24 May 2017

On This Day in 1933: Lepke & Lucky Linked to Broadway Shootout



The well-dressed patrons of Broadway's evening thoroughfare likely expected to be wowed and dazzled by any number of eateries, cabarets or simply the neon lit spectacle.  Slugs from automatic shotguns? The unmistakable scent of gunpowder? A wildly out of control car chase?  No, these were not what visitors  foresaw, but a loud outdoor show they most certainly did get, and it ended with bloody collateral damage.

Irene Savage
On May 25th, 1933, As people were filtering in and out of various establishments around Manhattan's 80th and 81st street, two sedans raced by (one report claimed three vehicles were involved), with one vehicle's occupants visibly the aggressor, firing high-powered shotguns and/or machine guns at the other.  The gun battling pursuit, though short-lived, ended when the presumed dominant car sped off east on 81st while the bullet-ridden loser vehicle crashed into a fence on 84th.  All of the firefight participants escaped - including two bloodied, limping mobsters who fled the wrecked vehicle.  The shooting, however, put three of four civilian victims in the hospital:  Irene Savage, 24, took a bullet in the shoulder, Walter O' Donald, a visiting shopper from Hornell New York, suffered a presumed minor scalp grazing via shotgun slug, Sadie Fontine, 45, suffered the worst injuries, hit directly with a bullet in the back and shrapnel in her hips. Edward Safern, whose car was struck by stray bullets, suffered no physical injuries.

Waxey Gordon
Despite plenty of witnesses  the only physical evidence retrieved from the scene - blood throughout the crashed car, two pearl colored fedoras with New Jersey haberdashery labels, car registration to an 'Edward Rosen' of the Bronx, and the inch think glass of the vehicle windshield.  The thick car windows were obviously intentional 'bullet proofing' (though proved a failure against the high powered rounds), the hats helped in the police theory that a bootlegging war involving Irving Wexler, aka Waxey Gordon could be the motive, but upon following up the registration lead... it appeared Edward Rosen was a manufactured name, and the vehicle didn't belong to anyone at the given address in the Bronx.

"As police locked the trio up, they announced they had definite information that a beer war between Gordon and two men whom they named as Louis "Lefty" Buckhalter and Charles Luciano, has been ended by a truce." - Associated Press, September 1, 1933.


Lepke Buchalter 1933
It took a few months for all the puzzle pieces to fall into place, climaxing when police pinned charges on Charles 'Chink' Sherman, his brother Henry, and Jack Weinstein.  The trio had already been in custody for other weapons and narcotics charges, and were noted as being "the few remaining members of the Waxey Gordon Gang."  Although the three men denied any participation in the May 25th shootings, information led police to identify two other involved individuals, both of whom carrying reputations  known to certain law enforcement entities, yet not very familiar to the larger public.  Louis 'Lepke' Buchalter and Charles Luciano.  Indeed, in 1933 neither man was a household name, but within the underworld they possessed quite a resume and status.
Lucky Luciano 1931

Waxey Gordon, once allied with Luciano, Lepke, Meyer Lansky, and so on, had been losing favor with the group and feuds erupted between the factions, which included Dutch Schultz who, at the time, was in good graces with the likes of Luciano.  Some theorize it was Meyer Lansky who filtered tips to police that eventually put Gordon away on narcotics charges.  In any case, Gordon was in jail, several allies had been murdered both in New York and Los Angeles, and 'Chink' Sherman's fate would be far worse than that of the innocent bystanders caught in his gang's fusillade. 


Sherman, who had bad blood with Dutch Schultz dating back to knife and gunfights in 1931, met the grim reaper in 1935. His body... discovered in a shallow lime pit within a barn in Monticello New York.  Sherman had been shot in the arm, his skull showed a bullet wound and that of a blow from a fire axe, presumably.  The property where the body was found belonged to the Drucker family.  It took another five years before the connection was made that Sherman's grave was one of several in the region, and that  one of the property owners -  Jack Drucker - served as an icepick wielding member of Murder Inc. The greater gangland irony - Schultz, who also eventually fell out good graces with the fellas, was gunned down by Murder Inc. henchmen barely two weeks before Chink Sherman got whacked. Further, 1935 was also the year that Charles Luciano's name escalated into public recognition,  having made much larger headlines in regard to theories of who may have ordered the Dutch Schultz murder.





Sources:
AP. "Gang Gunners Hit Two Women On Broadway." Geneva Daily Times. 25 May 1933. P.3.
"Auto Gun Duel Injuring Three Laid to Beer Feud." Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 25 May 1933. P. 8.
Cipollini, Christian. "Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend." Strategic Media Books. 2014.
AP. "Sherman, One of Few Left Of Gordon's Gang, Nabbed." Buffalo Courier Express. 1 September 1933. P. 3.









19 May 2017

The Long Black Veil: The Widows of Frankie Yale

Before 1925, women associated with mobsters were rarely seen in the newspapers.  The mob funeral, which spawned a mid-1920s genre of photojournalism, would lift the blackout on mob women and their children.

With Prohibition, newspapers kept mob activity in the face of the law-abiding.  It was a time when everybody read the paper.  While gangland hits were making the front page, some vestiges of Edwardian morality kept most gangsters' molls away from the camera lens.  With the mob funeral, photojournalists at last found a tasteful way to portray the mystery women connected to gangland. 

Summer in the city and gangland murders made for dramatic sendoffs.  By 1925, the war between the Torrio/Capone and Genna factions raged on Chicago's West Side.  On June 13th, Mike Genna of the alcohol-making Genna family was mortally wounded in a battle with police officers.  Angelo Genna had been killed three weeks prior on May 26th, and Anthony "Tony" Genna would die on July 8th.



Aerial photos of the Genna corteges lining the streets showed a strange ink blot.  Closer inspection revealed a cluster of black-garbed women of the Genna family, bereaved of sons and lovers.









New York reporters would not be outdone by Chicago.  On July 1, 1928, Frankie Uale, whose ethnic name was often anglicized to "Frankie Yale," became the first recorded New York mob boss to die in a submachine gun ambush.  (Some initial accounts attributed his wounds, which rendered him unrecognizable, to a shotgun blast.) 

Yale, a strikebreaker, racketeer and fixer in the parlance of the day, was a Capone associate.  He is said to have been the assassin of  "Big Jim" Colosimo.  Uale was killed as he drove his expensive sedan down a Brooklyn street in broad daylight.  A car bearing Illinois or Indiana license plates fired six shots aimed at his head.  His car crashed through a fence and stopped in a yard as pedestrians ran for cover. 

The press covered the lavish funeral from a unique angle.  Frankie Yale had not one but two widows, each with her own children in attendance.  No aerial or bird's eye view of this event would satisfy photographers, who used close-up techniques to snap tear-stained faces hiding beneath yards of black tulle.   

There was the "aging Mrs. Maria Yale with her two children..." and there was "the other woman, Lucienda, for whom the gangland emperor deserted Maria."

Public records indicate the likelihood that Maria (nee' Pea) might have been the only Mrs. Frankie Uale.  The two were married on March 1, 1917 in Brooklyn.  No record of a divorce or subsequent remarriage is recorded for Frankie Uale in New York City.


Sources: 

March 3, 1929, 'Chicago Gangland:  The True Story of its Murders, its Vices and its Reprisals," by James O'Donnell Bennett, Chicago Daily Tribune

July 2, 1928, "Rich Flowers Smell of Guns and Revenge," New York Daily News.

Kings County Groom Index

Photos:  Collection of author




  

18 May 2017

Another King falls


Thirty-eight year old Bill Kirkillis was a former Chicago hoodlum who had moved to Massillon, Ohio, and had become known as the "King of Columbia Heights," a section of that city. On this date back in 1931, Kirkillis was exiting an apartment and heading for his car when a gunman opened fire on him. One of the four shots plowed into his right side and made it to his hear, killing him.

Kirkillis had been recently released from the workhouse where he did a stint for stabbing a man. He had also been picked up on suspicion of killing another. However, police believe that Kirkillis was  bumped off for tipping off Federal Prohibition agents about speakeasies belonging to his rivals.

 


16 May 2017

88 years ago: Capone arrested in Philadelphia



May 16, 1929 - Chicago crime lord Al Capone and his lieutenant, Frank Rio, were stopped by police detectives outside the Stanley Theatre, southwest corner of Nineteenth and Market Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Washington Post
May 17, 1929
The notorious gangsters insisted they were in Philadelphia to kill only time, while waiting for the next Chicago-bound train. Detectives found that both men had handguns. Capone and Rio were arrested for carrying concealed deadly weapons.

Authorities determined that Capone and Rio were returning from an underworld peace conference at Atlantic City, New Jersey, when automobile problems caused them to miss the afternoon Broad Way Limited train at the North Philadelphia Station. The next train was scheduled to leave North Philadelphia some hours later, and the two gangsters decided to relax in the theater.

Capone's surprising stay in Pennsylvania began with a night in police lockup and would stretch on to a year. Treating the charge dismissively, the next day the Chicago boss and his aide pleaded guilty. They appeared stunned when Judge John E. Walsh sentenced them to one year sentences in state prison.

The U.S. press immediately began speculating that Capone orchestrated his arrest and conviction in order to escape the vengeance of underworld rivals. Chicago's St. Valentine's Day Massacre occurred only three months earlier. Some claimed that former Chicago underworld leader Johnny Torrio had come out of retirement to order Capone to have himself arrested so things in the Windy City could cool down.
 

"Al Capone's long stay in Philly" 
in this back issue of Informer.

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/Issue/112621