Throwback Thursday: When Pickpockets Ruined the Fourth of July

Thankfully, they were arrested soon after.

In 1854, nothing could ruin an Independence Day celebration quite like a few pesky pickpockets.

So when the Boston Police finally arrested the thieving gentlemen who dared to insert evil into such a monumental day, it was big news. The police proudly submitted an eloquent synopsis of labor to the mayor, the Board of Aldermen, and the city council for the month of July.

“The day of our National Independence, having transpired within the space of time embraced by this Report, offered a favourable opportunity for the evil disposed to open their campaign of iniquity; but they could not long escape the vigilance of the Police,” begins the report.

Two men named Jack Vise and Dublin Harry were apparently notorious for slyly stealing, as was Jack Williams, an expert English pickpocket from Philadelphia. The whole lot of them were arrested in July, and thus included in the report. They were referred to as “lawless invaders of our sacred right of possession of property.”

The report details how the pickpockets were caught. Since property was reported stolen or lost from the police station, “a system of espionage was immediately set on foot by means of which parties were detected, and property recovered.”

Thanks to the vigilance of the police and their foolproof system of espionage, August was surely a much safer month.

You can read the original report (in delicate handwriting) from the City of Boston Archives below.

Letter via City of Boston Archives/Public domain

Letter via City of Boston Archives/Public domain