Friday, March 7, 2014

The San Francisco Mint Robery of 1901 - Newspaper Accounts



Dear Readers,

If the Saddle Ridge Hoard had been made up of $20 gold Double Eagles dated 1900 then maybe the U.S. Mint could have made the connection to the San Francisco Mint Robbery of 1901 -- but there were no coins dated 1900 or even 1901 in the discovery.

As for the San Francisco Mint heist in July of 1901?

Since folks have written to ask for more information regarding Walter Dimmick and the San Francisco Mint Robbery of 1901, below are a collection of articles discussing the theft.

In the articles you’ll find details about the search for the missing coins, the suspicious disappearance of a Secret Service agent during the case, Dimmick’s bizarre behavior during the investigation, and the other charges that were brought against Walter Dimmick.

All of the below is from newspapers of the time.



HEAVY SHORTAGE IN MINT FUNDS

July 04, 1901

Sum of $30,000 in Gold Mysteriously Disappears.

Bookkeeper Vainly Searches for Error and Theft

There is a shortage of $30,000 In the United States Branch Mint in this city.

A thorough investigation has been made by Superintendent Leach and his chief deputies, but up to this time no trace of the missing money has been found.

The general supposition is that the coin was abstracted from the vaults by employees, though the chief clerk holds the shortage Is due to an error in bookkeeping.

The shortage was discovered last Friday by George E. Roberts, Director General of the Mint, who, with three assistants, was sent out here from Washington to make an annual inspection of the books of the local institution.

June 30 is the last day of the fiscal year and these agents are expected to make a searching investigation into the affairs of the Mint with a view toward finding discrepancies, if there be any.

In counting the money in the vaults it was discovered that six bags of gold, valued at $5000 each, were missing.

Believing that a mistake had been made in counting, the experts repeated their task, with the same result.

Dimmick Says There Is an Error.

The news of the shortage spread throughout the Mint very rapidly and all the employees were. sworn to secrecy.

It was thought that the discrepancy would be traced to the bookkeeping department, but it was found that the books tallied with the reports of the various departments.

Chief Clerk Walter N Dimmick was of the opinion that there was no shortage.

He still believes that the money is all accounted for and that an error in bookkeeping has brought about the trouble.

If it is found that $30,000 has been taken from the Mint, Mr. Dimmick may be held, in a way, responsible for the loss.

It is understood that it is his duty to count the money in the trays and in the vault at the close of each, day and report his result to the superintendent.

According to one of the employees of the Mint, this money could easily be abstracted from the vaults by a person who had access to them.

A sack of gold containing $5000 weighs about twenty-two and a half pounds, and is no larger than an ordinary sack of salt.

This might be carried out under an overcoat and not missed by reason of hundreds of similar sacks being in the vaults.

Coin May Have Been Stolen.

Frank A. Leach, superintendent of the Mint, said of the shortage when seen In Oakland:

"This is very mortifying to us all. The inspectors had just pronounced our record for this year the best made by any Mint in the history of the country. The allowable waste on this year's coinage would have been about $157,000. The actual waste was $3709. Now this discovery has cast a cloud over the year's work.

"We discovered the shortage, six bags of gold, coin containing $5000 each, last Saturday. Since then we have been working on the theory that a mistake in making up accounts had occurred. We have run down every conceivable clue of this kind with no result, and seem forced to the conclusion that the coin has been stolen.

"The shortage was discovered in the secretary's, or 'working' vault. Its contents were the last to be counted. All the bullion weighed in correctly and the coin in all the other vaults, amounting to $85,000,000, checked up all right. There was $25,000,000 in the secretary's vault.

"It is supposed to hold only $6,000,000 when full, but we have been so overcrowded, owing to the fact that the Sub-Treasury could not take our -surplus off our hands, that the vault was piled full."

Impossible to Count at Glance.

"Owing to this fact it was impossible to count the money at a glance, as Is the case when the bags of gold are pigeon-holed, as is usually the case. For that reason the loss of six bags might easily pass unnoticed.

"But how that amount of coin could be carried from the vault and then from the building Is a mystery. There are three ways in which it is remotely possible that this, occurred.

"In the first place a mistake might have been made in paying out some large sum. We sometimes make single payments of a million dollars. It seems hardly credible, however, with the checking and rechecking habitual in making these payments that an error of any kind could have crept in.

"Then a few months ago the secretary's vault became so full that its entire contents .were transferred to another vault. The transfer was performed by our most trusted men and a rigid tally was. kept on every sack handled. I cannot see how the money could have been taken at that time."

Vault Constantly Watched.

"The third possibility is, of course, that some one went to the vault and took the money. This again seems hardly rational.

"Six bags of gold containing $5000 each is a big, bulky load for any one to carry.

"The vault is kept closed and under constant surveillance, and I do not see how that amount in actual coin could have been taken.

"While called the secretary's vault, this is really the working vault, out of which payments are made. There is absolutely no clue and no suspicion, for only the most j trusted and responsible men connected with the Mint have access to this vault. 

"There is at the present time more gold in the Mint than at any other time In its history. There is $60,000,000 in gold coin stored In the two big vaults.

"The money is in sacks of $5000 each. This vast sum has accumulated during the last year by reason of the heavy shipments of gold from the Seattle assay office.

"The Alaskan miners have been In the habit of taking their gold to the Seattle office and there receiving a check or certificate for the amount due them.

"This gold is melted and run into bars and then sent down to this city for minting. It then becomes subject to the order of the sub-treasury."

-- end July 04, 1901 article.


FIND NO CLEW TO MINT THIEF

July 05, 1901

Suspected Employees Are Being Watched by Public - Statement Is Made by General Director Roberts.

No new developed yesterday in the matter of the theft of $30,000 in gold coin from the cashier's vault of the United States Mint in this city.

George E. Roberts, United States Director General of the Mint, and Superintendent Leach admit that a theft has been committed by one or more of the local branch Mint employees.

The Mint was closed yesterday, owing to the day being a legal holiday, but Secret Service Agent Hazen was busily engaged in working on the case and a watch was kept on certain suspected persons.

Director Roberts gave out a public statement in which he says that when the shortage was first discovered it was hoped that an error in bookkeeping would account for the missing $30,000, but that a careful rechecking of the accounts showed that the books were correct, and that six sacks, containing $5000 each, had been abstracted from the cashier's vault in the last three months.

The statement contains the following:

"The books show that there should be $104,4321,745 on hand in the Mint in coin, in addition to considerable bullion. The bullion is all right, but the coin is short $30,000.

"The shortage was discovered in the last vault counted, which is the cashier's vault, used daily for business purposes. This vault should have contained $25,487,974 but there was a discrepancy of $30,000.

"The shortage was in Double Eagles. There should have been 1515 bags of Double Eagles, containing $5000 each. The. vault only contained 1509 bags.

'The administration of Superintendent Leach has been most successful, aside from this occurrence.

'The output of the Mint for the past year has broken all records and the percentage of wastage on the metal coined has been very small.

'I congratulated Mr. Leach and did the same to Cashier Cole and their various assistants when I was engaged last Saturday in examining the affairs of the Mint.

'That record stands as testimony to competent services. That was before the shortage was discovered by Mr. Leach himself in checking up the cashier's vault.

'The rule of the Mint was that the cashier's vault should be checked up each night. This was done regularly by Chief Clerk Dimmick.

'The vault had become so crowded with sacks of gold that it was impossible at times to see and count every bag at night. No violence was used on the cashier's vault when this money was abstracted. The thief must have been an employee of the Mint. How or when the money was taken it is impossible to say.

'The cashier's office closes each day at 3 p.m. and the vault is closed and locked by its combination. The time lock does not begin to operate until 5 p.m. 'Between 3 and 5 p.m. the combination would open the vault, but how could the money have been taken from the carefully guarded building?

'There is but one entrance and that is always watched by our guards. The money was certainly not taken in a lump sum. It would not have been possible for six sacks of gold to have been taken out of the building without the watchmen noticing the same."

Director Roberts and Superintendent Leach have certain suspicions, but they will not make any statements as to whom they suspect until further evidence is forthcoming.

Superintendent Leach and Cashier Cole, who are under bonds, will be held civilly liable to the Government for the loss of the gold coin.

--end July 5th, 1901 article.
 
Every Nook and Cranny in the Mint Is Searched but Without Avail

July 5, 1901

Every nook and cranny of the Mint was searched yesterday to see if by any chance any trace could be found of the $30,000 in gold coins that has been stolen from the cashiers vault.  

Taking advantage of the holiday and the annual shutdown Superintendent Leach closed the doors to everybody and put his most trusted employees at work in the search.

There was no expectation of getting any trace of the six bags of double eagles and there was no disappointment when the search proved fruitless.  

There was nothing learned yesterday to give a clue to the thief or the whereabouts of the coin.  

Indeed Director Roberts and his principal expert assistant Cashier More of the New Orleans Mint went to San Rafael for the day. Superintendent Leach was at his desk all day and said there was absolutely nothing new learned in the matter of the theft.

George W. Hazen of the United States Secret Service was absent from his usual haunts yesterday and it was given out that he was absent from town.

It was even said that he has not been consulted in regard to the matter at the Mint and that he did not expect to be called on to assist in unraveling the mystery.

Hazen’s sudden departure from the city however caused comment and aroused curiosity in regard to his whereabouts and his mission.

It is looked on as altogether probable that he is making a quiet inquiry into the habits of the men who by any possibility of propinquity might have had a hand in robbing the Mint vault.

Thus far the greatest activity has been devoted to the clerical investigations by the experts who are going over the cash accounts of the different departments of the Mint.

There does not seem to be any fear that the culprit will attempt to escape as the detectives have not manifested any intention to make arrests.

The deliberation with which the authorities are moving is taken to be an indication that no action will be taken until an effective stroke can be made and then swift punishment will surely fall on the guilty person or persons.

Walter N Dimmick chief clerk of the Mint, who is as well informed as any person in the building on the general state of affairs, was asked yesterday to give his opinion of the shortage.

“l am as much confused as anybody”, he said, “It’s a great mystery. I am not prepared to go as far as Director Roberts and Superintendent Leach and claim that it is unquestionably a theft. I am inclined to believe that an error in counting or in the book accounts may be brought to light.

"I recognize the fact that I as well as others will come in for a rigid inquiry having been one of the few who had access to the vault. So far as I am concerned I have nothing whatever to conceal in fact, I ask for a strict inquiry and will assist in every way in my power to fasten the crime, if there is any, where it belongs.”

There may be a selfish feeling in this as the discovery of the guilty party will remove suspicion from the others.

There is a possibility of course that a man in the confidence of the doorkeepers might pass out through the main door with $30,000 in gold coins under his overcoat.

But it is very unlikely that this could be done. The doorkeepers are supposed to watch everything and everybody closely and it is the rule that every employee on leaving shall exhibit anything he is taking away to the doorkeeper.

A head official might pass without scrutiny but even he could not carry out anything bulky without arousing suspicion.

In view of the discovery of the $30,000 stolen, Superintendent Leach and Director Roberts have determined to open every sack of gold in the Mint, dump out the coin and weigh it weighing is the only way of counting money accurately on a large scale. It is far more accurate than a tally or count of individual pieces of money.

The limit of tolerance in weight of double eagles is extremely small.

No other metal has been found that can take the place of gold and give the same weight in the same approximate bulk.

Therefore the Mint officials argue there is hardly a possibility that there could have been substitution of base metal for gold in any of the bags in the Mint.

Nevertheless they will make sure by subjecting the contents of every bag to visual inspection and weighing.

This work will take a week or ten days as there are [a base amount of coins] in the storage vault alone.

Each bag must be unsealed and after inspection and weighing must be tied up sealed and tagged.

But the work will be done not only to satisfy the Government officials and the public that there has been no further stealing but in order to supply the evidence in case the thief is caught that the six missing bags, each actually contained double eagles to the amount of 5,000.

There is one explanation of the mystery of the disappearance of the gold from the Mint vault that has been suggested which would imply collusion by someone having access to the vault and some messenger or other person engaged in transferring large sums of money for the Mint.

In the event of an understanding between two such persons, the disbursing officer might have handed the six bags of bullion to the messenger in addition to the amount properly called for by the transaction and as a wagon would certainly be employed to transfer so large an amount, it would be an easy thing to hand out the extra bags of gold trusting to the future for making a proper division of the booty.

For more than a week, the Mint has been watched day and night by detectives who have been employed.

In addition to the regular watchmen but so far as is known, nothing suspicious has been noted.

In the nature of the circumstances, it would not be expected that any discovery would be made at night.

It Is admitted by all who have given the matter consideration, the robbery of the vault could have been accomplished only in the daytime and only by someone who had access to the vault.

That the stealing must have been going on for some time is apparent from the fact that no man could have carried $30,000 out of the place in one lump without detection.

Men accustomed to handle coin recognize the fact that $30,000 is a pretty good load for a man to walk away with.

While it might be possible for a man to conceal $6,000 under his clothing to get away with, six times that much would be next to impossible especially as guards are on duty constantly to watch ail who go In or out and who naturally would note any suspicious circumstances and certainly would halt any person carrying a large amount of coin out of the place.

Superintendent Leach said yesterday that at no time had there been less than $3,000,000 in the cashiers vault for several months and that therefore the theft might have been made at any time while the vault was so crowded without arousing suspicion.

-- end July 5, 1901 article.



MINT OFFICIALS ARE SUSPENDED PENDING INVESTIGATION OF THE PURLOINING OF $30,000 IN GOLD

July 5, 1901

Cashier Cole and Clerk Dimmick Relieved of Responsibilities of Respective Positions While Evidence Is Being Sought That Will Warrant Arrest of a Suspected Federal Employee

Cashier W. K. Cole and Chief Clerk Walter Dimmick of the Mint were relieved yesterday of the duties of their offices, in accordance with instructions received from the Secretary of the Treasury.

Cashier Cole was replaced by Frank A. Pedlar, a trusted clerk of Superintendent Leach, and Dimmick turned over the details of his department to Benjamin W. Day, a computing clerk in the superintendent's office.

Both Cole and Dimmick were on hand at their desks to assist their temporary successors, but the trust formerly reposed in them by the Government was temporarily withdrawn, pending the investigation into the shortage of $30,000 from the cashier's working vault.

The Government officials who are at work on the robbery have narrowed down their investigation to the point where the arrest of a suspected employee may occur at any hour.

Director of the Mint Roberts, Superintendent Leach, and Secret Service Agent Hazen were in close consultation yesterday and examined many of the Mint employees.

The investigation will be continued on the lines that the thief who stole $30,000 from, the cashier's vault is not only an employee of the Mint but is also one in whom the greatest faith has been heretofore reposed.

Suspected Employee "Watched.

A chain of evidence is being gradually woven around the suspected person and a close watch is being kept on his movements.

The slightest attempt to leave the city will be the signal for his arrest by Secret Service Agent Hazen.

The officials who are making the Investigation refuse to give the name of the suspected employee, and all persons connected with the Mint were warned yesterday that they. must keep silent as to the possible identity of the suspected man.

The authority in Washington have notified the officials In this city that the culprit must be brought to Justice and punished for his gross betrayal of the trust reposed in him.

The delay in making the arrest is due to the lack of certain evidence necessary to secure a conviction in the Federal courts.

The Mint was thoroughly searched yesterday by Secret Service Agent Hazen and his assistants.

In the hope that some of the purloined gold might be found hidden away in some nook or corner.

The search, however, was unavailing and the conclusion was reached that the thief had taken his plunder out of the building.

Director of the Mint Roberts, Superintendent Leach and Secret Service Agent Hazen were  quiet in their statements yesterday.

They were willing to talk to a certain length but declined to make any assertions that might furnish a clue to the pair under suspicion.

Dimmick Is Flippant. 

Cole, who alone was supposed to have bad the combination of the vault from which $30,000 in gold was stolen, is deeply concerned over the affair.

Chief Clerk Dimmick. who had access to the cashier's vault, but who denies that he had the combination to the steel door, treats the question of the robbery in a flippant manner and yesterday Joked as to the possibility of his arrest.

Cashier Cole declined to make any statements yesterday, but Dimmick talked freely on the subject.

When Dimmick was asked if he was familiar with the vault combination of Cashier Cole he answered in the negative.

He was then questioned as to the statement made that he assisted Cole to fix the combination when the cashier took office?

"That is a question I decline to answer," said Dimmick. "I will answer it when I appear . before the Judge of the United States District Court."

When asked what he meant by this statement, Dimmick answered:

"Well, I may appear before the court as a witness in this case, or perhaps I may be — what do you call it — yes, the criminal at the bar."

"Do you expect to be arrested, then," was the next query, put to Dimmick.

"It would not surprise me, but I am not worrying," was Dimmick's answer.

Further questions put to Dimmick as to the manner in which the combinations on the cashier's vault worked, elicited the reply that he knew the working of the vault door, but was not acquainted with the combination formed by Cashier Cole.

It was learned yesterday on positive authority that when Cole came as he was requested his predecessor, Dimmick, to show him how the locks on the vault door of the cashier's office worked.

Cole is known to have operated the combination knob while Dimmick stood at the back of the door and arranged the levers and tumblers in the locks.

This information formed the basis for a searching investigation by Secret Service Agent Hazen as to whether Dimmick was well acquainted with the combination of the vault door, which Cole was alone supposed to know.

Superintendent Leach Speaks

Superintendent Leach stated yesterday that he had nothing new to report on the stealing of the $30,000.

"We have counted all the money In the cashier's vault," he said, "and have also counted the contents of the sealed vaults. We are satisfied that the money was stolen and not paid out in error. The question of an error in the books of the Mint is a thing of the past. This money was stolen and stolen by an employee who had the combination to the cashier's vault.

"Cashier Cole alone is the possessor of the combination. I do not know it and a copy of the combination was written out and sealed up by Cole when he came into office and locked up
in the office desk. This was a precaution in case of the illness of the cashier.

"Chief Clerk Dimmick was not supposed to know the combination. The only time he had occasion to go into the office was at the close of business each day. Then he accompanied, the cashier and tallied up the number of sacks of gold.

"The robbery was a. deliberate one. Around the cashier's vault are ranged pigeon holes, each hole being intended for a sack of gold containing $5000. 

"The capacity of the vault is five million dollars, but we have been so crowded that millions were piled up on the floor and on trucks.

"The six stolen sacks were taken out of the pigeon holes. Four sacks were taken from one side of the vault and two from another location. The sacks were taken from holes hidden by trucks on which were piled large quantities of gold coin. In counting the vault nightly, it was impossible to count each pigeon hole.

It was taken for granted that all the pigeon holes were filled with sacks of gold. A combination of events made possible this robbery. I cannot state on whom suspicion rests."

When the Gold Was Stolen.

The authorities are satisfied that the missing gold was stolen between the hours 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. of working days.

Each sack of gold weighs almost twenty pounds, and while it would be possible for one sack : to be carried out of the building,

It would have been impossible for the thief to get away with over 100 pounds weight of yellow coin.

The investigation is therefore proceeding on the line that the six sacks of gold coin were abstracted from the vault at different times.

Cashier Cole has informed the investigating officers that it was his custom to lock the vault of his office each day at 8 p.m.

The time lock for many years has not gone into operation until 6 p.m., and that would give two hours for any person to open the vault, provided he knew the lock combination.

Captain Timothy Fitzpatrick said the "vault man" in the cashier's office is the only man besides Cole and Dimmick who ever entered the steel room.

It was Fitzpatrick's duty to wheel trucks of gold into the vault and to bring gold out when requested by Cole.

The cashier was the only person who had authority to order Fitzpatrick to bring sacks of gold from the vault.

If Cole had reason to leave .his office during the time the vault door was open, no other employee in the office could have entered the vault without Fitzpatrick being cognizant of the act.

Fitzpatrick is an old employee and his duty would have been to stop any person, no matter what his position in the Mint, from entering the vault, unless accompanied by Cashier Cole, or whoever was acting as cashier in Cole's absence.

The time records at the Mint show that Cashier Cole left the building usually at 3:16 p.m., 3:30 p.m., or 3:45 p.m. Occasionally the cashier remained until 4 p.m. when the business of his office required.

Fitzpatrick always left the building shortly after 3 p.m., and. the bookkeepers of the cashier's office remained Sometimes until 4:30 p.m., or even later, according to the amount of work on hand.

The time records of the Mint thus show that there were dozens of opportunities for a person who knew the combination of the cashier's vault to open the steel door, steal a sack of gold and leave the building long before the time lock began its operations on the vault at 5 p.m.

The investigating officials are almost certain that the six sacks of gold were stolen within the past four months.

Early in the year the gold coinage of the Mint commenced to accumulate and four months ago, the pigeon holes in the cashier's working vault were filled. It was for the gold to have been abstracted before that time.

The cashier or superintendent could have entered the vault any, day at the close of business and a single glance around the vault would hare shown if a single sack were missing when millions of dollars in gold coin were piled into the vault and on trucks and stacked many feet high and still other truckloads were left on the carriers it was impossible to see if any of the pigeon holes were vacant.

The thief, familiar with the manner in which the gold was counted, took speedy advantage of the opportunity and began his stealings.

Each sack of gold received by the cashier from the coiner bore a tag number. The tag showed the date of coinage, the weight of gold and the gross weight of contents, bag and lead seal.

In paying out large sums of money the cashier would order Captain Fitzpatrick, the vault man, to take the required sum from the steel room.

No memorandum was made of the tag numbers of the sacks, and it is therefore impossible to find out the numbers of. the stolen sacks of gold.

Amounts paid out, too heavy to be paid over the counter, were piled by the vault man on a truck in the presence of the cashier.

The vault man would wheel the truck to a side door of the Mint, where it was delivered to the payee or via representatives.

Director of the Mint Roberts, who has been in charge of the building for the past week, yesterday removed all the gold from the cashier's working vault and after counting it, sealed the treasure in a large vault.

One million dollars was placed in the working vault and Temporary Cashier Pedlar gave a receipt for the amount.

Pedlar, at the close of business hours, locked the steer doors of the vault and also placed a seal on the door.

Director of the Mint Roberts yesterday sent a request to Washington for assistance in the Investigation of the robbery.

Chief of Secret Service Wilkle immediately replied that he had detailed a special member of his force to assist Secret Service Agent Hazen of the department, who is now at work on the case.

Director Roberts- declined to make any further statements yesterday. He staled that certain, evidence must be withheld until completed to the degree to warrant an arrest.

SOME OF THE PRINCIPALS WHO FIGURE IN THE DISAPPEARANCE OF $30,000 IN GOLD COIN FROM THE CASHIER'S WORKING VAULT IN THE MINT.

--end of July 5th, 1901 article


MINT ROBBERY IS UNSOLVED

 July 7, 1901

Employee Past Records Probed by Secret Service Men.

Efforts Are Made to Trace Disposition of Sacks of Gold.

The robbery of $30,000 in gold coin from the cashier’s vault in the Mint still remains unsolved.

Yesterday’s Investigation helped to strengthen the chain of evidence around a suspected employee, but the direct testimony necessary to warrant a conviction in the Federal courts is still lacking.

Secret Service Agent Hazen is satisfied that the stolen gold was removed; from the Mint building, and he is now engaged in trying to locate the coin.

Hazen and his assistants are tracing the movements of certain Mint employees during the- past six months, and it is hoped that the work will furnish the missing link to the chain of evidence essential for the arrest of the suspected employee.

Mint Director Roberts Superintendent Leach and Secret Service Agent Hazen examined a number of the Mint employees yesterday.

Men and women engaged in various departments of the Mint were closely questioned, and all the employees were warned to maintain silence and answer no questions on the outside.

Summary dismissal will be the fate of any employee who violates the warning.

Superintendent Leach refuses to affirm or deny the truth of the story that three months ago he informed Chief Clerk Dimmick that his services would be no longer required and that he had better look for another position.

”I do not know how that story got out,” said Leach, “and at this time I cannot say whether it is true or not. We are proceeding with our Investigation as to the robbery of $30,000, but I cannot give out anything we have discovered.”

Cashier W. K. Cole and Chief Clerk Walter Dimmick were at their desks yesterday, but the responsibility of their offices rested on Frank A. Pedlar and Benjamin W. Day, respectively.

Pedlar yesterday changed the combination on the cashier’s vault and placed a copy of the combination in a sealed envelope, depositing it with Superintendent Leach.

Dimmick paid little attention yesterday to the warning of Superintendent Leach that he must not talk.

Where other employees, including Cashier Cole, positively declined to answer questions, Dimmick entered into certain explanations.

He denied again that he knew the combination of the cashier’s vault as arranged by Cole, but admitted that he showed Cole how to work the levers and tumblers when Cole came into office two years ago.

Dimmick declined to say whether he fixed the tumblers on the back of the vault door while Cole worked the combination knob on the front of the door.

He also refused to affirm or deny the statement that Superintendent Cole had informed him three months ago to look for another position.

Dimmick knows that he is being watched by Secret Service men, and has the air of a worried man.

Cole, the cashier, who alone was supposed to know the combination of the vault, is attending to his duties, but keeps silent when questioned.

Dimmick’s character has never been questioned, and his favorite amusement was a game of chess at the Union League Club.

He was formerly engaged as an agent and broker in Portland, Oregon. He then went to Santa Barbara, where he married a daughter of Judge Wright and worked as a clerk in the Santa Barbara County National Bank.

Twelve years ago he removed to Almeda County and engaged in the commission business in this city. He was appointed as cashier in the Mint by Superintendent Leach, and held that office until succeeded by W. K. Cole.

W. K. Cole was formerly in the drug business in Martinez. He was appointed cashier in the Mint two years ago, and his character is beyond reproach.

Cole lives with his wife and three young children at 1827 Sacramento street.

Mrs. Cole belonged to the wealthy Fernandez family of Contra Costa County, her father being rated as a millionaire.

From the time Cole became cashier in the Mint he usually spent his evenings at home, an occasional visit being made to the Union League Club after leaving the Mint at 3 p. m.

Yesterday’s investigation by Federal officials was made in the hope of discovering whether it was possible for certain employees of the Mint to have discovered the combination used by Cashier Cole on the door of his working vault.

Cole has stated to the investigators that when he arranged his combination on the vault, Dimmick assisted him by working the levers and tumblers, and that it was possible for Dimmick to have become acquainted with the combination.

Dimmick has admitted that he explained the workings of the levers and tumblers to Cole, but says it was not possible for him to have learned the combination of Cole at the time the system was arranged.

-- end July 7th, 1901 article.



DIMMICK DENIES THAT HE STOLE

August 11, 1901

Secret Service Agents Hazen and Burns Do Good Work.

Confident That They Will Secure a Conviction in the Case.

The United States Secret Service agents and United States Attorney Woodworth announced yesterday that they had a strong case against Walter N. Dimmick, the chief clerk of the Mint, who must stand trial in the United States District Court for the embezzlement of $32,700.

Dimmick was arrested late last Friday night in the Union League Club by Secret Service Agents W. J. Burns and George W. Hazen and was kept by them under surveillance in a hotel.

United States Attorney Woodworth and the agents had a consultation with Commissioner Heacock yesterday morning and decided that the bonds of the prisoner should be fixed at $30,000 on one complaint, $5,000 on another and $1,000 on each of the two remaining complaints, making a total of $37,000.

It was intended that the prisoner should be brought before Commissioner Heacock at noon for the purpose of being properly identified and of having a date set for the preliminary examination, but after the Commissioner had waited half an hour after noon and the prisoner and his captors had not appeared, Judge Heacock adjourned court and went home.

Burns Gives Statement.

The Secret Service men and Mr. Woodworth had another protracted consultation from 2 until after 3 p.m. at the end of which Secret Service Agent Burns made a statement to the representatives of the press to the effect that the matter was now in the hands of the Department of Justice, and that they had nothing to give out except that they had secured sufficient evidence to warrant the conviction of Dimmick on all the charges.

Mr. Burns was sent from Washington, D.C. about three weeks ago to assist Chief Hazen in unearthing the criminal.

He said there was great surprise in the Secret Service Department when it was learned that the local Mint authorities had been investigating the shortage for at least four days before the Secret Service people had been notified.

He was at a loss to account rationally for such shiftiness on the part of the Mint people.

Mr. Burns was frank in admitting that no part of the stolen $30,000 had been recovered, and he was equally frank in stating that the guilt of Dimmick would be proven beyond a doubt.

He denied the reports that Dimmick had made a confession and declared that Dimmick continued to protest that he was innocent.

The evidence against Dimmick was conclusive, he said:

“Dimmick covered up his tracks very well,” continued Agent Burns, “for the money was removed from the vault in installments, but he overreached himself in his cunning. I never saw a thief yet that didn’t leave a track behind him.”

Thinks Money Has Not Been Spent.

The speaker added that there were two very substantial reasons why the prisoner had not been arrested before.

One of those reasons was that all the evidence had not been secured until a day or two before the arrest, and the other reason Mr. Burns preferred to keep locked in his own bosom.

United States Attorney Woodworth expressed confidence that the case against Dimmick was as strong as could be desired. If it had not been so strong, he said, he would not have drawn up the complaints.

Chief Hazen will keep Dimmick in custody until Monday, when he will be turned over to the United States Marshal and taken before Court Commissioner Heacock for arraignment.

The Chief publicly complimented Mr. Burns for the valuable assistance he had rendered in the case.

“All that now remains to be done,” said Chief Hazen, “is to recover the $30,000. We do not believe that it has been spent. Dimmick was too clever and wary to gamble to any noticeable extent and while there are rumors he was mixed up with two or three women, there is no evidence that he expended much money on them.”

-- end August 11th, 1901 article.


UNITED STATES MARSHAL ASSUMES CUSTODY OF WALTER N. DIMMICK

August 13th, 1901

Prisoner's Bonds Are Fixed at $37,000 and He Is at Once Taken to the County Jail --- Another Complaint to Be Filed.

WALTER N. DIMMICK was taken before United States Commissioner Heacock yesterday afternoon by United States Secret Service Agents Hazen and Bums and formally handed over to the custody of United States Marshal John H. Shine.

The warrant of arrest was served by Deputy Marshal Farish. Dimmick was not represented by counsel.

He read the four complaints against him deliberately and carefully, after which Judge Heacock read the complaints, Dimmick interrupting him from time to time to ask that the dates be repeated so that he might jot them down.

The proceedings were conducted on behalf of the Government by United States Attorney Woodworth, but there was not much to do beyond turning over the prisoner to the United States Marshal.

Dimmick appeared perfectly cool and self-possessed during all the proceedings except toward the close, when his hands were observed to tremble.

Chief Hazen sat in front of the prisoner, his eyes burning holes in Dimmick's, all the time seeming to ask, "Where is that money?"

Mr. Burns of Washington. D. C, in a natty blue suit with low cut patent leather shoes and striped stockings, sat behind Dimmick and his eyes were burning holes in the back of the prisoner's head, asking the same question.

Dimmick could not see him, but he could hear his audible clothes and feel his scorching eyes.

On motion of Mr. Woodworth bail was fixed at $30,000 on one charge. $5000 on the second and ?1000 each on the third and fourth, a total of $37,000.

By request of the prisoner the time for the preliminary examination was set for next Monday at 10 a.m., by which time the prisoner said he would have secured an attorney to defend him. After the close of the proceedings he was taken to the County Jail.

Mr. Woodworth will file an additional complaint today charging the prisoner with having collected money from the Mint for lead pipe furnished by the Selby Works and withholding the same. The sum is less than $1000.

-- end of August 13th, 1901 article.



WALTER N. DIMMICK EXAMINATION ON EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES BEGINS

August 24, 1901

The preliminary examination of Walter N. Dimmick, the former chief clerk of the branch Mint in this city, on the charge of embezzling $498.37 on April 7, 1900, was begun before United States Commissioner Hancock yesterday.

This is but one of a series of similar charges brought against Dimmick by the Federal authorities, all of which have a tendency to connect him with the robbery of $30,000 from the Mint vaults several months ago.

Dimmick, pale from his short confinement and nervous from the strain to which he has lately been subjected, came into the stuffy little courtroom in charge of United States Marshal Shine and Deputy United States Marshal Gamble.

He sat near his counsel, George D. Collins, and frequently conferred with him.

United States District Attorney Woodworth conducted the case for the Government.

Superintendent Leach and W. J. Burns, a secret service agent of the government, were present, but took no active part in the proceedings.

W. K. Cole, cashier of the Mint, was the only witness examined during the day.

According to his testimony Dimmick brought to him on the date of the alleged embezzlement bills of the Selby Lead and Smelting Company and other firms aggregating $1,348.50, and received the money for the same from the cashier.

Although somewhat irregular, Cole, at Dimmick’s request, accepted various receipted, bills for the amount, carrying the vouchers as “cash” until April 30, when Dimmick again called on Cole, and told him to “write off all except the bill for $498.37”.

Dimmick put his hand in his pocket and drew out of a sack he carried in the amount of this bill.

“He handed the money over to me.” testified Cole, “saying, ‘there is something I cannot explain about this bill, and if I tried tom you would not understand It.’. Then my bookkeeper entered up the amount of the other bills.”

Cole’s examination at the morning session was very slow, as he had not provided himself with the books of the Mint, but this was remedied at the afternoon session, the most important point brought out for the Government being that at no time during the month of April, 1900, was there any shortage in the funds against which these amounts should have been charged “to have necessitated their being carried from day to day as “cash.”

Cole read off the daily balances in each fund and these were entered in the record.

On cross-examination, Attorney Collins directed his efforts to ascertaining the substance of the conversation between Cole and Dimmick at the time of the monetary transactions.

Cole testified that Dimmick was nervous, and that his hand shook.

About half an hour after he left, Cole claims that he remarked to his bookkeeper, Frank B. Washington, that he did not quite understand what was the reason that Dimmick acted as he did.

“As Dimmick was my superior officer, I did not do anything more.” said Cole, “but sometime later sent Washington to look into Dimmick’s books and see if he could find these entries. He reported that he could not.”

After a long series of questions, in which Cole endeavored to introduce his opinions’ as testimony, Collins succeeded in eliciting from Cole the statement that it was not until seven or eight months later that Cole informed Superintendent Leach of any irregularity.

Cole found Dimmick making copies of Leach’s signature from a letter press copy book, and reported this matter and the previous transaction, to Leach. Cole, started out to tell what Leach said at that time, but was cut off on statutory grounds.

After, a brief re-direct examination, Cole was excused.

Many of the questions propounded by United States District Attorney Woodworth were objected to by Collins, and the basis laid for a technical fight in the event of Dimmick being held to answer.

The examination was adjourned until this morning at 10 o’clock, with the understanding that it will proceed if the court engagements of the District Attorney and Attorney Collins do not interfere.

-- end August 24, 1901 article.

WALTER N. DIMMICK TAKEN TO ALAMEDA COUNTY JAIL

November 27, 1901

Walter N. Dimmick, who has been convicted upon two charges of malfeasance while chief clerk under Superintendent Frank A. Leach of the San Francisco Branch Mint, was brought by United States Deputy Marshal Burnham from the San Francisco County Jail tonight to the Alameda County Jail, where he will remain pending the disposition of his case in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, through which he seeks new trials.

Judge de Haven sentenced Dimmick to two years imprisonment on each charge of which he was convicted, and he is fighting to keep himself from wearing penitentiary stripes.

-- end of November 27th, 1901, article

JURY DECLARES DIMMICK GUILTY

April 4th, 1903

Finds He Stole $30,000 From the United States Mint.

Government Officials Well Pleased With the Result.

After having been out for twenty-two hours, the jury in the case of the United States against Walter N. Dimmick, indicted for stealing $30,000 from the United States Branch Mint in this city, returned into court yesterday morning and rendered a verdict of guilty as charged on the first count of the indictment.

The indictment contained three counts, the first charging: the prisoner with the larceny of the amount named and the second and third counts charging embezzlement.

During the progress of the trial Judge de Haven Instructed the jury not to consider the second and third charges, but to consider only the charge of theft, because if any offense was committed by the prisoner it was theft and not embezzlement.

When the jurors retired to their room at noon last Thursday they took a test ballot and found that they stood eleven for conviction and one for acquittal, H. M. Wooley being the dissenter.

After arguing the case for awhile and failing to overcome Mr. Wooley's opinion, which appeared to them to be based upon wrong premises, they sent down to the court for some of the exhibits in the case and for portions of the testimony to back up their contention that Dimmick and Dimmick only was the thief.

At 5 o'clock they returned into court and stated that they had not agreed and the Judge thereupon ordered them to be taken to a hotel and locked up for the night.

They arose early yesterday morning and succeeded in convincing the dissenting juror that their view of the case was the correct one.

COST OF TRIAL.

The prosecution of Dimmick has cost the Government in round numbers $29,000 and the officers of the Government are well pleased with the outcome.

William J. Burns, United States Secret Service agent, who has had charge of the case ever since the beginning, said yesterday that he had "assisted in the prosecution of many mint thieves, but that he had not met one of them as shrewd and as cool as Dimmick."

United States District Attorney Marshall B. Woodworth and Peter F. Dunne, special counsel for the prosecution, were warmly congratulated on the success of their efforts to bring the guilty to justice.

Said Mr. Woodworth: "This has been a cause celebre, one of the most remarkable cases of circumstantial evidence ever tried in this or any other court. The circumstances, while clearly indicating the guilt of the accused, were of such a character that in the hands of a shrewd and plausible prevaricator as Dimmick has shown himself they could apparently be explained away to the satisfaction of a timid or weak-minded jury. In this case, fortunately, the jury was composed of men of vigorous, healthy intellect and had the courage of .their convictions."

MAXIMUM PENALTY.

Dimmick was ordered to appear for sentence on next Wednesday. The maximum penalty provided by law is imprisonment in the penitentiary for nine years and a fine of $5000.

The first conviction of Dimmick was had in October, 1901, on a charge of presenting a false voucher of the Selby Lead and Smelting Works for $49S. The second conviction was had in November of the same year for failing to deposit about $1300, which he had received to the credit of the Government.

These cases were ably prosecuted by United States Attorney Marshall B. Woodworth, assisted by Denson & Schlesinger.

The first trial on the $30,000 larceny charge was in April, 1902, and resulted in a disagreement, the jury standing seven for conviction.

The second trial on the same charge was in September, 1902, and also resulted in a divided verdict, seven jurors being for acquittal. Each of these trials lasted two weeks.

On the trial just closed the case for the Government was strengthened by the introduction of seven witnesses who testified that when Dimmick was in business for himself,  he was a swindler and thoroughly dishonest.

There were twenty-five witnesses also who swore that the reputation of Watchman Ellis was good, in reply to the attack upon his reputation by some of the witnesses for the defense.

The trial was remarkable for the small number of errors, these not being material to the issue involved. It is not expected that Dimmick's counsel will gain anything by an appeal.

-- end of April 4th, 1903 article.


SEEK PARDON FOR WALTER N. DIMMICK

August 06, 1908

Effort Made for Release From of Former Well Known Cashier of Mint

Destitute Condition of Prisoner's Family Basis of Plea for Clemency

Documents relating to an appeal, for a pardon for Walter N. Dimmick, the former well known conman and assistant cashier of the San Francisco mint, who is serving a nine years sentence in San Quentin for the theft of government funds, were received at the office of the United States district attorney in this city yesterday.

The papers have already been in the hands of the president and were returned here with a request for more details concerning the case and for recommendations from the prosecuting officials who had a hand in securing the conviction.

Dimmick's appeal for official clemency contains the signatures of a large number of influential friends, including Senator Flint, President Wheeler of the University of California, John P. Irish and forty or more well known citizens of Santa Barbara, where Dimmick made his home for a number of years.

Stress is laid upon the circumstance that the convict's wife and children are destitute in dire need of his assistance and that mercy to them demands his release.

It is also pointed out that he spent about, two years in jail prior to his conviction five years ago and has already earned about a year and a half deduction of time for good conduct.

Dimmick was convicted upon three charges in 1903.

The first two were charges of failure to deposit money which came into his hands and presenting a false claim, on each of which he was sentenced to two years.

On the third charge, which was for the theft of $30,000, he was tried three times, the first two trials resulting in disagreements and the last in a conviction.

Schlesinger and Denson were the special prosecutors at the first two trials, the trial which resulted in conviction being prosecuted by Peter F. Dunne.

Dimmick was represented by George D. Collins,. but Collins does not figure in the present attempt that is being made to secure leniency.

The matter will be given immediate, attention by the United States district attorney's office here and the papers returned !to the pardon attorney in Washington in a few days.

-- end August 6th, 1908, article.

The last newspaper reference is the last that I could find.


March 18, 1909

The Insider
 
Recalls an Incident in the Work of Secret Service Operators to Show That Persistent Detective Work Brings Results Even When Based Upon Slender Evidence

Fuss on Streetcar Was Not Profitable

An incident which illustrates clearly that persistency, when applied to detective work, brings results, was related the other day among a number of United States Secret Service Operatives.

It concerned Special Agent William J. Burns, also Harry Moffaft, the well known operative in charge of the local division of the Secret Service.

"Don't. you know that the fellow who keeps after his prey gets him?" remarked Moffatt.

"When the government was trying Walter Dimmick, the thieving mint employee, Billy Burns was working on the case, under orders from Washington. It was an important case in the eyes of the government and the chief of the secret service himself came out to look over the ground.

"George Hazen, who was then in charge of the local office, did not readily accept the theories exploited by Burns, but the latter had the inside track and was determined that his theories should at least be tried out."

Moffatt was turned over to Burns, who sent him to interview every streetcar conductor who had been employed in the Market street railway service. Hazen laughed at this idea, but Burns was convinced that if any person saw Dimmick carry a suitcase away from the mint it was surely the car conductors. 

Moffatt worked hard. He interviewed 300 motormen and conductors. One day he ran across a platformman who was shown a photograph of Dimmick.

"Why, that fellow worked in the mint," said the conductor. "He used to ride on my car often. I had a fuss with him one day because he boarded the car and put his suitcase in the center of the aisle. He talked back to me and I got hot. I grabbed the suitcase and attempted to move it. The man got mad and I dropped the suitcase. He said he would report me, and for reference I put the incident down in my diary. Here it is."

And the conductor produced the memorandum. , "Until this man was found Dimmick stoutly denied that he ever' carried a suitcase. The prosecution contended that in this suitcase Dimmick carried away money from the mint."

-- end of March 18th, 1909, article

Well folks, if you like reading old newspapers like I do - to get a better feel of what the times were really like - then hopefully you enjoyed reading these.

Back when I was working full-time and going to College full-time, since I was working in security those days as a Field Supervisor/Investigator for Burns International Security, the company that William J. Burns started, I majored in Criminal Justice/Administration of Justice.

For my degree, as any student knows, I had to write term-papers. Just so happens my Evidence Class Professor was a retired FBI agent who studied the 1901 SF Mint heist while he was attending the FBI academy back in the 1940s.

Knowing how fond I am of American history in general, but particularly the Old West, he assigned me the assignment of researching the 1901 SF Mint heist.

Obviously, in those days, there was no such thing as the Internet. All of my research came from going to San Francisco and Alameda County Court records and old newspapers trying to ferret out what took place.

All in all, without going into the transcripts of the trails which have probably now been digitized, most of what the public knows comes from the old newspaper articles above.

Of course, it is possible that I missed one or two, but with what I posted - we can get a gist of what took place.

Walter N. Dimmick began working at the mint in 1898 and by 1901 was trusted with the keys to the vaults – until an audit revealed a $30,000 shortage of 6 bags of $20 Double Eagle which were freshly minted coins from gold that had just arrived from the Alaskan Gold Rush.

The Mint recognized that only someone with keys to the vault and free access to the building would have been able to remove that many heavy coins without being discovered.

Dimmick immediately became the prime suspect.

Officials noted that Dimmick was the last one to count the bags of coins each night before the vaults were closed. Because of that fact, he was the last person to see the missing gold coins.

Dimmick was arrested and since he had already been caught practicing how to forge the Superintendent’s name, taking money from the pay envelopes of other Mint employees, and stealing other government funds in his care.

After three trials, and nearly a month in the courtroom during the last trial, he was finally convicted of stealing the $30,000 in $20 gold double eagle coins and two other charges.

Dimmick was sentenced to a total of nine years at the San Quentin prison in California.

After spending 2 years in county jail and another 5 years in prison, Dimmick requested a pardon on the grounds that his family was in need.

I could not find whether that pardon was granted or not, or whether or not Walter Dimmick simply disappeared after prison and lived well on what would have been about $600,000 today.

I read in one article on the Internet that he died so after getting out of prison, but I've never verified that.
So how did he do it?

Well, since he stole only $20 gold Double Eagles, he only needed 1,500 coins. If he stole the $30,000 in $5s, $10s, and $20s, then he would have had to steal a lot more than just 1,500 coins.

In those days, there was no such things as back-ground checks for those people being hired - as most folks who study a little bit about the Old West, a man who is sheriff could be wanted in another somewhere else.

fact is, back then, they simply did not have the technology that we have today to check on people like Dimmick to find out if he had a criminal past.

We now know that he was a swindler in Southern California before relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area, but how were they to know back then unless someone stumbled upon him an recognized him - then let someone know.

As for getting the money out? In those days, employees didn't have to go through metal detectors or having their bags searched when coming and going. 
It is because of that fact that I don't believe he stole all six bags at once.

I really believe Dimmick instead stole maybe a half-bag, or maybe a single bag of the $20 gold Doubles Eagles one at a time.

A half of a bag would have weighted in at about 10 pounds, a full-bag about twenty pounds, not much bigger than small bag of salt would certainly fit in a briefcase that wasn't being searched as he walked out each day.

That's just how I see it.
 
Tom Correa




2 comments:

  1. Dimmick did it. No doubts here.-Californian historian, resident of Bay Area and gold country, coin collector. Just have to find the trail.

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  2. Fascinating subject. Thanks for posting all of this. As to whether or not Dimmick did it or not is hard to say without knowing what happened to him after he went to prison. Since the money has never been recovered, we have to assume it's long gone. I can't put much faith into his conviction though, since the first 2 juries were hung, and we was convicted in the 3rd trial only because of witnesses testified to prior bad acts, that were not relevant to the charge of larceny. They would not be allowed into a trial today, but of course most of those precedence hadn't been set yet in 1904. I really wish there was more research on this subject, as a new bay area resident I'm fascinated with the diverse history here.

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Thank you for your comment.