Showing posts with label Prohibition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prohibition. Show all posts

16 September 2018

The Unsolved Murder of Officer Edward Riphon

While researching my latest book, Murder Capital, one of the astounding facts I discovered was that in Madison, Wisconsin’s 170-year history, only four police officers were killed in the line of duty. I say “only” because one might expect a state capital to be slightly more dangerous. The even more interesting part of this historical footnote, however, is that all four murders occurred around the time of Prohibition – for the over 80 years since combined, the level of danger comes nowhere close to the risk of patrolling in those 13 lawless years.

Three of those four deaths are covered in Murder Capital. The fourth, that of Officer Edward Riphon, was excluded because it could not be directly connected to the group of bootleggers and bloodthirsty killers I was putting the spotlight on. This does not mean, however, that Riphon’s story is not worth telling. With that in mind, the following summary of his heroic death is provided in remembrance.

Edward Francis Riphon was born on March 3, 1894 in the rural Dane County community of Spingdale, where he was raised by his parents, Martin Riphon and Sarah Moran Riphon, and helped out on the family farm at an early age and through his early 20s. The town was rural enough that his address was simply “on the Mount Horeb Road”[i] Even as recently as 2010, much of the town was without water and sewer facilities.

By the middle of 1917, Edward was married and still working on the family farm.[ii] What made his decide to switch careers is unknown. After getting hired on as a police officer in June 1927, Riphon apparently moved into Madison gradually. The 1930 Federal Census has him boarding at 615 West Main Street without his family joining him.[iii] From his first day on the force, he was scheduled on the night shift.

The most memorable moment in Riphon’s career came in December 1931, when he encountered John Schyler in the Forrest Taylor soft drink place. Schyler appeared to be reaching for a gun when Riphon intervened. After a short hand-to-hand melee, Riphon came out on top. Back at the station, it was determined that Schyler was the head of a bank robbery gang out of Fond du Lac. From his jail cell, Schyler gave up gang member Herman Ringhand. Riphon was highly commended and the pair were sent up to the state prison for 25 years.


At 1:00am on May 16, 1932, Riphon made his report into headquarters from a callbox outside the Tenney building (110 East Main) on the Capitol Square. He had just finished a late night meal at Bailey’s (518 East Wilson) with cabbie Gus Wilson, just as he had many nights before.[iv] Around 1:30, he was seen by garage employee Carl Deering speaking with three men in a large, dark-colored sedan. The automobile was parked on South Pinckney, halfway between Main and Washington. When Riphon did not make his 2:00 telephone call in to Sgt. Patrick Powers, they knew something was wrong.

Officer Riphon was found around 7:50am in a gravel pit on Hope Road, east of Madison. Tragically, it was 10-year Olin K. Jacobson, on his way to school, who first saw the horrific sight. Jacobson thought the man in the ditch was merely asleep, and alerted Fred Horstmeyer, who relayed the word to Julius Irvin Witte, proprietor of the Hope general store (and the nearest telephone).[v] Riphon had been shot twice, with one bullet penetrating his temple. He was apparently also beaten, as his body was covered in bruises. His patrol car was parked at the capitol building in the center of town, further indicating he had been “taken for a ride”. Rumors circulated that Riphon had a “black book” with the names of local gangsters and this was the cause of his death.

Immediate suspicion was turned toward Archie Dell Delaney, who was seen with Riphon on the day he vanished. Delaney had been sent to the reformatory at Green Bay for burglary a few years prior. Questioning of Delaney cleared his name immediately; he may have been a burglar, but he was no murderer. Riphon’s wife suspected area bootleggers. She told detectives that they had received many threatening letters over the years, and on one occasion there was an altercation with a south side restaurant owner. She feared that his being transferred from the south side to the capitol square might give the bootleggers the false impression that he was scared, despite his not asking to be transferred.[vi]

Not long after the apparent abduction, an automobile matching Deering’s description was found abandoned in McHenry, Illinois, approximately 95 miles southeast of Madison. Today, McHenry is considered by some to be the northwest edge of the Chicago suburbs. An automobile had been hijacked near Rush Street in Chicago from Major F. O. Wood of Camp McCoy[vii], and police believed this car, a Studebaker, was driven to Madison and back to McHenry before being dumped. Wood was even an occupant for approximately twenty minutes before being forced out at Halsted and Fulton (in the River West neighborhood). During the ride, Wood was ordered to “look straight ahead” and had a nickel-plated .32 pointed at him. He initially described two of the hijackers as “an Italian” and “a Norwegian” who was a “darn nice looking boy”.


Unknown to Wood, the vehicle continued on to Madison, stopping multiple times to change license plates. In Whitewater, plates were stolen from garage owner Max Frederick Foerster. Upon reaching Madison, they stole another set from the Studebaker of Philo Buck, professor of comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin. Probably unknown to the men, they were also parked right outside the home of Dean Charles Schlichter. The stolen plates may have been the cause of Officer Riphon’s questioning, and if so, his death may have been spur of the moment rather than anything planned or “contracted”.

On the morning of May 18, law enforcement personnel had Wood look through thousands of rogues gallery photographs in Chicago. He picked out five men who seemed familiar to him: Albert Novak, Clarence Flynn, Minard Batjes, Henry Decker and William Kasierod. All the men were around age 20. The two most likely suspects according to Wood were Novak, a car thief who had once been an accessory to murder, and Flynn, a known rapist.[viii]

The sedan itself was a bloodbath; splatters were found on the ceiling, the rear door, the windshield and elsewhere. The belief was that Riphon had been bludgeoned repeatedly with a gas pipe. Two such pipes, both 18 inches in length, were found in the car, one of them still smeared with blood and hair. A pencil from Koch Rent-a-Car was found, as was a key, both items tracing back to Riphon.[ix]

After abandoning the murder vehicle, the killers stole another car in McHenry, one owned by grocery store proprietor Peter William Frett. According to the newspaper, by some strange coincidence, Frett had actually known Riphon in passing from being in Madison on business. The Frett car, in turn, was deposited in Chicago, and the men were seen fleeing by railroad porter Adolph Herman of 5442 Higgins Avenue (in the Jefferson Park neighborhood). As the newspaper put it, they “fled to cover in the Chicago underworld”.[x]

Patrolman Riphon had served with the agency for five years. He was survived by his wife, Isabelle Berg Riphon and their children Marian, Berniece, and Raymond. When the funeral took place at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church a few days later, 900 mourners came to pay their respects. Fifteen uniformed officers were on site, including the six pallbearers. Father John A. Risch told his parishioners, “When our friends close their eyes for the last time, we should open ours.” He swore that Riphon’s life was taken by “a detestable scoundrel endeavoring to undermine human society.”[xi]

Despite the identification of suspects by Wood, no arrests were ever made and the Riphon homicide remains unsolved.

The story of Officer Riphon briefly made the news more than 80 years after his passing, due to another family tragedy. His son, Raymond Riphon, had lost his father at the tender age of 7 and turned to the Catholic Church to be his guide. For the next eight decades, he attended school, he attended mass, and was well-known and respected by all who knew him. "He always sat in the third pew, aisle side, for five o'clock mass every Saturday," Father Michael Radowicz says. "He had a very good friend that would bring him to mass. He was always just a wonderful guy and just always had a bright smile." Therefore it came as a great shock when at Raymond’s funeral in 2012, someone stole the memorial box – not simply the money, but the cards, as well. Raymond’s “safe haven” was violated.[xii]


Gavin Schmitt's Murder Capital is available now.


[i] 1900, 1910 Federal Census
[ii] World War I Draft Registration
[iii] 1930 Federal Census
[iv] “Police Hunt Pair After Killers Take Officer Riphon for ‘Ride’” Wisconsin State Journal. May 16, 1932.
[v] “Police Hunt Pair”
[vi] “Police Hunt Pair”
[vii] There was some confusion on the identity of Wood. When consulted, Camp McCoy knew of no such man. A Major Norman B. Wood of Two Rivers, connected with Camp Grant, existed. Whether the man incorrectly identified himself or was misheard by police is unclear. The discrepancy is covered in William H. McCall, “Bloody Auto Points Slayers’ Trail to Lair”, Wisconsin State Journal. May 17, 1932.
[viii] McCall, William H. “Order Arrest of 5 ‘Bad’ Chicago Suspects in Riphon ‘Ride’ Murder” Wisconsin State Journal. May 18, 1932.
[ix] McCall, William H. “Patrolman Beaten with Gas Pipe, Death Car Tells” Wisconsin State Journal. May 18, 1932
[x] “Gas Pipe”
[xi] “Death Great Preacher, Teacher, Priest Tells Riphon Mourners” Wisconsin State Journal. May 18, 1932.
[xii] http://www.wkow.com/story/24139649/2013/12/Wednesday/tonight-at-10-donation-box-from-funeral-stolen-from-local-family

22 June 2018

Iamascia funeral is 'glittering pageant'

On this date in 1931...

Donato "Daniel" J. Iamascia's gangland funeral on June 22, 1931, became a "glittering pageant" through the Italian neighborhood of Belmont in the Bronx. Though just 29 years old at the time of his death, Iamascia had already put together a lengthy criminal résumé, was well known in the area and well connected politically.

Iamascia
An estimated 20,000 people gathered around the Iamascia home at 2313 Belmont Avenue, the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Belmont Avenue and East 187th Street and along the few city blocks between to observe the spectacle.

Iamascia, an important member of both Arthur "Dutch Schultz" Flegenheimer's Bronx bootlegging and gambling gang and Ciro "Artichoke King" Terranova's Mafia organization, was killed as the indirect result of a Prohibition Era gangland conflict in New York City. He had been assisting Schultz in battling an insurrection by Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, and he, Schultz and some other gang members had holed up in a ninth floor apartment at 1212 Fifth Avenue, just east of Central Park at 102nd Street. The four-room apartment had been rented by Schultz under the name of Russell Jones.

In the early morning hours of June 18, Schultz and Iamascia stepped out of the apartment building and spotted two suspicious-looking men across the street at the park. Assuming they were Coll gangsters, Schultz and Iamascia drew pistols and charged at the men. Their targets turned out to be New York City Police Detectives Julius Salke and Stephen DiRosa. Seeing their approach, Salke shouted, "We are the law!" Schultz responded by spinning about, tossing his weapon in the street and attempting to escape. Salke fired a shot into the air, convincing Schultz to surrender. Iamascia was slower to respond, and it cost him his life. As he continued to advance, Detective DiRosa fired a shot into his midsection.

Iamascia was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital nearby, while Schultz was brought to the East 104th Street Police Station for questioning and then locked up in the West Side Jail. Police found that the gang boss was in possession of more than $18,600 in cash at the time of his arrest. Three hours after the encounter with detectives, Iamascia died from his wound.

Schultz (left), Detective DiRosa (right)
After news of his death was released, numerous and massive floral displays began showing up at the Iamascia residence, a two-story, two-family brick building that was home to Iamascia, his wife, his widowed mother, three sisters, an older brother and his family and a younger brother. (Another brother of Daniel lived with his wife nearby at 2319 Belmont Avenue.) By the night before the funeral, the house could not accommodate the flowers. Additional offerings filled a two-car garage behind the building and spilled out into the driveway.

Iamascia's underworld bosses sent impressive tributes. Terranova provided a "gates ajar" flower-covered display that was twelve feet high and bore the simple message, "Sympathy." Schultz sent a diamond-shaped wreath of flowers, eight feet long and five feet tall.

A display said to have been furnished by Iamascia's mother featured a clock of flowers within a six-foot heart. The hands of the clock showed ten minutes past six, the moment that Iamascia passed away. "The Boys" sent a broken-column display eight feet in height. And "A Pal" sent a six-foot heart of roses.

On the morning of June 22, Iamascia's remains were taken from the family home in a "German silver" coffin reportedly valued at $20,000 (probably a vastly inflated figure). A procession of nearly one hundred and fifty automobiles followed the hearse to the church. Thirty-five of the cars carried the flowers. According to one report, it took the procession thirty minutes to pass any given spot on the short route.

Iamascia's coffin is taken from the family home.

Seats within the church were reserved for the Iamascia family. About three hundred and fifty people were seated, all said to be related to the deceased. About three thousand curious neighborhood residents clustered around the building.

Neither Terranova nor Schultz appeared at the funeral. Schultz remained in custody, facing charges including felonious assault and Sullivan Law violation. A government lien was placed against the cash found on him, as it was suspected that he had been evading his taxes.

After a Requiem Mass celebrated by the Rev. John Southwick of Dobbs Ferry, New York, a family friend, the cortège proceeded to St. Raymond's Cemetery. Iamascia's coffin was placed temporarily in a receiving vault. It was reported that Iamascia had recently contracted for the construction of a $25,000 family vault  - his father had died a year earlier - that was not yet completed.

The Iamascia family announced that it was pursuing a civil lawsuit against Detective DiRosa for his conduct during the incident. The NYPD found no reason to criticize either of the involved detectives. In fact, on the morning after Daniel Iamascia's funeral, both were promoted from third grade to second grade detective.

25 January 2018

Stroke complications take Capone

Al Capone, notorious Prohibition Era gang boss of Chicago, died January 25, 1947, at his south Florida home. Dr. Kenneth S. Phillips, who had treated the retired crime figure for years, announced that death was caused by pneumonia and heart failure, complications of a recent stroke.

Miami Daily News
For many years, Capone had dealt with the symptoms of advanced syphilis. Immediately upon the November 1939 expiration of his long prison sentence for tax evasion, Capone was admitted into Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore for treatment of paresis. The former gangland boss, burdened with an ailing body and a failing mind, never returned to command the Chicago Outfit organization he built during Prohibition, instead moving into a quiet Florida retirement.

Capone suffered an apoplectic stroke at about four o'clock in the morning of January 21, 1947, just a few days after his forty-eighth birthday. It was feared that the unresponsive Capone would soon die. At six o'clock, a Roman Catholic priest, Monsignor William Barry, went to the twenty-five-room estate, 93 Palm Avenue on Palm Island in Biscayne Bay, to administer the last rites. Newspapers learned of the stroke and scrambled to cover the final moments of Capone's life.

By eight o'clock that morning, Dr. Phillips saw some signs of improvement in his patient. At the family's request, the physician became a spokesman, delivering health updates to the swarm of reporters gathering outside the walls around the estate. Capone regained consciousness later in the day, and Dr. Phillips reported to the press that he could speak, though the doctor urged him to remain quiet and rest.

Dr. Phillips told the press on January 23 that Capone continued to show progress in his recovery. The doctor expressed concern that the stroke might leave Capone paralyzed on the left side. "It'll be two or three days before I can tell conclusively about his condition," Dr. Phillips said. "He's doing just about the same and it looks like he is out of danger if there are no unforeseen complications."

The possibility of pneumonia was discussed early the following day. Dr. Phillips reported that Capone was "harboring considerable lung congestion." The patient's condition worsened quickly. Dr. Phillips rushed to Palm Island that afternoon and returned with Dr. Arthur J. Logie, a Miami-based chest specialist, that evening.

Dr. Logie met with reporters as he left the estate. The specialist's prognosis was grim. "I doubt very seriously if there is a chance for recovery. It is impossible to say how long he will last. His lungs are pretty well filled... Both lungs are badly congested and his heart has begun to fail."

The doctors administered oxygen, using tanks and equipment brought to the Palm Island home. Press reports the following day suggested that Capone would already be dead if not for the oxygen pumped into him during the night.

Dr. Phillips and Capone's wife and son were with Capone when he died in his bed at twenty-five minutes after seven on Saturday night, January 25. As he passed, his wife collapsed and required the attention of Dr. Phillips. The doctor emerged from the estate with news of Capone's death at about eight-thirty.

Capone was survived by his wife and his son, both of his parents, two brothers and a sister. His body was taken to the W.L. Philbrick Funeral Home at Miami Beach. Reports indicated that Louis Rago, funeral director at 624 N. Western Avenue in Chicago, flew to Miami Beach to take charge of arrangements, as the family wished for Capone to be buried in a plot in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago.

Sources:
  • "Ex-Gangland chief rallies after stroke," Moline IL Dispatch, Jan. 22, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Hint Capone's left side may be paralyzed," Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 24, 1947, p. 6.
  • "Doctor speeds to bedside of Al Capone," Miami Daily News, Jan. 24, 1947, p. 23.
  • "Al Capone hit by pneumonia, heart weaker," Baltimore Sun, Jan. 25, 1947, p. 3.
  • "Al Capone gets pneumonia, doctor doubts recovery," Brooklyn Eagle, Jan. 25, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Capone dying, doctor says," Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 25, 1947, p. 1.
  • Sosin, Milt, "Capone under oxygen mask, hovers on brink of death," Miami Daily News, Jan. 25, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Capone dies at island villa," Miami Daily News, Jan. 26, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Al Capone dies in Florida villa," Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 26, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Al Capone, gang czar, dies," Des Moines Register, Jan. 26, 1947, p. 4.

See also:
Writers of Wrongs: "Out of prison, into hospital."

26 December 2017

Survived enemies, killed by friend

NY Evening World
In the early morning of December 26, 1920, gangland legend "Monk" Eastman was shot to death near Union Square in Manhattan. It was an abrupt end to a day of holiday merry-making as well as to a decades-long criminal career.

"Monk" Eastman had spent Christmas evening celebrating with some friends at the Court Cafe at Driggs Avenue and Broadway at the Brooklyn end of the Williamsburg Bridge. Though Prohibition was in effect, bootleg booze was readily available, and the forty-seven-year-old gangster and his associates drank large quantities of the stuff.

Around midnight, the Court Cafe quieted down, and the Eastman party decided to move on into Manhattan to continue the jolly time. The group piled into a car, and Monk directed the driver, twenty-six-year-old William J. Simermeyer, to the Blue Bird Cabaret, 62 East Fourteenth Street. Eastman was a frequent visitor at the Blue Bird and was friendly with its management and staff.

After several hours of singing and heavy drinking, Eastman and friends left the Blue Bird at about four o'clock in the morning and walked a short distance east on Fourteenth Street to the corner of Fourth Avenue. Several gunshots were fired. The group quickly disbanded, leaving a collapsed Eastman dying on the curb.

Sidney Levine, master of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit subway station at Fourteenth Street, heard the gunshots and rushed upstairs to the street. He saw a body by the roadside and found a still-hot .32-caliber revolver on the station stairs.


NY Tribune
Patrons and employees from cafes in the neighborhood and taxidrivers who were parked nearby all rushed to the shooting victim. None apparently recognized him. When the sound of a heartbeat was noted, driver Peter Bailey  loaded the victim into his taxi and sped off to St. Vincent's Hospital. Eastman did not survive the trip.

Still unrecognized, his "gorilla-like" remains were moved to the morgue of the Mercer Street Police Station. Lieutenant William Funston, serving as acting captain in command of the district's detectives, took personal charge of the investigation. Detectives John Bottie and Joseph Gilinson were assigned to the case.

It was about six o'clock when the two veteran detectives had a look at the victim and instantly identified him as former Lower East Side crime czar Monk Eastman. Their identification was confirmed through police fingerprint records.

Evidence indicated that Eastman had extended his arms and hands in a vain effort to shield himself from the gunshots that took his life. There were wounds to both his forearms and to his left hand. Shots were fired at close range, as powder burns were evident on his overcoat. One slug entered at the left center of Eastman's chest. Chief Medical Examiner Charles Norris confirmed on December 27 that it was the cause of death, having pierced Monk's heart. Norris also noted that Eastman was very drunk at the moment his life ended.

No weapons were found on Eastman. Investigators did find $144, a heavy watch and chain and two pairs of gold eyeglasses, indicating that Monk's killer did not intend to rob him.


NY Evening World

Press speculation

Assistant District Attorney John R. Hennis, chief of the D.A.'s homicide bureau, became the public spokesman for the investigation. It was a challenging role, as there seemed no limit to speculation by the New York press. In just the first two days following Eastman's murder, newspapers had suggested that it was the result of a disagreement with a bootlegging or narcotics trafficking partner, that it was related to a love affair, that it was an act of vengeance by an old rival and that it was an underworld penalty for cooperating with authorities.

There was some support for each of those possibilities. Investigators in Brooklyn were certain that Eastman was engaged in bootlegging and narcotics distribution, though he had sworn off such activities following his heroic return from service in the Great War. For a time, he made an effort to stay away from gangs and rackets. He worked in an automobile accessories store and tried managing his own pet shop (he had great affection for birds and other pets and had run a pet store many years earlier). But the old life drew him back in. In recent months, police had been following him into Manhattan in the hope of identifying a narcotics supplier.

The romantic angle related to the discovery of a Christmas card signed "Lottie" that was found in Eastman's pockets. Some Eastman friends reported that he had been married years earlier. His wife had not been seen for some time, and one report explained that she died. Authorities doubted that Monk would have jeopardized his life for love, as he seemed never to place a great deal of value in the company of a woman.

NY Herald
As far as enemies and rivals were concerned, Eastman had made plenty since his days as street gang warrior, strike-breaker and Tammany Hall-hired political "slugger," but he outlived many of them. "Eat-'em-up Jack" McManus had his skull crushed back in 1905. Bullets took out Max "Kid Twist" Zwerbach in 1908, "Big Jack" Zelig in 1912, Jack Pioggi in 1914 and "Johnny Spanish" Weyler in 1919. A number of the old brawlers were still around but were giving way to a new generation of Prohibition Era gangsters.

The notion that a lifelong underworld figure like Monk Eastman might be cooperating with police seemed outrageous. However, on the day after Eastman's murder, authorities revealed that Eastman had been holding meetings with narcotics investigators. Acting Captain Daniel Carey, commander of detectives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, went to Eastman's room, 801 Driggs Avenue, in the middle of December and again just before Christmas to discuss an investigation of a drug ring. Dr. Carleton Simon, deputy police commissioner in charge of the narcotics squad, and squad Detective Barney Boylan had also met with Eastman during the month of December. When questioned about the meetings, the police did not deny that Eastman helped to expose an opium ring.

Killed by a friend

Speaking with reporters on December 28, Hennis refused to address the press assumptions. He revealed a belief that Eastman was killed not by an old enemy but by a longtime friend. He refused to identify the suspect, who was not yet in custody.

Hennis explained that, after Eastman and a half dozen partiers left the Blue Bird, they met an old acquaintance. Eastman spoke to the man briefly before the man fired the shots that took Eastman's life. After that, the remaining partiers all scattered.

"We cannot tell whether Monk was double-crossed [by the friends he was with]," Hennis explained, "but we do know that the man who shot him was known to all the rest. He is a well known character, although not so famous as Monk."

A later announcement described the suspect as "not a gangster" but a man who was on intimate terms with criminals in the Union Square area.

On December 30, news reports indicated that the identity of Eastman's killer was learned through the questioning of driver William J. Simermeyer and Eastman friend Sylvester Hamilton, both of Brooklyn. The men were each held in $10,000 bail as material witnesses.

Wikimedia

Burial with military honors

Monk Eastman was buried with military honors on December 30, 1920. The funeral was arranged and financed by friends who had served with Eastman in the World War I American Expeditionary Force and could not bear to see him interred in a potter's field.

Infamous for his brutality on the streets of New York City, Eastman earned the respect of his fellow servicemen during the war. He volunteered for military service in October 1917, after emerging from a term in Sing Sing Prison. He enlisted in the 47th Regiment, New York National Guard, under the name of William Delaney. A short time later, part of the 47th, including Eastman/Delaney, was joined with the 106th United States Infantry and sent overseas to fight in France.

Eastman and the 106th participated in the advance along Vierstraat Ridge in Belgium in the late summer of 1918. During that battle, Eastman rescued a fallen comrade, braving enemy fire and suffering two bullet wounds. Following that act of heroism, he was sent to the hospital to recover.

Just three days later, he reportedly left the hospital, without orders and without his uniform, to rejoin his old unit at the front. Wearing hospital pajamas, it is said that Eastman single-handedly slithered through mud to a German machine gun nest and succeeded in taking the position from the enemy.

Eastman's courageous service so rehabilitated his image that Colonel Franklin W. Ward, commander of the 106th Infantry, and First Lieutenant Joseph A. Kerrigan went to New York State Governor Alfred E. Smith to plead that the former gangster's state citizenship, lost due to his felony convictions, be fully reinstated. Governor Smith agreed to the request on May 8, 1919.

On the day of Eastman's funeral, thousands came out to Mrs. Samuel Yannaco's small undertaking establishment, 348 Metropolitan Avenue, to pay their respects. Eastman's body was was dressed in his military uniform, adorned with the American Legion wounded men's button. On his left shoulder was an insignia for his military unit. His sleeves showed three service stripes and two wound stripes.

A silver plate on the coffin was inscribed, "Edward Eastman. Our lost pal. Gone but not forgotten."

At a funeral service, Rev. James H. Lockwood expressed regret at never having gotten to know Eastman: "It is not my province to judge this man's life. His Creator will pass judgment; He possesses all the particulars and is competent to judge any soul. It may startle you to hear me say I wish I had known this man in life. We may have been reciprocally helpful. It has been said there is so much bad in the best of us, so much good in the worst of us, that it does not become any of us to think harshly of the rest of us. That is one way of saying 'let him that is without sin cast the first stone.'"

The American Legion provided a military escort for the coffin to its gravesite in Cypress Hills Cemetery. Taps was played, and a final military salute was fired.



NY Evening World

Drunken quarrel with a Prohibition agent

The press learned the identity of the murder suspect and published it on the final day of 1920.

Jeremiah Bohan, a Brooklyn businessman and longtime pal of Eastman, was believed to have been part of the group of holiday revelers who accompanied Eastman from the Court Cafe to the Blue Bird Cabaret on Christmas night. Police had not found Bohan at his home or his work or any of his usual haunts since Monk was shot to death.

An interesting wrinkle in the story was provided by Bohan's appointment several months earlier as a local inspector working under State Prohibition Director Charles R. O'Connor. With Bohan's job responsibilities - ensuring compliance with the national law against the production, transportation and sale of alcohol - came a license to carry a firearm.

Authorities revealed that Bohan had a police record. He had been arrested several years earlier in connection with the killing of "Joe the Bear" Faulkner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He was exonerated by a coroner's jury.

Bohan had worked as a stevedore and as a retail liquor merchant before being assigned to Prohibition enforcement duties. (The assignment was the result of a recommendation by a Brooklyn political leader unnamed in the newspaper reports.)

On January 3, 1921, Bohan surrendered to Acting Captain Daniel Carey in Williamsburg and confessed to shooting Monk Eastman. According to Bohan's statement, he shot Eastman in self-defense during a drunken quarrel.

Investigators found Bohan's description of the quarrel less than believable. He said that the two men argued about whether to leave an especially large Christmas tip for Blue Bird waiter John Bradley. Eastman wanted all in his party to contribute to the tip for Bradley, who was his personal friend. Bohan claimed that Eastman became upset when Bohan objected to contributing. According to Bohan, the idea was objectionable because Bradley wasn't even waiting on the Eastman party's table.

Bohan said he left the establishment with Eastman and the rest of the group following closely behind. At the corner of Fourth Avenue and Fourteenth Street, Eastman grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around and snarled, "Jerry, you've become a rat since you got that Prohibition job." Bohan said he saw Eastman reach for his overcoat pocket and feared he was getting a handgun. Bohan drew his own revolver, fired several times and fled, tossing the revolver into the subway entrance as he left.



Despite their years of friendship, Bohan said he felt certain that Monk was about to kill him. "I knew what his methods were," he said, "and he had his friends with him, and I thought he was going to start something which would end in my being killed. So I drew my revolver and shot him and made my getaway."

As incredible as it was, Bohan stuck to his story. When the matter came up for trial about a year later, on December 22, 1921, he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Judge Thomas Crain of General Sessions Court sentenced him to between three and ten years in Sing Sing Prison. He served just seventeen months in prison before he was paroled.

Sources:
  • Asbury, Herbert, The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, Garden City NY: Garden City Publishers, 1928.
  • Hanson, Neil, Monk Eastman: The Gangster Who Became A War Hero, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
  • "'Monk' Eastman rewarded," New York Times, May 9, 1919, p. 24.
  • "Monk Eastman, noted gangster, slain in street," New York Herald, Dec. 26, 1920, p. 1.
  • "Eastman slain in feud over bootleg," New York Evening World, Dec. 27, 1920, p. 1.
  • "'Monk' Eastman, gang leader and war hero, slain by rival gunmen," New York Tribune, Dec. 27, 1920, p. 1.
  • "Monk Eastman's murder is laid to squealing on ring," New York Herald, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Eastman's slayer sought in his gang," New York Times, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Expect to arrest 'Monk' Eastman's murderer to-day," New York Evening World, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Eastman met death as drug ring squealer," New York Tribune, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 1.
  • "Eastman's slayer sought in his gang," New York Times, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Monk Eastman's slayer identified as one of his gang," New York Herald, Dec. 29, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Military funeral for Eastman as police seek nine," New York Evening World, Dec. 29, 1920, p. 12.
  • "'Monk' Eastman buried as hero beside his mother," New York Tribune, Dec. 31, 1920, p. 6.
  • "Chauffeurs name Eastman's slayer," New York Herald, Dec. 31, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Search in vain for 'Monk' Eastman's slayer," New York Evening World, Dec. 31, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Seek dry agent as missing link in Eastman case," New York Tribune, Jan. 1, 1920, p. 3.
  • "Dry agent sought to clear murder of Monk Eastman," New York Herald, Jan. 1, 1921, p. 16.
  • "Prohibition agent admits killing Monk Eastman after row, police say," New York Evening World, Jan. 3, 1921, p. 1.
  • "Dry agent admits he slew Eastman in drunken fight," New York Herald, Jan. 4, 1921, p. 20.
  • "Monk Eastman slayer gets 3 to 10 years," New York Herald, Dec. 23, 1921, p. 3.

14 June 2017

San Francisco boss succumbs to blood disorder

On this date in 1937 - Francesco Lanza, Mafia boss of the San Francisco area, died of natural causes. His son Mariano Vincenzo (James) was deemed too young to succeed him, and the role of boss was passed to Tony Lima.


Originally from Castelbuono, Sicily, where the family surname was Proetto, Francesco Lanza entered the U.S. through New York in the early 1900s. His family, including two-year-old Mariano Vincenzo, joined him in New York in February of 1905.

The family made its way west during the World War I years and settled in San Francisco by the start of Prohibition. A low-profile Mafioso, Lanza ran produce-related businesses and became a legal supplier of grapes to illegal wine-making operations across the U.S. He remained far in the background while more conspicuous underworld figures perished in Prohibition Era gangland conflicts.

In the 1920s, he became part-owner of a vineyard in Escondido, California. Nick Licata, a Mafia leader from the Los Angeles area, later partnered in that business. California Mafioso Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno recalled Lanza as San Francisco's regional Mafia boss and partner with Giuseppe Alioto in a restaurant at the city's Fisherman's Wharf.

Lanza died at the age of 64. Historian Christina Ann-Marie DiEdoardo noted that the apparent cause of Francesco Lanza's death was aplastic anemia, a blood disease that could have been treated through transfusions. "Ironically," DiEdoardo wrote, "this made him the only boss around during the Booze Wars who died because his blood stayed in his body..."

A couple of decades after Francesco Lanza's death, his son James became boss of the San Francisco crime family. Unnoticed by the early 1950s Kefauver Committee, his name came up during the McClellan Committee hearings later in that decade. It was believed that James Lanza traveled east for the 1957 Apalachin convention as representative of San Francisco but managed to escape the notice of authorities. His presence in New York City and Scranton, Pennsylvania, hotels at the time of the convention was noted. The FBI began watching Lanza in the late 1950s and conducted electronic eavesdropping on his operations in the early 1960s. A widely publicized U.S. Justice Department listing of U.S. Mafia leaders in the late 1960s named James Lanza as the boss of the San Francisco crime family. James Lanza died in February 2006 at the age of 104.

Sources:

  • "Mafia's leadership list updated by Justice Dept.," Palm Springs CA Desert Sun, Aug. 22, 1969, p. 7
  • "San Francisco deaths," Oakland CA Tribune, June 15, 1937, p. 35. 
  • California Death Index, Ancestry.com.
  • Demaris, Ovid, The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno, New York: Times Books, 1981, p. 137.
  • DiEdoardo, Christina Ann-Marie, Lanza's Mob: The Mafia and San Francisco, Santa Barbara CA: Praeger, 2016.
  • Hart, Arthur V., "Meeting of hoodlums, Apalachin, New York, November 14, 1957," FBI report, file no. 63-4426-171, NARA no. 124-90103-10092, July 8, 1958, p. 103.
  • Investigation of Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, Hearings Before the Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, Part 32, 85th Congress, 2d Session, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1958.
  • Mudd, Herbert K. Jr., "La Cosa Nostra San Francisco Division," FBI report, Aug. 23, 1968, file no. 92-6054-2397, NARA no. 124-10297-10131, p. Cover-C.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Sicilia, departed Palermo on January 26, 1905, arrived New York City on Feb. 10, 1905.
  • Polk's Crocker-Langley San Francisco City Directory 1934, San Francisco: R.L. Polk & Co. of California, 1934, p. 635.
  • SAC San Diego, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI airtel, file no. 92-6054-1907, NARA no. 124-10222-10055, March 13, 1967, p. 4.
  • SAC San Francisco, "Mariano Vincenzo Lanza, aka James Joseph Lanza," FBI memorandum, file no. 92-3432-87, NARA no. 124-10222-10385, Dec. 29, 1960.
  • Social Security Death Index, Ancestry.com.
Read more about the Lanzas of San Francisco in:

02 June 2017

'Al Capone's Beer Wars' set for June 6 release

http://amzn.to/2s2p8w8
John J. Binder's latest book, Al Capone's Beer Wars, is scheduled for release in hardcover and Kindle and Nook e-book formats on Tuesday, June 6. It can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.com and other booksellers.

Although much has been written about Al Capone, until now there has been no complete history of organized crime in Chicago during Prohibition. This book, based on twenty-five years of research, covers the entire era, 1920 to 1933. Binder, an authority on Chicago organized crime history, discusses the bootlegging gangs in the region and examines other major rackets, such as prostitution, gambling, labor racketeering and narcotics.

Binder focuses on how the Capone gang — one of twelve major bootlegging mobs as Prohibition began — gained a virtual monopoly over organized crime in northern Illinois and beyond. Binder also describes the fight by federal and local authorities, as well as citizens' groups, against organized crime. In the process, he refutes numerous misconceptions related to the Capone gang, other organizations, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and gangland killings.



Al Capone's Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago during Prohibition by John J. Binder.

28 January 2017

La Smootch Mort



Ah, the Prohibition Era; a time when a guy with a fast car, a dream, and a machine-gun, could make oodles of kale supplying an insatiable citizenry with their much desired clown juice. For a bootlegger, one of the grand things about having the grands in your pocket was being able to blow some of it on a jane before getting yourself dead.

For the gangsters of old, romance and death went together like gin and tonic, a situation that produced one of the semi-legendary figures to come out of this alcohol fueled epoch: The “Kiss of Death Girl”, so called because a large number of her paramours ended up on the slab. Lots of women lost their men to the gun but a “Kiss of Death Girl,” had more than the average bear. New York City had one and so did Chicago. We shall examine the Windy City’s hexed vixen first.

Her name was Mary Collins and she was a North Sider who became acquainted with the gangsters of her bailiwick in the early days of the Dry Era. The first of Mary’s fellas to end up with a toe tag was a friend and fellow gun man of North Side gang leader Dean O’Banion named John Sheehy.

Kiss of Death Girl a.k.a. Mary Collins

The end of Sheehy came in a speakeasy known as the Rendezvous on the evening of December 7, 1923. As the story goes, Sheehy simply asked for a bucket of ice and was told no by the waiter. Gangsters don’t like to hear no; so Sheehy went to the bar to fetch it himself, but again was told no. One writer put it that it was Mary, whose birthday they were celebrating, that wanted the ice so she could throw the cubes at the band’s drummer and this is why Sheehy’s request was denied.

Sheehy didn’t appreciate the inhospitable nature of both the waiter and club’s steward so pulled out his roscoe and killed them both. Before Sheehy and Mary had a chance to vacate the premises however, police arrived and Sheehy managed to wing one of them before catching a bullet himself and expiring the next day.

Headline for Sheehy shooting

In our next installment we'll meet victims #2 and #3 of the Kiss of Death Girl.

07 January 2017

The way of all gangster flesh

The final four years of Prohibition saw over two hundred New York City gangsters shot, garrotted, or stabbed to death with ice picks. Some simply vanished never to be seen again. My new ebook: ON THE SPOT: Gangland Murders in Prohibition New York City 1930-1933 brings these murders back in full detail. In addition to all of the bootleggers, drug dealers, gamblers and other underworld sorts who were "bumped off", "taken for a ride", and "put on the spot", the reader will learn about the victims of the gang wars fought between Dutch Schultz and Vincent Coll, Waxey Gordon and the Bugsy Seigel - Meyer Lansky mob, the Mafia's Castellammarese War and the battle waged between Brooklyn's Shapiro Brothers and the boys from Murder, Inc. Over two hundred gangland executions are discussed, most for the first time since they occurred all those years ago.



11 December 2016

Prohibition Era organized crime in Chicago

John J. Binder's latest book, Al Capone's Beer Wars is now available for pre-order through Amazon. The 400-page book is expected to be released in hardcover and ebook formats by Prometheus Books in June 2017. 

According to the publisher's writeup on Amazon, Binder covers the history of organized crime in Chicago through the entire Prohibition Era, 1920 to 1933. He discusses "all the important bootlegging gangs in the city and the suburbs and also examines the other major rackets, such as prostitution, gambling, labor and business racketeering, and narcotics."

Al Capone's Beer Wars rests on a foundation of 25 years of research, involving many previously unexplored sources. Binder, a Chicago-area resident, is the author of two previous books on organized crime. He lectures frequently on Chicago underworld history and has contributed his expertise to underworld documentaries shown on cable networks A&E, AMC, Discovery and History.

Link to Amazon.com website

09 December 2016

Death of former Boardwalk boss

On this date in 1968, eighty-five-year-old Enoch "Nucky" Johnson died of natural causes at the Atlantic County Convalescent Home in New Jersey. Johnson had been the Prohibition Era political boss of Atlantic City. 

During his reign, the city was a friendly location for organized criminals. Johnson's relationships with the underworld were brought to light during a feud with the New York Evening Journal newspaper in the early 1930s. His control over Atlantic City ended with his successful 1941 prosecution on federal tax evasion charges. Johnson lived a quiet life after his release from prison in 1945.

Asbury Park NJ Press, Dec. 10, 1968. Camden NJ Courier Post, Dec. 10, 1968.