N.p. [St. Louis?]: [Mrs. J.D. Burton], 1912. First Edition. 16mo. 2 blank ff., 32 pp., 2 blank ff. With reproductions of 5 photographs in the text. Original red printed wrappers bearing title, stapled as issued. Minor wear along spine fold, at one time folded vertically in half. In excellent state. Very good. Item #3384
FASCINATING ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE OF AN AUCTIONEER, CONFIDENCE MAN, GRAFTER, AND MURDER, active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The narrative gives the modern reader an insightful view into the ubiquity of "low-level" crime throughout the United States at that time, much of which was never reported to police, and was never recorded in contemporary newspaper accounts.
James Hanahan (a.k.a. Hanehan or Henahan) was an Irish emigrant who killed two men in Tennessee and another in Kansas City. He changed his name to James D. Burton and went on the lam for 50 years. "Weary of constantly evading arrest and conscience-stricken in his old age," he made a full confession of his crimes to an editor at the Sunday Post-Dispatch Magazine. He is described as "a little old man, modest, soft-spoken, almost shrinking in his demeanor." Much of the text is written in the first-person, interspersed with media reports about Hanehan's crimes. He gives accounts of his flights from justice, which took him variously to Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Texas, and Oklahoma. Mostly he is involved with grafting under the noses of the local police, whom he paid for protection, and he does not hesitate to identify these individuals and his many accomplices. Hanehan was in and out of jail for half a century, but was never identify as the bespoke murderer, despite his picture appearing regularly in rogues galleries. At the end of the text is an affidavit which states that Hanehan will not be tried for the murders he committed 50 years hence.
We have seen mention of an edition published in the same year in Chicago by Lindon Bros. This name appears nowhere on our pamphlet, and if the two editions are indeed discrete their priority has never been explained. However, on the inside of the front wrapper is the copyright statement "Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1912, by Mrs. J.D. Burton" (sic!)