Book Description – Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City
While researching “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” I realized that I have a long way to go to even scratch the surface of presenting a complete list of all the miscreants who have roamed the streets, of what we now call “The Big Apple.”
“Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 1 – New York City” started in the time period of around 1825, when the first New York City street gang, named the Forty Thieves, ruled what was then called the “Five Points Area.” The time period in Volume 1 ended around 1940.
However, while researching Volume 2, I found tons of information about various reprobates that started around 1824 (The Sawing Off of Manhattan Island), and ended in the time period around 1960. So it’s truthful to say that trying to write a series of books on this subject in chronological order is virtually impossible, because the more research I do, the more bad people I turn up in past time periods. So I’m not even going to try to write my books about criminals in New York City under that premise again.
Future volumes on this subject (There will be at least two more volumes covering just New York City, before I move on to other areas of America) will again highlight deviant subjects who lived in the 1800’s up until the present time.
Now for the good news. In “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” I’ve uncovered some real dillies.
Of course, no book on this subject would be complete without the prerequisite Mafia entries. So this book contains bios of men like the “Prime Minister of the Underworld” – Frank Costello, Albert “The Lord High Executioner”Anastasia, Joseph Bonanno, and the Mafia Killing of Police Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino.
Irish gangsters are also well represented here, starting with the first New York City Irish Mob Boss – Isaiah Rynders, and continuing with little ditties on Big Bill Dwyer – the “King of the Rum Runners,” James Farley – “King of the Strikebreakers,” and Joseph P. Ryan – President of the International Longshoremen Association – Port of New York.
You want crooked politicians? Well in “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” you’ll read about the “Ultimate Political Fixer” Jim Hines, crooked New York City Mayor Jimmy “Beau James” Walker, and whom I consider the most abominable politician of all time – Joseph P. Kennedy, Rum Runner Extraordinaire, and the father of United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
There is also a little piece on Allie “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum, one of Murder Incorporated’s most prolific killers, who turned canary and ratted out his boss – Louie “Lepke Buchalter. As a result of Tannenbaum’s testimony in court, Lepke got the electric chair, and Tannenbaum got a short prison sentence, then crawled into the woodwork, only to reemerge to testify in several more Murder Incorporated murder trials.
In “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” there are also pieces on garden-variety crooks like George Appo – “The Most Successful Pickpocket in the History of New York City” and William Sharkey – a vicious murderer who escaped from the Tombs Prison while he was waiting to be hanged.
Included in this book are articles on murderers Harry Thaw, who shot famed architect Sanford White on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, and Ruth Snyder, who along with weak-kneed lover Judd Grey, brutally killed Ruth’s husband Albert Snyder. I also detail the vicious 1836 murder of Helen Jewett, a well-known New York City prostitute.
The Gay Nineties are well represented here too. You’ll meet Steve Brodie, the man who made a name for himself by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. Or did he really? You’ll also read about con- man Chuck Connors, who was called the “Mayor Of Chinatown,” even though the Chinese already had an elected Chinese mayor named Tom Lee. Connors made tons of cash staging bogus tours of Chinatown, resplendent with tall tales of murder and white slavery, and concluded with an excursion to a fake opium den, with fake opium addicts smoking fake opium, and sometimes even smoked molasses.
The Crazy Butch Gang and the Midnight Terrors were two ruthless Gay Nineties adolescent New York City street gangs. Crazy Butch was just that – crazy. Butch taught his dog “Rabbi” to rip the handbag off the arms off unsuspecting women, then run like the wind, until Rabbi met up with Butch latter, to give his master the spoils, in return for a nice meaty bone. Crazy Butch was nothing if not creative in his thievery. Butch used a bicycle to crash into female pedestrians, then when a crowd gathered to see what had transpired, Crazy Butch’s gang of boys, as young as ten years old, picked every pocket in sight, then scattered in all directions to escape arrest.
The Midnight Terrors were the bane of the First Ward, located at south-most point of Manhattan Island. They were called The Midnight Terrors because all of their robberies and muggings took place after dark, while most of the city was asleep. Led by “Chief” Dan Dalton, an incorrigible 14-year-old, the Midnight Terrors decided to start a baseball team. And that they did. And while the Midnight Terrors were causing mayhem on the baseball diamond using their sharpened spikes and an occasional bat to an opponent’s cranium, their non-baseball-playing gang members would roam the stands, robbing spectators at will.
The biggest con job of the late 1800’s was the “Green Good Swindle,” which was “built upon the common desire in human nature to get something for nothing.” Hundreds of thousands of circulars were mailed to targeted individuals around the country, offering, in vague language, huge amounts of counterfeit bills for a fraction of their face value. In these circulars, the word “counterfeit” was never used, but rather terms like “articles,” or “paper goods,” and sometimes even “cigars,” were used instead.
When the greedy suckers arrived in New York City to meet the green goods “operator,” they were shown bills that looked so real, they were, in fact, just that – real paper money. The green goods operator completed the transaction, by taking the dupe’s money, and purportedly giving him a suitcase filled with the counterfeit money. Then, a distraction would take place, and the suitcase would be substituted with an identical one. As a result, the mark was now in the possession of a suitcase filled with useless paper, and sometimes even sand. The “operator” would then hand the mark off to a “steerer, who, aided by the local police who were also in on the scheme, would hustle the mark out of town, on the next train available.
The beauty of the green goods swindle was that if the mark discovered, either on the train, or when he arrived home, that he had been hoodwinked, who could he run to? Certainly not to the police, since he was involved in an illegal transaction in the first place.
There is also an article in this book that is so outrageous, there is some doubt as to whether it actually occurred. It supposedly happened in 1824, when the local newspapers were not quite a reliable source of information. A man named Lozier, who was considered one of the brightest men in town, convinced the locals that the tip of Manhattan Island (which was inhabited by only 150,000 people at the time), because of the weight of the newly-build tall buildings, was sinking into the East River. The only way to save Manhattan, Lozier said, was to was to cut off the island at its north end, in the Kingsbridge region, then turn the island completely around. After this was done, they would need to anchor the sagging end to the north mainland. So in effect, when the task was completed, north would be south, and south would be north, averting the terrible loss of lives and property.
What happened next, you will have to read in the main section of this book, and make your only decision as to if this incident actually occurred, or not.
I believe it did happen.
And no book about crooks and criminals would be complete without an essay on the two crookedest lawyers of all time: “Big Bill” Howe, and “Little Abe” Hummel. The nefarious law firm of Howe and Hummel used every trick in the book, most of them illegal, to get the most vicious criminals of their time (1862- to past the turn of the 20th Century) declared not guilty in a court of law. Howe and Hummel not only defended the worst of criminals in court, but in fact, taught these same criminals how to commit their crimes in advance. And if the criminals got caught by the law, well, don’t you worry. They would be defended in court by none other than the diabolical duo of “Big Bill”Howe and “Little Abe” Hummel themselves.
“Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” which is arranged in alphabetical order, is a labor of love, but it is also a work in progress. Volumes 3 and 4 will again feature the worst criminals in the history of New York City. Then I’ll move on to the rest of America, which, I guarantee you, will take up several more volumes on the subject.
I hope you enjoy reading about some of the most despicable people ever to roam the face of the earth.
I know I enjoyed researching and writing about them.