Archive for the ‘Tammany Hall’ Category


Murder at the Metropole: The Charles Becker Herman Rosenthal Case 147 West 43rd Street

Address: 147 West 43rd Street

Status: The Casablanca Hotel


By the summer of 1912, every gangster, gambler and politician in New York City wanted Herman Beansie Rosenthal dead. The pro-gambler had upset the apple cart, spilled the beans and went to the press, revealing a massive web of police corruption after the coppers smashed up Beansie’s casino- a casino that was under the paid protection of NYPD Lieutenant Charles Becker.


Charles Becker, Charley Becker, Herman Rosenthal, Arnold Rothstein, Big Tim Sullivan, Tammany Hall, NYPD, Lefty Louie, Gyp the Blood, Big Jack Zelig, Hotel Metropole, Gangs of New York, Harry Horrowitz, Satan’s Circus, Tenderloin, 147 West 43rd Street, Tony DeNapoli’s, Hotel Casablanca, Damon Runyon, Bat Masterson, Abe Attell, Bill Consindine, Becker Rosenthal Case, Rosenthal Murder, Fanny Brice.

Owned by Tammany Hall powerbroker, Big Tim Sullivan,The Metropole boasted a 24 hour liquor license and a casino managed by Arnold Rothstein.


Murder at the Hotel Metropole:

The Becker Rosenthal Case

Just after Midnight, July 12, 1912, Rosenthal strolled into the Metropole Café, now Tony DeNapoli’s, with an arm full of newspapers plastered with headlines of his allegations against Lt. Becker. At 4 AM a gray Packard taxi roared up to the Metropole with a cargo of gunmen, coked to the gills, from the dreaded Lenox Avenue Gang.



1-The Gray Murder Car which carried the gunmen assassins. 2-Herman Rosenthal, The Gambler, whose murder is charged to the New York Police System. 3- The brightly lighted streets of the murder. Rosenthal was shot under the big electric sign in the center of the picture. 4- Rhinelander Waldo, New York’s police commissioner. Mrs. Harry Vallon, Wife of the Murder Council member Frank Vallon. 6,7– Gyp the Blood and Lefty Louis, Two of the gunmen held for the murder. 8-Sam Schleps


There in the blinking electric lights of Times Square, Lefty Louie Rosenburg, Harry “Gyp the Blood” Horrowitz and Dago Frank Cirofici waited for their prey. When Rosenthal exited the Metropole, the gunmen opened fire. According Historian Mike Dash:


“… Investigation would eventually establish that at least three rounds were fired. The first bullet had missed its target and embedded itself at head height deep in the wooden frame of the Metropole’s front door. But the second had struck Rosenthal in the face, passing through his cheek and jaw…” Mike Dash, Satan’s Circus.


The murder would go on to become the crime of the century, adding yet another gritty layer to the Hotel’s gangland history.



A popular gangland resort and casino, the Hotel Metropole was located at 147 West 43rd Street. It was the scene of the murder of Herman “Beansie” Rosenthal in 1912.


Up in the Old Metropole

Located a dice roll away from the Big Street, Broadway, the Hotel Metropole opened in 1910 at 147 West 43rd Street and became a nightlife nexus of the Tenderloin district known as Satan’s Circus. The first hotel in New York City with running water in every room, a pair of pro-gamblers known as the Consindine Brothers (George and Bill), operated the hotel on behalf of Tammany Hall powerbroker Big Tim Sullivan. The Metropole became the sparkling diamond of Big Tim’s hustles. Now called the Casablanca hotel, the building is one of the most storied gangland hotels in all of Manhattan.


Charles Becker, Charley Becker, Herman Rosenthal, Arnold Rothstein, Big Tim Sullivan, Tammany Hall, NYPD, Lefty Louie, Gyp the Blood, Big Jack Zelig, Hotel Metropole, Gangs of New York, Harry Horrowitz, Satan’s Circus, Tenderloin, 147 West 43rd Street, Tony DeNapoli’s, Hotel Casablanca, Damon Runyon, Bat Masterson, Abe Attell, Bill Consindine, Becker Rosenthal Case, Rosenthal Murder, Fanny Brice.

Today, the Metropole is called the Hotel Casablanca.


The murder would leave an indelible mark on the annuals of American criminal history, even appearing in the Great Gatsby:


“The old Metropole,” brooded Mr. Wolfsheim gloomily.  “Filled with faces dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever. I can’t forget so long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there.”-F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


Bat Masterson, Damon Runyon and Nicky Arnstein

A human stew of Broadway characters called the Metropole home because of its 24 Hour liquor license, making the hotel’s cafe a hotspot for showgirls, gunmen, boxers, newspaper reporters and gamblers.

Wild West gunfighter turned New York newspaperman, Bat Masterson and his protégé Damon Runyon were regulars. Bat lived upstairs near noted cardsharp Nicky Arnstein, future husband of Ziegfeld Girl, Fanny Brice. Cole Porter would immortalize the wiseguys and cardsharps of the Metropole in his song, Ace in The Hole.



Arnold Rothstein’s Casino

Arnold Rothstein, the Brain of Broadway, managed Big Tim’s gambling parlor on the second floor. The opulent casino featured faro tables and roulette wheels. Some of the biggest crap games New York City history went down in the Metropole. It was also in the Metropole where Abe Attell, a former champion featherweight boxer, caught the attention of Arnold Rothstein becoming The Brain’s bagman and enforcer. Attell served Rothstein well during fixing of the 1919 World Series, insulating the gangster from criminal prosecution, serving as a go between for Rothstein and the Chicago White Soxs.


Arnold Rothstein

 Arnold Rothstein. the Brain of Broadway, managed the Metropole’s casino.


Enter Herman Rosenthal

A small time gambler with big dreams, Herman Rosenthal became a regular at the Metropole’s all night card games. With the help of Big Tim Sullivan’s bankroll, Rosenthal set up a lavish gambling den a few blocks north at 104 West Forty Fifth Street where the gambler lived with his wife Lillian. After a police raid smashed the joint, Rosenthal turned to police Lieutenant Charley Becker, cutting the corrupt police officer in on 1/5 of the house’s take. Unfortunately for Rosenthal, letters to Mayor Gaynor’s office reported the operation. The raids on the casino continued and Beansie Rosenthal went to the Newspapers to squeal.


The Jewish Mob:

Lefty Louie, Gyp the Blood, and Big Jack Zelig

By this point Rosenthal’s enemies led by a powerful syndicate of gamblers, gangsters, and police Lieutenant Charley Becker wanted the canary dead. With the help of Lower East Side Jewish Mobster Big Jack Zelig, a contract was placed on Rosenthal’s head to be carried out by Lenox Avenue Gang members Lefty Louie and Gyp the Blood. According to Herbert Asbury:


“Gyp the Blood was a sheriff and gorilla at the cheap dances of the East Side…He possessed extraordinary strength, and frequently boasted that he could break a man’s back by bending him over his knee.”-Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York


The triggermen struck on July 12, 1912 and all of New York reverberated in the wake.


Lefty Louie gyp the blood

Two eastside gunmen (seated), Harry “Gyp the Blood” Horrowitz and Lefty Louie Rosenburg, were sentenced to death for the slaying of Herman Rosenthal.


The Chair For Charley Becker

Lt. Becker and the Lenox Avenue gang were found guilty of the crime and were sent to the electric chair at Sing Sing. The Metropole Hotel still stands today and is known as the Hotel Casablanca.

 Charles BeckerNYPD officer Charles Becker was sentenced to death for the crime.

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Mafia, Salvatore Luciana, Giuseppe Morello, Clutch Hand Morello, Johnny Dio, Jimmy Doyle, James Pulmeri, Albert Marinelli, Jimmy Kelly, Giovanni DeSalvio, John Gotti, Lupo The Wolf, Petto the Ox, The Barrel Murder, Black Hand, Joe Petrosino, Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Luciana, Ciro Terranova, Joe Masseria, Crazy Joe Gallo, Salvatore Toto D’Aquila, Aniello Dellacroce, NYPD, 240 Centre Street, 8 Prince Street, 225 Lafayette Street, 129 Mulberry, 91 Elizabeth Street, 385 Broome Street, 164 Mulberry, 247 Mulberry Street, 232 Mulberry Street, Umberto’s Clam House, Ravenite Social Club, Whisky Curb, Bootleggers Curb, Café Roma, Lieutenant Joe Petrosino Square, Italian Squad,

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Little Italy Mafia Walking Tour Map


Little more than a 3-block tourist trap, New York’s Little Italy is on the verge of extinction. With Chinatown closing in from the east and SoHo gobbling up its southern real estate, only the section of Mulberry Street between Broom and Canal remain visibly Italian. Gone too is the dreaded presence of the Mafia which was once inextricably woven into the fabric of daily life. This Mafia walking tour will take you back to the days when mobsters, rather than hipsters, ruled the streets of Little Italy.


1 Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello’s Spaghetti Restaurant

Address: 8 Prince Street

Status: Standing


Giuseppe Morello’s spaghetti parlor was the scene of the brutal Barrel Murder


He was the patriarch of the first America Crime Family. A Sicilian bandit with a deformed right hand, Giuseppe Morello earned his nickname “the Clutch Hand” from his twisted talon. The undisputed boss of Manhattan’s uptown and downtown Italian districts, Morello led a vicious band of old world cutthroats from a spaghetti parlor at 8 Prince Street. Morello’s gang included his half brother Ciro Terranova, the self styled “Artichoke King”, his second in command and brother-in-law Ignazio “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta, his chief enforcer Tomaso Petto the Ox, and a multitude of kinfolk.


Murder, robbery and Black Hand extortion, the Mafiosi did it all, but counterfeiting was their art, a passion that would lead to a gristly murder at 8 Prince Street. On April 14, 1903, Benedetto Madonia, one of The Clutch Hand’s counterfeiters, was stabbed to death, stuffed into a barrel and unceremoniously dumped on East 11th Street as a gangland message. However, the message proved to be too strong and both the Secret Service and Joseph Petrosino, a rising star in the NYPD, would be on Morello’s trail, ultimately bringing about his downfall.



2 Lupo The Wolf’s Import Market

Address: 9 Prince Street

Status: Standing


As ferocious as his namesake, Lupo The Wolf was a terrorist long before the word became fashionable. Through violence, bombings, Black Hand letters and murder, he extorted everyone and everything in turn-of-the-century Little Italy. Related by marriage to Clutch Hand Morello, Lupo became head of Downtown Little Italy for the Italian Harlem based Morello. Lupo operated one of many grocery stores he owned from 9 Prince Street.



3 Barrel Murder Arrest

Address: Bowery and Delancy Street


Hoping to smash Morello’s counterfeiting ring and solve the Barrel Murder, the Secret Service and Joe Petrosino pounced on Petto the Ox and Giuseppe Morello on the corner of Bowery and Delancey Street. The Mafiosi were armed to the teeth with daggers and licensed revolvers. Unfortunately, the charges did not stick to Morello, but a pawn ticket for Benedetto Madonia’s watch linked Petto the Ox to the Barrel Murder. The mafia enforcer disappeared while on bail and was never imprisoned for the crime.



4 Joe Petrosino Square

Kenmare and Spring Street

Status: NYC Park

Joe Petrosino Square

When it came to New York firsts, Lt. Joseph Petrosino could claim many. He was the NYPD’s first Italian speaking officer, the first Italian American on the Force to obtain the rank of lieutenant, and the first, and only, NYPD officer killed on foreign soil. The city built this park on Kenmare and Spring Street to honor him in 1987.


To combat the rise of Italian Black Hand crimes, the city formed the Italian squad with Petrosino at its helm. In 1909, Petrosino traveled to Sicily in search of a secret society of criminals infiltrating America and Vito Cascioferro, the powerbroker behind the Morello Crime Family. The trip would be Petrosino’s undoing. Mafia assassins put the Police Lieutenant on the spot, assassinating him on the streets of Palermo. (Click to read more about Joe Petrosino)


5 Salvatore Toto D’Aquila’s Home

Address: 91 Elizabeth Street

Status: Standing



1920s New York Boss of Bosses, Toto D’Aquila’s home.

After Giuseppe Morello’s conviction for counterfeiting in 1909, the Clutch Hand’s remaining brothers retreated to 107th Street in Italian Harlem, allowing Salvatore Toto D’Aquila to become the ruler of Downtown Little Italy, and the Italian Mafia’s boss of bosses in New York. By the time of Prohibition, D’Aquila became quite wealthy despite his lowly tenement home at 91 Elizabeth Street. His encroachments on Giuseppe “Joe” Masseria’s open-air liquor markets on Kenmare, Broom and Grand Streets would erupt into all out war in 1920.



6 Umberto’s Clam House, the Murder of Crazy Joe Gallo

Address: 129 Mulberry

Status: Moved



As crazy as they came, Joe Gallo earned a reputation for shaking up the mob. With his Red Hook Brooklyn based brothers, Larry and Albert, Gallo and his gang took on a succession of bosses for control of the Profachi and later Colombo Crime Family.

On April 7, 1972, Gallo, his family and Mafia crew walked into Umberto’s Clam House, a well-known mafia restaurant owned by Matty the Horse Ianniello, to celebrate Gallo’s birthday, a completely insane move. The mob wanted Gallo dead for the slaying of Joseph Colombo at an Italian-American Civil Rights League rally at Columbus Circle.

At 4:30 a.m. four gunmen slipped into Umberto’s back door and violated a mafia ban on brazenly killing gangsters on the streets of little Italy. Bullets slammed into Gallo who limped out and collapsed on the street. Gallo’s gang opened fire on the escaping hitmen. Bullet pockmarks can still be found at Graziano’s funeral home across the street. Gallo’s murder remains unsolved.



7 Joe The Boss Masseria’s Bootleggers Curb

Address: Kenmare, Broom and Grand Street


By some quirk of geography, Giuseppe “Joe” Masseria, a small time hood and recent mafia import, struck prohibition gold. His small gang ran the streets of Kenmare, Broom and Grand in the shadow of NYPD Headquarters. For whatever the reason, these streets became know as the Whisky Curb or Bootleggers Curb, an open air booze market where speakeasies and saloons came to trade bottles of pre-prohibition hooch.


A quick hand with a gat and even quicker feet made the portly Masseria’s reputation as a supernatural Mafiosi. Masseria grew incredibly wealthy and Toto D’aquila wanted a cut. Bootleggers Curb soon became shootout central. Dodging bullets and leading shootouts, Masseria led a prohibition gang war against New York’s Boss of Bosses Toto D’Aquila for control of Little Italy.


After his release from prison in 1920, Giuseppe “the Clutch Hand” Morello joined forces with Joe Masseria against Toto Aquila. With the help a new recruit named Charley Lucky Luciano and his Jewish Mob friends, Toto Aquilia was bumped off in 1928.



8 NYPD Headquarters, The Central Office

Address: 240 Centre Street

Status: Landmark (Luxury Condos)


Most mobsters of any consequence have spent at least one overnight in the basement of 240 Centre Street. From 1909 to 1973 this beaux-arts masterpiece served as NYPD Headquarters, the nerve center of the New York Police Department. Click to learn more about Old NYPD Headquarters.



9 Lucky Luciano Rats

Address: 164 Mulberry

Status: Standing


Salvatore Luciana kept his fingers in many pies. Gambling, bootlegging, prostitution and murder for hire all kept him wealthy, but Lucky wanted more. Under the direction of his mentor Arnold Rothstein, Charley Luciano turned to narcotics, and it proved to be a mistake. By 1923, the mobster was the darling of prohibition high society, and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics collared Lucky with a pocket full of dope. In exchange for his freedom, Luciano revealed the location of a trunk of Heroin stashed in the basement of 164 Mulberry Street. The arrest tarnished Lucky’s reputation among Manhattan’s socialites, inspiring him to throw the biggest party of the decade.



10 Café Roma

385 Broome Street

Status: Open for Business



The Westies kidnapped the owner of Cafe Roma, Eli “Joe the Baker” Ziccardi

Back in the 1970s, Eli “Joe the Baker” Ziccardi did more than make cannoli at the Café Roma. The Genovese capo ran the policy games for Fat Tony Salerno from this downtown café, making Zicardi a target for opportunistic gangsters like the Irish Westies. In the 1977 under the orders of Hells Kitchen’s gang lord Mickey Spillane, the Westies put the snatch on Zicardi. Salerno begrudgingly paid the $100,000 ransom to the Irish Mob, but Zicardi was never seen again. Because of the kidnapping and construction projects on the Westside, all out war broke out between the Irish and Italian mobs resulting in Spillane’s murder and the death of three of his lieutenants.


11 John DeSalvio Playground or Jimmy Kelly Park

Address: Spring and Mulberry Street

Status: NYC Park


An original gangster who predated the coming of the Mafia, Jimmy Kelly knew all of the angles. His real name was Giovanni DeSalvio, but the middleweight boxer changed his name to Kelly to make inroads in the Irish controlled boxing world of turn-of-the-century New York. However, Kelly failed to make it as a pro-boxer and put his knuckles to work at Mike Salter’s Pelham café protecting the club’s singing waiter Irving Berlin (click to read the story). Under Salter’s wing, Kelly took up politics and full time gangsterism. When Salter fled the country for election fraud, Kelly took his place as a Tammany ward heeler running into innumerable gang wars with hunchback mobster Humpty Jackson. Click to read more about Humpty Jackson.


11 Johnny Dio and Al Marinelli’s Headquarters

Address: 225 Lafayette

Status: Luxury Condos


In the 1920s, 225 Lafayette was a hub of Mafia activity.

For much of the history of New York City, the criminals worked for Tammany hall, not the other way around, but with the coming of the Mafia and prohibition that was about to change. Nowhere else in the city was the intertwining of crime and politics more apparent than 225 Lafayette Street. Built in 1909 in the heart of Little Italy to house the East River Savings Bank, 225 quickly evolved into a mafia hub.


A close personal friend of Lucky Luciano, Albert Marinelli set up the political headquarters of his Al Marinelli Association at 225 Layafette. With the help of Luciano’s gunmen, Marinelli unseated Tammany’s Irish incumbent to become the first elected Italian-American Distract Leader in the city. Luciano and Marinelli were so chummy that they shared a room at the 1932 Democratic Convention. The politician made a fortune with Luciano, which attracted the attention of Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey.


Dewey later accused Marinelli of voter fraud and corruption. Dewy explained:

“He has a luxurious estate surrounded by an iron fence on Lake Ronkonkoma, way out on long island. From his several motorcars he chooses to drive a Lincoln limousine. His Japanese butler, Togo, serves him well.” Thomas Dewey

With the spotlight on him, Marinelli stepped down, making way for John DeSalvio to become the 2nd Assembly District Leader.


On another floor of 225 Layafette, Jimmy Doyle Pulmeri and his nephew Johnny Dio Dioguardi set up their Five Boroughs Trucking Service Association, a thinly veiled shakedown scheme. Their strong arm racketeering tactics eventually won control of all Garment Center trucking. Business was brisk. So brisk that Doyle and his partner Dominick Didato shot each other in their offices. Neither man could explain to police why their legally licensed revolvers simultaneously malfunctioned. Didato was found dead days later. After the Castellmarese Mafia war, Dio and Doyle joined the Gaetano Reina and later Lucchese Crime Family. (Click to read more about Jimmy Doyle) Like everything else in NYC, the building has been converted to luxury condos.


13 Aniello Dellacroce’s Apartment

Address: 232 Mulberry Street

Status: Standing


A stone cold killer and founding member of Murder Inc., Aniello Dellacroce served as Albert Anastasia’s murderous protégée and future Gambino Underboss. Dellacrose maintained a life long address at this tenement at 232 Mulberry Street across the street from his headquarters, The Ravenite.



14 John Gotti’s Bunker: The Ravenite Social Club:

Address: 247 Mulberry Street

Status: Shoe Store



John Gotti’s Ravenite Social Club is now a shoe store.

There is no better place to conclude a Mafia walking tour of Little Italy than the Ravenite Social Club at 247 Mulberry. Buried in the heart of historic little Italy, the once bricked up, fortified storefront encapsulated the entire history of the mafia in New York. The club started life as a mob joint in 1926 as the Knights of Alto Social Club. Regular patrons included Lucky Luciano and Albert Anastasia. After Carlo Gambino and Vito Genovese toppled Anastasia, Gambino purchased the building, renamed the club the Ravenite, and installed Dellacroce his underboss.


Housed within the wall’s of today’s CYDQOG Shoe Store (the Ravenite’s original floors remain in the store), Dellacroce would take an up-and-coming hoodlum named John Gotti under his wing. After years of underworld dealings, Dellacroce was terminally ill and on trial for being a member of the Mafia Commission.


After the death of Dellacroce, John Gotti rubbed out family boss Paul Castalano, took over the Ravenite and installed himself as boss of the Gambino Family. FBI electronics wizards eventually bugged the club and recorded hours of incriminating evidence. Gotti was convicted in 1992 of murder, illegal gambling, bribery, tax evasion and a host of other crimes. Federal Marshals later seized the building and auctioned it off to the highest bidder. Click to read a longer post on the Ravenite Social Club.

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Thumb 11th_Street_Catholic_Cemetery2


It was a neighborhood of potent ugliness, a wasteland of rubble and rust strewn with monstrous gas tanks, and belching gasworks, pumping out noxious sulfurous fumes, the byproduct of cooking bituminous coal to produce the gas which fed the streetlights of New York. Authorities around the turn of the last century called the slum the Gas House District, and a hunchback mobster was its king.


A rare view of one of the last gasworks in the Gas House District circa 1938., years after Humpty Jackson's reign.

A rare view of one of the last gasworks in the Gas House District circa 1938, years after Humpty Jackson’s reign.


A bare-knuckled Dickensian creature, well-armed and well-read, Thomas “Humpty” Jackson and his band of colorfully nicknamed hooligans like Monahokky, The Grabber, Candy Phil, Maxie Hahn, Spanish Louie, and the Lobster Kid, terrorized the neighborhood from the ruins of an ancient cemetery that has long since vanished.


Thomas "Humpty" Jackson lead his turn-of-the-century gang from the 11th Street Catholic Cemetery.

Thomas “Humpty” Jackson lead his turn-of-the-century gang from the 11th Street Catholic Cemetery.


According to Herbert Asbury’s Gangs of New York, the cemetery was, “…bounded by First and Second Avenues and Twelfth and Thirteenth streets,” yet today, not a single headstone remains, and anyone searching for the remnants of the boneyard will be befuddled by Asbury’s erroneous directions.


The infamous hunchback of East 11th Street, Thomas Humpty Jackson

The infamous hunchback of East 11th Street, Thomas Humpty Jackson


The 11th Street Catholic Cemetery


Built in 1832 to replace Old St. Patrick’s overflowing graveyard on Mulberry Street, the Eleventh Street Catholic Cemetery stretched from the east side of First Avenue to Avenue A. Fifteen years, and forty thousand corpses later, tenements sprouted up around the graveyard, and the city banned burials in Manhattan, forcing the Eleventh Street cemetery to lock its gates.



In 1883, the New York Times wrote,

“The old cemetery has been neglected and has become a scene of desolation. The fences have been broken by boys, and… it has become a great source of trouble to the church…” –The New York Times, 1883


It’s impossible to say when Humpty, who was born in 1879 according to the 1925 census, first jumped the fence of the cemetery.  After he quit the rackets and started giving interviews (hotlink), Humpty would later reminisce:


“Take the Gas House District… no playgrounds and no gymnasiums. Nothing for strong kids to do…but commit depredations…”—Humpty Jackson


And depredations he committed.


Humpty’s First Pinch


At the age of thirteen, Jackson caught his first pinch for stealing a horse blanket. For his heinous crime, he was sent to the reformatory on Wards (Now Randall’s) Island, turning the little hunchback into a lifelong cop hater. By twenty, Humpty was a professional stick-up kid, heisting grocery stores up and down the Lower East Side, which eventually landed Jackson his first holiday in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island.


After his release, Humpty Jackson earned his first newspaper mention for stabbing a policeman in the hand and neck, but by now the Hump was a well known character in the Gas House District, the domain of Tammany overlord Silent Charley Murphy.


Tammany Boss Silent Charlie Murphy employed Jackson as a key election rigger.

Tammany Boss Silent Charlie Murphy employed Jackson as a key election rigger.

Election Rigging 101:

Tammany Hall Recruits Jackson


The veteran election rigger immediately saw potential in the young hunchback. With the help of Big Tim Sullivan, Humpty was soon stumping for Tammany Hall. Repeat voting, ballot box stuffing, and good old Republican slugging, granted Humpty a license to steal. Humpty later bragged to Collier’s Magazine:


“…we’d gang the joint. Smack a couple of Republican ballot watchers over and swipe the boxes and throw them in the river.”


Armed robbery, assault, and vagrancy charges disappeared like magic courtesy of Tammany Hall, and with political backing, Jackson carved out a fiefdom strong enough to repel both Monk Eastman and Paul Kelly’s Five Points Gang. But the infamy brought the heat. According to the newspapers, every mugging, shooting, and petty theft in the district was the work of the Humpty Jackson gang.


The Battle for 11th Street


The tipping point came on the night of September 12, 1904. That night Humpty and his pals were lounging on the headstones in their graveyard hangout. The gangsters sat up and took notice after they spied Fredrick Keller, a former member of the gang, strolling down 11th Street.


The remains of the 11th Catholic Cemetery today.

The remains of the 11th Catholic Cemetery today.


In instant the wolves jumped him. A fist fight broke out, and one of Humpty’s goons put a revolver to Keller’s head and pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired.


Keller broke away and sprinted to the Police precinct on 5th Street. Seeing an opportunity to put Jackson away for good, Capt. McDermott raced to the cemetery with five plainclothesmen, Detective Ed Reardon, and a team of reservists. The small army of cops put the collar on Humpty Jackson, the Riley Brothers, and William Noble and marched them back to the precinct.


An Army of Mobsters


Suddenly an army of 30 mobsters appeared on 11th Street, a pistol shot rang out and the cops ducked for cover. They returned fire with their service revolvers and roaring gun battle erupted.


From the tenements, bricks and potted plants and bottles rained down on the police. Jackson pulled a hidden revolver and beamed four shots at Detective Ed Reardon, those shots would earn Humpty 2 ½ years in Sing Sing where the hunchback was treated to a regimen of: “Twelve hours a day in solitary…paddling, and thumb hanging exercises…” However, his time in the can wasn’t all bad.


Humpty spent the majority of his stretch reading: Herbert Spencer, Thomas Paine, Darwin, Voltaire, and Huxley. He even penned a book on police brutality. When he emerged from the big house, Humpty was smarter and tougher than ever before, but unfortunately things had changed on the sidewalks of New York.


Humpty Jackson on the Transformative Power of Reading

Humpty Jackson on the Transformative Power of Reading


When he got out of prison, Humpty headed back to his home away from home, the 11th Street Catholic Cemetery. As he began to reorganize his mob, the police, led by Detective Ed Reardon, torqued up the pressure. Police arrested Jackson on sight for vagrancy, disorderly conduct, and anything else they could pin on the hunchback.


The Gat in the Hat


To prevent the law from planting weapons on him, the ingenious mobster sewed up his pockets so that:


“Cops couldn’t slip a gun in a gun in my pocket and pull me in for carrying a rod…”


But the pressure grew, making it impossible for Humpty to steal for a living.

When Jackson opted to go strapped he,


“…Invent[ed] a pistol holster for my hat. I got away with that for a long time until a young cop got wise and slapped me on the nut with his night stick.”


Humpty Jackson often carried a pistol in his hat.

Humpty Jackson often carried a pistol in his hat.


Unfortunately, sewed up pockets and his secret holster did little to keep the eccentric mobster out of the papers, and Tammany’s support waned. By 1908 the Hall had backed a new tough, former light weight prize-fighter and Chinatown bouncer, Jimmy Kelly.


The Feud With Jimmy Kelly


Called the Human Pin cushion by his pals, Kelly, whose real name was Giovanni DeSalvio, was as rough-and-tumble as they came. Kelly and his Chinatown mob, opened the Folly 212 East 14th on the outskirts of Humpty’s turf, and it was clear that a bloody confrontation loomed.

Humpy Jackson's rival, Jimmy Kelly, John DeSalvio would go from gangster and nightclub owner to Tammany Hall politician.

Humpy Jackson’s rival, Jimmy Kelly. Kelly’s real name was John DeSalvio. DeSalvio would go from gangster and nightclub owner to Tammany Hall politician.

On November 1, 1908 Tammany Hall and Big Tim Sullivan symbolically backed their new goon when the Jimmy Kelly Association held a ball at Tammany Hall.


Enraged that Big Tim had backed his rival, Humpty stalked Kelly, his wife Stella, and his bodyguard Chink Marello to restaurant on 15th Street and 3rd Ave. When Kelly left the restaurant to get a bottle of wine, Humpty followed him to 13th Street, raised a revolver and shot the ex-prizefighter in the neck. As Kelly lie dying in a pool of blood, Humpty put another bullet in his groin for good measure. Kelly survived.


Humpty Goes Down


After the shooting of Kelly, Tammany abandoned the hunchback and his downfall quickly followed. Arrested for stealing a $1,000 seal skin coat from the Adams Express Company, Humpty was tried as a habitual criminal. Facing a life sentence, Humpty pled guilty and was sent to Sing Sing for three years.


Return to the Graveyard


When Humpty returned from the joint, he found that the world had changed. The gasworks were closing down because of the adoption of electricity, but more strikingly the 11th Street Cemetery had vanished. While he was in Sing Sing, the church sold the property and moved the remains of 5,000 bodies to section 4b of Calvary Cemetery in Queens, leaving behind the remains of 35,000 burials.


After going straight, Humpty and his wife Bertha opened a pet shop.

After going straight, Humpty and his wife Bertha opened a pet shop.


Humpty Quits the Rackets


With the closing of the cemetery an era had ended, and the Hump decided to go straight. Humpty later told a Collier’s reporter:


“…I got Tired, tired of being pinched every time somebody I never heard of did something, tired of the same old burglar racket, slugging punks and not being able to go around outside my own district.”


Jackson settled down, got married, opened a pet shop, and went on to a new found fame as the hunchback gunman who had quit the rackets.

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Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia.

Location: 100 East 17th Street

Status: Landmarked 


It was the last wigwam, the tiger’s lair where Tammany Hall reached it’s zenith before fading into historical footnote. Funded by a prohibition-era bankroll, the red brick, Neo Georgian structure located at 100 East 17th Street on the North East Corner of Union Square, represents the last true home of New York’s greatest political machine.


Constructed at cost of $350,000, the building was dedicated on July 4, 1929, by Presidential Candidate Alfred E. Smith, a notorious “wet” who vowed to end prohibition if elected, and his archrival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an upstate politician who would do more to destroy Tammany Hall than anyone else.


Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello

Tammany Hall was located at 100 East 17th Street.


Whitewashing Corruption

For an added touch to whitewash the corruption, the architects decked the building out in patriotic splendor, choosing bricks modeled from Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello

This balcony overlooking Union Square served as Tammany Hall’s bully pulpit, allowing politicians to address the masses below.


On the 17th Street entrance to the Hall, columns inspired by Federal Hall, the site of George Washington’s presidential oath, adorned the second and third floors.


Nearby, friezes of Christopher Columbus, a Revolutionary War era liberty cap and Chief Tammany, the organization’s namesake, ornamented the exterior of the building.


Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello, Chief Tammany

Chief Tammany, namesake of Tammany Hall.

Tammany’s Bully Pulpit

The focal point of the entire wigwam was a balcony, which served a pulpit for Tammany bigwigs such as: Mayor Jimmy Walker, presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith, and Senator Robert Wagner to speechify to masses gathered around Union Square. But little did the sachams know, Tammany Hall had nowhere to go but down.


Tipping the Paradigm

For over 100 years, Tammany ward heelers incubated organized crime in New York City, fostering and organizing a network of gangs whom they schooled in mayhem and rolled out on Election Day.


Sent to smash ballot boxes in Republican neighborhoods and repeat vote in Democratic strongholds, Tammany awarded the crooks perpetual get out of jail free cards for their work.


Tammany politicians looted the city and taxed vice, making themselves millionaires in the process of redistributing this wealth to the city’s most marginalized inhabitants.The Hall was known for handing out ice in the summer, coal in the winter and turkeys at Thanksgiving in a time before social security.

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello, Chief Tammany

Ultimately, prohibition turned the paradigm on its head. Bootleggers, gangsters and gunmen made multi-millions of dollars overnight and paid for their political protection, rather than earning it with their fists at the polls.


The rain of money turned into a deluge, and Tammany became minions of the mob. By the 1930s, the Hall was firmly in the hands of the National Crime Syndicate with Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Frank Costello puling the strings.


Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello, Chief Tammany

Tammany Sachem, Alfred E. Smith, dedicated the building alongside his political rival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man who did more to destroy Tammany than anyone else.

Under intense pressure from FDR and Fiorello La Guardia, the hall vacated the building in 1943, selling it to a labor union, marking the beginning of an irreversible decline. On the occasion, Mayor La Guardia remarked:


“You know, I wouldn’t change the name of the building [Tammany Hall]… I would keep it as a permanent monument to the change that came for the City of New York when a mighty, ruthless organization left the building to an organization of the people.”—Fiorello La Guardia

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Mike Salter. Pelham Cafe

12 Pell Street

Status: Standing

Nestled among the steaming chop suey joints and smoldering opium dens of turn of the last century Chinatown, there was a dingy saloon that spilled ragtime piano into the moonlight.

On any given night, the bar played host to a packed crowd of millionaires and murders, pickpockets and tourists, all on account of The Professor on the piano and a seventeen year old singing waiter named Izzy Baline, who would one day be known as Irving Berlin.

Mike Salter's Pelham Cafe. Birthplace of Irving Berlin.

12 Pell Street today. The site was once home to Mike Salter’s election rigging gang. The ragtime piano saloon was the birthplace of the Irving Berlin.


The place was The Pelham Café, headquarters of the unbelievably politically incorrectly nicknamed Nigger Mike Salter, a Russian-Jewish gangster. The papers called Mr. Salter the uncrowned prince of Chinatown, and the prince had his hands in everything: prize-fights, dice games, opium parlors, and most of all, politics. He was rumored to have killed ten men on the road to becoming Big Tom Foley’s chief election captain, and Salter’s specialty was getting out the vote.


The House of a Hundred Entrances


False registration, ballot box stuffing, and good old fashioned repeat voting earned Salter a special place in the heart of Tammany Hall. As a reward in 1904, the Hall permitted him to open a saloon in the Chinatown vice district in a tenement known as the house of a hundred entrances located at 12 Pell Street.

Salter spared no expense decorating the joint. Ivory inlaid teak furniture filled the front room. Red burlap wallpaper, framed by gold paint, lined the walls. Sawdust covered the floors, and a dense, ever-present fog of bluish cigar smoke hung above the bar, a bar that sat the A-list of the New York sporting set.


A Den of Ragtime and Vice


Characters like Big Mike Abrams, Chuck Connors, Staten Island Sally, and Hoboken Harriet, wined, dined, and danced the night away. At the bar, Sulky, a homicidal loanshark that kept a tidy ledger, served brews to gangland’s finest. Part time pugilist and full time gangster, Jack Sirocco, and his chief gorilla, Chick Tricker, could be found there on the regular.

In the back room, the Professor, “Nick” Nicholson manned a tinpan piano while Izzy the singing waiter belted out raunchy versions of hit songs that kept Chinatown abuzz.


Mike Salter Pelham Cafe Irving Berlin

Mike Salter’s Pelham cafe was located at 12 Pell Street in the heart of the old Five Points district.


Nobility Visits The Pelham


Word spread of Izzy’s musical talents, and Chuck Connors guided legions of celebrity slummers through the saloon’s double doors. John Jacob Astor, Sir Thomas Lipton (of tea fame), and August Belmont all came to sample the hullabaloo, but nothing could top the visit by Prince Louis of Battenberg, a Rear Admiral in the British Navy and the fourteen reporters following him.

Before leaving the prince remarked to Izzy:

I have had a delightful time, not dreariness, not weariness, and not one bit lonesome.



Prince Louis of Battenberg.


When the prince attempted to tip Izzy, the singing waiter waved away the coin, exclaiming:

No, sir, it was my honor to sing.

On the Prince’s way out, Izzy and the orchestra of banjos, coronets, and fiddles stuck up a ragtime version of God Save the King.


The Making of Irving Berlin

By this point Salter knew he had something. Inspired by booze, he badgered Izzy and The Professor into writing a song because of the success of “My Mariucci Take a Steamboat”, a ditty written in a rival saloon on Doyers street.



The result of their collaboration was: “Marie from Sunny Italy.” The effort earned Izzy a whopping thirty-seven cents; but more importantly, the sheet music listed the lyricist as I. Berlin, and Irving Berlin was born.




Berlin later reminisced:

It was an important song, though, because it did get me out of Chinatown.


However, Salter’s success was short lived. In 1907, the police arrested The Prince of Chinatown on charges of false voter registration. Marshals closed down his bar, and Salter skipped bail and skidooed off to Canada for three years. Berlin wouldn’t see his boss again until 1922, when he came to pay his respects at Salter’s Funeral.

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