Well it's New Years Eve 2007 what better time to discuss 2008 and 1911.
First 2008. Look for a great new book in February entitled The Starker: Big Jack Zelig, the Becker-Rosenthal Case and the Advent of the Jewish Gangster. By Rose Keefe (website can be found in links) I have the good fortune of writing the forward to the book. Having had a sneak preview I can tell you that this tome fills a big void in early 20th Century gangsterdom. Tons of new info on the pre-Prohibition Era criminals. It will be a must have for anyone interested in the early years of NY crime.
Speaking of Zelig, that brings us to New Years Eve 1911 and the first dead guy in a suit for our blog. Just before midnight 96-years ago tonight, a chap named Joseph Harris was walking past the Bridge café on Delancey Street when a gray car containing five men slowed down near him and one of the men jumped out, ran up to Harris, pressed a pistol to his stomach and fired twice. The gunman then tossed the pistol into the street, jumped back into the car and sped away.
The gun had been pressed so far into Harris’s stomach that the reports were muffled and so he stumbled to the Bowery without receiving much attention from passersby until he collapsed and then they flocked around him. So many the wounded man cried out, “Give me air.”
Harris was rushed to the Hospital and when he was asked his name the gangster replied, “It’s nobodies business who I am.” But after they told him he was going to die, he gave his name and address. The men in the car were never identified but “Big” Jack Zelig’s record shows that he was arrested for committing a murder on January 1, 1912 but the victims name was different. It’s probable that they were the same guy since many gangsters went by different names and Zelig and his minions were known to tool around town in gray sedan.
On that note; Happy New Year!