No. 333
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
August 17, 2017

Rogue's Corner: MARK SHINBURN (176)
Forty-eight years old in 1886. Born in Germany. Height, 5 feet 8 or 9 inches. Weight, about 170 pounds. Very erect, broad shoulders, thick neck, broad full face; small, sharp, light blue eyes; a very deep dimple in a small chin; dark hair, parted behind. Generally wears a black mustache and side whiskers, now quite gray. Has India ink rings on the first and third fingers of left hand. Speaks at times with just a perceptible German accent. Dresses well. Quite gentlemanly in manner. Always stops at first-class hotels.

MARK SHINBURN. This celebrated criminal is a German by birth. He arrived in New York in 1861, and boarded at the Metropolitan and other first-class hotels for several years. He was the associate of sporting men and gamblers, in consequence of which he was under the surveillance of the police.

On April 21, 1865, the Walpole Savings Bank of Walpole, New Hampshire, was robbed by Shinburn, George Bliss, alias White, and Dave Cummings (50).

Shinburn was arrested in Saratoga, N. Y., on July 26, 1865, and seven one thousand dollar bonds were found upon his person, all of which were identified as a portion of the proceeds of that robbery. He had also in his possession a number of clipped coupons from off other government bonds, which were also part of the proceeds of that robbery. For this offense he was convicted at Keene, N. H., and sentenced to ten years at hard labor in the Concord, N. H., State prison, by Judge Porter.

On the night after the day of his conviction (November 2, 1865), he, by the aid of confederates, effected his escape, and was not heard of again until May, 1866, when he, with others, attempted to rob the St. Albans Bank, at St. Albans, Franklin County, Vt. They were surprised by the watchman of the bank, who fired upon them. They all escaped, Shinburn taking refuge in a car of a slowly passing train of the Vermont Central Railroad, in which he pretended to fall asleep.

One of the passengers who had been a juryman on his trial at Keene, N. H., recognized him, and suspecting something wrong called an officer, on stopping at the first station, and he was arrested. He was subsequently returned to the New Hampshire State prison to serve out his ten-year sentence.

After serving about nine months he again escaped, with the aid of his friends, and was not heard from again until 1867, when he was arrested at Wilkesbarre, Pa, for the robbery of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Hudson Canal Company's safe of $33,000. An officer arrested him for this last offense, and was obliged to remain in Wilkesbarre that night owing to the trains not running. A room was engaged at the Valley Hotel, Wilkesbarre, and on their retiring to bed the prisoner was handcuffed to the officer, who, on awakening in the morning, discovered his prisoner had escaped by picking the lock of the cuffs with a small piece of steel which it is supposed he had concealed in his mouth. He also carried away with him the officer's watch and money.

The next heard from Shinburn was after the robbery of the Ocean National Bank of New York City, in 1868, when he and his confederates secured over one million of dollars, since which time he has been a fugitive from justice, and, I understand, has been living in France and Switzerland, where he bought himself a title and castle.

Shinburn, if cleanly shaven, has a deep dimple in his chin. He speaks English fluently, and is a most polished conversationalist. He might be called a good-looking man.

When arrested at Saratoga, N. Y., for the Walpole Savings Bank robbery, his house was searched, and on the top floor was found a complete workshop for the manufacture of burglars' tools. A number of wax impressions of keys were found, which, upon investigation, proved to be of keys fitting the Cheshire County Bank at Keene, N. H., and also fitting its vaults and steel money chests, which contained at that time $232,000 in money.

Mark Shinburn's specialty was the taking of wax impressions of bank and safe keys, which he obtained by ascertaining that the bank officials carried them, and then effecting an entrance to their sleeping-room at night, and abstracting them from their pockets.

George White, alias Bliss, was associated with Shinburn in all the above transactions. He was convicted in September, 1875, and sentenced to fourteen years in State prison for robbing the Barre Bank of Vermont.

White, while arranging to rob the Walpole Bank, to give color to his appearance in Walpole, and also to assist the robbery, got up a grand gift enterprise there, and while doing this he ascertained the habits of the bank people, and gave Shinburn an opportunity to get impressions. The jury disagreed on this trial for this robbery, and with the aid of confederates he escaped from the county jail.

Dave Cummings (50), who was with Shinburnand White in this robbery, was discharged for want of jurisdiction, as it could not be proved that he sold any of the bonds in the State of New Hampshire. He did sell some in New York and Pennsylvania.

Shinburn was next heard from in attempting to dispose of the proceeds of a bank robbery at Baltimore, Md., in the office of a prominent lawyer in New York City. The go-between in this transaction was a noted receiver of stolen goods in New York City, who negotiated with this lawyer to purchase the bonds; the lawyer made an appointment, and then notified the police.

Shinburn not willing to trust the receiver with the bonds, accompanied him to the lawyer's office, where the police. arrested them both and secured the recovery of $137,000 in bonds. The prisoners were wanted in Baltimore, and being willing to go there without a requisition, were handed over to the Baltimore detectives. When they arrived in Jersey City their counsel demanded the authority on which they took them through the State of New Jersey, and they not having any, the prisoners were discharged.

During the month of November, 1863, a number of $500 bills of the Haverhill Bank were circulated in the city of Boston, Mass., for which Charley Bullard was arrested in New York City, and by requisition he was conveyed to Boston, where, upon an examination, he was held in $5,000 bail to answer, and on being liberated fled from justice and concealed himself in some of our Western cities.

In 1866 or 1867, a baggage car of the New Haven Railroad Company was entered and a safe thrown off at a point between New York and Bridgeport, Conn., which contained a large amount of money, the property of Adams Express Company of New York City. For this offense Bullard was arrested in Canada, brought to this country, and lodged in jail at White Plains, N. Y., from which, in a few months, he escaped, and left for Europe, landing at Liverpool; England, where he married a pretty "bar-maid," with whom he went to Paris, and was next heard of as the proprietor of the American cafe in Paris, a place much frequented by Americans abroad.

Here he became dissipated and impoverished, and again returned to this country. where he was arrested charged with robbing the Boylston Bank of Boston, Mass., to which he pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment.

He remained in Concord, Mass., State prison about one year, when he again made his escape to Canada, and while at Toronto, Canada, was arrested for burglary, and upon conviction sentenced to five years' hard labor, which sentence he served. On his being released he left for Europe, fell in with Shinburn, and was arrested with him leaving the yard of a small bank in Viveres, in Belgium, in September, 1883.

The arrest of Shinburn and Bullard in Belgium is very interesting. It appears that Shinburn became straitened in circumstances and was very short of money. He therefore took a look around for a good place to get some, and finally decided that the Provincial Bank at Viveres, in Belgium, was an easy one to rob. The next thing 'to do was to get a good man to help him. He finally hunted up Charley Bullard, who was then in Europe, and told him he had a chance to get some money, and if he (Bullard) would help him, he would give him $6,000 if the job was successful, Shinburn firmly believing that if he was successful in robbing the bank he would obtain at least $100,000. So hungry was Shinburn for the money, that he would not take Bullard in the robbery and share it with him. After all their arrangements were made. they both visited the bank one night, "to look it over." They approached it from the rear, entering the yard by fitting a key to the gate, after which their progress was barred by an old-fashioned oak and iron door, which had an immense lock on it on the inside. Shinburn proceeded to remove a large keyhole plate that was upon the outside of the door, by unscrewing a number of small screws that were in it; these he placed in his vest pocket, so he could find them again when wanted. After the plate was removed there was not much difficulty in picking the old-fashioned lock. Before entering the bank they both removed their shoes and placed them in the corner of the yard, then entered and made a general survey of the premises, after which they decided to return the next night and proceed to force the safe.

While they were engaged inside the bank, an officer appeared whose custom it was to come down the back way and try the gate, which, in their hurry, they had neglected to fasten. Finding it open, he flashed his bull's-eye light around the yard and discovered the shoes. He picked them up. and after examining them, became suspicious. and started at once for the police station with them. During the time that the officer had taken to go to the police station and return with a posse of men, who stationed themselves outside the bank, front and rear, to await developments, Shinburn and Bullard had left the bank and were in the act of replacing the keyhole plate. previous to their departure. when it was discovered that one of the small screws was missing. After searching in vain for it, Shinburn finally took a small piece of wax from a larger piece that he had in his pocket, and filled the hole with it, forming a head on it by drawing his finger-nail through it. They then proceeded to leave the yard, first going to where they had left their shoes, which were missing. This aroused their suspicions. and thinking that they were detected, approached the gate cautiously. Shinburn tried it and found it open, and it was not until Bullard had assured him that he had forgotten to fasten it. that they decided to leave the yard.

Immediately after leaving the yard they were arrested. Bullard broke away. and while the officers were pursuing him he fired several shots at them from a revolver. He was finally run down. and lodged in jail with Shinburn. They were both searched, but nothing of importance was found upon them, except the piece of wax that Shinnurn had in his vest pocket. This, however, they paid no particular attention to, as it was evident that they did not know its use.

The authorities then proceeded to make a thorough examination of the bank. and found everything as usual. They were about discharging the prisoners, who had satisfactorily explained their presence in the bank yard, when they decided to call in some experts and re-examine the bank and its surroundings. One of the experts, a chemist. took the piece of wax for the purpose of examining and analyzing it, and while so doing he found deeply imbedded in it a small screw. They then proceeded to the bank, in company of the other expert, a locksmith, who examined the door in the yard, and found one of the screw holes filled up with wax and the screw missing. The wax that was taken from the hole was saved, analyzed, and found to contain the same ingredients as the piece found in Shinburn's pocket. The screw was a fac-simile of the others in the plate, all of which showed recent marks upon them. It was this series of circumstantial evidence, and their previous record, sent to Viveres, Belgium, by the police authorities of New York City, that convicted them.

Shinburn and Bullard were tried for the attempt upon this bank and found guilty.Shinburn received a sentence of seventeen years and six months, and Bullard sixteen years and-six months.

For further particulars of Shinburn, see also record of No. (70). For George White, or Bliss, see also records of Nos. (20), (70), (80), (89) and (110). For Dave Cummings see No. (50).
Next February 12, 2016 Previous

Byrnes, Thomas. Professional criminals of America. New York, N.Y: Cassel, 1886.

"We follow vice and folly where a police officer dare not show his head, as the small, but intrepid weasel pursues vermin in paths which the licensed cat or dog cannot enter."

 The Sunday Flash 1841

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