Who Murdered the Envelope Man?
John William Tuohy
Eugene Bosworth was 56 years old, born in Ware Mass., a manufacturing town ln Hampshire county. He had been married for twenty-six years. He had been a successful carpenter and developer by was badly injured in a fall from the roof of the Hartford Bank where he was working. Afterward, he took a job selling soap and ink door to door but there was no money in that. After two years, he took to running numbers. He thrived as a gamble in the area of Gold Street in Hartford Ct., a city that had a robust and lucrative gambling market.
After 15 years, the city’s elite, led by Mrs. John M. Holcombe, rose up against the city’s numerous gamblers and slowly started shutting them down. Bosworth folded up shop and moved his operation to Putnam which failed so he moved back to Hartford and opened a policy shop on Asylum street, but the police shut him down.
He moved to Pearl street, below Haynes street, a heavily black neighborhood, where he prospered. But he found no peace there either when he fell victim to the endless petty rivalry between the Hartford policy kings, in this case, policy boss James Waldron had already declared that Pearl Street was his territory and had the police raid Bosworth’s shop on a regular basis until he gave up and left the city.
He tried Danbury, to the same results. Finally he moved back to New Britain, where he could start over again in the nearby Hartford market where Bosworth was known in the underworld as “The envelope man” because he had come up with a method printing envelopes with spaces on the backs for two columns of figures, the gambler filled out the empty slots with their numbers and initials and dropped it through a slot at Bosworth’s policy office. Other gambler relied on wire service to stay in business.
Unlike most denizens of the Connecticut underworld, there was nothing flashy about Bosworth. He and his wife moved to 50 Hungerford Street in Hartford. A police report described Bosworth as “Of a quiet disposition, unobtrusive in manner and formed no close friendships, even among the men with whom his business brought him in contact. While here (In Hartford) Bosworth was strictly temperate and never had any trouble of any kind.”
Bosworth had rented a suite at 255 Main street, The Ward Building, in New Britain where he hung a sign in the window that read "Cigar Agency" and then went about the business of opening a numbers policy and running Faro games.
On Tuesday, August 2, 1904, shortly after noon, William H. Gibney was sitting in the office of a livery stable directly under Bosworth’s window. Gibney and at least 12 other people heard the commotion going on in Bosworth’s apartment and then heard nothing. After a few seconds, they heard Bosworth calling out “Oh my God, Oh my God”
and walked up to Bosworth’s apartment. When no one answered the door, he fetched one of the two policemen on duty in New Britain that day, a cop named Hellberg.
Hellberg knocked, waited and finally broke down the door and found Bosworth lying In a pool of blood. Officer Hellberg’s report read “Blood streamed from the man's face and his head . and shoulder was covered with it. Near him was an overturned chair which had apparently been placed at a table. In the middle of the room and on this were slips of paper and envelopes, spattered with blood as was the floor and also the walls. A drawer In the table was half open and in this lay a hammer which had not been used as a weapon of assault or defense for It was found to be dusty and had evidently not been used.”
Bosworth's had a total of nine wounds on the head and was partially conscious and tried to speak, but the policeman couldn’t make any sense of what he was saying, although it sounded like “Lou” or “Hew”
The policeman called for an ambulance and a local doctor arrived to try and help. He determined that Bosworth had been struck on the head in at least nine different places with some blunt instrument and his skull was broken in three places, twice in the forehead and once on the back of the head. Bosworth died on the operating table at the hospital a little after 2 o'clock.
Bosworth’s wife fainted when a reporter told her that her husband was dead. When she recovered she made this remarkably lucid statement “'Mr. Bosworth was as happy as he could be this morning at the breakfast table. I did not want him to go to New Britain and urged him not to go, but he did not think he was in any danger. I don’t know what I will do now. My health is poor and I'm unable to work for my living. I hardly know whom to look to. One of my sisters In East Hartford recently lost her husband and she is in poor circumstances. My husband's brother in Providence was burned out and I don't suppose he has anything. Mr. Bosworth did not carry any life insurance that I am aware of. I urged him to have his life insured but he did not believe ln it. He has money in the bank, but I don't know how much."
She also added that she had a premonition of her husband's death. In 1902 she had her fortune told. "The circumstances of my call at the gypsy's tent have remained vivid in my mind” she said “and I can almost recall the exact words that were spoken to me by the fortune teller. When she came to the place where she forecasted the fate of my husband she said, 'I can see a man whom you dearly love. He Is sitting In a room alone. Someone enters and strikes him violently over the head. He falls to the floor and dies."
Due to a shortage of manpower, the New Britain police weren’t able to search Bosworth’s room until the following day. Because the investigating officer was forced to knock down the door the day before, the room had been left open.
The police searched for the murder weapon and for a while assumed that Bosworth had been beaten to death with his own cane, a heavy one which he usually carried, and assumed that the murderer had taken the cane with him when he left. However, the cane was found the next day at Bosworth’s home. A section of gas pipe was found in the room but there was no blood on it and that was discounted. Since Bosworth was lying beside an overturned chair, which had stood in front of a table that was covered in policy slips, leading police to believe that Bosworth was sitting when the attacker struck him.
What they did find was a key broken off in the door lock and inside the room, they found thirty copies of the same key. Apparently, to avoid a raid, Bosworth had the keys made to hand out to his better customers who could let themselves into the room to gamble at their leisure. No money was found on Bosworth or in the room, although his wife told the police that he rarely left the house with less than a $1,000 in his pocket. (He had made a $1,000 withdrawal from the bank several days before) Although a pay-off slip found on the floor showed he had collected at least $350 that day from gamblers. A $250 diamond ring, which he always wore, was missing as well.
The first, and most logical, the assumption was that Bosworth had been killed in a robbery. But soon it came to light that Bosworth had decided to get rid of his competition by starting a fake letter-writing campaign to clergymen who belonged to the Federation of Churches, giving the location of gambling dens around the city to the Hartford.
It was also known by the police and the local underworld that gamblers disliked Bosworth intensely. When police questioned other gamblers about Bosworth’s death the remarks were 'Served him right,' and 'He was no good,' no one they spoke to had any sympathy for him.
So now the police had a motive, then a witness named George Gibson came forward. He said that he was going up the stairs to Bosworth’s office when a man rushed down the stairs. Gibson said that the man didn’t seem agitated and nothing about his appearance attracted attention. He was a man of medium build, about 40 years old, with grey hair and mustache.
Police now had a motive and suspect. However, three days later former Hartford Police Commissioner Henry Osborn was murdered in his home on Capital Avenue during a robbery (A man named Joseph Watson was later hanged for the murder) and the Bosworth case was forgotten.
It's interesting that on the same day Bosworth was murdered, someone crushed the skull of another Hartford area gambler named Timothy O'Connell, a policy bank operator, a friend of Bosworth’s, and owner of the Cowles Hotel, Manchester. (It was actually more of a saloon than anything else) He was also owned several commercial properties in New Britain. O'Connell had left the city three weeks before, going first to a horse racing track in Vermont and then down to New York where he registered at the Grand Union Hotel as s "Thomas Hayes, Boston."
He was found dead in his room, from two tremendous blows to the head with a blunt instrument. A hole was found in his head, behind the left ear “as large as a half dollar and about three-fourths of an inch deep.” The front of his face was also badly beaten. However, the official cause of death was “asphyxia", meaning he had been choked to death after he was beaten. As in the Bosworth murder, an expensive ring was taken from the body, although in O’Connell’s case, his finger had been cut off to get the ring.
A few weeks after Bosworth was murdered, gamblers moved into Ward building where Bosworth had operated and opened another policy bank, this one operating under the name of The Central Social Club. The operation was run by James C. Cooley, II. Haywood, W. Johnson, and H. B. Cooley.
In 1905, a year after the Bosworth murder, police focused their investigation on a Hartford born criminal named Milton Franklin Andrews, a 6 foot three professional gambler who had a very narrow, deformed chest, and because of stomach trouble was compelled to subsist almost entirely on malted milk.
Andrews had been involved in several scam artist related murders with his girlfriend. Detectives from the Pinkerton agency found him in San Francisco when a local grocer when the store owner mentioned to a policeman that a dark-haired and mysterious-acting young woman, came into her store daily and bought malted milk.
Detectives trailed the woman to 748 McAllister Street. The detectives Burke posed as repairmen and knocked on the apartment door and said they wanted to look at the gas fixtures.
When the woman refused to open the door, the detectives threatened to break it down and the woman shouted back “If you do I will kill you.”
Andrews was inside the apartment. he seized a revolver, as the detectives burst in the door of his apartment and shot himself and the woman with whom he was living. Andrews died instantly and the woman survived him only a few hours.
Because Andrews had known Bosworth and because he had been seen in the general area of the murder when it happened, Hartford police considered him a suspect in the killing, either directly or indirectly but there was never any tangible evidence to connect him with the crime. Anderson also didn’t the description of the man seen fleeing down the stairs of the Ward building.