Wanted! The Illicit Diamond Dealer, Isaac Joel.

Written by Shevi Epstein

I find this “wanted” broadside from the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica, very interesting. The broadside provides information about an illicit diamond dealer named Isaac Joel and was put forth by John Fry, the Chief of the Detective Department of Griqualand West, Kimberley, South Africa on March 10, 1884. Along with his photograph, the broadside provides quite a detailed description of Joel’s physical appearance, including the facts that he walked with one hand in his trouser pocket, appeared to have a stiff leg, and that he was an English Jew. The specifics of his intended route of escape from Australia to New York via South Africa and San Francisco are also included in the description. To me, that begs the question of whether someone close to Joel informed on him to the authorities.

The broadside also requests that anyone who sees him land in San Francisco contact the San Francisco police force, suggesting that there was some kind of agreement between the authorities in both countries to work on this case together. Unfortunately, I have not found further records regarding Isaac Joel’s case or if he managed to evade capture. However, this little glimpse into the life of an illicit diamond dealer, and the many questions it leaves unanswered, is intriguing and provides hints at the relationship and cooperation between international law enforcement entities in the late 19th century.

More information on the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica can be found here: https://kaplan.exhibits.library.upenn.edu/

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