Thursday, Jan. 6, 1921: The $1.19 lie

Posted on May 14th, 2006 – 11:04 PM
By Ben Welter

Another story in two parts, this from the Minneapolis Daily Star.


F.F. Agnew, 5135 Nokomis avenue, is in the city jail awaiting trial tomorrow, because he says he lied to a grocer so he could get credit for $1.19 worth of groceries. He says he lied because he is out of work and didn’t want his wife and two children to starve.

The grocer is J. P. Johnson, 4937 South Thirty-eighth street. He had Agnew arrested today.

According to Johnson’s complaint, Agnew came into his store the other day and asked for credit, representing himself to be employed by the Minneapolis General Electric company. He bought one pound of butter, two loaves of bread, one box of tobacco, one pound of wiener sausages and one box of matches. Johnson says he found on inquiry that Agnew was not employed by the electric company.

According to Agnew, Johnson came to his home yesterday and demanded $1.19 in payment for the groceries. Agnew said he didn’t have the money, but agreed to pay it as soon as he was able to get work.

After nearly a week in jail, Agnew finally had his day in court. Here’s the Daily Star’s followup story dated Wednesday, Jan. 12, 1921:

AGNEW, OF $1.19

Prosecutor Admits Fluke
– 40 People Wanted to
Pay Grocer

F.F. Agnew, 5135 Nokomis avenue, who was put in jail because he lied to his grocer, J.P. Johnson, 4927 South Thirty-eighth street, to get credit for $1.19 worth of groceries, was released from his cell today.

When Agnew was arraigned in municipal court before Judge Frank Reed this morning, Thomas Kilbride, city prosecuting attorney, asked that the case be dismissed. He said a complaint should not have been issued.

Kildbride blamed Jerome Jackman, his assistant, for issuing the complaint, which he called a “fluke.”

Johnson, the grocer, who was in court, said he had intended to ask for a dismissal. He said he had been pestered by customers ever since he caused Agnew’s arrest.

“About 40 people have tried to pay that $1.19 bill,” he said.

As a result of the dismissal of the case, Agnew declined to accept the $1.19 sent to him through the Daily Star by Eagle Bend residents.

Agnew was arrested January 6. When his case came up the following day it was continued and Agnew was put back in a cell.

His “crime” consisted in telling his grocer that he worked for the Minneapolis General Electric Co. He lied, he admitted, but said he told the lie because he was out of work and his wife and two children were hungry.

According to Agnew, he formerly was employed by the electric company, but had been laid off.

Smith's Grocery
Smith’s Grocery, Minneapolis, in about 1920: Would you lie to the man behind the counter? (Photo courtesy of

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