No Questions Asked: Lost & Found at Palm Beach

Featured image
Palm Beach. Everglades Club, Dinner Dance at the Orange Gardens. A polo coat has gone missing. An Everglades Club member has posted a reward for the return of a red silk cigarette case and cigarette holder. At the Beach Club, the owner of a lost marquise diamond ring will pay $400 for the ring’s return —“No questions asked.” A platinum, diamond, and sapphire bracelet has disappeared at the Oasis Club. [Print from painting by Joseph Golinkin, 1936. Historical Society of Palm Beach County. “Wrong Coat” Headline: Palm Beach Post]

Twas the night before Christmas … and Howard Carroll, no known relation to fantasist Lewis Carroll, is missing a stack of Christmas presents. Of all things in of all places, Main Street on Palm Beach.

[Palm Beach Post, December 1927]

How could this be? Taking a few minutes away from perusing the latest climate crisis or the whereabouts of Yevgeny Prigozhin, I found myself tumbling down an endless summer rabbit hole into an ephemeral diversion. Captivated, I began sifting through several decades of Lost & Found classifieds in The Palm Beach Post from 1916 until the 1940s, including the chaotic aftermath following The Breakers inferno in March 1925.

Nightfall on Worth Avenue. A touch of Palm Beach noir. A diamond bracelet is missing on Via Mizner. “An envelope containing large bills of money and valuable papers has vanished at the Alba Hotel.” Claudia Schroter is waiting in Room 423 at The Breakers for the return of her rosary beads. [Historical Society of Palm Beach County]

Although I never uncovered if Mr. Carroll’s Christmas presents were ever found, along the way I discovered a woman’s purse was removed from the teller’s counter at the First National Bank on County Road. Someone has galloped away on a brown and white pony from a children’s party. Another diamond brooch has disappeared at The Breakers. An Airedale, answering to Skip, has strayed in Midtown. Maria Ouspenskaya’s citizenship papers were taken at the Palm Beach Playhouse. Down in the South End, Paul Moore cannot find Billy. Mr. Beavers’ handbag is gone, and he knows exactly who took it.

Mr. Beavers’ handbag has vanished.

At Villa Artemis, a small, brown Pekinese is lost. To the south at Casa Bendita, Jay Phipps will pay $15 for the return of a red flamingo, one of a dozen of the long-legged, wading birds that found refuge at his oceanfront estate.

Mayor Warburton will reward $1000 for the whereabouts of a 16-stone diamond platinum bar pin. A Royal Poinciana Hotel guest is offering $5000 for the return of a pearl necklace with 105 pearls. Contact the hotel’s House Officer W. H. Casey.

Urban Curve, South Ocean Boulevard. Palm Beach, 1927. An Everglades Club member is reporting a misplaced train compartment ticket. More jewelry is unaccounted for at the Bath & Tennis Club, unhinged, unclasped, unpinned, or simply, pinched?

Lost at the Bath & Tennis Club.

1916 – 1925

A rare moment, something Found! A silver spoon, at that.

It might have been lost at Bradley’s or the Poinciana yacht landing, The Breakers or the Everglades Club. The Black, Starr & Frost clerks await.

Where’s Maggie?

In the days before The Breakers fire, there were quite a few “No questions asked …” Was it lost at the woman’s bathroom at the Breakers Ball Pavilion or at the Gulf Stream Golf Club?

On Chilean Avenue, a homeowner asks for “any information about a small bird dog answering to the name of Crouch.”

At the Everglades Club, the house detective is in search of a “gold vanity case with diamonds and sapphires …”

Lorgnettes are missing all over Palm Beach — gold, silver, and platinum — some “set with diamonds.”

March 18, 1925

On Wednesday, March 18, 1925, at 4:00 p.m., Eva Stotesbury convened a meeting of the directors and members of Palm Beach’s Society of the Arts at El Mirasol. Minutes after the meeting started, El Mirasol’s guests became aware they were downwind from a nearby fire.

At 4:20 p.m., a fire started at The Breakers. Five hours later, the four-story, 800-room wooden oceanfront hotel was reduced to ashes. No lives were lost. Josh and Nell Cosden were among the nearly 500 guests. Two weeks earlier, the hotel was at capacity. [Photo Historical Society of Palm Beach County; Headlines, New York Daily News]

“Fire Destroys Palm Beach Hotels. Rich Refugees of Hotel Fires Hunt Clothing.” Along with The Breakers, Sidney Maddock’s Palm Beach Hotel also caught fire. Interestingly, Maddock was one of the first guests at the Palm Beach Inn, as it was first named, when it opened in December 1894. Survivors were left searching for their belongings. Having found refuge at the Royal Poinciana Hotel, guests began hunting for lost valuables. Newspaper ads made for a fascinating window into a time when all was believed lost. And just how much their possessions were worth.  [Palm Beach Post & Miami News, March 19, 1925]

“Lost Breakers Fire … No Questions Asked.” A gold flask … a dress shirt stud is missing.

The Breakers, east elevation. March 18, 1925. [Photo Historical Society of Palm Beach County]

“Big Reward Offered.”

“Mrs. Kaufman’s residence on North Lake Trail …”

“Lost wardrobe trunk … a houseguest at Joe Riter’s Al Poniente.”

After the fire …

“Billy is missing.”

“Lost in the men’s room at Gus’ Bath …”

$400 in 1931 = $7,285 in 2023.

A 32nd-degree Masonic emblem shaped like a shield.

A diamond bar pin was lost at the Embassy Club.

Wartime Palm Beach, 1941-1945

A platinum and diamond clip disappeared at the Everglades Club on March 16.

Mrs. Holt’s bamboo-patterned gold bracelet with children’s tooth marks is nowhere to be found …

Edward E. Jenkins’ Ration Book No. 4 has gone AWOL from Chilean Avenue.

Lost at Palm Beach … from Christmas presents to ration cards and gasoline coupons. Never found? And, just who was Howard Carroll? Could he have been one of several thousand who lived unimaginable lives outside of social columns? Interestingly, I did find other history pages reserved for Howard Carroll. Apparently, Mr. Carroll was a quintessential Prohibition-era entrepreneur, a bootlegger and rum runner, of sorts. Evidently, he was probably involved in running an inside-upstairs, private, door-knock, dining room above Wax’s Restaurant on Main Street when his Christmas presents were taken.

At one time, Mr. and Mrs. Carroll lived on the Lake Trail. Both were arrested numerous times for alcohol-related offenses. Howard owned and/or operated various establishments, providing refreshments for restaurants, private dining rooms, back-room nightclubs, clip joints, speakeasies, and North Dixie Highway dives in West Palm Beach as well as in Martin and St. Lucie counties.

Beginning in 1923, the Carrolls were targeted for several years by the West Palm Beach branch of the Ku Klux Klan, the Dry community’s moral conscience. The costumed KKK fanatics accompanied local police raids shutting down drinking venues. At one point, Mr. Carroll was given a one-year sentence at an Atlanta federal prison, only to be pardoned, rearrested, tried, convicted, but somehow, never jailed. He and E. R. Bradley must have owned the same politicians. Eventually, the Carrolls moved to Southern California during the 1950s, according to available records, without the Christmas presents.


Monday, 17 July 2023 — 1 p.m.

While you were away …
Out with the Olde — In with the …

Recent Posts