Excerpt from Pages 206-207

Published May 8, 2017

Evidently the skulduggery that characterized the sewing machine lawsuits of a few years previous–the tampering with witnesses, the manufacture or destruction of evidence to show how a mechanism worked, the use of innuendo to create prejudice–continued to flourish in Gibbs v. Johnson.

An unexpected advantage enjoyed by Gibbs and Pollok was the stupidity of their opponents. To show that Johnson’s interference was a fraud, Pollok began by presenting evidence that Johnson was an unprincipled trickster, and Johnson unwittingly helped him prove the point. Johnson could not have posed successfully as an honest and upright citizen in any case, the facts to the contrary being so plentiful, but during the questioning he showed a cheerful zest in shady activities that revealed far more about his character than the bare facts would have. “I had been engaged,” he related at one point, “in a lottery during my stay at Davenport & Rice’s, which caused some trouble; I deemed it prudent to go into the country.” He was then asked what became of the grand prizes that were supposed to be given to the winners of the lottery.

“Who drew the horse and who the piano?”

“I don’t remember . . . .”

“Did you deliver the piano and horse, if so to whom?”

“No, sir; there was none of the prizes mentioned on the tickets ever delivered, for the reason that there were over $1,800 worth of prizes drawn, and less than $500 paid in, and because parties holding many tickets from Oak Hall clothing store drew no prizes, and were dissatisfied, and declared that it should be drawn over again, or they’d kick up a row and have us arrested. . . . I consulted with Mr. Davenport; told him what predicament I was in, and he advised me to go into the country. When I arrived home I found there was an officer looking for me–had been, and I left by the back door and walked to Brighton, and there took the cars for Vermont.”

“Then you left to avoid arrest, did you?”

“I did, sir.”

Johnson did not explain who got the $500 collected by the lottery, but the police evidently thought that he did. After staying in Vermont for a while to let the fuss over the lottery die down, Johnson returned to Boston.

“Where did you next go and in what business did you engage?”

“To Cambridge Street Jail as a prisoner for nonpayment of rent–house rent–and engaged in a severe fit of sickness–it being the pleurisy fever.”

“How long did you remain there?”

“About three weeks, I am told. Personally I can not say, as I was insane most of the time.”

“I never knew a man to go to jail because he could not pay his rent,” Pollok drily remarked. “He says so, however.”