Thursday, 1 January 2009


Fredericka Mandelbaum.......

........also known as "Marm" or "Mrs Crime" (1818-1894) was a New York City entrepreneur and operated as a fence to many of the street gang's of the city's underworld, handling anywhere between $5 million and $10 million worth of stolen property during the period from 1862 until 1884. To get this into a current perspective, the value of stolen property would be $90 million to $180 million.
Emigrating from Prussia with her husband Wolfe Mandelbaum, the two arrived in New York in 1848. Purchasing a dry goods store at 79, Clinton Street (corner of Rivington Street), and by 1854, the business was operating as a front for her criminal activities, needing at a later date, to store goods in two large warehouses in the city.
"Marm" and client sneak in through the back gate

She did not wait to be contacted by criminals instead, Mandelbaum went to them with offers to finance thieves and burglars and was involved in planning some of the biggest theft's in the city's history. Expanding her operations, she controlled several gangs of blackmailers and confidence men as well as a school to recruit and teach younger criminals on pickpocketing. She was also a top competitor to the Grady Gang. Some lauded her work in "rescuing" children and poor women from other predators, but this recent revisionism of Marm Mandelbaum as saviour is, by any reckoning, stretching it a bit.

During the height of her criminal activities, she became one of NYC's most prominent hostesses of high society (as well as the underworld) regularly entertaining (as shown above) scores of Judges, Attorneys and high ranking Police Officers alongside some of the most well-known criminals of the day including Queen Liz, Big Mary, "Black" Lena Kleinschmidt, Adam Worth, and Sophie Lyons.
Usually on hand, dressed in high-society attire, were the likes of "Shang" Draper and "Western George" Leslie, two of the most cunning bandits in New York. Musical entertainment was often provided by "Piano Charley" Bullard, a combination of misused talents - former butcher who now 'cut' into bank safes, a trained pianist who's nimble fingers could tumble a safe as easily as the could play Chopin's Etudes. His one fault was that he drank too much, but even inebriated, it was said, his digits never failed him, either in profession or in leisure.

Alas, all good things come to an end and in 1884, the New York District Attorney hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency in infiltrate Mandelbaum's organisation. An agent, posing as a prospective thief arranged for several marked rolls of silk stolen from a store where it was discovered in a police raid on her home the following morning. Arrested with her son Julius and clerk Herman Stroude, Mandelbaum was released on a $21,000 bail and fled the United States with an estimated $1 million. She settled in Toronto, (Canada at that time did not have an extradition treaty with the United States) and remained there, reportedly happy and in comfort, until her death in 1894.

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