see, they are the best sterling silver." 

The woman's eyes shone as she took the spoons in her hand. "They 
certainly are beautiful," she said. Then a flicker of suspicion crossed 
her face. "But if they're real silver, they're worth more than you're 
asking without the magazine. How — " 

"Quite true. Madam," I said quickly. "But the publishers wish to 
put this magazine into every farm home in America. That is the 
reason for tliis extraordinary introductory offer. Of course, they will 
lose money on the transaction, but it will be made up by your good 
will, which will bring more readers and more advertising." 

"That's right, Ma," said the farmer. "Them papers make their 
money on advertising." 

The sale was quickly completed and I took down the name and 
address of the lady, giving her a receipt for the subscription. I also 
gave her the half-dozen spoons. 
But my business did not end there. 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Incidentally," I said, reaching into my pocket and withdrawing a 
pair of pince-nez glasses, "when we were coming down the road, my 
partner and I found these spectacles. Do you happen to know any- 
body in the community who wears glasses like these?" 

"No, can't say that I do," the farmer replied, taking the glasses 
from mc. 

"Too bad," I said regretfully. "If I could find the owner, I would 
return them. They look like expensive eyeglasses. I imagine the 
person who lost them would pay three or four dollars reward for 
their return." 

As I was talking, the farmer tried on the spectacles. He held up 
the sample copy of the magazine I had given him and the print stood 
out clearly. Probably he'd been intending to get a pair of glasses the 
next time he went to town. He looked at the rims, which appeared 
to be solid gold. They looked costly. 

"Tell you what I'll do," he proposed. "I'll give you three dollars 
and keep the glasses. I'll look around for the owner, as long as you 
won't be able to make a complete search." 

"That's right," I agreed. "I can't afford to go from house to house 
inquiring who lost a pair of glasses." 

So I took the three dollars and he took the glasses. Of course, he 
had no intention of looking for the owner — any more than I did. 
As a matter of fact, he was just as anxious to have me on my way, as 
I was to go. In time, he would discover that the frames were cheap 
and that the lenses were no more than magnifying glass. If he took 
the trouble to ask, he would find that he could duplicate them in the 
city for twenty-five cents. 

His good wife would soon learn that the beautiful silver spoons I 
had given her were cheap metal. I had bought them before leaving 
Chicago for a cent each. My net profit on the deal was about $3.50, 
which I figured the farmer could well afford for a lesson in honesty. 
He had paid for the glasses because he thought he was getting some- 
thing expensive at a fraction of their true value. His wife had thought 
she was getting something for nothing. 

This desire to get something for nothing has been very costly to 
many people who have dealt with me and with other con men. But I 

8 



Early Adventures In Chicanery 

have found that this is the way it works. The average person, in my 
estimation, is ninety-nine per cent animal and one per cent human. 
The ninety-nine per cent that is animal causes very httle trouble. But 
the one per cent that is human causes all our woes. When people 
learn — as I doubt they will — that they can't get something for 
nothing, crime will diminish and we shall all live in greater harmony. 

My partner soon caught on, and we both worked the scheme 
throughout the trip. There were variations to the routine and we had 
to be ready to answer many questions. But each of us managed to 
make about ten sales a day — thirty-five dollars profit. That was more 
than I had made in a whole week in Chicago. 

As a rule, we worked an entire community. My partner would 
drop me at the first farmhouse, then proceed a mile or two down 
the road. I would go forward while he turned back. We called at 
every house until we met. Then we'd be on our way again. 

I realize that this may seem an old game. It is. But I am telling 
about it because I am the man who originated it. My partner and I 
worked it successfully throughout the farming sections of Illinois, 
Iowa, and Wisconsin. 

For me, there was one drawback. While my partner rode from one 
farmhouse to another in his buggy, I had to trudge down the dusty 
road with my bag. At best, although I have enjoyed fairly good health, 
I am frail, and this constant walking became very tiresome. 

Among the items I had brought with me from Chicago were a 
number of pocket watches. They were gold-plated and stamped on 
the back, "14 Carat." I had paid $1.98 for each, and they were fairly 
good timepieces. What is more, they were legitimate products. In 
those days — 1899 — there had been no legislation prohibiting manu- 
facturers from stamping anything they pleased on watches and jewelry. 

Of course, I sold them for as much as I could get — as high as 
fifty dollars. There was nothing the buyer could do about it. True, 
he had paid much more than the watch was worth, but at that time 
the law held that he had done so with his eyes open. The victim had 
to sufler in silence and charge off his loss to experience. 

One day I came to a farmhouse whose owner was very much in 
need of a watch. But he was a horse trader at heart. As soon as I 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

offered lo sell him the watch, he started to bicker. I finally agreed to 
accept a horse and sulky in exchange for the watch. The farmer 
thought he had put over a good one. The horse was a plug and had 
almost outlived his usefulness. 

But the rig served my purpose. Now I could ride during the re- 
mainder of the summer. I am sure the farmer got good service from 
his watch as long as I did from his plug. 

By the time the summer was over and we had concluded our jaunt, 
I was tired of the rural life. So I dissolved our partnership and, with 
a sizable stake, returned to Chicago. 



10 



2 Chicanery in Chicago 



I HAD BEEN AWAY FROM JESSIE, MY FIANCE, FOR SEVERAL MONTHS AND 
was anxious to see her. She and her family welcomed me back, 
and that winter, I saw her often. She thought I was a traveling 
salesman for a reputable firm, but I told her that I was tired of the road 
and intended to set up my own business in Chicago. 

In those days, a woman seldom questioned a man's work. Her place 
was strictly in the home. Jessie didn't ask me about the sort of sales- 
manship I was engaged in. It was many years, long after we were 
married, before she found out that I was anything but a respectable 
business man. 

She and her mother were devout members of the Sacramento Con- 
gregational Church in Chicago. With them I attended services every 
Sunday. The minister had a forceful delivery, using a clever choice of 
words to sway his audience. 

This set me to thinking. I said to myself, "Joe, you are not capable 
of hard physical work. You're too fraiL Whatever you accomplish in 
life must be done through words. You have that ability. You can 
make words beautiful and scenic. What marble is to sculpture, what 
canvas is to painting, words can be to you. You can use them to 
influence others. You can make them earn your living for you." 

As I have said, that minister made a deep impression on me. I 
wondered would he help me enter a good theological seminary where 
I could study to be a pulpiteer. I broached the subject to Jessie and 
her mother. They were overjoyed. 

One Sunday evening we waited after services and approached the 
minister. His advice was realistic. 

11 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"First," he said, "you must give your soul and your whole life to 
God. Have you done that?" 

"Not yet," I admitted. 

"Are you familiar with the Scriptures?" 

"Some of them. Not all." 

"You've got to make up your mind that you will give yourself to 
the work," he urged. "Then you will have to be able to pay your way 
through school." 

"I can pay part of it," I said. "And I imagine I can work to pay 
the rest of it." 

"Yes, that can be done," declared the minister, "if your heart is in 
it. Here is what I advise you. First read some religious texts. Study 
religion for a while in your own way. Then if you are ready to give 
your life to God, come back to me and I will tell you how and where 
to enroll." 

That minister must have been psychic. He must have realized that 
my heart had not been given over to God, but that I was seeking a 
career to further my own ends. However, he gave me a list of books 
to read. 

First was the Bible. I read through it, then the other volumes he 
had recommended. I supplemented these with books of my own 
choice. I studied the lives of Moses, Buddha, and Mohammed. I 
secured a copy of the Catholic Encyclopedia and read that. 

The net result was that I lost all desire to become a pulpiteer. There 
were so many inconsistencies I could not reconcile that I became an 
iconoclast. I arrived at these conclusions: Man has all the bestiality of 
the animal, but is cloaked with a thin veneer of civilization; he is 
inherently dishonest and selfish; the honest man is a rare specimen 
indeed. 

However, my reading firmly convinced me of the power of words. 
I felt that its proper use could lead me to fortune. In that I was to be 
right. The use of words led me to many fortunes. 

When I told Jessie that I had decided that I was not cut out to be 
a preacher she accepted my judgment. She continued, however, as 
organist at the Sacramento Church and retained her faith. Though 
I became an iconoclast, I attended the services because of my great 

12 



Chicanery in Chicago 

love for her. And I still have a high regard for that minister and his 
power w^ith w^ords. 

In those days, the police were not like our police of today. The 
force was not so large, and the Detective Bureau had not yet been 
organized. The Municipal Court was not a big organization. Most of 
the courts were operated by justices of the peace. We called them 
"Justice Shops." Each justice had his own constables, who were the 
detectives of that period. 

There was practically no restriction on either gambling or vice. A 
man could earn money by his wits without any interference from the 
constables or the police. There was none of this pickup business, 
where a man is locked up and held indefinitely in a cell without a 
charge being placed against him. 

Both civil and criminal cases were tried in the Justice Shops. I 
knew one of the magistrates quite well — Judge Aldo. He used to 
send me out to select jurors. Juries were composed of six men. When 
I was assigned to get a jury, I was, first of aU, told which way the 
case was to be decided. 

Naturally I went into the saloons. I'd tap a man on the shoulder 
and say: "How would you like to make a couple of easy dollars?" 

If he was interested, I explained to him that he would have to vote 
right — to earn his money. In this way, I picked up half-a-dozen 
men, led them into Judge Aldo's court, and saw them sworn in as 
jurors. The trial, of course, was a farce — the verdict had been decided 
before the jury had even been assembled. 

I picked up money in various ways, hanging around the saloons 
and hotels — always by persuasive words, playing upon the gullibility 
of some sucker who was anxious to make easy money at someone else's 
expense. 

But most of my time was spent at the race tracks. There was no 
pari-mutuel system then. Bets were accepted by bookmakers and bet- 
ting commissioners who determined their own odds. I pretended to 
be in the confidence of owners of race horses and sold inside tips to 
other bettors. 

I made no bets myself, because I soon learned that there is no such 
thing as smart money at a racecourse. I yearned to be an owner of 

13 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

race horses myself, but the time for that was not yet. 

I had sold the plug I had acquired from the farmer, but I kept the 
sulky. I heard of a socially prominent young woman who owned two 
horses. But they were so high-spirited that she couldn't control them. 
I contacted her and bought them for a ridiculously low price. They 
were named Nicotine and Mutineer. 

At this time, sulky racing was still popular. I used to race one or 
the other of my horses hitched to my sulky, at Billy Gilliam's race- 
course at 35th and Grand Boulevard. When I could afford it, I bought 
a buggy and used Nicotine and Mutineer as carriage horses. 

Driving up Michigan Avenue in my buggy, with these two blooded 
horses prancing and champing at the bit, I often attracted attention. 
One day a well-dressed, elderly man hailed me. I stopped. 

"Young man," he said, "is that rig for sale?" 

"I hadn't thought about it," I replied, "but I'll sell it for the right 
price." 

"How much do you want?" 

"A thousand dollars," I declared, after some thought. 

"I'll give you five hundred." 

"No," I said. "A thousand is my price." 

"Well," he grumbled, "if you change your mind come to see me at 
my office. I'm Mr. Loomis, you know." 

"Yes, sir, I know," I replied. 

Mr. Loomis was the head of a large wholesale grocery firm which 
was then, and still is, one of the leaders in the Middle West. His 
proposal inspired me with an idea for a new confidence game. This 
one was to be an excellent money-maker — and within the law. 

Two days later, I called at his office. 

"Have you decided to accept my proposition?" he asked eagerly. 

"No, I haven't, Mr. Loomis. But I have come to make you a 
counterproposal. I want you to lend me $5,000." 

"What!" he exclaimed, when he had recovered from my effrontery. 
"That's a lot of money, young man. Do you have any collateral?" 

"All I have is my rig," I replied. "But if you will make me the 
loan, I will put up the rig as collateral and at the same time tell you 
how you can make a lot of money." 

14 



Chicanery in Chicago 

"I suppose I ought to throw you out," frowned Mr. Loomis, "but 
you interest me. In the first place, I'd Uke to have that rig. Now 
what is your proposal?" 

"Are we alone?" I asked, looking around his oflSce. "This must 
be strictly confidential." 

"No one can hear." To make doubly sure, he got up and closed 
the door. "Now, what is it?" 

"You know of the big handicap race at Hawthorne three weeks 
from now?" 

"Of course." 

"I am going to tell you how to make a lot of money. I happen to 
know the race is fixed. The man who weighs in the horses is a friend 
of mine. The winning horse will carry no weight. I also know the 
judge. In case my horse fails to win, he will declare it no contest. In 
other words, Mr. Loomis, you can't lose." 

"And your proposition?" 

"Lend me $5,000. When the race is over, I'll not only pay you 
back out of my winnings, but I'll make you a present of my rig. Just 
to show my good faith, though, I'll pledge my two fine horses and 
buggy. If, by some mischance, our horse should fail to win, then 
you'll have my rig." 

Mr. Loomis required only a few minutes to think this over. He 
wrote me a check for $5,000. I gave him a mortgage on my outfit. 
Then I told him the name of the horse — Mobina. 

Actually, Mobina was a selling plater and hadn't won a race in 
months. There was so little chance that Mobina would win now that 
he was listed at 10 to 1. 

Of course, the odds appealed to Mr. Loomis greatly. He got ready 
to make a killing. He was helped along by my enthusiastic reports 
from the track. Within a few days, he was figuring up the vast sum 
he was going to add to his already sizable fortune. 

But before the race came ofF, I took Mr. Loomis for more money. 
I dashed in to say that the judge was afraid and that we needed a 
couple of hundred dollars to keep him quiet. On another occasion, I 
told him that the jockey had threatened to expose the whole thing. On 
one pretext or another, I took him for an additional $1,700. 

15 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Then came the day of the race. Mobina didn't even show. Of 
course, the race hadn't been fixed and nothing had been paid to the 
judge. The only fixing I had done was to give the jockey a couple of 
hundred dollars to pull the horse, just to make sure it didn't win. 
Sorrowfully, I went to Mr. Loomis and gave him the rig. 
"I can't understand it," I said. "Something went wrong. It has 
absolutely cleaned me out." 

Mr. Loomis got his rig. And there is a moral to this story: if he 
had been willing to make an honest deal for it in the first place, he 
could have bought it. But he wasn't willing to pay a fair price and in 
the end, it cost him $6,700, in addition to whatever he lost on the race. 
I tried the same deal, with variations, on other wealthy men. Almost 
without exception, they were eager to get in on the easy money. I 
didn't have my rig as bait, but I played on their natural greed. I asked 
for a loan and told my story of a fixed race. The amounts I got varied 
with the individuals. But I never found another who was as gullible 
as Mr. Loomis. 

One day, I approached John R. Thompson, who founded the 
Thompson restaurant chain. I asked him for a loan of $2,500 and 
told him my fixed race story. 

"If you are desperately in need of $2,500," offered Mr. Thompson, 
"and if you can prove it to me, I'll lend you the money. But I will 
have absolutely nothing to do with a fixed race." 

I didn't take anything from Mr. Thompson. I probably could 
have talked him into the loan, but I didn't. In my long career, I can 
truthfully say that Mr. Thompson was the only man I ever met who 
was one hundred per cent honest. 

There was, of course, a limit to the number of suckers who would 
take part in this con game. After my experience with Mr. Thompson, 
I went back to touting at the racecourses. I met a man named Frank 
Hogan and worked with him successfully for a number of years. For 
a time we operated a bucket shop on La Salle Street, and engaged in 
other enterprises to separate people from their money. 

In the saloons and poolrooms of Chicago, we were known as a pair 
of young fellows with sharp wits. Our favorite hangout was the saloon 
of "Bathhouse John" Coughlin, located on Madison Street near La 

16 



Chicanery in Chicago 

Salle. The Bath was then Alderman of the First Ward. He was a 
swell fellow, as many another will tell you. 

One evening the Bath saw me glancing at a newspaper, The New 
Yorl^ Journal, to which he subscribed. A comic sheet had caught my 
eye. It was called "Hogan's Alley and the Yellow Kid." 

"I'm through with that paper, if you want it," said Coughlin. 

"I like that comic sheet," I told him. 

"Then I'll save it for you every day," said Coughlin. 

He did. And I read the comic regularly. The Yellow Kid depicted 
was malformed, as far as body structure and facial equipment were 
concerned. He had large ears, an enormous mouth, and protruding 
teeth with much space between them. 

One night a race-horse tout named Jack Mack entered Coughlin's 
saloon. It was after midnight, but the saloon never closed. Downstairs 
was the bathhouse and above was a hotel. Tommy Chamale, who was 
later to become a millionaire banker and the owner of the Green Mill, 
the Riviera, and Tivoli theatres, was night porter and bar boy. 

Jack Mack had an tgg in his hand and he was attempting to stand 
it up on the bar. That attracted Chamale, who asked what Mack 
was trying to do. 

"I'm trying to stand this egg on end," replied Mack. 

Chamale tried it, but without success. 

"I can make it stand up and I can do it without injuring the shell," 
said Mack. "How much have you got in the cash register?" 

"Twenty-eight dollars," Chamale returned, after counting his money. 

"I'll wager that twenty-eight dollars that I can do it!" snapped Mack. 

Chamale took him up. 

Mack had some salt in the palm of his hand. He dampened the end 
of the egg and pretended to cleanse it in his hand. The salt adhered 
to the end of the tgg, giving it a foundation the same as the legs on 
a table. The egg stood erect. 

Mack collected the twenty-eight dollars and left. A few minutes 
afterward I retired to the bathhouse to spend the night. When Bath- 
house John came in Chamale told him about the wager. 

"Where was Weil?" asked Coughlin. 

"He was standing at the bar, reading the comic paper." 

17 



'Tellouj Kid" Weil 

"You've been tricked, my boy," said the Bath. "Weil is probably in 
league with Mack. They worked a con game on you." 

The next morning, when I went upstairs to the saloon, Coughlin 
said: "Were you here when Chamale made that wager?" 

"Yes." 

"Did you and Hogan have anything to do with it?" 

I denied this. 

"Maybe," said the Alderman, shaking his head, "but I don't believe 
it. I think you and Hogan got part of that money." His eye fell 
upon the comic sheet lying on the bar where I had left it. "Hogan's 
Alley and the Yellow Kid," he read aloud. "Hogan and Weil. From 
now on, you're the Yellow Kid." 

That was in 1903. And from that time on, I was invariably known 
as the Yellow Kid. There have been many erroneous stories published 
about how 1 acquired this cognomen. It was said that it was due to 
my having worn yellow chamois gloves, yellow vests, yellow spats, and 
a yellow beard. All this was untrue. I had never affected such 
wearing apparel and I had no beard. 

Bathhouse John was my friend until his death a few years ago. He 
began as a rubber in the bathhouse of the old Brevoort Hotel. Later 
he became the owner of this bathhouse and a protege of "Hinky Dink" 
Kenna. He was a politician all his life, though he dabbled in horses 
and opened an insurance brokerage house on LaSalle Street. He was 
a big, hearty fellow, loved by all his friends, as well as by the voters 
who regubrly returned him to the city council. 

An impressive figure, he had a flair for brocaded vests, which made 
him even more a person to attract the eye. He gained a reputation as 
a poet and composer, but it was common knowledge that his stuff was 
ghost written. Perhaps the most famous of his songs was "Dear Mid- 
night of Love." This was composed by May de Sousa, the daughter 
of a detective at the headquarters of Mayor Carter Harrison. 

The Bath befriended many underworld characters, but I don't 
believe that he ever received a cent from any of their enterprises. He 
was the sort who would help anybody in need. 

Frank Hogan and I dissolved partnership, and he went on to become 
a prominent investment broker, though the methods he used were 

18 



Chicanery in Chicago 

shady. When the law was at his heels in 1907 he went to France, 
where he bought a villa outside of Paris. He never returned to the 
United States. 



10 



3. A Tip for Mr. Macallister 



ONE HOT SUMMER NIGHT I STOOD AT THE BAR OF BATHHOUSE JOHN 
Coughlin's Randolph Street saloon in Chicago, quaffing a 
glass of beer. I had spent a strenuous day at the racecourse. 
The saloon was crowded with men engaged in drinking and in ani- 
mated conversation. It probably was as mixed a group as any ever 
assembled under one roof outside of a penal institution. Pickpockets, 
thieves, safecrackers, and thugs of every degree mingled with card- 
sharps, swindlers, gamblers, policemen, and politicians. 

At the other end of the bar stood Alderman Coughlin, resplendent 
in a two-gallon silk hat, a mountain-green dress suit and a red vest 
with white buttons. He was talking to a blue-coated policeman named 
Fred Buckminster. 

I had only a casual acquaintance with Buckminster. He was tech- 
nically on the side of the law, although his chief duty was to collect 
tribute from the crooks on his beat and turn it over to the politicians. 
I doubt that Fred got much of the graft, because the politicians had 
a very good idea of who was paying off and how much. 

However, I was operating pretty well within the law at that time 
and I had no reason to pay tribute. Not for several years did I really 
become acquainted with Buckminster, whose cherubic, extremely 
honest-looking face and portly bearing had earned him the sobriquet 
of "The Deacon." 

As I stood there a well-dressed man, several years older than I, 
approached the bar. 

"Good evening," he said. "Won't you join me in a glass of beer.?" 

"Thank you," I replied. 

20 



A Tip for Mr. Macallister 

The bartender drew two glasses of beer, and we began to quench 
our thirst. 

"My name," offered my companion, "is William Wail." 

"Glad to know you, Mr. Wall," I returned. "My name is Weil — 
Joe Weil." 

"The Yellow Kid!" he exclaimed. "I've heard about you. They 
say you're a pretty sharp young fellow." 

Of course, I had heard of Billy Wall He was known as one of 
Chicago's leading confidence men. We conversed for some time, 
taking turns buying the drinks. 

"There are many things to learn in this — ah — profession," said 
Wall. "Besides having a sharp wit, you must be a smooth, polished 
actor. Maybe I can help you some time." 

I was flattered. But I was not yet ready to enter into an alliance. 
Our meeting broke up with my promise that I would think it over 
and get in touch with him. 

One thing is very important to the successful con man: honor. 
That may sound strange, but it's true. I don't know how much truth 
there is to the old saying about honor among thieves, but it is an 
absolute necessity among con men. 

Though a con man may conspire to fleece others, he must always 
be on the level with his associates. The victim's cash is usually taken 
by one man, who disappears. And it would be a sorry day indeed 
if this man, who had taken the money, didn't meet later with his 
associates to divide the spoils. 

During the next few days, I made careful inquiries about Billy 
Wall. Everyone had the highest praise for him: he could be trusted. 
So I contacted Billy and we formed a partnership. 

For a while we worked the old con games that were, even then, 
growing whiskers. Billy Wall was an accomplished actor, and I 
learned a great deal from him. But he lacked imagination. He never 
thought of anything new. 

I was not satisfied. My mind was alert and full of fresh schemes. 
One day I proposed one to Bill, and he readily agreed to follow my 
lead. 

My first step was to insert a blind ad in an evening newspaper: 

21 



"Yellow Kid'' Weil 

WANTED — Man to invest $2,500. Opportunity to participate in 
very profitable venture. Must be reliable. Confidential, Box W-62, 
care this paper. 

That brought several replies, each of which was tucked away for 
future reference. The one that intrigued me most was from a man 
whom I will call Marcus Macallister, owner of the "Macallister" 
Theatre, one of Chicago's leading playhouses, which offered the best 
in legitimate stage productions. 

I knew also that MacalHster was one of the principal backers of a 
new amusement project then in the planning stage. It later became 
White City, which included an arena for boxing and wrestling, bowl- 
ing alleys, a dance hall, a roller-skating rink, and other recreational 
features. Macallister was our man. He not only had money, he was 
a plunger. 

The day after I received his letter I called at his office. In those 
days I traveled under my own name. 

"What is your proposition, Mr. Weil.?" Macallister asked. 

"My brother-in-law," I confided, "is in desperate need of $2,500. If 
you will lend it to him, I will show you how to make a fortune." 

"What does he need $2,500 for.?" he inquired. 

"Well, he's hopelessly addicted to betting on the horses. He began 
borrowing money to make bets. Now, he's in the clutches of the loan 
sharks. He owes them $2,500, but his wife — my sister — doesn't 
know about it. The loan sharks have demanded their money. If it 
isn't paid by tomorrow night, they are going to my sister and expose 
him." 

"How can a man Uke that help me make a fortune?" 

"By giving you absolutely reliable information on the races. He 
works for Western Union. He will tip you off on a horse after it 
has won. You can make a bet on the nose and you can't lose." 

There is something about a "sure thing" on a race that a horse 
player can't resist. A gleam of anticipation appeared in Macallister's 
eyes. He tried to cover it up. 

"I never bet on the horses," he said. "How does it work.?" 

I knew he was lying, but I led him to the Redpath Saloon at State 
and Jackson. In the rear was a poolroom. 

22 



A Tip for Mr. Macallister 

In those days, most handbooks — which were legal — operated in 
poolrooms. Their equipment included a cashier's cage for taking bets 
and paying ofl winners, wall sheets where the odds on various horses 
were posted, and the telegraph desk. 

Western Union furnished racing information by wire. Most of the 
poolrooms subscribed to this service and had direct wires from the 
Western Union building. Of course every bookmaker had to employ 
an operator who jotted down the messages. The results were called 
out by a clerk. 

In present-day handbooks all betting is closed at post-time. In those 
days bets were accepted until the telegraph operator received the flash, 
"They're off!" He received a running account of the race which was 
called out by the clerk. At the finish the winners were announced. 

Mr. Macallister seemed fascinated by the amount of money that 
was changing hands. 

"You could make a fortune," he agreed, "if you had the right 
horse." 

"If you know the winning horse beforehand you can't lose." 

"But how is that possible?" 

"Come over to the Western Union building with me." 

On the way over I explained that my brother-in-law knew nothing 
of my plan. 

"He's too honest," I said. "If he wasn't he could have cleaned up 
himself." 

The Western Union building was an eight-story edifice, but the 
elevator ran only to the seventh floor. We took the stairway to the 
top floor, which was one big room, where about a hundred operators 
sat at their desks. We could see them through a glass partition. They 
were coatless and wore green eyeshades. 

I threw up a hand, and an operator waved back. He probably 
thought I was someone he knew. 

"My brother-in-law just signaled," I told Macallister. "He wants 
us to meet him on the fifth floor." 

We went down to the fifth floor and waited in the corridor. I 
knew that Billy Wall had been waiting in the washroom on the sixth 
floor. In a few minutes, he came down the stairs. He wore a green 

23 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

cycshadc, was hatlcss, and his sleeves were rolled up. He was my 
mythical brother-in-law, 

"What's the meaning of this?" he demanded, with a fine display 
of indignation. "Haven't I told you not to come around here when 
I'm working? Suppose the boss finds out I'm away from my in- 
strument — " 

"No worse than if he finds out about the loan sharks," I retorted. 
"This gentleman is here to help you." 

I introduced them and they shook hands. 

"Are you really willing to help me?" Billy asked. 

"He will," I promised, "if you give him a winner." 

"How can I do that?" he asked innocently. 

"You're on the gold wire, aren't you?" 

"Yes, but — " 

"What is the gold wire?" Macallister asked. 

"That's the wire from New York that we get the race results on," 
my "brother-in-law" explained. "I get them here and flash them to 
the poolrooms." 

"Then here is what you can do," I said, lowering my voice. "Hold 
back the results for a couple of minutes and give Mr. Macallister a 
chance to make a bet before the poolrooms get the flash that they're 
off. You can send through some sort of signal so he'll know which 
horse won." 

"But that's dishonest!" Billy protested. "And my job — " He 
hesitated. Then he shoved his hands in his pockets and paced up 
and down the hall. "No! I can't do it." 

I shot him a scornful look. 

"You love your wife and family, don't you?" I goaded. 

"More than anything else in the world," he replied. 

"And you know what will happen if my sister finds out about 
those loan sharks, don't you?" 

"Yes," he said, wearily. "She'll leave me. My home will be 
wrecked." 

"In that case," said Mr. Macallister, "it seems to mc that you haven't 
anything to lose by going along with us." 

That was the tipoff. It meant that Macallister was sunk. 

24 



A Tip for Mr. Macallister 

"All right," Billy returned reluctantly, "I'll do it this once. But 
only once." 

"That's all right," said Macallister. "We can make plenty of money 
on just one sure thing." 

"I'll have to pay off the New York operator," Billy grumbled, "He 
wouldn't go in a deal like that for less than a 50-50 split." 

We turned questioning eyes on Macallister. 

"That's all right with me," he said. "I can afford to pay him if 
I get a winner." 

We then arranged the details. We would take the sixth race at 
Saratoga on the following day. As soon as the winner had come 
through, Billy would flash a signal. Mr. Macallister would place his 
bet and two minutes later Billy would send details of the race to the 
poolrooms. 

"As long as this is a sure thing," Billy proposed, "you might as 
well bet the $2,500 you're going to loan me. Then I can repay the 
loan out of what I win." 

Macallister agreed to that. We parted after I had arranged to meet 
him the next day. 

The poolroom I led Macallister to the next day had been arranged 
for his special benefit. We had rented the banquet hall of the old 
Briggs House, and outfitted it fully with equipment which also had 
been rented for the occasion. Of course, the telegraph instrument was 
not connected with Western Union, as Macallister believed. It received 
messages from another instrument which we had installed in a room 
of the Briggs House. 

To be our innocent props we had hired a hundred actors. We 
had told them that Mr. Schubert Henderson, the producer, was cast- 
ing for his new play and wanted some actors for a poolroom scene. 
They looked real enough to Mr. Macallister. The cashier's cage, wall 
sheets, and telegraph operator all looked authentic too. We had 
stooges at the cashier's cage and other stooges went to the windows 
and placed bets. Among those who helped were a number of minor 
con men. 

The big wall clock had been set back a few minutes. This was 
done because we wanted time for our operator in the other room 

. 25 



''Yellow Kid'' Weil 

to find out the actual result of the sixth at Saratoga before he began 
sending his message. Our scheme required that we have the actual 
winner because it would be easy enough for Macallister to check up. 

Came the time for the sixth race to start, according to our clock 
— actually the race was already over. The telegraph began to click. 
The clerk called out: 

"Colorado is delaying the start." 

That was the signal we had agreed upon. It meant that Colorado 
actually was the winner. The odds were 4 to 1. 

It had been agreed that Mr. Macallister would bet the $2,500 that 
he was to lend Billy Wall. Besides the $2,500 to pay Billy's loan and 
the cut to the New York operator, Macallister could keep the profit. 
He hurried to the window, but it was completely blocked by several 
men in a violent argument. 

"We wish to place a bet," I said, pushing toward the window. 

One of the stooges gave me a shove that sent me reeling backward. 
The argument continued and Mr. Macallister tried frantically to get 
to the window, while the clock ticked away the precious seconds. He 
was no more successful than I and the altercation was still in progress 
when the flash came: "They're off!" 

That meant all betting on that race was closed. Mr. Macallister and 
I stepped back and listened as the account of the race was called out. 
Of course, Colorado won. 

If Macallister had been able to bet, he would have won $10,000. 

Of course, we had no intention of letting him do that. That was 
why the argument had been staged in front of the cashier's window. 

"Look here!" I said to the cashier. "My friend had $2,500 to bet 
on that last race, but he couldn't get to the window. Those fellows 
cost him $10,000." 

The cashier shrugged. "I'm sorry, but what can I do? I didn't 
start the argument." 

"Hereafter," I said, truthfully enough, "we'll go elsewhere to make 
our bets." 

With that, we left. We had previously arranged to meet my sup- 
posed brother-in-law in the Western Union building for the payoff. 
As before, we went to the eighth floor where the operators were at 

26 



A Tip for Mr. Macallister 

work and I pretended to signal. Of course, Mr. Macallister had no 
way of knowing that I was not acquainted with any of the operators. 
And in such a large room with so many men busily at work, he could 
not distinguish anyone's features well enough to identify him. 

Nor could he know that the closest Billy Wall had been to the 
operator's room was the washroom on the sixth floor. It seemed 
natural enough when Billy came down the stairs, wearing a green 
eyeshade and dressed like the operators we had seen. Even to tenants 
of the building he appeared to be a bonafide operator. 

Billy came toward us, his face beaming. He grabbed Macallister's 
hand and shook it heartily. 

"Mr. Macallister, you don't know how grateful I am to you," he 
said happily. "You have saved the day for me. Now, I can pay those 
loan sharks and go home to my family without fear — " 

At the dejected look on my face he broke off. 

"What's the matter, Joe?" he asked. "Did something go wrong ?'^ 

"We got your signal all right," I said, "but Mr. Macallister wasn't 
able to make the bet." 

"But you had two minutes to get it down. I don't understand — '* 

"You tell him, Mr. Macallister." 

He told Billy how he had been prevented from making the bet. 

"This is awful," Billy quavered. "What will I tell that New York 
operator? He's expecting $5,000 out of this deal. And my wife — '^ 

"I don't know about you. Bill," I said, "but I'm going to pack my 
grip and get out of town. I don't want to be around when my sister 
discovers you're in the clutches of the loan sharks." 

"I'll go with you," muttered Billy. "No use for me to try to hang 
onto my job. And I can't face the humiliation — " 

"Just a minute," declared Macallister. "I told you I'd lend you the 
$2,500 and I will. It wasn't your fault the scheme failed." 

"That will be wonderful," Billy said gratefully. But the elation 
quickly went out of his voice. "But what am I going to do about that 
New York operator? He thinks I won $10,000 and he's expecting 
half. He'll expose me." 

"I'll pay that, too," Macallister offered. "Can you come over to 
the bank with me?" 

27 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Not now," said Billy. "I'm on duty, you know." He looked at me. 
"But Joe can go with you. He'll bring me the money." 

I accompanied Macallister to the First National Bank, where he 
withdrew $7,500 and gave it to me. I told him I would deliver it to my 
brother-in-law when he got off duty. 

But he was not to be disposed of so easily. He wanted to know when 
we were going to make the killing. So I arranged a meeting with him 
the following day at the Western Union building. 

Then I met Billy Wall and we divided the profit, which exceeded 
$7,000, since expenses had been less than $500. 

"Macallister is a good bet for another deal," I told Billy. "But not 
right now. We've got to hold him off." 

We devised a method of doing this and put it into practice the next 
day when I met Macallister. We went through the usual routine, event- 
ually meeting my supposed brother-in-law on the fifth floor. 

Billy Wall was a good actor. He wore an uneasy expression and 
glanced furtively about as he came down the stairs. He was the 
picture of dejection. Before either of us could speak, he said: 

"I can't stay long. I think the boss is suspicious. He has taken me 
off the gold wire and put me on straight messages." 

It was Macallister's turn to look dejected now. He probably had 
visions of his $7,500 flying out the window. 

"Do you mean to say," I demanded, "that we can't help Mr. 
MacalUster win his money back.?" 

"Maybe," said Billy. "But not now. We'll have to wait until this 
blows over. If the boss makes an investigation and finds out every- 
thing is on the square, he'll put me back on the gold wire. Then we 
can do something." 

"How long do you think that will be.?" Macallister asked, obviously 
disappointed. 

"I don't know," Billy said sorrowfully. "You have no idea how bad 
I feel about this, Mr. Macallister, after you were so good as to help 
me out of my trouble. It may be two weeks — it may be longer. But I 
will get in touch with you." 

Billy went back up the stairs, presumably to return to his instrument. 
Macallister and I left together. 

28 



A Tip for Mr. Macallister 

"I'll let you know, never fear," I told him. "After all, I got you into 
this, and I want to see you get your money back — and a lot more 
besides." 

He was none too happy, but there wasn't much he could do except 
wait. He might have called the Western Union to check up on Billy, 
but to do so would be to expose his own part in the conspiracy. So he 
impatiently bided his time. 

Meanwhile, we contacted other suckers and worked the same game 
on them, though none was so gullible as Mr. Macallister. We kept a 
baited hook dangling just out of his reach. Our dilatory tactics served 
only to whet his appetite and to ripen him for a bigger killing. 

On one pretext or another we put him ofif. In due course we told 
him that Billy was back on the gold wire. We made preparations to 
get a winner, delay the results, flash a signal to a poolroom, and let 
Macallister clean up. But before we could go through with it, the 
Western Union inspectors appeared for a general checkup — or so we 
told him. This meant any phony business was out until the inspectors 
had completed their work — and we had them hanging around for 
weeks. 

Before I decided to take him again I strung Macallister along for 
several months. This time, I had an entirely different plan. I made 
no mention of my brother in-law. Macallister, too, seemed to have 
forgotten him. He went with me to Willow Springs, a suburb of 
Chicago, and I showed him the layout. 

John Condon had a poolroom in Willow Springs, and received the 
Western Union wire service direct from Chicago. Condon had several 
telegraph operators. Willie de Long was the chief operator and got 
the results on most of the big races. I took Macallister to the poolroom 
where he could see for himself that big money was bet there. 

Then I led him to a secluded spot near Archer Avenue and Joliet 
Road, where the telegraph line ran. It was not far from the depot. I 
explained that, with the right equipment, we could tap the wires, get 
the messages intended for the poolroom, and send our own messages. 
We could control everything that went into the poolroom. 

Macallister had heard of wire-tapping and the idea intrigued him. 
Back in Chicago, I took him to Moffatt's Electrical Shop at 268 South 

29 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Clark, just back of the Western Union building. We asked to sec the 
device for stopping messages. 

Joe Moffatt showed us into a room filled with expensive-looking 
gadgets. He pointed out a "special transformer" — a box about three 
feet square and eighteen inches deep. 

"This is one of the most intricate mechanisms ever constructed," 
he said. "Just lift it once." 

Both Macallister and I tried lifting the box. But all we could do was 
to get one end of it off the floor. It was extremely heavy. 

Moffatt launched into a detailed and highly technical account of the 
device inside the box. Then he raised the cover and showed us the 
intricately strung wires and switches, including a telegraph sending 
and receiving instrument. Attached to each end of the box was a long 
cable, on the end of which was a special attachment. 

"How does it work.''" Macallister wanted to know. 

"It allows you to control messages," Moffatt explained. "One cable 
sidetracks the message into the box. It comes over your instrument. 
The other cable allows you to send any message you want to. Of 
course, you need a telegraph operator." 

Simple enough, as Moffatt explained it. Actually there was no such 
device for stopping messages. Wires could be tapped, but even then 
Western Union had perfected a method for determining when their 
wires had been tapped. Of course Mr. Macallister didn't know all 
this. Nor did he know that the box was so heavy because it had been 
filled with porcelain tubes. 

He made a deal with Moffatt to buy the mechanism, including the 
cables and a set of pole climbers, for $12,000. It was to be delivered 
to me. 

Moffatt's was a unique place. Though it apparently was a shop 
selling electrical equipment, there was hardly a workable device on 
the premises. Moffatt's entire business was with con men. He rigged 
up inexpensive but fancy-looking gadgets to be sold to wealthy suckers. 
Moffatt collected the money, kept a ten per cent commission for him- 
self, and turned the balance over to the con man. 

A couple of days later, with a stooge, I called at Moffatt's and 
picked up the equipment which Macallister had bought for his $12,000. 

30 



A Tip for Mr. Macallisfer 

The only person who knew that we had made the deal, besides the 
principals, was a man I'd seen around the tracks and the saloons. His 
name was Bull Finley. 

It was dark when we arrived at Archer Avenue and Joliet Road. 
We planned to hook up the cables and bury the box. As soon as we 
had unloaded the stuff from the rig we were confronted by a dark 
figure. 

"Up with your hands!" he commanded. 

We raised our hands because the other man had drawn a gun. As 
I became accustomed to the darkness I recognized Constable Herzog 
of Willow Springs. 

"You didn't just find us here," I said. "Somebody told you." 

"Could be," Herzog admitted. 

"The only other person who knew about this was Bull Finley. Did 
he tell you?" 

"I ain't sayin' he didn't," said Herzog. "You fellers gonna come 
along with me quietly?" 

"Why do you want to take us in?" I asked. 

"You'd freeze to death if you stayed out here. And besides, it's 
against the law to tap telegraph wires." 

"We haven't tapped any wires," 

"No, but you were going to." 

"Just the same, no crime has been committed," I reminded him. 
"You might get $20 for taking us in, but you'd have a hard time 
proving anything. How would you like to make $250?" 

That was big money to Constable Herzog. He readily agreed to 
forget the whole matter. I gave him $50 on the spot and $200 the 
following day. To me, it was a worth-while investment: I had 
learned the identity of a stool pigeon, I was now reasonably certain 
of no interference from the law. And, as it later developed, I was 
probably saved from freezing. 

"If you're goin' to stay here," said Herzog, "you'd better build a 
fire. It's ten below zero." 

He departed, and we acted on his suggestion. The ground was 
frozen and we had to work hard to bury the box. Of course we didn't 
hook the attachments to the telegraph wire. But we did wrap ends of 

31 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

the two cables to insulators on top of the pole so that it appeared we 
had attached them. 

The next day I went to Condon's poolroom and talked to Willie de 
Long. I asked him what horse he would pick in the fourth race at 
New Orleans. 

"Jerry Hunt," he replied without hesitation. 

"Do me a favor," I said, handing him fifty dollars. 

"Sure. What?" 

"I've got a man who is coming in here to place a bet. About two 
minutes before post time, you hand the clerk a message. That will be 
a signal for my friend as to what horse to bet on." 

"Sure," said Willie. "I'll do it." 

I met Macallister at the depot and led him to the spot where we had 
installed the equipment. My stooge, posing as a telegraph operator, 
was there. But one glance was enough for Macallister. He didn't 
wait for me to give detailed instructions to the "operator." He was 
afraid of being seen and hurried back to the depot to wait for me. 

I waited for a few minutes, presumably giving instructions to my 
operator. Then I joined Mr. Macallister at the depot and we went 
over to the poolroom. 

I told him that I had decided on the fourth at New Orleans. 
Macallister did not question this. In fact, no sucker ever asked me why 
I always picked a late race. There was a very good reason why I never 
picked the first three. For those races, there was an established post 
time, and, generally speaking, the first two races went off on time or 
nearly on time. But, as the day progressed, circumstances often made 
the other races start later than scheduled. The later the race, the more 
chance there was that it would be delayed a few minutes. This made 
it impossible for the suckers to know exactly the time that any race 
would start. 

Another thing Macallister never questioned me about was my 
brother-in-law. Although he had been the key man in the original 
scheme, the theatre manager never mentioned him again. That is 
one of the basic points of many swindles. The con man starts off 
on one deal, builds it up to a certain point. Then something in- 
tervenes and the victim's interest is sidetracked to another scheme, 

32 



A Tip for Mr. Macallister 

where he is to be fleeced. The strange thing is that the victim forgets 
all about the original deal. 

Macallister was one of the most excitable gamblers I ever knew. 
When Willie de Long handed the message to the clerk and the latter 
called out, "Jerry Hunt is acting up," I whispered to Macallister that 
that was the signal. He almost stumbled over himself hustling to 
the window. He bet $10,000 and came back with the ticket trem- 
bling in his hands. 

Avariciously, he listened to the account of the race. As the clerk 
called out: "Jerry Hunt won," he collapsed completely. 

I revived him. He went to the window and cashed his ticket. 
Jerry Hunt paid $18,000 for his $10,000 bet. He was so elated that 
he insisted on cutting me in, and gave me $2,900 as my part of the 
winnings. I had taken a long chance. Had Jerry Hunt not won 
I was prepared to blame the operator who had supposedly cut in on 
the wire. 

But now that was unnecessary. Macallister was convinced that 
I really could tap wires and control the messages going into the 
poolroom. He was eager to repeat the performance. 
I stalled him. 

**You can't go in there every day and make a killing," I told 
him. "They'll become suspicious. Better wait awhile." 

He agreed that this was logical. Of course, I had no intention 
of going through it again at Willow Springs. It was hardly likely 
that I would be able to get a winner the next time. And there was no 
more money to be gained from selling Macallister equipment for the 
Willow Springs setup. 

Meanwhile, news of what we were doing had got back to the 
Western Union detectives and they were lying in wait for us. Neither 
Billy nor I dared to go into the Western Union building. 

Billy continued to pose as the gold-wire operator. One day I 
met a man whom I shall call Fetterman in Thebolt's BuflFet. After 
getting him interested in a "sure thing," we arranged a meeting 
with my supposed brother-in-law in the buffet. Our reason for having 
him come to meet us instead of our going to the Western Union 
building was logical enough: it was a strict rule that any Western 

33 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

Union employee caught playing the races was subject to instant dis- 
missal. 

However, Fetterman was so anxious to make a killing that he 
didn't question my brother-in-law's authenticity. It was arranged 
that Billy would hold back the result of the fifth race. He would 
write the name of the winner on a slip of paper, which he would 
put inside a slit in a rubber ball. The ball would be dropped into 
the court adjacent to the Western Union building. Mr. Fetterman 
would get the ball and hurry to the poolroom where I would be 
waiting. I couldn't be there because I might be recognized and get my 
brother-in-law in trouble. 

Every time we took a sucker like Mr. Fetterman we had to have 
a new location. Mobility was a necessity if we were to avoid de- 
tection. We rented various places on one pretext or another, some- 
times resorting to lodge halls, moved in our equipment, used it for 
the benefit of one sucker, then moved to a new location. However 
we always set up our poolroom as near the Western Union build- 
ing as possible. 

Since neither Bill nor I could appear in the Western Union building, 
we had to hire a stooge. I would get the race results, write them on 
slips of paper, and insert them in the rubber ball. My stooge would 
then hurry to the washroom on the sixth floor and throw out the 
ball. 

Mr. Fetterman was a most amusing sight as he went chasing after 
the high-bouncing rubber ball. He caught it, extracted the slip, and 
hurried to the poolroom where I was waiting. We had told him that 
my brother-in-law would hold up the results for about two minutes 
on each race, so that when the fifth was run he would have a reserve 
of ten minutes. This gave him ample time to get to the poolroom 
and place the bet. I was supposed to be betting a large amount, too. 

Fetterman was breathless when he arrived. He showed me the 
slip. On one side was "Lightning" and on the other side a big figure 
"3." 

"What does the "3" mean?" he asked. 

"I don't know. I suppose it means the odds were 3 to 1. Are you 
sure that's the slip?" 

34 



A Tip for Mr. Macallister 

"Of course," said Fetterman, anxious to get his bet down. "I took 

it out of the slit in the rubber ball." 

"Okay, let's make our bets." 

We went to the window of our fake poolroom and made our 
wagers, then waited for the results. The flash came, "They're off!" 
An account of the race was called out. Lightning ran third. 

"There goes $10,000 of my money," I muttered disgustedly. "I 
wonder how my brother-in-law happened to slip up." 

We had previously arranged to meet Billy at the Buffet after he quit 
work. We were there when he walked in, all smiles. As in many 
other similar schemes, he was expecting $2,500 to pay off the loan 
sharks. He grabbed Fetterman's hand and went into his usual routine 
of thanking him. 

"Just a minute," I said. "We didn't win anything. What was the 
idea of giving us the wrong horse?" 

"But I didn't," Billy protested. 

"Look at this," I said angrily, displaying the slip. 

"What's wrong with it?" Billy asked, obviously puzzled. "Light- 
ning ran third. That's the reason for 3 on the back. Didn't you 
take the other slips out of the ball?" 

"What other slips?" 

"There were three slips in the ball," said Billy. "I wrote down 
the win, place, and show horses and numbered them 1, 2, 3." 

I turned a stony gaze on Mr. Fetterman, who was now squirming. 

"Where is that ball?" 

He removed the ball from his pocket. I opened up the slit and 
inside, of course, were the two other slips, with the first and second 
place winners. 

"Of all the stupid people I ever saw," I cried, apparently in a 
rage, "you take the cake. Why didn't you make sure before you 
told me that horse was the winner?" 

"I'm sorry," was all Fetterman could say. "I guess I was too excited 
to look any further." 

"That doesn't get my $10,000 back," I said acidly. 

"Nor the $2,500 I owe the loan sharks," complained Billy. "If I 
don't pay that by tomorrow night, I'll lose my job." 

35 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"I'll get your $2,500 for you tomorrow," Fetterman promised. Then 
to me: "I'll give you the $10,000 you lost out of my earnings tomorrow." 

"I don't want any more to do with you," I replied. 

He pleaded for another chance, and I finally relented. This is a 
con man's best psychological touch. As long as he can keep the 
sucker on the defensive, he can maneuver him any way he wants 
to. We always tried to place the blame for any failure to clean up 
on some mistake by the sucker. In every case the victim thought that 
only he was to blame, 

"Just so there won't be another mistake," I said, "we'll make a 
different arrangement." I turned to my brother-in-law. "Billy, can 
you get to a phone?" 

"Yes." 

"Then call me up." I gave him the number of the booth phone 
in the drug store that occupied the ground floor of the building our 
poolroom was in. 

The next day Fetterman and I were waiting when the phone rang. 
I answered. "What?" I asked. Then, after an interval: "I can't 
understand you." Finally, I turned to Fetterman: "I can't make 
out what he says. See if you can get it." 

He took the receiver and had no difficulty hearing what Billy 

Wall said: "The odds were short on the winner. Place your money 

on Humming Bird." Then, for emphasis (and to confuse the sucker) 

he repeated: "Place your money on Humming Bird." 

Fetterman hung up. "Humming Bird," he repeated excitedly. "Let's 

go-" 

"Wait a minute," I said. "Are you sure you heard right?" 

"Certainly, I am. Humming Bird is the horse." 

We hurried upstairs to the poolroom. 

"Don't you think we'd better spread our bets?" I suggested. "May- 
be if we played it across the board — " 

"Not me," said he. "I'm going to put my money on the nose." 

He did and of course he lost. Humming Bird came in second. 

"You've made another mistake," I accused. "I asked you if you 
were sure. I'm beginning to think you're a jinx." 

Fetterman and I met Billy Wall at the BufTet that evening. Billy 

36 



A Tip for Mr. Macallister 

was eager, as usual. When he saw how dejected we both looked his 
smile vanished, 
"What's the matter?" he gasped. "Did you make another mistake?" 
"Yes," I replied. "Our friend did. Just what did you tell him 
over the phone?" 

"Why, I told him the odds on the winner were short, but to place 
his money on Humming Bird. Didn't he do that?" 

"No, he bet it on the nose. Look here," I said to Fetterman, "don't 
you know what 'place' means?" 
"Of course. It means to run second." 

"Then why did you insist that we put our money on the nose?" 
I demanded icily. 

Fetterman was full of excuses, but they all sounded lame, even 
to himself. We heaped ridicule upon him, and he took it. I really 
felt sorry for the fellow because he was so firmly convinced that 
it was all his fault. He asked for another chance. 

"I won't be able to help you," said Billy. "The loan sharks will 
go to the boss tomorrow and I won't have a job." 

So on condition that Mr. Fetterman would give Billy $2,500 to 
get him free of the loan sharks and save his job, we relented and 
agreed to go along with him again. 

But this time there would be no slip-up. Each horse would have 
a number. 

"You just give us the number of the winning horse," I told Billy. 
"Forget about the others. Just the winner. Is that clear?" 
"Yes. Just the winner." 

When the call came the following day, I let Fetterman answer it. 

"Twenty won," said Billy. "Have you got that? Twenty won." 

Again, we hurried up the stairs. Again, Fetterman assured me that 

he had heard correctly. We went to the cashier's window and put 

our money on No. 21. Of course No. 20 was the winner. 

Again Fetterman was the goat. Billy insisted that he had said 
"Twenty won." 

We took Fetterman for a total profit of $28,000, after deducting 
the expenses of operating our fake setup, which included wages for 
the con men who acted as our stooges. 

37 



"Yellotu Kid" Weil 

Several months had elapsed since Marcus Macallister had made his 
killing at Willow Springs. I decided the time was ripe to take him 
again. He had been busy with the White City construction project 
and now had a partner. Bill Porter was not averse to making a few 
thousand dollars at the expense of the bookmakers. 

"The elements have damaged our equipment," I told them. "The 
cables have been stolen. I'll salvage what I can, but I think we'll 
have to buy additional wiring." 

I did salvage the box, but threw away the cables. Macallister and 
Porter accompanied me to Joe Moffatt's shop, and we negotiated 
with him to repair the box and furnish new cables. The bill for 
this was $7,800. 

There had been some publicity about wire-tapping around Chicago, 
so I suggested to Porter and Macallister that we set up our equipment 
near the Kingston poolroom, outside Indianapolis. I went ahead with 
a "lineman"' and did the installation. I also hired an "operator" and 
made a date to meet them at the poolroom. 

But I didn't go near the poolroom after that. The "operator" 
was not on hand and Porter and Macallister were doomed to disap- 
pointment. The expected signal did not come through. Naturally, two 
men so prominent couldn't be seen near the telegraph line where 
the apparatus had been put up. They returned to Chicago. 

Meanwhile I had severed my connection with Billy Wall. He 
was a swell fellow to work with as long as he played the same role. 
But it was difficult to find enough for him to do, and he never had 
a new idea. Our parting was friendly. I went to Louisville and lost 
track of him. 

I was in the South a couple of weeks before returning to Chicago. 
As luck would have it, one of the first men I met on my return was 
Macallister. 

"Just a minute," he said. "Where did you disappear to?" 

I put my finger to my lips in a gesture to indicate silence and drew 
him to a corner. 

"We were almost caught," I told him in a whisper. "We had to 
get out of town fast. I'm certainly glad I bumped into you. I'm 
broke and I'd like to borrow $500." 

38 



A Tip for Mr. Macallister 

He laughed. "What do you think I am?" 

"Listen," I said, "I've shown you how you can make a fortune. 
And yet you refuse me a small loan like $500." 

"Oh, all right," he smiled. "Come up to the office." 

He lent me the $500 and I gave him a note. That was the last 
I saw of Mr. Macallister for many years. 

One evening, years later, I was seated at a table in the College Inn 
with a red-haired young woman. I noticed a group near by having 
some kind of celebration, but I thought little of it until a man arose 
and came over to my table. 

The man was Marcus Macallister. 

We shook hands and I invited him to sit down. 

"I just wanted to tell you," he said, "that we know you swindled 
us on those wire deals, but I haven't said anything about it." 

"Why not?" I asked. 

"I went into it with my eyes open," he replied. "I've only myself to 
blame." 

We chatted for awhile, and he told me they were celebrating the 
success of White City. Then he shook hands again and returned to his 
party. 

After I had parted from Billy Wall, I bought a couple of race horses. 
Mobina, an old plater, was one of them. I had a fair-sized fortune and 
had resolved to race my own horses. 



39 



4. How to Beat the Horses 



THERE IS A WIDELY ACCEPTED THEORY THAT CRIME DOES NOT PAY. 
This may be true in many cases, but it was not always true in 
Chicago. Numerous forms of amusement and so-called vice 
that are now illegal once operated wide open and with the full blessing 
of the law. 

For example, anybody could make book on the races, whether he 
operated at the tracks or a thousand miles away. Today bookmaking is 
unlawful even at the racecourse, the only legal wagering being at the 
pari-mutuel windows. 

Betting on the races always fascinated me. Not that I ever be- 
lieved for a moment that there was any such thing as "smart money" 
on a horse. As long as I can remember I've known that you can't 
beat them by any orthodox method. But the very fact that there are 
so many people who think they can beat the horses is the chief reason 
for my interest. 

On every hand people clamored to bet their money. They sought 
"inside tips" and "sure things." Perhaps a few have actually tried to 
win by a study of past performances and careful analysis of the facts. 
I have never met anyone who did. True, there are more or less 
expert handicappers; but they sell their advice to others and bet very 
little of their own money on their selections. 

The impression among horse players has been that some races arc 
fixed. Even today many are eager to put their money on a race they 
think has been fixed. 

Up to now the major part of my activities had been concerned with 
schemes to make money on the horses. My fake wire-tapping scheme 

40 



How to Beat the Horses 

was extremely profitable and I was quite happy to continue it. 

However, Joe MoflFatt, who operated the electrical shop where the 
suckers parted with their money for expensive -appearing gadgets for 
tapping telegraph wires, dealt with only a few of us. There were not 
more than a dozen top con men who had entree to Moffatt's shop. I 
might add that his business was legitimate. The laws relating to con- 
fidence games were different in those days. 

Today almost any sort of conspiracy to separate a man from his 
money is illegal under the confidence laws. But in those days a con- 
fidence game was defined under the law as taking "unfair advantage 
of an unwary stranger." This was generally interpreted as a person 
from the bucolic areas. Any Chicago business man, presumably ac- 
quainted with city life and its pitfalls, was presumed to have entered 
a deal such as a wire-tapping scheme with his eyes open, and the 
courts refused to recognize him as an "unwary stranger." 

Every profitable idea I ever originated for trimming wealthy men 
was sooner or later copied by others. This was the case with wire-tap- 
ping to get race information. At one time hundreds of small-time con 
men were working it in one form or another. They advertised openly 
for victims. I recall one day when a leading Chicago paper ran more 
than two hundred of these ads in its classified section. 

These men did not have access to Joe Moffatt's place. The equip- 
ment they put together was crude and makeshift. Some of them actual- 
ly believed that they could stop messages by attaching a wire to a 
telegraph line. Their suckers were barbers, waiters, bartenders, and 
others who could raise only a few hundred dollars at most. 

The effect of all this was to arouse both the Western Union and the 
police. I had accumulated a tidy sum and decided to change my modus 
operandi, though I had no particular desire to change my clientele. 
Horse-race suckers were — or so I thought at the time — the most 
gullible of all. Without exception, everyone was interested in making 
a killing, though each knew that the big profit he hoped for would be 
strictly dishonest. 

After purchasing a couple of horses, I arranged to enter them in 
competition at the Chicago racecourses: Hawthorne, Harlem, Wash- 
ington Park, and Robey. 

41 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

I stabled my horses at Jackson Boulevard and Homan Avenue, not 
far from the Garfield Park course. This was a five-eighths track for 
trotters, but owners who wished to pay the fee could exercise their 
horses there. The five-eighths track served my purpose admirably. 

From the start I did not become a horse owner because of a notion 
that I might win purses. I had already learned that it could be more 
profitable to lose. That is the system I devised for "beating the horses." 

I always maintained the finest tack-room at any racecourse where 
my horses were running. A tack-room is a place where an owner 
keeps his saddles, weights, jockey uniforms, etc. Mine was outfitted 
solely for show purposes. Anybody who saw it immediately concluded 
that the owner certainly must have fine horses. 

As a matter of fact my horses seldom ran in the money. One of 
them, Mobina, was an old plater that would never even show. But I 
put fine saddles and a well-dressed jockey on him and to the uniniti- 
ated, he looked like a good bet. 

There was a man whom I shall call Epping who lived on Jackson 
Boulevard and was a frequent visitor to the Garfield Park race track. 
He saw my boy exercising Mobina and became interested. 

Knowing Epping's background, I was interested in him, coo. He 
was wealthy and had a prosperous business on Chicago Avenue. In 
those days a man could keep all his money. There was no income tax 
and he did not have to account for where he got his money or how he 
disposed of it. 

Epping's employees were often hard pressed for ready cash. They 
had a habit of going to the paymaster for an advance until payday. 
Phis gave Epping an idea. Why not set up a place where anybody who 
was regularly employed could obtain a small loan ? 

Until then the only people who made loans were the banks and the 
"loan sharks." This latter group not only made you mortgage your 
life but charged unbelievable rates. Epping altered this by making 
regular employment the chief qualification. And he charged rates 
that were considered reasonable — six per cent a month. His lending 
business was the beginning of the present-day small loan concern. 

I already knew of Epping's wealth, and it did not take me long to 
discover that his chief aim in life was to accumulate more. He was 

42 



Hoii^ to Beat the Horses 

interested in my horses because he had heard that there was consider- 
able money to be made in winning purses. I soon learned that he knew 
very little about race horses. I told Epping that the five-eighths course 
at Garfield Park was a three-quarter track, and he didn't know the 
difference. But what a difference it made in the running time o£ a 
horse like Mobina! 

"That horse will make me a lot of money," I told Epping, "if I 
can raise the money to get him in shape." 

"How much money do you need?" he asked. 

"I'd have to do some figuring," I replied. "Why.?" 

"Would you be interested in a partner?" 

"I hadn't thought of that. What do you suggest?" 

He proposed that he make me a loan, to be repaid out of the profits. 
He would get a cut of the winnings. We discussed this at some length 
and decided that 20 per cent would be a fair split for Epping. I did 
some figuring, and explained that it was an expensive proposition to 
stable a horse and to pay a trainer and jockey. I finally arrived at a 
figure — $3,700. 

Epping was a hard-headed business man and insisted that we draw 
up a contract. He agreed that it could be done by my own lawyer, who 
was in on the deal and knew the kind of contract that I would need. It 
was duly signed and witnessed, and Epping advanced the money. 
Then he waited for Mobina to start winning purses. 

But there was no chance that Mobina would win. I didn't even 
enter him in a race. After about thirty days, Epping began to get 
impatient and asked for an accounting. 

I told him that it takes time to get a horse in shape to race and 
reminded him that I was waiting for a good purse. This stall did not 
satisfy him. A few days later he demanded that I repay the loan. 
■ I pointed to the contract. It provided that "When Mobina shall 
have raced and won, then the monies advanced by Party of the First 
Part (Epping) shall be paid by Party of the Second Part (Weil), plus 
20 per cent of the gross winnings." 

Epping saw the joker in the contract and knew that he couldn't get 
anything by bringing suit. But he did swear out a warrant charging me 
with operating a confidence game. 

43 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

The judge threw the case out, holding that "the contract was based 
on a future event and that no crime had been committed or could be 
committed until the event had taken place." 

Epping didn't bother me any more, and I don't recall that I ever 
saw him again. As a matter of fact, I never saw most of my victims 
again, once I had taken their money. This is strange, too, considering 
that I have been around Chicago for all these years. I probably have 
passed them on the street many times. 

Meanwhile I met a man named A. B. Watts, who was a breeder of 
blooded horses. I made a deal with him to increase my stable, and 
thereafter all the horses I bought came from Watts. These included 
Title, Black Fonso, Thanksgiving, St. Durango, Sir Christopher, Dan 
Joe, Meddlesome, and Zibia. 

These were fine-looking horses and made an excellent showing 
when I had exercised them for the benefit of suckers. The latter fell 
into several categories. Those like Epping advanced money to help 
train the horses and win purses. Others were led to believe that we 
were training a "ringer" which would later win and make it possible 
for them to clean up on wagering. The most gullible were those 
at the tracks who went for "inside tips" on betting. 

At the track, I frequently posed as a jockey. I had to employ a 
stooge, and on many occasions was helped by William J. Winterbill. 
He was tall, broad-shouldered, and well-built, with fine features. 
He dressed conservatively. 
Here is an example of the way we worked: 

Winterbill and I selected a victim from the crowd of men stand- 
ing near the betting ring. Program in hand, Winterbill approached 
the sucker and struck up an acquaintance while talking about the 
day's entries. 

"My name is Winterbill," he introduced himself. "William J. 
Winterbill." He stuck out his hand. 

"Mine is Harper," responded the other man. "Glad to know you, 
Mr. Winterbill." 

Winterbill was an impressive-looking fellow. He had little trouble 
getting the victim to believe that he was a business man, taking a day 
of{ at the races. 

44 



How to Beat the Horses 

"What horse are you betting on?" Winterbill asked. 

"Haven't made up my mind," Harper replied. "Have you any 
suggestions?" 

"No, I haven't decided either." Then his eye wandered away from 
the betting ring. "Say! Do you see that fellow standing there?" 

He pointed to me. I had a pad of paper in my hand and was 
busily jotting down figures. "Yes, I see him," said Harper. "What 
about him?" 

"Don't you know who he is?" 

"Can't say that I do." 

"Why, that's WiUie Caywood, the jockey. He rides for Sam Hil- 
dreth, the famous trainer." 

Of course, Harper had heard of Sam Hildreth. We always picked 
the name of a famous trainer. (Hildreth later raced Zev, one of the 
greatest horses of all time.) I was sUght and young and could pass 
for a jockey. 

"Wonder what he's figuring up?" Harper mused. 

"I wonder, too," said Winterbill. "If there was only some way we 
could get to know him." 

Just then, I dropped my pencil. It rolled some distance from where 
I was standing. 

"Quick!" hissed Winterbill. "Now's your chance. Pick up his pencil. 
That's your chance to meet him. Maybe he will give you a tip." 

Harper hurriedly retrieved my pencil. I was properly grateful. 

"Thank you, Mr. — " 

"Harper. Don't mention it." 

"My name is Willie Caywood." 

"Not the jockey?" asked Harper. 

"Yes," I admitted. 

Winterbill came up. Harper introduced us. 

"We were just wondering what you were figuring," Harper ven- 
tured. 

"Why — ah — I was just figuring up how much I would win 
today." 
"What makes you so sure you'll win anything?" Harper asked. 
I glanced about furtively, and lowered my voice. "I know I'm 

45 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

going to win. You gentlemen look like you can be trusted. I'll tell 
you the truth, but it must be strictly confidential. The boss is going 
to make a killing today. So he let me in on it." 

"I don't suppose you'd be willing to tell us the name of the horse.'"' 
said Wintcrbill. 

"No," I rephed. "I couldn't do that. I promised the boss that I 
wouldn't. And if it got around, the odds would go down on the 
horse. My boss is going to spread his bets. He'll wire them around the 
country just before post time, so that nobody will get suspicious." 

"Too bad," grunted Harper, obviously disappointed. "We hoped 
you might give us a tip." 

"I'll tell you what," offered Winterbill, as if an idea had suddenly 
struck him. "If you won't give us a tip, maybe you'll make our bets 
for us." 

I considered this a moment. "Yes, I guess I could do that. But I 
still can't tell you the name of the horse." 

"I don't care," said Winterbill, "just so I clean up. Here's $2,500. 
Put it on the nose for me." 

Harper had already dug into his pocket. "Here's $1,500 for me." 

"All right," I agreed, taking their money. "I'll meet you gentlemen 
right here after the fifth race." 

Winterbill was enthusiastic and Harper seemed well pleased. They 
left me and went into the grandstand, chatting and speculating on 
what horse in the fifth race was to make the killing. Winterbill later 
excused himself from Harper on some pretext. He met me a short time 
later and we worked the same game on as many suckers as we could 
find. 

But by the time the fifth race had been run, we were far away from 
the track. Mr. Harper and the others who kept the rendezvous were 
doomed to a long wait and to a sad disappointment. 



46 



J. Two Unwary Strangers 



BOB COLLINS WAS A TOUT WHO WORKED WITH ME ON SEVERAL 
occasions. He helped in the case of Mr. Kahn, which was 
amusing, profitable, and in some ways pathetic. 

Mr. Kahn was a tall, thick-set German, as industrious a man as 
I ever met. He had a delicatessen and food shop on LaSalle Street. 
Old Man Kahn took great pride in the fact that his shop had the 
finest food in town. He carried only the best imported cheese and 
frankfurters, as well as other meats and fish. 

When I first went into his shop I had no designs on the old fellow. 
I went there because I liked his food. I had made three or four visits 
before the old man's curiosity got the best of him. 

In those days, I dressed flashily. I wore a five-carat diamond ring, 
a big diamond pin in my ascot tie, and a vest chain locket with a 
diamond horseshoe. 

Every time I was in his shop Old Man Kahn eyed the diamonds. 
Finally, one day, he said: "Young man, I see you like fine food. And 
I see you're rich, too. I know most of my customers, but I don't know 
who you are. What business are you in?" 

I knew he had been thinking about the diamonds. "Why, I own 
stock in the racecourses," I told him, giving him one of my favorite 
stories. I still had no designs on him. 

"Where they race horses?" he asked. 

"Yes. Haven't you ever been to the races?" 

"No," he replied. "I have been too busy. But I would like to go 
sometime." 

"Then come as my guest," I said. "Would you like a complimen- 
tary ticket for next Saturday?" 

47 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

"No. Saturday is my busy day. But I could go next Tuesday." 
"Fine. Here's your ticket. I'll drop in and you can go with mc." 
The old man beamed and said he would be ready. 
The following Tuesday I escorted him to the track. He asked 
endless questions. I took him to the betting ring and showed him 
how bets were made. 

He was especially intrigued by the concession where red hots were 
sold. His eyes shone in amazement as he watched people coming up 
to pay ten cents for a hot dog. 
"That fellow over there," he said. "He sure does a good business." 
"Sure," I replied, and a vague scheme began to form in my mind. 
"You know, people at a racecourse don't watch their money — they 
spend it freely." 

"I can see that," said Kahn. "How much do you suppose he takes 
in every day?" 

"I don't know. But it ought to be easy to find out. Why don't you 
watch for a while? I've got to see a fellow on some business. I'll 
leave you here and meet you again in fifteen minutes." 

"Yah, sure," said Kahn. He was so fascinated that he hardly noticed 
that I was gone. 

I looked for Bob Collins. I found him, stated my proposition, and 
got him to work with me on the deal. Then I returned to where the 
old fellow was still standing in front of the red-hot stand, counting 
the dimes that poured in. 
"Well," I asked, "have you estimated how much he takes in?" 
"Yah. It must be a hundred dollars a day." 
"Oh, I think it's more than that. I believe he takes in around two 
hundred dollars a day." 

"Two hundred dollars a day!" Kahn repeated. "Why, on that he 
must make a big profit. How much does he have to pay for the 
lease?" 

"Oh, he doesn't have a lease," I replied. "It's what we call a con- 
cession. He doesn't have to pay us anything, as long as he satisfies the 
patrons." 

"My, I would like to have a business like that. The customers would 
like my fine imported frankfurters." 

48 



Two Unwary Strangers 

"They certainly would," I agreed. "And you could get more for 
them, too. Maybe twenty-five cents. Money means nothing to people 
at a race track." 

"No," said Kahn, "I wouldn't charge a quarter. I could put up a 
fine frankfurter sandwich and make a good profit for fifteen cents." 

"And you could sell roast beef sandwiches, too. Would you be in- 
terested in having the concession.?" 

"Do you think I could get it?" 

"With my help, you can," I replied. "Remember I own stock in 
this track." 

"Yah, I remember," said Kahn. 

"Come into the office with me," I invited him. "We'll talk to the 
secretary. Jie has charge of the concessions." 

I led him into the office of Sheridan Clark, who was secretary of 
the Association that operated the track. Clark, of course, did have 
charge or the concessions. But there was one thing about his office thai 
Kahn did not know. It was always open. Jockeys, trainers, and 
owners were constantly going in and out on routine matters. And I 
happened to know that, at that particular time, Clark was not in 
the office. 

When we walked in, a man was seated behind Clark's desk. It was 
Bob Collins, my confederate. 

"Mr. Clark," I called, "this is Mr. Kahn. I'd Uke you to see what you 
can do about getting the red-hot concession for him." 

Collins stood up and shook hands. "Glad to know you, Mr. Kahn," 
he said. "Any friend of Joe's is a friend of mine." He walked out 
from behind the desk. "Let's go have a glass of beer and discuss this 
further." That was a pretext to get us out of the office. We didn't 
know when Sheridan Clark might return. 

Kahn had not the slightest suspicion — only a warm glow in his 
heart — as we strolled to the bar. 

Collins asked for more details, and Kahn told him what wonderful 
meats he prepared and how certain he was that he could satisfy the 
customers. At the right moment I added words of praise for both 
Kahn's products and his character. Finally Collins was convinced that 
the concession should be turned over to Kahn. 

49 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"But I'll have to give the other man a few days' notice," he said. 
"Suppose you begin next Monday, Mr. Kahn." 

"Yah," replied the German. "That will be good." 

"Fine," Collins ordered another round of beer. Then as if the 
concession matter had been settled and was of no further concern: 
"Joe, isn't it about time to make the killing?" 

"Yes," I returned. "We've decided on next Saturday." 

"What's a killing?" asked Kahn. 

Collins hesitated. 

"It's all right to tell him, Sheridan," I nodded. "He's one of us 
now, you know." 

So Collins told him. "We have bad days, when attendance isn't 
very high. If it's raining or we have other bad weather, people don't 
come to the track. At the end of the season, we'd be in the hole if we 
didn't do something to make up for our losses. So we have a fixed 
race once every season. We take some of the Association's money and 
bet it on this race. That way we even up the losses." 

"You mean it costs so much to run a race track?" 

"It wouldn't except for the purses we give. The purses, combined 
with the expenses, exceed the receipts, and we have to do something 
to make up for it." 

"I understand," said Kahn brightly. 

After we had left Collins and were driving back to Chicago, I sug- 
gested to Kahn that it was a good opportunity for him to clean up. I 
explained that it was arranged for the winner to be a horse on which 
the odds would be long. But to prevent the bookmakers from getting 
suspicious, the money was spread around the country in various cities, 
including Milwaukee. 

He seemed interested. The following day I dropped in at his shop. 

"I'm going to Milwaukee on Friday," I told him, "to place $10,000 
for the Association. Would you like to come along and get in on the 
kilhng?" 

Kahn was cautious. He was eager to make money but at the same 
time he didn't want to take any risk. 

"How much would I make?" he asked. 

"The horse will probably pay about 5 to 1." . 

50 



Two Unwary Strangers 

"I could bet maybe $500," he muttered. 

"Don't be foolish!" I scoffed. "This is your chance to make a fortune. 
Why, $500 is only a drop in the bucket." 

After some additional persuading he decided he might as well make 
it worth while, since it was a sure thing anyway. He went to the 
National Bank of the Republic and withdrew $5,000. The following 
Friday, we were in Milwaukee. 

I had arranged a poolroom setup to take his money. I bet my 
$10,000 and he put down his $5,000. Then I asked him to wait for 
me at the poolroom. 

"I have some business downtown. I won't be long. I'm expecting a 
phone call from Sheridan Clark in Chicago and if it comes while I'm 
gone, take the message, will you, Mr. Kahn?" 

My only purpose in leaving was to permit Bob Collins to make the 
call. He called and told Kahn to tell me to "Bet as much as possible!" 

When I returned and he gave me the message, I said: "I'm going 
to bet a marker for $10,000. Why don't you bet some more?" 

"I haven't got any more money." 

"You can bet a marker as I did." 

"What is a marker?" 

"You tell 'em how much you want to bet. They give you a ticket 
and they'll hold your bet until noon tomorrow. That's to give you 
time to wire the money." 

As usual he was cautious. But he finally decided to bet a marker for 
$2,500, the money to be wired from Chicago the following morning. 

We returned to Chicago and the next day, Saturday, the day of the 
supposedly fixed race, I was at Kahn's place. He gave me the $2,500 
and I went over to the Western Union office. I wired $25.00 and got 
a receipt. It was no trick at all to alter this to $2,500. I took the re- 
ceipt back to Kahn, and that's the last I ever saw of him. 

I later learned the sequel, which I had intended to prevent. I had 
arranged to have Bob Collins call him on Monday and tell him the 
concession deal was off. But I had not reckoned with his German 
thoroughness. When Collins called Mr. Kahn had left for the track. 

He had a wagon loaded with frankfurters, roast beef, and the trim- 
mings. He arrived at the track just after dawn and began to move his 

51 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

stud in. When the Superintendent of the grounds questioned him, he 
told of having made the deal with Sheridan Clark. The Superinten- 
dent did not question his story. 

Rather he pitched in and helped Kahn unload and set up his stand. 
The old fellow had bought a new sign: "Now Under New Manage- 
ment. Better Food Will Be Served." It was put up and he was 
ready to do business. Then the regular concession man came in. 

Seeing the sign and the excellent food Kahn had brought, this man 
too thought the deal was on the level and that the concession had really 
been taken from him. He was about to depart when Sheridan Clark 
appeared. 

Eventually, the old man got the drift. He packed up his things and 
sadly returned to Chicago. He made no complaint, and as far as 1 
know never told the story to anyone. He has passed on, but the fine 
food shop that bears his name has continued to prosper. 

A somewhat similar deal was made with a man named Bolton, a 
Dutchman with a beard, who owned a business block known as 
Bolton's Opera House, where public dances were held twice a week. 

Patsy King, who controlled the policy game in Chicago and owned 
a string of poolrooms, had set Billy Skidmore up in business in 
Bolton's building. Skid had a cigar store, with a little gambling in 
the back room. A lot of us used to hang out at his place. 

Mr. Bolton had a paint store in the same building. He also was a 

contractor and employed a crew of painters. He had seen me around. 

One day he asked me what my business was. I told him that I 

worked for the Racing Association. I arranged for him to visit the 

track with me. 

He too had a great curiosity. But his particular interest was focused 
on the grandstand, which was badly in need of paint. I contacted 
Collins. We went through the routine, and ended with a promise to 
Bolton that he could have the contract to paint the grandstand and 
stable the following week. 

Meanwhile, I worked the "killing" game on him, and he wagered 
$2,500 — or thought he did. The following Monday morning, bright 
and early, his painters were at the track with their materials. They 
set up their scaffolds and were busy at work on the front of the grand- 

52 



Two Unwary Strangers 

stand when the track manager came to work and discovered them. 

"What are you doing up there?" he demanded. 

"We're painting the grandstand," repHed the painters' foreman. 
"And when we finish that, we're going to paint the stables." 

"Is that so?" The track manager had a vicious temper. "Well, no- 
body told me about it. You get those scaflfolds down and get out of 
here." 

"Not until we've finished this job." 

"You're not going to finish the job," the other retorted hotly. "Come 
down!" 

"Suppose you come up and get me!" growled the painter, 

"I'll be glad to accommodate you." The manager started to ascend 
the scaffold. 

The foreman had been mixing a huge bucket of paint. He took care- 
ful aim, slowly overturned it, and dropped it. The track manager was 
soaked with paint from head to foot. The painters roared. 

The man yanked the bucket off his head and dug the paint out of 
his eyes. Then he let out a bellow of rage that was heard all over the 
grounds. The entire track staff came to his assistance and the painters 
were forcibly ejected after a wild melee amid splashing paint. 

Bolton immediately contacted the track officials and learned that 
he had been duped. However, it was a fact that they were considering 
a paint job for the grandstand and stables. I later learned that Bolton 
very likely would have had the job since his men had already started, 
had not the track manager interfered. 

Bolton soon learned that the race he had supposedly bet on was not 
fixed. But what irked him even more was that he had been misled 
about the grandstand contract. 

He went to Skid. "Where is that little slicker?" he demanded. 

Skid pretended ignorance, and Bolton poured out the whole story. 
"He took advantage of me, he led me on and then swindled rac." 

Nor did Bolton let the matter drop. He swore out a warrant 
charging me with operating a confidence game. I was arrested and the 
case came before Judge Shott in his Justice Shop. As it happened, Skid 
knew Judge Shott and had a private talk with him. 

Over Bolton's protests, Judge Shott ruled that he was not "an un- 

53 



'Yellou^ Kid" Weil 

wary stranger," that he had entered the betting deal, beUcving he 
would make money on a dishonest race, and that, as a businessman, he 
should have obtained a written contract before he started painting 
the grandstand. The case was dismissed and I was released. 

I saw Bolton many times after that, at Skidmore's cigar store. His 
rancor eventually disappeared and we became friends, though I ne%er 
tried to take him again. 

"You're a slick duck," he used to say, and there was grudging 
admiration in his voice. 

The odium of the confidence-game charge did not help my standing 
at the track, and I decided to take a short rest until the affair had 
blown over. I went to the lake-resort region of Illinois, northwest of 
Chicago. 

I soon learned of a man I shall call Van Essen, who was by 
far the wealthiest man in those parts. He had an estate on Gray's 
Lake and was a heavy investor in the bank. I had heard there was to 
be a big Fourth of July picnic at Gray's Lake, and decided to attend. 
But first I returned to Chicago to prepare my "props." 

Dan Canary ran a livery service on Wabash Avenue. From him I 
hired a car and liveried chauffeur. All cars in those days were one- 
cylinder affairs and were rarities even in a big city like Chicago. 

With my chauffeur, I motored to Gray's Lake and attended the 
picnic. During the height of the festivities there was a plea for con- 
tributions to some charitable institution. The justice of the peace, a one- 
armed man, made a strong exhortation for funds; then the hat was 
passed. I contributed twenty-five dollars. 

Of course, everybody wanted to see the man who had given twenty- 
five dollars — a considerable sum in the rural areas. Word got around 
that I was the man who had driven the car to Gray's Lake. The car 
alone aroused considerable excitement. 

My main object was to meet Mr. Van Essen, and that was no trick 
at all. He came forward to sec the man with the philanthropic streak. 

He was very cordial. I could see that he was deeply impressed by 
my display of affluence. 

"Mr. Van Essen," I said, "perhaps you can help me. I'm looking 
for a farm. I want to breed horses." 



54 



Two Unwary Strangers 

\ 
"I'll certainly be happy to help you, Mr. Weil," he replied. "It must 

be fascinating to be a breeder of blooded horses and see them race 
and win and have your own colors." 

"It is," I rephed. "You seem to have a great interest in horse racing 
yourself, Mr. Van Essen." 

"Yes," he declared, with a show of modesty. "I happen to own the 
poolroom here in Gray's Lake, and we do some wagering." 

"Is that so?" This was shaping up better than I had hoped. "Now, 
about that farm — " 

Mr. Van Essen owned a great deal of the land around Gray's Lake. 

He showed me the property and I chose 350 acres, with a few buildings. 

Van Essen was very happy because of the prospective deal. 

"Of course, I'll have to go over this with my architect," I pointed 

out. "Meanwhile, why don't you come up to Chicago with me and be 

my guest at the races?" 

He accepted eagerly, and we motored back to Chicago. The Har- 
lem season had opened and we went to that track. First, I took Mr. 
Van Essen to my fine tack room. He was greatly impressed by this 
window dressing — another display of affluence. 

"How about a tip, Mr. Weil?" he asked. "As long as I'm free and 
in the city, I might as well take a flyer." 

"I'm sorry," I replied, "but I have no tips. I bet only on certainties. 
I have to be certain a horse is going to win before I lay out my 
money." Then to throw him off his guard: "Mr. Van Essen, when 
we have become better acquainted — that is, when I have purchased 
the farm and remodeled it — I'll take you into my confidence." 

"That's perfectly all right, Mr. Weil," he returned. His voice fairly 
sang with elation. "I can't tell you how pleased I am to have met you." 
I showed him around the track. We watched a few races, and then 
I took him to the station. I promised to see him soon. 

A week later I motored again to Gray's Lake, accompanied by a 
supposed architect who was, in fact, my stooge Winterbill. Guided by 
Mr. Van Essen, we went over the ground. Winterbill, as I have said, 
was very impressive looking. He carried a sketch book and pencil and 
from time to time made notes and drew diagrams of proposed 
buildings. 

55 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

When we had completed our preliminary survey of the property, 
Winterbill returned to Chicago. I stayed on as Mr. Van Essen's guest. 

The following morning a telegram came for me. I had arranged 
for it beforehand. 

"I came away and forgot my glasses," I said. (As a matter of fact, 
I didn't even wear glasses at the time.) "Would you be good enough 
to read this message for me?" 

Mr. Van Essen was only too happy to do so. He read it aloud: 

EVENTS HAVE SHAPED UP ALL IS 
SATISFACTORY RETURN IMMEDIATELY. 

"That means we can close the deal very shortly," I said, smiling. 

I then unfolded to Van Essen the story of a race that was fixed for 
my horse to win. 

"Inasmuch as you have been so gracious to me," I added, "even 
neglecting your own affairs to aid mine, I'd like to do something for 
you. I will, provided you don't tell anyone about it nor how much 
you win — not even your wife." 

Mr. Van Essen was so delighted that he vowed eternal secrecy. He 
obtained a draft on the First National Bank of Chicago and we left 
for the city. He stopped at the bank and cashed his draft. When he 
came out he displayed a big wad of bills. 

I said, "You'll have to get those small bills changed into $1,000 
bills. When we make the bet, it will be just before post time and 
speed will be essential. The bookmaker wouldn't have time to count 
so many bills. And if we go too much ahead of time, the odds on the 
horse will come down when they see the vast sums that are being 
wagered on it." 

My purpose in telling him to change the bills was that I thought 
he'd hand me the money and ask me to go back into the bank. But 
it didn't work out that way. Van Essen went himself, returning with 
ten $1,000 bills. I had told him that I was wagering $100,000 on 
the race. 

On the way to the track, we stopped at several roadhouses for 
drinks. When we arrived at The Gardens — a popubr roadhouse of 
that day — it was nearly time for the race to begin. The Harlem 

56 



Two Unwary Strangers 

racecourse was located not much more than about six blocks away. 
"Perhaps it would be a better plan," I told Mr. Van Essen, "if I 
handled the whole thing through my betting commissioners. You 
might get confused." 

But Van Essen was reluctant to part with his money. So I had to 
use a psychological touch. I was wearing a light English-whipcord 
topcoat. 

"It's almost time," I muttered, looking at my watch. "I'll have to 
hurry to make it." I took off my topcoat and handed it to him. "Here, 
hold my coat and give me the money. I can make better time without 
the coat." 

He took the coat and handed over the money. For some reason, he 
seemed to feel that, as long as he had my coat, he was holding seciirity 
for his money. Actually he was holding the bag. I did not return for 
my coat. Eventually Van Essen went to look for me. While he was 
gone my chauffeur disappeared. Mr. Van Essen returned to Gray's 
Lake a sadder but a much wiser man. 

At the track I had taken one precaution. Alderman John A. Rogers 
was then making book at the Harlem course. He was a good friend 
of mine, so I went to him. 

"Johnny," I said, "do me a favor. I have a deal on with a man. I'd 
like you to enter $10,000 in your book on Black Fonso." 

"Sure, Joe." Rogers made the entry, though no actual money was 
wagered. 

I felt rather good about the Van Essen deal, but I hadn't heard the 
last of it. A former Chicago policeman had a summer home in Gray's 
Lake. My victim told him the story. On the advice of the policeman, 
Van Essen had me arrested and charged me with swindling him. But 
the case didn't get very far. Alderman Rogers brought his books into 
court and the $10,000 entry sufficed as proof that Van Essen's money 
had been wagered. 

The case was dropped because he could hardly do anything to mc 
for failing to fix a race! 

Why did I get away with all these deals — why didn't the racing 
authorities do something? As a matter of fact Sheridan Clark was 
reluctant to press a charge against me. For one day when police had 

57 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

raided Hawthorne for some alleged illegal activities, I was on hand, 
and helped Clark to escape in ray carriage. He never forgot the favor. 

Most of the people connected with racing in those days — jockeys, 
trainers, stable boys, even owners — were touts. Many of them had 
no hesitation about selling a tip to a stranger. 

Indeed, some of them made quite a business of it. 

The only people who had any grounds for complaint were the 
bookmakers. If the "inside tips" had really been on the level, the book- 
makers would have been heavy losers. However, they knew that 
when money was turned over to me to be bet on a race they had 
nothing to worry about. 

I was a member of the American Turf Association in good stand- 
ing. Because of this one fact the track officials would have hesitated 
to make a complaint. They had no sympathy for men like Van Essen, 
whose only objective was to clean up on a supposedly fixed race. 

The fact that the race hadn't been fixed helped rather than hindered 
the reputation of the track. 

But I was not yet finished with Van Essen. Little did I suspect that, 
as a result of that episode, I would soon be accused of murder. 



58 



6. From Nags to Riches 



HARDLY A WEEK HAD PASSED AFTER THE VAN ESSEN EPISODE WHEN 
the automobile I had hired from Dan Canary's Uvery stable 
on Wabash Avenue was found on a side road near the out- 
skirts of Joliet. Slumped over the wheel was the chauffeur who had 
driven me to Gray's Lake. He was dead. He had been murdered. 

Detectives who investigated learned that a man using the name of 
Dove had entered the Congress Hotel. Approaching the switchboard 
operator, he asked her where he could hire a motor car. She suggested 
Dan Canary's establishment. Dove requested her to phone and have 
the car call for him at the hotel's Michigan Avenue entrance. This 
was done, and when the car arrived the doorman helped Dove into it. 

Detective De Roche went to see Dan Canary, who knew no one 
named Dove. But he did recall that I had rented the same car with 
the same chauffeur for the trip to Gray's Lake. De Roche obtained 
a picture of me and showed it to the switchboard girl. She said that 
I was the man who had ordered the car. 

The first I heard about it was when the papers came out with big 
headlines: "WEIL IS DOVE." 

Of course, the charge was absurd. I have never carried a gun or 
lethal weapon of any kind. It is well known, even to my bitterest 
enemies, that I have never resorted to violence. 

I called a good criminal lawyer named Howard Sprokel. He said 
that he would surrender me, but first, I must come to his office. I 
did, and convinced him that I knew nothing of the murder of the 
chauffeur. 

"All right, Joe," he said. "I believe you. We'll go over to the 

59 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

Detective Bureau and give you up. But first, we're going to the 
Congress Hotel." 

He explained his plan, and we went to the Congress. Going up to 
the switchboard girl, he asked her to put in a call to his office. Then 
he took the phone and began a lengthy conversation with his secretary. 

While he was on the phone, I engaged the switchboard girl in 
small talk. 

She was a friendly sort, and I had a glib tongue. We discussed 
trivial matters and got along well. We conversed until Sprokel hung 
up and turned from the phone. 

"You two seem to be well acquainted," he said to the girl. "Been 
friends a long time?" 

"Why, no," the girl replied. "To tell you the truth, I never saw 
him until today." 

"Are you sure of that?" Sprokel asked. 

"Certainly I am." 

I tipped my hat to the young woman, thanked her for a pleasant 
interlude, and accompanied Sprokel out the Michigan Avenue entrance. 
Sprokel pretended to have some business down the street and I waited 
in front, engaging the doorman in conversation. We discussed the 
man who had ordered the motor car from Dan Canary. He gave 
me the same details I had read in the papers. 

Sprokel returned. He repeated the questions he had asked the girl. 
The doorman assured him that I was a stranger, that he had never 
before laid eyes on me. 

"It worked, Joe," said Sprokel, as we went over to the poUce station. 

We asked for Chief-of-Police Collins. He listened to Sprokel's story, 
then summoned Detective Johnny Halpin. 

"Go over to the Congress Hotel with these gentlemen and verify 
their statements," he instructed Halpin. 

Both the girl and the doorman told him that I was not the man 
named Dove who had ordered the motor car. We went back to Head- 
quarters and Halpin reported to Chief Collins. 

The chief was apologetic. The newspapers were apologetic. My 
wife fainted. 

In subsequent years, I became better acquainted with John Halpin. 

60 



From Nags to Riches 

He rose to the post of chief of detectives. I know that he was a square 
fellow. I never offered him a bribe, because I knew that he would 
not have taken it. He was chief during the days of the infamous 
Barney Bertsch, the fixer. Halpin would have nothing to do with 
Bertsch, but was accused of accepting bribes, was convicted, and sent 
to the penitentiary. It was as foul a deal as I ever saw. 

When Halpin got out of prison, I was in the money. I tried to 
set him up in business in a bilUard hall. But everywhere he applied, 
he was refused a lease — as soon as my identity became known. 

Just the same, Johnny Halpin remained square. He is an old man 
now, an armed guard at an industrial plant and gets along well with 
his fellow employees. 

One day, shortly after I had been cleared of the Dove murder, I 
entered an establishment near the Loop — a wrecking and salvage 
place. I talked to the president, whom I shall call Ernest Rappe, and 
the vice-president of the company, Lester Bruno. 

"I want to build a small race track," I explained. "I thought you 
might have the equipment." 

"I doubt it," said Rappe, a big fellow. "But you can look around. 
What are you planning to do — start a new track in Chicago?" 

"Oh, no," I replied. "But my partner and I want some place where 
we can tram a horse in secrecy." 

I looked around, but of course the equipment I was looking for 
wasn't there. But Rappe was interested and that satisfied my purpose. 

"If we haven't got what you need, we'll get it for you," he offered. 
"Suppose you come out to dinner tonight and we'll discuss it further." 

That night, I dined at Rappe's home. Afterward, while we were 
having coffee and cigars, he began: 

"You know, my partner and I have been wondering why you want 
to train a horse in secrecy." 

I hesitated, as if doubtful whether to take him into my confidence. 
Finally, I murmured: 

"We have a plan to clean up on wagers. We have an exceptionally 
fast horse named Black Fonso. He can beat anything on the turf 
today. Here's what we plan to do. We've bought an inferior horse 
that resembles Black Fonso. We have entered him at the racecourses 

61 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

under that name. He will race for several weeks, but won't win 
anything. 

"Of course, the odds on him will be long. Meanwhile, we plan 
to keep Black Fonso in shape. And then, after our horse has lost 
enough races to make the odds on him very long, we will substitute 
Black Fonso. The authorities will have become familiar with a horse 
by that name. They won't know the switch has been made — nor 
will the bookmakers. We expect to collect a tremendous sum in 
wagers at long odds." 

Rappe was interested. "And you need to build a race track where 
Black Fonso can be kept in shape?" 

"That's correct." 

"Why don't you use the course at one of the tracks where the 
horses are not running?" he asked — a natural question. 

"We could do that," I replied, "but some tout would be certain to 
get onto it. If we're to clean up, the training must be done in absolute 
secrecy." 

"I can understand that now," said Rappe, as he mulled the matter 
over. While I lay no claim to telepathic powers, it was easy to read 
his thoughts: he was wondering how he could get in on this deal. 

I have made proposals to numerous people for crooked bets on the 
races. If these bets had been made as I proposed them, the book- 
makers would have lost thousands of dollars. Everyone who was ever 
approached on a deal of this sort was interested, but not one of them 
ever gave any thought to the fact that it was basically dishonest. Rappe 
was no exception. 

"Mr. Rappe," I confided, "I am not a wealthy man. I can't afford 
to buy the equipment we need. That is why I was looking at your 
salvage material. Perhaps you would be interested in helping to defray 
the expenses of training Black Fonso." 

He jumped at the bait without bothering to see if there was a hook 
attached. "I would! Provided, of course, that I could share in the 
profits when you clean up." 

"Naturally," I replied. "Mr. Rappe, I'll make you a proposal. 
Tomorrow, if you will meet me, I'll take you to see Black Fonso. 
If you're still interested, we can make some sort of deal. If you will 

62 



From Nags to Riches 

furnish certain sums to purchase equipment and further the project, 
we'll let you in on the betting." 

"Both Mr. Bruno and I would be interested," said Rappe. "We will 
go with you." 

I had Black Fonso out at Palatine at old Jim Wilson's farm. When 
Black Fonso came prancing out of the stall they were visibly im- 
pressed. He stood sixteen hands high and had a satiny black coat, 
with not a spot on him. He was really a beauty — black as night 
and with a spirited gleam in his eye. They were very enthusiastic. 

The next day I called at their place of business to discuss terms. 
Bruno seemed the more impressionable of the two, and I had learned 
that he wrote the checks for the firm. This made him doubly valuable 
in my eyes, and I addressed most of my talk to him. 

I explained why Black Fonso must be trained in the utmost secrecy 
if our plan was to succeed. I was quite frank about the inevitable 
expense. 

It was agreed that Rappe and Bruno would pay certain costs to 
be passed on by me from time to time. In return, on the day that I 
selected to run Black Fonso as a ringer, they would be given an 
opportunity to wager as much as they Uked. 

A few days later we brought in Black Fonso from the country and 
stabled him near the Harlem track. We clocked him one morning 
at the Harlem seven-eighths course. The season had closed and wc 
had the track to ourselves. 

Rappe and Bruno held a stop watch and I used a timing device 
then used in harness racing. It was a mechanical clock, which was 
started or stopped by blowing into a rubber tube attachment. It gave 
us a double check on Black Fonso, who ran the course in one minute, 
twenty-seven and a fraction seconds. 

At diat time, this was considered very fast, although present-day 
horses have been speeded up so that 1:27 for a seven-eighths course 
now would tag a horse as a hopeless plug. P-appe and Bruno were 
extremely gratified. Of course, in this case, there was no faking on 
the distance. 

"When do we make the killing?" Bruno wanted to know. 

"At the right time," I replied. "First, we must race an inferior 

63 



''Yellow Kid" Weil 

horse under the name of Black Fonso so that authorities at the course 
will become familiar with him. I have a suitable horse for this purpose. 

"Also," I pointed out, "we must get Black Fonso in tiptop shape. 
We must have a place where he can be exercised secretly. I have 
located some equipment suitable for the purpose. In a few weeks, the 
odds should be long enough so that we can run him in and make a 
real cleanup." 

While I knew that it was not good policy to touch a potentially 
rich sucker for insignificant sums, I did get a few hundred from 
Rappe and Bruno to pay Black Fonso's training expenses. I told them 
that I considered it better to train him in the country, away from 
prying eyes. They could see the logic of this. 

What I didn't tell them was that Black Fonso was a "Morning 
Glory" — a type of horse that is not uncommon, even today. He makes 
a sensational showing and looks like a world-beater in the morning; 
but in the afternoon's competition, he folds up completely. Black 
Fonso was — a whiz in a morning work-out but a washout in an 
afternoon race. 

Another thing I didn't tell them was that the horse entered at 
the track as Black Fonso was Black Fonso himself — he was the one 
and only horse I had. He didn't need another horse anyway to make 
a poor showing — he was quite capable of doing it himself. And of 
course we helped him along this path to obscurity. 

It is the custom, on the day that a horse is entered in a race, to 
withhold all feed, giving him only a small amount of water. This 
helps to put him on edge by the time he goes to the post. We always 
saw to it that Black Fonso had even more than his usual daily intake 
of hay and water — a precaution to keep him from winning, if by 
some freak of luck, he might come near it. 

He was never in the money, however, and every time he raced and 
finished back of the field, the odds on him became longer. In three 
weeks the odds against him were 10 to 1. 1 went to Rappe and Bruno 
and told them I had decided on a date when the horse running as 
Black Fonso would be withdrawn and the real Black Fonso would be 
substituted. 

"Put us down for about $300," said Bruno. 

64 



From Nags to Riches 

"Don't be foolish!" I scoffed. "Here you have an opportunity to 
clean up and you talk of a paltry $300. I thought I was dealing with 
men who knew how to bet." 

We discussed the betting at some length. Finally, I had them 
jockeyed up to $16,000. 

But Bruno was skeptical. "If we bet so much, the bookmakers will 
become suspicious and the odds will go down." 

"Certainly," I returned calmly. "Did you think I hadn't thought 
of that? I've arranged with my betting commissioner to spread the 
bets all over the country. No large amount will be placed with any 
one bookmaker and all the bets will be made just before post time. 
In that manner no suspicion will be created. But we will make a 
killing." 

This seemed satisfactory, and the next day I brought in William J. 
Wintcrbill, who had no difficulty at all with the usual suckers; but 
he jarred Bruno the wrong way. The latter was cool when I told him 
that Winterbill was my betting commissioner and would arrange to 
make our wagers. He motioned that he wished to talk to me in 
private. 

"You know, Mr. Weil," he began, "first impressions arc lasting 
impressions. You impressed us from the moment we saw you and we 
trust you. But we don't trust that fellow out there. He looks too 
tricky." 

"But he's one of my steady betting commissioners," I frowned. "I 
don't want to hurt the fellow's feelings." 

"How much are you going to give him?" 

"About $5,000." 

"Well, let him place your bets. But you'd better find somebody 
else to take ours." 

I agreed to this, although it would have been less trouble to let 
Winterbill take the whole thing. But I didn't want Rappe and Bruno 
to back down. So I dismissed Winterbill and found other stooges. 
They were acceptable to the two, who gave them a total of $16,000 
to be spread around the country on Black Fonso. 

As soon as the money was safely out of their hands and into mine 
I departed. And that's the last I ever saw of either Rappe or Bruno. 

65 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

If they looked at the results on the day the money was supposedly 
wagered, they saw that Black Fonso lost. 

There wasn't anything they could do. They could not go to the law 
and say: "We paid out money to train a ringer and clean up on 
crooked betting. We were going to cheat the bookmakers, but this 
man cheated us instead," Even if there had been a legal basis for 
complaint, they wouldn't have wanted their friends to know they had 
been taken. 

An interesting sequel to the Rappe-Bruno deal was related to me 
by Barney Berman, who owned a large fish market and delivered 
fish to Bruno's home. 

"Barney," Bruno said to him one day, "do you play the horses?" 

"Yes," Barney replied. "I own a couple of platers." 

Bruno then accused Barney of "steering" me to him, Barney vigor- 
ously denied this. 

"How much did you lose?" he asked. 

Bruno reflected a moment. "Well, I'll tell you, Barney," he replied, 
"if you had every fish in Lake Michigan on your counters and sold 
them at the highest prices, that would just about cover the amount 
I lost." 

Rappe and Bruno were just two of many who participated in my 
"fixed" racing deals. Most of them were picked with care. The first 
requisite was that the prospect have money. Another was that he 
know as little as possible about horse racing. 

There was one man I strung along for sixteen months. I never 
got large sums from him, but on various pretexts, I took $200 or $300 
at a time. Occasionally, I took him to the track to watch my horses 
run and see how races were operated. 

"See how dry and dusty the course is today?" 

"Yes." 

"That's what we call a fast track. My horses don't run as well on 
a fast track, so I usually sprinkle water on it to settle the dust." 

When the water sprinkler came around I pointed it out to him. 
"It costs me a lot of money, but it's worth it." 

He never questioned that I had to pay the expenses of maintaining 
the water wagon. He later gave me $300 to help keep the track 

66 



From Nags to Riches 

watered! This was one of my favorite "expense" items, and several 
others came across with cash to water the track. 

On another occasion I showed him how my electric battery arrange- 
ment speeded up a horse. There had to be a special saddle so that 
the batteries could be concealed. I had the jockey mount a horse and 
press his foot against the apron across the animals flank where the 
switch was concealed. The horse always jumped. I never used the 
batteries in the races, but the sucker didn't know that. He paid for 
an "expensive" battery device, as well as for a special saddle. Later 
he contributed $200 toward the purchase of an electric whip, another 
potent device for goading a horse on to greater speed. 

In all these deals the victims were led to believe that I was paying 
off the jockeys, the judge of the scales, and the presiding judge. 
Even a few pounds deducted from the weight a horse is carrying 
makes a tremendous difference in his speed. The judge of the scales 
was supposed to let my horses pass without weight handicaps. 

The presiding judge had the power to declare a race no contest. I 
always told those who gave me money to pay off the presiding judge 
that if my horse failed to win, he would declare "no contest." 

In some cases I told the suckers that I was paying off the other 
jockeys in the race to give my horse "clearance." The sums received 
for any one of these phony reasons were not large, but there were 
many of them and they flowed in regularly and gave me a nice income. 
Training a ringer was the scheme that was particularly attractive to 
the wealthier suckers. I met a man who had a lucrative linotype 
business. He fell in readily with my plan, but worried a great deal 
about the possibility of the horse losing the race in spite of our pre- 
cautions. 

"Why, man," I said, "this horse has no more chance of losing the 
race than you have of losing your eyesight!" 

This reassured him, and he gave me $5,000 to bet on the ringer. 
I disappeared and closed the books on this deal. 

One of my favorite haunts in those days was the buffet of the 
Palmer House, which served delicious sliced chicken. One night some 
months later I was standing at the buffet, enjoying a chicken sand- 
wich, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. 

67 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

I turned. There stood my linotype friend, looking me over. 

"I still have my eyesight," he declared dryly. And with that he 
walked away. That was the last I ever saw or heard of that affair. 

During the early days of the Mayor Carter Harrison administration, 
there was a police chief I shall call "Boylan." He had a son who was 
a lawyer, with an office in a Loop building. Young Boylan had 
become interested in a ringer deal. The horse in this case was a two- 
year-old filly named Zibia which I had just secured from A. B. Watts. 
She was a beautiful filly and quite fast. She made an impressive 
showing when Boylan clocked her, but I thought she was another 
Morning Glory. 

On the day of the "fixed" race, Boylan gave me $5,000 to put on 
Zibia's nose. The odds against her winning were at post time 100 to 1. 
But once she left the post, there was no controlling her. She walked 
away with the race, causing any bookmaker who had accepted wagers 
on her to tear his hair. No bookmaker could pay off any large bet at 
such long odds. 

I was in a quandary. I had supposedly bet $5,000 on the nose. 
Boylan was looking for his winnings: $500,000! If I didn't do some- 
thing, he could go to the law and, without saying a word about a 
fixed race, charge me with failure to bet his money. 

I foimd Winterbill and sent him to Milwaukee, with specific in- 
structions. The following morning I called at Boylan's office. 

"That was some race," he said gleefully. "We really made a killing, 
didn't we.?" 

"Yes," I replied. "I bet $10,000 of my own money. Why, I'll collect 
a million dollars!" 

I thought this over for a moment, as if the very thought stunned 
me. (I would have been stunned, if there had been any prospect of 
collecting any such amount.) Then I added: "My betting commis- 
sioner, Winterbill, has gone to Milwaukee to collect our winnings. 
I told him to get in touch with me here." 

Boylan knew that I had planned to pbce the money out of town so 
that the local bookmakers wouldn't become suspicious at large sums 
being wagered on a horse at such long odds. He thought nothing of 
my reference to Milwaukee. 

68 



From Nags to Riches 

We were building air castles, discussing what we would do with 
our huge winnings, when the telephone rang. It was a long-distance 
call from Milwaukee. Winterbill was on the other end. 

I took the phone and listened to Winterbill's story. It was what I 
had told him to say. 

"What.?" I exclaimed. "Surely, you're joking." Then: "I can't 
believe it. A million dollars flying out the window! Will you tell Mr. 
Boylan what happened?" 

Boylan took the phone. 

"I'm sorry, Mr. Boylan," Winterbill said. "But those bookmakers I 
placed your bets with have disappeared. They've left town and I doubt 
if we'll find them. They couldn't make good on such large amounts." 

Dejectedly, Boylan hung up. He put down the phone and dropped 
in his chair. I paced the floor, muttering to myself: "A million dollars. 
A few minutes ago I was a millionaire. And now I'm broke!" 

I commiserated with Boylan for a while. Then we began to reason 
things out. It was only natural that a bookmaker should abscond 
rather than pay off a million and a half dollars. I left as soon as I 
could without arousing his suspicions. As far as I know Boylan 
accepted the story and thought the money actually had been wagered 
in Milwaukee. 

Zibia became a very troublesome filly. I soon learned that she might 
win, regardless of what I did to hold her back. Since I couldn't 
depend on her, I eventually got rid of her. She went on to become 
one of the country's top winners. 

The regular racing season in Chicago came to an end. Robey 
opened up as a winter course, and I entered a few of my horses there. 
But most of them were stabled and only taken out for exercise. I 
continued to line up victims for my ringer scheme. The plan was 
altered only slightly. I trained the ringers here and shipped them to 
the South. The suckers believed that as readily as they did when the 
horses were running in Chicago. Winterbill continued to help me, 
and the money flowed in to us in a steady stream. 

The following New Year's Eve Winterbill and I were kilHng time 
in Davis' Saloon. This famous place had a policy wheel, as well as 
other gambling devices. Upstairs was a lavish bar, a favorite with the 

69 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

sporting and theatre crowd. Most of the actors from McVickers 
Theatre — the great legitimate showhouse of that day — came in be- 
tween shows. Chauncey Alcott and other famous stars were frequent 
visitors 

"Joe," Winterbili proposed suddenly, "why don't we get our wives 
and celebrate this New Year right.'*" 

"That suits me fine," I replied. "Where shall we go.''" 

"Pabst Gardens in Garfield Park is a good place." 

"Excellent," I said. "Let's go." 

We took the Garfield Park elevated to a station near our homes. 
There was a saloon on the corner. 

"Let's stop and have just one more before we go home," Winterbili 
urged. 

We entered the saloon. Not a customer was there — a very surpris- 
ing fact, considering that it was New Year's Eve. The only person in 
sight was the bartender who paced back and forth in front of the bar 
like a caged beast. 

"Well, whatta you want?" he asked savagely. 

"Why, we just want a little New Year's drink," I returned. Winter- 
bill was too surprised to say anything. 

"Mix 'em yourself," the bartender replied. "I'm through with the 
saloon business." 

"If you feel that way about it," I said, "why don't you sell out?" 

"Well, the first guy who offers me $300 can have the works." 

Somewhat amused and thinking he must be joking, I retorted, "I'll 
give you $300 — provided it includes all your stock, the cash register, 
and other equipment." 

"Mister, you've bought yourself a saloon!" he snapped. "I'll not 
only include all the stock and equipment — I'll throw in a full barrel 
of whiskey I've got in the basement." 

Winterbili now joined in the fun and began to take an inventory. 

The owner took of? his apron and handed it to me. "Gimme the 
three hundred bucks." 

I gave him the money, still believing it was a joke. He put the 
money into his pocket, got his hat and coat and departed. To our 
complete bewilderment, we found ourselves in the saloon business. 

70 



From Nags to Riches 

A few minutes later, our first customer came in. He evidently had 
not made our place his first stop. I hurriedly put the apron over my 
evening clothes and asked for his order. 

"Martini," he said in a thick voice. 

"Martini," I repeated to Winterbill. 

"Stall him!" Winterbill whispered. 

"Coming right up," I told the customer. He didn't mind waiting. 
He was at the stage where he wanted to talk and so proceeded to do. 

Meanwhile Winterbill racked his brain, for he had only the vaguest 
idea how to mix a Martini. He finally settled upon a recipe. He put 
a dash of everything from the numerous bottles behind the bar into 
one drink. I stirred it up and handed it to the customer. We watched 
anxiously while he drank it down. 

"That was good!" he exclaimed. "Best Martini I ever tasted. Mix 
me another." 

Again Winterbill started to mix. 

"How do you feel?" I inquired, none too sure of the consequences. 

"Me?" asked the customer. "Fine. Never felt better in my life." 

He didn't show any bad results after the second drink, and we both 
were relieved. As time went on more customers came in. They 
ordered whiskey sours, Manhattans, and Martinis. Winterbill had just 
one formula and that's what he gave them all. Nobody complained. 

We called up Mamie and Jess (our wives) and told them to meet 
us in the saloon. They expected some sort of celebration, but were in 
for a surprise. They spent the evening watching us serve drinks to an 
increasing number of customers. By the time we closed that night we 
had taken in more than the whole outfit cost us! 

Actually, we had the time of our lives. What had started out as a 
joke ended as a legitimate enterprise. Naturally, the receipts on other 
days did not equal the first, but that was to be expected. 

We had been in business about ten days when a policeman from the 
Warren Avenue station visited us. He said we'd have to take out a 
license and it would cost us $1,000. We decided that it wasn't worth 
it. We were ready to abandon the venture, when a representative of 
the Atlas Brewing Company walked in. 

When we told him our plans, he said: "You are a couple of wide- 

71 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

awake fellows. Xou don't want a little place like this. Our brewery 
has an option on a corner at California and Harrison. The brewery 
will take out the license, outfit the place, and give you one of the 
finest corners in town." 

We accepted his proposition and a few days later moved into the 
new location, a lavishly outfitted buffet saloon. Business was good. 
But I didn't like the idea of being tied down, so we hired bartenders 
and other personnel to help. Incidentally, we learned that the man 
who had sold out to us was a former safecracker who had found the 
saloon business too dull. 



72 



7 Giving Away Real Estate 



COLONEL JIM PORTER WAS A FORMER MISSISSIPPI STEAMBOAT 
gambler. He was heavy-set and impressive with a ruddy com- 
plexion and a walrus mustache. 

He told fabulous tales of adventures on the Mississippi and his 
listeners ribbed him. But he did not realize that he was being ribbed, 
and his tales grew taller. Nobody took him seriously, for we all 
thought he had delusions of grandeur. I ran across him in Skidmore's 
saloon. 

A bunch of us got together and bought him a ten-gallon sombrero, 
and presented it to him with the proper ceremony. He wore it 
proudly and, indeed, looked like an old plainsman who had made a 
fortune as a cattle rancher. 

One of the favorite hangouts for the sporting crowd of those days 
was Carberry's saloon in the Alhambra Theatre building. Besides 
being a rendezvous for con men, it was frequented by prominent 
fighters. Jim Jeffries, Bob Fitzsimmons, Kid Levine, Danny Needham 
and other top-ranking boxers were often there. 

The women from the bawdy houses — the madams — came there in 
the evening. These included such well-known figures as Georgia 
Spencer, the Everleigh Sisters, Belle Deming, and Madame Cleo. 

When the colonel began to come around to Carberry's place, wc 
bought him a complete outfit, including a Stetson hat and a cutaway 
coat. We introduced him as "Colonel Porter, who owns an island in 
Florida." 

It was done as a joke at Colonel Porter's expense, but he took it 
seriously. Pretty soon he was convinced that he actually did own an 
island in Florida. Furthermore, he looked like an immensely wealthy 

73 



''Yelloi^ Kid" Weil 

old yachtsman, and those who were not in on the joke believed every 
word he uttered. 

One night I was walking down State Street near 22nd with Colonel 
Porter, We decided to go into Frank Wing's for something to eat. 
Wing's specialty was Southern hash, which he produced in tremendous 
quantities. He sold it in bulk to the brothel keepers, who took it away 
in wash boilers to keep it warm. It was served both to the girls and 
to their men callers. 

The fame of Wing's hash spread and he always had a crowd in his 
place. When the Colonel and I walked in we found a number of 
women there in the company of prominent men. A party was being 
given by Patsy King, who had an office in Customs House Place. 
King was a liberal fellow. He made a lot of money, and spent most 
of it on his friends. Everybody liked him. 

It did not take the Colonel long to beccjme the life of the party. 
When I introduced him, I dropped a hint that he was one of the 
Porters who had made a fortune as meat packers and merchants. The 
Colonel fell right in and began to relate stories of his days as a 
plainsman. (The wealthy Porters had been plainsmen in the early 
days.) 

The women were intrigued by the Colonel. He had a gallant way 
and an eye for a pretty face, and the belief that he was one of the 
wealthy Porters added to his glamor. They flocked around and he 
basked in their adulation. 

He ordered the best of everything Frank Wing had to serve and 
said magnanimously: "Put it on my bill." 

The party grew and so did his bill. What had started as a joke on 
the Colonel was now becoming serious. I drew him aside and asked: 
"Where do you expect to get the money to pay for this?" 

"Don't need money right now," returned the Colonel. "Frank's 
going to charge it. And if I don't have the cash when I have to pay 
the bill, I'll sell some of my property in Michigan." 

"Or maybe your island in Florida," I said and turned away. 

But the crowd was having a big time. The Colonel's tales of his 
adventures as a western plainsman grew bolder and more fantastic. 
Finally I went to Patsy King. 

74 



Giving Away Real Estate 

"This is your party," I said, "but it looks like the Colonel has taken 
over." 

"That's all right with me," smiled Patsy, always a good fellow. 
"The main thing is that everybody is having a fine time." 

"Do you know Colonel Porter?" I asked. 

"I've seen him around Bill Carberry's place," King replied. "I 
thought he was a wealthy yachtsman who owned an island in 
Florida." 

"That was all a joke," I told Patsy. Then I unfolded the whole 
story. "As a matter of fact Colonel Porter is broke. He can't pay for 
all this stuff he's been ordering." 

Patsy laughed. "Don't let that worry you," he said. "Let's humor 
the old fello\^'. I expected to pay for everything anyhow. Let him 
have his fun." 

Colonel Porter was in his glory. He was the center of attraction all 
during the bountiful spread. When everybody had had his fill the 
Colonel said to the proprietor: "Send the bill to my office, will you 
Frank?" He said it in a convincing, offhand manner that nobody 
could ever doubt. 

"Of course, Colonel Porter," Wing replied. He had already been 
tipped off by Patsy King. 

"Now, what do you say we all go over to Bill Carberry's?" the 
Colonel proposed. 

There was not a dissenting voice. The Colonel went to the tele- 
phone and called a livery service. "Send over some Victorias right 
away!" he ordered. 

When the carriages arrived, we all got in and were driven to Car- 
berry's. Patsy King paid off the drivers — a detail the Colonel was 
too busy to bother with. 

The party continued at Carberry's. The men went downstairs and 
gambled, but the Colonel continued to hold the rapt attention of the 
women, to whom he now was serving champagne. 

There was such a big demand for champagne at Carberry's that 
behind the bar he always kept four washtubs filled with ice, in which 
the champagne bottles were doused. He had four excellent brands 
ready to serve. 

75 



''Yellow Kid" Weil 

The Colonel had a big evening, and I began to look upon him with 
increasing respect. If he wasn't a natural-born con man, I had never 
seen one. And I was beginning to get an idea. Colonel Porter might 
be a valuable man. I was getting tired of the saloon business. 

One day soon after the party I asked the Colonel: "What were you 
telling me about some property in Michigan?" 

"I said I could sell some of it if I needed cash." 

"Do you really own property in Michigan?" 

"Well, not exactly," Colonel Porter admitted. "It really belongs to 
my cousin. But it's in the family." 

"Are you sure this cousin isn't a myth?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Where does he live and what does he do?" 

"He lives in Hart, Michigan. It's the county seat of Oceana County 
and he's the county recorder." 

The Colonel came out with that so quickly that I was convinced he 
was telhng the truth. When a man tells the truth he can give you a 
straightforward answer immediately. I've found that when a person 
has to stop and think you can expect part of what he tells you to 
be false. 

"How much property does he own?" 

"Several thousand acres." 

"Good land?" 

"No, it's not," the Colonel admitted frankly. "You can buy all you 
want for a dollar an acre." 

"That's interesting," I said, "very, very interesting." 

The idea was beginning to take shape. But I needed more time to 
think it over. I didn't tell the Colonel what I had in mind. 

Meanwhile I divided my time between the saloon and my racing 
interests. One night I made a deal that I was later to regret very 
much indeed. 

A house of ill fame known as "The House of All Nations" was 

operated by Madame Cleo. It was common knowledge that she was 

the mistress of a famous detective chief. I should have known better 

than to deal with her. 

Madame Cleo was like all the other horse players. She wanted an 

76 



Giving Away Real Estate 

"inside tip" so that she could make a killing. That was my business, 
so I told her about a race that had been fixed. She gave me $2,500 to 
bet for her on one of my own horses. 

The horse didn't run in the money of course, and Madame Cleo's 
$2,500 was added to my bankroll. She was greatly incensed and 
immediately told the story to her boy friend. There wasn't anything 
he could do to recover her money, since the horse had lost. 

But he had other methods of getting vengeance. He put his detec- 
tives on my trail and they were a constant thorn in my side every 
time I appeared at the races thereafter. 

I had been thinking over the Michigan proposition and Colonel Jim 
Porter. Finally the idea jelled and I sought out the Colonel. 

"Jim," I asked, "do you think we could buy some of that land from 
your cousin in Michigan?" 

"Of course," he replied. "A lot of it is submarginal and he'd be 
glad to get rid of it." 

"Could you imagine a fine estate, with a luxurious home, a lake for 
fishing, a private golf course, and a hunting preserve on this land?" 

"I could imagine anything," the Colonel said. In this he was correct. 
He was a true visionary. "But anybody who would put anything like 
that on that Michigan land would be crazy." 

"Perhaps,'" I replied. "But you know that northern Michigan is a 
favorite summer resort for Chicago people. Suppose you saw a picture 
of this beautiful estate — could you tell convincing stories about it?" 

"My good fellow," said the Colonel, "I can tell convincing stories 
without a picture about any locale." 

"Fine. You have just become the President of the Elysium Develop- 
ment Company of Michigan." 

"I have?" The Colonel was startled for a moment. Then: "Mmm. 
It's a fine, high-sounding name." 

"And it will be very profitable, I think. How would you like to 
make a trip to Michigan?" 

"What for?" 

"To see your cousin." 

"All right with me. What do you want me to see him about?" 

"I'll give you the details." 

77 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

That was the beginning of one of the most unusual land deals ever 
conceived. Not a lot was sold, but thousands of Chicagoans became 
property owners. Thousands of dollars rolled into the treasury of the 
Elysium Development Company. It was the beginning of a new line 
of endeavor for me and the start of a brilliant career for Colonel 
Jim Porter. 

He who pretends to be fabulously wealthy, although he may be in 
need, may in the course of time convince himself that he is rich. Such 
was Colonel Jim Porter's obsession. 

He was sane enough, yet it was easy for him to delude himself 
that he was a tycoon. He Uved the part of the retired millionaire so 
well that he came to beUeve it. Only on rare occasions did he leave 
his fairy wonderland to come down to earth and remember that he 
was a penniless old man. 

I have always felt that the Colonel's dreamland was largely respon- 
sible for the success of our scheme to foist almost worthless Michigan 
swampland upon unsuspecting people. I think that he honestly be- 
lieved that a real Garden of Eden would burgeon from the Michigan 
swamps. 

For more than half a century, Michigan has meant just one thing to 
the people of Chicago — summer vacation land. Lodges and camps in 
the north woods have long been favorite retreats for hunters and 
fishermen and lovers of the outdoors. Resorts on the lake shore 
annually draw thousands of vacationists, 

Oceana County lies on Lake Michigan, and for all I know there may 
be some good resort spots along the shore. But the land owned by 
Colonel Porter's cousin near the county seat could hardly be called 
ideal for vacations or for any other purpose. Most of it was undesirable 
acreage; some of it was submarginal. 

I sent Colonel Porter to Michigan to buy some of this land and to 
make his cousin a proposition. While he was gone I went to sec a 
furniture agency and arranged for them to furnish a suite of offices I 
had rented in a Loop building. 

This suite consisted of a general outer office and two private offices, 
one small and the other quite large. I took the smaller room and set 
up the larger one for Colonel Porter who was, after all, the head of 
the project. 

78 



Giving Away Real Estate 

I was acquainted with a photographer who had in stock the pictures 
I needed. These included photographs of a golf course, tennis court, 
swimming pool, and hunting lodge or clubhouse. In addition, he had 
pictures of several luxurious yachts lying at anchor in Lake Michigan. 
From all these he made a panorama showing the clubhouse in the 
center flanked by the other scenes. The whole thing was blown up 
so that it stretched across one wall of Colonel Porter's office. 

This panorama made it possible not only for Colonel Porter, but for 
any sucker who might drop in, to visualize the physical setup of the 
Elysium Development Company. 

When Porter returned, his news was even better than I had expected. 
His cousin not only was recorder but county clerk as well. He set his 
own fees for recording deeds and for drawing up abstracts. His usual 
fee for recording a transaction was two dollars. But this was raised to 
thirty dollars, with the understanding that Colonel Porter and I would 
get fifteen dollars out of every transaction. 

He readily sold us a large tract at a dollar an acre. I had a map 
drawn of the acreage we had bought, reserving a large space in the 
center for the clubhouse and other features in the picture. The balance 
was divided into lots, 125 feet deep. There were thousands of these 
lots. 

My next step was to make up a brochure painting Michigan as a 
veritable paradise for vacationists. The expensive-looking brochure 
was liberally sprinkled with pictures of the Elysium Development 
project. The reader was bound to come to just one conclusion — the 
vacation land described and the Elysium project were one and the 
same. 

But the brochure was descriptive — nothing more. No lots were 
offered for sale; no prices were quoted. Colonel Porter noted this and 
pointed out the omission. 

"Surely," he grumbled, "you're not planning to give these lots 
away?" 

"That, my dear Colonel," I repHed, "is exactly what I am planning 
to do." 

"But why? Why don't we sell them? With this fine booklet we 
could get a good price." 

"Perhaps," I said. "But for only a few. As soon as the owners 

79 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

went up there to look at their new property and found they'd bought 
worthless acreage we'd be out of business. But if we give the lots 
away, who can say that he has been swindled?" 

The Colonel still wasn't satisfied, but I went ahead. At a stationery 
store I bought a large quantity of blank deeds. These were filled out 
with the numbers of the lots on the map and were signed by the 
Colonel as owner. The name of the person to whom the deed was 
made out was left blank. 

"All you have to do," I told Colonel Porter, "is to use that fine 
imagination of yours. Get a good picture of our development in your 
mind. Talk about it. Tell stories about it. If anybody comes in the 
office to see where his lot is located, show him the map. Tell him what 
a wonderful development we have. I'll do the rest." 

Thereafter wherever I went I carried a supply of the blank deeds 
with me. Winterbill and I still had our saloon. I had to spend con- 
siderable time there in the evening. Outside of helping to manage the 
place I had none of the work. My main job was acting as host. 

We had a fine establishment and the free lunch counter was always 
piled high with sandwiches. I have always been pretty good at striking 
up acquaintances and the lunch counter was a good place for it. I 
never bothered with anyone who was obviously without money. 

When I ascertained that a man had a little money I became friendly 
enough. Eventually I called him off to the side for a confidential talk. 

"You look like the sort of fellow I'd like to have for a neighbor," I 
would say. Then I would give him one of the brochures describing 
the Elysium Development. 

"Do you live up there?" he would ask. 

"I'm one of the owners. This is a private club and membership is 
only by invitation. Of course the only members are those who own 
property in the Development." 

"Oh, you want me to buy some of the property?" 

"My dear fellow, this property is not for sale. But I should like to 
have you for my neighbor. And that does require that you own 
property in the Development." 

"If I can't buy it, how am I going to own it?" 

80 



Giving Away Real Estate 

"Very simple. I shall make you a gift of a desirable lot." 

"Do you mean that?" 

"Certainly I do." 

"There must be a catch in it." 

"No catch in it." 

And to prove my good faith, right then and there, I would make 
out a deed to my new friend. 

"You mean I don't have to pay you anything for it?" my unbeliev- 
ing friend would say. 

"Not one penny." 

As soon as the man had got through thanking me, I would mention 
that it would be a good idea to have his lot recorded. There was 
nothing strange about that, for everybody who has ever had any deal- 
ing in real estate knows that every transaction must be recorded at the 
county seat before it is legal. 

In the course of an evening I made many new friends. I even gave 
lots to some of my old acquaintances. From all of them I extracted a 
promise that the gift be confidential. 

"If some of my friends heard that I had given you this lot," I 
explained, "they would all be after me for similar gifts." 

Anybody who was interested had the privilege of going to Colonel 
Porter's office and locating his lot. A few did this, but not many. 
Most of them were satisfied not to ask questions. In time they all 
wrote to the county recorder. 

His reply was the first blow. The fee for recording — thirty dollars 
— was exorbitant and everybody knew it. But they all remitted it. 
After all, the lot was a gift. 

Colonel Porter's cousin followed up every recording with a letter 
suggesting that the new owner would need an abstract if he was to be 
able to appraise his new property. Many of the owners decided they 
could get along without an abstract, but a large number remitted the 
$25 fee asked for this. 

Drawing up an abstract on one of those lots was no task at all. The 
property hadn't changed hands very many times since the original 
owner had disposed of it. With the exception of the legal description 

81 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

of each individual lot, the abstracts were the same on all of them. 

Colonel Porter and I got half of all the fees his cousin collected for 
abstracts. Soon the mail at the Elysium Development Company was 
blooming with remittances. For the sake of appearances and to help 
Colonel Porter with what correspondence there was, two young 
women were engaged and installed in the general office. 

Some of the people to whom I had given deeds learned that they 
had been duped. But most of them were happy in the knowledge that 
they possessed Michigan property and didn't take the trouble to in- 
vestigate until years later. 

For two months I carpeted Chicago with deeds to lots in the 
Elysium Development Company. I even gave lots to two detectives 
who later rose to prominence in the police department. Both men paid 
the recording fee before they discovered that the land was practically 
valueless. Both were furious and if there had been anything they 
could have done about it, I would have found free lodging promptly. 
But I had not taken money from them: they had not been compelled 
to have the lots recorded. So far as the law was concerned, I was clean. 

But both knew that they had been played for chumps. And they 
knew too that I was not being altruistic in giving the lots away. Both 
were bigger than I was, and they did threaten to thrash me. As much 
as possible I kept out of their way. When they saw me they usually 
gave chase. But I was fast on my feet and they never caught me. 

But they never let up. After I had been in the project for two 
months I decided to withdraw. My net profit from the venture was 
about $8,000. 

When I told Colonel Porter we were going out of business, he said: 
"Maybe you are, Joe, but I'm not. I know when I have a good thing. 
Some day this project will make me quite wealthy." 

So I turned the whole business over to him. He stuck with it and 
did indeed become wealthy. I don't know whether he continued to 
operate on the same basis, but the law was never able to touch him. 

Years later Colonel Porter, then quite an old man but still a dreamer, 
invested his money in one of the Florida subdivisions. He helped to 
promote it from an expensive suite in the Morrison Hotel. 

I went to the Morrison to call on him, but he was surrounded by 



82 



Giving Away Real Estate 

assistants and secretaries. I never got farther than the reception room. 
I imagine the Colonel told some wonderful stories about his sub- 
division. At last his dreams had come true. 

I worked a variation of the real estate deal in later years. I relate 
it as a warning to anyone who owns real estate that has greatly 
decreased in value. The racket is as good today as it ever was. 

One day in New York City I ran into a confidence man named 
Bert Griffin who was down on his luck and broke. He had just one 
asset — a list of some 2,000 owners of lots in various subdivisions 
around New York. Most of them had bought the lots as investments, 
but they had turned out to be almost worthless. At least, the market 
value had dropped to about ten per cent of the purchase price. 

"Joe," said Bert, "these people are all suckers. Why don't we contact 
some of them and sell 'em some stock?" 

"Don't be silly!" I scoffed. "People don't have money to buy stocks 
these days. I can think of something better than that." 

My first act was to get in touch with an old acquaintance, an elderly 
lawyer who had been disbarred because of dealings with confidence 
men. I showed him the list of the owners of the subdivision lots. 

"You can draw up abstracts on these lots, can't you?" 

"Of course." 

"If I give you plenty of work, will you do it for five dollars per 
abstract?" 

"It's dirt cheap, but I need the money. Yes." 

Next, I rented two offices — on different floors — in a building at 
62nd and Broadway. On one door I had a sign painted: "Great 
Metropolitan Development Company." On the other was: "Search 
Title and Abstract Company." Bert Griffin was installed in the 
development office and the lawyer in the abstract office. 

My next step was to insert an advertisement in the classified section 
of one of the New York papers. The development company offered 
to buy lots in certain subdivisions at good prices. The ad was incon- 
spicuous and it was not intended that many people should answer it. 
Very few did. 

Next I began a systematic round of all those on our list. A call I 
made on a man in Philadelphia will illustrate how I worked. 

83 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

I knew that this man had six lots in a Long Island subdivision and 
had paid $3,000 for them. Their value had dropped to a fraction of 
that figure. I represented myself to him as a real estate broker. 

"I understand you own six lots in a subdivision on Long Island," I 
said. 
"That is correct." 

"Would you be interested in selling them?" 
"Sure. But who would buy em?" 

I unfolded the newspaper and showed him the advertisement. 
"How much did you pay for the lots?" I asked. 
"$3,000." 

"I think I can sell them to this company for $500 profit if you'll 
let me handle the deal." 
He brightened immediately. "Go ahead and try." 
"How much is it worth to you?" I asked. 
"I'll give you the usual ten per cent commission." 
"That's not enough," I replied. "I want all the profit as my com- 
mission." 

"If I give you all of it, what profit do I make?" 
"You get your money back. That's more than you ever expected to 
do, isn't it?" 

He admitted this was true, but now that the market appeared to be 
improving he was reluctant to go above the regular commission. 

So I haggled about what I would get. I made a point of haggling 
over my commission, because this, more than anything else, convinced 
him that I was on the level. If I had come to his terms at once there 
might have been grounds for suspicion. 

Finally he agreed to let me keep all I could get over $3,000. I 
asked him for his title and he produced the deeds. 
"How about the abstract?" I asked. 
"I don't have one." 

"Well, I can't sell your property without one." 
"Where can I get an abstract?" 

"The Search Title and Abstract Company is a good place." I told 
him. "Send your deed in there and they'll draw up the abstract." 
"How much does it cost?" 
"Sixty-five dollars." 

84 



Giving Away Real Estate 

I gave him the address of the Abstract Company and told him I 
would call in about two weeks. That was the last I ever saw of 
my Philadelphia client. He sent in his money and the old lawyer 
drew up the abstract and mailed it to him. It was a bona fide abstract 
and the lawyer really had to work hard to draw it up, as well as all 
the others I brought in. 

If a chent ever called at the office of the Development company, he 
was informed by Bert Griffin that no deal could be made until an 
abstract had been provided. Not one of those owners had an abstract 
and all were steered to the other office. 

The price we charged for drawing the abstract varied according to 
our estimate of the client's ability to pay — ranging from $65 to $300. 
If a client turned over his complete title to us with the expectation of 
selling his property, we stalled him on one pretext or another. Our 
only object was to collect fees for the abstracts. 

Our business was one that had to be completed in a short time. It 
was a whirlwind campaign. I covered the entire list of 2,000 in three 
weeks and within a month we had collected fees from all who were 
willing to do business with us. The enterprise took thirty days and 
my profit was $7,200. 

This is a racket that is as good today as it was then. I don't know 
of any place where it is being worked, but there are possibilities 
everywhere — Chicago, for example. Here there are a number of sub- 
divisions where the lots are worth far less than the purchase price. 

I am pointing this out — and digressing from my story — for one 
reason. Some racketeer might read of how my deal was worked and 
get an idea he can do it in Chicago. I'd like this to be a warning to 
anyone who owns lots in a subdivision. If you're approached by a 
stranger who makes you a good offer for your lots — but insists that 
you buy an abstract — investigate him thoroughly before you go ahead. 
He may be just another con man who is selling abstracts. 



85 



8. The Get'Rich-Quick Bank 



WITH THE OPENING OF THE RACING SEASON, I TIRED OF MY 
saloon business and disposed of my interest. I expected to 
return to the tracks and continue as before. But I had 
forgotten about Madame Cleo and her bitterness toward me. She was 
not one to forget. To her, $2,500 was not a trifling sum. 

The men put on my trail by her police-official friend caused me 
considerable difficulty in trying to sell "inside tips." My operations at 
the track were considerably restricted. 

Meanwhile the detectives had been contacting some of my victims. 
It was not long before they had enough evidence to take the case 
before the racing authorities. On the testimony of Madame Cleo and 
others, I was ruled off the turf for life. 

This meant that I had to dispose of my horses. That was not 
difficult to do since several of them had developed into winners. 
However, the ruling didn't prevent me from making wagers at the 
tracks. 

I had met a fellow of my own age named Romeo Simpson. His 
father was a wealthy Chicagoan who owned considerable income 
property in the Loop. Romeo was a playboy and had no more scruples 
than I had. After I was ruled off the track I thought up a scheme for 
making money and suggested that he go in with me. My main 
reason for asking him was that I needed his father's reputation and 
references behind our enterprise. 

I held nothing back from Romeo. I told him the whole scheme and 
he knew from the start that it was not exactly honest. But to him it 
was a lark and he readily consented to go in with me. 

86 



The Get-Rich-Quick Bank 

I wanted to rent a suite of offices in the Woman's Temple, one of 
the most exclusive buildings in Chicago at that time. (A good address 
is an asset to any business venture.) Diblee and Manierre, who man- 
aged the Woman's Temple, had made it almost inaccessible to the 
average business man. 

At the start, Romeo and I pooled our resources. We opened a sub- 
stantial account at the Standard Trust and Savings Bank. We engaged 
temporary offices in the Flatiron Building and set up our business: 
SIMPSON AND WEIL, Bankers and Brokers. 

Then we made application to Diblee and Manierre for space in the 
Woman's Temple. Romeo's father was delighted at the thought that 
his wayward son was going into business and let us use his references 
without stint. All the references were good because of the father's 
position and reputation. 

Diblee and Manierre made a thorough investigation and finally ad- 
vised us that the application had been approved. We took a suite oc- 
cupying half of a floor and moved in. It was like having a desk in 
the Bank of England — being on intimate terms with the old Lady of 
Threadneedle Street. 

We engaged an advertising agency to place advertisements for us 
in periodicals and newspapers. We covered every section of the coun- 
try except the immediate vicinity of Chicago. We didn't want any 
business from the Chicago area. The ads read: 

A Little Story of a Big Success 
How $100 Makes $1,000 

For details write 
SIMPSON AND WEIL 

Bankers and Brokers 
Woman's Temple Building 

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 

I'd always known that many people were seeking easy money. But 
until the replies began to come in I never realized how vast this number 
was. The volume was tremendous. Anticipating inquiries, we had 
prepared an elaborate brochure, "The Source of a Tip." In this, we 
explained how a tip originated (a tip on a fixed horse race), how a 

87 



"Yellou; Kid" Weil 

tip often was only a rumor, and how we, as owners of many of the 
nation's finest horses, could furnish genuine information better than 
anybody else. 

We listed two groups of horses: Horses We Formerly Owned and 
Horses We Now Own. The first was a bunch of dogs. But the second 
included many of the country's top winners. We had fixed that by 
making deals with the owners of these horses. For a consideration 
they had transferred ownership of the horses to Simpson and Weil, 
and we had transferred ownership back to them. In our vaults wc al- 
ways had papers to prove that we owned the horses we claimed as ours. 

The brochure further explained how we, as the owners of the most 
consistent winners, were in better position than anybody else to know 
just when these horses would win and what the odds would be. Wc 
proposed that the investor send us a hundred dollars to open an account. 
We would place bets for him on sure winners, using all or any part of 
his money. Every time we placed a bet, we would make a report of 
the amount placed and on what horse. We would mail the report im- 
mediately so that the investor could check with the postmark to deter- 
mine that his bet had actually been placed before the time of the race. 

We sent one of the brochures to everybody who answered our 
ad. In those days $100 was a lot of money and we hardly expected 
to find so many who had that much with which to speculate. But soon 
our mail was overwhelming. Remittances for $100 poured in. We 
had to take more space and enlarge our quarters. We put up cages 
and engaged cashiers and bookkeepers. To all outward appearances 
we had a real and prosperous bank. 

Here is the way we worked. We would put Mr. Smith (who had 
an account of $100 with us) down on a ten dollar bet on a horse that 
had won. As soon as we knew the horse had won, we mailed the 
report to Mr. Smith. Perhaps he checked the postmarks, but he prob- 
ably didn't. The main thing he did was to check back with the race 
results and learn that his horse had won. 

Wc kept Mr. Smith's account for a month. At the end of the 
month, we sent him a remittance for $125, with this explanation: 

"We are returning your original investment plus the earnings. 
Wc regret that the volume of our business makes it impossible to 
handle such small accounts. 

88 



The Get-Rich-Quick Bank 

We did the same thing to every account. Our letters only whetted 
the investor's appetite. If he had more money, he immediately wrote 
in to ask how much he would have to invest to have us handle his 
account. We replied that we could handle nothing under $500. The 
response to this was so great that we soon raised the minimum to 
$1,000. We had a few inquiries about taking larger investments — 
$5,000 or more. I usually went to see these people in person. 

Actually what we were doing was paying dividends on old ac- 
counts from the monies we received from new accounts — borrowing 
from Peter to pay Paul. The same scheme was used very successfully 
by some of the biggest swindlers in history. One man whose name I 
shall not mention had a few international reply coupons to show as 
physical assets and another man whose name I better not mention 
had a few power plants. But in both cases they depended on new 
money to pay dividends to the old accounts. We too had some assets. 
Chief among these was a horse-player who had made a study of 
horses and their past performances. We engaged him as our expert 
handicapper for he could predict winners pretty accurately. I some- 
times used a customer's money to bet on his advice. 

For example, he would figure out a good bet at 3 to 1. I would 
take $1,000 of a client's money and bet it on the horse. The win- 
nings would be $3,000. But I would write the customer that the 
horse had paid even money. My profit would be $2,000, the client's 
would be $1,000. I made enough of these bets so that anyone who 
chose to investigate could see that we were actually doing what we 
claimed in our advertising. 

But as soon as we had raised the minimum amount to $1,000, we 
instituted a service charge of ten dollars a month for each account. 
This eliminated the small fellows and the number of our accounts 
finally narrowed down to 400 large investors. From these alone we 
had an annual revenue of $480,000. I don't recall the total amount 
invested, but we continued to use capital funds to pay big dividends. 
We seldom reported to an investor that his horse had failed to win. 
But occasionally we reported a loser to every client. The reason for 
this was purely psychological. 

Perhaps I should explain that in those days there was no way the 
client could check up on how much his horse had won. The win, 

89 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

place, and show horses in each race were published in sport sections 
of the newspapers, but there was no pari-mutuel system. The onlv 
thing the customer could check on was the result. He could learn 
that his horse had won, but he had to take our word on the pay-off. 
Our enterprise became so prosperous that in time we came to refer 
to it as the "Get-Rich-Quick Bank." Both Romeo and I were getting 
rich quickly and I can't tell you how much we made. It was the 
same old story of easy come, easy go. We spent a great deal. It was 
not at all uncommon for me to squander as much as $1,000 in a night's 
festivity. 

I recall one incident that occurred in 1898 during the Spanish 
American war. 

Nick Langraf had a bookmaking establishment in the basement of 
Bathhouse John Coughlin's establishment. Diagonally across the street 
was the saloon of Powers and O'Brien, where a man I recall now 
only as Andy also made book. Next door was a barber shop. The 
barber chairs were in the front. In the rear of the shop was a large 
vacant space that extended to the rear of the building. In the rear was 
a freight elevator no longer in use. 

Nick had a prosperous business, fully equipped with Western Union 
wire service. One day a fellow named "Fats" Levine came to mc 
and suggested that we go into business "making book." He pointed 
out the large vacant space in the rear of the barber shop. 

"What about the wire service?" 

"We don't need that," he said. "If we could only get hold of a 
telephone." 

Then he outlined his plan, and I agreed to go in with him. All 
telephones were then of the wall type. We scouted around and finally 
found a telephone, which we "borrowed." Fats Levine affixed it to 
the wall (though it wasn't connected) and we were ready for business. 

I stood at the basement entrance to Nick Langraf's place and 
told all who were about to enter: "Nick is having his place redecorated 
and is temporarily closed. You can make your bets in the rear of 
the barber shop across the street." 

I succeeded in steering Nick's customers to our makeshift room 

90 



The Get-Rich-Quick Bank 

in the back of the barber shop. They went in and placed their bets 
with Fats Lcvinc, who stood at the phone and supposedly received 
the results. Of course nobody ever won. I saw to that. Andy, the 
bookmaker in Powers and O'Brien, got the results by ticker tape, 
and it was his custom to pass the tape along to the barber shop. 

I acted as Andy's messenger. But between the time I left him 
and my arrival in the barber shop I cut the tape and switched it in 
such a way that the winning horse always appeared to be second or 
third, while the place or show horse appeared to be the winner. Any- 
body who lost a bet to Fats had only to step up front to the barber 
shop to check up. 

We had one particularly good customer. He was an iceman who- 
had the entire Loop territory. His commissions were high and it 
was not uncommon for him to bet up to $1,000 a day. He never 
questioned the results until one day when he happened to go into 
Powers and O'Brien's for a drink after he had lost $800 to Fats. 
To his amazement he saw that Andy had posted his horse as the 
winner. 

He came storming back into our place where Fats stood in from 
of the telephone with the receiver in his hand. He grabbed Fats' 
collar and demanded an explanation. 

Fats started to explain that there had been a slight mix-up with 
the ticker tape. The iceman was ready to accept this explanation. But 
in earnestly trying to convince him, Fats stepped away from the 
phone, the receiver in his hand. The phone was attached only by a 
nail, and it came tumbling down. 

The iceman saw there was no connection and he appraised the 
situation at a glance. 

"Why, you two dirty — " 

Fats dropped the receiver and made a dash for the rear. I fol- 
lowed. The only exit was the freight elevator, which was not in 
operation. It stood empty. We scrambled to the top and began 
climbing up the elevator cables. We almost reached the next floor 
when the cables became greasy. We got the grease all over our hands 
and were stopped. We held on for a few moments, then gradually 
began to sHp. 

91 



'Tellow Kid" Weil 

The iceman was a big, husky brute. He waited for us with a 
murderous gleam in his eyes. As soon as we were within reach, he 
grabbed us, pulled us down and, handling us as if we were toys, cracked 
our heads together. Then he gave us both a good beating, recovered 
his money, and left. 

That ended our business. When Nick Langraf heard the story it 
answered the question in his mind: what had happened to all his 
customers .'' 

For two weeks after that we didn't go near the Loop. The in- 
cident was the occasion for a lot of fun in the saloons and pool rooms 
in the vicinity of Bathhouse John's. At that time Admiral Dewey 
was the most talked-of figure of the day. It was the custom for the Daily 
Inter-Ocean to send news bulletins relating to the war to the various 
Loop establishments. One such bulletin served as a model for the 
ribbing we took: 

"Admiral Dewey has just steamed into Manila Harbor." 

Various establishments added their own bulletins to this: 

"Admiral Weil and Commodore Levine were seen steaming near 
12th Street." 

That fiasco still affords me a chuckle. 

Fred Coyne owned a restaurant near the barber shop. I ate at his 
place regularly. 

Until the days of the Get-Rich-Quick Bank, I hadn't seen Coyne, 
though I knew he had become postmaster. One day his superintendent 
of delivery, Colonel Stewart, called at my office. The postmaster 
was curious to know what sort of business brought such a tremendous 
amount of mail. 

Of course, I didn't tell the postal representative all that we were 
doing. But I did give him the story of how we were able to get 
absolutely reliable inside tips. This was reported to Coyne, who came 
to see me. 

He was enthusiastic about the possibilities and offered to make an 
investment. I agreed to take him in as a silent partner. He didn't 
know that the fat dividends we were paying were skimmed from the 
money that was constantly coming in. 

92 



The Get-Rich-Quick Bank 

This money continued to flow in steadily. But both Romeo and I 
were so intent on having a good time that we became remiss in the 
matter of paying the investors. We began to get some beefs. 

Then one day the mail dwindled to a trickle. For several days 
there was practically none. I couldn't understand it, until my secre- 
tary told me what was happening. Romeo had become involved with 
several women. He had mistresses in half-a-dozen different places and 
was supporting them lavishly. 

"Mr. Simpson has been coming in early," my secretary said. "He's 
been getting the mail and taking the money." 

I was in a quandary. I called Fred Coyne and told him what had 
happened. Coyne decided to withdraw and advised that I do likewise. 

"Meanwhile," he said, "I'd suggest that you take up quarters some- 
where else and have the mail forwarded." 

Acting on this advice, I engaged a suite at the Stratford Hotel, 
taking my secretary with me. I said nothing to Romeo, but soon the 
shoe was on the other foot. I was getting all the firm's mail. Romeo, 
who had said nothing before, now wondered what had happened to 
our business. 

"Why the sudden concern.''" I inquired. "You've spent very little 
time around here for weeks. If you had been on the job, you would 
have known that we haven't been receiving many checks. Frankly, 
Romeo, I think we're through." 

There wasn't much Romeo could say to this. He had devoted 
very little time to the business. The complaints that began to come 
in were against me, not him. Those complaints were all from the 
wealthier investors — the little fellows had been paid ofl. 

And the heavy investors were the ones who remembered me. In 
every case I had gone to visit them when I learned of their interest 
and ability to invest large sums. 

Within a short time, Simpson and Weil, Bankers and Brokers, had 
folded up completely. 

Both Romeo and I had profited. Besides handsome salaries, we 
had reaped large dividends for the special benefit of Simpson and 
Weil. Romeo, who continued to be a playboy even after we entered 
the business, had squandered all his share. 

93 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

I had spend plenty too. But being the active partner, I had less time 
to devote to amusement and managed to save a tidy sum. 

Finally the complaints got into the hands of the police. I decided 
that an ocean voyage would be good for me. I told my wife I was 
going to Paris on business. 

I spent several months in Paris having a good time. In those days 
no passport was required and anybody who had the price of a steam- 
ship ticket could go abroad. I had learned German from my father 
and French from my mother. I now had an opportunity to put both 
to good use, particularly French. 

The nearest approach I made to business was in observing how 
the French loved the dollars they took from wealthy American tour- 
ists. A number of Americans I ran into used Letters of Credit to obtain 
funds in Paris. I learned all I could about Letters of Credit and later 
put this knowledge to profitable use. 

When my funds became depleted I decided to return to Chicago. 
I felt enough time had elapsed to allow the investors in the Get-Rich- 
Quick Bank to cool off and that it was safe for mc to go back. 



94 



9. Red Letter Days 



ON THE STEAMER RETURNING TO NEW YORK I MADE THE ACQUAIN- 
tance of a distinguished looking man widi a beard. 
I had noticed that he always dressed in a cutaway coat, 
usually banker's gray or wood brown, with striped trousers. He had a 
dignified, almost military, bearing. I decided he was a wealthy 
capitalist or a banker and that it would be to my advantage to cultivate 
his friendship. 

One day when he was standing at the rail I accosted him. 

"Pardon me, but could you give me a match?" 

"Of course," he replied. "And I shall be pleased if you will join 
me in smoking one of my special Havana cigars." 

He had taken out his cigar case and opened it. He offered me a 
cigar and I took it, noting that it was monogrammed with the letter 
B. I noted also that the cigars were of a rare and expensive quality. 

"Thank you," I murmured, taking one of the cigars. "My name is 
Weed — Walter H. Weed." 

"Ah, yes!" beamed the bearded man, "I've heard of Dr. Walter 
H. Weed, the famous mining engineer. It is indeed a pleasure to meet 
you. I am Captain Ball of Muncie, Indiana." 

"Glad to know you. Captain Ball," I said, grasping his hand. I 
knew quite well that Captain Ball was the head of the Ball Mason 
far company of Muncie, Indiana. I had nothing particular in mind at 
the time, but I felt it was worth my while to get acquainted with 
such a prominent — and wealthy — man. "On your way back to 
Muncie, now. Captain?" 

"Not immediately," he replied. "I expect to stop over in New 

95 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

York for a few weeks. There are some new Broadway shows I'd hkc 
to take in. And of course one has friends. And you?" 

"I'm afraid I must hurry on to Chicago," I said, ruefully. "I had 
a nice holiday in Paris — so nice, in fact, that I stayed longer than I 
should have. Now I must get back to my business." 

"Of course," said my companion. "One's business is often a cruel 
taskmaster, isn't it?" 

"It is in my case. But I always can manage to take a little time out 
to show the town to a friend. I do hope you'll look me up when you 
pass through Chicago on your way back to Muncie." 

"I'll be delighted to do that, old chap. If you'll give me your 
address — " 

He cut his sentence short when a man standing behind us let out a 
loud burst of laughter. We both turned to look at the fellow. I 
recognized him as Jack Mason, a veteran oceanic card shark, a regular 
rider on the liners between New York and Cherbourg. 

"Well, who's going to lose in this deal?" he inquired. 

"Sir," asked the bearded man haughtily, "Just what do you mean?" 

"Yes," I said. "What is the meaning of your strange outburst?" 

"You've both got a swell line," chuckled Mason, "and I enjoyed 
every bit of it. Tim," he said to the bearded man, "I want you to meet 
Joe Weil, better known as the Yellow Kid. Joe, I want you to shake 
hands with Tim North, con man and card shark de luxe." 

Neither of us carried the blufl any further. I dropped all pretense 
and proceeded to make friends with Tim North. He was indeed a 
master con man and succeeded in convincing many people that he 
was Captain Ball — just as he had almost convinced me. 

By the end of the voyage I knew Tim pretty well. He came of a 
good Wisconsin family and his uncle was a banker in Fond-du-Lac. I 
renewed my invitation that he look me up if he ever came to Chicago. 
When we parted in New York, I was not to see him again for several 
months, but he was destined to play a prominent part in my future 
activities. 

Back in Chicago I found that the Get-Rich-Quick Bank was all but 
forgotten and that I didn't have to worry about complaints. I was 
at loose ends but not broke, for my wife had saved most of the money 

96 



Red Letter Days 

I had given her. Money in my hands was Hke water, and I always 
gave a sizable amount to my wife, who invariably saved most of it. 

Q)n men of ability always have certain schemes that are saved for a 
rainy day — deals that are sure-fire and don't require too elaborate a 
build-up. These generally don't pay oft in big figures but they do help 
to tide one over dull periods. 

One of my favorites was the ring deal. I had a ring with a large 
diamond setting that any pawnbroker would value at $5,000. When I 
entered a saloon wearing this ring — as I frequently did — it usually 
caused envious glances and whispering. One night the idea struck me 
that here I could capitalize. 

I was in the Soft Spot on Jackson Boulevard, accompanied by a 
very attractive, red-haired young woman. The Soft Spot had a dining 
room adjacent to the barroom, and we took a table. I saw Jake Hogan, 
an old partner of mine, at the bar and motioned to him. 

He came over, and we conversed for a few minutes. When he 
returned to the bar, he was besieged with questions: "Who is he?" 

"He's young Morton, out for a lark," Hogan whispered. "But it 
would never do for his father to know he's here." 

"You mean his father is the Morton of Bense and Morton.^" 

"Sure. But don't repeat it. He doesn't want his identity known." 

Naturally word spread quickly. It got around to Phil Smart, the 
man who owned the place. Smart made it his business to cater to me, 
for it was not often that his place was patronized by the scion of such 
a wealthy family. 

The girl didn't know who I was. For all she knew, I really was 
young Morton. At least I was not stingy about food or champagne 
and spent money as if I had plenty. Smart, the owner, personally 
saw to it that we had the best of service. 

When we had completed our dinner, I excused myself and asked 
the proprietor if I could see him in private. He led the way to his office. 

"Mr. Smart," I said, "you have been very kind to me tonight. I 
wonder if you will do me another favor.?" 

"I'll be only too happy to do it, Mr. Morton." 

"But how did you know my name?" I asked, as if a little shocked. 

"Perhaps you are better known than you think." 

97 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Maybe you're right. That's all the more reason for my asking 
this favor of you. This ring," I said, removing the diamond, "is an 
heirloom and I wouldn't want to lose it." 

"How can I help?" 

"I plan to go to a — er — hotel with this young lady. Now I don't 
know her very well and I don't want to take a chance on losing the 
ring. I wonder if you would put it in your safe and keep it for me 
overnight .''" 

"Certainly," he replied. "I'll be glad to." 

So I left the ring with him. Perhaps I took the young woman out 
— perhaps I didn't. It didn't matter, for I did register at a near- 
by hotel. 

The following day I wrote a note to Smart, sealed it in an envelope, 
and had it taken to him by a bell boy. The note read: 

"Dear Mr. Smart: I find that I am in need of cash and I would 
appreciate it very much if you would take my ring to a pawnbroker 
and borrow about $500 on it." He learned the real value of the ring. 
That was the main purpose in having him borrow $500 on it. 

He put the money in an envelope, sealed it, and sent it to me by the 
bell boy. 

The following day I dropped around at the Soft Spot, thanked the 
man for his kindness, picked up the pawn ticket, and redeemed the 
ring. 

"Glad to help you any time I can," he said. 

That was the build-up. I built up three or four similar deals in a 
week's time at various other saloons. Every owner was impressed by 
the value of the ring, as well as by the name I used. Hogan usually 
helped me in each deal. I did not always pose as Morton. I let it be 
whispered that I was the son of various wealthy Chicagoans. 

Then on a Saturday evening I would visit all the places I had 
built up. I would spend perhaps an hour in each, then depart, sup- 
posedly for a hotel, leaving my ring in custody of the saloon owner. 

The following day, Sunday, I sent a bell boy with a note to each 
of the saloon owners with whom I had left a ring. Of course, each 
ring I had left had a beautiful paste imitation of the diamond I had 
worn for the build-up. 

98 



Red Letter Days 

I knew that the pawnshops were closed. I knew, also, that each of 
the saloons where I had left a ring had a safe with a good supply of 
cash on hand. Beforehand I had sized up each owner and had a pretty 
fair idea of how much he might be expected to have on hand. 

In some of the notes, I asked that the ring be sent out to a pawnshop 
for a loan of $500. In others, I asked $1,000. It all depended on the 
individual. I must have sized them up correctly, for in every instance 
the amount I asked for was sent. The saloon owner had already 
learned the value of the ring. Even though no pawnbroker was open, 
he advanced the money himself. After all, it isn't often that a saloon 
keeper has an opportunity to do a favor for the son of a multi- 
millionaire. 

This was a racket that could be \\orked only so often and no 
more. For one thing, I had to steer clear of the saloons where the 
owners had advanced the money : it took them only a few days to find 
out that they had paid money for a paste diamond. 

As I have said, this was a rainy day scheme. After I had got a few 
thousand from it, I turned to something else. 

One day Hogan and I ran into a fellow known as "Red Letter" 
Sullivan. He was a heavy-set, florid faced fellow, and his clothes were 
anything but tidy. He was an habitual drunkard. He had gained his 
nickname because he carried a fountain pen with red ink. Everything 
he wrote was in red. I don't know why — it was one of his peculiari- 
ties. 

When Sullivan was sober he was a whiz as a stock operator. He 
had an uncanny knowledge of Big Board stocks and could make ac- 
curate predictions about market trends. The trouble was it was almost 
impossible to keep him sober. 

Nevertheless, Hogan and I decided to try it. We formed a part- 
nership and took "Red Letter" Sullivan in with us. We rented the 
ground floor of the Western Union building, which fronted on La 
Salle Street and was not far from the Chicago Stock Exchange. 

We installed an impressive array of furniture and all the usual fix- 
tures of the office of a stock broker who is dealing in Big Board issues. 
This included ten telephones. Then we began hiring clerks and stenog- 
raphers who were experienced in stock offices. 

99 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

I knew a man named John Blonger in Denver. He owned some 
mining property he called the Copper Queen. The Copper Queen 
Mining Company had been incorporated by Blonger for $10,000,000. 
The company was authorized to issue a million shares of stock with 
a face value of ten dollars per share. 

As far as I know it was purely a stock-selling scheme. I don't 
believe there was ever any attempt to mine the property, although 
Blonger did own some property. In those days about all you needed 
to form a corporation was an excuse, an attorney, and $100. 

We made a deal with Old John, as we called him, to buy large 
blocks of his stocks at one cent per share. We acquired 100,000 shares. 
There was no law to prevent our selling it for whatever price we could 
get. 

There was a lot of worthless stock on the market then. On fifth 
Avenue (now Wells Street), in the old Medinah Temple building, 
was a wildcat exchange where you could buy large blocks of such 
stock for only a few cents a share. We acquired a supply of various 
issues at these prices. 

We were also equipped to purchase Big Board stock, if the need 
arose. As a matter of fact, we did occasionally place an order for good 
stock for a client — for the sake of appearances. 

Then we began to publish a weekly magazine called The Red 
Letter. "Red Letter" Sullivan was the editor and wrote most of the 
stufT analyzing trends in the market. The Red Letter was sent to a 
selected list of clients — mostly professional men like doctors, dentists 
and lawyers — who had money to invest. The magazine was printed 
entirely in red ink. 

Red Letter Sullivan wrote authentic and up-to-date news about 
trends in the better stocks. It was my job to write glowing accounts 
of the prospects for the Copper Queen or for any other stock we 
decided to feature. 

Hogan and I worked mostly by telephone. We would take the 
telephone book and start on physicians. To give you an example of 
how we worked, I'll relate the story of Dr. Johnson. 

"Dr. Johnson?" I started the conversation. 

"Yes." 



TOO 



Red Letter Days 

"This is Hogan, Weil, and Sullivan, stock brokers. I understand that 
you are interested in making a good investment. Is that correct?" 

"Well, yes," Dr. Johnson replied. "I do have a little money I'd like 
to put in a gilt-edged stock." 

"I believe we can work together to our mutual advantage. We 
have some advance — and strictly confidential — information that 
Standard Oil of New Jersey is to merge with a large Pennsylvania oil 
company. Holders of Standard Oil stock will profit a great deal by 
the merger. I'd suggest that you buy as many shares of Standard Oil 
as you can afford." 

"How much is it selling for now?" 

"Twenty-seven fifty a share is the current price. How many shares 
would you like?" 

"Oh, possibly ten shares, which would be $275, wouldn't it?" 

"Yes." 

"That's about all I can afford now." 

"Shall we buy it for you?" 

"Don't you want the money first?" 

"Oh, we can carry the transaction," I replied. "We'll order the 
stock at once before the market price changes. You can drop a check 
in the mail and we'll get it tomorrow." 

"Do you trust everybody?" 

"Of course not. But one of your standing — well, that's different. 
We know you are trustworthy." 

"Thank you," said the doctor. "I'll mail you my check right away." 

Everybody is flattered by the thought that he has good standing in 
the community. Besides, we didn't have anything to lose on the deal. 
We didn't buy the Standard Oil stock, whether or not we got the 
check. If we failed to get the check, we just forgot about it. But in 
most cases the check came in promptly. In some cases where the 
victim didn't have a bank account we sent a messenger to pick up the 
cash. 

The first step after completing the call was to send a copy of The 
Red Letter to Dr. Johnson. Having invested his money he was na- 
turally interested in stocks. He couldn't help seeing how the Copper 
Queen was featured as the best buy of the year. 

101 



'Tellou; Kid" Weil 

When we had received the doctor's check for $275 we had a book- 
keeper enter it to his credit. But we held off buying any stock for him. 
Instead, a day or two later, one of us called him again. 

"A hitch has developed and the merger has been postponed in- 
definitely," I told him. "I think you could make a better investment. 
We can dispose of the Standard Oil stock we bought for you and give 
you a better deal in the Copper Queen." 

"I read about that," Dr. Johnson replied. "What do you think about 
it?" 

"I think it is the best stock on the market today. The prospect is 
for a boom in copper and I think the owners of Copper Queen stock 
are likely to make a killing." 
"What's the price of Copper Queen .f^" 

"The par value is ten dollars per share. But by a fortunate ar- 
rangement with the corporation, we have a small block of this stock 
that we can dispose of at five dollars per share. My advice to you 
is that you let us sell your Standard Oil and buy Copper Queen. With 
no additional cost to you, we can buy seventy-five shares of Copper 
Queen." 

"I'll think it over and let you know," 

"I feel I should tell you," I said, "that our supply is limited. And 
we can't guarantee that this low price will continue." 

"Oh, all right," said Dr. Johnson. "Sell my Standard Oil and get 
me the mining stock." 
"Very well, Doctor. I shall see that the matter is attended to at once." 
That was just one of many such deals. We hired additional tele- 
phone men and put them to \york on the prospects. Within a few 
weeks we had an office personnel of seventy-five people. The tele- 
phones were kept busy by our solicitors, who went through the tele- 
phone book, calling all categories of professional men. 

Hogan and I devoted our time to the executive end of the business 
— and to keeping Red Letter Sullivan in line. We still needed his bona- 
fide stock market analyses with which to surround our own articles of 
high praise for the stocks we were peddling. 

In nearly every instance our solicitors talked the customers into 
switching to the Copper Queen or some such stock after having placed 

102 



Red Letter Days 

an order for Standard Oil or A. T. and T. Hogan and I talked only 
to the clients who were hard to convince. 

There were not very many of these. It doesn't seem reasonable that 
people would be so gullible. I have often marveled at the number 
who seem to be waiting for someone to come along and take their 
money. Beyond the normal, greedy desire to make easy money or to 
get something for nothing I can't explain it. But I do know that this 
gullibility exists — and works. 

In those early days, 1 didn't have time to stop and wonder why 
people could be taken in so easily. Having learned that they could be 
I used the knowledge to full advantage. Hogan and I, through The 
Red Letter and our telephone solicitations, sold many thousands in 
worthless stocks before complaints began to come in. 

Incidentally, our use of a string of telephones was the beginning of 
the "boiler rooms" that still exist. In later years the boiler rooms 
were used to solicit sales of stocks and various other items. Today^ 
their principal use is for solicitation of donations to charitable in- 
stitutions or to further the cause of some politician. 

We ran our stock business and published The Red Letter for several 
months before the "heat" became so intense that we had to close. Wc 
had operated within the law, but our clients soon learned that they 
could expect no return from their stock investments. 

It was shortly after this that Hogan, who had been involved in a 
number of wire-tapping schemes and was sought in several cities, 
decided that he had made enough money to retire. He went to Paris, 
bought a villa and, so far as I know, never returned to America. 

One day I was walking along Jackson Boulevard when I almost 
bumped into Phil Smart, upon whom I had worked the ring deal. 
I didn't see him until I noticed suddenly that a redheaded Irishman 
with a burly figure blocked my path. For a moment we stood there 
facing each other. It must have been a sight. We both had red hair. 
Smart's face, normally red, was livid. Ordinarily he spoke good Eng- 
lish, but now, greatly excited, he spoke with a rich Irish brogue. 

"So," he said, "'tis the son of Morton ye are. *Tis the likes of ye, 
ye thievin' scoundrel, that makes honest men commit murder. Wait 
until I get me hands on ye!" 

103 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 



My complexion is normally red, too. But now it was as white 
as chalk. For a moment I had been rooted to the spot. But as the big 
Irishman made a lunge for me, I ducked, turned a corner, and didn't 
stop until I saw that Smart, still red and puffing, had given up the 
chase. But I doubt if he ever did forget the $1,000 he had paid for one 
of my paste diamonds. 



104 



10. Millionaires and Murder 



I WENT INTO A SALOON AND STARTED FOR THE BAR. A HAND REACHED OUT 
and detained me. I turned and recognized George Gross, a former 
boxer, who had helped me with various deals. 
"Too bad we didn't know about you when we had the foot races," 
he said, laughing. "I bet we could have cleaned up a lot of money 
on you." 

I gave Gross a withering look and strode on up to the bar. 
"Whiskey and soda," I ordered. Then as I calmed down I saw a 
man with Gross. He was a bearded person in a cutaway coat and 
banker's gray trousers. 
"Hello, Joe," he called, sticking out his hand. 

"Tim North! Glad to see you," I replied. "What are you doing in 
Chicago?" 

"I'm on my way to Galesburg," he said. "But I stopped off to see 
you." 
"What's up?" 

"We've got Galesburg fixed for the fights," he said, "and we need 
a good steerer. Suppose we go somewhere and talk it over." 

Tim North's scheme had started with fixed foot races, which had 
been promoted on Saturdays in small towns in Missouri. The farmers 
came to town and, looking for amusement, they were easy victims of 
the fixed foot races, originated by a couple of old-time track stars. 

Gross had worked the fixed foot races in various towns in the 
Middle West. Then he met North and between the two of them they 
cooked up the fight racket. By comparison with the fights, the foot 
races were peanuts. 

105 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Boxing as an amateur sport was permissible in gymnasiums in 
Illinois and other states at that time. But in many states, prize fighting 
was illegal. All prize fighting in Illinois was done under cover, much 
of it in private gymnasiums. 

Nevertheless there was a wide interest in the sport, particularly in 
betting on the outcome, and that was the basis for the racket. North 
had contacted certain officials in Galesburg and for a reasonable fee 
had arranged that there would be no interference from the police. 
Galesburg soon became known throughout the country as a "fixed 
town." 

North was building up an organization but needed a few more good 
men. I suggested Big Joe Kelly, whose main asset was his impressive 
appearance; Jack Carkcek, a wrestler; Old Man Parsons, a con man; 
and a boxer known as Jack the Kid. North took them all into his 
outfit. 

He offered me 50 per cent of the proceeds of any deal that I 
steered to him and helped carry through, and I accepted. But I needed 
a little help, too. I lined up a heavyweight fighter named Sol Frost and 
made a deal with George Gross. Both worked for me on numerous 
occasions when we fixed a fight. 

Generally I tried to find a wealthy prospect who was interested in 
prize fighting. But on several occasions my victims knew nothing of 
boxing. In every case, however, they were rich and were trying to 
add to their fortunes without risking anything. 

Such a man was Sam Geezil. I met him legitimately when I went 
to look at a two-story apartment building in South Union Avenue 
which he had offered for sale. My wife and I had looked over the 
property and decided to buy, if we could get it for a reasonable figure. 

Geezil's original price was $7,200. He would accept $3,500 down and 
the balance in easy payments. I had practically made up my mind to 
buy the building when one day I ran into George Gross in Hannh 
and Hogg's saloon on Madison Street. I told him I was dickering for 
the building. 

"Geezil?" said George. "Not Sam Geezil.^" 

"Yes. Why.?" 

"Do you know who he is.''" Gross asked excitedly. 

"No. Who is he.?" 

106 



Millionaires and Murder 

"Well, he's a millionaire, for one thing. He used to own the Geczil 
Express and Storage Company. He just sold out last week for 
1825,000 — cash." 

"That's a lot of money." I studied Gross. A light was dancing in 
his eyes. "What have you got in mind?" 

"He's an old man, Joe. A man his age hasn't got any use for all 
that money. Do you suppose he would go for the fight,?" 

"It's worth trying," I replied. "I'm on my way out to sec him now. 
I was going to close the deal for that building, but I'll lay a Httlc 
groundwork first. You wait for me here." 

Sam Geezil was a heavy-set German, past middle age. He had 
devoted practically all his years to the accumulating of money and 
I doubt if there had been much fun in his life. Even now when he 
was trying to swing this business deal with me, he should have been 
in Florida or California for his health. He had recently undergone 
an abdominal operation and still hobbled about on a stick. 

"Well, have you decided to buy the building?" he asked. 

"I don't know. How much would you let me have it for if I paid 
cash?" 

"I would knock ofl the $200," he replied. "But I don't care whether 
I have it all in cash or not. If you pay half down, then the mortgage will 
be a good investment at 6 per cent." 

"I'd rather pay it all down," I said. "If you can wait a day or two I 
can get the money." 

"Eh?" he rejoined — he was interested in any transaction involving 
money. "How can you make money so fast?" 

"I have to make a trip to Milwaukee," I replied. "A distant rela- 
tive of mine and I have a business deal of importance to negotiate. I 
expect to profit handsomely." 

"What kind of a transaction is it?" he asked. 

"I am sorry, but I cannot discuss it. It is a matter that has to be 
kept confidential — for the time being." 

"I wish you luck, my boy," he said cordially. 

"Thank you, Mr. Geezil. I will return in a day or two with the 
money. Then my wife's dream will be realized. She will have a home 
of her own." 

Instead of going to Milwaukee, I went to Hannh and Hogg's and 

107 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

met Gross. I told him of what had happened. He agreed to act as my 
fighter if the old man went for my story. 

George had once been a good middleweight boxer. But now he 
was past his prime, and wine and beer had taken a toll. He was 
becoming paunchy, but he could still box. 

I waited three days before calling again on Sam Geezil. 

"Welcome back," he said, shaking my hand. "Did you have a 
successful trip?" 

"Unfortunately, no," I replied. "The person I went to see wanted 
to keep the greater part of the profits." 

"What sort of a deal is it?" he asked. 

"I'm not supposed to discuss this with you without my uncle's per- 
mission," I replied. "I hope you will respect my confidence." 

"You can depend on Sam Geezil," he assured me. 

"My uncle, who is a very brilliant man," I told him, "is private 
secretary to a coterie of millionaires who have vast holdings in electric 
roads, coal mines, municipal bonds, and diversified investments. They 
travel about the country in a private railroad car — a palace on wheels. 

"Not only arc they big-scale financial operators, but they are also 
sportsmen who are interested in hunting, fishing, and the fight game, 
on which they love to wager large sums. Traveling with them is a 
physical culture man, a boxer. They have matched him in mining 
camps over the country and have made vast sums of money betting 
on the outcome of the fights. All the monies, of course, were in 
private wagers." 

"Coal mining camps?" he asked. 

"Sometimes. But they also have holding in copper, gold, and silver 
mines. Sometimes their wagers run into astronomical figures. It 
is not unusual for them to have a miUion dollars on a fight. Their 
fighter has won consistently and they've made millions betting on him, 
but all he gets is a sm.all salary." 

"Don't they ever give him any of the winnings?" 

"Not one cent. As a matter of fact, this boxer's sister is tubercular 
and he has become morose over his inability to send her to the proper 
climate. He sought a small loan from the millionaires and they flatly 

108 



Millionaires and Murder 

refused. On top of that, one of them insulted him one day by asking 
him to shine his shoes. He has sworn that he will get even with them 
in some way." 

"What was the deal.?" 

"Several years ago," I replied, "this group of financiers bought a 
three-thousand-acre tract of marshland on the Illinois River. They 
used it for a shooting preserve. They built a lodge and clubhouse and 
had many good times there. 

"During the season the ducks were so thick you could reach out and 
get them with a stick. The club members had a set rule that when 
they were shooting ducks everybody had to congregate at the clubhouse 
at midday. 

"One day while they were there," I continued, "everybody showed 
up at midday except one of the financiers and the doctor who had 
gone out with him in a boat. Alarmed by the absence of these two 
men, the others organized a searching party. 

"It was not until the following morning that they learned what had 
happened. The boat had capsized and the financier had been drowned. 
The doctor had clung to a stump and that's where his fellow members 
found him. 

"The loss of their friend and companion so saddened them that they 
never returned to the lodge. They ordered my uncle, their secretary, 
to dispose of the tract for whatever he could get. 

"The property lay untouched for a few years. Then one day my 
uncle received a letter from a banker in a near-by town inquiring 
if the land was for sale. Stimulated by his interest, my uncle went 
to inspect the property. 

"He was amazed to find that a large company which owned the 
adjoining property had ditched and tilled their land. The result was 
this swampy land had drained, leaving three thousand acres of very 
rich farm land, the current price of which was from $300 to $500 per 
acre. 

Mr. Geezil listened with rapt attention. As a matter of fact the rich 
farm land in the vicinity I had described actually was selling at $300 
to $500 per acre, and he knew it. 

109 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"My uncle had been ordered to sell for whatever he could get," I 
went on. "Any loss would be inconsequential to the owners. He kept 
his discovery to himself and got to thinking. Since his employers had 
treated the physical culture man so shabbily, it was very likely that my 
uncle could expect no better treatment from them. He concluded he 
might as well take care of himself and feather his own nest. 

"My purpose in going to Milwaukee was to meet a certain person 
and have him contact my uncle at a certain place. He was to negotiate 
with my uncle for the purchase of the property at $50 an acre, which 
would be $150,000. However, the land is worth $900,000. 

"The mission of the Milwaukee man was to meet my uncle, who 
would give him sufficient money to purchase an option on the land at 
$50 an acre. He was then to sell the property to the banker for $300 
an acre. The profits were to be divided 50 per cent to my uncle and 
50 per cent to the Milwaukee man and myself. 

"But the Milwaukee man was too greedy. He insisted that he get 
50 per cent and that my uncle pay my share out of the remaining 50 
per cent. I would not agree to this and broke of? negotiations. Now 
my uncle and I must find a new principal." 

"Why not let me do this negotiating for you?" asked Mr. Geezil. 

"That's very kind of you," I replied. "For my part, I'd like to have 
you in the deal but we need a very wealthy man who appears to have 
some good reason for buying the land." 

"Do you know what I'm worth?" he demanded. 

"Why, no. I know you own that $7,000 building. But — " 

"Young man, Sam Geezil is worth more than a million dollars!" 

"Is that so?" I acted polite, but incredulous. This made him all 
the more anxious to convince me of his wealth. 

"I can sec you don't believe me," he said. "Did you ever hear of 
the Geezil Express and Storage Company?" 

"Of course," I replied. "Who hasn't?" 

"Well, I'm the Geezil who owned that business. I just sold it last 
week — for $825,000. What do you think of that?" 

"Why — why — " For a moment I pretended to be dazed while 
this stupendous news soaked in. Then: "Mr. Geezil, I am sorry if I 
have misjudged you. But, of course, I had no idea — " 

110 



Millionaires and Murder 

"Oh, that's all right," he assured me. "No harm done. Now, do 
you think I would put up a suitable front to negotiate the deal with 
those millionaires?" 

"Certainly you would. But I don't know what my uncle would say 
about it. After all, he has the final word in the matter." 

"Well," he urged, "why don't you ask him?" 

"Frankly," I replied, "I'm afraid of what my uncle would say if he 
knew that I had divulged the facts to anybody without his consent." 

"All right," he declared, "I know a way around that. Don't tell him 
I know the whole thing. Just take me to meet him and let him invite 
me into the deal." 

"I don't know," I said hesitantly. 

"Where are you to meet your uncle?" 

"Out of town," I replied evasively. 

Geezil continued to ply me with questions. As I become more vague 
and reluctant, he became more enthusiastic. He gave me all sorts o£ 
reasons why he would be a good intermediary. I let him plead with 
me for an hour. 

Inwardly I was chuckling at this money-mad millionaire who was 
begging me to lead him to the slaughter. He would enter any kind of 
scheme to make money. Gradually I weakened before his arguments 
and finally relented. 

"Mr. Geezil," I said, "you have convinced me that you are the right 
man for this deal. I will take you to my uncle, but I cannot guarantee 
that he will accept you." 

"I'll take that chance," he said. "Just arrange the meeting. And 
let's not lose any time." 

The following day I told Geezil that the meeting had been arranged, 
and we took the train for Galesburg. George Gross went with us. 

"George is a very promising fighter," I explained. "I'm his trainer 
and I'm taking him along to see that he keeps in shape and doesn't 
break his training rules." 

It was apparent that he knew nothing about sports. He took no 
notice of Gross's obvious age and his gray hairs. Nor did the old man 
seem to think it strange that a boxer should be making the trip with us. 

We registered at the best hotel in Galesburg and engaged two large 

111 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

connecting rooms. Geezil occupied one and George and I the other. 

As soon as we were settled I said, "You'd better get some rest. I'll 
go over to my uncle's office and see if he will do business with you." 

George disrobed and got into his boxing trunks. 

"What's he going to do?" Geezil asked. 

Gross was standing in front of the mirror punching at an imaginary 
opponent. 

"Oh, he shadow boxes," I explained. "That's part of his training 
schedule. Just don't pay any attention to it." 

The millionaire shook his head and went into his room to rest. 

The town of Galesburg was still fixed with all the law enforcement 
officers. Tim North who had his office in a building not far from the 
hotel had paid them to ignore our activities. 

Tim posed as Mr. Worthington, my uncle, private secretary to the 
group of capitalists. He was an impressive-looking fellow, with his 
beard, striped trousers and cutaway coat. 

Old Man Parsons also wore a beard. He was tall and slender, 
dressed in a frock coat, and looked like a man of distinction. He posed 
as Mr. Mortimer, a financier. 

Tom Muggins, who was a heavyweight wrestler, was broad of 
shoulder and had a fine figure. He wore a van Dyke beard and posed 
as a wealthy physician. Dr. Jackson. 

In appearance Joe Kelly was probably the most impressive of the lot. 
He was over six feet tall, big and stout without being fat, and had a 
nice face. He too wore a beard and a frock coat. The worst difficulty 
with Joe was that his grammar was atrocious. If he ever opened his 
mouth, you knew at once that he was a native of Chicago's West Side 
who had little, if any schooling. We called him a "dese, dem, and 
dose" guy. For that reason he was instructed to say nothing. His 
silence impressed the suckers all the more. He appeared to be a big 
man who tolerated small talk in a whimsical way but took no part in it 
himself. 

Phil Barton was an old faro-bank dealer from Chicago. He was 
tall, bearded, slender, and was formally attired. He posed as Judge 
Barry, an eminent jurist. Actually he was a man with a small mind 
and small ideas and was out of place in our group. 

112 



Millionaires and Murder 

Jim Andrews was another of our "financiers." Mr. Howard was a 
fictional member of the group but always missing because he was 
ailing. This mythical invalid was necessary to our plan. 

When I entered their offices, they were seated around a table playing 
whist. 

"Welcome!" called North. "Who have you got?" 

"Tim," I said, "I have a man in the hotel who is a millionaire. He 
has $825,000 in actual cash from the sale of his business. I think we 
can take half a million dollars or maybe more from him. But I want 
you to do exactly as I say." 

"Of course I will, Joe," he replied. 

I should explain here that there were several other setups like Tim 
North's in the Middle West. While I usually steered my victims to 
him in Galesburg, I could have taken them to any of the other fight 
setups on the same terms — 50 per cent of the take as my share. 

I should also explain our terminology. We would either "establish" 
or "send" every victim. This necessitated a fixed bank, which we had 
in Galesburg. Very few of the victims ever went to Galesburg with a 
great deal of money. 

To "establish" a man, we asked him to go to the local bank and have 
a specified sum withdrawn from his own bank and transferred to his 
account in the local bank. Once we had done this we definitely es- 
tablished the amount we could take from him. 

But to "send" a man meant that we asked him to go to the local 
banker and identify himself. We left the amount open. The banker 
would find out for us how much the victim was good for. 

"I want you to send this man," I stated. "Don't establish him 
under any circumstances." 

"That's agreeable to us, Joe," he said. "What's his name?" 

"Sam Geezil." I then related all that had happened. "You come 
over to the hotel in a little while and meet him. But if you try to 
establish him, I'll take him somewhere else." 

When I got back to the hotel Geezil was sitting up in bed watching 
Gross at his calisthenics. He motioned to me. I went over and sat 
down on the edge of the bed. 

"That fellow there — he worries me. Every few minutes he jumps 

113 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

up from where he is sitting, and starts punching at the air." 

"He's got to keep in shape for a match on the Pacific Coast," I ex- 
plained. "Just ignore him." I could have told George to cut it our 
and he would have been only too happy to do so, but his apparent ec- 
centricity was a necessary part of the plan I had carefully worked out. 

"Did you see your uncle.''" Geezil asked. 

"Yes. And I have some good news for you. He has agreed to ac- 
cept you to transact the deal." 

"When are we going to get started?" 

"Today. He will be over as soon as he can get away from his office." 

While we waited we discussed prize fighting. I told him about 
Gross, the big bouts he had won, what bright prospects he had for the 
future. Periodically George jumped up and went into his shadow-box- 
ing routine. He made each routine very short however, for he was 
such a heavy beer drinker that he soon became winded. 

After a short interval my "uncle" appeared. I introduced him as "Mr. 
Worthington." 

"Mr. Geezil," he said, "I don't know how far my nephew has gone 
with you in this transaction. I cautioned him not to go too far because 
of my position and standing with the men I represent." 

He then proceeded to relate all that I had told him about the hunt- 
ing preserve, the reason for selling it, and its great increase in value. 

My uncle continued, "I don't know whether you have a bank ac- 
count or not — " 

"Of course I have a bank account," Geezil interrupted anxiously. 
"It's at the Englewood National in Chicago. If you want to check up 
you can communicate with the president of the bank." 

"Here is what I suggest," said Tim. "Go to the local bank and draw 
on your bank in Chicago for say $35,000. Have it placed to your 
credit here. 

"Mr. Geezil," he continued, "I could give you that money and 
have you deposit it to your credit. But that would not protect me. The 
only purpose in having your own money actually transferred from 
your own bank to this one in Galesburg is this: if it should happen in 
the future that my people learn of the value of the properly and want 
to know why it had been sold so low, I can say I know nothing of the 

114 



Millionaires and Murder 

property whatsoever; that you had approached me and were wiUing to 
pay the price they had paid for it; and that you had transferred your 
own money to the bank in Galesburg. This would prevent them from 
learning of my collusion in the matter. 

"The day that you purchase this option," North continued, "I want 
you to draw your money out of the Galesburg bank and have it trans- 
ferred back to your own bank." 

The idea that the money would eventually find its way back to his 
own bank served to allay any suspicions Geezil might have. 

When Tim had gone I asked him what he was going to do. 

"There's only one thing to do," he replied, "and that is what your 
uncle suggested." 

We walked down to the bank and Geezil talked to the president. 
He produced his credentials. 

"I'll be glad to attend to it, Mr. Geezil," said the banker. "I'll call 
you at the hotel as soon as I have some word on it." 

We thanked him and left. The old gentleman, tired because of his 
recent operation, went back to the hotel. I went over to the offices of 
the pseudo-milHonaires. They were waiting for me. 

"Tim," I declared, "what in the name of creation ever possessed 
you to establish that man? I've got a notion to take him away." 

"Joe," he replied, "I didn't know you smoked the pipe." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Well, you must, because you're having pipe dreams. That man 
doesn't have a nickel!" 

"Who told you that?" I demanded. 

"Barton. He knows a lot more about suckers than you do. He's 
acquainted with this Geezil and he's poorer than either of you." 

"Is that so! Well, I happen to know he just got $825,000 from the 
sale of his business." 

"Yeah," said Barton. "But did you know his wife is divorcing him?" 

"No." 

"Well, she is, and she's tied up every penny of his money." 

I didn't know what to say to that. There was a chance that he was 
right. I returned to the hotel somewhat confused, wondering if Geezil 
had lied to me. 

115 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Gross was going through his routine again and the other man was 
lying on the bed, watching him nervously. 

"Did you see your uncle?" he asked. 

"Yes. Mr. Geezil, this transaction at the banks — are you sure your 
banker will respond?" 

"Certainly. Does your uncle have some doubts about me?" 

"No, of course not. I guess I'm just a little overanxious. This is my 
chance to make a killing. And I've always wanted to own my own 
home. I'd hate to go back and tell my wife there wasn't going to be 
any new home." 

"Don't let that worry you," he replied. "The amount I asked for is 
insignificant. I've got nearly a million dollars on deposit there." 

Just then the telephone rang. I answered it. 

"Mr. Geezil?" 

"Yes," I replied. 

"This is the bank. Your money is here any time you want it." 

"Thank you," I said and hung up. "It was the bank," I told the old 
man. "They've got your money." 

"I knew they'd get it," he replied. 

"My uncle thought maybe I was a little overenthused about you. I'd 
like to have you draw that money out and show it to him." 

He didn't much like the idea of walking to the bank again but he 
wanted the deal to go through and agreed. After we got the money, I 
told him: 

"Tomorrow will be a very strenuous day for you. I think you'd 
better go to the hotel and rest. I'll take the money over and show it 
to my uncle." 

"All right," he agreed. "I am worn out." 

He handed me the money, done up in a neat bundle of large bills, 
and I slipped it into my pocket. He went back to the hotel and I called 
again at North's office. 

"Tim," I said, "I owe you an apology. That man hasn't got it and 
can't get it." 

Barton jumped up and shouted, "What did I tell you?" 

I reached into my pocket, withdrew the sheaf of bills and handed 
them to North. "Would you mind counting this money for me, Tim?" 

116 



Millionaires and Murder 

He counted it, then stood regarding me in amazement. 

"Jeez!" he said. "Where did you get this?" 

"Geezil got it from the bank," I repUed. "I've never seen a man 
get money so quickly from out of town." 

All eyes turned on Barton, They knew that if he hadn't insisted 
that Geezil's money was tied up, Geezil wouldn't have been established 
and we might have been able to take a great deal more from him. 

Muggins jumped up and gave Barton the worst beating I've ever 
seen a man take. He whined for mercy, but Tim said, "You get out 
and don't ever come back." Muggins caught the blubbering Barton by 
the collar and pulled him to the door, then kicked him down the stairs. 

"Just wait," he whined, "I'll get even with you for this!" 

We laughed at him and promptly forgot about him. 

When I returned to the hotel I showed Geezil that I still had the 
money. 

"My uncle is convinced, all right. He has no more doubts. Now I 
think we'd all better turn in early, because we have a strenuous day 
ahead." 

The following morning my uncle was at the hotel early. 

"You are to be prepared to meet the wealthiest men in the United 
States," he said. "I don't want you to act out of the ordinary. Just be 
yourselves. After all, they are only human, no better than you or I. 
When you get the option," he said to Geezil, "I want you to be sure 
that you dispose of it at not less than $300 an acre." 

That was agreed, and presently the pseudo-millionaires came in. My 
uncle introduced them, and Mr. Geezil beamed at the thought of mix- 
ing with so much wealth. 

"Mr. Geezil would like to buy an option on your hunting preserve," 
my uncle explained. 

"Haven't we sold that yet, Tim?" Mr. Mortimer asked, as if he 
really didn't keep up with such trivial matters. 

"No," Tim replied. "I've been trying to make the best deal possible. 
After all, your investment — " 

"Hang the investment!" Dr. Jackson exclaimed. "We don't care 
about that since poor Horace lost his life at the accursed place. Isn't 
that the way you feel, Joe?" 

117 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Yes," the other repHed and said no more. 

"It's the way we all feel about it," muttered Mr. Andrews. "But 
naturally we would expect to get our original investment out of it." 

"Mr. Geezil is willing to pay $50 an acre," my uncle offered. "That 
was the original price." 

"Yes," said Geezil. "I'm going to use it for a hunting club and sell 
memberships." 

"An excellent idea," approved Mr. Mortimer. "I think there can 
be no objection to selling him an option. Do you gentlemen agree?" 

The others readily agreed, and my uncle was directed to act as their 
agent. 

"You can deal with Mr. Worthington," said Dr. Jackson. "And I 
for one wish you luck in your new venture." 

"There's just one detail that has to be settled," my uncle hesitated. 
"That's the abstract. It will take me two or three days to have that 
drawn up." 

Geezil hadn't quite expected this, but he knew enough about real 
estate to realize the deal couldn't be completed without an abstract, so 
he made no objection. 

There was a lull in the conversation. Just then Gross jumped up 
and started going through his shadow boxing routine. 

"Say," Dr. Jackson commented, "that man looks like a fighter." 

"Yes," I replied. I motioned to George and he came romping 
over to where we sat. "I want you gentlemen to meet George Gross. 
He is preparing for a bout on the Pacific Coast. I am his trainer." 

"How interesting," said Mr. Mortimer. "While we're waiting for 
that abstract, maybe we can arrange a match. We own a fighter, you 
know." 
'"Is that so.''" I said. "Who is your fighter?" 

"Jack the Kid." 

"I've heard of him and I think my man can beat him." 

"There's just one way to find out," challenged Dr. Jackson. 

"The match can be arranged," I said, "provided you gentlemen are 
prepared to make a substantial wager." 

"Nothing I can think of that we would like better," said Mr. 
Mortimer. "Tim, you draw up the articles of agreement." 

118 



Millionaires and Murder 

With that the milHonaires departed, leaving North behind. As soon 
as they had left he whirled and faced me angrily. 

"Who do you think you arc?" he demanded. "Where will you get 
the money to bet? You know they wager hundreds of thousands on 
the fights." 

"I know what I'm doing, Uncle," I replied. "Mr. Geczil hasn't 
paid over his $35,000 yet. We can put $15,000 with that and have 
$50,000 to wager." 

"And how," my uncle asked sarcastically, "do you propose to cover 
hundreds of thousands with $50,000?" 

"By pyramiding the bets," I replied. "Did you ever hear of that?" 

"No, I don't understand what you mean." 

"It's simply a matter of arrangement. You can have yourself desig- 
nated as the stakeholder, can't you?" 

"Yes, that will be easy enough." 

"All right, here is the way it will work." I explained my plan in 
detail. Geezil listened attentively and did not bat an eye at the 
crookedness of the scheme. 

"Is that satisfactory to you?" my uncle asked him. 

"Perfectly," replied this law-abiding, respected member of his com- 
munity. "There's just one thing. How can we be sure that Gross 
will win?" 

"Jack the Kid has been looking for an opportunity to get even with 
these men," Tim replied. He then told the story about the fighter's 
tubercular sister. "I'll get him over here and we'll have an understand- 
ing with him." 

All this was what we called the switch. We had switched Gcezil's 
interest from the original deal to the boxing match. The switch is an 
important part of nearly all good confidence games. 

Tim sat down and wrote out the articles of agreement. These pro- 
vided for a fight to the finish between the two boxers; for a purse of 
$500,000; that Mr. Worthington, my supposed uncle, was to be the 
referee and stakeholder; that if either side failed to put up its share of 
the purse, any monies wagered would be forfeited; that cither side 
would be given twenty-four hours in which to raise its share of the 
purse. The match was to be staged in a private gymnasium. 

119 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

Next we contacted the other boxer — who was waiting to be called 
— and arranged for him to throw the fight. He and Gross rehearsed 
the bout up there in the hotel room. They made it look realistic for 
five rounds. The Kid was to take a dive in the sixth. To Geezil the 
setup was foolproof. 

When the millionaires returned to the hotel the stage was all set. 
Mr. Worthington sat at a table inside the communicating room which 
Geezil had occupied. The old man sat at a desk in front of Worthing- 
ton. In front of him was Gross at another table. 

On the other side of the room was a larger table around which chairs 
had been drawn. The capitalists were seated at this. My uncle, the 
solicitous private secretary, had provided glasses and a couple of botdes 
of wine. 

Mr. Mortimer signed the articles of agreement for the millionaires 
and Geezil signed for our side. The old man didn't have an opportu- 
nity to read this paper very carefully, otherwise he might have asked 
some questions. 

At the side of his desk, Geezil had a satchel containing the $50,000. 
He was so placed that he was only partially visible to the group at the 
big table, whose backs were half turned. They were drinking wine 
and discussing the latest trends in the stock market, thus deliberately 
creating an atmosphere of confusion in which it seemed plausible 
enough that they wouldn't notice just what we were doing. 

The capitalists opened the betting with a wager of $50,000. Mr. 
Geezil took our $50,000 from the satchel to cover. I acted as messen- 
ger. First I took the money to Gross' table where he tabulated the bets. 
Then I carried it to the table where Mr. Worthington sat. That is, I 
was supposed to. But instead of giving him $100,000, I slipped $50,000 
into Geezil's satchel as I passed. Only $50,000 was in sight, but no- 
body appeared to notice. 

When the wagering first began we started out counting each bundle 
of money. This was a tedious process. Soon my uncle said: 

"There's no need of counting this money. It was put up at the bank. 
The amount is printed on the wrapper and each wrapper has the 
tellrr's initials on it. We're just wasting a lot of time." 

"I agree with you," said Mr. Mortimer. "What do you men say.?" 

120 



Millionaires and Murder 

Everybody agreed that counting the money was unnecessary. This 
was to allow for the use of "boodle." Practically all the money used was 
"boodle," done up in neat bundles, with good bills only on the top 
and bottom. 

The money Geezil had was all good and the other men had used a 
few thousand dollars in good money while we were counting each 
bundle. Thus, the first wager consisted of about $75,000 in good 
money and the balance in "boodle." About $50,000 of this was loose 
money, from bundles that had been broken open. The balance was in 
bundles done up in bank wrappers. 

Having this much loose money enabled me to cover up in the pyr- 
amiding of bets that followed. The betting was continued as soon as 
it had been decided not to count all the money in the bundles. 

When the next wager for $50,000 was made, Geezil reached in the 
satchel, produced the money I had dropped in there. I took it over to 
have George tabulate it and the Kid brought a like amount from the 
millionaires' table. Then we took it over to my uncle. But instead of 
giving it to him, we dropped it in Geezil's satchel. The other men 
were drinking and talking about the stock market. Only $50,000 was 
in sight on the table, but part of it was loose money. They didn't seem 
to notice the discrepancy. 

In this way we covered all bets until the amount had got to 
$400,000. Then Mr. Mortimer said, "Just a minute. I think I gave 
you $50,000 instead of $25,000 as my part of that last wager." 
"We can't stand a count," I whispered to Geezil. 
"A count will soon tell us." Dr. Jackson said. "Count the money, 
Tim, and see if you have an extra $25,000." 

"There's no need of going through such a tedious task as that," he 
replied. "Why don't we put it in a safety deposit box and count it 
after the fight?" 

"An excellent idea," said Mr. Mortimer. "Go put it in the box. If 
your friends win, they can count the money to see if there's an extra 
$25,000. If we win we can count it at our leisure. We will keep one 
of the keys and Mr. Geezil can keep the other. Whoever loses will 
turn his key over to the winner." 
That was agreed and my uncle was delegated to take the money to 

121 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

the bank. While he had been talking he had wrapped part of it in a 
newspaper. The balance he had put in Gcezil's bag. The bundle 
wrapped in newspaper he had placed under Geezil's chair. 

He picked up the bag and started to the door. 

"Just a minute," I said, pointing to the bundle under the chair. 
"You've forgotten something." 

Tim, obviously embarrassed, returned and picked up the bundle, 
stuffing it into the bag. 

"What's the matter, Tim?" asked Mr. Mortimer. "Don't you feel 
well? Perhaps I should go with you so that nothing happens to you." 

They left and his other companions, accompanied by Jack the Kid, 
left for the gymnasium. 

"We'll come as soon as Mr. Worthington gets back," I said. 

When Tim returned, he was alone, Mr. Mortimer having gone to 
the gymnasium. 

"What's the matter with you?" he demanded, facing me angrily. 
"I knew I left that money under the chair." 

"Oh," I said meekly. "I just thought you had forgotten it." 

"We're in a fine mess now. If I had gone to the bank alone, I 
could have kept both keys to the safety deposit box. But as it is I had 
to give one of them to Mr. Mortimer. Besides, I had $250,000 in that 
bundle. What are we going to use now to cover the purse?" 

"I never thought of that," I said meekly. "Maybe they'll forget 
about the purse." 

"I hope so," my uncle said frigidly, "but I doubt it.' 

So, Tim, Gross, Gcezil and I went to the gymnasium. Jack the Kid 
was in the ring and the stage was all set. I acted as second to George 
and Dr. Jackson acted as second to the Kid. 

The bout was ready to begin when Mr. Mortimer interrupted. 

"What about the purse?" he asked. "That hasn't been covered." 

"Well, what difference does it make?" Mr. Andrews wondered. 

"I promised Mr. Howard, who is ill, that he could put up the money 
for the purse, since he wouldn't be here and would be unable to bet. I 
feel a responsibility to him." 

"That's different," agreed Dr. Jackson. "If we win, then you'll 
have to give him what we win on the purse." 

122 



Millionaires and Murder 

"That's right," said Mr. Mortimer. "And I don't feel that I want 
to take the rcsponsibihty if there isn't any purse." 

"The purse is in the articles of agreement," volunteered Dr. Jack- 
son. "The fight can't go on until it is covered." 

The fighters climbed out of the ring and we all went back to the 
hotel, where a general discussion ensued. 

"According to the articles of agreement," said Mr. Mortimer, "you 
forfeit all the money you've bet if you can't cover the purse." 

"I can cover the purse," Geezil spoke up. "Our share is $250,000. 
I'll give you my check for it." 

"No!" insisted Mr. Mortimer. "The agreement stipulates cash." 

"Well," I broke in, "the articles of agreement also gives us twenty- 
four hours to raise the purse. We can have the cash in that time." 

"We certainly can," said Geezil. 

While the millionaires were discussing this, the old man whispered 
to me: "I'll go back to Chicago and get it if necessary." 

It still seemed possible that we would make a big haul from him. 
But Tim now made his second mistake. He persuaded his friends to 
forget about the purse and let the fight go on. I could have kicked him, 
for I am certain that Geezil would have raised the money if we had 
waited. 

But they didn't want to wait, so the purse was waived and we went 
to the gymnasium again. The fighters got in the ring and the bout 
began. 

They traded terrific punches that looked very convincing, though 
each fighter caught the blows on his arms and shoulders. The fight 
was even for two rounds. Then in the third, Jack the Kid was knocked 
down several times. In the fourth he was down again, this time for a 
count of eight. 

Geezil was jubilant. He was so sure now that he was going to clean 
up that his only regret was that he hadn't bet more. He taunted Mr. 
Mortimer about it. 

"I still think our fighter will win," returned Mortimer. "I'm will- 
ing to bet more money on it." 

"How much?" 

"Oh, a quarter of a million." 

123 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"I'll take that," said the old man, "if you'll accept my check." 
But Mr. Mortimer wouldn't accept a check. 

"Fighting in Illinois is illegal," he reminded Geezil. "I wouldn't 
care to be involved through a check." 

In the fifth round the Kid was down several times but he managed 
to hang on. At the beginning of the sixth Dr. Jackson, his second, 
slipped a ball into his mouth. It was about the size of a golf ball and it 
was made of fish skin. It contained chicken blood that had been mixed 
with hot water. Gross landed a terrific punch to the Kid's mouth and 
he was down for a count of eight. As he went down he bit into the 
ball and blood poured out of his mouth and down his neck and chest. 

At the count of eight, he got up blindly to his feet and wove out 
toward Gross, who wound up and swung with terrific force. He 
missed the Kid altogether, spun around, and fell on his back. As he 
spun, he bit the ball I had placed in his mouth. 

Blood began to gush from his mouth in great quantity. It spurted 
in the air and covered his face. Dr. Jackson rushed to the ring and 
wiped the blood from his face. Then he sponged Gross' face with 
water, managing at the same time to slip another of the balls into his 
mouth. 

Blood began to gush anew. It ran all over his head and was a 
messy sight. 

"This man is having a hemorrhage," Dr. Jackson declared gravely. 

"I think he is dying," he remarked, as he worked frantically to 
check the hemorrhage. The blood continued to flow freely. 

The group in the g)'mnasium was now silent. Even Geezil had 
turned pale and begun to tremble. Suddenly Gross coughed and lav 
still. 

Dr. Jackson bent over him with his stethoscope. Then he stood up 
and shook his head. 

"This man is dead!" he quavered. 

Pandemonium broke loose. Everybody began to scatter. No one 
wanted to be mixed up in this prize fight — especially since a man 
had been killed. 

"We've got to get out of here," I whispered to Geezil. He was 
shaking like a man with palsy. 

124 



Millionaires and Murder 

We returned to the hotel room as quickly as possible and, shortly 
afterwards, my uncle came in. He showed Geezil one of the keys to 
the safety deposit box. 

"I'll get the other key from them," he said. "I'll take the money 
and meet you two in Chicago." 

"But wc didn't win," Geezil pointed out. 

"No. But they will find out about the shortage if I stay with them. 
I would lose my job anyway. I might as well quit now. I'll stay with 
them until I get the money, then we'll meet and split it." 

"What about the dead man.''" Geezil asked fearfully. 

"Let them worry about it. They've got plenty of influence. Now 
you two had better catch the next train back to Chicago." 

A train was due out in half an hour. We had scheduled the fight 
so that it would end just before train time. Geezil and I got our bags 
and went to the station. 

On the train going into Chicago he fretted a great deal about the 
"murder" and the possible consequences. I was worried too, but it wa« 
mainly about the problem of how I was going to get away from the 
old man. 

He solved that problem for me. 

"Suppose they've decided to look for us," he shuddered. "You'll be 
very conspicuous in that topcoat. They'll spot us the minute we get off 
the train." 

I was wearing a topcoat of London smoked melton. 

"What do you want me to do.''" I asked. 

"Leave that coat on the train when we get ofl." 

"I can't do that!" I protested. "It cost me a lot of money and I 
can't afford to lose it." 

"Well, I can't aflord to be seen getting ofi the train with you in it," 
he retorted. "I'll tell you what. We're not far from Kewanee. Why 
don't you get off there and come to Chicago on another train.'*" 

This suited me fine, but I made a pretense of objecting. 

"Suppose my uncle comes to Chicago looking for us before I get 
there?" 

"Your uncle won't be there. When those men calm down, they'h 
demand a count. Your uncle might as well kill himself." 

125 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

"How am I ever going to face my wife? She had her heart set on 
owning that home." 

"I'll give it to you, if that's all that's worrying you," said the old 
man. "My God, I've got something more serious than that on my 
mind. Now you get off. I'll call you up in a few days." 

With apparent reluctance, I got off at Kewanee, which is about 
135 miles from Chicago. That was the last I ever saw of Sam Geczil. 

I didn't steer any more victims to Galesburg. George Gross had 
taken several to the Mayberry setup and I made the mistake of going 
there. A federal grand jury in Council Bluffs, Iowa, indicted George 
and thirteen others. Jack Carkeek and I were indicted at the same 
time. 

Gross was caught and went to trial with the Mayberry crowd. Car- 
keek escaped to California and I fled to Chicago. I hid behind a 
beard and plain-glass spectacles. These disguised my naturally youthful 
appearance. 

When we kicked Phil Barton out of the office in Galesburg, we 
forgot about him. But we were soon to have cause to remember him. 

Barney Bertsch, who had a saloon on the corner of Randolph and 
Wells Streets, next door to the Detective Bureau, was Chicago's big 
fixer. His place was a rendezvous for the underworld, but the law 
never touched him. In my opinion — and a lot of other people shared 
it — Chicago has never seen a lower criminal than Barney Bertsch. 

Phil Barton remembered that Old Man Parsons held the purse 
for Tim North's ring. Parsons had a money belt, and usually carried 
about $25,000 around his waist. Barton, determined to get his revenge 
relayed this information to Barney, who was always looking for a 
way to make a dishonest dollar. 

Barney called in three crooks — his brother, Joe, who did anything 
from a street stick-up to a mail robbery, a safecracker named Jake 
Lukes, and a burglar named Andy Philson who was known as the 
"Gimlet Man" because he used a gimlet to bore around the latch of 
a window to break in. 

At Barney's instigation these three thugs went to Old Man Parson's 
room in Galesburg. They posed as federal officers. Parsons knew 
that others had been indicted and wasn't surprised. He went along 

126 



Millionaires and Murder 

quietly. The three men took him to the tracks o£ the Burlington 
railroad. 

At a dark spot on the right-of-way, they took his money belt and 
the $25,000, and tied him to the track, as Barney had instructed them. 
They left him there to be run over by a train — just as they used to do 
to the beautiful heroine in the old-time melodrama. Fortunately for 
Old Man Parsons, the thugs didn't know much about their surround- 
ings. They tied him to a sidetrack instead of the main line and two 
hours later he was released by a couple of railroad men. 

The three men kept $5,000 each and gave $10,000 to Barney 
Bertsch, who probably cut it up with Phil Barton. But Barney wasn't 
satisfied. He decided to try for more of the swag. 

At Riverview Amusement Park he had a concession called "Bosco 
the Snake Eater." One night, he invited Andy Philson, the burglar, 
to see the show. The place was crowded at every performance. Andy 
had no way of knowing that the crowd consisted of "shills" whom 
Barney had hired for the occasion. 

"I got so many irons in the fire," he told Andy, "I don't have time 
to look after it. I'll let you have it dirt cheap — $2,500. You can sec 
for yourself how much money it takes in." 

Andy was impressed and bought the show. He soon discovered he 
had bought a flop. He went to Barney's saloon to demand an account- 
ing. 

Barney had sharp eyes. He saw Philson entering the Randolph 
Street entrance. He went out the Wells Street door and hurried to the 
Detective Bureau. There he enlisted the help of Detectives Russell and 
Stapleton. 

Philson was standing at the bar waiting for Barney. The detectives 
approached him one from each side. 

"Have a drink," invited Stapleton. 

"I don't drink with strangers," Philson replied suspiciously. 

"Nice ring you have there," said Russell, grasping Andy's left hand 
on which was a large diamond. 

Philson backed away from the detectives into a booth opposite the 
bar. The detectives drew their guns. Andy drew his and fired. Russell 
went down, dead. Stapleton was shot and dropped to his knees. 

127 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Still sh(X)ting, Philson started to back out the door. But Stapleton 
fired and got him in the abdomen. Both men were taken to the hos- 
pital and eventually recovered. 

Philson was indicted for the murder of Russell, was tried in Criminal 
Court, and sentenced to Ufe in Joliet. It was while he was in the 
county jail, waiting to be transported to prison, that Philson's mother 
appealed to Clarence Darrow, then a law partner of Edgar Lee Mas 
ters, the poet. 

Darrow examined the record and agreed to take the case. He ap- 
peared before Judge Scanlon and asked a new trial. The motion was 
denied. Darrow then filed notice of his appeal to the Supreme Court. 

"This is a clear case of prejudiced conviction," Darrow told Judge 
Scanlon. "I intend to make of it a monument of law. If the Supreme 
Court doesn't reverse the conviction, I'll quit." 

"If it does reverse," said Judge Scanlon, "I'll resign from the bench." 

Several weeks later the Supreme Court reviewed the evidence, 
reversed the conviction, and ordered a new trial. Judge Scanlon re- 
considered his rash promise and continued on the bench. 

At the second trial, with Darrow defending, it was a different story. 
Philson testified that he did not know the two men were officers, since 
they were in plain clothes and displayed no badges. He contended that 
he thought they were a couple of thugs intent upon taking his diamond 
ring. He was acquitted. 



128 



11. I Tried To Go Straight 



HANNH AND HOGg's SALOON, BARNEY BERTSCH's CRYSTAL PALACE, 
and other Loop barrooms were the hangouts for the "sporting 
crowd." This included con men, prize fighters, wrestlers, 
jockeys, bookmakers, and some actors, not to mention a few safe- 
crackers and stick-up men. 

It was but natural that I should get acquainted with most of them. 
Here I met John Strosnider, a well-known swindler, who later worked 
for me, and also Old John Snarley, the original gold-brick man. Snarley 
seemed to like me particularly. 

I never could understand why he didn't give up. The greater part 
of his life had been spent in prison. He was known to everybody as a 
man who was "stir-crazy." Indeed, he was in so many prisons that he 
developed a great interest in them. 

Many years later Fred Buckminster and I had just completed a 
deal in Missoula, Montana, and were driving out of there as fast 
as we could. Old John Snarley was with us. We had heard that 
Montana had just built a new state prison. 

"Boys," Old John proposed, "let's drive by and see what that new 
pen looks like." 

"I should think," growled Buck, "that you've seen enough peni- 
tentiaries to last you the rest of your life." 

"Besides," I said, "if we go that way, it will be a hundred miles 
out of our way." 

"Just the same," Snarley insisted, "I'd like to see what it looks like. 
Who knows? Maybe I'll be sent there some day." 
"What do you say, Joe?" 

129 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"All right," I agreed. "We'll humor him. Besides, if they're look- 
ing for us, they would hardly look for us near the penitentiary." 

We drove one hundred miles out of our way so that John Snarley 
could see what the penitentiary looked like. We parked opposite it for 
fifteen minutes while he gazed admiringly at the structure. 

Tim North's fight scheme had been copied by numerous other con 
men. Soon there were similar setups in fixed towns throughout the 
Middle West. One of the most active was operated by Fred Ventnor 
with thirteen associates, at Council Bluffs, Iowa. Hundreds of con 
men, prize fighters, and wrestlers were steering victims to these setups. 
Ventnor and his thirteen associates were the first to be indicted. 

The law hadn't reached me yet and I decided it would be a good 
idea to stay out of the fights until the heat cooled off. My wife was 
urging me — as she always was — to get into something legitimate. 

One day I saw my chance. I met a couple of fellows who had 
the makings of a machine for vending chewing-gum. They offered 
to sell me the dies for $200. I accepted the offer. I knew an in- 
ventor named Davis and I took the dies to him. He succeeded in 
building a very practical vending machine with iwo plungers of 
cold rolled steel and nickel. He said he could turn out as many 
machines as I wanted for $5.00 each. 

My wife was very enthusiastic. "Joe," she declared, "this is your 
chance to be a real business man." 

I agreed, and started my new business with every intention of 
going straight. I rented a suite of offices in the National Life build- 
ing and organized a company I called, "The National Gum Company." 

I had Davis build me several vending machines, which I placed in 
my display room. I got an idea if I offered something free with each 
package of chewing-gum I could sell a lot more. At the Far East 
Trading Company I bought a wide variety of inexpensive but nice- 
looking articles, to be offered as premiums. These were also put on 
display in my office. I had them all photographed and made up a 
nice premium catalog. As far as I know this was the first time 
that premium coupons had ever been offered as an inducement to 
buy merchandise. As I had planned, every package of chewing-gum 
sold through the vending machines would contain a coupon. A certain 

130 



i 



/ Tried to Go Straight 

number of coupons would bring the customer a free article listed in 
the catalog. This system of premium coupons was later widely used for 
every sort of merchandise from soap to silverware. 

I contacted four Chicago chewing-gum companies and arranged 
to buy gum from them. I was now all set to start, except for financing 
the machines. I decided the best way to do this was to vend the 
gum through district managers. I inserted ads in all the newspapers 
for men to manage the vending machines. 

The response to the ads was overwhelming. I decided not to sign 
anybody up until I was ready to operate. Every time an applicant 
called, I told him: 

"You're a little late, but if you'll leave your name and address, 
we'll get in touch with you as soon as there is a vacancy." 

Then I explained the proposition: 

"You will be required to put up $120 cash bond. That will be a 
deposit on twenty machines at $6.00 each. We'll assign a territory 
to you where the machines may be put up. Each machine will have 
$50 in it when the gum has all been emptied out. You make a profit 
of $20 every time a machine empties. Do you think that would in- 
terest you?" 

I signed about 2,500 men to contracts. Then I got an idea. I 
formed the National Association of Gum Manufacturers. All the 
gum companies in Chicago, except Wrigley, joined it. The Associa- 
tion was given exclusive use of Mintleaf gum for the vending ma- 
chines and all the participating companies agreed to give the Asso- 
ciation first call on its gum products. 

By the time I was ready to call in the men I had signed up, I was 
in a position to exercise a good measure of control over all the smaller 
chewing-gum manufacturers. I had plans to put the vending machines 
out all over the country. 

My own name had become so well known — and so unfavorably 
— that when I entered this venture I used the name James R. War- 
rington. But the police had been keeping an eye on me, particularly 
since Snarley had found out about my new business. 

Any day that Snarley had nothing else to do, which was often, 
he and Strosnider dropped in to see me. They hung around for hours. 

131 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Snarley and Strosnidcr were a good deal hotter than I was. 

I'm sure the police checked up on every detail of my enterprise. 
The only thing they could find that might be called a con-game 
was my deal with the district managers. 

I had held off on these men because I needed the machines before 
the deal could be completed. And it was a very good thing I did. 

One day Snarley came over early. He said, "]ot, you don't sup- 
pose the cops have got a dictaphone planted in here, do you?" 

"No," I rephed. "Why should they.^" 

He pointed to a spot on the wall just above my chair. A bit of 
plaster had peeled off. "What's making your plaster come off?" 

I got up and examined the plaster more closely. It was a dictaphone 
all right. The wiring had been cleverly concealed, but I was able 
to follow it. It led straight into the office of the superintendent of 
the building. 

"Well," I breathed to Snarley, "I haven't done anything wrong 
this time. They haven't got a thing on me. I'm on the level this time 
and I'm going ahead. But you and Strosnider better quit hanging 
around. It gives the place a bad name." 

But I had made that decision too late. Snarley and Strosnider quit 
coming, but the police were convinced that I was getting ready to 
make a big haul. I had signed up 2,500 men and each would post 
a cash bond of $120. That would be a total of $300,000. The police 
could not believe I was going to use that much money legitimately. 
I couldn't blame them, in view of my past activities. 

One day Tom Guerin, brother of Eddie Guerin — the notorious 
escapee from Devil's Island — dropped into the office. 

"Joe," he said, "I was just talking to Inspector Petey O'Brien. 
He told me to give you a message. He said, 'Tell Joe not to take 
any money.' " 

Petey O'Brien was then Chief of Detectives. He had investigated 
my proposition and could see that it might be on the level. On 
the other hand he could also see where it might cause me a lot of 
trouble. O'Brien was a square shooter. He was warning me while 
there was still time. The chances are that if I had continued I would 
have been arrested and charged with operating a confidence game! 

132 



/ Tried to Go Straight 

I knew that Petcy knew what he was talking about. There just 
wasn't any sense in bucking the odds when the cards were already 
stacked against me. 

One of the larger companies which had signed up with me took 
over the Mintleaf patent and began to manufacture Mintleaf gum. 
The National Association of Che wing-Gum Manufacturers was al- 
lowed to die, although the Association was later resurrected and now 
flourishes as a group devoted to the advancement of the industry. 

Mintleaf was the flavor that later became so popular as Wrigley's 
Spearmint. I heard that the Wrigley company paid $2,000,000 for the 
formula. 

Shortly afterwards, premiums were offered with various sorts of 
merchandise and the premium coupon idea has been widely used ever 
since. 

At any rate, even though I was prevented from going into a legit- 
imate enterprise, the ideas I evolved apparently were sound, for they 
were widely used. 

This episode was sound proof of the old adage: "A man is known 
by the company he keeps." I am convinced that the presence of Snarley 
and Strosnider around the office caused the police to intervene in the 
most legitimate undertaking of my career! 

On more than one occasion I have had cause to regret that I was 
acquainted with criminals who had records. 

The Butterine Kid was one of them. I don't know what his 
right name was. He was a small-time racketeer whom I had met 
casually in a Loop saloon. Forty years ago oleomargarine was known 
as "butterine." The manufacturers were not allowed to color it, 
though it was used widely as a butter substitute. 

The Butterine Kid made his living by buying butterine, adding 
color to it, and peddling it in pound squares to the smaller shops and 
from house to house. He sold it as pure creamery butter at less than 
the current market price of butter. 

The Butterine Kid's racket afforded him a Iviing, but not much 
more. At its worst, the crookedness of his scheme was petty. Occa- 
sionally I met him on the street, sweating as he pushed his cart of 

133 



'Tellow Kid" Weil 

butterinc from house to house and from shop to shop. 

Far worse than his butterine racket was the Kid's habit of shooting 
with loaded dice. No matter who you were or where he met you, 
he would try to inveigle you into a crap game in which you didn't 
stand a chance. On a number of occasions when I m.et him he was 
broke, and I befriended him. I was to live to regret it. 

With an indictment for participating in the fight racket hanging 
over my head, I did not engage in any business at the time. However, 
I had been around to numerous furniture dealers to pick up articles 
for our home. In those days, a piano was essential to every well-ap- 
pointed home and I began to look around for one. I finally bought 
an oak upright for $350. 

Some years earlier when I had been a partner in the Get-Rich- 
Quick Bank, it had been my custom to eat at Metzger's restaurant on 
Monroe Street. It was a combination bar and cafe, a glass partition 
separating the two sections. 

On the walls of the restaurant hung numerous enlarged photo- 
graphs of two coffee plantations which Metzger owned at Jalapa and 
Vera Cruz in Mexico. He served coffee from these plantations and 
had a quantity for sale in his restaurant at three pounds for a dollar. 

The coffee, which had a fine flavor, was one of the drawing cards. 
His place was also noted for its rare wines; many of the big fi- 
nanciers dined there regularly. 

One day shortly after I had bought the piano I dropped in, for 
I used to enjoy the coffee. I glanced around at the pictures I had 
seen so many times before, but it was only then that an idea bloomed. 
As soon as I had finished my meal I sought out the restaurateur. 

"My name is Richard E. Dorian." 

Metzger was a heavy-set, distinguished looking fellow. He wore 
a pince-nez and a well-tailored business suit. I knew he was wealthy. 

"Glad to know you," he smiled, shaking hands. "I've seen you 
here but never learned your name. What can I do for you?" 

"I'm interested in your coffee plantations," I replied. 

"In what way?" 

"The output, primarily. Also I was wondering where you dispose 
of your coffee." 

134 



/ Tried to Go Straight 

"As a matter of fact," he replied, "I've done very little with it. 
Except for the small amount I use here in the restaurant and sell 
to my customers, I haven't done anything. I haven't exploited the 
plantations because I haven't found anybody who wants to buy raw 
coffee beans. And I know little about the business myself." 

"Then perhaps we can get together. Would you be interested in 
leasing your plantations?" 

"Perhaps. What's your proposition?" 

"How would you like to have somebody take over the plantations 
and operate them so you would have nothing to worry about and 
still get a good revenue?" 

"Sounds interesting," said Metzger. "You have a plan?" 

"Yes. As you know, there is plenty of good coffee already on the 
market. Just to bring out another brand would not be anything new. 
Furthermore, to build up such a new brand would require a great deal 
of capital — for advertising and promotion." 

"That's correct." 

"I have very little capital," I continued, "but I do know how to 
promote and I have ideas. Suppose that we produce coffee that com- 
pared favorably with all the better brands, but gave something free 
in addition — we ought to clean up." 

"It all depends," said Metzger, "on what you give away. Do you 
have something in mind?" 

My eyes roved about the room. They lighted on a piano in the 
corner. 

"Suppose," I replied "we give away pianos. That ought to get us 
plenty of customers." 

"Pianos?" he exclaimed. For a few moments he stared at me, as 
though wondering if he had been wasting his time on a lunatic. 
"Man, are you crazy?" 

"Of course not. Don't you think pianos would be good premiums?" 

"Certainly. Rut you apparently don't know the value of a piano." 

"Yes, I believe I do. The fact that they are so costly is all the 
more reason why they would be good premiums and would attract 
a lot of customers." 

"All you say is true," Metzger admitted, about ready to tear his 

135 



''Yellow Kid" Weil 

hair. "But would you mind telling me how you plan to make money 
on such a scheme?" 

"Isn't it reasonable to suppose," I returned, "that people would 
pay a few cents more for a pound of coffee if they knew they were 
going to get something for nothing?" 

He reflected. "Yes, I guess it is," he said. "I think most people 
will go to great lengths to get something for nothing." 

Now he was thinking. I already know a great deal about how far 
the average person would go to get something for nothing. But my 
task was to sell Metzger the same idea. "I believe you're right," I 
went on. "Here is my idea : we will pack a really good blend of coffee 
and sell it three pounds for a dollar. With each purchase of three 
pounds, there will be a premium coupon. When the purchaser has 
150 of these coupons, he will be entitled to a piano absolutely free." 

"But that means buying 450 pounds of coffee," Metzger objected. 
"That's more than the average person uses in ten years." 

"True," I agreed. "But, as you know, the cost of the average 
piano is more than $150. A family could get all the coffee it needs 
for a long time and still have a piano. Some people will buy the 
coffee — even if they don't use it — just to get the piano." 

"There's one thing you haven't explained to me," he frowned. 
"How are you going to give these pianos away when one of them 
costs more than the entire amount you'll get for the coffee?" 

"I can get the pianos wholesale. But I need to get the coffee at a 
low price. That's where you come in." 

We discussed this at some length. Finally Metgzer agreed to let 
me take over both his plantations and put them into production at 
once. As I had it figured, the coffee would actually cost me less than 
one cent a pound. Metzger, for purposes of negotiation and adver- 
tising, agreed to permit me to say I owned the plantations. 

Having settled this detail, I went to see a music dealer. At his place, 
a few days earlier, I had seen a cheap piano for sale. Now I examined 
it again. It was no different from the standard instrument, except 
that the wood was inexpensive scrub oak. However, only discrimi- 
nating people would have noticed it. The retail price was $150. 
"Suppose I wanted to buy these in wholesale lots," I told the dealer. 

136 



/ Tried to Go Straight 

"Do you suppose I could get them at a reasonable figure?" 

"You could get them for less than a hundred dollars," he said. 
"They are manufactured by Biddle Brothers in Rochester, New York." 
I gathered up a few hundred dollars in good money and wrapped 
it around |5,000 in boodle. Then I went to Rochester and called on 
Biddle Brothers. I talked to them for several days and they finally 
agreed to furnish me with their pianos for $45 each. I convinced 
them that my demand would be so great that they agreed to sell mc 
their entire output. 

I showed them the packages of boodle I carried to convince them 
I had capital. But I explained that this would be needed to get my 
campaign started, and they didn't press me for an advance deposit. 
They shipped two of the pianos to me in Chicago to be used for 
display. 

Back in Chicago my plans began to shape up. I knew of a coffee 
roaster on River Street named Martin. I had used his coflee and I 
knew he was an expert blender and roaster. I gave him the details 
of my plan and he became enthusiastic, especially after he had seen 
pictures of the plantations in Mexico. 

"It's only fair to tell you," I said, "that I am doing all this without 
much capital. But I am so sure that it will go that I am counting on 
the backing of a few trustworthy men like yourself." 

"You can count on me," returned Martin. "If you need credit to 
get your plant in operation, refer to me." 

I made a deal with Martin to blend, roast, and package all of my 
coffee. It was to be put up in three-pound canisters. The beans 
would be shipped from the Mexican plantations to Chicago. Martin 
would grade them, select the proper blends, and supervise the roasting 
and packaging. 

But I had to have a plant. After looking around, I found a mill- 
wright building at 14 North May Street that was for sale. The 
owner's name was Morgan. 

I proposed to buy the building from Morgan but frankly admitted 
I hadn't the cash to pay for it. In my negotiations, I used the names 
of Metzgcr and Martin freely. After he had checked with these 
two, Morgan was ready to sign a contract. 

137 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

I was to take possession of the building at once; no cash would be 
required for the first six months. Thereafter monthly payments 
would take care of the balance. Some remodeling was necessary and 
Morgan lent me the cash to have this done. 

I arranged for the remodeling of the first floor, which became 
my office and display room. Martin determined how the remainder 
of the building was to be, since he was the coffee expert. He also 
advised me what sort of machinery to buy. This was bought and in- 
stalled on credit, with the help of Martin and Morgan. 

The office and display room were outfitted by Zimmerman, a promi- 
nent Loop firm. The display room was very attractive and eye- 
catching. There we had the two pianos from Biddle Brothers on 
display. 

While the rebuilding was going on, I devoted my time to planning 
a campaign. I had a trademark and letterhead designed. It was in 
colors and showed a picture of Uncle Sam carrying two large cans 
of coffee. 

We discussed the merchandising at some length. It was decided 
to adopt the slogan: "From plantation to consumer. Eliminate the 
middleman's profit." Then, for the premium offer: "No breakfast 
is complete without coffee. No home is complete without a piano." 

The advertising campaign I planned was to get us off to a good 
start. I would take space in leading newspapers throughout the coun- 
try. A full page was planned for The Chicago Tribune. I figured 
that once the sale of our coffee had gained momentum, it wouldn't 
be necessary to advertise. I was confident Martin would pack a good 
blend that would advertise itself. And the free piano would be a big 
inducement. 

Most families with modest incomes, however, were buying pianos 
on the instalment plan — generally, ten dollars a month. Few of them 
would be able to put out $150, even if a free piano was involved. 
I decided to meet this situation to compete with the instalment plan. 
As soon as a purchaser had acquired ten premium coupons, that is 
had bought ten dollars worth of coffee, the piano would be shipped 
to his home, with the understanding that he would be required to turn 
in at least ten coupons each month thereafter until a total of 150 

138 



/ Tried to Go Straight 

coupons had been remitted. Then the piano was his to keep. 

Actually what this amounted to was that any family could buy a 
piano, ten dollars down and ten dollars a month for fifteen months, 
with all the coffee they could use, free. It was an appealing proposition, 
entirely legal, and I didn't see how it could miss fire. Neither did my 
backers, Metzger, Martin, and Morgan. 

Everything had been arranged except the actual exploiting of the 
plantations. Martin lent me $2,000 to go to Mexico to inspect them 
and get them to production at top capacity. 

My wife, who had constantly pleaded with me to stay in some 
legitimate business, was very happy. I was, too. Once again I thought 
the future held great promise and that I was through with confidence 
games. 

One day in a Loop saloon, when I stopped for a glass of beer, I ran 
into the Butterine Kid. He asked what I was doing and I told 
him. He hit me for a ten dollar loan. I was feeling pretty good and 
let him have it. 

One morning a few days before my scheduled departure for Mexico, 
Morgan was in the office. He was well pleased with the way things 
were shaping up. He suggested we all get together for a conference 
later in the day. 

"Splendid!" I agreed. "I have to go down in the Loop to see the 
printer. Suppose you call Metzger and Martin and arrange for 
them to come over," 

This was agreed, and I left for my meeting with the printer. I 
was gone for perhaps three hours. When I walked into the office 
an irate group faced me. My three backers, Morgan, Metzger and 
Martin, were pacing the floor. In the corner sat an unhappy, abject 
figure, the Butterine Kid. 

The three men faced me and all began to talk at once. 

"Come in, Mr. Richard E. Dorian!" Martin said sarcastically. 
"Alias Joe Weil, alias the Yellow Kid." 

"So it's all a skin game," said Metzger. "Using my plantations for 
a skin game!" 

Morgan's remarks are unprintable. He had spent about $120,000 
for remodeling and for equipment. He was in a rage, and if I had 

139 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

waited for him to get his hands on me, he probably would have torn 
me apart. 

But I didn't wait. I didn't try to explain. Even though this was 
another time I had a legitimate scheme, I knew that they wouldn't 
believe me. My reputation was even bigger than my plans. So I 
turned and left, and that ended my career in the coffee business. 

I later learned what had happened: 

Martin, Metzger, and Morgan had gathered in the office for 
the meeting. They were waiting for me when the Butterine Kid 
breezed in. He was there, he told me later, to borrow $20. 

"Where's the boss?" he asked. 

"He'll be back soon," Martin replied. "Have a seat." 

The Butterine Kid sat down, but he was a restless type. He put 
his hand in his pocket and it closed over some dice. 

"Say," he said, "would any of you fellows like to roll 'em while 
we're waiting.^" 

Metzger and Morgan weren't interested but Martin agreed to 
shoot with the Kid to pass the time. The Kid pulled out his dice 
and they began to roll. Martin lost consistently. The Butterine Kid 
was getting quite a roll, when Martin, who was no fool, thought 
that the dice he was shooting with seemed to be a little dilTercnt from 
those the Kid was using. The next time the Kid rolled 'em Martin 
reached out and grabbed the dice. He discovered at once that they 
were mis-spotted. 

"I was playing to be sociable," he growled. "I don't like to be 
cheated." 

He took his money back and clipped the Kid on the jaw. 

"You can't do that to me," the latter whined as he got up off the 
floor. "Just wait till Joe gets back." 

"Joe.? Who is Joe.?" 

"Joe Weil. He's the boss here, ain't he.?" 

That was the tip-off. The three men began to question him, and 
soon learned my real identity, which they had not suspected before. 
They backed him into a corner and made him tell everything he 
knew about me. So when I showed up I didn't stand a chance. 



140 



12. Easy Money on Rainy Days 



A S I WALKED BACK TOWARD THE LOOP I FELT PRETTY DESPONDENT. IT 

L\ was like waking from a long, beautiful dream. The turn of 
X A» events was so unexpected I hadn't the slightest idea what I 
would do next. 
Suddenly a bulky figure blocked my path and a big voice boomed: 
'"Hello, Joe! Why you so sad, Joe?" 

I looked up into the good-natured face of a con man known as 
The Swede. He was a big, heavy-set fellow, with white, close-cropped 
hair and a ruddy complexion. He wore a cheap, baggy suit and 
carried a suitcase. He might have been a farmer in town for the day 
or he might have just got off the boat. 

Briefly I told him what had happened. He seemed sympathetic and 
asked me to help him on a few deals. I had no plans at all so I 
agreed. 

The case of Schwartz, the bondsman, will illustrate how we worked. 
Schwartz always had considerable cash on hand. His place was not 
far from Riverview Amusement Park. One day the Swede walked 
into Schwartz's saloon, laid his suitcase on the counter, and opened it. 
He had an array of cheap merchandise such as pencils, shoestrings, and 
combs. Schwartz bought a few articles and the Swede ordered a 
drink. After he had a couple of drinks he noticed the ever present 
dice at the end of the counter. 

"I shake you for the drinks." 

"Okay," said Schwartz. "Shoot." 

The Swede shook them and lost. 

"I shake you for a dollar," he proposed. 

141 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

The dice were rolled again, and once more the Swede lost. He 
made several additional rolls until he had lost five dollars. 

"Ay tank ay go home," he said. When he paid he peeled the 
money of? a big roll of bills. It might have been his life savings. Of 
course Schwartz saw the big roll. 

The Swede closed up his suitcase, put his roll back in his pocket, 
and departed, muttering to himself in Swedish. 

A couple of days later in Schwartz's place, I sat at the counter, 
eating a hot dog and drinking a glass of beer. 

"Nice place you have here," I remarked. "I work at Riverview." 

"Yes, I have a lot of customers from Riverview," he replied. 

We engaged in small talk and became friendly. I was compliment- 
ing him on his excellent hot dogs when the big Swede walked in. 

Or perhaps I should say the Swede staggered in, for he pretended 
to be intoxicated. He put his suitcase down on the bar and leaned 
over it in a drunken manner. 

"Well," said Schwartz, who hadn't forgotten the big roll, "here's 
the Swedish tradesman." 

"Yah," grumbled the Swede. "Gimme drink." 

Schwartz put a bottle on the bar. With unsteady fingers, the Swede 
poured out a drink and gulped it down. He followed it with another. 
The Swede appeared to be becoming more inebriated by the minute. 
When he had finished the third drink, he opened his suitcase and 
spread it so that the wares were revealed. 

"Wanna buy something?" 

I took a pencil and Schwartz selected a pair of shoestrings. The 
Swede closed the suitcase slowly and strapped it. 

"Lost my money in here," he smiled at Schwartz. "But I'm gonna 
win some day." 

"Would you like to shake now?" asked Schwartz, no doubt think- 
ing of the Swede's big roll. 

"Not on bar," said the Swede. He carried the suitcase to the 
counter near where I was seated. "Shake on grip," he proposed. 

"What's the difference?" Schwartz shrugged. 

"Shake like in old country," said the Swede. 

"How's that?" 

142 



Easy Money on Rainy Days 

"I show you." The Swede picked up a tumbler from the counter 
and put the dice in. "Got handkerchief?" 

"Sure." Schwartz winked at me as he handed over the handker- 
chief. 

I winked back. After all I was supposed to be just an amused 
spectator. 

The Swede, reeling drunkenly, had a very serious expression on his 
face as he carefully wrapped the handkerchief around the glass. Then 
he shook the glass and put it top down on the grip. The dice were in 
the glass. 

"Bet odd or even." 

"I'll bet odd, said Schwartz. 

"I take you," growled the Swede. "I bet a dollar." 

The bet was made and Schwartz lifted the handkerchief. The 
dice were odd up and the Swede lost. In this manner he lost four 
dollars more. Then, apparently disgusted, he gathered his suitcase 
and left. 

Schwartz and I chuckled over this seemingly illiterate and naive 
foreigner. I ordered another hot dog. I hadn't finished eating when 
the Swede staggered back into the place, drunkenly placed his suitcase 
on the counter, and flopped over the bar. 

'Gimme 'nother drink," he said thickly. Then, after he had gulped 
it down: "Wanna shake again?" 

"Sure," Schwartz agreed. "How'll it be — Swedish style?" 

"Yust like in old country," said the Swede. 

Schwartz handed him the glass, the dice, and the handkerchief. 
Very clumsily, the Swede spilled the dice on the floor. But he was 
not so clumsy as he picked them up and switched to the loaded set 
he carried! I could see it, but Schwartz on the other side of the 
counter could not. 

After fumbling around a while, apparently retrieving the dice, the 
Swede stood up and reeled back to the counter. He dropped the 
cubes into the glass, carefully wrapped the handkerchief around it, 
and handed the whole thing to Schwartz. 

"You shake." 

Schwartz shook, then put the glass, open end down, on the suit- 

143 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

case. The handkerchief was wrapped around the glass so you couldn't 
see the dice. 
"How do you want to bet and how much?" asked Schwartz. 
"I see," said the Swede. He turned his back and dug into the inner 
recesses of his clothing. 

While his back was turned, I lifted a corner of the handkerchief 
and peeked at the dice. Schwartz shot me a questioning look and I 
formed the "even" on my lips. 

The Swede took out his roll and laid it on the counter. 
"How much you bet.''" 
"How much you got.'" Schwartz countered. 

The Swede untied his roll and began to count his money. The bills 
were all old and dogeared, as if he had been hoarding them for many 
a day. 
"I got $1,275," he said. "I bet you all." 

"It's a cinch," Schwartz whispered. He went to his safe and 
counted out $1,275. 
"What you bet," asked the Swede, "odd or even?" 
"Even," said Schwartz grinning at me. 

The Swede placed his money on the suitcase. As he did so. he 
grasped the handle. Schwartz had no way of knowing, as the Swede 
and I did, that this handle was really a switch that controlled n battery 
concealed inside the suitcase. No matter how the dice fell, when the 
battery was turned on they came up odd. 

Schwartz unfolded the handkerchief and lifted the glass, fully con- 
fident he was the winner. He could hardly believe his eyes when 
he saw three aces up. Grudgingly, he handed over his cash to the 
Swede, who carefully rolled it up, tied a string around it, and put 
it away in an inner pocket of his coarse suit. 

"Ay tank ay go home now," he said. He gathered up his suitcase 
and weaved out of the saloon, still pretending to be drunk. 

As soon as he was out of the door, the saloonkeeper whirled on me. 
"I thought you said to bet even." 

"No, indeed," I replied. "I whispered to you that they were odd." 
Actually, I hadn't whispered at all. I had merely formed the word 
"even" with my lips. 

144 



Easy Money on Rainy Days 

Schwartz shook his head in confusion. "I could have sworn you 
said even." 

"I really shouldn't have said anything," I told him as I paid for 
my hot dogs and left. "After all, it was a game of chance." 

Later I met the Swede and we split the profit. I had no com- 
punction at all in a deal of this nature. For Schwartz had fully ex- 
pected to fleece the Swede and the tables had been turned. 

There were not many suckers like him. The Swede concentrated on 
saloons and few saloonkeepers had that much money on hand. The 
Swede's average haul was about $20 and he usually played a lone 
hand. 

It was not very long until somebody caught on to his battery trick, 
and pretty soon the cigar counter of every saloon in Chicago had 
a battery attachment. 

The Swede's dice-in-a-glass game was the forerunner of today's 
"26-games," without which no barroom is complete. The circular dice- 
box used in the "26-game" undoubtedly evolved from the Swede's 
dice-in-a-glass. 

There was not enough in the Swede's line to keep me occupied. I 
was at loose ends and went back to my first love, the horses. I had 
a quantity of green cards printed. These purported to be courtesy cards 
issued by the American Turf Association and extended to the bearer 
extraordinary privileges at any racecourse. 

I hired a stooge, and the scheme I evolved was so ridiculous that I 
can't, even now, see how the most gullible would be taken in by it. 
I posed as a representative of the American Turf Association and my 
stooge was my assistant. 

My victims were importers of olive oil. The case of Nicholas Zam- 
bole and Company will serve as an example. 

My stooge, John, and I entered Mr. Zambole's office. After I had 
produced my credentials the office girl showed us in to see the proprietor 
of the firm. 

I said, "My name is Warrington — James R. Warrington — and I 
represent the American Turf Association." 

"The American Turf Association.''" 

"Yes. We control all the better race tracks in the country." 

145 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"I know that," said Mr. Zambolc. "But I was wondering what I 
could do for you?" 

"You import fine olive oil, don't you?" 

"Yes, that's our business." 

"We're in the market for some olive oil," I explained, "and I came to 
get prices from you." 

"I'll be glad to quote prices," returned Zambole. "But would you 
mind telling me what use the American Turf Association has for olive 
oil?" 

"Of course. Our trainers use a great deal of it every day to rub down 
the horses. Surely, you've noticed that every horse's coat is shining 
when he prances out to take his place at the post?" 

"Yes." 

"Well, that sheen is produced by olive-oil rubdowns." 

"So that's how it's done!" Mr. Zambole reflected for a moment. 
"I've often wondered how they get those horses to shine so. And now 
I know." 

"Naturally," I continued, "with so many horses running every day, 
we use a great quantity of olive oil. I'd like to have your prices in 
carload lots." 

"I'll make you a very good price," Mr. Zambole spoke happily. 
"Suppose we go down to the stockroom. I'd like to show you what 
fine oil we sell." 

"My assistant, Mr. Sims, will go with you," I said, indicating my 
stooge. "I'll join you in a few minutes. I have to make a telephone 
call." 

"Why don't you use my phone, Mr. Warrington? You are quite 
welcome to do so." 

"This call is rather personal," I hesitated. "If you don't mind, I'll 
step out to a pubhc phone." 

"As you like. When you get back, come on downstairs to the stock- 
room." 

"Thank you. I'll be back in a few minutes." Then to my stooge: 
"You know the grade of olive oil we will require, John." 

"Yes, sir." 

With that I departed to make my supposedly personal telephone 

146 



Easy Money on Rainy Days 

call. Actually I went around the corner and waited ten minutes while 

my stooge worked the switch on our victim. 

As they walked to the stockroom, Zambole said: "I wonder what 
kind of call he's making that is so personal." 

"I'll tell you something," John offered in a confidential tone, "if you 
won't tell the boss." 

"I won't tell him," the merchant promised. 

"He's gone to phone his betting commissioner. He has to go and 
make a call every day about this time. But he ain't got me fooled. 
He's cleanin' up on the ponies." 

"What makes you so sure of that?" asked Zambole. 

John glanced about him to make sure he wasn't observed. Then 
he reached into his pocket and pulled out a clipping. 

"Look," he said. "I cut this out of The Racing Form, but he doesn't 
know I got it." 

The clipping was a half page from The Racing Form — or appeared 
to be. Actually, it had been made up especially for such occasions. 
The headline read: 

WARRINGTON STUMPS THE EXPERTS 

HANDICAPPER MAKES ANOTHER KILLING 

In the left column was my picture. The story related how I had 
made one kiUing after another at the tracks, always betting on long 
shots that the experts said didn't have a chance. There was glowing 
praise for my infallible judgment. 

Zambole was quite impressed. "I wonder how he does it." 

"I can't prove it," muttered John, "but I got my ideas about how he 
does it." 

"How.''" Zambole prodded. 

'You're sure you will keep this confidential and won't repeat it?" 

"You have my promise not to tell." 

"All right. He works for the Turf Association, don't he? Okay. 
He knows all the big shots. So they give him inside tips and he cleans 
up. But he lets everybody think he's an expert handicapper. At least 
that's the way I got it figured out. And if that ain't so, why does he 
have to go make a telephone call every day?" 

147 



'■Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Sounds like you've got it figured out all right," agreed Zambolc. 
"Doesn't he ever give you an inside tip on races?" 

"No. Oh, sometimes he says, kind of casual, 'Johnny, that horse 
looks Like a good bet.' I ask him if it's an inside tip and he always 
says, 'No, Johnny, it's just a hunch.'" 
"Do you ever bet on his hunches?" 

"I sure do. And I always win, too. That's why I say — " He broke 
off in the middle of the sentence. "Look. I'm supposed to be down 
here looking at olive oil. Maybe you better show me some before 
Mr. Warrington gets back." 

By the time I reappeared, John had picked out the three top brands 
of olive oil that Zambole had in stock. I looked over what he had 
picked out, sampled each, and rubbed some on my hands. Finally, I 
selected the most expensive brand and ordered five carloads of it to 
be shipped to various tracks, throughout the country. 

Then, as a gesture of friendliness, I made out a courtesy card and 
gave it to Zambole. We went back up into his office, where I gave 
specific directions as to where the olive oil was to be shipped and the 
dates on which I wished it shipped. 

"John," I ordered, "go over to the printer and see if those tickets 
I ordered are ready. I'll see you at the hotel." 

"Thank you very much," said Zambole, as I started to shake hands 
and leave. "Are you in a big hurry?" 

"No, not especially," I replied. "I have an appointment in an hour. 
but I'm free until then." 

"Come and have a drink with me." 

This was what we had been building up to. 

"I hear you're pretty good at picking winners," he began. 

"Why, who told you that?" I appeared startled, 

"Nobody. But I read The Racing Form occasionally." 

"Oh, that," I said in an oflhand manner. "They rather overdid the 
piece, don't you think?" 

"No, I think a lot of credit is due a man who can judge horses so 
accurately." 

"It was luck, Mr. Zambole. Pure luck." 

"Maybe so," he said, obviously not convinced that a man could be 

148 



Easy Money on Rainy Days 

so consistently lucky. "There weren't any inside tips in those deals, 
were there, if I may ask?" 

Acting good-natured about it, I laughed. "I like your frankness 
and can see that you are a man one can't fooL Yes, I did have a 
few inside tips." 

"I'd like a chance to clean up on one of those races," prodded 
Zambole. "How about giving me a winner?" 

"Oh, I couldn't do that. That would be violating a confidence." 

"Here's the way you can do it," Zambole proposed. "You can 
make the bet for me." 

I considered this for a few moments. "Yes," I said slowly, "I guess 
I could do that. But you understand that I couldn't divulge the name 
of the horse." 

"That's all right, as long as we make a killing. How much do 
you generally bet?" 

"Five thousand, as a rule." 

"That's a little more than I can afford to gamble. Suppose you 
split a five thousand dollar bet with me?" 

I finally agreed. 

We went back to Zambole's office. He took the money out of a 
safe — $2,500 — and handed it to me. 

"If you want to see your horse win," I told him, "be at Hawthorne 
tomorrow for the fifth race." 

"Thank you very much, Mr. Warrington. And where will I see 
you.'' 

"I'll join you in the clubhouse, between the fifth and sixth races." 

I don't know whether Zambole went to the track or not. He didn't 
have to wait until the fifth race to learn that he had been the victim 
of a con game. If he presented the courtesy card at the gate, he found 
out then. 

I heard that he was furious about the horse deal. He complained to 
the police and swore out a warrant for my arrest. But I was already 
on my way. 

149 



13. A Deal with Father Flanagan 



FOUR MEN WHO HAD BEEN INDICTED FOR PARTICIPATING IK FAKED 
prize fights were at large. All the others had been tried and 
convicted. Those still to be caught included myself, Jack Carkeek, 
the Honey Grove Kid (I never knew his real name), and Hot Springs 
Ryan. Carkeek had been caught in California and had languished 
for twenty-eight months in the Los Angeles county jail while he 
fought extradition. I had hidden behind my beard and eluded detec- 
tion. But the Honey Grove Kid and Ryan finally gave themselves up 
and were taken to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for trial in the Federal Court. 

The government men redoubled their efforts to find me and to 
extradite Carkeek. Chicago was becoming uncomfortably warm, so 
I told my wife that I was going to Paris on a business trip and booked 
passage on the Berengaria. I appeared on the passenger list as James 
R. Warrington. 

While I was away the case went to trial in Council Bluffs. The 
prosecuting attorney asked the judge to convict us on the grounds 
that he had previously found our associates guilty. 

Judge MacPherson rejected this plea, and the reply he made is a 
classic : 

"I do not choose to cultivate wings and a halo on the one hand 
nor horns and hooves and swinging tails on the other. It is a case 
of the pot calling the kettle black. Bailiff, make wide the windows. 
Let this foul air out of the courtroom. Case dismissed!" 

This meant that I had been acquitted for my part in the fight 
racket. It also meant freedom for Carkeek, who was released from 
the Los Angeles jail, 

150 



A Deal with Father Flanagan 

Since this was the main thing I had to worry about, I decided 
it was safe to return to Chicago. On the boat coming back, I made 
the acquaintance of half a dozen "boat-riders," that is transoceanic 
cardsharps. 

When I got back to Chicago, I had no definite plans. I still was 
well fixed financially, but my wife wanted me to get a job. I didn't 
think much of that idea, but at the same time I wanted to please my 
wife. 

I went to work peddUng books. The books I sold were sets of 
the Catholic Encyclopedia. But I didn't just go out cold. First I 
changed my name to Daniel O'Connell. Then I got some credentials 
and went to work. 

One warm day in July I called on a priest, whom I shall call Father 
Flanagan, in Flint, Michigan. I was neatly dressed and carried a 
brief-case under my arm. 

When the priest came to the door, I doffed my hat and said politely, 
"Father Flanagan? My name is Daniel O'Connell." 

"Daniel O'Connell?" That was a highly respected name in Catholic 
circles at the time. "Won't you come in?" 

I followed him into his study and laid my brief-case on his desk. 

"Now what can I do for you?" he asked when we were seated. 

"I have been sent here on a mission of the utmost importance. 
Perhaps you have heard of the Catholic Encyclopedia?" 

"Yes, though I'm not very familiar with it." 

"As you probably know," I continued, "it is the only commercially 
produced work that has ever received the unqualified endorsement of 
the Holy Father." 

"No," he replied, "I wasn't aware of that." 

I reached into my brief-case and withdraw some papers. I handed 
them to Father Flanagan. 

"This," I said, "is the Pope's letter. And the others are letters of 
commendation from Cardinal Farley and Cardinal O'Connell." 

Father Flanagan read the papers carefully. They were photostatic 
copies of genuine letters the publishers had received. 

"These are extremely interesting," he said. "What can I do to 
help you?" 

151 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

I reached into my pocket and produced a Pope's token, which I 
had picked up in a pawnshop. On one side was a likeness of the 
Madonna and on the other a profile of Pius X. 

"I recently received this from the Holy Father," I said. "At the 
same time he expressed a wish that I place the Catholic Encyclopedia 
in at least 2,000 homes in Flint." 

Father Flanagan examined the token with considerable interest. 

"To help me accompUsh this," I continued, "I would Hkc you to 
be the first subscriber. If you subscribe there will be many others who 
will follow your lead." 

"What does the Catholic Encyclopedia look like?" he asked with 
much interest. 

I reached into the brief-case and withdrew a bound volimie. 

"These are specimen pages," I told him. "They have been repro- 
duced in the actual size. Of course it would be impossible for me to 
carry the entire set around with me." 

He studied the pages. "I'll be glad to subscribe," he finally declared. 
"What is the price?" 

"Ninety dollars for the entire set. This is payable twenty dollars 
with the order and the balance when the books are received. In the 
case of those who can't pay that much at one time, convenient terms 
can be arranged." 

"Very well," said Father Flanagan. "You may write out an order 
for me." 

I produced an order pad and I wrote out the order in duplicate. 
Father Flanagan signed it, and I gave him the carbon copy. 

Wc conversed for a few minutes and I departed, to begin my 
house-to-house canvas. People were impressed by the Pope's token 
and by the three letters. But these were not sufficient to induce them 
to place an order. The clincher was the signed order of Father 
Flanagan who, I soon learned, was highly respected in Flint. 

My commission from the sale of the Encyclopedia was the twenty 
dollars I received when the order was placed. By the end of the 
third day, I had placed eighty sets, far from the goal of 2,000 
supposedly set by the Pope. 

I was about to quit for the day when I met Father Flanagan on 

152 



A Deal with Father Flanagan 

the street. It was no chance encounter, I soon learned. 

"My son," he said, "I would like to talk to you. Will you be good 
enough to call on me this evening?" 
"I'll be delighted. Father," I replied. 

After dinner I called on Father Flanagan. He semed in a jovial 
mood. 

"Come down into the cellar with me. I'd hke you to sample some 
of my wine." 

I accompanied him to the cellar. He produced glasses and went to 
a cask and drew two glasses of fine sherry. 

We sipped wine there in the cellar while Father Flanagan talked 
about topics of the day. Then he filled our glasses again and we went 
back upstairs to his study. 

I was wholly unprepared for what followed when we had seated 
ourselves. 

"Daniel O'Connell!" Father Flanagan declared suddenly. "It's a 
fine name." 
"Thank you. Father." 

"Oh, don't thank me. I know now that it isn't your name. I've 
been doing some checking up. You are a cunning fellow and you have 
a clever scheme." 
"What do you mean?" 

"I mean that I know all about you. I know that you really are 
selling the Catholic Encyclopedia — an excellent work. But your name 
isn't Daniel O'Connell and that story that the Holy Father wants you 
to sell 2,000 copies in Flint is pure fiction. You did a good job of 
misleading me. Now I want you to return that order I signed and 
get out of town." 

"But — I don't understand. If that's the way you feci, why arc you 
giving me wine?" 

"That," said Father Flanagan gently, "is just my way of turning 
the other cheek." 

I gave him back his order and that night, I left Flint. I decided I 
had enough of bookselling. My profit for three days' work was about 
Sl,600. This was pretty good pay, but I knew that without Father 
Flanagan's endorsement the picture would be much sadder. 

153 



14. Some Crediu-and Lots of Cash 



I RETURNED TO MY FAMILY IN CHICAGO. I HAD ACCUMULATED SOME 
money, but I got rid of it even faster than I got hold of it. When 
I spent an evening at one of the gay spots, it was not unusual for 
me to spend $500. This was in the days when the average worker con- 
sidered $500 fairly good pay for six months' work. 

I knew my failings. That is why, when I made a good score, I 
turned a major part of it over to my wife, Jessie. She was wise 
enough to know it was best to put our money into something tangible. 

Thus, at her behest, we gradually acquired considerable property in 
Chicago. Some of it was in vacant lots expected to increase in value. 
But most of it consisted of income-producing property such as apart- 
ment buildings. If I had followed the course my wife had charted, I 
might have escaped poverty in my old age — who knows .'' 

At that time we owned a three-story apartment building on Pratt 
Boulevard in the Rogers Park section of Chicago. We occupied a 
nine-room apartment and rented the rest of the building. 

Not so far away on North Broadway was Johnny Butterley's buffet, 
a gathering place for many people of unusual talents — confidence 
men, actors, writers. I went there because it was close to home and I 
liked rare wines — and Johnny served the best. The actors and writers 
came from the old Essanay Studios near by where they were doing the 
pioneer work in the motion picture industry. The con men liked 
Butterley's because of its atmosphere and its location, far from the 
territory of the Central Police, where the Detective Bureau was located. 

I was seated here one day, when "Big John" Worthington came in. I 
had christened Big John "the Wolf of La Salle Street" and the appella- 

154 



Some Credit — and Lots of Cash 

tion stuck. He was a big fellow, about six feet tall, with broad 
shoulders and an imposing manner. His features were broad and stern. 
He dressed well, but conservatively. He bore a strong resemblance to 
the late J. P. Morgan and could easily have passed for the financier, 
except among Mr. Morgan's intimates. 

Big John looked around and, seeing me, sidled up. He asked in a 
whisper, "Joe, how would you like to be vice-president of a LaSallc 
Street bank?" 

"Me, the vice-president of a bank?" I retorted. "Do you know any 
more jokes, John?" 

My attitude seemed to annoy him. "Are you questioning my sin- 
cerity?" he demanded. A flush of anger crossed his stern features. 

"If you were sincere, John, I'm sorry," I replied. "But surely you 
must realize what would happen if I became an official of a bank. 
There would certainly be a run, followed by the complete collapse of 
the institution!" 

"On the contrary, Joe," he said, "the depositors would feel that your 
acumen would safeguard their interests." 

"Tell me more." 

Briefly, he told me: The American State Bank, at 10 South LaSalle 
Street, could be purchased. (This bank had no connection with the 
present American National Bank in Chicago.) All the stock could be 
purchased for $75,000. He proposed that we invest |37,500 each and 
share the control. He would be president and I vice-president. 

Big John was acquainted with Melville Reeves, known as the Sky- 
scraper Burglar. Reeves had come into the possession of millions of 
dollars worth of bonds that had been stolen. It was Worthington's idea 
that we could buy these bonds from Reeves at a small fraction of their 
actual value. 

"Assuming that we bought the bonds," I mused, "what would we 
do with them?" 

"Accept them as collateral for loans," he replied. "Of course, we 
could use fictitious names for the borrowers. And we would always 
have good collateral to show what had happened to the depositors' 
money." 

"I'm sorry, John," I said, "but such a proposal doesn't interest me. 

155 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

These transactions in stolen bonds would have just one result: they 
would take us out of circulation for a long time." 

"Then you won't go in with me?" 

"Perhaps. But it must be understood that there will be no dealing 
in hot bonds." 

"You mean you think we can make money running an honest 
bank?" 

"Perhaps not. But I think I have a plan that will reap us con- 
siderably more profit — and with far less risk — then your scheme." 

"What is it?" 

"Did you ever hear of letters of credit?" 

"Yes, but I don't know much about them." 

"I do. My trips abroad have familiarized me with their uses. 
Through letters of credit, I think we can clean up." 

It was agreed that we would buy the stock, though Big John did 
not fully realize the scope of my plan. I didn't understand his ready 
acquiescence until he said: 

"Joe, I'm broke. If we go into this, you'll have to advance me 
$37,500." 

I agreed and gave him a check for $75,000. He purchased the 
stock and we took over the bank. It was an old-fashioned, gray stone 
structure and was comparatively small. An iron stairway led from the 
sidewalk to the entrance. 

We decided it was best to retain all the personnel with whom the 
patrons were familiar — tellers, bookkeepers, and other employees. 
We made only three changes: Big John became president and I was 
named vice-president. A disbarred attorney, whom I shall call New- 
man, we made cashier. In our plans, the cashier was the key man. 

Big John was a natural for the job of president. Not only did he 
look the part, but he was well versed in financial operations and was 
a graduate of Harvard. 

Nobody misses a vice-president, so that fitted into my plans. As long 
as John's imposing figure could be seen at the president's desk, my 
own absence would not be noticed. 

We agreed that all our American business would be conducted 
legitimately in accordance with general banking practices of that time. 

156 



Some Credit — and Lots of Cash 

Worthington took care of all the routine matters requiring official 
attention. 

I went to work on a scheme that, as far as I know, had never been 
tried up to that time. Using the bank's best engraved stationery, I 
wrote out six letters of credit, each for $100,000. They were signed by 
Newman, the cashier, and the bank's seal was affixed. 

A letter of credit is just what the name implies, and there are two 
kinds. One is a letter from a bank or mercantile house, addressed to 
a specific correspondent or affiliate, authorizing a certain designated 
party to draw drafts for certain sums. 

The other — the kind I prepared — is a circular letter of credit. It 
is addressed to bankers and merchants at large and authorizes the 
designated party to draw any sum up to the Hmit fixed in the letter. 
Each bank or mercantile establishment honoring a draft writes the 
amount on the back of the letter. For example, when ten entries of 
$10,000 each have been made, a $100,000 credit is exhausted. The last 
banker to honor the letter takes it up and forwards it to the issuing 
bank. 

Circular letters of credit have been in wide use, both at home and 
abroad, for many years. They have been developed into very fancy 
documents, with engraving, embellishments, and paper as hard to 
imitate as federal currency. But at that time they were not so well 
protected, and mine looked as authentic as any. 

Armed with the six letters, I left for New York, where I contacted six 
men — all well-known boat-riders or transoceanic cardsharps and 
swindlers: The Harmony Kid, Bill Ponds, George Barnell, Max Cott, 
Bud Hauser, and Henry Smart. 

They all agreed to try my plan, and we sailed for Europe. We 
dropped Ponds at Liverpool, from whence he proceeded to London. 
The rest of us went on to Paris, with which I was quite familiar and 
there set up headquarters for our venture. 

Each of the six men was given one of the letters of credit. Each 
engaged the services of a young woman; that was necessary to our 
scheme. Henry Smart remained with me in Paris, while the other four 
went to Rome, Vienna, Budapest, and Antwerp, each accompanied by 
the girl he had engaged. 

157 



"Yellow Kid'' Weil 

In Paris, Smart and his girl visited such places as Carticr's, Poirct's, 
and Schiaparelli's, buying expensive jewels and fine furs. Smart and 
the woman posed as wealthy American tourists. Parisians dearly loved 
the American tourist, especially for his money. 

The woman made the selections and Smart paid with a draft against 
the letter of credit. It was not unusual for American business men to 
take their wives for spending sprees in the Paris shops. And they 
presented letters of credit more often than they paid in cash. 

If the purchases the woman had selected amounted to $2,500, Smart 
wrote a draft for $5,000. He received the change in currency and no 
questions were asked. In this manner, he drew until the entire 
$100,000 had been exhausted. 

We were prepared in advance for any inquiry. If any banker had 
cabled to Chicago to see if the letters of credit were good, our cashier, 
Newman, was ready to cable back that they were. But nobody made 
inquiry. 

We had to work fast. One of our drafts might clear within six 
weeks. As each draft came in, it was turned over to Big John, who 
protested it. But by the time the draft got back to Paris or whatever 
other European capital it had been drawn in, we were back in the 
United States. 

Within a few weeks, Barnell and Hauser joined us in Paris and we 
returned to New York, where the Harmony Kid, Ponds, and Cott 
were waiting for us. It had been agreed that each man would keep 
40 per cent of the net proceeds. Some of them sold the furs and 
jewels on the return trip, in a few instances getting more than they 
had paid. They all had channels to dispose of the merchandise in 
New York at a discount. 

When an accounting was made, we found it had been a very prof- 
itable venture. The total amount turned over to me was $292,000. 
This amount I took back to Chicago, dividing with Big John, who 
was now able to repay the $37,500 I had loaned him to go in the 
banking business. 

I had been back only a few days when the first complaint came in. 
It was from Barclay's of London. 1 had anticipated this, however, and 
had already sent Newman to Mexico City, where he took up residence 

158 



Some Credit — and Lots of Cash 

under an assumed name. He was supplied with sufficient money for 
expenses and his salary was paid regularly. 

The complaint was referred to Worthington. 

"This letter of credit was issued without my knowledge," Big John 
replied. "Obviously it was a fraud perpetrated by the cashier, who 
signed it. The cashier has absconded and we have been unable to 
locate him." 

The next complaint was from the Banque de France. Others came 
subsequently from Vienna, Antwerp, Budapest, and Rome. Big John 
made the same reply to all. No one was able to prove that he was 
not telling the truth. Newman, who had signed all the letters, was 
nowhere to be found. There was no evidence to connect Worthington 
with the transactions. Strangely enough, nobody thought of blaming 
me. We continued to support Newman in Mexico City until the 
affair had been forgotten. 

Our bank prospered, but the profits were not spectacular. Big John 
was not satisfied. He was impatient for big money. One day he asked 
me into his office. 

"Joe," he said, "I saw Melville Reeves last night." 

"What about him?" 

"He offered to sell me a million dollars worth of bonds at ten cents 
on the dollar." 

"And every one of them registered?" 

"Yes, but — " 

"Don't be foolish, John," I returned earnestly. "Those bonds can 
all be traced. You'd be paying $100,000 for a ticket to the pen." 

"If we made loans on them and locked them in the vault, how could 
they be traced ? Everybody doesn't have the combination to our vault." 

"Have you forgotten about the state bank examiners?" 

"They probably wouldn't even look at the numbers," he argued. 

"But they might. No," I insisted, "I'm not having anything to do 
with stolen bonds." 

"Well, I will," he grumbled defiantly. "I got enough money to buy 
'em myself." 

"Go ahead, John. But count me out. I'm willing to take chances, 
but I'm not willing to do anything so foolhardy." 

159 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

"I'm ready to take the chance. Do you want to sell me your stock?" 

"Yes. I'm tired of this business, anyhow." 

The transaction was completed then and there. Big John Worthing- 
ton paid me my original investment of $37,500 and my connection 
with the bank ceased. 

He went ahead and made the deal with Reeves. He milked the 
bank of all its funds and eventually it was forced to close. But the 
bond gang had no intention of letting him get away with the money. 
They kidnapped him and did not let him go until he had parted with 
the money he had taken from the bank. 

Big John was broke when the kidnappers released him, and he never 
recovered. A few years later he died penniless. He was saved from 
a grave in potter's field by a collection among con men to give him 
a decent burial. 



160 



15. Tlx Man ivith a Beard 



FOR SEVERAL WEEKS AFTER I HAD LEFT THE BANK I WAS AT LOOSE 
ends. One summer day I was sitting in the lobby of the Metro- 
pole Hotel in downtown Chicago when a man named Sam 
Banks came in. He had a very prosperous business in the London 
Guarantee Building on North Michigan Avenue. It was so prosperous, 
indeed, that Sam had opened a branch office in Boston. 

"Hello, Joe," he cried, shaking hands. "What arc you doing now?" 

"At the moment," I replied, "I am free. Did you have something 
in mind.?" 

"Yes. How would you like to make a trip to Baltimore.''" 

"You know me, Sam," I told him. "I always like to travel. What's 
the deal.?" 

"You can make your own deal," declared Sam. "I'll give you the 
layout and you can work it any way that you like. Come over to the 
office with me and I'll tell you all about it." 

Sam was in the fortunetelling business, which has always been 
popular. He had been so successful in his predictions that his clientele 
had gradually changed. Now, he had only the wealthy people from 
the Gold Coast. Numerous stockbrokers came to him for advice about 
the market. 

Seeing the way his business was going. Banks made a special study 
of stocks. He read the financial pages regularly. He knew as much 
as any intelligent analyst about stock trends — what was likely to be 
a good buy, what was likely to drop. With this information he was 
able to forecast trends with fair accuracy. 

But Sam's modus operandi made his predictions seem supernatural. 

161 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

A man seeking information about stocks was put through the same 
hocus-pocus as any other man or woman who came to have a fortune 
told. 

He acted as the "medium" for these high-priced cHents. The fee 
was from $1,000 to $5,000. First the chent was asked to write his 
questions on a square of blank paper about three by three inches in 
size. Then he handed the paper to the medium, who said: "I will lie 
on this couch and put the paper on my forehead. Then I will go into 
a trance and your questions will be answered." 

The medium reclined on the couch. He put the square of paper on 
his forehead — or so the victim thought. Actually, it was a different 
square, of the same size and appearance, which had been substituted 
by the medium. He slipped the paper on which the questions had 
been written through a slit in the curtain and an accompUce picked 
it up. 

The turban that covered the head and ears was a part of the 
medium's equipment. This had a two-fold purpose. One was to give 
him an Oriental appearance. But the main reason was to conceal the 
telephone headset that was clamped over his ears. 

The wire from the headset went down the back of his neck to metal 
connections in the heels of his shoes. At the foot of the couch were 
other metal connections. These were hooked to wires that led into 
the adjoining room where the accomplice had a telephone. 

As soon as the accomplice had the slip of paper, he read the ques- 
tions over the phone. The medium received them through the headset 
as he lay on the couch, supposedly in a trance. 

With his eyes closed, the medium removed the paper from his fore- 
head. Holding the paper in his right hand, he reached out and held 
it over the flame of a candle that burned on a table beside the couch. 
As soon as the paper had been burned, the medium spoke: 

"You have asked what stock you should buy today. Buy American 
Telephone and Telegraph. The market will rise today and you will 
make a cleanup." 

That was all there was to it. When the question had been answered, 
the medium lost no time in coming out of his trance. He collected 
his fee and was ready for the next victim. 

162 



The Man with a Beard 

There were many wealthy women. Each usually asked about affairs 
of the heart, what sort of man was coming into her life, how to hold 
the affections of a husband or sweetheart, and other feminine ques- 
tions. Banks gave common-sense answers, and that probably accounted 
for his success. 

After he had shown me how he operated, he led me into his private 
office and told me about the Baltimore deal. 

A week before in Boston, a wealthy spinster named Dora Albright 
had come into his office. Sam had conversed with her before going 
into his trance. 

"I need some advice," she said. 

He was quick to take advantage of anything that made him appear 
to have supernatural powers. He shrewdly noted her Southern accent. 

"Miss Albright," he murmured, "you are not a Bostonian, are you?" 

"No, I'm not." 

"Are you just in town for a visit?" 

"Why, yes. I came here to see about some investments and I heard 
about you. I'm from Baltimore." 

"Yes, I thought so," Sam replied. The impression on her was pro- 
found. "You are, perhaps, the head of the family?" This was a guess, 
but based on sound reasoning. 

"Yes," she said, even more impressed. "There are only two sisters, 
Clara and Emma. I'm the head of the family because I'm the oldest." 

"I'll be happy to help you in any way that I can," Sam offered 
modestly. He handed her a square of paper. "Please write your 
questions here." 

While she wrote, he stepped into his inner sanctum where he 
donned the turban and a flowing tunic. When he emerged his 
appearance had changed drastically. He lighted the candle on the table 
near the couch, and turned out the lights. The heavily draped room 
was in eerie semi-darkness. 

Reclining on the couch and closing his eyes, he took the paper from 
the awe-stricken spinster. He made a few supposedly magic motions 
with his hands, sweeping them up and down in a wide arc. (This 
enabled him to slip the paper behind the curtain.) Then repeating a 
few words of gibberish he placed what she thought was the original 

163 



"Yellow Kid" Wetl 

square of paper, on which she had written, on his forehead. 

With his hands folded across his breast, he lay quite still and went 
into his trance, pushing his feet hard against the foot of the couch. 
That was to complete the telephone connection. 

He lay thus for five minutes, while Dora anxiously watched his 
motionless face. Then slowly his right hand went to his forehead, 
removed the slip of paper, and held it to the flame of the candle. 

"You say," he spoke, "that you and your sisters have about $200,000 
in cash. You wonder if you should put this in a savings bank or if 
you should seek an investment. My advice to you is this. Don't do 
anything now. I see a man coming into your life. This man wears 
a beard. I can't tell you when or under what circumstances you will 
meet him. Nor can I tell you what he will advise. But heed him! 
For the bearded one holds the key to your fortune. That is all." 

The spinster was old-fashioned and somewhat emotional. Sam 
could see that she had been shaken but was very pleased with his 
performance. 

"She's ripe for plucking," he told me as he finished the story. "I 

checked up and found out that the family is quite wealthy, with a 

large estate outside Baltimore. This $200,000 she mentioned must be 

some loose money she wants to put to work. Do you have any ideas?" 

"Plenty," I replied. "Want to hear them?" 

"No!" he retorted. "I'd rather not know any of the details of your 
scheme. All I want is a twenty-five per cent cut. Whatever you get 
and how you handle it is up to you." 
"I can manage it," I said. "Think I'll take a trip to Texas." 
"Texas? But these sisters live in Maryland — " 
"Yes, I know. But Texas fascinates me right now. There's some- 
thing there that I want." 
"Well, do it your own way, Joe." 

Twenty-four hours later I was on my way to Texas. Before leaving 
Chicago I had looked up the locations of various properties owned by 
the Standard Oil Company and by the Texas Company, producers of 
the Texaco oil products. Finally I found what I sought. The two 
companies owned tracts that were very close to each other in the same 
part of the state. 

164 



The Man with a Beard 

I bought maps of the property owned by the two companies, with 
the adjoining territory. By putting the two maps together, I got one 
big map that showed Texaco's holdings on the east and Standard's 
on the west. Between the two of them were many acres of land not 
connected with either company. There were no markings on the 
Standard and Texaco tracts, which indicated that both, while owned 
by the oil companies, were not being exploited. 

This suited my purpose admirably. I made plenty of markings of 
my own on the territory that lay between the two oil company tracts. 
One indicated the location of a "mother pool," while various others 
located spots where wells were expected to come in. 

When I had completed drawing my symbols, I had the whole thing 
reproduced on one big map. I had several copies of this new map 
made and took them with me to Texas. 

I had no trouble locating the property. I found that it was all pretty 
scrubby, including the tracts owned by the two companies. It was not 
uncommon for the big oil companies to buy up or lease large tracts 
of land which they held for years without drilling. Such was the case 
with the Texas lands I have mentioned. 

Since no oil had been discovered, the value of the land had not 
soared. I was able to purchase 1,500 acres at a dollar an acre without 
any trouble. As soon as I had obtained an abstract and a deed and 
had recorded the purchase under the name, Dr. Henri Reuel, I set 
out for Baltimore. 

My car was a Fiat, imported and custom built. It was expensive, 
powerful, and luxurious. I drove to Baltimore leisurely and sought the 
road on which the Albright sisters had their home. 

It was a huge estate, a few miles outside of Baltimore. The big 
colonial mansion was built on a hill in a clump of trees, some distance 
back from the road. A gravel drive led from the road to a wide- 
columned porch. After looking over the setup, I drove back to 
Baltimore, checked in at a hotel, bathed, and had dinner. 

It was after nightfall when I again drove to the Albright home. 
The big house was on a little-traveled country road and there was 
practically no traffic. 

I drove over to the side of the road and pulled the choke to flood the 

165 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

carburetor. The motor sputtered and died. I got out and raised the 
hood — for effect — and doused the lights. Then I approached the 
mansion. 

It was an eerie sight. The whole countryside was bathed in dark- 
ness. The only light was in the big house. A gleam came from the 
center of the house on the first floor and lights could be seen from two 
upstairs windows. 

As I walked toward the house, the only sounds that pierced the 
calm of the black night were the crunch of my feet on the gravel drive 
and the singing of the crickets in the thickets that lined the driveway. 
I must confess that I had some misgivings as I walked that lonely 
quarter of a mile. 

After what seemed an eternity, I finally reached the wide veranda. 
I saw immediately that this house was not run down. Indeed, it was 
in excellent state. The whole exterior had been freshly painted and the 
grounds were well kept. 

I went to the front door, lifted the brass knocker and knocked. A 
colored servant, dressed in a frock coat, came to the door. He was 
skinny and old and his shoulders were stooped. There were wrinkles 
around his eyes and a fringe of white hair around his bald pate, 
which shone in the dim light like polished ebony. 

"QDuld I see the master?" 

"Ain't no mastuh," he replied in a high-pitched voice, "Jest Miss 
Albright." 

"Then may I see Miss Albright? I'm Dr. Reuel." 

"Come in an' I'll see." 

I followed him into the drawing-room and took the chair he in- 
dicated. The chair was an antique with a scrolled back, but it was 
comfortable. I glanced about the room and saw that it was filled with 
priceless furnishings. The only illumination came from an elaborate 
partially lighted crystal chandelier. 

The negro butler shuffled out of the room. 

In a few moments I heard the swish of skirts. The woman who 
came toward me was not tall, but she was slender and her long dress 
gave her a stately appearance. I judged that she was in her late forties. 
Her frock was obviously expensive, but it was simply cut. 

166 



The Man with a Beard 

"I am Miss Albright," she announced. "Did you wish to sec me?" 

"Yes. I'm in a quandary. I was motoring past when my car broke 
down. I'm not much of a mechanic, I'm afraid, and I can't get it 
started again. May I use your telephone? I'm Dr. Reuel — Dr. 
Henri Reuel." 

"Of course, Dr. Reuel," she replied. "This way, please." 

I followed her into another room, which appeared to be a sort of 
library. In the center was a long counting-house table of shining 
mahogany. In one corner was a writing desk and on it a phone. 

"Do you have a directory?" I asked. 

"Yes, right here." 

"Thank you. Do you happen to know the name of a good auto- 
mobile repair shop in Baltimore?" 

She named one and I looked up the number. I called this number 
but there was no response. 

"Probably," said Miss Albright, "they are closed. You ought to be 
able to get somebody tomorrow, though." 

"Tomorrow is Sunday," I reminded her. This was part of my plan. 
I knew that no mechanic would be available on Sunday, and that's 
why I had picked Saturday night for the breakdown. 

"That's right," she agreed. "I'm afraid it looks as if you may not be 
able to get any mechanical help before Monday." She did not seem at 
all unhappy at the prospect. I knew that she had been observing my 
bearded countenance. 

"Is there no way I can get into Baltimore tonight?" 

"I don't know of any," she rephed, "unless you walk. Is it necessary 
that you be in Baltimore tonight?" 

"Well, no, but — " 

"Why not be our guest over the week-end since there is no immedi- 
ate solution to your problem? I'll have Ned prepare a room for you. 
My sisters and I will be happy to have you here until you can get 
your car repaired or secure transportation to Baltimore." 

"That is very kind of you. Under the circumstances, I must avail 
myself of your hospitality." 

I followed her back into the drawing room, and she summoned the 
negro budcr. 

167 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Ned,"' she told him, "prepare a room for Dr. Reuel. Where is 
Sam?" 

"Back in de kitchen, Miss Albright, I reckon." 

"Tell him to go with Dr. Reuel to get his luggage out of the car." 

"Yessum." 

I knew now that she was convinced I was the mysterious man with 
a beard the fortuneteller had predicted. 

Sam, I later learned, was the gardener and man of all work. His 
wife, Lulu, was maid and cook. They were younger and more active 
than old Ned, but I learned that all three of them had grown up as 
part of the household. 

Sam went back to the car with me. I locked the ignition, put the 
hood down, and took out two bags. Both bags were covered with 
labels from various European countries. As we re-entered the house, 
Miss Albright was waiting. She looked with considerable interest at 
the bags. 

"Dr. ReueL,'" she said, "unless you plan to retire early, my sisters 
and I will be happy to have you join us in the drawing-room this 
evening." 

"I'll be delighted," I said. 

Sam led the way up a carpeted stairway whose polished mahogany 
bannisters gleamed in the dim light. I could see, as we passed through 
the house and up to the second floor, that costly and exquisite bric-a- 
brac was everywhere. 

I unpacked my bags and put everything into the spacious drawers 
of the dresser. The room was large and well furnished, with a com- 
fortable four-poster bed. I changed into evening clothes, and combed 
a few kinks out of my beard. When I went downstairs to join the 
Albright sisters I was immaculate. 

Dora introduced me to her younger sisters. Emma was about thirty- 
five and Clara about thirty. They were attractive girls but their high 
priced costumes were severely tailored. It was obvious that the sisters 
lived sheltered lives. 

Clara and Emma acknowledged the introduction, but had very little 
to say. Dora, being the oldest, was spokesman for the family. Occa- 
sionally she would turn to her sisters for confirmation of something 

168 



The Man with a Beard 

she had said, more out of politeness than anything else. 

Our conversation began with triviaHtics. Ned, the butler, brought 
in some fine sauterne wine. Eventually Dora Albright got around to 
the question that had been on her mind since I had first appeared at 
the door: 

"Are you going to Baltimore on business, Dr. Reuel?" 

"Yes," I had my answer ready. "I represent European capital. As 
you know, the clouds of war are now forming over Europe. My 
principals have extensive holdings of valuable oil lands in this country, 
but it now appears that events in Europe will prevent them from 
exploiting these lands. I expect to dispose of a considerable amount of 
their holdings in Baltimore." 

"How very interesting," said Dora, turning to her sisters, who each 
nodded. 

"Have you traveled extensively in Europe, Dr. Reuel?" 

"Yes," I admitted, knowing she had seen the European labels on my 
luggage. She was trying to draw me out. 

"Won't you tell us something about the countries you've visited?" 

"Gladly." 

For an hour I told them stories about my ocean trips, about con- 
ditions in England, France, Germany, Italy, and the Balkans. 

"War in Europe is almost inevitable," I said. "The interests I rep- 
resent will surely be involved. They had made extensive plans for 
exploiting the fabulously rich oil lands they hold in Texas. But they 
cannot be bothered with this work, now that they are so busy with 
affairs of state. They have instructed me to dispose of the lands even 
though it will mean a great loss to them." 

"Do you expect to sell it all in Baltimore?" asked Dora. 

"I don't know," I replied. "I have offers from various firms for all 
but about 1,500 acres." 

"I don't suppose you'd want to sell any of this land to private 
investors?" 

"Perhaps. Do you have somebody in mind?" 

"Yes. We have some money that we would like to invest in some- 
thing gilt-edged. Do you suppose your principals would allow us to 
buy some of this oil land?" 

169 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"They have left the matter entirely up to me." 

"Dr. Reuel, would you be willing to sell us some of the land?" 

"Not knowing that you might be interested, I hadn't thought about 
it," I replied. "But I see no reason why you shouldn't be allowed to 
get in on a good thing. As a matter of fact I'd like you to have the 
opportunity, in view of your kindness to me." 

"Suppose you tell us more about it. Doctor." 

"I'll be glad to," I said, rising. "I have maps of the property in my 
bag. Will you excuse me while I get them?" 

I went upstairs and got two of the maps. When I returned, Dora 
suggested that we go into the room she used as an office. 

We went in and Dora sat down at the head of the counting-house 
table. Emma sat at the foot and Clara on one side. I spread out one of 
the maps in front of Dora and the other was shared by Clara and 
Emma. 

I pointed out the locations of the lands of the Standard Oil Com- 
pany and Texaco. Then I pointed to the "mother pool" on our 
property, as well as the various spots where producing wells were ex- 
pected to come into production. 

"This field is so fabulously rich," I said, "that the owners will gain 
wealth beyond their dreams. If I were seeking an investment for 
myself, I would look no farther." 

"It sounds very good," murmured Dora, looking at her sisters, 
"doesn't it?" 

"Yes, Dora," they replied. 

"How much are your principals asking for this land?" 

"I have the handling of all negotiations," I went on. "I intend to 
dispose of it for $120 an acre. That makes it a real buy for the 
purchaser, but time is an element with me." 

"Do you suppose we could buy the 1,500 acres that you said you 
still have left for sale?" 

"I see no reason why it could not be arranged." 

"I'm in favor of buying it," said she. "What about you, Emma?" 

"Yes, Dora." 

"Clara?" 

"Yes, Dora." 

170 



The Man with a Beard 

"Would you be willing to arrange it for us, Doctor?" 

"With pleasure, I'll do so as soon as possible," I replied. 

I folded up the maps and gave one to Dora. We had more wine and 
the sisters became a bit gayer. I had drunk just enough to give me 
a fine glow when I retired. 

I spent a very quiet Sunday with the ladies. In the morning, after 
breakfast, Ned hitched up two bay mares to the family brougham and 
we drove to church two miles away. The sisters had on their plainest 
dresses. I wore striped trousers and a morning coat. I sat with them 
in their reserved pew and could feel curious eyes upon me. It was 
easy to see that the Misses Albright were the dominant figures — and 
probably the main support — of this litde church. 

We had an excellent Sunday dinner, and I spent a leisurely after- 
noon and evening with the Misses Albright. 

The following morning, I called Baltimore and a mechanic came 
out. It didn't take him long to discover the two ignition wires I had 
disconnected. I left the women with a promise to return that evening. 

In Baltimore I fixed up a deed to the 1,500 acres I had purchased in 
Texas, making it out to Dora Albright. That evening, I was back at 
the estate. 

We met again in the room with the counting-house table. 

Dora sat at the head as before. Beside her was a strong box. I gave 
her the deed and she counted out $180,000, each movement of her 
arm casting a weird, moving shadow on the wall. She put the deed 
in her strong box and I put the cash in my brief case. 

"I suggest that you have this recorded as soon as possible," I urged. 
"It will protect you against encroachment." 

"Thank you. Doctor," said Dora. "I can't tell you how glad I am 
to have had this good fortune." 

All the sisters importuned me to stay another night, but I pleaded 
that I must be on my way to keep other business engagements. 

There was nothing the Albright sisters could have done to me even 
if they had wanted to. For all I know, there really was oil on the land 
I had sold them. At any rate the sale was bona fide and the land 
actually existed. Whether they later tried to develop it for oil, I don't 
knoT', I never heard any rhore about them. 

171 



''Yellow Kid" Weil 

I returned to Chicago and gave Sam Banks his 25 per cent cut. He 
was having his troubles. Barney Bertsch, who had protected him from 
poUce interference, faced charges of bribery and corruption. Barney, 
in an effort to save his own hide, had announced that he was going 
to "sing" about all those he had shielded. 

Banks decided the wisest thing to do was to close shop. I had no 
more dealings with him. But then it was unlikely that he would ever 
run across another perfect setup like the Albright sisters. 



172 



16. The Faro Bank Payoff 



THE CONFIDENCE GAME KNOWN AS THE PAY-OFF HAS BEEN WORKED 
by many con men throughout the world. Undoubtedly the 
reason the pay-ofi has been operated so successfully in so many 
instances is that it is a game of chance where the victim stands to 
win a lot of money. There is perhaps no other lure known to man 
that has so much appeal — the chance to risk a httle and win a lot. 

Aside from the natural animal instincts that are inherent in every 
normal person, I believe nothing else is so powerful as the urge to 
gamble. That is the reason there have been so many attempts to 
legislate gambling out of existence. My own opinion is that you can 
do this about as easily as you can change human nature, 

I venture to guess that there have been more laws against gambling 
than any other crime, with the possible exception of homicide. 

These laws may have changed our habits, but they haven't done 
much to stop gambling. The net result is that we do our wagering 
furtively, just as we drank under cover during Prohibition. If gam- 
bling houses and bookmakers were licensed and allowed to operate 
openly and legally, some measure of protection for the public would 
be possible. 

As it is now, the only "protection" is for the gamblers — against 
being raided. If a man is the victim of a dishonest gaming house, he 
can't protest to the law, because he was engaging in an illegal activity 
in the first place. 

There arc a number of reasons why gambling hasn't been legalized. 
One is that certain groups — generally, the same that forced Prohibi- 
tion upon us — are against it. Another is that the racing interests, 
composed of influential people, do not want the handbooks legalized 

173 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

for fear that they could cut into their own fat revenues. These people 
oppose the legal book from purely selfish motives and not for any 
moral considerations. 

Another group opposing legalized betting consists of poUticians. 
They are the people who receive the protection money, which would 
stop coming in if the bookies became legal. 

Now suppose we faced this realistically and recognized that you 
cannot stop gambling. Suppose we allowed each community to decide 
for itself whether or not it would have gambling. Those deciding in 
favor of it could license each establishment, as taverns are licensed. 

There would be some abuses, of course. But one important element 
would be removed — the muscle man. Gambling is about all there is 
left to the powerful syndicates which flourished during Prohibition. 
Repeal reduced these gangs, and the number of murders they com- 
mitted, and even caused the complete collapse of the smaller gangs. 
The licensing of gamblers would remove their last fertile field. 

Moreover, the fees that would be collected by each city could be 
used for many good purposes. It has been estimated that Chicago 
alone could collect about $3,000,000 a year from gambling Hcenses. 

The situation boils down to this. People want to gamble and they 
will, even though it is unlawful. Police have confessed that they arc 
powerless to stop it. Then why not do the most sensible thing — 
make the gamblers pay for the privilege.'' 

One of the oldest gambling games is faro bank. I don't know just 
when it first became popular. But I do know that it dates back to 
the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, from whom the name was derived. 
It has long been popular in France. 

In the early days faro was dealt from an open deck, without the 
box. Louis XIV was one of the first to try to legislate it out of 
existence. The French nobles gambled so recklessly and lost so con- 
sistently at faro bank that many became penniless. Louis issued a 
decree banning the game, but still it flourished. For centuries, it has 
been a favorite of Parisian and other French gaming resorts. It became 
a major attraction at Monte Carlo. In the early days of the United 
States, faro bank was popular in the frontier towns. 

My own experience with the game began soon after my return from 

174 



The Faro Bank Pay-off 

Baltimore. I was in Tommy Defoe's tailor shop in the Railway Ex- 
change building. Tommy's place was a regular hangout for con men. 
If we wanted to pass the word along to a fellow worker, Tommy 
always obliged. 

John Strosnider, who could be as smooth as silk, was sitting at a 
table shuffling cards. He was a wizard at cards. He could deal from 
the bottom and the average person would never know it. He also had 
a gadget for pulling a card up his sleeve which consisted of a wire 
extending from the foot, up through the trousers, under the shirt, 
through the sleeve at the shoulder, and out the coat sleeve. On the 
end of the wire at the sleeve was a clip-like finger. With this, John 
could palm the card he wanted and make any other card disappear 
faster than you could see it. 

Now he was shuffling the cards, doing tricks and playing with his 
faro box. He had two new gadgets he was demonstrating. Both were 
bits of wire he manipulated with his left hand. He called one "the 
thief" and the other "the knife." With "the thief" he could remove 
any card he wanted from the deck, with "the knife" he could cut the 
deck and put the bottom card on top. He was practicing various other 
manipulations. 

After a while I tired of watching him and picked up a newspaper. 
I turned to the classified colimin. I soon came across a want ad that 
interested me. 

A Mrs. Kingston was going to California for six months and wanted 
to lease her nine-room apartment on the Gold Coast. I lost no time in 
calling on Mrs. Kingston. She showed me the apartment. 

It was furnished luxuriously, and in excellent taste. The floors were 
covered with fine Oriental rugs. The large drawing-room was hung 
with priceless oil paintings. The other rooms were elegantly appointed, 
and there were two bathrooms. 

The kitchen was completely equipped. Next to the pantry, there 
was a wine room. 

It was an ideal setup. I succeeded in convincing Mrs. Kingston 
that I would take good care of her furnishings — and this was a 
prime consideration. I agreed to the $200 a month she asked, and 
paid her six months rent in advance. 

175 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Returning to Tommy Defoe's tailor shop I found Strosnidcr still 
practicing with his cards. I told him of the apartment and of mv 
plans for it. 

"We need a couple more good men to complete our organization," 
I added. 

"How about the Deacon and Jimmy Head?" he proposed. 

I had known Fred "The Deacon" Buckminstcr, one of Chicago's 
top confidence men, casually for a number of years but had never 
worked with him. Buck had been doing errands for Barney Bertsch, 
Chicago's big fixer. But things were hot for Barney, and Fred was 
ready to pull out. 

He was a big, portly fellow, with the most innocent face you ever 
saw. Looking at him you would have sworn that he could not be 
anything but honest. His eyes were as innocent as a baby's and his 
features were positively cherubic. His demeanor was so decorous he 
actually radiated an air of piety. This had earned him the sobriquet 
"The Deacon" by which he is still known, although he is now an 
old man. 

"He is a good detail man," Strosnider told me. 

Fred seldom slipped up on the small things which are very impor- 
tant in any good con game. 

Jimmy Head was from Texas. I have heard that he was from a 
good family and that his real name was not Head. He was a medium- 
sized man, nearing middle age, with a mild and pleasing manner 
and a slight Southern accent. In any crowd he would be incon- 
spicuous, for he was a good example of the average citizen. 

Head was also smooth. He was polite and his soft-spoken pleasant- 
ries made a favorable impression on the victims. He was the sort of 
fellow you would have expected to find in a teller's cage at your bank. 
We engaged a private room and I told Strosnidcr, Head and Buck 
of my plan. We would set up an establishment more lavish than 
any gambling club in Chicago. The story to our victims would be 
that it was a club maintained by the Jettison estate — one of a chain 
of such clubs scattered throughout the country. 

They were enthusiastic about my scheme and agreed to play the roles 
I assigned to them. 

176 



The Faro Bank Pay-off 

As soon as Mrs. Kingston had vacated the apartment, we moved in. 
Of course there had to be some rearrangement. Buckminster arranged 
for a roulette wheel and I had a number of tables brought in. In 
addition to the roulette table, we set up tables for poker and dice and, 
of course, a table for faro bank. 

In a corner near the entrance we set up a cashier's cage and installed 
Jimmy Head as cashier. He also kept the register and the membership 
book. This roster contained most of the biggest names in Chicago. 
Jimmy was supplied with large stacks of boodle, which were always 
in plain view. A victim always believes he has a chance of winning if 
there is a lot of cash in sight. 

Strosnider was to be the manager of the club and also was to deal 
the faro bank game. Buckminster was the "overseer," an official whose 
headquarters were supposedly in New York. The story was that he 
went from club to club, checking to see that each was being operated 
properly. 

The apartment was ideal. Only a very wealthy person, such as the 
millionaire Jettison, could have assembled such rich furnishings. It was 
not difficult for an outsider to believe that the club was frequented only 
by the socially elite. Indeed it would have been hard to convince the 
average person that anybody other than a millionaire was behind 
the club. 

Strosnider became "John Steele," manager of the club. Buckminster 
became "Mr. McFetridge," the director from New York. My own 
place in the scheme was to pose as an outsider with inside 
connections. 

As first victim I selected a man named Orville Hotchkiss. I had 
met him a year before when for a short time I operated a paint factory. 
Hotchkiss owned a retail paint store and had bought products of the 
factory. I knew he had no money to speak of, but I also knew that 
he was a fast friend of a man named McHenry, a sports promoter 
in Aurora. Though I brought in Hotchkiss, my ultimate victim was 
to be McHenry. 

"Orville," I told him when I called, "I want you to help me out." 

"Sure, Jim. What can I do?" Hotchkiss knew me as James R. 
Warrington. 

177 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"I have an uncle," I said, "who is the manager of one of the 
gambling clubs operated by the Jettison estate. You've heard of these 
clubs, haven't you?" 

"Of course." 

I knew he hadn't, but I also knew he had heard of the Jettison 
estate and the fabulous man who had founded it. 

"My uncle has been with Jettison for twenty years," I continued. 
"He's served faithfully. He expected to get a raise last week, but 
what happened? They gave him a cut. He's plenty mad about it and 
wants to quit. But before he does he wants to make a killing. 

"He knows that the New York overseer, a man named McFetridge, 
is back of it. McFetridge doesn't like my uncle and that's the reason 
for the cut. At the first opportunity he'll fire my uncle. But my uncle 
isn't going to give him a chance. He's going to clean up and retire." 

"I don't blame him," said Hotchkiss. "What do you want me to do?" 

"I want you to go in and make a big wager at the faro bank table. 
My uncle will be dealing. He'll let you make a killing — providing 
you split with him." 

"Why don't you do it, Jim?" 

"I would," I replied, "but they know me at the club. They know 
that Mr. Steele is my uncle. I couldn't get away with it." 

"It's all right with me," returned Hotchkiss, amiably, "but what am 
I going to use for money?" 

"Don't worry about that. My uncle will tell you how to do it." 

I arranged a meeting with "Mr. Steele." He brought the faro box 
along. 

"It's a case of rank ingratitude, Mr. Hotchkiss!" Strosnidcr said 
heatedly. "I've given Jettison the best years of my life. I certainly was 
entitled to a raise, if anything. But no, I get a cut." Strosnider was 
a good actor and there was bitterness in his voice. 

"That's too bad," Hotchkiss commiserated with him. 

"It's a rotten shame," Strosnider said with feeling. "But I don't 
intend to let them rub my nose in the dirt. I'm going to get even. Do 
you blame me?" 

"Of course not," Hotchkiss replied. 

"Ordinarily I wouldn't consider doing anything dishonest," John 

178 



The Faro Bank Pay-off 

went on, "but this is different. I feel it's what I've got coming to mc." 
He shuffled the cards. "Do you know anything about faro bank, Mr. 
Hotchkiss?" 

"No, I don't." 

"Well, you will when I get through." 

For two hours Strosnider rehearsed Hotchkiss in how to play. He 
showed him how, by shielding the cards with his big hands, he could 
always see what was coming out before it was dealt. He arranged a 
series of signals so Hotchkiss would know how to bet. They went 
over it time after time, until Hotchkiss was letter perfect in receiving 
the signals. 

"Now, I'll let you win all through the deck," Strosnider said, "but 
wait until the last turn to bet all your chips. I'll give you the signal 
just before the deal. Now is that clear.?" 

"Yes," Hotchkiss replied, "but there's one thing that isn't. What 
am I going to use for money?" 

"You can write a check, can't you?" 

"Sure, but it wouldn't be any good." 

"Don't let that worry you," said John. "You can cover it the next 
day. It'll be plenty good with all the money you'll win." 

"Suppose they won't take a check?" 

"Oh, they'll take it. AH the big men who come to the club write 
checks. You just hand me a check for $50,000 and I'll give you 
the chips." 

Strosnider produced two elaborately engraved guest cards. He wrote 
"James R. Warrington" on one and "Orville Hotchkiss" on the other 
and handed them to us. 

"Come in about ten," he said, shook hands and left. 

Promptly at ten that evening we were at the Gold Coast building 
that housed the Kingston apartment. Hotchkiss knew he was in an 
aristocratic section. He knew also that only wealthy people inhabited 
this building. 

We were admitted by a man in an impressive butler's outfit. He 
took our hats and escorted us to where the manager sat. Strosnider 
got up, shook hands, and greeted us profusely. 

"We're happy to have you gentlemen as our guests," he declared. 

179 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

He led us across the room towards the kitchen. The activities of 
the club were in full swing. My friend's eyes popped when he saw 
the lavish appointments. Aix)ut two dozen men in evening dress were 
at the various gaming tables and with them a number of women in 
formal gowns. 

Hotchkiss thought he had indeed landed in the very midst of Gold 
Coast society. He had no way of knowing that the men were all 
stooges, minor con men hired for the occasion. Each was paid $25. 
Each man furnished his own clothes and his own woman companion. 
I've no doubt that many of the girls thought the place a swank 
gambling club, just as Hotchkiss did. 

Each man was plentifully supplied with chips. They strolled about 
the room, trying their luck at all the games. It didn't matter whether 
they won or lost. The chips weren't worth anything. But Hotchkiss 
didn't know that. He gaped at the piles of crisp greenbacks in Jimmy 
Head's cage. 

We made our way across the room in leisurely fashion so that our 
guest could absorb all the atmosphere. Then, we went through the 
kitchen and into the wine room where wc found a bottle of champagne 
in a bucket of ice. The chef — a genuine chef, incidentally — was 
preparing sandwiches to serve the "club members." 

Strosnider poured the champagne. "Here's to the Jettison Club!" he 
cried. We drank the toast. 

"You gentlemen make yourselves at home." said Strosnider. "I have 
to see if there is anything I can do for the guests. When you feel like 
it come over to the faro bank table and we'll have a little game."' 

For perhaps a half hour we wandered about the big room, watching 
the various games. The butler came in with a big tray of sandwiches 
and passed them among the "club members." Later he returned with 
the beverages. Hotchkiss was thoroughly sold on the idea that it was 
a high-class club. 

"I see my uncle is not occupied now," I told him. "Suppose wc go 
over and play." 

Hotchkiss agreed, and we walked over to the faro bank table. 

"I'd like to buy some chips," he said. "I don't have much cash with 
me. Will a check do?" 

180 



The Faro Bank Pay-off 

"Of course," said Mr. Steele (Strosnidcr). "How much did you wish 
to play?" 

"Fifty thousand dollars." 

"Just make the check payable to cash." He began to count out chips 
with an expression that implied this club thought nothing of a mere 
fifty-thousand-dollar bet. 

Hotchkiss wrote the check and Strosnider handed him the chips. 

"Step up, gentlemen, and place your bets," he said briskly. 

Two or three stooges at the table put chips down on the board. 
Hotchkiss won small bets consistently, aided by Strosnider's signals, 
and had $75,000 in chips when the last turn came. 

"The last turn, gentlemen," Strosnider called. "There are three cards 
left. You must call the first two to win. The winner gets four to one." 

But the other players apparently had had enough. They left the 
last turn entirely to Hotchkiss, Strosnider signaled, and he put his 
chips down on low-high. The last turn was dealt and the first two 
cards to appear were Four-Queen. 

"I congratulate you, sir," said Strosnider, pushing $300,000 in chips 
to Hotchkiss. "You have been — " 

He didn't finish the sentence. He looked up and there, standing 
behind Hotchkiss, was a big, imposing figure. He was immaculately 
groomed and he watched with great interest as Hotchkiss picked up 
the chips and walked to the cashier's cage. 

"Hello, Mr. McFetridge," Strosnider greeted him with a sickly grin. 
"This is an — ah — unexpected pleasure." 

"Mr. McFetridge" nodded curtly and followed Hotchkiss to the 
cashier's window. 

Hotchkiss unloaded his chips and Jimmy Head counted them. 
"Three hundred thousand," he said. "Is that correct, sir?" 

"Yes," Hotchkiss replied, obviously with a lump in his throat. You 
could tell that the mere thought of $300,000 all in one bundle frightened 
him, 

Jimmy Head reached for the pile of boodle and started counting out 
crisp hundred-dollar bills, 

"Just a moment!" It was the commanding voice of Mr. McFetridge. 

"Mr, McFetridge!" Head exclaimed. "When did you get in?" 

181 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"I just came in as this gentleman called the last turn," the big fellow 
replied. "Are you a new member, sir?" he asked Hotchkiss. "I don't 
seem to recall you." 

"Why, no," Hotchkiss replied. "I'm a guest." 

"I see," said McFetridge. "I was over at the faro bank table and I 
noticed that you bought your chips with a check." 

"Yes. Isn't that all right?" 

"Of course," Mr. McFetridge replied. "Our members do it regu- 
larly. But we know them and we know their checks are good. But 
the rules of the house require that a guest pay cash for his chips." 

"I can do that," Hotchkiss retorted crimsoning. "If you'll just wait 
until I collect my winnings, I'll be glad to redeem the check in cash." 

"I'm sorry," said Mr. McFetridge, gently but firmly. "That's against 
the rules of the house too. I am sure that you can see our position. 
Suppose you had lost. Would the check have been good?" 

"Certainly it would!" I cut in. 

"I have no doubt that it is good. But we must be sure before we 
can pay your winnings." 

"What do you want me to do?" asked Hotchkiss. 

"Just let us put your check through the bank," the overseer said 
amicably. "It will take only a couple of days. Then we'll be very glad 
to pay you your $300,000." 

"In other words," I said, "if Mr. Hotchkiss can prove he had 
$50,000 in cash, you will pay him?" 

"Certainly," said the overseer. "The money is his. He won it. All 
we ask is that he demonstrate his ability to pay if he had lost." 

"Then why not give him back his check ? He can cash it and return 
tomorrow with the money." 

"That is agreeable to me," said Mr. McFetridge. "If he brings in 
$50,000 in cash tomorrow, we'll gladly pay him what he won." He 
turned toward the faro bank table. "Oh, Steele!" 

Strosnider came over, a hang-dog look in his eyes. 

"You know the rules of the house," McFetridge said sternly. "You 
know that only members are allowed to use checks to buy chips." 

"Yes, sir," the other murmured abjectly. "But Mr. Hotchkiss has a 
guest card — " 

182 



The Faro Bank Pay-off 

"I have no doubt that Mr. Hotchkiss is as good as gold," McFet- 
ridge cut him off. "But the rules of the house must be obeyed. I'm 
afraid I'll have to report this infraction of the rules to the New York 
office." 

"I'm sorry," the faro bank dealer apologized. 
"Now give Mr. Hotchkiss his check back," the overseer ordered. 
Strosnider handed the check to Hotchkiss. 

"We'll be in tomorrow with the cash," I said. "Please have the money 
ready." 

"It will be ready," returned the big fellow, with a sweep of his hand 
toward the pile of boodle in the cashier's cage 

Once we were outside I muttered, "It would be just our luck to run 
into that overseer." 
"What arc we going to do now?" Hotchkiss asked. 
"What can we do.?" I shrugged. "I haven't got $50,000 and I don't 
know anybody who has." 

"Well, I do," he said. "And I don't intend to pass up my share of 
that $300,000." 
"You do know somebody with that much money?" 
"Yes. You remember McHenry?" 

"McHenry?" I hesitated, "McHenry. Oh, you mean the man who 
helped you in the paint deal?" 

"Yes. He's got $50,000. If I give him half of my share, he'll come in 
with me. Or I think he will." 
"So what are you going to do?" 
"I'm going to Aurora first thing in the morning." 
"Good! We'll put one over on that McFetridge yet." 
I parted from Hotchkiss after arranging to meet the one o'clock 
train from Aurora on which he expected to return. As I have said, 
we had slated McHenry as the real victim and Hotchkiss was doing 
exactly what I expected him to do. 

When the train came in I was there. Hotchkiss got off and so did 
McHenry. We shook hands and went into the station restaurant for 
lunch. 

We discussed the deal and McHenry took the bait. "Suppose wc go 
up there now," he proposed. "Will anybody be in?" 

183 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Yes," I replied. "My uncle is always there in the afternoon." 

"All right," said McHenry. "Let's go." 

We took a cab to the Gold Coast apartment. Strosnider admitted us. 

I introduced him to McHenry and said: 'We've come to collect. 
Mr. McHenry has the $50,000." 

"McFetridge isn't here, the dirty rat!" Strosnider said bitterly. "He's 
got all the funds locked in the vault. You'll just have to wait until he 
comes. He's threatened to fire me." 

"Well," I declared softly, "after this deal you won't have to work for 
him, Uncle John." 

"I have a better idea," offered Strosnider. "You gentlemen come 
with me." 

He led the way to a sun room which was comfortably furnished 
with tables and chairs. "Have a seat and I'll be right back." 

When he returned he had his faro box. 

"Do you know anything about faro bank?" he asked, addressing 
McHenry. 

"Not much," McHenry admitted. 

"Well, we've got plenty of time. I'm going to teach you." 

"What for?" 

"I'm going to give that McFetridge a real double-crossing," Stros- 
nider replied. "You've got $50,000 in cash. You can buy chips with 
that and I'll let you win. You can win $300,000 and give Mr. Hotch- 
kiss $50,000 and let him collect his bet, too." 

All afternoon Strosnider rehearsed McHenry in how to play faro 
bank, how to bet, and the signals. Finally McHenry said he had 
practiced enough. 

"Are you sure you understand it.?" John asked. 

"Positive," McHenry insisted. 

"All right but I don't want any sHps. Are you sure you don't want to 
go over it again?" 
"No. There won't be any slips. I understand it perfectly." 
He didn't, of course, but we didn't want him to. Strosnider wrote 
out a guest card for McHenry and we departed. I took them to dinner 
and at nine that night we went back. Our purpose in going early was 
to allow McHenry to make his play before McFetridge showed up. 

184 



The Faro Bank Pay-off 

The same group was on hand, going through the same motions. 
McHenry, like Hotchkiss, was very much impressed. But there was 
a difference between the two men, Hotchkiss frankly admitted he 
didn't know his way around gaming circles. But McHenry was the 
type that would today be called a "wise guy." He looked upon every- 
thing with a knowing eye. 

When he approached the faro bank table he was set for the kill. He 
put down $50,000 in cash and received the equivalent in chips. 

The game started, with a few stooges playing alongside McHenry. 
They all dropped out before the last turn. He won regubrly with the 
help of Strosnider's signals. He had more than $75,000 in chips when 
the last turn came. 

"Step up, gentlemen," Strosnider called. "It's the last turn. You 
can bet any of six ways. There are three cards remaining in the deck 
— a King, Ten, and Ace. You can call it high or you can call it low. 
If you call the cards, you get four to one." 

This was the signal for McHenry to bet. The cards were in the box 
exactly as Strosnider had called them. But McHenry got his signals 
mixed when John said, "You can call it high or you can call it low." 
That was in reality the signal that high card would be first. 

McHenry put all the chips he had on Ace-King to show in that 
Older. Strosnider started to deal, then looked up. Behind McHenry 
was the formidable bulk of Buckminster (Mr. McFetridge). Stro- 
snider signalled frantically to McHenry to withdraw. This was to 
make it seem realistic to McHenry. 

Buckminster spoke up. "The bet stands," he said icily. 

Strosnider hesitated, looking from McHenry to McFetridge, with a 
harried expression 

"Deal the last turn!" McFetridge commanded. 

"Sure, go ahead and deal," McHenry said confidently. 

Strosnider dealt the cards. The first was a King, the second a Ten, 
the last an Ace. 

Sorrowfully, Strosnider raked in the chips. McHenry turned pale, 
as if he could not believe his eyes. 

"I've been cheated!" McHenry muttered. 

"Come on," I said, grabbing his arm. "Let's get out of here." 

185 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"You can go with them," said McFetridge. "Steele, you're fired!" 

The three of us went out and stopped in the nearest buffet. 

"Whatever possessed you to bet on Ace-King?" Strosnider demanded 
as soon as we had been seated. 

"You signalled to bet on the high card," McHenry defended himself, 

"Certainly I did," Strosnider replied. "Why didn't you?" 

"But I did. I bet on the Ace — " 

"The Ace? Why, you stupid idiot, everybody knows that the Ace 
is low card in faro bank." 

"I didn't." 

"Well, why didn't you ask?" Strosnider demanded bitterly. "I 
thought you said you knew everything about this game." 

"I'm sorry that I muffed it." 

"A lot of good that does now. Not only did you muff our chance to 
make a killing but you caused me to lose my job. I hope that I never 
run into anybody like you again!" 

On this note we parted company. I later saw Hotchkiss many times. 
He laughed about the whole thing when he learned my real identity. 

There was almost a serious sequel to the McHenry episode. It was 
only a few days after we had taken the Aurora sport's money. I had 
just finished shaving when Buckminster dropped in. He'd had another 
quarrel with his girl friend and had been chased from their apartment. 

"Had breakfast yet?" 

"No," I said. "Won't you join us?" 

"Thanks. I'll read the paper while you're getting dressed." 

The Chicago Tribune, still rolled as the boy had delivered it, was 
on the table. Buckminster picked it up and opened it. 

"Holy smoke!" he exclaimed. "Joe, look at this!" 

He held out the front page. Across it was a two-inch headline that 
read: 

WEIL-STROSNIDER GANG SOUGHT FOR MURDER 

And under it was another headline: 

Three Con Men Suspected in Slaying of 
Red-Haired Tango Dancer 

186 




Jimmy Head, con-man confederate of the "Yellow Kid" for many years. 




'Yelloiv Kid" Weil as be looked in the early l')20's. 



The Faro Bank Pay-off 

Buckminster rolled up the paper and jammed it in his pocket. 

"Come on," he snapped, "we've got to get out of here." 

"But I'm not fully dressed — " 

"You're dressed good enough." He grabbed my arm and propelled 
me unceremoniously to the door. I had on socks, but still wore bed- 
room slippers. 

Buckminster pulled me out the door and started cutting across the 
lawn to a back street. My wife had a glass-covered hothouse and in 
the excitement I stepped in that. Buck kept me from going through, 
but I lost my slippers. 

We made the back street and I walked a dozen blocks in my stock- 
ings without any shoes. Finally we came to the rear of Johnny 
Butterley's saloon. 

In there we had a slight breathing spell. But Buckminister was sure 
the cops were hot on our trail. He phoned for a cab and we took that 
to a hotel on the northwest side. Every time Buck saw a car he was 
sure it was the poUce. 

As soon as we were settled I phoned my wife, told her where we 
were, and asked her to bring me some shoes. Buck had breakfast 
sent up. Then we read about the murder of which we had been 
suspected. This is what we learned: 

It was near 8 p. m. on an evening two days before. Dusk was 
merging into darkness. Mrs. Frank Pratt, whose husband managed 
the Dunham farm near Wayne, Illinois, was hurrying homeward when 
she saw a couple. 

Even in the semidarkness, she observed that they were a handsome 
pair. The man was of medium build and slender. The woman, 
dressed in a blue serge suit, wore a large hat with a bow, a pink rose, 
and ostrich plumes over her long red hair. They were leaving a bypath 
and walking toward the road to Wayne. 
"This way, sweetheart," said the man. 

"All right." The woman laughed happily and added, "It's dark, 
but I'm not afraid as long as I'm with you." 

Mrs. Pratt continued on to the farm. The last she saw of the couple, 
they were walking down the road, not far from the tracks of the Elgin, 
Joliet and Eastern Railroad. She thought little of the incident, since 

187 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

many Chicago people had summer homes in the vicinity and strangers 
were common enough. 

As she neared her home Mrs. Pratt heard an explosion. But she 
dismissed this with the thought that it was a torpedo — a signal in wide 
use by railroads at that time. She thought no more of it until the next 
day. 

Early that morning a woman had been hit by a train in the vicinity 
of the Dunham farm. At first Wayne authorities regarded it as a 
regrettable accident. But when the body was examined by a coroner's 
physician he found a bullet hole in the head. He said that the woman 
had been murdered before the train hit her. 

When Mrs. Pratt heard this she told of the chance encounter the 
night before. Police renewed the search of the ground. They found 
a calling card bearing the name Mildred Allison. On the back was a 
penciled notation. "Frank L. Oleson, Felicita Club." Searching further 
the police found some bits of paper — evidently a letter that had been 
torn up and scattered on the tracks. 

They carefully pieced together the bits of paper and this is what they 
had when they had completed the jigsaw puzzle: "In the hands of 
three confidence men named Weil, Strosnider, and Buckminster." 

The investigation was immediately shifted to Chicago. The Felicita 
Club was a dance hall known as a "tango palace." Frank L. Oleson 
was the manager. He said that he had employed Mildred Allison as 
a tango-dancing instructor. 

Persistent work by Captain John Halpin, then Chief of Detectives, 
brought out some facts about the murdered woman. Her name was 
Mildred Allison Rexroat and she had been married to a man named 
Allison, by whom she had three children, the eldest a boy of seventeen. 
But she had become enamored of the tango palaces and spent a good 
deal of her time there. 

At the Felicita Club, she had met Rexroat. After a clandestine aflair 
she had divorced her husband and married Rexroat, a farmer from 
downstate. But she had lived with him only a few weeks on his farm, 
tired of him, and returned to Chicago, where she had been engaged as 
an instructor by the Felicita Club. 

Inquiry at the club brought the information that the red-haired 

188 



i 



The Faro Bank Pay-off 

woman had been seen frequently with a slender fellow of medium 
build known as Mr, Spencer. There were various opinions as to Mr. 
Spencer's character. 

One woman said that he was a confidence man; another that he was 
a blackmailer; a third that he was a leader of the Black Hand. Others 
said he was a bond salesman and a gambler. 

While none of these descriptions fitted me exactly, nevertheless the 
physical description was close. The police were none too sure about 
my occupation, but they had ideas. Further, it was known that I was 
fond of red-haired women. 

None of this would have made the police look for me on the face 
of it. But the letter that had been found near the body made the trail 
lead straight to me. Or it would have if I had been at home. 

Fortunately for me, Captain Halpin was a conscientious worker. He 
kept looking for the mysterious Mr. Spencer. Finally the rooming- 
house where the man lived was located. The police laid a trap for him 
and captured him within a matter of hours. Spencer confessed, was 
convicted, and died on the gallows. 

After Hotchkiss learned who I really was he told me how our names 
became linked with the affair. He had received a bitter letter from 
his friend McHenry in which the Aurora sportsman had complained 
that he had been in the hands of three confidence men named Weil, 
Strosnider, and Buckminster. Hotchkiss had the letter with him on a 
week-end trip to Wayne. While walking down the track he had torn 
the letter into bits. Most of it had been scattered by the wind, but the 
bits containing the two sentences that implicated us still remained near 
the murder scene. 

Buckminster and I had to hide out only about two days before the 
murder rap was lifted. We weren't questioned at all, though the 
newspapers made a lot of the story. 

I still had Mrs. Kingston's apartment and I saw no reason to dis- 
continue the "club." But I made a rule then, and I have stuck to it 
ever since. I decided all my victims must be from outside Chicago. 

There would be much less danger of my encountering them later if 
they were outsiders. This worked out remarkably well and is probably 
the reason that I had comparatively little trouble over the years. 

189 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Through an agency, I had want-ads inserted in newspapers in other 
cities. The ad read: 

MONEY TO LOAN — Retired multi-millionaire will make business 
loans to responsible concerns for expansion. Must be bona fide. Give 
full details in first letter. Address Box J-215. 

These ads brought an avalanche of mail and provided us with many 
wealthy victims. We brought each victim to the Jettison Club and 
worked the faro game on him while he was waiting for a decision on 
his loan. To make it realistic, we always sent auditors to go over his 
books and look into his bank credit. Most of our victims didn't learn 
they had been tricked until much later. 

But in this, like everything else I have undertaken, I soon had many 
imitators. Faro bank gambling clubs sprang up all over Chicago. 
We talked it over and when the small fry began to move in decided it 
was time for us to quit. 



190 



17. Meet Me in St. Louis 



FRED "the deacon" BUCKMINSTER AND I DECIDED TO STICK TOGETHER. 
We both lived in Chicago and were fond of excitement. Either 
of us could have retired and lived a legitimate life many times, 
but we craved excitement. 

One of our stooges in the faro bank venture owned some Alaskan 
mining stock. We bought it from him for $500. We found out that 
it was worthless, though perfectly legitimate, because the mining prop- 
erty actually did exist. 

The beautifully engraved certificates gave me an idea which I dis- 
cussed with Fred. The plan required considerable forethought and it 
was several months before we were ready. But when we finally did 
complete the scheme we had something that was to be a gold mine for 
more than twenty years. 

The first concrete step was to have stock certificates printed. We had 
an ample supply of the most magnificent stock certificates you ever 
saw. The stock was so beautifully engraved that it looked like money 
in the bank. The borders were gold leaf. 

The certificates were all shares in the nonexistent "Verde-Apex 
Copper Mining Company" and the equally nonexistent "Verde-Grande 
Copper Mining Company." 

Gene Boyd, who lived in East Chicago, Indiana, was Hned up to 
"hold the rag," which means holding a block of worthless stock. John 
Snarley, the gold-brick specialist and John Strosnider, who was ready 
to participate in any kind of skin game, also became rag-holders. They 
were all given detailed instructions. 

Jimmy Head, the most dependable man of the lot, completed our 
organization. 

191 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

At this time I had become involved with a young woman in Chicago 
who had taken my attention a Httle too seriously. I decided that a drive 
to St. Louis would be good for me. 

Buckminster wasn't doing anything, and accepted my invitation to go 
along. We drove in my Fiat roadster. 

We were approaching Alton, which is not far from St. Louis, when 
we saw a big, run-down plant. It was not in operation and was in a 
state of dilapidation. Weeds grew unchecked on the grounds around 
the building. The fence was falling apart and most of the windows 
were broken. Across the side of the building was a dirty sign: The 
Alton Iron Works. 

"That," I said to Buck, "ought to be a good investment for our 
European associates." 

"It might," he agreed. "But I'll bet it's in hock." 

"Shall we find out?" 

"Sure. It might be a good bet." 

We drove on into Alton and stopped at a hotel dining-room for 
lunch. I inquired of the waiter, and we received the complete story 
of the Alton Iron Works. 

"It started out big," he told us. "A lot of people worked there and 
the whole town was proud of it. But something went wrong. The 
owner was a man named Gibbons. He was a partner in the Third 
State Bank. Gibbons went broke and had to borrow money on it. He 
lost all of that and then he hocked his house. When all the money 
from that was gone he had to close up. I guess the disappointment 
kiUed him." 

"Who owns the plant now.?" 

"Mrs. Gibbons, I suppose. But there's a big lien on it and she'll 
never get anything out if it." 

"How about the man who holds the lien?" 

"He'll get something out of it," said the waiter. "I don't know how, 
but I bet he will. He was Gibbons' partner in the Third State Bank 
but wouldn't go in the Iron Works. When Gibbons needed money he 
went to the bank. This fellow — his name is Hoffman — lent him the 
money — first on the plant and then on the house." 

"What makes you think he won't lose any money on it?" I asked. 

192 



Meet Me in St. Louis 

"Him lose money? Mister, he's the tightest man in the world. He 
never lost money on anything." 

"Thanks." I slipped the waiter a five dollar bill and paid the check, 
and we left for the Third State Bank. 

It was a modest building. There was no pretentious lobby, no wasted 
space. Five tellers' cages were all on one side. At the end of the room 
the banker sat on a platform in front of his private office. 

This was the man — Marvin Hoffman — whom we had come to see. 
He was of medium height and build. A frugal man — you could tell 
that just by looking at him. He wore the cheapest clothes I ever saw 
on a business man. The suit was plain gray of very coarse material. 
The coat was ill-fitting and the trousers were baggy. He looked like 
anything but a banker. 

Hoffman had a thick moustache, obviously dyed. My own reaction 
was that he had used black shoe-polish. On top of his head was a 
toupee, also black, the most ill-fitting toupee I had ever seen. You 
could spot it a block away, for it looked like the stuffing out of a cheap 
mattress. 

"Mr. Hoffman?" I approached him. 
"Yes." He stood up and surveyed me with a critical eye. 
"I am Dr. Weed and this is my associate, Mr. McFetridge. We 
represent European capital. To be exact, our principals are important 
figures in Europe." 

"I'm honored. Dr. Weed," he said, shaking hands. He beamed at us 
cordially. "What can I do for you gentlemen?" 

"As I said, our principals are important figures in Europe. They 
are none too sure that Germany and her allies will win the war. If 
something should go wrong they want to have something to fall back 
on in this country. They have entrusted us with the task of selecting 
some worthwhile investments." 
"Can I help you with an investment?" Hoffman inquired. 
"Perhaps. I understand that you own the Alton Iron Works." 
The banker's rotund face lighted up. His dyed moustache almost 
brushed against his nose as he parted his lips into a smile. 

"I don't own it," he began. "But I do have a lien on it. And I 
am empowered to negotiate a sale." 

193 



''Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Excellent," I said. "How much do you think the owner would 
want for it?" 

"I believe," he replied, with a perfectly straight face, "that he would 
be willing to sell for $500,000." 

"H-mm!" If I had been seriously considering buying the place, I 
would have laughed in his face. But, very solemnly, I turned to Buck. 
"What do you think, Mr. McFetridge." 

"That's about the figure we had in mind," he replied. "I think it 
will make a good investment." 

Hoffman looked us over again. I am not very large, but I was 
well-dressed. My beard was well-groomed. Buckminster's clothes had 
been cut by a good tailor. His figure was big and impressive. I looked 
distinguished and Buck imposing. Hoffman thought he had hit the 
jackpot. We gave every tangible evidence of being big business in 
person. 

I stroked my beard thoughtfully. "There is another thing we have to 
consider. It will require some additional capital to get the plant into 
shape. How much do you think would be required for that?" I asked 
Hoffman. 

"Not so much," he replied. "Maybe $50,000." 

"We'll plan on a hundred thousand," I said. "Suppose you talk to 
the owner and get the necessary papers ready. We'll go on into 
St. Louis and I'll contact my principals. We'll see you again next 
Tuesday — a week from today." 

"I'll arrange everything," said the overjoyed Hoffman. 

We shook hands and left. 

"How much do you expect to get out of him?" asked Buck, as we 
drove into St. Louis. 

"Not much," I replied. "But we ought to be able to make our 
expenses." 

"He's a tightwad if I ever saw one," said Buck. "We'll be lucky if 
we take him for $25,000." 

We registered at the JefTerson Hotel in St. Louis and took a suite 
with a sitting room and two bedrooms. 

The following morning, I read the financial pages of a St. Louis 
morning paper. One item that interested me particularly was that 

194 



Meet Me in St. Louis 

Bright and Company, a large brokerage house, was going out of busi- 
ness. I called the item to Buck's attention. 

After breakfast we went downtown. The brokerage house of Bright 
and Company was a beehive of activity. I asked for the manager and 
was shown into his office. 

"Yes," he affirmed the report, "we're liquidating this office." 

"I represent the brokerage firm of Farson, Clark, Hamill Company," 
I told him. "We plan to open an office in St. Louis. What do you 
plan to do with your furnishings?" 

"Sell them, I suppose," the manager replied. 

"How would you like to rent the whole thing, completely fur- 
nished?" 

"I think that could be arranged. But it will be two weeks before 
we'll be out. Our clerks will be busy until then, getting the books in 
order." 

"That would be all right," I said. "I suppose you'd have no ob- 
jections to our bringing in some of our own clients if you're not out 
by the time we're ready to move in?" 

"No, of course not." 

I arranged to lease the place and paid a month's rent in advance. 
Then I called Jimmy Head in Chicago and told him to come on to 
St. Louis. 

Buck and I surveyed our new offices with undisguised satisfaction. 
The place was completely equipped for handling stocks. The board 
was still in operation. Quotations from the New York Stock Exchanges 
were coming in as usual. All around us clerks were busy over ledgers. 
It was agreed that we could have the use of one of the offices until 
the company closed its affairs. 

This settled, Buck and I set about the business of relaxing, which 
had been our original purpose in coming to St. Louis. We attended a 
performance of The Passing Show and went to a cabaret. 

People have often asked me what I did with all the money that came 
into my possession. A little impromptu party we gave offers a good 
example of how the cash melted away. We often entertained on a 
lavish scale. 

Friday night wc were in the elevator going up to our room when 

195 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

I noticed a beautiful red-haired girl. I recognized her as the star of 
The Passing Show. 

On an impulse I approached her. "I beg your pardon, Miss, but 
what are you doing tonight?" 

She looked up in surprise. "Why, I'm going to my room." 

"Won't you join us?" I said. "This gentleman" — I indicated 
Buckminster — "and I are having a little party. I have five bottles of 
imported champagne and a feast of English pheasant." 

"Why, I don't know — " the girl hesitated. 

"We expect another young woman to join us," I added hastily. 

"I suppose it would be all right." 

"Excellent. You go along to your room and get ready. We have 
some preparations to make. We'll call you as soon as everything is 
ready." 

The girl got of? the elevator and we went on up to our suite. 

"What's the big idea?" Buck demanded, "telling that girl you've got 
a feast. Why, you haven't even got a bottle of wine." 

"No, but I'll get it. How about you getting a girl?" 

"That's easy," Buck replied. "I can get that blonde from Fogarty's 
show. And that reminds me. I'm giving a party for Fogarty's entire 
show Saturday night. Do you want to come along?" 

"Certainly. And maybe I can bring along a few of the cast of The 
Passing Show." 

"The more the merrier," said Buck. 

I hurried back downstairs and talked to the night clerk. All Hquor 
stores were closed then, as was the hotel dining room. But for a 
consideration, the clerk got into the dining room and found some 
roast chicken in the icebox. He also got the keys to the liquor stock 
room. He returned with three bottles of champagne and a bucket of 
ice. 

Within half an hour I had the feast spread on a table in the sitting 
room of our suite. Then I called the redhead and she came up. Within 
a few minutes Buck was there with the blonde from Fogarty's show. 

We had a gay time that lasted well into the morning hours. Before 
I had parted with the girl I had arranged to take part of her company 
on our party the following night. 

196 



Meef Me in St. Louis 

We had selected Saturday night because there was no performance 
on Sunday. It was well after midnight when we got going. Buck and 
I hired a dozen cabs to take us to a roadhouse just outside St. Louis. 
The place was about ready to close, but we persuaded the proprietor 
to let us in. 

A ten-piece band was on the point of leaving. But a little cash, with 
promise of more, induced them to stay on. There was plenty of food 
and plenty of wine. 

It was probably as merry a party as had ever been staged at that 
roadhouse. The gayety lasted through Sunday and Sunday night and 
until late Monday afternoon. We consumed great quantities of food 
and many gallons of wine. We finally had to call a halt because the 
players had to get back into St. Louis for their shows. 

The band had stuck with us all through the week end, as had the 
employees of the roadhouse. When it came time to settle the bill Buck 
and I paid out more than we hoped to take from Hoffman. We made 
money in large amounts and we spent it that way. We cared for 
money for only one reason — the fun and the things it would buy. 

We were exhausted after the party and went to the hotel to sleep. 
We slept until Tuesday evening and got up with hangovers. Tuesday 
was the day we were supposed to go back to see Hoffman. There was 
nothing we could do now but make it the next day. 

Hoffman greeted us effusively when we entered his bank the fol- 
lowing morning. 

"I'm sorry we were not able to get back on Tuesday," I told him. 
"But I was delayed by another matter in which I am extremely in- 
terested." 

"Oh, that's all right," said the banker, obviously relieved that we 
came back at all. 

"Do you have the papers all drawn wp}" 

"Yes, everything is ready," he replied. "I have a bill of sale, free of all 
encumbrances. Did you contact your principals?" 

"Yes. They think the site is excellent and are quite ready to com- 
plete the transaction at the figure you mentioned. But it will be 
necessary to take the papers to New York where they can be inspected 
by the man who will direct the property in America. His name is Hans 

197 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Luther and he has just arrived in this country from Europe." 

"You mean I have to go to New York?" asked Hoffman. 

"Would it be inconvenient?" I countered. 

"I'm afraid so," he repHed. "I have nobody to run the bank." 

"Suppose," I said, "that we let Mr. McFetridge take the papers to 
New York and close the deal?" 

"That's all right with me," Hofifman replied. 

"An excellent idea," Buckminster approved. "I ought to be able to 
get the whole thing settled in a week." 

"Meanwhile I'll stay here," I said. 

"I'd ask you to stay with me," frowned Hoffman, "but my house is 
rather small — " 

"I wouldn't think of it." I told him. "As a matter of fact I have 
already engaged a suite at the Alton House." 

Buckminster took the papers and went back to St. Louis, supposedly 
to take a train for New York. He drove the Fiat, leaving me without 
transportation. I registered at the Alton House and welcomed the op- 
portunity to get some rest at this quiet hotel. 

During the ensuing days I spent a great deal of time with Hoffman. 
He had a Toledo touring car, which I think was the worst automobile 
I've ever been in. He took me to the iron works, and showed me how 
to make the necessary repairs. 

One day while I was waiting for him to go to lunch he left the 
bank early, saying he wanted to buy a suit. I went along. He first 
tried the town's leading haberdashery. But the cheapest suit this store 
had cost twenty-three dollars and that was more than Hoffman was 
wilUng to pay. 

We went to several other stores, walking up and down side streets, 
until Hoffman finally found a suit that he felt he could afford. It was 
a ghastly color, poorly cut and of the very cheapest material. But the 
price tag was nine dollars, and that was what appealed to Hoffman. He 
bought the suit and wore it to church the following Sunday. 

On the way to church Hoffman picked me up. While there were 
curious glances directed my way as we sat in Hoffman's pew, there 
were no friendly advances. As far as I could see Hoffman had not a 
friend in the entire town. I had already seen some of the reasons for 

198 



Meet Me in St. Louis 

this, but as we drove back to town he gave me an even more revealing 
clue. 

He pulled up to the curb in front of a house. 

"See this place?" 

"Yes." 

I couldn't have missed it. It was a beautiful home, a two-story house 
of face brick which stood on a promontory. The lawn surrounding it 
had been terraced and the grass was very green. A winding driveway 
led to an arched portico on one side. On the other side was a green- 
house and a summer house. There were several fine trees on the 
grounds. 

"That is the show place of Alton," said Hoffman, "and I expect to 
move into it in a few weeks." 

"Did you buy it?" I inquired, very much surprised. 

"Yes, in a way," he replied. "I hold a mortgage on it. It was built 
by a man named Gibbons. He used to be my partner. Then he built 
the iron works and our partnership was dissolved. After I lent him the 
money on the iron works he wasted it all and came to me for more. I 
lent him $35,000 and took a mortgage on this house." 

"And does he still live there?" I asked, knowing the answer per- 
fectly well. 

"No, but his widow does. And she hasn't been able to raise enough 
money to pay the mortgage." 

"You mean you're going to foreclose on the widow?" 

"I certainly am." There was no hint of leniency in Hoffman's man- 
ner — only greed. "It's not my fault she can't raise the money." 

"Well, you'll have a beautiful home, Mr. Hoffman." 

"I sure will. And when I move in, I want you to come and visit me 
some time. Dr. Weed." 

"That's a promise," I agreed. "After you have taken up your resi- 
dence in that house I promise to come and stay a week!" 

And I meant that. For an idea had begun to crystallize. Maybe it 
was idealistic. I didn't know Mrs. Gibbons, but I felt that she could 
not possibly deserve to lose her home at the hands of this miser. 

The following day, while we were having lunch, I said to Hoffman: 
"You remember the mining deal I mentioned to you?" 

199 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Oh, you mean the one that delayed your coming back?" 

"Yes. Well, I'm rather concerned about that. I need some advice." 

"Maybe I can help you," the banker offered. "What is this mining 
problem." 

"You've probably heard of the Verde-Grande Copper Mining Com- 
pany of Jerome, Arizona?" 

"Of course," he replied. I knew he hadn't, because no such com- 
pany existed except on our stock certificates. 

"This mine gave promise of being very rich. But suddenly, when 
the miners got to the boundary of an adjoining mine — owned by the 
Morgan interests — they found that the vein went over into the next 
mine and that their own ore had been exhausted. They shut the mine 
down until they learned of the Law of the Apex." 

"What is the Law of the Apex?" Hoffman asked. 

"Just this: the property where the outcropping is of the higher 
point shall be entitled to all bodies of mineral ores lying therein and 
boundary lines may be disregarded." 

"What does that mean to the Verde-Grande mine?" 

"It means that it is fabulously rich. For the vein that extends across 
the boundary was higher than the outcroppings in the other mine and 
it was one of the richest veins ever discovered." 

"What is your idea of a solution to the problem?" Hoffman asked 
thoughtfully. 

"The Morgan interests, knowing that they will lose a great deal if 
the Verde-Grande stands on its rights, are trying to gain control of the 
mine before the stockholders find out what happened. Their brokers 
have asked me to help buy up the stock. They have offered to buy all I 
can get for two dollars a share." 

"What brokers made you the proposition?" 

"Bright and Company." 

"Why, they have an office in St. Louis," the banker exclaimed. 

"Yes. As a matter of fact that's where I expect to sell the stock if I 
can get somebody to help me buy it up." 

"Do you know who has the stock?" 

"I have one or two leads. And from what I have heard I think I can 
get the stock for ten cents a share." 

200 



Meet Me in St. Louis 

"And sell it for two dollars?" There was a greedy gleam in the 
banker's eye. 
"Yes." 

"Why don't you let me help you?" 

"I will. But first there is the deal for the iron works. As soon as I 
have closed that, then I'll let you help me." 

"Why wait on that? It may be a week before your friend will get 
back from New York. And in the meantime the stockholders might 
get wind of what's happened and then maybe you can't get their 
stock so cheap." 
"But you don't know me very well, Mr. Hoffman. I — " 
"Ha!" he broke in. "I know you maybe better than you think. I 
say let's go get that stock while we can." 

Reluctantly I acquiesced. The next morning we set out for East 
Chicago, Indiana, where Gene Boyd was waiting with 12,500 shares 
of Verde-Grande stock. The Toledo sputtered every mile of the way. 
We were beset with engine trouble and numerous flat tires. 

We found Gene Boyd's home — he was an East Chicago policeman 
— and inquired about his stock. 

"It's no good," he said disgustedly. "You can have it for anything 
you want to pay." 
"We'll give you ten cents a share," I offered. 
"It's a deal." 

I counted out $1,250 and handed it over to him. Gene sHpped 
$1,000 of it back to me before we left, keeping $250 for his services. 
We proceeded at once to St. Louis. Jimmy Head had installed him- 
self in the one office that we were to use until Bright and Company 
had finished their business. 

I led the way into this office and introduced Head as manager of 
Bright and Company. Hoffman never doubted it. He looked about 
him and saw the clerks busy at their ledgers. Quotations from the 
New York Stock Exchange were coming in and Hoffman didn't miss 
that either. It was one of the largest and busiest financial offices he had 
ever seen. 

"I'm glad to see you, Dr. Weed," said Jimmy, shaking hands. "Did 
you have any luck?" 

201 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Some," I replied. "I picked up 12,500 shares." 

"That's only a drop in the bucket," Head remarked. "But I'll buy it 
from you at two dollars a share, as agreed." I handed the stock over 
and he counted out $25,000. Hoffman's greedy eyes glistened as he 
watched me making money so fast. 

"I have another prospect," I said, pocketing the money. "I under- 
stand he has 250,000 shares." 

"Just bring it in, Dr. Weed," Jimmy said, smiling expansively. 
"We'll have the money ready for you." He turned to Hoffman. "I'm 
very glad to have had the opportunity to meet you, Mr. Hoffman. 
You say you're in Alton? Maybe we can get together later on a stock 
transaction." 

We left and Hoffman walked as if his head were in the clouds. I 
could tell that he was overwhelmed. 

"When do we see that fellow with the big block?" he asked. 

"Well, you have to get back to Alton, don't you?" 

"I'll run in there tonight and we can start tomorrow morning." 

"All right, Mr. Hoffman. I think I'll stay overnight in St. Louis. 
I'll meet you tomorrow morning at the Jefferson Hotel." 

Buckminster was waiting for me at the hotel. With him was a big, 
bluff, red-faced fellow to act as Hans Luther. This fellow participated 
in dozens of swindles but was never touched by the law. 

The next day Hoffman and I drove to Logansport, Indiana. I di- 
rected him to the livery barns of the O'Donnell Transfer Company, 
owned and operated by John O'Donnell. 

O'Donnell wasn't in his office, as I knew quite well But John 
Strosnider was there. One look and I could tell that he had a hang- 
over. 

"I beg your pardon," I said. "Are you Mr. O'Donnell?" 

"Yeah. What do you want?" 

"Do you own some stock in the Verde-Grande Copper Company?" 

"No, I don't." 

"I am Dr. Walter H. Weed," I said. "I happen to know that you 
hold 250,000 shares." 

"Well, what if I do?" 

"I am prepared to buy the entire lot," I removed my gloves, laid 

202 






Soptoater I9, IpJ^. 



Mr. James A, !iacDomld, 
United Verde ".oirtcr "r>. , 
Jeroae, Arlzonn. 

Denr Vr. MacDonald: 

As Djuch as we regret to acknowledge our decision of closing down for an 
indefinite neriod the Verde rroperties yet we feel we can at lenat coa-iel our 
adversary to viaualize the folly of hie aenseless and dilatory tactics 
toward a friendly settlerient. That can it avail anj-one insof'.r as jiin is 

conc-rned to permit such an enternriee to roiiain IdleT And idle it shall 

re:jain unless all "leraoiis interested shall be in accord with the future 
develop<nent8. 77e are willir.g to go before arty recognized counlttoe and 

adjadicnte the claims of our OT:)poeing factions but we do not intend to 
relinquish our equities nor do we intend Xq pay an exorbitant deaand. 

Te cannot understand «tiy or how there hns been confecsion of defeat coming 
from those to whoa we have previously entrusted the cor^aission of buying up 
the stock of the Verde-Apex. I do not say they were not aggressive or 

inefficient yet they have f-lled, and for this reason I ehnll have the well 
known brokerage fira of THTfSOr? * .'XcKITTOr?. Lincoln EJT.k Tower, ?t. Tayne, 
Indiana, through their aanager Mr. Connor, handle the situation. 

Today '^r. Tllhu Hoot -aid rae the coaolliaent of hie aup;ust nresence and urged 
that we aerge ->\xr interests, coupling our oornorations together; if we cannot 
obtain control of the Verde claim then we have no alternative. I had rr.ther 
-*ld the real value to the hclders of the Verde stock than agree to his deuajn: 

Then you have received any news of definite inoortance corriaunicite it to 
at onoe. 



jPM/ro 




Gorged letter and signature used in the Verde-Apex stock swindle. 




^^,^ I I CAFiTAt Jioo. ajmjmui I ' ^^ 

'/■.,:, V ONE DOLLAU ,/u^ (fVAr^i/Z/i/ar '/'»;<*./ 

Brrftr-Aprx (Ilapprr fluting (Coiniiany, /«//r /xm^/ and non-aueitailt, {jR§ 

// 1 '■■/if i/y r /lf/fr)f(/ 

3I11 VttnrssVbfmf, ///. »,',/(',/>.»„»„/»>.,,>»,..././...',.„/...„. ,. '. 





Impressive-looking hut worthless Verde-Apex stock certificate. 



Meet Me in St. Louis 

them on the desk, and took out the $25,000 I had received from Jim- 
my Head. "I'll give you $25,000 for your holdings." 

"$25,000?" Strosnider spat viciously. "Get out of here. I won't 
even talk to you for that. The stock cost me a dollar a share." 

"But you know it's worthless now — " 

"If it's worthless, why are you so anxious to buy it?" he demanded. 
"There must be something up. I don't want to sell." ^ 

"All right," I said, "I'll give you $25,000 for a forty-eight-hour 
option to buy it for twenty cents a share." 

"I won't sell for twenty cents. And why should I give you an 
option? Nobody gave me an option when I paid a dollar a share for 
it." 

"Would you sell it for a dollar a share?" 

"I tell you I don't want to sell. But if I did, I wouldn't consider less 
than a dollar." 

"I'll give you a dollar," I said. "But I'll need time to raise the 
money." 

"Nobody gave me time to raise the money when I bought the stock," 
he said irritably. "I had to put cash on the Hne." 

"But I'm willing to put this $25,000 down — " 

"Get out!" he barked. "I don't want to talk about it." 

Hoffman and I returned to the car. His spirits were very low. He 
got in and I was about to follow when I noticed that I had left my 
gloves behind. Hoffman said he would wait while I went back for 
them. 

I stayed fifteen minutes and when I returned my manner was 
jubilant. 

"I talked him into selling," I told Hoffman. "He has agreed to 
give me an option for $50,000. I gave him the $25,000 I had and he 
agreed to wait until this afternoon for the other $25,000." 

"I wouldn't take that old drunk's word for anything," Hoffman 
said. "Where are you going to get the $25,000?" 

"I'm going to wire my principals. Please drive me to the Western 
Union office." 

He drove me to the telegraph office and parked in front while I went 
in. I sent a fake message to Buckminster, then came back out and 

203 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

told Hoffman there would be a wait of about an hour until I got a 
reply. I went back in the Western Union office and engaged the 
manager in conversation, telling him I was going to build a factory in 
Logansport. After conversing for a while I induced him to accompany 
mc to a near-by bank. Hoffman saw this, though he didn't know 
what it was about. The Western Union manager introduced me to 
the president of the bank, to whom I told the same story. The whole 
thing was just to fool Hoffman into believing we had gone to the bank 
to get money. 

I returned to the car and showed Hoffman $25,000. It was the same 
$25,000 I had supposedly given O'Donnell on the option. But he didn't 
know that; he thought I'd got it by wire. 

We went back to the O'Donnell place and gave the $25,000 to 
Strosnider. He wrote out an option to buy his stock for $200,000 
balance if purchased within forty-eight hours. Then he managed to 
slip the money back to me. 

We started driving back to St. Louis. 

"I can raise $140,000," I told Hoffman. "But I need your permis- 
sion." 

"Why my permission?" he asked. 

"It's part of the money that will go into the iron works. It was en- 
trusted to me by my employers. I know that there is no risk, but I 
can't use the money without your sanction. 

"You remember Mr. McFetridge went to New York to see a man 
named Hans Luther ? Well, Mr. Luther is going to be the managing 
director of the iron works. He will need a home near the plant. He 
comes from an aristocratic German family. They always lived in a 
castle and he will require a pretentious home in America." 

"How soon do you think you could make the deal.''" 

"I don't know, but we haven't much time. You drive me by the 
hotel and I'll stop and see if there is any word from McFetridge." 

In St. Louis Hoffman drove me to the Jefferson. I went up to our 
suite, where I found Buck and the stooge who was taking the part of 
Hans Luther, 

I told them what was up. The stooge practiced a little on his accent 
and until it was heavy enough. Then we went down and met Hoffman. 

204 



Meet Me in St. Louis ' 

I introduced him to Hans Luther, who acknowledged in EngUsh, 
with a heavy German accent that was quite convincing. 

"Yah, I think I would like that house," he replied, when I had ex- 
plained the proposition to him in Hoffman's presence. "Could I see it 
maybe?" 

"Certainly," said Hoffman. 

"Fine," I cut in. "You go ahead, Mr. Hoffman. We'll drive out 
later and take a look at the house." 

This was agreed. Hoffman drove off and the three of us went to 
dinner. 

Now it seemed reasonable that Hoffman should have asked about 
the deal for the iron works since Hans Luther was the man we were 
waiting for to close it. But Hoffman was like all the others who fell 
for my stock scheme. The fever of speculation had hit him so hard he 
seemed to have forgotten all about the original deal. 

Later that evening we drove out to Alton and I took Buck and the 
stooge to see the house. Then we called on Hoffman. Hans Luther 
agreed to pay $25,000 for the house, but demanded that the title be 
free of encumbrance. 

"I can fix that up all right," Hoffman promised, his eyes shining. 

"Good," I told him. "You get that done as early as you can in the 
morning. Then meet us at the Jefferson in St. Louis." 

"It may take all day to get it," said Hoffman. "But I can meet you 
the next day." 

"That will be fine. Make it ten o'clock." 

"I'll be there," he agreed. 

He was there. He had a court title to the house. This was possible 
because eighteen months had elapsed since the mortgage was due. 

Hans Luther was there, too, and so was a very good lawyer. He is 
now a federal judge in Missouri. He represented Mrs. Gibbons, but 
Hoffman didn't know that. 

Luther had a draft on a New York bank to pay for the property. I 
volunteered to go to the bank and have it cashed while the lav;7er and 
Hoffman were completing the transaction. This was agreed to by 
Hoffman. 

I got him to one side to prevent the others from hearing. 

205 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Come over to the Boatman's National Bank as soon as you're 
through," I whispered. "We've got to get to Logansport before that 
option expires. I'll draw out my money and we'll drive over to 
Logansport and pick up the stock." 

"I understand," he whispered. "I'll be there." 

An hour later when he walked into the Boatman's National Bank I 
was waiting with a bag. I opened it and showed him several neat piles 
of money. 

"There it is," I said. "$175,000 in cash. Have you got your 
$25,000?" 

"Yes." He patted his pocket. 

"Good. We'd better be going. We've only a few hours until that 
option expires." 

We set out for Logansport in the Toledo touring car. We arrived 
there early in the afternoon. As we approached the O'Donnell Trans- 
fer Company, HofTman stopped the car. 

"What's the matter?" I asked. 

He reached in his pocket. "Here," he said, "you might as well take 
all the money and put it together." He counted out five $5,000 notes 
and handed them to me. 

I put them in the bag with the rest of the money. Hoffman made 
a perfunctory inspection of the contents of the bag. The currency was 
mostly boodle, with good money on the top and bottom. Each bundle 
was neatly wrapped with money wrappers from the Boatman's Na- 
tional Bank. There was a date on each and the initials of the tellers 
who supposedly had counted the money. It all looked genuine enough, 
even to a banker. 

We went up to the O'Donnell livery barns and again found Stros- 
nider on hand. He endorsed the stock and turned it over to me and 
I gave him the bag containing the boodle — and Hoffman's $25,000. 

I insisted I was hungry, and we stopped to have a late lunch, there- 
by delaying our return to St. Louis. Hoffman didn't eat very much. 
He was elated over the success of our mission and was anxious to get 
back to St. Louis so we could dispose of the stock and he could collect 
his $60,000 profit. 

When we did get back to St. Louis it was after dark. Bright and 

206 



Meet Me in St. Louis 

Company was closed. This had been fully planned. I had purposely 
delayed our return. 

If Hoffman had been a less frugal man he would have stayed in 
St. Louis overnight, attended a show, and had a good time. He would 
also have been on hand the next morning to collect his money. But 
that would have cost him too much, so he returned to Alton, thereby 
relieving me of the problem of getting rid of him. 

"Suppose you take this stock with you for safekeeping," I suggested, 
though I had no intention of turning it over to him. "I'll meet you 
here in the morning." 

"No," said Hoffman. "It's a lonely road from here to Alton and I 
might get held up. Can't you have 'em put it in the hotel safe over- 
night.?" 

"Why, yes, I can do that." 

I arranged to meet him at the hotel the next morning, and Hoffman 
drove off. That was the last I ever saw of him. 

I might add here that I never let a victim keep a single one of the 
fake stock certificates. That would have been evidence, and I didn't 
want any evidence outstanding against me. 

Buck was waiting at the hotel. 

"What luck?" he asked. 

"Just as I figured," I replied. "What about you?" 

"The lawyer and I went to Alton while you were gone. We trans- 
ferred ownership of the house to Mrs. Gibbons, and the lawyer had 
it recorded at the court house. He turned the deed over to the widow. 
He says that the transaction is airtight. Hoffman won't be able to get 
the house back from her, no matter what happens." 

"Fine. I'm glad to see the good woman get her house back. I am 
sure she is most deserving of it." 

Strosnider came in from Logansport later that evening and turned 
the boodle and the money over to me. I paid him $1,000 for his 
services and Buck and I spHt the balance. Our net profit was less than 
we had spent, but we had no regrets. We had had a lot of fun, besides 
doing a good deed on the side. 



207 



18. The Law Catches Up 



ENGLAND WAS AT WAR WITH GERMANY. AMERICA WAS STIILL AT PEACE, 
but was not neutral. Feeling ran high against the Kaiser and 
the Germans. 

Buckminster and I took full advantage of that. We selected our 
victims with care. They were men who would not be swayed by any 
feeling of patriotism. The fact that the country was on the brink of 
war with Germany would not stop them from dealing with agents of 
the Kaiser. 

We continued to pose as representatives of the Central Powers. Our 
story that we were seeking factory and industrial buildings where the 
Germans could manufacture munitions was logical enough, and all 
the victims fell for it. Apparently none of them gave a thought to the 
possibility that the munitions might be used against their own country. 

After making several good scores from which we never had any 
beefs. Buck and I lined up a man who was the president of a bank in 
Fort Wayne, Indiana. His name was Hamilton. He was wealthy, but 
one of the most avaricious men I've ever seen. 

"The Germans are fine people," he declared when we told him we 
represented the Central Powers. "I have no sympathy for the British 
and I hope they are defeated." 

His eyes burned greedily when we agreed without quibbUng to pay 
the exorbitant price he asked for his factory building, which was run 
down and hadn't been used for years. 

As in other deals of this character, there was the inevitable delay 
while we "communicated" with Berlin and awaited the final okay 
before we completed our negotiations. 

208 



The Law Catches Up 

Meanwhile, we switched Mr. Hamihon's attention to the stock deal. 
He went into this with vigor. We kept him dangling and bought up 
small blocks of stock for ourselves, but did not permit him to par- 
ticipate. Finally he became impatient and insisted that he be allowed 
to buy some of the stock. 

We yielded when it came to buying the big stock. That was when 
Mr. Hamilton parted with his $50,000. Shortly after that we took 
leave of him and expected that he would be like most of our other 
victims. We thought he would not care to have all his friends know 
that he had been swindled by a couple of sharp con men. 

But we soon found out differently. Money meant more than any- 
thing else to him — even more than his reputation. He had made a 
careful note of every place we had visited to buy the stock and was 
able to lead the police to all these places. 

What is more, he was able to give them an accurate description of 
both Buckminster and me. The police recognized us and picked us up. 

At the trial in the Criminal Court in Chicago, Hamilton testified 
that we were German spies. He also denied that he had ever said that 
the Germans were fine people or that he had ever considered making 
a deal with representatives of the Kaiser. 

By that lime war had been declared on Germany. I think that this 
aspect of the case influenced the jury as much as the fact that Hamilton 
had been swindled. Anyhow, we were convicted and sentenced to 
eighteen months in Joliet. 

Prison life was not as horrible as I had pictured it. The Warden 
was not tough. Instead he was fatherly and often offered us good 
advice, particularly about rehabilitating ourselves and going straight 
when our time had been served. 

I had no desire to remain in prison any longer than necessary. For 
that reason, I was a model prisoner and earned the maximum amount 
of time off for good behavior. 

I knew how to use a typewriter — an accomplishment that was not 
too common at that time, especially among convicts — and the Warden 
made me secretary to the prison physician. This had many advantages 
and made my stay more pleasant. 

For one thing, I was allowed to dress in white, including a white 

209 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

shirt, instead of the usual attire of a convict. Most of my work was 
in the prison hospital, and I had comparative freedom. My funds had 
not been depleted and I was able to buy anything I needed from the 
outside. 

Moreover I constantly associated with the doctor, and absorbed a 
great deal about medicine, diagnosis, and medical terms. Before my 
term was up, the inmates in the hospital were calling me "Doctor." 

When we came out the war was over, but money still flowed freely. 
We paid scant attention to the Warden's admonition to go straight. 

But one thing we had learned. It was not a good idea to conduct 
any of our operations close to Chicago, where we were known to the 
police. We decided that hereafter all our swindles would be outside 
the jurisdiction of the Chicago police, preferably in another state. By 
sticking to that rule, we always had Chicago as a refuge. 

When we needed to take a victim to a large city to complete a deal, 
we usually selected Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron, To- 
ledo, Cleveland, Harrisburg, or some other community several hun- 
dred miles away. We never even mentioned Chicago to our victims. 

This worked out well, for though we were known as con men to the 
Chicago police, they never had anything on us. There were many 
times when we were picked up on suspicion, but we were soon 
released. 

We continued to work our stock swindle with amazing success and 
used Chicago as a refuge while the heat was on. 



210 



19. Magic Money 



THE OLD DILL PICKLE CLUB IN CHICAGO WAS DIFFERENT FROM ANY 
Other institution that ever existed. I think I am in a position 
to judge, for I visited Bohemian resorts in all the capitals of the 
world. 

Many attempts have been made to imitate or recapture the atmos- 
phere of the Dill Pickle, but none has succeeded. The late Jack Jones 
founded and operated the club, and it was his liberal policy that made 
it a success. To Jones it didn't make much difference who you were 
or what you were. If you had an idea, you were welcome to the club. 
If you had no ideas at all you were still welcome. 

Perhaps it was this lack of organized planning that gave the Dill 
Pickle its extremely informal, unplanned, you-never-know-what's- 
going-to-happen-next atmosphere. It was not at all unusual for a 
recognized crook to appear on the rostrum the same night two learned 
scientists carried on an erudite debate. 

Atomic energy, about which we hear so much today, was discussed 
in a heated debate by University of Chicago scientists on the platform 
of the Dill Pickle. Juvenile delinquency, another current topic, was 
also a favorite subject. I recall that I discussed this subject myself in 
a debate with a safe-cracker! 

Making something appear what it isn't is a con man's stock in trade. 
When Fred "The Deacon" Buckminster and I were working together 
we were frequent visitors at the Dill Pickle Club. Many of the visitors 
knew who we were. By that time we had an international reputation. 

We often appeared on the platform on any subject that suited our 
fancy. We debated anyone who wanted to take the opposing side. In 
nearly every case we used our right names. 

211 



"Yellow Kid'' Weil 

But I remember one occasion when we decided to have some fun. 
We framed it beforehand with Jack Jones. Our props were all set 
when we made our appearance. Jones introduced us: 

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, those two eminent scientists, Dr. 
Reuel and Dr. Buckner, will give a demonstration of their latest 
invention." 

Some of the audience howled, for they knew quite well who we 
were. Others who applauded us expected to see a new marvel of 
science and regarded us with awe. In this connection I might mention 
that people not only are easily fooled but often fool themselves. Take 
any gathering, announce that the next speaker is "eminent" or 
"famous," and you will convince two-thirds of them, even though the 
speaker is unknown. Some will take your word for it, but others will 
actually convince themselves that they have heard of the "famous" 
man. 

"Tonight," I said, "our demonstration is a very simple one. But it 
will be welcomed by all the housewives of America. We are going to 
show you how, through our marvelous invention, you can have roast 
chicken in thirty seconds. Bring on the chicken!" 

Buckminster went to the edge of the stage and a boy handed him 
a chicken — dressed but not cooked. He held the chicken up so that 
everybody could see it. 

"Now," I continued, "your attention is called to the invention. We 
have here our patented electric roaster." It was a roasting pan all right, 
placed in an elaborate looking case that might have contained electric 
wiring equipment. "Now, please time me. I place the chicken in the 
roaster, cover it with the lid, then close the case." 

I went through these operations as I talked. The audience watched 
me closely. 
"Now I press this button and wait thirty seconds." 
Actually what happened during those thirty seconds was this: a 
man under the platform removed the chicken from the roaster and 
substituted one that was freshly roasted. Any but the most gullible 
should have realized what was going on. 

"Time's up!" I said, consulting my watch. "Dr. Buckner, please 
remove the chicken." 

212 



Magic Money 

Buckminster opened up the case and removed the lid from the 
roaster. The first thing the audience saw was steam rising from it. 
Then Buck lifted the roaster from the case and proudly displayed 
the chicken. 

"There you are, ladies and gentlemen," I said, with a triumphant 
flourish. "Roast chicken in thirty seconds. Step right up, ladies and 
gentlemen. A slice of roast chicken for everybody in the house as long 
as it lasts!" 

People crowded around the stage. Buck carved the chicken and 
handed out slices to the interested spectators. To us it was just a 
pleasant prank. But we had momentarily forgotten how gullible 
people are. 

As soon as the act was finished we left the rostrum to make way for 
the next speakers. We were immediately approached by a University 
of Chicago professor. 

"Most marvelous thing I ever saw!" he cried enthusiastically. "When 
are you putting them on the market?" 

"I beg your pardon?" That was Buck. 

"When are you starting to manufacture your chicken roasters?" the 
professor continued. 

"We hadn't given it much thought," Buck admitted. 

The professor turned to me. 

"What about you, Dr. Reuel?" 

"I hadn't thought much about it, cither," I replied. 

"Surely you're not going to let somebody else have your invention?" 

"We have no facilities for making it," I said. 

"Do you have something to suggest?" Buck asked. 

"Yes," replied the professor. "Organize a corporation. Sell stock in 
it if you don't have enough money. I'd like to invest a little money 
in it myself." 

Apparently the professor was very fond of roast chicken. 

"We're inventors, professor," I said gravely, "not manufacturers. 
We don't know much about business." 

"But we'll keep your proposal in mind," Buckminster promised. 
"We'll certainly remember you if we decide to form a company." 

The professor was reluctant to let it go at that, but we succeeded in 

213 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

brushing him off. We went into Jack Jones' office and had a good 
laugh. Later in the evening we mingled with the crowd, and before 
the night was over we had another offer to put money into the scheme. 

Ordinarily we would have been glad to accommodate these gentle- 
men and relieve them of their money. But the scheme was so patently 
silly that we couldn't regard it seriously. 

This unbelievable episode actually happened. No other incident in 
my entire career so convinced me of the gullibility of man. In other 
cases I had always put on a plausible show before taking a man's 
money. No project of mine was so obviously impossible as this one. 

During this time Buck and I were going easy on the stock scheme 
until the heat from one of our recent deals cooled off. We hit upon the 
money-making machine as a good substitute for the interlude. 

One night at the Dill Pickle I met a man whom I shall call Joseph 
Swartz. He was the type of fellow who knew all the answers and 
didn't mind telling you right out that he did. 

He didn't know my true identity, but thought that I was the 
scientist, Dr. Reuel. In the company of two young women he came 
to me and suggested I take one of them out. We started on a tour of 
cabarets. It did not take me long to probe Swartz's character and to 
discover that he- was stingy. 

"Doc," he said to me in an aside. "Do you have change for a ten?" 

"Of course." I reached into a pocket and withdrew a wallet I had 
been saving for just such an occasion. I counted out ten singles. 

"Funny smell to these bills," he said. 

"Yes," I replied. "Must have got near some chemicals during one 
of my experiments." 

Actually the bills had been dipped in creolin, a strong disinfectant. 
It was my intention that he should notice the odor. We continued our 
round of the cabarets and took the girls home. 

The next night I saw Swartz at the Dill Pickle. Taking his arm I 
led him to a secluded corner. "Did you spend all those bills I gave 
you last night.?" 

"Yes. Why?" 

"Did anybody question them?" 

"Of course not. What arc you driving at?" 

214 



Magic Money 

"I had just made those bills last night!" I whispered. 

"You what?" 

"I said I made those bills. I finished them just before I came over 
here. That's why they smelled so strongly of chemicals." 

"Are you kidding, Doc?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Can you make more like 'em?" 

"Of course." 

"Say — " 

"Not so loud." I put a finger to my lips. "Let's get out of here 
before we talk about it any more." 

Just to give him time to think about it and to build up the suspense, I 
lingered around the club. Several times in the course of the evening he 
came up to me and urged that we leave. 

"What's your hurry?" I said. 

"I want to talk to you about that proposition." 

"Oh, that can keep," I told him. "We'll talk it over later." 

This served only to whet his appetite, as I knew it would. He could 
hardly contain himself when finally we left. 

"How about it, Doc? Can you make some of those for me?" He 
was Uke a small boy who can hardly wait for Santa Claus. 

"Why should I?" 

"Aren't we pals?" 

"Well, yes, in a way. But you must swear to keep secret anything 
I tell you or show you." 

"Doc, I swear I won't tell a soul." 

"All right. I did make those bills. And I can make some for you. 
But I'll have to show you how it's done first. Early tomorrow morn- 
ing go to the bank and get a brand-new one dollar bill. Then meet 
me at this address." 

"Can't you show me tonight?" 
"No, because the bill must be brand new." 

The address I had given him was an office over a drug store on the 
North Side. I doubt if he slept much that night. At ten minutes past 
nine he met me in front of the drug store. He carried a crisp, new 
dollar bill. 

215 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

Wc went up to the office where Buck was waiting. He was sur- 
rounded by tables on which were numerous pans and dozens of bottles 
containing strange-looking liquids. All had labels that few chemists 
had ever heard of. 

"Mr. Swartz," I said, "this is Dr. Buckner, the well-known chemist." 

They shook hands. The Deacon looked the part. He was coatless 
and wore an apron. There was an irritated expression on his face. He 
seemed displeased that I had brought Mr. Swartz with me. 

"Mr. Swartz is a good friend of mine," I explained. "Do you sup- 
pose you could run off a bill for him?" 

Buck did not reply for a few moments. 

"You weren't followed here, were you?" he asked Swartz sourly. 

"No. Why should anyone follow me?" 

"I just want to be sure," Buck replied. "You understand that re- 
producing money is illegal?" 

"Yes. But I'm sure nobody followed me." 

"Very well. Do you have a new bill?" 

"Yes." Swartz handed him the bill. 

Buck examined it, then handed it back to Swartz. Or at least 
Swartz thought he did. Actually Buck handed him a bill that he had 
palmed. 

"What is the serial number?" he asked. 

Swartz examined the bill. "A 8978638," Swartz replied. 

"Make a note of that, both of you, will you?" 

We wrote the number down on slips of paper from a pad. 

"Very well," said Buck. "Now we may proceed." 

He took the bill from Swartz and laid it flat on a board on the 
table. Then he picked up a bottle containing a dark liquid. "This is 
a special formula," he said, "and is the product of years of research. 
Of course, the formula is secret." 

"Yes, sir," said Swartz. He was awed by the mysterious and in- 
teresting-looking chemicals and gadgets. 

Buck picked up a swab of cotton, tilted the bottle, and soaked it 
with the chemical. It had the same odor that Swartz remembered 
from the ten bills I had given him. Very carefully. Buck swabbed 
both sides of the bill. Leaving it flat on the board to dry, he brought 

216 



Magic Money 

two pieces of paper. This paper was actually absorbent, though 
Buck said: 

"This is highest quality bond paper made from a secret formula. It 
must be the exact size of the bill." 

He then carefully placed the bill between the two pieces of paper. 
Then he rolled it up on a pencil into a very compact roll. This was 
rolled back and forth on the board for about twenty times. Then he 
put the roll down. 

"More chemicals are needed now," he said and reached for a couple 
of pans. One of them contained plain water. The other was empty. 
From the array of bottles, he picked up a large one that contained 
a purple liquid. He poured this into the empty pan. Then he reached 
for another bottle containing white crystals. This he poured into the 
purple liquid, which began to effervesce. As soon as the bubbling had 
subsided, he poured some liquid from another bottle. This produced 
a flash and smoke. It was all very impressive. 

While the liquid was still smoking, he picked up the roll and dipped 
it in the pan. Then he quickly submerged it in the basin of plain 
water. 

"Now, we have our impression," he said, and unrolled the paper. 
"Here is your money back." 

He handed the bill back to Swartz, who was now so impressed that 
he could hardly talk. 

"Just put it aside until it dries," I said. "It's yours. We won't need 
it any more." 
Swartz laid the bill down on the table. 

Buckminster continued with the demonstration. He placed the two 
pieces of paper, face up, on the table and invited Swartz to examine 
the impressions. There were in fact exact impressions of both sides 
of the bill. 
"Now, from these impressions, we make your bill," Buck said. 
He placed a piece of bond paper, the exact size of a dollar bill, 
between the two pieces of paper on which he had made the impres- 
sions. Then he brought out the machine. 

This was no more than two pieces of plate glass in between which 
were several thicknesses of blotting paper. Thumbscrews in each end 

217 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

screwed to a bolt held the glass together. What Swartz didn't notice, 
however, was that there were similar thumbscrews on the bottom. No 
matter which end you turned or whether you viewed it from top or 
bottom, the machine looked the same. 

Buck didn't give Swartz the opportunity to view it from every 
direction. He merely removed the top thumbscrews, lifted the glass 
and inserted the paper with the impressions. Then he replaced the 
glass and screwed it down. 

"There's nothing more to do but wait." 

"How long will it take.-'" Swartz asked eagerly. 

"Oh, about twenty minutes. Have you ever been in a chemist's 
office before? You might be interested in seeing mine." 

Buck led Swartz to another part of the room. The purpose of this 
was to get him away from the table and get his back turned. As soon 
as it was, I quickly turned the machine over. 

We conversed for about twenty minutes. Buck showed Swartz vials, 
bottles, test tubes, and tanks. He seemed in no hurry to continue with 
the money experiment, but Swartz couldn't wait. As soon as twenty 
minutes had elapsed he asked eagerly: "Can't we open it now?" 

"Yes, I think it ought to be ready now," Buck replied. 

He removed the thumbscrews and lifted the glass. Underneath it 
were two pieces of paper. Between them was a dollar bill. Buck 
handed the bill to Swartz. It still reeked with chemicals. 

"Doctor," he said to me, "will you read the number you both 
jotted down so that Mr. Swartz can compare it?" 

"A 8978638," I read from my slip. That was the number Swartz 
read on his slip and bill. 

"That's it!" he said jubilantly. Then he reached for the bill Buck 
had returned to him. He compared them carefully. Both bore the 
same number. 

"Creepers!" he exclaimed. "You really can make money, can't your" 

"Of course," Buckminster replied. "Did you doubt it?" 

"Well, I wasn't so sure." 

"Just to be sure," I said. "We'll take those bills over to the bank 
and see if we can pass both of them." 

Swartz and I went to the bank a block away, where I approached 

218 




Commonplace materials used in the money-machine scheme. 



The first operation: bill is well soaked with creoliti. 



1 



Bill is then inserted between 
two pieces of paper and 
rolled tightly on a pencil. 



The ingredients are mixed. 
\\\ T. Brannon, co-author, 
poses as the credulous victim. 





}^^ 



f 



:%mi^., 





\ 




\ 


WM^ 


i 




^ 






^ 






; ,g 


1 




Roll containing the bill 
is dipped into the mix- 
ture and saturated. 



Unpression is put into 
the machine and the 
thumbscrews tightened. 





1 


1 •'■^ 






A 




> 


JHP 




C^^ 










wrm 


ri 


P^"^ 


^ 


■-mtem 


4 


W 


^ 
^ 




i 


^^^^^ 


"^ 







As a final jlourish, the 
machine is carefully sealed 
with adhesive tape. 



Machine is held up shotv- 
ing that it is exactly the 
same on top and bottom. 





Magic Money 

the teller and said: "Would you give me quarters for these bills? 
I want them for my daughter's piggy bank." 

"Of course," the teller replied and handed me eight quarters. 

"Those bills are good, aren't they?" I asked. 

"Sure," he said, making a close examination. "Why?" 

"I just had them made," I replied, smiling. 

The teller laughed. "They do smell funny," he remarked, "but 
I'd be glad to have a bushel like 'em." 

Swartz, now convinced beyond a doubt, accompanied me back to 
Buck's place. 

"Can we make some more of those bills?" he wanted to know. 

"You can make as many as you like," Buck replied. "But for every 
one you make, you must have a new bill. It must be new — otherwise 
it won't reproduce. It can only be dupHcated once. As soon as the 
gloss of a new bill is worn off it won't make an impression." 

"Can you make larger bills just as easy?" 

"Just as easy." 

"Well, I've got $1,900," Swartz said. "Can we make $1,900 just 
like it?" 

"Yes. The best way to do that is to make it in $100 denominations. 
That means you'll have to get nineteen new $100 bills from the bank." 

"When can we do it?" 

"When can you get the money?" 

"As soon as I go to the Loop and back." 

"Very well," said Buckminster. "I'll help you this afternoon." 

In great jubilation, Swartz left for the bank. I went along with 
him. I wanted to be sure that he really did go to the bank rather 
than to the police. While he trusted us, I didn't trust him. While 
we were gone Buck got the wheels in motion for the next act. Every- 
thing was set when we got back from the bank. 

"It would be a rather tedious process to make these impressions one 
at a time," Buck said. "The best way is to make all nineteen at the 
same time." 

He took the nineteen new $100 bills and swabbed them all with 
the chemical. Then he placed each between two sheets of paper and 
put the whole thing in the machine. He had just finished putting the 

219 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

glass on and was about to insert the thumbscrews when there was 
a commotion at the door^ 

The door burst open and in walked two men in blue uniforms. 
They looked like policemen. They drew guns. 

"So!" one boomed, a note of triumph in his voice. "At last we've 
caught you with the goods! Up with your hands, all of you." 

"What's the meaning of this?" I demanded. 

"I don't know who you are, sir, but this blackguard you're here 
with" — he motioned to Buckminster — "is a criminal that we've 
hunted from coast to coast. Wherever he goes a trail of new money 
follows. Are you two his accompHces?" 

"No, no," I protested. "We're his innocent victims." 

"Who are you?" one of the policemen asked Swartz. 

"I'm a business man," he said, "and I haven't done anything wrong." 

"That's your story. I think all three of you had better come along. 
We'll soon find out if you're in league with this crook." 

"But officer," I protested, "we had nothing to do with this man's 
criminal activities. I am Dr. Henri Reuel. Maybe you have heard 
of me — mining engineer and scientist. I was just here to watch this 
man make an experiment." 

One of the bluecoats lifted the glass top of the machine and flipped 
out some of the bills. "Looks to me like you were going to do some 
counterfeiting," he said. 

I appeared amazed. "Why, officer, we know nothing about that 
money," I insisted. "Isn't that correct?" 

"Absolutely," Swartz fervently agreed. "We never saw that money 
before." 

"Well, in that case — " 

"I'm sure you won't want to hold us. Officer," I put in. 

"Okay. You two seem to be honest. But leave me your names and 
addresses. I'll want you for witnesses." 

"Don't give your right name and address," I whispered to Swartz. 

He gave them a phony name and address. I told them again that I 
was Dr. Henri Reuel and that they could reach me at the Palmer 
House. After they had jotted down this information, one of them 
said: "Alright, you can go. But be on hand when we need you." 

220 



Magic Money 

Swartz and I hurried out. I know he hated to leave his money, but 
he was so frightened that he made no fuss about it. We took a cab 
for about six blocks then changed to another. 

"See that car back there?" said Swartz. 

"What about it?" 

"It's following us. They won't let us out of their sight." 

"Forget about it," I advised. "Quick, get in this cab and we'll 
throw them off the trail." 

We rode a great distance, but Swartz was still uneasy and convinced 
wc were being followed. Finally I got him safely home. "I'd advise 
you to keep under cover for a couple of days." 

"Don't worry," he responded. "I will!" 

I have never seen a man so frightened. Perhaps he was involved 
in something else that was illegal and had a double fear of the law. 
I left him after promising that I wouldn't mention his name to any- 
body who questioned me. 

I have told this episode as it appeared to Swartz. Now I will 
explain what really happened. 

We didn't make a bill from the impressions we took. We just made 
it appear to Swartz that we did. Actually it is impossible as far as 
I know to print anything from the impressions. 

The ten bills with which I had first snared Swartz's interest were 
dipped in creolin so there would be an odor to them. Creolin dries 
almost immediately after it is applied to currency, but the odor lingers. 
The ten bills, of course, were good. 

The demonstration we gave was for the express purpose of convinc- 
ing the victim we could duplicate money. Before we started we had 
two brand-new one dollar bills. Both had the same serial number 
except that one ended in a 3 and the other ended in 8. With a few 
deft strokes of a pen, the 3 had been changed to look like 8. So we 
apparently had two bills with the same number. 

One of these was placed in the machine between two pieces of 
paper. The other Buckminster had in the palm of his hand. When 
Swartz handed him a new note, Buck examined it and apparently 
handed it back. Actually he performed some sleight-of-hand and gave 
Swartz the bill he was already holding. Swartz hadn't checked the 

221 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

serial number on his bill and, since one looks like another, he thought 
Buck gave him the same bill back. 

Not only was he given an opportunity to check the serial number 
before we made the impression but the bill was given back to him 
and he was allowed to hold it while we apparently duplicated it. 
When he compared the two bills they looked exactly alike, including 
the serial numbers. 

The impression we made was no trick. There is a glaze on all 
new bills. When a bill is swabbed with creolin an exact impression 
will come off and will be transferred to any absorbent paper — news- 
print, preferably. But this can be done only once. As soon as that 
one impression is made, the chemical glaze is gone from the bill. The 
next time it wouldn't work. 

To make the impression, the bill and paper have to be rolled on a 
board. Then before they are unrolled, they must be dipped in water. 
That was the reason for the basin of plain water. 

The pan containing the "secret" chemicals was pure hocus-pocus. 
Its only purpose was to impress the victim. The first chemical poured 
into the pan was a solution of water and potassium permanganate. A 
half-dozen tablets dissolved in a bottle of water will create a dark- 
purple liquid. 

The second chemical poured into the basin was bromo-seltzer. This 
made the liquid effervesce — a magic effect at any time. The final 
bottle contained spitfire, which flared and smoked and gave an even 
more magical effect. Swartz was not familiar with chemicals and was 
easily fooled. The con men dressed as cops fooled him too. 

The success of this, like all the other schemes we executed, was in 
the build-up. Nothing is more important to a good con man. It was 
in the build-up that we convinced our victims we could actually 
reproduce money. Once we had done that the rest was easy. 

We went through an elaborate build-up to get to James Hogan, 
an official of a bank in Indianapolis. He was also receiver for a number 
of banks that had failed. From our many stock deals we had learned 
that bankers at that time were nearly always the greatest dupes of 
easy money schemes. 

We decided to get to Hogan through a man I will call Joe Danford, 

222 



Magic Money 

a former player for the Chicago White Sox, who operated the Hotel 
Chestnut in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The plan required a great deal 
of background work, and we started in Dubuque, Iowa. 

Joe Danford was the heir to the Danford Wagon Works, which 
had lost business steadily after the advent of the automobile and had 
folded completely during the depression. But the name was still well 
known in Dubuque. 

Buckminster and I went to Dubuque and in time became ac- 
quainted with one James Patch. Patch owned an iron mine and was 
one of the leading citizens of Dubuque. I introduced myself as 
Dr. Henri Reuel, the mining engineer and Buckminster as Mr. Kim- 
ball, my confidential secretary. 

Patch was very friendly and took us down into the mine. We 
lunched and dined with him on several occasions before telling him 
that we were going to Washington to look up some data in the patent 
office. 

"Washington?" he said. "Why, I have two daughters living in 
Washington." 

"Is that so?" I replied, although we already knew about the daugh- 
ters, that being our reason for cultivating him. 

"Yes. Why don't you look them up while you're there? They will 
be glad to see someone who has just visited their old dad," he said 
proudly. 

"We'll be glad to do that," I repUed. 

He supplied their address and said he would write them about our 
coming. Soon afterwards we left for the capital. Our business was 
not the patent office but to look up the Patch sisters, who proved to be 
two very attractive young women employed in government offices. 
We wined and dined them several evenings, thereby combining busi- 
ness and pleasure. 

Two weeks later we left Washington and went back to Fort Wayne, 
where we registered at the Hotel Chestnut. We had been at the hotel 
for two days when I first became acquainted with Joe Danford, the 
owner. Our reconnaissance had already told us that Danford had pur- 
chased the hotel with money lent him by Hogan, the Indianapolis 
banker. 

223 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

I made it a point to cultivate Danford's acquaintance. He was an 
amiable fellow and it was not hard to draw him into a conversation 
about the hotel business, which was his big interest in life. Our con- 
versations together eventually became more personal. 

"Are you a native of Fort Wayne?" I asked. 

"No. I'm from Dubuque, Iowa. Did you ever hear of the Danford 
Wagon Works.?" 

"Of course. Were you ever connected with that?" 

"I owned it until the automobile and the depression forced me out 
of business. Have you ever been in Dubuque?" 

"Yes, for a short time. But we came here from Washington. And 
by the way, speaking of Dubuque, we were entertained by two charm- 
ing young ladies from there who are now living in Washington. 
Maybe you know them?" 

"I probably do," said Danford. "I know just about everybody from 
Dubuque." 

"They were the Patch sisters," I said. "Their father owns an iron 
mine in Dubuque." 

"The Patch sisters!" he exclaimed, "Why, I went to school with 
them." 

"We enjoyed their company so much," I remarked. "They were 
most kind to Mr. Kimball and me." 

"Mr. Kimball? Who is he?" Danford asked. 

"He is my associate now. But for many years he was connected 
with the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. He's known as the 
'Chemical Wizard.' " 

"I'd like to meet him." 

"I'll arrange it as soon as possible," I promised. 

So in this manner we established our identity. We didn't want our 
authenticity questioned. Our having been friendly with the Patch 
sisters clinched that. Joe Danford was quite convinced we were the 
eminent men we claimed to be. 

A couple of days later he was showing me about the hotel, proudly 
pointing out some refurbishing he had done, including the hanging 
of some oil paintings. 

"I suppose those are prints?" I asked. 

224 



Magic Money 

"Yes, they're copies, but they're pretty good don't you think?" 

"Excellent," I agreed. "But my associate, Mr. Kimball, could 
duplicate those by a special chemical process so you wouldn't be able 
to tell them from the originals." 

"He must be good," said Danford. "Can he duplicate other things.?" 

"He can duplicate anything," I replied. "He has duplicated Liberty 
Bonds so even an expert couldn't tell which was the original and 
which was the duplicate." 

"That's very interesting," muttered Danford. He was silent for a 
few moments, and I had a pretty good idea what he was thinking. 
He laughed and in an offhand manner said, "I suppose he can du- 
plicate money, too?" 

"Of course. That's very easy." 

"Could he make duplicates that would pass a banker's inspection?" 
he persisted. 

"He could," I replied, "but I doubt very much if he would." 

"Do you suppose he'd let me see him do it?" Danford was eager 
now. 

"I'm not making any promises," I replied. "But I'll talk to him. 
He has a great humility and is rather reticent about any display of 
his chemical genius. But I might get him to put on a demonstration 
for you, if I ask it as a special favor." 

"I certainly would be interested in seeing it," Danford said en- 
thusiastically. 

"I'll do my best to persuade him to show you the trick," I told 
him. "However, you mustn't tell anybody else about it." 

Buckminster knew what was going on, but we decided to give 
Danford a couple of days to become impatient. Finally I informed 
him that "Mr. Kimball" had reluctantly agreed. 

We went through the same routine as with Swartz. When it was 
completed Danford appeared to have two bills with the same serial 
number. 

"It sure does look good," he glowed. "How can you tell that it 
will pass?" 

"For the fun of it take it to the bank," I suggested, "and have 
it examined." 



225 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"I've got to run up to Indianapolis," he said. "Suppose I take it to 
one of the banks there?" 

"That's all right," Buckminster replied. "It would pass if you took 
it to the Treasury." 

Hardly able to conceal his elation, Danford took his bill and left. We 
knew that he was going to Indianapolis to see Hogan. That's what 
we had expected and wanted him to do. 

He returned the following morning, and Hogan was with him. He 
brought the banker up to our rooms. 

After introductions, the banker said: "Joe showed me the bill 
you made." 

Buck acted startled and looked accusingly at Danford. "I thought 
you understood that my little experiment was confidential and only 
done as a personal favor," he said with exasperation. 

"Oh, don't worry," said Hogan. "I haven't told anybody." 

"Perhaps not," Buckminster said. "But I wouldn't want it talked 
around that I am counterfeiting money, which is not the case. I merely 
conducted a private experiment." 

"Your secret is safe with me," Hogan assured him. 

"That's a relief," Buck sighed. 

"Just as a matter of interest, would you mind answering some 
questions.^" the banker asked. 

"I'll try to answer them." 

"Could you duplicate a bill of higher denomination as easily as 
you did a one dollar bill.'*" 

"Of course." 

"Could you duplicate more than one at a time.''" 

"Yes," Buck replied. "I could duplicate as many as I could get 
in the machine." 

"How many would that be?" Hogan persisted. 

"Oh, fifty or sixty, I suppose. As I told you, I have done this only 
as an experiment and I never counted the number of bills the machine 
would hold. But I imagine it would hold sixty easily enough," 

"Let us suppose," said Hogan, "That I had sixty one thousand 
dollar bills. Could they all be duplicated so they wouldn't be de- 
tected?" 

"Yes, I think so." 

226 



Magic Money 

"What about the serial numbers?" 

"They would be the same as on the original notes." 

"And that's where you would run into trouble," said Hogan. 
"Thousand dollar bills are not very common. Banks keep records 
of them. If two sets with the same numbers turned up, the bank 
would know that one of them was counterfeit and the Treasury 
would be notified. How would you get around that?" 

"Oh, in the case of one thousand dollar bills that would be com- 
paratively simple, since you ask me," Buck replied with a smile. "You 
remember that ocean liner that was sunk not long ago?" 

"Yes." 

"Well, it carried $200,000 in currency, all in thousand dollar bills. 
It so happens that I am the only person who knows those numbers. 
I was working in the Bureau of Printing and Engraving at the time." 

"But how could you get those numbers on bills you duplicated?" 

"That would be easy enough. I could put the numbers on a strip 
of paper and paste the strip over the number on the bill to be dupli- 
cated. Thus when the duplicate was made it would have another 
number. The strip of paper could be removed from the original bill 
and you would have two identical bills, but with different numbers." 

"Excellent!" crowed Hogan, rubbing his hands. 

"I beg your pardon," put in Buckminster. "Just what are you 
leading up to?" 

"I'll put my cards on the table," said Hogan. "You aren't a wealthy 
man, are you?" 

"No." 

"But you'd like to have enough money to put up your own labora- 
tory, wouldn't you?" 

"Yes," Buck admitted, "more than anything else in the world." 

"I need money, too. I lost a considerable sum in the stock market 
crash of 1929. I have several notes at the bank that I must pay. 
Suppose I furnish the $1,000 bills and you duplicate them, using the 
numbers that you alone have. I'll dispose of the duplicates through my 
bank. We'll split fifty-fifty. You will get your laboratory and I 
pay od my notes." 

"Oh, I couldn't go into a scheme like that," Buck protested. "Why, 
that would be counterfeiting." 

227 



'Yellow Kid'' Weil 

"In a way, yes," Hogan replied. "But actually you'd just be re- 
storing to circulation the $200,000 that was lost on that boat." 

"I can't do it," Buck said firmly. "As you know, all employees 
of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving are under constant sur- 
veillance, even after they quit the Bureau. They would be sure to 
catch me." 

Up to this time I had been silent, as had Danford. 

"I'll tell you what," I proposed. "I'll help Mr. Hogan. You can 
remain in the background. When we have the money duplicated I'll 
turn over your share to you. I'd like very much to see you get that 
laboratory." 

Deacon Buckminster got up and began pacing the floor. Occa- 
sionally he paused to rub his hand on the back of his neck. 

"Dr. Reuel," he said, "I don't know what to say. You know that 
I have been honest all my life." 

"Yes, I know," I replied. "Too honest for your own good. Look 
at you now. You have your heart set on a fine laboratory. But you 
can't have it simply because you have given so much of your life to 
the government at starvation wages." 

"At least I sleep well at night. I have nothing on my conscience, 
which means a great deal." 

"You'll sleep even better with your own laboratory," I said. 

"My own laboratory!" The Deacon paused in his pacing. There 
was a dreamy, faraway look in his eyes. A smile played on his lips. 
He stood thus for several moments. "My own laboratory!" he re- 
peated, and it was as if his own words had snapped him back into 
the land of reality. He resumed his pacing, his face stern. "I must 
have time to think it over," he said finally. "I haven't much, but 
what I have has been earned by honest toil. I can't make such a 
move on the spur of the moment." 

"When are you planning to leave?" I asked the banker. 

"I'm driving back to Indianapolis this evening," Hogan replied. 

"Maybe you can decide before Mr. Hogan leaves," I suggested to 
Buckminster. 

"Maybe," he replied. 

Hogan and Danford left. I ordered lunch sent up because "Mr. 

228 



Magic Money 

Kimball desires seclusion." We spent the afternoon playing cards 
while Buck was supposedly making his big decision. 

At five o'clock I called Hogan and told him that Mr. Kimball had 
finally yielded, but that he declined to do the work himself. He would 
furnish all the equipment and I would do it. This was satisfactory 
to Hogan, and I arranged to meet him at his home in Indianapolis 
the following Tuesday. 

Buck and I registered at the Claypool in Indianapolis, and on 
Tuesday evening I went out to Hogan's house. I had a kit in 
which I carried the bottles and the machine. I also had a series of 
numbers. These had actually been clipped from good currency though 
they were supposed to be the numbers of the bills that had been lost on 
the boat. 

Hogan led me into his private den, and I set out my paraphernalia 
on the table. I showed him the numbers I had. 

"They're perfect," he said. "They look just like the numbers on 
good money. How did he do it?" 

"Oh, Mr. Kimball has the right kind of paper and he used a num- 
bering machine. He said they must look exactly like the Treasury's 
numbers." 

"Fine, fine," said Hogan, rubbing his hands. 
He gave me the money he had brought from the bank — fifty- 
seven crisp, new $1,000 bills. I pasted a different number on each one. 
Then I swabbed each with creolin and dipped each bill in the 
hocus-pocus solution. But I said nothing about making impressions. 
Instead I placed each bill between two sheets of paper the exact size 
of currency and put them all in the machine. Then I tightened the 
thumbscrews and sealed the sides and ends of the machine with ad- 
hesive tape. 

"We'd better leave it here overnight," I said, leaving the machine 
on the table. "Til come back in the morning and we'll take out the 
old bills and a complete set of new ones." 

Hogan agreed to this and ushered me out. I might say here that 
a strange thing about the money-making scheme is that the victims 
seem to forget how it was done the first time. In the demonstration 
we always completed a bill in twenty minutes. Yet when we rc- 

229 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

peated the performance it was to take all night. Anyhow Hogan 
didn't question it. 

The following morning when I returned Buckminster was with me. 
In his overcoat pocket he carried another machine. It looked just 
like the one I had left in Hogan's den. 

As soon as Hogan admitted us, we went straight to the den. I 
looked at the machine, and even before I had touched it I said, ac- 
cusingly: "You've tampered with this machine!" 

That, I knew, was a pretty safe guess. The victim is always tempted 
to open it up and see if his money is still there and if the duplication 
is taking place. 

Hogan said nothing but watched me while I removed the adhesive 
tape and loosened the thumbscrews. The money was all there but of 
course there was no new money. I looked sharply at the banker. 

"I did peek into it last night," he admitted. 

"And spoiled the whole thing," I grunted. "Now we'll have to 
start all over again." 

"I'll do it myself," Buckminster offered. "This time no tampering. 
Perhaps you didn't know it but this process works the same as a time 
exposure on a film. When you opened it up last night and exposed it 
to the light you ruined the sensitivity of the chemicals." 

This was a lot of hokum, but it sounded plausible enough. Buck 
removed all the money from the machine, swabbed all the bills again, 
dipped them in the solution, and placed each between fresh sheets of 
paper. Then he put them in the machine and started to adjust the 
thumbscrews. 

"Take this pan and get me some fresh water," he told me. 

I picked up the pan and looked questioningly at the banker. 

"Get it from the bathroom," he said. "It's over there. I'll show you." 

He went to the door and pointed out the bathroom. His back was 
turned away from Buckminster for only a few moments. But that 
gave him time to switch machines. When Hogan turned around Buck 
was still adjusting thumbscrews. What Hogan didn't know was that 
they were on a different machine — one that contained only blank 
paper and no money at all. 

230 



Magic Money 

I brought the pan of water, and Buck submerged the whole machine. 
He sealed the ends and sides with adhesive tape and put the machine 
down on the table. 

"Don't touch it for at least eight hours," he instructed the banker. 
"We'll be back this evening and your money will be made by then.' 

We knew that Hogan wouldn't open the machine this time. We 
left — and with us went the machine containing the fifty-seven thou- 
sand dollar bills. By the time the banker began wondering what had 
happened to us we were several hundred miles from IndianapoUs. 

If Hogan ever reported us to the authorities we never heard about 
it. But we did hear more about Hogan. His defalcations ran into 
big figures and he was eventually indicted by the government for 
embezzling more than $300,000, not only from his own bank but 
from those for which he was receiver. He died before he was ever 
tried. 



231 



20. The Hotel Martinique 



BUCKMINSTER AND I HAD ACCUMULATED CONSIDERABLE CASH AND 
property. I had real estate, and securities amounting to more 
than a million dollars. As I had done on numerous other occa- 
sions, I began to consider the advisability of going into a legitimate 
business. My wife seconded this with great enthusiasm. 

Among the things I had always wanted to do was to operate a fine 
hotel. Now seemed an excellent opportunity. My record in Chicago 
was clean. The police had no complaints against me and could not 
stop me if I tried something legitimate. 

My wife and I looked around and decided to buy a hostelry on the 
North Side. It was the Hotel Huntington, a six-story modern build- 
ing with 215 rooms. I sold much of my property at a loss in order to 
swing the purchase. I decided to change the name to the Shenandoah. 

The next day I was in the Loop when I noticed a big headline: 
SHENANDOAH BLOWN UP. I thought it was my hotel, but 
after I had bought the paper I learned it was the famous dirigible that 
had blown up. 

Perhaps I should have known then that my hotel venture was jinxcd. 
I did change the name again, this time to the Hotel Martinique. One 
of my early projects was a landscaped roof garden. I had big plans, 
but perhaps I didn't know enough about the hotel business. 

In connection with it, I operated a restaurant and a laundry. One 
of my big attractions was a large stock of imported liquors. This 
was during prohibition and many entertainers — now celebrities whom 
I shall not embarrass by mentioning names — reserved rooms where 
they could stage parties without having to register. I furnished the 
liquor. 

232 



The Hotel Martinique 

The news spread rapidly that Joe Weil was running a hotel. Soon 
swarms of con men, swindlers and other criminals were checking in. 
Some were quiet enough and would have been good tenants in any 
hotel. But most were small fry who had no conception of honor or 
decency. 

They made plenty of trouble and gave the hotel a bad name. When 
my income began to drop I learned that many of them were taking 
all their meals in the restaurant and signing the checks rather than 
paying cash. Most of the others were having their laundry done and 
not paying for it. I soon discovered that the manager was allowing 
some of the guests to "lay stiffs" — that is, to cash worthless checks 
— at the desk. I myself was responsible for one such case. 

A man I did not know had checked in. About three days later a 
girl moved in with him. That evening two men from the Detective 
Bureau came in and asked if I had such a guest. I was not inclined 
to be cooperative and denied it. They left. 

I went upstairs and called the man into the hall, not wishing to 
embarrass him in front of the girl. "A couple of detectives are looking 
for you," I told him. "They said you laid $300 worth of stiffs at the 
Edgewater Beach Hotel. You'd better pack up and get out." 

"That's darned decent of you." He thanked me and promptly 
moved out. You can imagine my consternation when the manager 
told me the next day that this guest had cashed $100 worth of bad 
checks at the desk! 

The hoodlums often staged parties and became noisy. The per- 
manent guests, who paid their bills on time, eyed them distastefully 
and began to move out. As these people vacated rooms, more criminals 
moved in; thugs of various descriptions, safe-crackers, and robbers. 
Some I knew by sight and many I did not know at all. 

Before I realized what was happening the underworld was re- 
garding the Martinique as a hide-out. I soon learned I was expected to 
cover up for criminals whose only relation to me was that we had both 
operated outside the law. 

The police heard about my guests. Though I had started out with 
the intention of running a legitimate business I was soon hounded by 
them. No charges were pending against me and I had nothing to 

233 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

fear, but the police were not convinced that I had not launched the 
whole thing as a hide-out for criminals. 

My natural reaction was to cover up for some of my former friends 
who had moved in. They repaid my generosity by regaling me with 
hard luck stories and by refusing to pay their bills. They also refused 
to move out. Even if I had wanted to, I wasn't in a position to seek 
the help of the police. I was stuck with them. 

But the expenses of operating the hotel went on while the income 
dwindled steadily. To keep my head above water, I sold all my 
remaining property. 

In a few months, I had put $750,000 into the venture. Naturally 
I had no desire to lose this, and I looked desperately for some means 
of salvaging it. I still hoped I would be able to get rid of the worsi 
elements and make the Martinique a paying proposition. 

That eventually led to my downfall. I met a man who operated a 
gang of bank thieves. In these robberies he often acquired gold coins 
and negotiable securities such as Liberty Bonds. My first deal with 
him was for a sack of twenty-dollar gold pieces. He offered them to 
me for so much per pound. I bought them on the weight basis, then 
deposited them in my bank at the face value of twenty dollars each. 
He had stolen them from a bank in downstate Illinois, and was willing 
to sell them at a bargain price. But nobody could identify them, and 
I had no trouble. I made $980 on the deal. 

Then he offered me some negotiable bonds. I bought them and 
turned them over through a third party for a profit of $35,000. I 
did a thriving business as a bond broker, selling through a third man 
named Hanson. He had connections with a legitimate broker and 
was always able to sell the bonds I brought him. From these deals I 
made good profits and was able to keep my hotel going. 

Then I bought $750,000 worth of bonds, which I later learned, 
had come from the Rondout mail robbery. I still had these in my 
possession when Hanson was questioned by the f)olice and postal au- 
thorities. He told them that all the bonds he had sold had come 
from me. 

They came to my hotel and found the bonds in my room. I was 

234 



The Hotel Martinique 

arrested, charged with participating in the mail robbery, and was 
convicted. I lost the hotel and, with it, my last real opportunity to get 
into a legitimate business. . 



235 



21. The Leavenworth Country Club 



MORE THAN $2,000,000 IN CASH AND NEGOTIABLE SECURITIES 
were taken in the mail robbery at Rondout, Illinois. I had 
no idea who had committed this robbery. It was well 
known among con-men that I never participated in any sort of 
banditry. 

Nevertheless, the possession of the $750,000 in bonds stolen at 
Rondout implicated me, and I was tried with the others who had 
been corralled. I was sentenced to five years in the federal penitentiary 
at Leavenworth. I entered that institution in 1926. 

I soon learned that in Leavenworth, as in any other place you 
can name, money talks. With little difficulty I managed to be as- 
signed to the prison hospital as secretary to the prison physician. 

The doctor was an inmate who had been sent up for a ten-year 
stretch on a charge of using the mails to defraud. He was a tall, kind- 
faced, mild-mannered man who was friendly to everybody and who 
exercised the utmost tolerance towards the prisoners. His name was 
Dr. Frederick A, Cook. He was, of course, the noted Arctic explorer. 
Though Dr. Cook offered no alibi, I learned the circumstances of 
his conviction. He had permitted his name to be used by a group of 
promoters who were selling Texas oil lands. After a considerable 
amount of the land had been sold, the charge was made that there 
was no oil, and that the land was practically worthless. 

Instead of being held as an accessory, Dr. Cook was charged with 
being the leader of this group and with using the mails to defraud. 
Sentenced to ten years in Leavenworth, he tried to make the best 
of it. 

236 



The Leavenworth Country Club 

It was a pleasure to serve Dr. Cook, and I became one of his staunch 
supporters. There are still thousands who believe in him. I became 
interested enough to make my own investigation. It was enough to 
satisfy me that Dr. Cook was all he claimed. 

Dr. Cook had been the toast of the civilized world for a few days 
after he arrived in Copenhagen and announced that he had dis- 
covered the North Pole. His fame was short-lived, however. For he 
was followed by Commodore Robert A. Peary, who claimed to be the 
first to reach the Pole and who branded as false every one of Dr. 
Cook's claims. That started a controversy which raged for months; 
but Peary was backed by a powerful group in the United States and 
Cook had no support except for a few private individuals. 

In time Peary and his friends succeeded in discrediting Dr. Cook. 
The latter became regarded as an imposter and a charlatan. He re- 
turned home disheartened and disgraced. He tried to present his case, 
but the opposition was too strong. He wrote a few books in which 
he described his experiences in detail. These were widely read and 
increased the number of his supporters, but his account of the dis- 
covery of the Pole was never officially accepted. Only one of his 
accomplishments has remained unchallenged, even by his opponents: 
he was the first man to discover a preventive for scurvy, perhaps the 
most dreaded disease of the far north. 

My own research convinced me Dr. Cook actually did discover the 
Pole. My association with him convinced me there was nothing about 
him that was faked. I became his friend, just as everybody else in 
Leavenworth was his friend. 

Dr. Cook had no knowledge of the things I am about to relate and 
no part in them. 

There was one physician — I shall call him Dr. Lowe — who was 
in charge of the medical records. Every inmate who was eligible had 
an application on file with the Parole Board. Before the Board con- 
sidered an applicant it required a physical examination, the most im- 
portant part of which was a Wassermann test. No convict with 
syphilis was eligible for parole. 

Dr. Lowe received the records of these tests, and in each he in- 
serted an entry indicating that the inmate's test had been positive. 

237 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Then before the record went to the Parole Board he contacted the 
inmate and told him what the record showed. For a consideration he 
was ready to alter the entry to show that the test had been negative! 

His price was scaled to the ability of the inmate to pay, from ten 
dollars up. A certain brewer from Milwaukee had been sent up for 
violation of the Prohibition laws. When Dr. Lowe learned he was 
eligible for parole he made an entry indicating that the man's Was- 
sermann test had been 4-plus. The brewer had to pay him $10,000 to 
change it. A similar fee was extracted from a St. Paul banker. 

Dr. Lowe stayed at Leavenworth only long enough to get a good 
stake. When he pulled out he had saved $100,000 from his "practice.'* 

A guard named Barnum also had a lucrative racket, although it 
did not pay off as well as Dr. Lowe's. He had charge of the parole 
rooms. These were not in official use most of the time and Barnum 
rented them out to convicts who could pay. 

He also operated a messenger service to the outside, and a man with 
money could have almost anything he desired brought to him in the 
parole room. Actually, for the wealthy convicts — and there were 
many, such as bootleggers, racketeers, and gangsters — Leavenworth 
was more like a gentleman's club. 

Once a week a Christian Science worker called at Leavenworth 
with free cigarettes for the inmates. At first he had only a few car- 
tons, but as time went on he brought in larger quantities. These ciga- 
rettes were contributed to the Christian Science worker, for this pur- 
pose. One Good Samaritan donated large numbers every week with 
specific instructions that they be given to the inmates of Leaven- 
worth. 

A man named Rubin was in charge of the distribution of the cig- 
arettes, which were all turned over to him. As it later developed, 
these were all loaded with morphine. The Good Samaritan was a 
dope peddler employed by Rubin, who sold the cigarettes to addicts 
in the prison. The Christian Science worker acted quite innocently 
and in good faith. 

One day Barnum disappeared and another man took his place. The 
new guard was a very pleasant young man. He offered all of Barnum's 
services and with a smile. It was not long before he learned the se- 
crets of the different rackets I have described. 



238 



The Leavenworth Country Club 

Then the Hd was clamped on. There was a far-reaching investi- 
gation, and the whole prison was cleaned up. The new man was an 
agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and he didn't miss a 
thing. Life in Leavenworth was much tougher after that. 

For my part, my time was up and I was let out. 

Dr. Cook was released from Leavenworth in 1931 when it was 
discovered that the supposedly fraudulent oil lands he had helped 
to sell were far more valuable than the price they had been sold for. 

Ted Leitzell, Chicago author, one of Dr. Cook's most ardent sup- 
porters, began a campaign to clear his name shortly after he was 
released from Leavenworth. Through documentary evidence Leit- 
zell established that Dr. Cook had been the first to reach the North 
Pole. But his efforts to make this official were fruitless. A presiden- 
tial pardon for Dr. Cook on the mail-fraud charge was sought and was 
denied. But Leitzel, who had been an Arctic explorer as well as an 
author, never stopped trying. 

The presidential pardon was granted to Dr. Cook by Franklin D. 
Roosevelt just before Dr. Cook died in 1939. 



239 



21 The Comtesse and The Kid 



THOUGH THE POLICE WTEJIE WATCHING ME MORE THAN USUAL 
after my release from Leavenworth, Buckminster and I teamed 
up again and worked the stock swindle. It was shortly after 
we had netted a particularly good score that we decided to take an 
ocean voyage. I had posed as Dr. Henri Reuel and Buck as Mr. Kim- 
ball. When we heard that our victims were looking for these two men, 
both of whom were very real people, we decided the climate of 
Europe might be healthier for a while. 

"Let's go to London," Buckminster suggested. "Jimmy Regan 
ought to have something lined up." 

Jimmy Regan operated a cafe which catered to American tourists. 
His real business, however, was to act as an international clearing 
house for con men. Regan always had information about wealthy 
Americans who were touring Europe — how much money they had, 
where they were stopping, their hobbies, and so on. 

This sounded good. After having our passports validated in Wash- 
ington, we proceeded to New York, where we booked passage to 
Liverpool on the Columbus. 

As soon as we boarded ship and even before she had weighed an- 
chor, I went to our stateroom and went to bed, for I was feeling ill. 
The Deacon, who had a sturdy constitution, felt fine. He took his 
meals regularly at the captain's table, a privilege to which our ac- 
commodations entitled us. 

For me the first twenty-four hours passed miserably. On the second 
day Buck, who was enjoying the voyage, brought the ship's doctor 
to see me. After an examination he advised me to drink three bot- 

240 



The Comtesse and The Kid 

ties of Pilsener beer. This seemed strange advice, but I followed it and 
soon began to feel better. I ordered some food sent to the cabin. 

That night Buck was gay. "You don't know what you're missing," 
he told me. "I've been dining with the most exquisite woman — " 
"The Queen, no doubt," I broke in with heavy sarcasm. 
"No, but she is a member of the English nobiUty — Lady Agatha 
Stebbins." 
"How did you find that out?" 

"The captain told me. He later introduced me to her, and she 
was my companion at dinner." 
"I suppose you've dated her for breakfast?" 
"I certainly have." 
"Is this business or pleasure?" 

"Maybe both," said Buck. "She certainly looks Uke a million dollars.'* 
"You and your romances!" I still wasn't feeling very good. 
"You might change your mind when I tell you about her com- 
panion," said Buck good-naturedly. 
"What about her?" 

"I don't know very much," he admitted, "except that she is petite 
and gorgeous. She spends most of her time in her cabin and there 
is something mysterious about her." 

I still wasn't interested. After breakfast the next morning the Dea- 
con was more enthusiastic than ever. "Lady Agatha asked about you 
and why you remained in your cabin. I told her you were a re- 
nowned engineer who had acquired a large fortune and that you were 
occupied with matters of business. She seemed very anxious to meet 
you and told me to invite you to dinner." 
"Did you find out any more about her?" 

"Yes. She's the widow of an officer in the Coldstream Guards." 
"What about the girl?" 

"She's more mysterious than ever. She is traveUng under the name 
of Miss Viola Martin, but I'm sure that's a phony." 
"Maybe she's a con woman," I suggested. 

"Don't be silly," Buck scoffed. "She's an aristocrat if I ever saw 
one." 
"I'd like to meet this mysterious girl." 

241 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

"You will," said Buck. "Lady Agatha said she would bring her 
Lo dinner this evening if you would come." 

That evening Buck and I dressed in dinner jackets and went to 
the salon. At the captain's table two women were waiting for us. 
One was a very attractive woman of about forty. She had brown 
eyes and auburn hair and was dressed in excellent taste. Though she 
was not slender, she carried herself with dignity and her slight plump- 
ness was not unbecoming. 

The young woman with her was, as Buck had said, beautiful. She 
had black eyes, long lashes, and coal black hair. She was just over 
five feet and slender. But she was dressed very plainly. She wore a 
heavy black veil and a fine tailored suit. My guess was she was about 
twenty-five. 

After the Deacon had introduced us we sat down to dinner. Lady 
Agatha talked with animation and so did Buck. But the girl, who 
became my companion at the table, had very little to say. At the 
older woman's suggestion I related some of my experiences as a 
mining engineer in remote corners of the world. This was easy, since 
I was posing as Dr. Reuel. I merely appropriated some of Dr. Reuel's 
adventures and told them as my own. 

"Doctor, you must have had a fascinating career," said Lady 
Stebbins. "Don't you think so, Viola?" 

The girl nodded briefly, but said nothing. Dinner had been com- 
pleted and we were drinking champagne. 

"Let's go up on deck and promenade," the Englishwoman suggested. 

"An excellent idea," agreed the Deacon, who was obviously in- 
fatuated with the woman. 

For my part I was attracted to the girl, and this seemed a good 
way to get better acquainted. She went along, rather unenthusiastically. 

On deck Lady Agatha paused. "Mr. Kimball, suppose you and I 
go this way, and let the Doctor and Viola go the other way. We'll 
meet later." 

The Deacon acquiesced with a broad grin. Nothing could have 
suited him better. It pleased me, too. 

The girl and I strolled slowly down the port promenade. It was 
a moonlit night, made for romance. But the girl's response was re- 

242 



The Comtesse and The Kid 

served and monosyllabic. Finally we paused at the railing and gazed 
out over the shimmering water. Miss Viola Martin raised her veil 
over her hat. She was softening. 

"Doctor," she said, "are you still active as a mining engineer.'*" 

That wasn't very romantic. But it was the most she had said all 
evening. 

"No," I repUed. "I've retired from active work." 

"But you do retain an interest in your mines.''" 

"Yes, I have large holdings in several copper mines in Arizona. 
And I act in an advisory capacity for Standard Oil and Anaconda." 

"How interesting. Do tell me about it, Doctor." 

Encouraged, I told her the highlights in my supposed career — ac- 
tually the career of Dr. Henri Reuel. I concluded by mentioning the 
books Dr. Reuel had written — in which my own photograph had 
been bound as frontispiece to make it appear I was the author. 

"I am very much interested in mining," she said. "Would you mind 
if I read your books.'"' 

"I should be delighted," I replied. "I'd be very happy if you would 
accept an autographed copy of each as a gift." 

"That would be splendid," she smiled at last. "You must be very 
wealthy. Doctor." 

I admitted that I had acquired a considerable fortune and told 
her some of the details, all fictitious but quite convincing. She lis- 
tened attentively for an hour. When I had told her all about myself 
I tried again to draw her out, but with no success. 

She spoke perfect English, but there was a trace of a French ac- 
cent and occasionally a French word or phrase slipped into her con- 
versation. I was quite convinced Viola Martin was not her right name, 
but my efforts to find out anything were futile. She talked again in 
monosyllables and pulled the veil down over her face. 

We resumed our stroll and met the Deacon and Lady Agatha. I 
proposed a nightcap in the salon, but the girl declined, pleading fatigue. 
We saw them to their stateroom, bidding them good night after in- 
viting them to breakfast with us the next morning. 

"Well, what do you think?" asked the Deacon, after we had retired 
to our stateroom. 

243 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

"That girl is beautiful," I admitted. "But she's as cold as a marble 
statue. And I still think that name, Viola Martin, is a phony." 
"Leave it to me," said Buck. "I'll find out. Lady Agatha likes me." 
"Looks to me like it's mutual," I said. "You fawned over her like 
an eighteen-year-old." 

Buck grinned good-naturedly. "I do sort of like her," he admitted. 
My belief that the girl was French was partially confirmed the 
following morning. As they approached the table where we waited the 
girl was talking volubly to the other woman in French — in which 
I too am versed. However, as soon as they saw us the girl quickly 
returned to English. 

She was more friendly now. I gave her copies of the books and she 
thanked me profusely. We strolled several times on the promenade 
deck and conversed in generalities. I tried to steer the conversation 
into personal channels, but when I did I got nowhere. Meanwhile 
Buck got along well with the older woman. 

Sometimes an ocean voyage can be tedious, but this one seemed very 
short. Both Buck and I were sorry to see it end. However, the two 
women were going to London also and agreed to permit us to keep 
in touch with them. We went to the Savoy, while they registered at 
the Grosvenor House. 

The next day the Deacon lunched with Her Ladyship at Romano's. 
The Deacon's infatuation had increased, and she seemed very fond of 
him. He felt they were close enough now to ask her about the girl. 
After some hesitation she finally said: "This is confidential and I 
haven't told anybody else. I rely on you to tell nobody but the Doctor. 
Viola Martin is not her right name and she is traveling incognito. 
Actually she is the Comtesse de Paris." 

"That doesn't surprise me," Buck replied. "But why must she travel 
incognito.? Is she afraid of swindlers?" 

"Oh, no," said Lady Stebbins. "Her brother, the Duke d'Orleans, 
is the last of the Bourbons and the rightful heir to the French throne. 
He and a group of his supporters became very active in a secret move- 
ment to revive the throne and restore the Bourbons. But political 
intrigue in France is dangerous, particularly since this is a plot to 
overthrow the government. 

244 



The Comtesse and The Kid 

"Through some traitor, details of the movement became known to 
the authorities. The Duke and his supporters were arrested and con- 
victed of trying to overthrow the government. He was sentenced to 
spend the rest of his Hfe on Devil's Island. But he took an appeal to 
the high court and is now free on bail pending their decision. 

"We have no hope that the high court will act in favor of the Duke. 
That's why Jeanne — the Comtesse — made a trip to America. There 
she saw certain influential people who, she hopes, will intercede for 
her brother. She has enlisted the support of some very powerful people 
in the United States. Now she is trying to do the same in London. 
But she must go about it quietly and without publicity." 

The Deacon reported this to me in the afternoon. I had been 
emotionally intrigued by the girl, partly because of her beauty and 
partly because of the aura of mystery that surrounded her. I was even 
more so now. 

That evening I called at the Grosvenor House where she was 
registered as Miss Viola Martin. But she wasn't in. The next morning 
I was more successful. After some hesitation, she accepted my invita- 
tion to luncheon. 

I took her to a Hungarian restaurant near Grosvenor Square. 
Though she had on a different outfit, her clothes were as conservative 
as before. There was just one difference — the exciting fragrance of 
French perfume. 

As I held a chair for her at the table, I said, "Comtesse, allow me." 

She looked up quickly. 

"Then — you know?" 

"Yes, I know." 

She sighed. It was a weary sigh as of one who is very tired. When 
she looked across the table at me there was pleading in her eyes. 

"I should have known I couldn't deceive a man who knows so 
much about the ways of the world," she murmured. "Have you told 
anybody else?" 

"Of course not." 

"I hope I can rely on you not to," she said, again with that pleading 
look. 

I assured her that her secret was safe with me. 

245 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

"It's a relief to have you know," she sighed. "Now I won't have to 
keep up the pretense of being shy and reserved. By nature I am 
vivacious and gay. It's just that I have to be very careful of strangers." 

"I understand perfectly, my dear," I said. Suddenly the waiter was 
there. I gave him our orders. "Please feel free to tell me anything 
you want to. I assure you it will go no further." 

"I'm sure it won't," she replied, smiling. Her voice was somehow 
different. There was more animation in it, less restraint. Her whole 
manner implied that she had been relieved of a great burden. "It will 
be nice," she continued, "to have someone I can trust, someone I can 
turn to for advice. I hope you won't mind if I cry on your shoulder 
occasionally." 

I assured her that would be a pleasure for me — as indeed it would. 
Then she told me the whole story. Her brother, the Duke d'Orleans, 
had no strong desire to be enthroned in France. But he had been 
swayed by his supporters, a group of noblemen who longed for the 
glory of the court. He had finally agreed to lead the revolution. The 
plot had been nipped when an informer had turned over details and 
names to the authorities. 

"Poor Ric was tried as the leader and was sentenced to banishment 
on Devil's Island. Most of the agitators were either acquitted or given 
light fines." 

She told of the appeal to the high court and her despair that the 
duke would be freed. "Of course," she said, "he's at liberty now on 
bail. But he's under constant surveillance. If it were not for that, he 
might have a chance of escaping France." 

Then she told me of her trip to America, where she had contacted 
high officials of the United States, many of whom readily promised to 
do what they could do to aid the duke. 

"The British government is plebeian and conservative," she said. 
"There isn't much chance of help from the politicians. But there arc 
some very influential men in the nobility. After talking to some of 
them I have decided to change my plans. I think it is better if Richard 
can escape and come to England. From here he can go to America. 
He can start a new life or at least remain there until it is safe to return 
to France." 



246 



The Comtesse and The Kid 

"Do you think that will succeed?" 

"I am very hopeful. A very powerful British peer — I hope you 
will forgive me if I don't tell you his name — has agreed to arrange 
it. The gendarmes who are constantly watching Richard will allow 
him to escape to Belgium. He will make his way to the Channel coast 
where a plane will be waiting to transport him to England." 
"I hope you'll let me assist in any way I can," I offered. 
"Your advice will be very valuable," she said, "and I shan't hesitate 
to ask it." She smiled at me across the table, extended her hand. "Some 
day, Doctor — perhaps soon — I can laugh and be gay again. Until 
that day comes 1 must be circumspect." 

I assured her I understood. Thereafter we were together often. We 
dined many times at the Hungarian restaurant. On other occasions 
the four of us, Lady Agatha and the Deacon, the Comtesse and I, were 
together. 

One night after we had attended the theatre we were at Romano's 
for supper. We were drinking champagne and Buck had just toasted 
Lady Stebbins' health when the Comtesse stood up and clutched at her 
bosom. 

"Oh, bother!" she exclaimed. "My necklace has broken!" She 
caught the necklace in her hands, but some of the pearls scattered on 
the table. We retrieved them as quickly as we could and handed them 
to the Comtesse. 

She held them in her cupped hands and looked at me rather help- 
lessly. "I don't know what to do now," she said. "Do you suppose 
you could have them restrung for me. Doctor.'"' 

"Yes, I know a good jeweler," I replied. "But are you willing to 
entrust them to me?" 
"Of course." 

"Then I shall be happy to attend to it." She handed me the pearls 
and I put them away in a special compartment of my wallet. 

The following morning Buck and I went to the shop of a jeweler 
located near our tailor's in Old Bond Street. He took them for rc- 
stringing and said they would be ready by midafternoon. When we 
went back for them I paid the bill and Buck asked the jeweler how 
much the necklace was worth. 

247 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

"About 8,000 pounds," the jeweler said. "That would be $40,000 
in American money." 

I returned the necklace to the Comtesse that evening when I called 
for her at the Grosvenor House. 

At dinner she told me her negotiations with the British peer were 
proceeding satisfactorily and that she expected her brother to make 
his escape within the next two weeks. 

About a week later Buck, Lady Agatha, and I took an excursion to 
Ostend, Belgium, for the races. We urged the Comtesse to go, but she 
declined. 

"I am too well known on the continent," she said. "In spite of my 
plain clothes and my heavy veil I am afraid I would be recognized." 
Then she added: "Besides I have a very important engagement. Our 
plans are almost complete. I expect Richard will be free and be with 
me in London in another week." 

We went to the races without her. I enjoyed the outing. Buck was 
so enraptured by his feminine companion that he hardly knew what 
was going on. I placed a small bet on each race but didn't win. That 
didn't bother me though, for I had long ago learned that you can't 
beat the horses by betting on them. We returned to London after a 
very interesting excursion. 

A few days later when we called at the Grosvenor House for the 
two women we found them very excited. The Comtesse had finally 
arranged her brother's escape from France. 

"If all goes well, he will be here tomorrow night," glowed the 
Comtesse. 

"That's wonderful," I said. "Certainly this calls for a celebration." 

But the Comtesse seemed far from happy. Instead she was weeping 
quietly. 

"What's the matter.?" I asked. "Aren't you happy that your long 
quest is about at an end." 

"Oh I am," she said tearfully. She lifted her long lashes and looked 
up at me with those big eyes that pleaded for understanding. But I 
wasn't quite sure what they asked me to understand. 

"You might as well tell them, Jeanne," said Lady Stebbins. "After 
all, they are our dearest friends." 

24fi 



The Comtesse and The Kid 

"Well," the Comtesse said hesitantly, dabbing at her eyes with a 
dainty handkerchief. "I suppose I might as well tell you. The cost of 
preparing Richard's escape has been enormous. The bribes to the gen- 
darmes, the Belgian officials, and the man who will pilot the plane, 
cost much more than I had anticipated. Agatha — Lady Stebbins — 
very generously gave me all the money she will have until she receives 
the income from her investments. I had to use it all." 
She hesitated and Lady Stebbins urged her to continue. 

"Oh, all right. I might as well get right to the point. We arc 
temporarily but quite definitely financially embarrassed. We haven't 
a shilling between us." Then, as I started to speak: "Oh, we're not 
paupers. My brother and I have a large fortune in France. Richard 
will bring ample funds with him. But unfortunately I have some ob- 
ligations to meet tomorrow morning. I have nothing to meet them 
with." She dabbed at her eyes and smiled feebly. "But I don't sec why 
I should bore you with my troubles — " 

The Deacon and I were both on our feet. We spoke almost in 
unison: "You must permit us to help you." 

"But I couldn't think of such a thing," the Comtesse quickly pro- 
tested. 

"We insist," I said. "After all, it would be only a temporary loan," 

"Yes," the Comtesse agreed. "Richard will be here tomorrow night 
and I can repay you then." 

"Will ten thousand dollars — two thousand pounds — be of any use 
to you?" I asked. 

"It will be a life saver," the Comtesse blushed. "But — " 

"But what?" 

"I will accept the loan on one condition. You must take my neck- 
lace as security." 

Buck protested: "We don't need any security. Your word is enough 
for us." 

"Of course," I agreed. 

"No," the Comtesse insisted. "I won't take it unless you take some 
security." 

"Oh, very well," I agreed reluctantly. 

I went to my bank and withdrew two thousand pounds which I 

249 



"Yellou^ Kid'' Weil 

turned over to the Comtesse. She gave me the necklace and I dropped 
it carelessly into my pocket. 

That evening we dined at Romano's. The Comtesse, feeling it no 
longer necessary to be circumspect, was dressed in a low-cut, shimmer- 
ing evening gown. She was gayer than I had ever known her. We 
enjoyed a marvelous evening. When we parted we arranged to sec 
them for lunch. 

"I want you to meet Richard as soon as he gets here," the Comtesse 
said as I bade her good night. 

The following day at noon we called at the Grosvenor House. At 
the desk we were told that Lady Stebbins and Miss Viola Martin had 
checked out. 

"You must be mistaken," frowned the Deacon. 

"No, I'm not," said the clerk. "They left early this morning. They 
seemed in a great hurry." 

"Did either of them leave a message?" 

"No. But you might telephone later. Perhaps we will hear from 
them." 

Greatly disappointed, we turned and walked out. We went to see 
Jimmy Regan. We didn't tell him what had happened. After a few 
minutes he called: "You fellows make yourselves at home in the 
lounge. I've an appointment, but I'll see you later." 

We discussed this latest turn of events. 

"Maybe the escape plan didn't go through," I ventured. 

"That must be it," agreed the Deacon. "Maybe the Surete or Scot- 
land Yard intervened." 

"They'll probably call and leave a message for us." 

I went to the telephone and called the Grosvenor House. No mes- 
sage had come. 

We sat there for three hours, speculating on what had happened. 
Every half hour I telephoned the Grosvenor House. I always got a 
negative answer. 

"Maybe we should go to Paris," Buck suggested. 

"What good will diat do?" 

"We might be able to help them. At least, we might find out what 
happened." 

250 



The Comtesse and The Kid 

"Wait a while. I think they'll get in touch with us. After all, we 
have the Comtesse's necklace." 

"That's right," Buck agreed. Then: "Let me have the necklace a 
moment, will you, Joe?" 

"Sure, but don't lose it." I handed it over and he looked at it. 

As I started to the telephone again, Buck said: "I'm going out for a 
little air, Joe. Be back in a few minutes." 

I scarcely noticed him as he went out the door. I called and again I 
was told that there was no message. I rang for a waiter and ordered 
a drink. I sipped it slowly, contemplating the room without interest. 

A few minutes later the Deacon came in and sat down beside me. 
He was as forlorn as I. He ordered a drink and gulped it. 

"Joe," he said, "did you ever know how it feels to be taken in a 
con game?" 

"No. Why?" 

"Well, you're about to find out." He threw the necklace in my lap. 
"Paste," he said. "Our two lady friends worked a switch on us. We've 
been taken." 

"How do you know?" 

"I walked over to Old Bond Street. I showed it to the jeweler. He 
said it was a very clever imitation, worth about twenty-five dollars." 

Until that moment the thought that the two women were swindlers 
had never entered my mind. Even then I found it hard to believe. I 
didn't want to believe it. 

But as my mind went back swiftly over my acquaintance with the 
girl, it all tied in. She had been mysterious to pique my interest. I re- 
called how she had questioned me about my career and fortune. She 
had left it to her companion to reveal the part about the Comtesse. It 
had all been a very clever build-up. 

It was particularly ironical for one reason: back in 1908 I had 
worked the switch on dozens of gullible buffet owners. I had used 
virtually the same tactics in the build-up. It had been one of my rainy 
day schemes. I had fallen back on it at various times through the years 
when I was in need of ready money. And at last I had become a victim 
of the same scheme! 



251 



23. The Case of the Refugee 



I ALWAYS MADE IT A RULE TO KEEP ABREAST OF THE TIMES. NEARLY ALL 
of my schemes were geared to the latest news in national or in- 
ternational affairs. 

Early one morning I was driving into Indianapolis. At a tourist 
camp outside of Lafayette I stopped at a litde restaurant and had 
some of their specialty — homemade chili. 

After eating I asked the owner of the place to fill up my gas tank. 
He pulled the car over to the gasoline pumps. In so doing he noticed 
my bags, which were covered with stamps from various foreign 
countries. These were not spurious, having been affixed at various times 
on my trips abroad. 

"Do you do a lot of traveling?" 

"Yes. I've spent considerable time in Europe." 

"My one ambition has been to see Europe," he shook his head. 
"What did you do over there?" 

"I represented European capital. But there isn't much to represent 
now." 

"Do you know many people over there?" 

"Yes. I was in Germany for a long time and I have a very good 
friend in the Reichsbank." 

"How much do you think it would cost to take a trip to Berlin?" 

"About $5,000." 

"Oh, I could afford it," he assured me. He had finished with the 
car and continued: "Won't you come in and have a glass of wine 
with me?" 

"Thank you." 

252 



The Case of the Refugee 

I followed him into the cottage he occupied. He brought glasses 
and poured wine for both of us. 

"I've retired from active business," he said and I noted he was 
apparently past sixty. "I run this little place just to have something to 
do. I used to own a big dairy in Ohio, but I sold it out." 

I was beginning to see light. I lingered about an hour, telling 
him of my European travels. I didn't have to add much fiction because 
I really had been in all parts of Europe and every big city on the con- 
tinent was familiar to me. I had only to be careful in telling of my 
business dealings. None was legitimate, but I always had a good story 
to cover each trip. 

It was easy to see he had not been far from his native Ohio. My 
tales of Europe intrigued him. He was very friendly and invited me 
to drop in to see him on my way back from Indianapolis. 

I went on into Indianapolis and registered at the Claypool as John 
Bauer. I fixed up a letter from Mexico, properly stamped and 
postmarked. The letter read: 

Dear Friend: 

Now that I've arrived in Mexico, I want to write and thank you for 
the great risk you took in helping me to get out of the fatherland. I 
suppose it will be a very difficult task to get into the United States, If 
I can't get there now, maybe you can dispose of some of my holdings in 
American corporations. Perhaps you can raise sufficient money to get 
me into your great country. I shall remain most anxious until you write 
to me with some hope of the future. Shall I send you some of the 
stocks and bonds and have you dispose of them or shall I hold them in 
abeyance? Please let me hear from you. 

Faithfully yours, 

Henrietta 

The letter was written in a dainty feminine hand and the envelope 
was addressed to John Bauer at the Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis. 

With this letter and some photographs I returned to the tourist camp. 
The photos were of my father's relatives in Paris — my aunt and two 
uncles. 

I dropped in to see my new-found friend whose name I had learned 
was Andrew Lamont, We had coffee and chatted awhile and I dc- 

253 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

parted, purposely leaving the letter and photographs on a table. 

I drove on into Lafayette and telephoned Lamont. 

"I lost a very valuable letter," I told him. "I prize it highly and 
will give a reward for its return." 

"From Mexico.'*" he asked. 

"Yes, that's it." 

"You left it here." 

"What a relief!" I sighed so heavily I'm sure he could hear it over 
the phone. "Would you be good enough to mail it to me.''" 

"I'll be glad to. You left some pictures, too." 

"I wondered what happened to those pictures. They are some of 
my European relatives. Please mail them with the letter." 

He mailed the letter and pictures to me in Indianapolis. I knew he 
had read the letter. I waited a couple of days and dropped in to 
see him again. 

He was quite chiunmy and asked how things were going in Indian- 
apolis. Then he maneuvered the conversation to the possibilities of 
my making a trip to Mexico. 

"I have an opportunity to get a lot of money," I told him, "if I can 
find a man I can confide in — a man with a bank account." 

"I have a bank account," he said. "I also have a car. If you want 
to go to Mexico I'll take you." 

"No, let me tell you the story. There was a wealthy Jewish family 
with vast holdings in Germany and France. All their possessions in 
Germany were confiscated by Hitler and the family was thrown into 
a concentration camp. Only one member escaped — the daughter, 
Henrietta. Through my friend in the Reichsbank I arranged passage 
for her to Mexico aboard a tramp steamer. The captain was bribed 
and she was smuggled into his cabin. She had a trunk with a secret 
compartment in the bottom. This secret compartment held jewels and 
holdings of American stocks and bonds — Standard Oil, American 
Telephone and Telegraph, Allied Chemicals, and many others. About 
a million dollars worth in all. 

"In spite of this wealth Henrietta is stranded in Mexico. She would 
like to get into this country and convert the stocks into cash, with the 
hope of rescuing her family from the Nazis. But she needs help. I 

254 



The Case of the Refugee 

promised to help her as soon as I returned to this country. 

"I had some trouble getting out of Germany myself. I went to the 
American embassy and they arranged my passage. But it cost a lot of 
money. 

"Mr. Lamont, I'd hke to go to Mexico and help Henrietta, but I 
don't have any money. I think I can have her smuggled into this 
country. She has agreed to turn all her holdings over to me and give 
me half of what I get out of them. Suppose you tell your banker and 
ask him to advance me the money to help her?" 

"I'll advance the money myself," he replied, a greedy light in his 
eyes. "But how do you expect to get her out of Mexico.''" 

"Sailors can be bribed. I hope to find a man with a tramp steamer 
who will bring her in — for a consideration, of course." 

"Suppose you fail.?" 

"Then I'll bring the stocks back and sell them for her." 

"What if you can't get them across the border?" he pressed. 

"Then I'll sell the stock in Mexico. Maybe I can get 30 per cent of 
its value. In that case, I'll buy a small cruiser and smuggle Henrietta 
into the country myself." 

"How much do I get out of it?" 

"I'll give you a third of the proceeds. The amount you make will 
depend on whether I have to sell the stock in Mexico or can get it 
into this country. But you ought to get from $100,000 to $300,000 out 
of the deal." 

Mention of these figures made Lamont rub his hands. "I'll help 
you," he said. "How much do you want to start?" 

"Five hundred to a thousand dollars." 

"I haven't got that much cash here. I'll have to go to the bank. 
But you can put up here overnight." 

I spent the night in one of his cabins. The next morning he went 
to Lafayette and returned with $500. I took the money and started 
for Mexico by automobile. 

At Dallas I called Lamont. 

"I've just heard from Henrietta," I told him. "She needs $1,000 at 
once. The captain who brought her over demands more money." 

"That's a lot of money," he protested. 

255 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

"Yes, I know," I agreed. "But now that we've gone this far we 
can't afford to let this man upset the whole thing." 

"How do you know he won't be demanding more money?" 

"Because he's saihng in a few days. As soon as he's out of the way 
we know he won't be able to talk." 

"All right," Lamont yielded. "How'll I send it to you?" 

"Wire it care Western Union at Laredo. Use the code word Oscar 
for identification." 

"I'll send it," he promised. 

I drove on to Laredo and checked in at a hotel. After I had eaten 
and relaxed a bit I called at Western Union. 

"Do you have a money order for John Bauer?" I inquired. 

"John Bauer?" said the clerk. "I'll see." He returned in a short time 
and asked: "Do you have a dog?" 

"Yes." 

"What's his name?" 

"Oscar." 

"Yes, we have a money order for you. Sign here." 

I signed the receipt and received the money. From Laredo I drove 
to Monterey and on into Mexico City. It was really a lark for me. 
The scenery was interesting and I was in no hurry. There was 
naturally no Henrietta in Mexico City to distract my attention from 
the city's night life, which I enjoyed for several days before I called 
Lamont again. 

"Everything is going fine," I told him enthusiastically. "Henrietta is 
comfortable and nobody is molesting her. I haven't been able to find 
a boat to smuggle her in though. It may require a few weeks to do 
that. I'll stay and try to arrange it if you can send me some more 
money." 

"I've already given you $1,500," he objected. "Why can't you get 
some of the stock and raise some money?" 

"I can do that," I replied. "I'll bring some of the stock back and 
sell it in the United States. See you in a few days." 

About a week later I returned to Indiana and checked in at a hotel 
in Lafayette. Later I drove out to see Lamont. I took with me stock 
certificates of the Standard Oil Company, American Telephone and 

256 



The Case of the Refugee 

Telegraph, and Allied Chemicals, with a total face value of $15,000. 
They were all phonies but looked so genuine they'd fool almost 
anybody. 

Lamont was enthusiastic when I showed him the certificates. 

"Suppose we get your banker to dispose of these?" I suggested. 

"Good. I'll let Jim run the place and we'll go into Lafayette now." 

He drove into Lafayette and I followed in my car. We went to his 
bank and he introduced me to the president, a man I will call John 
Parker. 

He looked over the certificates and there was no indication of doubt 
on his face. "Where did you get these?" he inquired. 

I told him of having acquired them from the refugee. "Why," I 
asked, "they're good, aren't they?" 

"Gilt-edged," he replied. "I'd be glad to sell them for you, but they 
are not endorsed." 

"Do they have to be?" I asked, appearing crestfallen. 

"Yes. They have to be authenticated." 

"Well, I guess there isn't anything else I can do." I got up, dis- 
appointment written in every move, and Lamont and I started for 
the door. 

Lamont was already out the door and I was about to leave when the 
banker said: "Just a moment." He beckoned to me and I returned to 
his desk. 

"Where are you stopping?" he asked in an undertone. 

I named my hotel. 

"I'll telephone you later," he said quickly. "I have something in 
mind." 

I knew pretty well what was in his mind, but I had no intention of 
telling Lamont. When I rejoined him he wanted to know why Parker 
had called me back. 

"He just wanted to tell me to be sure to have the certificates 
notarized," I replied. "They have to be endorsed and notarized." 

"What are your plans now?" Lamont asked. 

"As soon as I've rested up I'm going back to Mexico and get the 
certificates signed," I told him. 
We chatted for half an hour. Then I parted from Lamont, with the 

257 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

promise that I would get in touch with him the next day. 

I had been back at my hotel only a few minutes when the phone 
rang. It was Parker. "Would you come over to my law offices?" he 
asked. I told him I would and he gave me the address. 

Parker's office was in a spacious suite in the best building in town. I 
later learned he had a number of young lawyers working for him and 
that he spent a few hours there after the bank closed, supervising 
their activities and ironing out problems. 

Parker himself was in his middle forties, a stocky man with a jutting 
chin and long, unruly brown hair. He wore horn-rimmed glasses and 
was a tireless worker. I was soon to learn he also was a tireless 
schemer and that his main interest in life was the acquisition of 
money, of which he already had a considerable amount. 

He greeted me cordially and offered me a comfortable chair and 
cigar. Clearly this was a build-up. 

"How much does Lamont know about this woman who owns the 
stock?" he asked. 

"Very little," I replied. "Why?" 

"Don't tell him any more. I think I'm in a better position than he 
is to help you. How much are her holdings?" 

"About two million dollars." 

"Why don't you bring her in?" 

I showed him the correspondence and told him the story about her 
narrow escape from Hitler and her inability to get into the United 
States. 

"I can smuggle her in," I explained. "But I will have to buy a small 
cruiser, equip it, hire a crew, and bribe a few officials. All that costs 
money and I don't have any." 

"How much are you getting out of it if you do succeed in smuggling 
her in?" he asked, getting right to the point. 

"I think she will give me 50 per cent." 

"I might help you finance it," he proposed. "How much of your 
share will you pay for help?" 

"I'd be willing to pay 30 per cent of my share." 

"Not enough," he said quickly. "If I do go in with you, it will have 
to be half." 

258 



The Case of the Refugee 

I considered this for a moment, finally shrugged. "There isn't any- 
thing else I can do," I said. "I can't buy a boat without money so 
I'll have to accept your proposal." 

"What had you planned to do next.?" 

"Return to Mexico." 

"How soon?" 

"Probably in two weeks." 

"Why do you have to put it off so long?" he asked. I could see 
from the look of avarice in his eyes and the way he rubbed his hands 
that he was very anxious. 

"I haven't any money to make the trip," I replied. "I hope to have 
enough by that time." 

"I'll furnish the money," the banker said impatiently. "Meet mc 
here tomorrow morning at nine forty-five. I'll slip away from the bank 
for a few minutes. Meanwhile you better shake Lamont." 

Shaking Lamont was no trouble at all. I called him the next morn- 
ing and told him I was on my way back to Mexico and that I would 
get in touch with him as soon as I could. 

I met Parker as arranged. He had the look of a well-fed cat who 
is preparing to gorge himself on a juicy mouse. 

"When are you leaving?" 

"Right away." 

"Fine. The sooner you start the better." 

"I still don't have any money," I reminded him. 

"Stop worrying about the money," he said. "Here's $500. If you 
need any more call me at my home." He handed me a card with his 
home address and phone number. 

"This ought to be enough," I assured him, pocketing the money. 
"I'll keep you informed of my progress." 

I drove back to Mexico City and after waiting a couple of days 
called Parker. 

"Henrietta's in hiding," I told him. "She saw the former ambassador 
to Germany on the street and is fearful of being recognized." 

"What are you going to do?" 

"Make arrangements to get her out of the country just as fast as 
I can." 

259 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

I waited a couple more days, than drove back to Lafayette. I avoided 
Lament but went at once to see the banker. 

"The trip only cost me $300," I told him. "Here's the balance of 
the money you gave me." I returned S200 to Parker and it had a 
tremendous psychological effect on him. 

"What progress did you make?" he asked anxiously. 

"I found a tramp steamer that is sailing in a few days. The Captain 
is willing to smuggle her into the United States for $7,500." 

"How do I know that you are telling me the truth?" 

"I don't understand." 

"How do I know this woman has all that stock?" 

"I asked her to give me some sort of evidence. She gave me this 
letter." 

The letter was on the stationery of the Chase National Bank of New 
York. It was signed "Winthrop W. Aldrich." It looked as genuine as 
if Aldrich really had written it. The letterhead was an exact replica 
and the expensive bond paper had a watermark. 

According to the letter Mr. Aldrich was glad Henrietta had suc- 
cessfully eluded the Nazis with her vast holdings of stocks and 
precious jewels. He expressed a desire to serve her and hoped she 
would permit the Chase National Bank to handle her affairs if she 
succeeded in getting to New York. 

This letter readily convinced Parker. He put aside all doubts and 
got down to business. 

"Does she have the stocks in a safe place?" he asked. 

"Yes, she still has them in the trunk," I replied. "Of course, nobody 
knows that it has a secret compartment. Even the man who is going 
to smuggle her in doesn't know that she is carrying a valuable cargo. 
He thinks she's just a poor refugee whose friends are anxious to save 
her from the Nazis." 

"Good. There's no use wasting time." 

He made out two documents. One was a note for $7,500 payable 
on demand. I signed it and, as president of the bank, he approved it. 
The other was an agreement that, in consideration of his financial 
help, I would give him fifty per cent of my share. I signed that, too, 
using the name, John Bauer. 

260 



The Case of the Refugee 

With the money I started back for Mexico right away. At Laredo 
I stopped and called Lamont. 

"I've been wondering what happened to you," he said. 

"Well, I've been very busy trying to get Henrietta into the United 
States," I told him. "I've finally located the captain of a freighter who 
is willing to smuggle her in for $1,500." 

"What are you going to do now.^*" 

"I have to raise the money. Can you send it to me?" 

"Yes, but that's all I can send you." 

"You won't need to send any more. Once she gets to the United 
States we'll have all the money we want." 

"All right, where do you want it sent?" 

"The Western Union at Laredo. Use the same code word." 

I waited around several hours and the wire didn't come. It was a 
dangerous game I was playing. If Lamont and Parker had got to- 
gether and compared notes I was a dead duck. After the second time 
I had inquired at Western Union I became jittery. I thought of a 
dozen things that might be happening. 

It was nearly dark when I decided to ask once more. But to be sure 
no trap had been laid I hired a boy to go to Western Union for me. 
I watched him from across the street while he asked. He returned 
and told me the wire was there. 

I went in, gave the code word, and received the $1,500. As it 
developed, my fears had been groundless. But I didn't hang around 
Laredo any longer. I got in my car and drove on to Mexico City. 

There I telephoned Parker and told him I needed an additional 
$1,500 to bribe consular officials who had got wind of the proposed 
smuggling. He protested but wired the money to me. 

I went back to the United States after arranging with a man in 
Mexico City to send a couple of wires for me. One of them, addressed 
to me in care of the banker, was signed "Henrietta" and stated: 

EVERYTHING ARRANGED. WAITING FOR CLEARANCE 
PAPERS. 

The other was addressed to me in care of Lamont. It read : 

261 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

DIFFICULTY IN ARRANGING CLEARANCE PAPERS. 
SHOULD BE IN NEW YORK IN TWO WEEKS. 

I went out to see Lamont and he handed me the telegram. 

"Well, it won't be long now," I told him. "I'll go to New York 
and meet her and I'll be back here as soon as I can." 

This seemed reasonable enough to him. I put up at his camp over- 
night and told him in detail — quite fictitious — of the trouble I'd 
encountered in arranging Henrietta's passage. I left the following 
morning and told him I was on my way to New York. 

I drove on into Lafayette and the banker had the other telegram. 

"How long do you think she'll be held up.?" he asked anxiously. 

"Not long," I assured him. "I arranged everything with the con- 
sular officials before I left." 

"Guess we will just have to wait," he said impatiently. 

I went on over to the hotel and registered. That afternoon I re- 
turned to the bank. I had a faked airmail letter that read: 

We are about to sail. We expect to be in New York next Saturday. 
I hope that you will be there to meet me. 

Hurriedly, 

Henrietta 

In a state of great excitement I went into the banker's office and 
showed him the letter. He read it with great satisfaction. 

"I'm going to drive to New York to meet her," I told Parker. "The 
poor woman will need help. She has some clothing, but it definitely 
stamps her as a foreigner. I think she'd better be dressed properly to 
protect us." 

Parker readily agreed. 

"I'll need more cash to do that," I pointed out. "Can I increase 
the note?" 

"You're already in about $10,000." 

"No, it's $9,000. Suppose you make it $10,000 even." 

"But $500 ought to be enough." 

"I don't think so. Henrietta is an aristocrat. If she is to be dressed 
in a manner that befits her I think I'll need a great deal more than 
that. Suppose you make the note for $12,000." 

262 



The Case of the Refugee 

We haggled for some time over this point He finally compromised 
by giving me $1^00. I then departed for New York to meet poor 
Henrietta. 

I did actually go to New York. I was there when the boat was 
supposed to arrive. But I was busy with other activities. I went 
to a bowery passport photographer's and got a fake photograph of 
Henrietta. Then I bought a New York paper and had the front 
page reprinted. The headline read: 

CAPTAIN ARRESTED FOR 
SMUGGLING WEALTHY ALIEN 

The story under the headline stated that the captain of a freighter 
had been arrested for trying to smuggle into New York a wealthy 
German refugee. It related how the woman had been put aboard the 
freighter with a trunk found to contain some two millions in securities 
and jewels as the result of a plot initiated by one John Bauer, who 
was being sought by police. The picture of Henrietta was prominently 
displayed. 

With this I hurried back to Indiana and laid the paper in front of 
the banker. Parker was furious, but he didn't doubt the authenticity 
of the paper or the story. 

"What are you going to do now?" he demanded. 

"I'm going back to Mexico. Just as fast as I can." 

"Don't be a fool. That's the first place they'll look. You had better 
go up to the north woods." 

"All right," I agreed, "but I'll need more money." 

"What!" The banker jumped from his chair and shook an angry 
fist in my face. "Why should I give you more money?" 

"Don't forget," I reminded him coolly, "that if I'm caught, I'll 
have to involve you." 

"I wish I'd never laid eyes on you!" Parker said, fervent hatred 
in his voice. He was frothing at the mouth, but the threat of exposure 
was effective. He reached in his pocket. 

"Here's $200. Now get out of here and I hope that I never sec you 
again!" 

He had his wish. I got out and he has never seen me since. This 

263 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

was one case where I didn't have to worry about documentary evi- 
dence. I'm quite sure Parker burned both the note and the agreement 
I had signed as soon as he could conveniently do it. 

This scheme may seem fantastic. But it is no more so than the 
famous "Spanish prisoner" swindle which is being worked through 
the mails even today. It is in the same category as the hidden-treasure 
lure. 

There is something about buried treasure that appeals to a wide 
number of people. If you can produce a yellowed map, presumably 
made up by a pirate, you can tell a story to fit the circumstances and 
there will be many people who will believe it. Besides that, there 
will be many who will invest large sums in expeditions to find the 
treasure. 

My story of Henrietta and her stocks was comparable to that. I 
used it successfully on others. It was the last big scheme in my fifty 
vears as a confidence man. 



264 



24. A Proposition for A. Hitler 



I didn't go to the north woods after I LEFT PARKER. I CAME BACK 
to Chicago, feeling pretty sure it would never occur to him that 
he had been swindled. I assume he eventually did find it out, 
but he never complained. 

In Chicago I met a wealthy woman whom I shall call Mrs. O'Kccfc. 
She owned some copper-mining property in Arizona and I persuaded 
her she needed a famous mining engineer to manage it. She hired 
me and I made a trip to Arizona at her expense. I engaged Buck- 
minster as my assistant and put him on the expense account. 

We visited the mine and learned it was valuable, though not being 
worked. We lingered in Arizona and enjoyed a nice vacation before 
returning to Chicago. 

Mrs. O'Keefe was not interested in opening the mine, but she did 
want to sell it. I suggested that foreign interests probably would give 
her a much better price than she could get in this country. 

Germany was not actually at war, though Hitler had begun his 
bloodless conquests. I proposed to Mrs. O'Keefe that I go to Berlin 
where I had connections in the Reichsbank and try to make a deal 
for her mining property. 

It was logical that Mrs. O'Keefe should fall for this story. Hitler, 
on the verge of war, would need all the copper he could get. I 
persuaded Mrs. O'Keefe he would pay a much higher price than she 
could get at home. Another case where greed overruled patriotism. 

I sailed for Berhn on what was to be my last trip abroad. I had 
a handsome expense account and full authority to sell the mine to 
Hitler if we could come to terms. 

265 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

I had no desire to meet the Fuehrer or to sell him the mine. But 
I made a good pretense. Shortly after my arrival I cabled Mrs. O'Kcefc 
that negotiations were under way. Berlin was not the gay city it had 
been on my last previous visit. 

At the Chancellery I made a formal request in writing for an inter- 
view with Adolph Hitler. This was denied, also in writing — and 
on the stationery of the German government. At the Reichsbank I 
made an inquiry and received a reply on Reichsbank stationery. 

That was all I wanted. I now had samples of Hitler's stationery 
and that of the Reichsbank. I would need these when I got back to 
the United States. 

Then I went to London, where war clouds were also gathering. 
But the atmosphere was different. It was still possible to be gay. I 
visited some of my old haunts and spent several weeks in old Bond 
Street replenishing my wardrobe. 

In London there was hopeful talk of peace. However, my visit to 
Berlin had convinced me it was only a matter of time until war 
would come. I had no desire to be in Europe when that happened. 

Before returning to Chicago I had the two German letterheads 
copied. On these I forged letters from Hitler and from the Reichs- 
bank. Both professed great interest in the mining property but ex- 
plained that negotiations had been delayed because of certain legal 
technicalities. 

I showed these to Mrs. O'Keefe and she was satisfied with the 
progress I had made. But she had not sold the property and insisted 
I return to Berlin and continue negotiations. I declined to do this, 
and she cut off my expense account. 

I realized there was danger she would discover that the documents 
had been forged. I decided to get out of Chicago until things had 
blown over. I went to Washington and registered at the Hotel May- 
flower. 

At the Mayflower I met John Harris. He asked what I was doing 
and I told him I was marking time. Harris invited me to New York. 
He said he knew a woman who was a close friend of a famous cos- 
metics manufacturer. She held open house every day and there were 
ample opportunities to meet people of wealth. 

266 





To further his stock schemes, the "Yellow Kid" Weil had his own pic- 
ture expertly inserted in this book in place of that of its real author. 



■H^rm/, 'aJ*// 



Peb. 9, 1955. 

Cr. Henri Reuel, 

C/o Bjok-Caalll&c Hotel, 

Detroit, MicbigsJi. 

Hy dear Doctsri 

Ple&se be adTiaed that Mr, J. P. Uorgan and I are now in a 

position to deal direct with the gentleman who ia in complete 

cootral of the Verde Apex Copper HiDing Comiany. I have no 

desire to lock horna with you nor do I feel diepoeed to aaso- 

ciate myaelf with the bouse of Uorgan in defeating your claioa. 

This ia final. Bither you delirer to me all documents In 

the subject matter ionediately else I shall .loin forces against 

you. 

Verv aincerelv. 



WCT/HB 



verv aincerelv, n 



"Yellow Kid" always had on hand forgeries of letters and signatures. 



A Proposition for A. Hitler 

I went to New York and registered at the Barbizon-Plaza. Harris 
registered at the Clermont, Already waiting at the Clermont was a 
con man named Dick Hartley. He joined us when we went to call 
on Mrs. Richards, the lady who held open house. 

We met both wealthy people and government officials. Still I de- 
cided it was not a good place for me. Mrs. O'Keefe had learned my 
true identity and had complained to federal authorities, who had a 
warrant for my arrest. I decided the Barbizon-Plaza was as good a 
place as any to hide. 

One night Harris and Hartley had a little party in their rooms. 
I thought it was to be a small gathering and accepted their invitation. 
As it turned out, however, there were many people there, including 
a high-ranking Army officer. I was introduced as Dr. Henri Reuel. 

Harris and Hartley became drunk and so did several of the guests. 
When the desk called and said there were a number of complaints 
about the noise I decided it was time to go. 

I remained in New York and did not see Harris and Hartley again. 
Two months later they were arrested for using the mails to defraud 
after selling some oil lands in Texas. The Army officer remembered 
me and reported to the authorities. After my identity was established 
it was immediately assumed I had been in the scheme with Harris 
and Hartley. 

I was arrested by postal inspectors. When I protested my innocence 
they brought up the O'Keefe matter. They offered to try to quash 
that indictment if I would plead guilty in the mail fraud case. I 
accepted this deal with the understanding that my sentence would 
be light. 

But the United States District Attorney asked Judge Clancy in 
Federal Court to fix my sentence at four years. In my own defense, 
I pointed out to Judge Clancy that the fact that I had been in that 
hotel room did not prove I had been a party to the mail-fraud scheme. 

Judge Clancy asked me what I thought my sentence ought to be. 

"I consider a year quite enough," I told him. 

"All right," he mused. "You ask for a year, the government asks 
for four. I'll make it two." 

That was early in 1940. I was sent to Atlanta, which is perhaps the 
finest of all federal prisons. I was assigned to do book work in the 

267 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

laundry, a job which had definite advantages. I did not have to dress 
in the usual prison denim, could have a clean white shirt every day, 
and the use of a private bath. 

In Atlanta every inmate had an opportunity to learn a trade and 
to rehabilitate himself. The men in charge of the various activities 
were kind and willing to help anyone who had a desire to learn. 

Most of those in the laundry took courses in modern laundry 
methods and in dry cleaning. They had regular examinations, as they 
would in any school. It was my job to grade the papers. Some were 
eager to get high marks and even offered bribes. I always rejected 
these offers. 

There was one course, however, where the inmates did not intend 
to follow the trade when they got out. That was acetylene welding. 
Nearly every convict who took that training had one object in mind. 
He expected to become a better safe -cracker when he got out. 

Atlanta offered practically every form of recreational activity. Its 
stadium compared with the best college athletic fields. All sports were 
available except golf. Every convict who was engaged in one of the 
rehabilitation activities was given two hours a day to engage in sports 
or be a spectator. 

Lights went out every night at nine, but if there was something 
special on the radio, such as a championship boxing match, the radio 
was left on until later. 

The cell blocks were four tiers high, but they were not known as 
cells in Atlanta. Each block had accommodations for eight inmates 
and each unit was known as "living quarters." 

When I was released from Atlanta in 1942 I was taken into custody 
and returned to Chicago to face charges in the O'Keefe case. Buck- 
minster had already been tried and been acquitted. My appearance 
was only a formality. The case was dropped and I was released. 

Since that time nobody has charged me with a crime. For a very 
good reason. After my term in Atlanta I resolved that I would never 
again be involved in anything that might send me to prison. 

I have lived in Chicago since then and it has been a great relief to 
be able to walk the streets freely, to enter any public place I choose, 
and to look any policeman in the eye. 

268 



2S Tricks of the Trade 



PEDDLING FAKE STOCK WAS BY FAR THE MOST PROFITABLE OF MY 
schemes. It was easy for me to tell this story with conviction. 
It had worked well over a period of twenty years. 

Other swindles soon became known or were good only in certain 
localities, but the stock scheme was good anywhere and at any time. 
And there were a far greater number of people who could be taken 
in by it. Until the market crash of October, 1929, nearly everybody 
believed there were big fortunes to be made in stock. Consequently 
many folks who ordinarily would not have dealt in stocks were easy 
victims of my schemes. 

My stock story was basically the same for more than twenty years 
and became somewhat trite. However each victim was different, and 
the situations varied. As the years passed, many improvements were 
made in the modus operandi. Strangely enough, the victims them- 
selves made suggestions that helped me to improve the scheme. 

For example, Bobby Sims, heir to a soap fortune in Cincinnati, 
called my attention to an article in McClure's, then one of the nation's 
leading monthlies. The article, titled "$100,000 A Year," was written 
by Edward Mott Woolley and was the success story of a mining 
engineer named Pope Yateman who had taken over an almost worth- 
less mine in Chile and made it pay, though he had been compelled 
to pipe water for more than a hundred miles. 

I bought as many copies of that magazine as I could find and 
fetched them to Chicago. At the first opportunity I took them to Jack 
Jones, operator of the Dill Pickle Club. 

Jones was noted principally for his operation of the Dill Pickle, and 

269 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

only a few knew of his real activities. These were carried on in the 
daytime when the club was closed. Jones had a well-equipped print- 
ing and bookbinding plant in the same building. 

Jones employed linotype operators, printers, binders, and one en- 
graver. Their specialty was first editions of famous books. They 
used their various skills in turning out almost perfect copies of such 
rarities. The engraver, whom I knew only as Hymie, was an old- 
time hand-engraver who could copy anything from fifteenth century 
bookplates to Uncle Sam's currency. He had a secret process for giving 
the books the appearance of age. 

Jones put the volumes, with their yellowed pages, into circulation 
through underworld channels. For books that had cost him about a 
dollar to produce he received twenty-five dollars. So far as I know 
this was the only fraud that Jones ever engaged in. 

But Hymie was more versatile. In his spare time at night, while 
Jones was busy at the Dill Pickle Club, Hymie turned his talent to 
engravings of United States currency. He turned out some pretty good 
counterfeits. I had heard of this and went to see him. 

He agreed to do all my printing and engraving. He made fake 
letterheads, stock certificates, letters of credit, calling cards, and any 
other documents I needed. 

Now, I had a special job for him. I asked him to remove the 
entire article from McClure's, substitute my picture for Pope Yate- 
man's, reprint the whole thing, and bind it back in the proper place. 
He took the job. He made a cut that showed me as the famous 
mining engineer, copied the rest of the article, printed the requisite 
pages and rebound the magazine. Even an expert would not have 
known the magazine wasn't exactly as it had been published. 

These magazines were destined to play a big part in my future 
activities. Who could resist the advice of the SlOO,000-a-year mining 
wizard who had taken copper from a worthless mine in Chile? It 
was all down there in black and white in a highly respected magazine. 
Many a victim was misled by it. 

I was never so crude as to call anybody's attention to the magazine. 
I selected most of my victims from small towns, outside of Chicago. 
As soon as I had picked out the victim, I sent on a couple of men with 

270 



Tricks of the Trade 

a copy of the faked magazine. These men called at the town's public 
library and asked for the file of McClure's. 

It was easy enough to borrow the bound volume from the library. 
They took it to their hotel room, removed the issue containing the 
Pope Yateman story and substituted the one containing my faked 
photograph. Then the volume was returned to the library. 

Later on I started my negotiations with the victim. Chances were 
he had never heard of Pope Yateman. After some preliminary talks 
I would mention that I had other matters to attend to and left the 
victim in the hands of Deacon Buckminster, who had been introduced 
as my secretary, Mr. Kimball. 

"Did you read the article about Mr. Yateman in McClure's}" Buck 
would ask in a casual manner. 

"Why, no, I don't believe I did," the victim usually replied. "Do 
you have a copy of it?" 

"No, I don't," Buck would say. "But I'm sure you can find it in 
the public library if you're interested." 

Naturally the victim was interested. As soon as he had read this 
success story and had seen my picture in a magazine on file in the 
library of his own town he had no doubts at all about my identity. 
More important, he had new respect for my business acumen. From 
then on he was an easy victim. 

As soon as we had made certain he had read the magazine, my 
stooges called again at the public library and used their sleight-of-hand 
to remove the faked magazines and return the original. You can 
imagine the victim's amazement, after being swindled, to go to the 
library and look up that article only to find that the picture did not 
resemble me at all! 

A variation of this scheme I used later when Franz von Papen 
became German ambassador to the United States. I purchased 200 
copies of a Sunday issue of the Washington Post. They were turned 
over to Hymie with an article I had written, a photograph of von 
Papen, and photographs of Buckminster and myself. Hymie had to 
duplicate the first and last sheets of the main news section in order to 
get the article in. 

He killed three columns of news matter on the front page and 

271 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

substituted the article I had written. Prominently displayed was the 
picture of von Papen, flanked on one side by Buckminstcr and on 
the other by me. The article told of the two plenipotentiaries who had 
accompanied von Papen to America. Their mission was to purchase 
industrial and mining property for German capitaHsts and for the 
German government. It was an impressive story and layout, occupying 
the best space in the paper. 

I always carried a copy of this paper in my bag. If I had a victim 
in tow, I would always manage, while removing something from the 
handbag, to let the paper fall out. The victim would see the spread 
and would be properly impressed. 
"May I have a copy of that?" he would ask. 

"I'm sorry," I would reply, "but this is the only copy I have with 
me. But I shall be happy to send you a copy as soon as I get back to 
Washington." 

The reason for this procedure was that I made it a rule never to 
let any documentary evidence get out of my hands. Though I dis- 
played thousands of fake letters, documents, stock certificates, etc., to 
prospective victims, I was always careful to recover them. 

On one occasion when a copy of McClure's was used against mc, 
I had been charged with fleecing a man in Indiana. I paid a lawyer 
to get the case fixed. He asked me to let him have a copy of the 
magazine and I did. It later got into the hands of the state's at- 
torney, who used it for the prosecution. 

The state brought the librarian from Indiana to testify that the 
magazine was a fake. When he had examined it, he was asked: 

"Is that a genuine copy of McClure's?" 

"I can't say," he replied. 

"Would you say that it had been faked? That it had been altered 
after leaving the publishers?" 

"I can't say about that either," the librarian responded. "I just 
can't tell whether it is faked or genuine." 

If a professional librarian, who was supposed to know books and 
magazines, couldn't tell the diflference, how could a victim be expected 
to spot it as a fake? None of them did. The magazines were used as 
props in many swindles and nobody questioned their authenticity. 

272 



Tricks of the Trade 

As the years passed and we gained experience in the stock swindle 
other props were added. These included fake letters from J. P. 
Morgan, Walter C. Teagle, and numerous other big figures in the 
financial world. 

The stationery we used for these fakes looked genuine. I always 
saw to that. First I obtained a letterhead, and Hymie copied it. I had 
little trouble getting these letterheads. I merely wrote to the firm 
and asked about a man allegedly in their employ. The name I gave was 
fictitious, but the firm always wrote back to say that there was no 
record of the person I had inquired about. This gave me both a letter- 
head and envelope. Envelopes became important, particularly from 
foreign countries. I solved the problem of making the foreign en- 
velopes look genuine, too. 

I bought a supply of postage stamps of various foreign countries 
at a stamp store in Chicago. By writing letters of inquiry to hotels or 
firms in large cities all over the world I had a sample not only of 
their stationery but a specimen postmark as well. I had postmarking 
outfits made for all the larger cities of the world. They had loose 
dates that could be changed at will. Any time I wanted a letter from 
a foreign city all I had to do was write it, put it in the proper en- 
velope, and postmark it. 

At various times during the years from 1914 until the end of my 
career as a con man, I posed as Dr. Henri Reuel, a famous mining 
engineer and author. In 1931, Dr. Reuel published some excellent 
books. One of these was Our Sons, a behind-the-scenes story of the 
beginning of the first World War. 

Another was Oil Imperialism, whose sub-title was "The Causes of 
the World's War." A third was The Romantic Lure and Lore of 
Copper, which related stories of great copper-mining ventures, par- 
ticularly those of the Far West. One chapter dealt in detail with the 
Law of the Apex and related how Augustus Heintz had used the 
Law of the Apex to squeeze $25,000,000 out of the Ntorgan-Standard 
Oil interests. 

The contents of these books furnished excellent material for my 
build-up on the stock scheme. I referred to various portions of these 
books in conversations with prospective victims, slanting my talk ac- 

273 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

cording to the character of the victim. Many of these were wcahhy 
Germans who were ready to Hsten to any plausible story about the 
World War. 

I decided that as long as I was using Dr. Reuel's material and 
name I might as well become the author of his books too. I had a 
photograph made of myself in formal attire, clean-shaven except for 
a mustache. 

Hymie made a cut of this picture and printed it on heavy enamel 
paper. He very skillfully inserted it in the front of each book, opposite 
the title page. This appeared to be the frontispiece and was titled 
"Dr. Henri Reuel." If the occasion was right I let the victim see a 
copy of one of the books. He could not tell that the frontispiece 
was faked, and as a rule no more build-up was needed to convince him. 

Nearly all the victims wanted copies of the books. I sidestepped 
that by saying I had no other copies with me but that I would mail 
autographed volumes as soon as I returned home. 

These are excellent books, well written, well printed, and well 
bound. They may be found today in many public libraries, though, of 
course, my picture doesn't appear in those in the libraries. I still have 
copies in excellent condition. They were among my most valuable 
props and helped me to sell many thousand dollars worth of fake 
mining stocks. 

Props played a big part in my success in selUng fake stocks. For 
a long time we had a brokerage house. We usually heard of a broker- 
age house that was moving or going out of business and rented the 
quarters completely furnished. 

With the furnishings in, all we had to do was hire a few girls to 
look busy. Generally they were students from a business college who 
needed typing practice so they copied names from the telephone direc- 
tories. The victims did not know what the girls were doing and were 
impressed by their activity. 

I have already recounted our St. Louis project, but one of the most 
impressive layouts I ever used was in Muncie, Indiana. I learned that 
the Merchants National Bank had moved to new quarters. I rented 
the old building, which was complete with all the necessary furnish- 
ings and fixtures for a banking venture. 

274 



Tricks of the Trade 

For a week before I was ready to take my victim in, I had my 
stooges call at the new Merchants Bank. Each time they went in 
they secretly carried away a small quantity of deposit slips, counter 
checks, savings withdrawal slips, and other forms used by the bank. 
In that manner we acquired an ample supply to spread over our 
counters. 

I bought as many money bags as I could find, but couldn't get 
enough. So I had the name of the bank stenciled on fifty salt bags. 
The bags were all filled with shiny steel washers about the size of 
half dollars and tied at the top. The money bags, together with 
large stacks of boodle and some genuine silver, were stacked in the 
cages of the paying and receiving tellers. All the cages were manned 
by stooges. 

When I brought the victim in and asked to see the president of 
the bank we were told we would have to wait. We waited an hour 
during which the place bustled with activity. 

People would come in to patronize the bank. Most of these were 
girls from the local bawdy houses, interspersed with denizens of 
the underworld — gamblers, thugs, touts. There was a steady stream, 
and the bank appeared to be thriving. Occasionally a uniformed 
messenger came in with a money bag. These messengers were street- 
car conductors off duty. They wore their regular uniforms but left 
the badges off their caps. 

The victim never suspected a thing. Fully convinced that he was 
in a big active bank, he went into the stock deal with me and ulti- 
mately lost $50,000. 

I have often thought about banks and the confidence which people 
have in the very word. Not so long ago anybody could start a bank. 
The main things needed were the right props. Perhaps the most im- 
portant of these was a big sign outside. If it said "BANK," great 
numbers of people who knew nothing at all about the operators 
A'ould entrust their funds to the institution. The big sign and the 
cages inside quieted any fears they might have had as to the authen- 
ticity of the institution. 

I have used banks many times to convince victims of the soundness 
of my schemes. 

275 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

Leach and Company was a large brokerage house in Youngstown, 
(Jhio. It had a national reputation. I could not hope to take my 
victim in there and transact business. But I thought of something 
even better. 

Near by was a bank, one of the largest in Ohio. One day I went 
in and asked to see the president. I was shown into his private office, 
a spacious room with a high, panelled ceiling and expensive ma- 
hogany furnishings. The pile of the rug was so deep you sank into 
it almost to your ankles. 

I told the president I had come to Youngstown to purchase one of 
the steel mills. (I rather favored the Youngstown Sheet and Tube 
Company.) I asked his advice, and he said he thought I couldn't go 
wrong. 

"I hope you'll remember this bank when your deal has been com- 
pleted," he smiled. 

"I certainly shall." Of course, a big firm like the Youngstown 
Sheet and Tube Company has enormous bank dealings. "But," I con- 
tinued, "there will be considerable negotiations. It may take some 
time." 

"That goes without saying." 

"By the way," I said, "do you happen to have a spare office here 
in the bank where I might carry on our negotiations? Any room not 
in use will do." 

"I have an excellent place," he replied. "My own office. Any time 
you want to hold a conference, bring your people in here. I'll get 
out and you can have complete privacy." 

"That is very kind of you," I said. "I'll probably take advantage 
of your offer within the next two or three days." 

Two days later, when I had brought my victim to Youngstown, 
I called the bank president and asked for the use of his office at 10 
A. M. He assured me that it would be available and unoccupied. 

I told my victim that we were going to see Mr. Leach, the owner 
of Leach and Company, who was interested in buying the stock. 
When we entered the big office of Leach and Company, I addressed 
a man in shirt sleeves who stood near one of the counters. (He was 
my stooge, planted there for the purpose.) 

276 



Tricks of the Trade 

"Can you tell mc where we'll find Mr. Leach?" I inquired. 

"Well, he owns this place, but you won't find him here," said the 
stooge. "See that big bank across the street?" 

"Yes." 

"Well, that's where he spends most of his time. He's the president 
of that bank." 

By this time my victim was pretty much impressed. Mr, Leach, he 
decided, was indeed a big man. We went across the street and en- 
tered the bank. Near the door a well-dressed man without hat or 
topcoat walked idly about. He was another stooge. 

"Do you have a Mr. Leach here?" I asked. 

"We certainly do," the stooge replied. "He's president of the bank. 
That's his office over there," He pointed across the room to the door 
marked president. "There's Mr. Leach now, going towards his 
office," 

The man walking across the floor was Jimmy Head. He was well 
dressed and had a dignified bearing. It required no imagination to 
bcHeve he was a bank president. We hurried across the room and 
caught up with him just as he reached the office door. 

"Mr. Leach?" I asked. 

"Yes." 

"I'm Dr. Weed — Dr. Walter H. Weed. I've come to talk to you 
about some mining stock I believe you're interested in." 

"Ah, yes, Dr. Weed. I've heard a great deal about you. Won't 
you step into my office where we can talk in private?" 

"Thank you." 

He opened the door and we went in. I led the way, followed by 
the victim. The room was unoccupied. 

Jimmy Head had never before seen the inside of this office. But he 
went and sat down at the broad desk of the bank president as though 
he had grown up in these surroundings. 

We began to discuss the stock deal and remained in the office for 
about half an hour. Nobody bothered us. By the time we were ready 
to go, the victim was firmly convinced he was dealing with the 
biggest banker in Youngstown. Head shook hands with us and saw 
us to the door. He, too, left as soon as we were out of sight. 

277 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

The success of my schemes was due largely to the build-up. No 
matter what difficulties we encountered later, the victim's resistance 
had already been broken down. He was thoroughly convinced of my 
authenticity at the beginning and did not stop later to check on any 
questionable developments. 

In some cases the build-up was so convincing that nothing could 
shake the victim's confidence in me. I remember the case of a Ger- 
man watch manufacturer named Schmaltz, Buckminster and I 
approached him with an oiiEer to buy the watchworks, located outside 
Chicago, for the German government. 

We carried on negotiations for several days. There was the usual 
delay while we heard from Berlin, Meanwhile we switched Schmaltz's 
interest to the mining-stock deal. We brought him into Chicago and 
took him into the large LaSalle Street brokerage house of Hamill and 
Company. 

A stooge in shirt sleeves was waiting for us near one of the counters. 
When we asked to see Mr. Hamill, he said: "Why, he doesn't come 
in here. He's got private offices on the sixteenth floor." 

So we led Schmaltz to the sixteenth floor of the building. It hap- 
pened that few offices had been rented on this floor and we had been 
able to get a large one at the end of the hall. This bore a sign: Mr. 
Hamill — private. 

But to make it more impressive we had it appear that Mr. Hamill's 
office was flanked by many others. On the doors of vacant offices on 
both sides of the corridor we had hung signs that read: export 

DEPARTMENT, FOREIGN EXCHANGE, BOND DEPARTMENT, and SO On. 

In the office at the end of the hall, Jimmy Head, posing as Mr. 
Hamill, waited for us. He agreed to buy our stock at a big orofit. 
He paused a couple of times in the conversation to make long distance 
calls to New York over a dead phone. 

Schmaltz not only was impressed; he was enthusiastic and pleaded 
with us to let him buy some of the stock so that he could get in on 
the profits. With apparent reluctance, we finally agreed to let him 
in on the deal if he could raise $50,000 in cash. He readily accepted 
those terms. 

Buckminster accompanied him to his home-town bank while I 

278 



Tricks of the Trade 

remained behind. When Schmaltz presented the check for $50,000 
at the bank, the teller hesitated and called the cashier. 

"This is rather unusual, Mr. Schmaltz," the cashier frowned. 

"What is so unusual.?" 

"Such a large cash withdrawal. May I ask what you intend to use 
the money for.?" 

"For investment," Schmaltz returned shortly. 

"I hope you're not dealing with confidence men," said the cashier. 

"I'm not." 

"It is my duty to warn you that a gang of confidence men are 
operating in the vicinity. A couple of months ago they fleeced a doctor 
in Kankakee of $25,000." He eyed the German, who was just as 
stubborn as ever. "But if you insist — " 

"I insist!" growled Schmaltz. 

The cashier shrugged. "It's your money," he said and ordered the 
teller to pay the check. 

Schmaltz still did not question us. He was furious at the bank and 
vowed that he would take his account elsewhere. Our build-up had 
been so powerful that he was willing to take sides with us — strangers 
— against a banker he had known for years. 

After we had fleeced him of his money and quietly disappeared, 
Schmaltz probably had more respect for the banker's judgment. But 
he was stubborn enough to take his medicine. He never made a beef 
to the law. 

There was one man though who wasn't willing to take it. He was 
Willis, the president of a large bank in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Buck 
and I approached him as "representatives of the German govern- 
ment" and told him that we were interested in buying a factory. 

"We've looked at two sites," I said. "One is the wagon works at 
Auburn and the other the glass works at Hartford. We were told 
that you are interested in both of these plants." 

"That's true," he repUed. "But for your purpose, I believe the 
Hartford glass works would be better." 

We discussed the details for some time, letting hints drop that we 
would not hesitate because of price. This was music to Banker Willis' 
ears. V/hile we had been talking, his brain had been racing with a 

279 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

plan calculated to give us a real, old-fashioned shellacking. 

"I'd like to take you over to Hartford and show you that factory," 
he said. "But I have to make a trip to New York and I'm afraid I 
can't put it o£f. Could you gentlemen come back in a week?" 

Buck and I knew that this was a stall, but we readily agreed. "Wc 
have some business in Chicago, anyhow," I returned. "We can come 
back. But I tjust you won't sell to anyone else until we've had an op- 
portunity to look into the proposition." 

We waited ten days before we went back to Fort Wayne. Wc 
wanted to give the banker plenty of time. We had an idea what he 
was up to. We knew more about the glass works than the banker 
thought we did; that it hadn't been in operation for a long time, 
that it was practically abandoned and partly dismantled, that it was 
considered a lemon. 

When we called on the banker again, he was extremely cordial. He 
drove us to Hartford, meanwhile telling us what a wonderful buy the 
factory would be. 

We let him think that he was making a big impression. We gave 
him rapt attention. When we reached the plant it was much different 
from when we had seen it two weeks before. Part of it had been 
freshly painted. Signs of decay had been removed and smoke belched 
from its chimneys. He led us inside and showed us a busy aggrega- 
tion of workers making glass. 

We were all set to buy the plant before we returned to Fort Wayne. 
We agreed to pay $1,500,000 for it, about four times what it was 
worth. But, of course, there was the usual delay. We must contact 
Berlin and get the final approval of our principals. This, I explained, 
might take ten days or two weeks. That was all right with Banker 
Willis. 

Meanwhile we continued to see him every day. One day I broached 
the subject of mining stocks. He was interested at once. I finally 
arranged for him to go with me to Chicago, where an expensive 
suite in the Sherman hotel had been reserved. Jimmy Head had 
rented a brokerage office on LaSallc Street, I let WilHs accompany me 
on several trips while I cleaned up on mining stocks. He was partic- 
ulary impressed when I took the stock — which I had purchased for 

280 



Tricks of the Trade 

ten cents a share — and collected two dollars a share for it at the 
brokerage house. 

I took him along on several small deals and finally on a Saturday 
afternoon, decided he was ripe. The block of stock we wanted would 
cost $200,000. I didn't have that much money and Willis pleaded 
with me to let him in on the good thing. I finally relented, and he 
agreed to raise |143,000. Since the banks were all closed and he 
couldn't get the money transferred, he drove to Fort Wayne to get the 
cash out of the vault of his own bank. 

Later when he discovered that he had been swindled, he made a 
loud beef to the police. The fact that he had planned to swindle us 
on the factory deal made no difference. He had a hard time getting 
evidence, but he left no stone unturned. He found another man who 
had been a victim, and between their testimonies I was convicted. 

In general, though, my "customers" seldom complained. They pre- 
ferred to take their losses rather than let the world know that they 
had been so gullible. 



281 



26. The Little Things Count 



DURING THESE YEARS I DISCOVERED MANY THINGS, BUT MOST 
important I learned about people, their strong points and 
their weaknesses — especially their weaknesses. All the people 
I swindled had one thing in common — greed, the desire to acquire 
money. But that was not always enough. In numerous cases there 
was some other factor, some small desire that helped me to clinch a 
deal. 

Some of my tales may sound unbelievable. But they are true. I could 
hardly beHeve some of them myself, but as time went on I came to 
look for the little weaknesses. Trivial matters often meant the differ- 
ence between success and failure for me. 

In my most successful con game, the stock swindle, the mechanics 
were the same in every case. Yet in each one was some Uttle variation. 

One of the most amusing occurred in the case of a banker in 
Decatur, Illinois, Mr. Appleby. He had been around with me while 
I acquired blocks of stock at ten cents a share and had accompanied me 
to the brokerage house where I sold the same stock for two dollars 
a share. He did not seem to suspect anything wrong, but he was 
apathetic when it came to buying a big block of stock with his money. 
I had decided that he was good for $30,000. 

Just before the big deal he hesitated. "I don't know why I should 
speculate," he said, as we walked along the street, discussing it. "I 
make a comfortable living. Im not rich, but I get along." 

I gave him my best arguments, but it seemed that I was about to 
lose him. Then we happened to pass a furniture store. Hair mat- 
tresses were displayed in the window. He stopped and looked. 

282 




Fred "The Deacon" Buckminster as he appeared in 1941. 




Says "Yellow Kid" today, "I no longer have any of /ny ill-gotten 
gains . . . nothing more spectacular than walking the dog happens ..." 



The Little Things Count 

"Hair mattresses!" he exclaimed. "Aren't they beauties?" 

"Why, yes," I repHed, but without his enthusiasm. 

"I've always wanted hair mattresses in my home," he continued, 
"but I never felt that I could afford them." He gazed at them rather 
wistfully. 

I was quick to recognize this as the weakness I'd been looking for. 

"Let's go in and see them," I suggested. 

"What good will that do?" he asked. "I don't feel I can afford 
them." 

"Well, it won't cost anything to look. Come on." 

We went in the store and the clerk showed us an assortment. But 
when Mr. Appleby learned the prices, he shook his head and we 
walked out. 

"A hundred dollars is a lot of money," he said. "I would need at 
least five for my home. I can't afford them." 

"Mr. Appleby," I said, "you can have those hair mattresses for 
nothing, if you want them." 

"How?" 

"I have offered to let you share in buying that block of stock. With 
the money we will make you can buy a hundred hair mattresses." 

"By George," he exclaimed. "That's right." There was a new 
light in his eyes. I knew he was sunk. 

From then on it was easy. He invested $30,000 in a block of my 
worthless stock — all for the sake of a hair mattress. I might add 
that in those days hair mattresses were the last word in style and com- 
fort and were found only in the homes of the wealthy. 

While this may seem incredible, every word is true. It's the little 
things that count. 

On one occasion, I worked on the president of a large bank in 
Omaha. The deal involved the purchase of the street railway system 
of Omaha, including a bridge across the Mississippi River. My prin- 
cipals were supposedly German and I had to negotiate with Berlin. 
While awaiting word from them I introduced my fake mining-stock 
proposition. Since this man was very rich, I decided to play for high 
stakes. After an elaborate build-up, during which the banker took a 
trip with me to New York, I had the cables to Berlin busy. They were 

283 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

real cables and the answers were sent by a man in Berlin — the purser 
on a Hamburg-American Line ship. 

Meanwhile, I played golf with the banker, visited his home, and 
went to the theatre with him and his wife. Though he showed some 
interest in my stock deal, he still wasn't convinced. I had built it up 
to the point that an investment of $1,250,000 was required. Of this 
I was to put up $900,000, the banker $350,000. But still he hesitated. 

One evening when I was at his home for dinner I wore scjme 
perfume — Coty's "April Violets." It was not then considered effem- 
inate for a man to use a dash of perfume. 

The banker's wife thought it very lovely. "Where did you get it.?* 

"It is a rare blend," I told her, "especially made for me by a French 
perfumer. Do you like it?" 

"I love it," she replied. 

The following day I went through my effects and found two 
empty bottles. Both had come from France, but were empty. I went 
to a downtown department store and purchased ten ounces of Coty's 
"April Violets." I poured this into the two French bottles, carefully 
sealed them, wrapped them in tissue paper. 

That evening I dropped by the banker's home and presented the 
two bottles to his wife. "They were especially put up for me in 
Cologne," I told her. 

The next day the banker called at my hotel. His wife was en- 
raptured by the perfume. She considered it the most wonderful, the 
most exotic fragrance she had ever used. I did not tell the banker he 
could get all he wanted right in Omaha. 

"She said," the banker added, "that I was fortunate to be associated 
with a man like you." 

From then on his attitude was changed, for he had complete faith 
in his wife's judgment. It was only a matter of time until we had 
"cornered" the big block of stock. He parted with $350,000. This, 
incidentally, was my biggest score. 

Most confidence games are built on human frailties. There was 
the case of a wealthy spinster who lived on Lake Shore Drive in 
Chicago. I had some difficulty arranging an introduction, but finally 
accomplished it through a priest, who acted quite innocently. 

284 



The Little Things Count 

Miss Buckley was about forty, owned several million dollars and 
some Arizona mining property. I posed as a mining engineer and 
was engaged to look after her property in Arizona. I later brought 
in Fred "The Deacon" Buckminster as my associate. But we found 
she was only mildly interested in the mines. 

One day Buckminster took me aside. "I've found out how we can 
get to Miss Buckley." 

"How?" 

"She wants to get married," he said. "She lives in deadly fear that 
she's going to be an old maid." 

"What can I do about that?" 

"You're going to woo her," Buck replied. 

"Buck, I can't do that," I objected. "I've got one wife." 

"She doesn't have to know that. You can do it gradually. Mean- 
while, we can clean up." 

Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed. I began making love to the woman 
and her attitude changed. When it got to a point I considered danger- 
ous, I got a sudden call to go to Arizona to inspect the mining 
property. She gladly paid our expenses. And when someone else paid 
the bill, our expenses were tremendous! 

From then on, for several months, that was the routine. I wooed 
her for a while, then Buck and I made a trip to Arizona. Since the 
love interest had entered her life she was far more interested in her 
mining property. We saw to it, however, that our presence at the 
mines was often required. 

We made six trips to Arizona, each more expensive than the one 
before. Altogether we got about $15,000 for our services as mining 
engineers. Inevitably, the day came when she expected me to marry 
her. That was when I had to bow out. 

Nearly everybody believes the old saying that "It isn't what you 
know, but whom you know." I had occasion to cash in on that, too. 

I had been to the City Hall, where my brother was a Municipal 
Court bailiff. As I was leaving, a breezy young fellow approached me. 
He handed me a cigar and offered to buy a drink. I was surprised, 
but accepted. Then he suggested dinner and some entertainment. As 



285 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

long as it was his idea and he was paying the bills I went along. 

I didn't quite understand what was back of it and he didn't tell mc, 
beyond a hint that he was a stranger and wanted companionship. I let 
it go at that. We had a pleasant evening and he suggested that we get 
together again. 

The next time he told me that he was a salesman for a sign com- 
pany in Rochester, New York, and that he was trying to interest the 
Bureau of Streets in complete new metal signs for Chicago street 
intersections. 

"I understand you're a pretty good friend of the Commissioner?" 

I knew now that he must have mistaken me for somebody else. But 
it looked like an opportunity to make a little money. 

"That is correct," I told him. 

He then told me his proposition. Metal signs for Chicago streets 
would amount to $129,000. His commission would be $17,000. He 
would give me $11,000 of this if I would intercede in his behalf. 

I agreed to undertake it. He turned the contracts, long detailed 
documents, over to me. I made frequent trips to the City Hall, while 
he anxiously waited to hear the outcome. I told him there was much 
negotiating to be done and carried this on for a week. Finally I came 
out with the contracts, signed and notarized. He was overjoyed. He 
forwarded them to his company and we had a celebration. In a few 
days I received a check for $11,000. My friend went back to Rochester. 

I later heard that a big warehouse in Chicago was piled high with 
metal signs but that the Bureau of Streets would have no part of them. 
Presumably they were the signs from Rochester. I don't know what 
happened to them. 

The Deacon and I were the first con-men to introduce Chinese 
stooges. They were Chinese-Americans who lived in Chicago. But 
for our purpose, we rigged them out in fancy oriental clothing and 
told the prospects that they spoke no English. 

Wc used them in a deal with a paper manufacturer in Kalamazoo, 
Michigan, whom I will call Mr. Stimson. He wasn't much interested 
until we brought in the Chinese. This was a logical move, since the 
Chinese had manufactured the first paper. Wc told him of a new 



286 



The Little Things Count 

Chinese discovery that would revolutionize papermaking. 

After we had taken the Chinese boys in and introduced them as 
paper experts from China he fell for this Une. The purpose of the 
whole thing was to get him worked up and then switch his interest to 
the stock scheme. We succeeded in doing this, thanks to the Orientals. 

But we had to make several trips to Kalamazoo. On the last trip, 
when we were to complete the deal, we were about fifty miles out of 
Chicago when the Chinese who was driving suddenly stopped the 
car. Buckminster and I were in the back seat with a bag containing 
$250,000 in boodle. We both thought they had decided to rob us. 

"Why are you stopping?" I asked. 

"For a showdown," answered the spokesman for the three Chinese. 

"What's wrong?" 

"You're making a lot of money on this deal?" 

"We expect to," I admitted. 

"But you only pay us ten dollars a day." 

"That's correct," I said. "What do you want?" I was sure now 
that he wanted a big cut. 

"Ten dollars is not enough," he replied. "We get twenty dollars a 
day or we don't go another foot." 

I felt like laughing, but I gravely agreed to raise their pay. They 
smiled, the driver started the car, and we went on. They placidly 
went through their paces and we had no more trouble with them. Mr. 
Stimson came through for us with $15,000 on the stock deal. 

One of the most unusual characters I ever met was a young man in 
Cincinnati. He was heir to a large soap fortune, but he had little time 
for business. He had two interests in life — beautiful women and 
Scotch whiskey. 

I interested him in one of my stock transactions and took him to 
Muncie, Indiana. He took along a small satchel that looked like a 
doctor's bag. It contained numerous vials, also like a physician's case. 
But each vial contained Scotch whiskey. 

"This is something I never travel without," he said. "I never have 
to worry about companionship as long as I have my bag." All during 



287 



"Yellot^ Kid" Weil 

the trip he sampled the contents of the vials. I was never present 
when he ate breakfast, but I sometimes wondered if he poured Scotch 
on his oatmeal. 

I took $50,000 of his money, but he never filed a complaint against 
me. 



288 



27. Where the Money Went 



THE POUCE AND THE DAILY PRESS HAVE ESTIMATED THAT I ACQUIRED 
a total of about $8,000,000 in my various swindles. They may 
be right. I never kept books. Much of that money I made 
before there was an income tax law and a man could keep all the 
money he got. 

People are curious as to how confidence men spend their money, as 
well as their leisure. Between victims most con men spend their time 
in dissipation. If one makes a big score, he throws a party for his 
friends. Even at such parties the con men play difFerent roles. 

On one occasion Buckminster completed a deal that had brought 
him 115,000. He had a lot of friends who knew him as a financier and 
had no idea that he was a swindler. These included prominent 
brokers and real estate men. He had a beautiful home on the North 
Side and decided to give a lavish party. He invited his prominent 
friends, and also invited John Strosnider and myself. 

To these friends, he was Mr. Kimball of the Kimball Piano Com- 
pany. I was introduced as Dr. Henri Reuel and Strosnider as Mr. 
Hagenbeck of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. It was a nice party, 
where wine flowed freely and the food was excellent. 

Strosnider was a peculiar fellow. He was exceedingly proud of his 
accompUshments as a swindler. About halfway through the party, 
when he had imbibed considerable wine, he began to say: "I'm not 
Hagenbeck. I'm John Strosnider, the great confidence man." He 
staggered through the house, telling this to the guests. They began to 
get their wraps. Within a few minutes most of them had gone. That 
taught the Deacon not to invite Strosnider to any more of his parties. 

289 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

Buckminster was different. I think he was a Httle ashamed of his 
background, for he never liked to talk about it. I think this desire to 
get away from the con man atmosphere was the reason he often gave 
parties for people who had no criminal connections. 

Other con men do the same. They are different from other 
criminals in that few ever resort to violence of any sort and most of 
them are better educated than those in the other categories of crime. 
They consider themselves smart and like to mingle with a better class 
than can be found in underworld haunts. 

Nearly every con man is a sucker for a pretty face and a neat figure. 
That often resulted in revelries which ran to considerable sums. 

But, even with all this free spending, most big-time con men have 
plenty of money left. How they lose these fortunes sounds incredible, 
but I can cite actual experiences. 

There is a widespread notion that a clever swindler could be a great 
success if he turned his talents to legitimate channels. I say nothing is 
further from the truth, for when a con man invests his money in a 
legitimate business he loses it. 

Buckminster, Strosnider, and I invested $25,000 each in a lease of 
the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. Hagenbeck was a German, widely 
known as a sportsman and big-game hunter. The animals for the 
circus were captured by him — or at least, that is how the menagerie 
was started. Wallace was a wealthy American showman. These two 
organized the circus but had nothing to do with the running of it, for 
they leased it out on a yearly basis. In addition to the original invest- 
ment, the lessee agreed to pay a guaranteed amount for each day of 
the circus season. 

Shortly after we took it over, there were twenty-two consecutive 
nights of rain, and the losses were terrific. People don't go to the 
circus in the rain, but the overhead and the daily guarantee to Hagen- 
beck-Wallace went on. We were actually licked by the time we had 
some fair weather. We tried to carry on but didn't know enough 
about running a circus. Before the season was half over we had to 
surrender the franchise and had lost $375,000. 

Buck and I were broke, and so had to find a prospect for a con 
game. But Strosnider had saved a little money. He fancied himself a 

290 



Where the Money Went 

good showman. He spent $6,000 for a dog-and-pony show and tried to 
operate it. He lasted a few weeks and then lost the little he had 
salvaged. 

I put a great deal of my money into Chicago real estate. There was 
a time when I had property valued at more than half a million dollars. 
All of this had to be sold at a loss. 

Then there was the yacht. The Penguin was really a luxury cruiser. 
I bought it for pleasure when I had a lot of money and did a great 
deal of entertaining on it. At that time, too, I had a penchant for 
expensive imported motor cars. I bought several in the $10,000 class. 
They cost plenty to operate and more to keep in repair. Between my 
yacht and my cars, I probably had as much luxury expense as any man 
in Chicago. 

Buckminster was similarly given to luxury living. He too con- 
sidered Chicago real estate a good investment and bought income 
property in the Rogers Park district. 

But his weakness was women. A woman much younger than he 
induced him to file the title to his car in her name. I pleaded with 
him. 

"That woman is not in love with you," I told him. "She just wants 
to get all she can out of you." 

He refused to listen and transferred ownership of the car to her. He 
had already given her a luxurious apartment in one of his buildings. 
Then, in 1926, when the heat from one of his deals became uncom- 
fortable and he was likely to be sent to prison, she talked him into 
turning over to her the title to all his real estate. Her argument was 
that if the property was in her name, nobody could touch it, even if 
he were sent up. 

Again I tried to point out that he was being victimized. But he 
would not believe it and made over his property to her. He was sent 
up, and as soon as he had been safely put away she sold it all and de- 
serted him. When he came out he was penniless. 

I was lavish in other ways. I had the highest priced tailors in Europe 
and America and amassed a wardrobe of fine clothes. But this I have 
never regretted, because these clothes are still presentable. 

In the main, though, I lost my money trying to be a legitimate busi- 

291 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

ness man. That's the way most other con men lose theirs. 

It takes a great deal of boldness, mixed with a vast amount of 
caution, to acquire a fortune. But it takes ten times as much wit to 
keep it. 

The notion that any swindler would be a great success if he turned 
to legitimate channels, is indeed erroneous. 

Many people have told me they would like to use me in their busi- 
nesses. But they always add that they don't dare because of my reputa- 
tion. For that reason I've had to take any sort of job I could get since 
I gave up the confidence game. 

My most successful occupation has been telephone soUciting. I have 
worked for various charitable organizations, poHtical candidates, and 
churches. Needless to say, I do not handle any of the funds. I merely 
solicit contributions and ask that they be sent to the headquarters of 
the organization I'm working for. When the funds are received I am 
paid a percentage. 

I no longer have any of my ill-gotten gains and depend on this work 
for a living. But my wants are modest and I manage to maintain a 
home on Lake Shore Drive. There I can be near my daughter. 
Though nothing more spectacular than walking the dog happens in 
my hfe now, my peace of mind is very satisfying. 



292 



28, The Last Word 



Joseph Weil Lies Under the Ground; 
Don't Jingle Any Money While Walking Around. 



k FTER MY LATE WIFE HAD GIVEN UP ALL HOPE OF EVER REFORMING ME, 

L\ she suggested, in a jocular vein, that the above jingle would 
L \ make an excellent epitaph for me. As the years passed and 
my reputation as a con man spread throughout the world, more and 
more people came to share the sentiment expressed in those lines. 

It has been several years since I have had any but honest dealings with 
other men. But I still feel as I always did on one subject — that the 
men I fleeced were basically no more honest than I was. 

Analyzing my own actions in retrospect, I don't believe I ever had 
any basic desire to be dishonest. One of the motivating factors in my 
actions was, of course, the desire to acquire money. The other motive 
was a lust for adventure — and this was the only kind of adventure for 
which I was equipped. 

The men I swindled were also motivated by a desire to acquire 
money, and they didn't care at whose expense they got it. I was 
particular. I took money only from those who could aflord it and 
were willing to go in with me in schemes they fancied would fleece 

others. 

They wanted money for its own sake. I wanted it for the luxuries 
and pleasures it would afford me. 

They were seldom concerned with human nature. They knew little 
— and cared less — about their fellow men. If they had been keener 
students of human nature, if they had given more time to companion- 
ship with their fellows and less to the chase of the almighty dollar, 
they wouldn't have been such easy marks. 

Every swindle I ever developed had a hole in it somewhere. But I 

293 



'Yellow Kid" Weil 

made everything plausible — to anyone who did not dig too deep or 
ask questions. 

Only one man seemed to profit by the lesson I taught him. He was 
a Montana banker who had bought some of my worthless stock. He 
was ready to take his medicine. Though I was arrested, he declined to 
identify me as the swindler. As a result I was acquitted. Later I heard 
him remark: "You can fleece a lamb every year, but you only get his 
hide once." 

Lies were the foundation of my schemes. A lie is an allurement, a 
fabrication, that can be embellished into a fantasy. It can be clothed 
in the raiments of a mystic conception. 

Truth is cold, sober fact, not so comfortable to absorb. A lie is more 
palatable. The most detested person in the world is the one who 
always tells the truth, who never romances. 

If a lie is told often enough even the teller comes to believe it. It 
becomes a habit. And habit is like a cable. Each day another strand is 
added until you have woven a cable that is unbreakable. 

It was that way with me. I found it far more interesting and profit- 
able to romance than to tell the truth. It has taken me five years to 
break that cable. That's why I haven't told this story until this late 
date. 

People say that I am the most successful and the most colorful con- 
fidence man that ever lived. I won't deny it. There is good reason 
why I am regarded as in a class by myself. 

The fact is that I have played more roles in real life than the average 
actor ever dreamed of. The actor has a script carefully prepared for 
him in advance. I made my own script as I went along, depending 
upon my wits for any contingency. 

Same small gesture that was out of character in the role I was por- 
traying, or the wrong answer to a question might have betrayed me. 
Fortunately for me, I always had the right answer and carried off con- 
vincingly the role I played. 

To do this successfully — as I did for about half a century — I had 
to possess, first of all, a vast store of general information. Besides that, 
I had to know the rudiments of many professions. If I played the role 
of a physician, I had to be in a position to use medical terms accurately. 
As a mining engineer, I had to know geology and mineralogy. As a 

294 



The Last Word 

broker or investment banker, I had to be up on the latest and most 
intricate financial matters. 

Perhaps the most important of all my qualifications was a good 
knowledge of the law. I kept well posted on this subject. Over the 
years, I have seen many new laws passed — most of them restricting 
the freedom of the individual. No doubt I was the inspiration for 
some of these statutes. 

It is my hope that I will live to see the enactment of one more law 
— to mete out equal punishment for all who have larceny in their 
hearts. For example, a supposedly honest and respectable man is ap- 
proached by a con man who offers him an opportunity to get rich 
quick. This man knows that the proposition is not honest and that 
if it works, he will get rich at the expense of others. 

Nevertheless, his avarice prevails and he invests his money. The 
con man makes his kilUng and disappears. The would-be fleecer has 
been fleeced. 

Suppose he goes to the police and cries, "I've been cheated!" If the 
con man is caught and convicted, he is punished for having taken the 
other's money. But the man who lost, and had entered into the con- 
spiracy to cheat others, goes free. He isn't even tried or censured. He 
is applauded as a public-spirited citizen. 

An excellent example of what I mean is the money-making 
machine. One of the oldest of the confidence rackets, it is still being 
done. I read of a case only recently. 

The con men locates Mr. Jones, who has money, but is greedy for 
more and is not too particular how he gets it. In great secrecy, he 
shows Mr. Jones the wonderful machine he has invented for making 
hundred-dollar bills out of ten-dollar bills. Mr. Jones watches a 
demonstration of the wonderful machine. It is all very simple. You 
feed a ten-dollar bill into one end, turn a crank, and out pops a 
hundred-dollar bill. 

Mr. Jones wants to buy the machine, but the con man is reluctant 
to sell. Mr. Jones become persuasive and finally induces the con man 
to sell. He pays anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for it, depending upon 
how wealthy he is, how greedy, and how gullible. He hurries home 
with the machine, locks himself in a room, and prepares to crank out 
a fortune. 

295 



"Yellow Kid" Weil 

What a shock it is when Mr. Jones finds that he has been taken! He 
hurries to the poHce and reports the swindle. He even admits that he 
had planned to counterfeit the currency of the United States. But, in 
the eyes of the law, he is another victim of a con game. 

In my opinion, he should be made a party to a conspiracy to obtain 
money illegally. He should go on trial alongside the con man and be 
subject to the same punishment. The same should be true of anybody 
else who enters into a con man's scheme to get money dishonestly. 

When such a law is enacted, you will see an end to complaints 
against swindlers — for two reasons. The number who enter into such 
schemes will be fewer, because of the fear of being caught. And those 
who do go in and lose will keep quiet about it because of the fear of 
punishment. 

I am not talking about small swindles, where an honest person loses 
his money. I have never been a party to such schemes. I have never 
taken a dime from honest, hard-working people who could not afford 
to lose. But the victims of confidence games are usually people who 
are wealthy and can afford to pay the con man's price for the lesson. 
I ought to know. I've had dealings with some of the wealthiest men 
in the country. They had plenty of money, but they fell for my 
schemes because they were greedy for more. In my time, I devised 
some ingenious plans to relieve these people of part of their wealth, at 
the same time teaching them that it does not pay to be too avaricious. 
People will tell you that crime does not pay. Perhaps that is right. 
But it paid me handsomely. I feel that I have lived a thousand years in 
seventy. Those periods of incarceration — well, they were not always 
what I would have chosen, but they gave me time to relax, reflect, and 
catch up on my reading. 

The bad part about serving a prison term is not while you are doing 
the stretch — it's the stigma that forever clings to you after you come 
out. In England, it is illegal to refer to a person as an ex-convict, but 
in this country you can never escape the brand, no matter how hard 
you try. 

Some do try. Most prison officials make a conscientious effort at re- 
habilitation. When they leave these institutions at least half the inmates 

296 



The Ust Word 

are resolved to lead a straightforward life. But few ever have a chance. 
It is a rare person who will give them a chance. 

I have told in detail most of the swindles in which any reader 
might be invited to participate. I have offered them at only a fraction 
of the cost to the original investors — with all the thrills but with none 
of the risks. 

I am now seventy years old and I look back over my career with 
mingled feelings. I have retired and I want to do what I can to pro- 
mote harmony among my fellow men. For this reason, I decided to 
tell the inside story of my long and, I must admit, dishonorable career. 



297