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PM, May 28, 1941 (One Weegee photo made in Times Square)

World War Two (and Murder Inc. and bird) news… (Important day in the history of WWII and the U.S.)


PM, May 23, 1941, p. 10

There’s something for everyone on this “Record of a New York Day”… Bowery news, bridges, scattered pies, dough, ice cream, crime in Brooklyn, the Bronx, hot weather, tenements, the Lower East Side, kids, a kitten, euthanasia… And more apple news… If the Civil War ended in 1865, then… in 1941 the Civil War was more recent, more contemporary, then 1941 is to us today, in 2020. (A mere 76 years versus 79 years ago…)

A photo that is similar to Weegee’s photo of kids and kitten on a fire escape appears in Weegee’s recently republished book Naked City


Naked City, pp. 22-23

(Speaking of a Naked City:)


PM, May 23, 1941, p. 13 (Photo by Gene Badger)

“Scene: East River. Time: 3 p.m. Temperature: 90.7

Yesterday’s 90.7 degrees made it the hottest day of the year… The Bronx was bombarded by a freak hailstorm… Cvek, the convicted strangler asked Sing Sing officials why the prison wasn’t air-conditioned.”


PM, May 20, 1943, p. 18. (Photo by Weegee, PM)

Potatoes au Bay Rum

If you think the potatoes you buy during the next few days smell like hair tonic, chances are they are part of the batch of 17,000 pounds Mayor LaGuardia, the cops, Market Dept. inspectors and the Office of Price Administration found in a midtown barbershop. Yesterday the jobber who brought them here agreed to sell them. They are being taken to Bronx Terminal market for distribution to retailers. The jobber is out on $300 bail for having put the potatoes in bags labeled wheat, oats and bran. PM, May 20, 1943, p. 18

Speaking of apples… Seventy-seven years ago today:

Potatoes with Cologne and Aftershave Lotion
might be a contemporary version of the title of this story. (“Bay rum is the name of a cologne/aftershave lotion. Other uses include as under-arm deodorant and as a fragrance for shaving soap, as well as a general astringent.” Wikipedia.) Why in the world were there tons of starchy, perennial nightshades in a midtown Manhattan barber shop? Why did Weegee take a few photos of the edible tubers leaving a midtown Manhattan barber shop? The Charles Barber Shop was at 1221 Sixth Avenue. And why was this newsworthy?

We wanted to get to the root of this potato mystery, or at least chip away at the truth. After spending a fruitful few hours planted in front of a microfilm reader at the NYPL in Midtown Manhattan, we now (our salad days) know a little more about the spuds in sacks on Sixth…


Daily News, May 20, 1943 (front page of two different editions)


Daily News, May 20, 1943 (NEWS foto)

Next! Some 18,000 pounds of tough-skinned potatoes, that haven’t even been shaved, get the vagabond’s rush from a barbershop at 1221 Sixth Ave. yesterday. The spuds, headed for a Bronx market, eventually will have their eyes picked out by New York housewives. City bought them. Benjamin Caplan, custodian of the potatoes, won a parole… $49.95 profit.


New York Herald Tribune, May 20, 1943, p.20, Herald Tribune-Acme

Sixth Avenue Barber Shop Loses Its Potatoes
Some of the 17,000 pounds of potatoes found in the barber shop of Charles Falcone at 1221 Sixth Avenue on Tuesday being removed yesterday by Bronx Terminal Market wholesalers for resale to the city’s closed markets.

The wayward potato story was front page news in The Daily News and New York Herald Tribune, while The New York Post covered the story, sadly it was photo-free. The Herald Tribune’s coverage was more digestible as it was a little more factual and less tongue-in-cheek. (The photos published in the News and Tribune are not credited to a photographer, were they made by Weegee?)

Apparently the potatoes, described as “scarce, more valuable than diamonds, and vital to the war effort” by Magistrate Anna Kross, were bought by Benjamin Caplan from a farm outside of Plattsburgh, New York, for 2 cents a pound (about 29 cents today) or $343.75 (about $5,036.21 today), where they were at risk of spoiling. Anthony Zubinsky drove them down to Manhattan, for $120 (about $1,758.10 today). Caplan asked his friend Charles Falcone, the barber, if he could store the spuds in Falcone’s barber shop while he tried to sell them, presumably legally, and not on the black market.


PM, May 20, 1943, p. 19

Apparently unloading 157 bags of the scarce, luxury food, in mislabeled bags, in the middle of the afternoon in midtown Manhattan caught the eye and ire of passersby who notified the authorities. The authorities came raining down on the Charles Barber Shop. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia (1882-1947), with a chip on his shoulder, the Commissioner of Markets , the Commissioner of buildings, (due to the weight of the potatoes, the barber was charged with violating a building code), fire and police departments, and members of the press, descended on the Charles Barber Shop, on Sixth Avenue, near 48th Street.

Mr. Caplan appeared before Magistrate Anna Kross at the Jefferson Market Court. In the end, the Office of Price Administration exonerated Benjamin Caplan, he sold his spuds for a legal price, they were brought to the Bronx Terminal Market, and were sold at the city’s markets below the maximum of 6 cents a pound.

A quote, almost like dessert, from The Herald Tribune, May 20, 1943: “You probably never want to see another potato,” a reporter said to Mr. Caplan.
“I’ll be back up there tomorrow,” he replied wearily, referring to his upstate source of supply, “and if there aren’t any potatoes, I’ll get apples.”


PM, May 20, 1943, p. 19

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PM, February 3, 1942, pp. 10-11, Vol. II, No. 164

Off Duty Cop Does Duty, Kills Gunman Who Tries Stickup
The boys were playing a little pool and cards in the Spring Arrow Social and Athletic Club, 344 Broome St., near the Bowery last night. Patrolman Eligio Sarro, off duty, went in for a pack of cigarets. Four men entered. “This is a stick-up,” the leader muttered. Sarro was a little slow getting his hands out of his overcoat pockets. “Get ’em up,” ordered the leader, Sarro did. One hand held a gun. When he got through firing, the leader was dead.

The usual curious crowd gathered after the gunman, fatally wounded, staggered from the entrance. He was about 22, dark and chunky. Police said he was Andrew Izzo with a record of six arrests.

Patrolman Sarro smokes a cigaret a few minutes after he dropped the gunman. He’s assigned to the Empire Blvd. precinct in Brooklyn. He lives only a few doors from the club.
PM Photos by Weegee


PM, August 27, 1941, p. 1

Storm Ties Up Subways…5 Pages
This inferno-like scene is one of the results of tortential rains that wept New York, causing the worst subway tie-up in history. A lightning bolt hit a gas main in a subway excavation, dropped an auto into the resulting cave-in, stated a three-alarm fire… (PM Photo by Irving Haberman)”


“The Weather Bureau also termed 2.13 inches of rain in that brief spectacular on and one-half hours “extensive precipitation.”” p. 15


PM, August 27, 1941, pp. 15-18 (Photos by Irving Haberman and Gene Badger)


PM, August 27, 1941, pp. 14-15


PM, August 27, 1941, p. 14

Weegee Has a Salon: Arthur Fellig, the night-prowling cameraman who turns in many of PM’s choicest pictures of fires, wrecks, rescues and crimes, is having a one-man show of his own at the Photo League, 31 E. 21st St. The exhibit will run through Sept. 6.”


PM, March 12, 1942, p.5

Police Seize 3 Suspects in the Refuge Murder Case

“A wealthy Polish refugee, Mrs. Susan Flora Reich, suffocated last week when robbers bound and gagged her after stripping her of $2000 in jewelry. Her body was found in an East Side hotel apartment occupied by Madeline Webb, former model, and Eli Shonbrun. Third suspect, John D. Cullen, above, right, is watching Miss Webb climb into a patrol wagon. Evidence against the trio will be presented to a grand jury tomorrow. Assistant DA said Miss Reich was killed in a “barbarous, inhuman and savage attack.” In court, Miss Webb screamed: “You can’t do this to me!”

“Mullen represented himself as the father-in-law of Miss Webb in renting a Bronx furnished room. Here he is being booked for homicide. Police trailed him for two days before arresting him and getting information that led to the others. PM Photo by Hy Rothman

“Shonbrun drummed his fingers nervously on desk while giving pedigree. Miss Webb tried to hide her face from photographers. She came here from Stillwater, Okla, is a college graduate, worked as a showgirl, model and dancer. PM Photos by Weegee
PM, March 12, 1942, p.5

A great lesser-known photo… Photographer was INSIDE the patrol wagon…

Mrs. Reich was a refugee from Poland, the “wife of a New Jersey wax processor,” lived at the Hotel Woodrow (35 West 64th St), was 52 years old. She was murdered at the Hotel Sutton, 330 East 56th St on March 4th… Webb (“obscure actress college graduate”) and Shonbrun were living in 438 East 147th St in the Bronx… Miss Webb had an I.Q. of 90; Cullen’s I.Q. was 107; Shonbrun possessed an I.Q. of 102 according to the psychiatrist quoted by the NY Times

“…she turned her eyes to the mural of modern justice…”

On January 9, 1967 Madeline Webb left the New York State Prison for Women in Bedford Hills after 24 years. Thanks to Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s Christmas clemency. She spent 22 years working as the prison librarian. (“As the sole inmate librarian, she spent almost every weekday of the past 22 years in the small but busy library.” THS, January 7, 1967.) She was 53 years old.


New York Times, March 1942 – February 1944

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PM, March 2, 1943

“When fire swept the five-story loft building at 372 E. Houston St., Manhattan, the policeman, above, rescued these two kittens from a hallway. Later he gave them to Miss Sally Strumfeld, 218 Delancey St., who promised to give them a good home. Some small manufacturing firms and the Congregation Israel Anscheigal Icie Minhagsford occupy the Houston St. building. Holy scrolls were carried out by members of the congregation.” PM Photo by Weegee


Weegee, Naked City, 1945, pp. 60-61