Joseph Weil

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This article is about the con artist. For the American poet, see Joe Weil.
Joseph Weil
Born July 1, 1875
Chicago, Illinois
Died February 26, 1976(1976-02-26) (aged 100)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Nationality  United States
Other names Yellow Kid
Occupation Confidence man
Known for Notorious con artist
Parent(s) Otto Weil

Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil (July 1, 1875 – February 26, 1976)[1] was one of the best known American con men of his era. Weil's biographer, W. T. Brannon, wrote of Weil's "uncanny knowledge of human nature".[2] During the course of his career, Weil is reputed to have stolen more than $8 million.[citation needed]

"Each of my victims had larceny in his heart", quipped Weil.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Weil was born in Chicago, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Otto Weil. He quit school and started work as a collector in his home town's bustling loan-sharking industry at age 17. Weil noticed his peers keeping small portions of the boss' proceeds. For a portion, offered Weil, he would not share his knowledge of their perfidy. Plenty complied. His career progressed into protection rackets. [2]

Under the tutelage of Chicago confidence man Doc Meriwether, Weil started performing brief cons during the 1890s at public sales of Meriwether's Elixir, the chief ingredient of which was rainwater.[4]

Life as a con man[edit]

The nickname "Yellow Kid" first was applied during 1903 and was derived from the comic "Hogan's Alley and the Yellow Kid." After working for some time with a grifter named Frank Hogan, Chicago alderman "Bathhouse John" Coughlin associated the pair with the comic: Hogan was Hogan, and Weil became the Yellow Kid.[2] "There have been many erroneous stories published about how I acquired this cognomen", Weil writes in his biography. "It was said that it was due to my having worn yellow chamois gloves, yellow vests, yellow spats, and a yellow beard. All this was untrue. I had never affected such wearing apparel and I had no beard".[2]

During his career, Weil worked with, among others, con men Doc Meriwether, Billy Wall, William J. Winterbill, Bob Collins, Colonel Jim Porter, Romeo Simpson, "Fats" Levine, Jack Mason, Tim North, and George Gross.[3]

"The desire to get something for nothing has been very costly to many people who have dealt with me and with other con men", Weil writes. "But I have found that this is the way it works. The average person, in my estimation, is ninety-nine per cent animal and one per cent human. The ninety-nine per cent that is animal causes very little trouble. But the one per cent that is human causes all our woes. When people learn—as I doubt they will—that they can't get something for nothing, crime will diminish and we shall live in greater harmony."[3]

He served his sentence at Atlanta Prison from 1940 to 1942.

A popular rumor exists which claims that in 1889 Weil managed to sell a chicken to a wealthy prospector passing through Illinois for the price of a golden nugget. It is from this rumor that the term 'Chicken Nugget' stems from.

Weil died in Chicago, Illinois, in 1976 at the age of 100.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Social Security Death Index, [1]
  2. ^ a b c d "Con Man by J.R.Weil and W.T.Brannon". 
  3. ^ a b c Streissguth, Thomas. Hoaxers & Hustlers, Minneapolis 1994; The Oliver Press, Inc. ISBN 978-0-06-112023-7
  4. ^ Joseph Weil. A Master Swindler’s Own Story. Trade Paperback. p. 352 pages. ISBN 978-0-7679-1737-7. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Weil, Joseph (1948) [1948]. "Yellow Kid" Weil: The Autobiography of America's Master Swindler. Chicago: Ziff-Davis. ISBN 0-7812-8661-1. 

External links[edit]