Olive Day and the ‘Love Mart’ Case

Olive Day was the madam involved in the 1931 prostitution ring newspapers called the Love Mart/Love Market/Love Bazaar/Girl Bazaar. Like others before her and those still to come, the story played out the same way: lurid headlines, young girl victims’ parades for the photographers, a little black book containing the names of wealthy and/or famous men clients said to be shaking in their boots for fear of exposure (which never came), the madam is left holding the bag while the underworld bosses behind the operation are not charged (or even named) and simply start again with a fresh madam and new girls once the public outcry dies down.

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George Contreras

Though primarily remembered as a deputy sheriff, George Contreras (in white hat, above, center) began his law enforcement career in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office during the administration of DA Thomas Woolwine. Continue reading

Lee Francis

“You’re a cog in the organized traffic when you’re running a house, a spoke in the wheel of the underworld.” 

-Call House Madam

Lee Francis was the madam of multiple brothels in Los Angeles under Charles Crawford and his successors. Almost all that is known about her, or believed that is known about her, is information that came from Francis herself and is not reliable. The following is based on my own original research.

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Who Was Mumsie McGonigle?

A typical reaction from anyone who reads Geoffrey Homes’ hard-to-find 1946 novel Build My Gallows High (basis for the film noir Out of the Past) is: how on earth did he come up with a name like Mumsie McGonigle? The short answer is: he didn’t. There was a real Mumsie McGonigle, and she was much in the news in early 1940s Los Angeles. Her story involves depravity and corruption to equal any hardboiled fiction plot.

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Charles H. Crawford

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Much of what is written about Charles Crawford and his Los Angeles crime syndicate today comes from a series of articles written in 1939 for Liberty magazine’s, based on information from cafeteria owner Clifford Clinton’s citizen-led vice investigations. Clinton’s work was sincere, but by that time Crawford was long dead and he was relying on secondary sources for information about him. The following is based on my original research.

Clinton’s efforts led to the voters of Los Angeles ousting Mayor Frank Shaw in 1938, often cited as the first mayor of a major U.S. city to be recalled. However, Seattle’s Mayor Hiram C. Gill beat him to it. Gill was booted out in 1911 after less than a year in office, when the public learned that he and his Chief of Police Charles “Wappy” Wapperstein were collecting a large percentage of the receipts from the Northern Club, a saloon-gambling hall-brothel run by a syndicate that included Charles Crawford.

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August Palumbo

The LAPD’s survey, Gangland Killings 1900-1951, list just three gang-related murders for 1928, although newspapers at the time of August Palumbo’s shooting death of July 18 refer to him as the seventh such victim in a “bootlegger’s war” that had been going on for six weeks prior. The 1951 survey also notes that there was “no prosecution to date” in the Palumbo case. In fact, there were plenty of prosecutions, just no convictions. Continue reading

The Jacobson Case

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It wasn’t the first time a public figure who opposed Los Angeles’ underworld suddenly found himself involved in a compromising position, intended to either discredit or bring them to heel. But the plot to silence vice-crusading city councilman Carl I. Jacobson didn’t run quite to plan.

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