Gangster Stories & Rum: Dyckman Street in the 1930’s

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Dyckman Street in the 1930’s saw its share of gangster related violence.

Neighborhood youth watched from their stoops in awe as wild machine gun shootouts and mob assassinations played out in front of their apartment houses.

1931 shootout on Dyckman Street near Sherman Avenue, Acme News Pictures (Collection of Cole Thompson).
1931 shootout on Dyckman Street near Sherman Avenue, Acme News Pictures (Collection of Cole Thompson).

Theater audiences gobbled up the bloody newsreel footage captured on the Dyckman Strip before the rat-a-tat-tat of the featured hoodlum film filled the cavernous movie palaces.

Rum flowed freely at neighborhood speakeasies.

It’s not hard to imagine how youth of the day were influenced by the violence that surrounded them.

Below, ripped from the headlines, is the story of a Dyckman kid named John T. Sullivan.

New York Sun, February 18, 1932.
New York Sun, February 18, 1932.


Youth Says Gangster Stories and Rum Went to Head
New York Sun
February 18, 1932

His addiction to reading gangster stories combined with a series of drinks of speakeasy whiskey inspired John T. Sullivan last night with the idea that he was a stickup man.  He walked into a restaurant at 101 Dyckman Street with his right hand in his overcoat pocket and ordered everybody to put up their hands.

101 Dyckman Street today.
101 Dyckman Street today.

All the customers obeyed, seeing that Sullivan was quite drunk and afraid he would get nervous and begin to shoot.  But Wallace Reed, the proprietor, stepped out from behind the cashier’s desk, pinioned Sullivan’s arms and searched him.  Finding no weapons he and his customers proceeded to beat him up and finally threw him out in the street.

Half an hour later he invaded the restaurant again.  Policeman George Freedner, glancing through the window, saw several customers with hands up against the wall and Sullivan approaching them.  The policeman ran in, clipped Sullivan over the head with his pistol and placed him under arrest.

In the Washington Heights police court today Magistrate Jonah Goldstein told Sullivan he was lucky that someone hadn’t shot him.  Sullivan said a steady perusal of gangster stories had gone to his head.  Sentence was suspended.”

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