Pelham, It Seems, Became a Hotbed of Bootlegging and Illegal Stills During Prohibition
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I have written extensively about bootlegging, illegal stills, and liquor raids in the Town of Pelham during Prohibition. For a few examples, see:
Mon., Jul. 06, 2015: Police Raided a Massive 300-Gallon Illegal Liquor Still on Corlies Avenue in 1932.
Fri., Jun. 19, 2015: More Liquor Raids in Pelham During Prohibition in the 1920s.
Wed., Jun. 17, 2015: Prohibition Rum-Runners Delivering A Boatload of Booze Were Foiled in Pelham in 1925.
Fri., Apr. 24, 2015: The North Pelham "Speakeasy Section" Created Quite a Stir During Prohibition.
Tue., Nov. 18, 2014: More Bootleggers and Speakeasies Raided in Pelham in 1929 During Prohibition.
Fri., May 23, 2014: How Dry I Am -- Early Prohibition Efforts Succeed in Pelham in 1896.
Thu., Apr. 03, 2014: The Prohibition Era in Pelham: Another Speakeasy Raided.
Tue., Feb. 18, 2014: Pelham Speakeasies and Moonshiners - Prohibition in Pelham: The Feds Raid the Moreau Pharmacy in Pelham Manor in 1922.
Thu., Feb. 07, 2008: Village Elections in Pelham in 1900 - New York Athletic Club Members Campaign Against the Prohibition Ticket in Pelham Manor.
Thu., Jan. 12, 2006: The Beer Battle of 1933.
Thu., Aug. 11, 2005: How Dry I Am: Pelham Goes Dry in the 1890s and Travers Island Is At the Center of a Storm.
Bell, Blake A., The Prohibition Era in Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 25, June 18, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.
With each effort to research the topic, more and more instances of illegal stills, bootlegging, and liquor raids in Pelham are uncovered. Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog summarizes a number of additional instances of such misconduct, and provides the text of, and citations to, the articles on which the summary is based.
The Giant Still on the Border of Chester Park
Once the trench digging equipment described above uncovered the used mash in a drain in front of the property located at 710 Pelhamdale Avenue (upper Pelhamdale Avenue adjacent to Chester Park), four Federal agents raided the house. The home was guarded by a big dog. Inside the agents arrested William Charles Adler, 35, who said he lived on the premises, Dominick Luongo, 29, of Arthur avenue, Bronx; Joseph Sabella, 26, of Valentine avenue, Bronx.
The agents removed eleven barrels of mash and several thousand gallons of alcohol. They took it to a nearby wooded area then-located near the intersection of upper Pelhamdale Avenue and Mayflower Avenue. The haul was so large that, according to a headline published in The Pelham Sun, the "Odor of Dumped Liquor Permeates Neighborhood."
Successful Raid on Local Drugstore in Pelham Manor with Capture of Hapless Messenger
Today's Trestle Field is located in a tiny park on Pelhamdale Avenue next to the Branch Line railroad tracks across from Manor Circle in the Village of Pelham Manor. In 1927, there were a couple of businesses located in a building at 1108 Pelhamdale Avenue that housed "K" Garage, an automobile repair garage operated by Roy C. Kaye, who lived in a home adjacent to the business. One of the businesses, with the address of 1105 Pelhamdale Avenue, was Newman's Drug Store operated by 24-year-old Emanuel Newman.
In 1927, Pelham Manor residents who lived in the area grew suspicious of the business and tipped off Pelham Manor Police Chief Philip Gargan that the tiny Drug Store was involved in unusual activities. Chief Gargan placed the tiny business under surveillance. Soon it seemed apparent that the Drug Store was being used as an illegal boot-legging site, accepting illegal deliveries of alcohol and selling the alcohol to customers who came into the business.
Chief Gargan contacted Federal prohibition authorities who arranged to make an illegal purchase of alcohol at the Drug Store and then signal Chief Gargan to arrest the operator of the business once the transaction was completed. The plan went off without a hitch. While Chief Gargan waited nearby, the agents entered Newman's Drug Store at noon on Thursday, August 4, 1927 and bought a bottle of Scotch whiskey. They signaled to Gargan outside who promptly entered and arrested Emanuel Newman. Gargan and the Federal agents searched the premises and seized twenty-eight bottles of Scotch.
As Gargan and the agents were wrapping up the search, a showy Packard limousine arrived outside the drugstore. While a driver waited in the limousine outside, a man walked in and plunked down on the drug store counter a wrapped package that suspiciously looked like a five-gallon can holding liquid. As the hapless deliveryman turned to depart, the Federal agents opened the package and found a five-gallon can of alcohol. Gargan immediately arrested the deliveryman and the limousine driver and seized the car. The Prohibition agents added the five-gallon can to the twenty-eight bottles of Scotch they had seized.
The three men were taken to the Pelham Manor jail. Bail was set at $1,000 each. The next day the three were transported to New York City.
Three Bootleggers Arrested in the Midst of a Delivery in North Pelham
Only a few weeks later, police arrested three bootleggers accepting a delivery of alcohol near the intersection of Fourth Avenue (today's Lincoln Avenue) and Fourth Street. The location was only a few blocks away from the notorious North Pelham "Speakeasy Section" located on Seventh Avenue between Sixth Street and Seventh Street.
On Monday, August 22, 1927, acting on a tip, North Pelham Police approached three men standing next to two parked cars. The police observed a five-gallon can sitting on the ground next to one of the cars. That car already contained five more five-gallon cans. The men were loading thirty gallons of illegal alcohol into the vehicle when the North Pelham Police stopped them.
According to a local news report, "The trio who gave their names as Angelo Tomasetti, 21, of No. 2053 Second avenue, New York City; Joseph Arena, 27, of No. 327 East 125th street, New York City, and Guiseppe Seprino, 33, of No. 61 River street, New Rochelle, were arrested by Patrolmen Thomas Kennedy and James Romano, on Fourth avenue, near Fourth street, in which neighborhood it is believed that they purchased the alcohol." Village police arrested all three, seized both of the vehicles, and took possession of the alcohol.
The driver of one of the vehicles claimed he had stopped to say hello to the driver of the other car whom he claimed to have known a few years before and had not seen since. The other driver admitted he had bought the alcohol, but claimed he bought it from a total stranger and refused to implicate the other two men. The third man, who was a passenger in the car of the driver who bought the alcohol, claimed he knew nothing about any transaction and had been asked by his friend to keep him company on a drive from New York City to Pelham.
Chief of North Pelham Police Michael J. Fitzpatrick communicated with Prohibition Administrator Maj. Maurice Campbell and was told to hold the men until the prohibition officer came for them the next morning. The following morning, each of the three men posted a bail of $1,000 and a hearing in the matter was set for the following week.
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Below is the text of a series of articles that form the basis of today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog. Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.
"Chester Park Excited Over Liquor Raid
Federal Agents Raid House on North Pelham Borders and Capture $40,000 Still and Several Thousand Gallons of Alcohol. Odor of Dumped Liquor Permeates Neighborhood
Hundreds of gallons of alcohol and mash were dumped in the woods at the junction of Mayflower and [Upper] Pelhamdale avenues, New Rochelle, on Monday, after Federal prohibition agents raided a private residence at 710 Pelhamdale avenue, New Rochelle, which borders the North Pelham line. A still said to be worth $40,000 and declared by Federal agents to be one of the best they have captured was broken up.
The discovery of the still came it is said when a mechanical trench digger digging a sewer excavating along Pelhamdale avenue cut into a drain which was full of mash. The discovery reached the ears of Federal Agents Wagner, McCay, Hawley and Frank, who were operating in the vicinity. They raided the house and arrested William Charles Adler, 35, who said he lived on the premises, Dominick Luongo, 29, of Arthur avenue, Bronx; Joseph Sabella, 26, of Valentine avenue, Bronx. The three men were taken to North Pelham police headquarters Federal agents being under the impression that the raided house was in this village. Desk Officer Harry Duelfer communicated with New Rochelle police headquarters and Detective Captain McGowan and Detective Mancusi came and took charge of the prisoners.
The men were given a formal arraignment and held under $3,500 bail on a charge of being in possession of an unregistered still. They were taken to New York on Tuesday.
The raided house had been empty for several months. Quite recently it was renovated and occupied. A huge dog guarded the premises.
Federal agents found the distillery arranged on the second floor and attic of the building. Eleven barrels of mash were working and gallons of distilled alcohol were found.
The house has been under suspicion for sometime. Police have reported hearing sounds of quarreling there during the night although no lights were visible in the house. Ever since the house was occupied about July 1st events in the vicinity have been such as to cause the police to keep watch over the premises."
Source: Chester Park Excited Over Liquor Raid -- Federal Agents Raid House on North Pelham Borders and Capture $40,000 Still and Several Thousand Gallons of Alcohol. Odor of Dumped Liquor Permeates Neighborhood, The Pelham Sun, Aug. 5, 1927, Vol. 18, No. 24, p. 1, col. 5.
"Federal Agents Stage Raid On Newman's Drug Store, Catch Bootlegger Delivering Goods
Chief Gargan and Federal Agents Secure 28 Bottles of Alleged Scotch Whiskey -- While Making Arrest Bootlegger Walks In With Package of Liquor for Delivery and Is Grabbed by Gargan
Emanuel Newman, 24, who operates a drug store at 1105 Pelhamdale avenue, Pelham Manor, was arrested yesterday morning on a charge of violation of the Federal Prohibition laws following a raid on his store by Prohibition agents and Police Chief Gargan yesterday morning. Twenty-eight bottles alleged to contain Scotch whiskey were found on the premises and confiscated by the Prohibition men and Newman is now held in Pelham Manor jail under $500 bail. He will be taken before Commissioner O'Neill at the Federal Department in the old Post Office building this morning.
While Chief Gargan was making the raid, a man drove up to the store in a Packard limousine, walked into the store and deposited a package which looked suspicious. The Federal men opened the package and revealed a five gallon can of alleged alcohol. They took possession of the liquor and placed the delivery man, Elias Nathanson, who says he is a Russian and lives at 900 Bronx Park South, under arrest. Nathanson could not produce his registration license and on examination of his car it was found that the serial number of the motor had been defaced. Chief Gargan is of opinion that the car may have been stolen.
John McCabe of 265 East 182nd St., the driver of the vehicle, was placed under arrest by Chief Gargan, claimed to have no part in the operations of the others. Nathanson and McCabe were taken to police headquarters with Newman and were held, bail being fixed at $1,000 each. The trio were taken to New York today.
The Newman drug store has been under surveillance for some time following complaints which have been made to Police Chief Gargan. Major Maurice Campbell of North Pelham, Federal Prohibition Commissioner for this district, took a hand in proceedings, and a plan was made to procure evidence.
Thursday noon, Chief Gargan and the prohibition officers went to the neighborhood of the Newman drug store. While the police chief awaited the signal, the two prohibition men entered the store and after a little discussion purchased a bottle represented to be full of Scotch whiskey. The men then signaled to the police chief and he placed Newman under arrest. As the three officers were packing up ready to move toward the police station the alleged bootlegger walked into the net and was picked up.
Police Chief Gargan says that application will be made for padlock proceedings against Newman. Such an order would close the place for a year. The building is owned by Robert Mullins and was the center of a long wrangle after an alleged violation of the zoning laws when it was built two years ago."
Source: Federal Agents Stage Raid On Newman's Drug Store, Catch Bootlegger Delivering Goods -- Chief Gargan and Federal Agents Secure 28 Bottles of Alleged Scotch Whiskey -- While Making Arrest Bootlegger Walks In With Package of Liquor for Delivery and Is Grabbed by Gargan, The Pelham Sun, Aug. 5, 1927, Vol. 18, No. 24, p. 1, cols. 6-7.
"Alcohol, 3 Men And 2 Cars Taken In Booze Raid
North Pelham Police Officers Find Five Cans of Pre-Volstead Liquor in Car -- Another on Sidewalk
Trio Held in $1,000 Bail Each For Violation of Prohibition Amendment. Hearing Tuesday
Arrested in North Pelham Monday night with thirty gallons of alleged alcohol in their possession, three men are held under $4,000 bail, each pending their appearance before the United States Commissioner in New York City, Tuesday. Two automobiles in one of which it is charged the alcohol was being transported were also seized. The trio who gave their names as Angelo Tomasetti, 21, of No. 2053 Second avenue, New York City; Joseph Arena, 27, of No. 327 East 125th street, New York City, and Guiseppe Seprino, 33, of No. 61 River street, New Rochelle, were arrested by Patrolmen Thomas Kennedy and James Romano, on Fourth avenue, near Fourth street, in which neighborhood it is believed that they purchased the alcohol.
Acting on police information the officers arrested the trio when they found them standing beside one of the automobiles, in which five 5-gallon cans of alcohol were later found. Another filled can stood beside the car. Tomasetti confessed to purchasing the alcohol from an unidentified man who left the liquor on the sidewalk. The seller disappeared before the police arrived.
Seprino denied any knowledge of the sale or the contents of the cans, saying that he had stopped his machine on recognizing Tomasetti as a fellow countryman whom he had known several years ago. Little credence is placed in his story by the police.
Tomasetti refused to implicate the other two in the transaction. He told of being told by telephone that he could purchase the alcohol at $4.50 per gallon if he came to Fourth avenue and Fourth street, North Pelham. He asked Arena, a friend, to come along to keep him company on the ride from New York City.
When he arrived at the place mentioned, he told the police, he was met by a stranger who showed him the cans of liquor placed on the sidewalk. The price was paid and the man left, while Tomasetti and Arena loaded the cans in the car, a Chrysler roadster.
At this time, he stated, Seprina came along in his car, a Ford, and stopped to talk with Tomasetti. Before the last can could be loaded in the car the officers arrived and placed the trio under arrest. The cars were taken to a local garage.
Chief of Police Michael J. Fitzpatrick communicated with Prohibition Administrator Maj. Maurice Campbell and was instructed to hold the men until the prohibition officer came for them the next morning.
Tuesday morning bail of $1,000 each was posted and hearing set for next Tuesday."
Source: Alcohol, 3 Men And 2 Cars Taken In Booze Raid -- North Pelham Police Officers Find Five Cans of Pre-Volstead Liquor in Car -- Another on Sidewalk -- Trio Held in $1,000 Bail Each For Violation of Prohibition Amendment. Hearing Tuesday, The Pelham Sun, Aug. 26, 1927, Vol. 18, No. 27, p. 1, col. 5.
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