Mind Your MannersOn October 18, 2023 by Elyse
“Manners easily and rapidly mature into morals,” the politician Horace Mann is said to have declared.
While the stories below suggest otherwise, there’s no denying that good manners can make all the difference in just about any situation. If you follow the etiquette you (hopefully) learned in preschool, you’ll go far—into the judicial system, that is.
Frank Smith, polite burglar, whose operations, the police say brought him loot worth $3,000 at an informal reception to seventy-five of his victims at police headquarters, Monday helped them find their property.
Spread out on the table before Smith were watches, rings, stickpins, brooches, gems—all manner of jewelry. On chairs were piled grips, suit cases, shoes, hats and other by-products a burglar gathers with his more movable plunder. Smith, according to the police robbed 25 houses in a few weeks.
Mrs. S. I. Tripp asked if he recalled having stolen a watch—a very thin watch—with the name Odyne inscribed on the back.
“Indeed yes, I think you will find it in the pile at the head of the table,” said Smith. “That’s it, isn’t it? Yes, it’s a nice little time piece. Oh, don’t mention it at all. Delighted to see you get it back…”
“Did you notice the silk shirt I am wearing,” Smith asked. “Yes, it’s one of your husband’s.”
When arrested, the police say, Smith declared he was out of work and was forced to steal in order to care for his wife and family.– The Daily Ardmoreite, June 10, 1915
A+ for customer service.
J. A. Hayes, a traveling man of Detroit, Mich., met a polite burglar while in Springfield. Accosted, he was told to “turn over his wallet.”
“Give me $5 of it,” said the hold-up, who informed Hayes he was an ex-soldier. Hayes opened the wallet and displayed $40. Peeling off a $5 bill he handed it to the “courteous stranger,” who took it and thanked Hayes politely for his trouble as he disappeared in the darkness.– The Washington Times, January 23, 1920
The thief should’ve said “please turn over” the wallet, but at least he wasn’t greedy.
Early on Saturday morning [James Horgan] opened the catch of a bedroom window on the ground floor in Vincent-square-mansions, and stepped into the room.
Simultaneously, the lawful occupant, Mr Philip Conway, a solicitor, stepped out of bed, turned up the gas, and exclaimed, “Holloa! What are you doing here?”
James was surprised, but he did not forget his manners. He said he did not know anyone was there, and that, under the circumstances, perhaps the best thing to do would be to send for a policeman.
That, replied the solicitor, was what he proposed to do.
“But hadn’t you better put on your trousers, sir?” suggested Horgan. Mr Conway again adopted the idea, and meanwhile James procured his cap from the windowsill, tucked his hands in his pockets, and sat down amiably to wait while the man of law finished dressing.
“He was most pleasant and affable,” said Mr Conway, narrating the adventure at the police court subsequently.
“He followed me out through the passage into the street, and then I asked him if it was any good giving him a chance. He answered, ‘No. I’ve no home and no work, so you had better lock me up.’
“We walked together the short distance to the police station, and he said he really hoped that I had no important engagement this morning which would interfere with me prosecuting him.”
The imperturbable Horgan, who is twenty-nine, received the news that he would be remanded for a week with a pleasant smile.– The Llandudno Advertiser, March 20, 1903
As a reward for his unflinching honesty, Horgan had three hots and a cot for a week.
Awakened from her sleep in the early hours of the morning, and finding a man in her bedroom, [Lady Freake] sternly demanded from him the reason for his intrusion.
It was a burglar, who had invaded the privacy of her bedroom, but “such a nice one,” as he was afterwards described by one of the household. At all events, he was exceedingly polite.
When peremptorily called up on to explain his presence, the early morning caller begged Lady Freake’s pardon, said something about the mistake he had made, and then proceeded to relieve his pockets of the family jewels with which he had filled them.
Three times did he dip his hands into his pockets and haul forth the proceeds of his goodly harvest. Then he made a polite bow to Lady Freake, bade her good morning, and vanished.– The Patea Mail, February 28, 1913
You have only one chance to make a first impression, and with that final bow, this guy nailed it.
A burglar was going through a house in a Dakota town one night and discovered an exceptionally large roll of money. Curious to know whether he had broken into an editor’s house or that of some other variety of capitalist, he turned to the owner, who had just awakened, and said: “Excuse me, Colonel, but I would like to inquire how you came by such an unusually large wad of wealth?”
“Sir!” replied the money man, “I am a member of the territorial legislature.”
“A thousand pardons!” exclaimed the polite burglar, dropping the money. “Shake! We never steal from members of the profession. Good night!”– The Estelline Bell, quoted in the Progressive Farmer, September 1, 1886
Who says there’s no honor among thieves?
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Welcome to Second Glance History! This blog seeks to uncover the people and the stories forgotten by history and give them another read through a modern lens. Join me every week as we examine the differences that divide and the common threads that connect the then to the now.