Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John Calpin, August 8, 1982

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Johnny O'Malley's trial

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Partial Transcript: He was a very, very colorful character.

Segment Synopsis: Johnny O'Malley stood trial against well-known publisher, Walter Annenberg. Lemuel B. Schofield, O'Malley's attorney, convinced the court to drop the 137 irregularities against O'Malley. He was ultimately found not guilty. Schofield was a well-respected and revered attorney.

Keywords: Favoritism; Fayette County (Pa.); Fayette County, Pennsylvania; Jean Barrett; John Fine; Johnny O'Malley; Lemuel B. Schofield; Racetracks; Republican Party; Walter Annenberg

Subjects: Publishers and publishing.; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.

00:02:57 - Gambling and immigrant favors

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Partial Transcript: Apparently, one of the principal--this is what I've read, one of the principal political roles of the magistrates was to dispense favors to the immigrants.

Segment Synopsis: City officials, mainly magistrates, commonly provided favors to immigrants. Calpin recalls that these officials sat in on criminal cases, heard their own civil cases, and provided the favors covertly and overtly. One of these magistrates, John Fine, went to jail for protecting gamblers. One of the biggest gambling joints was located on Filbert Street, a block away from the Philadelphia Bulletin and the magistrate’s office. It housed some of the most prominent craps games in the history of Philadelphia. Calpin discusses his and his coworkers' enjoyment of working for the Bulletin, promising to inform his future children of his happiness.

Keywords: "The Philadelphia Bulletin"; 12th and Silver St (Philadelphia, Pa.); Charlie Cline; Favoritism; Frank Long; Immigrants; John Fine; Loans

Subjects: Crime.; Gambling; Journalism.; Newspapers.; Police corruption.; Police.; Political corruption; Reporters and reporting.; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.

GPS: 1001 Filbert Street, Philadelphia (Pa.)
Map Coordinates: 39.952891, -75.157145
00:07:55 - Philadelphia's poor financial conditions

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Partial Transcript: So, you say that Hampton Moore then refused to take any federal aid, in the early years of the Depression?

Segment Synopsis: Philadelphia suffered financially and economically due to the Great Depression and “Hampy” Moore’s refusal to receive federal aid. To Calpin, this delayed the city's recovery. Many citizens did not have jobs and looked for housing and survival needs. Under S. Davis Wilson, the city hocked the Gas Works revenues, which was far less than the city should have been receiving. The city paid off its loan of $39 million, which went directly to banks and syndicates. The Gas Commission soon took over operations of the Gas Works.

Keywords: Great Depression; Harry A. Mackey (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1928-31); J. Hampton Moore ("Hampy", Mayor of Philadelphia, 1920-24); Joseph S. Clark, Jr. (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1952-56); New Deal; Philadelphia Gas Commission; Philadelphia Gas Works; Philadelphia city council; Public Works Administration; S. Davis Wilson (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1936-39); Stotesbury Mansion (Philadelphia, Pa.); United Gas Improvement Company (UGI); Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Subjects: Depressions--1929; Finance.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

GPS: Philadelphia Gas Works
Map Coordinates: 39.950585, -75.159351
00:15:17 - Great Depression's impact on the city

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Partial Transcript: Could you tell me a bit more about, um, the impact of the Depression on the city, in the early years?

Segment Synopsis: The Great Depression’s impact on the city brought great infrastructure and landmarks such as the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, extension of the Broad Street Subway, Museum of Art, and Parkway leading up to the Museum. Philadelphia spent such a vast amount of money on these attractions, that the Sesquicentennial Exhibition in 1926 was mediocre. Calpin reminisces about the city's new council and mayors, including "untouchable" J. Hampton Moore and successor W. Freeland Kendrick. According to Calpin, it was the city’s “heyday”.

Keywords: 1919 Philadelphia City Charter; Benjamin Franklin Bridge; Benjamin Franklin Parkway; Broad Street Station (Philadelphia, Pa.); Delaware River; Frankford Ave (Philadelphia, Pa.); Great Depression; Harry A. Mackey (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1928-31); J. Hampton Moore ("Hampy", Mayor of Philadelphia, 1920-24); Philadelphia Museum of Art; Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (PRT); Richardson Dilworth; Sesquicentennial Exhibition of 1926; Veterans Stadium; W. Freeland Kendrick (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1924-28)

Subjects: Depressions--1929; Finance.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Politicians; Politics and government

GPS: Philadelphia Museum of Art
Map Coordinates: 39.965866, -75.181020
00:19:56 - Philadelphia's Camp Happy and social services during the Great Depression

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Partial Transcript: The only time I ever worked for the city, I was a counselor in 1923 and 1924 at Camp Happy, which was the city’s camp. Now they have up in the Poconos.

Segment Synopsis: Calpin was a counselor at Camp Happy in the Torresdale neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia (the camp has since moved to the Poconos). He, along with his fellow counselors and friends, would stage boxing matches after sundown at the camp. W. Freeland Kendrick, Philadelphia’s mayor at the time, frequently visited Camp Happy and shared an affection for assisting the youth. Calpin discusses the prominence of the Civilian Conservation Corps, otherwise known as the CCC, which was a public work relief program for young men that were unmarried and unemployed.

Keywords: 18th and Wood St (Philadelphia, Pa.); Academy Avenue and Frankford Avenue (Philadelphia, Pa.); Boxing; Camp Happy; Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) Camps; Frankford Ave (Philadelphia, Pa.); Franklin D. Roosevelt; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Great Depression; Harry Mackey; Michael Donahue; Republican Party; Shriners; Shriners Hospital for Children (Philadelphia); Torresdale (Philadelphia neighborhood); W. Freeland Kendrick (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1924-28); West Philadelphia; Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Subjects: Childhood; Depressions--1929; Employment; Finance.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Politicians

GPS: Shriners Hospital for Children
Map Coordinates: 40.007464, -75.151322
00:26:45 - Introduction of Bill Vare

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Partial Transcript: You know, I'd be interested in finding out about--(??)--is, um, the relationship between the mayors and the Vare machine, the Republican organization.

Segment Synopsis: The Vare Family, most notably Bill Vare, wielded strong political power in Philadelphia. The Vares’ ties were to the Republican Party, who controlled essentially every facet of the city, including police departments, political offices, leaders in the community, etc. The 1919 City Charter allowed the Council to reorganize departments, recognizing the significance of strong employees to formulate a solid government foundation. Vare ran for the U.S. Senate in 1926 against Gifford Pinchot, which resulted in scandal when Vare was caught with illegal paper ballots. As a result, Vare won the election, but was not awarded a seat in the Senate.

Keywords: 13th Ward (Philadelphia, Pa.); 1919 Philadelphia City Charter; Boies Penrose; Chestnut Hill (Philadelphia neighborhood); Edwin Vare; George Wharton Pepper; Germantown (Philadelphia neighborhood); Gifford Pinchot; Gifford Pinchot (Pennsylvania governor, 1923-27, 1931-35); Harry Mackey; J. Hampton Moore ("Hampy", Mayor of Philadelphia, 1920-24); John R. K. Scott; Logan School (Philadelphia, Pa.); Manayunk (Philadelphia neighborhood); Market Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Prohibition; United States Senate; Vare Machine; William Scott Vare; World War I

Subjects: Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Police corruption.; Political corruption; Politicians; Politics and government; Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ); World War, 1914-1918

00:35:01 - Vare's influence in Republican politics

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Partial Transcript: The thing--the thing I’m really curious about, John, is how Vare contr--what Vare's relationship was to the mayors.

Segment Synopsis: Bill Vare, a Philadelphia construction contractor and Republican Party politician, put mayors into office. Many of these mayors were lame ducks when they got elected into positions and the majority did not do anything productive after leaving office. Vare’s reign over Philadelphia epitomized the concept of nepotism, which was commonplace in the 20th century. Mayors, city council members, and ward leaders had a mutually beneficial relationship, as they would trade favors or cease to be productive together.

Keywords: J. Hampton Moore ("Hampy", Mayor of Philadelphia, 1920-24); Joseph S. Clark, Jr. (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1952-56); Nepotism; Philadelphia 1951 Home Rule City Charter; Vare Machine; W. Freeland Kendrick (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1924-28); William Scott Vare

Subjects: Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Political corruption; Politicians; Politics and government; Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )

00:38:20 - Smedley Butler and Grand Jury investigations

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Partial Transcript: You know what’s interesting? After talking to, um, Sam Berry, was, um, one of the things in nineteen--well, actually, this was, this was separate.

Segment Synopsis: Smedley Butler was invited, by Mayor W. Freeland Kendrick, to become Philadelphia's Director of Public Safety. His ultimate duty was to infiltrate bootlegging activities and police corruption. The Grand Jury investigations of 1928 and 1929 shook the foundations of the police department.

Keywords: Democratic Party; Grand Jury Investigation of 1928; Grand Jury Investigations (1927, 1928); Great Depression; John "Jack" Kelly; Philadelphia city council; Police; Republican Party; Republican Party (Philadelphia); S. Davis Wilson (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1936-39); Smedley Darlington Butler; William V. Hadley

Subjects: Alcoholic beverage law violations; Crime.; Depressions--1929; Organized crime.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Police corruption.; Police.; Politicians; Politics and government; Prohibition; Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )

00:45:41 - Democrats and Republicans fight for city control

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Partial Transcript: When did the police get out from under control of the politician?

Segment Synopsis: The Democratic and Republican parties fought for dominance in City Council. The public raised issues with its government such as employment and raised wages. Barney Samuel, as mayor, took responsibility for these pressing issues. Corruption was spread across several organizations in the city. In an anecdote, Calpin recalls the Department of Collection’s leader, Craig Ellis, committing suicide due to rumors of collection favoritism and missing money.

Keywords: Barney Samuel; City Hall (Philadelphia, Pa.); Committee of 15; Democratic Party; Economy; Employment -- Wages; Entertainment; Favoritism; Joseph S. Clark, Jr. (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1952-56); Lyndon Johnson; Richardson Dilworth; Smedley Darlington Butler; Walter Phillips, Sr.

Subjects: Democratic Party (U.S.); Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Police corruption.; Political corruption; Politicians; Politics and government; Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )

00:50:36 - Democrats lead the way

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Partial Transcript: The roles were completely reversed.

Segment Synopsis: The Democratic Party assumed power in City Council, swiftly reversing roles with the Republican Party. Votes for each side in elections changed dramatically, as Republicans could only muster up around two-hundred-thousand votes or so per candidate--approximately the same amount that Democrats had gotten in years past. Now, Democratic candidates like Adlai Stevenson and Lyndon B. Johnson received around 500,000.

Keywords: Adlai Stevenson; Barney Samuel; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Joseph S. Clark, Jr. (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1952-56); Lyndon Johnson; New Deal coalition; Philadelphia city council; Political realignment; Raymond Pace Alexander; Woody Armstrong

Subjects: Democratic Party (U.S.); Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Politicians; Politics and government; Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )

00:53:59 - Overview of political leaders

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Partial Transcript: So, cons--political control of the police really breaks with the Committee of 15.

Segment Synopsis: Ward leaders and politicians of all kinds started to lose power over the police department. Superintendents and Directors of Public Safety were not corrupt, as they were in years prior. The police departments were finally creating careers for themselves.

Keywords: Committee of 15; Director of Public Safety; Lemuel B. Schofield; S. Davis Wilson (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1936-39); Smedley Darlington Butler; Superintendents

Subjects: Democratic Party (U.S.); Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Police corruption.; Police.; Political corruption; Politicians; Politics and government; Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )

00:58:43 - Prohibition-era impacts

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Partial Transcript: Something else I’d be interested, just in sort of finishing off this, this aspect is how the end of Prohibition changed, uh, politics in the city or anything else.

Segment Synopsis: During the Prohibition era, mobsters such as Al Capone, Boo Boo Hoff, and various others, commenced in bootlegging, gambling, drug trafficking, and racketeering. The official name of the alcohol ban was called the Volstead Act. The markups and sales tax on alcohol became a major revenue-raising situation, as well as the lottery.

Keywords: Al Capone; Bootleggers; Bootlegging; Drugs; Gambling; Liquor rings; Max "Boo Boo" Hoff; Numbers racket (gambling); Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board

Subjects: Alcoholic beverage law violations; Crime.; Gambling; Organized crime.; Prohibition

01:02:59 - Cops on the beat

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Partial Transcript: As a police reporter, you know, how, how effective do you think the cop on the beat was?

Segment Synopsis: According to Calpin, a typical cop on the beat was “the man”. Officers were revered and at the very least, respected. There was no high-level technology, yet cops were still able to communicate effectively and keep a tight grip on the city. Calls came into the 23rd and 33rd District and police responded to scenes immediately.

Keywords: 12th and Christian; 23rd District; 33rd District; Committee of 15; Corporal; First Police District (12th and Pine); Roundhouse (Philadelphia Police Headquarters); Technological innovations

Subjects: Crime.; Police.

GPS: Philadelphia Police Department Headquarters
Map Coordinates: 39.954535, -75.151988
01:07:56 - Hughie McLoon's death

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Partial Transcript: McLoon was the clerk for Magistrate Eddie Carney, and he had been the mascot of the Phillies.

Segment Synopsis: Hugh "Hughie" McLoon served as the clerk for Eddie Carney, a magistrate in the city, as well as the mascot for the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. McLoon and two other gunmen were gunned down with shotguns outside of a fire department, in which he died. Calpin examined McLoon in the hospital, as his torso was “littered with bullets”.

Keywords: 10th and Summer St (Philadelphia, Pa.); Athletics; Eddie Carney; Guns; Hugh "Hughie" McLoon; Magistrates; Numbers racket (gambling); Roundhouse (Philadelphia Police Headquarters); Thomas Jefferson Hospital

Subjects: Crime.; Murder

01:11:14 - Organized crime

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Partial Transcript: How would that lead to a, to a grand jury investigation of the police department?

Segment Synopsis: McLoon’s death launched a grand jury investigation of the police department, mainly due to his connections with politician Eddie Carney. However, it was no surprise when a gangster died in battle, because of the tumultuous setting of the mafia scene. Benny “The Bum” Fogelman and “Boo Boo” Hoff each owned places on Broad and Spruce Streets, both common hangout spots. Police obtained key parts of their information from informants within crime syndicates, from mafiosos like Frank Sindone.

Keywords: Atlantic City; Benny Leonard; Benny the Bum; Bobby DeLuca; Bootleggers; Bootlegging; Broad and Spruce; Eddie Carney; Frank Sindone; Italian; Italian Americans--Philadelphia; Italian Mobs (Philadelphia, Pa.); James Hines; Joe Padula; Mafia; Max "Boo Boo" Hoff; Salvatore Testa; Syndicates; Underworld

Subjects: Alcoholic beverage law violations; Crime.; Organized crime.; Police corruption.; Police.; Political corruption; Politicians; Politics and government; Prohibition

GPS: Spruce Street and South Broad Street
Map Coordinates: 39.947018, -75.164721
01:15:27 - Boo Boo Hoff: Philly gangster

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Partial Transcript: What can you tell me about Boo Boo Hoff?

Segment Synopsis: Boo Boo Hoff was one of the most prominent gangsters in the city. Amidst the Prohibition Era, he expanded his business into bootlegging, similar to other mobsters in Philadelphia. He was shot and killed in the Sylvania Hotel, prompting a chain of gang warfare across areas in Atlantic City. Hoff was responsible for Sammy Grossman’s slaying in Plainfield, Pennsylvania.

Keywords: 13th and Spruce Street; 13th and Walnut St (Philadelphia, Pa.); Benny the Bum; Gang War; Gangsters; Locust Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Max "Boo Boo" Hoff; Plainfield (Pa.); Plainfield, Pennsylvania; Sammy Grossman; Spruce and Pine Street; Sylvania Hotel

Subjects: Alcoholic beverage law violations; Crime.; Organized crime.; Prohibition

01:19:06 - Gang warfare

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Partial Transcript: Was there a lot--I mean, you know, in--did Philadelphia in the thirties--

Segment Synopsis: Gang warfare occurred predominantly between underworld crews, and not against cops. James "Shoey" Malone, Director of Public Safety, led the patrol against criminals. His routine included waiting for the criminals at the train station, waiting for them to get off, roughing them up and intimidating them, and then sending them back to their original area. Philadelphia detectives, including the big mob and little mob, routinely guarded against potential mobsters and criminals.

Keywords: "Big mob"; "Little mob"; Broad Street Station (Philadelphia, Pa.); Chicago (Ill.); Chicago, Illinois; Director of Public Safety; Gang violence; Gangs; New York; New York City (N.Y.); New York City, New York; Shoey Malone; Underworld

Subjects: Crime.; Organized crime.; Police.

01:21:55 - The African American underworld

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Partial Transcript: The other thing I’m, I'm interested in is how, um--where did the, uh, the black community fit into all this?

Segment Synopsis: Newspaper coverage of Black organized crime was minimal. There were two sections of neighborhood crime; one was along South Street and Lombard Street on the west side, while one was on the east side, located from Broad Street to the river. South Philadelphia was a group of neighborhoods, in which Blacks kept to themselves. Italians, Jews, and Germans, in particular, were not fond of them. Bill Barrett, a famous congressman from Philadelphia, controlled the 36th Ward. According to Calpin, these territories were 90% Black.

Keywords: "Negro crime"; 12th and Pine St. (Philadelphia, Pa.); 15th and Locust Street; 20th and Fitzwater Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); 24th St and Wolf St (Philadelphia, Pa.); 30th Ward (Philadelphia, Pa.); 4th and Snyder Ave (Philadelphia, Pa.); Bainbridge Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Chestnut Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Informants; Italian; Italian Americans--Philadelphia; Lombard Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Queen Village (Philadelphia neighborhood); South Philadelphia; South Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Wharton Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); William Barrett

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions.; Crime.; Organized crime.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race relations

01:27:48 - Population 'melting pot'

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Partial Transcript: Was the city pretty segregated then in terms of--

Segment Synopsis: Philadelphia’s population represented what was known to Calpin as a “melting pot” of diversity. Italians, Jews, Poles, Germans, Irish, and Blacks comprised differing areas of the city, most notably South Philadelphia. These locations were largely segregated. The Irish and the Poles populated Catholic churches, the Poles mainly populated the Queen Village, while many African Americans resided in Kensington, etc. Regardless of systematic segregation, these groups shared content relationships with each other.

Keywords: "Melting pot"; Antagonism; Broad Street Station (Philadelphia, Pa.); Catholic parishes; Department stores; Frankford (Philadelphia neighborhood); German; Greek; Irish; Italian; Italian Americans--Philadelphia; Jewish; Kensington (Philadelphia neighborhood); Market Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Mercantile; Polish Americans--Philadelphia; Russia; Segregation; Segregation in Philadelphia; Synagogues

Subjects: African Americans--Relations with Irish Americans.; African Americans--Relations with Italian Americans; African Americans--Relations with Jews.; African Americans--Relations with Polish Americans; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race relations

GPS: Queen Village, Polish living quarters
Map Coordinates: 39.938, -75.148