Gentleman Gerry and the upright jerker

Gerald Chapman (1887 – 1926), called the “Count of Gramercy Park”, and “The Gentleman Bandit” was an American criminal who spoke with a near impeccable English accent.

image found here

After being convicted on a bank robbery charge and transferred from Sing Sing, he first became acquainted with ‘Dutch’ Anderson, a swindler and ‘gentleman’ crook, while imprisoned in Auburn State Prison in 1908. Following both men’s paroles in 1919, they conducted successful bootlegging operations in Toledo, Miami and New York City.

image found here

They also managed to amass $100,000 through confidence trickery. Chapman rented an apartment in exclusive Gramercy Park and acquired a pretty English “wife” named Betty, who was as much a born lady as he was a born gentleman.

more photos of old New York here

In 1921, along with another former Auburn inmate, Charles Loeber, Chapman and Anderson began committing armed robberies. On October 24, the three men forced a U.S. Mail truck to stop at gunpoint on Leonard St, successfully taking $2.4 million in cash, bonds and jewelry. 

mail truck found here

While the police were searching frantically for leads, Chapman was back at 12 Gramercy Park, throwing dinner parties for his wealthy neighbours. In another robbery at an American Express office, the gang added a further $70,000 to their capital.

Eluding capture for more than eight months, Chapman and Anderson were eventually arrested after being betrayed by Loeber. While Chapman sat with a detective in the Federal Building on Broadway, he feigned some kind of attack, slumping in his chair and gasping for water. As the detective left the room, Chapman, with hands shackled, rushed out a window and ran along a narrow cornice. He was recaptured but the escape attempt made headlines and he was described as a modern day Robin Hood.

image found here

In an Atlanta penitentiary, faced with a 25 year sentence, Chapman swore he would escape. He stole small pieces of cord from the workshops and braided them into a rope. From stolen cutlery he made a file and a crude hook. When he complained of stomach pains he was admitted to hospital for observation. There he persuaded a “trusty” in the same room to join him in an escape attempt.

more prison weapons found here

They filed through the bars, severed an electric cable (plunging the prison into darkness) then used a rope of bed sheets to get to the ground and over the wall. Two days later they were tracked by bloodhounds and recaptured. Chapman was shot twice as he tried to run away and was transferred to a civilian hospital. While he was there Betty came to visit him and managed to smuggle in a gun. He used it to force an intern to hand over his white coat and walked out of the hospital to freedom once more.

NOT this Betty (found here)

Chapman and Anderson joined forces again and drove east in a stolen car, committing burglaries as they went. They were foiled in an attempt to rob a department store when police arrived and blocked their exit. Shots were fired and Chapman managed to escape once more.

On 17 January 1925, Chapman’s luck ran out and he was arrested leaving the house of a doctor friend and extradited to Connecticut. During the six-day murder trial in Hartford, crowds gathered due to his status as one of the “top 10” criminals in America. The jury deliberated for 11 hours, after which Chapman was found guilty and eventually sentenced to hang. He proclaimed his innocence to the end, asking in his final appeal for “justice, not mercy”. Chapman was executed by the upright jerker** on April 6, 1926.

**The upright jerker was an execution method and device intermittently used in the United States during the 19th and early 20th century. Intended to replace hangings, the upright jerker did not see widespread use.

As in a hanging, a cord would be wrapped around the neck of the condemned. However, rather than dropping down through a trapdoor, the condemned would be violently jerked into the air by means of a system of weights and pulleys. The objective of this execution method was to provide a swift death by breaking the condemned’s neck.

Published in: on January 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm  Comments (48)  
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48 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Such is one’s fate if you “hang” around with the wrong kind of people. They had it made. Why couldn’t they quit while the were “ahead”?

    • They “banked” on getting away with it

  2. bloody hell

    • An ugly way to die

  3. HMm not a nice way to go whatever you have done

    • My choice would be to die in my sleep

  4. What does it say about human nature that we have invented so many gruesome ways of killing each other(?)

    • that we’re inherently evil?

  5. And here I thought the titled referred to something entirely different.
    Imagine that. 😉

    Oh, BTW, I nominated you for a bloggie.Good luck.

    • Thanks for that!!

  6. upright jerker….i’ve been called worse.

    • Downright wanker? 😉

  7. “…a system of weights and pulleys”?

    Hmmm… i think i might have a few spare pulleys in the garage. and those free weights i should be using for exercise would do quite nicely…

    • You are one of the few women i know who would have a few spare pulleys in her garage daisyfae

      • As a native of the Nutmeg State, I cannot say I’m the least bit proud of their novel choice of method for execution of this talented thief.

  8. A smarter person would have quit on the $2.8 mill win. It was greed wot done him in!

  9. I love a good escape story. Thanks for sharing this one; I wasn’t familiar with it

  10. It was a good escape story until the end.

  11. Patent application numbers for killing machines… sickening. Why is that more civilised than heading outside with a few rocks?

  12. Chapman had quite the on-the-lam chops.

  13. Also, is he related to Christopher Walken?

  14. The whole idea of capital punishment sickens me.

  15. An American with an impeccable English accent? *looks very doubtful*

  16. Sounds like a guy who just got way too cocky.

  17. If I were a vibrator designer, the Upright Jerker would make a fine name for my invention.

  18. Glad you clarified the upright jerker thing…I thought I was doing it wrong. I guess with a career like that the ending was pretty inevitable…

  19. Sometimes you’re an upright jerker, other times you’re a recumbent jerker. Whatever gets the job done.

    • Haha…. too funny RF

  20. My English accent is less than impeccable, but I don’t let that stop me.
    Also… $2.4 million from a mail truck in 1921 sounds very impressive (I only get bills in the mail).

  21. Hanged is not that bad a death as it is relatively quick I would think. If sentenced to the electric chair, it takes a long time to die.

    • It can sometimes take up to 20 minutes to die by hanging – not quick enough for me

  22. What’s the big deal, I am an American who can speak impeccable English too..


  23. I love hearing about new ways to kill people,.
    Happy New Year sweetie xxx

    • We’re going about this all back-arsewards…someone that clever and tenacious and spirited should have been rewarded, not jerked upwards (which is a dreadful method of dispatch.)
      Just look at the morons who are given titles and medals!
      Oh well, it is good Gimcrack fodder, I suppose. Happity 2012 to everyone here!

  24. birds of a feather flock together

  25. Live and learn, thank you for bringing this to my attention. As I see it, Chapman did not kill, but maybe I simply overread or missed something. The “jerker” was seemingly not fully engeneered.
    Gerry’s not by chance a forefather of the other Chapman?

    • If you click the wiki link at the beginning of the post, you’ll see he murdered a police officer during one of the robberies.

  26. Myra, only slightly OT…it’s still Friday over here. Hint, hint. 😉

    • I’ve had a busy weekend. didn’t read this until Sunday…..

  27. If I ever become a criminal I most definitely am going to acquire a British accent.

  28. Just cruisin’ by to say hi my lovely MWAH x

    • Dolce! you have such a special place in my heart, cruise by any time xx

  29. I can see why the upright jerker was not widespread… it sounds terrible!

  30. I thought the rope-of-bedsheets trick was something done only in cartoons! (PS – the prison weapons link is broken)

    • Damn! It was a really good link to a site called Zoot Patrol……

  31. Fascinating.. an “upright jerker.” Hmmm. Hook a couple of them together and you’d have a “quarterer.” There’s a pay per view special in the making there, somewhere.

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