Temple Israel
Walpensky Mugging

More about Aaron Walpensky is found on our biography page for Walpensky.

Aaron Walpensky married Minnie Oliner on April 1, 1900. They lived in Leadville and owned a grocery store, the West Side Cash Grocery, located at 201 West 6th Street. In 1912, two particular incidents within a month of each other and in different locations elevated anxiety and nervousness with this couple, especially with Mrs. Walpensky.

The first incident was on November 26 when an attempted burglary occured starting with a broken window of their grocery store. While no specific article appeared to be in any paper about the attempted burglary, Minnie did state a reference to it in another article after the second incident.

Apparently, Aaron commonly traveled with large sums of money in his bill book (wallet or bill fold), assumably because of the cash grocery business, which understandably would cause Mrs. Walpensky continual anxiety. However, prior to this second incident, there had never been a reported problem before about Aaron carrying very large sums of money.

Aaron Walpensky had gone to Denver for reasons that were only disclosed in the last article a week after the incident, which was partly for business reasons and partly for health concerns. In short, while he was going from his hotel to a theater in the evening of December 27, he stopped to ask two men about where the theater was. In "helping" him to the theater, they went down a dark alley, and at one point seized him, gagged him, struck him on the head, grabbed his wallet of $935 in bank drafts*, and disappeared. In his daze, he went to a nearby hotel to get ungagged, tell the events that unfolded, and contact the police. This series of articles over the following week give a really interesting and clear account about the mugging. In the last article, he apparently had such a rough time coping with the mugging, the police, and his weak health that he refered to Denver simply as a "Bad Town".

Several interesting points arise from the articles. First, the sum of $935 in 1912 is nearly the equivalent of $25,000 in 2020 and is a very large amount to be casually carrying. Second, the casual references stated in the paper about Mr. Walpensky always carrying large sums of money is alarming and would not be included in newspaper articles today! Third, some of the articles also make references to Mrs. Walpensky's heightened edginess, or anxiety, about the two incidents making the whole situation ripe for being robbed again! Finally, and perhaps people were more trusting at that time, but asking strangers near a dark alley for directions is not the wisest idea!

*A "bank draft" is a specialized check issued by one bank to take to another bank for deposit.


Denver, Dec. 28.--"Good evening, my friend." was the polite remark addressed to A. Walpensky, wealthy merchant of Leadville, last night, and caused him to drop his glance into the barrel of a large caliber revolver, as he passed the Denver club. Walpensky started to remonstrate with the man who had so kindly held him up, and was instantly seized from behind. The first man then placed a gag in their victim's mouth and the two proceeded to deprive him of his wallet, in which was $935 in bank notes.

When the two men left him Walpensky hurried to a corner drug store, had the gag removed and notified the police.

Leadville Man Robbed article in the Aspen Democrat-Times.

Leadville Man Robbed article in the Aspen Democrat-Times.

Aspen Democrat-Times. Saturday, December 28, 1912. Page 1.


Leadville Merchant Held up in Front of Denver Club--Relieved of $935.


Denver, Dec. 27.--"Good evening, my friend," was the polite remark addressed to A.Walpensky, wealthy merchant of Leadville, and caused him to drop his glance into the barrel of a large caliber revolver, as he passed the Denver club tonight. Walpensky started to remonstrate with the man who had so kindly held him up, and was instantly siezed from behind. The first man then placed a gag in their victim's mouth and the two proceeded to deprive him of his wallet, in which was $935 in bank notes.

When the two men left him Walpensky hurried to the corner drug store, had his gag removed and notified the police.

Walpensky Is Robbed article in The Herald Democrat.

Walpensky Is Robbed article in The Herald Democrat.

The Herald Democrat. Saturday, December 28, 1912. Page 1.


Asked Two Strangers to Direct Him to Orpheum Theater--They Lured Him to Dark Spot and Robbed Him.

Aaron Walpensky, the groceryman at 201 West Sixth street, who was robbed of a roll of $935 in Denver Friday night, has not yet returned to Leadville. He telephoned to his wife here, however, a few hours after the holdup had taken place, and told her of the incident. He also called her up Saturday morning to say that he was still feeling ill from the effects of the blow on the head he received from the robbers and the sickness which troubled him when he went to Denver for relief. Saturday night he called again today to say that he was feeling better, and telling her not to worry about the robbery.

Mrs. Walpensky, though, feels nervous, she said, because not long ago, on the night of November 26, vandals broke the front window of their store, apparently with intent to make a burglary. Since then, she said, she has felt apprehensive about robberies. The misfortune which happened to he husband Friday night has increased he nervousness, she said.

Mr. Walpensky, she stated, had given her only a few definite details concerning the holdup, and she has had to rely on the newspapers for the complete story. He told her, however, that most of the money obtained by the stick-ups was in bank drafts, which they cannot easily cash without danger of being suspected.

walpensky was robbed at the rear of the Denver club building, Seventeenth and Glenarm streets, while he wss on his way from the Kaiserhof hotel to the Orpheum theater. He halted two men near the club building, asking if they could direct him to the Orpheum theater. The men informed him they could and asked him to follow them. Glenarm street, between Seventeenth and Sixteenth streets, is poorly lighted and practically dark. A lrage vacant lot lies directly behind the Denver club. When the men had accompanied him as far as the dark lot, the story says, they siezed his arms, drawing them behind his back, and thrusting a hankerchief into his mouth as a gag. Then they relieved him of his bill book, containing $935, he claims, and unceremoniously struck him a blow on the side of the head which dazed him.

He walked to the Apollo hotel, 1630(?) Glenarm, where the night clerk took the gag from his mouth and heard his story.

The Denver police are looking for two men, it is said, who saw Walpensky hand a fifty dollar bill to the clerk in the Kaiserhof hotel in payment of an account.

Mrs. Walpensky said last night that her husband had always traveled with a large sum of money in his pockets, but that this was the first time he had ever encountered trouble. She said that he even traveled as far as New York with a thousand dollars or so inhis bank book, without difficulty.

She expects her husband to return early in the week.

How Walpensky Was Sandbagged article in The Herald Democrat.

How Walpensky Was Sandbagged article in The Herald Democrat.

The Herald Democrat. Monday, December 30, 1912. Page 6.

A very small snippet article found in the Colorado Transcript of Golden, Colorado on January 2 of 1913 simply stated:

Greeted with a curt "Good evening, my friend," while passing the Denver Club building on the Glenarm street side, in Denver, A. Walpensky, a wealthy merchant and mining man of Leadville, was robbed of $935 by two bandits.

Snippet article in the Colorado Transcript.

Snippet article in the Colorado Transcript.

Colorado Transcript. Thursday, January 2, 1913. Page 6.

However, a much more extensive article appeared in The Herald Democrat also on January 2 of 1913 that apparently corrected a few (intentional?) mistakes published in the other articles.


Denver Papers Lied about Him, Detectives Drank Up His Money, and Doctors Bled Him.

Aaron Walpensky, the Leadville grocer, who was robbed of $935 by thugs in Denver last Friday night, returned to this city yesterday morning, highly indignant at the methods of the Denver newspapers, all of which, he said, told different, chiefly fictitious stories about the robbery, and still nervous from the effects of the shock of the incident.

Walpensky has little respect for the methods of Denver detectives either.

The Denver reporters, Walpensky said last night, were all present when he told his story in the lobby of the Apollo hotel in Glenarm street, but each of them, he said, twisted it until no two staries [stories] the next morning were alike. They and the police stamped the story as a “frame-up”, he asserted, which caused him much alarm, because he said such a report would harm his business by making his few creditors uneasy about the collection of their small bills.

Walpensky went to Denver to collect a sum of money, which was due from a brother-in-law in the east. He had lent the amount of $699 on bonds to this relative several years ago. The brother-in-law had written him that he would be in Denver last week and that if the two could meet there he would repay the principal with interest.

Walpensky had obtained the amount due, which, with the bills he carried with him to the city, made an aggregate of $950. The grocerman registered at the Newport hotel in California, and not at the Kaiserhof hotel as the newspapers reported. On Friday night, after loitering about the hotel all afternoon, Walpensky thought it would be good diversion to spend the evening at the Orpheum theater. He also decided that it would be advisable to change one of the fifty dollar bills, which, with nine $100 bills, made up the $950 on his person. Accordingly, after he had stopped in the Albany hotel, he said, he stepped up to the clerk and requested him to change the fifty dollars. The clerk did so, and at the same time, Walpensky thinks, two men in the lobby observed the size of the roll his open bill book disclosed.

After that he entered the barroom, and bought a single drink, he said. He recalled afterwards that the same two men of the lobby also followed him there. Walpensky then stepped in Seventeenth street, and passed eastward up the street towards the Orpheum. He crossed over to the right hand side, and went on until he had reached Glenarm. There he suddenly remembered that the Orpheum theater was on Welton, and that he had gone a block too far.

He started to cut across to Sixteenth street by going down Glenarm. Glenarm is badly lighted between Sixteenth and Seventeen and virtually dark. At the rear of the Denver club, at the corner of Seventeen and Glenarm, there is a large vacant lot, containing a dingle billboard.

Walpensky said he had just arrived opposite the vacant lot when a rough, heavy hand was placed on his shoulder from the rear, and he was shoved forcibly into the lot and knocked over, though he was not struck on the head as reported. At the time a second man rushed forward from the alley. The first man put a gun to his head, and the two dragged him behind the signboard. There they stuffed a handkerchief into his mouth, jerked the bill book, containing $935 from his coat pocket, and pulled out his watch, which however, they returned. They then threw him to the ground and sped down the alley.

Walpensky had been ill for two months when he went to Denver, he said, and after the robbery he was so weak that he could not arise for some five minutes. When he had recovered his strength somewhat he left the vacant lot and crossed over to the Apollo hotel opposite. As he reached the lobby, he fainted, and had to be revived with water and whiskey. When he was able to tell his story, the clerk telephoned for the police, and a reporter from the Express arrived.

The police and detectives immediately went to the Albany hotel and investigated the story of Walpensky told about having fifty dollars changed there, and found it rue. Then they returned, and began to hint to him that they thought his story was a fake, for, they said, a robbery on Seventeenth and Glenarm at 7 o’clock in the evening with people passing back and forth on the streets was impossible.

Detectives gathered by the half dozen, he said, and when they found that he still had fifteen dollars in his pocket they deftly forced him to come to a saloon nearby and spend it for drinks for the crowd.

They took him to the courthouse that night and again the next morning, and forced him to tell his story a dozen times. At the conclusion of their investigation, they declared that such a holdup in Denver was unprecedented, and Walpensky’s story was a fake.

On Saturday, Walpensky said, the detectives, police, and others who came to question him at the Newport hotel, where he was confined to his bed by the shock of the robbery, became so numerous and worked so severely on his nervous system that he had to leave the hotel and take up quarters in another, the name of which he could not recall.

In speaking of the unusualness of a man’s carrying a roll of nearly $1,000 on his person, Walpensky said last night: “I cannot write. When I use checks my wife has to write them. My trips to Denver are nearly always for the purpose of buying job lots of goods. I cannot make out checks for the purchases, so I have to carry the actual cash. Besides, when you have actual cash with you, there is a better chance to do business with the jobbers. Why, two months ago I was able to buy stove pipe in Denver at two cents a joint because I had the real money on hand.

“One time two years ago I went to New York with $1,400 or $1,500 in my pocket, and never had any trouble at all. But the Denver papers all lied when they said I told them I was used to carrying amounts of $50,000 in my pockets. I never did in my life.”

Walpensky was indignant at the manner in which the Denver papers published the story of the holdup, which they alleged was a “job” put up by him to go into bankruptcy. He said last night the story was absolute lie, and he was fearful that the report would agitate his creditors of his of more than two months standing exist in Denver, he said, and added that we would be willing to pay $100 to anyone who could find an account of more than $5 which he has owed in Denver for more than two months.

Besides, he said, the holdup incident cost him more than $75, twenty-five of which went to the doctor who attended him the day after the robbery, and the rest of which went for drinks and fees for the police and detectives.

“Denver is a bad town, a very bad town”, he said.

Denver Bad Town Says Walpensky article in The Herald Democrat.

Denver Bad Town Says Walpensky article in The Herald Democrat.

The Herald Democrat. Thursday, January 2, 1913. Page 6.

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