Home Culture History History of Stamp Collecting Part 33 – A Robbery in 1865

History of Stamp Collecting Part 33 – A Robbery in 1865


In the late 1970s a fascinating series of articles written by Mr. K. Kouwenberg about the history of Stamp Collecting, appeared in the Dutch magazine Philatelie. This series has been the source of inspiration for PostBeeld owner Rob Smit to rewrite the history of stamp collecting in instalments. This is Part 33

In The Stamp Collector’s Magazine 1865, on page 28 the following article can be seen:

“On February 4, 1865, Alexander Dodd, 15 years old, appeared in court in Liverpool. He is accused of stealing £500-worth of stamps from one of England’s most important stamp traders, Young and Stockall.”

One of the partners, Mr. Young, summoned as a witness, stated that he discovered a book with stamps worth about £500 was missing. He last saw this book on a desk a short distance from the counter. The suspect sometimes came to his shop to sell stamps, but never sold more than sixpence-worth.”

Detective Laycock stated that he had arrested and searched Alexander Dodd, after which “two books” full of stamps and a key appeared from his pockets. Many more stamps were found in his house, with stamps that Young also recognised as his own but had never missed. The suspect confessed to the theft and stated that, after taking the stamps from a book, he had thrown it away in the botanical gardens.

A gentleman acting on behalf of the accused told the court that he had known the Dodd family for twenty years and the boy from his birth and the family were known as respectable people . The boy was employed by a Greek merchant, where he was highly appreciated and where he could remain employed.

Mr. Young then said he didn’t need to further prosecute the boy. He had all his property back and believed that the defendant had no idea of ​​the value of what he had stolen – he could have started a stamp shop with the stolen property. Mr. Young admitted he’d been shocked by the event and realised he had been quite nonchalant, leaving valuable stamp books lying  around.

Summing up the judge said he found it a difficult case, but as the boy Dodd had admitted theft, he could not just let him go. The boy had cried bitterly during the trial, but was sentenced to a month of hard labour.

The prison scene in the picture above was typical for Victorian England and shows prisoners preparing oakum – a fibrous material used in shipbuilding, which had to be picked out strand-by-strand from old rope – this was a common form of labour in the Victorian workhouse, as well as in Britain’s prisons.

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