Checkered Career

Arraigned in police court yesterday before magistrate P.J. McNamara, George Kelly, 27, of Wilkes-Barre, was held in $500 bail on a charge of larceny, while a woman, who describes herself as Dorothy, his wife, 22, was held under a similar bond as accessory.


The woman has had a rather picturesque career, according to her story to Superintendent of Police M.J. McHugh. She says she ran away from home, lured by the glamor of the stage, when only fifteen years of age. She started out as a chorus girl, drifted into the carnival field in the role of fortune teller, then cowgirl with a wild west show, later into vaudeville, and most recently into burlesque. Her mother, she says, is the owner of a store in Wilkes-Barre.


The couple were (sic) arrested here for the theft of a dress from the Jordan & Plottle store on Wyoming avenue.

The Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania), October 26, 1923

Burlesque dancer 1920s
Burlesque dancer, 1920s.

Did Dorothy want a new dress for her burlesque routine or did she need something valuable to pawn or resell? One minute she and her friend George were discussing what to buy at an upscale Scranton ladies clothing shop and the next minute they were gone, taking an expensive dress with them but omitting to pay for it. The shop clerk immediately noticed the dress was missing and called the police.

Police quickly arrested Dorothy and George. Their refusal to tell detectives where they lived made the authorities think they had more stolen loot at their house. Add to that the fact that George had a police record — he’d been arrested a few months earlier on suspicion of burglary. The police decided he was not involved in the burglaries, but he was told to get out of Scranton — an order he’d ignored.

In her mugshots Dorothy looks more amused than worried about the situation she found herself in. Maybe she’d been arrested before and figured it was no big deal.

Dorothy Kelly_back_marked

Whether or not the couple was actually husband and wife or just shoplifting cronies couldn’t be determined. Young Dorothy had a checkered career after running away from home at a tender age. She started out as a chorus girl and things went downhill from there, to the point that she was doing semi-nude “burlesque” dancing for a living by the time she and George were arrested.

George pleaded guilty to larceny and receiving the following month. The case against Dorothy was dropped but there’s no doubt that the judge ordered her to get out of town. If she had any sense she complied.

Featured photos: Front of Dorothy Kelly’s 1923 Bertillon card. Collection of the author.

3 thoughts on “Checkered Career


    The link to the original post Sweet Sixteen is in the first line, but it is a dull affair compared to the information and photos in this post. I was a dutiful, “good girl”, so I love to read about teenagers who dared to take their destiny into their own hands and bust out on their own. So long as they don’t end up in dangerous situations or involved with anything that ultimately ruins their lives.

    I have finally finished reading Eugenia. Thanks for putting me on to it. I stopped reading for a while as I was terrified what might have been her fate when you mentioned how tragic her death was after getting her life back on track. I had imagined her being exposed to public ridicule again and/or her being murdered or murdering someone. I was relieved that she was hit by a car, after all my catastrophising. My grandfather died the same way due to stepping out from between two parked cars. It is still sad to think about but it was very quick and therefore less painful than all the other ways he (and Eugenia) could’ve died.

    I was fascinated that Eugenia’s name was so apt given the legend of St Eugenia and her significance to the LGBT community. It was a very good read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Unfortunately they do sometimes end up in a terrible situation due to a poor decision stemming from their youth.

    Glad you finished the book about Eugenia. I thought it was sad that he was out of prison and pulling his life together when he was he was killed by a car. There could have been a much better end to the story.

    So sorry to hear about your grandfather. Did you know him? I would have been devastated if my dear grandfather had died that way.


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