A TRUE HISTORY OF A GREAT CITY'S
WILES AND TEMPTATIONS
THE VEIL LIFTED, AND LIGHT THROWN ON
CRIME AND ITS CAUSES,
CRIMINALS AND THEIR HAUNTS.
FACTS AND DISCLOSURES
HOWE & HUMMEL.
BUFFALO: THE COURIER COMPANY, PRINTERS. 1886
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It may not be amiss to remark, in explanation of the startling and sensational title chosen for this production, that logic has not yet succeeded in framing a title-page which shall clearly indicate the nature of a book. The greatest adepts have frequently taken refuge in some fortuitous word, which has served their purpose better than the best results of their analysis. So it was in the present case. "DANGER!" is a thrilling and warning word, suggestive of the locomotive headlight, and especially applicable to the subject matter of the following pages, in which the crimes of a great city are dissected and exposed from the arcanum or confessional of what we may be pardoned for designating the best-known criminal law offices in America.
So much for the title. A few words as to the motif of the publication. Despite the efficiency of our police and the activity of our many admirable reforming and reclaiming systems, crime still abounds, while the great tide of social impurity continues to roll on with unabated velocity. Optimists and philanthropic dreamers in every age have pictured in glowing colors the gradual but sure approach of the millennium, yet we are, apparently, still as far from that elysium of purity and unselfishness as ever. Whenever the wolf and the lamb lie down together, the innocent bleater is invariably inside the other's ravenous maw. There may be—and we have reason to know that there is—a marked diminution in certain forms of crime, but there are others in which surprising fertility of resource and ingenuity of method but too plainly evince that the latest developments of science and skill are being successfully pressed into the service of the modern criminal. Increase of education and scientific skill not only confers superior facilities for the successful perpetration of crime, but also for its concealment. The revelations of the newspapers, from week to week, but too plainly indicate an undercurrent of vice and iniquity, whose depth and foulness defy all computation.
We are not in accord with those pessimists who speak of New York as a boiling caldron of crime, without any redeeming features or hopeful elements. But our practice in the courts and our association with criminals of every kind, and the knowledge consequently gained of their history and antecedents, have demonstrated that, in a great city like New York, the germs of evil in human life are developed into the rankest maturity. As the eloquent Dr. Guthrie, in his great work, "The City, its Sins and its Sorrows," remarks: "Great cities many have found to be great curses. It had been well for many an honest lad and unsuspecting country girl that hopes of higher wages and opportunities of fortune, that the gay attire and gilded story of some acquaintance, had never turned their steps cityward, nor turned them from the simplicity and safety of their country home. Many a foot that once lightly pressed the heather or brushed the dewy grass has wearily trodden in darkness, guilt and remorse, on these city pavements. Happy had it been for many had they never exchanged the starry skies for the lamps of the town, nor had left their quiet villages for the throng and roar of the big city's streets. Weil for them had they heard no roar but the river's, whose winter flood it had been safer to breast; no roar but ocean's, whose stormiest waves it had been safer to ride, than encounter the flood of city temptations, which has wrecked their virtue and swept them into ruin."
By hoisting the DANGER signal at the mast-head, as it were, we have attempted to warn young men and young women—the future fathers and mothers of America—against the snares and pitfalls of the crime and the vice that await the unwary in New York. Our own long and extensive practice at the bar has furnished most of the facts; some, again, are on file in our criminal courts of record; and some, as has already been hinted, have been derived from the confidential revelations of our private office. With the desire that this book shall prove a useful warning and potent monitor to those for whose benefit and instruction it has been designed, and in the earnest hope that, by its influence, some few may be saved from prison, penitentiary, lunatic asylum, or suicides' purgatory, it is now submitted to the intelligent readers of America,
By the public's obedient servants, HOWE & HUMMEL.
CHAPTER I. Ancient and Modern Prisons—Some of the City's Ancient Prisons—How Malefactors were Formerly Housed—Ancient Bridewells and Modern Jails,
CHAPTER II. Criminals and their Haunts—The Past and Present Gangs of the City—How and Where they Herd—Prominent Characters that have passed into History,
CHAPTER III. Street Arabs of Both Sexes—The Pretty Flower and News Girls—The Young Wharf Rats and their eventful Lives—How they all Live, where they Come From, and where they finally Finish their Career,
CHAPTER IV. Store Girls—Their Fascinations, Foibles and Temptations,
CHAPTER V. The Pretty Waiter Girl—Concert Saloons and how they are Managed—How the Pretty Waitresses Live and upon Whom, and how the Unwary are Fleeced and Beguiled—A Midnight Visit to one of the Dives,
CHAPTER VI. Shoplifters—Who they are and how they are made—Their Methods of Operating and upon whom—The Fashionable Kleptomaniac and her Opposite—The Modern Devices of Female Thieves,
CHAPTER VII. Kleptomania—Extraordinary Revelations—A Wealthy Kleptomaniac in the Toils of a Black-mailing Detective,
CHAPTER VIII. Panel Houses and Panel Thieves—The Inmates—The Victims—The Gains—Complete Exposure of the Manner of Operation, and how Unsuspecting Persons are Robbed,
CHAPTER IX. A Theatrical Romance—Kate Fisher, the Famous Mazeppa, involved—Manager Hemmings charged by Fast paced Mrs. Bethune with Larceny,
CHAPTER X. A Mariner's Wooing—Captain Hazard's Gushing Letters—Breakers on a Matrimonial Lee Shore—He is Grounded on Divorce Shoals,
CHAPTER XI. The Baron and "Baroness"—The Romance of Baron Henry Arnous de Reviere, and "The Buckeye Baroness," Helene Stille,
CHAPTER XII. The Demi-monde,
CHAPTER XIII. Passion's Slaves and Victims—A Matter of Untold History—The Terrible Machinery of the Law as a Means of Persecution—Edwin James's Rascality,
CHAPTER XIV. Procuresses and their Victims—Clandestine Meetings at Seemingly Respectable Resorts—The "Introduction House,"
CHAPTER XV. Quacks and Quackery—Specimen Advertisements—The Bait Held Out, and the Fish who are Expected to Bite,
CHAPTER XVI. Abortion and the Abortionists—The Career of Madame Restell—Rosenzweig's Good Luck,
CHAPTER XVII. Divorce—The Chicanery of Divorce Specialists—How Divorce Laws Vary in Certain Slates—Sweeping Amendments Necessary—Illustrative Cases,
CHAPTER XVIII. Black-mail—Who Practice it, How it is Perpetrated, and Upon Whom—The Birds who are Caught, and the Fowlers who Ensnare them—With other Interesting Matters on the same Subject,
CHAPTER XIX. About Detectives—The "Javerts," "Old Sleuths" and "Buckets" of Fiction as Contrasted with the Genuine Article—Popular Notions of Detective Work Altogether Erroneous—An Ex-detective's Views—The Divorce Detective,
CHAPTER XX. Gambling and Gamblers—The Delusions that Control the Devotees of Policy—What the Mathematical Chances are Against the Players—Tricks in French Pools—"Bucking the Tiger"—"Ropers-in"—How Strangers are Victimized,
CHAPTER XXI. Gambling made Easy—The Last Ingenious Scheme to Fool the Police—Flat-houses Turned into Gambling Houses—"Stud-horse Poker" and "Hide the Heart,"
CHAPTER XXII. Slumming—Depravity of Life in Billy McGlory's—A Three-hours' Visit to the Place—Degraded Men and Lost Women who are Nightly in this Criminal Whirlpool,
CHAPTER XXIII. Our Waste Basket—Contemporaneous Records and Memoranda of Interesting Cases, Miss Ruff's Tribulations, Astounding Degradation, Fall of a Youthful, Beautiful and Accomplished Wife, A French Beauty's Troubles, Life on the Boston Boats, An Eighty-year-old "Fence," Shoppers' Perils,
It is to be presumed that the readers of this book will expect a few words on a subject "on which," as Lord Byron somewhere remarks, "all men are supposed to be fluent and none agreeable—self." However much the inclination and, I might add, temptation may run in the direction of fluency and diffuseness in this case, my utterance shall be as brief as possible. I, William F. Howe, founder of the law firm of Howe & Hummel, was born in Shawmut street, in Boston, Mass., on the seventh day of July, 1828. My father was the Rev. Samuel Howe, M. A., a rather well-known and popular Episcopal clergyman at the Hub in those days. Our family removed to England when I was yet very young, and consequently my earliest recollections are of London. I remember going to school, where I speedily developed a genius for mischief and for getting into scrapes. I received a liberal allowance of the floggings then fashionable, and I can recall the hwhish of the implement of torture to this day. We are all young but once, and when memory calls up the lively pitched battles, and the pummelings I got and gave at school, I am young again—only my waist is a good deal more expansive, my step is not so elastic or my sight so clear. I could recall the names of some of those boys with whom I fought in those happy school days, and tell how one now adorns the British bench, how another holds a cabinet portfolio, how another fell bravely fighting in Africa, and how several, striving neither for name or fame,
"Along the cool, sequestered vale of life Pursue the noiseless tenor of their way";
but it would be useless, as would also my experiences at church, listening to my good father's sermons, and falling constantly asleep.
My youthful reminiscences of events which happened, and of which I heard or read in my youth, are mostly chaotic and incongruous; but it is otherwise with the murders. I remember with what thrilling interest I read the story of Greenacre, who cut up the body of his victim, carrying the head wrapped up in a handkerchief, on his knees in the omnibus, and who was supposed to have nearly fainted with fright when, on asking the conductor the fare, received the answer, "Sixpence a head!" Then there was the horrible Daniel Good, the coachman at Roehampton, and the monster Courvoisier, the Swiss valet, who murdered his master, Lord William Russell. These atrocities and the trials at Old Bailey, no doubt, gave my mind the bent for the criminal law, not that I was in any sense conscious of the possession of superior powers. It was merely the selective tendency of a fresh and buoyant mind, rather vigorous than contemplative, and in which the desire for a special field of action is but the symptom of health.
At the age of twenty, I entered King's College, London, with the son of the great American statesman and historian, Edward Everett, and succeeded in graduating with some distinction. Soon after, I entered the office of Mr. George Waugh, a noted barrister. 1 had the good fortune to meet the commendation of Mr. Waugh, and I was consequently placed at the head of his corps of assistants, and frequently appeared in the English courts in place of my employer. My connection with this office lasted about eight years, and then, in pursuance of an intention long prior formed and never relinquished, I returned to the country of my birth. My earliest essays at the American bar have been fairly and impartially told by another pen, and, as the autobiographical form of narrative has its limitations as well as its advantages, the reader will pardon me if in this place I drop the "ego" and quote:
"On arriving here, Mr. Howe entered the office of E. H. Seeley, Esq., one of our oldest legal practitioners. Here he remained one year, studying American law and practice with persistent assiduity, and frequently appearing in our courts, 'by grace,' until he was fully licensed. And it may be here stated that out of a list of over one hundred candidates for admission to the bar only eighteen passed, and in that number was included the young lawyer from London.
"His first case of importance in this city was one of extreme delicacy, being a test question as to whether Col. Walter W. Price, a wealthy brewer, was entitled to the position of Colonel of the First Cavalry Regiment, N. G. S. N. Y., he having received the second highest number of votes. Mr. Howe took the ground that his client was entitled to the office, being a resident of this city, while his competitor, Smith, the founder of the great umbrella house, who had received the largest number of ballots, resided in Brooklyn. This question was argued before the Brigade Court, and, its decision being adverse, Mr. Howe carried the case to the Court of Appeals, where a favorable decision was rendered, and Mr. Price duly installed in the position. This was the young lawyer's first technical victory of note, and it brought him almost at once into considerable prominence.
"He soon after opened an office at the corner of Chambers and Centre streets, devoted his entire time and energy to civil matters, was highly successful, and soon achieved a considerable share of popularity. In 1859, finding himself crowded with business, he removed to his present large suite of offices on the corner of Centre and Leonard streets, which had formerly been occupied by the late Judge Russell, and from that time down to the present he has made criminal matters a specialty.
"Mr. Howe's first appearance in the New York courts as a criminal lawyer was in 1859. A man, by the name of Devine, had been tried and convicted in the Court of Special Sessions on a charge of larceny. He took Devine's case to the General Term of the Supreme Court, contending that the conviction was illegal, inasmuch as the statute provides that three justices should sit, whereas at the trial of Devine but two had attended. Many members of the bar laughed at him, declaring his position untenable. In this he was opposed by Assistant District Attorney, the present Chief Justice, Sedgwick. The Court decided the point well taken and ordered the discharge of the prisoner, Devine.
"In defending a German named Jacob Weiler, indicted for the murder of his wife, by shooting, in 1862, Mr. Howe took the ground that the deceased shot herself, a discharged pistol being found by her side. This case was very thoroughly canvassed by the entire press of the city, and occasioned the greatest excitement among the German population. The trial lasted eight days, and resulted in a disagreement of the jury. At this stage of the proceedings, owing to a misunderstanding (which it would hardly be in good taste to explain at this late day), Mr. Howe withdrew from the defense. Other counsel were substituted, when the case was re-tried, and the prisoner was convicted and sentenced to state prison for life.
"Mr. Howe has tried more capital cases than any six lawyers in America combined. There has not been a murder case of note for the past twenty-five years in which he has not appeared as counsel. The records of the Courts of Oyer and Terminer and General Sessions show that he has tried more than three hundred homicide cases since the year 1860. Mr. Howe, as a specialist in diseases of the brain, is regarded by physicians as the peer of the most eminent alienists in practice."
The circumstances under which Mr. A. H. Hummel became associated with me, first as an office boy, in 1863, at a salary of two dollars per week, and subsequently, in May, 1869, as my partner, have been told more than once in the public press. Mr. Hummel was born in Boston, July 27, 1849; came, with his parents, to this city at an early age; attended Public School No. 15, on East Fifth street, and made my acquaintance on a January morning before he was fourteen years old. I have at hand a newspaper clipping, taken from the Rochester, N. Y., Democrat and Chronicle of March 25, 1877, in which is printed an elaborate notice of the law firm of Howe & Hummel, in which the junior partner is thus characterized:
"Soon after Mr. Howe opened his office, a bright lad, conversant with foreign languages, applied on a cold January morning, in the year 1863, for employment, and was accepted. His duties as office boy were to answer questions, make fires, do errands, and do copying andtranslations. Such was his winning address, his ready tact, his quick perceptions, his prudence and discretion, that he not only performed his duties to perfection but, in his few spare moments, learned law. While he grew but little in stature, he made great progress in his chosen profession. As he had fluent command of the German language—a useful adjunct to the practice of a criminal lawyer in New York—and gave promise of attaining a high rank as an advocate, Mr. Howe made him his partner before he was admitted to the bar. To-day, in stature, he is probably the smallest professional man in America; but size is not 'the standard of the man,' and if Abe's stature were in proportion to his merit he would be a veritable giant indeed."
With this sentiment I most cordially coincide, and at the same time bring these somewhat rambling and discursive reminiscences to an end.
WILLIAM F. HOWE.
ANCIENT AND MODERN PRISONS.
Some of the City's Ancient Prisons—How Malefactors were Formerly Housed—Ancient Bridewells and Modern Jails.
From old Dutch and Knickerbocker records it appears that as far back as the year 1600 there existed a place for the confinement of malefactors in the City of New York. At that early date in its history the town must certainly have been restricted to a half dozen or so of narrow, crooked streets, in the immediate vicinity of what is now known as the Bowling Green. The population did not, probably, number more than a few thousands; but, nevertheless, we find from these same records that, even in that small community, criminals were so numerous and crime so rife that a jail or Bridewell had already been established for the safe-keeping and punishment of evildoers, and a system of citizen-police inaugurated for the preservation of the local peace.
It was not, however, until some years later, 1642, that the "Staat Huys" was built, a municipal building, with a portion of it erected especially for the housing of dangerous criminals. Thus it would seem that for upwards of two centuries crime and criminals have had their haunts in this city, and, it is safe to say, while the more ancient cities of Europe have, unquestionably, originated more felons of every grade, there are few places that can rival New York in the number of actual crimes committed during its comparatively brief existence on the earth's map.
During the earlier history of the embryo city, the nature of the offenses perpetrated on the then small community, and the type of men who boldly executed the crimes, were undoubtedly of the same pattern as those which obtain among us to-day, but with this difference, that with the onward march of Improvement, hand-in-hand with the progress of Science and Civilization, have also grimly stalked fashionably-clothed and modernly-equipped Crime and the scientifically-perfected law-breaker, with his modern and improved methods. Man's villainies, like his other passions, remain the same to-day as when the murderous club of Cain crushed the skull of his brother Abel, and the maiden earth was crimsoned with the first blood that appealed for vengeance. They differ only in the manner of commission, and the commission would appear to be assisted by modern invention and appliances.
To expect large civilized communities dwelling together to be free from crime would be to imagine an elysium on earth, for where poverty exists crime will assuredly be found, and poverty will never be divorced from civilization. It would also appear that, in accordance with the growth and expansion of the young city in other respects, vice and crime kept pace, while youthful depravity early began to trouble the good people then as it worries the same class of persons to-day, for in 1824 we find that a House of Refuge, for the reformation of juvenile delinquents, was built, ostensibly superseding the old "Society for the Prevention of Pauperism." To follow in detail the history of crime in this city, from so early a date, would be of very little service here, but a simple chronicle, referring to the periods at which prisons were found to be necessary, may be briefly touched upon as tending to show how crime increased and criminals multiplied, as the city grew in wealth and population.
The new "Staat Huys," before alluded to, was erected on the corner of Pearl street and Coenties Slip, a locality then considered the most central in the infant town, and as offering the best facilities for securely keeping prisoners. It served its double purposes of jail and city hall until 1698, when it was decided by the authorities to build another—a larger and more commodious structure; while, in the meantime, the old military block-house in the immediate neighborhood of the Governor's residence was conscripted and made use of, additionally to the "Staat Huys," for the accommodation of the constantly-increasing number of culprits.
The new building—City Hall—was erected on Broad street, on the ground now covered by the sub-treasury building, and was finished in 1699, but was not used as a jail until five years subsequent. In the winter of 1704 the sheriff was required to have the city jail prepared for the reception of felons. Crime, however, would appear to have become a monster of terrible mien in those days, far exceeding all the efforts of the authorities to restrict or even to limit the number of malefactors, aside from the apparent impossibility of diminishing them, for again, in 1758, another new jail was found absolutely necessary to the needs of the inhabitants, and was erected on what was then known as "The Fields," now City Hall Park, and where, tradition has it, the prisoners were most barbarously treated. This new place of confinement, together with those previously in use, served their purpose very well until 1775, when the new Bridewell was erected, when all were converted into military prisons during the occupancy of the city by the British. The frightful cruelties that were then practiced upon the patriot soldiers, unfortunate enough to be inmates of those prisons, are too familiar to every one to need mention here.
Shortly after the Revolution, the Penitentiary was established at Bellevue. In 1816, a portion of the almshouse was set apart for the punishment of felons, by the institution of the treadmill. This was on Twenty-sixth street, near First avenue, the present site of Bellevue Hospital, and its part occupancy as a prison somewhat relieved the overcrowded condition of the jail. The city jail still continued in City Hall Park, and was used as a debtors' prison, remaining so until 1832, when it was entirely converted into the Register's Office, the present Hall of Records, and is such to this day. It stands opposite the Staats Zeitung building in old Tryon Row.
The Penitentiary was soon found to be too small for the keeping of the greatly-increased number of prisoners, and so, in 1836, the buildings on Blackwell's Island were constructed, and two years later, again, the Tombs, the sombre, miasmatic, Egyptian edifice on Centre street, was completed; which latter had been in course of construction for some years.
In addition to the prisons previously alluded to, there was begun, in 1796, a state prison, which was erected in the Village of Greenwich, about West Tenth street, near the North River, and which is still in existence to-day (1886), being occupied by, and known as, the Empire Brewery. It was used as a state prison until the completion of the present extensive buildings at Sing Sing, on the Hudson.
Such is, briefly, a history of the establishment of the prisons of this city, but of the unfortunate class of criminals that have, from time to time, occupied them, much remains to be said, and will be found in the succeeding pages.
CRIMINALS AND THEIR HAUNTS.
The Past and Present Gangs of the City—How and Where They Herd—Prominent Characters that Have Passed into History.
New York, from being the largest city on the western hemisphere; in almost hourly communication with every part of the known world; the vast wealth of its merchants; elegant storehouses crowded with the choicest and most costly goods, manufactured fabrics, and every kind of valuable representing money; with its great banks, whose vaults and safes contain more bullion than could be transported by the largest ship afloat; its colossal establishments teeming with diamonds, jewelry and precious stones gathered from all parts of the known and uncivilized portions of the globe; with all this countless wealth, these boundless riches, in some cases insecurely guarded, in all temptingly displayed, is it any wonder, then, that this city should always have proved the paradise of thieves? The fact of its being the chief city of the New World, alone caused it to be the principal magnet of attraction for all the expert criminals of the Old World, in addition to those who were "to the manner born."
What trouble they proved to the police of some years ago, and the frequency with which crimes of every kind were committed, is best evidenced by referring to the records of that time, when jails and prisons were crowded and courts and judges were kept busy trying offenders against the laws, while the entire police and detective force was unable and inadequate to successfully reduce the occurrence of the one or diminish the number of the other. It was at that time appropriately styled the "Thieves' Paradise," for even after some daring and expert felon had been captured by the authorities and securely lodged in jail, the meshes of the law, as it then existed, were so large, and the manner of administering justice (?) so loose, that the higher class of criminal, possessed of political influence, or, better still, of money, invariably escaped the punishment his crime deserved. The very police themselves were, in many cases, in league with the thieves and shared in the "swag" of the successful burglar, expert counterfeiter, adroit pickpocket, villainous sneak and panel thief, or daring and accomplished forger; hence crime, from being in a measure "protected," increased, criminals multiplied and prisons were made necessarily larger.
But this was years ago, and under a far different police system than that now in vogue, the merits and efficacy of which it will be both a duty and a pleasure hereafter to fully mention. The collusion between the police and the criminals, at the times of which we speak, became a very serious matter, in which the public early began to exhibit its temper. So late as the year 1850 it was an anxious question whether the authorities or the lawless classes should secure the upper hand and possess the city, and this condition of affairs, this triangular strife of supposed law and order on one side, protection to law-breakers on the other, and the protests of an indignant, outraged and long-suffering people on the third, prevailed until the year that Bill Poole was murdered by Lew Baker on Broadway, which notable event marked an epoch in the city's history, and to some extent improved the then existing state of affairs, as it occasioned the dispersal of a notorious gang of swell roughs, whose power was felt in local politics, and directed the attention of every lover of peace and justice to the enactment of better laws and a sterner method of executing them.
About the year 1855, two classes of "toughs," or, as they were dubbed in those days, "rowdies," appear to have had and maintained some control of the city, overawing the regularly constituted authorities, intimidating the police by their numbers, and carrying things with a high hand generally. One class consisted of the individuals comprehended in the title of "Bowery Boy"—a term which included that certain, or rather uncertain, element of New Yorker residing in the streets running into the Bowery and adjacent to it, below Canal street, and the other, a rival gang, called "Dead Rabbits," which unsavory distinction was adopted by an equally questionable portion of humanity dwelling in the Fourth and Sixth wards and streets in the vicinity of Catherine and Roosevelt. There were among these two gangs of the city's representative "toughs," materials of a far different kind from the actual felon, but who were none the less dangerous, and among them may be classed many leaders of ward politics and volunteer fire companies, and from which Lew Baker and his victim, Bill Poole, "The Paudeen," "Reddy, the Blacksmith," and numerous others were afterwards developed; but they were oftener far more guilty than the real criminals, for they aided and abetted, and in cases of arrest befriended them, causing their subsequent escape from the penalties justly due for their crimes.
As a type of the veritable "Bowery Boy" may be taken the leader of that gang of notorious "toughs," one who, from his well-earned reputation as a bar-room and street rough-and-tumble fighter, has become a historical personage, under the sobriquet of "Mose." His faithful lieutenant, "Syksey," of "hold de butt" fame, will not soon be forgotten either, as both figured prominently in the terrible pitched battles the two rival gangs frequently indulged in, to the terror and consternation of all New York. Of the rival mob, known as "Dead Rabbits," Kit Burns, Tommy Hedden and "Shang" Allen are names long to be remembered by the terror-stricken citizens who lived in the days when the fights between these notorious aspirants for pugilistic and bloody honors were often of the deadliest and most sanguinary character, lasting for days at a time; when entire streets were blockaded and barricaded, and the mobs were armed with pistols and rifles. Even cannons were sometimes used, and the police, even when aided by the military, were powerless to suppress these battles until many were killed and wounded on both sides. In these desperate conflicts it was no unusual sight to see women, side by side with men, fighting as valiantly as their husbands, sons or fathers, and the records of the courts and prisons of those days tell dreadful stories of murders, robberies and other crimes done under cover of these periodical street fights.
At this time the locality known as the "Five Points" was probably the worst spot on the face of the civilized globe. In and around it centered, perhaps, the most villainous and desperate set of savage human beings ever known to the criminal annals of a great city. To pass through it in daylight was attended by considerable danger, even when accompanied by several officers of the law. Woe to the unfortunate individual who chanced to stray into this neighborhood after dark. A knock on the head, a quick rifling of pockets, a stab if the victim breathed, a push down some dark cellar, were frequently the skeleton outlines of many a dreadful tragedy, of which the victim was never afterwards heard. The name "Five Points," was given to that particular spot formed by the junction or crossing of Worth, Baxter and Park streets, but nearly embraced all the neighborhood comprised in the locality bounded by Centre, Chatham, Pearl and Canal streets in the Sixth ward, and was frequently afterwards mentioned as the "Bloody Sixth," from the many daily conflicts eventuating there.
The "Five Points," from being the hiding-place and residence of the most bloodthirsty set of criminals, vagabonds and cut-throats, has, through the influence of the Five Points Mission House and the gradual encroachments of business houses, become quite respectable, and while now sheltering a large number of the foreign element, has ceased, to a great extent, to longer excite terror in the community. Still, it has not entirely lost its former well-merited title of "Thieves' Nest." It is comparatively a safe thoroughfare in daylight, and after dark, if one is on constant guard, he may safely pass unharmed.
In the Fourth ward, just beyond the locality written about, was another terrible rendezvous for an equally desperate set of men. It was known as Slaughter-house Point, and a criminal here was, for a time, safe from the police, as its many intricate streets and tumble-down houses offered a safe hiding-place for every kind of outlaw, even up to very recent years. Here the terrible garroter dwelt for a long time; aye, and throve, too, until our criminal judges began sentencing every one of them convicted before them to the extreme penalty of twenty years in Sing Sing, which largely suppressed that class of criminals in this city.
The methods of the garroter were quick, sure and silent. At Slaughter-house Point and its environs many a returned East India sea captain, whose vessel was moored to one of the docks at the foot of a contiguous street, has either strayed or been beguiled into this neighborhood, drugged and robbed. Others, whose business or chance brought them within the reach of this set of desperadoes, have fared similarly. Sad has been the fate of many an individual unfortunately falling into the clutches of these murderous villains. A stealthy step, an arm thrown under the chin of the unsuspecting victim, a bear-like clasp, and total unconsciousness. To rifle the pockets of the unlucky man—sometimes stripping him and throwing him off the dock—and escape into one of the many dark and dismal passages abounding in the neighborhood, was but a few minutes' work, and nothing remained to tell how the drama, perhaps tragedy, was enacted.
Another class of dangerous criminals haunted the precincts of Water and Cherry streets, and that immediate locality. They were all frequenters of the well-known establishments presided over by such eminent lights of the profession as Kit Burns, Jerry McAuley, Johnny Allen, etc., but all three of whom afterwards forswore their evil ways and died in the odor of piety.
These various gangs inhabiting the portions of the city already indicated were eventually succeeded by others in widely separated localities. The succeeding gangs were quite as numerous, but not quite as ferocious or formidable, so far as numbers were concerned, but more dangerous and daring individually; for while the former type lived in communities by themselves, and dwelt in certain well-known streets and houses, using their bloodthirsty propensities occasionally against themselves in their street fights, the latter at all times waged an indiscriminate and perpetual war on the respectable element of society. To the latter and more modern gangs, which were really worse, so far as the higher classes of crimes were concerned, belonged such men as "Reddy, the Blacksmith," "Dutch Heinrich." Chauncey Johnson, "Johnny, the Mick," and their favorite places were "Murderers' Row," and other notorious localities on Broadway, Houston, Crosby and adjacent streets.
The war did much to bring these latter into prominence. They made money when money was in the hands of every one, when bounty-jumpers were as thick as berries on the bushes, and the leading streets of the city were a blaze of light at night, from the myriads of colored lamps displayed by the pretty waiter-girl saloons and other notorious and questionable dives. When the war ceased these and kindred gangs of "toughs" were again superseded by those at present to be found in various parts of the metropolis, but which, thanks to an excellent system of police, are all or nearly all under complete espionage of the local authorities.
It now becomes our duty, as faithful chroniclers, to point out the localities at present occupied by that class of the population, and tell the secret of their lives and how they exist. The region which most engrosses the attention of the police is that conspicuously known as "Mackerelville," which for some years past has borne rather an unsavory reputation. While there are many deserving and worthy persons dwelling in the locality, quite a different type of humanity also makes its home there. The neighborhood in question is comprised in Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth streets, and First avenue, and Avenues A, B and C. It harbors a wild gang of lawbreakers, ready and willing to commit any kind of lawless act, in which the chances of escape are many and detection slight. Notwithstanding the decimation of its ranks by frequent and well-deserved trips to the penitentiary of its members, for every crime from murder down, it appears to survive, to the terror of the respectable poor living in the neighborhood and the constant dread of the police officer. It is a locality and a gang much dreaded at night, but not nearly so much now as formerly, for when a member commits a crime of any importance now he is invariably ferreted out, arrested and punished.
The Tenth Avenue gang is a chance affair, owing its existence to the successful and bold express robbery occurring some years ago, but which is still fresh in the minds of most people from the skillful manner in which it was executed, and from the number of prominent rascals participating in it. The robbery referred to, at the time of its occurrence, was current talk, and continued a subject of conversation for many weeks afterwards. A number of ingenious, daring and highly-cultured train robbers, under the leadership of the notorious Ike Marsh, among whom was one who has since attained celebrity as an actor, boarded a train on the Hudson River Railroad, near Spuyten Duyvil, the spot immortalized by Washington Irving, and, entering the express car, bound and gagged the messenger in charge, threw the safe off and jumped after it. The iron box contained a large amount of greenbacks and government bonds, which the thieves succeeded in appropriating. Some of these daring robbers were subsequently arrested and lodged in the White Plains jail, but on the day set for the trial, the sheriff discovered that his prisoners of the night before, whom he imagined quite secure, had left, without waiting to say good-bye. Some friends and confederates came to their assistance, released them and drove them down to the city, from whence they finally reached our sister Kingdom, recently made famous as the abode of the fashionable defaulter.
The successful perpetration of this bold robbery suggested to a number of idle men the idea of robbing the freight cars as they remained apparently unguarded on the tracks in the vicinity of the West Thirtieth street station, and led to the formation of the notorious Tenth Avenue gang. The cars arriving from the west and other points loaded with valuable goods and merchandise, offered facilities of a most tempting kind to the members of this gang, and large quantities nightly disappeared until, week after week, the goods stolen aggregated thousands of dollars loss to the railroad company. The proximity of the river aided the operations of this gang very materially, for much of the goods were spirited away with the assistance of the river thieves and their boats, both sets of thieves acting, of course, in collusion.
It is a very difficult thing to map out just the precise localities where criminals reside now, owing, in a great measure, to the efficiency of the present police, who keep evil-doers under constant surveillance, preventing them remaining long in any one place. Of course, such streets as are contained in wards of the city where the poorest people dwell will invariably have their quota of questionable characters; but the days when gangs of roughs, "toughs" or thieves can flourish in one particular section, it is to be hoped, are matters of the past.
It is a matter of surprise to other nations, and of congratulation to ourselves, that at the present such crimes against persons and property as burglary, pocket-picking and highway robbery are much rarer in proportion than in any other cosmopolitan city in the world.
STREET ARABS OF BOTH SEXES.
The Pretty Flower and News Girls—The Young Wharf Rats and their Eventful Lives—How they all Live, where they Come From, and where they finally Finish their Career.
To the wealthy resident of Fifth avenue and other noted fashionable thoroughfares, the incidents of actual every-day life that are here revealed will read like a revelation. To the merchant and the business man they may probably read like romance. To the thrifty mechanic, however, who occupies a vastly different social sphere, who hurries to his work in the morning, and with equal haste seeks to reach his home at night, this chapter may, perhaps, cause a tear to glisten in his manly eye when the facts, here written for the first time, meet his gaze, and, may be, are associated with some young male or female relation or friend who has "gone wrong." But to the officers of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and other kindred useful societies, newspaper men, the police, and others whose daily vocations happen to keep them out late o' nights, the truths here unfolded are of too frequent occurrence and are too familiar sights to need any other corroborative evidence than is supplied by their own experience and the exercise of their own observation.
Youthful vice and depravity, of all grades, is, unfortunately, the natural result of that civilization which finds its outgrowth in large and necessarily closely-packed communities. Where ground is dear, poor people must seek rooms in dwellings where the rent is cheap, and these dwellings are, for the most part, erected in cheap neighborhoods—and cheap neighborhoods mean questionable companionships and associations, and bad associations beget a familiarity with immorality of all kinds. No one can question the truth of this. For instance, the honest and industrious mechanic, receiving fair wages for his work, must hire lodgings or rooms in some tenement; he goes to work during the day, leaving his wife, if he happens to have one, at home to perform those hard household duties which fall to the lot of her class; the children—and there are generally several, for one of the chief luxuries within the reach of the poor is children—are allowed to take care of themselves as best they can between times; they naturally go to the streets to play; they have no gardens, with shady graveled walks running between beds of bright flowers; no nursery, no governesses, no nurses with French caps, and, shame be it said, hardly any public parks; there are not even trees in this great city to cast a shade for these little creatures in summer nor to help break the force of the wind in winter—but they play in the streets just the same, and are under no restraint whatever, and therein lies their temptation. What wonder that they afterwards people the gilded palaces of vice "up-town," or fill the prisons of the city and state?
They may be approached by any one, and they are led away by many. Sometimes the ever-watchful and lynx-eyed Chinaman singles out some pretty little girl, on the pretense that he has some curious things to show her in his laundry. Sometimes an old, eminently respectable gentleman (?) has a package of candy for the little girls. Sometimes, again, bright-eyed young girls are attracted, like butterflies to bright flowers, to the gaudy signs of the Bowery museums. Sometimes there are other inducements, in the way of store windows, or a chance acquaintance (and they are always around, too, these obliging acquaintances), and the purchase of some trinkets, then a hotel, a room, and our little friend has eaten of the apple. But this is premature.
The unconstrained freedom of the street, therefore, is undoubtedly one great source of danger to the young but there are many others which, in varying degrees, conspire to ensnare and corrupt them. So that the wonder is that so many escape rather than that so many are contaminated.
The manner in which poor people—the very poor—live in this city is, of itself, fearfully demoralizing in its effects upon their children. Oftener than otherwise, a family, in some cases six or seven in number, will occupy but two rooms; one, a kitchen, the other, a sleeping apartment. In the latter room are sometimes the father, mother, one or two daughters, say ten, twelve or fifteen years of age, and as many sons, younger or older, as the case may be. Just think of it! think of the tender age at which these children are familiarized with what should be as a sealed book. Think of—what frequently happens—a drunken father reeling to the marriage bed in such a room! Think of brothers and sisters of such ages lying side by side, and think of the mistakes that might occur when—which is possible—the whole family may have taken liquor and the floor is one common bed. There are hundreds of families living in this big, charitable city in this degrading manner. Is it any surprise that children here are bad and criminally vicious at five years of age and upwards?
It not infrequently happens that the parents of families so circumstanced are sent to the "Island," in which case the children are then, indeed, upon the streets. Yet they are so precocious and resourceful that they generally are able to take care of themselves, and so become flower girls, news girls, wharf rats, etc.
There are yet other causes which go to affect the lives of the children of the poor. It sometimes happens that the happy and virtuous home of a comparatively well-to-do mechanic is broken up by unforeseen circumstances, against which no provident provision, except a life insurance policy, could guard. The head of the family meets with some serious accident, incapacitating him for labor, and straightway, instead of being the breadwinner and family support, he becomes a care and a burden. The poor wife is thrown upon her resources, and she naturally invokes the assistance of her children in the desperate endeavor of maintaining a roof over their heads. In this way the ranks of the flower and news girls are frequently recruited.
Through the cursed effects of drink, the heads of many families are frequently sent to the "Island" for from ten days to six months, and when the sheltering arms of some beneficent society, or the kindly offices of some good Samaritan, are not directed to the forlorn and destitute condition of the children, the unfortunate young creatures are forced upon the streets to beg, steal, sell papers, flowers, etc., and also visit the offices of bankers and brokers, doing anything, in short, to get the means to live. They live in the streets, sleep in hallways, alleyways, anywhere, a prey to the first evil-disposed man that meets them. It is a common sight to see children on the streets in all parts of the metropolis—boys and girls—aged from five to fifteen years, selling papers, shoplifting, stealing, and,—worse. Have they parents? Who knows, who inquires, who cares? Some of them are very pretty girls, too. All the worse for them.
The same causes which conspire to throw girls upon their own resources to gain a livelihood, operate with the brothers; but the latter are more fertile in means of accomplishing that end. Girls can only sell papers, flowers or themselves, but boys can black boots, sell papers, run errands, carry bundles, sweep out saloons, steal what is left around loose everywhere, and gradually perfect themselves for a more advanced stage and higher grade of crimes, finally developing into fully-fledged and first-class criminals.
So much for the causes which help to create this class of street Arabs, whom it is almost a labor of supererogation to describe, especially to those who daily hear the familiar cries, "Telegram!" "News!" "Telegram!" "New-es!" "Mail 'n' Express!" uttered chiefly by young girls, all over the town. Pretty girls they are, too, many of them, with large, lustrous eyes, long, well-oiled hair, nice shoes upon their feet, short dresses, disclosing evidences of graceful forms, ruddy complexions, and armed with many winsome little actions calculated to conciliate patronage. They are to be seen on Park Row, the Bowery, Chatham street, around the post-office, hotels, elevated railroad stations, the ferries leading to Brooklyn, Jersey City and Staten Island—everywhere, in fact, where there is a chance of disposing of the afternoon newspaper.
The larger number of these little girls emerge from their hiding-places about eleven o'clock in the morning. Their hiding-places may have been a hotel, an assignation house, their parents' homes, some hallway, the News Girls' Lodging House, resorts in North William, Bayard, Hester, New Bowery, or any other street in which cheap rooms can be obtained. It is not to be presumed that all news-girls are bad; on the contrary, many are very good, respectable little things, but a few only remain so, for their associations are bad, and many men who purchase papers from them are constantly tempting them, so that it is very difficult for any of them to remain good for any length of time.
Be that as it may, however, the news girl in this case arrives down-town about noon. She strolls down among the brokers and bankers, and in many cases is winked at, conversed with and asked to visit different offices, which invitation is generally accepted, for a little money is to be made by the call, with which the afternoon papers are purchased. Sometimes the selling of papers is merely a pretext under which a better opportunity is afforded of conversing with men. The papers are hawked in saloons, upon the streets, in cars, and other places. If any one should chance to buy a paper and offers a nickel, the girl invariably has no change; when the purchaser, nine times out of ten, tells her to keep the change. They are extremely shrewd, smart, intelligent and wide awake.
Their papers all sold, about nine or ten o'clock at night they saunter up Chatham street, the Bowery and other thoroughfares; or, if it is the summer season, they will be found in the City Hall park, playing, sitting on the benches, or accosting passing pedestrians. The Battery, too, has its frequenters, and the piers and docks at night are crowded with them. This life they pursue until they engage regularly in a life of shame, by becoming regular boarders in some one of the many dives in the cellars of Chatham street, the houses of prostitution in Forsyth, Hester, Canal, Bayard and other streets. Or, again, they may be found in the various pretty-waiter-girl saloons of the Bowery, or such notorious resorts as Hilly McGlory's, Owney Geoghegan's, and so on. The public parks, however, are favorite places, and they may be found even in Union Square and Madison Square, and sometimes in Central Park. They enjoy themselves, too, for they are often seen on picnics in summer and at balls during the winter. They have their favorites among the opposite sex, too, just as have more favored and aristocratic females. For the love of one of these little girls—Mary Maguire—a member of the notorious Mackerelville gang met a tragic end, at the hands of a jealous rival in City Hall park, by being stabbed to death. Little Mary was only fourteen years of age. She was afterwards sent to the House of the Good Shepherd.
Newsboys are largely responsible for leading girls of this class into the tempting paths of vice. In purchasing their papers at the newspaper offices, generally in cellars, they are subjected to many indignities and familiarities, which, at first resented, are gradually accepted as a matter of course. Once the descent is begun, the journey is completed by outsiders, until the girls become corrupt and unscrupulous, with a knowledge of the ways of the world that would surprise many a matronly head.
In many cases, girls of five and six years are sent out as decoys by the larger ones to "rope in" customers; for detectives and agents of the various societies, on the lookout for depraved girls, teach those young Messalinas caution. When one of these smaller girls has secured a customer she pilots the way to the place where the larger ones are to be found. In one instance this was a cellar, under ground, not fifty feet from the corner of Chatham and William streets; outwardly an oyster saloon, but a door opened in a wooden partition, through which one entered another room, and in which, at one time, there were actually no less than nine small girls, ranging in age from ten to sixteen years.
There are a few places where these girls resort in the day-time and remain all day, and where they are visited by regular frequenters of the houses. Here, also, may be found those young girls who, leaving home in the morning and telling their parents they are going to work, remain all day; returning home again in the evening with, perhaps, a couple of dollars in their pockets, and at the end of the week hand their parents what the old people innocently suppose is the week's wages of their daughters, honestly obtained.
There are old-time procuresses, who, having once been news-girls themselves, know just how to proceed to capture recruits for Hester street boarding-houses, and they obtain them, too, from the ranks mentioned. Parents that drive their children in the streets to get money, and beat them if they fail to fetch it home, are generally sure to either make prostitutes of their little ones or have them run away entirely, particularly when a tempting offer is made them by male or female. There are thousands of men in this city, as well as there are in London, who employ procuresses, whose efforts and operations, unfortunately, are not confined to news-girls, but include the pretty daughters of well-to-do mechanics and trades people.
Many of these girls become closely identified with the lives of Chinamen, and it is astonishing how fond some of these girls become of their almond-eyed protectors.
Should any observant individual pass through Elizabeth, Bleecker, Canal, Hester, Bayard, Dover, Pell, Mott, Baxter, Rose, Chambers streets, and the other localities mentioned, at night, he will see what becomes of the pretty news-girls. But there are instances in which they have obtained work in various factories and wholesale houses and remained respectable.
Thus far, the news-girl. Of the pretty flower girl—she with the engaging manner, and interesting face above a tray of flowers—not much remains to be said, for she has almost become an institution of the past. Thrown upon her own resources, from like causes affecting others of her sex, she was once to be met with in the lobby of every theatre in town, every resort where gentlemen were supposed to frequent, club-houses, drinking saloons, omnibuses, cars, and the streets. Even houses of ill fame found her gently and firmly looking for trade. Wherever there was a chance to intercept a gentleman, there was she, and her importunities to purchase were redoubled when a lady accompanied a gentleman. They did a thriving business in the pretty-waiter-girl saloons, for men could hardly escape them, and nearly all bought bouquets for their favorites in those places.
It is safe to say that very few of the flower girls were virtuous. They remained out until all hours of the night and plied a double trade, selling both their flowers and themselves. There was one well-known house in Thirteenth street which these little girls made a headquarters. It was between Broadway and University place. The proprietress had no other "ladies" but flower girls, as she found them more profitable, charged them higher prices for accommodations, whether by the day or week, and as but few places would assume the risk of harboring the waifs, they were compelled to pay her extortionate rates.
Some time since a man could hardly pass along Fourteenth street or Union Square, at night, without his being accosted by one of these girls, who, instead of asking him to purchase flowers, would invariably remark, "Give me a penny, mister?" by which term, afterwards, all these girls of loose character were known to ply their trade. Many of these girls were so exceedingly handsome as to be taken by gentlemen of means and well cared for, and one instance is known where a flower girl married a very wealthy man of middle age.
As a class, they were excessively immoral. They purchased their flowers, out and out, from the florists and made handsome profits, amounting to as much as two and three dollars a night when the weather was fine; but their habits and immoralities became so patent that the societies put a stop to their selling, by sending some to the House of the Good Shepherd, and arresting others for soliciting and other unlawful acts; so that to-day it is very much to be doubted if there are more than half a dozen in the city.
"Wharf rats," street gamins, Arabs, and other euphonious terms are applied to that class of boys, who, having no homes, make one for themselves in the streets. They black boots—some of them—in the day-time, sell newspapers in the afternoons, lie in wait for incoming travelers from the trains to carry satchels, etc., and make a little money from all sources to supply themselves with food and raiment. The balance, if any is left, they spend in going to the gallery of some theatre, visiting some museum, or adjourning to their favorite haunt— which frequently is a low beer-dive in some obscure street, play pool or cards or dice for drinks, and otherwise contrive to kill time, until their "business" of the next day begins.
It used to be a familiar sight to see the saloons of Baxter, Mott and Mulberry streets filled with these boys. It was only a few years ago that they had their own theatre, yclept "The Grand Duke's Theatre," at 21 Baxter street, in the cellar under a stale beer dive, where really clever performances were given of an imitative character, by a company of boys; and which, by the way, was the only theatre which for years defied the efforts of the authorities to collect the license. The admission fee was ten cents, and curiosity seekers came from all parts of the city to witness the really laughable and, in many cases, meritorious character-sketches given within its damp walls. It was subsequently broken up by the police.
Boys and girls appear to be alike in one respect—the streets of the city are full of them at all hours of the day and night. The water, however, would appear to act like a magnet upon the needle, having peculiar attractions for them at all times, and to which vicinity, at night in summer, they naturally gravitate. On the piers which jut out into the rivers on all sides of the city, any one can see troupes of gamins every warm, pleasant day. Some are fishing, others are pitching pennies, others, again, playing various apparently harmless games, but all with eyes for the main chance—an opportunity to steal anything come-at-able. To the policeman who, from curiosity or to get a sniff of sea breeze, chances to stroll upon the pier, he finds them all engaged as described. Ships are unloading cargoes of assorted merchandise, which is being placed upon the dock. Bags of coffee are in one place, chests of tea in another, hogsheads of molasses and sugar, and various other kinds of goods are distributed all over the place. Some boys are playing "tag," and they run around and over the bags of coffee, behind the hogsheads of sugar, ostensibly in play, but all the while keeping a sharp eye on the watchmen, police and people employed there. A favorable chance occurring, a boy drops behind one of the bags of coffee and quickly and expeditiously rips it open with a sharp knife and bounds away. The coffee thus loosened freely discharges itself upon the dock in a little heap. In like manner a knot in the wood forming a head in a barrel of sugar is knocked out, leaving a round hole, into which the Arab thrusts a long, thin stick and, dexterously withdrawing it, contrives to pull out considerable sugar. The bung of a molasses barrel is burst in, a stick inserted, which, when pulled out, has some of the contents thickly adhering to it. Thus much accomplished, every boy provides himself with an old tomato or other can, and it would surprise anyone not familiar with these things, to see how rapidly and ingeniously these dock rats will fill those cans to overflowing with all kinds of goods, from the openings thus made in the vessel containing them.
These same tactics are employed by the street gamins in front of those grocery stores where barrels, boxes and cases are placed upon the sidewalk, and it is almost an impossibility for any one but the sharpest to catch them thus stealing, so clever and adroit are they. One of their very neat tricks is for a boy to place himself in view of the proprietor of a store, who, knowing the youth is after some of the goods outside, keeps a sharp eye on him. Suddenly, the boy makes a dash for some oranges and flies up the street, the proprietor in full chase. At the distance of, perhaps, half a block, the boy stops, allowing himself to be caught, when the irate shopkeeper roughly clutches him and, looking for the oranges stolen, is considerably chopfallen to find the boy has taken nothing. Upon being asked why he run away, the boy says he "thought he saw his brother and ran after him to speak to him." It seems plain enough, and the grocery man returns to find that, in his absence, twenty boys have plenteously helped themselves to everything within reach. It is now too late to re-catch the boy that he first ran after. It is a piece of strategic cleverness that rarely fails to succeed; and if any one underrates the finesse of the street Arabs of New York, he will stand a very good chance some day of being a sufferer from them.
The operations of these embryo professionals are not confined to any one kind of theft. They are adepts in all the ways of petty thieving. Sometimes, a drunken sailor or 'longshoreman will stagger out of a saloon and, unsteadily navigating along, will fall, or seat himself on a door-step and, either falling asleep or into a semi-conscious condition, will be surrounded by a gang of these playful boys, while one, the leader, probably, will sneak up to the unlucky man and relieve him of all he has about him, when they will scamper off.
These boys are often taken in hand by professional burglars, who use them to keep watch, posting one of them as a sentry, perhaps employing another to squeeze through some small aperture and open the doors of the place to be burglarized, for the fact of their whole lives being passed upon the streets their education is of that character which tends to make them quick, bright, smart and skillful in all things, and, when added to natural gifts of intelligence, render them very dangerous as thieves or thieves' assistants. Readers of Charles Dickens will recall, in this connection, the use to which burglar Bill Sykes applied little Oliver Twist.
Many of these gamins have houses under the docks. The floor is laid just above high-water mark. It is boarded in on all sides with lumber stolen, day by day, from adjoining yards. Here they pass their leisure time in comparative safety and quiet, and considerable comfort, as the whole gang contribute to furnishing up the club-rooms. Stoves, chairs, tables, benches, and other evidences of taste, are to be found there, and an occasional cheap picture, circus bill or flash theatrical poster ornaments the sides of this not uncomfortable place. Here the members play cards, dice and other games, drink beer, smoke and otherwise enjoy themselves. These houses sometimes exist for years unknown to the police, and many a boy, detected in the commission of some petty theft, has run along the pier, pursued by the policeman, when, suddenly scrambling over the pier, he has disappeared, leaving the wondering officer to guess what had become of him.
In some portions of the town, garrets are made use of as club-rooms and places of rendezvous, and are exceedingly well arranged. These places are used as storehouses, too, for the safe-keeping of stolen articles of all kinds.
An instance of the daring and ingenuity of these "wharf rats," as well as an illustration of some of their methods, is furnished in the following: Procuring a boat—loaned frequently with the owner's knowledge of what it is to be used for—these boys will row, with muffled oars, under some dock having valuable goods upon it. The only sound that disturbs the silence of the night is the dull splash, splash and swish of the waters against the dock or some vessel moored there. Everything is quiet, while the night watchman slowly paces along his narrow beat, at the one end of which are the dancing, moonlit waters and at the other the sleeping city. A favorable chance offering, the heads of the boys appear above the string-piece, and a bag or sack is hurriedly lowered into the boat. Other goods follow until, sufficient having been taken, the boat moves off as silently as it appeared. Sometimes, a boat is rowed under the pier where barrels of whisky or other spirits lie, and, by inserting an auger between the planks of the dock, a hole is bored in the barrel, when the liquor which escapes is guided into a barrel. In this way many goods are stolen right under the noses, apparently, of the watchmen and guardians.
Sometimes these wharf rats are captured in the act, when fierce fights ensue. They know there is no escaping punishment, and they fight desperately. Having no homes or parents there is no escape for them, for, even if not convicted of the theft, they must go to the House of Refuge.
After all, but little blame can be attached to these unfortunate boys and girls, for they are just precisely what their associations have made them. They learn to swear, smoke, chew, steal, before they can walk, and grow up to be what they are. The House of Refuge only serves to confirm them in their viciousness and evil propensities by herding them with other criminals; so that, by the time they are released they are ready and willing to take greater chances in securing larger results, when the end invariably is the State prison—probably for life.
Their Fascinations, Foibles and Temptations.
Since the time when Mary Rogers, the beautiful cigar girl of Broadway, met her sad fate over in Hoboken, the pretty shop girls of New York have contributed more than their full quota to the city's contemporaneous history. They have figured in connection with many of its social romances and domestic infelicities, as well as with its scandals and its crimes—secret and revealed. In Gotham's grave and gay aspects—in its comedy, its tragedy, and its melo-drama, we are perpetually running across the charming face, graceful form, and easy, gay demeanor of the pretty shop girl.
As a rule, the temptress of the store is pretty—frequently quite beautiful, and almost invariably handsomer than those fortunate daughters of Mammon whom she is called upon to serve, and who often treat her with such top-lofty hauteur. And how stylish she frequently is, and how difficult it is to describe this incommunicable quality of style, which those artful setters of baits—the dealers in ready-made fabrics—understand so well! Who has not noticed how the tall, slender-framed girls, with their graceful movements and flexible spines, their long, smooth throats and curved waists, are drafted off to stand as veritable decoy-ducks? Who has not observed the grace and ease with which they wear risky patterns and unusual facons, and so delude the arrogant but ungraceful customer into buying, in the belief that she will look just as well as the pretty model? The average well-to-do woman, with some pretensions to good looks, sees a beautiful young creature with Junoesque air parading before her in bold color-combinations and doubtful harmonies, and she imagines she can venture the same thing with like effect. But alas! what a travesty the experiment frequently is!
Many of the New Yorkers who read this page will recall the Original Dollar Store on Broadway and its fascinating young salesladies. Some of these were perfect sirens with their loveliness of feature and delicacy of color; their luxuriant hair, made amenable to the discipline of the prevailing fashion; the gown stylish and perfect, and frequently not at all reticent in its revelations of form; the countenance calm, watchful and intelligent—frequently mischievous; the walk something akin to the serene consciousness of power which we are told that Phryne exemplified before her judges, and accompanied with that grace which is the birthright of beauty in every age and under any circumstances.
For many reasons the tone of morality, in some instances, among store girls in this city is not high. A variety of obvious causes contribute to this result, among which may be mentioned their generally poor salaries: their natural levity, and the example of their companions; their love of dress and display, coupled with a natural desire for masculine attentions; long hours in close, impure air; sensational literature; frequent absence of healthy or adequate home influence; and the many temptations which beset an attractive girl in such a position.
Many of them enter stores as mere children in the capacity of cash girls. They are the children of poor parents, and as they grow up to young maidenhood, they acquire a sort of superficial polish in the store, and are brightened without being educated. Some grow up and take their places as full-blown salesladies, and begin to sigh for the gayety of the streets, for freedom from restraint, and for amusements that are not within their reach. Naturally au fait in style, with taste and clever fingers, they dress in an attractive manner, with the hope of beguiling the ideal hero they have constructed from the pages of the trashy story paper. It is a sort of voluntary species of sacrifice on their part—a kind of suicidal decking with flowers, and making preparation for immolation. Full of pernicious sentimentality, they are open to the first promising flirtation. They see elegantly-dressed and diamonded ladies, and their imagination is fed from the fountains of vulgar literature until they dream that they, too, are destined to be won by some splendid cavalier of fabulous wealth. Learning from the wishy-washy literature that their face is their fortune, and so, reading what happened to others, and how perfectly lovely and romantic it all was, they are ready for the wiles of the first gay deceiver. Waiting in vain for their god-like ideal, they are finally content to look a little lower, and favorably receive the immodest addresses of some clerk in their own store, or succeed in making a street "mash."
Sometimes the pretty girl rushes impetuously into marriage, repents and separates from her husband. She is still good looking, and her marital experience has given her an air of easy assurance, and she readily finds employment as a saleslady. Her influence afterwards, among girls comparatively innocent and without her experience, cannot but be pernicious, and at the same time must exert a certain formative and shaping process in determing the peculiar character of the whole class of girls in the store.
Very frequently she does not attain even to the questionable dignity of a marriage ceremony. Flattered by the attentions of some swell, the pretty shop girl will be induced to accompany him to the theatre and to supper in a concert saloon. Her vanity is kindled by his appearance. She rejoices in the style of his clothes, in the magnificence of his jewelry, and she thinks her mission in life is to walk beside the splendid swell, amid rose gardens, theatres and supper rooms, for the remainder of her life. Finally she yields to his soft solicitations, and her prospects are forever blighted. She becomes an incorrigible flirt, meets her "fellows" on the corner of the street near the store, spends a certain number of evenings and nights with them at hotels where no course of catechism takes place at the clerk's desk. She goes to Coney Island or local beer gardens on Sundays, manifesting a vivid animal pleasure in her enjoyment, with little manifestation of gratitude towards her escort who is supplying the money.
Sometimes, again, an exceptionally pretty girl will fall a victim to the proprietor, the manager or some of the superintendents of the store; and there have been cases of this kind heard in the courts, in one of which the proprietor not only seduced the girl, but married her, afterwards obtaining a divorce because of her incontinence. Sometimes the lapse of these girls from the paths of virtue is accompanied with exceptional hardships. The young lady is beautiful as well as good perhaps, and the pride of her idolizing parents, who have taught her that she is fit to be the wife of a duke. She attracts the eye of a man about town, and the process of courting and flattery—of sapping and mining—begins, with the result that he has had in view since the inception of the acquaintance. He is not a bad fellow as the world goes; but providence and society have made it very hard for single men to show kindness to single women in any way but one. He is sorry at her situation; but she is hardly the person for him to marry, even with her blooming, flower-like face. In such a situation—and such situations are far too common with the class—Byron's lines, slightly altered, seem peculiarly applicable to the pretty shop girl:
"'Twas thine own beauty gave the fatal blow, And help'd to plant the wound that laid thee low."
Sometimes it happens that the pretty girl, wearied of waiting for her knightly deliverer, comes across the advertisement of a gifted seeress—the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, perchance, or "the only English prophetess who has the genuine Roman and Arabian talismans for love, good luck, and all business affairs;" or the wonderful clairvoyant who can be "consulted on absent friends, love, courtship and marriage." Not infrequently she falls into the toils of those advertising frauds, who frequently combine the vile trade of procuress with the ostensible trade of fortune-telling. When the girl is drawn to this den, the trump card offered her is, of course, the young gentleman, rich as Croesus and handsome as Adonis, with whom she is to fall in love. He is generally described with considerable minuteness, and the time and place of meeting foretold. This may be fictitious, and it is fortunate for her if it is so. Rut the seeress too frequently needs no powers of clairvoyance or ratiocination to make these disclosures, for some roue; who has exhausted the ordinary rounds of dissipation, or some fast young fellow seeking a change, has made a bargain with the prophetess for a new and innocent victim—the amount of the fee to depend on the means and liberality of the libertine and the attractiveness of the victim. The vain, silly girl is dazzled with the wily woman's story, and readily promises to call again. At her next visit the man inspects her from some place of concealment, and if she meets his views, either an introduction takes place or a rendezvous is perfected. Thus the acquaintance begins, with the result which every intelligent reader can see for himself. Sometimes the picture of the scamp is shown, but in every case there is but one end in view on the part of the seeress, and that end is almost invariably achieved. The girl thus becomes clandestinely "gay," and spreads the influence of her evil example and impure associations among her shopmates. Pope has told us in four immortal lines the effects of a constant contact with vice. In the second epistle of his Essay on Man, he writes:
"Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace."
In the case of the class of young girls under consideration this truth is peculiarly applicable. In consequence of their associations they hear and see things whose influence is almost wholly bad and pernicious. Those disguised advertisements in the newspapers called "Personals" are of this evil character. To young girls, with minds imperfectly disciplined, there is a fatal fascination in the mystery of surreptitious appointments and meetings. Mystery is so suggestive and romantic, and the young girl who, from piqued curiosity, is tempted to dally with a "Matrimonial" or a "Personal," is an object of commiseration. From dallying and reading and wondering, the step is easy to answer such notices. She believes that she has a chance of getting a rich and handsome husband, who will take her to Europe, and, in other respects, make her life a sort of earthly paradise. The men who write such advertisements know this besetting female weakness and bait their trap accordingly. And so a young girl, too frequently, walks alone and unadvised into the meshes of an acquaintanceship which leads to her ruin. It is perhaps as useless to ask the men who are base enough to conceive these things to refrain from publishing them, as it is to urge the mercenary proprietors of certain newspapers to refrain from printing them in their columns. Yet it must be perfectly clear to all right-thinking minds, that it is in vain for parents to warn, parsons to preach, friends to advise, for the good to deplore, and the ignorant to wonder, at the increasing deterioration of our metropolitan morals, while these tempting lures to feminine destruction are so alluringly displayed.
It would be doing very imperfect justice to this theme did we fail to record our conviction that some of the salesladies and shop girls of the city are thoroughly good, virtuous, honest and respectable. Many of them, amid unhealthy influences and corroding associations, preserve the white flower of a blameless life, and become the honored wives of respectable citizens. But these are a small minority. At the same time it is useless to disguise the fact that there are others whose character needs stronger colors for proper delineation than have hitherto been employed. There are those among pretty shop girls who simply give up their leisure time to surreptitious appointments. This is the worst and most dangerous form in which this prevalent vice stalks abroad, and it more clearly stamps the character of a community than does its more open and brazen manifestations. Many causes may lead to a woman's becoming a professional harlot, but if a girl "goes wrong" without any very cogent reason for so doing, there must be something radically unsound in her composition and inherently bad in her nature to lead her to abandon her person to the other sex, who are at all times ready to take advantage of a woman's weakness and a woman's love. Seduction and clandestine prostitution have made enormous strides in New York, and especially among the young women and girls connected with stores, within the last decade.
Not long ago a woman, who then occupied a prominent position in a Sixth avenue store, was met up-town in the evening. She is very good looking—strong and lithe and tall, with a cloud of handsome hair that glistens like bronze; large dreamy eyes that flash and scintillate witchingly; a handsome, pouting, ruddy mouth; while her neck, white and statuesque, crowns the full bosom of a goddess. She said that she came out evenings occasionally to make money, not for the purpose of subsistence, but to meet debts that her extravagance had caused her to contract. She said in substance: "You see my appetite is fastidious, and I like good eating and drinking. I have the most expensive suppers sometimes. I am engaged to be married to a young fellow who works on a daily newspaper and who is busy at night. We shall be married some day, I suppose. He does, not suspect me to be 'fast,' and you don't suppose I am going to take the trouble to undeceive him. This is not a frequent practice of mine; I only come out when I want money, and I always have an appointment before I come out. I always dress well of course, and can pick up a gentleman anywhere when I like. Yes, I know I have good feet, and I know how to use them. I have hooked many a fifty dollars by showing a couple of inches of my ankle. Of course, I hate being in the store, but my fellow is rather jealous, and I keep going there as a blind. Will I reform when I am married? Perhaps so—if he gives me heaps of money. I am no worse than thousands of girls, single and married, who put on airs of purity and church-going. I know plenty of ladies who pay five hundred dollars at the store for silks and finery, which they persuade their husbands they bought for one-fourth of the price. And, for my part, I am going to eat well, dress well, and enjoy myself as long as ever I can get the money, by hook or by crook."
THE PRETTY WAITER GIRL.
Concert Saloons and how they are Managed—How the Pretty Waitresses Live and upon Whom, and how the Unwary are Fleeced and Beguiled—A Midnight Visit to one of the Dives.
Readers of the works of Le Sage will recall the polite devil which the ingenious novelist releases from his captivity in a vial, for the purpose of disclosing to the world the true inwardness of society in Spain. Something of the role of this communicative imp we purpose to enact in this chapter, the subject matter of which, we may safely venture to assert, is new to at least nine-tenths of the residents of this great city. And if people, to the manner born, are unacquainted with the form and manifestations of this particular phase of crime, how much more ignorant must be those casual visitors, who only, at long intervals, are called by business, or impelled by anticipations of pleasure, to visit the Empire City?
The mode of life of the merchant or business man does not bring him in contact with crime or the haunts of criminals. He may pass down Sixth avenue, or Third avenue and the Bowery, on the Elevated railroad; or through Greene, Wooster, and Bleecker streets, the Bowery, Fourth avenue, Forsythe, Canal, Thirty-fourth, Houston, Twenty-third and Chatham streets, and other thoroughfares, in a street car, knowing nothing about the inmates of the houses lining either side of those same streets, or their manner of life, or anything about those inhabiting the basement beneath. It is only when the startling head-lines in his favorite morning paper call his attention to some frightful crime committed, that he learns either of its character, or location, or the causes which produced it. To this lack of knowledge on the part of the respectable portion of the community of the location of questionable places and the haunts of felons, is to be attributed many of the robberies which, from time to time, are chronicled in the newspapers. In the case of "the stranger within our gates" the danger of straying into the sloughs of vice and consequent victimization, is of course greatly increased. And just here it is worthy of remark that there appears to be some mysterious fatality by which strangers, greenhorns and "innocents," generally, contrive to wander by unerring though devious ways, straight into the talons of vigilant night-hawks.
Concert saloons and pretty waiter girls are treacherous things to meddle with. Neither can be depended upon and generally both have unsavory reputations. The only thing pretty about the girls is a pretty bad record.
During the war for the Union, when enlistments for the army were lively, and bounty jumpers flourished, and money was nearly as plentiful as salt, concert saloon proprietors made enormous fortunes. They were then a new sensation in this country; indeed, it may be said the war brought them into being. Broadway, from Fourteenth street to the Battery was literally lined on both sides with them, and when at night the lamps in front of these places were lighted, it rendered the street almost as bright as day. Then, as now, they were principally confined to the basements or cellars of buildings, but while some of them were known to be the rendezvous of thieves and other criminals, there were a few which enjoyed a better reputation, and were frequented by people of comparative respectability.
The pretty waiter girl, of course, was the principal magnet used to draw customers to these saloons. She was and is to-day, in fact, the only attraction. Music of a coarse description is used to attract the passer-by, who, glancing at the place from whence it proceeds, sees flaring lights, gaudy and brilliant signs—generally the figure of some female in tights—and is allured in by the unusual appearance, and the picture his imagination forms of a jolly time to be had within. Still, the girl is the feature. It is a safe conclusion, that no waiter girl in a concert saloon is virtuous, nor was there ever a really good girl engaged in any such saloon. They are there to be bought by any one fancying them, and therein lies the charm—if charm it can be called—of these places. A stranger has nothing to do but walk down the steps, enter the saloon, seat himself at a table, and he will immediately be besieged by a crowd of girls—if that be what he is seeking. As the stranger knows not the locality of other places of entertainment, he accommodates himself to circumstances and takes what he sees before him. Hence concert saloons thrive—but chiefly upon out-of-town people—countrymen, in fact.
There are various causes which conspire to make pretty waiter girls. They belong to three classes: First, the young girl who, but recently fallen into sin, is placed there by "her friend," which appellation more frequently than otherwise stands for "her seducer"; second, the young female who naturally seeks a position as waitress, because it pays her best, the proprietors of some saloons paying a weekly salary, in others a percentage upon the drinks sold; and third, an older kind of female who, having run the gauntlet of nearly all forms of feminine degradation, and losing most of the charms belonging to her sex, sees a chance, upon the percentages allowed by the "boss," and the overcharge squeezed from frequenters, of making a living, with a prospect of once in a while finding a man so drunk as not to have any choice in a companion for the night. To this sort of individual, all females are beautiful and the ancient and faded siren has as good a chance for patronage as her younger and more favored rival. Hence the concert saloon has its advantages for all kinds of women, as well as its uses for all kinds of men. The price of drinks in these places varies according to the tact of the pretty waiter girl, the sobriety of the customer, or the "rules of the house." In all cases, however, drinks are higher than at ordinary bars, for the musicians have to be paid, the girls to receive a percentage, as well as the proprietor to reap his harvest. Besides, the smiles of lovely women must be reckoned at something. In the Chatham street and Bowery dives, the worst and cheapest of liquors and beers are dispensed to customers. In many of these concert saloons "private rooms" have been arranged, where anyone so disposed may choose his female companion and retire to quaff a bottle of wine (?) at five dollars a bottle—a customer who indulges in such a luxury as wine being too important and consequential to associate with the common visitors. Money here as elsewhere has its worshipers.
With this preface we shall now introduce the reader to the inside of one of these concert saloons, and show him the pretty waiter girl as his fancy pictures her, and as she really is: Chancing to walk along the street, the ears are assailed by the clash of music emanating from some basement, down perhaps a half a dozen steps. A number of red globes, surrounding as many gas jets, serve to show the entrance, on either side of which are full length paintings of women in short skirts. The door is of green leather or oil-cloth. Pushing this open, we enter and seat ourselves at one of the many round tables with which the place is plentifully supplied. In a second—not longer—several girls are beside us, and some sit down at our table. One—perhaps two at once—will immediately ask if we are not going to treat, and, in response, drinks are ordered. While one of the girls proceeds to supply the order, and before the drinks are brought, we glance around the saloon. On one side is the bar, at which several persons are standing, drinking with some of the sweet-voiced houris. The barkeeper and proprietor, both in their shirt sleeves, are behind it. On one side of the bar is a slightly-raised platform, upon which is a piano-player, a violinist and a shrill fifer. This is the music that charms and attracts. Around the room are men of all kinds, sailors, laboring men, seedy individuals, lovers, thieves, a few poor gamblers, fellows in hard luck and waiting for "something to turn up." Sprinkled over the place, talking, laughing, joking and striving to induce them to buy drinks, are a number of the waiter girls. The floor is plentifully and generously covered with plain sawdust, which answers the double purpose of effectually hiding the large cracks, and of absorbing the expectorations and spilled beer. The time is yet early and business is not very brisk, so we chat with the prettiest and youngest of the girls for a second only, when we are again importuned to drink by another of the fair ones, even before the first round is brought, for it must be understood that only the girl ordering the drinks gets any percentage. The drinks brought, the price is asked and the amount paid, as follows: Two beers, two lemonades with a stick in it for two girls, and two brandies for two others; total, one dollar and forty cents. Now the girls don't drink brandy, they have a little colored water, but they charge for brandy all the same, and pay the proprietor in pasteboard tickets, which are supplied by him to the girls in packages of five dollars worth and upwards. For that which she charged one dollar and forty cents she pays in checks forty cents, thus making a clear one dollar—five cents each for two beers, ten cents each for lemonades, and five cents each for the colored water. The customer pays ten cents for each glass of beer, twenty cents each for lemonade and forty cents each for brandy. When the customer fails to call for drinks fast enough to suit the girls, they will leave for some other table where they may be more liberally patronized. It is getting later, and as we are about to leave, an unsteady and heavy foot is heard descending the steps outside, the doors are pushed violently open and a big, burly man reels into the place. He is not entirely intoxicated, but just enough so not to care for anything or anybody, and as he shuffles independently along he is approached by a couple of girls, who, taking an arm each, affectionately guide him to a chair. Being seated, he smiles benignly upon his fair captors and asks them to drink. He is evidently, from his dress, a successful butcher or saloon-keeper and has plenty of money about him. The drinks brought, he takes a roll of money from his pocket, and, thinking it is a five-dollar bill, gives a fifty-dollar bill to the girl. She immediately leaves and in a few seconds returns, giving him change for a five, saying quite pleasantly, "Here's your change," and, as he is about to place it in his pocket, asks him for "a quarter for luck." Several girls now gather around the man, and by smiles, caresses, and other affectionate and flattering demonstrations, finally persuade him into one of the private rooms, when he is lost to our sight, but we distinctly hear the order, "bottle of wine."