The Eye that Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency

By Frank Morn | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION Thief-takers and Thief-makers

IT WAS MAY 24th, 1725, when they hung Jonathan Wild from Tyburn Tree. He was still drugged and nauseous after an unsuccessful suicide attempt in jail. The sensational trial, which found him guilty of falsely assuming public authority, heading a syndicate of thieves, and smuggling stolen goods was nothing compared to the public execution. The recorders of the Newgate Calendar, a gossipy publication dedicated to the last actions and words of the condemned, were astonished at the thousands who attended the spectacle.

It is not easy to express with what roughness he was treated by the mob, not only as he went to the tree but even when he was at it. Instead of those signs of pity which they generally show when common criminals are going to execution, they reviled and cursed him, and peltered him with dirt and stones continually. 1

Jonathan Wild, notorious thief-taker of London was to die. Londoners could love a thief, but not a thief-taker turned thief. Daniel Defoe, who probably attended Wild's execution and reported it for the Applebee's Journal, wrote

On Monday, about the usual Time, Jonathan Wild was executed at Tyburn. Never was there seen so prodigious a Concourse of People before, not even upon the most popular Occassion of that Nature. The famous Jack Sheppard had a tolerable Number to attend his Exit; but no more to be compared to the present, than a Regiment to an Army, and, which is very remarkable, in all that innumerable Crowd, there was not one

-1-

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