Richard Bartley, “Breaking and Entering”, 7 April 1938

comments 11


Although it was April, thick snow had fallen throughout the day, turning to slush by the time Richard Bartley was arrested, at two in the morning, on the roof of Book’s shoe store. He’d been seen by a man walking home, and police had surrounded the block. The officer who caught him also found some large empty blue bags and a screwdriver, wrench and pliers wrapped in a bundle of rags lying on the stairway up to the roof. Richard said he’d been drinking and had gone off to look for the entrance to a club that would serve non-members after hours. He’d realised he was lost when he ended up on the building’s roof. He’d taken in the view, and had thrown a few snowballs at a man in East Washington street. He knew nothing about the bags and tools, he said.

The police locked him up in a cell in the city building. When he was alone, Richard forced open an iron grill on the window and used an iron ladder to climb to the top of the building’s annex. He crossed the roof to Sycamore way and climbed down a telephone pole. His rooming house was just around the corner, so he went home. Police arrested him there just after dawn. A month later, he was given a two-year suspended sentence. There is no further record of his life.

Sources: New Castle News (7 April 1938, “Police Are Investigating Apparent ‘ Human Fly’ Performance of Man”; 7 May 1938, “After Big Fellows In Numbers Game Is Court Warning”).



  1. Broken And Entered
    by atrmws

    He was broken and entered into
    The history of life

    Threw me a few handfuls
    Of snowballs to the wiser men

    These pucks that brought the heavens down

    They snared Dick Bartley twice
    All fingers and thumbs the police

    Froze him in an icy cell
    And took his lodging-keys as well

    These cops, that April, snowy ground

    Him said, with such serenity
    I never saw the bags and tools

    It wasn’t me, it wasn’t me
    They should follow other fools

    No trace of them, or him, was ever found

    • I love it – thanks for posting this new one. Again, my mind struggles with the strangeness of a poem being written about some nearly forgotten person who almost certainly never imagined that they might inspire poetry. What a wonderful world this is.

  2. Thisgirl says

    As a current resident of New Castle, PA and a true-crime fan, I love reading these stories. I appreciate the detail in the descriptions of the businesses and buildings. Many are no longer there or are shells of urban decay. Thank you!

    • Glad to hear you like them — it means a great deal when someone from New Castle says they appreciate what I’m doing. It’s the most important thing, in some ways, so thanks!

  3. Chris Sadowski says

    Richard Bartley was my father. He moved to Delaware and was a successful electrical contractor. He died when he was 92 years old. All in all he was a very honest man and never had problems with the police again.

    • Thanks for writing, Chris. The 30s were a pretty hard time, especially in Lawrence County, and it isn’t right to sit in judgment over anyone who lived through that decade and did what they felt they had to do to get by. Not that there’s any certainty that your father did anything wrong at all — his story may well have been true. There would have been some doubt, anyway, which is possibly why the court gave him a suspended sentence. In any case, his escape from jail was impressive and audacious, and the local press was impressed. I’ll email you the story, with it’s great headline. And I’ll update the story that I wrote, to include the information you gave me.

      • Gwen Kubberness says

        So sorry it took me so long to respond I didn’t get any notifications you asked me a sorry….ok I get lots of my mugshots from Ancestry.Com..McNeil Island Prison, Montana State Prison, San Quentin & Folsom, Idaho State Prison Fort Smith, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, also National Archives has some on their website for Leavenworth Federal Prison, Kansas has an online one, Washington State Prison and on Instagram there Oklahoma but only 1930 & 1931..I search all the time looking for these, they are a lost society and I so want to tell their stories it’s a passion dear to my heart…I have a criminal Justice Degree and I have been doing genealogy for over 30..Thus I am the only Criminal Genealogist, which I made up for myself….
        Hope this answers your question…

        • Thanks, Gwen. Like I say, you’ve collected lots of great stuff on the site. “Criminal genealogist”…. I like that!

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