Tip Line

Thursday, January 13, 2022


The Southernmost Point Buoy with shells for sale, twentieth century, Photograph by Dale McDonald. Flickr, Florida Keys Public Libraries.

In the early hours of New Year’s Day in Key West, Florida, two vandals set fire to a discarded Christmas tree next to a buoy marking the southernmost part of the continental United States. The blaze caused considerable damage to the painted concrete landmark, which is a popular tourist attraction and source of local pride. Later that day, the Miami Herald released footage of the arson, which had been caught by a nearby webcam. The seventeen-minute video made the rounds on social media, where it captured the attention of a local bartender who remembered the principal arsonist as a customer who had failed to tip earlier that evening. The Associated Press reported:

Like other locals across the city, bartender Cameron Briody watched the video, and recognized the twenty-one-year-old man who had stiffed him at Irish Kevin’s on Key West’s famous Duval Street. “I knew immediately that I had served him and that he had used a card, so his name would be on the slips,” Briody told the Herald.

The bar’s general manager, Daylin Starks, turned to recordings from the “ton of cameras” that watch over the bar each night, and matched credit card receipts to time-stamped videos of the man and his twenty-two-year-old friend.

Armed with their identifications and matching their movements to the vandalism down the street, police swiftly announced arrest warrants for the vandalism suspects.


A dispute with the bartender, c. 1907. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

On February 1, 1896, the headless body of a woman was discovered in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. The woman, later identified as Pearl Bryan, was in her early twenties and had been pregnant with Cincinnati dental student Scott Jackson’s child. Detectives would eventually allege that when Bryan refused to obtain an abortion, Jackson and an accomplice drugged and decapitated her before depositing her headless body across the Ohio River. The evening before the body was found, a bartender at Wallingford’s Saloon had noticed Scott Jackson in the saloon with a young woman. Though a defense attorney for Jackson tried to bribe the bartender into skipping the trial, he traveled to Kentucky and, on April 24, made a statement in court. The Los Angeles Times reported:

The first witness today in the Pearl Bryan murder trial was Allen Johnson, colored, a bartender, who testified yesterday to the presence of Pearl Bryan with Jackson at Wallingford’s Saloon on the evening of Friday, January 31, the night before the dead body was found, and also about the visit of attorney Shepherd to him with the proposition that he would make more money by staying away from the trial than he could get from witness fees…[Johnson] identified the girl’s dress and hat as that worn by a young girl brought into the wine room by Scott Jackson on the Friday night, January 31, before the dead body was found.