This Day in History: July 10th, 1926

This Day in History: July 10th, 1926

Milltown National Bank 1924 - North Main Street


Bitzberger and Another Caught After Sawing Prison Bars


Harry Bitzberger, who attempted the robbery of the First National Bank of Milltown in 1921 and was sent to prison, made his second Attempt to escape yesterday with James Ayres, another dangerous criminal, but the try was foiled by prison deputy, According to prison officials it was evidently the intention of the prisoners to attack one of the guards on duty in the wing in which they were confined. The guards are locked Inside the wing and the keys are kept inside the centre.” Principal Keeper Joseph Hoff said last night it would have been impossible for the two prisoners to have even gotten outside of the wing. Bitzberger has finished his term for the Milltown bank robbery and is now serving a term of from six years and eight months to ten years for an attempted post office robbery. Ayres is serving a term of from fourteen to twenty-two years.

First Attempt

Last March Bitzberger attempted to escape by sawing four bars of his cell while confined to No. A Wing. It was shortly after 2 o’clock in the morning that a deputy found the bars had been sawed, and upon investigation discovered that Bitzberger had some extra clothing in his cell besides an improvised ladder made from material he had stolen from the printing establishment where hewas then employed. He was then placed in solitary confinement in one of the old cells in Old South Hall. With the heavy wooden door protecting him from the sight of the deputies on duty, he found time to make another attempt to escape. Twisting one of the iron legs from his bed he und it as a tool to dig through the stone floor. It was his object to dig a hole leading to the lavatory pipes and following this course to the “centre.” Keeper Hoff then had him transferred to what is known as “douhis solitary” in No. 7 Wing. Ayres sawed the bars of his cell, but the discovery was made before he had gotten into the wing. He, too, was placed in No. 7 Wing. The two prisoners occupied cells some distance apart on the third tier. There are 350 convicts in that wing.

Used Steel Bit

Bitzenberger used a small steel hit to remove the bolts holding the bars in place. The piece he removed was just about large enough for the convict to squeeze through. In the rear of the cells is an air shaft leading to the roof. There are no ventilators in the roof, all the openings having been cemented up some time ago by Keeper Hoff. Bitzberger ripped the small wooden stand apart in his cell and wrapped pieces of clothing around two of the legs. It is believed that be was to pass one of these improvised blackjacks to his pal if they had to fight their way out of the wing All the cells in No. 7 Wing are surrounded by heavy outer bars and convicts would have to also saw through these bars before they could reach the corridor of the wing.

Found by Kenney

Deputy Lloyd of Lamberton street, Trenton, was making his daily inspection of the cells yesterday when he discovered the bars sawed and the piece of plate removed from the rear of the ether cell. When Deputy Kenney entered the cells both convicts remarked that they “had been caught this time.” The matter was reported to Keeper Hoff and Bitzberger was removed to a cell in Old South Hall. Ayres was placed in another cell in a different part of the wing, where he had been in solitary confinement for many months. The repairs to the two cells were made at once. Bitzberger was received at the prison on January 14, 1921, and was paroled on December 19, 1924 When he left the prison he told Keeper Hoff that he was going “Straight.” Following a visit to his wife at Lancaster, Pa, he returned to New Jersey and became complicated in the robbery of A postoffice at Hackensack.

On May 1925, he was returned to the prison to serve a long term. He has also served time in the government penitentiary at Leavenworth. When the two cells were search yesterday a steel bit was found in the one occupied by Bitzberger, but the brace could not be located. All steel saw was found in Ayres cell.  

Leave a Reply