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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San Francisco – 1909: The Portola Club

November 15, 2016 at 9:45 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Jack Boyle’s life between the years of 1908 and 1914 is a bit of a mystery.  Despite having published an autobiographical essay in 1914 — “A Modern Opium Eater” — Boyle gave relatively few specifics regarding the years of his drug addiction.  The essay relates a few anecdotes, and mentions multiple jail terms, but is curiously stingy with specific places and dates.  In truth, the period between his fall from grace as a journalist and the publication of his early efforts in fiction six years later under the pseudonym No. 6606 is largely a blank.

However, bits and pieces of Boyle’s “lost” years do occasionally surface.  In “A Modern Opium Eater,” Jack shares this tidbit:  “After I abandoned newspaper work I dabbled in many semi-legitimate businesses.  I occupied myself with prize-fight promotion, gambling clubs and stock tricks, all verging on swindles …”  While certainly indicative of the downward spiral at the verge of which he was upon, this admission is still rather lacking in specifics.  But it ties in nicely with the following item from the April 24, 1909 edition of The San Francisco Call:

sf-call-4-24-09

Of course, it’s difficult to prove definitively that the J.A. Boyle who served as the founding president of the Portola Club was the same disgraced journalist, John A. “Jack” Boyle.  But another aspect of the Call‘s article is very suggestive.  It identifies the club’s secretary as George W. Schilling … and when he had been sporting editor for The San Francisco Examiner, one of Jack Boyle’s employees was George W. Schilling.  (For further info on Boyle and Schilling, see the August 17, 2015 entry to this blog, “The Misadventures of Jack Boyle – circa 1907”.)   

So in the Spring of 1909, Jack Boyle was the president of a sporting club.  This seems a fairly wholesome pursuit for a shady opium addict … until you reflect on Boyle’s comment that he dabbled in prize-fight promotions which bordered on swindles.  It would seem that part of the reason the Portola Club came into being was to facilitate Jack Boyle’s schemes connected to the sport of boxing.

JBF  11/15/16

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The Case of the Pummeled Publisher

August 23, 2016 at 10:53 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Given the notoriety Jack Boyle garnered in the journalistic world after falling victim to opium addiction, it is often forgotten that he was once a very respected newsman in San Francisco.  Here is a rare glimpse from the days of J.A. Boyle, up-and-coming reporter, as seen in the April 24, 1902 edition of The San Francisco Call.

SF Call 4-24-1902

The case under discussion here is that of Fred “Young Dutchy” Hansted, accused of assaulting Thomas Garrett, publisher of The San Francisco Post, in broad daylight on a city street.  Why Jack Boyle was in court to relay word that Garrett was unable to leave the hospital is unclear.  He is known to have worked for The Post later in the decade, but is thought to have been employed by The San Francisco Examiner in 1902.  On the other hand, Jack is known to have worked for a number of newspapers in that area between 1900 and 1909, often moving back and forth between them.  So it’s entirely possible that he worked for both The Post and The Examiner at various points in 1902.  Regardless, it is odd that he is cited here as addressing the court, rather than attending the proceedings as part of his duties covering the crime beat.

For that matter, the entire circumstance surrounding the assault trial seems odd.  Early reports indicated that Fred Hansted witnessed the assault on Thomas Garrett, and rushed to the publisher’s defense.  After Hansted helped him to safety, Garrett was then reported to insist that the police detain him so the publisher could file charges against him.  After months of court appearances and continuances, a jury ultimately acquitted Hansted in October 1902.  Whether or not the true assailant was ever caught, and why Garrett tried to lay the blame on Hansted, seems now to be lost to history.  Though the idea was dismissed at the time, at least one contemporary report of the incident conjectured that the entire affair was a publicity stunt to increase exposure for The Post.  So even during his days as a legitimate journalist, Jack Boyle was involved (at least peripherally) in a questionable situation or two.

JBF  8/24/16

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