Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2013

100 years ago: Lawrence merchant surprised by scam letter

February 16, 2013


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Feb. 16, 1913:

  • "What is believed to be a letter from a confidence man in Madrid, Spain, was received here today by Rob House, well known clothing merchant of this city. The game is the old one of the 'Russian Banker, his pretty daughter, a big sum of money and the need of help at once.' This is an old trick which has not been heard of for some time. Years ago the scheme was successfully worked and some Americans who sought to make a fortune easy were taken in by these confidence men. Rob House was very much surprised when he received the letter this morning as the plan of operation of the men has been made so public that it was thought it had been entirely abandoned. Mr. House of course will make no reply to the appeal for help."
  • "Charley Keeney was in the city jail again last night. On another occasion when Charley was a lodger at that place he grew dissatisfied with his surroundings and soon had a hole in the side of the wall through which he made his escape. Last night Charley tried the same trick but this time the police were expecting something of this nature and Charley's plans were frustrated."
  • "The women of the Federated Clubs of Lawrence would establish a censorship of motion pictures in Lawrence. At the Second Annual Luncheon of the Federation held yesterday afternoon a resolution to this effect was passed by the women. A censor of the movies has been often suggested in Lawrence, but no such action has ever been taken. Larger cities have had such censorships for some time, and it has been argued that Lawrence should take some action providing for such an office."
  • "Charles F. Weller, associate secretary of the Playground and Recreation Association of America, has located in Lawrence and has opened a branch office of the Association here. Mr. Weller has been associated with playground work for over sixteen years and is an expert on this subject which has become so vital to the country in recent years.... Lawrence last year began to take interest in the playground movement, an association was formed here and playgrounds were maintained during the summer which did much good. This year the Committee plans to broaden the work and already plans are being made. With Mr. Weller in Lawrence it will no doubt mean that much more will be accomplished this year."


Sarah St. John 5 years ago

It amused me that this scam, which was considered in 1913 to be so old that they were surprised anyone was still trying it, has the same basic structure as one being passed around on the internet 100 years later:

Here is the letter received by Mr. House in 1913. It was accompanied by a faked clipping from a newspaper telling of the arrest and detention of the banker.

"Madrid, 1-2-13. Dear Sir: Although I know you only from good references of your honesty, my sad situation compels me to reveal to you an affair in which you can procure a modest fortune, saving at the same time that of my darling daughter. -- Before being imprisoned here I was established as a banker in Russia as you will see by the enclosed article about me in many English papers which have published my arrest in London. -- I beseech you to help me obtain a sum of $480,000 I have in America and to come here to raise the seizure of my baggage by paying to the register of the court the expenses of my trial and recover my portmanteaus containing a secret pocket where I have hidden the document indispensable to secure the recovery of the said sum. -- As a reward, I will give to you the third part, viz., $160,000. -- I cannot receive your answer in the prison, but you must send a telegram to a person of my confidence who will deliver it to me. -- Awaiting your cable to interest you in all my secret, I am -- Yours truly, A. IVANOVITCH. -- First of all answer by cable, not by letter, as follows: Juan Santol, Lista telegraph Santander, (Spain). 'Retired letter' House.'

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