George Gordon Rorke
George Gordon Rorke became exposed during the East Side arms seizure as the Auto-Ordnance salesman who sold the Thompson guns to the “Irish crowd” - as his boss Marcellus Thompson described, those Irishmen with lots of cash who would buy as many as they could get their hands on. The name of George G Rorke was carried widely in the world’s press.
On 27th September 1921 he was arrested on a charge of having engaged in a conspiracy since November 1920 to furnish subjects of Great Britain in Ireland with arms and munitions against the British Empire and to instruct them in the use of these weapons. He was given $3000 bail and faced a potential $10000 fine plus 3 years imprisonment
Preparing the case against Rorke was a young investigator named J Edgar Hoover.
Rorke was described in court as a commission dealer in arms and ammunition who resided in Washington DC at 16th Street, Northwest, Washington DC. By 10th November 1921 George Gordon Rorke was exonerated in the case of the ‘attempt to ship 495 “riot guns” to Sinn Fein in Ireland’.
The New York Times reported that he was “about 29, black hair, smooth shaven, long upper lip and other features as strongly Mileasian. He was a US Citizen who was a Graduate of Georgetown University.
The same paper reported his arrest and his attorney’s words as;
“They have arrested the wrong man. Rorke was a bona fide employee of the Auto-Ordnance Company of New York and while he makes no denial that he sold the arms, he knew no more about their destination than I do. He was working on a commission basis for the Company and it was his business to sell its product….the Department of Justice have been working on the case for several months. They knew Rorke was the salesman who closed the deal with the unknown men who purchased the arms, and have had him under surveillance for quite a time…….My client admits selling the firearms for cash to a group of men he did not know, but denies that he was aware they were to be shipped to Ireland. He reported the sale to his Company and present at the time was T.K.Thompson, son in law of the US Ambassador to Great Britain and George Harvey, President of the concern.
Mr Rorke is sympathetic with the aspirations of the Irish people and for some time was active in several of the local Irish societies having at one time been President of the Protestant Friends of Irish Freedom but for more than a year he has been compelled to sever his connections with these organisations on account of his business. He is well known in this city where for a time he was connected with the Cabinet Sales Company having previously been manager of the L.C. Smith Typewriter Company of Richmond, Va. He was born in Richmond but came to Washington some years ago. He is an American citizen, a Protestant and a member of Almas Temple of the Shrine.”
Mrs Rorke said:
“ While my husband is intensely interested in the ultimate outcome of the troubles in Ireland, I feel sure that he is not guilty of what he has been charged with”.
George Rorke was born on 21st February 1891 in Missouri.
The US Census of 1900 listed his family name as the Irish “Rourke”. Rorke and his mother lived at 264 Kings, New York State, Borough of Brooklyn.
The Census of 1910 listed him living in Washington DC with his mother Anna (her mother and father were English).
During World War 1, George Gordon Rorke was conscripted into the US Army in 1917 as a private at which time he listed Mother and wife as dependents. His Draft registration card below;
By May 1919 he was working as supercargo on the ship “Lake Aurice” operating from Cuba to New York.
The 1920 Census saw Rorke living with his wife Hella in Washington DC giving his occupation as ‘salesman office equipment’.
In the US Census for 1930, George Rorke was living in Florida.
By World War 2, his Draft Registration card for 1942 showed he was employed by American Rescue Workers (National Religious and Charitable movement) and he lived in New Jersey then aged 51 years.