Loyola University Chicago

Department of History


Dr. Timothy Gilfoyle Receives Award for Best Urban History Book of 2006

KENNETH JACKSON AWARD FOR BEST BOOK (NORTH AMERICAN) PUBLISHED IN 2006 awarded to Timothy Gilfoyle for his book, A Pickpocket's Tale: the Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York (W.W. Norton, 2006).

Selected from more than thirty outstanding nominations, A Pickpocket's Tale combines evocative prose with meticulous research to tell the riveting story of a petty criminal named George Appo, and through his story, to convey a revealing history of the underside of the nation's largest city. Well known in his time, Appo was lost to history until Gilfoyle resurrected him. Gilfoyle's genius, however, lies in his decision to build the narrative around Appo's journey. Following Appo through his triumphs and travails allows Gilfoyle to introduce the readers to the Five Points and Chinatown neighborhoods where the pickpocket grew up with other lost boys, learning the code of conmen and petty thieves who relied on guile and intelligence to craft their crimes. Gilfoyle takes us inside prisoner ships, penitentiaries, and asylums to unmask the brutality of the nineteenth-century penal system. In discussing, the violence that Appo encountered and survived, including shootings and stabbings, Gilfoyle demonstrates how a rapidly growing New York City became an increasingly more diverse, more chaotic, and less egalitarian place.

A masterful work of urban scholarship, A Pickpocket's Tale reminds us that good history explains the past, but great history gives the past meaning and illuminates the human condition.