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Gem Thief Holds Hundreds at Bay: A Crazy Crime Story at the Gayety Theatre

Explore the crazy crime story of the 1922 gem thief who held hundreds at bay in Washington, D.C. near the Gayety Theatre. Read the full story and see a 1921 map of the area.
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Gayety Theatre
Gayety Theatre

This is a crazy crime story that we found in The Washington Post. It was printed on February 18th, 1922 with the title “Gem Thief Holds Hundreds at Bay.” Above is a photo of the Gayety Theatre, close to the scene of the crime.

While hundreds of persons passed within a few feet, a lone negro bandit last night at 7 o’clock threw a brick wrapped with paper through a side window of the Harry S. Fischer jewelry company at 438 Ninth street northwest, and after taking diamonds valued at $10,000, made a spectacular escape by holding his pursuers at bay with a pistol. Jumping a fence in E street northwest, he fell 30 feet to the ground and disappeared in an alley.

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Mr. Fischer, proprietor of the store, who was at dinner at the time the robbery was committed, said that diamonds valued at $150,000, were in the window smashed by the bandit.

After breaking the window the robber snatched the jewels, and turning, faced a crowd attracted by the crash, pistol in hand. Threatening any who pursued, he backed to Ninth and E streets, 30 feet away, and running in E street toward Tenth street northwest, scaled a fence, falling 30 feet to the bottom of an excavation. Before pursuers could reach him he disappeared.

Rushing to the street they called to the negro, who had just pulled his arm from the window, to surrender. Placing the diamonds in his pocket, the bandit, with drawn revolver shouted, “If any one comes near me, I will shoot.”

There was no mention in subsequent papers as to whether the thief was eventually apprehended.

Here’s a map from 1921 of the area around 9th and E St. NW.

1921 map of E St.
1921 map of E St.

Source: Library of Congress

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