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Armless Orphan: 1922

July 28, 1922. "John Uslie, armless orphan." I just know there must be more to the story. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

July 28, 1922. "John Uslie, armless orphan." I just know there must be more to the story. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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The Triangular Wheels of Justice

Maybe there was limit at the time, but $2500 bail for being accused of and charged with stealing $5000? "Will you take cash, Your Honor?"

Regardless, it probably devolved into Uslie's word against Phillips's. Bad news for Perry Mason fans and Uslie, most likely. The later panhandling charge might imply that Uslie lost, but it also may have meant that he was always selling his cards and drawings on the street.

That WP story is horrifying

Perhaps that is what inspired the National Photo Company to take his photo 2 weeks later.

Whatever happened to Theodore Phillips? Did he actually serve a sentence? Did he pay Uslie back the money? Or did he just skip the bail he probably paid with his ill-gotten gains?

Uslie's life would make a great inspirational biography. So many of the people featured in these photos have stories that would! I suppose a good juxtaposition would be the child coal miners who died in their late 20s or 30s, near the towns where they worked.

Strange parallel story

In the early 1970s, while working at American University in Washington, DC, I noticed a young student. She appeared to be missing both arms, but had artificial arms attached so she didn't stand out as much. One day I was talking with a teacher in his office when she came in. The teacher dropped some papers she need to sign on the floor: she slid out of her shoes, opened her purse with her toes; picked out a pencil between her toes and signed the papers on the floor. Absolutely amazing. Never knew her name. Have sometimes wondered how she's doing now.

John's obit, Osceola, FL

Obituaries as appeared in July 1996 Osceola News-Gazette

- John Uslie, 94, of 1755 Druliner Road, St. Cloud, died June 25. Born in Romania, he moved to St. Cloud in 1981. He was a self-employed realtor. He was Catholic. Survivors include his daughters, Veronica Hood, St. Cloud, Irene Ahart, Imlaystown, N.J., Anna Anthony, Middletown, Del., Lillian Davis, Macon, Ga.; nine grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. Mass of Christian burial was held July 2 from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, St. Cloud, with Father Fabian Gimeno officiating. Interment was in Mount Peace Cemetery, St. Cloud. Fisk Funeral Home, St. Cloud, was in charge of arrangements.

"Armless Youth is Arrested"

According to the Altoona Mirror, August 11, 1926, on page 1, John is arrested for panhandling and asked to leave the city.

You never saw a fish with arms, did you?

Found a cropped version of the photo Jenniearcheo posted.
It's from the "New York Evening Call" 9 August 1922 pg. 8

John Uslie 1901-1996

I can find information on only one John Uslie, born in Delaware, December 18, 1901. He died June 25, 1996, at the age of 94! He was married to Mary Uslie, 1902-1982. One source says he died in Florida, but another says his last known residence was Townsend, New Castle County, Delaware. It appears to be a very uncommon surname, so I think he is our man! The fact that he lived to be 94 makes him even more interesting, but the two sources I found didn't give any details about his life, except the dates and places. I'm hoping others will come up with more information, but I may also ask my elderly father, the genealogist, if he wants to see what he can find. This was obviously an exceptional man and I think his story should be told!

OTY is right! Stealing that much money from anyone is awful, but someone who would steal from a young man who had lost his family and his arms would take an especially disgusting scumbag!

How heartless would one have to be to arrest an armless man whose hard-earned income had been stolen for panhandling?

The obituary information is quite amazing, so wonderful that, after having no family at all in his youth, he had 40 descendants when he passed away. I'd still like to know more about how he dealt with the tremendous challenges he was faced with.

Tell me more

Now we need to know what happened to Theodore Phillips, the lowlife morally-bankrupt thief who betrayed and robbed John Uslie and could have been the inspiration for the Grinch. The plot thickens with each additional comment.

Writing With His Teeth

Washington Post, June 9, 1922.


Armless Orphan, 20, Charges
Partner Stole Money He Laid
By to Start Business.

        "My life savings are gone," John Uslie, 20-year-old orphan who lost both his arms in a railroad accident, told the police last night, as he reported that he had been robbed of $5,000. Uslie was taken before Clerk Robert B. Gott, and by placing a pen between his teeth signed a warrant charging Theodore Phillips, who conducts a business at 331 H street northeast, with taking his money. Detectives Bradley, Cox and O'Brien arrested Phillips on charges of larceny after trust. He was released on $2,500 bond.

        Uslie said he lost his parents when he was 15 years old, and the following year suffered the loss of both arms, but taught himself to write by holding a pen in his mouth and a year later started out in the world, traveling about the country making a living by writing cards and selling drawings.

        During his travels, he said, he met Phillips and the two became friends, traveling together, Phillips at night taking the money from his pockets, counting it and caring for it.

        "My earnings averaged about $25 a day," said Uslie, "but some days I would make as high as $50. Phillips and I came to Washington in March, and since then I have made more than $900.

        "We went into business at 331 H street northeast. Last week I learned that Phillips was going to turn the business over to a relative, and when I asked for an accounting I was turned out of the house and my clothes thrown after me."

Wow -- that's courage

The look in his eyes, I read as a mix of determination and concern. The people behind him appear to be laughing, but that could simply be the moment, nothing to do with him. -- Above all I am struck by in his face I don't see the terror I would feel alone on a diving board about to dive in with only the angle of my head to cut down into the water, and my legs to lift me out. Where did this man find the courage? God bless him, out there on the edge!

The rest of the story

Apparently there is more to the story. He dives.

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