Kidnapping For Ransom - An Unexpected Discovery
“Mr Ros, be not uneasy, you son charley bruster be all writ we is got him and no powers on earth can deliver out of our hand.”
It's not what Rebecca or her mom expected to find in a pile of hand written letters they discovered tucked away in their attic in Germantown, Pennsylvania. They weren't love letters. It was something more sinister, and it turned out to be a lost piece of American Crime lore.
The first kidnap ransom notes in U.S. history.
Long before the Lindbergh kidnapping, there was the story of Charles Brewster Ross, a four year old boy taken from the streets of Philadelphia and held for ransom.
It was July 1, 1874 when two men lured Charley Ross, 4 years and Walter Ross, 6 years of age, into their horse drawn buggy with the promise of candy. Walter was abandoned by the kidnappers at a merchant store. Charley disappeared. Their father, Christian Ross, at first got little help from the police, who assured him that Charley would turn up. The first ransom note appeared a few days later.
The kidnappers demanded 20,000 dollars, worth $400,000 today. The police urged Christian not to pay, "for fear it would inspire copycat crimes". They had no expertise or experience with this sort of crime. In fact, it was a crime unheard of in law enforcement. But the police did post handbills up and down the east coast, alerting other police departments to be on the lookout for the kidnapped boy. Telegraphs spread the news and soon all of America was helping in the search. In a sense, it was the nation's first Amber Alert.
New York police finally identified two suspects, but in a dramatic turn of events that sounds like a chapter from a James Patterson thriller, the suspects were shot during a robbery. Both men died, but not before one of them confessed to kidnapping Charley Ross. Sadly, the child was never found.
In 1875, Pennsylvania became the first state to change kidnapping from a misdemeanor to a felony crime.
Read more about this tragic crime, and the discovery of the ransom letters 138 years later, at the Smithsonian, Historic Germantown, and Penn State University.
Son of Nazi-era Art Dealer Willing to Discuss Restitution for Looted Masterpieces
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Hannes Hartung has reversed his previous stance and says he is now willing to discuss returning any looted artwork found by Munich police in his father's apartment. The article quotes him as saying "we are trying hard to find fair solutions for looted works in accordance with the Washington Principles"... referring to international guidelines that Germany signed in 1998. But obstacles remain. A law written to provide restitution to Jews forced to sell artwork during the 1930s has expired.
In other news, an Austrian museum has pledged to returned thousands of books and religious objects that were plundered during World War II. The Salzburg museum housed items of historical interest to the Nazis, including items used to buffer the nazis' belief in the superiority of the Aryan race. Some of the loot included African hunting trophies, such as lion skins and stuffed animals.