One of the mashers’ favorite tactics was to approach a woman from behind. One such masher was William T. Gobrecht, age 24, married, and father of a two year old specialized in pilfering stationary from hotels such as the Congress, writing letters proposing intimate rendezvous, and dropping them in the laps of ladies on the El. Gobrecht was eventually caught, but the “approach from behind” method led to the development of protective headgear, complete with reflecting mirror.
One didn’t necessarily need a bonnet for protection. Mrs. Elena DeHart of 949 Amsterdam Avenue, widow of a New York dentist, wanted to go about New York City unmolested, so she armed herself with a shillelagh; a piece of rubber hose ten inches long which she could loop around her wrist. Mrs. DeHart’s had her own special tactic; “I always hit behind the ear because that is the centre of the nerves and it knocks him silly. The victim turns round and round in a dizzy whirl and is so stunned that I can sit on him if necessary until I get a policeman.” Once the policeman arrived, Mrs. DeHart swore out a complaint, and the bums were jailed. Some 50 mashers were convicted on her complaint. Mrs. DeHart taught herself jiu-jitsu because the police kept confiscating her shillelagh.
There were a few women who took advantage of the “smash a masher” craze for their own financial aggrandizement. Clarence Cullen, formerly a house detective at a fancy New York Hotel, described how one petite brunette worked her scheme. According to Cullen, her first step was an outfit that would catch the eye with “dresses that barely reached the shoe tops;” scandalously short to entice gentlemen hoping for a glimpse of a bit of ankle. “Then she would pick out some emerging male who looked pretty soft meat. She had a keen eye for portly men of the good natured looking type, men with vacillating mouths, men who looked easy to stampede.”
Selection made, the brunette would approach and ask for directions, to gain the attention to the victim and make him stop. Then, looking him straight in the eye, she would say something along the lines of, “’You have stopped me and insulted me. You are a masher. If you don’t give me twenty-five dollars I shall have you arrested…on the charge of mashing…If you don’t give me twenty five dollars instantly, I shall scream, and faint, and you will be arrested.”
After making a quite a nice pile for herself, the young lady was arrested and sent to Blackwell’s Island.