Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Porte and Markle diamond robbery

On December 7, 1908 ...the most notorious and dangerous diamond robbers on the continent” walked into Porte and Markle Jewelers at 300 Portage Avenue, (likely where the Radisson Hotel is today.)

Porte and Markle Limited was more than a jewellery store. They were also a leading watch and clock maker in Western Canada. A large example of their work is their clock in the Wainright AB train station and their smaller timepieces can still be found on antique websites around the world.

The president of the company was watchmaker Thomas Jeffares Porte who came from Picton, ON in 1897. Five years later George Markle, an optometrist from Dundas ON, came to set up his practice. In 1907 the two joined forces in a Main Street shop and soon moved to Portage Avenue.

ca. 1912 (source)

On December 7, 1908, a man and a woman entered the store and asked to look at a $325 diamond. When the stone was placed in front of them, they tried to switch it with a fake one but they were caught by Mr. Markle and turned over to the police, (read more here). 

The investigation turned up a third accomplice in an Elgin Street apartment with a trunk full of hot jewellery. Police investigated and it turns out they had arrested Philip Greenbaum and his gang of international diamond thieves.

December 7, 1908, The New York Times

News of the arrest spread as Greenblaum's gang was a suspect in robberies in numerous U.S. states. Because they had robbed another Winnipeg store the week before, the group was tried here. 

Philip was sentenced to eight years at  Stoney Mountain Penitentiary. The two accomplices, Sadie Copeland and her brother Arthur, were released because they gave evidence against him.

As for Porte and Markle, they carried on business, eventually growing to five stores. In 1913 they merged with Henry Birks and Sons.

Update: on Porte and Markle. This full page 'advertorial" in The Voice of December 10, 1909.



Cool story - believe criminal court registry records go back that far - check out Law Courts on Hargrave you may find something there.

mrchristian said...

Thanks - I think I will follow this up and see how it all came out. A nice winter project !

Prairie Topiary said...

Fascinating story - thanks for posting this.

1eyedpecker said...

Hey Speaking of robberies - have you ever looked into this one?

"It was also in 1925 that Winnipeg had its greatest unsolved robbery. The Street Railway payroll, some $87,500.00 in cash, was snatched in an unparalleled daylight hold-up. The perpetrators of the robbery have never been caught."

from: http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/transactions/3/transportation.shtml

Just curious?

mrchristian said...

I had read about it in passing but never followed it up. I will do so !!

I usually get the ideas for these types of posts for research I do for my daily history blog http://thiswaswinnipeg.blogspot.com/
if there's an interesting date or information with a lot of follow up stuff I will expand upon it an put it here. The one category I haven't really combed through yet for that post has been crime stories.

Thanks for the date and the link !