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Category Archives: Petty crime

Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1887. This here item is a Rosetta Stone in relation to this previous and cryptic item. The orange grove here stands in for similar sucker bait in the other padlock story. Apparently the standard of industry in Chicago circa 1903 was to tempt the bumpkin with the spectacle of some sort of explosion, but the bad guys who hustled Peter Ferguson instead offered to show him where a car had driven into. Claro que si, no?
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matches coins3Detroit News, May 2, 1931. The professor may have understood, but I don’t. I would be completely immune to this “matching pennies” scam, because the grifters wouldn’t be able to explain it to me in 1,000 years.

new-racket-march-20-1931 Detroit News, March 20, 1931. Funny little wire service item. Exactly why did the working-class citizenry of Detroit need to know this? Because it fits in with the worldview advanced by tabloids of this era. The name for that worldview is noir.

Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1933. Lovely little window onto busy, overlapping realms of minor criminal enterprise. One guy makes a living screening stag reels in his home; the other, by impersonating a cop and shaking down pornographers. And again with the acid in the face. One isn’t sorry to see this charming little folkway fall into disuse.

sheets2Detroit News, May 2, 1931. It’s always pleasing to discover that a comedy cliché is solidly based in bygone human habits.