[D0111AAH], Letter from Pinkerton's National Detective Agency to Thomas Alva Edison, May 17th, 1901


View document with UniversalViewer   → View document on Archive.org  → Re-use this digital object via a IIIF manifest


[D0111AAH], Letter from Pinkerton's National Detective Agency to Thomas Alva Edison, May 17th, 1901




Folder/Volume ID


Microfilm ID


Document ID



Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University


Thos A, Edison, Esq.,
Llewelyn Park,
Orange, N.J.
Dear Sir:-
Asst. Supt. Geo. S. Dougherty reports:-
Wednesday, May 15th, 1901.
On Wednesday, May 15th Mr. H.E. Dick in Mr. Thos. A. Edison's employ, called at the Agency, and requested that a representative be for the purpose of inquiring into anonymous letters received by Mr. Edison. At noon today I proceeded to Llewellyn Park where I had a conference with Mr. Edison and Mr. Dick, and they exhibited to me an envelope and letter, the envelope as which was a United States two cent stamped one showed the following mailing stamps:-
Front of envelope: Orange, N.J. May 14, 10 a.m, 1901
Back of envelope: West Orange, N.J. May 14, 10 a.m. 1901 received.
The address on the envelope was as follows:
"Mr. Thos A. Edison LLEWELLYN PARK, West Orange, N.J." and in the lower left hand corner the word "PERSONAL."
The address so on the envelope appears to have been out from some newspaper, about minion or brevier size and is in capitals or lower newspaper, from the advertising headline and is in black letter caps, with a rule over the top. The address cut from the newspaper appears to have to have been pasted over an address cut from the newspaper appears to have been pasted over an address which had been written on this envelope with a typewriter or made with a rubber stamp. On removing the printed address of Mr. Edison I found that it was in all probability cut from some newspaper, as I observed parts of a large advertising type and part of a cut and on the back of the word "Personal" appears the following:
"12 room residence part of Orange's Park"
This is probably an advertisement that had appeared in a Newark or Orange newspaper offering real estate for sale in Llewelyn Park. Underneath Mr. Edison's address on this envelope appears the address of "Hon Judge Kreugor, Newark, N.J." This appears to have been printed on with rubber type of some kind, written with a very poor typewriter, or with a rubber stamp in which names and addresses can be set up from individual rubber type This envelope contained a letter reading as follows "Sir, If you don't put $25,000 gold for next Thur night at 12.30 at foot of sign Hahne & Co in Central & Essex Aves Orange N.J. We will kidnap your child. If you notify the Police. We shall do you same. We are doing to Mr. Bianchi but you be worse yet. Remember."
This letter is evidently printed with a rubber stamp in which single rubber types can be set up, and is very poorly executed, and would appear to be printed on common bag or wrapping paper. The paper is about 4 1/2 inches long by 4 1/4 inches wide.
I was informed by Mr. Edison and Mr. Dick that Bianchi referred to in this letter was the proprietor of a wine and liquor store in Orange; that he is an Italian and very little is known concerning him. I therefore, requested that Bianchi be immediately sent for I had a very interesting interview with him and obtained from him the following information:-
Vittoria Bianchi, aged 43 years, born in Milan, Italy. At present proprietor of the Bianchi Wine and Liquor Co., 261 Main St., Orange, N.J. About 18 years ago he married Gina Vigano, also of Milan. They have the following children: Dina age 18 years, Ovidio age 15 years, Itala between 5 and 6 years.
About 1884 Bianchi, his wife and one child arrived in the United States. Bianchi is a hatter by trade and he obtained employment with Hayer & Marcey, Scott Street, Newark, N.J. and subsequently worked for a time at his trade with Cummings & Matthews in Orange Valley.
In 1889 he engaged in the liquor business, wholesale and retail at 27 Market St., Newark, N.J. Here he was fairly prosperous and eventually purchased some property in Pierson's Alley. About 1894 or 1895 his cousin Achille Pirolla of 319 Market St., Newark, N.J. who was also in the wholesale and retail liquor business borrowed from Bianchi $5000, in addition to which he borrowed, on Bianchi's recommendation $3000 from Joe Dughi, a wholesale fruit dealer, now deceased, and $2000 from Peter Zazzali, a retail fruit dealer, Market and Broad St. After obtaining this money Pirola fled from the United States to Europe. Bianchi at this time was also engaged in the banking business, and the Italians, who had deposited with Bianchi their savings, on hearing that Pirola had fled, demanded their money from Bianchi, which he promptly paid, informing me that he had mortgaged his property in Pierson's Alley, which property has since been sold for the mortgage. ($4500) which was held by the German Nat'l Bank of Newark, N.J.
Dughi and Zazzali pressed Bianchi very closely for their money which they had loaned to Pirola. This was finally arranged by Bianchi paying to the German National Bank the accrued interest on the $2000 and $3000 notes. About 1895 both of these creditors were called upon by the German National Bank to pay the amounts of these notes, which they did and immediately proceeded against Bianchi and obtained a judgement, but Bianchi did not have anything with which to satisfy this judgment. Bianchi told me that at this time he did not have any money at all; that he was greatly in debt, and that he borrowed $10 with which to go to Orange, N.J.
Arriving in Orange in 1896 or 1897 Bianchi stopped for a time with a friend, and finally saw an opportunity to get the wholesale and retail wine store at 261 Main St., the license of which was controlled by Gastro Alexander, a Hebrew who is a wholesale dealer in liquors with an office at 99 Water St. New York City. Bianchi then rented the store, 261 Main St., agreeing to pay for it on the installment plan. Business was conducted under the name of the "Bianchi Wine & Liquor Co." but actually in the name of Dina Bianchi, who gave Vittoria Bianchi, the power of attorney. At the present time Bianchi owes the following:
To heirs of Joseph Dughi $3000
To Peter Zazzali $2000
To Gestro Alexnader $5000 or $6000
To A. Marshall & Co., New York City $1600
In addition to the above he also owns a number of small bills. He pays $55 per month for the rental of the store. He also rents a house in which he and his family reside at 134 Day St.
Bianchi states that during the first week in April, 1900 he received a letter from kidnappers in which they requested him to place $600 in a grave marked "LE COMPTE" in the St. Marks Cemetery, Orange on the first Saturday night in April at 12:30 o'clock midnight. If he did not do this the kidnappers threatened that his child would be fully dealt with. Mr. Bianchi cannot describe very minutely this letter; say that it terrorized him so much that he has a very poor recollection of what it looked like; that upon the receipt of this letter he did not consult anyone about it; that he usually consults his wife about this matter, as he claims he did not want to worry her. He did not show the letter to anyone. He subsequently destroyed this letter but he cannot advise me where he destroyed it. He says he did not take any action to have the kidnappers apprehended, at this time, as he was afraid it would cost him more than twice the $600. On the first Saturday night in April, 1900 at 12:30 Midnight, as requested, he went to St. Marks Cemetery with $600 in denominations of 50's, 20's 10's, 5's and 1's. He wrapped this money up in a newspaper, then wrapped ordinary wrapping paper around it, and placed it in a paper bag. The kidnappers described to him about where he could find the grave, which they stated was one third way from Main Street, about sometime, finally found the grave with the name of "LE COMPTE" on it which through age has sunken considerable. He found the hole as described by the kidnappers and placed the money in it. Bianchi states that he was a little suspicious about this matter on account of the paper the letter was written on it being the kind used by policy writers. He connects this paper with a negro named Thos. Lewis, who was at one time in Bianchi's employ, and who was at the time this letter was sent him, in the business of writing policy. Lewis lived until the house was burned down at 159 Essex Avenue, and can be easily located around the Oranges.
The letter referred to above was received by Bianchi at his store, 261 Main St. and had been sent him by mail, and bore an Orange, N.J. postmark.
Nothing further occured between April, 1900 and Monday, March 4th, 1901, on which day Bianchi had made arrangements to meet his wife at their home, 134 Day St. at 2 p.m. The object to their meeting being that Bianchi and his wife intended looking for a new house in which to move. Bianchi told me that 2 p.m. was about the time the letter carrier called at 134 Day St.; that when he approached the house on that day his wife came running toward him with a letter which was addressed to him, but which he had opened by her. She was in a state of nervous excitement and she handed him a letter which read, as follows:-
"For next Saturday night at 12:30, if you have not placed $3000 in gold at the same spot in the tomb where you left the $600 last year, we will kidnap your child Italy (meaning Itala). Take notice if you fail to bring the money as directed you have to pay twice much for the return of little 8taly (Italia). If you say a word to the police or squeal we will blind little Italy. If we get chance we will kill your wife and children. We see no profit for killing of you at present.
(signed) the Inexorables."
As soon as Bianchi's wife read this letter she became very angry with him, and asked why he had put the $500 in the grave without telling her about it. He told her that he did it to save her from worriment, and that he had done all the worrying about the money ever since it was put there by him, but now that the story had come out he would tell her what occurred, which he did, as related above. The girl Itala was at the store at the time this letter was received, and Bianchi suggested that they go for her, which he did. After talking the matter over with his wife Bianchi decided to consult with his landlord, Mr. Kunz, who lives upstairs over Bianchi's wine store. This he did, as Bianchi explains it, that he thought Kunz would be the proper man to get him police protection.
On the night of March 4th or 5th arrangements were made to meet in the back room upstairs in Kunz's house between 8 and 9 o'clock. On the night of March 7th the following parties had a conference in Kunz's house: Bianchi, Kunz, Chief of Police of Orange and one of his detectives named Parker. In order that the Chief of Police and the detective could read the letters several matches were struck at the suggestion of the Chief of Police. Plans were partially adopted that night to apprehend the kidnapers, and second meeting was agreed upon.
On the morning of March 8th Bianchi received a second letter which is now in the hands of the Orange police, and which read "Now about your police protection" Bianchi did not explain to me how this letter was addressed, but it was sent to his store. (I subsequently learned from Bianchi's son on May 16th that the address on this letter was one of the labels of the Bianchi Wine & Liquor Co., such as are pasted on wine bottles and reads.
"From Bianchi Wine Co. 261 Main St., Orange, N.J. opposite the Orange National Bank.:
the word "from" was cut from this label.
Kunz told Bianchi that he received a letter but did not show it to him, which letter read something like the following:
"Mr. Kunz; Tell your friend the Chief of Police, Mr. Bianchi and the detective to be more careful when they are up in your house having a conference. They should not strike matches as they did."
Bianchi says that this letter very much upset Mr. Kunz, as the latter could not understand how anyone could see them. Bianchi explained this away by telling him that the kidnappers could have been in the back yard, and looked up and the windows while they were talking, and they could easily have seen the Chief when he struck the matches.
Arrangements were accordingly made whereby Bianchi was to go to St. Marks Cemetery with a package containing charcoal. He also bought a revolver to use on the expedition. The Chief of Police, according to Bianchi's statement had 15 or 20 policemen detailed around the cemetery, and the Chief with some of his detectives were close to the grave. Bianchi went to the grave, deposited the package in the same place where he alleges he put the $600. He did not observe anyone near when he placed the package in the grave. Nothing occurred during the night, according to the police reports. The charcoal was found in the grave the following morning; no one had appeared to take it away. Bianchi was still strong in his opinion that the kidnappers were right around Orange.
On the following night, after the trip to the cemetery he and his family were all in the dining room when the door bell rang. Bianchi went to the door, opened it as far as the chain on the inside would allow, and he gave the old beggar who was at the door a five cent piece and told to go away. Mrs. Bianchi thought this was one piece and told him to go away. Mrs. Bianchi thought this was one of the kidnappers, and Bianchi started to follow the old man away and his wife looked out of the window and saw the man going along Day Street. Bianchi remained in the shady side of the street and he states that he saw the old man meet a well dressed man about a block and a half from the house and talk with him: that the well dressed man passed in the opposite direction quickly, and waved his pocket handerchief, but this statement of Bianchi's is not corroborated but the fact that a beggar called at the house on Sunday night is corroborated. My theory is that the old man after obtaining the 5ยข met the well dressed man and asked him for something, was not given anything that the well dressed man after refusing to give alms went in an opposite direction hurriedly. Bianchi reported this incident to the police and his family. On one occasion Bianchi sent a messenger boy to his house. The signal agreed upon being that if Bianchi or anyone he sent should call at the at night the bell was to be rung three times. The messenger boy rang the door bell three times, and then started in to whistle a tune while on the front porch. This whistling alarmed the inmates of the house, and they ran up stairs, opened the windows and cried out for help. A policemen responded to their call. The messenger boy, according to Bianchi, did not know what it all meant, and thought the people had all gone crazy.
Bianchi suggested that his wife and two daughters go away. At first he suggested that they go to Italy, but to this his wife objected on account of the expense. Then Bianchi thought of a friend of his named Stefani in Philadelphia, and he had Stefani come to Orange and then sent his wife and two daughters, Dina and Itala to Philadelphia. They left about 4 p.m. without any concealment. They were taken to Philadelphia to board in the private boarding house of a Mrs. Basso, 235 South 6th St. that city. A rumor was circulated that Mrs. Bianchi and her two daughters had gone to Italy, which was generally believed to be the truth.
During the absence of Mrs. Bianchi at Philadelphia her husband visited her on a Sunday and her son visited her on a Saturday, taking up just one day, returning to Orange at the end of the day.
Sometime prior to May 14th, 1901 arrangements had been made by correspondence between Bianchi and his wife that Mrs. Bianchi and her two daughters should return from Philadelphia, to leave there on the 5:50 p.m. train. This fact, according to Bianchi, was well known to the people who frequented his place of business, including his landlord and a few others. On May 14th at 7:15 a.m. Bianchi received at his store in Orange the following letter from the kidnappers:-
"What is being done now is only a sample of what we have in stock for you. The fun will be when your family are back home again. We use you to show others that we mean business. If we make you the scapegoat you shall thank your police protection. signed "Remember"
This letter, Bianchi says, was received at his store at 7:15 a.m. on the morning of May 14th, 1901. A short time after he read it he saw the Chief of Police of Orange, showing this letter to him and asked the Chief of Police if anyone else in town had received a similar letter.
NOTE: Mr. Edison's letter was not received until 10:30 a.m. May 14th, but bore the post office stamp "6:30 a.m. May 14th."
On receipt of this letter Bianchi telegraphed to his wife, requested her to defer her journey until she had received a special delivery letter written by him and mailed by him at 10:30 a.m. informing her of the letter received by him.
During the course of my interview with Bianchi I was not favorably impressed with him. The great excitement displayed by him appeared to be pretended. He offers no theory in this matter, excepting what he states concerning the colored man Thos. Lewis about the April, 1900 letter. Bianchi informed me that he has received many anonymous letters from Newark parties, calling him "burglar" and such like names, the parties implying in their letters that his cousin with the $10,000, but that he got it by trick and device and that he (Bianchi) has kept it all and is now living off it, which Bianchi declared is an unearth.
On the envelope to Mr. Edison there is one quite strange thing that is the name and address of Hon. Judge Kreuger. This is the name of the Newark brewer from whom Bianchi buys his beer. Whoever prepared the envelope and letter to Mr. Edison could easily have used an envelope without this name typewritten and partially erased upon it, but it is evident that the intention of the writer was that when this was addressed to Hon. Judge Kreuger, indicating to the one investigating the matter that Mr. Edison and Mr. Bianchi were not the only ones who received threatening letters from the kidnappers.
From my investigation of this matter thus far I am strongly inclined to the belief that Bianchi has expended the $600 which he alleged was placed in the grave in the St. Marks Cemetery, but that he does not wish his wife to know it, and that he arranged to have her learn about how the $600 was disposed of through her receiving the letter from the kidnappers on March 4th, and that she has been some causing those anonymous letters to be sent to create the impression in his wife's mind that there are kidnappers around Orange, N.J. and that he is not the only one who is being annoyed by them. It is probable that a threatening letter will be sent to Judge Kreuger or some other prominent citizen., so as to create excitement, and more strongly impress upon his own wife's mind the truth of Bianchi's story.
I pretend to Bianchi that some woman with whom he was associated but about whom he had not told me, might have sent these letters or might be at the bottom of these kidnaping letter. This I did in order to see whether or not he was associating with any woman, other than his wife. Bianchi became very much interested over my inquiry in this direction, and told me that he had never had any association with any woman outside his wife. This statement was made to me in such a way that it did not strongly impress me as being true.
Bianchi wrote out this evening a letter of introduction for me to his wife, as I had expressed a desire to interview about this matter. The above information was communicated verbally to Mr. Edison before my departure from Orange for New York in the company of Mr. Dick. I arrived at my home at 9:15 p.m. and discontinued.
Thursday, May 16th, 1901 Through an informant today in New York I learned that on May 14th, 1901 at 8:35 a.m. the following telegram was received at East Orange, N.J. addressed to Mrs. A. Steffani, 235 South 6th St., Philadelphia, Pa.:
"Sopente temperariande partinza suische recelvale mia special delivery."
This is evidently Bianchi's telegram to his wife regarding his special delivery letter. At 11:10 a.m., today I left Hoboken in company of Operatives J.T.C.A.F.H. and W.S.C. for Orange N.J. I instructed W.F.C. and A.F.H. to locate in the vicinity of Bianchi's place of business for the purpose of watching is movements, and to determine with whom he associates and what he is doing. I instructed the operatives to carefully note any letters mailed by him or handed by him to anyone else to mail at any hour of the day and night; that when such letter was mailed by him or handed by him to anyone else to mail at any hour of the day and night; that when such letter was mailed to remain where it was mailed until it was collected, so that we could determine, through informants the character of the letter mailed by Bianchi, or through anyone to to whom he handed the letter. These two men are also instructed to gather such information as they could from observing Bianchi or anyone connected with him; that if they saw anyone who would justify Bianchi's statement that kidnappers were watching his movements to note their actions also. Upon arrival at Orange these two men located in the Central Hotel, which is opposite Bianchi's place of business and from which they could very nicely observe anyone around Bianchi's place. The men secured a room in the front part of the hotel upstairs.
Operative J.T.C. and I then proceeded to Mr. Edison's place and shortly after 1 p.m. saw Mr. Edison and Mr. Dick, from whom we learned that J. Warren Smit, Cashier of the Orange National Bank, had also received a letter alleged to be by the kidnappers, threatening and well able to take care of himself in the hands of any kidnappers. This part of the story is looked upon as being rather ludicrous. It is probable that this is the letter which Bianchi spoke to the Chief of Police about early in the morning of May 14th as the bank is right opposite Bianchi's place of business and letters for there should be delivered about the same time as at Bianchi's store. I instructed J.T.C. what work desired him to take up in the way of investigating.
I then called at Bianchi's store and told him that I was well convinced that the kidnappers were right around his premises and that I wanted to examine anything he had in the way of rubber stamps, papers, etc. He showed me that rubber stamps he uses also the paper he uses, and the labels he pastes on the wine bottles, but I did not find anything that was like the type used on the anonymous letter to Mr. Edison, although Bianchi is quite a user of rubber stamps, of which I observed the following spread about his desk;-
"Vittoria Bianchi, Notary Public,
A dating stamp.
Bianchi Wine Co., 261 Main St., opposite Orange Bank Bldg"
The inking pad used by him I noticed contained red ink while the kidnappers letter was in dull or poorly made black ink.
Bianchi told me that he was suffering with a severe headache and at my request he sent his son to the house, 134 Day St. so that I could have a private talk with the boy. I found the carpets are all up in the house. It appears that prior to the time Mrs. Bianchi went away arrangements had been made to move. In fact this is what the boy told me. Every door and window in the house is protected with devices of some kind or other, arranged by Mr. Bianchi, as for instance where a window blind is pulled down, a couple of empty wine bottles are placed on the foot of the blind, dishes and tin pans are piled up against the doors so that they will make a noise when they are opened. Bianchi and the young man sleep in the same room and his father arranged a kind of trap consisting of a chair with a block of wood under the back of it. This state of affairs' is in evidence in every room in the house. The boy appears to be thoroughly frightened, and talks a great deal about kidnappers, relating to me in substance the same information I obtained from his father.
The father had not told me about the letter of May 8th which was addressed with a sticker from a wine bottle. The son told me this while I was with him today. I learned from the boy today that he and his father are constantly in one another's company; that about every other night since his mother has been away the young man goes to see some play in a Newark theatre, and that his father comes to Newark to meet him every night. Last night he was down in New Century Theatre, and was not there by his father when the "show was over." If Bianchi, Sr. has any female connections at Newark this might be an opportunity to visit between the time he arrives and the time the show is out. I am somewhat doubtful about his as he does not close his store until about 9 p.m. and he could not arrive in Newark before 9:30 p.m. and most of the shows are out at 10:30 or 11 p.m. The boy is quite nice looking, and attends the public school, and is fairly intelligent. He told me that his father had been to Philadelphia to visit his mother while she had been away and that he had been over on Saturday. After examining the house, and talking with the son I went to Bianchi's store and while I was there his driver came in. He is a good sized Bohemian, and speaks German, Italian and English. He resides in Newark. He told me what his name was but I have forgotten it, and did not want to make a note of it in order to avoid suspicion. I have instructed the operatives to locate where this man resides so that in case I wish to interview him I can do so.
I then proceeded to the post office where I met an informant and explained to him the object of my visit, telling him that I had arranged to have some parties at Orange watched, and I wanted to find out the addresses on letters mailed by them. I explained to this informant how our men would identify themselves to him. He agreed to render me every assistance in his power. I referred to him a New York informant through whom I had made arrangements to be introduced. This part of the work will, if it can be, if it can be properly carried out probably result in our getting very close information on the subject.
At 4 p.m. I proceeded to Newark, from where I telephoned to the Agency that I was going to Philadelphia to interview Mrs. Bianchi, also telegraphed to my residence that I would be absent to-night.
I arrived in Philadelphia at 7:15 p.m., had my dinner en route and immediately on arriving there proceeded to 235 South 6th St. where I observed Itala Bianchi and her sister Dina sitting at a window. Both of them resemble very much their photographs which I saw in their father's place of business. I subsequently made arrangements to interview Mrs. Bianchi and her daughter in the dining room of this house.
Attached to this report will be found a continuation of my report of today..

Yours truly,

Pinkerton's Nat'l Detective Agency,
Robt A, Pinkerton
New York 5/17/1901
Download CSV | JSON