"…I noticed two young men standing by the side
window of a druggist’s shop, in such a way
as to screen themselves from the light."
I would not be surprised if the deceptive methods of these two "passers of base coins" are still being used by modern-day criminals for ditching other types of evidence. From the 1895 book Twenty-Five Years of Detective Life by Jerome Caminada, a police detective in Manchester, England.
"Smashers" or Base Coin "Pitchers" or Tenderers
One evening after leaving the Detective Office, about half-past nine, I walked along Deansgate with a brother officer. It was during Easter week; and those who have any remembrance of old Knott Mill Fair will know the kind of pandemonium into which the neighbourhood was turned during that festival. Deansgate was lined with nut and gingerbread stalls, "try your weight" and "strength" machines, "throwing the ring " for walking sticks or knives, lotteries for various articles, stalls with "all on the board one penny," ballad singers, with travelling auctioneers here and there, plying their calling, making the scene a busy one, and ?lling the air with a perfect Babel of sounds.
After bidding my brother officer good-night, I proceeded along Deansgate, and had not gone far before I noticed two young men standing by the side window of a druggist’s shop, in such a way as to screen themselves from the light. It seemed to me that there was something suspicious about their manner; so, taking up a position between the house and shop door of a grocer’s shop, in the shadow of the buildings, whilst the street was ablaze with gas and naphtha lamps, I set myself to watch them.
I had not to wait long before I saw something pass from one to the other. The man who had received the article then went across the street and made a purchase at a gingerbread stall. Some altercation took place between the buyer and the seller, which was evidently watched with great interest by the companion of the former from the opposite side of the street, and after he had left the stall he joined him. Just at this time an officer in uniform was coming in the direction in which they were going, and I seized them both, calling upon the officer to assist me.
We were not above one hundred and ?fty yards from the Knott Mill Police Station. As I noticed the one I had hold of fumbling with his brace (suspender) as we went alonghe said it had come unfastenedI called to the officer to watch the other prisoner and see that he did not drop anything.
At the Police Station we searched the prisoners, and in the vest pocket of the one who was held by the officer we found a base (counterfeit) coin, which he admitted he had offered in payment for the purchase he made at the stall, but explained that he had picked it up in the street and did not know it was a bad one.
Knowing that these passers of base coin worked in couplesone holding the "swag," or bag containing the stock, whilst the "smasher," or "pitcher," took one at a time, so that in ease of detection no more than one could be found upon him, and thus make his conviction difficult, unless other cases could be proved against himand seeing from the manner of the prisoners that there was something which I had not found out, I again searched them both thoroughly; but in vain.
Determined, however, not to be beaten, I began to strip them, when I found attached to the brace of one of them a string which had been fastened in such a way that it could be slipped loose on the slightest pull. By some means or other the string had become twisted and knotted, and therefore did not act. Tracing this string down the leg of the prisoner’s trousers, I found at the end a bag containing a very large number of base coins, all wrapped carefully in tissue paper and ready for tendering. Of course the object was plain. Had the string not become knotted, but had worked properly, the bag would have fallen down the prisoner’s trousers into the street, probably unperceived. Thus he might have escaped the serious charge of having in his possession a quantity of base coin, and conviction would have been made more difficult against the other.
Both prisoners were sent for trial at the Assizes, where they were found guilty, on the 27th of July, 1874, and each sentenced to ?ve years’ penal servitude and three years’ police supervision, having been previously convicted of a similar offense.
– Twenty-five years of detective life by Jerome Caminada, Google Books>>
– Jerome Caminada, Wikipedia>>
Note that the two young men pictured were actually criminals from same the time period in the UK. Their photos and many others can be found at Criminals of 1871-1873, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, Flickr>>