"Forgery and Burglary," by James R. Branch
The Banking Law Journal Vol 21, 1904, p. 314/2
The origin of the "yegg" dates back to some fifteen years ago, about which
time a tramp named John Yeggman began safe burglary with explosives on the
OED has 1903 for the noun, 1913 for the verb form, and 1904 for yeggman.
A Bank Burglars' Union Story of the Yeggmen and Their Expert Operations
New York Times (1857-Current file); Sep 15, 1901; pg. SM7
An invasion of the Eastern States by bands of "Yeggs" is a danger
which Detective Robert Pinkerton is preparing to meet..
The original John Yegg was a California "hoboe," an outcast of society.
The 'Yeggmen' carry no tools.
. . . [col 3] A list of Yegg phraseology has been prepared for the Pinkerton office.
A safe is know as a "John Henry," a "Peter," or a
The steel chest of a safe is called a "Keister."
A railroad ticket, a begging card, or a labor card is called a "ducket." They are also called
"dodgers." Some contain begging words, such as "I have been injured on the
railroad. Help me."
Nitroglycerine is called "soup," "oil," or "grease."
An informer is called a "snitch."
The drill which burglars use is called a"stem." The fuse to set off the nitro-glycerine is called a "string" or a"squib."
To be interfered with while breaking open a safe is to have a "rumble."
A self-inflicted sore placed on the arms or hands to deceive people is called a "jigger." When a "Yegg" gets a very high-heel boot to make him appear lame he is called a "Frenchy."
A prison is called a "dump."
Walking instead of riding is called "drilling."
A sore or a bruise of any kind is called a "briar".
A man with whiskers is referred to as having"woods on his face."
All burglars are referred to as "side kickers."
The word "Yegg" is never used so as to be overheard.
All members of gangs are called "drifters," "drillers," or "movers."
A wooden cash-drawer is called a "chip." A revolver or gun is called a "rod." Knives, pistols, and all such things taken from places are called "pig iron."
. . . A clever system of the "Yeggs" is the "plant hunters" who locate safes to rob but never
participate in the robberies for fear of being identified as having been around the place previously. They get their share of the proceeds of the robbery, however.
These criminals are known as the "cat" or the "gay cat," and they are apprentices, whose duty it is do camp work which the more expert do not care to do.
Very rarely are "John Yeggmen" known by their correct names.
Note that OED has 1903 for "rod"; OED and HDAS have 1913 for "keister"; OED
has 1901 for "soup"; HDAS has 1902 for "oil"; OED has 1914 for "drill"; OED
has 1911 for "rumble"; HDAS does not have this sense for "jigger," but has
1902 for jigger = tattoo.
Note that this article is also in The Washington Post, Sep 29, 1901. p. 29.
WICKED WORK OF YEGGMEN.
The Washington Post Nov 17, 1900; pg. 9/7
"Detective Horne believes the work was done by a member of a class of
burglars known as "Yeggmen," or "Yeggs." "
How John Yegg Made History, The Washington Post Apr 12, 1908; pg. M1
(reprinted from Pittsburg Gazette-Times) says that John Yegg was from the Middle-West, and was caught by a Pinkerton detective in Coldwater, Michigan.
(co-ordination by Dr.Langerhans, 2006)
|In the time of the Yeggs.|