Tag Archives: Crime and Justice

Tis’ Death to Counterfeit: New England Counterfeiters in NY


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Albany County District Lines courtesy earlyamericancrime.comWhile an ongoing border dispute took place between the governments of New York and Massachusetts, Ichabod Miller eked out a living on his farm in West Stockbridge, Mass. On December 20, 1772, his pastoral life was turned upside down.

Miller was awoken to the commotion of an angry mob at his door. In a moment they had broken in the door and he faced the business end of a loaded musket. He was accused of counterfeiting. This crime could be heart stopping. If proven, the sentence was death.

Counterfeiting was fairly prevalent in the colonies at this time. It was relatively easy to do, it was extremely profitable, hard to discover, and even harder to prosecute. Continue reading

The Martyr and the Traitor: Nathan Hale and Moses Dunbar


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In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore answers to these questions about how and why Americans chose to support the sides they did during the American Revolution, by looking at the lives of two young soldiers from Connecticut: Moses Dunbar and Nathan Hale.

Taking us through the lives, politics, and decisions of these young men is Virginia DeJohn Anderson, a professor of history at the University of Colorado-Boulder and author of The Martyr and the Traitor: Nathan Hale, Moses Dunbar, and the American Revolution (Oxford Univ. Press, 2017). 
 You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/181

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Adirondack Juvenile Justice Talk April 8


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Federal Correctional Institution, Ray BrookAuthor, sociologist and juvenile justice expert Alexandra Cox will speak in Lake Placid on Sunday, April 8 at 4:30 pm on the flaws in the Juvenile Justice System in New York State.

Just 22 North Country teenagers were sent to prison as adults in the last two years, but New York State is investing millions of dollars to convert a medium-security prison in Ray Brook to a juvenile facility. Continue reading

Lexow Committee: 19th Century Police Corruption


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crossroads of rockland historyThis month on “Crossroads of Rockland History,” Clare Sheridan interviewed Daniel Czitrom, author of New York Exposed: The Gilded Age Police Scandal That Launched the Progressive Era.

The book reveals the architects of what became known as the Lexow Committee, the state task force that – after a couple of rough starts – blew the lid off New York’s most corrupt practices and sent Tammany Hall, once again, into decline. The committee is named for New York State Senator and Rockland County resident Clarence Lexow. The author did some of the research for this intriguing book using the archives at the Historical Society of Rockland County. Continue reading

Lumber Camp Cook Adolphus Bouvia’s 1909 Murder


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A century ago, it was common during the Christmas holidays for North Country lumber camps to empty, at least briefly. In 1909, in far northeastern New York, the men of Altona in Clinton County enjoyed a welcome break after several weeks in the woods.

Near the settlement of Purdy’s Mills, the camp cook, Adolphus Bouvia, closed down operations on December 23. Widowed a year earlier, he planned to return home and spend time with family, friends, and neighbors, some of whom worked with him on the lumber jobs. Continue reading

Sullivan County’s Most Notorious Native


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Lt Charles E Becker in his NYPD uniform shortly before his arrest on a murder charge in 1912On August 2, 1915, Charles E. Becker was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, just two days after he had become the first police officer ever executed for murder in this country.

Charles E. Becker may well be the most notorious native of Sullivan County ever. Born on July 26, 1870 in Callicoon Center – he lived and worked on the family farm there until he was 21 – he became known as the most corrupt cop in New York City history, was tried and convicted twice of a high profile murder he quite likely did not commit, and was eventually executed in the Sing Sing electric chair – not without incident – on July 30. 1915.

But there’s a lot more to the Becker saga than that. Continue reading

Law & Disorder: The Chaotic Birth Of The NYPD


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law and order book coverIn his new book Law & Disorder: The Chaotic Birth Of The NYPD (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) historian Bruce Chadwick argues that rampant violence led to the founding of the first professional police force in New York City.

Chadwick paints a picture of a bloody and violent city, where race relations and an influx of immigrants boiled over into riots, street gangs roved through town with abandon, and thousands of bars, prostitutes, and gambling emporiums clogged the streets.

Chadwick says that in the 19th century the crime rate was triple what it is today and the murder rate was five or six times as high. The drive to establish law and order involved some of New York’s biggest personalities, including mayor Fernando Wood and journalist Walt Whitman. Continue reading

Gerald Chapman: Clinton Prison Alum, America’s First ‘Super-Crook’


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Near the end of his twenty-two-year career, Gerald Chapman’s several reputations came together in headlines touting him as a Spectacular Mail Bandit, Jail Breaker, and Criminal Extraordinaire. But above all, he was most often referred to as a “super-crook,” placing him beyond the level of most American criminals, one whose exploits were followed closely by the public. A worldwide manhunt finally resulted in his capture in 1925, but a decade earlier, he had done hard time at Clinton Prison.

Chapman, whose real name was believed to be George Chartres, or Charters, first ran into trouble in New York in 1908 and served a three-year stint in Sing Sing. After release, he was again arrested for grand larceny, and in January 1912 returned to Sing Sing, this time for ten years. As a brilliant criminal, and a handful to keep track of in any prison, he was sent north to the state’s most secure facility, Clinton Prison at Dannemora, where he quickly assumed a gang leadership position. As the source of many problems for guards and administration, he was finally relegated to an isolation cell, which at Clinton offered a very stark existence. Continue reading

Mob Rule: New York State White Caps


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White Caps “Hear us, thou delver in unrighteousness.” This was part of a warning notice posted on a home’s front door in Neversink, Sullivan County, as published in the New York Herald on April 22, 1889.

It was from the village’s band of moral crusaders called White Caps who operated outside of the law to reform/punish “unrighteous” people in their communities. In this case, the White Caps were women, and they demanded that a family man stop his frequent visits to a tavern, and going home “as drunk as a lord.” If he disobeyed this admonition, the notice declared that “tortures will grapple you,” and this is exactly what happened.

According to the Herald, the women seized the man soon after he left the bar, and beat him so badly that “he was nearer dead than alive when he got home.” In addition, the victim was “soused,” or dunked,” in a nearby mill pond. This was one of only a few instances, though, when white capping was done by women. Continue reading