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[Various]. 2nd Precinct Police Blotter From August 6th to September 1864

[Metropolitan Police, New York 2nd Pct.].


Small Folio. 260pp. Contemporary quarter leather over marbled boards, Ink title label to front board, remnants of numerical label to spine. Binding severely worn in places, pasteboard showing to corners, scuffed rubbed and bumped with the spine in particular showing a need for stabilisation. Internally clean and sharp, the binding has rather wearily continued to protect its contents for 150 years and is only now showing signs of needing assistance. Joseph P. Riccio ownership to rear pastedown, last leaf tipped in on different paper. The ledger begins with two pages of Roll Call, denoting the Day and Night Posts for the Precinct, led by Captain Morris De Camp and Sergeants Wade, Ellison, and O’Connor, amongst others. In 1864-65 the 2nd fielded a force of 64 men including 49 Patrolmen and 2 “Special Duty Out of Precinct.” The 2nd Precinct Station House was at 49 Beekman Street, a few blocks South West of the notorious Five Points District (where tap-dancing originated, for those who enjoy marginally connected trivia) that had been the location of a vicious surge of rioting during Draft Week in 1863 (one of a number of events which led to the re-organisation of the Metropolitan Police and some rather unwelcome increased oversight).

Beekman St. was also very close to Park Row, the home of America’s newspaper empire; the upshot of this being that the 2nd Precinct was most likely under considerable scrutiny being jammed in between poverty blighted, gang breeding tenements on the one side and twitchy-nosed journalists on the other. Beekman St. was packed with small businesses; saddlers, hardware, everything from wheelwrights to bookbinders (a fire thought to have started in a bookbinders workshop had gutted the three large buildings opposite the station house only a few months before this day book begins), it was a bustling, vibrant, noisy and dangerous part of Manhattan.

This erm...vibrancy...is reflected in the nature of the entries; “Wednesday, August 17th: Fanny Jones, 21, White, US, Prostitute, S (ingle), Charge D&D’s”; half an hour later: “Caroline Moore, 55, White, Prostitute” was charged with running a Disorderly House. The same day “James Collins, a Soldier, bought to this station for lodging by Officer Halstead, left for safe keeping: $35.00, Pistol and Furlough Papers.” perhaps giving some insight into the diverse duties and social roles of a police precinct in the 1860’s. There are regular entries regarding patrol schedules, Sergeants going on their rounds to oversee the 40+ Patrolmen; literally dozens of entries (over the 54 days) for people of all nations, ethnicities, ages and occupations being brought in to be charged with intoxication, or Drunk & Disorderly behaviour; more serious events occur frequently, like the September 6th arrest of Frank Clarke and Herman Schroeder for “Felonious Assault, Shooting with Pistol”, on the same day Thomas Murphy and Daniel Doyle end up in the cells for Assault and Battery...there’s a disproportionate number of Irishmen in their 20’s being dragged in for Assault and Battery, and some rather more opaque entries like the September 7th entry recording “Saul Moran detained for Fanny J. Moran, to be called for in the morning.” Was Saul Moran a lost child, an errant husband? A disturbing number of children between 2 and 5 years of age seem to end up alone and wandering the streets before being brought to the 2nd Precinct to hopefully be claimed by their parents. Several red light district’s worth of ladies of negotiable virtue appear charged repeatedly with Intoxication & Disorderly Conduct (noted as “Intox & Dis.”), Officer Crown in particular seeming to pick up more than his fair share of Fallen Women, although that could have been down to nothing more than his beat. There’s enough vernacular material and official detail in here to propel another season of The Alienist, and it leaves me pondering, as always, if this is the only existing record of the life of Lizzie Jones, who was 24, from Ireland and could read and write, but ended up a sex worker on Pearl Street.

[Ref: 709]