Canon City – Convict #6606 and the Mysterious J.J. Moore

April 15, 2019 at 9:06 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Who was J.J. Moore?  While his name is obscure today, newspaper reports from early 1915 connect him to Jack Boyle’s most famous literary creation.  The February 6, 1915 edition of Colorado’s The Loveland Daily Herald even identified Moore as “the Blackie of magazine and convict fame.”  It went on to mention Moore’s 1914 stint in Canon City Penitentiary (at the same time Jack Boyle was incarcerated there), as well as his servitude on the Fall River road gang.  Since Boyle later claimed that he had based Boston Blackie on a real-life underworld figure, is it possible that inmate J.J. Moore was his inspiration for the character?

Based on the Herald’s information, the idea is certainly tempting.  And subsequent news items paint Moore as quite the dubious character.  The Herald reported that, shortly after Moore’s release from the state’s custody, writer Rufus Steele accused him of “going back to his old habits.”  Scant days later, The San Francisco Chronicle revealed that Moore had repaid Steele with “two black eyes, sundry other bruises, and another dent in his reputation.”  Then, in early March the Dayton Daily News reported that Moore had been taken into custody at the order of Federal District Attorney Francis M. Wilson, and would be “arraigned on Monday on a charge of violating the Mann white slave act.”  Quite the rough customer, indeed.

However, no matter how appealing the words of The Loveland Daily Herald may make the hypothesis that J.J. Moore was the “real” Boston Blackie, there’s one major flaw in the theory.  A February 21, 1915 item in The Kansas City Star makes short work of the idea, with the comment that “J.J. Moore is the author of the Boston Blackie stories … under the pen name of ‘Convict 6606’.”  The San Francisco Chronicle was even more to the point in their February 11, 1915 issue, stating “The J.J. Moore referred to … is John A. Boyle or Jack Boyle, formerly a newspaper man …” 

So J.J. Moore was not Boston Blackie, but Jack Boyle.  How Boyle came to be living in Colorado under an assumed name is unknown, but hardly surprising.  When he had been arrested for forgery in Utah half a decade earlier professing the name W.R. Ellis, the July 7, 1910 edition of The Salt Lake Tribune identified him as “J.A. Boyle, alias at least a dozen other names …”  In fact, most printed references to Boyle circa 1914 – 15 primarily refer to him as Moore (suggesting that he may have actually served his time in Canon City Penitentiary under the false name).  Even while his initial Boston Blackie stories were appearing in The American Magazine, newspapers were identifying him in the manner of the final paragraph in the following piece from The Wichita Weekly Eagle (June 5, 1914):

Wichita Eagle 6-5-14

Regardless of what alias he was employing, this report from the Weekly Eagle provides a couple of major pieces to the puzzle of Jack Boyle’s early life.  Not only does it document how he is purported to have overcome his opium addiction (no mean feat), but it also establishes when he entered the confines of Canon City Penitentiary.  If the June 1914 article’s contention that he “was sent from Denver eight months ago” is accurate, then Jack Boyle started his sentence with the state of Colorado around October 1913.  And Boston Blackie was conceived within those prison walls sometime during that eight-month period.  What Jack was up to in the years between his August 1911 release from San Quentin and his Denver arrest in October 1913 is still anyone’s guess, but little by little the gaps in his life are narrowing.

 JBF – 4/15/19

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