"He must have done something. They don't kill you for nothing." - Chicago Gangster Ted Newberry. Rubbed out January 7, 1933

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Barren gets shot down

Known as "The man with the big bankroll" fifty-seven year old Barren D. Wilkins, owner of the Exclusive Club, was the most powerful man in what the Times called Harlem's "Black belt". Since he was an easy touch for anyone in need he was quite popular in the neighborhood.

Wilkins arrived in Harlem back in 1903 and began to prosper with a cabaret that his brother owned. In addition to New York City clubs he was the financial backer of resorts in Atlantic City and was also active in the sporting world where he financed heavy weight champion Jack Johnson as well as all the teams in New York’s Negro League.

Though apolitical, Wilkins became important in elections swaying votes to either the Democrats or Republicans, his influence supporting the party whose victory would best serve Wilkins. Though his cabaret ran without a license and survived raid after raid he maintained that he did not pay for Police protection.

One of the people who often hit Wilkins up for a hand out was a gambler and drug addict named Julius “Yellow Charleston” Miller. On this date in 1924, Miller was shooting dice with five other men. “Yellow Charleston” went broke and tried to hit another player, John Parker, up for a loan but Parker refused telling “Yellow Charleston” that if he was out of money he was out of the game. "Yellow" responded by drawing a gun and shooting Parker in the stomach.

After the shooting Parker, “Yellow Charleston” ran out of the basement and up the street to the Exclusive Club where Wilkins was standing out front speaking with a guy named Benny “Yum Yum”. (Editors note: I believe it was a law back then to have a cool nick name)

“Yellow Charleston” ran up to Wilkins saying, “I just shot a guy and need a hundred dollars for a get away.” “I haven’t got that much money.” Wilkins replied. An answer that “Yellow Charleston” found unacceptable. Desperate, "Yellow Charleston"drew his gun and sent three bullets into, as he would be subsquently described by his fellow Harlemites, “The finest man who ever lived”.

Wilkins dropped to the ground as “Yellow Charleston” stuck his gun in “Yum Yum’s” face and pulled the trigger. Lady Luck was smiling on “Yum Yum” however and the gun did not go off. “Yellow Charleston” then forced a taxi to stop at gunpoint and made the driver take him to Jersey City.

Wilkins and Parker were taken to the hospital where the former succumbed to his wounds. As word of the shooting spread a large mob of Wilkins friends, supporters and those he helped over the years congregated at the Exclusive Club and for blocks around. Amidst the sobbing and wailing folks extolled the memory of Wilkins and his generosity. Then the got angry.

Rumor spread that “Yellow Charleston” was still in Harlem so vigilante groups began searching the streets for the man who was actually walking about Jersey City wondering what his next move would be. The following day, fearing that he would be lynched by the vengeance seeking residents of Harlem, “Yellow Charleston” came back to the city and surrendered to the police.

Though spared a lynching, "Yellow Charleston" paid the price for murdering Wilkins by copping a squat in Sing Sing's hot seat on September 17, 1925.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Field trip

Ah, yes a leisurely stroll through the Brooklyn woods, some wild flowers over there, quick look! Was that a pheasant? I believe it was. What a nice way to spend May 22, in 1910 Flatbush. Let’s check the DGIS Map app to see where we are exactly…hmm Paedergat Avenue and 41st street, doesn’t look like this area exist anymore. I see a Paedergat park which I suspect is what remains of this bucolic setting.

Birds are singing, children are playing, young lovers are wishing society wasn’t so uptight about premarital s- But wait, this is Brooklyn, and we’re on a DGIS expedition, I bet if we look around a bit…uh, huh just as I suspected there it is over there amongst those trees. A dead guy. Appears to be Italian. Wow they sure did a number on him with a knife.

Let’s count the wounds. I’ll start with the belly you do his chest and head. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Seven. How many did you count? That makes a total of fifteen. Judging by the fact that they also cut off his nose, right cheek and half of his right year I’d say his killers were pretty mad, or didn’t want anyone to identify him. The long slit in his left hand and the fact that part of his right hand is cut off leads me to believe that this unfortunate fellow put up quite a struggle before yielding up the ghost.

What’s that? Good observation! No excess blood, he was dumped here after death. There is an Italian neighborhood just north of here, they call it “Pig town”, now that’s not very pc, what an odd time, you can call an ethnic neighborhood “Pig town” but you have to wear a three piece suit when you go swimming. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah the Italian neighborhood we could go see if anyone there noticed anything but experience tells me it would just be a waste of time. So let’s go to Coney!!

Monday, May 21, 2012


Today marks the 112th anniversary of Constantine Steiger alias Fritz Meyer, saddling up and riding the lightning at Sing Sing. Why did Fritz sitz in the hot seat?

Three years previously Steiger was in the process of robbing the poor box in the Church of the Holy Redeemer on Third Street between aves. A & B when he set off the alarm. Two priest called for the police and two cops came to investigate. One of them, Patrolman Fred Smith walked in on him and Steiger, who was already wanted for the murder of the bell ringer (When's the last time you saw that on a resume?) for the Most Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Williamsburg Brooklyn, shot and killed the officer.

Officer Smith’s partner saw Steiger trying to escape through a window and yelled to some pedestrians who captured him. Some how, along the walk to the precinct house Steiger suffered many abrasions and contusions.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Smoked at a smoker

In the Brownsville section of Brooklyn a war was going on between gangsters vying for control of the laundry racket. The head of one of the warring factions was “Doggy” (Augie?) Ginsberg.

And on this date back in Nineteen Hundred and Twenty Five (I just can't get enough of that sweet stuff. Whoa, oh I, oh oh I) a “smoker” was held by the Durant Social club of East New York and “Doggy” Ginsberg was one of the two hundred men in attendance. As the show was about to get underway Ginsberg suddenly let out a groan and keeled over.

Turns out, Mr. Ginsburg had been shot in the head and left breast by a pistol equipped with a silencer. Nobody moved as three gunmen made their way to “Doggy” and, as they stepped over him, one of the gunmen reached down and took something out of the dead man's pocket. The trio of killers then exited the dining hall.

Before they got into their cars, Hyman Jacobson, a Ginsberg man, ran out after them and the gunmen fired a volley in his direction. One bullet smashed into Jacobson’s heart killing him.

When the police arrived they found Jacobson dead out front and “Doggy” inside. Fifteen men who had not run away were questioned and it was through them that the police got the news about the “wet wash war”.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

White, as a ghost

John White was the proprietor of a midtown speakeasy and a victim of his own door policy. On this date back in 1928 Harold Fullam, an elevator operator from a nearby hotel, tried to gain entrance into White's club. The proprietor stopped him at the door and refused him entry. According to the bartender, Fullam came back later and asked White to step outside for a few words.  White obliged him and moments later the bartender heard a shot. An ambulance was called and White ended up dying on the operating table.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Killo de Mayo

Need something to talk about over margaritas and salsa this Cinco de Mayo? If you see that someone special and need an ice breaker simply say: " Did you know that on May 3, 1903 strife hit the Cherry Hill section of Manhattan when William "Billy Argument" McMahon and other members of the Cherry Hill mob beat up a rival member of Monk Eastman's gang named Patrick "Paddy the snake" Shea?"

If that certain someone seems interested continue with:

"The beating Shea received was bad enough to send him to the hospital where he was questioned by police about who did it. A consummate gangster, "Paddy the snake" told the police, "I ain't no squealer, not me. When I get out of the hospital I will attend to this matter myself and maybe I won't do a little six shooting."

If they haven't excused themselves by now, conclude with:

"Two days later, that's 109-years ago today, Shea was out of the hospital and staking out McMahon's apartment and when the latter emerged "Paddy the snake" came up behind him and "blew the top of his head off.", (take a dip of salsa for effect.) "and after his round of "six shooting" Shea fled to Philadelphia where he was captured in late July and extradited back for trial. While on the stand Shea admitted to the murder but said it was self-defense claiming that if he didn't get "Billy Argument" first, Billy would have gotten him. "

Trust me, drop a story like that and you are in like Flynn. You can thank me Monday.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bad luck Chuck

Charles Rosenhaus was 35-years-old and had three arrests under his belt. He was currently a proprietor of a number of Bowery newsstands and part owner of a cabaret known as Green's Restaurant. Early in the morning on this day back in 1925,  Rosenhaus was approaching his cabaret when a man walked up and fired three shots into his chest. Charles dropped to the ground as his assailant got away. The fact that Charles was wearing a holster equipped with a fully loaded revolve led police to believe that Chas. knew his life was in danger.