On the 18th of September, 1875, a fellow was arrested in West
Virginia who sent the victims whom he proposed to bleed letters
whereof the following is a copy:
"A lady who boarded with me died on last Saturday of apoplexy. She
left a trunk containing the following property: One very fine
ladies' gold watch and chain, one ladies' gold necklace, six
ladies' finger rings, earrings, and a great deal of ladies'
clothing. Among other things was a letter addressed to you. I
suppose you to be a relative of the deceased, and want to send you
the trunk. When Miss Thompson died she left a board bill unpaid
amounting to $20.50. You will please send this amount by return
mail, and the trunk will be forwarded to you immediately."
Instead of remitting the money as modestly requested, the recipient
of one of these choice douceurs, a lady residing in the interior of
Pennsylvania, sent the letter to the mayor of the town where it was
dated and postmarked, who in turn handed it over to special agent
T. P. Shallcross; and he in the course of a day or two succeeded in
capturing the miscreant.
This particular form of the confidence game is very old; yet in the
year of our Lord eighteen hundred and seventy-five a swindler by
means of it succeeds not only in maintaining himself in dashing
style, but also in sporting a flashy traveling companion of the
Where the letters are addressed to men, the articles reported to be
found in the imaginary trunk are changed to correspond to masculine
habits and wants. The operators receive many singular and some
entertaining replies. The following, dated long ago from a small
town at the South, may serve as a sample, the orthography of the
original being preserved:
"Dear Sir,Yours received, and you say John is dead. Poor fellow!
I always expected it. Death runs in the family. Dyed suddenly of
appleplexyeat too many apples. Well, I always thought John would
hurt himself eating apples. I s'pose you had him buried. You said
nothing about funeral expenses. He had a trunkgold watch in it,
&c. Well, well, what an unexpected legacy! but strange things
happen sometimes. Never thought I should get a gold watch so. And
he had the watch in his trunk, did he? Poor fellow! was always so
particular 'bout his watch and fixings. Had two revolvers. What
is them? I never heard John say anything about them. Well, you
have been so kind as to write to me; just keep all the balance of
the things, you can have them; but the gold watch, send that to me
by express. Send immediately if not sooner."
"P. S. My mother in law says, if you come this way, call. She
likes to know all such good, kind folks."
It is safe to conclude that "Col. Snowden" never accepted the
invitation to call from the hospitable mother-in-law.