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Mills & Gibb

From the autobiographical notes of Captain Charles Albertson regarding the time he served in the New York City Police Department.

MILLS & GIBB

When on patrol in the McDougal Street precinct as Captain, one forenoon I stopped into the pawn office of Rosenberg and Kalmus on the north side of Canal near Thompson Street. While there an American District messenger boy came in with two large paste board boxes containing lace curtains and Mr. Kalmus gave him eighty dollars and a ticket. While t his was going on, I secured the messenger’s number from his cap. I trailed him up Canal to Church Street where there was a well dressed man about thirty years of age waiting for him. He handed him the money and received a bill in return. I then followed the man up Broadway to the store of Mills and Gibbs on the north east corner of Grand Street. I was close to him but when I got in the store he had vanished. I asked the man at the door, Mr. Robinson, where the man who came in had gone. He said he was the city salesman in the curtain department. Mills and Gibbs had the largest lace, white goods and notion store in the city and probably in the world at the time. It extended one hundred feet on Broadway through to Crosby Street six or seven floors. Mr. Mills, an American, spent his entire time in England in charge of the manufacturing and business there.

Mr. Gibb was an Englishman and in sole control of the immense business here. I went down in the basement and had a good look at my man. I came up and informed Mr. Robinson that I wanted to see the head of the house. He escorted me up one flight to Mr. Gibb’s office. I introduced myself and explained w hat had occurred and expressed an opinion that there was something wrong. He informed me in a very pompous and offensive way that they had been in business many years and their methods were so complete and perfect that in all that time they never had required the services of the police and did not want my services now. I was vexed, so much so that he could not help but know it. I bid him good day and went down stairs with Mr. Robinson.

While we were talking a message came for him to hunt me up and go to the pawn office with me and investigate the matter. We found that they had loaned two thousand dollars on goods worth about six or eight thousand and within two months. We took some of the goods up to Mr. Gibb’s office. They had the firm’s cost and price mark on. He sent down for the salesman and when Mr. Gibb repeated my statement he said, turning to me, “You are a damn liar.” I whirled him around with his back against the wall and searched him finding a large lot of pawn tickets including the one of this date. He was done for. I said, “Tell me how you worked the scheme.” He replied, “I tied up the goods wanted, took them up to the office and had a bill made to Ms. Jones at the Windsor Hotel, took them down to the door, showed Mr. Robinson the bill and he checked them out. They were sent to the pawn shop.

Later I went up to the office and notified the bookkeeper that Mrs. Jones had not taken the curtains and returned the bill.” When I requested to know how he managed the stock book, he said they had no stock book. Mr. Gibb said, “If I decide to have him arrested, I will let you know.” He was not arrested. His mother who was a wealthy real estate owner on the upper east side paid about eight thousand dollars for money loaned and interest due on goods he had stolen and pawned. He had to obtain a new position. I was quite content as I had discovered a flaw in Mr. Gibb’s perfect business methods.

The above is not all of the tale, for soon after, Harry Rosenberg, brother-in-law of Mr. Kalmus, an employee of the firm came to the station and stated that they had a lot of jewelry pawned under the same name as the curtains but all brought by a messenger boy. I went down to the loan office and examined the jewelry. It was a splendid collection. In the top cover of one of the small boxes was the name of a Mrs.______ (?), Carlstadt, New Jersey. I wrote a short letter on plain paper to the name and address requesting her to call at the street number of my station signing my name. This as it turned out was an error.

Soon after, when sitting in my office window a private carriage stopped in front and a good looking and well-dressed woman got out, addressed me through the window and wished to know where she would find a certain number in McDougal Street. I said this is the number, she then said, “I am looking for a man by the name of Albertson.” She had my letter in her hand. I said, “I am the man.” Right there she started in. I will not attempt to repeat what she said for it would not sound well in print. She called me a gentleman several times but the word not was so close to it that it did not sound well. I tried several times to say something but no use. When she was tired and ready to go, I said, “If you have lost any jewelry let me know.”

The next day I received the sweetest note of apology requesting to know when she could see me at some place other than the station as she did not think it was a proper place for a respectable woman to go. I wrote her that I always made my appointments with women at my station so that I might retain my respectability and that she must come there and if I was not in, wait or call again. She arrived within two or three days. When I explained the case to her, she denied knowing the city salesman. I said if that is true perhaps he is a professional burglar and I was inclined to think that such was the case. Then she stated that she did remember his being at her house as the guest of her husband. He was a prominent wholesale merchant in Mercer Street in my precinct. Then she collapsed entirely.

The same old story, another man in the case. I then said to her, “Tell me the truth. I can and will help you for I will then know how to do it.” Her jewels were kept at her home in a safe from which her friend took them while visiting her. I sent to the loan office and had the jewelry brought to the station where she identified all but three or four articles. I fear the handsome salesman was not true to her. He may have had other married ladies. I made arrangements with the pawnbroker so that she could take out part at a time so as not compromise herself. The other pieces were eventually redeemed. Our salesman was only one of thousands who thieves because he played the races, the most dangerous of all gambling.

MILLS & GIBB AGAIN

Soon after the event narrated above, I was placed in command of the Mulberry Street station for the second time as Captain. Mills and Gibb were located in this precinct. One morning an employee reported that there was some trouble there. I hastened down and found that a mysterious larceny had occurred. Down underneath the sidewalk at Grand Street and Broadway was a very large vault with old style doors and a key lock. This key was very large and was kept in a small drawer in the office on the second floor. This vault was used for storing the most valuable goods and a good sized heavy tin cash box fastened with a hasp and small padlock. They did their banking in a bank next door north on Broadway and deposited every day before three, retaining sufficient money for change. On the night before, the assistant cashier placed the box containing a little over one thousand dollars in the vault locked the door at six, placed the key in the drawer as usual and alleged he locked this door.

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