Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24: Alexander Jackson Davis, The Artist Architect

“I have designed the most buildings of any living American architect.”
Alexander Jackson Davis was born in New York City on July 24, 1803, to Cornelius and Julia Jackson Davis. His father was not wealthy, but did support his family though his work as a bookseller and as a publisher of religious tracts. His father was frequently away from home, travelling through the northeastern states to sell his tracts and to arrange the sale of books.

While the family home was based in Newark, New Jersey during Davis’s early years, his family would move to upstate New York, where he would attend elementary school in the rapidly growing towns of Auburn and Utica. In 1818, when he was almost fifteen years old, he would move to Alexandria, Virginia, where he was apprenticed to learn the printing trade at his half-brother’s printing office. However, young Davis was bored by the repetitious work involved in the printing process, so he spent much of his time reading romantic novels and acting in the amateur theater productions in the area. Perhaps it was here that he developed the romantic ideal that became the vision of much of his future work.

When his apprenticeship was completed in 1823, the twenty-year-old Davis moved to New York City to seek his fortune and work. He studied there at the American Academy of Fine Arts, the New-York Drawing Association, and the Antique School of the National Academy of Design. During this time he met, worked with, and was befriended by men like John Trumbull, Samuel Morse, and Rembrandt Peale, who were among some of the most important artists of the day. Peale and Trumbull directed Davis’s life passion when they advised Davis to concentrate on architecture and architectural illustrations.

Davis, a talented and skilled artist, focused on learning the skills of an architectural illustrator – and would have many of his works printed by some of the prominent publishers of the era. In 1826 he had another career-advancing focus presented to him. He began working as a draftsman for the architectural firm of Martin E. Thompson, and Ithiel Town. There he met some key figures in his life, such as Josiah R. Brady, a New York architect and an early advocate of a style of architecture titled Greek Revival, and Ithiel Town – an innovative architectural design leader in the Greek Revival style of architecture, whose extensive library on architecture was rivaled by none, and was at the disposal of Davis. The firm provided a well-grounded, friendly atmosphere that provided a huge impetus for the growth of Davis in his chosen profession.

It is hard to deny the effect that Davis’ talent and passion as an architectural illustrator weighed significantly on his career as an architect. His chief interest and strength was in design, and – being a highly talented watercolorist, he did almost all of his own drafting and drawings.

In 1829 Davis joined in partnership with Town, a partnership that would last until 1835, when Davis would form his own architectural firm. The partnership designed many of the ‘Greek Revival’ buildings of the era, including the Executive Department offices and the Patent Building in the nation’s capital – as well as the Custom House in New York City. Davis also designed (or was consulted in the design) of a number of state capitols – such a the Indiana State House in Indianapolis, the Illinois State Capitol, the Ohio Statehouse, and the North Carolina State Capitol. While none of the state capitols were built exactly as Davis planned and advised, his influence can still be seen in their design.

The partnership with Town ended in 1835. Davis had developed his vision of design to a become the cutting edge of architecture design in the country. Under Town’s tutelage, Davis had developed a sound knowledge of the theory and structure behind architectural design. Because he approached architectural design first through a pictorial method rather than structural, he referred to his preferences with the phrase “I am but an architectural composer.” A master of the Greek Revival form of architecture, Davis is perhaps better known for his Gothic Revival, Italianate, and other ‘picturesque’ styles that were used in building residential villas.

Using his strength in design, he began to move the development of residential villas from its cubist appearance into buildings that reflected and resided in their physical surroundings. Davis was a pioneer in the American design of merging buildings to their surroundings. He became the leading architect of country houses in a variety of styles for the wealthy merchants and industrialists, many of whom were in New York. He also was in demand in North Carolina, working for the state government, especially in helping to design buildings for universities. He also did extensive design work for the Virginia Military Institute – which the final construction of was not completed until after his death.

The Civil War brought a halt to non-essential building in America, and Davis fell on economic hard times. To top it off, after the war was over the architectural tastes of the country changed – embracing the High Victorian Gothic and Second Empire styles. Davis refused to work in either style, and was commissioned to design only a few buildings. He continued to design large projects – but they were never built. He retired to New Jersey in the 1870s.

Marriage came late in Davis’ life. On July 14, 1853 he married Margaret Beale, and would have two children – Flora and Joseph.

Davis died on January 14, 1892 at the age of eighty-eight, and would be buried at the Bloomfield Cemetery, Bloomfield, New Jersey.

After his death much of his work was collected and would be shared between four New York institutions, including the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His contributions, which are largely unknown today, shaped American architectural design for a generation.


No biographies of Alexander Jackson Davis are available at our local library.


Find A Grave
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
Newburgh Restoration
Virginia Military Institute


01. Portrait of Davis: Preservation Greensboro
02. The State Capitol at Raleigh, North Carolina: Preservation Greensboro
03. 1845 Sketch of Davis: Newburgh Preservation Association
04. New York Customs House, now Federal Hall: Wikipedia
05. Lyndhurst in New York: Wikipedia
06. Virginia Military Institute: Wikipedia
07. Gravesite, Find A Grave by Nikita Barlow

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 22: Daniel Carroll – Established the District of Columbia

He was a prominent member of one of America’s great colonial families – a family that included his younger brother - the first Catholic bishop in the United States – as well as a cousin who signed the the Declaration of Independence. The family also included a variety of barristers, merchants, planters, and political leaders. The guiding light of his extended family was their ancient family motto: “Strong in Faith and War”.

Daniel Carroll was born in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, on July 22, 1730 at his family home – Darnall’s Chance. His parents Daniel and Eleanor Darnall Carroll were wealthy planters who owned 27 000 acres of land in the colony of Maryland.

Carroll’s early education would be both at home, and through the Jesuit school at Bohemia Manor, Maryland. As was typical of wealthy planters in colonial America, he went overseas for his advanced education, studying under the Jesuits at the College of St. Omer in Flanders, from 1742 – 1748.

After his education ended, Carroll – again in the tradition of wealthy colonial families – toured Europe. After returning home, he married Eleanor Carroll, first cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton – who in turn was a cousin of Daniel Carroll. From 1750 until 1776, Carroll lived the life of a gentleman planter, remaining out of the public eye.

However, just because he was out of the public eye did not mean that Carroll was immune from the thoughts of rebellion and independence from England that increased in America after 1763. He was a large landholder, and was concerned over economic repercussions, the threat of mob rule, and the type of government that might be installed. However, as the clock ticked inexplicable toward revolution, Carroll found himself siding with the Patriots – albet reluctantly at first.

However, he could not politically act on his thoughts, as the laws of Maryland forbid Catholics from holding political office. After that law was nullified by the Maryland Consitution in 1776, Carroll felt the pull of his family’s heritage and public duty. He was elected to the upper house of the Maryland legislature, serving there from 1777 – 1781, and then in 1781 he was elected to the Continental Congress. As he travelled to Philadelphia to join the Congress he carried with him Maryland’s consent to sign the Articles of Confederation. That same year he would sign that document. Carroll would serve in the Congress from 1781 – 1784.

As he saw the problems arising from the confederation of states formed by the Articles of Confederation, Carroll became convinced that a stronger central government was needed. He spoke out on several weaknesses of the Articles, and would be a member of the Constitutional Convention. At the convention he would join James Madison in stating the need for the central government to regulate interstate and international commerce; as well as the need for the central government to pay members of Congress, not the states. When some members of the Convention suggested that the President should be elected by Congress, Carroll moved that the words “by the legislature” be replaced with “by the people”.

While Carroll arrived late to the Convention due to illness – arriving on July 9, 1787 - he would attend the remaining sessions regularly. He spoke about twenty times during the various debates that took place, and served on the Committee on Postponed matters.

Carroll would be one of two Catholics to sign the Constitution – showing the advances that religious freedom was making in America during this revolutionary era. He would also be one of five men to sign both the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution.

After the Convention ended, Carroll returned to Maryland to actively campaign for ratification of the document. While he was not a delegate to the state convention that accepted the new constitution, Carroll’s voice had been heard.

In 1789 Carroll was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. During his term he voted for locating the national capitol on the banks of the Potomac River, as well as for Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s program for the national government’s assumption of state debts from the Revolution.

In 1791, President Washington named Carroll as one of the three commissioners who were to survey and define the borders of the District of Columbia. Four farms would be deeded to the national government to make up the District of Columbia, and part of Carroll’s farm would become the land that the Capitol was built on. Carroll would also serve on the first Board of Commissioners for the District of Columbia.

Ill health would force Carroll to resign this post in 1795, and the next year he would pass away at his home. He was buried at St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, Rock Creek (now Forest Glen), Maryland.


There are no biographies of Daniel Carroll at our local library.


Jamison’s of South Carolina
Catholic Encyclopedia
Laughter Genealogy
National Archives
National Park Service
Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution


01. Portrait of Daniel Carroll. Drawing: Oil (ca. 1758) by John Wollaston, Maryland Historical Society, copyright by John Hopkins University
02. Portrait of Eleanor Carroll and Daniel III, by John Wollaston, Maryland Historical Society, copyright by John Hopkins University
03. A map showing tracts of land deeded for the District of Columbia, United States Capitol Historic Society

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 15: Clement Moore’s “Trifle” That Became A Masterpiece

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”

With these words an obscure scholar from penned a work for his children that became a classic piece of literature read to children generation after generation.

Clement Clarke Moore was born on July 15, 1779, the only son of Benjamin and Charity Clarke Moore. The Moore family was a family of wealth and education. His father was a professor, then president, of Columbia College as well as an Episcopal bishop in New York City and the rector of Trinity Church.

Moore was home schooled during his early years, with his father tutoring him and both of his parents encouraging his natural tendency toward languages and music. Later he would attend Columbia College, and would graduate first in his class in 1798. At Columbia he would earn a BA and in 1801 a M.A.

He was thirty-four when he married nineteen-year-old Catharine Elizabeth Taylor in 1813, settling at Chelsea, in a country estate in Manhattan. They would have 9 children. Catharine would pass away in 1830 and leaving Moore with seven children between the ages of three and fifteen. Moore would not remarry, and would be solely responsible for his children’s upbringing and education.

The Moore family owned extensive land in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Moore’s gift of sixty acres of land in 1819 made possible the establishment of the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1819. In 1821 Moore was made a professor at the Seminary, a position he would hold until 1850. While at the Seminary he taught Oriental languages, biblical learning, and the interpretation of scripture. Ten years before his helping to establish the Seminary, he would compile a two-volume Hebrew dictionary in 1809 to assist in the translation and understanding of the Old Testament titled “A Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language”. Volume I contained "an explanation of every word which occurs in the Psalms"; while volume 2 was "a lexicon and grammar of the whole language." The Preface offers a mode of study which will enable "any person acquainted with the general principles of language, without the aid of a teacher, to read and understand the Holy Scriptures in the original Hebrew."

Moore is also considered as the savior of Greenwich Village in New York. When the state government was planning to extend a grid of streets into the Village, Moore anonymously authored a sixty-page pamphlet that contained such persuasive arguments against the plan that the street network never entered the Village, preserving its unique culture and atmosphere.

In 1822 Moore penned a story as a Christmas gift for his children. “A Visit From Saint Nicholas”, which later became recognized and popularly known from its first line “Twas The Night Before Christmas”, was intended for his family, and might never had been shared with the world if not for one of Moore’s relatives, a Miss Butler, who copied the poem and who would take the copy to the Troy Sentinel. There it would be published anonymously in the Sentinel on December 23, 1823, with Moore accepting credit of authorship in 1837. He did not want the poem published because he felt, as an academician, that the poem was a mere trifle, and it was beneath his professional dignity to have it published. Yet, the poem when published anonymously a year later, it was an overnight sensation. The Troy Sentinel would hint that Moore was the author in 1829. Moore would reluctantly include his poem in a book of poetry that he wrote in 1844.

An anecdote on the origin of the poem goes as follows:

“On Christmas Eve 1822, Reverend Clement Moore’s wife was roasting turkeys for distribution to the poor of the local parish, a yearly tradition discovered that she was short one turkey, she asked Moore to venture into the snowy streets to obtain another. He called for his sleigh and coachman, and drove “downtown” to Jefferson Market, which is now the Bowery section of New York City, to buy the needed turkey. Moore composed the poem while riding in his sleigh; his ears obviously full of the jingle of sleigh bells. He returned with the turkey and the new Christmas poem. After dinner that evening, Moore read the new verses to his family, to the evident delight of his children.”

As often happens, claims arose that Moore was not the author of the famous poem. In 2000 – nearly 180 years after the fact, Vassar professor Don Foster published a book claiming that “The Night Before Christmas” was actually written by a different New Yorker, Major Henry Livingston Jr. For details you can read the article here and arrive at your own conclusion. Despite the rise of other claimants, scholars in general still attribute the poem to Moore.

Moore would pass away at his summer residence in Newport, Rhode Island, on July 10, 1863 – just five days before his eighty-fourth birthday. He was buried at the Trinity Church Cemetery, Manhattan. Oddly enough, as much as he regarded his poem as a trifle, it is his poem that he is remembered – not for his academic works.


There are no Clement Moore biographies at our local library.


Jewish Virtual Library
New York Institute for Special Education
The Night Before Christmas
Urban Legends


01. Handwritten copy of Twas the Night
02. Portrait of a young Moore
03. Portrait, Wikipedia

04. Cover by Mary Clement Ogden, Moore’s daughter
05. Gravestone, Find-a-Grave by Erik Lander


Monday, July 13, 2009

July 13: The Wizard of the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest

"War means fighting and fighting means killing." -Nathan Bedford Forrest

He was the eldest of eleven children born to Chapel Hill, Tennessee, who – upon the death of his father – became the head of the family when he was sixteen years old. He would become a businessman, a planter, and a feared Confederate Civil War general.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was born in a rough-hewn frontier cabin on July 13, 1821 to William and Mariam Beck Forrest. When Forrest was thirteen, his parents moved the family to the edge of the settled frontier in northern Mississippi. His father established a farm there, clearing the forests and plowing the virgin land. Then, three years later in 1837, died – leaving sixteen year old Nathan as the head of the family, consisting of his widowed mother, seven brothers and three sisters. Mariam would eventually remarry around 1840 to Joseph Luxton.

Forrest and his older brothers continued to clear the land and plant crops. Gradually they raised corn, wheat, and cotton – and began to raise cattle. The farm became successful, and profitable. Because of the frontier conditions while growing up, and then his role as head of the family, Forrest found that he was limited to about six months of formal education.

When he was twenty, Forest went into business with his uncle, Jonathan Forrest, in Hernando, Mississippi. Forrest’s natural fighting instincts and ability came to the forefront when his uncle was about to be attacked in 1845 during an argument with the four Matlock brothers. Forrest interceded before the attack began, but one of the brothers drew a pistol and shot Forrest’s uncle, mortally wounding him. The other brothers turned their pistols toward Forrest, wounded him, and he returned fire with a double-barreled pistol, killing two of them, then wounded two others with a bowie knife thrown to him by a bystander.

That same year Forrest married Mary Montgomery – a sophisticated and intelligent woman who became his most ardent supporter and a buffer between her husband and the social set that made up Southern plantation society.

Forrest proved to be an astute businessman, settling in Memphis and increasing his wealth and property through investments, speculation, and managing his varied business interests. By the time the Civil War broke out his activities in buying/selling of slaves, speculation in land, horse trading, and more had provided him with two plantations, a hundred slaves to work them, standing as one of the richest men in the South, and the potential of living life as a country gentleman.

When the Civil War broke out and Tennessee seceded from the Union, Forrest – even though he was exempt from military service because of his standing as a planter - enlisted as a private in Company E, Tennessee Mounted Rifles, led by Captain Josiah White. His natural leadership, imposing physical appearance, and natural grasp of cavalry tactics soon led Governor Isham G. Harris to authorize Forrest to raise a regiment of mounted troops – even though Forrest had no formal military training. He would write in 1865: “I ain’t no graduate of West Point & never rubbed my backside up against any college.”

By December 1861, Forrest had recruited and equipped his new command, largely at his own expense. His unit differed from many other Southern cavalry outfits at the start of the war in that each member was outfitted with two Colt repeating revolvers, greatly enhancing their firepower and reducing the need to reload in combat.

Forrest initiated many other changes as well. He became one of the first to truly grasp the concept of mobile warfare. He would his cavalry into dismounted infantry – embodying the strategic concept, so aptly expressed by Forrest, of “getting there first with the most”. He also didn’t hesitate to brazenly bluff his opponents, sometimes capturing a Union position where the Union forces actually outnumbered his own. Finally, close, hand-to-hand fighting became a hallmark of Forrest’s cavalry, as did strategic raids far behind enemy lines.

Forrest’s audacity was shown early in the war when Union General U.S. Grant surrounded Fort Donelson in western Tennessee. The commander of the fort wanted to surrender, but gave his men the option of trying to escape. Forrest was the highest-ranking officer to lead troops out of the trap – both his cavalry and infantry – saving these men to continue the battle for the Confederacy.

Forrest was wounded on April 8, 1862, as his troops formed a rear guard covering the Confederate retreat after the battle of Shiloh. He recovered, and was wounded again June 14, 1863 – this time by a disgruntled subordinate, Andrew W. Gould, whom Forrest mortally wounded with his penknife.

By July 1862 Forrest had been promoted to Brigadier General. He had success as an independent commander, but did not fare as well when under the command of others. He would suffer a major defeat at Dover, Tennessee while under the orders of CSA General Joseph Wheeler. Appointed to his own command, he continued raids and actions against the Union, until placed under the command of Braxton Bragg for the battle of Chickamauga. Again not getting along under the command of a superior, Forrest requested and was granted a command in western Tennessee. There he bedeviled Union forces to the point where Union Commander William Tecumseh Sherman was said to exclaim in a letter to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton: "I will order them to make up a force and go out and follow Forrest to the death, if it cost 10,000 lives and breaks the Treasury. There never will be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead."

As word of the surrender of General Lee slowly filtered west, the question on the minds of the Union commanders was: What would Forrest do? To the surprise of many, he agreed to the surrender, bid an emotional farewell to his men, and went back to Memphis. His war, which he had fought in so valiantly, and led so brilliantly, was over.
Forrest was involved in two great controversies: one during the war, the other after. The first was the Fort Pillow Massacre on April 12, 1864. After a day-long intense battle – in which Forrest had three horses shot out from under him – Confederate forces forced the Union defenders, consisting of the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery and the 6th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery and the white 13th Tennessee Cavalry, to retreat. The accusations of massacre were trumpeted by the Northern press, while the Confederacy stated that there was continued resistance. The full truth may never be known. Forrest did deny a massacre in public speeches for the rest of his life.

The second was his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK rose after the war in a bid by disenfranchised southerners initially for protection, and ultimately to retain some element of control over their former slaves. Forrest was actually named Grand Wizard at the 1867 KKK convention in Nashville. But Forrest publically separated himself from the organization. Forrest publically stated several times a desire for equality and harmony between black and white Americans.

After leaving the army Forrest attempted to recoup his pre-war fortune. He became president of a railroad (which ultimately failed), and would live with his wife in a log cabin. His health began to deteriorate and he would pass away when he was fifty-six years old, on October 29, 1877. For a special A Tribute To Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest posted on YouTube, click here.


Our local library has the following resources on Nathan Bedford Forrest

-Bradley, Michael R., Nathan Bedford Forrest's Escort and Staff
-Davison, Eddy W., Nathan Bedford Forrest : In Search of the Enigma
-Henry, Robert Selph, "First with the most" Forrest
-Hurst, Jack, Men of Fire : Grant, Forrest, and the Campaign that Decided the Civil WarWyeth,
-John A. (John Allan), That devil Forrest: life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest


Google Books: Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest
New York Times Obituary
Tennessee Encyclopedia


F 01. Forrest Civil War portrait, Wikipedia
F 02. Forrest’s Signature, Google Books
F 03. Gravesite, Find A Grave photo by Selk

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 10: Jack "Legs" Diamond

Do you know who this is?
-He would survive four attempts on his life.
-He was pardoned for desertion from the Army by President Harding.
-He was nicknamed ‘Legs’ and ‘Gentleman Jim’.

He was a criminal – a kidnapper, bootlegger, numbers man, and much more – but he caught the public eye and fancy during the decade known as the Roaring Twenties. He would survive four attempts on his life in six years, and finally succumb to an attack in a rooming house in Albany, New York. While a popular figure to the public because of his flashy style and charismatic manner, he was an anathema his underworld brethren because of his self-centered acts – that included double-crossing and robbing them!

He was born on July 10, 1897 to John and Sara Diamond, Irish immigrants who settled in Philadelphia after their arrival in the United States in 1891. They would have their two children – Jack and Eddie - in Philadelphia. Both of the boys would struggle in school, and after their mother died in 1913 the father packed up the family and moved to Brooklyn, New York.

Lack of supervision allowed the boys to run wild, with their eventually joining a local gang called the “Hudson Dusters”. While his brother was more physically capable of surviving fights and feuds, Diamond’s specialty was creativity.

Jack “Legs” Diamond was seventeen when he had his first arrest was for the burglary of a jewelry store he broke into on February 4, 1914. Diamond would be in and out of jails for arrests until his death in 1931. He even served in the US Army during World War I, but would be convicted and jailed for desertion and theft from Fort Dix, New Jersey. After the war was over President Warren G. Harding released him under a blanket parole that was issued for more than two dozen Federal prisoners.

No one knew where “Legs” received his nickname. Perhaps it was because of his long legs – and his ability to use them to run from pursuing police officers. Or it may have been because of his ability on the dance floor of the nightclubs he loved to frequent. Or it might have been the nickname given to him by one of his gangland bosses. But, Legs was one of several nicknames Diamond had, including “Gentleman Jim”.

New York beckoned after Diamond was released from the ‘pen’, and soon Diamond found himself again involved in the ‘easy money’ criminal world that flourished during Prohibition. He worked with Lucky Luciano before Luciano hit the big-time, and in 1922 went to work for Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein. Diamond also worked for “Little Augie” Jacob Orgen, a New York gangster involved in bootlegging and labor racketeering. He began to form his own gang and began hijacking the trucks of other mobsters that were transporting illegal alcohol – a side-line that caused the first ‘hit’ to be ordered against him, almost ending his life.

Orgen had to fight to keep and expand his territory – and wealth and prestige. Diamond was hired as a bodyguard by Orgen, and then later spearheaded bootlegging activities that supplied many of the speakeasies in New York with illegal alcohol. However, there was a gangland struggle over the labor racketeering, and in 1927 Diamond was hospitalized during a drive-by shooting while walking with the target of the assassination – Little Augie. Little Augie died, Diamond was shot twice.

After recovering, Diamond went to work for Louis Buchalter – the man who had ordered the assassination of Little Augie. Diamond supervised bootlegging supplies to Manhattan speakeasies and night clubs. This job brought him into a running battle with his nemesis, Dutch Schultz. Schultz wanted to expand his criminal base of operations - and Diamond was one of those in his way. Diamond was shot on two separate occasions by Schultz’s men – once at a private dinner, where he was hit five times, and another when machine gun fire erupted at the Aratoga Inn, killing two bystanders and wounding Diamond three times. Through this series of attempts on his life, Diamond became known as the ‘clay pigeon of the underworld’.

Schultz actually wondered aloud at one point if there wasn’t anyone who could kill Diamond.

There was – and it occurred in the pre-dawn hours of December 18, 1931, in a room in Albany, New York, rooming house. Diamond had toured Europe after being shot in 1929, and while there his gang was forced out of New York by other gangs. When he returned, he decided to set up headquarters in Albany – a decision that was not appreciated by the city officials or police.

Diamond’s death hit the news racks through newsboy’s hawking “Extra, Extra” on the street corners.

Under a Albany Times Union newspaper banner headline that read "JACK DIAMOND SLAIN IN DOVE ST. HOUSE; KILLERS' WEAPON FOUND", a byline credited to H.L. Wood stated:

"Jack 'Legs' Diamond, survivor of a dozen skirmishes with the law and the lawless alike, today went from a clandestine tryst with Marion 'Kiki' Roberts, his showgirl sweetheart, to a tryst with death in an Albany rooming house.

"Unknown assassins, stalking down their prey with cool deliberation, pumped a stream of leaden pellets into the racketeer's head as he lay asleep in a small room at 67 Dove St.

"Death was instantaneous as the bullets furrowed the brain that had been set at rest a few hours earlier when a Rensselaer county Supreme court jury acquitted Diamond of a charge of kidnapping James Duncan, a Cairo youth."
The killers shot Diamond three times in the head while he was asleep. The killers were never identified, and could have been from rival gangs or the Albany police. He was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Queens, New York.


There are no biographies available on 'Legs' Diamond at our local library


Find A Grave
Gangster City Profiles
Kiki’s Love
La Cosa Nostra
Mobster’s Murder
Murder Inc. blog
Paddy Whacked


D 01. Full Length Photo from 1931, Find-A-Grave by Ron Moody.
D 02. Mug Shot from the NYPD, Wikipedia
D 03. During Court appearance, Musicals

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 7: “Nothing between my soul and my Savior…”

Do you know who this is?
-He was a founding father of American Gospel music
-He was known as the ‘people’s pastor’.
-He was largely self-educated.

Raised with slaves in Worchester County in the pre-Civil War border state of Maryland, considered free because his parents were a slave father and free mother, he would become the self-educated minister of a 10,000 member multi-racial Methodist Church – in an era where most churches were segregated based on race.

Charles Albert Tindley was born on the Joseph Brindell farm near Berlin, Maryland, on July 7, 1851 to Charles and Hester Miller Tindley. When he was less than five years old his mother died, and he would be raised by his sister. Because economic conditions were poor for the African Americans in the mid-19th Century, Tindley was ‘hired out’ as a young boy by his father, receiving pay for working in the fields alongside slaves – providing young Tindley with the experiences of working on a slave plantation, and his family with a much needed income.

As a youth Tindley would be denied the opportunity for an education. First: he was in the field helping his family during the day. Secondly, although he was considered ‘free born’, schools in his area were for white students – so he taught himself how to read and write.

When he was about seventeen, Tindley married Daisy Henry. He would move to Philadelphia with his family in order to better support them. Working during the day as a janitor and attending school at night, he strove to achieve the American ideal. He once commented “I made a rule to learn at least one new thing—a thing I did not know the day before—each day.”

Tindley had varied educational experiences. He put himself through night school. He earned a Divinity Degree through a correspondence course. He never graduated from a college or seminary. In his seeking the source of truth from the Bible, he studied Greek at the Boston School of Theology. In order to better understand the Old Testament, Tindley studied Hebrew through a synagogue in Philadelphia. He would ultimately be awarded two honorary doctorate degrees: one from North Carolina, the other from Maryland.

He was employed as a janitor from 1880 to 1885 at the Bainbridge Street Methodist Church in Philadelphia. The same church granted him a license to preach – and he would be assigned there as its pastor in 1902 after pasturing in Delaware and New Jersey. The church had 130 African American members when Tindley was appointed as its pastor, and the congregation would reach 10,000 members under his guidance – and would be a multiracial congregation that included African Americans, Europeans, Jews and Hispanics. He led his church in ministering to Philadelphia’s poor – by establishing soup kitchens and a clothing ministry - as well as advocating civil rights in the early 20th century. As a tribute to the accomplishments of the man who led the church for over thirty years, Bainbridge was renamed Tindley Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1920s - over the objections of Tindley.

Tindley was preached powerful messages, and – although technically musically illiterate - began writing hymns that reflected his background – music that later became known as gospel music, which was based on feelings engendered by a history of oppression. He would dictate the words and tunes to a transcriber who would write down the formal musical notes and words. Eventually he would write over forty-five hymns, and while he apparently did not intend for his music to be sung congregationally, some of his hymns wound up in the Methodist hymnal and are sung around the world today. Perhaps one of the most famous of his hymns is “Stand By Me”.

When the storms of life are raging, stand by me;
When the world is tossing me, like a ship upon the sea,
Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.
Other well-known hymns by Tindley include “We’ll Understand Better, By and By”, “Lord, I’ve Tried”, and “I Shall Overcome”. Many believe that the words and intent of “I Shall Overcome” was the basis of the anthem for the Civil Rights movement, “We Shall Overcome”.

While many of his sermons are lost, the messages found in his songs remain. These messages are based on his past, and the events occurring in his life, ringing true to us today – over seventy years after the death of their author.

From “We’ll Understand Better, By and By”:
We are often destitute of the things that life demands,
Want of food and want of shelter, thirsty hills and barren lands;
We are trusting in the Lord, and according to God's Word,
We will understand it better by and by.
Or “Nothing Between”, written in 1906 when the church was negotiating to buy a new site for its growing congregation.

Nothing between my soul and my Savior,
naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between.
Nothing between my soul and my Savior,
so that his blessed face may be seen;
nothing preventing the least of his favor;
keep the way clear! Let nothing between.
Tindley would pass away on July 26, 1933, from a gangrene infection in his foot. He was 82 years old. It was at the deepest point of the Great Depression when Tindley was buried in Eden Memorial Cemetery in Collingdale, Pennsylvania, and the congregation could not afford a marker for his grave. The situation was rectified in 2002 when 3000 members of his church met in a memorial to Tindley that met, provided a headstone, and remembered Dr. Tindley.

There are no biographies of Charles Tindley in our local library.


Christian History Timeline
Cyber Hymnal
Lower Shore
Preparing for Eternity
Taylor House Museum
United Methodist Portal
World Wide Faith News


T 01. Charles Tindley portrait, Find a Grave, by Curtis Jackson
T 02. Charles A. Tindley, Cyberhymnal
T 03. I Shall Overcome songsheet, Thinkquest
T 04. Tindley Memorial, Find a Grave, by Curtis Jackson

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 3: “I hope I can beat the men.”

Do you know who this is?
-She was known as ‘the modern Nellie Bly’.
-She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
-Her death is shrouded in mystery.

Dorothy Mae Kilgallen was born on July 3, 1913 to Hearst newspaperman James Lawrence Kilgallen and Mae Ahern Kilgallen. The family moved often during her childhood years – moving from Chicago to Wyoming, then to Indiana, then back to Chicago. They finally settled in New York City, where Kilgallen would spend one semester at the College of New Rochelle. After that semester she would leave college to follow in her father’s footsteps by accepting a job as a reporter for the New York Journal-American.

Twenty-three year old Kilgallen would skyrocket in notoriety and readers in 1936 when she would compete with to other (male) New York reporters in a race around the world. The trip was to be completed by using means of transportation what was available to the general public – no special charters or use of government transportation. The reasons for the race were threefold: to break existing around-the-world travel records; to become some of the first travelers to use the China Clipper to cross the Pacific Ocean; and to increase the circulation of their respective newspapers at home. Kilgallen attracted quite a bit of attention, as she was the only woman in the ‘race’.

Before leaving she said, “I'm off to race around the world - a race against time and two men. I know I can beat time. I hope I can beat the men.”

The New York Evening Journal printed her reports on her journey daily and, through the headlines, became known as the ‘modern day Nellie Bly’. She traveled via the Hindenburg from New York to Germany, and then used different airlines to fly to Rome, Hong Kong, and Manila. At Manila she booked a flight on the Pan Am China Clipper to Hawaii, then San Francisco, finally catching a commercial flight back to New York. She completed the trip in twenty-four days, placing second to Bud Elkins of the New York World Telegram (who took twenty-one days) and beating Leo Keiran of the New York Times. She became the first woman to fly around the world. Later that year she published an autobiographical book titled Girl Around the World chronicling the event, moved to Hollywood, and the following year wrote a screenplay for the movie Fly Away Baby. The movie would star Glenda Farrell as a character which was inspired by Kilgallen’s travels called Torchy Blane.

Kilgallen gave up her film-writing career in 1937 returned to New York to work for the New York Journal-American where she was given her own column, the Hollywood Scene. The next year She would start a new column titled The Voice of Broadway, and would write it for the next twenty-seven years, until her death in 1965. The Voice of Broadway focused on the news and gossip of the New York show business industry, but it also included articles on politics and organized crime. The column appeared in 24 other newspapers by 1941, and eventually the column was syndicated to 146 newspapers through the King Features Syndicate. She had an estimated twenty-million readers by 1950, and was being recognized as one of the most important columnists in America. Her columns were an unusual mixture. As Midwest Today article by Sara Jordan stated:

“The Kilgallen approach was a mixture of catty gossip ("A world-famous movie idol, plastered, commanded a pretty girl to get into his limousine, take off all her clothes"), odd tidbits of inconsequential information ("The Duke of Windsor eats caviar with a spoon"), and dark warnings ("Anti-American factions are planning to blow up the Panama Canal").”
Kilgallen was married in 1940 to actor Dick Kollmar – who played Boston Blackie in a popular radio crime show. The couple would have three children – two of which can be seen in this snippet from an episode of What’s My Line.

In 1945 the couple started Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick, a morning live radio show broadcast that would be on the air until 1963. The program discussed plays, books, films – the various social activities that were available to New Yorkers.

Kilgallen was invited to become a panelist on a television game show originating in New York called What’s My Line?, airing from 1950 – 1967. She would remain on the show from 1950 until her death in 1965. While the show was designed for entertainment – with a priority on getting a laugh and providing entertainment for the audience – Kilgallen’s main interest was very competitive: guessing the right answers, and the name of the mystery guest - even if it was her own father. While she was popular on-air, she often was in conflict with her co-panelists because of her competitive nature, her using information overheard in the dressing rooms in her gossip column, and her being a ‘Hearst girl’. Arlene Francis was soon brought on the show as a regular panelist to counter-balance Kilgallen.

During the 1950’s Kilgallen continued to publish her columns and perform in her radio and television shows. She extended the scope of her articles by attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, as well as covering criminal trials. It was her investigative reporting that got Sam Shepard a new trial. Shepard’s case was later the basis for “The Fugitive”, a popular television series and movie. Her articles during this time were the basis of her nomination for a Pulitzer Prize.

She was also the only reporter to privately interview Jack Ruby, who was in jail accused of murdering the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963: Lee Harvey Oswald. Kilgallen had been impressed with President Kennedy, and used her investigative talents to start to raise some hard questions, especially about the thoroughness of the Warren Report. She interviewed witnesses to the shooting that the Warren Commission – headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren – had neglected to interview. Much of what she discovered remained unpublished – her claim was that she was gathering the information for a book.

After she had obtained a copy of Ruby’s testimony to the Warren Commission and shocked the public with her revelations of the inept questioning of Ruby by Warren, Kilgallen found the FBI on her doorstep. An FBI memo reported that when asked to reveal the name of the individual who leaked the 102 page transcript of Ruby’s testimony to her, "she stated that she was the only person who knew the identity of the source and that she 'would die' rather than reveal his identity."

America loves conspiracy theories, and Kilgallen’s death – connected to her investigation of Kennedy’s assassination – provided a wonderful one. Kilgallen was found dead in her apartment on November 8, 1965. While the official verdict was suicide, many believed that it was murder – the fact that her notes on the Ruby interview were never found and other inconsistencies in her death keeping the conspiracy theory alive over forty years later.

Kilgallen died as she lived – making the news.

Our local library has no biographies available on Dorothy Kilgallen.


Find A Grave
Midwest Today


01. Portrait, FanPix
02. China Clipper: Flying Clippers
03. American Airlines
04. Masked Dorothy
05. Typewriter
06. Gravestone: Find A Grave, picture by Elliot