Wednesday, May 21, 2014

More on the Button Snatcher

Antonio Volpe
The dreaded button snatcher!
I stopped my research too early. Sure, I stumble on a cool piece on a guy who was slicing buttons off women's coats in 1895, do a little more research, and then write it up. It wasn't the last article on Mr. Volpe. New York, by the way was home to several men of the name Antonio (or Anthony) Volpe at the time, some of whom clearly aren't our button snatcher. Should the tailor I mentioned in my earlier post not have been our Antonio Volpe, I apologize for the misunderstanding.

The Bryan Daily Eagle of Bryan, Texas no doubt convinced their readers that the time, expense, and difficulty of a trip to New York in 1896 simply wasn't worth it. Mr. Volpe had been arrested four months before, but he was the first item in an article on those who terrorize women in New York. The piece is probably something that was published in a variety of newspapers, just as there are syndicated pieces in newspapers still.

In my earlier piece, I raised the question of the cost of buttons in 1895. The Daily Eagle answers the question. Buttons were pricey.
Fancy buttons in pearl and oxidized metals vary in price from 50 cents to $5.
Okay, let's do the math here. The treasury has only been tracking this since 1913, eighteen years after Mr. Volpe was cutting buttons off coats. It'll have to do. Those 50¢ buttons? Like walking around with a bunch of $10 bills pinned to your coat. A $5 button in 1895? Look at you Miss Manybucks! Mr. Volpe's crime seems fairly serious.

The later piece also offers something of a motive. When I told my husband about this article, he jokingly said that the guy must have been a button fetishist. We had our little laugh. What does the article say?
He confessed to having clipped them from the clothes of ladies on the street, and that he did not have the power to resist temptation when he saw a nice, large, round button. While out foraging for buttons, the "Snatcher" carried a small, sharp-bladed knife in his right hand. A larger instrument would have needlessly frightened the victims, whom Mr. Volpe did not wish to harm. All he cared for was to amputate the buttons and jingle them in his pockets.
Okay, that's kinda pervy.
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