I subscribe to World Explorer Ancestry.com which gives me full access to everything Ancestry has available, including Fold3.com, the military records site, and Newspapers.com, which includes unlimited access to more than 50 million pages from more than 1800 newspapers across the United States with billions of articles, obituaries, and announcements that may contain stories of my ancestors.
No this is not an advertisement or endorsement, but you can easily search Newspapers.com for family members, dates, events, etc., much like you search ancestry.com and that where my interests lie. In one of my browsing moments with no specific intent in mind, I came across the following article from the Washington Post Newspaper, dated January 18, 1920. The article’s title A Girl Jekyll and Hyde Who Embezzled $110,000 initially caught my eye, but when I started reading it, the writer’s literary and storytelling style impressed me–you might say, a novelette. I apologize for the article being longer than I would usually post. But, I found myself juxtaposing this 1920’s article and writing style to that of today’s newspapers’ writers–nearly 100 years later. The differences in style as I see them quite naturally evolved as our society grew, emphasis on proper grammar changed, and how we now choose to divvy up our time for reading and prioritizing our limited time in general. What hasn’t changed in all these years seems to be people’s greed and their willingness to risk all they have for social influence and material possessions in spite of their God-given talents and abilities, real family and friends.
The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia): Sunday, January 18, 1920
A GIRL JEKYLL AND HYDE WHO EMBEZZLED $110,000
An Amazing But True Story of Petite and Pretty Chief Accountant Position of Trust Who Took Funds to Keep Her Private Business Going so That She Might Live in Luxury.
“Most extraordinary case I have ever known, ” was the comment of the court at a session of Manchester assizes held the other day in England, when Tracy Mary Brady, a petite accountant for a shipbroker was arraigned, charged with larceny, falsifications of accounts and fraudulent conversion of monies, the property of her employers, and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment as a punishment for her sin and folly.
“A female Jekyll and Hyde,” they said, as the weeping girl, wearing some of the fine clothes and sparkling jewels that had been the cause of her downfall, was led away to her cell.
For Mary lived a full life. To all outward appearances, as she came and went about her daily work in the brokerage offices, where she was employed, she was an honest working girl, smart and capable, but living simply on the stipend that was paid to her in a weekly envelope. Little did her employer know that when she went home in the afternoon that it was a handsome home in Victoria Park, where she lived splendidly in affluence and riches. And not until the trial did they know that she was the proprietress of a jewelry shop that served the elite of Manchester.
All England gasped when the story of her frenzied finances came out.
“In all my long legal experience I have never met up with a case that might have paralleled this one,” remarked the girl’s lawyer as she sat bowed in humiliation before the bar of justice. The Manchester paper said that if her story had been the subject of a novel by the popular author it would have been looked upon as improbable and ridiculous.
Mary Brady was a poor girl who dreamed, like Cinderella, of a life in a gorgeous palace, where she can frolic in ease and luxury against an environment: of social splendor and Royal gaiety, indulging her every wish and for fineries and frivolities out of an inexhaustible treasury provided to her by an indulgent Prince Charming.
But alas! When she woke to find no gallant prince to whisk her off to the grand ball and the Elysian fields of riches, she set off alone to satisfy her heart’s desire is honestly – and counted not the cost of the dizzy game she play until her house of cards came tumbling down upon her slender shoulders and buried her in shame.
Played for High Stakes
Instead, she wished and wished, kept on wishing, until her desires so obsessed her that she determined to have all the creature comforts and luxuries of life, regardless of how they came. Unashamed, emboldened by her first “successes” she went on and on, trampling all convention, disregarding the laws and unscrupulously playing for high stakes with loaded dice. And then came the fall!
Mary was born of humble and honest parentage in Ireland. Her father was a county inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary. He died when Mary was 14 years old, leaving a will and a large family. The widow had some means either reason of a portion of an estate left her by a relative. Mary, who in early school days was known as a smart little thing with a head for business and organization, was sent to the Ursuline convent in Sligo, and later continued her education in a Franciscan and convent at Nottingham where she was a novice.
By and by she went into the world to earn her own living. To Liverpool, she went. My, what a big city! It was a very first trip to a large city, and she loved it. The handsomely dressed men and women, the taxicabs, and limousines, the theaters and operas, the elegant mansions where the rich land in full and plenty – all her life she had wanted these things. Why was she denied them? She walked in the streets of Liverpool looking in the shop windows at the lovely gowns and wraps, smelling the rich foods as the flavors drifted to her through the windows of the gilded palaces, what the gay throng of pleasure seekers and being these well-dressed women as they tripped lightly from their cars on the arms of their smiling consorts.
But all of these things were denied her. She had not a single friend in all this city throng. She had no funds except the meager pittance that was paid her every Saturday night, and most of it went to pay her board and lodging, former laundry and the few clothes she was able to buy. She had only her position as a sales girl with Lever Brothers – that in her dreams as she sat alone in her tiny hall room apartment, on one of Liverpool’s small side streets.
How Can She Raise Herself?
And then came the thought: why should she not have all these things? She was pretty, she was smart, she could hold her own among all the other city girls, even though she was a quiet country Irish girl. But how? How is she to mount the latter, rung by rung, until she could command is pretty things for which her soul was longing? How can she raise herself so that she could mingle on an equal footing with these people of another social stratum? What she could dawdle away while waiting for her Prince Charming, or was she to hew her way to the top by her own resources?
She would do it. Ambition inflamed in her and she applied herself to her work at Lever Brothers, and so conscientiously and faithfully that presently she was rewarded with a promotion and an increase in salary. By and by came another increase, for Mary, as was mentioned before, was a woman with extraordinary business capacity. Shrewd, quick-witted and courteous to her employers and their patrons, she soon became an invaluable asset to the firm. They reciprocated by elevating her to a position of trust all where she was given the handling of large sums of money. Her private life was above reproach: she was industrious, painstaking and careful of her conduct in and out of business hours. Mary was working toward a definite goal and was leaving no stone unturned that would hinder her drive toward success.
After a time she heard about a new position in Manchester and filed an application. Her references were good, and when the Manchester firm came to look her up they found that Mary was all and more than they had hoped for. So she won: to the hustling, bustling city of Manchester from Liverpool, and resumed again her diligent search for the Golden Fleece.
Now she had an important position. She was engaged in the offices of a thriving shipowners and brokerage company. The war was on, and every resource of the nation was combined in getting out every scrap of tonnage possible. Everyone was busy about his or her job in this big establishment. The contract had to be turned out, no matter what the cost. Shipbuilders were being paid good prices, with bonuses for quick delivery, and the officials distributed some of their profits in the way of increased salaries among their employees.
A Trusted Employee
Mary Brady was caught in this wave of prosperity. She had an important position. She was an expert accountant and cashier: through her pants test all the funds of the company. The company’s books were under her supervision, and she kept them in “apple pie order”. Mary was a trusted employee – capable, efficient and always on the job. She was rewarded proportionately.
And now came for temptation. Why should she not live like other people of means? Her salary had increased to such an amount that she could afford to live in better style. So the girl took apartments in the fashionable Midland hotel. There she met folks of a different class from those she had ever known before. Better food, more sumptuous living quarters, style, smart people, music, dancing, service – these were the things that appealed to her.
She revealed in this new life. It was wine to her spirits. Pretty and well-dressed now, she was an attractive figure. And she had a pleasing personality that readily won over many new friends. She was in the environment where she could meet them. She was living up to the limit of her income and still, she had not enough. She must develop other resources for revenue. But where? And how? She was a salaried girl with no independent means. She must have more money or give up the life she was living. And she loved it so!
There, in the office, she was handling large sums of money, the payroll and petty cash that approximated £50,000 a year. She was tempted to take some of it. Only a loan, she figured. But how could she repay it? How could she take that which did not belong to her without getting an accounting for it? Has she any right to lend herself out of the company’s funds? She wrestled with the problem.
Eventually came a time when she must do something. Her bills at Midland were greater than she could pay. She was using so much of her funds for the daily expenses of her new life that when these bills were presented she was unable to meet them. How could she make more money?
And then came an inspiration. She had it! She would go into business for herself! She would “borrow” money from her employers without telling them about it and later pay it back of the profits she would make. Forthwith began her speculations. They were small at first and she deftly covered them up in the books by false entries. As time went on they grew larger and larger, but always the girl was able to hide her defalcations from the company officials through expert manipulations of her accounts. In time she had gathered a considerable sum – enough to start her own business.
Got the Goods on the Margin
Now she went out and engaged herself a little shop in the middle of the Manchester shopping district. With the funds, she had appropriated she was able to establish credit and get goods on a margin. She kept right on at her position in the shipyard and employed a manager, a woman who she knew and trusted. To her intimate friends, she confided the information that she was in business and directed them to her shop. They went and bought her goods. Others patronize the little jewel shop and it leaped overnight into a flourishing business
.By day Mary worked faithfully in the offices of the shipbrokers.
After hours she looked over her jewelry shop with her manager for an hour or so and then gave the rest of the evening over to the life she loved – social splendor. Money! It came to her last. She had “borrowed” from her employer large amounts, but she would pay back very shortly. Her business was prospering.
After time married took a house of her own in Victoria Park, a palatial little place, where she had entertained the friends she had met at the Midland and elsewhere. Clothes, expensive clothes, furs, elegant furniture, and house decorations – all these came her way. Curious people might have wondered how Mary maintained herself so luxuriously on her shipyard salary, but her friends knew about the jewelry shop. They patted her on the back and told her she was the smartest woman in the world. They were proud of such an energetic and resourceful little woman.
There were no romances in this life of Mary’s – saved one. There was never a suggestion of immorality of any kind or shape. Mary had a sweetheart in the service and she was true to him. Perhaps she might have married one of the firm’s junior partners if she had loved him or set her For him. But Mary loved another. Instead, she introduced one of her sisters to the junior partner of the firm and forthwith became engaged to be married.
For two years Mary Brady lived this life of shipbuilders’ accountant and jewelry shopkeeper. Money, money, money – how she loved it! It was also fascinating – this business of a young country girl engaged in business for herself. She was still “borrowing” from the firm; but wasn’t her business growing, and wouldn’t she soon be able to repay it without anyone being any the wiser?
All the time she was going a faster pace. It cost considerable to maintain the house in Victoria Park and entertain her friends and style. The prices of everything were constantly increasing. Nor could she received from the position into which she had climbed. She must make a bold front of it and keep things going, no matter what the cost. Even though there came a time when she had to go to a money lender to temporarily bolster her business, Mary kept serenely on her way, confident that she could pull through.
She Turned to Cards
Eventually, she found herself face to face with a desperate situation. The pace was faster than she could stand, the demands greater than her resources. She must go slow on the office defalcations in order that she might keep her tracks well covered up. Auditing her jewelry shop accounts, she found that she had asked and received as much credit as she reasonably could without inviting undue comment. She can go no further in either direction. But something must be done.
Then she turned to cards. She had learned to play bridge and other games of chance with the pasteboards. Adroit and cool in business, she applied the same methods to her card playing. Sometimes she won and applied her earnings to her business. More often she lost – lost the money that was needed to keep up the jewelry shop. Deeper and deeper she became enmeshed. Recklessly she plunged on and on, trying to recoup her losses and thinking all the time the tide would turn and she would work her way out of the dismal mess.
And then came the crash! One day an officer of the law stepped into the office where Mary was working as a cashier at a salary of £4 a week. He tapped her on her shoulder and said you are under arrest. She was led away, white with fear, but trying to smile and telling her friends that always come out right in the end.
The scene changes to the courtroom. The newspapers have told the whole story of Mary Brady and her dual life; all about the jewelry shop and the Palace in Victoria Park. The courtroom is crowded as the cashier is led before the presiding justice. All is hushed silence as the prosecuting attorney recites that Mary Brady was a single woman and had been for seven or eight years employed by Messrs. Thoresen as a cashier at a salary of £4 a week. The practices of that she was accused were said to have begun in 1917 and the frauds discovered in July 1919. Mary pleads “guilty.” To the police officer who had arrested her she said, “I cannot deny having had the money, but I can get friends to help me repay it.” She gave the amount as £10,000.
“Is that correct?” asks the court. “The sum was largely in excess of that amount,” comes the reply.
The official receiver in bankruptcy, when called by Mary’s attorney, testifies, saying he is administering her estate as trustee and that the state has realized £8,400. And then follows a running fire of questions and answers.
“Has she given you every assistance?” “Yes.”
“Is she a woman of exceptional business capacity?” “I should think so.”
“Had the prisoner’s employers put in a proof, and if so, for how much?” “£22,000.”
What She Told the Police
“According to the police, the prisoner when arrested said she had lost the money by gambling and cards, except when she had spent on the dress. Went to the estate consist of?” “The estate consisted of dresses, furs, jewelry, furniture, a house in Victoria Park, and a jewelry business.”
“How did she pay for the business?” “In cash. It cost £2,000.”
“Is there anything to show how she paid for these things, the furs, the jewelry and so on?” “I do not think she made any secret of the fact that she paid for them out of money referred to in the prosecution.
“Did she spend largely on attire?” “Undoubtedly.”
“On expensive furs?” “Yes, on beautiful furs.”
“Was the business successful?” “I should say it was moderately successful. She would probably make from £50 to £600 a year.”
“Was she there during the day?” “She looked after the business, but had a manageress.”
“Was the business partly paid for by a loan from a money lender of £1,500?” “It is difficult to say.”
“Was there a loan from a money lender?” “Yes.”
It was suggested further by the receiver that Mary Brady must have lost thousands of pounds at cards played at the Midland Hotel.
“With whom did she play?” “I cannot tell you. I shall have to investigate these matters very closely in bankruptcy in view of this trial. I thought it was fairer not to conduct the bankruptcy proceedings until this was over.”
Addressing the court for the defense, Mary Brady’s attorney sketched the whole story of her life, from her birth in Ireland up to the present proceedings, omitting no detail. He told of her life and the Midland Hotel, where she had met the class of people who encouraged her to spend and live high. He told how she conceived the idea of starting a business for herself and how her defalcations began in the office where she handled so much money. They were trifling at first; then larger sums were taken to cover up the small. Finally, she was swamped by the drain on her and began playing cards for sums which she could not afford to lose. She lost and did not require much imagination to show where the money came from.
Fought Against Disaster
She had filed a petition in bankruptcy and had made an exhaustive return in an effort to stave off disaster. The costs, in this case, were being paid for by a married sister. His client was absolutely without a penny and was ruined. There was no suggestion of immorality. It was no small punishment that she had to face so much publicly in the public journals and there had been attacks on her which were without foundation, pleaded the attorney for the defense.
An officer who was engaged to marry her still desired to make her his wife notwithstanding any sentence his Lordship might pass. The prisoner came of an excellent family and one of her sisters was engaged to marry a partner in the prosecuting firm.
The justice in passing sentence said it was a most unhappy case. It caused him as a Judge deep personal grief.
“Your great charm of manner,” he went on, “and your opportunities have led to one thing only – your appearance in the criminal dock of this assize. I am sure that no judge feels more deeply than myself the promptings of pity and sympathy. On the other hand, I realize always the duty of a judge to administer the law, to inflict proper punishment and to do that which will be a warning to others. In the present case, it is impossible to overlook the serious nature of your offense.
“You were trusted and you violated your trust. You stole the property that you undertook to guard. I cannot see any element of remorse. I hope this case will warn all men and women that integrity of character is the only basis for lasting happiness. Your serious and prolonged dishonesty calls for substantial punishment, and the least sentence I can pass upon your set of 12 months’ imprisonment.”
They led Mary Brady away to her cell – away to a dreary dungeon so unlike the beautiful house in Victoria Park and totally bereft of all the fine appointments and fine friends who flattered her in the days of her “prosperity.”