Thomas Wandless

Thomas Wandless

Male 1882 - 1910  (28 years)

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  • Name Thomas Wandless 
    Born 27 Aug 1882  Brooklyn, Kings Co, New York, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Male 
    Arrested 7 Dec 1905  Boston, Suffolk Co, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Escaped From Jail 14 Dec 1905  Boston, Suffolk Co, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • On Dec 14, 1905, Thomas, using the name of Charles Howard, sawed his way out of his cell in the Boston jail, using a saw that was slipped to him in his wedding cake by his bride Mazie Coyle, and escaped with an accomplice named Carr. The Boston Globe of 15 Dec 1905 reported it this way:
      -----------
      SAW OUT OF CELL THOUGH BRIDE'S AID
      Howard, Married in Jail, and His Pal, Carr, Escape
      In the early hours of yesterday morning the first successful dougle escape from the Charles st jail which has occurred there during its history of 55 years was accomplished by Charles Howard and Edward H. Carr, held for hearings on many charges of burglary in Boston and surrounding cities, and said by the police to be two of the most daring housebreakers in the United States.
      There are romances even in the underworld, and there was an unusual one in connection with this jail delivery, for the authorities are convinced that the saws with which the burglars made their way to freedom were furnished them by a handsome 18-year-old girl, who on Saturday went to the jail with a marriage license and was made the wife of Howard by Rev Fr McLeod, chaplain of the jail, who is also connected with St. Joseph's church in the West End.
      The girl gave her name as Mary Coyle, and to the people who keep the boarding house at 161 Court st, where Howard was arrested and much of his loot recovered by the police, she said that she took the step she did simply to give a name to her unborn child. Previous to Howard's arrest, the girl had lived with him at the Court st house as his wife. In light of the events of yesterday the officials are skeptical as to the approaching motherhood of the girl and suspect that she arranged the marriage so she could find an opportunity of passing Howard the steel saws which were used in cutting the bars of the cell in which he and his partner in crime were confined.
      Howard, as the police call him, although his marriage certificate bears the name of Charles Noudless, which has since been corrected to read Wandless, was, with Carr, to have been taken to Roxbury district court early yesterday morning for examination on a charge of breaking and entering and larceny in a house in Roxbury. The two burglars were in cell No. 8, they having been put in there together because the jail is crowded and room is at a premium. The men had their supper with the other prisoners at the usual hour Wednesday evening, and the night keepers, passing their cell at intervals, saw them sitting together, but not acting in any way suspiciously. Between midnight and 1 o'clock yesterday morning, James E. Kelly, one of the night keepers, heard a sound as though a man was choking and, calling another guard, he started to investigate. The choking sound came from the end of the block of cells farthest from that occupied by Howard and Carr, and Kelly and his partner, expecting they would find some prisoner having a fit, hunted around for 15 minutes trying to discover who was in trouble. All the prisoners appeared to be sleeping all right, and after spending a quarter of an hour trying to find out who needed help, the keepers returned to the performance of their regular duties, having come to the conclusion that the noise Kelly had heard came from a prisoner suffering from the nightmare. Now they believe at the jail that through an arrangement made by Howard and Carr, a prisoner at the far end of the block of cells was induced to make the noise to attract the keepers there, and that while they were on their errand of mercy, the two burglars were putting the finishing touches of sawing through the bars of their cell.
      At 1:15 keeper Edwin C. Crafts went by the burglars' cel and saw one of the men reading a newspaper while the other was sitting near him. Sometime between that hour and 5:30, the burglars got out of their cell and out of the jail. At 5:30 watchman Charles R. Hatch went to cell No. 8 and shook the door to arouse the two recumbent forms he could see in the beds at the far end of the cell. Neither of them stirred and Hatch spoke sharply, telling the men to get up, as the van would start early for Roxbury, where they were to be arraigned. He received no response, and unlocking the cell door, he stpped inside and, grasping one of the gifures, started to shake it, and the figure came apart in his hand. It had been made of bedding and old papers rolled up to form the shape of a sleeping man, and the figure in the adjoining cot was of the same material. Hatch raised an alarm and all the officers in the jail were turned out to hunt for the burglars.
      Among the first of the discoveries to be made was one to the effect that two of the iron bars, nearly an inch in diameter, in the grated door, had been sawed out, and that in their place there had been skilfully set rolls of paper blackened with ink, and which fell out when the door was given a hard shake. The aperture so made was only 17 inches high and 7-1/2 inches wide, and the jailers marveled that two men as large as Howard and Carr could have squeezed through the place, as they undoubtedly had. The jailers, having made a hurried search of the prison, and not finding any trace of the missing men, finally got on the trail of the course they took after squeezing through the hole in their cell door. Down at the end of the corridor where Howard and Carr were confined is a heavy lattice-work door nine feet in height. There are some steampipes alongside of it and as the burglars could not get the door open, they climbed up on thepipes, got over the top of the door, and dropped down on the other side. Then there was another obstacle, but one with which they were prepared to grapple. In the outerwall there was a sindow, guarded on the outside by irong bars an inch and a half in diameter. The men raised the window and then one of them sawed through one of the iron bars at the bottom. Both of them must have exerted all their strength when the bar was cut through in bending it upward to give them egress, for the bar was bent out of the way and it required the combined strength of 3 powerful keepers to bend it back.
      Dropping out of the window the burglars left the two 17=inch iron bars they had brought from their cell to use as weapons in case of discovery, and, running across the yard, climbed on the roof of the low L which contains the jail kitchen, went over this roof to that of the laundry building, which is four feet higher and which adjoins the kitchen. The laundry wall abuts on the 15-foot brick wall which surrounds the jail and for two such desperate men it was no trick at all to drop in to Fruit st, to which they had made their way The jailers followed the course of the fleeing burlars to this point and there they lost all trace of them. They say there was a small pool of blood on the walk outside the jail yard, indicating that one of the men had been injured, but if he was, it wasn't sufficiently serious to impede his flight.
      the light snow in Fruit st had been so much tracked up that it was impossible to tell if a carriage had been at hand to take the men away. The officials at the jail believe that the steel saws with which Howard and Carr cut their way to liberty were brought into the jail and passed to the men last Saturday when Mary Coyle came there with a marriage license that she had obtained at the registrar's office and asked Rev Fr McLeod to unite her in wedlock with Howard. The ceremony was performed in the jail office and was witnessed by a number of the keepers. Great vigilance is always exercised at the jail to see thta no tools or anything else considered contraband by the officials is smuggled in to prisoners, and just how the girl mnaged to pass the saws to Howard is not known, but the jail officials have their suspicions. They think that the most likely way was for her to palm the saws and when she clasped hands with Howard during the ceremony, leave the saws in his hand. Still another hypothesis is that she slipped the saws in side of a wedding cake she went out and bought at a store on Charles st after the ceremony and which she took back for Howard's share of the wedding feast in his cell. They say at the jail that they always examine food or fruit brought in to prisoners, especially desperate ones, such as Howard and Carr are known to be, but it is possible that under the circumstances the wedding cake of the boss burglar was not subject to as close scrutiny as usual, and that under the frosting or somewhere inside of the cake he found the tools he needed in his business of obtaining freedom.
      When Howard and the girl lived together in the house at 161 Court st prior to his arrest, he pretended to be a drummer, selling cold cream, and he went out regularly every morning carrying a small case which he said contained his samples. After he had been arrested, the girl, who had passed as his wife, continued to occupy the room alone. Saturday evening she came in and told the landlady she had been married that afternoon to Howard at the jail to "give her child a name". Monday morning she paid her room rent and left the house with her traveling bag, saying she was going to New York. When the girl took out the marriage license she said her name was Mary Coyle, that she was born in New York city and was a waitress. She gave the name of the groom as Thomas Noudless, 23 years old, a native of Brooklyn, bookkeeper by occupation, and residence, which was the same as her own, of 161 Court st Boston. At the jail they said yesterday that a woman had also been there a few days ago to see Carr, but they didn't ask her for her name and she stayed only a few minutes. The jailers describe her as a tall thin blond about 26 years old wearing a light-colored coat. The police describe the escaped burglar as follows: Charles Howard, 24 yrs old, 5 ft 3 inches tall, 142 pounds, medium complexion, full smooth face. He wore dark clothing. Edward H. Carr is 24, 5 ft 7 inches tall, 135 pounds, light complexion, thin smooth face, also dressed in dark clothing. Sheriff Seavey offers a reward of $250 each for the capture of Howard and Carr. In addition to this he has authorized the police to issue thousands of circulars announcing the reward and giving descriptions of the men.
    Prison Mar 1906-Apr 1910  Boston, Suffolk Co, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Charlestown State Prison, for burglary

      6 Aug 1906, Washington Times
      Boston -- With a 3 week old son in her arms, Mrs. Thomas Wandless, wife of Wandless, or Howard, as he is variously known in the State prison, arrived in Boston, having come from New York to show the new baby to his father, who is in jail awaiting arraignment on the charge of jail breaking. Mrs. Wandless was tried and acquitted some months ago on the charge of assisting her husband to escape from jail. She had been living with him at 161 Court St before his arrest and asked to be married to him in the jail. After the ceremony, it was thought she had managed to convey implements whereby he made his escape on the following night. Wandless was recaptured and sentenced to from 4 to 6 years on 2 charges of burglary. He has not yet been arraigned for jail breaking and it is supposed he will be lightly treated for this as valuable evidence is expected of him.
    Obituary 31 Dec 1910  Boston, Suffolk Co, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Boston Daily Globe, 31 Dec 1910
      Wandles Dead
      The "Dress Suit Burglar" of Passaic, NJ
      Jean Mitchell, Girl Accomplice, Pleaded Guilty Saturday
      New York - Dec 31
      Thomas Wandless alias "Kid" Howard alias "Tom" Hanley, known as the "dress suit burglar", who was assisted in his work by a pretty girl describing herself as Jean Mitchell, is dead, today, in St. Mary's hospital in Passaic, from the wound received when shot while trying to enter the home of Peter A. Tapley at 108 Pennington st, Passaic, on the night of Dec 9. Mrs. Burnar of 209 Cumberland st, Brooklyn, said to be Wandles' mother, saw him at the hospital early in the week and told the doctors it was the 4th time she had seen her son in 10 years. It was believed until yesterday he would recover. The young woman known as Jean Mitchell appeared in the county court in Paterson yesterday while her lover was dying and pleaded guilty to being an accomplice in the attempted burglary. She acted as his lookout. The police say Wandles was wanted in many cities. He is alleged to have stolen all the way here from the Pacific coast.
    Died 31 Dec 1910  Passaic, Passaic Co, New Jersey Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    • This is the colorful burglar of Boston and New Jersey.

      His mother was married to a wealthy stockbroker named Augustus F. Berner and they lived both at Sea Cliff and Brooklyn, NY. He had a sister who married around May or June 1910 (this must be Florence Berner) and lived at Sea Cliff, a wealthy resort community on Long Island.

      Supposed to have been left $40,000 (half of a bequest to he & his sister of $80,000) by an aunt Ellen Willis Peren or Beven of Brooklyn in 1907, while he was serving time for burglary in Boston. (Followup article says Ellen N. Devin, died 26 Feb in Brooklyn.) His lawyer said his father was a well-to-do hotel proprietor in New York. He served his time (under the name of Charles Howard) until April 1910 when he was released. From the Boston Globe: "His ancestry was traced to the earliest settlers of New York. His mother, after the death of his father, married a Wall St broker with a palatial residence in Great Neck, Long Island. She has made unavailing effort to save her son from a life of crime and shame. As a boy, Wandless was the commander of a boys brigade at the Bushwick Ave church in Brooklyn, and a winner of prizes at Sunday school. He was a model boy until he suddenly developed a taste for the underworld. In the past 10 years, he has seen his mother, now Mrs. Augustus F. Berner of New York, but twice, the last time just before his release from the Mass. State Prison. He told her he wanted to live an honest life and she furnished a house for him and his wife at Hempstead, Long Island. Within a week he disappeared and wrote to his mother that his wife had disappeared and he had gone to Chicago to find her." (This wife was Mazie Coyle who had helped him escape from the Charles Street jail in Boston in Dec 1905.) He was also known as Thomas Gilroy, James Hanley, Charles Howard, Thomas Howard, Kid Howard, "Chi", Sky Tommy

      His modus operandi was to leave a hotel or furnished room just after dark in an automobile, in evening dress and accompanied by the girl (Jean Morrison/Mitchell), wearing a decollete gown. They would drive to the vicinity of a house they had previously marked as a promising "plant". He would enter while the family was at dinner and the girl would serve as a lookout. The pair are said never to have worked after 8 in the evening. If the burglar was caught, he would make an excuse that he had got into the wrong house. The girl would run up and substantiate his story.

      1905 article on his prison escape says marriage license was issued in Boston for Charles Noudless [which was later corrected to Wandless, by whom it does not say] to Mary/Mazie Coyle on or a few days before 15 Dec 1906. She said on the license that he was 23 on 27 Aug, a native of Brooklyn, a bookkeeper by profession, and listed his parents.

      Possible deaths for Ellen Willis Bevan/Peren:
      Beavens      Ellen      63 y      Jan      16      1907      #2390      Manhattan
      No obit 1/15-1/24/1907 in NYTimes. Brooklyn Eagle index only goes to 1902.
      Note a Richard Beavens (under age 14 in 1885) is a party in the suit concerning Margaret Sanderson's will, regarding Walter W. John T., and William R.G. Wandless.

      Checked for records of Bushwick Ave church attendance in an attempt to verify his father's name. Per the Brooklyn Eagle, there were lots of churches on Bushwick Ave - a Congregational church was dedicated in 1896, a Baptist church in 1891, an Old Bushwick Reformed Church with Dutch influences had been there since the 1600s, a Methodist Episcopal church. The term "boys brigade" was used by the Baptist church, but may also be used by the Episcopal church.

      Dec 12, 1910 Washington Times says "Wandless is the son of a New York hotel proprietor who died seven years ago. His mother is Mrs. Gustave Berner of Brooklyn."
      -- his father had actually been dead for 15 yrs...
    Person ID I377  41: William Wandless & Elizabeth Smurfitt/Smurthwaite
    Last Modified 25 Apr 2016 

    Father John Thomas Wandless,   b. Abt 22 Aug 1860, Brooklyn, Kings Co, New York, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 19 Jan 1895, Brooklyn, Kings Co, New York, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 34 years) 
    Mother Margaret Bennett,   b. Abt 1863, Brooklyn, Kings Co, New York, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 26 Jul 1938, Islip, Suffolk Co, New York, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 75 years) 
    Married 12 Dec 1880  Brooklyn, Kings Co, New York, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Family ID F140  Group Sheet

    Family Mary "Mazie" Coyle,   b. 30 May 1887, New York City, New York Co, New York, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 15 Dec 1906  Boston, Suffolk Co, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. (Unknown Male) Wandless,   b. Abt Jul 1906, New York, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 14 May 2012 
    Family ID F135  Group Sheet

  • News
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, is cousin to Walter Wandless of Camden, NJ
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, is cousin to Walter Wandless of Camden, NJ
    Philadelphia Inquirer, 16 Dec 1910
    SANTA CLAUS COUSIN HELD AS A BURGLAR
    Camden Man's Many Presents Procure His Arrest, Though Release Follows

    Although, as the police say, a confessed burglar, Thomas Wandless, now in the Passaic Hospital with a bullet wound in his head, proved a veritable Santa Claus to Walter Wandless, his cousin of 1164 Mechanic street, Camden. As a result, Walter was arrested by order of Prosecutor Scovel on suspicion of knowing something about the doings of Thomas, who, it is said, stole from houses at Collingswood and other places. An investigation, however, absolved Walter from all blame.

    For fifteen years Walter had not seen his cousin. When Thomas did make his appearance in company with Jean Mitchell, he was apparently pleased with the reunion. He said he was in a prosperous business and as Walter's family was not in the most affluent circumstances, the new-found cousin announced he would send a Christmas box along. This box made its appearance a few days since. Detectives from the Prosecutor's Office say they found it filled with all sorts of wearing apparel for Walter, his wife, and little one. While they were dancing in glee about the presents, Walter was taken into custody, but later released on nominal bail. It is declared by officers that some of the presents, notably several pair of expensive silk socks, were stolen from a small town near Providence, R.I. Other articles cannot be traced.
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, formerly of Brooklyn and Boston, died in Passaic, New Jersey
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, formerly of Brooklyn and Boston, died in Passaic, New Jersey
    Boston Globe, 1 Jan 1911: Wandles Dead. The "Dress Suit Burglar" of Passaic, NJ. Jean Mitchell, Girl Accomplice, Pleaded Guilty Saturday. Thomas Wandless alias Kid Howard alias Tom Hanley, known as the "dress suit burglar" who was assisted in his "work" by a pretty girl describing herself as Jean Mitchell, is dead today in St. Mary's hospital in Passaic, NJ, from the wound received when shot while trying to enter the home of Peter A. Tapley at 108 Pennington st, Passaic, on the night of Dec 9. Mrs Burner of 209 Cumberland st, Brooklyn, said to be Wandles' mother, saw him at the hospital early this week and said it was the 4th time she had seen her son in 10 yrs. It was believed until yesterday he would recover. He is alleged to have stolen all the way from here to the Pacific coast.
    Thomas Wandless, burglar of New Jersey & Boston - accomplice Jean Mille relates some of their burgling life together
    Thomas Wandless, burglar of New Jersey & Boston - accomplice Jean Mille relates some of their burgling life together
    The Washington Times, 12 Dec 1910 - Girl Burglar Spy Reforms in a Day - Jean Mille Baffles Passaic Police, Where She Was Discovered When Companion Was Shot, by Going to Church - Relates Her Story
    Jean Mille, the girl Raffles and burglar's spy, arrested as the companion of Thomas Wandless alias James Hanley, shot whil attempting to enter a house here when out on bail on a larceny charge, is baffling criminologists.
    [details about how the two burglars worked together, how she wants to go home and be a "good girl" now; Wandless is the son of a New York hotel proprietor who died seven years ago. His mother is Mrs. Gustave Berner, of Brooklyn.]
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, escapes from Boston Jail (the Journal's version)
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, escapes from Boston Jail (the Journal's version)
    Boston Journal, 15 Dec 1905: In this article, he is called Thomas Howard, having not yet told his jailers that his real name was Wandless. Very thorough article with map of jail, describes how he married Mazie Coyle in jail and how she passed him a saw with which to escape. Includes ruler to show the narrow gap through which he escaped after sawing open a few bars, and a drawing of Mazie.
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, escapes from Boston Jail (the Globe's version)
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, escapes from Boston Jail (the Globe's version)
    Boston Globe, 15 Dec 1905: Very thorough article with map of jail, describes how Thomas Wandless married Mazie Coyle in jail and how she passed him a saw with which to escape
    The Boston Globe discovers that Thomas Wandless, Passaic burglar, is Boston's own Charles Howard, the Boston burglar
    The Boston Globe discovers that Thomas Wandless, Passaic burglar, is Boston's own Charles Howard, the Boston burglar
    11 Dec 1910, Boston Globe: "Auto Burglar" is Chas. Howard - Man Dying at Passaic, NJ Escaped from Charles St. Jail in 1905 - "Chicken Stall" Also Under Arrest is Boston Girl, Police Believe
    Thomas Wandless, or Thomas Gilroy, or Hanley or Handel, the burglar who was shot and fatally wounded [snip] is known to the Boston police as Charles Howard...one of the cleverest and most picturesque criminals that has evern been haled before the local bureau of criminal investigations...at first it was believed that the young woman arrested with him was May or Mazie Coyle, the young New York music hall singer who married Howard in the Charles St. jail in this city...but she is not known to the Boston police. She is known as Jean Mitchell or possibly Jean Morrison or Laura Jean Morrison.
    [detailed review of his crimes and escape from the Boston jail, his recapture, inheritance and release, his mother's attempts to reform him]
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, inherits $40,000 but has seven years to serve in jail at Charlestown State Prison
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, inherits $40,000 but has seven years to serve in jail at Charlestown State Prison
    I think this was dated March 1907, but I can't find the original to make sure.
    Thomas Wandless, burglar - wife Mazie Coyle Howard (Wandless) acquitted
    Thomas Wandless, burglar - wife Mazie Coyle Howard (Wandless) acquitted
    March 31, 1906 - Boston - Jury acquits May Howard aka Mazie Coyle, wife of Charles Howard, who is really Thomas Wandless, to escape from the Boston jail. He testified that she did not supply the saw he used to escape, that he got it from his partner Edward Carr instead. She also denied bringing in the saw. She mentions that they got married because of "her condition" (she was pregnant) and that she thought "Tommy" was a traveling salesman.
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, alias Howard - infant son visits him in prison
    Thomas Wandless, burglar, alias Howard - infant son visits him in prison
    July 18, 1906 - Boston Post - Mazie Coyle now Howard brought his infant son to visit Thomas Howard who is really Thomas Wandless, while he is incarcerated in the Massachusetts State Prison. Mrs Howard and the baby will return to the home of the husband's mother, a wealthy New York woman.
    Thomas Wandless, burglar: wife Mazie/May Howard/Wandless speaks out after her acquittal
    Thomas Wandless, burglar: wife Mazie/May Howard/Wandless speaks out after her acquittal
    July 18, 1906 - Boston Post - May Howard, wife of Thomas Wandless, burglar, speaks about her relationship with her husband, after she is released from a one-month imprisonment after her acquittal. She intends to make her home with her mother, Mrs Christina Boitano, wife of George Boitano of 3 Hamilton street, New York, until her husband is released from prison in 4 or more years. He is only 23 years old. He spent time at the Elmira Reformatory after growing up in Roxbury and falling in with a bad element.

    Albums  Thomas Wandless, burglar (1880s-1910), East Coast (13)
    Thomas Wandless was a temporarily famous burglar between about 1900 and 1910. Apparently the son of John Thomas Wandless & Margaret Bennett of Brooklyn, New York, he robbed houses for years until he was shot while attempting a burglary and died a few weeks later in the hospital in Passaic, New Jersey. In between, he staged a dramatic escape from the Boston jail with the help of a young singer who he married while in jail, inherited a large sum of money from an aunt while in prison, and fathered a son with the singer, Mazie or May Coyle.

  • Sources 
    1. [S4] Census, 1892 STATE CENSUS LISTS HIM AS AGE 10 (Reliability: 3).

    2. [S35] Newspaper, Boston Globe, 14 Dec 1905 (Reliability: 3).
      Mazie Coyle wrote in the marriage license that Thomas turned 23 on 27 Aug 1905

    3. [S9] Marriage record, cert# 3633 Brooklyn, Kings Co, NY (Reliability: 3).
      12 Dec 1880, Marriage #3633
      John Thomas Wandless age 20 b. NYS
      Resided in Brooklyn
      1st marriage
      Father: William
      Mother: Jane Williams

      Margaret Bennet age 18 b. Brooklyn
      Resided Brooklyn
      1st marriage
      Father: Samuel
      Mother: Harriet Shaw

      Married by the Minister of the Gospel (beats me, that's what it said)
      96 S. 3rd St. Brooklyn