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Posts Tagged ‘Tammany Hall’

Organized, politically connected and deadly, by the 1870s the gangs of New York had metastasized from leaderless hordes of criminals of the Civil War era into a cancerous pox, directed and controlled by New York’s political machine, Tammany Hall. With names like the Dead Rabbits, the Whyos, The Monk Eastmans, and The Five Pointers, gangs became a hallmark of New York politics in the early 20th Century.

 

Under Tammany Hall’s Bowery Assembly leader, Big Tim Sullivan, organized crime emanated out of the Five Points, spreading throughout the slums of Manhattan. In exchange for getting out the vote on election day- with smashed ballot boxes, repeat voters and general mayhem, gangsters could rely on Tammany’s lawyers and corrupt judges to keep them well armed and out of jail.

 

Allow this map and Gangs of New York walking tour to take you back to a time when gang warfare plagued the cobblestones of New York.

 

1 The Cradle of the Gangs: The Five Points

Mosco St.

Named for the intersection of five streets which no longer exist, the Five Point was America’s first and worst slum. Comprised of Mulberry St., Anthony St. (now Worth St.), Cross St. (now Mosco), Orange St. (now Baxter), and Little Water St. (no longer exists),  a tiny garbage packed square, known as Paradise Square, was located at the intersection of the Five Points.

 

Originally called Cross St., Mosco Street is one of the last unchanged blocks that made up the Five Points ghetto.

Originally called Cross St., Mosco Street is one of the last remaining blocks that made up the Five Points ghetto.

 

Born and raised in the Five Points, Big Tim Sullivan grew up in a Five Points saloon, despite the fact that he never drank a drop of booze in his life. As a child he became a prominent newsy and with the help of local politician Fatty Walsh, Sullivan opened a bar in the heart of the Five Points, which became regular hangout of the Whyos.

 

The Domain of the Whyos, the Corner of Mulberry Bend and Mosco Street in the old Five Points.

The Domain of the Whyos, the Corner of Mulberry Bend and Mosco Street in the old Five Points.

 

2 Mulberry Bend

Click for the complete story of Mulberry Bend

For generations, the New York underworld gathered in the Mulberry Bend, a maze of back alleys. From the Dead Rabbits and the Whyos to the Gambino Crime Family, the Bend’s horrific conditions incubated the gangs of New York.

 

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In the 1880s, Mulberry Bend represented one of the worst slums in world. This a Jacob Riis photo of Bandits Roost. Image via the Museum of The City of New York.

 

In the 1700s, Mulberry street was named for an idyllic grove of Mulberry trees on the banks of the Collect Pond. In the early-1810s, the population of the Five Points exploded. Slaughterhouses choked the shores of the Collect and shanty towns sprouted up, turning the area into a diseased bog, forcing the city to drain and fill the pond. By the time of the Potato Famine, the Bend ranked as one of the densely populated urban areas in the world.

 

Whyos_Gang_Members_Collage

The Whyos. Top row left to right: Baboon Connolly, Josh Hines, Bull Hurley
Middle row left to right: Clops Connelly, Dorsey Doyle, Googy Corcaran
Bottom row left to right: Mike Lloyd, Piker Ryan, Red Rocks Farrell

 

A warren alleys with names such as Rag Picker’s Row and Bandit’s Roost, the underworld came to roost in the Bend’s unconventional architecture. At one point or another, the Dead Rabbits, the Roche Guards, the Whyos, The Five Pointers and the Mafia all called Mulberry Bend home.

 

All that remains of Mulberry Bend today, is a tiny sliver of land on the east side of Columbus Park.

All that remains of Mulberry Bend today, is a tiny sliver of land on the east side of Columbus Park.

 

During the Civil War, the Dead Rabbits, an Irish street gang, headquartered their gang on Mulberry Street where they battled anti-Irish nativist American Gangs like The Bowery Boys and Bill the Butcher Poole. By the 1870s, a gang called the Whyos, known for their war-cry “WHY-O”, dominated Mulberry Street and the Five Points. Formed by Dandy Johnny Dolan, a well-coiffed killer with axe blades embedded in his fighting boots, and Danny Lyons, a homicidal pimp, the Whyos became the first true organized gang on Manhattan, offering services like beatings and contract killings.

 

3 Columbus Park: The End of Mulberry Bend

Armed with nothing more than a camera, Jacob Riis explored the back alleys, saloons and rear tenements of the Five Points, documenting the squalor of the Bend and other slums. Riis published his work in a landmark text titled: How the Other Half Lives. A best seller, Riis’ book led to the demolition of Mulberry Bend and the heart of the Five Points.

 

The city demolished Mulberry Bend in 1897 and created Mulberry Bend Park which was later renamed Columbus Park.

The city demolished Mulberry Bend in 1897 and created Mulberry Bend Park which was later renamed Columbus Park.

 

In 1897, the city erected Five Points Park on the newly cleared land, hoping that the clean air and grass would reduce crime and give children a play to play. The largely Italian population of Mulberry Street later renamed the park Columbus Park in 1910.

 

4 The Tombs

125 White Street

The Tombs may be the most infamous site on Manhattan Island. Built as a holding tank for accused criminals awaiting trial in 1838, the Tombs or Halls of Justice brought law and order and a modern criminal justice system to the city.

 

Constructed in 1838 on top of the old Collect Pond, Manhattan’s Halls of Justice or Tombs was built to house prisoners awaiting trial.

Constructed in 1838 on top of the old Collect Pond, Manhattan’s Halls of Justice or Tombs was built to house prisoners awaiting trial.

 

Designed by the visionary architect John Haviland to resemble an Egyptian sepulcure, the Tombs stood in the heart of the Five Points on unstable landfill on top of the old Collect Pond. Soon after its construction, the granite prison began to sink into the waterlogged soil.

 

A pedestrian bridge that separated the men and women’s cells became known as the Bridge of Sighs because death row inmates would have to walk across this bridge to the gallows. Whyo leaders Danny Lyons and Dandy Johnny Driscoll were hanged in the Tombs in 1876.

 

Criminals called this walkway, The Bridge of Sighs, because death row inmates would have to walk across this bridge to the gallows.

Criminals called this walkway The Bridge of Sighs, because death row inmates would have to walk across this bridge to the gallows.

 

By the 1880s, the Halls of Justice packed over 400 inmates into a leaky, sinking, diseased structure. In 1902, city officials raised the old tombs, replacing it with a Norman castle tower, but a century later, the name stuck and the Tombs can still be found on White Street today.

 

5-Tombs-2

By the 1880s, the Halls of Justice packed over 400 inmates into a leaky, sinking, diseased structure. In 1902, city officials raised the old tombs, replacing it this Norman castle tower.

 

5. 5th Precinct

19 Elizabeth Street

Opened in 1882, the 5th Precinct policed the Five Points, Chinatown, and Little Italy for more than a century, battling the Irish gangs, the Italian Mafia and the Chinese tongs. Designed by The NYPD’s official architect, Nathaniel Bush, the precinct contained 12 cells for women and 16 cells for men.

 

6 The Bloody Angle

Doyers Street

Click for more on the Tong Wars

Chronicler of the Gangs of New York, Herbert Asbury, described Doyers Street as:

“…a crooked little thoroughfare which runs twistingly, uphill and down from Chatham Square to Pell Street, and with Pell and Mott forms New York’s Chinatown.”–Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York

 

For generations the Chinese Gangs of New York, known as Tongs, battled for control Doyers Street’s opium dens and fan-tan games.

For generations the Chinese Gangs of New York, known as Tongs, battled for control Doyers Street’s opium dens and fan-tan games.

 

For generations the Chinese Gangs of New York, known as Tongs, battled for control Doyers Street’s opium dens and fan-tan games. The Hip Sing Tong, led by  one-man-wrecking crew, Mock Duck, ran Pell Street, while Tom Lee’s On Leongs controlled Mott. Doyers Street served as No-man’s and the rumbles earned the street the nickname, “The Bloody Angle.” The site of many gang wars and massacres, Doyers Street concealed a network of tunnels beneath the street for easy escapes from the police.

 

Doyers Street

Doyers Street

 

7 King of the Bowery:

Big Tim Sullivan’s Occidental Hotel

341 Broome Street (Now the SoHotel)

As the machine age dawned, Big Tim built an empire. He controlled the most powerful gangs in New York and made a name for himself in politics. Using the assistance of the Whyos, Monk Eastman and Paul Kelly,  Sullivan served in the New York State Assembly for 7 years, sat on the NY State Senate from 1809 to 1902, and was elected to U.S. Congress, all while controlling an illegal gambling syndicate that charged gambling parlors a fee for staying in business. From six saloons below 14th street, the members of the Sullivan clan dispensed wisdom, patronage and graft. During Thanksgiving he gave turkeys to the poor and handed out hot dinners on Christmas.

 

Now called the SoHo Hotel, the Occidental Hotel housed Tammany Hall's Big Tim Sullivan and a five year long 24/7 poker game.

Now called the SoHo Hotel, the Occidental Hotel housed Tammany Hall’s Big Tim Sullivan and a five year long 24/7 poker game.

 

In 1905, when Big Tim’s wife divorced him for his crooked and philandering ways, the Big Fella took up residence at the Occidental Hotel. Sullivan could be found 24/7 in the bar room beneath a world-famous nude ceiling fresco of the huntress Diana. According to Bowery legend, the hotel ran a poker game for five straight years without stopping.

 

Tammany Hall's King of the Bowery, Big Tim Sullivan.

Tammany Hall’s King of the Bowery, Big Tim Sullivan.

 

8 Battle of Rivington Street

Rivington and Allen

The Whyos crumbled in the 1890s and two gangs took their place. Split in half by the Bowery, the great street of pleasure, passion and depravity- the Monk Eastman Gang fought Paul Kelly’s Five Pointers for control of gambling houses, opium dens and other Bowery rackets. Monk Eastman’s army of street fighters controlled everything east of the Bowery. To the west, Paul Kelly’s Five Points Gang dominated the old Five Points and the ghettos of Little Italy. Big Tim’s patronage allowed both mobs to grow out of control, expanding into each other’s territory with explosive results.

 

9_Rivington_Street_Monk_Eastman_Paul_Kelly

The Monk Eastman and Paul Kelly gangs shot it it out under the elevated train tracks on Rivington Street.

 

On an election day in September 1903, Eastman and some henchmen out repeat voting for the Tammany ticket ran into Kelly’s men on a similar mission. Punches were thrown and Eastman vowed to return. The next day Eastman and his torpedoes dashed into a Five Point saloon and shot the joint to pieces.

 

Paul_Kelly

 

Kelly roused his mob and headed to the intersection of Rivington and Allen Streets for revenge. Kelly found Monk and a crew relaxing under the elevated train tracks. In an instant, a hurricane of lead erupted and the Battle of Rivington Street commenced. According Inspector Schmittberger of the NYPD:

 

“They shot up the town in regular Wild West style.”–NYPD Inspector Schmittberger

 

For nearly an hour, the Eastmans and the Five Pointers shot it out, bobbing and weaving under the steel pillars. It took fifty police officers armed with rifles to break up the rumble. When the smoke cleared, three men were dead and a score wounded.

 

Known for wearing a derby hat several sizes too small, Monk was never a dapper mobster.

Known for wearing a derby hat several sizes too small, Monk was never a dapper mobster.

 

The police arrested Monk under the alias, William Delaney.  As usual, Tammany hired lawyers beat the charges, but the Hall and Big Tim Sullivan distanced themselves from the uncontrollable Eastman. Monk landed in Sing Sing less than a year later.

 

 

9 Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral

263 Mulberry

Summers in Mulberry Bend could be brutal. The stifling heat and rampant diseases killed thousands every year. To beat the heat every summer, the Whyos moved a few blocks uptown in search of fresh air.

 

Old Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Mulberry Street.

Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street.

 

According to Herbert Asbury Author of the Gang’s of New York:

“The Whyos maintained their principal rendezvous in Mulberry Bend…although during the summer many of them could always be found lounging in a Churchyard at Park and Mott Streets”–Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York

 

Built as New York’s first St. Patrick’s Cathedral and first Catholic cemetery, the walled Old St. Pat’s looks more like a fortress than a church. Parishioners built heavy brick walls around the grounds for protection during anti-catholic riots led by nativist gangs before the Civil War.

 

Before the Civil War, parishioners fortified St. Patrick’s Cathedral with a brick wall to protect it from anti-Catholic riots.

Before the Civil War, parishioners fortified St. Patrick’s Cathedral with a brick wall to protect it from anti-Catholic riots.

 

In the 1870’s, the Whyos took up residence haunting the graveyard. On any given night, a visitor could find Whyo members: Piker Ryan, Baboon Connolly, Goo Goo Knox and other colorfully named hoodlums.

 

During the Summer, the Whyos loafed around in Old St. Patrick’s cemetery.

During the Summer, the Whyos loafed around in Old St. Patrick’s cemetery.

 

10 McGurk’s Suicide Hall

295 Bowery

Demolished

Opened in 1893, by John McGurk, this low dancehall and brothel catered to prostitutes and female criminals such as famed thief, Sophie Lyons. McGurk, a career shanghaier, made a living luring sailors to his saloons and drugging them with chloral-hydrate with the assistance of his waiter Short-Change Charley and the ferocious bouncer and former champion pugilist, Eat Em Up Jack McManus. In time, McManus’s body became a patchwork quilt of wounds and welts. His front teeth were knocked out.  A knife scar ran across his throat from ear to ear (back before one of his ears was chewed off in McGurk’s).

 

Mcgurks

 

McGurk’s was relatively unknown until a wave of suicides hit the dance floor in 1899. Six prostitutes, tired of their hardscrabble lives, killed themselves in the bar. Ever a humanitarian, McGurk renamed the bar Suicide Hall in an attempt to capitalize on the publicity. Scores of suicide attempts followed. Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt ordered the saloon closed in 1903.

 

11 The Death of Eat Em’ Up Jack McManus

Bleecker and Bowery

Click for the complete story of Eat Em Up Jack

After the closure of McGurk’s, Eat Em’ Jack McManus moved into Paul Kelly’s full time employ as a bodyguard. One night, Chick Tricker, a member of the Jack Sirocco clique, drunkenly wandered into Kelly’s Jones Street club and insulted the showgirls. McManus stepped in, throwing Tricker out on his ear. During the scuffle, Jack put two bullets in Tricker’s leg.

 

Death of Eat Em' Up Jack McManus

Without a whisper, a whimper or a groan, Thomas “Eat ‘Em Up Jack” McManus fell face down into his derby.

 

The next day, Eat ‘Em Up Jack walked down the Bowery.  As he reached the corner of Bleeker Street, a burly hoodlum named Sardinia Frank stepped from the shadows clutching a gas pipe wrapped in newspaper (fingerprints could not be lifted from newsprint), and smashed McManus in the back of the head. McManus died in Belleview Hospital calling out for his beloved wife Gertrude. He was 40 years old.

 

12 Little Naples Cafe and New Brighton Athletic Club

57 and 59 Great Jones Street

Click for a longer story on Paul Kelly

Part bareknuckle boxing gym and part red sauce joint, the New Brighton Athletic Club and Little Naples Cafe served as the Paul A. Kelly Association headquarters, an organized hoard of repeat voters, ex-pugilists, pimps, and gangland heavies otherwise known as The Five Points Gang.

 

Little_naples_Today2

Paul Kelly’s New Brighton Athletic Club (right) and the Little Naples Cafe (left) today. Jean Michel Basquiat would later die of an overdose in the loft  above the New Brighton.

 

After the demolition of Mulberry Bend, Kelly led his gang uptown to Jones Street on the fringe of the Bowery. Kelly’s real name was Paolo Antonio Vaccarelli. The police closed the bar after a gunfight in 1905.

 

Paul_Kelly_New_Brighton_Club

 

13 Siegal’s Cafe

76 Second Avenue

Click for the complete story of Siegal’s Cafe

In the wake of the imprisonment of Monk Eastman, the Jewish elements of his mob struck out and formed a new clique centered in a small cafe on Second Avenue. Owned and operated by Big Alec Horlig and Little Louis Siegal, Siegal’s Cafe quickly became the nexus of the Jewish Underworld.

 

Now an abandoned church, Siegal’s Cafe at 76 Second Avenue was anything but holy. During the early 1900s, the Cafe was the headquarters of the jewish mob.

Now an abandoned church, Siegal’s Cafe at 76 Second Avenue was anything but holy. During the early 1900s, the Cafe was the headquarters of the Jewish mob.

 

However, the unpretentious accommodations still attracted a veritable who’s who in the Jewish mob. On any given night, a visitor might find “Jenny the Factory” Fischer, a madam and sometime prostitute who would go on to testify against Lucky Luciano and send him to prison. Big Jack Zelig, another Siegal’s Cafe habitue and heir apparent of the old Monk Eastman Gang, used the cafe as his headquarters, as did strikebreaker Dopey Benny Fein, casino tycoon Sam Paul, and a young pickpocket named Waxey Gordon. Siegal’s Cafe closed after Big Jack Zelig was put on the spot in 1912.

 

Big_Jack_Zelig

Big Jack Zelig, leader of the Jewish Mob hug his derby at Siegal’s Cafe.

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Thumb-Metropole-Hotel-Charles-Becker-Herman-Rosenthal-

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.

 

Herman-Rosenthal-Murder-Charles-Becker

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.

 

Hotel-Metropole-Herman-Rosenthal-Murder-Charley-Becker-Map

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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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.

11th_Street_Catholic_Cemetery

 

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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