JULY 2020

JULY   2020
Everything Old Is New Again!


Saturday, August 17, 2019


I do not find it surprising that at midnight on 17 January, 1920 -  less than an hour after prohibition became the law of the land - 6 armed men stole $100,000 worth of “medicinal whiskey” out of two box cars parked unguarded on a Chicago railroad siding. Even at that early moment America's dream of becoming a more moral nation, drunkenly stumbled over the sobering reality that alcohol has never been a mere beverage.
In 1920, the first year of national prohibition,  35,000 doctors were granted permits to prescribe various potable forms of alcohol for their patients. That same year the company which distilled “Old Grand Dad” reorganized itself as The American Medicinal Spirits Company and kept right on distilling  “Old Grand Dad Whiskey” . In fact the distilling business was suddenly booming. In the first five years of prohibition, the distillation of hard liquors in America more than doubled.
As an article for “The Nation” magazine lamented in 1921, “In the U. S. are 27 warehouses in which 15,000,000 gallons (at a time) of liquor are stored. The liquor is private property held for legal sale as medicine..A system of permit withdrawals was devised by the enforcement officials..for each case (3 gallons) of liquor. It very soon became apparent that a vast amount of fraud was being perpetrated.” It was this fraud that filled the backyard bank of the Little Green House on K street. The author of that article was Roy Haynes.
Roy Asa Haynes (above) was the Prohibition Commissioner for the United States government, appointed by the brand new President, Warren Harding. And each  “Withdraw Permit” to release distilled liquor had to be signed by the Commissioner, Roy seemed the perfect choice for the newly created job, and was well known  in anti-saloon league politics. Except he was also a crook. And the process to corrupt prohibition began even before Harding left Ohio for Washington, D,.C.
"The Ohio Gang" set the price for each Withdrawal Permit at $15.00, per case. And the very first permit, for the withdrawal of some 2,000 cases of alcohol, was issued to the General Drug Company of Chicago, for which J.B. Kraffmiller, a railroad tank car builder,  was paid $20,000, cash.  He kept $6,500 and passed on the rest to Howard Mannington, Harding's secretary,  at 1625 K Street. Mannington then divided it amongst the rest of the Ohio Gang, each member getting $2 per case. Even the General Drug Company got a dollar kickback, for the use of their good name. 
What General Drug did not get was the booze. That was unloaded from government warehouses by the "bootleggers" who had actually bought the liquor and paid the bribes. They passed along this overhead to their customers,  who happily paid a dollar for a drink which the year before had cost them a quarter. And as Agent Means, in the basement of 1625 K street sang, my God, how the money rolled in. The very first year of prohibition, it is estimated, bootleggers made about $100 million dollars in profits. K street was not guilty of bootlegging. They were merely the facilitators.
The bag man in this facilitation was Jess Smith (above, right),  Attorney General Daugherty's (above, left)  “jovial, rotund, combination confidant and valet.” Agent Means described him this way; “Poor Jess, he was a typical city department-store floor walker, transplanted into alien aisles....at a complete loss. And how he loved clothes. He worshiped Daugherty with a dog-like devotion.” 
This seedy looking man in expensive suits was the go-between, shuffling between his boss and idol, Attorney General Harry Daugherty and the triumvirate at the little Green K Street house.  Two or three times each week Jess would arrive at the Little Green House to deliver instructions and collect payoffs. He would then deliver the cash to an Ohio bank  owned by AG Daugherty's brother Milo. There the money would be laundered, Jess Smith kept everything straight in meticulous notebooks he carried on him, the “who”, the “how much”, the “for what”, and the “for whom.”
It was the sweetest deal in the history of K Street, and you just knew some schmuck was going to screw it up. The schmuck turned out to be the keeper of the backyard bank, Federal Agent Gaston Means (above). For him bountiful was never enough. In the winter of 1922 Means got his hands on several blank Withdrawal Permits. He forged Haynes' signature, and started selling them on his own.  It took very little time for word to get back to Daugherty. In February Daugherty suspended Means from the Bureau. .But Daugherty dare not fire Means or removed him from the Little Green House, because Means had all those file cabinets in the basement, stacked with names, dates and amounts.  
In the mid-term elections of November, 1922 the Republicans lost five seats in the House. The following January of 1923, the Democrats began to percolate over Republican scandals as a 1924 campaign issue. So in the spring of 1923 Daugherty was forced to go to President Harding and tell him of the trouble Means was causing. It was decided a sacrificial lamb would have to be offered up to the Democrats, and since it could not be Means, the clothes horse “poor Jess”, was tailor made for the role. "Poor Jess", with his notebooks might have also been a threat, but because of his devotion, Daugherty  was certain he could control him.

On Tuesday morning, 29  May, 1923 Jess Smith played golf with Attorney General Daugherty, and while walking the course was informed that he had to leave Washington the next day, permanently. Jess did not take it well. Daugherty then proceeded to the White House, where he phoned another associate, Warren Martin, and ordered him to go the Wardman Hotel and stay with Jess until the poor man was out of town. At six the next morning, Martin was suddenly awakened in his room by a gunshot. He found the 61 year old Jess Smith, in his pajamas and a dressing gown, lying on the floor of Daugherty's bedroom. Smith's head was inside a wastepaper can, a bullet through his brain. The weapon lay on the floor, inches from his fingers. There was no autopsy. His death was ruled a suicide by a friendly doctor. His meticulous notebooks and personal correspondence had mysteriously disappeared.
Sixty four days later, on the second of August, President Warren G. Harding died of a heart attack in a San Francisco hotel. For a time the fact that "Silent Cal" Coolidge was now President made little difference to the business of K Street. But inevitably, when dealing with crooks, somebody eventually screwed things up, again.
This time it was Jess Smith's ex-wife, Roxy Stinson (above).  Cheated out of what she thought was her share of Jess' share, Roxy spilled her guts to a Senate committee investigating the Attorney General. On 28 March, 1924  - a presidential election year -  President Coolidge demanded Daugherty's resignation. Daugherty said, “ "I wouldn't have given 30 cents for the office of Attorney General, but I won't surrender it for a million dollars." Then he added, “I have no personal feeling against the President. I am yet his dependable friend and supporter." And then he resigned.
In June of 1924, Gaston Means (above) was sentenced to four years for perjury. Once out of prison he wrote a book, “The Strange Death of President Harding”. It was an instant best seller, a well written inventive concoction of half truths and fantasy. Still desperate for money, in 1932 Means claimed to have been contacted by the kidnappers of the Lindbergh baby.  He was arrested after stealing the supposed $100,000 ransom, and sentenced (above) to fifteen years.  He died of a heart attack in Leavenworth Prison, in 1938.
Howard Mannington died in 1932, at the age of 64, of a "lingering illness". Henry Daugherty (above) was indicted in 1926 for accepting bribes. The jury deadlocked, 7-5 in favor of conviction. His second trial ended in another hung jury, this time 11 – 1 for conviction. But then the government gave up. In 1932 Daugherty published his own book, “The Inside Story of the Harding Tragedy.” It did not sell well. In October of 1940 Henry suffered two heart attacks which left him bedridden. He died in his own bed on 12 October, 1941, a very rich man. And that was the point..
Now, the Little Green House on K Street was vacant again. The graft it had contained certainly did not end. It just got bigger and more professional.
- 30 -

Friday, August 16, 2019


“I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends, my God damn friends...they're the ones who keep me walking the floors nights.”
Warren G. Harding.
On the night of 31 October, 1918 crowds jammed 9th Street in Washington, D,C, which was lined with restaurants and bars, to share a final drink. Then, at midnight, One November, 1918, the District of Columbia went bone dry, by federal fiat.
It had been the pro-prohibition states which had re-elected Democrat Woodrow Wilson as President in November of 1916. The imposition of prohibition in the one place on earth he could dictate it, was his reward for them. Opponents tried to give the local residents a vote on the issue, but Wilson complained, “There is no voting machinery in the District of Columbia. Such a machinery would have to be created.” Still the option of giving democracy a chance inside the district was only defeated because the vote was tied – 43 pro and 43 con - and VP Thomas Marshall refused to cast the deciding vote. That opened the door to the Sheppard Act, sponsored by Senator John Sheppard of Texas, which allowed the politicians to assure their moralistic supporters back home (in places like Texas) that they were being morally pure in far off Washington, D.C. Like bad fish,  the situation reeked with hypocrisy from the head.  
Now, when Democrat Woodrow Wilson vacated the White House in March of 1921, he had the residence's extensive liquor closet (above) shipped to his new private home across town. It was not a behavior which should have inspired confidence in the national prohibition act which would take effect in July. 
- sung to the tune of “My bonnie lies over the ocean” -
My father makes book on the corner,
My mother makes illicit gin.
My sister sells kisses to sailors,
My God how the money rolls in.
Rolls in , rolls in,
My God how the money rolls in, rolls in.
Rolls in, rolls in,
My God how the money rolls in.
The incoming President, Ohioan Warren G. Harding (above right), ordered his Attorney General, Harry Daugherty (above left), to replace the White House booze supply. And being a practical crook at heart, the new AG simply instructed his newly appointed Prohibition Commissioner,  Roy Asa Haynes, to load Wells Fargo wagons with seized “illegal” booze and transport this forbidden aqua vitae several times a week,  guarded by armed IRS agents, to various locations inside the district for the consumption by privileged public servants. One of those locations was the second floor of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Another was the “little white house” on H Street where Harding himself relaxed with alcohol and female companionship away from the prying eyes of the press and Mrs. Harding. Yet another was the little green house on K street, where something much more carnal than extramarital sex was going on.
My mother asks home politicians
To play in a night full of sin.
My father pops in with a camera.
My God, how the money rolls in!
The tailored Howard Mannington was almost fifty when he arrived in Washington to work with the Harding administration. He was described as “jowly, square-headed, heavy-lidded, thick lipped with a pug nose.” He was a close friend of Attorney General Daugherty, and had been involved in Ohio Republican politics for more than twenty years, making him a charter member of what became known as The Ohio Gang. His partner was Mr. M.P. Kraffmiller, treasurer of the General American Tank Car Company, out of Chicago and Warren, Ohio. General American not only built railroad tank cars, but financed the purchase of them, providing another source of profit. And it was that skill which Kraffmiller brought to the table for the Ohio Gang - managing large sums of cash. He and Mannington started out sharing a room in the Lafayette Hotel, at 16th and I streets in Washington. But that was too visible a location. As of 1 May, 1921, they signed a lease on the house at 1625 K street. It was perfect for their needs.
My mother's a bawdy house keeper,
Every night when the evening grows dim.
She hangs out a little red lantern,
My God how the money rolls in.
What Federal Agent Gaston Means liked about the house at 1625 K Street was that it had both a front and a rear exit. A gate in the backyard fence gave access to a twisting ally which led directly to the Justice Department, and the offices of both Attorney General Harry Daugherty and his flunky, Jess Smith, worked. Two blocks south of the house on K Street, and a short walk across Lafayette Park, was the White House.
The first floor front room of the Little Green House (above) was a parlor. Beyond was Howard Mannington's office and conference rooms. On the second floor was a bar and poker rooms, and an office for Mr. Kraffmiller. On the third floor were the bedrooms, both public and private. In the basement, Agent Means had his office, filled with files and maps of ports and highways, used for the distribution of once legal and now illegal liquor. Means' office was adjacent to a dinning room that seated 20, a kitchen with 3 stoves, a bathroom, and a laundry room. And in the back yard was, according to Agent Means,  "the safe".
My sister's a barmaid in Boston,
For a dollar she'll strip to the skin.
She's stripping from morning to midnight,
My God how the money rolls in.
The problem was Gaston Means (above) was a liar and a "con" man. Before joining the FBI in 1921, he had worked as a private detective in New York City, under former Secret Service agent William J. Burns.  Burns recognized Means had a talent for extortion. While working for Burns, Means was assigned to protect Maude King, a wealthy Chicago widow, from a gang of grifters, Means did that, but only while cleaning out Maude's  bank account for himself. Then, in 1917,  Means had taken Maude on a North Carolina duck hunting trip where she accidentally shot herself in the back of the head. The local authorities indicted Means for murder, but he managed to beat the rap, even though, during his trial, it was revealed that Means had sold information to German spies during World War One. It was Burns who recommended Means to Attorney General Daugherty 
Agent Means claimed to have constructed the back yard safe himself. The back gate was “as strong as the door on a bank vault”, Means testified later. “Entering this gate (with a special key), one was then inside a steel cage-confronted by another gate, equally as strong and opened only by another special key.” Beyond, in the very center of the yard, Agent Means claimed he had dug a square, several feet wide. “After getting down a couple of feet or so, I had a wooden platform built...with an open space in the center....I lowered into this...a terracotta pipe about eight inches in diameter....I had a small steel box, which I kept lowered into this pipe by a strong rope."  It is a convincing description, in its details. And yet, I doubt it was actually there.
My father makes rum in the bathtub
My mother make two kinds of Gin
My sister makes love for a living
My God how the money rolls in
In that steel box Howard Mannington claimed he  kept between $50,000 and $5,000,000 in cash. The source for all this was the Withdraw Permits sold by the Ohio Gang.   Two or three times each week Daugherty's sycophant Jess Smith would drop by little green house to meet in private with Mannington in his first floor office, to check the books. Then he would go downstairs to receive a briefcase loaded with the cash, supposedly from the back yard bank. So much money was passing through Gaston Mean's (above) hands every day, he admitted to often humming a tune to himself. The tune was “My God, how the money rolls in”.
I’ve tried making all kinds of whiskey
I’ve tried making all kinds of Gin
I’ve tried making love for a living
My God the condition I’m in
- 30 -

Thursday, August 15, 2019


I blame the current sorry state of American government on John Dickinson, President of Pennsylvania. On the morning of 20 June, 1783, some 400 long suffering soldiers of the Continental Army surrounded Independence Hall in Philadelphia and refused to let the Congress out, until they had voted to give the soldiers' their back pay. The politicians negotiated their way out of this difficulty without parting with any money. But this effrontery by working stiffs directly petitioning their government so angered Alexander Hamilton that he dispatched a note to Dickinson, demanding that he call out the state militia to arrest the army.  Dickinson refused.
So, like a boarder sneaking out on the rent, overnight, the Continental Congress slipped across the Delaware River to Princeton, New Jersey, just to avoid paying their army. And for the next 13 years the American government wandered the eastern seaboard avoiding debt collectors, both foreign and domestic. And to prevent that from ever happening again, in 1800 they built their own city, where they had to ask no one's permission to arrest people trying to hold them accountable. And thus was born the Federal District of Columbia, and the city of Washington, as a direct of result of the lesson taught by John Dickinson – that government, like many people, provides justice only when forced to – or when it is to their advantage.
There was already a town in the new district, called Funkstown. But that village disappeared after the owner, Jacob Funk, was paid off - unlike those Continental soldiers. Thus Washington D.C. was founded on the principle of payoffs to the land owners, and a cold shoulder to the working stiffs. Pierre L'Enfant designed the nation's capital on the square, ten miles on each side. But geographic reality required that it be balanced for all time on one corner. There were named avenues running North-west to South-East and lettered streets (minus the letter  “J”) running East-to-west, starting with “A” along the Potomac. The entire lopsided place was lorded over by the Capital, perched proudly atop Jenkins Hill.
Oddly, the plan for the city had no space set aside for the sinew and sweaty realities that make all cities possible. In the 18th century that meant fetid livestock yards, noisome smithies, reeking slaughter houses, putrid tanneries and malodorous glue factories. The 19th century added the town's rancid gas plant, surrounded by mounds of sooty black coal, fed by belching steam engines puffing clouds of black soot right into the center of town. The reeking vaporous working class neighborhood where all that stink eventually settled was almost a mile from the capital, but a mere two blocks from the White House, which showed how low  the founding fathers placed the chief executive  on the social totem pole.  The constant clouds of vile vapors gave a fitting  nickname to this sorry section of town - Foggy Bottoms.
But the expansion of Washington and its government by the Civil War brought gentrification to Foggy Bottoms, driving the stink further out, into Maryland and Virginia. Thus, after mid century,  the Bottoms' primary artery, K Street, could stretch its golden mile from Washington Circle on the west to Vernon Square on the east, with nary a sniffle or a gag between. And in 1880, along the very center of that route, between 16th and 17th streets, adjacent to an alleyway, Mr. J.B. Edmonds, decided to build himself a house.
Edmonds told people he was a retired banker, and he was. But he was also a land developer from Clay County, Iowa. He had been the first mayor of the county seat of Spencer,  Iowa, so he was no stranger to politics, either. Just the year before he had also begun publishing a magazine called “The Owl”, which promoted immigration and farming into western Iowa. All things considered I would say it seems unlikely that the 35 year old Edmonds had moved to Washington to retire, as he claimed. He had been proffered a job in the President Chester A. Arthur administration as one of the three commissioners who ran the district. It was one of those jobs that Dickinson had taught the government it needed for its own protection.  But in truth I suspect Edmonds had come to Washington to pursue an active career as a lobbyist. He just had too much pride to admit such a disingenuous occupation in public.
His brand new three story Victorian house at 1625 K Street (above), complete with servant's quarters in the attic, and faced with a green sandstone, had cost him $17,000, the equivalent of almost half a million dollars today. So it seems that whatever Edmonds' s endeavors in the nation's capital were, they paid very well.  Edmonds lived in his home until his death at the age of 55, in 1901.
His widow, Lydia, held onto the property, but she rented the house out to the newly elected Senator from Maryland, "Fighting" Senator Louis Emery McComas, (above) and his wife. He proved to be an honest politician and thus a one term Senator.  However he had earned the respect of some, and in 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt appointed him to the Washington, D.C., District Court of Appeals. Two years later Senator McComas was dead, and Lydia moved back into the Little Green House on K street.
The City of Washington began the first decade of the 20th century with 279,000 residents, two thirds of whom were described as “white”. People then still expected to live within walking distance of where they worked. In 1900 there were only some 8,000 automobiles and just 10 miles of paved roads in the entire country. That year there were 96 people killed in automobile accidents nationwide - compared to 115 lynchings. But by 1906 enough automobiles had arrived that the District felt required to establish a top speed limit of 20 miles an hour on city streets. And in 1907 the District of Columbia issued its first license plate. That change was happening became evident in 1910 when there were only 76 lynchings nationwide, compared to some 1,700 deaths in automobile collisions.
By 1910 Washington, D.C. had grown to 331,000 people, still mostly white. Nationwide, over that decade, life expectancy had increased by about a year. Salaries had risen from an average of $670 a year (for a 59 hour work week) to $750 a year. And there were still over 2 million unemployed in America.
And then there came the leap year of 1912. That was the year New Mexico and Arizona became states. It was the year that 30,000 textile workers staged the Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. It was the year that first lady Helen Taft planted the first cherry tree in Washington. It was the year that the United States Marines pulled off a triple play, invading Honduras, Nicaragua and Cuba. It was the year the Titanic sank off of Newfoundland. And that November Teddy Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican vote and allowed the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, to be elected President. Thirteen days after that election day, on  18 November 1912, Lydia Edmonds died in the little green house on K street. She left behind an estate valued at half a million dollars, equal to $11 million today. It would appear that being a lobbyist paid really well, even in the 19th century.
In the new century, using that same little green house on K street as a balancing point, lobbyists were going to reach new heights of wealth and influence, on their way to establishing a government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists.
- 30 -

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


The two week heatwave was mercifully breaking. Nine days after Judge Joe Crater had stepped into a cab on West 45th Street,  a cool rain was sweeping the trash down the gutters of Italian Harlem along 2nd Avenue.  It was Friday, 15 August 1930, two weeks before the judge's disappearance would be reported, and two men, their hats pulled low and their collars pulled high, shuffled up the back stairs of a speakeasy  and slipped past the shadow holding the door open for them.
The larger man,  Albert "The Mad Hatter" Anastasia (above), was carrying a nondescript brown leather bag,  instantly recognizable to 150,000 Italian immigrants squeezed into the slums between 96th and 125th streets, Lexington Avenue to the west and the East River. 
His shorter companion, Frank "Don Ciccio" Scalise (above), kept his hands in his coat pockets, as if to warm them. In truth each gloved hand cradled a loaded revolver.  Inside they followed the stream of puddles across the floor of the "Speak", past the board looking hoodlums playing cards.
It seemed they had come like so many others  to genuflect before the Peter "The Old Fox" Morello, (above)  waiting in the small room ahead, sitting behind his counting table, counting that week's numbers take.  
The Fox, aka Giuseppe Morello (above in 1900), AKA "The Claw", was born with only one finger on his right hand. He had survived the heartless world of the Sicilian Mafia for 64 years by thinking faster than his physically fit enemies.  But age and greed had made him fat and slowed his thinking.  And as the pair approached the table, Morello's eyes were fixed on the bag swinging in Anastasia's left hand. Did it look heavy? Did it look full?  He failed to notice that the Sicilian, Scalise,  had paused to turn the lock, as he closed  the door behind them.  The signal was when the Italian Anastasia dropped the bag on the table. Morello's fixation allowed Scalise to free both his hands from his pockets and begin shooting into the Mustache Pete's chest from just an arm's length away. The last thought Peter Morello had was that they had not opened the bag.
Anastasia killed the guard, and then joined Scalise in pumping more lead into the old man's chest. There must be, there could be no doubt the best brain in the Masseria mob was dead. Anastasia paused to sweep the blood spattered money into the bag. Richer by thirty grand,  the pair walked swiftly out the Speakeasy's front door while the guards were still breaking down the back door to reach Morello.  
It was all part of a "Mob War" engineered by Lucky Luciano.  With Morello eliminated, Luciano's boss, Joe "The Boss" Masseria was now isolated. 
He would die in another hail of bullets in the summer of 1931, while sitting in a Coney Island restaurant (above), thumbing through a deck of cards. Within a year Lucky Luciano would remake American organized crime in a corporate image. 
One week after Morello's assassination  on Friday, 22 August, 1930, Jack "Legs" Diamond climbed the gangplank of the 27,000 ton Red Star liner Belgenland (above). With him came his loving wife Alice, and his red-haired girlfriend Marion "Kiki Roberts" Stasmick. 
Jack  (above) told the inquisitive reporters that he was going to sample the waters in Vichy, France. But, if the truth be told, what made the slick waters of Vichy so attractive to Jack Diamond was two things. First Jack was under indictment for the murder of an upstate trucker here in New York state. And when news of Judge Crater's disappearance finally broke at the end of August, Jack meant to be out of sight, and out of mind. 
However, one month later, Jack would be back in America, after being deported by first the French and then the German governments. As he stepped off the boat in Philadelphia, he was arrested again, and then ordered to leave town. He arrived back in New York City, only to be gunned down in his hotel room, on Sunday,  12 October, 1930.  Shot five times, Jack  now "The Clay Pigeon" Diamond (above with Alice) again survived, and was released from the hospital on 30 December,  
On 18 December, 1931, Jack's enemies came back, catching him asleep in his girl friend Kiki Robert's bed.  She was not with him at the time. But this time the assassins were taking no chances that Jack would leg out an escape. The pistol barrel was pressed so hard behind Jack's  left ear that it scorched his scalp as the three bullets plowed into his brain.
 After the New York County Grand Jury had disbanded, Stella Crater (above) returned to her 40 Fifth Avenue, apartment on Sunday, 18 January 1931.  Three days later, while going through a dresser drawer, she "discovered" 4 manila envelopes containing $6,619 in cash - over $100,000 today - Joe Crater's will,  two life insurance policies, and a 3 page note listing 20 companies and individuals who owed Joe money.  And at the bottom of that list, supposedly in Joe's handwriting, were the words, "Am very weary. Love, Joe." Stella decided to call the cops.
It was a smart move. It meant the money was not "hers" but "theirs", the taxes divided as joint property. But the cops were confused. They had searched that dresser several times, almost taken it apart. As of Halloween 1930,  there had been no envelopes in that drawer. To the cops it looked like a care package from a lawyer - perhaps from William Klein -  and they thought it was meant to buy off Stella, to keep her mouth shut.   If it was, it worked. 
Now she did not have to give up the house in Belgrade  Lakes, Maine. And as quickly as she could, Stella Crater returned there, and returned to her $12 a week job as a telephone operator.  
Over the next year the city and state of New York spent $4 million, looking for Stella's husband, Judge Joe Crater, They looked in Maine, in Canada, in Mexico, in Cuba and California. Good Time Joe was seen on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, in a Virginia Sanatorium,  shaved by a barber in North Dakota, gambling in a bar in South America and drinking cocktails at a European spa. 
But the tone in the coverage changed when one detailed tip claimed that Joe was holed up in a Montreal hotel room. The Mounties burst through the door to discover a couple enjoying their honeymoon.  That popped the bubble, and the snickering public began to laugh out loud.  Prohibition had made corruption so common the practiced ineptitude of the police and courts had become a joke. A year after Joe's disappearance, despite the headline, Judge Crater was never found.
In September of 1933,  First National Studios in Los Angeles, released a 76 minute long film titled, "Bureau of Missing Persons", staring Pat O'Brian and Glenda Farrell, with Bette Davis in a minor role.  
It was a police procedural into the techniques used to locate missing people like Joe Crater, and offered to pay Joe Crater $10,000 if he turned himself in at the Strand Theater box office during the picture' New York City run.  Needless to say, he did not.
In June of 1936, 79 year old "Lucky Blacky" Blackiet (above) walked into the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department and declared that he had "swapped yarns" with the Missing-est man in America, while out prospecting near his homestead at Santa Ysabel, four miles from Warner Hot Springs.  The colorful "Lucky" said Joe Crater told him, "In one more year, I will be legally dead. I hope I can stick it out for that long."
Why the police believed "Lucky Blacky" is unclear, but it seems at least one San Diego Sheriff's Deputy thought the old prospector resembled the Crown Prince Archduke Johann Orth Salvator of Tuscany, who had gone missing off Cape Horn in 1911.  As proof of his campfire meeting with the judge ,  "Lucky" introduced 2 asses he claimed had belonged to Joe Crater.  County Commissioner R.A. Radifer,  two Los Angeles police officers and a couple of reporters went trudging off into the scrub bush mountains, following Lucky.   But after a week spent in the pounding August heat, swallowing dust and sleeping with scorpions  the expedition returned to civilization, firmly convinced they had been "had" by the old prospector.  Reduced to a laughing stock, they then suffered the gall of having "Lucky" present them with a voucher for $10 a day for his services as a "guide".  Needless to say, "Lucky" never got paid. 
In July of 1937, Stella won her petition to have Joe declared legally dead. She could now collect the $20, 000 in life insurance - over a quarter of million dollars today.  Stella moved to Elkton,  Maryland, and married a wealthy electrical engineer named Carl Kunz (above). They took their honeymoon cruise on the French cruiser “Normandie”.  With his money she could hire a lawyer to prove  Joe had died violently, which would qualify for a double indemnity payout. 
Stella hired attorney Emil K. Ellis, who spent years tracking down the loose ends left by the Grand Jury.   One of the women subpoenaed was a chorus girl named June Brice, who had supposedly met with Joe in her midtown apartment after he left West 45th Street on the night of 6 August, 1930. But June had vanished and never told her story under oath. Ellis eventually found a friend of June's, who told him, "Miss Brice said she was carrying a secret concerning the disappearance of Justice Crater. She said her life had been threatened."  
It was enough to keep Ellis digging until September of 1940, when he found June had been admitted to the Pilgrim State Hospital (above), in Brentwood, Long Island, New York, under the name of Jean Covel
Reporter Fred Menagh recorded the dramatic scene when a court order finally gave Ellis access to the mystery woman. "Four ghost-like figures," wrote Menagh, "shrouded from head to foot in spotless white surgical masks, caps, and gowns, gathered at the bedside of the hollow- cheeked girl with the glassy, staring eyes...Ellis, brief case clutched in one rubber gloved hand, stepped forward...His voice was slightly muffled by the gauze mask covering the lower half of his face, "Do you know what happened to Justice Joseph Force Crater?" 
"The girl on the cot shrank back. She dug at thin, bloodless lips with claw like dreadful hands, so emaciated they seemed almost transparent against the light that streamed in through the barred and grated windows of her room. "We must not," she whispered hoarsely, "remember the things that make us mad." Ellis produced a packet of letters, clippings and photographs from his brief case. The girl's staring eyes darted from side to side in their deep sunk sockets. "Don't write letters," she admonished in her rasping voice, "They don't explain anything." 
"...the once beautiful showgirl, her once blond hair turned totally white, her gorgeous complexion now the color and texture of parchment, could remember only disjointed fragments of her past...June's most normal response occurred when Ellis...showed her a picture of herself as she looked when she was a Broadway butterfly. "I was pretty, wasn't I?" remarked the former showgirl, pathetically, a wisp of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth...Ellis, for more than an hour...vainly probed the fear-shattered mind o£ a once beautiful Broadway showgirl...At last he threw up his hands in despair. "It is no use," he said simply."  In 1942, June Brice died, her mind still confused.
During the 1930's, New York City Police Officer Charles Burn picked up a second job - as a bodyguard for one of the Brownsville Boys most prolific traveling assassins,  "Abe Kid Twist" Reles.  By 1939, Kid Twist had escaped 6 homicide charges. But while he was jailed for beating a African-American parking lot attendant, he realized the cops finally had the goods on him. Facing execution he decided to turn State's Evidence and admitted to committing 11 murders and provided information allowing for the closing of 85 more murder cases.  And suddenly, the secret operations of Murder Incorporated were public knowledge . Abe would prove to be an excellent witness, with an amazing memory for detail, and a believable testimony.
One by one, The Brownsville Boys were convicted  and later executed - Lepke Buchalter, Louis Capone, Mendy Weiss, Harry Strauss, Frank Abbandando, Irving "The Plug" Nitzberg.  Abe even helped convict his childhood friend "Bugsy" Goldstein for murder. But on Wednesday, 13 November, 1940, he was to testify at the most important trial yet, that of Albert Anastasia, AKA "The Lord High Executioner", for the murder of a Longshoreman.  But unlike all the others, Albert was a "Made Man", a member of the Mafia with a seat at Lucky Luciano's unifying council
About ten minutes after seven that Wednesday morning,  NY Detective Victor Robins entered Room 623 of the 14 story Half Moon Hotel, at West 29th Street and the Coney Island Boardwalk. He expected to wake Abraham Reles, to prepare him for his first day of testimony at the Anastasia trail. But the bed was empty.  
After a minutes long search of the suite of rooms,  Robins noticed a string of bed sheets tied to a radiator, and draping out the window (above). Looking down he saw a clump of clothing on the roof of the kitchen extension, four stories below. 
Upon closer inspection, they found the body of Abe Reles, the man who may have shoved an ice pick into Judge Joe Crater's brain.
 The newspapers named the dead killer, "The Canary who Could Sing but Could Not Fly".  Albert Anastasia was immediately released. Five of the officers guarding Reles were immediately demoted. But one of those cops was Charles Burns. Did he take the $100,000 being offered to kill Abe Reles? Or did Kid Twist mistake his bronchitis as cancer, and commit suicide? Or was he trying to reach some hoard of cash he had hidden? However, in 1951, a grand jury concluded it was an accidental death during an attempted escape, and maybe that was the truth. But I do not think so.
And still stories about the missing Judge Joseph Force Crater kept floating across the public view. During the 1950's, a reporter in a San Antonio, Texas police station gave a cigarette to an filthy, raggedly dressed old man being processed for release. The reporter noticed the man's manicured fingernails.When asked about his background the man became taciturn. Later, the reporter found a note left in the bathroom, scribbled on a paper towel  and addressed to him.  It read, " “Thanks for the cigarette. You almost got a scoop. Remember that judge in New York?"  

Stella never got the Double Indemnity payments, but she did squeeze another settlement out of the insurance companies.  After her 1950 separation from  Carl Kunz - the couple never divorced - , Stella  made a modest living in New York City, off her husband's notoriety.  
In 1961 Stella finally co-wrote a book about about the man she now realized she had never really known. She called it “The Empty Robe : The Story of the Disappearance of Judge Crater,"  In it Stella painted a fond image of the vanished jurist. And every 6 April after that,  she stopped in a Greenwich Village bar. She sat at a table and ordered two drinks. After finishing the first, she would then raise the second class, saying, "Good luck, Joe, wherever you are." She would then swallow the second and quietly leave.
Still married, Stella Crater Kunz died in 1969,  at 70 years of age. And still, nobody has any idea of what happened to Judge Crater.
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