AR Shattuck and the Sensational New York Robbery

by Philip Shaddock

What was described as one of the most sensational robberies in New York history involved the wealthy banker Albert Richardson Shattuck (1854-1924) and his wife Mary Aborn Strong (1872-1935) in 1924.


William Bainbridge Shattuck (1824-1923). He is in his garden in New Orleans

AR Shattuck was a descendant of what the Shattuck chronicler Lemuel Shattuck calls the Littleton Shattucks, after the town where his ancestors were prominent citizens. His great great grandfather, William Shattuck (1755-1777) played a role in the Revolutionary War. Lemuel Shattuck (p.161 Memorials): He commanded a company in the army of the revolution, and was killed with 20 of his men, near Ticonderoga, in 1777. He married Mary Dustin, born about 1754, a descendant, and probably a great-granddaughter of Hannah Dustin, whose capture by the Indians in Haverhill, March 15, 1697, and whose remarkable escape from her captors by killing and scalping them, entitle her to be considered one of the greatest heroines of any age. 

He was in the battle of Bunker Hill. An anecdote relating to his conduct on that occasion is told of him to
the following effect : "See," says he to his fellow-companion in arms, "how I do it;" and drawing a ball from his pouch, and first wetting it in his mouth, let it fall into the muzzle of his gun; and taking a deliberate aim at a particular person in the enemy's ranks, he sent it through his heart. "There," said he, "this is the sixteenth that I have fixed in like manner!"

AR Shattuck was the son of William Bainbridge Shattuck (1824-1923), who had an interest in a large publishing house in Cincinnati and was editor of a local paper "The Columbian," established in 1853. AR Shattuck grew up in New Orleans where he entered business with his brother-in-law, F. Burral Hoffman Sr., a member of a distinguished line of Hoffman New Yorkers that began with Martin Hermanzen Hoffman who immigrated to American from Sweden in 1657. The firm was called Shattuck and Hoffman. In the Florida Historical Quarterly (Vol. 76, No. 4, Spring 1998) "The Florida Architecture of F. Burrall Hoffman Jr., 1882-1980" the author Donald W. Curl writes about Shattuck and Hoffman: "[Shattuck and Hoffman] served as merchants and negotiators of loans on improved farm properties. It also owned a sugar plantation on the Bayou Teche and a cotton plantation on the Mississippi River."


AR Shattuck (1854-1924)

The partners became fabulously wealthy. Hoffman's estates in Florida became architectural gems, hence the article in the Florida Historical Quarterly. AR Shattuck in 1894 moved to New York where he continued in business as a banker. But it is not his business success that would make him and his wife Mary Strong a legend among New Yorkers. It was a house robbery. You get a measure of this when you read the obituary of Mary Strong when she died in 1935. Most of the obituary is taken up with the description of the robbery.

MRS. A. R. SHATTUCK IS DEAD IN LENOX
Daughter of the Late Mayor W. L. Strong of New York Stricken on Estate.
ROBBED BY BANDITS IN 1922
Imprisoned With Husband and 8 Servants While Thieves Took $80,000 in Jewels.


LENOX, Mass., March 1, 1935
Mrs. Shattuck was born in New York on Feb. 22, 1868, daughter of former Mayor William L. Strong and the former May Aborn. She was educated in this country and abroad and in 1890 was married to Mr. Shattuck. The Shattuck family had been Summer residents of Lenox since 1880.

In 1911 Mr. Shattuck bought The Mount from Mrs. Edith Wharton, novelist. He died in Lenox on Nov. 4, 1925.

Mrs. Shattuck was a charter member of the Colony Club of New York, St. Thomas Church there and Trinity Episcopal Church in Lenox.

A daughter of the late William L. Strong, Mayor of New York from 1895 to 1897, Mrs. Shattuck was best remembered by New Yorkers in connection with a robbery during which she, her husband and eight servants were locked in a wine cellar in their residence at 19 Washington Square North in 1922. The robbery was one of the most sensational in the history of New York. A long and relentless search by Mr. Shattuck led to the capture and imprisonment of the five members of the Apache band which perpetrated it.

The robbery took place on April 2, 1922.

Former Butler Led Robbers.

19 Washington Square North, the Shattucks New York residence where the robbery took place.


The robbers, led by Gabriel Alphonse Mourey, who had been a butler for the Shattucks until he fled in 1917 with $12,000 in jewels, entered the house on April 2, 1922, and robbed its owners of $80,000 in jewels. Mourey, thoroughly familiar with the home and the household's routine, gained entrance to the cellar early in the morning and lay concealed until noon, when he knew the servants would be at lunch and the Shattucks in their apartments.

The four other bandits then were admitted by him. They herded Mr. and Mrs. Shattuck and the servants in the wine cellar, where they remained for half an hour.

Mrs. Shattuck was first made prisoner in a closet. "One robber pressed a pistol against my temple," she said later, "another pressed one against my heart and the third pressed one against my side. One of them said 'Give me all your jewels.' I knew that the jewels were on a shelf above my head, but I did not tell them. I didn't want to show them I was afraid and I said, 'I feel you have kind hearts behind your faces. My husband is an old man and not well. Let me go to him.' "

The bandits would not let her go to Mr. Shattuck. While they searched, one of them said, "I will stick these hatpins in her eyes." At length the Shattucks and the servants were shoved into the almost airtight wine cellar, where they all might have been suffocated had not Mr. Shattuck finally unscrewed the lock of the door with a dime and his pocket knife.

Gang Rounded Up.
Searchers for the desperadoes were spurred on by Mr. and Mrs. Shattuck and the entire gang was rounded up by 1924, some of its members here and others abroad. For the capture of Mourey by the Paris Police Department and his conviction Mr. Shattuck presented $15,000 to the department.

Mourey was condemned to death for the robbery, but Mrs. Shattuck, in a letter to President Doumergue of France, said: "From the bottom of my heart I beg you to spare the life of Mourey. Since his attack on us I have had nothing but pity for him. I beg you to pardon him." The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

The shock due to the robbery and incarceration made both Mr. and Mrs. Shattuck ill. When Mr. Shattuck died he left a net estate of $692,286. The residuary estate of $682,286 went to his widow, who previously had inherited a fortune from her father. The residence in which the robbery took place was sold by her in 1931.

Mrs. Shattuck's father was a man of large interests, including dry goods, banking and insurance. Her mother was Mrs. Mary Aborn Strong, daughter of Robert W. Aborn of Orange. Her paternal grandfather was Abel Strong, a native of Hartford, Conn."


AR Shattuck at the wheel of his Packard


AR Shattuck had a passionate interest in cars, and served as the President of the Automobile Club of America.

Shown in the picture on the left is AR at the wheel of a Packard at 230 Park Avenue, New York. No date.

AR Shattuck was licensed by George B. Brayton, considered to be the father of the gas engine, to build cars. But I have so no evidence that he actually built one.


AR Shattuck and his wife Mary apparently did not return to their New York residence after the robbery, a measure of the trauma they experienced. Mentioned in passing in the New York Times article was their retreat in Massachusetts, nothing less than the former residence of the famous Edith Wharton. You can get a sense of the opulence of their lifestyle in the pictures of the Lenox, Massachusetts house at its grounds.


The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts


The Mount Drawing Room by David Dashiel




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