The stories below appeared in a series of articles by Forrest Frank in 1920 in the Scarborough Daily Post - These all feature 'crimps' who acted as agents for crew members. Crmpis would often lure crew onto other ships with promises of better wages
Lawyer Smith - a notorious crimps agent
At New York crimps are always on the look out to tempt men ashore with the promise of bigger wages on other ships; and one of my crew deserted there. I reported the circumstance to the British Consul, and thought no more about it. About a fortnight later I was in company with half a dozen ships masters in the captains room at the agents office and heard a man come to the door and ask if Captain Kimmings was present. Before I could answer the attendant replied "No" and shut the door. He then explained saying "you may wonder why I said you weren't in - but that was lawyer Smith. Have any of your men deserted?" I told him that one had.
"Well" he said "you never will be here when Lawyer Smith calls, for he is a notorious crimps agent, and he's after blood."
Lawyer Smith called several times whilst I was in the room after that, without success, till one day he sent a stranger to ask for me, and when the attendant called me, Smith popped up from the rear and served me a writ for £6 wages due to the deserter.
I refused to pay. My agent asked me if the man was entitled to any money, and I said yes, about £3, but that he had forfeited that by desertion. He advised me to try and settle to avoid trouble, but I said it was a matter of principle, and I stuck out for bit. But he assured me that if I resisted and won the case in court, it would probably cost me £30, so we compromised for $15.
And of this the man got not a single cent, for as I found out afterwards, he had at that time been already at sea for over a week, shipped stiff drunk, with a bottle of grog in his pocket as his only share of the transaction.