The Daughters of the Poor: A Plain Story of the Development of New York City as a Leading Centre of the White Slave Trade of the World, under Tammany Hall
George Kibbe Turner
The test of civilization is the estimate of woman— GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS.
THERE are now three principal centers of the so-called white slave trade— that is, the recruiting and sale of young girls of the poorer classes by procurers. The first is the group of cities in Austrian and Russian Poland, headed by Lemberg; the second is Paris; and the third the city of New York. In the past ten years New York has become the leader of the world in this class of enterprise. The men engaged in it there have taken or shipped girls, largely obtained from the tenement districts of New York, to every continent on the globe; they are now doing business with Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. They are driving all competitors before them in North America. And they have established, directly or indirectly, recruiting systems in every large city of the United States.
The story of the introduction of this European business into New York, under the protection of the Tammany Hall political organization, its extension from there through the United States, and its shipments of women to the four corners of the earth, is a strange one; it would seem incredible if it were not thoroughly substantiated by the records of recent municipal exposures in half a dozen great American cities, by two independent investigations by the United States Government during the past year, and by the common knowledge of the people of the East Side tenement district of New York, whose daughters and friends' daughters have been chiefly exploited by it.
Poland and the Markets of the East
The ancient and more familiar white slave trade was the outright sale of women from Eastern Europe into the Orient through the big general depot of Constantinople. The chief recruiting-ground for this was the miserable Ghetto of Europe in the old kingdom of Poland, now held by Austria and Russia, where the Jews were herded out of the rest of Christendom by the persecutions of the Middle Ages. This section is known from Alexandria to Shanghai for its shipment of women like "Anne of Austria" in Kipling's "Ballad of Fisher's Boarding-House" in India:
From Tarnau in Galicia
To Jaun Bazar she came,
To eat the bread of infamy
And take the wage of shame.
The recruiting-ground for the supplies of women for this trade, East or West, is always the section inhabited by the very poor. Out of this racial slum of Europe has come for unnumbered years the Jewish kaftan, leading the miserable Jewish girl from European civilization into Asia. The Jewish church fought the kaftan with all its power. In life he was ostracized; in death, dragged to an unholy grave. But to this day he comes out of Galicia and Russian Poland, with his white face and his long beard,— the badge of his ancient faith,— and wanders across the face of the earth. Occasionally members of the fraternity come into New York: men of seventy, sometimes, with gray beards, following their trade through life to the very end. Within the year there was in New York an individual of this profession, known as "Little Bethlehem," from the scene of his former business — the Holy Land.
The Kaftan in the New World
In the last part of the last century a new field opened for this European industry. Great masses of young male laborers went westward out of Europe to do the work of establishing civilization in a new hemisphere. There were two or three men to one woman in this great shifting of population, which is still taking place. And the social relations of the whole world were affected by it. One great market for the procurer's supplies, from the time of the Middle Ages, had been the camps of armies.
(46) In the last fifty years two continents have been filled, in city and country, with a new and similar market — the camps of male laborers.
The Jewish kaftan, for some reason, did not try his trade with North America, He exploited South America instead; and in Argentine Republic he found a market that rivaled the East. He could transfer women there, for a lump sum, into what are known to the New York trade as "slave houses"; or, in accordance with the more Occidental development of the business common to most Western countries, one youth could marry or pretend to marry one girl, travel abroad with her, and live with her as her manager.
So largely have these people emigrated to Argentina that there is a considerable colony of them in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. Excluded from the society of other persons of their own race and religion, they have secured burial-places of their own,— somewhat similar to that which has been established in New York,—and have even set up their own synagogue, in which they hold ghastly caricatures of religious services. The colony is strong on ceremonial forms, and Jewish holidays are strictly dedicated by the women to devotion. These people still remain in Buenos Aires. But recently — as part of an agitation extending across the civilized world — the Argentine Republic has made their business of importation difficult by new and stringent laws.
Paris the Second Center of the Trade
It remained for Paris, the second center of the business in Europe, to develop the white slave trade with North America. The Parisian type of trader is so old an institution that his common name, maquereau (mackerel), appears in the French dictionary. His trade became to all intents and purposes a recognized calling, with a distinguishing costume of its own, consisting of black velvet trousers, a blouse, and a peculiar silk cap known as the bijou. These maquereaux start in the business — and most of them remain in it — as the manager of one girl of the poorer classes, whom they place to the best possible advantage. From one, the more successful advance to the business management of a number of girls. In all this theirs is exactly similar to the American type of trade which has developed in New York. The maquereaux reached the height of their prosperity in Paris during the fashionable and amusement-loving reign of Louis Napoleon in the '60's. With the simpler and more democratic feeling at the beginning of the present French Republic, public sentiment turned more against the traffic. Its operators were frequently transported to the penal colonies in New Caledonia and French Guiana. They gradually discarded their costume and slunk out of sight. And in the '70's they began to emigrate in large numbers, and now may be found across the entire globe. The chief points of export were London and New York. But so much more profit and freedom from law were obtained in the capital of the new continent that it very soon received more attention from the exporters of women than any other place in the world.
The Unprotected Immigrant Girl
Up to this time prostitution had existed in the United States — as most people assume that it exists to-day — without having attracted the business management of men to securing and exploiting its supplies. So far as it had management, it was entirely a woman's business. Its supplies came, as they must always come, from poor and unfortunate families. From 1850 to the present time, the poorest and most unprotected class has been the newest European immigrants. The most exposed and unprotected girls are those in domestic service. For over half a century this class of population has been called upon to furnish the great bulk of the supplies of girls in our large cities, and this class of employment far more than any other.
In 1857 the police of New York, under the direction of Dr. W. W. Sanger, the resident physician of the institutions on Blackwell's Island, gathered statistics on carefully prepared blanks from two thousand of the six thousand prostitutes then supposed to be in New York. Of these over three fifths were born abroad, and at least three quarters were of foreign birth or parentage; one half had been servants before entering the profession. The new immigration of the time was Irish and German; it furnished the greatest number of women, simply because of their exposed position in the city slums. More than one third of the two thousand women were born in Ireland— noted throughout Europe for the chastity of its women.
The French Importer's Shortcomings
The French maquereau was immediately successful in a country where the business had developed in so haphazard a way. The women he brought to this country he dressed well; he kept them abstemious from liquors, and implanted in their minds the ambition of acquiring a competence and returning to live in France. They tended from the first to replace the disheveled and desperate creatures produced by the American slums.
But, though extremely successful in America
(47) at first, and still prosperous in the majority of our greater cities, the French maquereau was not the type finally adapted to conduct the business in the self-governing .American municipalities. He intended to return to France after securing a competency, frequented his own exclusive boarding-houses and clubs, and did not even learn the language. He failed to identify himself with any political organization. He consequently had no direct political influence, and obtained his right to break the law simply by payments of money. In this way he occupied very much the same position as the Chinese gambler in the community of lawbreakers. Both are always able to do business in a large city, but they are much more liable to extortion and blackmail than persons who are directly identified with the political machine. It was necessary for the procuring and selling of girls to become an integral part of slum politics as the tenement-house saloon and gambling-houses had been preceding it — before it could be established on its present firm footing.
The Tammany Red-Light District
About twenty-five years ago the third great flush of immigration, consisting of Austrian, Russian, and Hungarian Jews, began to come into New York. Among these immigrants were a large number of criminals, who soon found that they could develop an extremely profitable business in the sale of women in New York. The Police Department and the police courts, before which all the criminal cases of the city were first brought, were absolutely in the hands of Tammany Hall, which, in its turn, was controlled by slum politicians. A great body of minor workers among this class of politicians obtained their living in tenement-house saloons or gambling-houses, and their control of the police and police courts allowed them to disregard all provisions of the law against their business. The new exploiter of the tenement-house population among the Jews saw that this plan was good, and organized a local Tammany Hall association to apply it to the business of procuring and selling girls.
The organization which they formed was known in the Lexow investigation as the Essex Market Court gang, but named itself the Max Hochstim Association. Among various officers of this organization was Mr. Martin Engel, the Tammany Hall leader of the Eighth Assembly District in the late '90's; and with him a group of Tammany Hall politicians in control of this district and the Third Assembly District along the Bowery, just to the east.
Getting Supplies for New York
This Jewish district, as it was when Mr. Martin Engel was leader, opened the eyes of the minor politician of the slums to the tremendous financial field that a new line of enterprise, the business of procuring and the traffic in women, offered him. The red-light district, operated very largely by active members of the local Tammany organization, gave to individual men interested in its development in many cases twenty and thirty thousand dollars a year. Very few of the leading workers in the tenement saloons or gambling enterprises had been able at that time to make half of that from the population around them.
The supplies of girls for use in the enterprises of the political procurers did not at first come entirely from the families of their constituents. The earlier Jewish immigration contained a great preponderance of men, and comparatively few young girls. The men in the business made trips into the industrial towns of New England and Pennsylvania, where they obtained supplies from the large number of poorly paid young mill girls, one especially ingenious New Yorker being credited with gaining their acquaintance in the garb of a priest. But, gradually, as the population grew and the number of men engaged in the business increased, the girls were taken more and more from the tenement districts of the East Side.
When this misfortune began to develop among the Jewish people of the East Side, it was a matter of astonishment, as well as horror. The Jewish race has for centuries prided itself upon the purity of its women. Families whose daughters were taken away in the beginning of the New York traffic often formally cast them off as dead; among the very orthodox, there were cases where the family went through the ancient ceremonial for the dead — slashing the lapels of their clothing and sitting out the seven days of mourning in their houses. But individual families of new immigrants, often not speaking English, naturally had little chance against a closely organized machine. The Essex Market gang, as was shown in the Lexow testimony, not only could protect their own business in women, but had the facilities to prove entirely innocent women guilty.
New York's First Export Trade
The business grew so rapidly under these favoring auspices that the East Side was soon not only producing its own supplies, but was
(48) exporting them. The first person to undertake this export trade with foreign countries, according to the verbal history of the East Side, was a man who later became a leading spirit in the Tammany organization of the district; he took one or two girls in 1889 or 1890 to compete with the Russian and Galician kaftans in the Buenos Aires market. This venture was not very successful, and the dealer soon returned to New York. Since that time a few hundred New York girls have been taken to Buenos Aires, but, generally speaking, it has not proved a successful market for the New York trade.
South Africa, on the contrary, proved an excellent field, as mining districts always are. In the middle of the '90's— during the lean years of Mayor Strong's administration — the stories of the fabulous wealth to be made in the South African gold and diamond fields came to the attention of the New York dealers, and they took women there by the hundred. They proved successful in competition with the dealers from the European centers in Paris and Poland, and established colonies of New Yorkers through the southern end of the continent. Large sums of money were made there, and a few considerable fortunes were acquired, which their owners brought home and put into various businesses in New York — including gambling-houses and "Raines-law" hotels. The English Government in recent years has been more stringent against the trade, and under a new law gave imprisonment and lashing to men engaged in it. One man, now occupied in a Raines-law hotel enterprise in New York, was among those imprisoned, having recently served a sentence of one year. The campaign against the business made South Africa a much less attractive field than formerly; but there are still small New York colonies in various cities there.
Once acquainted with the advantages of the foreign trade, the New York dealer immediately entered into competition with the French and Polish traders across the world. There are no boundaries to this business; its travelers go constantly to and fro upon the earth, peering into the new places, especially into spots where men congregate on the golden frontiers; and the news comes back from them to Paris and Lemberg and New York. After South Africa, the New York dealers went by hundreds into the East— to Shanghai and to Australia; they followed the Russian army through the Russo-Japanese war; they went into Alaska with the gold rush, and into Nevada; and they have camped in scores and hundreds on the banks of the new Panama Canal. However, the foreign trade was not large compared with the trade with the cities of the United States, which was to develop later. The demand was naturally not so great.
The Independent Benevolent Association
In the meantime, the business grew and strengthened and developed its own institutions in its headquarters at New York. The best known of these is the Jewish society that goes under the name of the New York Independent Benevolent Association. This organization was started in 1896 by a party of dealers who were returning from attendance at the funeral of Sam Engel, a brother of Martin Engel, the Tammany leader of the red-light assembly district. in the usual post-funeral discussion of the frailty of human life, the fact was brought out that the sentiment of the Jews of the East Side against men of their profession barred them generally from societies giving death benefits, and even caused discrimination against them in the purchase of burial-places in the cemetery. A society was quickly incorporated under the laws of New York, and a burial-plot secured and inclosed in Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn. This plot contains now about forty dead, including some ten young children. Of the adults, about a third have died violent or unnatural deaths.
The Independent Benevolent Association guarded its membership carefully, but grew to contain nearly two hundred persons. As most of its people were prosperous, it was able, as a body, to exert a continual influence through political friends to prevent punishment of individual members. Matters of mutual trade interest were discussed at its gatherings, and later, when the more enterprising men in it found larger opportunities in the other cities of the country, its members would naturally inform one another of conditions of business in different sections. in New York, as various members grew to undertake larger business enterprises, the usual difference of trade interest between the retailer and the wholesaler grew up; and the leading operators formed a strictly trade association among themselves — the association whose meeting-place was discovered and broken into during business sessions by the District Attorney's force in his campaign of 1907.
New York's Creation — the Cadet
In the freedom of the Van Wyck administration of the late '90's, the latest type of slum politician that New York has developed demonstrated further his peculiar value to politics, and the great rewards of politics for him.
(49) Like the saloonkeeper before him, he had large periods of the day to devote to planning and developing political schemes; there were a great many dependents and young men connected with the business; and there grew up in the various political and social centers of the East Side so-called "hang-out joints," saloons and coffee-houses, where these men came together to discuss political and business matters. It soon became evident that these gangs were exceedingly valuable as political instruments in "repeating," or casting a great number of fraudulent votes.
Yet, in spite of this growth of an entirely new element of political strength, Tammany Hall was defeated in the election of 1901, largely because of a revulsion of popular feeling against some phases of the white slave trade. This feeling was especially directed against the so-called cadets— a name now used across the world to designate the masses of young men engaged in this trade in and out of New York, exactly as the name of maquereau is used to designate the Paris operator. As the women secured for the business are at first scarcely more than children, the work of inducing them to adopt it was naturally undertaken most successfully by youths not much older than themselves. In this way the specialization of the business in New York produced the New York cadet — the most important figure in the business in America to-day. The Committee of Fifteen which made a thorough and world-wide investigation bearing upon the conditions of life in New York developed by the disclosures of 1901 and 1902 — defined this new American product as follows:
"The cadet is a young man, averaging from eighteen to twenty-five years of age, who, after having served a short apprenticeship as a `watch-boy' or `lighthouse,' secures a staff of girls and lives upon their earnings. The victim of the cadet is usually a young girl of foreign birth, who knows little or nothing of the conditions of American life."
The Spread to Other American Cities
A general feeling of resentment because the Tammany organization of the East Side had developed this new institution, and others connected with it, among the unprotected immigrants of that district, caused the destruction of the red-light district by an anti-Tammany administration, and a great lessening of the freedom of the business in New York City. In a way, however, this temporary period of reform was a means of greatly extending the business in the United States and eventually in New York. The larger operators in the business established themselves throughout the
(50) various larger cities of the country; and the cadets still secured their supplies in the old recruiting-grounds of the East Side, where they were in no particular danger. An elaborate campaign against them a little later resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of seven of these men as vagrants. They were released long before the expiration of their term, by the influence of political friends.
The new type of political industry developed in New York proved very successful in other cities of the country — so much so that it has now established itself to some extent in at least three quarters of the large cities of the United States. The first places to be developed were naturally the nearest. One of the earliest was Newark, New Jersey, within ten miles of New York.
A group of members of the independent Benevolent Association came into that city in the early 1900's, and soon after the New York red-light district had been broken up they obtained control of practically the entire business of Newark. They secured as supplies the ignorant immigrant girls taken from the East Side of New York, and they brought with them from New York, or educated in Newark, their own staff of cadets — who not only worked vigorously as "repeaters" in local elections, but returned to form some of the most vigorous voters in the lower Tammany Hall districts of New York. But in 1907 the attempt of one member of the Benevolent Association to defraud another out of his business by the aid of local political forces led to a disruption in the body of men who were so well established in Newark. An exposé followed this disagreement, which broke up, for the time at least, the local business, with its importations of New York women, and temporarily stopped the return supply of illegal voters to New York. The testimony of the time showed that these men had worked industriously in the interests of the Tammany leaders in the downtown tenement districts of New York, from which the supply of Newark girls was largely obtained. In Newark the chief of police killed himself subsequently to the exposure.
The Emigration into Philadelphia
Another group of Jewish operators transferred themselves from New York to Philadelphia. They secured their supplies of women
(51) largely young immigrant girls — from New York, and retained their New York cadets. The members joined the Mutual Republican Club of the Thirteenth Ward of Philadelphia, whose president was the sheriff of the county; and their cadets were extremely valuable to the political machine as "repeaters," and as managers of the growing Jewish vote in Philadelphia. These "repeaters" are incredibly efficient, some having the record of working in three States— at Philadelphia, Newark, and New York—on the same election day.
The public exposé in Philadelphia did not, of course, come through any political source in Philadelphia— there is but one political party there. It was started by the case of Pauline Goldstein, one of the Russian-Jewish immigrant girls, who was obtained in New York, and later thrown out, scantily clothed, upon the streets of Philadelphia, when sick. The matter was taken up by the Law and Order Society. Some hundred places were found being operated by the New York Jewish group, with several hundred foreign immigrant girls. The investigation showed that there was a close community of interest among this body of men, and that a small group had charge of the relations with the politicians and police. Some sixty men were given jail sentences. "Jake" Edelman, one of the leaders, was the man arrested in the case of the Goldstein girl. He "jumped his bail"; went to join the New York colony in South Africa; returned, to be arrested on the Bowery in New York; and at his trial he was represented by New York counsel, accompanied by a large group of New York friends. The prosecution of these men in Philadelphia was very largely responsible for the eighteen months of reform administration in that city in 1905 and 1906. But since then the New York operator is returning to Philadelphia, and the cadet is firmly established in the local life.
Chicago, San Francisco, and St. Louis
In Chicago the New York operators secured an even stronger hold. Several hundred New York dealers came into the West Side section after the Low administration and established there an excellent reproduction of the red. light district. At its height it contained be-
( 52) -tween seven hundred and fifty and a thousand Jewish girls from New York largely new immigrants, who could scarcely speak the language. Local crusades have sent a great number of the New York men farther west; but the cadet is now one of the prominent features of the local slum life, and a considerable number of New York Jews still remain in positions of business and political leadership there.
A detailed statement of the spread of activities of the New York dealer and cadet through the United States since the exodus from New York after 1901 would serve as a catalogue of the municipal scandals of the past half dozen years, and would include the majority of the large cities of the country. The New York Jewish cadets were found to be present in hundreds in San Francisco at the great exposéthere, and took a prominent part in the rottenness that preceded ít; they were strong in Los Angeles before the disclosing of conditions in their line of business changed the administration there a year ago; and two of the most notorious dealers of New York's East Side were prominent figures in the political underworld uncovered by Folk in St. Louis. To-day they are strong in all the greater cities; they swarm at the gateway of the Alaskan frontier at Seattle; they infest the streets and restaurants of Boston; they flock for the winter to New Orleans; they fatten on the wages of the Government laborers in Panama; and they abound in the South and Southwest and in the mining regions of the West.
Slum Politics' New Concentration
The growth of this new factor in American city politics was due, not alone to the advantages it offered, but to a general necessity on the part of the slum politician to concentrate his attention upon prostitution as a means of getting a living. This condition was brought about by the astonishing success of the campaign against gambling, beginning some ten years ago, both in New York and in most of the large cities of the country. Policy is almost obliterated, pool-rooms are rapidly declining, and little by little gambling at race-tracks is dwindling throughout the country. To any one remembering the condition of public sentiment and the frank and open operation of gambling in American cities fifteen years ago, this change is little less than startling.
One principal reason for the change was the awaking of the personal interest of the richer and more influential classes against gambling. Practically all of the gambling enterprises fed upon the earnings of the poor— a sure tax levied upon the people by the slum politician,
(53) who stooped in his policy games to pick up the last and meanest penny of the child. But too many small embezzlements from their employers were made by clerks and bookkeepers to pay the race-track and pool-room gambler. The imagination and interest of the employing class became enlisted, and gambling enterprises were pursued with a vigorous attention which drove them out. The net result of all this to the slum politician was succinctly expressed by an observant old-time policeman upon the Bowery of New York about a year ago:
"Where's a district politician goin' to get a bit of money nowadays? The pool-rooms are all shut down; policy's gone. There ain't no place at all but the women."
Tammany's Delicate Situation
Because of this narrowing tendency in the field of slum politics, the politicians of Tammany Hall below Fourteenth Street found themselves in an exceedingly delicate position after the exposure that defeated them in the red-light campaign. The decline of gambling was already evident, and its thousands of political employees—a mainstay in illegal voting— had been discharged; and new election machinery made difficult the wholesale voting of broken tramps and town loafers. Not only was some participation in the sale of women necessary, but the use of the gangs of young procurers and thieves, who had their beginning in the red-light days, became almost indispensable if the politicians were to secure the vote upon which their power rested, both in their party and out.
This situation was met with adroitness. The district below Fourteenth Street had now come under control of the foremost combination of slum politicians in the United States, known the country over. Martin Engel, the old Tammany Hall leader of the red-light district, was solemnly deposed; a husky young politician was made leader of the district, seriously put on a pair of kid gloves, called in the reporters, and pounded with great pomp and ceremony the persons of a few unfriended cadets. After this drama, it was announced with stern and glassy front that cadets were forever banished from the district — and one of the most useful Tammany myths ever sent gliding down the columns of the local newspapers was launched on its long way. The district retained the chief disorderly-house keepers and captains of cadets upon its list of election captains — where it keeps them yet; and the bands of cadets and thieves worked in its service as they had never worked before. But in the Third District about the Bowery
(54) —they began to have their real headquarters.
It is, of course, the belief fostered by the great ignorance and indifference of the more influential classes as to the conditions of the alien poor in a city like New York that the cadet died out largely with the red light. On the contrary, he has largely multiplied — as every close observer of the conditions of the East Side knows. The whole country has been opened up for the supplies of New York procurers since the red-light days; the development of the lonely woman of the street and tenement has increased the field for these young cadets greatly; and not only the lower but now the upper East Side of New York City is full of them. The woman they live upon, and her daily necessity of political protection, brings them into public life, and makes them the most accessible of political workers. They have a hostage to fortune always on the street.
The East Side Working-Girl and Her Exploiters
It is interesting to see how the picking up of girls for the trade in and outside of New York is carried on by these youths on the East Side of New York, which has now grown, under this development, to be the chief recruiting-ground for the so-called white slave trade in the United States, and probably in the world. It can be exploited, of course, because in it lies the newest body of immigrants and the greatest supply of unprotected young girls in the city. These now happen to be Jews as, a quarter and a half century ago, they happened to be German and Irish.
The odds in life are from birth strongly against the young Jewish-American girl. The chief ambition of the new Jewish family in America is to educate its sons. To do this the girls must go to work at the earliest possible date, and from the population of 350,000 Jews east of the Bowery tens of thousands of young girls go out into the shops. There is no more striking sight in the city than the mass of women that flood east through the narrow streets in a winter's twilight, returning to their homes in the East Side tenements. The exploitation of young women as money-earning machines has reached a development on the East Side of New York probably not equaled anywhere else in the world.
It is not an entirely ,healthy development. Thousands of women have sacrificed themselves uselessly to give the boys of the family an
(55) education. And in the population of young males raised in this atmosphere of the sacrifice of the woman to the man, there have sprung up all sorts of specialization in the petty swindling of women of their wages. One class of men, for instance, go about dressed like the hero in a cook's romance, swindling unattractive and elderly working-women out of their earnings by promising marriage, and borrowing money to start a shop. The acute horror among the Jews of the state of being an old maid makes swindling of Jewish women under promise of marriage especially easy.
The People Who Dance
But the largest and most profitable field for exploitation of the girls of the East Side is in procuring them for the white slave traffic. This line of swindling is in itself specialized. Formerly its chief recruiting-grounds were the public amusement-parks of the tenement districts; now for several years they have been the dance-halls, and the work has been specialized very largely according to the character of the halls.
The amusement of the poor girl of New York — especially the very poor girl is dancing. On Saturdays and Sundays the whole East Side dances after nightfall, and every night in the week there are tens of thousands of dancers within the limits of the city of New York. Thereason for all this is simple: dancing is the one real amusement within the working-girl's means. For five cents the moving-picture show, the only competitor, gives half an hour's diversion and sends its audience to the street again; for five cents the cheaper "dancing academies" of the East Side give a whole evening's pleasure. For the domestic servant and the poorer shop-girl of the East Side there is practically no option, if she is to have any enjoyment of her youth; and not being able to dance is a generally acknowledged source of mortification.
Working the "Castle Garden" Halls
There are three main classes of dance-halls, roughly speaking, which are the main recruiting-places. In two of them are secured the more ignorant, recent immigrants, who appear in the houses kept by the larger operators of the Independent Benevolent Association. The hails of the first class are known by the East Side boys by the name of "Castle Gardens." To these places, plastered across their front with the weird Oriental hieroglyphics of Yiddish posters, the new Jewish immigrant girl—having found a job — is led by her sister domestics or shop-mates to take her first steps in the intricacies of American life. She cannot yet talk the language, but rigid social custom demands that she be able to dance. She arrives, pays her
(56) nickel piece, and sits — a big, dazed, awkward child— upon one of the wooden benches along the wall. A strident two-piece orchestra blasts big, soul-satisfying pieces of noise out of the surrounding atmosphere, and finally a delightful young Jewish-American man, with plastered hair, a pasty face, and most finished and ingratiating manners, desires to teach her to dance. Her education in American .life has begun.
The common expression for this process among the young dance-hall specialists of the East Side is "to kop out a new one." Night after night the cheap orchestra sounds from the bare hall, the new herds of girls arrive, and the gangs of loafing boys look them over. The master of the "dancing academy" does not teach dancing to these five-cent customers; he cannot, at the price; he simply lets his customers loose upon the floor to teach themselves. Some of the boys are "spielers," — youths with a talent for dancing,— who are admitted free to teach the girls, and are given the proceeds of an occasional dance. The others pay a ten-cent fee. The whole thing, catering to a class exceedingly poor, is en a most inexpensive scale. Even the five-cent drink of beer is too costly to be handled at a profit. The height of luxurious indulgence is the treat at the one-and two-cent soda-stands on the sidewalk below the dance-hall. Contrary to the common belief, intoxicating liquor plays but a small part in securing girls from this particular type of place. These lonely and poverty-stricken girls, ignorant and dazed by the strange conditions of an unknown country, are very easily secured by promise of marriage, or even partnership.
The Polish Saloon Dance-halls
A class very similar to this, but of different nationality and religion, is furnished by a second kind of dance-hall on the East Side. Just north of Houston Street are the long streets of signs where the Polish and Slovak servant-girls sit in stiff rows in the dingy employment agencies, waiting to be picked up as domestic servants. The odds against these unfortunate, bland-faced farm-girls are greater than those against the Galician Jews. They arrive here more like tagged baggage than human beings, are crowded in barracks of boardinghouses, eight and ten in a room at night, and in the morning the runner for the employment agency takes them, with all their belongings in a cheap valise, to sit and wait again for mistresses. Every hand seems to be against such simple and easily exploited creatures, even in some of the "homes" for them.
Just below this section of the Poles and Slays lies the great body of the Jews, and in the borderland several Hebrews with good political connections have established saloons with dance-halls behind them. For the past five or six years the Jewish cadets have found these particularly profitable resorts. These girls are so easily secured that in many cases the men who obtain control of them do not even speak their language.
Tammany Hall and the "Grand Civic Ball "
For a third of a century, at least, the young slum politician in Tammany has danced and picnicked his way into political power. The chief figures in New York slum politics followed this method. And thus arose the "grand civic ball" of the Bowery district—of which, perhaps, since its completion, the present Tammany Hall Building in Fourteenth Street has been the center. But the recent political gangs that have formed the chief strength of the slum districts of Tammany Hall have had a much closer connection with dance-halls than any political bodies before them, because their membership is so largely composed of cadets. Practically all the big gangs that have figured in slum politics in recent years started about cheap dance-halls. Paul Kelly's began in the halls about the lower Bowery; Eastman's grew strong about new Irving Hall in the Russian-Jewish district below Delancey Street; and Kid Twist's about a dance-hall for the Galician Jews in the far East Side.
These gangs of political, cadets naturally gravitate toward Tammany Hall for their larger affairs, when they are strong enough to do so. In this way Tammany Hall itself, among the many "tough" dance-halls in the city, has come to be the leading headquarters for disreputable dances. It is this class of dances that plays a most prominent part in finally procuring the American-bred girl for the cadet.
The Cadet's Contribution
The American-bred Jewish girl does not attend the "Castle Garden" dancing academies fur "greenhorns." Generally she is able to take dancing lessons, and her dancing is done at weddings or balls. A large number of these balls are given by the rising young political desperadoes, who form for the East Side girls local heroes, exactly as the football captains do for the girls in a college town. The cadets, who make up these men's followers, become acquainted with the girls upon the street at noon hour or at closing time, when the young toughs hang about the curbings, watching the procession of shop-girls on the walks. Nothing is more natural than the invitation to the ball; and nothing is more degrading than the association, at these balls, with the cadets and their "flashy girls."
There is liquor at these dances, which plays its part in their influence; but the tale of drugging is almost invariably a hackneyed lie —the common currency of women of the lower world, swallowed with chronic avidity by the sympathetic charitable worker. The course of a girl frequenting these East Side balls is one of increasing sophistication and degradation. At its end she is taken over by the cadet by the offer of a purely commercial partnership. Only one practical objection to the life remains to her — the fear of arrest and imprisonment.
"That's all right; you won't get sent away," says the cadet. "1 can take care of that." His indispensable service in the partnership is the political protection without which the business could not exist. How well he performs his work in New York was demonstrated by the recent testimony, before the Page commission of the legislature, of the immunity of women of this kind from serious punishment by the local courts.
These three classes of girls form the principal sources of the supply that is secured in New York. The ignorant "greenhorns" are taken over more by the larger operators into the houses. The American-bred girl is the alert and enterprising creature who is going through the cities of the United States with her manager, establishing herself in the streets and cafés. The cadet in the past was almost always Jewish; now the young Italians have taken up the business in great numbers. There are a number of "dancing academies" in the Jewish section near the Bowery, where the Italian cadet secures immigrant girls. He attends and conducts balls of his own, which are attended by both Christian and Jewish girls, and he has developed an important field for Slavic and Polish girls in the saloon dance-halls of the employment agency district just north of "Little Italy" in Harlem.
The Group of Italian Importers
There is a smaller special business in the lower part of New York, which brings in and sends out of the city a number of girls, and which corresponds more closely in its methods to the old white slave trade of the Orient. For a number of years a small group of Italians, who have been very active in the cause of the Tammany Hall organization of the Third Assembly District, has procured Italian girls for the Italian trade in America. The girls in the Italian population of New York are guarded as carefully by their mothers as any class of girls in America, and for this reason are not picked up in any considerable number in the ordinary way by the New York cadet. It has been necessary to secure them from Italy. The plan that is, perhaps, most frequently worked, is to get them through various "wise" members of
(58) the great mass of young Italian laborers who return to Italy every year for the winter. These youths induce young peasant girls to accompany them back to America under promise of marriage. When they arrive here, they are satisfied to give up the girls to the dealers in New York upon payment of their passage money and a small bonus.
In the survey of the conditions of the procuring business in the United States during the recent Government investigations, no more melancholy feature was discovered than that of the little Italian peasant girls, taken from various dens, where they lay, shivering and afraid, under the lighted candles and crucifixes in their bedrooms. Fear is more efficacious with this class than any other, because of the notorious tendency of the low-class Italian to violence and murder. These girls are closely confined, see only their managers and Italian laborers, do not talk English, and naturally do not know how to escape. At last, of course, they become desperate and hardened by the business. The American trade in them centers in the Bowery Assembly District in New York. From there they are sent in small numbers to various cities where the Italian laborer is found in considerable numbers, including Philadelphia. Pittsburg, Chicago and Boston.
Half the Country's Supply from New York?
This is a rough outline of the system of procuring and sending girls out of New York City under the safeguard of political protection. Detectives of the Federal Government, who have made within the past year a special investigation of this business in all of the large cities in this country, estimate that about one half of all the women now in the business throughout the United States started their career in this country in New York. This estimate includes, of course, the women imported into that city, as well as those taken from the population. This estimate may be large, but there can be little doubt, since recent developments, of New York's growth to leadership as the chief center of the white slave trade in the world.
The Galician and Russian kaftan of Lemberg and Warsaw has had one chief market almost destroyed by the recent drastic laws in Argentine Republic, which leave his present field of operation much narrowed. The same loss of trade by legal attack has come now upon the French trader in his greatest single market, the United States. During the past year two independent Federal investigations — one by the regular Government immigration service and one by a special commission appointed by Congress — have been conducted. Their attention has centered chiefly on the activities of the French trade. This branch of the white slave trade in America has been thoroughly frightened by the Government's activity, and the number of maquereaux in this country has greatly decreased for this reason.
New Yorkers Benefit by Supreme Court Decisions
The movement that is driving the French importer out of America has proved ineffectual against the operator from New York who secures immigrant girls after they have landed. In the campaign of the Federal authorities of Chicago, Joseph Keller and Louis Ullman, the former a member of the New York Independent Benevolent Association, were each sentenced to one and a half years of imprisonment for harboring two Jewish immigrant girls they had brought to Chicago from the East Side of New York. They appealed to the United States Supreme Court, and this held that while directly importing girls could be punished by Federal law, the provision punishing men for merely harboring girls taken after they arrive here was not constitutional; and that the exploiting of such girls must be punished by the State law, if at all.
Thus, while the business out of Poland and Paris has been severely curtailed in the past few years, there has so far been no practical setback for the trader from New York. He has to-day several thousands of girls, secured from the population of New York, established in various sections of the earth. And month after month the ranks of these women must be filled or extended out of the East Side population. This is a matter of desperate seriousness to the population that is being drawn upon for this supply, and a staring advertisement of New York's disgrace across the world; but for the United States at large it is less serious than another phase of the development of the business out of New York — the extension of its political cadet system throughout the cities of the United States.
Spread of the New York System
During the past six or seven years the police of most large American cities outside of New York have noticed a strange development which they have never been able to explain entirely to themselves. The business enterprises for marketing girls have passed almost entirely from the hands of women into those of men. In every case these men have the most intimate connections with the political machines of the slums, and everywhere there has developed a system of local cadets.
The date of this new development of the white slave trade outside of New York corresponds almost uniformly with the time when the traders and cadets from the New York red-light district introduced New York methods into the other cities of the country in 1901 and 1902. Hundreds of New York dealers and cadets are still at work in these other cities. But much more important are the local youths, whom these missionaries of the devil brought by the sight of their sleek prosperity into their trade. Everywhere the boy of the slums has learned that a girl is an asset which, once acquired by him, will give him more money than he can ever earn, and a life of absolute ease. in Chicago, for example, prosecutions in 1908 conducted by Assistant State's Attorney Clifford G. Roe caused to be fined or sent to prison one hundred and fifty of these cadets, nearly all local boys, who had procured local working-girls from the dance-halls and cheap pleasure resorts in and around Chicago.
The Double Influence of the New System
There is little doubt that from now on the larger part of the procuring and marketing of women for the United States will be carried on by the system of political procurers developed in New York. The operation of this system has a double influence upon our large cities. On the one side, it has great political importance, for the reason that more and more, with the growing concentration of the slum politician upon this field, the procurer and marketer of women tends to hold the balance of power in city elections. This is true not alone in New York; analyzers of recent political contests in Philadelphia and Chicago have been convinced that the registration and casting of fraudulent votes from disorderly places in those cities may easily determine the result in a close city election, for false votes by the thousand are cast from these resorts.
Certainly this is not an over-scrupulous class to hold the balance of political power in a community. But it is the other influence of the development that counts most — its highly efficient system for procuring its supplies. The average life of women in this trade is not over five years, and supplies must be constantly replenished. There is something appalling in the fact that year after year the demands of American cities reach up through thousands to the tens of thousands for new young girls. The supply has come in the past and must come in the future from the girls morally broken by the cruel social pressure of poverty and lack of training. The odds have been enough against these girls in the past. Now everywhere through the great cities of the country the sharp eyes of the wise cadet are watching, hunting her out at her amusements and places of work. And back of him the most adroit minds of the politicians of the slums are standing to protect and extend with him their mutual interests.
The trade of procuring and selling girls in America — taken from the weak hands of women and placed in control of acute and greedy men — has organized and specialized after its kind exactly as all other business has done. The cadet does his procuring, not as an agent for any larger interest, but knowing that a woman can always be sold profitably either on the streets or in houses in American cities. The larger operators conduct their houses and get their supplies from the cadet — take him, in fact, into a sort of partnership, by which every week he collects the girl's wages as her agent. The ward politician keeps the disorderly saloon — a most natural political development, because it serves both as a "hang-out" for the gangs of cadets and thieves, and a market for women. And, back of this, the politician higher up takes his share in other ways. No business pays such toll to the slum politicians as this does. The First Ward ball of " Ηinky Dink" Kenna and "Bath House John" Coughlin, the kings of slum politics in Chicago; the Larry Mulligan ball in New York; the dances of the Kelly and East Side and Five Points New York gangs, all draw their chief revenue, directly or indirectly, from this source. From low to high, the whole strong organization gorges and fattens on the gross feeding from this particular thing.
It is the poor and ignorant girl who is captured — the same class that has always furnished the " white slaves " of the world. interesting figures made by the police concerning the newcomers into the South Side Levee district of Chicago tell the same story as the statistics of New York in 1857. All but twelve or fifteen per cent are of foreign birth or parentage. About one third were of the domestic servant class before they entered the life of prostitution.
The National Center of the Procurer
Meanwhile, New York, the first in the development of this European trade in America, remains its center, and its procuring interests are the strongest and most carefully organized of all. The young cadet has his beginning, as well as the woman he secures. These boys learn in the primary schools of the farther East Side, from the semi-political gangs in the dance-halls; step by step, as they grow in the profession, they graduate into the Third
(60) Assembly District, the chief "hang-out" place of the procurer in the world. in all the East Side districts of Tammany Hall these youths have representatives who look out for their interests; but here two thirds of the active workers are or have been interested in markets of prostitution.
Around the district's eastern edge in lower Second Avenue hang the mass of the Jewish cadets, who are members of the strong East Side political gangs. Many of them are determined thieves as well. Farther along is a mixture of the more leisurely class, who devote all their attention to their work as managers of women. Among them are scores— and through the near-by East Side hundreds — of youths who have women at work throughout this country, especially in the West and Southwest, or abroad, but who prefer to remain, themselves, in the companionship and comfort of the national headquarters of their trade. Correspondence on the condition of the white slave trade comes here from all over the world. On the lower Bowery and in Chatham Square are the Italian cadets.
There are scores of "hang-outs" for cadets in the Third District, and in all the notorious saloons the waiters are managers of women, and receive their jobs on the recommendation of politicians. Special lawyers defend the cadets when they are caught, and all have their direct access to the political machine, largely through the political owners of their special "hang-outs." Altogether, it is a colony of procurers not equaled throughout the world in its powers of defense and offense.
The New York and Paris Apache
This class of political criminal has had a distinct tendency toward greater and greater license. The type of youth first known as cadet was a slinking, cowardly person, who was physically formidable only to the more timid foreign immigrants. Now, and especially since the young Italian has taken up this profession in New York, the gangs of these men have constantly grown uglier and bolder. A curious similarity is shown between these gangs as they have developed in New York, and the Apaches, the bands of city savages in Paris, whose violent crimes were responsible for the recent re-introduction of capital punishment in France. A statement by M. Bay, head of the Research Brigade in that city, concerning the outbreak of crime there in 1902, shows how identical the gangs of New York are with those that have formed in the capital of France, about the same business that is their mainstay here.
"Paris," he said, "is empty; the women upon whom the great mass of these hooligans prey are unable to obtain money. Result — the scoundrels, none of whom are capable of doing an hour's honest work, fall back on the knife, the revolver, or the burglar's jimmy. All of these articles can be purchased cheaply. Another reason for the street fights which take place with revolvers is jealousy. A woman leaves her `protector' and takes up with another man; the two men at once become sworn enemies, and a regular vendetta is started between them. They gather their friends and in pitched battles try to kill each other."
The highway assaults, murders, and street fights that New York has suffered from in the last five years have come from an exactly similar class of organization. For two years past the operations of these gangs have been curtailed by the activity against them of the Police Department, under the administration of General Bingham. Gradually his campaign led to the higher and more important enterprises which they made headquarters for themselves and their women. It extended first through the centers about the Bowery, Second Avenue, and Chatham Square, and finally to the associated summer headquarters at Coney Island. Then, suddenly, General Bingham was removed by Mayor McClellan.
The various interests dependent upon the procuring and sale of women considered this event their first victory. But now all eyes of these people are concentrated on the main issue this fall. Will or will not Tammany be elected? The whole future of their career in New York hangs upon the issue of this event. And they are preparing to work for the Democratic party with every means in their power.
The Rebates of the Slum Politician
The exploitation of a popular government by the slum politician is a curious thing, always. I sat some time ago with a veteran politician, for many years one of the leading election district captains of the Tammany Bowery organization, conversing sociably in the parlor of his profitable Raines-law hotel.
"The people love Tammany Hall," said my host. "We use 'em right. When a widow's in trouble, we see she has her hod of coal; when the orphans want a pair of shoes, we give it to them."
It was truly and earnestly said. As bespoke, the other half of the political financing was shown. The procession of the daughters of the East Side filed by the open door upstairs with their strange men. It was the slum leader's common transaction. Having wholesaled the
(610 bodies of the daughters at good profit, he rebates the widow's hod of coal.
The so-called "human quality" is the threadbare defense of slum politics. But all its charitable transactions have been amply financed. From the earliest time it has been the same old system of rebates to the poor. First, the rebate of the tenement saloon at the death of the drunken laborer; then, the rebate from the raking-up of the last miserable pennies of the clerk and laborer and scrubwoman, by the pool-rooms and policy; and now, smiling its same old hearty smile, it extends to the widow and orphan its rebates from the bodies of the daughters of the poor.
It is a source of perennial wonder how much longer the poorer classes will be cajoled and threatened and swindled into taking them.
The issues of the coming campaign for the control of New York City have been framed in charges to enlist all classes of the people against Tammany Hall. For the rich, the great tax rate for wasted and misappropriated money; for the citizen of average means, the inadequate schools, dirty highways, burglaries, and violence upon the public streets. There is a perennial issue for the people of the tenement districts. Shall New York City continue to be the recruiting-ground for the collection for market of young women by politically organized procurers? The only practical way to stop it will be by the defeat of Tammany Hall.
For further notes on the conditions that have arisen in New York under the Tammany Hall administration, see page 117.