INCENDIARISM AS A FINE ART.
WHILE incendiarism is undoubtedly responsible for a large proportion of fires that occur, it is seldom that we find it reduced to a fine art and followed as a profitable profession. Usually, incendiarism for profit is resorted to by men who find their business falling away, and to save themselves, set fire to their premises to recover the insurance. But the following account of the operations of a man in Brooklyn, who made a business of setting fire to saloons, we condense from an account which we find in one of our insurance exchanges. The proprietor of a Brooklyn saloon, who was arrested for having set fire to his saloon and dwelling, made a confession which revealed a phase of crime startling in its details, as well as in the turpitude of the spirit pervading it! It seems that this saloonist had a neighbor who, through frequent visits at his place, became somewhat familiar with his condition, and finally ascertained from him that he was not doing a profitable business and things were not going to his mind. When the intimacy had proceeded far enough to make negotiations safe, this friend said to him that he could get up a scheme to help him out of all his difficulties, and asked him if he was insured. The man said he was. “ Yes,” said the other, “ I know your brother was insured, but was the policy transferred to you when you bought out the place.” He replied that it was, but the other was not satisfied and demanded to see the policy; it was shown him, and he found the transfer regular and pronounced the document all right. An arrangement was then effected by which he was to have the stock of liquors on hand and some of the furniture, in addition to a money consideration for burning the place; but the owner was not sufficiently active in his preparations to suit the professional, and one day the latter asked him to take a ride, and took him to a distant part of the city where he showed him a very handsome saloon and asked him how he liked it; of course, his admiration was unbounded. “ Now,” said the professional, “ let us go inside and see how it looks there.” They went in, and found everything in the most elegant order, took two or three drinks, and pronounced the establishment first-class in every respect. As they went away, the professional said to his friend: “ That saloon belongs to my two brothers; formerly they ran two saloons, but I burned one of them and this is the result of that speculation—I can fix you up just as handsomely as I did them.” The trade was finally consummated, and the place was burned ; but the insurance adjusters were too sharp for them and both men were arrested, when the owner made an extended confession, of which the above is a brief abstract.
In the course of the case it came out that this professional had burned numerous buildings and boasted about his work, saying that at one time he fired a five-story tenement building filled with people in New York, and why should he hesitate to burn a threestory saloon which had no families in it ? It further developed that several attempts had been made to arrest him and to get him indicted by the grand jury, but such was the strong political influence wielded by his friends, relatives and associates, who did a good deal of voting for local office-seekers, that it had been found impracticable to get him into limbo; and it is freely prophesied now, that notwithstanding the direct testimony of his victim, that he will get off scot free. His side of the story is that he was merely fooling with this saloonist, who, thinking him in earnest and getting tired of waiting for him, had finally set his own place on fire; but his criminal career and all the probabilities of the case point in the opposite direction, and make it highly probable that the other side of the story is true.
It seems almost incredible that a wretch of this sort should take pride in his work, and take a prospective customer out in his buggy to look at the results of a former job, just as an architect would take one to look at a building he had erected, or an artist invite his friend to admire his best achievements.