WAKEFIELD, WILLIAM A


Fig. 1. Photograph of William A. Wakefield in 1909, a United States Chief Coiner.

Copyright © 2011-2016 John N. Lupia III


            William A Wakefield was born in California in 1864. He became a professional gambler in the Old West. He traveled from one place to another looking for high stake games. During the late 1890's he took an interest in the mining camps in Colorado where he worked for a while. As chance would have it he took a three year break from that business traveling in Colorado and Kansas, which we shall get to later, and returned to California looking for work. In the 1908 City Directory of San Francisco on page 1792 he is listed living at 22 O'Farrell Street, and is working as a carpenter. 

Fig. 2. Photograph of William A. Wakefield in 1909, a United States Chief Coiner, seen here wearing stylish apparel and hat.

            By 1909 he was working as a clerk. He entered the employment of  a certain Tom Crow of San Francisco in the fashionable suburbs of Marysville. Together with Fred Foster these three men became partners as unofficial coiners of the United States Mint at San Francisco. Another man was the fence for the counterfeit coins at Sacramento and another at Chico, California. Two women were also accomplices passing bad money in San Francisco. When the bust came it was estimated to be the largest counterfeiting gang ever in the history of the State of California. Apparently they counterfeited bogus quarter eagles or $5 gold pieces.

Fig. 3. William A. Wakefield (1864-1935) Arrest Record in San Francisco, April 27, 1909, San Francisco Police Department Identification Card. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

Fig. 4. Reverse of the  Arrest Record File Card of William A. Wakefield (1864-1935), San Francisco, April 27, 1909, San Francisco Police Department Identification Card. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. You can be the next owner by visiting NumismaticMall.Com Mall Stores where you will find it available in The Coin Shop.  <https://sites.google.com/a/numismaticmall.com/www/home/the-coin-shop?pli=1>

Fig. 5. The full length photograph of William A. Wakefield in 1909, a United States Chief Coiner, seen here wearing stylish apparel and hat. California State Archives, Sacramento, California.

Fig. 6. William A. Wakefield in 1909. He was released from Fort Leavenworth Penitentiary on February 25, 1916. California State Archives, Sacramento, California.

            According to the U. S. Census, 1910 at Kickapoo, Kansas, he was serving time in the United States Penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth. According to his prison record he was serving his second term, known in layman's terms as a two-time-loser. He was previously arrested and served time in Colorado under the assumed name of William W. Elliott, and was transferred to Fort Leavenworth Penitentiary.  Wakefield claimed in 1909 he was arrested in Denver as a counterfeiter but was not in possession of any moulds to make bogus coins. However, the 1899 reports state he was in possession of moulds to counterfeit U. S. coins. He was released in 1901 from Fort Leavenworth Penitentiary, only to return eight years later.

Fig. 7. Denver Rocky Mountain News, Saturday, April 15, 1899, page 6. William A. Wakefield, alias William W. Elliott was arrested for possession of counterfeiting moulds at Pueblo, Colorado. He was first indicted on counterfeiting charges in May 1897. He fled to Moab, Utah where he uttered bogus coins. Months later he returned to Colorado and established a small counterfeiting gang which led to his arrest. He served time at Leavenworth only to be found after his release to be a repeat offender.

Fig. 8. Oakland Tribune, Wednesday, April 28, 1909, page 1. An early report of the counterfeiting gang at San Francisco with $700 in counterfeit coins  taken at their arrest.

Fig. 9. San Bernardino County Sun, Thursday, April 29, 1909, page 1. The counterfeiting gang is now expanded to consist of at least six members, four whom are arrested, two under investigation.

Fig. 10. San Francisco Call, April 30, 1909, page 5. Arrest of Laura Kirk, here erroneously called Lola Cook together with Jake Holmes, members of the counterfeiting gang, were taken prisoners at Oroville, California, by Special Agent Joseph Nye.

Fig. 11. San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, May 4, 1909, page 20. Laura Kirk, a minor from Salt Lake City, (here called Lola Kirk) was defended by the Salvation Army.


Fig. 12. Oakland Tribune, Friday, July 9, 1909, pages 13 and 17. William A. Wakefield sentenced to ten years at San Quentin Prison for counterfeiting. He wept and then fainted when the Judge passed sentence.

Fig. 13. A mean and angry hardened look on the face of William A. Wakefield in 1916. He was released from Fort Leavenworth Penitentiary on February 25, 1916. California State Archives, Sacramento, California.

Wakefield died on May 4, 1935 at Los Angeles, California.


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