Standing on Centre Street in Lower Manhattan in the fall of 1894, the pickpocket and confidence man George Appo felt at tap on his shoulder. “Hello! You are just the fellow I want to see,” announced the criminal attorney and former pugilist Edmund E. Price. “What are you doing now?” Unbeknownst to Appo, he was about to make history.
The ex-convict admitted that he was looking for work. Price quickly made a proposal. In addition to representing some of New York's leading underworld figures — indeed Appo was a former client — Price envisioned himself as a playwright and songwriter. He had recently authored a melodrama based on the 1885 murder of confidence man Theodore “The” Davis. After attempting to swindle several thousand dollars from Texas sheriff James T. Holland, Davis was shot dead by the angry Texan. The case attracted national attention, in part because it exposed the national scope of the green goods game, arguably the most profitable con game in the 19th-century United States. Despite the daily media attention, Holland remained silent for five months until he testified on his own behalf. Price not only defended Holland; he engineered his acquittal.