Beginner’s Guide to PickpocketingOn January 20, 2021 by Elyse
From breaking your lease and traveling for free to becoming a juvenile delinquent, Second Glance History is all about helping you use history to make good life choices. Today, I’m pleased to present yet another guide to antisocial behavior: Pickpocketing 101. Pencils out—but best keep your wallets hidden away.
Wear a fashionable hat.
On arriving at St. Petersburg a week or two ago, a German visitor purchased a peculiarly-shaped cap, which he thought would be more comfortable than his ordinary head-gear for exploring the town, with which he was not well acquainted. On arriving home in the evening after his first day’s sightseeing, he was surprised to find in the pocket of his overcoat two purses, one of them containing over £10.
Forget a retirement account—I need to upgrade my millinery wardrobe.
Next day he found in his pocket several more purses, and the third day he communicated with the Chief of Police. That official suspected that the cap had something to do with the circumstance, and he sent the German with a policeman to the hatter’s shop, where they learned that some time ago a man had called and given a large piece of English cloth, of which the shopkeeper was to make 15 caps of exact similarity. On concluding this order the hatter found that he had a piece of cloth over, and of this he made an extra cap—the one which was sold to the German.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, including illegal paydays.
On the strength of this information the Chief of Police arranged for a detective to accompany the German on his next day’s sight-seeing; and then the mystery was cleared up.
Watching his charge carefully, the detective saw various men lounge furtively up to the German and transfer something from their hands to his pockets. On each occasion the man thus discovered was arrested, and in the course of two or three days, during which the same plan was pursued, the police made prisoners of about a dozen men.
They turned out to be a gang of pickpockets, and all wore a cap of the same pattern as that purchased by the German. Their plan was to pass on their plunder to a confederate for whom the German had been mistaken.– The New Zealand Times, February 13, 1904
Moral of the story: Wear a unique hat—but make sure it’s not too unique
Mind your manners.
Just because you’re robbing someone doesn’t mean you have to be inconsiderate:
A sense of grim humour seems to have taken possession of a thief who is responsible for relieving an American visitor to London of seven £5 notes. The American, whose name is Price, left Messrs. Cook’s Ludgate Circus offices with the notes in an envelope, which also contained tickets and his name and address, and inspected Blackfriars Bridge. Later on he missed the envelope and contents. . .
The day following he received a letter enclosing one of his notes, with this short message:—“Dear sir, —I have much pleasure in sending you £5 to go on with.” The chief defect about the letter was that it was not signed.– The Evening Express, July 17, 1905
“Live and let live.”
“A Pickpocket” writes. . . as follows:
Please advise your readers always to leave their names and addresses in their pocket-books. It frequently happens in our business that we come in possession of portemonnaies containing private papers and photographs which we would be glad to return, but we have no means of doing so. It is dangerous to carry them about—so we are forced to destroy them.
I remember an instance where I met with serious trouble because I could not make up my mind to destroy a picture of a baby which I found in the pocket-book of a gentleman which came into my hands in the way of business on the Third avenue road. I had lost a baby myself, the year before, of the same age as this one, and I would have given all I had for such a picture. There was no way of finding out who was the owner, so, like a fool, I advertised it, and got shadowed for it by the police.
Tell your readers to give us a fair show to be decent—and always leave their address in their pocket-books. We want to live and let live.– The New York Tribune, quoted in the Wood County Reporter, May 15, 1873
Surprisingly touching advice, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Be where the people are.
Authorities are dumbfounded with the nerve of pickpockets which have been busy here recently capping all of their work with a coup which netted them $14 during the hearing of a murder trial. With every inch of space within the court room occupied and the crowd overflowing into the hallways and corridors the light fingered gentry took occasion to rifle the pockets of the spectators and relieve them of what change they could find.– The Bisbee Daily Review, March 19, 1922
The Little Mermaid knew what she was talking about when she wanted to ♪ be where the people are. ♪
They have queer pickpockets in Virginia. A few days since, while a Mr. Francis Bell, of Staunton, was engaged in dividing and weighing cattle, a lot of colts approached his coat, which was hanging on the fence, and abstracted a pocket book, containing a large sum of money.
When Mr. Bell discovered the robbery, the colts were busily engaged masticating the precious Bank note provender, which was scattered all over the ground. Upon counting the notes left, one hundred and fifty dollars were missing, while a large amount was so mutilated as to render its value doubtful.
This is the most costly species of food which has been used since the days of Cleopatra, who with immortal folly dissolved a pearl of extreme value and drank it at a draught.– The Fayetteville Observer, December 2, 1852
I recommend you skip this step if you don’t have a very strong stomach. In fact, you might be better off skipping all of these steps if you don’t want to end up like young Floyd Merrill. After all, you know what they say about those who don’t learn history; as loyal Second Glance History readers, you have no excuse!
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Disclaimer: The modern era is far from the first to grapple with rampant “fake news.” As I am neither a historian nor journalist, I make no claims about the accuracy or lack thereof of the above sources. I assert only that they make for a good story.
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