York Doctors, Lawyers Fell for Scam
We often hear about new schemes the unscrupulous come up with to part the unwary from their cash. The York Daily newspaper reported an elaborate one of 100 years ago.
The January 31, 1908 article reads: “CHIEF WHITE ARRESTS FAKE BIOGRAPHY MAN.
R. N. Crawley, of Philadelphia, who came to York several months ago, representing that he was about to publish a book of biographies of prominent professional and business men, was arrested yesterday afternoon by Chief of Detectives Charles S. White on charges of false pretence.”
Crawley had received advance payments of several hundred dollars from these citizens to have their photos and biographies in “this mythical book.” He told them the publisher of the Dallastown Advocate would be printing it. The publisher had actually rejected the proposal several months before.
That detail didn’t stop Crawley, who also told the unsuspecting men that “Judge Wanner would write a history of the York county bar to grace the publication.” The Judge didn’t know anything about it.
Neither did Swords Bros., to whom Crawley sent the men to have their photos taken. When Dr. Cartwright [one of Crawley’s victims] stopped by at the photo studio for his photo session, suspicions arose.
The article goes on to say that some of the most prominent lawyers and at least one judge had already paid to be in the book. This was the era of the big county histories, such as Gibson’s (1886) and Prowell’s (1907) histories of York County, both of which featured prominent white males. Another such proposed book, therefore, doesn’t sound unreasonable.
You would think Crawley would have taken the money and ran before the doctors and lawyers started going in to have their photos taken. His scheme may have been more ingenious than some, but Crawley doesn’t seem any smarter than your average thief.