Monday, May 11, 2009

Criminal Weaponry in 1929

As I continue to chronologically muddle through the New Yorker, I still wonder when it will start getting SERIOUS. As of July 20, 1929 it remains a goofy collection of gags, cartoons, bon mots, and "burlesques," and the only consistent reporting seems to involve Parisian fashion trends, the Profiles of industrial tycoons, and the finer points of Polo.

The exception, however, is the semi-regular "Reporter at Large" column. It's always a highlight and it provides the modern reader -- or at least me -- exactly the sorts of things we want to know: the reasoned and thorough research of life at the time.

Niven Busch, Jr. is the writer of this particular article about police headquarters. It outlines exactly how people are processed by the police when they're arrested, including interesting lists like this one regarding the contents of the "Property Room."
Every branch of the underworld has its characteristic type of arms. Holdup men use conventional Smith & Wesson six-shooters, or Colt automatics; the gunmen employed by bootleggers or warring Chinese tongs depend on foreign military pistols which have great accuracy even at long ranges. Cracksmen carry arms when working on a big job, but the ordinary burglar, contrary to general belief, seldom does, though he may have a nickel-plated gas or airgun to use as a bluff if cornered. Negroes have a partiality for blackjacks, which they manufacture themselves, concealing chunks of lead in the finger of a glove, or in a big watchcase. Most deadly of all criminal weapons is the sawed-off shotgun, a cheap twelve or sixteen-gauge gun shortened so it will fit in a trouser-leg and which, loaded with screws and pieces of brass and steel, is carried only by a killer whose single and immediate purpose is to commit murder.
What did they do with all those confiscated weapons? They kept them in five wooden chests. When the chests finally became full they'd be taken out into the bay and dumped into the Narrows. There's probably a lot of neat stuff down there.

(Incidentally, this is the 1001st post in this blog. Whew!)


Kimber said...

WOW!!! 1001! I can only hope to achieve that someday...

Adam Thornton said...

It's all about quality, not quantity! :)

Gary said...

Reminds me of the stuff that famed crime reporter/photographer Arthur Fellig ("Weegee") probably came across.

Here's part of a New York Times article about him from the June 20, 2008 issue:

"Weegee’s peak period as a freelance crime and street photographer was a whirl of perpetual motion running from the mid-1930s into the postwar years. Ceaselessly prowling the streets during the graveyard shift, he took thousands of photographs that defined Manhattan as a film noir nightscape of hoodlums and gangsters, Bowery bums and slumming swells, tenement dwellers and victims of domestic brawls, fires and car crashes. He gave it its enduring nickname, the Naked City."

Check out the article - it's fascinating, and probably fits right in with this post.