Arrow-right Camera

Color Scheme

Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

100 years ago in Spokane: The Paulsen Building’s ‘scientific burglar’ was identified, but long gone; and the city’s ‘king of the bootleggers’ turned over a new leaf

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

The case of the Great Paulsen Building Heist was solved – and the alleged culprit was indeed a lone “scientific burglar,” as police suspected.

Police issued an arrest warrant for Isidore (Izzy) Edelstein, 33, notorious Seattle and Spokane safecracker. He had already served a term in Walla Walla for burglaries in those two cities, but he was now out of prison. and was apparently “back to the old business.”

An elevator operator at the Paulsen Building identified Edelstein as the first man to enter the Paulsen Building on a quiet Sunday morning. Then Edelstein made “frequent trips in and out of the building throughout the day.”

Police said this perfectly matched Edelstein’s modus operandi in previous burglaries. The Paulsen heist was the biggest burglary in Spokane’s history, to that date. About 80 safes and vaults were rifled.

“He is an expert in this kind of work and there is no question that he is the burglar,” said Martin Burns, captain of detectives.

The only problem?

Edelstein was long gone. Police hoped that information about his whereabouts would soon turn up, because $9,500 in reward money was being offered. He often posed as a bond merchant or a federal bank inspector.

From the court beat: Charlie Dale, Spokane’s “King of the Bootleggers,” renounced his crown.

“It doesn’t pay,” said Dale, after being convicted on liquor charges once again. “From now on, I’m going to sit on the sidelines and let the other fellow do the worrying.”

This was his ninth arrest since 1916.

He said his other big headache came not from the law, but from his fellow bootleggers and customers. He said he had to worry about “the double-cross” from “everyone, right down the line.”

More from this author