Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Red Light Comes To The Fourth Ward: Tom Foley Defeats Paddy Divver, 1901

Kelly Divver
The above is an excerpt from the text version of a 1909 article by George Kibbe Turner that can be found here
an excerpt
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.

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