Tag Archives: Crime

Beat Your Son – By Order of The Court 1938

New York Judge Orders Mother To Beat Son – 1938

Are you one of the people who think that today’s juvenile delinquents are coddled and the justice system is too soft on petty crime? Maybe we should bring back “the good old days,” when corporal punishment and tough jail sentences were the norm for youthful offenders?

Then you might be surprised to learn that even during hard times 80 years ago, many people found the idea of beating children to be abhorrent, especially when ordered by a court of law.

If the goal of justice is to have the punishment equal the crime, then the sentence meted out by a New York magistrate did not go over very well with the public.

The Leather of the Law

New York, NY — In accordance with the orders of Magistrate Overton Harris, Mrs. Mary Bradley applies the strap to her son, Tommy who was one of eight Textile High School boys believed to have pulled the whistle cord on a New York subway train. Thomas and another boy were the only ones of the eight who didn’t run from the train. When young Bradley appeared with his mother in court, Magistrate Overton Harris ordered Mrs. Bradley to “prove to me on Thursday night that you gave your son a good thrashing or I’ll send him to jail.” Although Mrs. Bradley believed her son’s protestations of his innocence she is shown obeying to the letter of the law. credit line Acme – 5/25/1938

Judge Harris had also said to Mrs. Bradley, “Get a paddle, bore some holes in it, and make welts on the boy. Do you think you can do it?”

Despite this photographic evidence above, Mrs. Bradley, a widow living at 100 W. 96th Street, did not thrash her 16-year-old son. Continue reading

Shooting’s Fun For Everyone

Teaching Children To Shoot – 1957

Not that long ago shooting a rifle or a pistol was a right of passage for American children.

Here is a 16 page 1957 pamphlet put out by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute to encourage shooting for boys and girls. Its the sort of thing that today would probably be considered politically incorrect and start a huge protest if it were given out to schoolchildren. Some might call the pamphlet propaganda, but in the 1950s shooting and hunting as a recreational activity was one of the most popular leisure pastimes in the United States.

Shooting as a sport was considered to be a wholesome, fun activity that the family could do together. The popularity of sport fishing and wild game hunting in the United States soared to new heights in 1957 when a record total of 34,195,183 licenses were sold to devotees of those outdoor sports.

Today recreational shooting and especially hunting have been on a steady decline with 33 states issuing fewer hunting licenses in the past 20 years according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In an NBC interview Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, a Virginia-based natural resources research group said, “Fifty years ago, a lot of kids would hunt and fish and be outside, now it’s easier to sit in your playroom and play video games.”

Today the idea of giving a child a gun and teaching them how to use and respect a gun is an anathema to many people. When the word “shooting” is mentioned in the news it is usually preceded by the word “mass”.

What has changed? Continue reading

The New York Housewife Who Was Too Pretty To Walk In The Streets In 1902 – She Had To Use A Gun and A Knife To Protect Herself

Ellen Emerson, So Beautiful, Lecherous Men Kept Accosting Her On The Streets Of New York In 1902

To Fight Them Off She Once Used A Gun, Another Time A Knife

But There’s A Twist At The End Of The Story

She could stop traffic, that is all male pedestrian traffic. Imagine being so attractive that every time you left your home you were the recipient of unwanted stares, comments and in the  worst case, groping.

In 1902 at 60 West 98th Street lived Ellen Emerson, who when she went out in public, men would constantly ogle her.

The undesired attention from men was so bad that she brandished a gun at one of her pursuers and a knife another time to protect herself from being accosted.

Within a space of four weeks Joseph Pulitzer’s Evening World did two stories about Mrs. Ellen Emerson. The first story which ran on November 8, 1902 told about Mrs. Emerson’s dilemma; “attractive and blonde and long the victim of ‘mashers.'”

Ellen told an unnamed reporter, “My life has been made a perfect burden for me  by these obnoxious men. I don’t know what there is about me. I am not a loud dresser, but I scarcely ever go on the street without being pursued.” Continue reading

How Don Hoak Scared The Hell Out Of Me When I Was A Kid

Don Hoak Becomes The Bogeyman

Don Hoak was a professional baseball player for 11 seasons. From 1954-1964 Hoak played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies. By all accounts he was a nice man and a decent player who had a career .265 batting average.

In real life Don Hoak probably never intentionally scared a child. Little did he know one day this baseball card would affect one superstitious, naive, ignorant kid.

One day when I was about 7-years-old I acquired some old baseball cards from the 1960s from my grandfather. I showed them to an older boy and when he came to Don Hoak  he said, “you know, he’s dead,” as he handed the card back to me.

Well I stared at the card and I got the willies. An actual shudder ran down my spine.

“Dead? What do you mean, dead?” I said.

My simpleton mind knew what dead meant, but I did not have much real life experience with death.

All I knew was that I was holding a dead man in my hand. How could he be dead? This card is only a few years old and he couldn’t have been an old man?

“How’d he die?” I needed to know.

“I don’t know but he died a few years ago (1969)” my companion said. Then he added, “He may have been murdered.”

Wellllll  now I was transfixed for about a full minute. This simple 1964 Topps baseball card of a smiling ballplayer took on new meaning. Continue reading

Women Joining The NYPD 100 Years Ago? Not Likely.

No Women Became NYPD Officers Until 1918

Woman Police Making Arrest Bain locThis 1908 news photo by Bain News Service shows a Cincinnati suffragette dressed as a policeman. The accompanying captions is “How woman policeman would look making an arrest.”  Another photo of the same woman is captioned “the woman cop ‘A Dream.'”

Women becoming police officers in the early 20th century was considered a joke. Well maybe that was the case 100 years ago, but not today. There are now over 6,000 uniformed women police officers in the NYPD and they comprise almost 20% of the police force.

In the early history of the NYPD, women had worked as jail matrons and secretary’s. It was in 1918 that Ellen O’Grady was named a Deputy Police Commissioner and Mary E. Hamilton was appointed a policewoman along with 5 other women.

Some of the original policewomen were assigned to battle the white slave trade (forced prostitution) while other recruits were to work on juvenile delinquency cases.

The policewomen were issued badges, summons books, revolvers and handcuffs. They had the same authority as their male counterparts and surprisingly, received the same $1,200 salary as policemen.

As more women joined the force in the following two years, most of the policewomen were assigned to the city beaches to protect women. Others were given assignments in the Vice Squad, the Missing Persons Bureau and some were to investigate fortune-tellers and midwives. Continue reading

You’re Under Arrest! Why The NYPD Would Arrest You In 1905

The Crimes That Got You Arrested in New York City In 1905

New York City police bringing suspects into the station. (circa 1900)

New York City police bringing suspects into the station. (circa 1900)

The police make more arrests now In New York City than they did In 1905. Of course the population has doubled from what it was in 1905. But it’s the type of arrests that were made 111 years ago that are quite different from today.

Among the 4,014,304 people living in New York City in 1905 with almost 2 million foreign born and many of them poor, you would think there would be a lot of crime. And there was, but most of it was not violent. In 1905, there were 198,356 arrests for the year, with about 90 percent of them being misdemeanors.

So what crimes were New Yorkers charged with? The following information was taken from the Report of the Police Department of the City of New York for the Year Ending December 31, 1905. Below are 1905’s top 13 offenses with the number of people arrested by the NYPD and the offense they committed:

52,316 Intoxication / Intoxication and Disorderly conduct
39,972 Disorderly conduct
17,584 Violation of Corporation Ordinances
11,731 Assault and Battery
8,592 Disorderly Person
8,333 Vagrancy
7,991 Suspicious Person
6,880 Petit Larceny
5,031 Grand Larceny
3,939 Violation of Liquor Tax Law
3,795 Violation of Health Law
2,810 Felonious Assault
2,279 Burglary

In the breakdown of the hundreds of offenses that people were arrested for, here are some facts that might surprise you.

New York City police turned a blind eye to the oldest profession as only 13 people were arrested for prostitution. 10 for possessing or selling obscene pictures. 49 for arson. 16 for murder and 711 for homicide- (I never realized  there was a technical difference between murder and homicide)!

Six were arrested for cruelty to children, yet 535 were arrested for cruelty to animals. Continue reading

Incredible, Strange Silly Laws

It’s No April Fools’, These 12 Incredible, Strange Silly Laws Are Real

There Ought To Be a Law dustjacketAmericans are under the impression that there are too many laws. Maybe so. There are many laws that seem unjust, unnecessary and in some cases foolish.

Compared to the past however, there are fewer silly laws on the books. Look back at American history and you might be surprised how many strange laws there once were.

William Seagle’s There Ought To Be A Law (Macauley), 1933, scoured state law books and compiled a couple of hundred laws in effect in 1933, many of them bizarre, others just confounding or silly.

Seagle writes that archaic laws remained on the books due to the passage of time and with no enforcement, legislators forgot that these laws were still statutes. Occasionally laws would be reexamined and states would rid themselves of the stranger ones. The following laws were repealed in the early part of the 20th century:

In Florida: “An Act to Prevent the Indiscriminate Digging of Holes in the Woods”

In South Carolina: A law that made it criminal to draw a check for less than one dollar.

In Massachusetts: A law prohibiting  the showing  of any movie lasting longer than twenty minutes.

Some laws that Seagle found strange, don’t sound so strange today.

For instance this law in Wisconsin doesn’t seem out of place with all the revisionist history happening now: A law forbids the use in the public schools of any history textbook “which falsifies the facts regarding the war of independence, or the war of 1812, or which defames our nation’s founders, or which misrepresents the ideals and causes for which they struggled and sacrificed.”

Seagle questions the intelligence of politicians and lawmakers. What event transpired that brought some legislator to write each one of these bills to enact the law?

How many of these laws are still in effect today? I would imagine most of them have been repealed. But you never know.

1 – Delaware: It is a misdemeanor to “pretend to exercise the art of witchcraft.”

2 – North Dakota: A law regulating carnivals expressly prohibits the dancing of the “hoochie -koochie.”

3 – Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota: It is a criminal offense to dance to the music of The Star Spangled Banner. Continue reading

Ten Great Films From The 1940s Featuring New York City

Filming Around New York City In The 1940s

On The Town posterDuring Hollywood’s golden years from the 1930s through the early 1950s there were many films set in New York City, but the vast majority were made on the studio lots in southern California. Almost every studio had their own New York set which would convey “the Big Apple.”

The reasons for doing so were obvious; the costs of actually sending the cast and crew on location to film would be cost prohibitive and complete control could be exercised in the studio for crowd control, noise, lighting and other technical issues.

Occasionally films would use stock footage of New York or a second unit directing team would be sent to capture a New York scene or two to be used as establishing shots showing the audience, yes this is New York. Usually though none of the principal characters in the film were ever actually in New York, but back in Hollywood, playing against what is called a “process shot” a background screen showing New York footage usually while the actors were walking or driving.

Even such quintessential “New York” films such as A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) were shot completely in Hollywood.

So when the cast and crew actually did any filming in New York it was a rare treat, especially looking back today at the much changed metropolis.

Here are ten of the best 1940s films where a part of the movie was actually filmed on location in New York City.

Saboteur Cummings and Lloyd Statue of LibertySaboteur (1942) This cross-sountry chase of one man falsely accused of sabotage pursuing the real saboteur winds up in New York. Director Alfred Hitchcock had his second unit shoot footage in the city that shows New York in the midst of World War II. We see Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the waterfront and other familiar city sights.  A masterpiece of storytelling the film moves at a smooth pace as you bite your nails watching. Spoiler alert: Sinister character actor Norman Lloyd battles hero Robert Cummings on Bedloe’s Island at The Statue of Liberty in one of the most iconic conclusions to a film ever shot.

Ray Milland The Lost Weekend Third Avenue photo Life MagazineThe Lost Weekend (1945) Director Billy Wilder takes advantage of New York, shooting many of the exteriors of The Lost Weekend on location. Ray Milland’s portrayal of troubled, alcoholic writer Don Birnam won him an Academy Award for best actor. The film also won Oscars for best picture, best director and best screenplay. There are so many shots of Milland in the city it becomes a game to recognize where the actual locations are. Third Avenue is prominently put on display. The giant street clock Milland passes in one scene is still there today – located on Third Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets. All the mom and pop stores and restaurants along the way are long gone, replaced mostly by chains. P.J Clarke’s on Third Avenue and 55th Street was used in the shooting but many of the interior scenes of the bar were shot back in Hollywood. Continue reading

Why Few Of Us Are “Normal” Human Beings (And That’s A Good Thing!)

According To Writer Donald Henderson Clarke, Normal Human Beings Are A Rare Breed

Man of the world bookDonald Henderson Clarke (1887-1958) enjoyed telling a good story. Clarke was able to accomplish that as a successful reporter for many New York newspapers including The New York World, New York Times, and the New York American. After his newspaper stint from 1907 through the 1920s, Clarke began writing books and screenplays which made him a tidy sum.

Born to a wealthy New England family, Clarke lived the life of a bon vivant, but always held a fascination for the underbelly of life. Besides writing about the famous and newsworthy, Clarke spent quite a bit of time with bootleggers, gangsters and prostitutes. Out of nowhere in his autobiography, Man of the World: Recollections of an Irreverent Reporter, 1951, Vanguard Press, Clarke makes an astute observation about the human condition.

64 years after this was written, this timeless description of normalcy and humanity still strikes a strong chord. Clarke’s quirky style comprises the longest run-on sentence I’ve read by a journalist, but I’ll forgive him the run-on, because he is right on the mark.

Good, normal human beings are a rarity, and we all should be thankful for that. They are dull, monotonously successful, exasperatingly even-keeled, always in good health. Of course, they should not be called normal.

Most human beings suffer from anxieties, worries, fears, suppressed desires, regrets for past sins, secret yearnings for future sins, aches, pains, toothaches, flat feet, ingrowing toe nails, body odors, hair in the wrong places, too little hair in the right places; they are too short or too tall or too plump or too lean; they wish they were married, wish they were unmarried, wish they could have a successful careers, are bored silly with successful careers, wish they had children, wish their children would hurry up and get married, wish their children would never marry, are afraid of hell, are afraid of the dark, are afraid of poverty, wish their noses were different, wish they were in society, are bored with society, wish they could know actors and actresses, wish they could get away from actors and actresses, shoot and poison their husbands, shoot and cut the throats of their wives, make love to the cook, make love to the chauffeur, talk virtue and think of vice, howl because Rossellini and Bergman have a baby without benefit of clergy – and wish they could be Bergmans or Rossellinis.

The average human being is full of imperfections which make him-her interesting. When the imperfections lead to explosions small or large, it makes the kind of news I like – the sort of news that reveals the human being for what he is – mortal and finite but clinging desperately to the idea that he is immortal and infinite; possessing nothing, no matter if he has millions of dollars, but soothing his fears with the false idea that he has possessions.

He is suddenly gone. Nothing is more ridiculous than the carcass left behind, unless it be the strangely patterned bits of cloth and leather with which he or she concealed that carcass from view. The discarded garments of one suddenly dead look tiny and silly.

Where did the spirit flit? Even several Christians will not give you the same answer. It depends on the particular belief of the particular Christian. Mohammedans will tell you Paradise, where warriors will have a bevy of houris to amuse them. Other religions, whose followers outnumber Christians, will give you other answers.

No human being ever went wherever it is and came back to tell about it in plain, everyday language. That would be one big, important, serious newspaper story I would like to cover.

Continue reading

The First Execution By Electric Chair

125 Years Ago Today William Kemmler Became The First Prisoner To Be Put To Death By Electrocution

The original and first electric chair that was used to execute a prisoner on August 6, 1890 in Auburn, NY

The original and first electric chair that was used to execute a prisoner on August 6, 1890 in Auburn, NY. The chair was destroyed in a prison riot and fire on July 28, 1929.

While the debate continues today over what exactly comprises cruel and unusual punishment or whether the death penalty should ever be invoked, 125 years ago today on August 6, 1890 William Kemmler became the first person put to death by the electric chair. The electric chair was proposed to be a more “humane” way to execute criminals.

On June 4, 1888 New York’s Governor David B. Hill signed a law passed by the legislature that the punishment for murder after January 1, 1889 should be “death by means of an electrical current that should be caused to pass through the body of the condemned.” Electrical experts then came up with the plan to apply the current and strap a man in a chair while he sat.

The New York Evening World wrote of the convict Kemmler on the day of his execution, “If vengeance were what the law seeks by capital punishment for murder it would get little satisfaction out of the event today, for the poor wretch whose life has been taken within the walls of Auburn Prison has for weeks awaited the coming of black-visored Death with a child-like expectancy, almost impatience.”

One of eleven children, William Kemmler was born into poverty on May 9, 1860 in Philadelphia, PA. Continue reading