In April of 1931, eight slot machines were seized by Troopers in raids on a number of hotels in the Catskills town of Fallsburg, including the Elm Shade, the Ambassador, and the Flagler. The machines were destroyed “in the public square” before more than 150 onlookers and the $130 found inside them was turned over to the Town’s poor fund. [Read more…] about The Catskills Slot Machine Racket
Albany’s John McBain Davidson: Safes, Steamboats & Horse Racing
The Saratoga Dreams B&B at 203 Union Avenue gives a modern day traveler, the opportunity to step back into the marvelous past of Saratoga Springs. Climbing the stairs starts the adventure, where you first see the statue of Seabiscuit at the National Museum of Racing next door, and across the street you may catch a glimpse of runners being “tacked-up” in the paddock at Saratoga Race Course.
The large covered porch, typical of so many of Saratoga Springs’ Queen Anne style homes, allows an elevated view of “Tex” Hughlette Wheeler’s fabulous sculpture. Charles S. Howard, Seabiscuit’s owner, commissioned cowboy sculptor Wheeler (who’s unique given name of Hughlette was the surname of the doctor who delivered him during his mother’s difficult pregnancy), to “capture the horse from life,” and had two castings made. Howard’s heirs graciously donated this casting, originally at the Howard’s Ridgewood Farm, to the National Museum of Racing. The other bronze which Howard had cast has always stood in the Santa Anita paddock. [Read more…] about Albany’s John McBain Davidson: Safes, Steamboats & Horse Racing
The Horse ‘Governor Hughes’ & Gambling Suppression in NY
There was this gentleman named Charlie Ellison, or Charles R. Ellison to be precise, from Chicago. He was involved with the horse racing game in the late nineteenth century, and as the calendar flipped to 1900, began finding great success.
Ellison was famous for his large wagers, and turf writers seemed to revel in detailing his betting successes His countenance was fair, and as he was towheaded, these very recognizable locks earned him a unique sobriquet, the “Blonde Plunger.” The plunger in his nickname implied a reckless speculator or gambler. [Read more…] about The Horse ‘Governor Hughes’ & Gambling Suppression in NY
Belmont’s Terminal Course Survived Dark Days of Horse Racing
Steeplechase and hunt racing have long annals in the Empire State, and with more interest recently in turf racing, some long forgotten aspects of this history in New York are interesting to explore.
A dedicated turf and steeplechase venue, known as Belmont Park Terminal Course, operated on the Queens/Nassau County boundary from 1907 to 1927. [Read more…] about Belmont’s Terminal Course Survived Dark Days of Horse Racing
The 1921 Trail of Saratoga’s District Attorney That Turned Into A Riot
On May 11th, 1921, Saratoga County District Attorney Charles Andrus stood before Justice Henry Borst at the courthouse in Ballston Spa for the start of a criminal trial.
It must have been a strange feeling that day for Andrus because unlike countless other times before the court, this time the District Attorney was seated at the defendant’s table. He had been indicted on charges of neglect of duty, bribery, and corruption. His trial would be extraordinary on many levels. [Read more…] about The 1921 Trail of Saratoga’s District Attorney That Turned Into A Riot
Manhattan ‘Flash’ Culture: Madams and Sporting Men
Throughout the nineteenth century, prostitution was rife in American cities. In 1820 there were an estimated two hundred brothels in New York, growing to more than six hundred after the Civil War. By the early 1840s the city was the nation’s whoring capital, its own Gomorrah.
Most houses of assignation before the Civil War were owned and controlled by women. Some madams made spectacular careers, nobody more so than Fanny White whose Mercer Street brothel was, from 1851 onward, a meeting place for Congressmen, dignitaries and diplomats – a Manhattan whoreocracy. [Read more…] about Manhattan ‘Flash’ Culture: Madams and Sporting Men
John Morrissey: Toward Setting The Record Straight
John Morrissey was born in Ireland on February 12th, in 1831.
As a result of bigoted attacks by his political enemies being carried forward by later writers like Herbert Asbury in Gangs of New York (1928), he’s been falsely accused of being in criminal league with Tammany Hall, for leading “the dead rabbits gang,” and for being involved in the killing of the nativist William “Bill the Butcher” Poole. [Read more…] about John Morrissey: Toward Setting The Record Straight
Life and Legacies of Spencer Trask
Spencer Trask awoke on the morning of December 31st, 1909 in the last compartment of the last sleeper car on the Montreal Express as it neared New York City on the D&H Railroad line.
Getting dressed, his thoughts may have turned to the three passions that dominated his 65 years. He did not know then that it would be the final day of his eventful life. [Read more…] about Life and Legacies of Spencer Trask
Bout of the Century: Heenan and Sayers
Britain and the US share a passion for boxing. Over time, it has been both mass entertainment and highbrow delight for writers from Byron to Norman Mailer, or artists from Cruikshanks to Bellows. In 1949, Kirk Douglas made his name as Midge Kelly in Champion. The greatest sporting event of the nineteenth century was a bout between a London bricklayer and a New York blacksmith. Both were of Irish descent. They became sporting super stars. [Read more…] about Bout of the Century: Heenan and Sayers
Saratoga Springs: A Gangster’s Paradise
The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is set to host its second presentation on Saratoga gangsters with Greg Veitch on Thursday, February 27th. Veitch’s book A Gangster’s Paradise: Saratoga Springs from Prohibition to Kefauver recalls of a time of bootleggers and shootouts, raids and gambling dens, murder, and political payoffs in Saratoga Springs. [Read more…] about Saratoga Springs: A Gangster’s Paradise