Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Mystery at Highbridge Park

Copyright 2014, Friends of The High Bridge, Ltd., with permission

One winter day in early March, 1928, while scrambling through a wooded and rocky part of Highbridge Park, Max Snyder, age 13, who lived at 228 Audubon Avenue between 176th St. and 177th St., caught the glint of metal in a crevice between two rocks.  Climbing down between them he found a large can partly covered with black tape.  With the can under his arm he climbed to a clear space.  There he unwound the tape.  The lid was rusted to the can and would not come off the can at first.  Finally, after much effort he succeeded in opening the lid and a bundle of $1, $5, and $10 bills fell out on the ground.  There were hundreds of them and the edge of every one was scorched.
The boy sat there for a time admiring his wealth.  It looked like a million dollars.  There seemed far too much of it to count.  He picked it up by handfuls, weighing it and estimating its value.  His title to it seemed to be clear.  But Max thought it over carefully.  He had read of Alexander Lubowsky, who had just recently found $52,000 and returned every cent of it, and this had made a deep impression on Max’s mind.

The boy gritted his teeth, stuffed the money back in the can, put on the lid and started off for the Wadsworth Avenue Police Station.  On the way he met Patrolman William Stapleton. “I have found a fortune in money here,” said the boy.  “I found it in Highbridge Park. I’m taking it to the Police Station.”

At the Wadsworth Avenue Police Station the boy turned the money over to Lieutenant Levy.  It was emptied onto a table and counted.  Most of the bills were of $1 denomination, and the total was $771, considerably less than the boy’s first estimate, but still a fortune for a thirteen year old boy in 1928.  Police Captain Patrick Shea said: “Well, you’re a fine honest lad, and there’s a chance that this is going to be yours after all.  It has to go now to the lost property clerk at Police Headquarters, but if the real owner doesn’t appear in six months and prove that it’s his, it reverts to you.”

Max was in class C-2 of public school No. 115, a Junior High School at 181st street and Audubon Avenue.  His father, Benjamin Snyder, was a painter, who had been out of work for eight weeks.  “Max is a good boy and I’m proud of him,” said the father.  “It’s been a kind of a tough winter and all that, but I’m glad the boy did just what he did"

Max Snyder was born April 12, 1914 in Hartford, CT, the son of Russian immigrants, Benjamin and Rose Snyder who immigrated to the United States in 1907.

So, the mystery is who’s money was it that Max found? And, did that person ever claim the money?

Two years later in 1930, the US Census reported Max as living only a short distance away at 600 W 178th St. with his father and mother. The1940 US Census reported Max, age 26, as living at 280 Wadsworth Ave. between 187th and 188th Streets, still living with his parents. Max reported himself as a mail order clerk.  Max was inducted into the Army two years later in September, 1942 and served in the armed forces during World War II

It is not known as of this writing if Max ever married. Max died in Bergen County NJ in December, 1980  at the age of 66.

The information included here is based upon, in part, on an article that appeared in the Montreal Gazette, March 2, 1928.

If anyone has any additional information on the mystery or on Max himself, please let us know.

last revised 9/8/16


  1. Where do you dig up these off the wall stories?

  2. This is the story of my father, Max Snyder, and it is a joy to read it after hearing talk about it when I was a child. Virtue was rewarded: eventually, no one claimed the money and my dad's family got to keep it. It meant a lot to them because they were far from affluent. It never became clear to my father how the money wound up stashed in Highbridge Park in the first place; he said he later heard that it might have been ransom money. He did, however, say that the news stories about the event were shot through with errors.
    To the end of his life, my dad said that serving in the US Army in World War II was the biggest thing he ever did, but marrying my mother was the best thing he ever did. But finding this money, turning it in like the honest guy that he was, and getting to keep it was the only time he wound up in the newspapers. Thanks for unearthing this story.

    1. Robert, thank you for your kind words, and thank you for solving, at least part of, the mystery of the money found in Highbridge Park in 1928. For those of you not familiar with Robert Snyder, he is a Professor of Journalism at Rutgers University and wrote the book "Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City" which was published by Cornell University Press in 2014. Robert tells me that the reason he did not include this event in the book was because he did not have any information to document the story. The only reference I found was from a paper in Montreal Canada.