Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917

Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917
William Richardson, Alice Josephine Richardson Dakin, Robert Worthington Richardson, Harry Bogart Richardson

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mild-mannered Clerk or Secret Service Agent ... The Rest of the Story!

My mother had fond memories of playing with her grandparents who lived next door.  Her grandfather, Harry Bogart Richardson, told her and her sister stories of his working as a secret service agent in Denver trying to capture people who were shaving gold off of gold coins.  Her grandfather died when she was 15, so she had lots of years to hear those stories.

Was that creative story telling to amuse his granddaughters or was he really a secret service agent?

When he died in 1932 on a vacation visiting relatives in California, his death certificate says he was an insurance agent.  His obituary tells of his church membership and his founding membership (and first president) of the local tennis club.  His son's birth certificate (1890) lists his occupation as clerk.  In the US census for Oak Park IL he is listed as a grocery clerk (1880), dealer in stocks & bonds (1900), broker in a bank (1910), insurance broker (1920), insurance salesman (1930).  Sounds like a pretty ordinary daily life for a middle class family man.  No adventures tracking down crooks in Denver.

The one thing that didn't quite fit to the story of all those years in Oak Park ILLINOIS was that his son graduated from East High School in DENVER on 10 June 1909.  My mother said the family story was that her father was sent to school in Denver because they were afraid of TB and wanted a healthier climate for him.  The school has only Robert W enrolled (not his younger brother) and only one parent was listed as contact (his father).  Robert (Bobbie) enrolled in September 1907.

A few years ago I decided to search for any record of his serving in the Secret Service.  I had to file a Freedom of Information Act request with Homeland Security and send proof that he had died (couldn't send birth certificate since he was born in Canada before vital records).  The paperwork that came back told me that he WAS a Secret Service agent in Denver from 1907-1909, he worked for $4/day and then got a raise to $5/day.  There are probably records in NARA in Washington DC on the daily records for "Operative Richardson" but I have to go to DC to see them.

Yes he was an agent in Denver, BUT, was he capturing people debasing gold coins?

I recently discovered there were some revealing newspaper articles on

Monday 3 February 1908, Denver Post (Denver CO), page 5

  Harry B Richardson has been appoint-
ed assistant to Rowland K. Goddard,
government secret service agent in Den-
ver.  Mr. Richardson has been working
under L. C. Wheeler on land fraud in-
vestigations for some time, having been
temporarily transferred to the depart-

ment of justice for that purpose.”

So Harry was working in Denver and was moved to the Department of Justice (investigating counterfeiting might be part of the job).

Saturday 4 April 1908, Denver Post (Denver CO), page 4

Spied on Salt Lake Man’s Lab-
oratory and Saw Him at 
His Work.
About $1 of Gold Taken Out
of Each Coin in Wholesale
   Eben J. Gregory of Salt Lake City was
arrest last Tuesday at his home for
“sweating” gold coins after the officers
had watched his operations from the out-
side for some time and determined ex-
actly what he was doing.  Harry B.
Richardson and W. W. Fraser, govern-
ment secret service men from Denver,
succeeded in locating Gregory after the
$5 and $10 light coins had been de-

   Gregory has a wife and three children.
When he first went to Salt Lake City
he was a clerk for a mining company;
later he opened a cigar store.  Two years
ago he was forced  to close his store
because a saloon man leased the build-
ing.  When he had to vacate he hung up
placards which bore evidence of his in-
dignation, because he had to leave, one
of them reading, “Give an honest man a
chance to make an honest dollar.”
   Then he began to call himself a mining
   About five weeks ago it was found that
something was wrong with the gold coins
circulated about Salt Lake City.  The
chief of police notified the Denver branch
of the secret service department adn the
two men were sent out to find the guilty
person. Gregory had been pasing light
coins daily in big business houses of Salt

Lake City.
   The secret service men watched him
very closely and his methods were re-
vealed.  Nitriuc and muriatic acids were
used, and the face of the gold coin was
given an acid bath so that it looked as
if it had been badly worn.  The other
side was left in good condition.  When
passing the coins Gregory put the perfect
side of the coin up, and the side that
had been tampered with was not no-
   The man bought postoffice orders in
his wife’s maiden name and cashed them
at the central office, demanding gold in
payment.  He secured $600 in gold from
the postoffice each month.  He sent to 
other cities for gold coins that had not
been tampered with, and when he secured
enough gold he would cast it in a bat
and send it to the Denver mint.  He was
paid $385.34 for the last shipment March
22.  The gold was so pure that it indi-
cated that it was coin gold and aroused 
   While Gregory was getting his shoes
shined the secret service men arrested
him after they had seen him pass three
of the coins. He was placed in jail, and
the men found upon visiting his home
that his laboratory was a most complete
one for his work, and chemists say
could have been used for no other pur-
pose than for the “sweating” of money.
   While studying Gregory’s methods the
officers learned that he seldom left his
house before noon.  He spent the entire
afternoon passing three or four of these
coins, and after dinner at night he would
go to this laboratory and the light would 
burn for an hour.  After working on the
coins Gregory would go downtown and
stay until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.
He was a “well-known many about town”
and liberal. Whenever he has been of 
late the officers were shadowing him.
   Gregory said he was a broker, but he
had no office and there was nothing to
show that he was engaged in any active
business,  Banks and other large business
houses usually careful about accepting
gold coins took his money without ques-

Great details on what an agent does investigating and how the criminal worked -- even ideas for someone to follow if he wanted to go into the debasing coin business.  Here's the followup article:

Friday 10 April 1908, Denver Post (Denver CO), page 12

Gregory Made is Money Easi-
ly Until Uncle Sam Locked 
Him Up.
   Eben J Gregory,  the Salt Lake coin
“sweater” who was doing a land office
business reducing the weight of gold
money and sending the surplus to the
Denver mint when captured by Secret
Service Officers Harry B. Richardson and
W. W. Fraser of Denver, after some

clever detective work, comes from a
famous old English family.  He left his 
native country at the instigation of the
Mormons and joined their colony at Salt
Lake about twelve years ago.
   Gregory is only 32 years of age, but
in two years became on of the most
expert “sweaters” of coin in the country.
He had large bank accounts in Salt Lake
City, was known everywhere as a pros-
perous “mining” promoter, although he
never dealt in mines, and his wife and
three children were highly esteemed.
   Gregory was satisfied with from $10 to 
$25 profit each day, and that was about
his average.  He usually bought a cigar
in the morning with his first $5 or $10
gold piece and received silver for the 
change for the reduced gold money he
had given to the dealer.
  After he secured three or four easy
marks he would take the silver to the
bank and have it exchanged for more
gold.  He had a regular daily routine
that varied but little.
   Gregory lived in a double house and
he had his money-reducing plant in the
attic.  The owner of the house lived on 
the other side, but she never dared go
into the attic for fear that she would
be overcome with the acid fumes. 
   Gregory had no accomplices, but it is
believed that his wife knew at all times
that he was conducting an illegal busi-
ness.  The arrest of Gregory put away
the last money swindlers who have
been exceedingly busy in the last few
months in what is known as the Denver

"Coin sweating" sounds like a profitable business.  Here's another crook, not caught:

Tuesday, 23 June 1908, Denver Rock Mountain News (Denver CO), page 7
accessed on GenealogyBank on 20 February 2014

  GOLDEN, Colo.  June 22.--Several Gold-
en business men were well stocked up to-
day with counterfeit dollars, giving in ex-
change a small amount of merchandize
and real money.   A neatly attired strang-
er of gentlemanly bearing visited all the
cigar stores and thirst quenching par-
lors and paid for small purchases with
bright new dollars.  In this way he raked
in a pocket full  of small change in two
hours and boarded an electric car for
Denver about the time one of his victims
discovered the dollars were bogus.
   Sheriff Whipple telephone the descrip-
tion of the man to the Denver police but
it was later learned that he left the car
at Lakeside.  Secret Service Agent Harry
Richardson came up this evening to in-
vestigate and pronounced the counter-
feit coins the most perfect he had ever
seen.  It is believed that the man who 
worked Golden was one of the gang now
engaged in systematically flooding Colo-

rado with spurious money.”

Less help in the Denver office, more work for Harry and his partner:

Sunday 8 November 1908, Denver Post (Denver CO), page 22

  Thomas J. Callaghan, who has been
connected with the Denver district of the
government secret service for upwards
of a year, has received word that his re-
quest for a transfer to the New York
district has been granted, and he will
leave for his new field of work Dec. 1.
He was one of the secret service officers
who was down in the mine at Hesperus
when Joseph A. Walker was killed and
who had to be rescued by a rope after 
one of the party had scaled the walls
and reached the top.
  Callaghan is one of the youngest men
in the service and developed rapidly into 
one of the best as well.
   The change will greatly increase the
work of the two remaining secret service
agents, Rowland K. Goddard and Harry
Richardson, as Callaghan’s place will

not be filled, for a time at least.”

Another crook, this guy was minting his own coins:

Thursday 10 December 1908, Denver Rocky Mountain News (Denver CO), page 7

   Timothy Duffy of 3351 Kalmath street
was arrested yesterday by Secret Service
Agents Rowland K. Goddard and Harry
Richardson, on a charge of making and
passing counterfeit coins.  A number of
molds and counterfeit coins, said to be
the property of Duffy, were seized at the
same time.
   The prisoner declares that he was fur-
nished with the molds by other men in
Denver, and the secret service officials
are now looking for them. He will be
given a hearing before United States Com-
missioner Hinsdale this week, and if un-
able to give bond will be placed in jail to
await the action of the federal grand


Counterfeiting sounds like a profitable second job even for the well-known in the community (as Gregory above)

Monday, 15 February 1909. Denver Post (Denver CO), page 2

He Is Prominent in Railroad
Brotherhoods and a Glove
Waiter Positively Identifies Him
As Man Who Passed
   Frances E. Searway, 330 Nineteenth ave-
nue, glove manufacturer, prominent in the
Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, a lo-
cal Republican politician of note and a
member o a well known Denver family,
was arrested today by Government Secret
Service Agents Goddard and Richardson
on the charge of passing counterfeit ten

and twenty dollar gold coins.
  His arrest will create a sensation in
railroad circles, as he was one of the
best known railroad men in the state.
He is the legistlative representative of
lodge 446 of the trainmen.  An occupant of
the apartment house were Searway lives 
accidentally discovered a twenty-dollar
gold piece.  Investigating he found sev-
eral others.  Instead of keeping the money
he put it back and reported the matter
to Harry Richardson, the assistant chief
operative of the Denver district of the
secret service.
   The next night all of the money was
gone and suspicion fell on Searway.  Rich-
ardson followed up the clew and with
Operative Goddard secured what they be-
lieved was a complete identification and
evidence of passing on the part of Sear-
way.  The day after the coins were miss-
ing from their hiding place two of them
were passed in Denver.
  Charles Stringer, the night man at
Harry’s restaurant, 616 Seventeenth street,
took one of the coins, a $20 counterfeit
gold piece.  He says that Searway came
into his place at 9 o’clock at night, or-
dered a cup of coffee, sized up the crowd,
conclluded that it was too small and went 

  Stringer says he came back at 11 o’clock
the same night, Feb. 6, when the place 
was crowded, ordered a 25 cent meal and
gave the counterfeit gold piece in pay-
ment, getting silver in change.   Stringer
says he is positive that Searway is the
guilty person, as he had seen him in the
place several times before that.
  The next day, it is alleged that Searway
went into the Grant grocer between the
hours of 6 and 8 o’clock, when the place 
was crowded, bought two dozen eggs and
passed a counterfeit $10 piece.  The clerk
who waited on the passer of the sparious
money also says he is positive that it was
   The counterfeits are fairly good and are
made of antimony and tin or [?]
metal.  The twenties were dated [?] and 
the tens 1906.”

I guess those stories of adventures tracking down criminals out west were true.  The mild-mannered clerk took a couple years off and played Secret Service Agent while his son finished high school!  Who knew!  The census gave no clue about his other career.

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©2014 Erica Dakin Voolich

1 comment:

  1. How fun to read about an ancestor in the newspaper repeatedly and for successful work!