She was scheming and dishonest as the day is long”
Born on 27 February 1818 (some sources say 1827) as Friederike Henriette Auguste Wiesener in Hanover, Prussia, she married Wolf Israel Mandelbaum and they moved to New York in 1850. They bought a dry goods store at 79 Clinton Street. In the following decade “Marm” Mandelbaum found her vocation as a fence and trainer of apprentice thieves. In 1867 she avoided prison when Moses Ehrich, a fellow fence, bribed the authorities.
Her notoriety grew and George Washington Walling, the chief of New York City’s police said that Mandelbaum had “no peer in the United States” as a receiver of stolen property. She paid fines for criminals who stole the items she fenced but she also never paid more than ten per cent of any item’s worth to the thief. One thief, Banjo Pete Emerson, said, “She was scheming and dishonest as the day is long, but she could be like an angel to the worst devil as long as he played square with her.”
In 1875 Wolf Mandelbaum died from tuberculosis. It seems that he had no part in his wife’s criminal activities. In October 1878 Marm Mandelbaum was behind the Manhattan Savings Bank robbery, described by the New York Times as “one of the most daring and successful burglaries ever perpetrated”.
The thieves handcuffed the caretaker, forcing him to hand over the keys to the safe and to tell them the combination. They got away with around $2.7 million in cash and securities. Mandelbaum was arrested in July 1884, along with her eldest son Julius and her clerk Hermann Stoude, on charges of grand larceny. District Attorney Peter B. Olney determined to bring her down and could not be bribed. He hired the Pinkerton Agency rather than using the police to catch her. Mandelbaum spent one day behind bars before posting her bail of $21,000.
Manhattan Savings Bank, Broadway and Bleecker Street, New York City, USA
Sunday 27 October 1878
Scheduled to stand trial in December 1884, instead Mandelbaum fled to Canada, where she lived the remaining ten years of her life. Fredericka Mandelbaum died at her house in Hamilton, Ontario on 26 February 1894, surrounded by family and friends. She was buried in New York and, reported newspapers, several mourners had their pockets picked at her funeral.