Tag Archives: Criminals

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

Gangster Al Capone Goes To A Baseball Game

Hall-of-Famer Gabby Hartnett Signs Autographs For Al Capone and His Son – 1931

Al Capone sees a Cubs game with son as Gabby Hartnett signs autograph 1931 9 10Associated Press Photo From Chicago

Al Capone takes his son to the ball game surrounded by his watchful lieutenants. Chicago’s gang chief and his 12-year-old son, Al Jr., get Gabby Hartnett of the Cubs to autograph a baseball just before the Cubs defeated the White Sox, 3 to 0, in a charity game before 35,000 spectators at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Sept. 9. Pictures of Capone before the public are not frequent, and a pose with his son is rare. He affectionately calls the boy “Sonny.”

Note the watchfulness of one of his bodyguards directly behind him. A pop-corn vendor evidently rubbed his shoulder and he looks ready to protect his chief. 9-9-31

This photograph made me wonder if Al Capone’s bodyguards were licensed to carry firearms and if they were packing heat when they visited Comiskey Park? It certainly looks like the bodyguard is reaching into his jacket to pull out his “roscoe” or maybe it was his wallet to pay for the popcorn.

One other thing to note: “Sonny,” does not look thrilled to be at the ballpark, much less getting an autograph from Gabby Hartnett.

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

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 in 1860 in Philadelphia, PA. Continue reading

Gangster Al Capone and His Mother

Even A Vicious Gangster Is Loved By His Mom

Al Capone and his motherIf you’ve seen 1987’s hit movie The Untouchables or HBO’s Boardwalk Empire you probably came away with the impression that Al Capone king of Chicago’s underworld during the 1920’s and early 1930’s was a cold blooded killer that few could love but many feared. Movies and TV shows convey only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Capone’s ruthlessness.

Capone could often be generous with the poor and downtrodden but he also displayed a hair-trigger temper and would personally kill or order killings with the slightest of provocations.

Even with all the horrible things Al Capone was responsible for or blamed for, his mother Theresa still loved him.

She fought valiantly to get her son out of prison after his 1931 conviction for income tax evasion. First in 1937 Theresa asked a judge to set aside an additional one year conviction of a misdemeanor and $20,000 fine and again in 1938 Theresa sought Al’s complete release. The caption to this news photo above reads:

Capone’s Mother Seeks His Release

Chicago – Attorney’s representing Mrs. Theresa Capone, mother of Al Capone have filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal court in Chicago seeking the release of the former gang chief who was sentenced to ten years in prison for income tax evasion in 1931, and is now in Alcatraz. The petition claims that time is allowed off for good behavior, and that Capone is entitled to 1,320 days credit and has therefore completed serving his sentence. The above photo shows Al Capone and his mother Mrs. Theresa Capone, at Al’s Miami home before his fall from power. credit line: ACME 4-2-1938

Theresa’s efforts were rewarded and Al Capone was released early from Alcatraz prison January 6, 1939 and was transferred to Terminal Island, a Federal Correctional Institution in California, to serve the one year misdemeanor sentence. Continue reading

Notorious Crime Scene Property Is For Sale

In Back Of This House One Of The Most Horrendous Killings In New York History Occurred

Westchester Home For Sale in 2014. In the 1930's the home was known as Wisteria House. photo: HGMLS

Westchester Home For Sale in 2014. In the 1930’s the home was known as Wisteria House. photo: HGMLS

You may or may not believe that houses have vibes, memories or energies surrounding them. But regardless of your beliefs, would you want to live on a property where a serial killer committed a murder so horrific that the police did not initially believe the details of the confession?

Albert Fish Crime Scene 1934 - Investigators check over a doll's wig, women's shoes and a man's suit , found near the deserted Westchester home where Albert Fish murdered Grace Budd. photo: Daily News

Albert Fish Crime Scene 1934 – Investigators check over a doll’s wig, women’s shoes and a man’s suit , found near the deserted Westchester home where Albert Fish murdered Grace Budd. photo: Daily News

In a bucolic town in Westchester, NY, you can buy the three acre property where serial killer Albert Fish took and brutally killed ten-year-old Grace Budd on June 3, 1928.

Discovering a ramshackle cottage in the glades behind Wisteria House, where Albert Fish, confessed to murdering Grace Budd, police are dismantling the old structure, and digging methodically the ground surrounding it in a search for bones of possible other victims. The house are at Greenberg, N.Y. Photo shows the small cottage also occupied by Albert Fish. 1934

Discovering a ramshackle cottage in the glades behind Wisteria House, where Albert Fish, confessed to murdering Grace Budd, police are dismantling the old structure, and digging methodically the ground surrounding it in a search for bones of possible other victims. The house are at Greenberg, N.Y. Photo shows the small cottage also occupied by Albert Fish. 1934

Asking price – $799,900.

The home shown in the contemporary photograph above and in the vintage news photograph on the left was once known as Wisteria House, an 1860 villa in what was once Greenburgh, NY, and is now part of the town of Irvington.

Obviously the real estate agent listing the home will not advertise the fact, that on this property right behind the old home was where Wisteria Cottage stood (shown in photo to the right). This is where Albert Fish strangled, dismembered and later, at his own home, ate Grace Budd.

To say Albert Fish was one of the most heinous people who ever walked the earth would be an understatement.

Reading Fish’s life story is to uncover the debaucheries of a real life Hannibal Lecter as described in Silence of the Lambs. Continue reading

Graffiti As Vandalism, Not Art

Museum of The City Of New York Graffiti Exhibition Doesn’t Show What The Majority Of Graffiti Is – Unintelligible Scrawls By Vandals

I caught the newest exhibit at The Museum of the City of New York entitled “City as Canvas,” which glorifies the practitioners of graffiti and their “work” during the 1970’s and 1980’s in New York City.

For anyone who thinks that graffiti is something to be celebrated in a retrospective by an exhibition at an important cultural institution, here is some evidence to contradict that viewpoint.

Iouri Podladtchikov, Olympic half-pipe king visits the lower east side with typical graffiti defacing a grand old building.  photo - Casey Kelbaugh for the New York Times

Iouri Podladtchikov, Olympic half-pipe king visits the lower east side with typical graffiti defacing a grand old building. photo – Casey Kelbaugh for the New York Times

A typical display of current graffiti “art” as seen in this building covered by spray paint on the lower east side really is a better representation of the so called graffiti artist. It pains me to see old handcrafted stone buildings covered with paint. The beautiful Queensboro Bridge girders and stonework are always being cleaned and re-painted due to these miscreants who attack our public property with their spray cans, markers and etching knives.

Subway graffiti photo taken Feb 8, 1982

Subway graffiti photo taken Feb 8, 1982

The onslaught of graffiti began in earnest in the subway system in the 1970’s where riding a train was a demoralizing prospect. Almost every single car was covered in dripping unintelligible paint and marker scrawls, which obliterated any blank spaces. Continue reading

Where Did The Saying “Up The River” Come From?

A Movie Cliche’s New York Origins

If you ever watch any gangster films from the 1930’s or 40’s, one of the lines of dialogue that always pops up is: “up the river.”

Somebody would utter it: a criminal; prosecutor; police officer; or a fellow gangster. Listen and it will be said in most of these early crime movies.

Lines like:

“Didn’t you hear, Rocky’s going up the river.”

“If you don’t talk Ike, I can guarantee you’re going to spend a long stretch up the river.”

“I’m not takin’ the fall to go up the river for a heist you did, Spats.”

The term “up the river” as most people know refers to going to prison.

So where did the saying come from?

In the 1800’s, when you were charged with a crime and sent to prison in New York City, the accused would first be taken to the prison on Centre Street in lower Manhattan which was known as “the Tombs” built in 1838.

The Tombs were so named because the original structure had large granite columns on the outside of the building which  resembled Egyptian burial architecture, a.k.a. tombs. The Tombs though, were merely a holding prison for the accused criminals awaiting trial.

After sentencing, convicts were sent to a prison on Blackwell’s Island (today known as Roosevelt Island) in the middle of the East River.

However if you were a habitual offender or committed a very serious offense, you would be sent thirty miles north, up the Hudson River to Sing Sing prison. This is the origin of the phrase being sent, “up the river.” Sing Sing separated the hardened criminals from the run of the mill pickpockets, burglars and ordinary thieves.

Even though, the term “up the river” originally referred to Sing Sing, it was eventually applied to anyone being sent to any prison.

Squealer’s End

What Happens To Squealer’s

This is not The Sopranos or The Godfather.

75 years ago, gangsters did really nasty things to you, if you talked to the cops.

The back of this Acme news photograph sums it up:

Trussed from head to foot, the body of Samuel Silverman is examined by Deputy Medical Examiner Romeo Auerbach. The victim was found in a car parked in Brooklyn, N.Y. with three bullets in his skull. Police believe Silverman was killed for “putting the finger” on other men involved in a hold up, for which he was out on bail.  July 16, 1937

Silverman , 25, who lived at 869 Hopkinson Avenue, Brooklyn, was found in front of 324 East 91st Street, Brooklyn on July 15, 1937. The body was discovered at 5 pm by a youth who happened to glance inside the parked car.

Silverman had been arrested for robbery at 107 West 41st Street on June 11, after he had attempted to hold-up passengers in an elevator in that building. Later another man was arrested and the police theorized that Silverman had squealed, leading to his being “taken for a ride” and rubbed out a month later.

A few hours later, at 2 am, on July 16, less than a half mile from where Silverman’s body was discovered, an undientified man was found dead, burned beyond recognition in an automobile that was set ablaze at 95th Street between Avenues A and B. The automobile which was also burned beyond identification was doused with gasoline. It was never determined if there was a connction between the two deaths.