An Erdnase Manifesto
The details of a number of swindles and crimes committed under various aliases by swindler E. S. Andrews and later, I believe, under his actual name of Charles E. Andrews (b. 1859 in Indiana, d. Aug. 26, 1907 in Chicago) from 1901 to 1907 make me feel he is a strong candidate as the author of The Expert at the Card Table.
I'm detailing all my research here for you to examine as you like.
I am also providing a free download link to the 1907 news photo of Charles E. Andrews and his wife, plus two key articles: http://we.tl/AvDxQ2HYJ9
I'll post another link on this thread soon so anyone interested can download all my documents and sources.
As I explored in my Erdnase Scroll
research, I have been following the trail of con artist E. S. Andrews for a number of years, but his trail ran cold around 1905. I figured he was either dead, had gone straight, or was using another alias, and when I investigated Charles Andrews, his activities fit perfectly into the gap.
There are also several elements of Charles E. Andrews’ life that mesh well with other accounts of Erdnase, like Martin Gardner and Marshall D. Smith’s accounts, Richard Hatch’s research on Edwin Sumner Andrews, and the McKinney bankruptcy records. He’s the right age, height, and demeanor as described by Smith, liked Chicago hotel rooms, and his hands look like the drawings. (I’ll add that Martin Gardner liked my findings on E. S. Andrews, and Dick Hatch says he's excited about my latest research.)
He also meets many of my personal criteria of what I would expect from someone who wrote The Expert:
a gambler, connections to Chicago and England, an aspect about writing, a con man, smart, used aliases, gentlemanly, spectacular in some way, and left words that sound reasonably like Erdnase.
One article about his death states that he was "a gambling king in northern Indiana."
As always, these are only theories, backed up by what seems to be evidence. Without any explicit connection between the book and a person, there’s no solid proof of any theory about Erdnase’s identity, and when all the leads in my research are explored, my suggestions may turn out to be completely off-base. I wouldn’t mind if it means getting closer to the truth and credit this amazing author.
Please feel free to investigate all the following clues and paths, if you want to get closer to definitive truth.
Correct my mistakes and poke holes in my ideas, but let’s find the whole story. There are court records to read, arrest reports to uncover, and a lot of missing information that hopefully still exists preserved somewhere. And I would love someone to find his grave in La Porte, Indiana, and send me a photo. I’d like to finally to pay my respects someday.
If it’s all just another false lead, I’m still pretty happy to have uncovered a character like E. S. Andrews / Charles E. Andrews, bamboozler of professionals and police, ladies’ man, traveler, and scoundrel. The stories of his cons are larger than life and I’ve had immense fun chasing this colorful man through history, whether or not he wrote the book. E. S. Andrews, Swindler
From 1901 to 1905, a con man using the name E. S. Andrews, which seems to have been one alias among many, pulled off a series of smooth schemes and crimes around the United States that bilked professionals in towns around the U.S.
The following selected articles and documents on E. S. Andrews provide information I have published before and present here to provide the complete story.Kokomo, 1901
On November 23, 1901, just before the 1902 publication of The Expert at the Card Table,
the Fort Wayne News
reported on a scam perpetrated in Kokomo by "A stranger giving his name as E. S. Andrews of the Brandon Commercial Company, Chicago." The news report stated that the con man had a clever collections-agency scheme that succeeded in bilking forty local merchants and physicians.
Andrews had come to Kokomo three weeks prior and convinced the businessmen and doctors to hire him to collect their debts. Each participant paid Andrews a "membership fee" of $15 (or about $900 total). The newspaper reported that "Before leaving, Andrews collected several accounts from debtors, all of which he took with him, the merchants or physicians receiving nothing." Dubuque, 1902-1903
In December 1902, the Dubuque Telegraph-Journal
announced the new local address of the Charles Brandon Commercial company at the Bank and Insurance Building, noting that "Mr. E. S. Andrews is in charge."
A month later, Andrews had fled town with over $1500 in $25 membership fees and collected debts. As the Davenport Republican reported on January 31, 1903, the swindled subscribers were reluctant to admit they had been conned.
One of the professionals stated: "We were all a lot of suckers and should not have let Andrews go as long as we did. He did not live up to the contract he made with me, and I understand that he did not live up to the contract he made with others. I was to pay him a commission of five percent on all collections made on current business, and he was to get 10 to 25 percent on all debts that he collected. I gave him my note, and so did other members, while others paid down their $25 fee.
"I estimate from the number of subscribers he had to the 'Charles Brandon Commercial Agency' that he must have got out of town with from $1500 to $1800. He would have no trouble in negotiating the notes.
"His subscribers included lawyers, doctors, and businessmen. He was to make reports of collections every twenty-fours hours and remit a check for the amount collected, after the commission was deducted, but he forgot to make the report and send me the check."
The article says Andrews was arrested but not only avoided charges by threatening the witnesses (perhaps with a countersuit) but also managed to have his accuser held liable for the costs of his arrest. As the swindled businessman explained: "One of the subscribers had Andrews arrested and got the worst of it, because two or three others were afraid of the bluff made by Andrews. The subscriber paid the costs, amounting to $2.50."Fort Wayne and Oshkosh, 1904
E. S. Andrews appeared again in Wisconsin in 1904 pursuing the same scam, only this time the law caught up with him. Andrews had set up another collections scheme as the Charles Brandon Company, in association with local law firm Finch and McPhall in the Pixley-Long block in Fort Wayne. Andrews again skipped town with membership fees and debt sums, returning to Indiana, the scene of his 1901 swindle.
Oshkosh Sheriff M. K. Rounds (the Fort Wayne Press
gave his name as "J. M. Rounds") was sent to arrest Andrews, who was working in association with a law firm. The firm protested his extradition and the Wisconsin lawman was forced to get permission from Indiana's governor before being allowed to arrest Andrews and bring him back to Wisconsin for trial.
Andrews was arrested on July 7, 1904 on a warrant from Justice Skelton and was held awaiting the arrival of the Wisconsin sheriff.
Four days later, Andrews left Fort Wayne at noon in the custody of Sheriff Rounds. The Fort Wayne Evening Sentinel reported that Andrews had embezzled money and had also used his notices of collection to purchase "a number of diamonds and other articles." The newspaper noted that "Judge O'Rourke was called upon to remand him into the custody of the Wisconsin sheriff on a requisition honored Saturday by Governor Durbin."
A Daily Northwestern
reporter interviewed Andrews in his jail cell in Wisconsin and quoted him at length in an article in the newspaper on July 12, 1904. The speech reads glibly, but I do not believe these are his exact words, since in those pre-taping days, a reporter jotted notes and typed them up later into coherent prose:
"Mr. Andrews was seen by a Northwestern reporter this morning while in jail. He is a bright-looking young man whose appearance is that of a shrewd and honest businessman. He said he did not care to talk for publication, but in answer to questions and in the ordinary conversation, he did say to the reporter:
"This is the first time I have ever been arrested. The jail here is a palace compared to that in Fort Wayne. That is a bad place to be in.
"I did not read the complaint against me and do not know exactly the technical charge against me. In a general way, I know what it is, but I say technically, I have not ascertained.
"I believe in being philosophical, however, and while I should not be pleased to stay here long, I can stand it for a time if I can have plenty of reading matter and plenty of fresh air.
"I shall have good legal counsel, but I do not think I will need it. I have nothing to fear and believe I could go into court representing myself and convince the court that the law is on my side.
"So far as my not going under my own name in Fort Wayne is concerned after leaving here, that will have no effect in the case. It may, to the outsider, give rise to the opinion that I was trying to hide, but while that is true, I had no idea I was wanted here on a criminal charge.
"What I did here was business and in a business-like way, and I could have been found by letter at Fort Wayne without the sheriff coming after me.
"Sheriff Rounds has treated me very nicely indeed, and while I shall be glad to leave him and his custody, I shall remember the kindnesses he has shown me.'
"Sheriff Rounds is loud in his praises of the assistance rendered him by Superintendent of Police Henry Gorseline at Fort Wayne, and the latter held onto the prisoner in the face of all the efforts made by lawyers to free him."
Remember also that Indiana magician James Harto claimed to have known Erdnase.
The seemingly media-savvy conman E. S. Andrews went out of his way to deny using a false identity in a note published the next day in the Daily Northwestern: "It was incorrectly stated in your account of an interview with me that I was known while in Fort Wayne under an assumed name. I was known there as E. S. Andrews, representing the Charles Brandon Commercial Company: This is my name and the company is the same as I represented here, and I never used any other name and do not intend to. Yours truly, E. S. Andrews."The Oshkosh Trial
On August 8, 1904, the Daily Northwestern
reported, Andrews was charged in Oshkosh Municipal Court with embezzlement. The original charge had been filed by fur merchant E. F. Steude, who had been bilked of $108. The hearing had already been postponed due to the absence of a prosecution witness, attorney A. C. McPhall, one of Andrews' legal associates in the scheme.
The following day, a Daily Northwestern
article announced that after intense arguments by Andrews' defense attorneys "Maurice McKenna of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and E. P. Finch of Oshkosh" the judge had found adequate cause for Andrews to stand trial on embezzlement charges.
This news report states that Andrews took a number of precautions to legally justify his financial shenanigans. Andrews had clients sign contracts with a fine-print clause authorizing him to make deductions from the money he collected. He had clients make out their checks to his partner, who then paid Andrews (Small note: Funds were deposited in a bank; Erdnase paid Smith with a bank check). In court, Andrews claimed innocence by shrewdly stating the attorney had never paid him the full amount of the money collected.
Finally, in a footnote of possible support for magician Hugh Johnston’s later story that he had met Erdnase in Denver, the article also specifies that Andrews had incorporated the Charles Brandon Collections company in Colorado and was its manager.
Bail was set at $2000 and promptly posted by his legal team. Further procedural challenges from Andrews' attorneys delayed the trial until matters were cleared up sufficiently on August 17, when municipal court Commissioner W. W. Waterhouse concluded Andrews had to stand trial.
On August 23, Andrews appeared in municipal court, this time represented by attorney Henry Fitzgibbon of Menasha. The trial was adjourned until August 27.
The trial was either prolonged or postponed, since it was not until September 28 that Andrews was finally found guilty of embezzlement, though for a reduced sum of $37.50. The trial took place in Milwaukee, and the jury took only a half hour to reach their decision, the Daily Northwestern
reported on September 19: "The jury, in view of the whole circumstances, found that Andrews was working what is popularly known as a 'graft' and that he willfully retained the amount charged against him. The penalty for the offense is from six months to one year imprisonment in county jail or state prison." All the above information is from the Daily Northwestern,
which covered the trial with regular news articles.
The court sentenced Andrews to eight months in jail. As the Fort Wayne Sentinel
stated on October 14, 1904, Andrews had already spent four months in custody, and the judge noted this in his sentencing.
Other articles following Andrews' case focused on the misconduct of one of his associates, attorney A. K. McPhall, who disappeared after Andrews was arrested but was spotted in Oshkosh by acquaintances after Andrews' sentencing.
In a related case the following April, with Andrews still in jail, the Oshkosh Municipal Court issued a decision in favor of one of his victims. A Dr. J. M. Conley had hired Andrews to collect debts and gave him a promissory note for $42.63 as a retainer. Andrews went to a local store Birely and Son and traded his note for Conley's debt for a diamond. The court found in favor of Birely and Son, agreeing that Dr. Conley was still obliged to pay the amount of the promissory note to whomever held it.Chicago, 1905-1907
Shortly after the end of Andrews' jail sentence, he apparently set up shop again in another location, this time Chicago. The Chicago Tribune
of December 20, 1905 notes the incorporation of the Charles Brandon Commercial Company, based in Pueblo, Colorado, with capital of $5000 in Pueblo and $2500 in Illinois.
On July 14, 1907, the Chicago Tribune
reported that E. S. Andrews was conducting a collection-agency scam again, this time in connection with attorney W. V. Tyler as the Tyler Company Limited. The duo received dues of between $40 and $50 from over 62 merchants before collecting debts and pocketing the funds. Tyler was arrested for obtaining goods under false pretenses and embezzlement. However, the newspaper stated, "Andrews has disappeared."Meet Charles E. Andrews, Sr.
The Cook County, Illinois, death record for Charles E. Andrews Sr. states he died at age 48, meaning he was born in Indiana around 1859. The 1860 U. S. Census for Peoria lists a Charles E. Andrews born in 1859 in Indiana.
Andrews’ mother, Affia, is 29, born in New York. His father, Edward A. Andrews is age 48, born in England, and his profession is listed as “Local editor.” The British lineage and literary connection may explain the unusual copyrighting of The Expert
in England. Edward, who used initials in his professional name, E. A. Andrews, had in fact been co-owner since 1860 of the Peoria Transcript.
I’d imagine his son would pick up at least a minimum of writing skills and would likely have connections to printers and other aspects of publishing.
Aliases and New Scams
One might reasonably imagine that upon his exit from prison, E. S. Andrews would use another name if he resumed his con games, and it looks like he used several. The crimes that Charles E. Andrews committed and the locations involved lead me to feel that he and E. S. Andrews are the same person.
In addition, there are also several aspects about conman Charles E. Andrews that surprisingly intersect with those of the railroad agent E. S. Andrews that Richard Hatch has pursued. My feeling is that conman Charles E. Andrews may have known or been related to Edwin Sumner Andrews.
In July 17, 1906, the Albuquerque Evening Citizen
reported that a conman named W. B. Andrews was posing as an agent for a supposed “California Southern Railroad,” recruiting young women from a secretarial school as stenographers to work at a fictional “central office” in Los Angeles and point leading to it. One lady was apparently given a position as stenographer at the Grant Hotel in Peoria, but the newspaper implies that Andrews pressured her for intimacy.
The aspect of the stenographers and school are significant. As Richard Hatch has pointed out, Erdnase told artist Marshall D. Smith that he was related to renowned artist Louis Dalrymple. This artist's mother may have been related to Dollie Seeley, Edwin Sumner Andrews' wife, was a stenographer and ran a secretarial school. Perhaps this is where Charles E. Andrews met and seduced his victims.
If railway man E. S. Andrews was indeed not Erdnase, perhaps Charles E. Andrews was using his name and railroad access to impress his victims, plus showing his name on a copy of the impressive Expert.
If Edwin Sumner Andrews and Charles E. Andrews were related, that would explain why Erdnase would say that he was related to Dalrymple but perhaps not necessarily that his own wife was the one whose family had the connection.
The August 17, 1906 Davenport Argus
said that Andrews had been captured in Logansport, Indiana, and called him “one of the cleverest of confidence men,” with a long history of crimes. Pinkerton agents had followed his trail after he conned a young woman in Hampton, Iowa, named Grace Gukert. Andrews’ scheme was to promise an $85 monthly salary for office work. Once they reached a strange city, Andrews would ask for the victim to pay for a certain kind of typewriter as a required tool for the job, then skip town with the money, stranding the trusting girl.
In Grace Gukert’s case, Andrews brought her to Chicago and just before arriving asked for her purse containing the claim checks for their luggage, then disappeared with her handbag and $40 inside it. She contacted the police, and Andrews was followed to St. Louis before his eventual capture in Logansport, Indiana.
A month later, Charles E. Andrews was arrested in South Bend, Indiana, convicted, fined $25, and sentenced to three years in Michigan City prison, as the September 26, 1906 Indiana Morning Star
stated. The article says Andrews had also used the aliases Charles Adams and E. E. Smith and wanted by police in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri, as well as a number of counties around Indiana. During the trial in Logansport, Indiana, two other victims testified, Margaret Loftus and Jennie Gregg.
Other victims, according to the news item, included Jesse Hoover and Glen Brown, students at the Huntington Business College.
The article adds that “His occupation formerly was railroad construction boss on California and Mexican railroads. He speaks English and some Spanish.”
On October 4, 1906, the Plymouth Tribune
ran a late report of the sentencing, adding that Andrews had brought victims to Indianapolis and Chicago.The End of the Expert
On August 26, 1907, Charles E. Andrews shot his wife India Ethel Blaine, 25, to death during an argument at the Saratoga Hotel in Chicago, then killed himself.
Newspapers from coast to coast put together the story, the most thorough in the local Chicago Tribune
’s August 27 article, complete with a photo of the ill-fated pair. He looks gentlemanly and well-groomed, and his small cuffed and jacketed hands resemble those in Marshall D. Smith’s drawings.
Years before, Charles E. Andrews had apparently lived in Elkhart, Indiana, since about 1897 and started a restaurant there, then ran away with a waitress, Grace Bennett, around 1900, leaving behind his wife and son, the now-23-year-old Charles Jr.. Andrews took Bennett to California, then reportedly deserted her. His wife divorced him and remarried grocer Edward Paul and later moved to California herself.
Sometime after his exit from prison after his Logansport conviction in 1906, Charles E. Andrews met India Ethel Blaine of Flora, Indiana, and they became involved. Around June 1906, Andrews moved her out of her parents’ Indiana home and off to California, where they ended up in Covina, where Andrews ran a shooting gallery.
Around Saturday, August 24, 1907, Andrews and Blaine traveled to Chicago and checked into room 842 of the Saratoga Hotel. The following Tuesday, August 26, one of Andrews’ last acts, ironically was to leave behind a piece of writing, directly dictated from his words and heart. Andrews began composing a letter to his son, which the woman began handwriting for him. He asked Charles Jr. to get his mail in Elkhart and asked him to come to see him and Ethel in Chicago, then told him to mind his mother and not to talk to anyone.
For those who are interested in comparing Andrews’ letter to the text in The Expert,
the following words and phrases appear in both: “We have been,” a form of the verb intend (“intended” in Erdnase), write, past, several, occasions, “to get,” know, myself, address (mail meaning), general, feeling, reason, last, mind, wrong, “have to,” explain, and opening a sentence with “However."
The letter ended abruptly. Whether out of a petty argument over the phrase “obligations to” instead of “obligation to” or the mention of his ex-spouse, Andrews suddenly shot Blaine twice. A waitress, May Williams, ran to the room and saw Andrews standing holding a smoking gun. He turned it on himself next and shot himself in the head. He died on the way to St. Luke’s Hospital.
His son, Charles Jr., tearfully claimed the body, brought it back to Indiana, and had his father buried somewhere in La Porte. He stated that his father had been in dire financial circumstances and perhaps was already panicked over the possibility of losing India Ethel Blaine. Faced with his act and a certain return to prison and perhaps execution, Andrews went over the edge. The Indianapolis Star
said on August 29 that Knights of Pythias members served as pallbearers and that the son was the lone mourner.
In California, Andrews’ former wife spotted the coverage and asked the Qunicy, Illinois, lodge of the Knights of Pythias to check if it was indeed her ex-husband, which its members confirmed, according to the September 1, 1907, Los Angeles Herald.
Covina neighbors stated Andrews ran his shooting gallery there under the name C. Andrews (the headline states it as “C. J. Andrews”), saying he and Blaine had left some unpaid bills behind. The September 14, 1907 article in the Covina Argus
describes Andrews as a “short, thick-set man,” matching Marshall D. Smith’s description of Erdnase’s stature.Another Smoking Gun
A state away from Indiana in Tennessee, one newspaper covering the episode reported something extraordinary, perhaps a fact that reporter there knew from experience. The Nashville Tennesseean
of August 27, 1907 article began with the headline: “Bloody and Mysterious Tragedy in Chicago Hotel: Former Gambling King Guns Down Girl and Then Sends Bullet Through His Own Brain.” The body of the piece describes Andrews as “a gambling king in northern Indiana.” (The later Covina Argus
article mentions this as well, but it seems to be simply rewritten information, rearranged as “Andrews was at one time known as the king of gamblers in northern Indiana.”)
If Andrews is indeed the man we’ve been seeking, it would explain why he was never heard from again, why he did not reappear to enjoy his well-earned credit.
I hope he’s the expert, the brilliant mind behind the intricate array of techniques, precise explanations, vivid observations, and techniques he was bold enough to name after himself. He deserves a final bow.