W.C. FOX & Co.
129, King Street East, Toronto
There are so many suspicious reports being circulated at present about the late robbery of Messrs. Fox & Co. of this city, that we think it well that the gentlemen in question should clear them up. It is said that not only did the robbers take all their jewelry and customer's watches, but that they had sufficient knowledge of the trade and business to tear out and destroy the leaves of the watch repairing book kept by the firm. This is very unusual for ordinary
burglars to do, for as a rule they are in too much of a hurry to get off to care about such trifles as watch repair records. We understand that the firm are also asking a compromise from their Creditors on account of the robbery. The affair looks suspicious to say the least, and the Creditors should demand and have a
satisfactory explanation before they decide to grant this favor. Although these suspicious circumstances are gravely talked about, we think that ordinary fair play should prevent any one making any charges out of them until they have something substantial to go upon. The gentlemen in question should have the benefit of the doubt and be held innocent until they are proven guilty.
One of the most extensive and at the same time mysterious robberies that has taken place in the city for years was perpetrated on Sunday night of last week at the store of Messrs. Fox & Co.. 129 King St. East, the estimated loss to the proprietors of the store entered and their customers being over $3,000. The proprietors of the place, Mr. Fox and Mr. M. H. Saunders, have not very extensive premises, but had a fine stock. Their store is almost immediately opposite St. James' Cathedral, and over it a family reside. Every night the gas is left burning in the store, and in addition to this a policeman and a night watchman regularly pass the place. On Saturday night both partners left the store as usual, after seeing that the stock of jewelry had been placed in cases in the safe, both doors of which were carefully locked. On Sunday Mr. Fox called at the store and took out with him a dog which had been left on the premises. At half past nine o'clock, Mr. Saunders visited the store and found everything right. About three o'clock the lady who lives over the store was startled by hearing a dull sound below and thinking there might be thieves about the premises got up and slammed the door to frighten them. She then listened and hearing no further noise fell asleep. In the morning about eight o'clock one of the clerks, James Murphy, opened the door saw that a robbery had been committed, and
a very extensive one too. Watch and jewelry cases were thrown about in the most reckless manner, cheap goods were carelessly scattered about the floor, and the walls were depleted of the stock. Shortly afterwards both members of the firm arrived, and at once engaged in making up an exact list of their losses which are estimated as follows : –
50 silver watches $750
14 gold watches $560
14 jewelry sets $275
60 gold rings $180
40 gold lockets $200
6 Albert gold chains $40
Customers' watches, chains, rings, etc., $1,000
As said before a paid private watchman and a policeman were continually passing and re-passing the store, the gas was always left lighted at night, a family lived on the flat over the store and the doors and safe were always kept locked. When the clerk arrived he found the front door locked, both doors of the safe ajar and a back door open. As another back door was locked and bolted it is evident the robbers got in from the front which is kept fastened by a slight spring
catch. Each of the proprietors has keys for the safe, one to fit each lock, and these they say have never been out of their possession. The instrument they used to assist the keys, and without which the doors could not be opened, was found lying on the floor. The detectives can at present form no idea as to who the thieves are or how the robbery could possibly be accomplished without having keys, as the locks could not be picked and they were not injured in the slightest. Perhaps the robbers may have visited the residence of the firm, and securing their keys got wax impressions of them, after which keys could easily be made.
In our October number we drew the attention of the trade in general, and the Jewelry trade in particular, to the folly of trusting valuables to the keeping of key-locking safes.
Our remarks at that time were inspired by the fact that only a few days previously, a Toronto jewelry firm had, from this very defect, been robbed of over $3,000 worth of goods, which, up to this time, have not been recovered or even traced. In the article in question we pointed out the weakness of key-locking safes and warned our readers not to put any faith in them, no matter how complicated and safe they may appear to the uninitiated.
We are glad to know that in some quarters our warning was productive of good and that the old key-locking safes were replaced by something more modern and reliable. We are only sorry that our advice was not followed in all cases where such protection was in use. Had it been, the present article would probably never have been written, and the victims of the " gentlemanly burglar " would still have been in possession of much valuable property.
The robbery in question was that of Messrs. W. C. Fox & Co., jewelers, 129 King Street East, of this city, who, by reason of this very defect of their safes
were robbed of over $3,000 worth of goods. As a full account of the robbery will be found in another column, we will simply say here, that the robbery
would hardly have been attempted had the goods been protected by first-class safes.
The store had every other protection –lighted gas, private watchman, policemen passing continually, and even a family living overhead, but in spite of all these precautions, the burglars appear to have secured their booty not only without any difficulty, but without leaving any trace whereby they may be detected, or the goods recovered. It seems that each of the proprietors carried keys of the safe, one to fit each lock, and that their keys were never out of their possession. Moreover, these keys were of such peculiar construction as to make their owners believe that their safes were absolutely burglar-proof.
This probably was the case, and had the burglars been compelled to force the safe open, it is more than probable that they would either never have made the attempt, or else have been detected before they could have completed the job. The detectives, as usual, have nothing to advance but theories, but their theory seems, at all events, to be a sound one this time, although it will afford but little satisfaction to Messrs. Fox & Co. to know that the robbers probably visited their residence and secured and took wax impressions of their keys while they were asleep. We say that this is the most probable explanation of the remarkable ease with which they executed this robbery, for it was almost precisely in a similar manner that they obtained the keys of Messrs. Welsh & Trowern's safe for the September robbery.
It is quite evident, from this and various other robberies of a similar kind, that key-locking safes, however perfect their locks, are entirely worthless in the face of such an operation as detailed above, and the only safe way of keeping valuables is to secure the safes in which they are stored by combination locks.
Even these, as we have before pointed out, are not absolutely burglar-proof, but they at least do away with more than half the risk. The balance may be
minimised by keeping the store well lighted up at night and an honest and vigilant watchman to look after it. Good safes are now so cheap that any merchant who trusts to the old-fashioned ones on account of the expense is penny wise and pound foolish. The slight additional expense involved in procuring the modern improvements is more than compensated for by the increased protection secured and the peace of mind resulting from the knowledge that everything has been done that can be done to secure safety.
To any of our readers who have not yet discarded their key-locking safes we would say : don't trust to them any longer than it will take you to get a new and modern safe in their place. The looses we have chronicled should be sufficient warning, and a word to the wise is sufficient.
Source: The Trader and Canadian Jeweller - March 1882