Sunday, Sept. 23, 1906: The mysterious Mr. Sly

Posted on November 6th, 2007 – 7:40 PM
By Ben Welter

Desperate newspaper circulation managers may be interested in reviving this century-old idea. In September 1906, the Tribune introduced readers to the “mysterious Mr. Sly,” an anonymous Easterner hired to walk the streets of Minneapolis
and elude readers competing for a $250 prize for his capture. Each day, the paper published Mr. Sly’s detailed accounts of where he’d been and whom he’d met the day before – and offered clues about his appearance and future whereabouts.

  Photo clue 1: Mr. Sly’s hairline

The rules were simple: First, each participant needed to carry a current issue of the Tribune in hand (the morning edition before noon; the evening edition from noon onward). Second, the player had to present the paper to the suspect and place a hand upon him. Third, the player had to address the suspect with these words:

“You are The Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly. Do you deny it?”

If you had your hand on the actual Sly fellow, he would not deny it or run away. He would gladly accompany you to the Tribune building to help you collect the prize of $50 or more. This detail seemed to elude many players, who refused to take no for an answer when ordinary Joes denied having anything to do with Mr. Sly. One fellow who bore a vague similarity to Sly was dragged to the Tribune 11 times by folks eager for a prize that amounted to about $5,400 in today’s dollars. He was a good sport about it, considering that the Tribune made no effort to compensate him for his trouble.

Despite the legal pitfalls, imagine the buzz that such a contest would create. “Are you Mr. Sly of the Tribune?” “Did you see where the Tribune’s Mr. Sly was yesterday?” “I see that Mr. Sly of the Tribune has shaved off his mustache.” “You are Mr. Sly of the Tribune – do you deny it?” And everyone carrying a fresh copy of the paper — plus a receipt for a six-month or yearlong subscription, for a shot at a $150 or $250 prize — for days on end. The price of one copy of the Tribune in 1906? One cent.

Mr. Sly managed to elude capture for more than two weeks. Here are highlights from his daily report, plus a few interesting sidebars:

Sunday, Sept. 23, 1906

LIBERAL REWARDS FOR CAPTURE OF THE TRIBUNE’S MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY

Where is the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly?

On and after Tuesday next the Tribune offers liberal cash rewards to the man, woman or child who finds the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly and brings him to the Tribune office.

He will make his first appearance in public – on the streets, in business places or the theaters Tuesday, coming when and where nobody will be advised beforehand.

 

It is for some clever, observing person to find out where he is, lay hand on him and earn the smallest reward paid by showing him a copy of the latest issue of the Tribune and letting him know that you have got him by addressing him thus: “You are The Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly. Do you deny it?” If you have complied with these simple requirements and you actually have got hold of The Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly he will admit it; he will not deny it.

If you find a man 5 feet 10 inches high, weighing 160 pounds, with dark brown eyes and light hair, 45 years old, who is trying to dodge you intercept him. Be sure you have a copy of the morning edition of the Tribune up to the time the afternoon edition appears on the street, and after that a copy of the afternoon edition until the next morning edition appears.

To begin with, you have his description. When he begins to tell in the Tribune of his adventures you will see his pictures.

This is an amusing feature, or game, which the Tribune offers for the entertainment of its readers. If you have no time to search for the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly you will be entertained with his own signed stories of his adventures.

He will act the part of the fugitive as naturally as possible and without the spectacular effects.

He may or may not announce where he is going to be, but as he will be in the business street of the city daily, going into business and other public places, you will have no difficulty finding him.

The surest and easiest way to pick up his trail is to post yourself on his movements by reading carefully his daily stories. There you will find his methods, which he cannot conceal any more than as if they were plain foot prints following him from place to place.

Remember, it is on Tuesday that he can first be found.

Tuesday, Sept. 24, 1906

The Mysterious Mr. Sly
Will Be on Streets Today

With a Price on His Head He Will Go About Town Without Assuming Any Disguise.

Everyone will watch all others today to get a line on the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly.

At just what hour he will make his appearance in town nobody other than himself knows. It is well to be prepared to meet him at any time and place.

When he does show up he will not be bashful, will not lose any chance to put himself in the power of men, women or children he meets.

He will be expected to take many unusual chances and make the game the more interesting. As he is not permitted to disguise his features it would seem that after he has once had an interview with a person it would not be difficult for that individual to recognize him afterwards.

Who is there who does not enjoy unraveling a mystery. It is for that interest the majority of the people take in this thing that the Tribune puts out the Mysterious Mr. Sly. Believing that even those who have not time to enter into the chase will be entertained by reading the Mysterious Mr. Sly’s own stories of his adventures, the Tribune has taken up this feature convinced that its novelty will appeal to all of its readers.

HOW LONG WILL HE LAST?

As the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly will not write a line that cannot be verified – as he actually does all that he claims to do, it follows that every day eh will get more and more into danger, drawing the pursuit closer and closer to his heels. It is then plain that from his first appearance he will be in danger of capture every moment. How long he will be able to keep it up is an interesting query.

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 1906

DO YOU THINK YOU SAW THE MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY YESTERDAY?

His Own Story Tells of His Arrival and First Journeying Around Town, In Which He Gave a Policeman the First Chance For the Reward.

The Cars Carried Him Around As Any Other Passenger, but He Made a Few Visits on Hennepin Ave., and Got Into the Company of Very Nice Boys

(By The Tribune’s Mysterious Sly.)

  Photo clue 2: Mr. Sly’s right ear

Where the Minneapolis and St. Paul car No. 927 came to a stop this morning was a large plaza or square formed by the junction of two streets.

For my first introduction to Minneapolis, the scene of my future exploits, this large, open crossing gave me a most happy impression. Certainly I shall find this a city of wide streets – constructed on liberal lines, so different from the East – I thought.

But I was not out for idle reflection. Stepping towards the walk on the right hand side of the car, I nearly ran into a policeman, apparently stationed there, who was moving slowly around the corner. I gave him a quick glance which gave me the impression that he was not observing me, unaware of the prize that that St. Paul car had dropped in front of him in my hurried look I caught the number on his hat indistinctly, it appearing to be 92. He was a man a trifle under medium height with dark moustache. Probably he would weigh 170 pounds, being as I could see, well built – a man who physically can take care of himself.

Even so, though he let $250 in good cash trot out of his front gate, and after I had given him the first chance of anyone in Minneapolis.

I got on a Como-Harriet car which some one told me would take me up Hennepin avenue to Twenty-first or thirty-first street. I don’t recall which. When I stepped inside the car I saw a man in gray, or mail carrier, in uniform, take a seat next to the door. He opened a book and was at once buried in its contents. Here is where I leave a pretty clever-looking fellow a good clue by which he can find the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly, said I to myself. So, leaning over from where I stood next to the door, I got my head down so as to get the number on his cap.

It was Mail Carrier No. 87 I was offering $250 and he didn’t know it. My face was almost in his and I had to lean over in front of a fellow who sat at his side to get in that position.

Perhaps Mail Carrier No. 87 may doubt that the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly was at his elbow on Como-Harriet car 905 when, today at about 11 o’clock, it was pulled away from Washington avenue. Let me hand him out positive proof I was there. The book he was reading was a law book of some sort, and I got the impression he was studying law. When I looked on the book it was open at pages 98-9. He will support what I saw and, furthermore, agree with me that the headline in the middle of page 98 read: “Sloan & Garner.” The other lines I couldn’t see.

Two hundred and fifty dollars would help this mail carrier a long ways into the study of law.

  Mr. Sly was probably seen by hundreds of people each day.

Monday, Oct. 1, 1906

Mysterious Mr. Sly Visits
Trolley Car House at 31st St.

Drops In Among Waiting Crews, Giving Them a Good
Chance to Obtain Personal Inspec-
tion of Him.

Describes People He Meets on the Streets Going to
Church and Enjoying the Balmy Air of
Perfect Sunday.

Tuesday, Oct 2, 1906

Mysterious Mr. Sly Shakes
Hands With Boss on Job

Gets In With Gang on Plymouth Avenue Laying Curb
and Gets Name of Man He Is Talk-
ing With.

Boldly Going Through That Part of City, Meets Sev-
Eral Others, and Talks With
Them.

(By The Tribune’s Mysterious Sly.)

That I am getting into close quarters where danger of capture threatens me at every step was apparent yesterday when I took my morning stroll through the business streets.

The young fellows, those who have time at their disposal, are camping on my trail. I saw them, one after another, on Nicollet avenue, and First avenue, and on Third street near the post office, and on Fourth street all along the curb from First avenue to Hennepin avenue. If you will observe during the middle of the day, you will see them, too, watching every man who passes up and down the street and occasionally consulting the palm of their hand. They are not palmists, but are what I call regulars. They have clipped the several sections of the face of the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly from the columns of this paper and pasted them together. The pieces are not of a size to match, but in spite of that one can get a good idea of my features.

This they carry in the palm of their hands, and when they see one who strikes them as familiar they compare the passing individual with the restored picture. I ought to make it easy for one of them to get a line on the Mysterious when he gets in their way.

This sketch of Sly appeared six days before he was finally captured.

Another man in this town who ought to get his fist on the Tribune purse in the course of a day or two I found up on Plymouth avenue directing a gang of men at work laying a concrete curb. It happened this way:

I was coming down the avenue below Emerson avenue and was watching the workmen mixing the concrete in big boxes. The form was built up for a considerable distance, the sides held in their position by means of clamps. At the lower end of the working force I noticed the man in charge of the work out in the street removing his coat. As he came over onto the walk I approached him. He was gong to lay the coat upon the grass.

“Warm enough to strip?” I exclaimed, as we came together, questioningly.

Having thrown his coat down he turned toward me and with a smile nodded an affirmative to my remark. Then came a surprise for me. He walked up to me and extended his hand.

I grasped it, wondering what it meant. Possibly he thought he knew me, or perhaps it was a little act of courtesy. He didn’t explain or call me by any name. He offered his hand and I accepted it, and we shook hands. I’ll admit that I was nonplused. However, it was a very agreeable incident.

Without any remark he turned his attention to the workmen preceding me down the walk. Then the force of the joke on him struck me.

He had taken hold of the hand of The Mysterious Mr. Sly, the man for who the Tribune offers a reward of from $50 to $250, and he didn’t know what he had missed by turning away and letting the good thing slip from his grasp. I felt so amused over the situation that I couldn’t repress a smile. It was worthwhile to know who that man was.

He came back up the walk when I had gone a few steps and I turned and stopped him as he went to go by.

“I don’t know as I can recall your name,” I said, addressing him.

“Downs,” was his reply.

So it was Mr. Downs, contractor or city inspector, whichever he may be – at any rate, boss of the job on Plymouth avenue – who is the first man in Minneapolis to shake hands with the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly.

Now that he reads of the incident he will remember exactly my personal appearance and will lose no time in starting after that Tribune reward.

If Mr. Downs should get hold of that hand again, he should not let go of it until he has made the capture effective, according to the conditions.

THOUGHT HE HAD SLY

  A “house ad” touting the contest.

The interest that is being taken in the universal quest for the missing Mr. Sly is clearly shown by an incident that took place in the city editor’s room on the fourth floor of the Tribune building yesterday afternoon. The incident was due to the determination of one well-known resident of the city to locate the missing Sly person, and it was owing to the close resemblance to the mysterious man that half of Minneapolis’ population is now trying to catch that the well-known resident, who is none other than A.E. Wright of 85 Ninth street south, was led to believe that the physician and Mr. Sly are one and the same person.

It was at the corner of Nicollet and Fourth street that Mr. Wright chanced upon the man whom his imagination at once told him was the elusive Mr. Sly. The medical man was sauntering along the avenue, and his casual air, together with the fact that he bore a marked resemblance to the Tribune accounts of Mr. Sly, caused Mr. Wright to turn around and follow the man for several rods.

A few minutes of close scrutiny led Mr. Wright to the conclusion that he had at last found the man for whose identification there is a heavy reward.

“You are the missing Mr. Sly,” were the words that aroused the physician out of a brown study.

The mention of the mysterious personage at once provided a key to a situation that with other men and under other circumstances might have proved embarrassing. With a swift denial of any relationship to the much wanted man on his lips, the physician suddenly conceived the idea of having a little fun of his own out of the case.

“Well, supposing I am the missing Mr. Sly, what are you going to do about it?” His reply enhanced by a quizzical smile that began to play about the corners of his mouth, had the immediate effect of leading Mr. Wright to believe that at last the missing Mr. Sly was captured, and the large crowd that had congregated during the colloquy were plainly of the same opinion.

“It’s to the Tribune office for us both. That’s what I am going to do about it,” and linking his arm in that of his captive, Mr. Wright steered the man of powders and pills to the big building with the white front on Fourth street.

There they took the elevator for the fourth floor and in the process of time landed in the city editor’s room. Once there, the physician continued to wear his air of mystery until Mr. Wright was more than ever convinced that he had attained the distinction of capturing the missing Mr. Sly. Just how the incident could have ended is a question, had not an acquaintance of the physician chanced to enter the room at the moment when Mr. Wright’s credulity was at its height and put an end to the highly interesting situation by calling his doctor-friend by name.

After the mystery was cleared up the two principals to it consented to sit for their pictures under the hand of the Tribune’s artist.

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 1906

CLERKS IN LARGE STORE GET A
CALL FROM MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY

In Powers’ Visits Toilet Goods and Book Departments
and Gives Other Clerks a Fair
Show.

Roams at Large In Minneapolis Dry Goods Co.’s Store,
Visiting Different Floors and Makes a
Selection of the Rugs.


  A telling photo of Sly …

Coming through First avenue from Sixth street today as far down as Fourth I found the regulars out in greater numbers. A group of the Old Guard watching at the cigar store corner, a place they do well to picket for not a day passes that I do not go by that corner, were arming themselves in the sun. I turned the corner and walked by The Tribune office, going to Nicollet avenue and there turning south. I walked up to Sixth street and swung around into First avenue where I followed the east side of the street until I got opposite Powers where I crossed and entered that big store, the first time I had ever been inside of it.

UP AGAINST TWO CLERKS.

A great many customers were moving about in the aisles. I stopped a moment inside of the entrance and looked around. At my left were tables loaded with small goods and beyond them stocks of books. At my right it was the same arrangement of goods and what attracted my attention and gave me the mint of a reason for coming in was a big display of toilet articles.

Now when I go into a store I have no plan of action. I depend on what I see to offer me suggestions. Naturally I take a little time before acting. It was only a moment in this case that I took to decide.

IN CONVERSATION WITH THEM.

  … and another …

Down the middle aisle, ahead of me and at the left, I saw two clerks standing side by side and having noting to do. There is a chance to hand out the Mysterious, I though. Either one of them would pick up $50 in a minute if it came his way. So on the spur of the moment I walked directly to them.

One was short, stout built, with blond complexion and no beard. The other was taller, slimmer, with a health brown in his face and sporting a small black mustache. I put myself close in front of them and looking directly at the shorter man addressed him.

“Where is the department of men’s toilet goods,” I asked.

“What is it you want to get,” he asked, in a pleasant tone. Now, I had seen where the toilet goods were located but had made that my excuse for giving these amiable clerks a chance for The Tribune money.

“Brush and comb,” I replied.

“Back there in the first aisle, around to your left,” he directed.

PRETTY CLERKS ATTRACT SLY

That was where I had first decided, on entering the store, to go, for I had observed two pretty clerks of the “sweet sixteen” style at that counter, who I felt ought to have really the best show for the reward, supposing of course that like most of the thousands of young women who work in the stores for no princely pay, they would appreciate a handover of a half a hundred dollars or so.

  … and another.

When I reached the counter I saw for the first time that there were three of them, one, a slip of a girl in blue sitting up in a sort of loft right in front of me. I was approached by the young lady with dark brown hair, a good color in her face and wearing a white waist checked with small black lines.

She had such a nice way of asking me what I wanted that I felt ashamed to think that unless she was wise enough to tumble I should have to carry away the handsome sum of money and then tell her what a chance she had lost.

I got her to haul out a half dozen or more hair brushes, beginning with one at $1.75. I told her I wanted a brush for myself. “Anything cheaper than that?” I asked. Yes. Here was one for a dollar and a half. I had begun to feel so mean at the trick I was playing her that I decided as a matter of consolation for her to make a purchase. Now, I didn’t need any brushes, so I called for something cheaper.

ON TO HER JOB.

“Less than a dollar and a half?” she asked in some surprise.

“Have you cheaper ones?” Yes. “Please let me see them.” She smiled, and I tried to “look pleasant.” Here was one, she said, for a dollar. But, no, still cheaper. One for 50 cents, she said. Oh she was wise – on to her job, all right. I took the brush and pretended to examine it. What was the use of paying more than I had to, when my bureau was already supplied.

“Anything for a quarter?” I asked, feeling that I was treating her meanly in making my purchase so small.

“Oh, yes!” and she handed me out a 25-cent brush with the same agreeableness as though she was making a two-dollar sale. This made me feel easy, and friendly toward her. I bought the brush and gave her the exact change. The girl in blue wrapped it up. As I turned to go away I observed the other clerk standing close by. She had pretty blonde hair and light complexion tinted red and was dressed in white.

Thursday, Oct. 4, 1906

MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY’S QUEER
ERRAND AT DAYTON’S STORE

There He Also Makes Purchase, Looks Over Goods at
Several Counters and Inspects Fancy Goods,
Second Floor.

Gives Floorwalker at Philipsborn’s a Five-Minute Talk
Then Looks Over Ladies’ Cloaks Where Keen
Eyed Clerks Make Him Uneasy.

Friday, Oct. 5, 1906

MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY VISITS
SEVERAL MORE LARGE STORES

Makes the Acquaintance of Rydell, the Clothier, as
He Is Informed, and Selects
Clothing.

Gets Estimates for Furnishing a Flat, and Inspects
Pianos, Then Lunches at
Schiek’s.

Saturday, Oct. 6, 1906

SLY REMEMBERED
BY MUSIC DEALER

A.M. Cummins Thought
Mysterious One a Spotter

Positive He Would Know Sly If
Seen Again.

C.E. LeCrone, Lumberman,
Several Times Mistaken
For the Tribune’s Man.

The net certainly is drawing in about Mr. Sly for everyone who has seen him once, and then been written up by Mr. Sly is on the lookout for his second appearance. A Tribune reporter went over the ground yesterday covered by Mr. Sly the day before, and was able to verify his every statement.

  The Powers department store, 1906.

A.M. Cummins, the “stout built, round, full-faced gentleman,” described by Sly in Schultz’s piano store, said: “Yes, yes, it’s all so. He seemed so interested, and asked so many questions regarding the construction of the instruments that I thought at first he was a spotter from some other store. Later I changed this view because he seemed so one-sided, and I showed him every piano in the house. Yes, indeed. I would know him if I saw him again.

A call was next made at Rydell’s, and it was learned that Mr. Rydell had subscribed for the Tribune for a year soon after seeing Sly’s account of his visit to that store. Mr. Rydell is working extra hours doing the Sherlock Holmes act these days, and when seen said: “Yes, the Tribune was correct in everything it said about Sly’s visit to my store. You bet I’d know him again if he came in. I’ll land him yet, see if I don’t.”

From Rydell’s the reporter went to Schiek’s and there Mr. West who waited upon Sly was readily found and is all broken up over missing the $50 reward. “My, if I had only know it was he,” he said. “I could have used that fifty, too. The Chamber of Commerce boys have been roasting me all day about missing such a chance, for a little wad of money, and if Sly comes in again I’ll nail him.”

C.E. LeCrone, a lumberman from Memphis, Tenn., who has been a guest at the Nicollet for the past week, has had considerable difficulty in persuading some people that he is not the real Mr. Sly.

On Wednesday evening while walking down Nicollet he was surprised at the attention he attracted. Two young ladies in particular were watching him, looking him over from head to foot, and then followed him for several blocks. When he stopped to look into a store window they stopped too and when they at length turned down a side street, he says they turned back with a look that seemed to say “I’m onto you, all right.”

He did not know what to make of it, but a block farther down he again met the young ladies who had evidently walked around the block and this time one of them came up to him and said: “You are The Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly, do you deny it?” Of course, he did.

(The Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly.)
MINNEAPOLIS, Friday, Oct. 5, 5 p.m.
The lady who writes The Mysterious Mr. Sly, begging him to come over on Central avenue at a stipulated time so that she can catch him, is reminded that if she will watch on First, Nicollet or Hennepin avenues between Fourth and Sixth streets any day between 11 and 12 o’clock she will stand as prime a chance to land The Tribune money as on Central avenue, unless she expects the impossible – giving her a tip, as her letter seems to imply.

Sunday, Oct. 7, 1906

MISTAKEN FOR MR. SLY

FRANK J. EMMETT HAS INTER-
ESTING EXPERIENCE

Comes Eleven Times to The Tribune
Office to Convince Some Doubting
Thomas That He Has No Author-
ity to Pay Out $50.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that Sly is a mighty fine lookin’ man,” said Frank J. Emmett, the eleventh time he good naturedly allowed himself to be brought into the Tribune’s office Friday afternoon.

Mr. Emmett is a larger man than Sly, and has darker hair. He was mistaken for Sly several times before reaching the business section, but real confusion did not come his way until after he donned a silk hat.

Mr. Emmett recalled many ludicrous incidents of the afternoon. One young man threatened a suit for damages if he, Emmett, should afterward turn out to be the mysterious Mr. Sly.

This mistaken idea seems to be quite prevalent. The truth is, Mr. Sly, when approached in the manner indicated in every issue of the Tribune, will at once acknowledge his identity. Thousands of people seem to be of the opinion Sly will try to escape, if possible, even after capture. This is not true. Each paper has somewhere in it directions for approaching Mr. Sly.

Monday, Oct. 8, 1906

Sly’s Moustache Taken Off
By Nicollet Hotel Barber

Not One of Dozen Men Employed There, Whose Busi-
ness Is Study of Men’s Features, Knew the
Man With Big Price on His Head.

At Yerxa’s, Sly Talks of Vegetables and Asks for a
Job – Clerks Now Having His Description
Should Hunt Him Down.

Tuesday, Oct. 9, 1906

MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY VISITS
BIG LUMBER COMPANIES

Makes a Trip to Camden, Calling at the Offices and
Mingling With the Employes at the
Noon Hour.

Visits the Business Places at End of the Car Line, and
Takes Luncheon at the Home
Bakery.

MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY
Today between 12 and 1 o’clock can be found on HENNEPIN AVENUE and FIRST AVENUE SOUTH, between 4th and 6th streets.

Wednesday, Oct. 10, 1906

MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY WALKS
SAFELY AMONG WATCHING SLEUTHS

Carries Dummy Packages Into Places of Business on
His Route and Leaves Them, Bearing Ad-
dresses for Identification.

Incidents of His Trip Which Attracted Attention From
Men and Women Who Were Out to Get the Re-
ward and Failed to Recognize Him.

MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY
Will go into a big store to-day (Wednesday) and call for “Glowing Red” material – something in the line of neckties. “Glowing Red Necktie” is the cue. Every clerk should have a Tribune within reach.

Thursday, Oct. 11, 1906

CLERK NO. 83 AT MINNEAPOLIS
DRY GOODS CO.’S GETS CUE

Sly Visited Two Stores Before He Felt Safe to Utter
the Words That Were to Make Him
Known to the Clerks.

Has Hair Cut and Shave at Ehler’s Barber Shop and
Listens to Conversation Concerning
Himself.

MYSTERIOUS MR. SLY
Will be at the West Hotel to-day after one o’clock.

“GLOWING RED,” that was announced yesterday, as the cue for one of the clerks in the big stores, today.

Any man who made a purchase and said he wanted “GLOWING RED,” was to be taken into custody at once.

How many humorists may have gone into the stores and sprung that cue I have no means of knowing.

The real Mysterious Mr. Sly gave it out in the Minneapolis Dry Goods company’s store and got away safely.

I don’t like to give wide publicity to the identical clerk who let the big purse of money slip away from her. I have her name and the clerks in that store will all know who the unlucky clerk is after reading what I have got to say.

I had fixed upon Thomas’ Department store to swing the cue, and it was a few minutes of 4 o’clock when I went in there through the Nicollet avenue entrance. Going down the aisle opposite the entrance I noticed one of the clerks on my right with very white hair. Just beyond on the left I inquired of two clerks for calicos and they gave me the directions.

The clerk who waited on me, a young man who by the purchase check I see is clerk No. 27, was waiting for that cue. When I asked for calico his face spread into a broad smile. ON the check he wrote 22 and then a 7 over the last 2.

“What color?” he asked. Then, as he led me down the aisle he turned and asked: “Red?” He was too anxious; not at all cunning. Why should he think I wanted red? I was not out to so easily ensnare myself. He frightened away the game. It would have been the height of folly to have given him the cue. He was on the watch for it.

“Any kind of calico will do,” I said.

I crossed the street and walked up the other side, entering the Minneapolis Dry Goods company’s store from Nicollet avenue. At the beginning of the counter at my left I asked the girl for the cambric counter. It was in the next aisle to my right. I found the place and confronted a string of bright-eyed clerks – a half dozen together.

“I want cambric,” I said. They all heard and looked at me. It was plain from their countenances, that they, too, were on the lookout. One of the shorter of the party, a blonde wearing glasses, backed out of the line and came around to the end where I was.

That peculiar style of smile I have learned to understand as a danger signal was on her countenance.

“What color?” she asked. A natural question, but not spoken by her in a natural manner. She was simply bubbling over with amusement, but she was more careful than the clerk in Thomas.

“Red,” I said. Then she turned to a lady dressed in dark clothes, wearing glasses. “Mrs. —–, where are the cambrics?” It was plain that she was not the clerk who usually sold cambrics. She had butted in – I hope she will pardon the expression. She certainly showed quick wit. She wanted The Tribune reward and that was why she offered to wait on me. At once I comprehended that if I sprung the cue on her I was a goner.

She laid out a bolt of red cambric and I called for a yard. It was too late to go into another store and I had decided under any circumstances to spring the cue at that counter, and I was studying how I should do it. She had the piece partly cut off when I said to her: “Is that the only read in cambric you have?”

“No, there are several reds,” she replied, dropping her scissors on the counter and looking up in a manner that denoted she was waiting for the fateful words.

“Very well,” I replied, “My wife wants this for lining a work basket.” I was on the point of framing another sentences with the cue in it, when she rolled the cambric up and tossed it over to Mrs. —–, to whom the sale belonged.

That was a luck move for me, for I don’t believe I could have got off the cue in anyway and escaped her. Mrs. —– was busy for the moment and I had to wait awhile. I watched the little girl who gave me a parting look full of wisdom, and saw her go to the other end of the counter and speak to another, who began to laugh, the two looking back toward me.

Finally Mrs. —– stepped over to where I stood and began rolling up the cambric. I handed here the exact change and she began making out the check. Then I saw the best chance I had had.

“This is as red as I can get – as bright red I mean?” I asked.

She said it was without looking up.

“What I want is GLOWING RED,” I added. She kept on with her marking, not even looking up. I had slipped in the cue as I had promised and she had not taken it: That was not my fault. It was my good luck. The sale check shows that $2 got the cue.

[Later that day, Sly slipped into a crowded barbershop called Ehler’s and sat down for a haircut, a shave – and a quick nap.]

  A 1900s barbershop: You are getting sleepy, very sleepy. (mnhs.org)

SLY’S DREAM

It was my SIXTEENTH DAY, usually an unfortunate day with me. Besides, I was nervous. I had dreamed of falling into a deep cage with iron bars all around it and piled up inside were mountains of bags.

Each bag had a label. Some of them had $50 in big black figures. Others had $150; others were marked $250. Hundreds and hundreds of people were striving to break through those bars. I was working desperately with a long bar to poke them back. I could see first one bar yield, then another. “They are getting through,” I said. Then I woke up.

Under the soothing influence of the barber’s soft touch I began to get drowsy. I was brought to my senses by a remark I heard a barber at the farther end of the room make. I couldn’t hear every word. I couldn’t turn my head to see who was talking. I didn’t understand anything said in reply. Evidently he was talking to a man in his chair.

What first caught my attention were the words: “Picture in this morning’s Tribune.” After some low, indistinct talk, I heard the barber say:

“I was speaking of the picture yesterday morning. In the Tribune.” Then I caught the disconnected phrases:

“The picture with Prince Albert coat.”

“He is a good one.”

“He’s a circus man.”

“We had a good deal of fun over it. There were three of us who claimed the money. We thought the best way to do would be to divide it into three equal shares.”

They were evidently discussing the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly, and that same man was one of their listeners. It made me think of that famous remark of Puck’s, “What —, etc.”

Predisposed to nervousness when I came in, this talk set me on edge. I felt I was safe. But still I began to get more nervous; and was trying to fight it off. I squirmed in the chair, lifted myself, then fell back; and drew a long breath. I was afraid my barber would notice it and come out of his trance. So to throw him off I said that I was suffering from pain. He wanted to know what it was. And I told him of a fictitious ailment. He could sympathize with me, he said, for he also had suffered from a somewhat similar cause. Most everyone has a physical infirmity – real or imaginary.

The principal weakness at Ehlers, both of barbers and customers, was the failure to recognize the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly, and after seeing all of these pictures, especially that one this morning.

Of course I left consolation money with my barber and this time I did not forget to tip the brush broom.

Friday, Oct. 12, 1906

UNIVERSITY LAW STUDENT
CAUGHT SLY AND $250.00

After Following the Trail for Six Days and Holding Up
Eight Suspects He Gets His Man at the
West Hotel.

The Mysterious Made a Tour of South Side and Left
Clues All Along His Route Before He
Was Captured

(By The Tribune’s Mysterious Sly.)

CAPTURED AT LAST!

And the young man who had the lucky inspiration got $250.00, the big end of the reward.

His name is H.G. Richardson, a law student at the university in his third year who will graduate with this year’s class. He is 20 years old, his home is in Madison, Ind., and his Minneapolis residence is at 1324 Eight street southeast.

At 1:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon with a dress suit case in one hand and an overcoat over the arm, I walked a block and a half to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad station and found two cabs waiting for fares. The driver of the first, who stood in the Washington avenue entrance to the station, stepped out, seeing me turn up to his cab, and handing him my traveling bag, I told him to drive me to the West hotel. He threw the bag up in front and I tumbled into the vehicle.

Then we were off, driving up through Third avenue south, then through Fourth street to Hennepin avenue and around the corner up to the hotel, where he drew up at the Fifth street entrance.

When he had opened the door I got out and, leaving him to follow with my bag, ran up the steps leading to the entrance. As I reached the top step I saw the form of somebody come up diagonally across the steps with more speed than I was making.

SLY ON EXHIBITION

During the time that the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly has been operating about the streets of Minneapolis, many persons have mistaken others for the much-wanted man. In nearly every case they have brought their man to the Tribune office, and it has often been hard to convince them of their mistake.

The true Mr. Sly will be in the circulation rooms on the second floor of the Tribune building Friday and Saturday from 12:30 to 1:30 o’clock, and all who still think that they captured the Mysterious Mr. Sly are requested to call and see him and be convinced of their mistake.

TRAILED TO HOTEL ENTRANCE.

It flashed into my mind at once that the career of the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly was about to come to an end. I hurried to push open the swinging doors and get in.

In a moment I felt a tight grip on my left arm. Turning I saw that I was confronted by a young fellow about my own height, whose eyes were snapping with excitement. He had the complexion of a rose-tinted peach. And he looked to be not much more than a boy. Before I could get farther along in looking him over, I heard him say, distinctly and without making a break of any sort:

“You are the Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly. Do you deny it?

SLY IN A TIGHT GRIP.

I made no reply but attempted to proceed when his grip tightened and he said:

“You are not going to get away from me this time.”

Then he shoved a newspaper up in front of me. I grabbed the paper, making another effort to pass in, but without avail. We were blocking the entrance. The cabman stood behind us holding my bag. Three fellows had run up on the steps and more were crowding about us. One of them had pushed partly between my captor and myself with a paper in his hand, saying: “You are Mr. Sly.”

PINK SLIP WORTH $250.

In the meantime I cast a hurried glance over the date on the paper, and saw that it was Thursday morning, Oct. 11. I also observed a pink slip pinned onto the paper. It was worth $250. All of this took only a moment. I was still striving to move on and my captor was holding fast. I had no idea of shaking him. I simply wanted to get through the doors.

SLY ADMITS CAPTURE.

I saw that I was captured according to conditions and said: “Come on.” The young man yielded to my command. We pushed through the doors. At the same time I turned to him and in an unimportant way, said:

“You have won the money.”

At that time I didn’t know what the pink slip meant – six months or one year’s subscription; $150 or $250 – not having seen one. When we got through the doors, he placed his finger on it and then on examining it I saw that it was a year’s subscription to the Tribune.

“What is this?” I asked.

“A year’s subscription,” he replied, in a tone of triumph.

I turned to him with some astonishment and said: “Young fellow, let me congratulate you. You have won $250.”

“Are you really the man?” he asked, looking up with an expression showing some fear lest he was being fooled.

“I am.” He made no further remark. I paid the cabman, who had kept close to us, and gave my things to a couple of bell boys, who were pushing through a large crowd that had quickly gathered about us.

CROWD GREETS SLY AT HOTEL.

No loud remark had been made to indicate who I was. They simply seemed to know. Turning the corner in the cab, I had observed the crowd in both streets. Now it seemed they had poured into the hotel, filling the rotunda.

“What is your name?” I asked my captor. He gave it to me. Then he informed me he was a law student and his home was in Indiana.

“Any relatives living here?” I asked.

“Yes, two brothers, Frank Richardson and G.L., both in Barnaby’s at Fourth street and Nicollet avenue.”

We had now reached the desk and were pinned in by an immense crowd. The clerks extended a hearty greeting to myself and congratulations to Richardson.

SLY BOUND TO REGISTER.

“I will register as I intended, had I not been caught,” I said, and I wrote on the register:

“A.L. Wing, Oshkosh.”

“Yes, that is the man,” said a fellow at my elbow.

Another pushed up to me as we turned away from the desk, the crowd dropping back and extending a copy of the Tribune, said: “You are the Mysterious Mr. Sly –”

“Hold on,” I broke in. “You are too late. This man has me.”

Richardson and I, followed by the crowd, went over to the cigar stand. I stepped up to the black-eyed lady behind the news counter and asked her if she remembered me. I had been in there ten days ago.

“I certainly do,” she replied, laughingly. “You wouldn’t have got away from me again.”

After getting a luncheon at the hotel café and phoning to the office, although a Tribune reporter was at the desk as soon as we were and got the information, I invited Mr. Richardson to go along and get his money. At the approach to the Tribune and in the halls we found other crowds awaiting us.

Mr. Richardson was congratulated by the Tribune management when he was handed a check for $250.

WAS A PERSISTENT SLEUTH

  The photo that sank Sly.

“I have been following you up for six days,” he said to me. “I have held up nine people in that time. I have even sometimes neglected my classes, and my brothers laughed at me. Twice I tackled Thomas Hickey, ex-president of the American Baseball association. Do you know what picture caught you?” he said, showing me a blank book in which he had pasted every picture of the Mysterious Mr. Sly that had been published. “That is the one,” and he pointed out the front view print of myself with smooth face and wearing a derby hat.

WHERE THE MONEY WILL GO.

“What will you do with the money?” I asked.

“I will use it to help pay the balance of my schooling. I will take a trip with the football team to Chicago and defray the expenses of a visit home.”

“Did you see me when I was at the university?” I asked.

“No, I was in my class.”

Then he continued: “I made a study of your pictures and watched closely your movements as you described them. Last Saturday I got a receipt for six months’ subscription to the Tribune. Then, on Monday, I increased it to a year. I said that I might as well get the whole thing; besides, if I did not succeed I would have the paper paid for and would be no money out.”

Mr. Richardson received numerous congratulations on the streets and at the Tribune office. A great many people we met on our way to the Tribune told me that the money went all right. It could not have gone to a better party – a young man paying his way through school; one more deserving of it.

It was a big disappointment for me because I was in the hopes I would get through this seventeenth day which is the best I have previously done, and break my record, even if only for one day. But my pictures had given me away.

  The West Hotel in 1911. (mnhs.org photo)

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