Burns’ Investigator Outlines His Theory of Phagan Murder

Burns' Investigator

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Monday, May 19th, 1913

It Coincides In Practically Every Feature With Theory Held by Solicitor Dorsey, Detectives and Pinkertons


He Holds Long Conerence [sic] With Solicitor, Who Has Welcomed Him Into Case, Urged to Contribute to Fund

The theory of the murder of Mary Phagan entertained by the city detectives and outlined in The Journal first on Sunday a week ago is the theory in which C. W. Tobie, manager of the criminal department of the William J. Burns agency, believes.

Mr. Tobie, who has been employed by Attorney Thomas B. Felder, has assumed charge of the investigation of the Phagan case for the Burns’ agency pending the arrival of his chief.

To The Journal Monday morning he outlined his theory of the case in the office of Colonel Felder.

“The Phagan murder is not in my opinion a hopeless or impregnable mystery,” he said, “and I am confident that we will find and convict the guilty man.

“There are several features of the case which I do not care to mention which have not been worked out. I am going right after these ends of the affair, and believe that I will get results.” Continue Reading →

Burns Agent Outlines Phagan Theory

Burns Agent Outlines

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Monday, May 19th, 1913

Famous Detective’s Aid, C. W. Tobie, Issues First Statement on Work in Slaying Case.

C. W. Tobie, manager of the criminal department of the W. J. Burns Detective Agency, Monday made public his theory of the murder of Mary Phagan. For the first time the man who is representing Burns in Atlanta’s greatest mystery until the noted detective arrived consented to see reporters.

Tobie’s theory is that Mary Phagan was murdered inside the National Pencil plant, by some one familiar with the premises, and that her body was dragged to the basement for purposes of concealment and probably destruction. He scouted the idea she was killed on the outside and dragged inside, and declared that too much buncombe has been given out by men who have only muddled the waters.

While no new arrests are expected immediately, Tobie declared the mystery is not all impossible of solution, and that the guilty man will be apprehended in due time. Meanwhile, he promised to issue statements telling the progress made from time to time.

Burns Expert’s Theory.

Here is Tobie’s theory as he outlined it to a Georgian reporter today:

Mary Phagan, while in the pencil factory, was approached by some one who made an improper proposal. She resented it and the man asked her to remain silent. She refused, saying she would report the affair to the proper authorities, and the man struck her, hurling her against a machine, the impact causing the skull wound. Continue Reading →

Three Arrests Expected Soon in Phagan Case

Three Arrests Expected

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Sunday, May 18th, 1913

Members of the Staff of the Solicitor General Are Now Keeping Trio Under Strict Surveillance.


Will Not Divulge Its Nature to Anyone, He Declares. Court Postponed to Allow More Time to Probe Case.


Rumors from office of solicitor general say that three arrests will be made of attaches to pencil plant before case goes to grand jury. Trio will be jailed, it is said, within next few days.

Chief Lanford, of police headquarters, announces he possesses documentary evidence which will convict slayer of pencil factory girl. Will not divulge its nature to even Solicitor Dorsey.

Open breach apparent between detective chief and solicitor’s staff. Lanford refuses to reveal additional disclosures to Dorsey because tri-cornered investigation into mystery still unadjusted.

Dorsey announces that solicitor’s office will co-operate fully with Burns’ forces.

Dorsey postpones first session of May term of criminal court so as to devote entire time to Phagan investigation. Rumored that grand jury will not take action this week, as predicted.

Burns’ agent, now in city, follows new trail to Marietta in search for girl who accompanied Mary Phagan to pencil plant. His movements secret, and his identity unknown.

Three new arrests, all of whom are said to be attaches of the National Pencil factory, will be made, it was reported yesterday around the office of Solicitor General Dorsey, before action is taken by the Grand jury in the Mary Phagan mystery. Continue Reading →

Burns Sleuth Makes Report in Phagan Case

Burns Sleuth MakesAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, May 18th, 1913

Progress of Investigation Into Girl’s Slaying Very Rapid, Declares Felder.

After 24 hours on the scene of the Phagan muder, the head of the department of criminal investigation of the Burns Detective Agency made his first report to his client, Thomas B. Felder, last night.

The report was so satisfactory that Colonel Felder announced more had been accomplished in the 24 hours than in any week of the investigation before the arrival of the Burns detective.

The fund to secure the services of William J. Burns and defray the expenses of the investigation of his first lieutenant went above the $2,000 mark yesterday.

Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey said that instead of being ready for the Grand Jury the Phagan case was still far from being in shape to be presented, and it was not certain it would be presented this week.

New Arrest Unlikely.

The probability of a new arrest being ordered from the office of the Solicitor became more remote following the statement of the officer who planned it that the evidence was not sufficient.

A person who has attended almost every conference the Solicitor has had with witnesses stated that several had made misstatements, others had not told all they knew and a great many had testified reluctantly.

These were the principal developments yesterday in Atlanta’s greatest murder mystery. Continue Reading →

Burns, Called in as Last Resort, Faces ‘Cold Trail’ in Baffling Phagan Case

Burns Called InAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, May 18th, 1913

World’s Most Famous Detective Must Disregard All Theories Advanced Thus Far and Must Evolve His Own Solution of the Mysterious Slaying.


Can William J. Burns solve the Phagan mystery?

I certainly hope so, as does everybody else who would like to see the guilty person in this extraordinary case brought to justice.

Unless Burns and his assistants are successful, I fear we shall never know who actually committed the crime.

In my article in The Sunday American on May 4, I said: “At present, on the evidence now before the public, there is little or nothing to lead to the belief that the mystery has been solved. Will it ever be solved? My own guess is that it will not.”

What can Burns do that has not been done? Everything, of course.

He will begin at the beginning. He will take up the case as a medical diagnostician takes up the case of a new patient, with out any reference whatever to reports of previous experts. Continue Reading →

Phagan Theory is Unchanged After Three Weeks’ Probe

Phagan Theory is Unchanged

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Sunday, May 18th, 1913

Most Searching Investigation Ever Conducted in a Criminal Case in Georgia Brings No New Developments


Fund to Pay Detective Burns is Mounting—Greeks Sent In Subscription Saturday, Grand Jury Acts Soon

The hunt for the murderer of Mary Phagan has now been in progress for three weeks. Never before has there been such a thorough, exhaustive and efficient probe made of a crime committed in this state. And now the authorities are back to the theory which the city detective have claimed since a few days after the crime is the solution of the mystery of Mary Phagan’s death.

Solicitor General H. M. Dorsey’s consistent work on the mystery has served only to strengthen, it is said, the theory of the city detectives as printed exclusively a week ago by The Journal.

In the three weeks which have passed since Newt Lee, a negro night watchman at the National Pencil factory, phoned Call Officer Anderson that he he had found the body of a white woman in the basement of the factory, the probe of what has been termed Atlanta’s most atrocious crime has been in progress.

Practically the entire city detectives has worked night and day on the mystery. Solicitor Dorsey’s detective, the attaches of his office, and the deputy sheriffs have been on the job. The Pinkertons were called into the case shortly after the crime was discovered, and they have had several men continually at work on the case. In addition practically every private detective in Atlanta, and they are legion, has in the hope of fame or reward, been quietly lending his efforts to a solution of the mystery. Continue Reading →

Greeks Add to Fund to Solve Phagan Case

Greeks Add to FundAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, May 18th, 1913

No people in Atlanta have been more anxious than the Greeks to see the murderer of little Mary Phagan brought to justice. A letter received by Colonel Thomas B. Felder yesterday enclosed a check for $25 from the Greek community to be added to the Burns fund, and carried with it a fervent wish that the mystery be cleared.

The letter follows:

I beg to enclose check for twenty-five dollars, which represents the proceeds of a spontaneous contribution of the members of the Greek Community, to the “Burns Fund.”

The Greeks of Atlanta wish to see the mystery surrounding the tragic death of Mary Phagan solved and the reputation of their good city of Atlanta untarnished.

It was signed by Demetri Vafiadl, Consul of Greece.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, May 18th 1913, “Greeks Add to Fund to Solve Phagan Case,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

New Phagan Witnesses Have Been Found

New Phagan Witnesses

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Saturday, May 17th, 1913

Solicitor General Dorsey Declares Work of His Greatest Detective Has Been Completed.


Solicitor Hugh M. Dorsey said Saturday that his “greatest detective in America” would not figure again in the Phagan investigation, and that it was extremely doubtful whether he would be recalled to testify at the trial.

“He has finished his investigation,” said the Solicitor, “and we have no further need for him. A detective is one thing and a witness is another. His investigation led us to witnesses. It is not necessary for him, or any detective, to tell the jury what a disinterested witness will tell.”

He would not say, however, whether his decision not to put the “greatest in America” on the witness stand would apply to the city, Pinkerton and Burns detectives.

Grand Jury Meets Wednesday.

The Solicitor announced that the Grand Jury would meet next Wednesday for an extra session, but said it was hardly probable the Phagan case would be considered then. He said there were a number of cases that demanded attention and the extra session would more than likely be called to dispose of everything on the calendar to prepare for the session Friday, when the Phagan case would more than likely be presented.

Mr. Dorsey said that his interview of Friday, in which he said the Burns men would work under the same conditions as the Pinkertons, had been misconstrued by some to mean that the services of the great detective were not needed. Continue Reading →

In Loop of Death Dorsey May Have Clue to Murderer

In Loop of Death Dorsey May Have

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Saturday, May 17th, 1913

Noose Found Knotted Around Neck of Mary Phagan Being Carefully Examined by Officers.


Fund Started by The Constitution for Purpose of Bringing Noted Detective to Atlanta Has Reached $1,500.

In the noose found knotted around the throat of Mary Phagan’s lifeless body, Solicitor Dorsey and headquarters detectives aver they possess a valuable clue to the girl’s murderer.

It is being inspected by experts, who also are examining specimens of cord picked up here and there in the factory building in which the child was slain. Expecting to find a knot which compares with that which was used to strangle the victim, detectives are scouring every portion of the plant’s premises.

The knot in the wrapping cord is looped, sailor-fashion, in an inextricable knot. No novice, the sleuths say, could form it so well. When the body was discovered, the noose fitted so tightly around the throat that it had formed a purple trench-like scar in the flesh.

Knot Tied by Professional.

The solicitor and detectives hope to follow up the clue by comparing the death loop with specimens found in the pencil factory. But few amateurs, it is said, outside of professionals in stage craft and aboard ship, are expert enough to tie such an intricate knot as the one with which Mary Phagan was strangled. Continue Reading →

Phagan Case Will Go To Grand Jury in Present Form

Phagan Case Will Go to Grand Jury

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Saturday, May 17th, 1913

State Is Apparently Ready, as Solicitor Says That He is Not Expecting Any New Evidence for Some Time


Attorney Declares Fund for Employment of the Famous Sleuth Has Reached $1,500, About $5,000 is Needed

That the state considers its case as practically complete and is ready to definitely charge the Mary Phagan murder to an individual and to start the legal machinery moving towards a superior court trial is believed from a very significant statement made Saturday by Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey.

“I haven’t learned anything new in several days, and do not expect to for some time,” he said.

The solicitor is still busy, and practically all of his time is consumed in interviewing witnesses and conferring with the detectives who are at work on the mystery.

The majority of the witnesses examined are people who testified at the inquest or whose names have been identified with the case from the first. Among the several witnesses, however, whose status remains unexplained is Ernest A. Muller, an expert accountant, of Chattanooga, who has been in Atlanta for about ten days. Continue Reading →

Books and Papers in Phagan Case in Grand Jury’s Hands

Books and Papers in Phagan Case

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Friday, May 16th, 1913

Two Employes of Pencil Company Appeared Before Grand Jury Friday in Answer to Subpenas [sic]


The Journal Subscribes $100, Mr. Felder Declares a Burns Investigator Will Be Put On the Case at Once

By means of a subpoena duces tecum Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey Friday obtained possession of a number of books and papers of the National Pencil company.

The subpoena was served on Herbert G. Schiff and M. B. Darley, two officials of the pencil company, by Deputy Sheriff Plennie Minor, and the two men were ordered to have the papers before the grand jury at 11 o’clock Friday morning for use as evidence in the “case of the state versus Leo M. Frank.”

At that hour Friday morning the grand jury was holding a routine session, and the service of the subpoena occasioned the rumors that the grand jury was ready to go into the case. Continue Reading →

Secret Probe Began by Burns Agent into the Phagan Mystery

Secret Probe Began

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Friday, May 16th, 1913

Investigator for Great Detective Believed To Be in City Hunting Phagan Slayer—Will Be on Same Plane as Pinkertons—State Won’t Aid.

Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey said Friday that William J. Burns and his assistants would work on the Phagan case under the same conditions as the Pinkertons, namely, that while he would welcome any information from them, they would receive none from his office.

Mr. Dorsey issued the following statement:

“Mr. Burns is welcome. We are delighted to have aid in arriving at the truth no matter from what source it comes. However, Mr. Burns would have to get his information first hand so far as this office is concerned. We accept the statement without question that Mr. Burns’ employment is in entire good faith, but our attitude toward him is the same as our attitude toward the Pinkertons, namely, that he will be expected to give and not to receive. The work being done by the city detectives is entirely satisfactory.”

Mr. Dorsey added that there was absolutely no development of any kind in the case to-day except that considerable progress was being made in preparing the evidence.

It was reported the case would go to the Grand Jury to-day. Witnesses in the case were summoned on the form of subpena [sic] used by the Grand Jury. They appeared before Mr. Dorsey, however, and he stated positively the case would not be presented until next week. Continue Reading →

Constitution Starts Fund to Bring Burns Here to Solve the Mary Phagan Murder Mystery

Constitution Starts Fund toAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Friday, May 16th, 1913

By all means employ William J. Burns to solve the Mary Phagan murder mystery!

It will cost several thousand dollars to get the world-famous detective to come to Atlanta, and The Constitution herewith starts the subscription with $100.

As soon as Homer George, manager of the Atlanta theater, learned of the subscription he subscribed $10.

Never in the history of Atlanta has there been such an insistent demand that a murderer or murderers be apprehended. For days and weeks the Phagan murder has been the sole topic of conversation.

Now that the subscription has been actually started hundreds will doubtless be glad to help swell the fund.

The Constitution will gladly acknowledge all subscriptions and turn them over to Colonel Thomas B. Felder, who has been retained by the citizens of Bellwood and vicinity to aid in the prosecution of the murderer of the little girl whose lifeless body was found in the basement of the National Pencil factory over three weeks ago.

The people of Atlanta are far from satisfied that the Phagan murder mystery has been cleared up. They feel that the guilt of the murderer should be fixed beyond all fear of disproval. Continue Reading →

Burns Hunt for Phagan Slayer Begun

Burns Hunt for Phagan Slayer Begun

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Friday, May 16th, 1913

Skilled Aide of Famous Detective Arrives in Atlanta—Keeps Identity Secret.

Contributions for a fund to bring W. J. Burns, the great detective, to Atlanta in the Phagan case follow:

The Georgian ……………$100

The Constitution ………..  100

Homer George …………..   10

More than six substantial subscriptions from persons who asked that their names be kept secret have been added to the above.

The Burns investigation into the Phagan murder mystery began Friday.

William J. Burns, who personally will conduct the case some time shortly after his arrival from Europe on June 1, cabled his orders to the New York office and one of his best men was dispatched to Atlanta to get as much evidence as possible before the arrival of the great detective chief. He left New York shortly after midnight Wednesday and should have been in Atlanta Thursday night or Friday morning.

He will make every effort to keep his identity and the result of his findings secret until the time for him to report to his chief or to Colonel Thomas B. Felder.

Fund Raised by Public.

The fund to secure the services of the great detective and his assistants from New York, being raised by public subscription, was considerably swelled following the announcement in The Georgian Thursday that an appeal had been made to the public.

Colonel Felder said Friday morning that a number of substantial subscriptions had been pledged by telephone and he had directed the donors to send their checks to Charles I. Ryan, cashier of the Fourth National Bank. He said he had not learned the exact sum subscribed so far, but that he had no doubt it was several hundred dollars. Continue Reading →

Coming of Burns is Assured, Says Colonel Felder

Coming of Burns is Assured

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Friday, May 16th, 1913

To Solve Phagan Murder, Joseph Hirsch, Capitalist, Starts Public Subscription to Assure Fund for Burns.


Local Detectives in Conference and Are Believed to Have Secret Documents Bearing on Case.

With The Constitution’s donation of $100 as a nucleus, Atlanta today begins building a fund with which to employ to ferret the mystery of Mary Phagan’s murder Detective William J. Burns, America’s most successful detective.

Assurance that subscriptions will be plentiful and generous came to Attorney Thomas E. Felder last night in telephone messages from numerous public-spirited business men, who informed him that they would send checks this morning for their share of the fund.

One was these was Joseph Hirsch, a leading capitalist and financier, who told Colonel Felder that he wanted to see Atlanta take such means to solve the baffling mystery as to employ the detective by public subscription.

“I have infinite confidence in Mr. Burns’ ability,” he said. “I am assured that he will clear the murder and apprehend the murderer. I will send a check Friday morning for my share of the amount necessary to procure him.” Continue Reading →

$1,000 Offered Burns to Take Phagan Case

Thousand Dollars OfferedAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Friday, May 16th, 1913

Subscriptions From Persons Who Withhold Names Increases the Fund—Other Rewards.

The fund inaugurated to bring W. J. Burns, the renowned detective, to Atlanta to clear the Phagan mystery was augmented Friday by contributions which bring the total close to the thousand mark. More than six substantial subscriptions from persons who asked that their names be withheld have been received.

The fund thus far made public is:

The Georgian, $100.

The Constitution, $100.

Homer George, $10.

The Georgian will be glad to receive contributions to the Burns’ fund, and repeats its offer of $500 reward, in addition to the $100 subscribed above, for exclusive information leading to the capture of the slayer.

In addition to the straight fund designed to bring Burns to Atlanta, the reward of $1,000 offered by the city and the $200 reward offered by the State still holds. Other rewards also have been offered. Continue Reading →

No Phagan Trial Before Last of June Declares Solicitor

No Phagan Trial Before Last of June

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Thursday, May 15th, 1913

If Indictments Are Returned by Grand Jury When Bills Are Presented There Will Be No Immediate Trial


He Calls Upon the Public to Subscribe a Fund to Pay the Expense of Bringing Great Detective to Atlanta

Should the Fulton county grand jury, when it meets next Thursday or Friday, return a true bill against either one or both of the men held by the coroner’s jury in the Mary Phagan murder investigation, the state will not attempt to bring them to trial before the latter part of June.

The rumors to the effect that the state would rush the trial at a special court session if Leo M. Frank or Newt Lee is indicted for the killing by the grand jury were set at rest Thursday by this statement from Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey.

The examination of witnesses by the solicitor continued on Thursday, and a number of witnesses in the case appeared at the solicitor’s office to make statements, of which a stenographic record is kept. Continue Reading →

Burns Investigator Will Probe Slaying

Burns Will Hunt Phagan

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 15th, 1913

Noted Detective, Himself, to Take Up Case June 1—One of His Experts Coming Soon.

Colonel Thomas B. Felder, noted Atlanta lawyer, Thursday issued the positive statement that William J. Burns would take charge of the Phagan investigation immediately upon his return from Europe, June 1.

In the meantime a criminal investigator will be sent from the Burns Agency’s New York office to prosecute the investigation.

Colonel Felder gave out the following dispatch received from Raymond J. Burns, son of William J. Burns, in New York, which tells of the father’s determination to take up the Phagan mystery:

Father still in Europe. Returns about June 1. He consents to take charge of Phagan investigation immediately upon his return. He suggests I send a good criminal investigator to start investigation immediately before same gets too cold.

Colonel Felder declared his supreme confidence in Burns’ ability to clear up the Phagan mystery and bring to light the person or persons guilty of the murder.

Thinks Fund Can Be Raised.

He declared that his action in securing the detective was given impetus by the demands of Atlanta citizens to clear up the mystery regardless of cost, and he expresses his belief that sufficient funds to cover the investigation will be easily forthcoming. Continue Reading →

Victim of Murder Prepared to Die, Believes Dorsey

Victim of Murder Prepared

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Thursday, May 15th, 1913

Identification Slip Carried by Mary Phagan in Her Pocketbook Causes Theory That the Victim Had Been Threatened With Violence.

Either threatened with death or warned by some dread premonition of an untimely end, Mary Phagan is believed by Solicitor Dorsey to have prepared for her tragic fate by writing the identification slip discovered hidden in a compartment of the metal pocketbook which she carried daily.

The slip was given the solicitor Wednesday morning by a reporter for The Constitution. The reporter also made an authorized statement of the source from which it was obtained. It was given him by J. W. Coleman, step-father of the girl victim.

The slip was written six days before the murder. Her parents have never known her to have possessed such an article. Its presence in her pocketbook is said by them to be as mysterious as her death. Mr. Dorsey values it highly.

Bases New Theory On the Slip.

On it he already has based a plausible theory. Members of his staff have been assigned to investigation of the motive which impelled the slain girl to strive so thoroughly, as she endeavored in the mysterious slip, to establish her identification in case of emergency. Continue Reading →

Secret Hunt by Burns in Mystery is Likely

William J. Burns

William J. Burns

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, May 14th, 1913

Probably Will Not Reveal Presence in City as He Investigates Phagan Case.

Colonel Thomas B. Felder said Wednesday that Detective William J. Burns had not arrived, as yet, in New York from his European trip, but that as soon as he did he undoubtedly would start at once for Atlanta to work upon the Mary Phagan strangling mystery.

Colonel Felder is acquainted with the day and the hour on which the famous sleuth will reach this city, but for the purposes of the investigation he is withholding the information.

“There was no authority for the statement that Detective Burns would be in New York Tuesday,” said Colonel Felder. “The date of his arrival has been known in my office, but it had not been made public.”

“It is quite likely that the great detective will come quietly and unannounced into the city, make his investigation of the mystery and slip out before many persons are aware from their own knowledge that he has been working on the case.”

In Touch With Burns Agency.

Colonel Felder has been in constant touch with Raymond Burns, son of the detective, who is secretary and treasurer of the Burns Agency, and has offices in New York. The agency is being placed in possession of the important new developments in the mystery as rapidly as they occur. An outline of the whole case will be laid before Burns the instant that he arrives at his New York offices. Continue Reading →