Letter to the Public Advertiser newspaper describing the notorious highwayman John Rann


John Rann (alias ‘Sixteen String Jack’) was perhaps the most celebrated Highwayman of the 18th century, whose audacious acts of theft created huge levels of public interest. His entry into the criminal underworld began with petty acts of pick-pocketing, with Rann soon graduating to more daring acts of highway robbery in and around London. Rann was noted for his seemingly uncanny ability to evade prosecution. Although he was arrested and tried for a series of robberies in the early 1770s, he was repeatedly acquitted owing to a lack of evidence against him. Only after several unsuccessful court cases did the law eventually catch up with him. Rann and an accomplice were eventually found guilty of a highway robbery in 1774 and executed at the age of just 24. Rann’s apparent immunity from punishment appears to have engendered a sense of bravado in him, as demonstrated in this extract detailing his appearance at Bow Street magistrates office. The newspaper article describes his apparent indifference to proceedings and the public’s excitement when he appeared in court.

Full title:
To the Printer of the Public Advertiser
7 June 1774, London
Newspaper / Ephemera
The Public Advertiser
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers

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