Boodle over the Border: Embezzlement and the Crisis of International Mobility, 1880–1890
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 April 2012
Roughly 2,000 American fugitives fled to Canada in the 1880s—mostly clerks, cashiers, and bank tellers charged with embezzlement. This article argues that these “boodlers,” as they were popularly called, were symptomatic of a late-nineteenth-century crisis of mobility. Embezzlement was a function of new kinds of mobility: migration to cities, the rise of an upwardly mobile middle class, the fungibility of greenbacks, and the growth of international transportation networks. The boodlers were some of the earliest white-collar criminals. By focusing on their unexplored story, this article contributes to the growing literature that presents the clerk as an important figure in nineteenth-century labor history. Still, the boodlers also had a more unexpected impact on the evolution of the United States' international borders, both in the popular imagination and in actual surveillance and law enforcement techniques. Through the figure of the boodler, this article examines the links between the growth of capitalism and the development of the United States–Canada border in the late nineteenth century.
- The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era , Volume 11 , Issue 2 , April 2012 , pp. 151 - 189
- Copyright © Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 2012
1 This would be more than $3.8 million in 2010 dollars.
2 “Scott Takes $160,000,” Boston Daily Globe, June 3, 1885, 1; “Teller Scott's Flight,” New York Times, June 4, 1885, 1.
3 “Two Rogues,” Boston Daily Globe, Aug. 17, 1887, 1.
4 Great Britain granted Canada full autonomy in domestic affairs in 1867 but continued to manage Canada's foreign affairs until 1926.
5 This statistic came from a Canadian secret service agent in 1889, though estimates varied. “Two Thousand Boodlers,” Boston Daily Globe, June 22, 1889, 3. A lesser number fled to Mexico or England, while a handful of Canadians, perhaps one or two hundred, took refuge in the United States. However, given that the United States had ten times Canada's population, the proportion of boodlers was similar.
6 In this paper, I use the term boodler to refer to someone who committed a crime during the 1880s, usually fraudulent or financial in nature, and then fled the country to escape punishment. Most of the boodlers were wanted for embezzlement, but some were wanted on charges of bribery, perjury, and receiving stolen goods.
7 “Boodle,” Magazine of American History 18 (July–Dec. 1887): 353; “Origin of the Word ‘Boodle,’” Atlanta Constitution, Feb. 7, 1887, 1. The term was first commonly used in connection with Canadian counterfeiting rings in the 1820s. Mihm, Stephen, A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States (Cambridge, MA, 2007), 92CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
9 On earlier, domestic permutations of the crisis of mobility, Kasson, John F., Civilizing the Machine: Technology and Republican Values in America, 1776–1900 (New York, 1976)Google Scholar; Halttunen, Karen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830–1870 (New Haven, 1982)Google Scholar.
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12 My use of the term “border town” is inspired by Peter Andreas and Ethan Nadelmann's assertion that “the frontier region is the only place where international law enforcement is often synonymous with local law enforcement.” Andreas, Peter and Nadelmann, Ethan, Policing the Globe: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations (New York, 2006), 108Google Scholar.
13 On informal law enforcement cooperation along the U.S.–Mexican border during this period, Truett, Samuel, Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.–Mexico Borderlands (New Haven, 2006)Google Scholar; John, Rachel C. St., Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.–Mexico Border (Princeton, 2011)Google Scholar.
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19 “A Refuge for Invalid Politicians,” New York Times, Dec. 22, 1871, 4. While members of the Tweed Ring went to Canada, Tweed himself fled to Cuba and then to Spain. In 1875, Spanish authorities returned him to New York on the basis of goodwill and comity toward the United States, despite the fact that the two countries lacked an extradition treaty.
21 Friedman, “Crimes of Mobility,” 646.
23 Bishop, Joel Prentiss, Commentaries on the Criminal Law, vol. 2 (Boston, 1877), 176 (italics mine)Google Scholar. Embezzlers have lawful custody over the property of others, generally through their employment. The crime of robbery, in contrast, involves unlawfully taking possession of another's property.
26 Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” originally published in Putnam's Magazine, Nov.–Dec. 1853. For more on clerks and criminality, Zakim, Michael, “The Business Clerk as Social Revolutionary; or, a Labor History of the Nonproducing Classes,” Journal of the Early Republic 26 (Winter 2006): 563–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mihm, Stephen, “Clerks, Classes, and Conflicts,” Journal of the Early Republic 26 (Winter 2006): 605–15, esp. 613–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Augst, Thomas, The Clerk's Tale: Young Men and Moral Life in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago, 2003)Google Scholar; Luskey, On the Make; and Bjilopera, Jerome P., City of Clerks: Office and Sales Workers in Philadelphia, 1870–1920 (Urbana, 2005), 123–28Google Scholar.
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29 These statistics come from a series of articles in the Chicago Daily Tribune in 1888, chronicling every reported case of embezzlement in the United States between 1878 and 1888. For 1880, “Millions Were Stolen,” Chicago Daily Tribune, July 6, 1888, 9. For 1885, “The Stolen Money in 1885,” Chicago Daily Tribune, July 12, 1888, 9.
31 I have located eight cases in which Mexico extradited fugitives charged with embezzlement to the United States during the 1880s. Extradition Case Files, 1836–1906, entry 857, Records of the State Department, Record Group [RG] 59, National Archives, College Park, MD. For Díaz's obsession with Mexico's image as a nation of law and order, Piccato, Pablo, City of Suspects: Crime and the Police in Mexico City, 1900–1931 (Durham, 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Tenorio-Trillo, Mauricio, Mexico at the World's Fairs: Crafting a Modern Nation (Berkeley, 1996)Google Scholar.
32 See, for example, the case of Dallas embezzler J. H. Baum, who fled to London, Ontario. “A Cotton Swindler,” Galveston Daily News, Mar. 22, 1885, 6.
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34 Gilbert Haven, “Canadian Methodism, Second Paper,” Christian Advocate, Oct. 31, 1878, 689.
36 “The Defaulter Stuart,” New York Times, July 17, 1883, 5.
37 Dawn Hutchins Bobryk, “The Defalcation of John Chester Eno” (MA thesis, Trinity College, 2006); Clews, Henry, Twenty Eight Years in Wall Street (New York, 1888), 167–70Google Scholar.
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40 See The Commonwealth v. Smith N. Hawes (1877), 6 Am. Law Rev. 97.
41 Extradition case file of John C. Eno, entry 857, box 17, RG 59; Ex. P. John C. Eno. (1884), 10 Quebec L.R. 173, printed in The Legal News vol. 7, ed. Kirby, James (Montreal, 1884), 360–61Google Scholar.
42 George H. Adams, “The Extradition of Eno,” Albany Law Journal, Aug. 23, 1884, 144–47.
44 Article 4, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states, “A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.”
45 “Current Topics,” Albany Law Journal, June 14, 1884, 461.
46 “Address of Professor Albert S. Bolles on Defalcations” in American Bankers' Association, Proceedings of the Convention of the American Bankers' Association, Held at Chicago, Illinois, September 23 and 24, 1885, vol. 11 (New York, 1885), 103–10Google Scholar.
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48 “The Defaulter's Refuge,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 12, 1885, 4.
49 “Canada as a Refuge,” The Independent, Jan. 12, 1888, 23.
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52 Howells, William Dean, The Quality of Mercy (New York, 1892)Google Scholar; Dreiser, Theodore, Sister Carrie (New York, 1900), chs. 27–29Google Scholar. Examples of serialized and popular fiction about boodlers include: “The Strange Case of Alderman Shekel and Mr. Slide,” Puck, July 7, 1886, 299; Luke Sharp, “Trapped,” Weekly Detroit Free Press, Aug. 28, 1886, 1; “Uncle Sun Up, the Born Detective: Or, Boodle Vs. Bracelets,” Banner Weekly, no. 674 (1891).
54 Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 28, 1889, 4.
55 “Banker Eno House Hunting,” Boston Daily Globe, Aug. 8, 1884, 5.
56 “American Boodlers,” Galveston Daily News, Oct. 21, 1888, 1. In these ways, the draft dodgers and war resisters of the 1960s and 1970s resembled the boodlers.
57 “Cartoons and Comments,” Puck, June 17, 1885, 242.
58 Roberts, The Canadian Guide-Book, 3.
59 Interestingly, neither these nor any other editorial cartoons I have located show the boodler crossing the border as he would most likely experience it: in a train. The image of the boodler running across the border may simply be a visual convenience, but I suspect it is influenced by dime novels about outlaws in the United States–Mexico frontier region, who frequently made dramatic escapes across the border by horse or foot.
60 Pletcher, David M., The Diplomacy of Trade and Investment: American Economic Expansion in the Hemisphere, 1865–1900 (Columbia, MO, 1998), 69–76Google Scholar. On the late-nineteenth-century economic integration between the United States and Canada, especially the branch-plant economy, Aitken, Hugh G. J., American Capital and Canadian Resources (Cambridge, MA, 1961)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bliss, Michael, Northern Enterprise: Five Centuries of Canadian Business (Toronto, 1987)Google Scholar; Wilkins, Mira, The Emergence of Multinational Enterprise (Cambridge, MA, 1970)Google Scholar.
61 Wiman, Erastus, Commercial Union Between the United States and Canada (New York, 1887), 26Google Scholar.
62 John C. Eno Fonds, folder 1, vol. 1, MG 29, A27, Library and Archives Canada.
63 Bobryk, “Defalcation of John Chester Eno,” 123; “Lower Laurentian Railway,” New York Times, Dec. 18, 1891, 6; “The Boodlers in Canada,” Washington Post, Jan. 16, 1890, 4.
64 “Geographical Information,” Life, Nov. 22, 1888, 289.
65 Graybill, Andrew R., Policing the Great Plains: Rangers, Mounties, and the North American Frontier, 1875–1910 (Lincoln, NE, 2007), 53Google Scholar.
66 Report of the American Surety Company, Dec. 1887 (hereafter American Surety Report, 1887), repr. in “Canada as a Refuge,” The Independent, Jan. 12, 1888, 23.
67 This line appeared as part of a joke in Puck, Feb. 6, 1889, 389.
68 “A Chinaman's Dark Ways: Chu Fong and a Lot of Money Gone,” New York Tribune, Dec. 22, 1889, 1.
70 For example, among the places where the Christian Union said the “sin of gambling” could be found was “in the defalcations, embezzlements, violations of trusts, that fill the ranks of the American colony in Canada.” “The Lottery Nuisance,” Christian Union, Apr. 4, 1889, 419.
71 Henry A. Riley, “Notes of Legal Matters of General Interest,” Zion's Herald, July 1, 1885, 202.
72 For example, “Secure in Canada,” originally published in New York World, repr. in Milwaukee Sentinel, Jan. 12, 1885, which profiled twenty-three separate boodlers.
73 New York World article repr. as “Grant, Ward, Fish and Eno,” Raleigh Register, July 23, 1884, 2; “Eno in Quebec,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 8, 1885, 14.
74 A street gang called the Boodle Gang dominated New York's Lower West side in the 1870s, and Boss Tweed's Tammany Ring was sometimes called the “fraternity of boodle.” By the mid-1880s, however, the terms “boodle” and “boodlers” were associated primarily with the exiles in Canada. Asbury, Herbert, The Gangs of New York (New York, 1927), 219Google Scholar; Lynch, Denis Tilden, “Boss” Tweed: The Story of a Grim Generation (New York, 1927), xxxivGoogle Scholar.
75 “Two Thousand Boodlers,” Boston Daily Globe, June 22, 1889, 3.
76 “Eno Pleased with Canada,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Mar. 2, 1890, 2; “The Exiles who are Living in Canada,” Boston Daily Globe, Jan. 31, 1886, 1.
77 Letter from John Stone Pardee, Louisville, KY, in Century Illustrated Magazine, Mar. 1885, 798.
78 This account of the boodler resembles that of the traditional social bandit, as described in Hobsbawm, Eric, Bandits (1969; New York, 2000)Google Scholar.
79 “What Shall We Do with Embezzlers?” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Jan. 14, 1882, 338.
81 “The Two Boodle Carriers,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 1886, 3. Many train porters at this time were African American, but the article does not say whether this one was. Possibly the porter saw the train as a parallel to the legendary Underground Railroad that helped fugitive slaves escape to Canada.
82 “Current Events,” New York Evangelist, Jan. 7, 1886, 8.
83 American Surety Report, 1887.
84 “Bill Nye in Canada,” Boston Daily Globe, Dec. 8, 1889, 20.
85 On the fisheries dispute, Beisner, Robert L., From the Old Diplomacy to the New, 1865–1900 (Arlington Heights, IL, 1975), 62Google Scholar; Bogue, Margaret Beattie, “To Save the Fish: Canada, the United States, the Great Lakes, and the Joint Commission of 1892,” Journal of American History 79 (Mar. 1993): 1429–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Busch, Briton Cooper, The War against the Seals: A History of the North American Seal Fishery (Kingston, ON, 1985)Google Scholar.
87 O'Grady, Joseph Patrick, Irish-Americans and Anglo-American Relations, 1880–1888 (New York, 1976)Google Scholar.
88 “That Dynamite Treaty,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 22, 1887, 1; Senate Executive Journal, vol. 26, 446.
89 American Bankers' Association, Proceedings, 1885, 164; 1886, 53; 1887, 141.
90 Senate Executive Journal, vol. 26, Jan. 21, 1889, 435; American Surety Report, 1887.
91 “Annual reports of the Pinkerton's National Detective Agency to the American Bankers' Association,” folder 7, box 21, Pinkerton National Detective Agency Papers, Library of Congress.
93 “He Was Quickly Caught,” Washington Post, Oct. 18, 1885, 6.
95 Quoted in “American Embezzlers: The Flight to Canada of Many Fugitives,” Galveston Daily News, May 12, 1890, 5.
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97 “Bothering the Boodlers,” Daily Inter Ocean, Feb. 22, 1887, 1.
98 St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Feb. 26, 1887, 4.
99 “Watching at Windsor,” Daily Inter Ocean, July 26, 1887, 1.
100 Ledger Book 1884–1885, box OV 7, Pinkerton's National Detective Agency Papers.
101 For examples of this strategy, see the cases of Joseph H. Wilkins, “A Detective's Sharp Work,” New York Times, Sept. 13, 1885, 14; William E. Jones, “A Canadian Exile,” Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 14, 1889, 1; and Daniel Brown, discussed below.
102 “Over the Line,” Atchison Daily Globe, June 27, 1887, 3. For another example of this strategy, see the case of William P. Spear, “An Embezzler Caught,” New York Times, Feb. 18, 1887, 1; “Decoyed Across the Canada Line,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Feb. 18, 1887, 3.
103 For examples of this strategy, see the cases of Bill McFadden, “A Daring Detective,” National Police Gazette, June 3, 1882, 13; Abner Benyon, “Bill Nye in Canada,” Boston Daily Globe, Dec. 8, 1889, 20; and William Schreiber, discussed in the next paragraph.
104 “Demands a Princely Fee,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Sept. 23, 1891, 7.
105 “American Embezzlers: The Flight to Canada of Many Fugitives,” Galveston Daily News, May 12, 1890, 5.
106 “Found at Winnipeg,” New York Times, Sept. 8, 1885, 2; “Bold, Bad Detectives: They Kidnap and Bring Back from Canada an Ex-Bank President,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Sept. 8, 1885, 1; “Caught in Canada: American Detectives in the Role of Kidnappers,” Milwaukee Sentinel, Sept. 9, 1885, 3.
107 “Our Criminals in Canada,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 1, 1887, 5 (originally published in New York World).
108 F. S. Hussey, the head of the British Columbia Police, also had a good working relationship with P. K. Ahern, who ran the Pinkertons' Seattle office. The Dominion Police merged with the North West Mounted Police to form the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920. Williams, David R., Call in Pinkerton's: American Detectives at Work for Canada (Toronto, 1998), 116–17Google Scholar. The relationship between Sherwood and Pinkerton is documented in A. P. Sherwood Letterbook, 1883–1887, volume 3124, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Dominion Records, RG-18, E, Library and Archives Canada.
109 “Defaulter Brainerd Captured,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Sept. 10, 1885, 4.
110 The Independent, Sept. 17, 1885, 18, called the kidnapping “an outrage, in plain violation of international law,” with supporting quotations from Senator George F. Edmunds of Vermont; also “Defaulter Brainerd Captured,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Sept. 10, 1885, 4, which defended the kidnapping.
111 “Notes of Cases,” Albany Law Journal, Sept. 4, 1886, 182.
112 North American, Feb. 4, 1886, 2.
113 Ker v. Illinois, 119 U.S. 146 (1886). Ker v. Illinois paved the way for international abductions in the future by both private detectives and agents of the U.S. government.
114 “M'Garigle in Canada,” Washington Post, Aug. 1, 1887, 1.
115 “Boodlers' Unhappy Lot,” Milwaukee Daily Journal, May 24, 1886, 1.
116 St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Feb. 26, 1887, 4.
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119 Lee, Erika, At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882–1943 (Chapel Hill, 2003), esp. ch. 5Google Scholar.
120 “Two Thousand Boodlers,” Boston Daily Globe, June 22, 1889, 3.
121 Richard Chapman Weldon, speech before the Canadian House of Commons, Feb. 27, 1889, in Canada House of Commons, Commons Debates, 1889, 27:346–47.
122 The Liberal Toronto Globe ran a regular column called “Watch the Boodlers,” which reported incidents of bribery and corruption amongst Conservative MPs and listed Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald as the nation's top “boodler in chief.” “The Boodlers in Chief,” Toronto Globe, Feb. 19, 1887, 10.
123 Toronto Globe, Mar. 1, 1889, 4; Montreal Herald, Mar. 6, 1889, 4.
124 “Canada's Exiles Alarmed,” New York Times, Mar. 7, 1889, 2; “Boodlers Combine,” Boston Daily Globe, Mar. 7, 1889, 8; “Boodlers Raise a Fund,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Mar. 9, 1889, 9; “On the Black List: The American Colony in Canada Thrown into a Panic,” Washington Post, Mar. 13, 1889, 4.
125 Canadian House of Commons Debates, Apr. 23, 1889, 1475.
126 “No Longer a Haven for Thieves,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Apr. 24, 1889, 5.
127 “After Fleeing Criminals: Extradition Treaty with England Ratified,” New York Times, Feb. 19, 1890, 1.
128 Extradition case file of Charles Pscherhofer, entry 857, boxes 30–31, RG 59.
129 Chicago Daily Tribune, Apr. 12, 1890, 4.
130 “Gossip of Gotham,” New York Times, Feb. 10, 1895, 16.
131 For a table of extradition statistics through 1893, “Embezzlements of '93,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 31, 1893, 27. In 1889, the last full year before the new extradition treaty was implemented, reported embezzlements totaled $8,600,000. In 1893, they totaled $19,932,692.
132 “The Embezzlement Business,” Washington Post, Mar. 6, 1892, 4.