Tammany's Control of New York By Professional Criminals: A Study of a New Period of Decadence in the Popular Government of Great Cities
George Kibbe Turner
AUTHOR OF "THE CITY OF CHICAGO, 'GALVESTON: A
BUSINESS CORPORATION,'' ETC.
ILLUSTRATED WITH DRAWINGS BY WILLIAM OBERHARDT
FROM 1870 to 1890 the Democratic party was in absolute and natural control of New York City. By reason of great changes in the population, its natural popular majority then left it. From 1894 to the present day —fifteen years—it has been in charge of New York two thirds of the time. In all of that period, with one doubtful exception, it has never had one majority of the popular vote at a city election that was not obtained through the votes of trained bands of "repeaters," composed largely of professional criminals. The history of this artificial control of a population of four million people and an annual expenditure of $150,000,000, and its disastrous results, is striking and important.
From the time of the immigration after the Great Famine up to 1880 the Irish peasants had lain in a solid mass from the East River to the Five Points. By 1880 there were 150,000 of them there. Just north of them lay the German peasants— 100,000 more; and farther north and west hundreds of thousands more of these immigrants and their children — new peoples, in a strange land, groping darkly with new and strange conditions of life. In all, the European immigrants and their sons and daughters made three quarters of the city. These people — not the little froth of life ín gay hotels and theaters and on Broadway — made the real New York — and make it still. For fifty years it has been a city of European peasants and their close descendants.
In the '80's the Irish slums on Cherry Hill and in the Five Points were as foul as any in the world. The population, after stewing in its tenements for thirty years, was down to the dregs — the weakest and the worst. Scores of tenement saloons, reeking "dead house" grog-genies beneath the level of the sidewalks, and sailors' dance-halls, with names unspeakable, lined the streets; in every shadow bands of soft-fleshed young thieves — good, strong Irish peasant stock, rotted by the unhealthy city life — whistled and watched and waited for the drunken laborer reeling home by night. Out of this place twenty-five years ago came the most remarkable and probably the strongest politician in New York to-day.
Α Charge and a Denial
In April, 1889, Inspector Thomas Byrnes, chief of detectives, who for fifteen years herded the criminal population of New York like sheep, asked the Legislature for a peremptory bill giving him power to arrest on sight all criminals whom he found in New York on the day of the Centennial celebration in May. After the bill had passed the Senate unanimously, he learned that it was being held up in the Assembly by a young slum politician
(117) and assemblyman who owned a chain of saloons through the Five Points and the Bowery. Inspector Byrnes then made this public statement:
"Timothy D. Sullivan, better known as Dry Dollar' Sullivan, associates in New York with thieves and disreputable citizens. Peter Barry, one of the leaders of the famous Whyo gang, was one of his boon companions. Barry is now serving seven years in State's Prison. Tommy :McAveny, general thief, is another chum of Sullivan. Some time ago, when Tommy Nichols and John Clark were arrested for burglary, Sullivan tried his hardest to get Cottrell, one of my detectives, to make it light for them. Sullivan also associated with Johnny Hand, Danny Lyons, James, alias Figs, Lyons, and Dan Driscoll, hanged for murder, and dozens of other criminals."
The professional criminal of that time, as appears from the list of names in Byrnes' statement, was Irish; his specialty was thieving, burglary, or crimes of violence. He was the product of an unfortunate time and place, heedless, dissipated, and quite unorganized.
On the day after Byrnes had made these remarks, Sullivan arose on the floor of the Assembly and answered him, detailing his boyhood acquaintance with some of these criminals, and telling the story of his life. He said in part:
"If Mr. Cottrell or any other policeman says 1 ever approached him to make it light for any thief, he is a liar. If Inspector Byrnes says I did, he is a liar. . . . My father died when 1 was four years old, leaving me the second youngest of four children. My mother struggled along as best she could, but when 1 was between six and seven years old, not quite seven, I had to go downtown and help to keep the rest of us together— sell newspapers and One thing and another. . . . 1 can prove that since I was seven years old until the day before 1 came to ,the Legislature, I never lost two days' work in my life. Now, 1 do not think I have had much time to associate with thieves."
Sullivan's speech, delivered with great earnestness in the hoarse vernacular of the Five Points, was a novelty, and made a deep impression upon the Assembly. Strong Republican members shed tears in open session. Byrnes merely reiterated his charges, and said succinctly: "He defends the only days of his life when he made an honest living."
A New Kin of Politics inn New York
Sullivan's own district did not accept his statements as literally as did the members of the Legislature, partly, no doubt, because it was familiar with the ordinary daily duties of a slum politician, which ninety per cent, of the members of the Legislature did not dream cf. The constituents of these men are not interested in the tax rate, fur they have no property. Hundreds of them in the course of each year face the sharp necessity of evading or escaping the penalties of the law. The local politician is the one who must negotiate this. The only
(119) question is how far he will go in doing it. In the '80's the professional thief was not generally thought of sufficient consequence to work for.
Sullivan represented most directly his own election district at Five Points, at that time perhaps the worst slum in the world. His chief saloon was opposite the Tombs Police Court. Policemen and court officials were in and out of it, and one of the clerks of the court was said to be a silent partner in the enterprise. The Five Points grinned at Sullivan's speech in the Legislature and were much pleased. It is familiar in the Bowery to-day. An old member of the Whyo gang of criminals, with whom Sullivan associated as a child, said less than three months ago:
"There was a new kind of politics started in New York with that speech. The politicians seen right after that that the man who was ready to come out and take a chance for us fellers would get the votes."
Tammany Hall Loses New York
The real government of New York was then, as it has been a large part of the time ever since, in the hands of the Democratic organization of Tammany Hall. This body is governed by the thirty-five leaders elected by the Democrats of the Assembly districts of Manhattan and the Bronx. Each of these Assembly districts contains from 40,000 to 80,000 inhabitants—a good-sized city in itself. They are subdivided into election districts, ín charge of the election district leaders, who get out the vote. n 1892 "Dry Dollar" Sullivan carried for Cleveland every vote but four out of 392 in his election district. In December Croker promoted him to be leader of the Bowery Assembly district, just north and east of his old Five Points election district.
In 1894 a catastrophe overtook the Democratic party of New York. For the first time since the Civil War the city elected a Republican mayor. The overturn was attributed directly to the disclosures of police scandals by the Lexow investigation. But the real underlying cause was a deeper thing; a great racial change in the population of the city had turned against Tammany Hall the natural balance of voting power by which the Democratic party had held the city.
From 1870 to 1890 two thirds of the voters of New York City were Irish and German peasants and their sons — persons who had never before been under a free representative government. The chief social centers of these two peoples were liquor saloons; and the owners of these saloons, who handled their votes,—first for American manipulators and political criminals like Tweed, and later for themselves,—delivered them in mass to the Democratic party. That party could split in two in the '70's and '80's and still carry the city.
But beginning with the '80's the great Jewish and Italian immigration, which has overwhelmed the two earlier races, began to pour into the city. These people, especially the acute and intelligent Jew, could not be handled by the old-time brutal, saloon-keeping Irish politician. The natural rule of the Democratic party in New York had come to an end. Tammany Hall, from that time on, was compelled to resort to an entirely artificial method of control. To do this it merely developed further the system of fraudulent voting by "repeaters"— men who vote repeatedly on false names — which the Democratic party had used for forty years in State and national elections, and in local contests between themselves. The new development of this came in the Bowery.
The Criminal Metropolis of America
The Bowery, when "Dry Dollar" Sullivan became its leader, was not a successful Democratic Assembly district. Its chief underlying business was then, as now, the furnishing of liquor, prostitution, clothes, and lodging to vagrants, thieves, and rough transient laborers.
(120) in the early '90's it had the worn, hang-dog aspect natural to market-places of this kind. In the middle of the '90's, however, all this changed. The Bowery had organized politically.
This organization was in two main divisions. The head gamblers and the merchants of prostitution, then, as now, were election district captains, who brought out the vote; and the vagrants, minor gamblers, and thieves furnished the voting" repeaters." The Bowery Assembly district was very soon the banner Democratic district of New York. Its peculiar business interests grew in direct proportion to its vote. Customers were robbed and assaulted boldly in its saloon market-places of prostitution. Western gamblers and swindlers commenced to work. Two men with thieves' names dropped in from other cities and established national headquarters for yegg burglars,— the most dangerous criminals of the present time,— who were then just coming into prominence. These men, it was found, made especially good "repeaters." The Eagles, a great national organization of sporting men, bartenders, politicians, thieves, and professional beggars, made Sullivan their head. And the Bowery became the recognized metropolis of American criminals, as it is to-day.
The New Politician from the Red Light District
About the same time another population of criminals was learning the lesson of political self government. The stream of Jewish immigration, which started in the '80's, had concentrated itself upon the district just east of the Bowery, driving first the German and then the Irish inhabitants before it. n this new Oriental population were tens of thousands of adult males who were unmarried or had left their families abroad. A great opportunity offered itself for supplying this section with
(121) fifty-cent prostitution — which was taken up first by the region about the Bowery, and later by the members of the new population themselves. Once having entered into this business, Jewish commercial acumen developed it to great proportions. Starting in a small way in the late '80's, it grew until at its height a decade later at least three or four thousand men and women were engaged in it. By this time the place was notorious across the world as the Red Light district.
This Red Light district brought a new and very important Democratic politician into New York — the pimp, or retailer of women, who grew up in this district in numbers undreamed of in the previous history of the city. The active Tammany managers of this — the Eighth — district were large operators in the sale of prostitution. An organization of criminals, like that in the Bowery district, conducted the "repeating" and intimidation of voters at the polls. These men were in three separate groups — the pimps, led by a saloon-keeper, now an election district captain in the Eighth Assembly District; the gamblers, led by a gambler and ex-thief named Sonny Smith; and the thieves, led by a thief named Lollie Myers, now in Sing Sing. These gangs were used, at first, fully as much for the intimidation of the Jewish voter as for "repeating." The Jew makes the most alert and intelligent citizen of all the great immigrant races that have populated New York. He was a city dweller before the hairy Anglo-Saxon came up out of the woods, and every fall the East Side resolves itself into one great clamorous political debating society. In spite of all the efforts of the organized Jewish criminals in this district, it repeatedly gave a slight Republican plurality.
But if the Jewish criminals were not able to carry their district politically, they were by no means refused the reward for their services through Tammany influence. Their organization for the defeat of justice, called the Essex Market Court gang, was one of the chief scandals of the Lexow investigation. Its headquarters were in a saloon —operated first by a Jew who called himself "Silver Dollar" Smith, and later by Martin Engel, the leader of the district—which was situated opposite this court in much the same relative position as that of "Dry Dollar" Sullivan's old saloon to the Tombs Court.Here Sullivan appeared again. He was one of the strong political friends of the leaders in this district, and was publicly advertised as the vice-president of the Max Hockstim Association, the society of politicians, pimps, and thieves which was the leading social and political organization there, Out of the Bowery and Red Light districts had come the new development in New York politics — the great voting power of the organized criminals. It was a notable development, not only for New York, but for the country at large. And no part of it was more noteworthy than the appearance of the Jewish pimp, a product of New York politics, who has vitiated, more than any other single agency, the moral life of the great cities of America in the past ten years.
The New Criminal Moses Out on the City
In 1898 Brooklyn, with a tendency toward Republican pluralities, was incorporated into New York City. n 1898 a Republican Legislature appointed a metropolitan election board to enforce against election "repeaters" new laws directed against the vagrant and the loafer; and under these laws that class of "repeating" has ever since been continuously cut down. n 1901 and 1902 the professional gamblers, who numbered as high as eight and ten thousand men at times during the Van Wyck administration, were thrown out of business by a reform movement. Thus Tammany
(122) Hall, having already lost her natural control of New York City, was now deprived to a great extent of both heroldest and her cleverest classes of "repeaters." At this time the new schools in the Bowery and Red Light Assembly districts, which trained criminals as "repeaters," assumed the great importance to the Democratic party that they have to-day.
Criminal life has its history — however unlikely this may seem from the stereotyped middle-class view-point — as certainly as any other rank in society. The Irish professional criminal — the bold and ugly burglar of the '80's — was already decadent in the late '90's. But the two new political criminal districts were made nurseries in crime for the children of the two new races of immigrants — the Eighth for the Jews, and the Bowery district for the Italians. The young children of these peoples were given primary criminal instruction, in many cases by the old Irish criminal. Little boys of ten and twelve were carefully trained as pickpockets in the Jewish district; and little girls of thirteen and fifteen started as prostitutes. Out of this training developed the two racial gangs of professional criminals that have replaced the earlier Irish type —the great East Side band of Jewish pimps and thieves and pickpockets, and the great Italian band of cutthroats and pimps who have their headquarters to-day in Chatham Square and in Harlem. Out of these two political-criminal gangs, with the various members of other races that have been absorbed by them, has come two thirds of the professional crime that has so alarmed the city of New York. In many ways these gangs stand in the same relation to New York as the notorious Apaches, composed of almost exactly the same kind of criminals, do to Paris.
" When times are right," said a criminal a few months ago, " they go out every afternoon, just like mechanics goin' to work."
At about the opening of Mayor Van Wyck's administration in 1898, the big body of East Side criminals began to push its operations out of the comparatively bare field of the Jewish district. This was already badly overworked by the young thieves who swarmed on Grand and Hester streets, where even street-car conductorswere trained pickpockets. So, with the return of Tammany Hall, the pickpockets one by one made their entrance into the rich general field in the Sixth Avenue shopping district. The more aggressive pimps placed their women in the rich general market-place of the West Side, notorious across the world as the Tenderloin, and in the large markets about Fourteenth Street, operated by active Democratic political workers in the vicinity of Tammany Hall.
The Forming of the Great East Side Gang
In 1901 popular disapprobation of the method of conducting the business of the Red Light district made it good politics for Tammany Hall to make changes there. Florence Sullivan, a manager of some of Timothy D. Sullivan's enterprises, was made leader of the Eighth Assembly District in place of Martin Engel. Mr. Engel retired from politics, and has not since been active in the politics of the district or the City. A new trend now developed on the East Side.
About 1898 there drifted into the district from the section of Corlear's Hook on the East River, long famous for Irish gangs of thieves and river pirates, a young Irishman, with a monkey-like face, who became known as "Monk" Eastman. He was a pimp, a thief, and a trainer and manager of young Jewish pickpockets. He had a staff of them, whom he sent out over the city to steal. In a similar way, he sent out decoy pigeons trained to lure the flocks of the East Side to his premises. He was also an ugly fighter, and not afraid to use a revolver — an accomplishment less common then than at the present time.
Before the election in the fall of 1901, in the Eighth District word was sent out to all the criminal population of the East Side that "Monk" Eastman was the sole leader of the election "repeaters," that every criminal was expected to be out early on election day and do his part, and that in return the politicians would stand for 'anything but murder" from the criminals. At six o'clock election morning there were from ten to fifteen "repeaters" in line at every election booth in the district. That year the Democrats lost, but they never lost again.
From that time on the real history of the
(123) great East Side gang really began. It was something entirely new in the history of the city. Criminally considered, it was not a gang at all, like the old Irish gang, but a series of gangs. Yet the members of this series were bound together as a whole, generally with one leader. The reason was entirely political. The leader was the go-between — who offered votes to the politician, and who offered political protection in time of trouble to the criminal. The time had come, as an old criminal expressed it, when "the gang needed the politician, and the politician must have the gang."
"Monk" Eastman, Political Bandit
Monk" Eastman was the first general leader of the East Side gang. He was first the agent who in times of need could always be appealed to by the criminal for political influence with the police or courts. n addition, he established himself, with a few followers, as a sort of licensed bandit on the East Side. He compelled thieves, gamblers, and operators of disorderly houses to pay him a share of their profits. He also furnished for hire small gangs of "strong-arm" men — to employers for assaulting strikers, to unions for assaulting "scabs," and to individuals to punish private grievances. He was arrested dozens of times — once for murder, and frequently for serious assault; but he always escaped. n July, 1903, when arrested on the charge — which first gave him general city-wide notoriety — of having led a band of hired thugs ín brutally assaulting a coachman of David Lamar, at Long Branch, New Jersey, he exclaimed to the policeman taking him:
"You're arresting me, huh? Say, you want to look where you're goin'. I cut some ice in this town. I made half the big politicians of New York."
A State senator, "Tom" Grady, defended Eastman, and he was acquitted, as usual. But in April of 1904 he was arrested for robbery and shooting at officers in the great city highway of Forty-second Street, and the evidence was such that he was sent to prison for ten years. He had relied once too often upon his political influence.
The Life and Murder of "Kid" Twist
Eastman was succeeded as chief of the East Side criminals by a much more acute leader —a hatchet-faced young Jew called " Kid" Twist. Eastman could be counted upon for some four or five hundred "repeaters." Twist could easily raise double that number — each man being good for from five to ten votes at election time, and from ten to twenty at primaries.
Under Twist the East Side gang assumed its present position — the strongest in New York. Twist organized the tribute from the district on a calm, cold-blooded business basis, one particular stroke of commercial genius being to compel all the small refreshment and confectionery stores of the district to buy a so-called celery tonic, which he manufactured. Those refusing his demands he punished by breaking up their establishments, and — according to well-settled general belief on the East Side — by murdering them. At least two murders on the East Side are taken for granted, by every one familiar with conditions, to have been directed by him, though probably carried out by a lieutenant. He was arrested for both of these murders and for dozens of other offenses, but, like Eastman, was always discharged. After ruling for four years, without one practical interference by the law, he was finally executed, according to the unwritten law of the criminal gangs, on May of a year ago. He and his lieutenant, "Cyclone Lewis," were shot and killed at Coney island by Louis Poggi, a member of the Italian Five Points gang located south and west of the Bowery. Twist is believed, by those in a position to know, to have left a fortune of from $50,000 to $100,000 accumulated during his leadership by his careful business management. Such things as this occur in a city like New York only through a political license to commit crime.
Tammany and the Black Hand
Sometime last year, a few months before the killing of Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino of the New York police force by so-called. "Black Hand" criminals in Italy, a skilled Italian criminologist was brought to New York to study the question of Italian crime ín this city. This man made a report on the subject to Professor J. W. Jenks, a member of the special immigration commission now working under Congressional authority. n this report he said:
"Another thing that must be considered is that many of the most desperate Italian criminals, after living in America a short time, associate themselves with some political gang, for which they do work and receive in exchange unlimited protection. I have heard very often, in the case of a narrow escape from a criminal conviction: `Nothing doing against him. He is a Tammany man.' The infamous Paul Kelly and Jim Kelly, notorious gang leaders on the lower East Side, are Italians associated with political gangs, and prove this assertion."
The Italian criminal gang sprang up — as did the Jewish — in connection with the development of a large new market for prostitution.
(124) The great Italian immigration had established in New York City by 1901 a population of some 250,000 persons of the peasant laboring class, including the second generation. Eighty per cent, of these immigrants were males. The great centers of this population were in the tenement section, in " Dry Dollar" Sullivan's Assembly district, just east of the Bowery, and in the old-time Irish Second Assembly District just south. A large business in Italian prostitution was started in Sullivan's district. n this the young second-generation Italian criminal developed along somewhat different lines from the Jewish criminal in the Red Light district. The Italian tended toward rougher crime than the Jew — such as robbery by violence and threats of violence.
In the last of the '90's a young Italian named Antonio Vaccarelli made a reputation in a small way as a prize-fighter. After the common custom of both the Italian and Jew of his class, he assumed an Irish name — Paul Kelly. This man was interested to some extent in the sale of prostitution. He made his headquarters in various disorderly places in the Italian criminal section east of the Bowery, and secured a large following of young Italians from the Italian criminal section, by forming so-called athletic clubs, which gave disreputable dances. n a short time Kelly became the leader of the Italian criminal and semi-criminal class in the Sullivan district, and was capable of getting cut a considerable number of "repeaters."
The Red Lights Come into the Fourth Ward
The first marked triumph of the gang of Italian "repeaters" came in the fall of 1901, when Tom Foley, now sheriff of New York, decided to run against Paddy Divver, the old-time saloon-keeping Tammany leader of the Second Assembly District. Foley was vigorously backed by Big Tim Sullivan. The issue made by Divver was expressed en banners hung across the streets of the district:
"Don't vote the Red Lights into the old Fourth Ward."
The Second Assembly District primary of September 17, 1901, is famous as one of the most savage political fights in the barbaric political history of the Democratic party of New York. It was the last stand of the old-time type of Irish peasant saloon-keeping leader ín the old Irish immigrant stronghold of New York. The old order was overwhelmed by the new. The new "repeaters"—largely young Italian criminals—swarmed over the line from the Sullivan Bowery district. The polls opened in the afternoon; as early as two o'clock in the morning the lines of the invaders formed before the polling places. They were thoroughly drilled. A regular commissary department furnished them with breakfast and luncheon, whisky, cigars, and even benches to sit on. The old-time Irish residents and "repeaters" howled with impotent rage. They were outnumbered, held back from the polls, and in many, instances calmly blackjacked. The police did not interfere. And the final vote was over three to one for Foley. Soon after this the prophecy of the Divver banners was fulfilled. A large business in fifty-cent prostitution for Italians was started in the Second Assembly District, employing from 750 to l000 women. There had been a market for sailors in this section — rough, drunken, hardened women hanging over half doors. This was falling away with the dying of the trade of the old clipper ships. The new institutions were different; nothing disorderly; merely the slight and pathetic figure of a shawled Italian girl standing in the doorway of rickety old-time brick residences.
The Rise and Abdication of Paul Kelly
Immediately after the success of the Foley Divver primaries in the Second Assembly District, Paul Kelly, the leader of the Italian gang, was arrested for assaulting and robbing a man on the street. The case was so flagrant that his discharge could not be effected; but it was sο manipulated before it came to sentence that for an offense that should have cost him from ten to twenty years, Kelly got nine months. Recorder Goff, in sentencing him, said:
"The conduct of the police in this case was shameful. They discharged the defendant in the face of all the facts. It shows an absence of honesty and good faith en the part of the police. It was not until you [Kelly] had committed another assault that they were shamed into making an arrest. You should have been convicted of highway robbery. Instead you . were convicted of assault only."
Kelly, at the end of his brief sentence, started in earnest to build up his Paul Kelly Association. This included not only thieves and pimps, but occasional criminals in such rough laboring classes as the teamsters. It had branches in Harlem and New Jersey, and at one time Kelly claimed to have two thousand members. This was no doubt an exaggeration, but at the height of his power Kelly could unquestionably furnish a thousand "repeaters" in cases of emergency. Kelly pointed with pride to the fact that Timothy D. Sullivan — " the Big Feller," as he was now generally called — was an honorary member of this association.
Meanwhile, Kelly received sufficient financial backing to obtain and operate a vile saloon on Great Jones Street just west of the Bowery, probably the most notorious place in the city at that time. He ruled the gang from here until 1905, when dissension arose in his following, and the southern end of it split off entirely and formed the Five Points gang, with rendezvous in Foley's Assembly district. Two attempts were made to kill Kelly on two consecutive nights in the last of November, evidently by the seceders. n the first, "Eat-'em-up" McManus, Kelly's "bouncer," was murdered, and in the second a youth named Harrington— the latter in Kelly's saloon. A patrolman, passing on his rounds in the early morning, when the place was usually full of light and noise, saw ít dark and deserted. He entered it, and found the legs of the dead man sticking out of a closet. The only semblances of life in the big silent room were a lurking cat, a loud-ticking clock, and the usual huge portrait of "the Big Feller" —which appears like a bland heathen divinity on the walls of all the Bowery dives — glooming out into the dark.
Kelly's place was closed immediately after this by direct orders of William McAdoo, the Commissioner of Police. He moved his enterprises to the Little Italy colony in Harlem, which had now reached great size, and his power over the Italian gang in the southern end of the city was split up between the various leaders of the notorious Five Points gang — Jack Sorocco, Chick Tricker, Jimmy Kelly, and others, whose saloons have taken the place of Paul Kelly's as headquarters for the election "repeaters," and as most notorious marketplaces for vice.
A New Spectacle in Popular Government
This is the history, roughly outlined, of the two great tribes of criminals who furnish the nucleus for the gangs of trained "repeaters," with which the element now ruling Tammany Hall controls the city of New York. These two gangs could probably not furnish at best over 2500 "repeaters," or 20,000 illegal votes, at the most strenuous election; while Tammany undoubtedly gets 50,000. The old method of voting the zealous officeholder, or the venturesome vagrant, or saloon dependent, or such gamblers as are still at work or hope to get to work in the city, is naturally still in operation to a considerable extent. There are plenty of other smaller gangs of "repeaters," too,— like the Irish gang of "Humpty" Jackson in the East Side district of Charlie Murphy, leader of Tammany Hall; and the similar gang in the Irish tenement district on the West Side; and the large gangs of inter-State "repeaters" brought in from New Jersey and Philadelphia. But all of these — local and foreign — gravitate naturally toward the rendezvous of the two great local gangs below Fourteenth Street, the recognized centers of both the criminal and the illegal voting population of New York and its vicinity.
No stranger spectacle has ever appeared than the present organization of this criminal population of New York as professional fraudulent voters. The two thirds of a million registered votes of the city are divided so closely along conventional party lines that only a slight balance is needed to secure control of the government. This balance is furnished by these organized criminals, trained to manufacture fraudulent votes at elections and primaries. And by this means not only the city but the party organization is held in absolute control. The government of the second largest city in the world, when the system is in full working order, depends at bottom upon the will of the criminal population — principally thieves and pimps. The eighteenth-century governments founded on mercenary troops offer mild examples of social decadence compared with this.
The Fine Art of "Repeating"
The work of these "repeaters" is done on a most elaborate and careful system. If they are captured and convicted, they are sent to prison. So, in the first place, they can be voted only in very strong Democratic districts, where the Republican half of the election officials are weak or complaisant. To insure absolute freedom, in several of the Assembly districts of Manhattan the Republican district organization is elected by Democratic "repeaters." And in all of the so-called "gorilla" districts there are specialists, sometimes election district captains and sometimes not, who make it their business to negotiate for this vote, plan its schedules, and see that individuals arrested at the polls are bailed and in every way protected from the law. Although thousands of "repeaters" are operating at the polls in Manhattan every year, the average annual number of persons convicted in election cases for the past nine years has been fifteen.
In general, registration or voting by "repeaters" proceeds along these lines: Between the heads of the Assembly district and the leaders of gangs, an estimate is made of the number of "repeaters" to be furnished. The "repeaters" αre then gathered at some central place—often the Assembly district club-house — and sent out through the election districts in
(126) squads of ten or twelve under a lieutenant. This lieutenant has some token or "high sign" — a peculiar button or a motion of the hand—to show to the election district captain. All business is transacted between these two men.
This voting proceeds on a regular schedule. n the morning the fictitious registration is usually voted, with those names of residents who have died, moved, or gone to jail that it has been possible to get past the Republican board of elections. In the afternoon there is a general clearing up of the registration that has not previously been voted on. There are innumerable stories of the boldness of these "repeaters." For instance:
Some years ago a middle-aged man, who ís now an assemblyman from the East Side of New York, was standing in the line before an election booth, when he was startled to hear the man just ahead of him — a youth of some twenty years — demand a ballot in a familiar name.
"Here," said the assemblyman, "that's my father's name."
The husky youth turned, glaring down upon him, then kicked him sharply in the shins. "Shut up, you fool," he said hoarsely, "don't you know your own father?" He then proceeded to vote.
The New Order in Tammany Hall
The advantage of having clean-cut, intelligent criminals ready "to take a chance" at beating the growing complexity of the election laws, was immediately apparent to men who had hitherto depended for this work upon the hazy-minded vagrant and drunkard. By 1902 every election district but one in the great East Side tenement section below Twenty-sixth Street — with its half million of population — was a so-called "gorilla" district. There were many new leaders. n 1900 William Sohmer, an old-time German leader, was replaced by a Jew named Julius Harburger, backed by the Sullivan interests, in the Tenth District; in 1901 Foley, assisted by Sullivan, beat the old-timer Divver in the Second District; Florence Sullivan succeeded Martin Engel in the Eighth; and Big Tim Sullivan was succeeded by his cousin, Little Tim, in the Sixth. n 1902 "Battery Dan" Finn succeeded the old-time Democrat, Μ. C. Murphy, in the First District—Italian "repeaters" from the Sullivan and Foley districts figuring largely in the primaries.
The allied leaders of the big "gorilla" districts were now the most powerful men in Tammany Hall. Not only were they furnishing the strong Democratic majorities to an organization that was famishing for votes, but within the organization they themselves were men to be feared. The big gangs in their districts could and did swarm out and overwhelm the local gangs of other Tammany leaders who were displeasing to them. The matter came to a head in the fall of 1902, when Charlie Murphy, the present leader of Tammany Hall, was elected. The "gorilla," districts, including his own, held the balance of power that chose him. n the convention that elected him, his own district was denounced for sending out "repeaters" to carry another district against a leader who was the head of the opposition. A new management, founded definitely on the "repeating" criminal, had begun in Tammany Hall. The following year it voted itself again into control of the city.
The Mysterious "Big Feller"
It was at this time that Big Tim Sullivan began to take his present strange position in New York politics as the mysterious "Big Feller," looming up in the dusky background of the city's life; not connected in any direct way as manager of a Tammany district, yet probably the strongest politician in Tammany Hall, excepting none. His word is law to thousands; and his mere appearance on the street in company with a man establishes that man's credit and reputation solidly with the lower political world of New York. But usually he keeps himself aloof, sees few people, does business by word of mouth only, and is represented by half a dozen lieutenants, business and political. Only occasionally does his name come to the surface in the business world — connected with a chain of salacious theaters, with penny slot-machines, with moving-picture enterprises, with race-tracks. But whenever business is mentioned he quickly draws back out of public sight.
He never neglects the Bowery, however. Once a year, at Christmas time, he feeds and shoes the professional vagrant —"the poor, unfortunet fellers"— who, with the "unfortunet woman," forms the chief stock pathetic theme of the Bowery politician, as characteristic as the patter of the professional beggar. n the State Senate, where he now is, he introduces bills for a Columbus holiday, to the great pleasure of his Italian constituents; and bills to remove clubs and blackjacks from the police, in which the vagrants and criminals are much interested. He believes that local politics offer a larger field than national, having withdrawn voluntarily from Congress.
"There's nothing in this congressman business," he is reported to have observed on re. tiring. "They know 'em in Washington. The
(127) people down there use 'em as hitchin'-posts. Every time they see a congressman on the street they tie their horses to him."
The Chief Issue in New York Elections
In 1897 Tammany had won the election of the first administration of Greater New York by the foolish splitting of the anti-Tammany forces; in 1901 she was beaten by Fusion; in 1903 she elected McClellan by a 63,000 majority. The chief issue in 1903, as in every election in New York, with one exception, for the past fifteen years, was whether there should be a "wide-open town"— that is, whether vice and profitable crime should be allowed in the city. The criminal interests, which worked vigorously for McClellan — if they did not really elect him — expected that the McClellan administration would give them an opportunity to carry οτι their lines of business.
As it happened, the McClellan administration did nothing of the sort. William McAdoo, the Police Commissioner of the first term, although deceived by many of his assistants,—as most honest police commissioners, not in any way excepting ex-President Roosevelt, have been,— did make a conscientious effort to clean the city. it is verbal history in the Police Department that his work against the criminal gangs of the East Side was an opening wedge in the break that came later between the Mayor and his former supporters.
In the second administration—in spite of the certainty that McClellan's 2791 plurality over Hearst was cast twenty times over by professional "repeaters"— his Police Commissioner, General Theodore Bingham, was still more aggressive against the criminal element than McAdoo. Added to this was the fact that the District Attorney's office under Jerome — contrary to past custom — was making an aggressive campaign to do its duty in prosecuting crime. There were lapses from absolute efficiency in both organizations, but in general the politicians were not able to use these two agencies of the law as the instruments of evading the law. Their activity was thus transferred to the last avenue of escape, the minor criminal courts of the city, and the fact that the avenue afforded in this direction was so large was no doubt partly responsible for the appointment of the so-called Page Commission by the Legislature to investigate conditions in these courts.
A Puzzle for the Criminal
The only practical way of considering professional crime is to view it from the standpoint of the criminal. At bottom it is merelyone method of getting a living, and the criminal always sees it as such. As a matter of fact, civilizations develop professional crime exactly as they develop all business. New conditions create new opportunities. In the past decade bank burglary has died out, killed largely by the electrical protective devices and by private police systems. The great natural developments have come along the lines of the retail sale of prostitutes, and of small burglaries and picking pockets.
The chief factor that makes criminal business profitable or unprofitable, and closes or opens fields of enterprise, is the pressure of the law. From the viewpoint of the professional criminal it is a curious fact, to which he cannot reconcile himself, that the most serious and effective laws in the past ten years have been directed against offenses that he cannot understand to be criminal at all, such as prize-fighting and gambling on the horse-races; while, with one exception, the laws against selling prostitution are a joke. It is not possible, for instance, to punish any man for the most degraded of all crimes, according to the social code of the criminal world,— that of living on the earnings of a prostitute,— by more than six months in jail; quite aside from the fact that it is almost impossible to punish these men at all. The same is true of all dealers in prostitution and all prostitutes. The result of this ill-balanced criminal code is that the criminal himself is forced into business that he considers beneath him. This has been especially true of gamblers. Since the enforcement of Governor Hughes' excellent bill against race-track betting last year, many men who formerly earned their living on the race-track have become pimps.
A Purely Political Business
Prostitution, the present mainstay of the criminal class in New York, is now almost entirely a political business; that is, its affairs are conducted almost exclusively by men who are active lieutenants or " repeaters" at the polls for the Democratic organization. This has come about by a perfectly logical development. For years this business was conducted in New York — as in most American cities — in large private houses. These were closed up, first by the breaking up of the Red Light district by the Low administration, and later by the raids of the District Attorney's office upon the Tenderloin in 1907. The women were necessarily driven upon the streets, or into notorious saloons.
Since the early '90's a large part of the women in houses had practically been owned by the French maquereaux — importers of
(128) Frenchwomen from the international wholesale markets for prostitution in Paris. These men had no direct connection with New York politics; many of them could not speak English. In a business that required continual political influence they were constantly worsted by their business rivals — the native-born Jewish and Italian operators who had strong political influence as "repeaters." The raids of 1907 were a last severe blow to the Frenchmen. They were unable to afford proper political protection to their women when they were exposed to the vicissitudes of work on the street, and they moved out in large numbers. An expert criminal in this line stated recently that of over four hundred Frenchmen whom he knew personally in the Tenderloin before the 1907 raids, not one hundred are active now. Their business has been taken over by the Jewish and Italian operators, who now form respectively something like two thirds and an eighth of the men in this business here.
An interesting incident in connection with this business happened only recently. After leaving the Red Light district, the social and trade organization of the Jewish dealers in prostitution — the New York Independent Benevolent Association, whose membership is restricted to Hebrews — established its clubhouse on Second Avenue, in Coroner Hamburger's Assembly district, where the great settlement of this class of traders still exists. Within the last few months the New York State Commission of Immigration has had occasion to investigate the affairs of this society. At the opening session Harold Spielberg, the Democratic assemblyman from the Tenth District, appeared as the attorney to defend them.
The large dealers in prostitution — the owners of the notorious saloon market-places — are still more clearly political workers. Practically all of the saloons and so-called hotels in the large cheap market around Chatham Square and the Bowery are in the hands of men who are active political workers, or leaders of gangs of election "repeaters"; on Fourteenth Street the same condition exists; and in both of these markets, the hangers-on and waiters, who are generally pimps, are active "repeaters." In the large markets in the Tenderloin more of the owners contribute money than active work to the political campaigns, but the waiters are in exactly the same position as those in the other districts, as, ín fact, they are throughout the town, as far as Coney Island. Election and registration days see a scanty outfit of waiters in the lower places of amusement in Coney Island, or, in fact, in any of the notorious saloons in New York City.
Α Court Dealing with 150,000 People
The operation of this great criminal business, in which, directly or indirectly, certainly from 10,000 to 20,000 persons are engaged in New York City, depends clearly upon the law, and upon its interpretation by the local criminal courts. The relations existing between it and these courts, as revealed by the hearings before the Page Commission, necessarily constitute a matter of great public interest. The lowest court of these — the magistrates' court — has entire charge over the offense of prostitution, which, under the archaic law of New York, is classed as a minor misdemeanor.
This magistrates' court constitutes one of the most extraordinary and important institutions of New York. Last year, before the magistrates of Manhattan and the Bronx alone, there were 175,000 arraignments of not less than 150,000 individuals — as many people as live in the large cities of Denver or Toledo. There are sixteen magistrates — eight of whom are sitting at one time in the nine courts that take care of this business. The time allowance for the hearing of each case averages a little over six minutes; court clerks quote an unofficial record of one hundred cases disposed of in one hundred minutes; and the official records show from three hundred to four hundred cases in one session of the night court. Perhaps nowhere in the world is there such an example of slap-dash judicial action as must necessarily be given by these judges. The amount of business thrust upon them is a scandal in itself. The ease with which minor court officials, like court clerks, with political affiliations, can minimize offenses, or mislead a judge dealing with this amount of business, needs no explanation.
A Crime that is Practically Licensed
For the period of a little less than six months, extending from June 5 to November 28 of last year, the New York Police Department made a compilation of statistics from finger-print records of the prostitutes arrested and brought before the magistrates' courts from the Tenderloin police precinct, covering the territory between Twenty-seventh and Forty-second streets north and south, and between Fourth and Seventh avenues east and west. Twelve hundred and twenty-eight individual women of the street were arrested in that comparatively small territory. The total number of arrests was 3145. These women arrested were, with negligible exceptions, perfectly well known to the police, who naturally never take the chance of arresting a woman who may be innocent.
The magistrate dealing with these cases, if he finds the defendant guilty, has the option of imposing a small fine or a short imprisonment. Of the 3145 cases recorded, only 411, or 13 per cent., were given prison sentences. The rest, all but a small number, were either discharged or fined from one to ten dollars, and turned loose immediately upon the streets. Further figures indicated that of the 13 per cent, who were sentenced, at least a third who should have served from twenty days up, under the law, as previous offenders, really served the minimum of five days. In brief, the general result of the law as administered by the present board of magistrates and carried out by the workhouse management under a well-known Tammany leader, was that prostitution was practically licensed in New York by the payment, two or three times a year, of a fine of something less than one night's earnings. Only once in seven times did the woman arrested receive the only punishment that seriously annoys her — that of going to the workhouse; and only once in fifty did she serve a sentence of over five days' duration. This, of course, refers only to the women who were so unfortunate as to be arrested. The police believe that these did not exceed half of the women in this district, which covers only one section of the Tenderloin.
The Magistrate and the Streets
Practically all of these cases now come before the night court, where each magistrate has taken his turn at sitting. The number and conduct of the women in the streets of New York depends entirely upon what magistrate is sitting in the night court. There are two Tammany leaders of Assembly districts who are police magistrates — an ex-rough, known as "Battery Dan" Finn, and J. J. Walsh, a former attorney for the strongly organized retail liquor dealers' association. When these two men are on the bench of the night court, the streets swarm with prostitutes.
The reason for this is shown clearly by the official figures of the Police Department concerning the arrests of 1908 in the Tenderloin police precinct. These show 147 cases brought before Judge Finn, and four sentences of imprisonment. Judge Walsh had twenty cases and one imprisonment. On the other hand, when the bench was occupied by two judges who gave severe workhouse sentences — Judge Corrigan, who sent two thirds of his cases to the workhouse, and Judge Cornell, who sent one third — the streets were comparatively clear of women.
It is a rather notable fact that while the magistrates' bench as a whole has proved far from serious to the prostitute, the prostitute has proved very serious to the magistrates' bench. During the past year, 1908, two of the sixteen magistrates in Manhattan and the Bronx were involved in public scandals connected with cases of prostitutes which appeared in New York courts. One of these men was removed by the Appellate Court, and the other resigned.
It is not difficult to trace the main political chain that extends from the smallest political worker interested in the sale of prostitution up to the judge's bench. The Mayor of New York — who is said to appoint more judges than any other man in the United States — has in two thirds of the last twenty years owed his nomination and election to the active vote-getting machinery of Tammany Hall. Three quarters of the present board of magistrates were appointed by Mayor McClellan, most of these in the earlier days of his mayoralty, when he was closer to Tammany Hall than now.
A Criminal Never Convicted
Now, if the interests of the prostitute are excellently safeguarded under the administration of the law by the magistrates' courts, the business of her political protector, the pimp, is doubly secure. At most he is only subject to a six months' penalty as a common vagrant. But, practically speaking, he can never be arrested at all, because the only valid evidence against him must come from the woman who supports him, who neither desires nor dares to testify against him. There are thousands of these men in New York, and their convictions do not reach a score a year. The matter can be summed up best in the testimony of Police Commissioner Bingham before the Page Commission:
"We cannot get these men. If they could be caught, the whole `white slave' trade would drop, and the whole social evil be intensely ameliorated, because these men work in a regular trust."
To this might be added that no local authority ever "got" these men, and that the only successful prosecution of them, and the only one they ever feared, has been that started by the Federal authorities in Chicago and New York during the past two years. The local politician has as yet no influence with the Federal courts in favor of prostitution. He delivers no important part of the votes that choose the Federal authorities.
The business interests of this particular class of "repeaters," it will be seen, are well conserved by the actual working of the law. The
(130) disorderly saloon business, conducted by the leaders of "repeaters," and by the various Tammany election district captains and other district politicians, comes in contact with another court — the court of Special Sessions, whose members are also appointed by the Mayor, but who sit three at a time instead of singly in handling their work.
Saloons Punished, One Fifth of One per Cent.
The disposition of all cases against liquor dealers by this court — and practically all criminal cases against New York saloons come within its province — has long been familiar as one of the most notorious perversions of justice in the city. The court is overcrowded with work, and by a settled policy the consideration of saloon cases is delayed until after other business. n addition, the clerk of the court, a Tammany Assembly district leader, C. W. Culkin, who recently resigned after having been charged by District Attorney Jerome with the improper handling of court funds, has had charge of making Out the calendar. The assistant clerks under him, who do the active work, have exercised their power of postponing cases, or otherwise interfering with the court docket, to such an extent that two officials have been removed for this cause during the past year. One of the present judges on this bench is Lorenz Zeller, a former attorney of the powerful New York brewers' association.
The practical operation of the machinery of justice against saloons concerned in offenses against the excise laws of New York was strikingly shown before the Page Commission by F. W. Stelle, a lawyer of the State Excise Board, who presented the actual figures in the cases brought against New York saloons in 1907. There is only one penalty that interests the saloon-keeper— the forfeiture of the unexpired term of his $1200 annual license, which results after convictions of a certain class in the city courts. During the year from May i, 1907, to April o, 1908, there were 2857 arrests, at 2026 saloons, which came before the courts. Among these there were twenty-two cases — all but four of disorderly houses —where there were forfeitures of licenses; of these, seventeen came in cases which were so delayed that the conviction took place in April, when the license had but a few more days to run. That is to say, out of the brave showing of 2857 arrests under the excise law, only five, or less than one fifth of one per cent., received any punishment of the slightest
Criminal Courts Useless Against Political "`Dives"
Several excellent organizations are concerned in prosecuting cases against disorderly saloons in the hope of cleaning up the city. One of the most important of these is the Committee of Fourteen, which has directed its efforts against the places known as Raines Law hotels. The secretary of this, F. H. Whitin, presented to the Page Commission a table showing clearly the method by which offenders of this class evade the law by having their cases postponed in the Special Sessions court until the forfeiture of their licenses means practically no loss to them. n the year from October, 1906, to September, 1907, the average delay, from the time of the holding of the defendant by the magistrate until the trial in the Special Sessions court, was 156 days, over five months, of which delay more than four months occurred in the Special Sessions court itself. There were 52 cases that were tried by Special Sessions; four licenses were suspended, and seven persons — all employees — received prison sentences. Not one proprietor was sentenced. All these prosecutions, it must be remembered, were against the most flagrant violators of the law in the city.
One chief reason for this failure of justice may be best shown by two particular, typical examples. The first of these was in the case brought last year against the saloon at 128 Park Row, run by Jack Sorocco, one of the chief leaders of the Five Points gang of "repeaters." This saloon is perhaps the worst in New York, as familiar an object in the life of the Second Assembly District as the Flatiron Building is in the region about Madison Square. When action was brought against ít last year in the Special Sessions court, Alfred E. Smith, the assemblyman from this district,— who, oddly enough, is a member of the Page Commission for investigating the New York courts,— came forward to state to the court that from his knowledge there must be a mistake in the charges against the place and its proprietors. The case was then dismissed. n the second case, against the notorious hotel at 23 Bowery, for a dozen years the headquarters of thieves and prostitutes, the politicians in the Sullivan district became so insistent in their demands for dismissal that the judges were constantly summoned from the bench to answer telephone calls asking that the prisoner be set free.
Finally, as a result of the persistent failure of energetic efforts of the Police Department and other agencies to secure justice against the most notorious market-places of prostitution in
(131) New York, actions in cases of this class have been transferred bodily from the criminal to the civil courts, where conviction also carries with it the forfeiture of the saloon license and the bond. In other words, the system of criminal courts having proved itself utterly useless in dealing with this class of crime, the police and State officials have been driven to a legal subterfuge in another court in order to maintain decent conditions in New York City.
The Modern Organization of Thieves
The organization to prevent the administration of justice in the second general class of crimes in which "repeaters" are engaged, proceeds along different lines. These crimes — of thieving and robbery — constitute felonies. They are passed from the magistrates' court to the grand jury and the court of General Sessions. n this last court they are given jury trials under single judges, who are elected by popular vote. All but one of the present judges are Tammany Hall nominees. Their natural obligations to their party weigh little with some of them, but greatly with others.
It is not generally realized how thoroughly organized for defense certain large classes of criminals are. The statement, for instance, of Magistrate Corrigan before the Page Commission, that "one attorney comes pretty near representing all the good pickpockets in New York," would not seem probable to the average man; yet it is certainly true. It ís also a notorious fact that in the four busiest magistrates' courts of the city there are professional "fixers," well known by name or nickname to every one familiar with New York courts, whose business it is to pervert justice by reaching the complainant, witnesses, police or court officials, through one means or another. And in a class above these stands a notorious East Side Jew, ostensibly a diamond merchant, who ís a "fixer" on a national scale, traveling across the country to help big thieves whenever they are in trouble. Professional crime, like all other lines of enterprise, is compelled, by the great modern tendency of business, to organize. It has done so as thoroughly as it could.
There are seven distinct lines of defense to which, in New York, a trained felon can resort to escape imprisonment. The first is the suppression of testimony of either complainant or witnesses, or the manufacture of false testimony. The others are the use of money or influence with the police, with the magistrates' courts, the grand jury, the District Attorney's office, the petit jury, or the presiding judge. n every Assembly district in the criminal sections of the city, there is someagent of the Democratic political machine, watching continually to help the criminal escape justice at every stage, from the magistrates' court up.
One Thief in Three Set Free
It would be impossible to deal with all these barriers to justice; but in the last one — the action of the General' Sessions judge on the case — there has been a striking development during the past decade which deserves notice. This comes in the form of the suspended sentence. Ten years ago the suspension of sentence on a convicted felon was unusual in New York courts. This condition has now entirely changed.
During the past four years alone the number of persons convicted for violent assault, burglary, and larceny, who have been released on suspended sentence, has trebled. n 1908 one person, out of every three who were convicted for those crimes, was released on a suspended sentence. As this court has no adequate means of keeping control of the hundreds of persons it has released on suspended sentence, this release now amounts to acquittal in the case of all but the most repentant of offenders. it may be added that these particular crimes not only are the principal ones that now concern the City of New York, but that they are the especial crimes in which the Jewish and Italian professional criminals are concerned.
Now, the release of many of these criminals — especially the young first offenders — is undoubtedly in many cases an excellent thing. There has been a very general movement in this direction throughout the country. But this practice certainly cannot be defended in cases of second offenders, whose release is, in fact, specifically forbidden by the State law. Yet there are many such releases.
Convicted Criminals Double in Eight Years
The vicious circle of New York politics is closed by this notorious laxness of the criminal courts toward the professional offender. The safer the crime, the more criminals; the more criminals, the more votes for the element that now rules Tammany Hall; the more votes for these leaders, the more certainly they influence the maladministration of justice. From the election district captain, who signals the criminal into the polling booth, to the district leader on the bench or at the head of the workhouse or the court machinery, the hand of not one Tammany politician touches the machinery of justice but to retard or pervert its action.
And so, although all the forces of the Police
(132) and the District Attorney's departments are bent to check the recurrent "waves of crime" that fill the newspapers, crime increases. n the past eight years the number of persons convicted for burglary, assault, and larceny on Manhattan Island has doubled, while the population has increased less than twenty-five per cent.
In the meanwhile, all kinds of cures are cried aloud to the public for its defense, except the obvious one — the checking of the operations of this ghastly merry-go-round of politics. More police, more jails, more private organizations to enforce the law are desperately called for. No one arises to draw the logical connection between the safety with which crime is committed and the increase of the criminal population; or to point out that under existing laws, as administered by New York courts, the pimp ís entirely safe, the prostitute has a one-in-fifty chance of punishment, the marketplaces of prostitution and headquarters for criminals have been practically immune; and that of all persons arrested for burglary or thieving, one in four is convicted and one in six imprisoned.
The Great Larry Mulligan Ball
Yet open advertisement of the exact condition of affairs is continually slapped in the face of the public. The Lawrence Mulligan Association, for example, the political club of Big Tim Sullivan's step-brother, with its annual tribute from the city's criminals and prostitutes at its "grand civic ball"! No other single episode could comprehend the whole situation like this.
That night — the eve of St. Patrick's Day — the streets of the Tenderloin lie vacant of its women; the eyes of the city detective force are focused on the great dancing-hall — stuffed to the doors with painted women and lean-faced men. In the center box, held in the name of a young Jewish friend, sits the "Big Feller" — clear-skinned, fair-faced, and happy. Around him sit the gathering of his business and political lieutenants, of the heavy, moon-faced Irish type—the rulers of New York: Larry Mulligan, his step-brother, the head of this pleasing association; Paddy Sullivan, his brother, the president of the Hesper Club of gamblers; John Considine, business associate, owner of the Metropole Hotel, where the "wise ones" gather; Big Tom Foley; and — an exception to the general look of rosy prosperity — Little Tim, the lean little manager of the old Third District and leader of the New York Board of Aldermen.
The council unbends; it exchanges showers of confetti; the "Big Feller" smiles gayly upon the frail congregation below him — the tenthshort-lived generation of prostitutes he has seen at gatherings like this since, more than twenty years ago, he started his first Five Points assembly—he himself as fresh now as then. n the rear of the box a judge of the General Sessions court sits modestly, decently, hat in hand. n the welter on the slippery floor, another city judge, known to the upper and under world alike as "Freddy" Kernochan, leads through the happy mazes of the grand march a thousand pimps and thieves and prostitutes, to the blatant crying of the band: "Sullivan, Sullivan, a damned fine Irishman!"
"Repeating " Runs Wild
In the period during which, according to court records, professional crime was doubling, the election and, more especially, the primary frauds by the professional criminal class ran wild — in spite of the work of the State and private agencies to prevent it. The Democratic primaries of 1906, which firmly established three more "gorilla" districts on Manhattan Island, were in these districts simply riots conducted by gangs of armed "repeaters." An official touch was given to these primaries by the fact that scores, if not hundreds, of the "repeaters" were fitted out and empowered to act as deputy sheriffs. Criminals from out of town, as well as in town, were among these officials, and the deputy sheriffs' clubs and badges, which they took home with them in paper bags, still constitute a standing joke in the criminal world.
The then sheriff of New York, Nicholas J. Hayes, was waging a fight on his Harlem district in the primaries of the year when this extraordinary thing occurred. He won handsomely. Percy Nagle, the ex-gambler and ex-superintendent of streets, who won in another Harlem district, had his head cut open by a blackjack and three fingers broken, while fighting on this memorable day, and was arrested for leading a gang of men in an attempt to stuff a ballot-box. After he had left the hospital he was honorably discharged by the police magistrate who heard his case, although a crowd of Nagle supporters were threatening physical violence to the complainant within a dozen feet of the magistrate's desk. "Repeaters" from Little Italy in Hayes' district, to which Paul Kelly had moved his headquarters and personal enterprises, were prominent in these primary fights. The hospitals about these districts were full of men on the evening of primary day, a large number of them with fractured skulls.
In the Eleventh District, on the West Side,
(133) "The" McManus defeated the old-time leader, George W. Plunkett, this year with comparative quiet. n the next year there was a savage fight between the same two men for this district. Great bodies of "repeaters" from the Italian and Jewish gangs in the so-called Sullivan districts, and a band of men from Newark, beat all records at stuffing ballot-boxes. During the day these men started shooting revolvers in the street, like a crowd of cow-boys in a Western mining town. n the occasional cases of arrest by policemen, the accomplices, again with deputy sheriffs' badges—by reason of which they exceeded the patrolman in authority — insisted on taking charge of the prisoner. They then led him around a corner and calmly released him.
These years marked the height of disturbance in New York primaries. The election in the fall of 1907 of Tom Foley, the leader of the Second Assembly District, as sheriff of New York probably exceeded all previous records for "repeating" at election time. There was an extremely active prosecution of "repeaters" this year, forwarded very greatly by Mr. Hearst's newspapers, which were backing the Independence League candidate who opposed Foley. The office of the State superintendent of elections, now under the management of William Leary, reported the greatest number of convictions of "repeaters" for a number of years.
A Drop of 30,000 in the Vote of "Repeaters"
In 1908 there was a lull in "repeating," due partly to lack of immediate interest, but largely to new election legislation, passed as a result of flŕgrant frauds. This bill, introduced by a young assemblyman and lawyer named E. R. Finch, unquestionably frightened the "repeaters" and their managers. Their concern was principally with the new provision known as the signature law.
Two necessary processes have to be gone through with in election frauds — false registration and false voting. As the "repeaters" are from a class of men of irregular habits, who are not always accessible, no attempt has been made in the past to have the same individual register and vote upon each false name. The signature law demanded that the voter's name be signed in a book, both at registration and election time, so that they appeared practically side by side. A comparison of these signatures was expected to prevent all voting upon another man's registration.
The estimates of those most familiar with the methods of election frauds in New York agree that some 30,000 fraudulent votes were cutout of the election last fall, largely through fear of this measure. From the gubernatorial election of 1906 to the presidential election of 1908, the registration of the city increased 20,000 votes, about three per cent. n the same two years the registration in the eight most notorious "gorilla" districts in the southern part of Manhattan decreased 8200, or twelve per cent. The Democratic vote for governor fell off 17,000 in the city, about five per cent.; and in the eight districts twenty-one per cent. There was a loss of 10,500 votes in eight Assembly districts of the 63 in Greater New York — in spite of the notorious fact that Tammany Hall, intending from the first to betray Hearst in the gubernatorial fight of 1906, sent out fewer "repeaters" than in any election before 1908. The comparison — which is the best available—does not give a fair idea of the curtailment of the illegal vote last year.
It is the belief of the expert observers of the fraudulent vote — of Mr. Finch, the author of the bill, of the State superintendent of elections, William Leary, and of Isaac Silverman of the Fidelity Secret Service Bureau, which has had charge of the Republican county committee's work along this line — that, in spite of the bill, at least 20,000 fraudulent votes were cast by "repeaters" in the election of 1908. And those most interested in this matter have not contented themselves with general figures.
Α Quarter of the Registration False
Immediately after the last campaign, two election districts were selected in two of the most typical "gorilla" Assembly districts ín the city. A careful canvaSser was sent through these districts to see what names in the registration list could be found in the residences given. In each of them — widely separated both in distance and in character of population — fully a quarter of the names were found to be entirely fictitious. Further investigation showed that four fifths of these false names were voted on. If there were only fifteen Assembly districts of the 63 in the city, voting but two thirds of the false registration indicated in these two districts, the false vote on false registration alone would have been over 20,000 last year — a year freer from election frauds than any in the last twenty.
Now these votes, it must be remembered, are wholly fictitious. The additional votes by "repeaters" on names of actual persons recently dead or moved from the district, or of persons who neglect to vote or are forestalled at the polls, would add thousands more. There is general agreement both by those enforcing and breaking the law that it must be strengthened
(134) to be effective. For this reason Mr. Finch, the author of last year's bill, brought before the Legislature this fall provisions improving it, and intended to add to the difficulty of "repeating." These measures may have passed the Legislature before this article appears in print. They certainly should become law.
Tammany's List Stand this Fall
Meanwhile, it ís commonplace talk in the underworld — the small percentage of population that gives more careful consideration to the practical politics of a large city than all the rest of the citizens together — that next fall's election will see "repeating" on a greater scale than ever before in the history of the city. Tammany's Assembly district experts — many of whom sat back and studied last year's operation of the new election law — have expressed themselves as satisfied that there is "nothing to it; they won't compare the signatures." Beyond that, study of the two special election districts canvassed last fall shows that they will go further and will defeat the amended law by the new and more elaborate method of having one particular man register and vote on each false name.
The present situation is this: Tammany — now in a considerable and growing popular minority in New York — stands to lose control of the most tremendous political prize on the continent — the handling of a municipal expenditure of $150,000,000, and the control of tens of millions more in semi-public expenditures. For its mercenaries, the criminals who have carried its past elections, this fight means life or death — the chance or loss of the chance to make a living. The professional criminals and politicians, whose whole careers are concerned in the control of the city, will make the most desperate fight of their lives to carry New York this fall.
On the other hand, the general public is more than usually interested in the coming election. Its concern has been aroused by two notorious and closely related facts — the approach toward bankruptcy of the richest city in the world, under the class of rulers it has had; and the continued raids of thieves and burglars upon the private property of citizens. There is an excellent chance to defeat Tammany this fall. Once thoroughly defeated, that moribund and unnatural social growth — founded for years upon the thief and the prostitute — would collapse. By natural processes it should have been dead twenty years ago.
However, it is too early to prophesy. The leadership of the opposition forces in New York has too often been dilettante or selfish. There is already talk of the old criminal foolishness of splitting the anti-Tammany vote between two candidates.