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the world 

went MAD 

Allen Churchill 

Illustrated with photographs 

1927 peak of the age of wonderful non- 
sense, era of Prohibition and peepholes, 
jazz babies and ukuleles, Clara Bow and 
Ramon Navarro, tabloids and portable vic- 
trolas. It's the year the world went mad, the 
year Allen Churchill describes in a book -as 
effervescent and tantalizing as the era it 

New Year's Day, 1927, dawned mild 
and mellow, and it is from this point that 
the author begins his nostalgic portrait 
of the Year of the Big Shriek. A fascina- 
ting run-down of current theatre, motion 
pictures, actors and actresses, magazines, 
night clubs, politics, slang, advertisements, 
newspapers, songs, and writers sets the 
scene. Al Capone was in Chicago, Coolidge 
in the White House; Gertrude Lawrence 
and Victor Moore were starring in Oh Kay 
on Broadway; John Barrymore kissed fe- 
males 143 times in the silent film Don 
Juan, and New York's mayor James 
Walker was "as visible in the night spots 
as in his City Hall office." It was the period 
of the catchy advertising slogan: "They 
Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano"; 
and "Doo Wacka Doo"; of slang expres- 
sions like "You're the nuts" and "Don't 

(Continued on back flap) 
Jacket design by HERB STOLTZ 

Jacket photo of Charleston dancers 
by United Press International 

973.91 G56y 60-0728^ 34.95 
Churchill, Allen, 1911- 
The yeai' the world went 
mad. dwell [I960] 

973.91 C56y 60-0728^ $4.95 
Churchill, Allen, 1911- 

The year the world went 
macU Crowell [I960] 

3Hp. illus. 

3 1148 00484 7257 

17 WS 


Thomas Y. CrowZZ Company 


Copyright 1960 by Allen Churchill 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be 

reproduced in any form, except by a reviewer, 

without the permission of the publisher. 

Designed by Laurel Wagner 

Manufactured in the United States of America 

by the Cornwall Press, Inc., Cornwall, New York 

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 60-8251 

1 Prelude to Madness 1 

2 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 24 

3 A Night with the Padlock Queen 51 

4 The Sash-Weight Murder 77 

5 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 111 

6 "Here Comes the BOY/" 145 

7 The Big Parade in the Air 171 

8 Twelve Little Words 198 

9 Sdcco-Vdnzetti 219 
JO The Greatest Year in Sport 250 
11 End of the Big Shriek 274 

Bibliography 303 

Index D r 305 

D* i\ 


:HE Nineteen Twenties have been called 
the Era of Wonderful Nonsense, the 
Golden Age of Nonsense, the Golden Twenties, the Roaring 
Twenties, the Whoopee Era, the Lawless Decade, the Age of 
Hoopla, and many other things. "The whole pattern of the 
Roaring Twenties in America was that of a gigantic play- 
ground/' according to Abel Green and Joe Laurie, Jr. in Show 
Biz. Of these happy, hoopla years, the biggest and best was 
1927. In it the Era of Wonderful Nonsense reached its peak 
and also its moment of transition. Herbert Asbury, looking 
back, calls 1927 the "Year of the Big Shriek" and says: 

It was a year which produced an amazing crop of big news 
stories. Scarcely had one stupendous occurrence been emblazoned 
in journalistic tradition as the greatest story of the age than an- 
other appeared in its place, to goad frenzied editors and reporters 
to new heights of hysteria and hyperbole, while above the din of 
competition rose the mellow baying of the publicity hound and 
the raucous bleat of the politician as he knelt in adoration before 
the glory of the front page and welcomed the heroes returning 
from the scenes of their exploits. 

Follows the story of the Year of the Big Shriek the Year 
the World Went Mad . . . 

to. MadtteM. 

HE first day of January 1927 the Year the 
World Went Mad brought seasonable 
weather to most areas of the country. In Florida, where the 
multimillion-dollar boom in local swampland had burst un- 
happily the year before, the Miami temperature climbed from 
48 degrees to a pleasantly warm 71 at noon. In Chicago, the 
city where the gambling-plus-vice empire of young Al Capone 
raked in an illegitimate $105,000,000 a year ("A fine opportu- 
nity for smart young guys like myself/ 7 was the way Scarface 
Al viewed Prohibition), the first day of the year started at 24 
degrees and reached 31 at noon. In Los Angeles, where the 
silent film industry legitimately earned far more money than 
Al Capone, temperatures rose from 52 degrees to a midday 77, 
so that anyone drawing weather comparisons between California 
and Florida as in those days people did was forced to award 
honors to California on this fine New Year's Day. 

In New York City, traditionally the show spot of the na- 
tion's New Year's Eve revels the night before, temperatures 
rose at noontime to 39 degrees. To those New Yorkers who 
had actively celebrated the advent of the New Year this mellow 


2 Prelude to Madness 

weather seemed justified. For in New York and other spots 
along the eastern seaboard, the night before had been a period 
of downpour. Nonetheless, the usual large crowds had gath- 
ered in Times Square to welcome in the New Year. In the 
New York Times of January i, 1927, police were quoted as 
giving the accustomed estimate of one hundred thousand cele- 
brants in the Times Square area on New Year's Eve, and the 
paper headlined: 


Because of the drenching rain, large numbers of those who 
ventured out in New York City on New Year's Eve did so 
in private car or taxi. Thus New York, a town which eventually 
would become a perpetual traffic jam, had enjoyed what was 
possibly its first grave traffic snarl on this New Year's Eve 
of 1926-27. Such a profusion of cars, taxis, and limousines 
jammed Broadway and offshoot streets that traffic came to a 
complete halt. Some of the cars locked in this prodigious jam 
were Model T Fords (one of the rich promises of the year 
1927 was that during it the Model A Ford would be cere- 
moniously unveiled). Others were such popular makes as Chrys- 
ler ($1175 for roadster with rumble seat), Buick, Chevrolet, 
and Packard ("Ask the Man Who Owns One") . 

The year 1927 arrived in the midst of an era of golden 
prosperity, with a fine richness of everything, and still other 
of the cars bore such forgotten names as Willys-Knight, Frank- 
lin, Hupmobile, Oakland, Pierce Arrow, Essex, Locomobile, 
Marmon, Star and that sportiest of contemporary vehicles, 
the Kissel roadster with wire wheels. The one thousand extra 
police on duty for New Year's Eve charged frantically about 
among these vehicles but, inexperienced in unscrambling such 
confusion, succeeded only in compounding it further. Then, 

Prelude to Madness 3 

as the hands of the clock on the tower of the new (opened 
six months before) Paramount Theatre touched midnight, 
the horns of a multitude of cars caught in the rainy traffic 
jam set up a dreadful cacophony in tribute to the New Year. 

"Private parties greeting the New Year" the Times went 
on _ "had been merry and wet." The nation lived under the 
confining law of Prohibition but this wetness did not stem 
from rain. Indeed, it is safe to say that on New Year's Eve 
1926-27 any citizens of the United States willing and able 
to afford a celebration already knew an urban or roadside 
speakeasy in which to celebrate. Or if not this, at least the 
identity of a bootlegger who would supply liquor (usually gin) 
of an inferior quality which all at the New Year's Eve party 
would deem superior. 

In New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, and 
other major cities, hotels reported a record attendance foi 
New Year's Eve. New York night clubs, where a bottle of 
Prohibition-time champagne (mixed carbonated cider and 
grain alcohol) might cost one hundred dollars, had been 
booked solid for weeks in advance despite the fact that Pro- 
hibition-time Broadway was a lawless spot with gangsters con- 
trolling most places of after-dark pleasure. 

The Main Stem's hit play of the moment was a taut melo- 
drama called Broadway. Lee Tracy played the lead and his 
understudy a young man who never got a chance to go on 
was an actor named James Cagney. In Broadway no less than 
two gangland murders took place backstage in a speakeasy- 
night club called the Paradise. This rang so true to life that 
the critic Alexander Woollcott hailed Broadway in these words: 
"Of all the plays that shuffled in endless procession along 
Broadway in this year of grace, the one which most perfectly 
caught the accent of the city's voice was this play named after 
the great Midway itself." 

New Yorkers able to raise throbbing heads from pillows dur- 

4 Prelude to Madness 

ing the course of New Year's Day 1927 learned from news- 
papers that the city's first baby of the new year had been a 
girl where is she now? born to Mrs. Mary Stein in Lincoln 
Hospital, the Bronx. Four other children had been born during 
the night and before New Year's Eve was officially over revelers 
had turned in sixteen false fire alarms. Those who read the 
newspapers could also learn that, despite plentiful evidence that 
New Year's Eve had been the country's wettest of the Prohibi- 
tion Era, Dry forces were publicly radiating optimism. The past 
year, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union announced, 
had seen a tightening in enforcement of the Volstead Law. 
Only in the South, where moonshiners flourished, had the situ- 
ation worsened. 

Such optimism was so tremendously far from the truth that 
most readers quickly turned to other news stories. One of these 
stated that Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, under 
whose jurisdiction enforcement of Prohibition fell, had vetoed 
the idea of inserting poison into wood alcohol so that those 
truly desperate for a drink would never be tempted to im- 
bibe this substance. Other news stories concerned the pend- 
ing dispatch of United States Marines to Nicaragua for the 
protection of American property and investment; the approach- 
ing eightieth birthday of Thomas Alva Edison; and the night- 
riding activities of the hooded Ku Klux Klan in Georgia. Presi- 
dent Calvin Coolidge, fondly known to the country as Cautious 
Cal, broke his usual silence to speak out in favor of World 
Disarmament, then under debate at The Hague. National 
stories decried the rise in the divorce rate, stating that the past 
year had seen the filing of five thousand more divorce suits 
than ever before in the country's history. Monday, January 3rd, 
would be the day on which many doughboys of World War I 
would be entitled to collect a Soldier's Bonus, and a few 
pundits feared that this would deal a shattering blow to the 
nation's soaring economy. 

Prelude to Madness 5 

This, however, was almost as farfetched as the claims of 
Prohibition forces. For 1927 came at a prosperous time, with 
the rich odor of profits filling the air. Plumbers arriving to fix 
faucets discoursed on how much money they had made on 
paper during the previous week. Rich men had the discon- 
certing experience of being driven by chauffeurs who seemed 
to know everything about the stock market. "Prosperous and 
with all confidence in the future," was the manner in which 
the New York Times pictured the national mood on the first 
day of January 1927. And why not? Under the canny aegis 
of multimillionaire Treasury Secretary Mellon the United 
States had just declared itself able to cut taxes by $387,000,000. 

Such splendid prosperity had been the story for almost seven 
years and newspaper readers in search of unusual news might 
turn from it to the sport pages to find that Gene Sarazen had 
won the Miami Open Golf Championship and that Tommy 
Armour had finished first in a California Open. From the Madi- 
son Square Garden office of fight promoter Tex Rickard came 
the eagerly awaited news that during 1927 the heavyweight 
champion, James Joseph (Gene) Tunney, would fight the win- 
ner of a series of elimination bouts. Tunney had defeated Jack 
Dempsey in September 1926 and for his next bout was guar- 
anteed $750,000 to $1,000,000. Among those who would be 
taking part in the eliminations for the honor of meeting him 
would be Dempsey, Jack Sharkey, Paul Berlenbach, Jim 
Maloney, and Jack Delaney. 

For those not addicted to sport, there was news in the en- 
tertainment columns. In those happy days, some seventy-five 
Broadway plays were spread before a public which now, even 
in holiday time, is lucky to have fifteen. On Saturday, January 
i, 1927, a revue called Gay Paree was to be seen at the Winter 
Garden with that celebrated Parisian Charles "Chic" Sale; 
Gertrude Lawrence and Victor Moore were starring in Oh Kay! 
a musical comedy with music by George Gershwin ("Clap Yo' 

6 Prelude to Madness 

Hands/' "Do Do Do"); Beatrice Lillie and Charles Winninger 
displayed themselves in a musical called Oh, Please; Ethel 
Barryniore was starred in Somerset Maugham's The Constant 
Wife; Sacha Guitry and his lovely wife Yvonne Printemps, 
speaking only French, brought Gallic culture to the United 
States in Mozart; Queen High boasted Luella Gear and Charles 
Ruggles; Chicago, a searing drama of a jazz-baby murderess, 
starred Francine Larrimore; The Ladder, a play about reincar- 
nation, played nightly to audiences of only ten or fifteen, since 
a Texas millionaire-backer, Edgar B. Davis, had a fanatical 
faith in its message; Joe E. Brown and Ona Munson cavorted 
through Twinkle, Twinkle; at the Republic Theatre on Forty- 
second Street Anne Nichols' Abie's Irish Rose continued its 
amazing five-year run; Lenore Ulric appeared in Lulu Bette, 
Blanche Yurka was Nubi in The Squall, and Mae West was 
Margie LaMont in Sex. Temporarily absent from Broadway 
was Florenz Ziegfeld, the celebrated showman who had pro- 
duced a series of gorgeous Follies "Glorifying the American 
Girl." But George White's breezy Scandals and Earl Carroll's 
sumptuous Vanities endeavored to make up for the absence 
of the master. 

Despite such seeming robustness, the American entertain- 
ment world was in the process of enormous change. Suddenly 
radio the kind of entertainment-for-free which showmen al- 
ways dreaded had appeared on the scene. People no longer 
needed to stir from their homes for an evening's entertain- 
ment. By turning a series of knobs, it was now possible to 
bring Jessica Dragonette, Harry Reser's Cliquot Club Eskimos, 
Harry Horlick's A & P Gypsies, the Happiness Boys, or Uncle 
Don into a living room. Simultaneously motion pictures were 
making a new bid for attention. No longer content to be called 
a stepchild of the legitimate theatre, films were becoming more 
sophisticated, even using the word art to describe some produc- 
tions. Picture palaces like the Capitol and Paramount in 
New York featured stage shows which, together with radio, 

Prelude to Madness 7 

would sound the death knell of vaudeville. But the most im- 
portant change in films was in the films themselves. Epics like 
Ben-Hur (Ramon Novarro, Carmel Myers, Francis X. Bush- 
man) and The Big Parade (John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, Karl 
Dane) held as much drama as any Broadway play and were 
visually far more exciting. 

In 1927 the screen was still silentor nearly so. Background 
symphonic music had been heard on a sound track of Don 
Juan, a film in which John Barrymore kissed females 143 times 
by actual press-agent count. The Warner Brothers, attempting 
to bolster a tottering company with a new gimmick called 
Vitaphone, had at the Don Juan premiere presented "Talk- 
ing" shorts with such outstanding singers of the day as Marion 
Talley. John Barrymore was also one of the busiest actors of 
the era and in January 1927 could be seen on Broadway in 
When a Man Loves with Dolores Costello. The Big Parade 
still played two performances a day at the Astor; Harold Lloyd, 
next to Charlie Chaplin the most popular comic of the time,, 
was appearing in Big Brother; Corinne Griffith starred in Lady 
in Ermine with Francis X. Bushman; and Pola Negri was the 
star of Hotel Imperial at the Paramount, soon to be rivaled 
by the Roxy at Seventh Avenue and Fiftieth Street. 

Other films of the day were D. W. Griffith's Sorrows of 
Satan with Adolphe Menjou, Lya de Putti, and Carol Demp- 
ster; Beau Geste with Ronald Colman, enjoying a record run 
at the Criterion; Marion Davies in TUlie the Toiler and Para- 
dise for Two with Richard Dix and Betty Bronson. In addi- 
tion to this, newspapers on January ist carried announcements 
of the imminent arrival of Flesh and the Devil starring John 
Gilbert and Greta Garbo. Garbo was billed as the possessor of 
"the most beautiful face in the world/ 7 Flesh and the Devil 
would introduce the so-called soul kiss to a palpitating movie 
public. As a result some would call it "Gilbo Garbage" and 
the film would be assailed by pious groups. 

In Hollywood, polls indicated runaway popularity for Clara 

8 Prelude to Madness 

Bow as the top box office attraction of the day. Flaming 
haired, peppy, shingle-bobbed, flat-chested, high-skirted, Clara 
Bow personified the headstrong flapper of the period. In her 
latest film, The Plastic Age, she had been billed the "Hottest 
Jazz Baby in Films." In it she did a frenetic Charleston, drank 
out of a hip flask, and by every action indicated insistence 
upon the freedoms denied for centuries to her sex. Clara Bow's 
most successful film had been Elinor Glyn's It, which was the 
word Mrs, Glyn applied to the indefinable sex appeal in the 
female personality that attracts men. "You either have it, or 
you don't/' the exotic-looking authoress stated coolly when 
asked to define It further. But whatever It was, Clara Bow had 
it. She was the 1927 jazz baby: hungry for thrills, heedless of 
consequences, promiscuous with kisses and perhaps much else. 
Restless, self-centered, vain, she was the Flapper of Flaming 

For her work in motion pictures Clara Bow was paid three 
thousand dollars to four thousand dollars a week. As a result 
she typified far more than high-voltage fiapperdom to her fel- 
low citizens of the United States. In 1927 she was twenty-two 
years old and over the last four the flapper with the bright red 
hair had personified, more than anyone else in Hollywood, 
the phenomenal rags-to-riches rise of so many stars of the silent 
screen. Miss Bow had been born in the Bay Ridge section of 
Brooklyn, into a background described as "rotten/* Of her 
barren childhood, she herself recalled, "I never even had a 
doll." But she had "It" and, at seventeen, flaming red hair, 
a lovely round face, and a body to match. Someone sent her 
photo to a beauty competition run by a movie magazine and 
soon, by a series of happy chances, the teenage girl found her- 
self playing a tomboy gamin in Down to the Sea in Ships. 
Next came Rough House Rosie, Redhead f The Fleet's In, 
Children of Divorce, Three Weekends, Mantrap, and Ladies 
of the Mob. By 1927 ecstatic fans were writing Clara Bow 

Prelude to Madness 9 

some twenty thousand letters a week. Naturally, the flaming- 
haired star made the most of such fame and fortune. "I did 
exactly as I pleased/' she has recalled of her days of flapper 
fame. "I stayed up late. I dressed the way I wanted. I'd whiz 
down Sunset Boulevard in my open Kissel flaming red, of 
course with seven red chow dogs to match my hair." 

Ramon Novarro, the most popular male star of the moment, 
was far more sedate in his behavior. The mantle of popularity 
had fallen on Novarro with the shattering death of Rudolph 
Valentino in August 1926. But Novarro would not remain in 
this top slot for long. With Flesh and the Devil, dashing John 
Gilbert became the number one movie idol. 

Other film stars of 1927 were Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pick- 
ford, Antonio Moreno, Colleen Moore, Monte Blue, Reginald 
Denny, Rod La Rocque, Vilma Banky, Esther Ralston, Lois 
Wilson, Jack Holt, Bebe Daniels, Leatrice Joy, Lew Cody, 
Thomas Meighan, Dorothy Mackaill, Louise Brooks, Betty 
Compson, Lon Chaney, Agnes Ayres, Richard Dix, Ben Lyon, 
Marie Prevost, William Haines, Anna May Wong, Sally 
O'Neill, and Wallace Beery, who had just begun to switch 
from movie villainy to comedy. 

Upcoming in the ranks were Gary Cooper, Mary Brian, 
Buddy Rogers, Nancy Carroll, Gilbert Roland, Richard Arlen, 
Alice White, and Betty Bronson. 

The January issue of Motion Picture, a fan magazine that 
brought cultivated tone to Hollywood, featured an article titled 
"A Sunday Afternoon with Mrs. Falaise." Translated, this 
meant an afternoon with Gloria Swanson, for that star of stars 
had just delighted the industry by returning from Europe mar- 
ried to the Marquis Henri de la Falaise de la Coudray a mar- 
riage which caused her rival Pola Negri to writhe with envy. 

The same issue of Motion Picture carried a breathless inter- 
view with Joan Crawford, one of Hollywood's newest stars. As 
Lucille Le Sueur, Miss Crawford had (little more than a year 

10 Prelude to Madness 

before) been a flapper Charleston dancer at the Club Richman 
in New York. Practically every girl in the United States envied 
the high-stepping girl, but in the best fan magazine tradition 
of the day the fortunate young thing confided to interviewer 
Doris Denbo that she had found success empty: "Would you 
think it possible that in the midst of plenty friends, love, 
success, everything perhaps a girl could wish for that I could 
be lonely? But I have never been anything but lonely for real 
love and affection." 

For stay-at-homes on New Year's Day 1927 the entertain- 
ment news lay in the new gadget radio. The pioneering day of 
the crystal set had become the era of twisting dials, gooseneck 
loudspeaker, and radiotron tube (RCA Radiola, 8 tubes, $275). 

January ist was to feature still another radio innovation- 
the nationwide hookup. At three in the afternoon nineteen 
stations across the land would join to broadcast the Rose Bowl 
game between Leland Stanford and Alabama. The multitudes 
listening to this exciting game would hear it broadcast by the 
silver tonsils of Graham McNamee, the nation's super-broad- 
caster. The great McNamee seemed able to make everything in 
his broadcasts infectiously exciting ("And he did itl Yessir, he 
did it! It's a touchdown. Boy, I want to tell you, this is one 
of the finest games . . .") and as a result he was one of the 
best known of contemporary Americans. 

Radio in 1927 was such a startling innovation that some 
folk were concerned about the content of broadcasts. Cultural 
groups objected to the hullabaloo made over such programs as 
the Rose Bowl game. Consequently, the networks had rather 
self-consciously scheduled another nationwide broadcast for 
eight o'clock that night. This would be a performance of the 
New York Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dr. Walter 
Damrosch. With him would be a galaxy of musical luminaries, 
among them John McCormack, Rosa Ponselle, and Mischa 

Prelude to Madness 11 

Elman. In New York, this would be carried on station WEAF, 
which with WJZ was the important outlet in the area. In 
Pittsburgh, it would be heard on station KDKA, over which 
the first radio broadcast was made on November 2, 1920, 

On the afternoon of January ist as Alabama came from 
behind in the last minute of play to tie Stanford 7-7 Gov- 
ernor Alfred E. Smith of New York entered his name in the 
1928 Presidential race by declaring in his New York State in- 
augural address: "I will try to earn the nomination/' Radio 
of the day was so much in its infancy that news broadcasts 
were all but unknown. Thus the world had to wait until the 
Sunday newspapers of January 2nd to find that Al Smith's 
brown derby had floated into the Presidential arena. 

In Washington, D.C., President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge 
were, to the surprise of no one, described as spending the 
quietest of holidays. In truth, America of the mid-Twenties 
was a bit bewildered by its thirtieth President. Dutifully his 
countrymen tried to find admirable the President's taciturn re- 
fusal to chat with newspapermen, White House callers, or 
diplomats from other nations. At all times Coolidge remained 
silentlooking down his nose, William Allen White said, as 
if trying to locate that evil smell which seemed forever to 
affront him. The same point was made in fewer words by 
Alice Roosevelt Longworth who said that Coolidge looked as 
if he had been weaned on a sour pickle. "Whenever Coolidge 
opens his mouth to speak, a moth flies out," another contem- 
porary said, and a newspaper had just asked Coolidge to write 
a feature article on "How to Get By on Ten Words a Day/' 

If Calvin Coolidge preserved his usual silence over the New 
Year's weekend, a firebrand Representative named Fiorello H. 
La Guardia provided news from the nation's capital. La 
Guardia delivered a blast at the country's law enforcement ma- 
chinery, pointing out that on New Year's Eve there had been 
almost no raids on Prohibition law violators. He reminded the 

12 Prelude to Madness 

country that in many urban localities law enforcement officers 
were under arrest for conniving with bootleggers (NEW PRO- 
HIBITION CHIEF SEEKS HONEST STAFF, a recent headline read) 
and that any man could easily find a speakeasy in any sizable 
town in the land. He finally charged that in eleven cities 1,738 
people had died over the past year as a result of drinking in- 
ferior or poison liquor. Newspapers across the country imme- 
diately headlined 1,738 RUM DEATHS CHARGED, for the word 
rum fitted so neatly into story-heads that a visitor from Mars 
might deduce from the press that the United States was a 
nation of rum drinkers. Gin was also a neat headline word, 
but more specific and confining. In private conversations of 
the time prohibition liquor was always hooch or booze. 

In the course of his statement Representative La Guardia 
took several swipes at his constituency city of New York. Not 
a single raid had been staged there during this wettest of wet 
weekends, yet it was known that at least five thousand speak- 
easy-night clubs nestled among the bright lights of Broadway, 
with some twenty-five thousand more in the entire city of New 
York. La Guardia heaped scorn on the city's playboy mayor, 
James J. Walker. In the words of Gene Fowler, his future 
biographer, Mayor Walker wore New York on his lapel like 
a boutonniere. He was a laughing Mayor, rather than a smiling 
one, as visible in night spots as in his City Hall office. La 
Guardia branded Mayor Walker's recent 3 A.M. curfew for 
night clubs a farce, since many clubs had taken newspaper 
space to advertise that they would stay open until 8 A.M. 
despite the edict. In no way did La Guardia reflect the light 
views of H. L. Mencken, who had just stated, "The business 
of evading Prohibition and making mock of it has ceased to 
wear any aspects of crime, and has become a sort of national 

On January ist, those interested in matters other than Pro 

Prelude to Madness 13 

hibition, or the lack of it, could read popular magazines like 
the Delineator, which contained fiction by Sophie Kerr, Arthur 
Train, John Erskine, and Kathleen Norris. The stories of F. 
Scott Fitzgerald often appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, 
and the New Yorker, now in its third year, carried the by-lines 
of Ernest Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Ben Hecht. 

Advertisements of the era seem in retrospect more read- 
able than the serious prose. It was the time of the catchy 
slogan "Ivory Soap, It Floats" "Often a Bridesmaid But 
Never a Bride" "There's Something About Them You'll Like" 
(Herbert Tareytons)"Even Your Best Friend Won't Tell 
You" (halitosis: Listerine)~-"Be Nonchalant, Light a Murad" 
-"Lucky Strike, It's Toasted' -"I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel" 
"Four Out of Five Have it" (pyorrhea). A full-page adver- 
tisement for piano lessons by mail featured perhaps the most 
memorable of all advertising slogans: "They Laughed When I 
Sat Down at the Piano But When I Started to Play!" 

It was also the moment of the inferiority complex and am- 
bitious ads set out to exploit the hideous deficiencies latent in 
everyone. "I Was So Embarrassed," a young wife informs a 
cringing husband in one full-page spread. "You sat there like 
a dummy, you didn't say a word all evening." The solution? 
Buy the Elbert Hubbard Scrap Book and commit it to memory. 
It was also the era of the testimonial, with celebrities insin- 
cerely plugging cigarettes, bedsprings, and other commodities. 
At the same time ordinary folk testified: "For Years I Was 
Always Tired Now I Take Fleischmann's Yeast 3 Times a 

Lighter aspects of the national culture were to be found in 
the humor magazines Life and Judge, as well as in that for- 
gotten pacesetter College Humor, which carried jokes, pictures 
of cuddly flappers, and breezy, sexy fiction. In College Humor 
the stories of Katharine Brush and Lynn and Lois Montross 
gave Joe College and Betty Coed a pattern of behavior for all 

14 Prelude to Madness 

situations. Life was edited by Robert Emmet Sherwood, who 
was also writing playshis Road to Rome would be a hit of 

Life especially featured the John Held drawings which so 
successfully caught the flavor of the Jazz Age. The flapper of 
1927 was angular, thin legged, slat bottomed, and displayed no 
visible breasts. She was such an odd creature that the John 
Held caricature bore a great resemblance to the real thing. Her 
male counterpart, as seen by Held, had a vapid face and wore 
bell-bottom trousers. He parted his hair in the middle and 
greased it back on either side in emulation of the lamented 
Rudolph Valentino. For the John Held male the world had no 
perfect word like flapper for the female. He was called the 
sheik, the cake-eater, or the jelly bean the last deriving from 
the glossy hair of Held drawings. When the 1927 male was re- 
ferred to as a sheik his female counterpart was often called a 

In Life, Judge, and College Humor, the curious slang of the 
era could best be found. A good-looking girl was the cat's 
whiskers, or the cat's meow. She was also, more respectfully, a 
beaut, or a peach. An ordinary girl was a jane "Who was 
that jane I saw you with last night?" To say something clever 
was to crack wise, or wisecrack. Anything a flapper or jelly bean 
liked was nifty or "It's the nuts/' "For crying out loud" was 
the favored expression of incredulity or wonder. Rapture was 
expressed by "Hot diggity dog." A tough guy was a hardboiled 
egg, a stupid girl a dumbbell or Dumb Dora. Since the 1926 
best seller Gentlemen Prefer Blondes there had been much talk 
of sugar daddies and gold diggers. At a wild party a flapper 
hoisting her skirts above rolled stockings to do a mad Charleston 
would be egged on by cries of "Get hot!" 

One sure way of winning a laugh at a crowded party was 
suddenly to yell "Don't step on it, it might be Lon Chaney!" 
In a slightly different sense, Step On It also meant Hurry up, 

Prelude to Madness 15 

we're late. An expression of scorn was "So's your old man." 
Does She or Doesn't She? meant Does She Pet or Does She 
Neck? At the end of a happy date a sheba might say to her 
sheik "Thanks for the buggy ride." If he made an improper 
suggestion she might say, "Go fly a kite," "Go jump in the 
lake/' or "Go cook a radish." If he made her laugh she'd say, 
"Ooo, you slaughter me!" An expression of disbelief was "It's 
the bunk." 

Liquor, (bathtub gin or bootleg hooch) was giggle-water or 
giggle-soup, even in the sophisticated pages of the New Yorker. 
Speakeasies were whoopee-parlors. Making Whoopee meant 
getting tight, doing the Charleston, or playing a does-she-or 
doesn't-she in the rumble seat of a car. Anything strange was 
goofy, anyone strange a goof. To add emphasis, a flapper might 
breathe fervently, "I should hope to tell you," or "And ftowl" 
Finally, a flapper never said Yes or No to anything. It was 
always "Absolutely" or a long draw out "Pos-i-tzve-ly." Or a 
mixture of both which was "Abso-#v0-ly" or "Pos-a-Zoot-ly," 

Young people of the age were conveniently divided into 
Flaming Youth and the Younger Generation. Neither had the 
full approval of older folk, but Flaming Youth was regarded 
with outrage and horror, while the Younger Generation got a 
patient "we-were-all-young-once" treatment. 

To the comparatively sedate members of the Younger Gen- 
eration, the song writer of the decade was Irving Berlin 
("What'll I Do?" "All Alone," "Blue Skies," "Remember," 
"Always," "The Song Is Ended But the Melody Lingers on)." 
Even so, the overwhelming song hit of 1927 was Walter 
Donaldson's "My Blue Heaven (Just Molly and me-e-e, and 
baby makes three-e-e)." Paul Whiteman, Vincent Lopez, Fred 
Waring, Ben Bernie ("The Old Maestro") and Roger Wolfe 
Kahn were the popular dance band leaders. Whiteman, after 
functioning as a jazz catalyst, had turned to dispensing what 
was called dansapation silken renditions of such melodies as 

16 Prelude to Madness 

"Among My Souvenirs/ 7 "In A Little Spanish Town/' and 

Collegiate, collegiate. Yes! -we are collegiate! so rollicked a 
contemporary song hit, and Flaming Youth found such 
whoopee melodies vastly superior to Irving Berlin. It was the 
day of the ukulele, or uke. No less than rolled stockings and 
knee-length sheath dresses for shebas, or bell-bottom trousers 
and hip flasks for shieks, the uke was standard equipment for 
joy rides and petting parties. On this simplest of instruments, 
jazz babies strummed accompaniment to the nonsense ditties 
so dear to the hearts of the Jazz Age. From "Barney Google" 
(1923) and " Yes, We Have No Bananas" to the sentimental 
"Bye, Bye, Blackbird" (1926) each silly song had its brief, 
countrywide life. Still tingling in the ears of 1927 were "When 
the Red Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob-Bobbin Along"; "It Ain't 
Gonna Rain No Mo' "; "Hay, Hay, Farmer Gray (Took an- 
other load away)"; "Show Me the Way to Go Home (I'm 
tired and I want to go to bed)"; "Did You Ever Hear Pete? 
(Go tweet-tweet-tweet on his piccolo)"; "Who Takes Care of 
the Caretaker's Daughter? (When the caretaker's busy taking 
care?)"; and the saxophone-player's song "Doo-wacka-doo 
(Made a hit with the girls. They had their hair bobbed and 
gave him the curls) ." 

Serious songs of the day, such as "Just a Cottage Small By a 
Waterfall (A place where dreams come true)" and "I'm Sitting 
on Top of the World (Just rollin' along and singin' a song)" 
were sung over the radio by Jessica Dragonette, Vaughn De 
Leath, Gene Austin, and the Silvertown Masked Tenor (Joe 
White) . But the Happiness Boys, the Cliquot Club Eskimos, 
the A & P Gypsies, and others made merry with numbers like 
"I Miss My Swiss (My Swiss miss misses me)"; "She Lives 
Over the Wiaduct (Down by the Winegar Woiks)"; "I Faw 
Down an' Go Boom"; "When It's Nighttime in Italy It's 
Wednesday Over Here"; "There's No Hot Water in the 

Prelude to Madness 17 

Bronx"; and "Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bed- 
post Overnight"? 

In January 1927 the song hit of the moment and the non- 
sense song of the second were conveniently the same. This was 
a "bouncy number called "Crazy Words, Crazy Tune." To its 
simple lyric, topical words could quickly be added and a nation 
concerned with Eskimo pies, raccoon coats, plus fours, cross- 
word puzzles, hip flasks, back-seat petting, ukuleles, and other 
innovations found many a snappy couplet to insert in "Crazy 
Words, Crazy Tune": 

Crazy words, crazy tune 

I think that 111 go crazy soon 



Culture was also rampant, and the nifty new Book-of-the- 
Month Club was considered a sure bet to make the masses 
book conscious. Non-fiction best seller of 1927 was Will 
Durant's The Story of Philosophy. In fiction John Erskine was 
attempting to duplicate the success of his trail-blazing Private 
Life of Helen of Troy with a somewhat similar book called 
Galahad. Warwick Deeping, author of Sorrell and Son, was 
represented by Doomsday. Also in bookstores (or about to be) 
were Tristram, by Edwin Arlington Robinson; To the Light- 
house, by Virginia Woolf; Marching On, by James Boyd; 
Young Men in Love, by Michael Arlen; Revolt in the Desert, 
by T. E. Lawrence; and The Glorious Adventure, by Richard 

But most of all, Americans in 1927 read newspapers. This 
is hardly surprising: events of the day seemed to rival fiction 
and add new dimension to fact. From early in the Twenties 
newspaper readers had been treated to a series of smash sensa- 
tions. Abetting this was the success of tabloid journalism in 
New York. The New York Daily News began in 1919 and, after 

18 Prelude to Madness 

initial floundering, achieved a huge circulation. With one cir- 
culation success, the newspaper axiom runs, there is always 
room for another. William Randolph Hearst's tabloid, the 
Daily Mirror , started in 1922, and attempted to outdo the 
News in sensationalism. The Mirror did not fare as well, but 
this did not deter the redoubtable physical culturist Bernarr 
Macfadden from conceiving the idea of an evening tabloid- 
both News and Mirror were morning papers which he called 
the Evening Graphic. 

In the green-tinted pages of the Graphic, American journal- 
ism reached cesspool status. In no time New Yorkers were 
calling the paper the Porno-Graphic. By January 1927, the 
Graphic's major distinction was the notoriety of Walter Win- 
chell, ex-vaudeville hoofer turned gossip columnist, whose 
column "Your Broadway and Mine" was adding what has been 
called keyhole journalism to the newspaper concept. 

Though the New Yorfe Times, the New Yorfe Herald 
Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle 
and other newspapers of high reputation would never admit it, 
they had been influenced by the raw excesses of tabloid journal- 
ism. The fact that so many millions eagerly read the tabloids 
could not be disregarded and concessions were accordingly 
made. The New Yorfe Times, printing meaty details of divorce 
scandals and love-nest slayings, strove to retain dignity by 
always referring to those involved as Mr., Mrs., or Miss. On the 
other hand, the tabloids instantly placed everything on a cosy 
front-name basis. Any girl named Dorothy who got in trouble 
immediately became Dot. At all times the tabloids' prose 
bordered on the heartthrob. Tabloid euphemisms were mis- 
leading and vaguely salacious. An illegitimate baby was always 
a love child. Infractions of the Seventh Commandment were 
illicit love or illicit romance. Couples involved were too 
friendly, indiscreet, or intimate. A naked girl was never nude 
in the tabloids. She was undraped, partially attired, or scantily 
clad, depending on the mood of the city editor. 

Prelude to Madness 19 

The excesses of the tabloids were best to be seen in the 
numerous trials-of-the-century with which the Twenties were 
studded. On close scrutiny, these may become merely trials of 
the moment, but lurid newspaper coverage made them seem 
stupendous events. At the same time, the Twenties were an 
era of real news. It is safe to say that almost any reporter alive 
in 1960 would give a lot to have been in his prime in the year 
1927. Big stories, classic stories, occurred then as often as war 
scares today. 

The first of the decade's unique thrills came in 1922 when 
the Reverend Edward Wheeler Hall and a pretty parishioner 
named Eleanor Mills were discovered dead in a lover's kne out- 
side New Brunswick, New Jersey. A bizarre note was added by 
torn love letters of the pair scattered over the bodies. The 
frantic press coverage of the Hall-Mills case brought new 
dimension to newspaper coverage of an American murder. 

As the Whoopee Era built, so did its sensations. Came the 
Fatty Arbuckle and William Desmond Taylor scandals in 
Hollywood. A trial of the century arrived in 1924 when two 
Chicago youths, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, were 
found guilty of the aptly called thrill murder of Bobby Franks. 
Sensation merged into sensation as year passed into year. In 
Chicago, the multimillionaire Stillrnan family was rent by an 
ugly divorce, while New York's upper crust reeled from the 
Leonard Kip Rhinelander case. In Dayton, Tennessee, the 
Scopes trial the intellectual trial of the century played itself 
out as Clarence Darrow and Willam Jennings Bryan battled 
over the letter of the Bible in a summer of hellish heat. Charlie 
Chaplin married a sixteen-year-old child bride named lita 
Gray, and Al Capone began his rise in Chicago. 

In 1926 the sad-eyed Broadway producer Earl Carroll decided 
to throw an exceptional party on the stage of the theatre where 
his Vanities played. At the peak of the evening's merriment an 
ordinary-looking bathtub was wheeled center-stage. Waiters 
filled it to the brim with Prohibition champagne. Then from 

20 Prelude to Madness 

the wings strode showgirl Joyce Hawley, wearing a green bath- 
robe. Reaching the tub, the girl dropped the robe, exposing the 
fact that she was naked. She daintily stepped into the cham- 
pagne-filled tub. "Step right up, gentlemen/' Carroll called. 
"The line forms at the right." Men and some women lined up 
self-consciously for a glass of nude-in-the-bathtub champagne. 

Most of New York's top echelon newspapermen and col- 
umnists were present at the party, and all had been requested 
by Carroll not to reveal the story of his nude bather. One 
newsman present was Philip Payne, an inspired young man 
who had recently been made editor of the Daily Mirror. Payne 
would later claim that he had spoken to Carroll during the 
bathtub episode, saying in effect, "Earl, this story is so big, 
you've just got to let me have it." Carroll always denied this 
and it may be that, busy with the details of the party, he mis- 
understood Payne or merely nodded assent to get rid of him. 
Whatever the reason, Payne believed he had permission. The 
Daily Mirror broke the sensational story and for several edi- 
tions was the only New York newspaper to cany the news of 
Earl Carroll's Bathtub Party. 

It was a glorious scoop, earning Payne an accolade from 
William Randolph Hearst. It also sent Earl Carroll to the 
Federal Penitentiary, since he was hauled into court for serving 
liquor on his premises. There, for obscure reasons, Carroll chose 
to deny that the party had ever taken place. On the witness 
stand Joyce Hawley clinched the case against him by admitting 
that she had caught cold reposing in the champagne bath. 
Carroll's plight was considerable, but Philip Payne had prob- 
lems too. On the one hand his fellow editors reviled him for 
lack of integrity in breaking the story. On the other, he had 
earned a powerful pat on the back from William Randolph 
Hearst. Which was more important? After much soul-searching 
Payne decided he had most enjoyed the pat on the back. 

Now he learned that the Evening Graphic had been investi- 

Prelude to Madness 21 

gating the still unsolved, still untried Hall : Mills case of 1922. 
Unable to find grounds for reopening the case, the Graphic 
had dropped its investigations. The euphoric Payne dashed in 
where the Graphic feared to tread. In July 1926 the Mirror 
headlined a story charging that the widow Hall had used 
money and social prestige to bribe witnesses and otherwise in- 
fluence the prosecutor's office. HALL-MILLS MURDER MYSTERY 
BARED, the Mirror screeched, and of necessity the other papers 
followed. Reluctantly, the New Jersey authorities opened the 
Hall-Mills file, setting a trial date for several months in the 

While the wheels of justice ground in the Hall-Mills case, 
newspaper readers found much else of a stimulating nature. In 
the summer of 1926, Commander Richard Evelyn Byrd flew 
over the North Pole. Byrd was a handsome, storybook hero who 
at the age of twelve had gone around the world alone. After 
that, his life had included graduation from Annapolis and in- 
vention of the bubble sextant. On his return from the North 
Pole flight, Byrd together with pilot Floyd Bennett was given 
one of the resounding keys-to-the-city welcomes for which New 
York City had become widely famed. 

No sooner had Commander Byrd been royally received than 
Gertrude Ederle succeeded in her second attempt to swim the 
English Channel. The tabloids immediately dubbed her Trudy 
and headlined SHE DID IT! On August 27, 1926, New York City 
went wild over a returning Trudy. Fifty thousand yelling, mill- 
ing people crowded the Wall Street area as she was greeted by 
Grover Whalen. She rode in triumph up Broadway while ticker 
tape, torn paper, and strips of telephone books streamed down 
from office building windows above. Miss Ederle's official wel- 
come became a mob scene, with mounted policemen charging 
into the crowds. For the first time it became apparent that the 
American people weary perhaps of sensationalism and sordid- 
ness might be searching for something clean and honest to 

22 Prelude to Madness 

worship. But in Trudy Ederle, the public had a heroine perhaps 
too levelheaded and pragmatic. Asked by a female reporter, 
"Did you do any shopping in Paris?" Trudy looked blank. 
"Why should I?" she wanted to know. 

So rapidly did events move in the Teeming Twenties that as 
Trudy returned to her home on the West Side of Manhattan 
she skirted territory being hallowed by a different kind of mob 
scene. Rudolph Valentino, the Sheik of Sheiks, had just died 
of peritonitis and the loss of America's number-one movie idol 
had produced a hysteria of mourning in New York and else- 
where. Some thirty thousand of the morbidly curious had 
descended on Frank E. Campbell's Memorial Chapel where 
Valentino lay in state, clad in impeccable evening attire. Plate 
glass windows in the vicinity were broken, and mounted police 
charged into the crowds. When finally order was restored one 
hundred and fifty persons a minute began pushing by Valen- 
tino's coffin, and the line of mourners never seemed to dwindle. 

As Valentino lay in state, President Eliot of Harvard died, 
giving editorial writers an opportunity to view with alarm the 
mighty coverage given Valentino as compared with the small 
obituaries given the learned educator. 

The busy tunesmiths of Tin Pan Alley had quickly produced 
a song dedicated to Valentino. It was called "There's a New 
Star in Heaven Tonight." The Evening Graphic, inspired by 
"There's a New Star in Heaven Tonight," photographed two 
actors in heavenly robes in the act of shaking hands. With the 
photograph developed, the heads were snipped off and in their 
place the Graphic editors pasted heads of Rudolph Valentino 
and Enrico Caruso. The picture was photographed again. Thus, 
in what it dubbed a Composograph, the Graphic pictured 
Rudolph Valentino Entering the Kingdom of Heaven, 

Next, Queen Marie of Rumania arrived in the United States 
on a grand tour. Her Highness proved that she had caught the 

Prelude to Madness 23 

spirit of the Twenties by signing with two different newspaper 
syndicates for her personal observations on the trip. The royal 
party included almost as many press agents as court aides. Per- 
haps because of this, the tour was treated with some irreverence 
by the press, PRINCE NICHOLAS LOSES PANTS, the News head- 
lined, detailing a shipboard contretemps involving the Queen's 
son. HERE COMES THE QUEEN! the Daily Mirror trumpeted on 
the day she arrived. 

Queen Marie's first taste of the United States came with a 
parade through New York streets. Seated beside her in the open 
back seat of an imposing car was Mayor James J. Walker. His 
unique place in the city's heart was demonstrated by a window 
cleaner who peered down at the passing cavalcade and shouted, 
"Hey, Jimmy, did you lay her yet?" Queen Marie, whose knowl- 
edge of English was of a formal variety, waved upward in 
friendly response. 

While the Queen toured the United States becoming in- 
creasingly tangled in press agents and news syndicates the 
Hall-Mills trial ran its course in Somerville, New Jersey. During 
late November and early December some twenty million 
words of testimony and sob sister description flooded news- 
papers the country over. Readers panted over the dramatic, hos- 
pital bed testimony of Mrs. Jane Gibson, the Pig Woman. 
They debated whether Willie Stevens could be as crazy as he 
looked. Art Applegate's bluefish became a national catchword. 
The end result was acquittal for Mrs. Hall and her brothers. 
The much-beset family pondered, then decided to file a million- 
dollar libel suit against the Daily Mirror and editor Philip 

This was done on December 28th and suddenly the nation 
had reached 1927, the Year the World Went Mad. 

3. "Wltat 5bid 

HE big year wasted no time in getting 
under way. Indeed, those welcoming 1927 
did so secure in the awareness that its first sensation would be 
precisely the kind the public adored in the Era of Wonderful 
Nonsense. It would be a trial but fortunately for a country 
gorged on the deep dramas of the Hall-Mills case there were 
no corpses involved. Rather its huge appeal lay in a Cinderella 
aspect: the latent desire in all of us for the appearance of a 
Sugar Daddy who would miraculously banish all financial cares. 
To this age-old formula something new had been added. In 
1927, the doctrines of Dr. Freud had traversed the Atlantic. 
Where the world once whispered about Sex, it now clamored 
to know more even to the extent of so-called perversions 
and elderly men who lusted for the bodies of young girls. 

At the same time, the United States had become condi- 
tioned to the fact that not all girls were chaste or spiritually 
beautiful. For all its amusing illiteracy Gentlemen Prefer 
Blondes, the best-selling book of the previous year, had dealt 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 25 

with the tribulations of a pair of gold diggers who were also 
kept women. In the lively new slanguage of Walter Winchell, 
Lorelei Lee and her friend Dorothy were keptives. 

The public found the same type of broadminded female in 
contemporary plays. In Broadway, hoofer Roy Lane (Lee 
Tracy) said to one of the chorus girls, "It pays to be good/' 
"Sure," she snapped back, "but not much." Other plays of the 
time stressed lack of chastity in the female. In Wise Virgin a 
memorable line was: "It's a wise virgin who knows her own 
boiling point." In The Barker, starring Walter Huston, the 
carnival girl (Claudette Colbert) was graphically described as 
being in her early twenties, but in experience about 120. 

So the country was prepared to relish the greatest sensation 
of all: the story which when it erupted as it frequently did- 
could kick any other story, be it Commander Byrd or Queen 
Marie, off front pages. In the thrill-happy Era of Wonderful 
Nonsense, the story of Daddy Browning and his chubby 
Peaches remains the undisputed champion in the division of 
sex-sensation and foolishness. 

Edward West Browning, a native New Yorker and bigtime 
real-estate dealer, was a sporty looking gent who bore a close 
resemblance to the comedian Leon Errol. A dangerous red lit 
up Mr. Browning's face at all times and his eyes glistened as if 
he were on the verge of tears. Across his features there often 
spread a wide, foolish grin. Browning's most attractive feature 
was the white curly hair which clung tightly to his pink scalp 
and brought him the distinguished look of an elderly matinee 
idol. He was well aware of this and always carried a pocket 
comb which he ran at frequent intervals through the sofl, uavy 
hair. Also he was one of those red-faced men whose collar 
seems too tight; he kept running the fingers of his left hand 
around under the collar as if it choked him, but apparently he 
never thought of buying a larger size. In 1927, the year of his 
greatest fame, Browning claimed to be fifty-two years old. Even 

26 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

though his energy remained that of a bounding youth, the 
whiteness of his much-combed hair, his wattles, and generally 
depleted appearance made him look at least ten years older. 

In true Horatio Alger fashion, Browning had gone to work 
as a penniless office boy and over long years accumulated a con- 
siderable fortune by buying and improving and selling New 
York real estate. This had put him well into the millionaire 
class. In addition, Browning boasted a convenient three hundred 
thousand dollars annually from apartment rentals. In this field, 
he was -truly inspired-. His precept for success was: "Always 
show a client the sunny rooms first/' 

A man who had reason to be proud of his rise in the world, 
Browning seemed to crave much wider attention. He wore 
flowered waistcoats, a rarity in those days. Once he appeared in 
a suit with twenty pearl buttons sewn on the sleeves. To those 
he met the sartorially conscious man boasted that he owned a 
thousand neckties, all gaudy as summer sunsets. Because of his 
business interests Browning was on friendly terms with men 
like Mayor Walker and Joseph P. Day, the top auctioneer of 
the time. Browning's overweening desire to be noticed worried 
some of these friends and one came up with this tolerant 

He dearly loves the spotlight and when it is turned in his direc- 
tion it thrills him to the point where his balance, so evident in 
business dealings, becomes wholly upset. He must be seen. When 
he attends dances he always wants to be the master of ceremonies 
and offer loving cups to the best dancers. He is absolutely harm- 
less, as free from guile as a new-laid egg and as innocent of evil 
thinking as an unshucked scallop. 

Until 1925 the wide world was hardly aware of the beet-faced 
real estate millionaire. In 1915 Browning had married a suitable 
bride and after several years the childless couple adopted two 
five-year-old girls named Dorothy and Gloria. Then Mrs. 
Browning suddenly put the family on the map. She demanded 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 27 

a divorce, the circumstances of which were particularly humiliat- 
ing to a man who had made millions. Mrs. Browning had 
tumbled head over heels in love with her dentist. "A dentist of 
all people!" Browning exclaimed. "How can any sensible 
woman fall in love with a dentist, particularly with the dentist 
who has done her own work? The idea is preposterous!" 

Preposterous or not it was true, though it transpired that 
Mrs. Browning also had complaints against her husband. "He 
has always liked young girls," she charged. "I don't know why 
he ever married. He would go with one set of girls until they 
were older than he fancied, then he would drop them for a 
younger set. The evidence on which I will base my suit has to 
do with his penchant for flappers." 

Despite the unusual nature of this charge, the judge granting 
a divorce awarded each of the Brownings custody of one of the 
adopted girls. Browning was given Dorothy, who had by now 
reached the age of ten. Beaming happily at this turn of events, 
he confessed to reporters another of his endearing traits. He 
bestowed pet names on those he liked. To him little Dorothy 
was "Sunshine." "She calls me Daddy," he added proudly, and 
from that moment on Edward West Browning was Daddy to a 
delighted world. 

Like all true champions, Daddy Browning had a few pre- 
liminary workouts before becoming Foolishness King of 1927. 
His first came in 1925 when, free of confining matrimony for 
just a year, he advertised in the New York Herald Tribune: 

ADOPTION Pretty refined girl, about fourteen years old, wanted 
by aristocratic family of large wealth and highest standing; will be 
brought up as own child among beautiful surroundings, with every 
desirable luxury, opportunity, education, travel, kindness, care, 
love. Address with particulars and photograph. 

This advertisement was so unusual that reporters on the 
tabloids began to do some sleuthing. The trail led to Daddy 
Browning's bustling real-estate office at Broadway and Seventy- 

28 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

second Street. Daddy dropped everything to receive the press 
jovially. What he really wanted, he declared, was a companion 
for Dorothy Sunshine who was lonesome in his care. "Baby 
wants a sister and, of course, it is up to me to find one," the 
florid-faced man declared, running a frantic finger under his 
collar. Recalling Mrs. Browning's divorce charges, reporters 
were unconvinced. But newspapers gave a big play to the story, 
with the New York Times stating that Daddy Browning 
"wished to open the gates of fairyland to some poor child." 

Next day mothers with girl children (and a few with boys!) 
descended on the Browning office in sufficient numbers to 
create a menace to traffic. Browning stated that he intended 
personally to interview all applicants and ecstatic days com- 
menced during which he plumped young girls up and down on 
his lap, pinched rosy cheeks, received moist kisses, and dis- 
cussed the fine points of anatomy with doting mothers. For 
over two weeks he rapturously examined twelve thousand 
children. Then he announced to waiting reporters DADDY'S 
CHOICE, screamed the tabloids that he had picked sixteen- 
year-old Mary Spas (or Spaas), a blond-ringleted Astoria peach 
who had walked alone across the Queensboro Bridge to apply. 
Even the New York Times waxed poetic about the great good 
fortune of Mary Spas. Its front-page story said, "The girl's 
cheeks are red as apples, her eyes are hazel, and her mass of 
light hair falls in natural curls to her shoulders, It has a golden 
tint when touched by the sunlight. She seems rather small for 
her age. She also seems rather shy." 

Daddy Browning found numerous other virtues in his youth- 
ful protegee. "She plays the piano, sings a little, bakes, sews, 
and between times dances on her toes," he informed scribbling 
scribes. As he said this, Mary Spas smiled demurely up at him. 
It set Daddy off again: "A smile means an awful lot and Mary 
certainly has a wonderful smile." Inevitably, Mary Spas was 
christened the Cinderella Girl and like every other female who 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 29 

ever came in contact with Daddy Browning she felt an immedi- 
ate urge to go shopping. In the robinVegg-blue Rolls Royce 
which was Daddy's pride the two headed for Fifth Avenue 
where crowds rioted in an effort to follow them into the stores. 

Yet for Cinderella it was two minutes to twelve. Anxious to 
do full justice to a fabulous good-luck story, reporters hurried 
to Astoria to interview the Spas family and neighbors. Immedi- 
ately sour notes began to sound. Mary Spas was no sweet six- 
teen, neighbors declared. She had been employed for some 
time, among other things working as a movie extra at the 
nearby Paramount film studios. The most shattering blow of all 
came when a plumber named Emil Vesalek stepped forward to 
state that he and Mary Spas were engaged. 

Mary may have looked the part, but she was definitely not 
sixteen. School and business records, in fact, showed her to be 
a ripe twenty-one. The facts were incontrovertible, but when 
faced with them Mary only shook flaxen ringlets and proved 
that girls could be shook-up in the Twenties. "I am sixteen be- 
cause I want to be sixteen/' she declared. She said this at a 
meeting attended by her lawyers and those of Daddy Browning. 
As she spoke red-faced Daddy reached for his gray fedora and 
quickly departed from the room. 

This happened in August 1925, and it might be expected 
that a period of bitterness and disillusion would follow for the 
energetic oldster. But from the episode of Mary Spas he derived 
some happy compensations. For one thing, Daddy received a 
deluge of fan mail during his period of notoriety. He also re- 
ceived reams of newspaper publicity. He bought the most 
expensive morocco-bound scrapbooks possible and hired a full- 
time secretary to paste his publicity in the impressive volumes. 
For the mail he set aside a large room in his office, christening 
it the Post Office. Here he filed and annotated every letter. 
The better ones he framed and hung on the wall. Throughout 

30 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

his career the Post Office remained a delight to him. Every 
letter that came his way went into it, and in time the number 
reached two and a half million. 

All this, of course, was fine but not deeply satisfying. There 
was still an emptiness in his life, and now Daddy Browning 
displayed the ingenuity of the businessman whose rule of suc- 
cess was ''Always show a client the sunny rooms first/' To the 
world he may have seemed a silly eccentric with a red face, 
tight collar, and foolish grin, but underneath Daddy Browning 
was the self-made man who had amassed millions. He put his 
rare business acumen to work on the nagging problem of his 
empty social life and came up with* an idea which, in con- 
temporary slang, was the nuts. He would become a patron of 
high-school sororities. Discreetly he let it be known that he 
stood ready to pay off deficits, buy club pins, and subsidize 
dances at midtown hotels, as long as he himself could attend 
the dances. 

It worked. For Dear Old Dad there now began a period of 
fun, games, and exactly the right kind of social diversion. 
Hardly a weekend passed in which he did not caper like a boy 
under banners proclaiming that the dance was given by this-or- 
that sorority of such-and-such a high school in Manhattan. 
Daddy Browning had always been a strenuous ballroom dancer, 
and the athletic dance called the Charleston held no terrors 
for him. When the music stopped, the elderly gent skipped 
from one group of girls to another, leering joyously, chucking 
chins, pinching cheeks and sometimes a derriere. The girls, 
ranging in age from fourteen to eighteen, were all trying to 
look like grown-up flappers in tight sheathlike dresses cut off 
sharply above the knee cap. They wore heavy bobbed hair 
scalloped across foreheads (the boyish bob had not yet become 
popular) so that a curl fell roguishly over one eye. The childish 
sorority sisters all seemed to admire the old fellow who paid 
the bills, and occasionally a giggling group would accompany 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 31 

him to a table where a uniformed chauffeur guarded his pile of 
richly bound scrapbooks. There he proudly displayed the press 
clippings of the Mary Spas episode. 

But it was always back to the dance for the lively oldster. 
Grabbing some lucky young thing, he frantically hopped 
around the dance floor. As he did his watery eyes never ceased 
watching the other girls, making sure he missed nothing. The 
girls laughed at his naughty jokes, never minded how wildly he 
danced, and only rarely replied with a slap when he pinched a 
fetching bottom. Yet with all this there still remained a certain 
emptiness. There was the great gap of years, and the fact that 
none of the girls really sbemed interested in him as a person. 

This unhappy state of affairs lasted until February 1926. 
Then, at the Hotel McAlpin, the millionaire sponsored a Satur- 
day night dance for the Phi Lambda Tau sorority of Textile 
High School. Daddy had bestowed the name on this new 
sorority in the belief that Phi Lambda Tau stood for Pretty 
Little Things. In other ways he had nurtured its infant growth 
and he expected the evening to be a special one. It actually 
became so in the midst of a wild Charleston when his ever- 
wandering eye saw a large, baby-faced blonde enter the ball- 
room. In his mind Daddy heard a clap of divine thunder. 
Abruptly abandoning his partner, he sprinted across the dance 
floor to greet the new girl. "You look like peaches and cream to 
me, 77 he told her, grinning his foolish grin. "I'm going to call 
you Peaches/ 7 

Frances Belle Heenan had no right to be present at the Phi 
Lambda dance. She was not a sorority member, had not been 
invited, was not wanted. In fact, her unexpected arrival even 
aroused resentment among Phi Lambda Tau sisters. "Why did 
you bring that awful Frances Belle? 77 the others asked the girl 
with her. 

For though pudgy, pettish, and only sweet fifteen, Frances 
Belle had already proved herself the enviable possessor of the 

32 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

mysterious something called It. Physically she was a far cry 
from the ideal Clara Bow type of contemporary flapper. Where 
Clara Bow was pert and thin as a rail, Peaches Browning was 
hefty and over-developed. As Damon Runyon saw her: "She 
is a straw blonde, one of those large, patient blondes who are 
sometimes very impatient. She has stout legs and small feet. I 
hesitate to expatiate on so delicate a matter, but her legs are 
what the boys call piano legs. They say she is fifteen, but she is 
developed enough to pass anywhere for twenty/' 

Even so, this may be giving Peaches the worst of it. The 
baby-faced flapper's habitual expression was one of acute dis- 
taste for the world, but she was capable on occasion of break- 
ing into a radiant smile which had all the breathless, moist, 
inviting quality of the smile of our own Marilyn Monroe. No 
doubt of it, when Peaches smiled, she was the cat's meow. 

Contemporaries also disliked Frances Belle Heenan because 
the petulant fifteen-year-old so obviously considered herself 
superior to other girls. She no longer went to Textile High, for 
where other mothers insisted that their offspring attend classes, 
Mrs. James Heenan willingly cooperated with her daughter's 
desire to stay home. Daddy Browning met Peaches Heenan in 
February. As the result of a stream of plausible notes written 
by Mrs. Heenan, Peaches had not attended Textile High since 
early November. 

For a time during this period, the buxom child had worked 
behind the counter at a Thirty-fourth Street department store. 
But the precocious social life she enjoyed interfered with em- 
ployment. Peaches went out with grown men who took her to 
hot spots like the Strand Roof and Cotton Club. After a late 
night of Charlestoning and sipping bootleg hooch, she found 
it hard to arrive at work on time. Slowly she tapered off to 
become, at fifteen, a lady of leisure. Studying her problem dis- 
passionately, it is possible to see that her best chance in life 
was to marry a millionaire. According to some of her envious 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 33 

classmates this is exactly what she decided to do after dis- 
covering the identity of the elderly sport who stepped up and 
called her Peaches. "Here's where I get him, he likes blondes/' 
a sorority girl later quoted Peaches as saying. Another heard 
her say on the first night: "If he doesn't call me, I'll call him/ 7 

Peaches need not have worried. Daddy phoned. The Heenan 
home was in the Washington Heights section of upper Man- 
hattan on the top floor of an apartment house romantically 
called Iris Gardens. Daddy's blue Rolls Royce was daily parked 
at the door. To business associates he burbled enthusiastically: 
"With the advent of spring, I have set forth with all the ardor 
of youth and met Frances Heenan. It is a case of love at first 
sight and is wholly reciprocated. Our courtship will be a 
romantic one and promises to be endless/' 

Peaches also viewed Daddy's attentions as dreams come 
true. "He showered me with flowers, deluged me with candy 
and gifts," she later recalled. "My other boy friends were for- 
gotten. I had glances for none save Mr. Browning, my silver- 
haired knight, his gentle caresses, his quiet dignity, his savoir 

During the Mary Spas affair Daddy Browning had achieved 
a chummy rapport with most of the reporters on New York 
newspapers. Now he summoned the press to impart the infor- 
mation that he had toppled into love with a fifteen-year-old. "I 
am interested in Miss Heenan very much," he confided. "I 
know her mother very well. We have talked everything over. 
Frances is young, however, and it seems best to wait awhile 
before doing anything as important as announcing an engage- 
ment/' Asked to describe his charming discovery, he did so 
like a true sensualist: "She is a lovely girl, five feet, seven inches 
tall, weighs 145 pounds with her dress on, of coursehas 
blonde hair, blue eyes, and is very well matured physically." 

This made howling headlines, and brought down on Daddy's 
silver head the wrath of the Society for the Prevention of 

34 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

Cruelty to Children. This worthy outfit had first drawn a bead 
on him during the Mary Spas affair. Now it stated: "Relations 
between this girl and this man must not go unheeded." In 
response Daddy said, "I have not done anything to be ashamed 
of. I am not an old man seeking improper friendships with 
little girls. I'm a young man, and I have devoted myself to 
business and hard work. I've helped hundreds. Why shouldn't 
I help little girls?" 

If nothing else, the statement exposed Daddy's secret of per- 
petual youth he felt young, and could see no reason why he 
should not act like an amorous stripling when he felt like one. 
But to Frances Heenan his words appeared to constitute a set- 
back. In previous statements Daddy had mentioned courtship. 
Now, with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to 
Children breathing on his neck, he spoke only of help and 
herein may lie the key to a baffling aspect of the saga. For the 
Daddy-Peaches story, in which dirty linen was scrubbed pub- 
licly as never before, contains a touch of mysterious melodrama: 
a few weeks after she met her elderly admirer someone tossed 
a vial of acid in Peaches' face as she slept off a hard night in 
the supper clubs. 

Who performed this dastardly act is not known. Eventually 
Peaches called Daddy the man behind the acid throwing, but 
reporters covering the pair thought it might have been done by 
a rejected boy friend, or perhaps by Peaches herself in a 
dramatic effort to wrench a definite proposal from Daddy. 
Credence is given this last by the fact that instead of summon- 
ing the police or a doctor, the screaming girl phoned Daddy at 
his office. "I hurried up to their home," Daddy told the press, 
"and ran up six flights of stairs. When I entered the room 
Peaches put out her arms to me and cried, Daddy. Although 
her mother is a trained nurse, I was surprised to find that she 
had done nothing for her daughter. I rushed downstairs with- 
out my hat and coat, got some sweet oil and bandages, and 

"WJurt Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 35 

then returned to the injured girl/ 7 

In time a doctor arrived and petulant Peaches learned that 
if she had tossed the acid on herself she had made a horrible 
miscalculation. The acid turned out to be powerful and to her 
dying day seared, puffy flesh was unpleasantly visible on her 
chin, throat, and left arm. To some the scars completely 
spoiled her hefty good looks. Reporter Morris Markey, cover- 
ing the couple for the New Yorker, met Peaches and found 
"her eyes were large and gray and utterly flat. She was un- 
deniably fat but these details of her person were quite over- 
shadowed by the frightful scars on her face." 

Painful as the scars were to Peaches, they quite successfully 
roused the protective instinct in Daddy. On April Fool's Day 
1926 he told the ladies and gentlemen of the press that he 
planned to marry his adolescent dream girl. PEACHES AND DADDY 
TO WED! yelled the tabloids. In this, the canny oldster showed 
he had done his legal homework. Had he tried to adopt Peaches 
as he had Mary Spas, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty 
to Children might have had a case. But with all parties in- 
volved agreeing to a marriage, the forces of law were powerless 
to do anything except tie the wedding knot. It was Mrs. 
Heenan who dealt the final blow to the opposition. She 
dramatically produced her ex-husband. "I have met Mr. Brown- 
ing and I esteem him," Daddy Heenan declared. 

So on April 11, 1926, a scant forty-odd days after the couple 
met, Frances Belle Heenan stood at Daddy's side at Cold 
Spring, New York, while a justice of the peace made them man 
and child-wife. After the ceremony Daddy enthusiastically 
kissed his flapper wife, then quipped philosophically: "She will 
grow older and I may grow younger." This was one of the few 
sane remarks made during the entire Browning story, but sanity 
did not remain long. A rampaging mob of reporters, photog- 
raphers, and gawkers trailed the newlyweds to the door of the 
twenty-room mansion at Cold Spring which Daddy had rented 

36 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

for a honeymoon. It was noted that Mrs. Heenan went inside, 
too. It was also mentioned that the roof of the huge house 
boasted a radio aerial radios in those days were news. 

By now Daddy and Peaches had become foremost examples 
of what Damon Runyon sardonically called Homo Saps. That 
is, they would do anything, say anything, agree to anything that 
would get their words or pictures into the public prints. It 
must be said, though, that the role was pushed on Daddy and 
Peaches almost as much as they pushed it. When the newly- 
weds traveled to New York for the first time after the wedding, 
Grand Central Station was packed to overflowing with men 
and women who craned necks to view them, screaming with 
excitement the while. Mounted police kept the mobs of 
curious from Peaches as she shopped on Fifth Avenue, her 
main occupation for the next few months. CROWDS TRAMPLE 
PEACHES, the tabloids shouted. 

Sob sisters, those intrepid newswomen so skilful at wringing 
the emotion out of stories, dogged the steps of both principals. 
When, in the early days of the marriage, Peaches turned a ripe 
sixteen all the sob stops were pulled out. Nor was Daddy left 
alone. Mothers with girl children continued to visit his office 
in the hope that he still wished to adopt a companion for 
Dorothy Sunshine who, like Mrs. Heenan, remained a member 
of the menage. Browning and Peaches often rendezvoused at 
the Hotel Plaza at the close of a busy day, and crowds of 
shrieking women waited for them there nightly. 

For a time the Brownings lived at Cold Spring. Then they 
tired of this rural home, and in so doing exposed another of 
Daddy's eccentricities. As a real-estate millionaire, he might 
be expected to own a house. He did not. Daddy and Peaches, 
together with Mrs. Heenan and Dorothy Sunshine, now began 
a nomadic hotel-existence. Finally they settled at the Kew 
Gardens Inn on Long Island, in the Princess Suite. Daddy still 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 37 

assiduously cultivated the press and with this move obligingly 
offered a list of the gifts he had given his not-so-blushing bride, 
together with much that she had purchased with his money. 
The grand total came to an imposing array of 200 bouquets of 
flowers, 50 boxes of candy, 20 boxes of fruit, i ermine coat, i 
fox-trimmed coat, i Russian sable coat, i other fur coat, 60 
dresses, 15 flower vases, i fox neckpiece, 3 ensembles, 175 odd 
coats, 20 hats, 30 pairs of shoes, 100 photographs of himself 
and Peaches, i dozen frames, i ostrich fur, 12 hair ornaments, 
8 fancy bags, 2 leather trunks, i teddy bear which played music, 
100 small souvenirs, a $2500 ruby and platinum diamond brace- 
let, and a $3000 diamond ring, 

On the many occasions when the Daddy-Peaches story 
erupted into headlines, Daddy purchased hundreds of news- 
papers. Then he sent his office employees into the streets to 
give them free to passersby. His love of publicity never flagged. 
One night he appeared at the Kew Gardens Inn with an 
African honking gander in the back seat of his Rolls Royce. 
Behind him roared a carload of gentlemen of the press, alerted 
to a big story. The African honking gander was led upstairs to 
the Princess Suite where Peaches cast a haughty eye upon it. 
"It was not housebroken," she revealed later. Shortly the 
cavalcade wended its way to Long Beach, where Peaches was 
instructed to pose with the gander. On the beach the swarm 
of reporters and photographers caused so much turmoil that 
the gander's owner feared for its sanity. He suddenly pulled the 
gander away and headed for home. "The bird has been through 
too much already/ 7 he told the reporters who begged him to 

At the Kew Gardens Inn it seemed to avid observers of the 
couple that Peaches was growing weary of Daddy's continuous 
hoopla. His sexual idiosyncrasies would not be revealed to the 
world until later, but for the moment anyone who saw him in 
action could note that the pink-faced Lothario was a determined 

38 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

practical joker. At times he gave Peaches such feminine sur- 
prises as pink teddy bears. More often he brought home rubber 
eggs, spoons that bent in the middle, drinking glasses with false 
bottoms. At other times he teased her by leaping out from be- 
hind doors shouting, "Woof! Woof!" He had dozens of pairs 
of expensive pajamas, each of them the cat's whiskers, but pre- 
ferred dressing up in odd bedroom costumes. It may be in- 
dicative of an inner image that the costume most favored was 
that of a Caliph. 

Altogether Peaches' radiant smile became rare indeed at the 
Kew Gardens Inn. Later she claimed that Daddy's energetic 
eccentricity had given her nightmares. The breaking point 
came on the second of October. On that day Peaches led a 
procession of luggage across the lobby of the Kew Gardens Inn. 
Everything Daddy had bought her some thirty thousand dol- 
lars worth of clothes and accessories was in these bags and 
trunks. Pausing dramatically in the center of the lobby, she 
stated loudly: "Money isn't everything after all." Then sixteen- 
year-old Peaches kept going. It was six months after her 
wedding day and she was leaving Dear Old Dad. 

When Daddy returned that night, he gave a look of horror 
at the denuded Princess Suite. "They've taken everything but 
the radiators and the varnish on the floor," he wailed. Then 
he rushed to the telephone to call the newspapers. HAS CINDER- 
ELLA'S LOVE DREAM CRUMBLED? the News asked next morning. 
When reporters arrived Daddy poured out his side of the story 
and now the Browning case really burst open! 

"Nothing more sensational or fantastic has ever appeared in 
newspapers," one commentator has said. Indeed, the Browning 
case becomes a milestone in American journalism, since the 
principals not only began telling all, but told many versions of 
all. Peaches and Browning, both more than ever Homo Saps, 
frantically began signing stories, any stories, in New York's 
tabloids. The pattern of this was set by Peaches: on leaving 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 39 

the Kew Gardens Inn with her mountain of luggage the flapper 
wife did not return to Washington Heights. Instead, she dele- 
gated her mother to rent more fashionable quarters in New 
York while she herself hastened to the New Jersey home of a 
top-flight ghost writer. With a slight assist from Peaches, he 
pounded out a lurid feature called "My Honeymoon with 
Daddy." Peaches later admitted that she had not bothered to 
read this epic as soon as possible she grabbed a check for 
one thousand dollars and hastened back to New York. Indif- 
ference to the literary effort she inspired caused her to miss one 
of the great ghost-written leads of the tabloid era. The story 
under her by-line began: "I was a bird in a gilded cage, but 
the cage wasn't so gilded/' 

Stung to the quick by Peaches' unflattering series, Daddy 
got his own ghost and concocted a story called "Why I Married 
Peaches. 7 ' Yet neither stopped with a series in one paper. Each 
of New York's three tabloids needed a circulation of 250,000 to 
prosper. Since there were only 500,000 tabloid readers in the 
city the papers had to depend on daily shock-sensations. It was 
an epic struggle which stopped at nothing. One day Minor 
delivery men hijacked copies of the Graphic and hurled them 
into the East River. The bust-up of Daddy and Peaches was 
made to order for such ruthless warfare. 

In a mad quest for readers the News, Mirror, and Graphic 
(with no small assist from the Journal) all began carrying 
"true" stories written by Peaches and Daddy. Not unexpectedly, 
these ghost-written accounts completely contradicted each 
other. "My marriage to Peaches was in name only," Daddy con- 
fessed in one exclusive account. "Yes, I anointed her back with 
lotions, but her mother was always there. Never has Peaches 
gone to sleep in my arms or in my bed." But by paying two 
cents for another tabloid, Daddy's fans could find this con- 
trasting statement: "Peaches talked in her sleep and I was 
always afraid of what I might hear as I lay beside her." 

40 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?' 7 

Needless to say, the Porno-Graphic was the most lurid in its 
coverage of the Brownings. Trotting out its Composograph 
technique, it pictured Daddy fondling Peaches in a bedroom 
while Mrs. Heenan cupped an ear at the closed door. This was 
used to illustrate one of Daddy's stories which blamed Mrs. 
Heenan for much of his marital discord. "Peaches never had 
any love for me/' this intimate revelation stated. "Nor did her 
mother. All they ever cared for was my money and the earthly 
blessings it might bring." 

Peaches, on her part, stoutly maintained through her ghost 
writers that Daddy had never tried to touch her except in an 
abnormal way. CHARGES RUN PERVERSION GAMUT shrieked this 
headline. But in another paper Peaches wrote: "I had nightly 
relations with Daddy, except when ill." 

The Browning trial, most nonsensical of the great events of 
the Era of Wonderful Nonsense, began on January 25, 1927. 
Thus it became the first of the thrills of the Year the World 
Went Mad. 

It was held in White Plains, New York, since this small city 
contained the only suitable courthouse near Cold Spring, where 
the couple had been married. When finally the Brownings 
faced each other across a courtroom, Peaches was suing for 
separation and alimony, claiming, among other things, that 
Daddy's eccentric antics and cries of "Woof! Woof!" had 
caused mental anguish, shattering her nerves and health. 
Daddy's public reply was cogent. He reminded the world that 
on her wedding day his bride had weighed one hundred and 
forty pounds. When she left him, her weight was one hundred 
and sixty. All Daddy asked was a legal separation. No more 
than that. 

For five howling days this was the wonder of the world, the 
true Trial of the Century. A pop-eyed, gasping horde of 
humanity descended on quiet White Plains. "The show is a 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 41 

sellout/' quipped the News, reporting how men, women, and 
children (the courthouse was conveniently opposite White 
Plains High School) milled around the snowy courthouse lawn. 
What would be recalled as a first day of unutterable confusion 
began when the pressure of the panting mob crashed down 
one of the courthouse doors. The fortunate few thus able to 
crowd into the small courtroom quickly grabbed all available 
seats, barely leaving room for the thirty reporters who covered 
the case. Others stood three to four deep around the walls, 
while still more climbed atop radiators and windowsills. 

Entering this scene of turmoil, Supreme Court Justice 
Albert H. S. Seeger noted to his annoyance that women oc- 
cupied the more dangerous positions atop radiators and win- 
dowsills. "I warn you/ 7 he admonished, "that if anyone stands 
there, it is at her own risk." Observing this incredible spectacle, 
Damon Runyon reported that a cluster of unattended baby 
carriages stood in the snow outside. Mothers had actually aban- 
doned babies in the madness to get in. "So/ 7 he concluded, "we 
have the great moral spectacle in this generation of a legal hear- 
ing involving a gray-haired old wowser and a child wife attract- 
ing more attention than the League of Nations." 

Scenes outside were wilder than those within. A shoving 
horde, envious and slightly resentful, hung around through all 
the daily sessions. Females predominated: "grandmotherly look- 
ing old women; stout, housewifely looking dames; and skittish 
looking janes stood all morning and all afternoon on their two 
feet," Runyon wrote. Altogether, the atmosphere was that of a 
salacious carnival. Vendors hawked pictures of the principals, 
while hastily recruited schoolboys sold copies of the Graphic 
and its exciting Composographs. 

Fifteen song parodies based on Daddy and Peaches were 
available at fifteen cents, as was the sheet music of a song 
called "Who Picked Peaches Off the Tree?" But the public 
needed no new song to immortalize the event. "Crazy Words, 

42 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

Crazy Tune/' the song hit of the moment, had a built-in re- 
frain for such events. All over the country sheiks and shebas 
were strumming ukes and idiotically chanting: 

Up at White Plains the other day 
What did Peaches to Browning say? 

When the principals appeared for the initial session, it be- 
came apparent that Daddy Browning was the favorite. As he 
descended from the blue Rolls Royce a cheer rose from the 
eager throng. In the words of the New York Times: "Mr. 
Browning looked pleasantly puzzled at first, then with dawning 
comprehension that the applause was for him turned and 
bowed slowly to those who cheered him, a smile of satisfaction 
spreading over his flushed features/ 7 A battery of photographers 
closed in, wildly snapping the shutters of cameras. "Wait a 
minute, boys/' Daddy requested majestically. He then removed 
his hat and produced his faithful pocket comb. After using it 
he posed, smiling his silly grin, his curly locks exposed to the 
cold winter air. 

Peaches' reception was not so friendly. From the assembled 
gawkers she received only a halfhearted cheer. Reporters 
claimed to see her lower lip tremble as she sensed the hostility 
of the crowd PEACHES SOBS AT DADDY'S OVATION, early editions 
of the News stated. Inside the court sob sisters noted that 
Peaches wore a sable coat, a baby blue dress, a blue felt cloche 
hat of the era, a pearl choker and a blue enamel watch. One 
wrote: "She smiled wanly at a couple of friends in the press 
seats, crossed her stout legs and tried to compose herself. She 
had a spray of orchids pinned to her coat, but she was scarcely 
the picture of the forlorn child-wife ... It is very difficult to 
look forlorn in a $12,000 sable coat." 

The eyes of the entire country focused on the circus-like 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 43 

doings in and around the courthouse at White Plains. No less 
than the crowds clamoring for admittance, readers of the 
nation's newspapers followed each day's testimony with lip- 
licking attention. New York went newspaper-mad. For once 
there were enough readers for all three tabloids. During the 
trial the News reached 300,000 circulation, the Graphic 250,- 
ooo and the Mirror 200,000. The New York Times, still cling- 
ing to its dignity by referring to Mr. and Mrs. Browning, gave 
long columns to events in court. Indeed, this pointed up a 
strange journalistic incongruity. The tabloids, with jazzy head- 
lines, emphasis on photographs, and sob sisters, promised the 
more lurid coverage. But true connoisseurs of the case quickly 
discovered the real spice of it in the thorough coverage of other 

What newspaper readers wanted was sexy details of the 
intimate life of Daddy and Peaches, and these were slow in 
coming. Peaches herself was the first to sit in the witness chair. 
She attempted to spare her own feelings and perhaps those of 
the public by detailing only the more subtle tortures to which 
Daddy had subjected her. She recounted her mental anguish 
over his practical jokes with rubber eggs and bending spoons. 
One night, she said, "He brought home a tiny white tablet 
which he put in the end of his cigar and when he smoked it 
would form a heavy snowflake and people would be amazed, 
but it caused me a lot of embarrassment/' 

Another matter which brought her excruciating inner agony 
was the episode of the African honking gander. Peaches gave 
the details of this after the Porno-Graphic had created a Com- 
posograph showing Daddy in a suit of gaudy pajamas capering 
on all fours around the floor of the Princess Suite. Walter 
Winchell was called in to admire this work of art and approv- 
ingly exclaimed, "Woof! Woof!" It was decided to add this to 
the Composograph, so that in the type of balloon used in comic 

44 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

strips Daddy would cry, "Woof! Woof!" Thus the Graphic 
began astoundingly to satirize its own Composographs. 

With the introduction of the African honking gander into 
the case, the Graphic's satire took on a new and almost sur- 
realist dimension. From then on the gander appeared in all 
Composographs, commenting on the action. In his first ap- 
pearance, the gander said: 

Woof! Woof! 
Don't be a goof! 

The next Composograph showed Daddy in his favorite caliph 
costume threatening a cowering Peaches. Off to one side the 
gander uttered the immortal words: 

Honk! Honk! 
It's the bonk! 

One curious revelation from the witness stand was that both 
Daddy and Peaches wore size six shoes. Thus they could, and 
did, slip in and out of each other's bedroom slippers. This led 
to another celebrated bit of testimony in the trial, for Peaches 
testified that one morning at four thirty she had been awakened 
by strange sounds in the boudoir. Reluctantly opening sleepy 
eyes, she observed Daddy sandpapering a pair of shoe trees. 
According to her interpretation, he was doing this to waken 
her. Daddy, in turn, maintained that the shoe trees were too 
big and he felt like sandpapering them. Peaches testified that 
despite the irritating noise she was able to go back to sleep 
and for this Daddy threw a telephone book at her. When she 
fell asleep once more he held a ringing alarm clock to her ear. 
Between these acts he continued sandpapering. This odd scene 
produced a Composograph in which all three characters spoke: 

Daddy: Peaches: Gander. 

Woof! Woof! Dear! Dear! Honk! Honk! 

I Sharpen It Grates The Shoetree 

A Hoof! On My Ear! Has Shronk! 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 45 

Those in the courtroom, as well as in the country at large, 
expected sexual titillation from testimony at White Plains. 
Instead, the gander and the shoe trees produced gales of 
howling mirth. Peaches, on the witness stand, did not relish 
being laughed at. While the courtroom was convulsed, she 
slumped in the chair. Big tears filled her eyes and slowly rolled 
down her cheeks. She looked very much like an overgrown girl 
who had been hurt and was trying not to blubber. 

At the same time, she surprised the court with her apparent 
intelligence. The New York Times was vastly impressed: "At 
moments she showed a bit of ironic humor. Her English was 
good, as was her choice of words and her ability to define 
meanings. Only once or twice did she use a crude or slangy ex- 
pression. She affected a broad a, like any Vassar girl. Her voice 
was not unpleasant. An amazingly mature girl she was at all 
times. It was a maturity which, together with her cool eyes, 
gives the lie to the baby blonde curls wandering out from 
under her blue cloche hat." 

Yet with all her maturity, Peaches was still a typical flapper 
of 1927. She seldom said Yes to questions requiring an affirma- 
tive answer. Instead, she gave a long drawn out "Pos-i-tive-Iy." 
For more emphasis, she said, "I hope to tell you!" In her 
testimony were such gems of contemporary slang as "So's your 
old man" and "Applesauce!" She referred to Daddy as a goof 
and to some of his actions as goofy. One of her friends later 
quoted Peaches as saying of Daddy: "Quit your kidding! You 
know why I married that old bozo. I married him for his 

After the hilarity of early sessions, the Browning trial 
reached more serious matters when Peaches began to describe 
a Dear Old Dad who wanted her to take part in what the 
assembled sob sisters promptly dubbed "passion-mad orgies." 

"He made me run up and down in front of him naked, while 

46 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

he lay in bed/ 7 she declared plaintively. PEACHES HONEYMOON 

"If I refused, he became very angry and raved/' she went on. 


"The testimony is as full of beds as a barracks/' cracked the 
New York World. 

According to Peaches, Daddy had followed Dr. Freud by 
using all the tricks of the elderly satyr. He had attempted to 
excite her sexually by displaying French postcards and nude 

Q: When Mr. Browning would bring home these pictures of nude 
women and semi-nudes in the French magazines did he ask 
you to look at them? 

A: Pos-i-txve-ly. 

Q: What did you do? 

A: I refused because those things never interested me. 

However, Peaches reluctantly admitted that on several oc- 
casions she had given in to Daddy's aberrant whims. After 
relating in a sob-shaken voice how she had run up and clown 
in the nude while Daddy sat gloating on the bed, she was 

Q: What else did he make you do? 

A: He wanted me to eat breakfast with him without any clothes 


Q: And did you? 
A: (After a pause) Yes. 

The hottest point in the flaming testimony came when the 
chubby girl suddenly blurted out: "He tried to make me a 
pervert on five different occasions." Having said this much, she 
proceeded to describe the occasions in considerably more detail 
than anyone expected. Women in court hid red faces, and even 
Damon Runyon felt ashamed. "Your correspondent's manly 
cheeks are suffused with blushes as he sits down to write/' he 
commenced his story of the day. Like others present, Runyon 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 47 

marveled at the continued aplomb of Peaches' mother: "Mrs. 
Heenan remains the most unusual parent I have ever clapped 
these old orbs on. The remarkable thing to me is that she can 
sit in the courtroom and hear all this junk about her child 
without having attacks of vertigo/' 

Peaches' lurid testimony should have made Daddy the most 
hated man in the United States. Somehow it did not he 
always contrived to wind up looking ludicrous. Describing one 
of her husband's attempts to turn her into a pervert, Peaches 
testified: "He took a-hold of me by the back of my neck and 
pushed me to the floor and said Boo! in a very loud voice." 
The courtroom forgot its embarrassment to hoot with laughter. 
Few heard Peaches' woeful peroration: "It frightened me very 

With such hilarity sprinkled throughout, it was hard to view 
Daddy as a man who, in the words of Peaches' attorney, "Made 
her by sheer force become partner to his sexual eccentricities." 
But if Peaches was unable to present Daddy as a serious 
menace to her adolescent morals, she did effectively etch a dif- 
ference in bedroom attitudes. This came when Daddy's lawyer 
asked her: 

Q: In the seclusion of your bedroom, yoo were afraid to have 

your husband look at you naked? 
A: I wasn't exactly afraid. I was just never brought up in that 


When Peaches' mother mounted the stand she added to the 
picture of Daddy as a harmless goof by swearing that, among 
other things, he was a drunkard. She recalled in detail a night 
when Daddy staggered around the Princess Suite joyously wav- 
ing a bottle. Daddy's lawyer then asked: 

|Q: How big was that bottle? You are a nurse and familiar with 

ounces, how many ounces did that bottle contain? 
A: About two ounces. 

48 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

Again the courtroom guffawed. Continuing, Mrs. Heenan 
vowed that she had done her best to hold the marriage to- 
gether and that as a reward Daddy had called her "Mother." 
Often she said to him, "Oh, Daddy, why can't you two be 
happy?" She stated that it was Daddy's wish that she accom- 
pany the newlyweds everywhere and continue to live with them. 
As she said this, courtroom observers recall: "Daddy's counte- 
nance took on a wry expression as if he had bitten into a 

Called back to the witness stand, Peaches was faced with a 
diary she had kept in days before Daddy. "Your Honor," 
Daddy's lawyer pontificated, "you will find in these diaries, 
unless I am mistaken, writings which show she was a woman of 
the world even though young. They are extremely important as 
bearing on her story that she was an innocent young girl at 
the time of her marriage and knew nothing of the usual 
marriage relations." 

In the witness chair Peaches flushed and interjected sharply, 
"I was a good girl when I married." 

Soon, however, she was forced into the damaging admission 
that she had doctored the diary after meeting Dear Old Dad. 
"Was this done to protect boys who made love to you?" 
Daddy's attorney demanded, with well-feigned outrage. "Yes," 
Peaches whispered but it is not clear from the record whether 
she meant love in a sophisticated sense, or merely the rumble- 
seat necking of the day. 

When finally it came Daddy Browning's time to mount the 
witness stand, he did so with an air of extreme eagerness, as if 
he had waited all his life for this moment. To the delight of 
those in the courtroom, he turned out to possess the kind of 
New York accent which says boid for bird and foist for first. 
His lawyer went straight to the heart of matters : 

Q: You are a sane man, aren't you? 
A: (Emphatically) Yes. 

"What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 49 

With this settled, Daddy proceeded to answer all questions 
in such a torrent of words that almost none of his testimony 
made sense. On one subject, however, his answer was succinct 
and heartfelt. Speaking of the extravagance of Peaches and her 
mother, he said, "They wanted all sorts of things, roadsters, 
Park Avenue apartments, servants. One wanted two dogs, the 
other three/' 

He scored again when his lawyer asked: 

Q: Did you have any idea that your wife or mother-in-law was 

going to leave you? 
A: Not my wife. 
Q: And your mother-in-law? 
A: I-er-ah-er I was hoping so. 

Daddy denied any abnormal acts, picturing himself as a 
benevolent father-image whose worst offense was a fondness for 
practical jokes. But as always he talked too much. Asked 
whether he had made Peaches caper before him in the nude, 
the florid-faced man answered "Absolutely not! Why, for one 
thing, the weather was always too cold for that sort of thing," 

The courtroom gasped. Everyone knew the Brownings had 
been married throughout a summer of hellish heat. 

When Daddy stepped down from the stand his foolish grin 
was intact. He ceremoniously shook hands with his battery of 
attorneys before resuming his seat. A series of minor witnesses 
followed, as each side attempted to blacken the other. Sud- 
denly Judge Seeger, who had been criticized by the press for 
not hearing the case in closed session, ended proceedings. He 
announced that he would require six weeks to render a verdict. 
Everyone seemed relieved that the trial was over. In five 
spectacular days the Browning case had shot its wad. 

Outside in the snow, the excited throng gave Daddy his 
usual ovation. He stood happily on the courthouse steps, posing 
for photographs, bowing, and running the comb through his 
curly locks. "Three cheers for Daddy," a voice shouted. Three 

50 "What Did Peaches to Browning Say?" 

rousing cheers echoed in the chill air. Peaches' departure was 
accorded a few isolated shouts and the customary silent hos- 
tility, which some attributed to the fact that the girl was 
always accompanied by her mother. The callous-seeming Mrs. 
Heenan had, to most, become the villain of the trial. Also 
Peaches' courtroom attire proved a disappointment. Every day 
she had worn the same sable coat, blue hat and dress. 

Daddy Browning rode in his Rolls Royce back to New York. 
Peaches took the train after telling reporters that with the 
$35o-a-week temporary alimony the court had awarded her she 
planned to take Mama Heenan to Bermuda. In the fond 
expectation that the $35o-a-week would continue through life 
she stopped in New York to consult with physicians about an 
operation that would strip some of the fat from her piano legs. 

N a small downstairs supper club music 
blares and patrons happily pelt each other 
with cardboard snowballs. Thin paper streamers fly from table 
to table, festooning everyone, and in the smoky upper air 
brightly colored balloons bump against the ceiling. On the 
dance floor, now rendered almost negligible by the number of 
hastily added ringside tables, a near-naked girl entertainer is 
swinging into the conclusion of a buoyant Charleston. As the 
act ends, a large, blondine woman with a toothy smile takes 
the center of the spotlight. Thumping her hands together, she 
shouts in a clarion voice that hacks through the noise, "Give 
the little girl a great big hand!" The patrons do so, and the 
brassy woman's attention wanders. Seeing a new face at the 
entrance door, her attention focuses on it. "Hello, sucker," her 
raucous voice bellows. The prosperous-looking man thus hailed 
allows a beatific smile of pride and pleasure to spread across 
his countenance . . . 

In Cicero, Illinois near Chicago a line of big, black sedans 
approaches the Hawthorne Hotel moving in slow, stately order, 


52 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

for all the world like a funeral procession. But when the first 
car reaches the hotel entrance resemblance ceases. One of the 
occupants of the car leans out and fires a revolver shot straight 
into the air. Its purpose is twofold: first, to frighten away in- 
nocent bystanders; second, to draw occupants of the hotel to 
doors and windows. Then from succeeding cars, now moving 
farther apart, comes a lethal barrage of bullets from sawed-off 
shotguns. A gunman gets out of a car, drops to one knee and 
calmly empties his gun back and forth into the lobby of the 
hotel as calmly, it has been noted, as another man might 
spray a hose over his backyard garden. In the hotel restaurant, 
where he had been stowing away a large breakfast, Scarf ace Al 
Capone slides ungracefully to the floor with the sound of the 
first shot. He lies unmoving under the table until the last of 
the black sedans is gone, then rises unscathed. The purpose of 
the bold daylight foray, as he and the world knows, was to rub 
him out . . , 

The gala opening of the new musical comedy Rio Rita takes 
place on the night of February 2, 1927. It is gala indeed, for 
this is the first production to grace the stage of the new Zieg- 
feld Theatre at Sixth Avenue and Fifty-fourth Street, in New 
Yorfe City. Ethelind Terry, J. Harold Murray, Gladys Glad, 
Wheeler 6* Woolsey are in the cast. Sumptuous settings by 
Joseph Urban. Especially it is a night of triumph for Florenz 
Ziegfeld, whose name up to now has been associated largely 
with the Follies. For his grand new theatre Ziegfeld has 
broken tradition by presenting the lavish book-musical Rio 
Rita, which the next morning will be called "a sensation" by 
critic J. Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times. Before the 
curtain goes up, Ziegfeld himself steps to the front of the stage 
and reads a telegram of congratulation from none other than 
Gdvin Coolidge, President of the United States. At the end 
of the show, Coolidge's good wishes are amply justified, for a 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 53 

roaring ovation ends only when a slight figure in immaculate 
evening clothes leaps up from an aisle seat and, graceful as any 
song and dance man, makes his way to the stage. This is Jimmy 
Walker, Night Mayor of the city of New York, adding a 
memorable moment to a memorable event. Mayor Walker 
attends all the best opening nights, and in a short, witty speech 
pays gay tribute to an opening he never would have missed . . . 

From the pulpit of the Calvary Church on West Fifty- 
seventh Street, the Reverend Dr. John Roach Straton brands 
New York "a fevefish, overwrought, Sabbath-desecrating, God- 
defying, woman-despising, lawbreaking, gluttonous monster 
without ideals or restraint!' Any day he chooses to walk the 
streets near his church, the clergyman continues, he can see 
rum-running trucks unloading wet goods at the delivery en- 
trances of night clubs, in open defiance of the national law, 
and on Sunday, as his parishioners walk to church, they bump 
into faded revelers from these same night clubs climbing into 
taxis or staggering along the streets at the tag end of a night of 
whoopee. Dr. Straton has dreams of emulating Dr. Charles 
Parkhurst, who in the Nineties closed down the city's brothels. 
During the next week Dr. Straton dons a disguise and visits a 
speakeasy where he is without question served a potent drink. 
Next Sunday he reveals the tawdry episode from his pulpit and 
reluctant police raid the speakeasy. Owner and waiters are 
brought into court to face the charge made by Dr. Straton. 
With them they bring a canny lawyer, who puts only one 
question to the complaining clergyman. "You say you were 
served with a Scotch highball," he begins softly. "Now, did 
you ever in your life touch Scotch whiskey?" "Certainly not," 
Dr. Straton virtuously declares. The judge regards him with dis- 
gust. "Case dismissed," he snaps . . . 

It was a Barnum and Bailey world, as goofy as it could be! 

54 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

And in 1927 a considerable portion of its goofiness was fur- 
nished by the raucous, middle-aged person of Mary Louise 
Cecelia Guinan, known to all as Texas, or just plain Tex. 
Texas Guinan was the uncrowned, undisputed Queen of Pro- 
hibition Night Clubs, the Queen of the Night Club Era, and 
the Queen of the Padlocks as well. "If Jimmy Walker runs 
the city by day, Texas Guinan runs it by night," one com- 
mentator wrote, quite forgetting that Mayor Walker also func- 
tioned better after dark. 

The Broadway night clubs over which Texas Guinan presided 
were the most notable in the land, and were also the premises 
most often raided by police. Law enforcement officers changed 
frequently in New York City and seemingly the first official act 
of a new one was to raid a club run by Texas Guinan. It had 
reached a point where, if a customer-turned-law-officer sud- 
denly rose in the midst of the revelry to shout, "This is a raid/' 
the Guinan Club orchestra automatically swung into "The 
Prisoner's Song/' a lachrymose song hit of the time. Mean- 
while, Tex docilely allowed herself to be led to the nearest 
precinct station. From then on there would be a padlock on 
this night club door, but a short distance away another Guinan 
Club would quickly open, with the irrepressible hostess bawling 
out a song which ran: 

The judge says, "Tex, do you sell booze?" 
I said, "Please don't be silly. 
I swear to you iny cellar's filled 
With chocolate and vanilly." 

Texas Guinan brought her boisterous talents to the El Fey 
Club, the Del Fey, the Club Intime, Club Abbey, Texas 
Guinan's, and a host of others. Each in its turn was raided, 
but through it all Texas remained cheerful, for at bottom she 
was a show-biz personality who thrived on publicity. It was this 
fact which caused her places to be raided so frequently. The 
closings of the various Guinan spots were token raids to mollify 

A Nfgftt with the Padlock Queen 55 

a perplexed public which could not quite understand how a 
nationally famous person could so openly flout the law. 

To show how she felt about the numerous closings of her 
clubs, Texas wore a necklace of tastefully small gold padlocks. 
From her charm bracelet dangled a tiny police whistle. Noise 
was the unchanging trademark of any Guinan enterprise. Dur- 
ing her nights as strident mistress of ceremonies Tex also 
carried a real live police whistle, bestowed on her during a 
paddy wagon ride by a sympathetic cop. If things began slow- 
ing around her, Tex blew a piercing blast on the police whistle. 
"Come on, suckers, open up and spend some jack/' she would 
below. Ever willing to oblige Good OY Tex, suckers opened 
wallets wide. 

No one ever referred to the Queen of Night Clubs as Mary 
Louise Cecelia Guinan except (as is traditional) her elderly 
father, who spent much time around the clubs over which his 
daughter presided. The name Texas came from movie days 
since Mary Louise, born in Waco, had been an early cowgirl 
in flickering films. There she had been known as the female 
William S. Hart. Photographs of her at this point show a girl 
with dark hair and a wide friendly smile. She arrived on Broad- 
way at the exact moment when a powerhouse personality was 
most needed, but in Hollywood the cowgirl had not been so 
fortunate. The movies of her day were silent, while Tex was 
loud. What her fate might have been in Talkie days is a 
matter for interesting conjecture, but when middle age ap- 
proached, Tex was forced to abandon her career as a stunting 

She had a raucous way with a song and, dyeing her dark hair 
a brassy blond, journeyed east to appear with De Wolf 
Hopper in a Winter Garden revue. One momentous night she 
accompanied friends to a supper club speakeasy. "It was dull/ 7 
she would later tell interviewers, "and someone suggested that 
I sing. I didn't need much coaxing. I sang all I knew, my whole 

56 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

damn repertoire. Then I started kidding around. First thing 
you know, the joint's alive. I feel fine, and everybody else in 
the place is having a great big wonderful time." 

Day or night, night or day, Tex was flamboyant. At forty, 
she was buxom, yet surprisingly graceful on her feet for a 
woman of girth. Brassy in manner and resonant in voice, she 
radiated supreme confidence. She favored picture hats two 
feet wide, from which dangled ribbons of yellow, blue, purple, 
and pink. Her big teeth flashed like pearls; her laugh rattled the 
rafters. The bright blond hair was tightly waved, her mouth a 
smear of blatant lipstick. She wore colorful, expensive gowns, 
with roses pinned to a shoulder. On occasion she encased her 
still-shapely legs in scarlet hose. She was a connoisseur of furs, 
diamonds and, especially, pearls. Usually two large ropes of 
pearls fell to her waist. Imbedded in one of her rings was an- 
other large pearl. Sometimes she wore rhinestones in the heels 
of her shoes. But when Texas Guinan smiled, her fine teeth 
outshone the dazzling jewelry on her. 

Attired in her individual fashion, Tex now went on the war- 
path for a job as hostessas numerous police blotters would 
call her in a speakeasy or expensive supper club. She first 
struck pay dirt in a spot called the Beaux Arts on Fortieth 
Street, hardly a tome's throw from the New York Public 
Library. Here she put her driving personality to work so suc- 
cessfully that business doubled, tripled. One of those im- 
pressed by her raucous charm was Nils T. Granlund, a native 
of Lapland who had reached Broadway by way of Providence, 
Rhode Island. Granlund was director of publicity for the Loew 
movie chain, and as a sideline acted as master of ceremonies on 
the Loew radio station WHN. This latter job was considered 
so inferior that he billed himself only by initials and to thou- 
sands of pioneer radio listeners he was known fondly as 
N. T. G. 

It was the sagacious Granlund who suggested to Tex that 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 57 

she back up her vivid personality with a small floor show: show 
girls, dance act, singing trio. In addition to his other occupa- 
tions, Granlund acted as a beauty scout for Ziegfeld and Earl 
Carroll. He knew that when the Follies, Vanities and Scandals 
ended at 11 o'clock Broadway babies were free to work else- 
where. He hired the prettiest to work for Texas Guinan. 

N. T. G. performed a second favor when he introduced Tex 
to a lantern-jawed gangster named Larry Fay. An East Side 
youth, Fay had been a taxi-driver and taxi-fleet owner before 
turning more profitably into a rum-runner and all-purpose 
gangster. Together with several nouveaux riches bootleggers he 
had backed an intimate night club called Les Ambassadeurs, a 
name none of the racketeer owners was ever able to pronounce. 
Fay liked to mix with the fine types who patronized night 
clubs and nursed a desire to have his own place. On meeting 
Texas Guinan he offered to establish her in a club called the 
El Fey, on Third Street in Greenwich Village. 

El Fey was a tryout. Texas Guinan was made for the bright 
lights of Broadway; the bright lights made for her. Soon the El 
Fey moved to Forty-sixth Street. The uptown El Fey Club was 
small, seating only about eighty customers. The floor show was 
equally unambitious. "It was nothing but Tex and girls, girls, 
girls," N. T. G. has recalled. Even so the El Fey caught on, 
with such Broadway Boswells as Damon Runyon, Walter Win- 
chell, Mark Hellinger, and Louis Sobol spreading the fame of 
Texas Guinan as the top night club hostess of the era. 

In addition to her raucous personality, Tex possessed a gift 
for imaginative insult. She called male patrons suckers and 
ordered them to spend money or get the hell out of her sight. 
They loved it. She thrived on noise and devised wooden kleeter- 
klappers which patrons waved wildly in the air to create more 
noise. Her swizzle sticks had hard round knobs on one end, so 
that patrons could use them to whack the table for further 
racket. She was in her glory as Queen of the Night Clubs seen 

58 A Night -with the Padlock Queen 

by Lloyd Morris: "Seated in the midst of a nightly bedlam, her 
pearls and diamonds blazing, her gown glittering with sequins, 
using a Mapper to prod her guests into greater din. She wel- 
comed patrons with a strident, cheerful, 'Hello, Sucker!' and 
an amused world . . . delighted in the candid, contemptuous 
greeting. Her inexhaustible high spirits, her flippancy and 
daffiness were contagious." 

In the El Fey and following clubs, Tex welcomed only 
suckers whose bankrolls were hefty enough to afford $35 for a 
bottle of so-called champagne; $25 for a fifth of Scotch; $20 
for gin and rye; $20 for a bottle of alleged wine, and $2 for a 
glass of ginger ale, soda, or plain water if the patron was crass 
enough to produce a hip flask and demand a setup. Texas and 
her staff developed a sixth sense in evaluating spenders, and 
any who failed to resemble big ones were informed that no 
reservations were available. Further discouragement was offered 
by a well-publicized Cover Charge, or Convert as the more 
elegant places called it. At Texas Guinan's this was often $25 
per person, so that a man escorting a girl was immediately $50 
down the hole. 

In addition to cover charge and drinks, guests were also ex- 
pected to shell out copiously for cigars, cigarettes, and what 
were called favors. Tex employed a girl named Ethel who was 
known as the most beautiful cigarette girl on Broadway. 
Dressed demurely in blue satin trousers and crimson sash, Ethel 
moved among the tables with quiet insistence, selling 15^ packs 
of cigarettes for $1, subtly letting it be known that a tip of 
$1 or more was in order. Next would appear the girl who sold 
favors. Where Ethel was demurely dressed, this girl would be 
undressed black silk stockings, tights, and scanty, open blouse. 
She offered baby dolls and teddy bears at prices from five dol- 
lars to fifty dollars, also with appropriate tip. "Buy a baby doll 
for your cutie pie," she would whisper, bending seductively over 
a table. Few suckers could resist. 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 59 

At such prices, a night as host to a few friends at Texas 
Guinan's could cost from one thousand to three thousand dol- 
lars. One who frequently paid tabs of this proportion was 
Harry Sinclair, the oil millionaire who late in 1927 would go 
on trial for his part in the infamous Teapot Dome scandal. An- 
other big Broadway spender was the movie star Tom Mix, 
whose cowboy films reputedly brought him ten thousand dollars 
a week. The iron-jawed Mix had not always been a knowledge- 
able playboy. On his first visit to New York, he strutted with 
jangling spurs into an expensive restaurant and ordered the 
head waiter to bring him the best grub in the place. After 
returning to Hollywood, he described this meal to goggle-eyed 
friends. "I et for three hours and didn't recognize nothin' but 
a reddish/ 7 he concluded. 

Most of the spenders who enjoyed paying Texas Guinan 
prices, as well as the thrill of pressing fifty dollar bills into the 
hands of high-kicking chorus girls, were night-after-night reg- 
ulars. Others came a few times, then faded away. To Broad- 
way these were men who, honestly or dishonestly, had suddenly 
come into money and for a few nights wished to taste the de- 
lights of being the kind of mighty spender Texas Guinan called 
a sucker. The heady sensations of such men have been de- 
scribed by the writer Jack Kofoed, who said, "Free spending is 
the key to Broadway attention. If you're willing to throw the 
old dough around, you're king of the shack for as many nights 
as you peel bills off the roll. When the money is gone you can 
go find yourself a place in the alley. Nobody cares how much 
you had. It's what you have that counts, and nobody on Broad- 
way asks where the money came from/' 

Even Texas Guinan at times felt defensive about the big 
chunks of money she extracted from contented patrons. Once 
she complained: "There's a lot of talk about how I take the 
customers for all they've got. It's not as bad as that, even if 
there aren't any charity wards in my club. The boys come here 

60 A Night -with the Padlock Queen 

to spend, and I'm not going to disappoint them. When they 
drink ginger ale in my place they are drinking liquid platinum, 
and they like it." 

Tex was not known as the Queen of the Night Clubs for 
nothing. A night at her Three Hundred Club the Guinan 
Club during the early months of 1927 was one of joy and 
laughter. Together with an ability to separate the sucker from 
his dough, Tex also had a flair for showmanship. In addition, 
she possessed an unexpected streak of zany madness, so that a 
session at the Three Hundred Club resembled the mad nights 
at the Jack White Club on Fifty-second Street a decade later. 
In the department of entertainment Texas Guinan gave her 
suckers an even break. 

On a night any nightin February 1927, the Three Hun- 
dred Club opens its portals at ten-thirty in the evening. Those 
unwary enough to enter at such an hour find little or nothing 
going on. Texas herself never arrives until midnight or later. A 
gal who keeps the festivities rolling until five or six in the 
morning, she sleeps until six at night and eats breakfast while 
the rest of the world has dinner. Then she goes to the theatre 
or takes care of personal business. Around midnight she has a 
fast lunch of melon and ice cream. After that, work. 

Yet anyone arriving early at the Three Hundred Club can 
examine the expensive premises. The decor is lush and restful, 
for La Guinan (as Alexander Woollcott persists in calling her) 
has excellent taste. A low ceiling seems lower because of velvet 
hung to create a tented effect. The walls are covered with 
plaited cloth of matching colors. From the ceiling swing 
Chinese lanterns and the walls are decorated with designs of 
parrots and other exotic birds. Close to the ceiling colorful 
balloons float lazily. The place is lighted in a manner to soothe 
the tired spirit. This lighting has especially won the admiration 
of author Stephen Graham, who says of it in his book, New 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 61 

York Nights: "There is nothing to try the eyes or irritate one. 
It is lighted, and yet it is not the light associated with noisy 
excitement and jazz. You have come here not for a giddy hour, 
but for hours and hours. That is why the illumination is so 
carefully toned." 

Those who expect Guinan clubs to be the acme of speakeasy 
glamor find several surprises inside. One is size. The Three 
Hundred Club, for instance, holds no more than fifty tables 
around a minute dance floor. As the place fills up extra ringside 
tables are rushed to the edge of the dance floor so that in time 
it becomes almost non-existent. Entertainers working Guinan 
clubs quickly find out that only stand-up performing is possible. 
One who has already learned this is a lissom acrobatic dancer 
named Ruby Stevens. In the course of her dance Ruby falls to 
the floor and writhes artistically. On her first night at Guinan's 
she did so and found herself inextricably entwined with table 
legs, customers' feet, and champagne buckets. From that point 
on she danced upright, but not for long. Having changed her 
name to Barbara Stanwyck, she is well on the way to becoming 
a top dramatic actress, the kind who enters Guinan's as a 

Until La Guinan arrives, the Three Hundred Club remains 
sedate and dignified. Four guitarists stroll from table to table 
plucking out melodies on request. Their speciality is the re- 
cently successful "Valencia," but they are equally adept at such 
dissimilar numbers as "Sleepy Time Gal" and "Yes, Sir, That's 
My Baby." Also on hand is Ethel the cute cigarette girl. In the 
early months of 1927 Ethel's beauty has taken on a particular 
radiance. Up to now her rival for the title of Most Beautiful 
Cigarette Girl on Broadway has been Mavis of the Club Abbey. 
A spectacular finale to this rivalry came when the Club Abbey 
was shot up by gangster patrons. Mavis assisted one of the 
bleeding gangsters to Polyclinic Hospital, and in the peculiar 
code of Broadway lost caste by this good Samaritan deed. Ethel 

62 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

is now securely entrenched as tlie Most Beautiful Cigarette 
Girl on tlie Main Stem. 

Midnight comes and goes, and a sense of expectancy fills the 
Three Hundred Club. Eyes dart to the entrance door. Those in 
the know confide importantly that Tex must be stopping at her 
brother Tommy's Club Plantation or at this point in history 
was it Texas Tommy's? At Tommy Guinan's four musicians 
named Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, and Jack 
Teagarden labor nightly in the orchestra. At the Three Hun- 
dred Club an orchestra barren of potential jazz greats takes 
over from the four guitarists and a few couples slip to the tiny 
floor to dance. 

By twelve-thirty the fifty tables are full. Lady Diana 
Manners, William Beebe, Ann Pennington (the Scandals star 
with the dimpled knees) and millionaire escort, Bill Fallon 
(the great mouthpiece), Mae West, Frank Tinney and Imogene 
Wilson, the latter the most beautiful of all Follies girls, Aimee 
Semple McPherson, the visiting evangelist these could be the 
celebrities present tonight. Mayor Walker may appear during 
the evening, on his arm a cute, dark-haired flapper named Betty 
Compton, whom he spotted dancing in Oh, Kay! and straight- 
way made his steady companion. The underworld is represented 
by Owney Madden and Big Bill Dwyer, Prohibition overlords 
and backers of night clubs. Lesser underworld figures are present 
with jazz babies from Broadway shows. There are sugar daddies 
and gold-diggers of the variety immortalized in Gentlemen 
Prefer Blondes, and a sprinkling of older women in the com- 
pany of young men. One such, called the Dancing Grand- 
mother, is an almost nightly patron at the Three Hundred 

At a quarter to one comes a stir at the entrance door and the 
feeling that a supercharged personality is there. An excited 
whisper runs through the room, Texas, Texas! Everything stops 
as Tex greets friends at the door and tosses a brisk word of 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 63 

greeting to the hatcheck girl and maitre <f . Here is royalty 
entering its domain. One who witnesses her splendid entrance 
is Stephen Graham: "There she is like a queen, like the sun, 
like a big firework, like a gorgeous tamer who has just let her- 
self into a large cage of pet tigers. A kiss here, a stroke of the 
hand there, an uttered Darling! there, she goes from table to 
table closing the company into a unit around her personality." 

The fun begins as soon as Tex arrives. She makes her way to 
the dance floor, which with her appearance becomes the stage. 
Taking a fragile chair, she perches atop it a highly difficult 
position for one of her girth but a feat she manages admirably 
every night. A waiter appears at her side with a box full of 
kleeter-klappers: a small piece of wood with two wooden balls 
attached which, when shaken, produces a hideous din. Tex 
raises one above her head, shakes it furiously. Next she dips 
into the box for others and begins tossing them to friends 
around the room. "Here, Tex, here," grown men beseech, eager 
to be singled out by her famous attention. 

All who get kleeter-klappers shake them, yet over the racket 
her clarion voice can easily be heard. In her full-throated tones 
Tex now calls out, "Cohen." A waiter calls back, "Cohen." It's 
a catchword of the place, by which Tex gives signals. Now it 
means get things ready, the show is about to begin. Tex climbs 
down from her chair, moves it to the ringside table whose free- 
spending party she has decided to favor, and the Three Hun- 
dred Club show Texas Guinan and Her Mob begins. 

The first number is called Cherries. A group of almost naked 
girls prance out from backstage to group themselves on the tiny 
dance floor. One carries a basket of fruit. She starts singing a 
song called "Cherries" and two things immediately become ap- 
parent. One is the zany aspect of the Three Hundred Club, for 
as the girls sing, the waiters begin to yell "Cherries" in time 
with the music. So, shortly, does the audience, until it is all 
wild, fetching, and very, very funny. 

64 A Night -with the Padlock Queen 

The other notable matter is the extreme youth of the girls. 
For, still guided by the indefatigable N. T. G., Tex has changed 
her Guinan Girls. After first using statesque Follies and 
Vanities lovelies, Granlund shifted to the talented children 
herded around Broadway by determined stage mothers. Now 
the Guinan Girls are not only beautiful but exceedingly young, 
so that there is a vague sinfulness about such dewy-eyed in- 
nocence in a night club. Ruby Keeler, for instance, who does a 
tap dance at Guinan clubs, was only fourteen when she began. 
At seventeen, she married Al Jolson (1927 earnings $350,000) 
to create one of the great lullabys of Broadway. 

Texas Guinan never smokes or drinks and tries hard to rule 
her youthful chorus kids with an iron hand. She even en- 
courages stage mothers to hang around backstage as chaperones. 
Where ordinary patrons are concerned, the Queen of the Night 
Clubs can easily keep her girls in line. But when a mobster 
takes a shine to one of her kids, even the redoubtable Tex dares 
not interfere. Prohibition-era hoods were trigger-happy sadists 
who could not bear to be frustrated over girls, or anything. "It 
was rough and tough then/ 7 N. T. G. has written. "Four of my 
employers, owners for whom I produced shows, were killed. 
One of my girls in one of my shows was shot and another was 
with a gangster when he was bumped off ." 

Even so, it may not be fair to picture all gangsters as vicious 
destroyers of night-club virginity. It is said that one of the 
toughest gang lords set himself up as the Nobody-Touches-Her- 
Not-Even-Me protector of little Ruby Keeler. And sometimes 
the Guinan kids of tender years and angelic appearance actually 
desired the life offered by gangsters. "Where except in New 
York can you find the pretty, wilful kids who [date] the racke- 
teers?" inquires the writer Jack Kofoed. "Slim thighs and bud- 
ding breasts and wet, provocative lips . . . The pay is high and 
the life fancy while it lasts, but I suppose it does get tiresome 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 65 

to be bawled out by the dance director and go through the 
same routines night after night." 

Singing and kicking bare legs in a dance, the Guinan kids 
look happy, fresh, and delightfully wet behind the ears. In 
songs like "Cherries/' they fan out among the audience while 
the girl with the basket of cherries prettily slips one into the 
mouths of the more important suckers present. A girl behind 
her ruffles up the man's hair, if he has any. Those who are com- 
pletely bald get a lipsticky kiss on the shiny dome. In turn, the 
suckers push fifty dollar bills into tight brassieres and hot little 

While this goes on, Tex is providing her own show. She 
tosses kleeter-klappers and passes out remarks. "Take care of 
him, kids," she bawls, when a man shouts something at her. 
The girls converge on him and begin taking off his tie, un- 
buttoning his vest, slipping oft his coat. His watch is handed 
to Tex who holds it up, making disparaging remarks about size 
and quality. After emptying his pockets, and keeping the 
change found there, the girls forge on to another table. They 
keep it up riotously until Tex suddenly bellows, "Give the little 
gals a great big hand." The Cherries girls dance off, still trilling 
their song. 

Follows a procession of torch singers, adagio teams, girl and 
boy dancers. Among the last is a slick-haired jellybean doing a 
whirlwind Charleston. It is such a spectacular dance that 
columnist Mark Bellinger has been moved to call it "the 
weirdest, maddest dance that anyone has ever seen. The cus- 
tomers sit in silence as he fixes his eyes on one spot and whirls. 
Faster. Faster. It is fascinating almost uncanny." 

The whirling dancer finishes, panting proudly, and Tex 
shouts, "Give the little guy a great big hand." Next she tells 
the room that the young dancer, who looks like a callous Valen- 
tino, is Georgie Raft. The ambitious Raft works hard these 

66 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

days, and makes a neat one thousand dollars a week as a result. 
After doing his dance at the Three Hundred Club, he dashes 
up the street to Tommy Guinan's Playground, where he does it 
again. After which he races to the Parody or Silver Slipper and 
does it there too. Weary but still ambitious, he hastens back 
to the Three Hundred Club in time for the second show. Such 
heroic activity, it has been noted, gave him scant time to return 
the affections of a sixteen-year-old Guinan kid named Hannah 
Williams, who would become Mrs. Roger Wolfe Kahn, and 
Mrs. Jack Dempsey, as well as the inspiration for the song 
"Hard Hearted Hannah, the Vamp of Savannah.' 7 At the 
Three Hundred Club Hannah worships George Raft from afar 
and, as in a thousand backstage movies, watches adoringly as he 
dances. "You work too hard, Georgie," she tells him when he 
finishes, but the preoccupied Raft pays no attention, only 
rushes off to his next appearance. 

After this turn, the Guinan kids reappear. In scanty tights 
they prance out with baskets of cardboard snowballs with which 
to pelt the crowd. As they do, a cute girl appears in the spot- 
light. Pointing first to her eyes, to her breasts, and other inter- 
esting features of her anatomy, she begins to sing, "She has this 
and she has that" Again, with the refrain, the waiters join in, 
shouting, "And she knows her onions!" The audience starts 
singing too this is the most popular song of the night and it 
sets Tex off like an explosion. "Encourage her!" she brays. "En- 
courage the kid, give the little girl a great big hand," The 
audience does. "She has this and she has that, AND SHE KNOWS 
HER ONIONS!" patrons howl back. By the time the song ends, 
everyone is standing, singing lustily, pelting each other with the 
cardboard snowballs. Once more the girls caper off, and two 
middle-aged drunks grab a girl as the line passes by. Tex shouts 
"Cohen" and moves over quickly to restrain them, as do a 
bouncer and several waiters. For a moment the situation seems 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 67 

ugly. Then it's over, with Tex turning it into a laugh. "A fight 
a night or your money back/ 7 she yells at the room. 

Comes intermission time: end of the first show, long pause 
before the second. The limpid saxophone begins to moan "Do, 
do, do, what youVe done, done, done before, baby/ 7 Couples 
slip to the postage stamp floor and, holding each other tight, 
begin to dance. A few Guinan girls slip out to sit at tables with 
glowering, sharp-suited gangsters. Others join husbands or Joe 
College boy friends. But most remain backstage with mothers 
or chaperones, for Tex allows no general fraternizing. She her- 
self seizes the opportunity to munch a chicken sandwich and 
gulp a glass of milk. Then she remounts the fragile chair in the 
spotlight. Blowing a piercing blast on the police whistle, she 
signals that her personal part of the entertainment will begin. 

Chiefly this is wisecracking and exchanging lusty badinage 
with patrons. "Three cheers for Prohibition/ 7 she bellows on 
mounting the chair. Those who wonder why she begins in this 
startling way are immediately enlightened, for she goes on, 
"Without Prohibition where the hell would I be? 77 From one 
table an experienced sucker shouts back, "Nowhere! " "You're 
right, sucker/ 7 Texas howls, giving her mighty laugh. Texas 
Guinan's brand of night club humor is entirely lacking in 
subtlety and a commentator explains it this way: "It's sledge- 
hammer humor. It must go through the heads of well-soaked 
customers. She must bellow above the confusion of the revelers. 
This hostess business is a raucous calling . . , 77 

Some of the sledgehammer humor is chauvinistic. "Who's 
the greatest flapper in the world? 77 she asks from the chair top. 
From parts of the room come suggestions: "Clara Bow 77 "Col- 
leen Moore 77 "Ann Pennington. 77 Each time the blondined 
head shakes an emphatic No. Finally she pulls a small Amer- 
ican flag from her ample bosom and waves it. "There's the 
greatest flapper in the world/' she shouts exultantly. 

68 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

Other jokes are topical. "Why does Peaches sit on the beach 
so much?" she demands of the room. "I don't know/' the 
orchestra leader obligingly shouts back, "Why does Peaches sit 
on the beach so much?" Tex jubilantly yells, 'To keep her tail 
from Browning." 

Champagne corks pop, kleeter-klappers klap, swizzle sticks 
smack, the police whistle blows its shrill blasts. Joy at the Three 
Hundred Club is unrefined and unconfined. Every male wants 
to be singled out for special attention. It makes him a member 
of the Suckers Club, perhaps the most exclusive in the world 
of 1927. "Hello, suckers," Texas bawls at newcomers entering. 
She browbeats those at the tiny tables to buy more drinks. 
"You're all suckers, so you might as well act like it." Seeing an 
oldster lost in drunken sleep beside a lush blonde, she grabs a 
trumpet from the orchestra and sashays over to the table. There 
she blows a fearful blast into the sleeping man's ear. "Come on, 
you old goat, rise up and buy," she orders. 

Always the emphasis is on Spend, Spend, Spend. In public at 
least, the road to Texas Guinan's heart is paved with hundred 
dollar bills. One night the ideal sucker showed up in a Guinan 
club. A meek-looking little man, he paid the cover charge for 
the entire house, distributed fifty dollar bills to girls in the show 
and members of the band. After this, the mild Maecenas 
bought champagne for every table. Even Tex was impressed by 
such prodigious largesse. "Say, sucker, who are you anyway?" 
she demanded. The little man refused to give, his name. "Well, 
you can at least tell us what you do," Tex insisted. "I'm in the 
dairy-produce business," he answered modestly. Tex flung back 
her flamboyant head. "He's a big butter-and-egg man," she in- 
formed her assembled guests. From the exclusive confines of her 
club, the phrase Big Butter and Egg Man went out to succeed 
the word Babbitt in the national vocabulary. In time a play 
called The Butter and Egg Man opened on Broadway. 

Again Tex takes a breather. "Doo-Wacka-Doo-Wacka-Doo," 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 69 

wails the sax-led orchestra, for dancing. A customer is crass 
enough to complain to Texas that his check has been padded. 
"It's one hundred dollars too much/' he states. Tex grabs the 
check angrily for to her a man who gripes over a hundred bucks 
is beneath contempt. Nevertheless, she scans the check, finds 
he is correct about the overcharge. "Who's your waiter?" she 
demands. The waiter is called front and center. "You're fired!" 
Tex shouts. 

It's a dismissal the waiter takes with surprising docility. He 
disappears into the kitchen while the sucker pays the amended 
check and fades into the night. Then the waiter reappears. 
Momentarily, though, the incident takes the starch out of Tex 
she sits down at a table and complains. "It happens all the 
time around here," she says. "That waiter and the cashier are 
in cahoots, they'd a split that extra hundred. But I can't fire 
any of 'em. They're all related to Larry Fay or some other 

Depression is fleeting "My sweets," she once wrote Mark 
Hellinger, "why will you insist on taking life seriously? Give 
me plenty of laughs and you can take the rest." Stars from 
Broadway are coming in now, show folk whose lives permit 
them to stay up late enough for the second Guinan show of 
the night. A Vanities showgirl enters on the arm of a new 
husband. Tex signals the band, which slips into the Wedding 
March. A waiter scoots out from the kitchen with a large bag 
of rice which he gives to Tex. She tosses handfuls at the happy 
pair. The trumpeter moves out from the bandstand and Tex 
pushes the newlyweds behind him. Guests from the tables leap 
up to join the procession which snakes in and out around the 
room, for all the world like a wedding in a nightmare. 

Suddenly, it's over. The trumpeter slips back on the band- 
stand, mutes his instrument and joins with the throbbing 
saxophone to sob out "Here in my arms it's adorable, It's de- 
plorable that you were never there." Tex returns to the spot- 

70 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

light, and guests go back to tables. "Let's give the little girls a 
great big hand/ 7 she howls, bringing forth a few Guinan kids 
from backstage. She wheedles dignified men into playing leap- 
frog with them on the tiny dance floor. She rumples the hair 
and unties the ties of prominent men, smacks the backs of 
dignified dowagers in bluff, cowgirl greeting. The hilarity em- 
boldens one man to pull a Guinan kid to his lap, where he 
tries to fondle her. Tex gives a sharp look; he's a nobody, not 
even a butter-and-egg-man. "Cohen throw him out," she 
orders the bouncers who materialize. The throwing-out process 
has two steps. First to the cashier's desk, where the sucker 
settles his bill. Then the sidewalk. 

Tex considers it a personal affront when anyone starts to 
leave. "Don't go!" she begs an important party. They look un- 
certain and Tex plunges on, "Stick around, we'll have a show 
now." The police whistle blasts. It is four-thirty and lights dim 
for the second show, which begins with the line of baby-faced 
Guinan kids kicking heels high and nasally chirping "Baby 
Face, youVe got the sweetest little baby face." It soon becomes 
apparent that the second show is slightly less raucous, more 
sentimental than the first. Perhaps this is a tribute to what 
Damon Runyon calls the "tubercular light of dawn," which is 
close to breaking over the city outside. 

Again the girls hop among tables, rumpling hair and jump- 
ing from lap to lap. A man who has been drunkenly dozing 
wakes up to find a cute, all-but-nude girl on his lap. He paws 
her roughly. The girl shrieks. Tex, the one-time cowgirl, ma- 
terializes at the table. This is an important customer, one who 
can't be heaved out. There is no cry of "Cohen." Tex puts a 
warning hand on the man's shoulder, disengages the girl with 
the other. With the girl gone, she kisses the top of the man's 
bald head. "You're still my sweetheart," she tells him, "but you 
gotta behave." 

In the spotlight, the whirling George Raft does his second 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 71 

Charleston of the night. After him the girls prance out, "Yes, 
sir, that's my baby, No, sir, don't mean maybe/' The youthful 
kids still seem fresh and eager, but the waiters are beginning to 
look waxy and spent. So do the customers, though the lively 
tune stirs some excitement. The night's gaiety is beginning to 
wear thin. Even Tex feels it. She's human, and like everyone 
else sits reverently silent as three of her kids in tight velvet 
trousers and skimpy blouses come out, take three chairs from 
ringside and, sitting side by side in a demure line, harmonize 
softly, lingeringly: 

Make my bed and light the light, 
I'll be home late tonight. 
Bye, Bye, Blackbird. 

At the song's end Texas turns to a friend and begins, "I'm 
so" She's about to say tired, but catches herself in time. The 
legend of inexhaustible energy is her prime asset. Bravely she 
smiles the gleaming smile and the brassy voice urges as before, 
"Give the little girls a great big hand." The fingers that twist 
her ropes of pearls look ancient and clawlike now, but who 
cares? Tex is in and out of the spotlight, ever the figure of 
picturesque vigor, the gigantic voice commanding everyone to 
have a great big time. She's the Queen of the Night Clubs. It's 
been another big night without a raid for the Padlock Queen. 

Texas Guinan, with her brashness and emphasis on the fold- 
ing green, typified the Night Club Era to the country. Yet in 
another club were to be found Clayton, Jackson, and Durante, 
Broadway's own favorite entertainers. Tex herself, anxious to 
wind down after a night's work, frequently stopped off to enjoy 
these three before going home to bed. For such was the mad- 
ness of the zany trio that the clubs they worked often stayed 
open until noon the next day. 

In the early months of 1927, Clayton, Jackson, and Durante 
were appearing at the Parody Club. But they had first scored 

72 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

at the Club Durant, at Fifty-eighth Street and Sixth Avenue. 
This historic club had largely been promoted by Jimmy 
Durante, a gentle young man with a huge nose and a sense of 
fun stemming from the great clowns of Italy. Durante had 
opened his night club on a financial shoe string so much so 
that just before the opening he was unable to afford an outside 
sign to advertise the joint. Hearing of his plight, a golden- 
hearted sign painter offered to provide one gratis. The sign 
emerged Club Durant, and so it remained until Prohibition 
forces ended its lusty life. 

Durante, piano player and slam-bang buffoon, had already 
joined forces with Eddie Jackson, one of the great coon-shout- 
ing singers of all time. The two worked well together, but 
Durante felt that somehow the act could be improved. A reason 
for flaws in performance was that the gentle Durante was dis- 
tracted by the problems of running a combination night club 
and speakeasy. One night a Broadway gambler and sometime 
hoofer named Lou Clayton entered the Club Durant. He did 
so as a patron, but in the general hilarity rose and blandly per- 
formed an expert soft-shoe dance. Conversing with him later 
Durante sensed that in Clayton, a Main Stem toughie with an 
unflinching exterior, lay the ingredient lacking in the Club 
Durant. Clayton was hard, though in the best show business 
tradition he occasionally unveiled a sentimental side. He had 
faced down such gangland celebrities as the psychotic killer 
Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll. Further, he could strut and dance 
almost as well as George Raft, while the expressionless dead 
pan he had cultivated through years as a gambler could be 
excruciatingly funny in moments of comedy. 

Clayton agreed to go to work, and so Broadway's all-time 
favorite night club act of Clayton, Jackson, and Durante was 
born. Clayton's first official act was to rule that gangsters check 
guns at the front door. Clayton then took the guns from the 

A Night -with the Padlock Queen 73 

hatcheck girl and buried them in the ice-bin behind the bar 
"frapped artillery/' he called this. 

On stage, Clayton, Jackson, and Durante worked by inspira- 
tion. Starting with Durante songs like "Jimmy the Well 
Dressed Man," they roughhoused in all directions. Always the 
act had two staples noise and destruction. While Eddie Jack- 
son brayed his songs, Clayton did his fast dead-pan dance and 
Duante beat the piano. All three then rampaged the room, 
pulling things to bits. After Clayton, Jackson, and Durante any 
night club was a shambles. 

Once a curvaceous girl with a French accent applied at the 
Club Durant for a job. "You should hear me seeng," she cooed. 
Durante thought her accent might be an amusing foil for the 
wild antics of the three men. He dubbed her Mademoiselle Fifi 
and for three nights she tried to join the fun. It was no go, and 
the hardboiled Clayton was instructed to fire her. An outraged 
Fifi insisted on seeing Durante, saying to him accusingly, "You 
nevair hear me seeng." Soft-hearted Jimmy decided to give her 
one more chance. "Ladies and gentlemen," he began that night, 
"at great expense to the management we have imported direct 
from Paris none other than that great int'national entertainer, 
Mam'zelle Fifi." 

Fifi, it transpired, was a coloratura. Stepping forward, she 
bravely began. But her great gift lay less in vocalizing than in 
determination. No matter what went on around her, Fifi pierc- 
ingly reached for high notes. Coloraturas, of course, were out 
of place in the Club Durant and, after a few bars, Durante 
began to clown. He marched around the room in military style, 
while the band abandoned Mademoiselle Fifi to swing to the 
"Stars and Stripes Forever." 

Fifi continued with her aria no mean musical feat. "The 
Americans are coming!" Durante shouted nonsensically, still 
marching in military time. The quick-witted Clayton took up 
the cry. "The Americans are coming!" he shouted back. From 

74 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

some forgotten episode of his youth, Durante dredged up the 
cry, "Viva La Ponza!" "The Americans are coming Viva La 
Ponza," Clayton yelled back. So "The Americans are coming- 
Viva La Ponza!" became the rallying cry for the nonsense 
through which Mademoiselle Fifi single-mindedly sang. 

I can do -without Broadway, but can Broad-way do without 
me? the frenetic Durante demanded in the course of every eve- 
ning's rumpus. It seemed at first that Broadway could not. 
Then one night Jimmy noticed a trio of well-dressed men filling 
a hip flask from a bottle of liquor served them at a table. In 
those days, Prohibition agents were required to produce in court 
evidence of the intoxicants purchased on raided premises. The 
guileless Durante decided that the men were chemists conduct- 
ing an innocent experiment with prohibition hooch. Then one 
of them rose importantly. "All right, folks, it's a raid," he 

It was the end of the Club Durant, of tenderest memory. 
The Three Musketeers of Broadway, as Clayton, Jackson and 
Durante had been dubbed by Sime Silverman of Variety, 
moved on to the Parody Club. This was a cellar room seating 
some four hundred tight-packed patrons, with only a single 
street-level window for ventilation. Nonetheless, prices were 
high and the Clayton, Jackson, and Durante madness grew 
madder. Mademoiselle Fifi was still in the act, and here was 
born the sketch, "Wood," during which all kinds of wooden 
objects, including a full-size privy, were hauled onstage, whjle 
the three men horsed noisily about. "I'm in a hotel room," 
Durante would reminisce insanely, as wood was dumped on his 
feet, "and there's a knock at the door and a voice says, This 
is the house detective, you got a woman in your room? And I 
says No, so he trows one in." Through this, Jackson would be 
singing and Clayton performing his expert, expressionless dance. 
"You know," he'd call to Durante, "my girl's being held for 

A Night with the Padlock Queen 75 

ransom." "What's the matter with Ransom?" Durante shouted 
back. "Can't he get his own wimmin?" 

In other Broadway night clubs, the sucker also got an even 
break. Prices were high, but entertainment was good. Joan 
Crawford was not the only talent to rise from the Club Rich- 
man. Helen Kane, the Boop-Oop-a-Doop Girl, was an alumna 
of the same place. This club featured Sc^nddZs-star Harry Rich- 
man ("Birth of the Blues/ 7 "Puttin' On the Rite," "Singing a 
Vagabond Song"). With his meaty personality and vehement 
voice, Richman symbolized the male side of Prohibition Era 
Broadway, as Helen Morgan and Ruth Etting, the street's 
treasured girl singers, symbolized the female. 

Harry Richman was something of a phrasernaker and once 
referred to the downstairs Club Richman as "an upholstered 
sewer." It was a description which could aptly be bestowed upon 
other Prohibition spots where talent was born. Ginger Rogers 
(age sixteen) made an initial appearance at the Silver Slipper, 
as did Ray Bolger. Morton Downey was a youthful singer in 
night clubs. A comedian named Ben K. Benny worked in Broad- 
way night clubs before deciding that his name sounded too 
much like that of Ben Bernie, the Old Maestro. Ben K. Benny 
changed his name to Jack Benny, and by 1927 had risen from 
night clubs to vaudeville at the Palace. Others stuck faithfully 
to the night-life circuit. Established entertainers like Ben 
Bernie, Ukulele Ike Edwards, and Ted Lewis appeared in clubs 
whose very names sound a Broadway melody: Frivolity, Hotsy 
Totsy, Fifty-Fifty, La Vie, Cotton Club, Club Rendezvouz, 
Napoleon, Parody Club, Lido, Casa (Vincent) Lopez, Will 
Oakland's Terrace, Cafe de Paris, and Roger Wolfe Kahn's 
the club opened by the bandleader son of millionaire Otto 
Kahn which was so surpassingly elegant that even Broadway 
was awed by it. 

In all these 'upholstered sewers' be it Texas Guinan's, the 

76 A Night with the Padlock Queen 

Club Durant, or Roger Wolfe Kahn's~-the spender was king. 
"How we love to see the big spender come rolling in/' Jimmy 
Durante once said. "The fella who throws his money around. 
He's the answer to a prayer." With writer Jack Kofoed, 
Durante wrote a book called Night Club and in it he tried to 
give the reading public a picture of the big butter-and-egg man 
in action: 

You're sitting at a ringside table. All around are girls . . . pretty 
girls whose slim legs are lustrous in silk, and whose lips are 
carmined and eyebrows penciled. Out on the floor a dance team is 
working, feet moving deftly . . . The band is hot, the sleek heads 
bob and dip. The man swings his partner high in the air. Everyone 

A man at a ringside table, calls the hoofers over and presents 
them with a Sioo bill. Gee! There's a big shot! A sort of thrill 
goes over the room. Here's a guy who'll spend. There's champagne 
on his table. The orchestra leader wants to know if he has any tune 
he'd like to hear. He does. They dig up In the Shade of the Old 
Apple Tree for him . . . 

It was Broadway in 1927 the Year the World Went Mad! 

ELL aware that the future held at least 
one predictable sensation in the immedi- 
ate offing, the United States of America simmered contentedly 
through the six weeks while Judge Seeger pondered his verdict 
in the case of Peaches and Daddy. And this being the Era of 
Wonderful Nonsense there would assuredly be more sensations 
to come many more! 

Another reason for contentment was the so-called Coolidge 
Prosperity. In the contemporary words of Elmer Davis: "Pros- 
perity still sheds its benignant glow upon us." This ballooning 
prosperity was largely automatic, or even accidental, for Pres- 
ident Calvin Coolidge had reduced the duties of the Presidency 
by an amazing seventy per cent. Asked by funnyman Will 
Rogers how he had succeeded in doing this, Coolidge replied, 
"By avoiding the big problems/' 

In Senate cloakrooms no less than at Rotary Club luncheons 
across the country arguments over the 1928 political campaign 
had already begun. Would Calvin Coolidge run again, and if 
he decided to run was he entitled to do so? Vice-President 
Calvin Coolidge had become President on the death of Warren 


78 The Sash-Weight Murder 

G. Harding in August 1923. He had finished out Harding's 
term, then run on his own in 1924. Did this constitute two 
terms, or one? The distinguished Nicholas Murray Butler, pres- 
ident of Columbia University, thought Coolidge could not run 
again. Others thought he could, but no one had the slightest 
inkling how Cautious Cal felt. If he failed to run, the names 
of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, Vice-President 
Charles ("Hell and Maria") Dawes, Senator Charles Curtis, 
and Speaker of the House Nicholas Longworth were strong pos- 

In the Democratic camp was small optimism. Coolidge Pros- 
perity made 1928 look like a Republican year. Only Governor 
Alfred E. Smith of New York seemed confident of chances. 
Strangely enough, the living symbol of Republican Party suc- 
cess did not seem to be President Coolidge. Rather it was icy 
Andrew Mellon, the multimillionaire Secretary of the Treasury. 
"If we could only take Mellon away from the Republicans we 
could win easily," opined Clem Shaver, chairman of the Demo- 
cratic National Committee. 

Occasionally a voice rose to forecast economic peril. "A per- 
sistent over-production is the cornerstone of American indus- 
try," warned the farseeing Elmer Davis. "It is absorbed by over- 
consumption on the instalment plan." Few listened. There 
were some irritants in this best of possible worlds, but to the 
average person economics was not among them. Prohibition 
was, however the Eighteenth Amendment seemed to be head- 
ing the nation into a gigantic gang war. One who spoke out on 
this subject was Senator Tom Heflin of Alabama, a man widely 
reviled as a racist blabbermouth. Yet on Prohibition the 
Senator's words rang clear and true. "There are so few real 
Wet advocates here in the Senate that they could all fit in a 
taxicab," he orated. 

In news columns, the United States could be observed avoid- 
ing entanglement in the World Court, just as it had remained 

The Sash-Weight Murder 79 

out of the League of Nations. Good relations between France 
and the United States seemed far more important to Americans 
than good relations with England. BOBBED HAIR SPLITS BEAUTY 
SPECIALISTS, a headline read, while the story underneath went 
into details of the new boyish bob and the shingle cut. Madame 
Ernestine Schumann-Heink made news by becoming the first 
woman to lend her name to a cigarette testimonial. "I recom- 
mend Lucky Strikes because they are good to my throat/' she 
declared, while American Tobacco Company officials beamed. 

On March ist few troubled to notice a tiny announcement 
in newspapers saying that a young airmail pilot named Captain 
Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. the Associated Press spelled 
it Lindberg -had filed entry in the New York-Paris flight for a 
$25,000 prize offered by Raymond Orteig, owner of the Hotel 
Brevoort in New York City. The Orteig Prize had stood since 
1919 and, though rapid advances in aviation had lately been 
made, a non-stop flight to Paris was still considered a remote 
possibility. Nonetheless, the famous Commander Byrd had 
announced plans for such an attempt this year. So had a wiry, 
likable barnstormer named Clarence Chamberlin, who would 
fly a Wright-Bellanca plane. With him as co-pilot might be 
Bert Acosta, a rakish daredevil, the sort who flew his plane 
under bridges, looped the loop, and turned corkscrews in the 
air. From Paris for the Orteig Prize worked either way came 
word that the two French war aces, Nungesser and Coli, were 
grooming themselves for an early west-east flight. With such 
stellar figures prominent in the public eye, the filing by an un- 
known named Lindbergh or was it Lindberg? seemed of 
small moment. 

And why should it, with the Roxy Theatre opening on March 
i2th! Here was one of the real events of the age, an eight mil- 
lion dollar movie house designed for the utmost in lavish com- 
fort and lush elegance. It was the brain-child of Samuel L. 

80 The Sash-Weight Murder 

Rothafel, an energetic pioneer who had taken over the Capitol 
Theatre on Broadway, there to introduce elaborate stage shows 
and ushers in military uniforms. With the coming of radio, 
Rothafel began broadcasting from the Capitol, urging the 
world to call him Roxy. Soon Roxy and His Gang rivaled Dr. 
S, Parkes Cadman as radio entertainment. 

The Capitol had become a true picture palace, but Roxy 
wanted a cathedral of the motion picture. In 1927 the mighty 
little man's dream came true. Mounted police held back 
milling thousands while the Roxy Theatre was unveiled: "A 
vast, bronzed, Spanish renaissance interior, imposing in its 
Moorish splendor. Golden brown, pagan-like in its florid adorn- 
ment." Those at the opening found three Kimball organs play- 
ing as the audience found seats. Followed an Invocation, and 
a Dedication. The Roxy Symphony, led by Erno Rapee, played 
"The Star Spangled Banner." Mayor Walker made a speech of 
welcome. Came preliminary tableaux, song solos, more tableaux, 
symphony music, ballet, and the superbly styled Roxyettes. All 
this led up to a feature movie presentation, Gloria Swanson in 
The Love of Sunya, one of the cinematic lemons of all 

As the Roxy opened Ask Me Another was supplanting the 
Crossword Puzzle Books as the national game-book sensation. 
Emil Ludwig's hugely successful Napoleon had just been pub- 
lished. Time, the weekly newsmagazine stating pretentiously 
that "There is no room in Time for the second-rate, the incon- 
sequentialrecommended as good reading Tar by Sherwood 
Anderson; Go She Must, by David Garnett; The Plutocrat, by 
Booth Tarkington; Power by Lion Feuchtwanger; The Orphan 
Angel, by Elinor Wylie; Tomorrow Morning, by Anne Parrish; 
Palmerston, by Philip Guedalla; and Personae, by Ezra Pound. 

Most book readers, however, would bypass this advice, wait- 
ing to see what Billy Phelps recommended in Scribner's and 
his other outlets. Dr. William Lyon Phelps was considered by 

The Sash-Weight Murder 81 

many the soundest of critics, a no-literary-nonsense Yale pro- 
fessor who cheerfully liked cheerful books. He was the nation's 
number one literary guide, though such youngsters as Pulitzer 
Prize novelist Louis Bromfield (The Green Bay Tree 7 Posses- 
sion, Early Autumn) accused Dr. Phelps of being a Rotarian 
among the literati. A matter of speculation was how Dr. 
Phelps would greet Elmer Gantry, a novel teetering on the 
verge of publication. Sinclair Lewis, its author, was one of the 
few prominent Americans alive (another was H. L. Mencken) 
who didn't seem wholeheartedly satisfied with the country as it 

On Broadway Robert E. Sherwood's Road to Rome had just 
opened. This was one of the first plays in which historical 
characters in this case Hannibal talked in modern style. 
Wrote critic Larry Barretto: "The lines are sly, often risque, and 
amused a sophisticated audience/ 7 Equally ultra was Her Card- 
board Lover with Jeanne Eagels and Leslie Howard. A superior 
thriller was The Spider by Fulton Oursler and Lowell Brentano, 
which began stunningly with a murder in the midst of the audi- 
ence. On the verge of opening were the jazzy musicals Good 
News and Hit the Deck, the latter with the rousing "Halle- 
lujah" and the gay-tender "Sometimes I'm Happy." 

Out in Hollywood a perky blonde named Phyllis Haver was 
the toast of the film world. A luscious graduate of Mack 
Sennett bathing-beauty comedies, Miss Haver had climbed 
from a lively farce called The Perfect Flapper to The Way of 
All Flesh, with the great Emil Jannings. Such versatility caused 
one critic to say, "She will soon be counted among the most 
vigorous personalities of the screen." 

Also in Hollywood the Warner Brothers* cameras were set to 
grind on The Jazz Singer, film version of a Broadway play 
which had starred George Jessel. Broadway critics had not liked 
The Jazz Singer and in one of the monumental miscalculations 
of all time Jessel had decided not to appear in the film. His 

82 The Sash-Weight Murder 

role had been given to Al Jolson, the top singing star of the 
day, and it was reported that in this new film Jolson might sing 
and (was it possible?) talk. 

In such a world, laughter came easy. College boys in raccoon 
coats raced the roads in battered Model T flivvers, the sides of 
which were covered with such slogans as Rattle of the Century, 
Girls Wanted, Stop Me If You've Heard This One, Plus Four 
Brakes, and Handle With Hooks Use No Care. High school 
girls and boys wore bright yellow slickers on which were sten- 
ciled contemporary catchwords like "Cra2y Cat," "Black Bot- 
tom," "Ain't She Sweet?" "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby," "Cat's 
Whiskers," "So's Your Old Man." 

Everywhere, it seemed, the sheiks and shebas of Flaming 
Youth were petting in the rumble seats of cars or swigging 
giggle-water from hip flasks. One of the top vaudeville songs of 
the time pictured an angry Irish mother facing a flapper 
daughter as she reeled home with gin on her tonsils. "Oh, 
Bridget O'Flynn," the outraged mother demands, "where have 
you been? This is a fine time for you to get inYou went to 
see the Big Parade, the Big Parade, my eyeYou never saw any 
parade that took so long to go by!" On Broadway the hit song 
of a musical comedy was called "Was I drunk? Was he hand- 
some? Did my mother give me Hell?" All of which caused Dr. 
Clovis Chapel, a Southern revivalist, to inform a group of 
startled Betty Co-eds that "Flappers are Hell-cats with muddy 
minds. The average seventeen-year-old girl would not greatly 
object to appearing nude if she had any excuse to do so. 
Modesty ... is dead." 

From St. Louis came word of Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly, who 
was rapidly becoming a telling figure in the Era of Wonderful 
Nonsense. Shipwreck Kelly was a flagpole sitter, a dauntless 
fellow who at the drop of a check allowed himself to be hoisted 
to the top of a flagpole on a building. Usually the building was 
a hotel, which considered that Shipwreck Kelly's presence at its 

The Sash-Weight Murder 83 

apex brought favorable publicity. Kelly strapped a rubber- 
covered wooden seat., eight inches in diameter, atop the round 
flagpole ball and remained there "Etched in magnificent lone- 
liness/ 7 the New Yorker said as long as possible. If it rained or 
snowed he was in a most uncomfortable situation. Once, during 
a sleet storm, he had been forced to chop ice from his legs and 
body with a hatchet. 

Thirty-three-year-old Shipwreck Kelly billed himself as The 
Luckiest Fool Alive. He charged fifty cents to those who rose 
to the hotel roof to observe him at close quarters. "After forty- 
eight hours of this, you don't mind anything/' he would shout 
down to gawpers. He lived on fluids milk, coffee, broth- 
hoisted up to him in a bucket, and as for other matters a story 
of his life-on-a-pole states discreetly, "excess fluids are poured 
down a pipe running alongside the flagpole." A Hell's Kitchen 
boy whose stamina had been sharpened in the navy, Shipwreck 
often stood up straight on his dizzying perch. He slept from 
ten to twenty minutes every hour, anchoring himself by thrust- 
ing thumbs tightly into holes bored into the wooden seat. 

In 1927, Shipwreck Kelly was not only the best-known flag- 
pole sitter (his new St. Louis record was seven days, one hour), 
but by far the most fortunate. During the previous autumn he 
had passed several days atop the flagpole of a Dallas hotel. An 
elevator in the hotel was run by a cute-as-a-button redhead. 
One day a man stepped into the elevator and asked, "Is that 
damn fool on the pole still up there?" "He's not a damn fool," 
the redhead answered, and slapped his face. News of this epi- 
sode reached Shipwreck on his pole, and he expressed a natural 
desire to meet the young girl. She was hauled up to him by 
ropes strapped around her middle and the pair held hands and 
talked tenderly in mid-air. Shortly after descending, Shipwreck 
married this eighteen-year-old admirer. In St. Louis, she was in 
command of the flagpole base, supervising the bucket delivery 
of food and four packs of cigarettes daily to her spouse. Her 

84 The Sash-Weight Murder 

temper remained intact, for to those who asked if she was not 
upset by marriage to a husband who sat on a pole, she flared 
back, "He knows what he's doing, so shut up!" 

Around the country there were other evidences of madness. 
C. C. Pyle, a picturesque sports promoter who had made a 
mint from the professional appearances of football star Red 
Grange and tennis champion Suzanne Lenglen, announced a 
$25,000 prize for a forthcoming transcontinental walking 
marathon. This would materialize in time and irreverently be 
called a Bunion Derby. A lesser promoter named Milton Cran- 
dall leased the 71 st Regiment Armory in New York City for a 
talking marathon, which local papers dubbed a Noun and Verb 
Rodeo. In Seattle and Chicago dance marathons had begun to 
spring up, with dazed young girls passing out from exhaustion 
in the arms of partners, only to wake up screeching and claw- 
ing. "This," said one reporter, "is known as going squirrely, and 
gives everyone lots of laughs." 

Into this maddest of mad worlds, the Cadillac Motor Com- 
pany proudly launched the new La Salle. In Los Angeles, 
Winifred Westover divorced cowboy star William S. Hart; in 
Paris, Hadley Richardson Hemingway divorced Ernest Heming- 
way; and in New York Charlie Chaplin was in the throes of a 
nervous breakdown because Lita Grey Chaplin, his child bride 
of two years before, was also suing and claiming that in all 
Chaplin had earned sixteen million dollars. 

In Chicago, further nonsense was compounded when Wil- 
liam Hale "Big Bill" Thompson, running for re-election as 
Mayor, charged that King George V of England was making 
plans to annex the Windy City. Thompson, under whose 
stewardship gangland had flourished as never before, urged that 
all references to England and its rulers be sliced from Chicago 
school and library books. This was a vital political platform, 
refreshingly distant from such topics as graft, bootleg killings, 

The Sash-Weight Murder 85 

and the profits of Prohibition. Because of it, "Big Bill" Thomp- 
son was deemed a shoo-in on election day. 

So arrived the dawn of March 2ist, when Judge Seeger was 
to render a verdict in the matter of Daddy vs. Peaches and in 
many ways it was like a playback of the halcyon days of the 
trial. The familiar mob scene was enacted outside the White 
Plains courthouse. As before, Daddy arrived spruce and red- 
faced in his blue Rolls Royce. Peaches came by train and taxi, 
sporting a becoming Bermuda tan. It was noted, however, that 
she had lost no weight. 

Inside the court, there was a long delay before Justice Seeger, 
his black robes swirling, established himself behind the bench. 
After a sharp glance around the courtroom, he delivered his 
verdict. It was a straight triumph for Daddy: "The plaintiff 
may be a man of peculiar character, tastes and ideas, but the 
fact that he married the defendant, endowed her with his prop- 
erty, lifted her out of poverty, all tend to show his intentions 
toward her were good . . . The defendant and her mother 
have falsified, magnified, and exaggerated to such an extent as 
to render their testimony altogether unbelievable . . . Many 
of their charges of alleged cruelty are too trivial to warrant the 
belief that they could have affected the defendant's health or 
peace of mind." 

On the lawn the crowd began to clap as the verdict filtered 
out. Inside, Daddy's grin grew foolishly wider, while Peaches 
lowered her baby face into a handkerchief. Mrs. Heenan glared 
stonily ahead, for the judge's most cutting words were aimed 
at her. It was a particularly cruel moment for Peaches, since 
her weekly alimony was ordered ended. Still, her affairs were 
not hopeless. Returning from Bermuda, she had found several 
offers from vaudeville impresarios. One was from Milton 
Crandall, who wished her to appear as an extra-added attrac- 
tion at his Noun and Verb Rodeo. Crandall offered fifteen 
hundred dollars a week, so Peaches would not starve. There 

86 The Sash-Weight Murder 

was even a good chance that she would still be able to afford 
the operation on her hefty legs. 

After the blubbering girl and her mother had departed the 
White Plains court for the last time, the crowd of curious 
melted away with remarkable rapidity. There was a reason for 
this. Not only had the most nonsensical trial of the Nonsense 
Era ended, but already the Peaches-Daddy case was being sup- 
planted as public-sensation-number-one. March 2ist fell on 
Monday. On the morning before Sunday, March 20th news- 
papers had carried this headline: 




This was the year when one newspaper sensation followed 
another with bewildering rapidity. Using the sixth sense de- 
veloped by so much excitement, the 1927 public already 
seemed to know that the murder of Albert Snyder, art editor 
of the magazine Motor Boating, would be the next thrill of a 
thrill-packed year. True, in Sunday newspapers Snyder's attrac- 
tive wife, Ruth, declared that her husband had been killed by a 
heavily moustached stranger who had broken into their home 
in Queens Village, Long Island. This indicated only a routine, 
uninteresting crime. Yet early accounts of the discovery of the 
forty-five-year-old Snyder's body implied there was more to the 

Ruth Snyder was a striking thirty-two-year-old blonde whose 
personality held a glaze of Scandinavian iciness. She had 
greeted police with ropes dangling from her wrists, stating that 
the foreign-looking prowler had knocked her unconscious and 
trussed her up. While telling. this harrowing tale, she lessened 
its impact by indulging in histrionics reminiscent of Theda 
Bara, Nita Naldi and other silent-screen vamps of the day. 

The Sash-Weight Murder 87 

Further, there were no signs of forcible entry nor had anything 
been stolen from the premises. The jewels which Mrs. Snyder 
declared had been taken were found clumsily tucked under the 
mattress of her bed. In the cellar, police found a five-pound 
window sash weight flecked with red spots that could be blood. 
The police surgeon examining Mrs. Snyder found no signs of 
the brutal blow which had supposedly knocked her uncon- 

All in all, the case sounded so phoney, and so big, that 
Police Commissioner George V. McLaughlin himself hastened 
to Queens Village. He took charge, and through Sunday Mrs. 
Snyder told conflicting stories that sent police scurrying over 
Queens and New York City. Finally she wearied of games. "I'll 
tell you the truth," she informed McLaughlin. She then ac- 
cused her lover, a man named Henry Judd Gray, of killing her 
husband with blows of the sash weight. Mrs. Snyder's some- 
what matronly appearance had a granite look because of her 
formidable jaw. Now, as she displayed her only real emotion, 
even the resolute jaw seemed to soften. "Poor Judd/' she 
sighed. "I promised him not to tell." 

At the Onondaga Hotel in Syracuse, Judd Gray learned the 
news from Monday morning papers. RUTH BREAKS NAMES 
PARAMOUR, tabloids shouted. Yet he looked spruce and con- 
fident when detectives from Queens arrived. Gray was thirty- 
four, a small, kewpie-doll type with curly hair, horn-rimmed 
spectacles, a deep cleft in his chin, and the look of a surprised 
rabbit. He politely ordered ice water and drinks, then to the 
detectives said, "My word, gentlemen, when you know me 
better you'll see how utterly ridiculous it is for a man like me 
to be in the clutches of the law. Why, IVe never even been 
given a ticket for speeding." He then offered an elaborate alibi 
calculated to prove he had not left Syracuse during the week- 

But Gray's wastebasket had not yet been emptied and in it 

88 The Sash-Weight Murder 

the detectives found a railroad ticket stub which showed he had 
been to New York. Behind the heavy horn rims, Gray's eyes 
blinked owlishly. It was his turn to sigh. "Thank you, gentle- 
men/ 7 he said. "Yes, I was in Queens on Saturday. I was there, 
all right-" 

RUTH-JUDD BARE ALL, the next tabloid editions shrieked and 
across the country newspaper readers asked, Who are Ruth 
Snyder and Judd Gray? Who was Albert Snyder? How did the 
lives of the three become so entwined that the end result was 

The Albert Snyders of Queens Village had not been a hap- 
pily married pair. Ruth Brown Snyder had survived a sickly 
childhood to endure a lonesome adolescence. At twenty-two 
she went to work for a New York photographic agency and met 
Albert Snyder after being instructed to phone Motor Boating 
to ask a question of the art editor. Snyder (born Schneider) 
was so brusque and irritable over the phone that he later felt 
impelled to call back with an apology. This time he liked the 
soft voice of the girl on the other end of the wire. He told her 
there was a secretarial job open on Motor Boating and sug- 
gested she apply. 

Ruth Brown did, and shortly she and Snyder began dating. 
He took her to movies, theatres, and night clubs. She liked 
such luxury far more than she liked him, for Snyder (she always 
claimed) was an unbending Germanic type. In addition, there 
was a thirteen years age difference between the two. One night 
Snyder presented her with a box of chocolates. Inside she dis- 
covered a large diamond solitaire. She slipped it on. Snyder 
then proposed marriage, implying that if she did not accept, 
the ring must be returned. The girl regarded the ring: "It was 
the most beautiful thing I had ever seen I just couldn't give 
it up." She accepted, and four months after meeting, the two 
were man and wife, 
' It quickly turned into the emptiest of marriages. Snyder was 

Number One Movie Star 
of the era was Clara Bow. 
Born in extreme poverty, 
the jazz baby redhead was 
in 1927 making three 
thousand dollars a week 
as the hottest movie 
representative of Flaming 
Youth. (United Press Inter- 

At the other Hollywood extreme were Greta Garbo and John 
Gilbert, whose torrid love made the screen sizzle. They introduced 
the Soul Kiss to an entranced public. Some, not so entranced, 
called it Gilbo Garbage. (Culver Service) 

Peaches and Daddy Browning, buxom Cinderella Girl and daffy 
spouse, represented dreams-comc-truc to millions. The spicy White 
Plains trial of their case was the peak moment of the Era of 
Wonderful Nonsense. (United Press International) 

Mary Louise Cecelia 
Guinan Tex to you 
was the undisputed 
Queen of Prohibition 
Night Clubs. A raucous, 
uninhibited jane, she 
welcomed male patrons 
with the shout, "Hello, 
Sucker." (Underwood & 

Another immortal of the Year the World Went 
Mad was Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly. He sat 
atop flagpoles for days on end, assisted below 
by his flapper bride. In rain or snow, Shipwreck 
was in trouble. (Underwood & Underwood) 

Everything changed with 
the advent of Lindbergh, 
called by newspapers the 
Lone Eagle, Lucky Lindy, 
or the Flying Fool. He 
cleared the air, supposedly 
pointed the world toward 
finer things. (Underwood & 

Before his May take-off, 
Lindy studied weather 
maps with rival flier 
Clarence Chamberlin and 
Lieut. George Noville, 
representing the equally 
rival Byrd flight. (Under- 
wood & Underwood) 

If Paris went mad over Lucky 
Lindy, Chamberlin and 
Charles A. Levine received 
a Teutonic welcome from 
Germany. Here they pose 
with the Lord Mayor of 
Berlin. (Underwood & Under- 

The Lindbergh reception in 
New York City broke all 
records for wild excitement 
and falling ticker tape. A 
blizzard in June hailed Lindy 
as he rode up Broadway. It 
was the Day the City 
Went Mad. (Underwood & 
Underwood ) 

Commander Richard Evelyn 
Byrd (behind him, Clarence 
Chamberlin) made the third 
great trans-Atlantic flight of 
the summer of the Year the 
World Went Mad. (Under- 
wood & Underwood) 

The combined New 
York City welcome for 
the Byrd crew and 
Chamberlin cost one- 
third as much as the 
Lindy reception and 
generated that much less 
enthusiasm. (Under- 
wood & Underwood) 

Not the least remarkable 
figure of 1927 was Calvin 
Coolidge, President of 
the United States. With 
world heroes on all sides, 
he held his own by 
appearing in outlandish 
get-ups. (Underwood & 

Here the President, just after 
smoking a peace pipe with 
the Dakota Sioux, stands 
with Rosebud Robe, prettiest 
of Indian maidens. (Under- 
wood & Underwood) 

1927 was a titanic year in 
sport, with personalities 
like Babe Ruth, who 
crashed his sixtieth home 
run in the last game of the 
season. The record still 
stands supreme and so 
does the Babe. (Underwood 
& Underwood) 

Baseball and boxing slugged it out for the limelight and in 
mid-September boxing won. In Chicago, World's Champion Gene 
Tunney (left) met Jack Dempsey for the famed Long Count. 
Fans are still talking about it. (Underwood & Underwood) 

No one typified the Halcyon Twenties more than James J. Walker, 
the playboy Mayor of New York City. In 1927 7 Hizzoner took 
Mrs. Walker on the grandest of grand tours of Europe. Berliners 
greeted him as Jazz J. Walker, and everyone seemed to have a 
wonderful time. But back on Broadway the Mayor's friends knew 
his heart belonged to a cute little flapper-actress named Betty 
Compton. The Mayor's wife knew it too. (Underwood & Underwood) 

The Sash-Weight Murder 89 

still in love with a childhood sweetheart, now dead, whose pic- 
tures hung around the house. He liked outdoor life, Ruth liked 
indoor preferably the kind that required money. After the 
marriage, Snyder stopped taking her to movies and plays. She 
found him physically unpleasant, yet the couple had a child 
named Lorraine who was nine years old in 1927. Snyder had 
wanted a boy and blamed his wife for bearing a girl. In time, 
the couple moved to a $19,500 house in Queens Village. There 
Ruth Snyder noticeably failed to fit in with the neighbors, who 
mistook her general moroseness for illusions of superiority. 
Snyder was interested only in a few male friends in the neigh- 

In 1925 Mrs. Snyder, then nearing 30, began making fre- 
quent daytime trips to New York City. With various women 
friends she hung around restaurants in the garment district, 
allowing men to buy her lunch. Eventually she was introduced 
to an unprepossessing corset salesman named Henry Judd Gray. 
His marriage was not as actively distasteful as hers, but it had 
been arranged by his well-to-do family and altogether lacked 
spark. Gray, too, had a daughter, aged eleven. He was a travel- 
ing salesman for the Bien Jolie Corset Company. This kept 
him on the road nine-tenths of the year, but there is no record 
that he tasted the fleshly delights which the traveling sales- 
man's life supposedly provides. 

As a corset salesman Gray had an easy road to seduction, if 
he chose to use it. He could offer a free sample of his wares, 
telling a girl she must try the corset on for size. This required 
her to disrobe partially, the next step being to undress all the 
way. With Mrs. Snyder, he unhesitatingly used this stratagem. 
He took her to the empty Bien Jolie office where she obligingly 
tried on a corset. Shortly they were indulging in intimate rela- 
tions which were a revelation to both. At best these two were 
an unlikely pair of romantics a large woman with latent 
powers of domination, the timid soul who had always been a 

90 The Sash-Weight Murder 

mother's boy and a sissy. Yet they made wonderful music. 
From that moment, their one idea was to be together in bed, 
if possible. Mrs. Snyder increased the frequency of her trips to 
New York and the two spent illicit afternoons in rooms at the 
Waldorf Astoria and the Hotel Imperial. Sometimes she 
brought little Lorraine along and the child sat dangling legs 
from a lobby chair while her mother and Judd Gray dallied 
above. At other times Gray traveled to Queens Village. Then 
the two tumbled into bed in Lorraine's room. 

Mrs. Snyder and her lover were not intellectual giants. A 
reporter later investigating the Snyder home wrote: "The 
family library consists of about twenty volumes, stressing the 
masterpieces of James Oliver Curwood and Elinor Glyn." Gray 
may have been more sensitive, but no more cultured. The great 
romance was carried on in baby talk. To Ruth Snyder, Judd 
Gray was Lover Boy, or Bud. To him, she was Momsie or 
Momie. Letters to one another were on the same level: 

My own Lover Boy All I keep thinking of is you, you lovable 
little cuss. I could eat you all up, could I get lit up and put out 
this blaze that is so much bother to me. Ah, yes, hon, let us get 
good and plastered Ain't that a nice word? Beginning to think 
I'm that way on nothing. Hurry home, darling. I'll be waiting for 
you. All my love, 


Hello, Momie How the dickens are you this bright, beautiful 
day anyway? Gee, it makes you feel like living again after all that 
rain yesterday. If we only have a nice day tomorrow. Now we will 
be all set, as we have had so many miserable Sundays. They are 
lonesome enough without having rain. This warm weather does 
not give me a heap of pep, and feel tired when the day is done 
. . . Well, old dear, I haven't much news, so will get this off and 
go grab a bite. Take care of yourself. As ever, sincerely, 


Nearly a year elapsed before matters between these two 
happy lovers began taking a sinister turn. Then, slowly, Mrs. 

The Sash-Weight Murder 91 

Snyder became what the tabloids would call a Tiger Lady or 
Panther Woman. She signalized this change by repeatedly 
telling Judd Gray of her husband's indifference and cruelty. 
Often, she declared, he beat her. Gray's reaction to this was as 
expected. "I'd like to kill the beast/' he vowed melodramat- 
ically. When he said this Mrs. Snyder propped herself up on 
an elbow bed was the place she usually picked for her revela- 
tionsand in tones full of meaning asked, "Do you really mean 
that, Bud?" 

Gray immediately said he did not: "Do you realize what it 
would mean in the eyes of God?" Yet, as if her lover's words 
had first planted the idea in her mind, Mrs. Snyder began harp- 
ing on the murder of her husband. Gray was an agreeable 
moron, but the knowledge of what his Momsie had in mind 
became more than he could bear. He began to drink, and did 
so prodigiously. "I bought a pint" "I bought a fifth" "I had 
two or three drinks" "I had four or five drinks" "I finished 
the quart" became the sorry refrain of his eventual confession. 
While he guzzled Momsie begged, pleaded, argued. "You've 
got to do it," she insisted. 

Mrs. Snyder tricked her husband into taking out an insurance 
policy which, with double indemnity, amounted to almost one 
hundred thousand dollars. Despairing of Judd Gray, she began 
giving her husband poison (in his prune whip), then tried to 
do away with him by gas and overdoses of sleeping pills. 
Snyder grew irritated and demanded to know why she had be- 
come so damn clumsy around the house. She persuaded Judd 
Gray to swallow test doses of arsenic in an effort to discover a 
lethal amount. Gray felt deathly sick after this. Albert Snyder 
a tribute to love of the outdoor life stayed healthy. 

Again Mrs. Snyder turned to her paramour: "She asked me 
if I knew of any other plan and I said absolutely no, I could 
not help her out and she must see the thing through alone." 
Mrs. Snyder got her husband's permission to visit friends in 

92 The Sash-Weight Murder 

Canada, and for ten days traveled with Gray over his upstate 
sales territory. Togetherness only increased the pair's desire to 
be with each other at all times, and Mrs. Snyder stepped up 
the tempo of her urging. Finally, in mid-February, 1927, a 
drink-sodden Gray fell in with her plans. On a selling trip he 
bought a heavy iron sash weight, a bottle of chloroform, a pair 
of rubber gloves. These he gave to Mrs. Snyder over a lunch 
table on his return, but because little Lorraine was present 
nothing could be said about them. "Did you bring the things?" 
she merely asked. He nodded and handed her the heavy 
package. She carried it home to Queens. 

Across another lunch table on March 7, 1927 Mrs. Snyder 
informed Gray that the time had come to kill her husband. 
The unhappy man protested, "I can't I've never killed anyone 
in my life, and I'm not going to start now." Judd Gray was at 
the peak of his drinking power. He repaired to the restaurant 
men's room and in a few swallows killed an entire pint of 
bootleg hooch. Back at the table, he was more malleable. He 
agreed to go to Queens Village that night. 

In the course of the afternoon and evening, the corset sales- 
man drank two more fifths of booze. Late in the evening he 
stumbled aboard a bus for Queens Village. It was dark when he 
arrived: "I was quite intoxicated. I walked and I walked and I 
walked fully two hours or two hours and a half. There was no 
light in the cellar, no light upstairs then I heard a knock on 
the kitchen window and I saw Mrs. Snyder motioning me to 
come in. I went up the back stairs. She was in her nightgown. 
She kissed me and had a bottle of whiskey in her hand with 
about half a pint in it." 

Mrs. Snyder whispered that she was glad he had finally come 
'They could do the job tonight." Gray wasn't up to it. "I 
can't go through with it, Momsie," he pleaded. "I can't." In a 
panic he kissed her, then bolted for the Long Island Rail Road 
station where he caught the train for New York. 

The Sash-Weight Murder 93 

Less than two weeks later, on the night of March igth, Gray 
was again in Queens Village. This time he had traveled from 
the Onondaga Hotel in Syracuse. There he had persuaded a 
Syracuse friend to go to his hotel room the next morning, 
rumple the bed, make a few identifying phone calls, and hang 
a Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob. "I'm playing a joke 
on someone/ 7 Gray had told this credulous pal. 

As usual, the little man with the horn rims and cleft chin 
was drunk. He staggered getting off the bus at Queen Village. 
Nonetheless, he took a deep swig from a pocket flask before 
heading toward Momsie's house on 222nd Street. With him he 
carried a small black sample case, slightly larger than a doctor's 
bag. With this in hand, he walked up and down before the 
house. The Snyder home was dark, as Momsie had promised, 
for the family was making a rare visit to a Saturday night 

Gray did not enter the house at this point. Instead he re- 
turned to the main street of Queens Village, to wander up and 
down for an hour, pausing from time to time for a conspicuous 
slug from the flask. It was as if his subconscious forced him to 
behave in a suspicious manner, in the hope that he might be 
arrested and prevented from committing a crime. But his un- 
usual actions went unnoticed and at midnight Judd Gray re- 
turned to the Snyder home, going to the side door. It was 
unlocked, as Momsie had said. In the living room he found an 
unopened pack of cigarettes on a table the signal he and 
Momsie had agreed upon. Tonight was the night. 

Gray stumbled around the dark house, making his way up- 
stairs to a room next to the Snyder bedroom. Under a pillow 
his searching hands found the five-pound sash weight he had 
given Mrs. Snyder in New York. Also a pair of pliers and a 
four-ounce bottle of whiskey. He drained the hooch at a gulp, 
then slid to the floor where he sat lifelessly, head in hands. 

Fifteen minutes later the corset salesman was ransacking the 

94 The Sash-Weight Murder 

house for more booze. Finding a fifth in a bureau drawer, he 
drank most of it. Then he went back to his sales kit and re- 
moved the contents, "laying them out like a valet preparing his 
master's evening clothes/' says the writer Wenzell Brown. 
Finished, he had two strands of wire, several strips of cotton 
cloth, a bottle of chloroform, rubber gloves, two colored 
handkerchiefs, and an Italian-language newspaper. He then 
picked up the sash weight and hefted it. The weight of it 
made him topple off balance and he sprawled incongruously 
to the floor. 

At two in the morning he felt the need of another drink. He 
had started downstairs when the headlights of a car swept 
across the front windows of the house. The Snyders were back 
from the party. Gray rushed frantically back upstairs, tripping 
and sprawling. In the room containing the sash weight he fell 
into a chair, trying to hold his breath. 

First Lorraine Snyder ran into the house and went to her 
room. Next Momsie came to the door and opened it a crack. 
"Are you there, Bud, dear?" she asked softly. 

"Yes, Momsie." 

"You just wait quietly. I'll be back as soon as I can." 

Through the walls he heard the heavy footsteps of Albert 
Snyder mounting the stairs. Snyder went straight to the bath- 
room, where he showered noisily. There were sounds of Lor- 
raine being put to bed, and of Albert Snyder settling himself in 
a twin bed in the bedroom. Shortly, loud snores told that he 
had fallen asleep. 

Wearing a slip, Mrs. Snyder crept back to the dark room. 
"Did you find the sash weight?" she asked. "Yes," Gray 
whispered back. The two kissed and clung to one another for 
nearly an hour. At approximately three o'clock, Mrs. Snyder 
said, "Now." She took Gray by the hand and led him to the 
bedroom, where a light still burned. This was the first time 
Gray had seen Albert Snyder, and even now he could not see 

The Sash-Weight Murder 95 

him well for the recumbent man had yanked the bedclothes 
over his head. Gray took the sash weight in both hands. Ap- 
proaching the bed he lifted it high. Perhaps because the out- 
lines of Snyder's body were blurred., his first crashing blow was 
a glancing one, bouncing off the sleeping man's shoulder. 
Snyder emitted a roar of pain and started to rise in the bed. 
Gray raised the sash weight again, but this time Snyder's hands 
deflected the force of the blow. Snyder got a hand on Gray's 
necktie and started to pull. Gray dropped the sash weight and 
shouted, "Momsie, Momsie, for God's sake, help!" 

Mrs. Snyder materialized on the other side of the bed. 
Grabbing the sash weight, she brought it down full on her 
husband's skull. It was the blow that kills, and Snyder col- 
lapsed. Gray leaped astride him, hands at the dying man's 
throat. "Where's the wire?" he demanded. Mrs. Snyder gave 
it to him and he coiled it around Snyder's neck like a noose, 
tightening it into the flesh with a silver pencil. "Give me a 
necktie for his feet," he said. He tied the feet together. By that 
time Gray was himself again. "I need a drink," he muttered. 

Downstairs the two calmly sat drinking and conversing. 
"We've got to make it seem like a robbery," Mrs, Snyder 
finally remembered, and they began to ransack the house. Mrs. 
Snyder's jewelry was clumsily stuffed under the mattress of her 
bed. She gave Gray the seventy dollars that was in Snyder's 
wallet. Gray changed his bloody shirt for one of Albert 
Snyder's, and Momsie took off her bloody slip. Shirt and slip 
were burned in the furnace, while the sash weight was put into 
a nearby toolbox. Before the box was shut, Gray scattered 
ashes over the sash weight. 

"Why did you do that?" Mrs. Snyder inquired. 

"To make it look as if it's been there a long time," Gray 

It was now close to six o'clock. Gray had to catch a train for 
Syracuse at a quarter to nine and was anxious to leave. "You've 

96 The Sash-Weight Murder 

got to tie me up, knock me unconscious/' Mrs. Snyder re- 
minded him. Judd Gray, who had just leaped astride a dying 
man to throttle him to death, was aghast at this suggestion. 
"Oh, I couldn't strike you, Momsie," he protested. 

In the end he bound her wrists and ankles and put a loose 
cheesecloth gag in her mouth. Then he took the Italian news- 
paper and placed it prominently a sign of intruders of foreign 
tinge. Bidding farewell to Momsie, he appeared suddenly to be 
sickened by all that had happened. "It may be two months, it 
may be a year, it may be never before I see you again/ 7 he said 
hastily. Then he went. Mrs. Snyder gave him half an hour, 
then edged herself to Lorraine's door and thumped on it. "Call 
the neighbors/' she cried, when the child woke. 

The outside air had seemed to revive Judd Gray. He walked 
briskly to the nearest bus stop, where he made himself con- 
spicuous by chatting with another man waiting for the bus. 
Nearby a policeman strolling his beat set up a row of bottles 
on a fence and proceeded to shoot them down. Gray walked 
over to congratulate him on his marksmanship. 

At Jamaica he decided to ride to Grand Central Station by 
taxi. He was garrulous in the cab, but when the $3.50 trip 
ended he bestowed a five-cent tip. The driver glared at him in 
outrage; never would he forget the guileless countenance of 
Henry Judd Gray. On the Syracuse train Gray killed a pint 
that Momsie had given him and chatted animatedly with con- 
ductors. At the Onondaga Hotel he entered the door marked 
Do Not Disturb and noted with satisfaction that his friend had 
done a convincing job of rumpling the bed. Removing the 
ticket stub which told that he had been to New York, he 
carelessly tossed it in the wastebasket. 

Why bother to be careful? Hadn't he and Momsie just com- 
mitted the perfect crime? 

By the time the Syracuse train arrived in New York City, 

The Sash-Weight Murder 97 

Judd Gray had given a full confession to the Queens County 
detectives. He pictured Mrs. Snyder lifting the sash weight to 
crash it down on her husband's skull. In turn, Mrs. Snyder's 
confession branded Snyder a monster. She swore that Albert 
Snyder had threatened to kill her, and that over her frantic 
objections Gray had murdered the husband to save her life. 
Despite variations, the two confessions gave a fearful, graphic 
description of the night of crime. Justice moved swiftly. The 
murderers were indicted a short three days after the crime had 
been committed. The trial date was set for April i8th, only a 
month after the murder night. 

In that month the Mississippi River overflowed its banks, 
creating an area of grim national disaster ... In the air Bert 
Acosta and Clarence Chamberlin took off in a Wright Bellanca 
plane and 7 with the aid of refueling from other planes, re- 
mained aloft fifty-one hours, eleven minutes, and twenty-five 
seconds, to break the worlds flying endurance record. This did 
not mean that planes could be refueled in mid-air on the 
projected flights to Paris. But it did prove aside from stunt 
aspects that airplanes manufactured in 1927 were capable of 
long flights, provided the weather remained good and enough 
fuel could be carried ... In Boston two Italian-born men, 
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, stood before Judge 
Webster Thayer and heard themselves sentenced to die in the 
electric chair during the week of July loth . . . 

Such events, however, did little to distract attention from 
Long Island City. The Snyder-Gray murder was a clumsy one, 
brutally perpetrated. Damon Runyon called it the "Dumbbell 
Murder" "because it was so dumb/ 7 Yet as trials of the century 
went, the case had It. More inches of newspaper space would 
be devoted to it than to any other trial before or since in 
America not excluding the Hauptmann trial in 1935. "The 
Snyder-Gray case was a pallid one compared to the lurid 
Browning case, or the Hall-Mills case of the previous year," 

98 The Sash-Weight Murder 

one expert has written. "It was a cheap crime in which cheap 
people were concerned, and there never was any doubt about 
their guilt. But there was an abundance of blood and sex, both 
delightfully revolting/ 7 

Or perhaps other emotions were involved. The Queens 
Village murder was widely hailed as one which could happen 
anywhere. Alexander Woollcott believed: "Ruth Snyder was so 
like the woman across the street that many an American hus- 
band was haunted by the realization that she also bore an 
embarrassing resemblance to the woman across the breakfast 
table. 77 Others saw Mrs. Snyder differently. They cited the fact 
that on every street in the land there is a woman the other 
women disapprove of. On her block in Queens Village Mrs. 
Snyder had played this unenviable role. Now housewives the 
country over were delighted by the fact that she was getting 
her comeuppance. 

With both partners to the crime on record with long con- 
fessions, the chief matter to decide was whether they should be 
tried together. This was of particular concern to Judd Gray's 
lawyers, since the meek little man appeared to be the public 
favorite. A world that wrote twenty thousand letters a week 
to Clara Bow could not resist writing to Judd Gray who, 
though he had just committed a dumbbell crime, seemed a 
pathetic Casper Milquetoast who had operated under the un- 
holy spell of the Tiger Woman. 

In Queens County jail Judd Gray received so much mail that 
two additional cells were needed to hold it. Mrs. Snyder re- 
ceived no letters. Nor did Gray read his, for the timid little 
murderer seemed to have gone into a cataleptic trance. All day 
he sat studying the hands folded quietly on his lap. His 
lawyers tried to get him to make decisions. Never had a woman 
been sent to the electric chair in Queens County, they told 
him. Further, while he now seemed to be the public favorite, 
Mrs. Snyder might snatch this public sympathy were she tried 

The Sash-Weight Murder 99 

first. It was best for the two to be tried together, lawyers urged. 
Gray unblinkingly studied his hands. His lawyers took this as 
acquiescence and went ahead. 

As such problems engrossed the defense, the physical prop- 
erties of the court were readied for the trial-of-the-century. The 
courtroom of the Queens County Courthouse in Long Island 
City was one of the most imposing (though not the most 
beautiful) in the country. In 1922 Cecil B. De Mille had 
chosen it as the background for scenes in his epic film Man- 
slaughter, starring Leatrice Joy and Thomas Meighan. Even so, 
the facilities of this courtroom would be strained beyond 
capacity by the upcoming trial. Over 130 newspaper reporters 
and special feature writers had already been assigned seats, 
which left a scant hundred for the crowds clamoring to get in. 
So an interesting innovation in American trials was conceived. 
Amplifiers were strung through the courthouse corridors. Wit- 
ness and lawyers would speak into microphones and their words 
would blare forth in the corridors outside. 

Next a huge Western Union switchboard, built especially for 
the Hall-Mills trial, was reassembled in a special room. 
Western Union was proud of its telegraph switchboard and 
prepared a special brochure on it: "This switchboard is a 
famous institution. It is ... the only portable electric switch- 
board in existence which is capable of handling 20,000 words an 
hour. It is a gigantic metal box into which 108 wires can be 
jacked at once, opening direct and instantaneous communica- 
tion with newspaper offices in every section of the country." 

Meanwhile, newspapers themselves beat drums over plans to 
give the trial saturation coverage. Here, pious superiority would 
be the theme. Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray were admittedly 
guilty, and newspapers planned only to illuminate the depth of 
their guilt. An indication of this came when the Daily Mirror 
printed what has often been cited as a low point in journalism. 
It was a picture of nine-year-old Lorraine Snyder leaving her 

100 The Sash-Weight Murder 

father's funeral, trying to hide her startled face from a photog- 
rapher's flash. Stated the caption: 'The Daily Mirror will not 
print a photograph showing the face of an innocent child, but 
reproduces this picture as a great moral lesson. Do you think 
Mrs. Snyder would have loosed her passions if she could have 
seen this picture before she committed the crime? 7 ' 

As the trial date approached, newspapers announced that 
testimony would be covered by such master reporters as Damon 
Runyon, Edwin C. Hill, and Courtenay Terrett. Also present 
would be feature writers in quantity never before known. To 
readers of the twenty-five newspapers of the Scripps-Howard 
chain, Dr. Will Durant would offer his special philosophic 
comments on the trial. Other special writers included theatrical 
producer David Belasco; the film director David Wark Griffith 
(assisting him, Maureen Watkins, author of the play Chicago); 
the mystery novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart; the celebrated 
revivalist Aimee Semple McPherson (for the Graphic); the 
Fundamentalist preacher Dr. John Roach Straton; and the play- 
wright Willard Mack, author of The Noose. For the New York 
Post, W. E. Woodward, debunker and author of the novel 
Bunk, set the tenor of the occasion by declaring before the trial 
that testimony in the courtroom would show "Hot love, the 
throbbing tom-toms of jazz and the tawdry splendor of night 
clubs the rhythmic beat of the heart's desire." 

By far the most remarkable special writer appointed to cover 
the event was Peggy Hopkins Joyce, the much-married glamour 
girl of the Twenties. In all, Miss Joyce married some five or six 
times, a record surpassed by numerous other members of her 
sex. Yet she squeezed so much publicity from each that she 
became a living symbol of the rising divorce rate currently 
agitating right-thinking people. The much-married Peggy was 
a perennial news source, though reporters had trouble deciding 
whether she was an intelligent girl or a Lorelei Lee straight 
out of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. There was evidence on both 

The Sash-Weight Murder 101 

sides. At a dinner party Miss Joyce had been surveyed through 
a lorgnette by a haughty dowager who inquired, "Young lady, 
why do you get married so much?" To this Peggy answered 
brightly, "I owe it to my pubic/' 

But on another occasion Miss Joyce was told that many fine 
people lived on the West Side of Manhattan. Now she turned 
haughty. "Whom, for n'instance?" she inquired. At the Snyder- 
Gray trial Miss Joyce did little to clear up the bewilderment 
about her mental stature. She arrived in an ermine coat and 
told everyone she was too thrilled for words at being a reporter. 
Then at the end of the first day she buttonholed a fellow scribe 
and asked, "Say, what's going on here, anyway?" 

Long Island City was a short five-cent subway ride from 
New York City. It also lay in one of New York's most populous 
boroughs, with a mammoth housewife population. Where 
White Plains had been an hour's ride by train, Long Island 
City was easily accessible and the crowds turning out on the 
morning of April 2$th (the jury had been selected the week 
before) were correspondingly large. In his book on the case 
Fred J. Cook writes: 

No first night of a Eugene O'Neill play ever drew a fuller house, 
a more distinguished audience . . . Fashionable society women, 
one titled English couple [the Marquis of Queensberry and his 
wife], millionaires, writers, playwrights, physicians and just plain 
housewives vied for seats on the hard, high-backed benches. Out- 
side, in the corridors, avid hundreds milled. These would not be 
able to see, but they could hear. Microphones had been set up 
before the witness stand and bench, and every word of the life- 
and-death drama, grotesquely magnified, would boom out into the 
courtroom and into the corridors beyond through two large, horn- 
shaped amplifiers. 

The Snyder-Gray murder is often dismissed as a clumsy 
crime, with a trial to match. This is not fair. Though details 
of the case were well known beforehand, the trial was packed 

102 The Sash-Weight Murder 

with moments of drama. One of its sessions stands as perhaps 
the most thrill-charged in American trial history. One reason 
for tense courtroom drama was the supporting cast. Indeed, if 
Cecil De Mille himself had appeared to redirect Manslaughter 
he could not have evoked more picturesque acting. 

Judge Townsend Scudder, massive and dignified, might have 
been type-cast "by Hollywood. District Attorney Richard S. 
Newcombe was tall, grayish, balding, and dignified, with a rasp- 
ing voice that could drip acid. His assistant was Charles W. 
Froessel, a huge, dynamic man with a booming vocal equip- 
ment that thundered contempt at witnesses. Mrs. Snyder re- 
tained Edgar F. Hazelton and Dana Wallace, both lights of 
the Queens County bar and prominent men in the community. 
Hazelton was a natty dresser who affected a pince-nez on a 
black cord and white piping on his vest. Wallace, a terrier-like 
fellow, favored expensive tweeds and astounded reporters by 
his out-of -court consumption of Bromo-Seltzer. 

As if to point up differences from Mrs. Snyder, Judd Gray 
(or those acting for him) had retained two "average" lawyers. 
They were Samuel L. Miller and William J. Millard, both 
skilled at underplaying when the opposition overplayed. 

Of this galaxy Hazelton possessed the most striking his- 
trionic gifts. Picturing Judd Gray on the murder night, "He 
distorted his face, bent over like a hunchback, thrust forth his 
chin, and stretched his arms out with clawlike fingers extended 
in a strangled grip." 

As court convened on the first day, Mrs. Snyder and Judd 
Gray were led in and seated at the defense table, a scant fifteen 
feet apart. Neither glanced at the other. Mrs. Snyder was 
dressed entirely in widow's weeds, with a strand of imitation 
pearls around her neck. In moments of tension her fingers 
wound this strand tight, and at least once the tightened pearls 
pinched her skin hard enough to draw a drop of blood. Gray 
wore a blue double-breasted suit with a white handkerchief 

The Sash-Weight Murder 103 

peeking gallantly from the breast pocket. He still seemed in a 
stupor of hopelessness, capable only of studying the hands 
folded neatly on his lap. 

Some of those who had squeezed into the courtroom had 
brought opera glasses the better to scrutinize the defendants. 
They saw that, despite an overstrong chin, the Tiger Woman 
was an attractive female, much more so than expected. "Put 
Peggy Joyce's clothes on her and she might be better looking 
than Peggy," a sob sister wrote realistically. Mrs. Snyder's 
naturally blond hair was marcelled to perfection. For the most 
part she sat without a flicker of emotion, causing reporters to 
marvel at her marble calm. Her skin was clear, eyes a dazzling 
ice blue. Her childhood had been sickly and unhappy, and no 
romance entered her life until she encountered Albert Snyder. 
Despite this, the tabloids had labeled her a jazz baby, a party 
girl, an unregenerate flapper. Her good looks in the courtroom 
made all this seem quite possible. 

With an all-male jury seated in the box, it became ap- 
parent that each defendant planned to blame the other. Mrs. 
Snyder's lawyer called Judd Gray "a gay deceiver' 7 (this seemed 
so farfetched that titters ran through the courtroom). "We 
will prove to you," Hazelton continued undeterred, "that Ruth 
Snyder is not the demimondaine that Gray would like to paint 
her, but that she is a real loving wife, a good wife; that it was 
not her fault that brought about the condition that existed in 
that home" 

Judd Gray's lawyer addressed the jurors with quiet con- 
fidence: "He was dominated by a cold, heartless, calculating 
master mind and master will. He was a helpless mendicant of 
a designing, deadly, conscienceless, abnormal woman, a human 
serpent, a human fiend in the guise of a woman. He became 
inveigled and drawn into this hopeless chasm, where reason 
was gone, where mind was gone, where manhood was gone, 
and where his mind was weakened by lust and passion." 

104 The Sash-Weight Murder 

According to Mrs. Snyder's defense, Judd Gray had struck 
the death blow and compounded his guilt by strangling the 
dying (or dead) Snyder. Gray in the story that came to be 
accepted as the true one accused her of grabbing up the sash 
weight as he dropped it, then dealing the death blow. Thus the 
defense was a house sharply divided, and instead of one trial 
in the Queens County Courthouse there seemed to be two, 
with no less than three sets of furiously battling attorneys. 

High moments of the trial began immediately, with the ap- 
pearance in the witness stand of Police Commissioner George 
V, McLaughlin. New York's top cops in those days usually 
came from the ranks of business McLaughlin's successor 
would be Grover Whalen, the superlatively dressed carnation- 
wearer who was the city's official greeter as well as the President 
of Wanamaker's. McLaughlin had been an executive of the 
Brooklyn Trust Company. A giant of a man, he spoke with the 
commanding authority of one who expects to be obeyed and 
believed. In calm, unhurried tones he described the Sunday 
during which Ruth Snyder had given so many rambling stories 
before naming Judd Gray. Then he told of interviewing Gray 
on his return from Syracuse. The Commissioner was not one to 
omit pungent details. Speaking of Mrs. Snyder, he recalled how 
she had objected to the fact that her confession said she killed 
her husband. "That word kill sounds so cruel that I don't like 
to use it," she complained. "But didn't you kill him?" she was 
asked. "Yes," she said, "but I don't like to use that term I'd 
rather have it say got rid of him" Re-creating Gray's confession, 
the Commissioner testified that Gray had said Mrs. Snyder 
picked up the sash weight and belabored her husband. "Those 
were Gray's words," the Commissioner repeated portentously. 
"He said, belabored him! 1 Silence in the courtroom was utter 
and absolute. 

As witnesses continued, preacher-turned-reporter John Roach 
Straton wrote: "Literally every one of the Ten Commandments 

The Sash-Weight Murder 105 

has been trampled on during this time." His colleague Aimee 
Semple McPherson called upon God to teach young men to 
say: "I want a wife like mother not a Red Hot Cutie." Judd 
Gray's mother and sister (but never his wife) were in the court- 
room, as was Mrs. Snyder's elderly mother. Also present were 
such stage celebrities as Nora Bayes, Leon Errol, Francine 
Larrimore, and One-Eyed Connolly, the gate-crashing champion 
of the era. In the halls outside the courtroom "frustration and 
excitement built up ... Crowds shoved and struggled and 
milled for positions of vantage near the closed and guarded 
doors. The sound of their contention, a noisy, ominous racket, 
penetrated even into the taut and expectant sanctum of 

Mrs. Snyder and Judd Gray seldom looked at each other. 
Love had turned to hate after the confessions, and events in 
the courtroom only deepened it. Few in the spectator seats 
bothered to notice Gray, still sunk in an empty trance. Mrs. 
Snyder was far more rewarding, for at intervals she engaged in 
the vamplike theatrics of the murder morning. When she dis- 
agreed with testimony, the glacial woman swung her head like 
a metronome forming the words No-No-No silently with her 
mouth. At one point Judd Gray's confession was read in court. 
She reacted violently to his statement that he looked back on 
her as no more than "A good pal to spend an evening with I 
will say, to use the slang, that she played me pretty hard for a 

At these words Mrs. Snyder turned like a desperate animal 
to glare at the back of Gray's head: "Her eyelids drew down 
until only the blue, hard glint of her eyes showed behind them, 
and her face was contorted into an expression of rage and dis- 
gust." For several seconds, she glowered balefully at the un- 
knowing Gray. Then with a vigorous, positive, and loud "No," 
she swung back to further histrionics while the confession was 

106 The Sash-Weight Murder 

read. Several times after this she commented so loudly that her 
attorneys had to shush her. 

Mrs. Snyder's courtroom emoting won few friends. When 
she mounted the witness stand late in the afternoon of May 
2nd, the courtroom was definitely against her. In an effort to 
present his client as a wronged woman, Hazelton led her 
through the story of a barren childhood. When Mrs. Snyder 
stated that as a teenager she had taught a Sunday School class, 
the crowd laughed. There were giggles when she told what a 
good mother she had "been to Lorraine. "Your Honor, I must 
object to this twittering behind me," said Hazelton, after Mrs. 
Snyder had virtuously declared that she neither smoked nor 
drank. The twittering turned to incredulous gasps when the 
Panther Woman pictured Judd Gray as a fiend and swore that 
she lived in terror of him. After she told of tearfully begging 
Gray not to murder her husband, there was such an outburst 
that Judge Scudder spoke sternly from the bench: "There must 
be no moving about, no bobbing up in seats, no comments, no 
giving way to expressions of sentiment or feeling, and above all 
no levity/' 

At the afternoon session of May 3rd, the fashion plate Hazel- 
ton nodded to the prosecution table and said, "Your witness/' 
Assistant District Attorney Froessel, he of the large frame and 
booming voice, approached the black-clad witness like an 
animal stalking its prey. Up to now Mrs. Snyder had been a 
composed witness, not visibly affected by the hostile atmos- 
phere of the courtroom. She had painted a portrait of virtue: 
a blameless childhood, martyrdom as an unloved wife, mo- 
ments of horror under the influence of the archfiend, Judd 
Gray. Froessel tore at this. He began by proving her a liar on 
numerous occasions: "You lied to the neighbors?" "Yes/' "You 
lied to the policemen?" "Yes." "You lied to the detectives?" 
"Yes."-"You lied to Commissioner McLaughlin?" "Yes."- 
"You lied to the Assistant District Attorney?" "Yes." "You 

The Sash-Weight Murder 107 

lied to your mother?" "Yes ""You lied to your daughter?" 
"Yes." "You lied to everybody that spoke to you or with you?" 
"Yes." By the end of the afternoon session, Mrs. Snyder had 
turned into a hedging, faltering, driven witness, giving answers 
so illogical that she was forced to amend them an instant after 
they left her mouth. 

On Wednesday morning, May 4th, Mrs. Snyder mounted 
the witness stand to face a Froessel who quickly trapped her in 
further inconsistencies. Her cheekbones seemed to jut sharply 
from under her pale skin as she fell back on the time-honored 
answers of the trapped witness: "I don't know," "I don't re- 
call," "I don't remember." Now Froessel pulled a master stroke. 
Taking her original, fifty-three-page confession he read it aloud 
sentence by sentence. At the end of each, he paused to de- 
mand, "Is this the truth?" At first Mrs. Snyders replies were 
all Yes. But with the description of the murder, her answers be- 
came a damning series of No's. During this, one reporter wrote: 
"She bore no resemblance to the calm and resolute witness who 
had taken the stand to tell her story under the guidance of 
Hazelton. Her resistance sapped by the progressive involvement 
in contradictions for which she had no logical explanation, she 
answered questions almost listlessly. At moments she appeared 
to say almost anything Froessel wanted her to say. At others 
she rallied belligerently to deny the truth of statements she had 
just made." 

The haggard Ruth Snyder who stepped down from the wit- 
ness stand at five minutes after two barely had strength to 
reach the defense table. There she slumped in the chair and 
buried her face in a handkerchief. It was an emotion-drenched 
moment, with more to come. "Lorraine Snyder," the bailiff 
shouted and the nine-year-old child tripped demurely down the 
aisle. It was such intense drama that even the judge lost his 
monumental gravity. He bent down from the bench and spoke 
to Lorraine in fatherly tones, urging her not to be frightened. 

108 The Sash-Weight Murder 

Then the child was led through five minutes of questioning 
about the night of the crime. 

First the excitement of the Tiger Woman cracking on the 
stand, then the shattering pathos of the -woman's daughter in 
court! Those present felt they could stand no more. When the 
name "Henry Judd Gray" rang out, a deep sigh seemed to pass 
over the courtroom. It was a sigh of neither pleasure nor 
anticipation, but rather an oh-no from people whose taut 
nerves were stretching unbearably. 

As Judd Gray rose to his feet those in the courtroom noted 
something overlooked during the concentration on Ruth 
Snyder's testimony. For days Gray had sat dejectedly, a broken 
man. Now the energy that drained from Mrs. Snyder seemed 
to have reached him. He stood with an almost soldierly erect- 
ness "as if someone had pumped air into him/ 7 Damon 
Runyon wrote. On the witness stand he was alert and con- 
fident, his manner that of a man determined to save himself, 
in the eyes of his Maker at least, by telling the absolute truth. 
Slowly, methodically, he began. At one point the majestic 
Judge Scudder tried to prod him along by saying, "You told us 
that a moment ago." Gray would not be hurried. "Let me tell 
it my way," he answered primly. 

The witness spoke impersonally, as if everything had hap- 
pened to another man. "It was the autobiography of a mur- 
derer who apparently forgot nothing and desired to tell all," 
the New York Times stated. As Gray testified, Mrs. Snyder 
turned ashen. She sat like stone as he came to the night of the 
murder: "I put on rubber gloves. I took the sash weight and 
gave her the chloroform. I gave her a piece of wire. She carried 
the handkerchief with the cotton waste. The bottle of chloro- 
form was wrapped in the Italian newspaper I had my glasses 
off. She took me by the hand. We went out into the hall. The 
door of her husband's room was practically closed except for a 
crack. She entered the room and I followed her. I don't know 

The Sash-Weight Murder 109 

how many seconds I stood there trying to get rny bearings. I 
struck him on the head, as nearly as I could, one blow. I think 
I hit him another blow, because with the first blow he raised 
up in bed and started to holler. I went over on the bed on top 
of him, and tried to get the bedclothes over his mouth, so as to 
suppress his cries *" 

At this point, an agonized cry tore through the rapt silence 
of the court. It was Warren Schneider, the murdered man's 
brother, who began shouting, "Albert! Albert! Make him stop! 
For God's sake, make him stop!" Bailiffs leaped on Schneider 
and pulled him from the room. 

During this, Judd Gray sat with eyes closed. With quiet 
restored he continued matter-of-factly: "He was apparently full 
of fight. He got me by the necktie. I was getting the worst of 
it because I was being choked. I hollered, Momsze, Momsie, for 
God's sake help me! I had dropped the sash weight. She came 
over and took the weight and hit him on the head . . /' 

Here another scream rent the air. It came from Mrs. Snyder 
who, with face contorted, leaped forward as if to reach the 
witness and tear the tongue from his throat. Matrons hauled 
her back and she threw herself over the defense table sob- 
bing. From the corridor outside came further cries. Warren 
Schneider had collapsed and his wife was hysterically scream- 
ing for help. In the midst of this bedlam Judd Gray slumped 
forward in the witness chair, his arms dangling lifelessly. He 
had fainted. 

On this note of courtroom chaos, Judge Scudder adjourned 
court for the day. 

Judd Gray's testimony had carried enormous impact. Out- 
side on the courthouse steps playwright William Mack struck 
a stance and pontificated: "I say to you that if ever human lips 
uttered the truth, this was the time!" Behind him David 
Belasco nodded sage agreement. Next morning Gray was again 

110 The Sash-Weight Murder 

on the stand, continuing his passionless recital. On cross- 
examination, the terrier-like Dana Wallace tried desperately to 
shake him, but it could not be done. Wallace tried to make 
much of the fact that one of Mrs. Snyder's medical experts 
contradicted Gray on details of the crime. "I was there, Mr. 
Wallace, and the doctor was not," Gray replied quietly that 
was the end of that. When Gray stepped down, he said aloud, 
"I have told the truth/ 7 

Summations were long and replete with purple passages. A 
weekend intervened, so that it was not until the late afternoon 
of May 9 that Judge Scudder completed his charge to the 
jury. It had been a two-week trial, but the twelve good men 
deliberated for only one hour and thirty-seven minutes. Ruth 
Snyder and Judd Gray were led back into court, looking in- 
credibly confident. The foreman of the jury read the verdict 
everyone else expected: "We find the defendants guilty of 
murder in the first degree." This meant the electric chair. Mrs. 
Snyder gasped and dropped into a chair. Gray turned white 
and also sat. Seemingly both had expected, deep-down, to get 
away with the Dumbbell Murder. 

N THE afternoon of the verdict in the 
Snyder-Gray trial, the city room of the 
Evening Qraphvz was in the grip of peculiar tensions. The 
Porno-Graphic had stopped at nothing in its low-down treat- 
ment of the case and its readers were waiting breathlessly 
for the news that crime did not pay. On page one of its 
first edition of the day the Graphic headlined expectantly 
SNYDER VERDICT NEAR. Then astounding instructions had come 
from publisher Bernarr Macfadden himself. Mr. Macfad- 
den ordered that another story be combined with the Snyder 
case in later editions. This provoked much city room mutter- 
ing about front office interference, not to mention amateurs in 
the newspaper business. For every professional newspaperman 
knew that a banner headline should stress only a single story. 
Nevertheless, the Graphic editors bent collective backs and 
prepared the kind of headline Mr. Macfadden wanted: 





112 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

This was an odd headline in more ways than one and it 
signalized a transition in the world every bit as abrupt as that 
on the Graphic's front page. The United States had been look- 
ing downward, wallowing in the mud of the Snyder-Gray trial. 
Yet even as the couple were sentenced to die in the Sing Sing 
electric chair the country was suddenly forced to turn eyes up- 
ward. Never again would the world look down so low again, 
and during the rest of the summer of 1927 it would look very 
high indeed. 

In the early dawn of May 8th, the French fliers Nungesser 
and Coli had taken off from Paris in an attempt to win the 
$25,000 Orteig Prize for a non-stop New York-Paris (or Paris- 
New York) flight. Like true Frenchmen, the aces had taken off 
in bravura style. Captain Charles Nungesser had shot down 
forty-seven German planes in World War I, sustaining so 
many wounds himself that many parts of his chunky body were 
patched together with platinum. Frangois Coli, his navigator 
and copilot, had only one eye as a result of war service. Their 
plane was a single-engine biplane christened the White Bird, 
and a large crowd watched as, at five in the morning, it 
lumbered into the air carrying a heavy load of gasoline. For 
a time the White Bird had been accompanied by an escort of 
six other planes, but soon it outdistanced these planes and 
headed alone toward New York. 

As it flew, elation swept Paris. France had been one of the 
great nations in the world until the end of World War I. It 
was still great, with Americans feeling a special pull to it be- 
cause so many doughboys had fought on French soil in 
1917-18. But already France could feel itself slipping and with 
this came a sense of inferiority. If only French aviators could 
be the first to span the Atlantic! As the White Bird flew on, 
Paris gave over to a carnival mood. Not since the Armistice in 
1918 had there been such celebration. Business and govern- 
ment offices began to close, leaving the populace free to fill the 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 113 

streets hugging, kissing, and congratulating one another. Ten- 
sion rose through the day and at night fireworks over the 
Tuileries kept up the fever pitch. 

Next morning the frenzy was far greater, for this was the day 
on which the fliers could be expected to land. ALL NEW YORK TO 
GREET FLIERS AT THE BATTERY, read the headline in the Paris 
Herald, while stories in French papers were so optimistic that 
already the flight seemed to have succeeded. It was anticipated 
that Nungesser and Coli would take some thirty-six hours to 
reach New York, but even before thisat five that night 
Ulntransigeant brought out an Extra saying that the French- 
men had landed at four-thirty-five Paris time. The details of 
this story were highly picturesque. They said that, after circling 
the Statue of Liberty three times, the White Bird had landed 
in the flower-strewn waters of New York harbor. 

France went wild. Crowds around newspaper offices were 
further inflamed by the posting of a purported interview with 
a triumphant Nungesser. Paris abandoned itself to a delirium 
of hero worship. That night the luminous signboard over the 
Place de TOpera added confirmation to the story of the land- 
ing, and the joyous frenzy of the crowds rose to new heights. 

In New York, the story was far different. Through the after- 
noon a crowd gathered at the Battery, for the White Bird was 
equipped to land on water and Nungesser had announced his 
intention of landing as near the Statue of Liberty as possible. 
Rumors swept the waiting groups, but these lacked the sublime 
conviction of those bringing hope to Paris. There was ab- 
solutely no activity in the air around the Battery and nothing 
to watch. An electric feeling of success seemed to be totally 
absent and most of those who had gathered in the afternoon 
departed with the coming of night as the contemporary 
troubadour Vernon Dalhart would sing in a Tin Pan Alley 
lament called "Two French Fliers": 

114 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

A great crowd was waiting to greet them 
In old New York town far away . . . 

The eyes of the world were upon them 
As they sailed proudly on through the night 
And the thought never came for a moment 
That this was to be their last flight. 

But if nothing else, the attempt of Nungesser and Coli for 
the first time focused attention on the lanky airmail pilot 
whose plans to fly the Atlantic nonstop had been announced 
early in March. 

On the day Nungesser and Coli took off, the Associated 
Press assigned reporters to obtain statements from other aspir- 
ants in the Orteig race. At Roosevelt and Curtiss Fields on 
Long Island, Commander Byrd, Clarence Chamberlin, and 
Bert Acosta dutifully wished the Frenchmen well. In San 
Diego, California, a reporter found Captain Charles A. Lind- 
bergh completing tests on his sleek monoplane, the Spirit of 
St. Louis, so named because financial backing for his flight had 
come from St. Louis businessmen anxious to make their city 
world famous. Lindbergh and his single-engine monoplane 
were particularly close; indeed it almost seemed that pilot and 
plane were one. Where other Orteig entrants would fly planes 
conceived by designers like Anthony Fokker and Guiseppe 
Bellanca, Lindbergh had after attempting to buy a Bellanca-- 
gone ahead and designed his own. The Spirit of St. Louis was 
his brain child. In many ways it was an individual craft, so 
compact that space permitted no radio or safety equipment. In 
the Spirit of St. Louis the gas tank was right before the pilot's 
eyes, so that he had to use periscopes sliding to right and left 
to see straight ahead. At San Diego, Lindbergh had been per- 
fecting himself in the art of flying blindthat is, by instru- 
ment only. 

The Associated Press reporter found Lindbergh just as the 
twenty-five-year-old pilot was about to leave for St. Louis, on 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 115 

the first leg of his flight to Curtiss Field. Lindbergh, too, 
wished the French fliers well, then squeezed his tall body into 
the wicker seat of his plane. With a quiet efficiency soon to be 
famous the world over, he flew by compass straight to St. 
Louis, setting a new record of fourteen hours and five minutes. 
After pausing for a day, he went on to New York, establishing 
another record. Altogether, the flight from San Diego took 
twenty-one hours and forty-five minutes, a third record. 

His plane, glinting gold in the afternoon sun, passed over 
New York in midafternoon and landed at Curtiss Field shortly 
after. The Lindbergh Legend, which had begun to build with 
the record solo flight from San Diego to St. Louis, now received 
enormous momentum from the reporters who greeted the 
youthful flier. The New York Times rapturously described him 
as a daring young man who looked more like a boy, and went 
on to enthuse: "His pink cheeks, dancing eyes, and merry grin 
seemed to say, Hello, folks, here I am all ready to go." 

"Slim" Lindbergh, as he was generally known at this point, 
did indeed appear the image of the All-Ainerican boy, the 
Eagle Scout grown up. His fresh, young face radiated modesty 
and boyish confidence, and the general look of cleancut youth- 
fulness was increased by his semi-military outfit of khakis, 
leather flying jacket, and leather puttees or high woolen socks. 
In person, he was quiet and spoke only when spoken to, but 
there was nothing boorish in his silence. He was merely a young 
man who preferred his own thoughts. 

A whiff of such fresh American manhood was much needed 
at Curtiss Field and nearby Roosevelt Field, for the Orteig 
sweepstakes had been undergoing a period of unpleasant stress. 
The careful, science-only preparations of Commander Byrd 
had been somewhat marred late in April when his tri-motor 
America made a test flight with designer Anthony Fokker at 
the controls. On landing, the plane turned turtle and landed 
ignominiously on its back. Floyd Bennett, the regular pilot, 

116 "Plucky Lindys Lucky Day 7 ' 

was seriously injured, and Byrd's wrist was broken. Reporters 
rushing to the scene found Fokker and the high-strung Byrd 
engaged in an angry shouting match. Byrd's hand dangled 
grotesquely as he gestured. He was so infuriated that he had 
not noticed his broken wrist. 

When Lindbergh landed at Curtiss Field, Floyd Bennett 
was still in the hospital, and had pulled out of the trans- 
atlantic flight. Byrd, wrist in splints, barely spoke to Fokker, 
and the America was undergoing delicate repairs. Still more 
emotion had been generated by Byrd's rival in the transatlantic 
race which, with Lindbergh's arrival, became three-cornered. 
This stemmed from the Columbia, a yellow single-engine plane 
designed by Guiseppe Bellanca the plane Lindbergh had tried 
to purchase for his own flight. The Columbia's pilot was thirty- 
three-year-old Clarence Chamberlin, who as far back as 1902 
had displayed a mechanical bent by tinkering the family car 
in his home town of Denison, Iowa. "We used to fix the car 
all week, so we could drive it on Sunday/' he was fond of re- 
calling. Chamberlin had studied electrical engineering at Iowa 
State College. In World War I, he had been a flying instructor. 
He then turned flying barnstormer, acquiring so much skill 
that fellow pilots stated respectfully, "Clarence could fly a 
sewing machine if he felt like it." 

At all times friendly, easygoing and relaxed, Chamberlin 
seemed to be the only person able to get along with Charles 
A. Levine, the financial backer of the Columbia flight. The 
squat, bald Levine was only thirty, but already he was a self- 
made millionaire several times over. He was informally known 
as the Millionaire Junkman, and aviators complained that he 
managed the Columbia flight as if buying more junk. Yet 
Levine had left his junk days far behind. A native of North 
Adams, Massachusetts, he had graduated to canny purchases of 
war surplus and later to high-echelon deals in such commodities 
as steel. In his home borough of Brooklyn, Levine had another 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 117 

distinction. He was known as the lucky man who married 
Grace S. Nova, called the Belle of Williarnsburg because of 
the monotonous regularity with which she won local beauty 

Wherever Levine went, swirling controversy followed. In 
April, Chamberlin and Bert Acosta had set a new world's 
endurance record in the Columbia. Since these two men were 
pilots it was decided that both could not go on a transatlantic 
flight; a navigator was necessary. Financial-backer Levine re- 
fused to pick the man who would fly the Columbia on its great 
trip. "I'm letting the boys guess," he told reporters. "Keeps 
them up on their toes." The proud Acosta was so infuriated by 
this that he resigned on the spot, offering his services to Com- 
mander Byrd in place of the injured Bennett. Officially, Acosta 
gave overweight as the reason for his resignation. This excuse 
was rendered ludicrous when Levine hired Lloyd Bertaud as 
his navigator. Bertaud Weighed 190 pounds. 

Next Levine and the Columbia's designer, Guiseppe Bel- 
lanca, began to express disapproval of each other. Then Lloyd 
Bertaud joined anti-Levine forces. Bertaud was an impatient 
type, eager for an early take off. Bellanca, Levine, and Cham- 
berlin were in favor of awaiting fine summer weather. Feelings 
rose so high that Bertaud accused Levine of acting in bad faith. 
The bulky navigator angrily charged that the Millionaire Junk- 
man had no intention of permitting the Columbia flight; he 
would wait until someone else succeeded, then call it off. Thus 
he would gain all the publicity with none of the risk. 

An infuriated Levine fired Bertaud, then reluctantly rehired 
him. Urged on by Bertaud, the Columbia group announced a 
take off on May loth, and in France a series of beacon flares 
were put up between Cherbourg and Le Bourget Field in Paris. 
On the morning of the Nungesser-Coli take off the weather 
report was bad. Yet one reason the French fliers decided to fly 

118 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

that day was that the departure of the Columbia on the 
loth appeared so definite. 

Instead, on the morning of the loth the controversy between 
Levine and Bertaud had reached the courts, where Bertaud was 
suing to buy the plane. Only Chamberlin seemed undisturbed 
by all this. On the afternoon Lindbergh landed, the older, ever- 
relaxed pilot ambled over and greeted him in friendly fashion. 
The two compared planes and prospects. Soon Commander 
Byrd appeared and in an historic moment the three shook 
hands and said to one another, May the best man win. The 
thirty-seven-year-old Byrd, ever the Virginia gentleman, offered 
his rivals the use of his superior runway on Roosevelt Field 
an offer both eventually accepted. Then the three went their 
varying ways: Byrd back to his shipshape headquarters at 
Roosevelt Field, Chamberlin and Lindbergh to their messy, 
workman-like hangars at Curtiss. 

The shy, boyish Lindbergh instantly became the public 
favorite among the three contenders. For him the press coined 
such affectionate names as Slim, Lindy, Lucky Lindy, Plucky 
Lindy, and the Flying Kid. The tabloids dubbed him the Flyin ? 
Fool, a name Lindbergh resented since there was absolutely 
nothing foolish about his preparations for this or any flight. On 
the other hand, he seemed rather to like the more dignified 
appellation Lone Eagle. All Lindbergh's thoughts were single- 
mindedly beamed on the coming flight and he did not relish 
the constant interest of the press. In his book The Spirit of St. 
Louis , published in 1953, he acidly pictures male and female 
reporters putting such questions as: "Do you carry a rabbits 
foot?" "What's your favorite pie?" "Have you got a sweet- 
heart?" "How do you feel about girls?" 

The three planes poised for the transatlantic race of 1927 
were equipped with Wright Whirlwind motors. This placed a 
burden on the public-relations firm run by Harry Bruno and 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day 71 119 

Richard Blythe, which represented Wright in New York City. 
On learning that the unsophisticated Lindbergh was winging 
his way east, Bruno had phoned the Wright company. "What 
do you want us to do?" he asked. "Protect him from the ex- 
ploiters and the mob," he was told. 

Richard Blythe elected to do this personally, and so became 
an early discoverer of certain peculiarities in the Lindbergh 
temperament. Because it was Blythe's job to arrange press 
interviews, Lindbergh was intensely suspicious of him. Yet 
Blythe decided it was necessary to remain with the Lone Eagle 
at all times, even to the exttot of bunking with him. On Lucky 
Lindy's first night on Long Island the two repaired to a double 
room at the Garden City Hotel "There," Blythe has said, "we 
bedded down like two strange wildcats, each in his own hole/' 

Next day Blythe heard Lindbergh ask a Wright executive, 
"Who is this fellow Blythe, and who is Bruno?" "They're your 
buffers/' he was told. "You need them/' Lindbergh still seemed 
doubtful, but he permitted Blythe to remain by his side. 

From this point of vantage, Blythe found that despite a slim 
and boyish appearance Lindbergh was a prodigious devourer of 
food. For breakfast he put away six eggs, plus a steak or chops. 
At Curtiss Field, he unobtrusively hung up a never-to-be- 
beaten record for solo consumption of hot dogs. 

Lindbergh, Blythe discovered, was a loner and always had 
been. Once he had written to a friend that his chances of meet- 
ing a girl whom he might marry were: "no prospects, past, 
present, or future/' His human contacts had been largely with 
men in such masculine surroundings as the University of Wis- 
coriisin dormitories and air corps barracks. His humor was on a 
robust, man-to-man level. Blythe discovered this the third 
morning in the Garden City Hotel. He was sleeping blissfully 
when at five*o'clock he was doused awake by a pitcher of ice- 
cold water. Above him stood Lindbergh, grinning his celebrated 
grin. Such a rude awakening meant that Blythe had finally 

120 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

been accepted as a friend. It did not, however, mean the end of 
practical jokes. A few mornings later Blythe awoke to find 
Lindbergh straddling him. He was trying to shave off half 
Blythe's moustache. 

These moments were rare, however; Lindbergh was obsessed 
by his flight. At Curtiss Field, he revealed an enormous capacity 
for detail. Also, other pilots were forced to admit, he was a past 
master at flying, despite his youth. As an airmail pilot, Lind- 
bergh had never hesitated to fly in bad weather that made 
other fliers remain aground. But though he did not fear the 
weather, he had great respect for it. He spent much time at the 
Weather Bureau, familiarizing himself further with charts of 
the so-called Great Circle Route which led across the Atlantic 
in an arc from Newfoundland to Ireland. He made blind flying 
test flights over New York and New Jersey and after one he 
damaged the Spirit of St. Louis slightly in a swerve to avoid a 
group of photographers and reportersan incident which 
seemed to increase his dislike of the working press. He had 
other uneasy moments, for he too thought the Columbia ready 
to take off, though Bertaud and Levine were still at odds. Then 
suddenly Commander Byrd seemed to forge ahead. Repairs on 
the big tri-motor Fokker were completed and the America 
again nosed up to the starting line. 

Even so, Lindbergh found time to relax in a way that showed 
his boyish side. With Blythe he visited Coney Island, where he 
delightedly rode the shoot-the-shoots and fired at clay pigeons. 
With Bruno and Blythe he went to the New 'York Times office 
to sign a contract for ten thousand dollars giving exclusive 
rights to the story of his flight. The dashing Blythe had a lunch 
date with a showgirl from Earl Carroll's Vanities who was to 
meet him at the Times. As a lark, he suggested that the girl 
and Lindbergh pose for a picture in the Times studio. Bruno 
hastily extracted a promise from the girl that she would never 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day 77 121 

publicize her copy of the photo, and to his eternal amazement 
she never did. 

One day Mrs. Evangeline Lindbergh, a Detroit schoolteacher, 
arrived on Long Island for what might well be a last visit with 
her flying son. Those who saw Lindbergh in the company of 
his widowed mother noted the rather matter-of-fact relation- 
ship between them. There were no kisses, hugs, or tears. When 
Mrs. Lindbergh left the Garden City railroad station, she 
merely patted the tall young man's back. "Good luck, Charles/' 
she said. "And goodbye." 

One factor which restrained the three planes was the un- 
happy fate of Nungesser and Coli. While the nation's eyes 
focused on Long Island, a great sea and (as far as possible) air 
search for the two Frenchmen was under way. Occasionally 
there were rumors that the two had been found in Iceland 
wastes or were proceeding to the mainland aboard a radio-less 
vessel. All these stories proved unfounded and in Paris the 
populace turned ugly after the riotous optimism. American 
Ambassador Myron C. Herrick told correspondents that any 
American flier landing in Paris might expect unpleasant in- 
cidents. He advised against New York-Paris flight now, direct- 
ing his words mainly to Clarence Chamberlin who still seemed 
the outstanding contender. 

But Chamberlin and the Columbia were still wrapped in 
controversy. Bertaud had finally been fired. It was now revealed 
that the Millionaire Junkman had offered Lindbergh an addi- 
tional $25,000 if he, Levine, could go along in the Spirit of St. 
Louis. "I said it as a joke/' Levine told newsmen, when pressed 
on this, "but if Lindbergh accepts the offer, Fll go." Lindbergh 
said nothing. 

All the principals in the three flights frequently met in 
neighborly confabulation, and one afternoon Commander 
Byrd suggested to Levine that he secure the services of Bernt 
Balchen, a husky, young Norwegian with a notable flying- 

122 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

navigating record. Balchen refused Levine's offer and shortly 
thereafter joined Bert Acosta in the Byrd camp. 

Every day thousands of curiosity seekers thronged the Long 
Island flying fields to stare at the planes and fliers. Mainly the 
crowds were interested in Lindbergh, but there were enough 
left over so that the stormy petrel Levine had a good-sized 
audience for any statements he might issue. "We will make 
this flight," he assured one group around the Columbia. "It 
has cost me over $75,000 already, but I am going through with 

May 12-13-14-15-16-17-18 and still the three planes waited 
poised and ready. On Thursday, May iQth, weather reports 
again indicated storms over the Atlantic and the fliers in each 
camp resigned themselves to wait until the week following. 
That night Lindbergh and Blythe were to attend the musical 
comedy Rio Rita. If Lindbergh did not enjoy being the object 
of newspaper attention, he did relish a few of the privileges 
accompanying fame. After the show he and Blythe planned to 
visit backstage, where they would be made welcome by the 
cast. Lindbergh thought it ought to be fun. 

Before the show, he and Blythe made plans to join Harry 
Bruno at the Newspaper Club on West Forty-second Street for 
dinner. As they drove there it began to rain so hard that the 
city streets turned dangerously slippery. It seemed to be a bad 
night everywhere, yet the conscientious Lindbergh suggested 
that it might be a good idea to phone the Weather Bureau 
for a routine report on the weekend. Blythe hopped out of the 
car and called the Weather Bureau from a pay station in an 
ofEce building. He returned to the car with a face serious. "No 
dinner and no show tonight, Slim," he said. "You've got your 

"Right," Lindbergh laconically replied. "We'll go back to 
the field and get the ship ready." 

"Plucky Lindfs Lucky Day" 123 

Weather over the ocean clearing, a sudden change, the 
Bureau had told Blythe. Conditions were far from perfect, for 
a low-pressure area over Newfoundland was receding, while a 
high pushed in behind. This might lead to a sleet storm, but as 
an airmail pilot Lindbergh had often flown the mail through 
sleet and snow. . . . Isn't this the opportunity I've been wait- 
ing for? he now asked himself. Isn't it a chance to prove my 
philosophy of flying the mail? Often a pilot can get through 
when weather reports are bad ... If I -wait for confirmation 
of good weather all the way to Europe I may be the last rather 
than the first to leave. 

Then the thought hit him that on Long Island Chamberlin 
and Byrd must be readying their planes to take advantage of 
the breaking weather. Why was he dawdling in Manhattan, his 
mind on musical comedies, when his rivals were rolling their 
planes toward the rumvays? I've let myself be caught off-guard 
at a critical moment, he lashed himself. But at Curtiss Field, 
Guiseppe Bellanca was emotionally persuading Chamberlin 
that a take off at dawn was impossible because of the uncertain 
weather. At Roosevelt Field, Commander Byrd, determined to 
wait for the best weather possible, apparently never even con- 
sidered a take off. At this moment Byrd was, in fact, guest of 
honor at a dinner given at the Garden City Hotel by Grover 

On the far side of Queensboro Bridge, Lindbergh and Blythe 
stopped for a quick dinner perhaps the last public meal Lind- 
bergh would take in his lifetime without attracting attention. 
Then Blythe dashed around the comer to a drug store to buy 
five ham and chicken sandwiches, only one of which would be 
eaten on the flight. Blythe also telephoned Bruno at the News- 
paper Club to say that a take off in the morning was a prob- 
ability. Bruno immediately passed the news along in several 
discreet telephone calls. They were not discreet enough. A re- 

124 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day 77 

porter from the Daily Mirror overheard one and alerted editor 
Philip Payne. By nine o'clock the Mirror was out with an 
edition which proclaimed FLYING FOOL HOPS AT DAWN. 

As a result a line of cars started snaking out of Manhattan, 
carrying the first spectators of a crowd that grew eventually to 
several thousand and kept an all-night vigil in the rain. Lind- 
bergh was too preoccupied to notice. Low overcast would pre- 
vent him from flying the Spirit of St. Louis to Commander 
Byrd's superior runway at Roosevelt Field, where most of the 
load of fuel could be added. Some way must be found to haul 
the trim plane over the rise from one field to the other. 

At midnightit was now Friday, May 2Oth Lindbergh went 
to the Garden City Hotel for what he hoped would be three 
hours of deep sleep. After posting a friend outside the door as 
a safeguard against interruption, he dozed off. Suddenly there 
came a pounding on the door. It was the man he had stationed 
outside. In a state of near-hysteria, he rushed into the room, sat 
on the side of the bed. "Slim, what am I going to do when 
you're gone?" he demanded senselessly. 

Lindbergh got rid of him, but there was no further sleep. He 
lay awake wondering why Chamberlin and Byrd were not 
preparing to take off. He worried about the weather, about the 
amount of fuel he needed to carry, about the condition of the 
runway. Wind, weather, power, load-- mentally he tried to bal- 
ance these vital factors in his mind, as he would all through the 
hours of actual flight. At one-forty he realized sleep was im- 
possible and got up. Before three o'clock he had returned to 
rainy Curtiss Field. There he was told the weather might be 
improving, or it might not. No one knew, but the general 
tenor of reports was Weather Clearing. Lindbergh issued the 
order for the plane to be hauled to Roosevelt Field. The rain 
continued as, with a crowd plodding behind, the Spirit of St. 
Louis was ingloriously truck-towed by its tail to Roosevelt 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 125 

Field. It's more like a funeral procession than the beginning of 
a flight to Paris, Lucky Lindy thought. 

At the top of the Roosevelt runway, the plane was roped off 
and the laborious business of filling it with a large part of its 
total load of 451 gallons of gasoline began. Spectators scrambled 
to the tops of cars to watch. It took time 4 A.M. 5; A.M. 6 
A.M. 7 A.M. At seven-forty, Lindbergh donned a bulky one- 
piece flying suit and eased himself into the cockpit, fitting 
snugly into the wicker chair. He buckled his safety belt, pulled 
the goggles over his eyes, and nodded to the men to remove 
wheel blocks. Easing the throttle, he let the cold engine pound 
into action. The ground was soft and muddy and Lindbergh 
no less than everyone else feared an accident with the heavy 
load of gasoline aboard. At seven-fifty-two the plane began to 
move forward. "Good luck, kid," someone shouted. 

To Lindbergh at the controls his beloved plane felt more 
like an overloaded track than an airplane as it started down 
the runway. Spectators stopped breathing while the Spirit of 
St. Louis careened along. It was going slowly, too slowly. An 
automobile racing beside it hit sixty miles per hour before the 
Spirit of St. Louis left the ground. The crowd yelled, but too 
soon. The Spirit of St. Louis flopped back to the runway. To 
those watching it seemed that the undercarriage must collapse, 
but the plane continued its lumbering progress. Twice it 
jumped kangaroo-like off the ground, only to wallow back. At 
the end of the runway ahead, a steamroller loomed danger- 
ously. Above it stretched a line of high-tension wires. Balanced 
on a pin point, Lindbergh thought, as the plane lifted itself a 
third time. 5000 pounds suspended from those little wings, 
5000 pounds balanced on a blast of air! This time the sleek 
little monoplane stayed up, clearing the steamroller and the 
tension wires by twenty feet 

It was seven-fifty-four when the Spirit of St. Louis pointed 
its propeller northeast. There was no escort of planes, as there 

126 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day' 7 

had been with Nungesser and Coli. The Flying Fool was start- 
ing his flight aloneas he planned it. 

In his mind's eye, Lindbergh visualized himself landing at 
Le Bourget airfield in Paris and with difficulty identifying him- 
self as an American flier, just in from New York. Or perhaps no 
one at the airport would believe him, making it necessary to 
prowl the streets of a strange city looking for someone who 
spoke English. 

In a pocket of his suit, he carried several letters of introduc- 
tion, including one to Ambassador Myron Herrick. According 
to news stories at the time, he also took along a letter of credit 
for a single return passage on the Cunard Line. But Lucky 
Lindy never used the letters, or even remotely needed them. 
The world he left and the brave new world created by his flight 
were for him and everyone else two different places. 

As Lindbergh flew, the entire world seemed to change. He 
himself later said it was like leaving one planet and arriving on 
another. Eyes that had lifted high for Nungesser and Coli rose 
to the heavens for him. "Something like a miracle took place," 
Frederick Lewis Allen writes in Only Yesterday. "Romance, 
chivalry, and self-dedication had been debunked. A disillusioned 
nation, fed on cheap heroics and scandal and crime, was re- 
volting against the low estimate of human nature it had 
allowed itself to entertain/' Elmer Davis put it more suc- 
cinctly: "A public which had seemed to find its highest ideal 
in Babe Ruth, Valentino, and Gertrude Ederle (or, perhaps, 
in Peaches Browning and Ruth Snyder) suddenly went wild 
beyond all precedent over this unknown young man." 

In news rooms across the country, editorial writers pulled out 
adjectives that had not been used since the boys came march- 
ing home after World War I. "He has exalted the race of 
men," declared the Baltimore Sun. Said the New York Times: 
"The suspense of it, the daring of it, the triumph and glory of 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day' 7 127 

it, these are the stuff that makes immortal news." The New 
York Sun, in a classic editorial called "Lindbergh Flies Alone/' 


Is he alone at whose right side rides Courage, with Skill within 
the cockpit and Faith upon the left? Does solitude surround the 
brave when Adventure leads the way and Ambition reads the 
dials? Is there no company with him for whom the air is cleft by 
Daring and the darkness is made light by Enterprise . . . 

Alone? With what other companions would that man fly to 
whom the choice were given? 

While Lindbergh flew, crowds gathered before newspaper 
offices in even 7 population center in the country, to wait 
silently and prayerfully for bulletins which could not come for 
at least twenty-four hours, since the Spirit of St. Louis carried 
no radio. Families hung pictures of Lindy's countenance, 
serious or smiling, in front windows of homes. Merchants did 
the same in stores. A crowd collected before the residence of 
Mrs. Evangeline Lindbergh in Detroit. Movies interrupted 
shows to report that no word had come from the Spirit of St. 
Louis. Feature stories speculated about the Lone Eagle's per- 
sonality and listed the roster of his nicknames. Much was made 
of Lindbergh's Scandinavian ancestry, with the New York 
Times shattering its accustomed dignity by offering on page 
two a dialect poem by James W. Foley which ended: 

Ay lak dis man Lindbergh 

A dandy fine kid, 
Ay lak him, by yingo, 

Ay lak vat he did. 
Vile dem fellers talkin' 

Yust vated and vated, 
Dis Lindbergh, he yumps up, 

By yingo, and do it. 

On this fine May night seventy thousand fight fans had 
gathered at Yankee Stadium to witness the heavyweight title 

128 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

elimination bout between Jack Sharkey and Jim Maloney. Be- 
fore the main event, the iron-lunged announcer Joe Humphreys 
called for a moment of prayer for the lone flier. The great 
throng rose to stand bareheaded in hushed, prayerful silence. 
In a less publicized gesture, a convention of schoolteachers at 
the Biltmore Hotel did the same thing. 

Next morning the suspense was infinitely greater, for today- 
Saturday, May zist, Lindy would land, if land he did. All day 
keyed-up, expectant crowds waited before newspaper offices in 
small towns and newsstands in large ones. School was out on 
a Saturday and small boys reaped fortunes selling newspapers 
to shouts of "Latest on Lucky Lindy." 

Edition after edition poured from newspaper presses with 
such deceptive headlines as HE'LL DO IT! based on the expert 
opinion of the paper's aviation writer. If radio rose notably to 
the challenge of Lindbergh's flight, no record of the fact has 
come down to us: this was the last split-second of newspaper- 
news eminence, for with Lindbergh's return to America radio 
would for the first time blanket a news event. In New York 
City, the Roxy Theatre showed enterprise by cleverly syn- 
chronizing silent newsreel shots of Lindbergh's departure with 
a sound track of the actual noise. At each performance, the six 
thousand packing the Roxy roared to their feet as the plane 
lifted from the ground with the sound of the take off roaring 
from loudspeakers at the side of the theatre. 

The world was going mad, in Paris as everywhere else. 
Resentments over the Nungesser-Coli tragedy were forgotten 
as in late afternoon a crowd began assembling at the east end 
of Le Bourget. By six o'clock nearly 25,000 people had arrived, 
necessitating a call for special police and two corps of soldiers 
with bayonets fixed. Shortly afterwards the crowd was swept by 
a rumor that Lindbergh had been seen over Cork, in Ireland. 
The French fervently wanted to believe this, but, after the 
Nungesser-Coli disappointment, could not. At eight came a 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 129 

further rumor that the Lone Eagle had been spotted over Plym- 
outh, England. The still-growing crowd became more excited. 
Between eight and nine, the sun sank and the night turned 
chilly. Now it was rumored that Lindbergh had reached Cher- 
bourg. The moments ticked off. At ten o'clock disillusion began 
to set in, aided by a cutting wind. Le Bourget was equipped 
with beacon and revolving searchlights which were kept off un- 
til planes were set to land. At six minutes after ten there came 
a roar of motor in the sky and the beacons snapped on, making 
the field and everything on it resemble objects on a silver movie 
screen. The crowd shouted, but suddenly the lights snapped ofL 
It had been a false alarm the plane overhead had identified 
itself and gone on. 

Disillusion returned, but not for long. At ten-twenty came 
the sound of another motor, together with what seemed an- 
other false alarm. Field lights snapped brightly on again, off 
again. Then sacre Dfeu/ -they flashed back on and with 
movie-like sharpness a silver plane could be seen settling gently 
down on the far side of the field, half a mile from the waiting 
throng. It took a moment for the significance of this to pene- 
trate, then with cries of "Vive I'americain" and "Cette fois, 
ga va" (This time, it's really happened) the crowd surged for- 
ward, brushing aside the sharp bayonets of the soldiery like 
toothpicks. In the cockpit of the slowing plane, a weary Lind- 
bergh saw a mob of humanity rolling across the field toward 
him he could not comprehend why. Altogether, it was a 
supreme moment, the drama of which was captured in the 
on-the-spot dispatch filed by correspondent Edwin L. James to 
the New York Times 

Lindbergh did it. Twenty minutes after 10 o'clock tonight sud- 
denly and softly there slipped out of the darkness a gray-white air- 
plane as thousands of pairs of eyes strained toward it. At 10:24 the 
Spirit of St. Louis landed and lines of soldiers, ranks of policemen 

130 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

and stout steel fences went down before a mad rush as irresistible 
as the tides of the ocean. 

Those first to arrive at the plane had a picture that will live in 
their minds for the rest of their lives. His cap off, his famous locks 
falling in disarray around his eyes, Lucky Lindy sat peering out 
over the rim of the little cockpit of his machine. 

"Well, I made it," smiled Lindbergh, as the little white mono- 
plane came to a halt in the middle of the field and the first van- 
guard reached the plane. Lindbergh made a move to jump out. 
Twenty hands reached for him and lifted him out as if he were a 
baby. . . . 

Many eye-witness versions of the landing including two by 
Lindbergh himselfhave come down to us, all differing in some 
respects. Seemingly, the Lone Eagle's first words were not the 
"Well, I made it" reported by Edwin James. Rather, he seems 
to have said, "I am Charles Lindbergh/' to the first of the 
rushing horde to reach the plane. Yet Lindbergh believes that 
his first words were about the welfare of the Spirit of St. Louis. 
At the moment he cut his engine, the crowd reached him. He 
felt the Spirit of St. Louis shudder from the impact. Wood 
cracked and fabric tore. His brain child desperately needed pro- 
tection and he called out, "Are there any mechanics here?" 

No one answered except to shout his name. "Speaking was 
impossible/' Lindbergh has written. "No words could be heard 
in the uproar and nobody cared to hear any. 77 He opened the 
cockpit door and began to slide out. Arms grasped his leg to 
haul him the rest of the way. Suddenly he was lifted to a 
prostrate position on top of the crowd, for all the world like an 
Egyptian deity borne aloft in some ancient funeral procession: 
"Thousands of voices mingled in a roar. Men were shouting, 
stumbling. It was like drowning in a human sea. I was afraid 
that I would be dropped under the feet of those milling, cheer- 
ing people; and that after sitting in a cockpit-fixed position for 
close to thirty-four hours, my muscles would be too stiff to 
struggle up again. 7 ' 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 131 

From this uncomfortable spot, Lindbergh was rescued by 
two fast-thinking French pilots named Detroyat and Delage. 
With great presence of mind, they grabbed the flying helmet 
from Lindbergh's head and clapped it on the head of one 
Harry Wheeler, a tall, boyish-looking buyer of rabbit skins 
from New York City. Or was the vacationing Wheeler wearing 
something that looked like a flier's cap or did the crowds 
simply mistake him for Lindbergh because he was tall? Again 
accounts differ. But suddenly the real Lindbergh was forgotten, 
while the frantic mob hoisted Wheeler off the ground. "Put 
me down, I'm nobody," he yelled. Meanwhile, Lindbergh was 
propelled by the two Frenchmen to the outskirts of the crowd. 
There he stood unnoticed while Delage sprinted off for his tiny 
Renault car. 

In it, the three big men drove to an empty hangar. "Com- 
munication was difficult because my ears were still deafened 
from the flight. I spoke no word of French; my new friends, 
but little English; and in the background were the noises of 
the crowd," At the hangar Lindbergh was led to a small room 
and made comfortable, while Detroyat went outside to recon- 
noiter. Soon he encountered Major Weiss, one of the military 
officials of the field. Informed that Lindbergh was sitting in a 
darkened hangar, the Major was incredulous. "Cest impos- 
sible" he told Detroyat. Nevertheless he walked to the hangar 
and instantly recognized the Lone Eagle. Weiss escorted Lind- 
bergh to his office and then set out to find Ambassador HerricL 

An hour later the Ambassador arrived. He invited Lindbergh 
to stay at the American Embassy. The Lone Eagle accepted, 
but refused to leave the field until absolutely certain that his 
plane was safe: "I couldn't put the cracking wood and ripping 
fabric from my mind ... I was anxious to find out for myself 
what repairs would have to be made." Leaving the Ambassador, 
the four pilotsMajor Weiss was now a member of the group 
got back into the little car and shot across the field, to dis- 

132 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day 7 ' 

cover that the Spirit of St. Louis had been rolled into a hangar: 
"It was a great shock to me to see my plane. The sides of the 
fuselage were full of gaping holes, and some souvenir hunter 
had pulled a lubrication fitting right off one of the roclcer-arm 
housings on my engine. But in spite of surface appearances, 
careful inspection showed that no serious damage had been 
done. A few hours of work would make my plane airworthy 

By now Ambassador Herrick had been lost in the confusion, 
so the Frenchmen decided to drive Lindbergh to the Embassy 
themselves. Again the large men crowded into the midget car 
and set off. With a fine sense of the historic-dramatic Weiss, 
Detroyat, and Delage drove to the Embassy by way of the 
Place de TOpera. There, under the Arc de Triomphe they 
stopped, allowing Lindbergh to step out for a moment at the 
tomb of France's Unknown Soldier, with its ever-burning 
flame. Then they proceeded to the Embassy. 

While this went on, the United States not to mention 
England and almost all of the rest of the planet had erupted 
into proud, hysterical turmoil. First news of the successful 
completion of the flight came at 5:30 p.m. New York time, 
only six minutes after the actual landing. In a scene duplicated 
in varying degrees across the continent, crowds in Times Square 
were transported into a frenzy of shouting, backslapping, kiss- 
ing jubilation. Mayor Walker ordered all city buildings with 
steam whistles to sound them. Ferryboats and ocean liners did 
the same. In other large cities whistles and firebells sounded, 
while in towns and hamlets the populace blew auto horns and 
rang church bells. In big cities newspapers rushed out extras 
with such headlines as HE DID IT! HE'S THERE! HE'S IN PARIS! 
Perhaps for the only time in history, newsdealers grew so ex- 
cited that they gave papers away. Wall Street was empty 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day 7 ' 133 

on a Saturday afternoon, but in midtown Manhattan telephone 
directories were torn to bits and thousands of pieces of waste 
paper drifted from windows like summer snow. 

As if by prearrangement the giant dirigible Los Angeles ap- 
peared over Times Square on a trial flight at the height of the 
celebration. In movie houses across the country, news of the 
landing was flashed on the screen and audiences abandoned 
Clara Bow and Tom Mix to rush cheering to the streets. Thou- 
sands of people phoned the New York Times to make sure the 
news was correct, and newspaper offices in other cities and 
towns received corresponding attention. 

St. Louis rang to special jubilation, for was not that city 
financially responsible for Lindy's flight? On Long Island, 
Chamberlin and Byrd offered congratulations, with Byrd show- 
ing particular intuition by calling Lindbergh a "Super-Hero. 77 

In Washington, Calvin Coolidge cabled to Lindbergh in 
Paris and telegraphed to Mrs. Evangeline Lindbergh in Detroit. 
Shortly after receiving this message, Mrs. Lindbergh received 
an offer of $100,000 from a Hollywood producer who wished 
her to appear in a movie as the typical American mother. In 
New York the offices of Bruno and Blythe were deluged with 
offers for Lindbergh from vaudeville agents, book publishers, 
and procurers of cigarette testimonials. On Tin Pan Alley, two 
songwriters embraced and pounded each other on the back. 
Against the advice of hardheaded colleagues, they had written a 
song called "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day." Soon the troubadour 
Vernon Dalhart would also have a song celebrating Lindbergh's 
epic flight. Called "Lindbergh, the Eagle of the USA," it ran 
in part: 

Lindbergh, oh what a flying fool was hel 

Lindbergh, his name will live in history! 
Gambling with Fate and a future unknown. . . . 

Take hats off to Plucky Lucky Lindbergh, 
The Eagle of the USA." 

134 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

Major newspapers were caught in a peculiar dilemma. "The 
landing of Lindbergh would probably have established an 
American record had he not chosen to come to earth on a 
Saturday/' Herbert Asbury had written. Thus the New York 
Times and other papers were hamstrung by the fact that it was 
too late to print more of the special supplements which consti- 
tute a full Sunday paper. Still, the Times was able to get out 
25,000 extras of an edition carrying a large headline which began 
LINDBERGH DOES IT! Below this ran the Edwin L. James story of 
the landing in Paris, impressively set across two columns. In 
addition the Times was able to announce that Lindbergh's own 
story the one for which he received $10,000 before departure- 
would start on Monday. It also reported from Washington, 
New York, and St. Louis that each of these cities had already 
begun preparations for huge welcome-home celebrations for 
the Lone Eagle. Stating that New York had earned the right to 
be called the City of Welcomes by the receptions given Com- 
mander Byrd and Trudy Ederle, Mayor Walker promised to 
provide Lucky Lindy with a full week of unceasing receptions, 
dinners, and honors. . . . 

Still in the grip of thunderous emotion Paris asked, "Where 
is Lindbergh?" The identity of tall blond Harry Wheeler had 
at last been established, and now the celebrating thousands had 
no idea where the true Hero might be. Especially frustrated by 
this odd state of affairs were the news correspondents. Fran- 
tically they rampaged Paris in search of one of the great stories 
of all time. 

According to Lindbergh's own account, he sat waiting in the 
American Embassy until Ambassador Herrick arrived at three 
a.m. During this wait the weary young man he had not slept 
for sixty-three hours revived himself slightly by eating a light 
supper prepared by the Embassy kitchen. When Ambassador 
Herrick returned, he informed Lindbergh that a crowd of 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 135 

newspapermen had gathered in the street outside. Lindbergh 
agreed to see them: "I spent a few minutes answering ques- 
tions and telling them about my flight. 77 Then at quarter past 
four he finally went to bed, wearing a pair of pajamas belong- 
ing to the Ambassador's son, Parmely. 

Lindbergh should know the true details of his own story- 
yet there are some reporters alive who accuse him of simplifying 
this account, and thus robbing it of considerable drama . . . 

The American Embassy was, of course, one of the first places 
reporters had visited in the wild quest for Lindbergh. They 
were flatly told he was not there, and, indeed, at that moment 
he may not have been. But neither was he anywhere else, and 
to reporter Ralph Barnes of the Paris Herald it seemed in- 
evitable that he would ultimately arrive at the Embassy. Barnes 
returned there and picking up a stone from the street beat on 
the iron gate until Parmely Herrick appeared to assure him 
that Lindbergh was not inside though at this point he may 
have been. Barnes returned to the Herald city room and told 
his city editor, "I know he's there. He's got to be at the Em- 
bassy. There's no other place." 

Once again he went back to the Embassy, where he found 
other correspondents, reporters, and wire-service men. Again 
Barnes made an ungodly racket at the gate, and this time Am- 
bassador Herrick emerged. He admitted that Lindbergh was 
inside but said the flier was asleep. An interview at this time 
was impossible: "Now, now, boys, I really can't permit it to- 
night. Don't you realize it's well past three o'clock?" Even so, 
the good-natured man invited the group inside for coffee. 

As they entered, Parmely Herrick stepped up to say that 
Lindbergh had unexpectedly awakened and would see the press. 
Herrick and his son found themselves shoved aside in the hectic 
stampede of reporters who still according to news accounts- 
found Lindbergh seated in pajamas on the edge of a bed in the 
Ambassador's guest room. He appeared surprised at the throng 

136 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

of journalists and asked, "Is there a New York Times man 
here?" Carlyle MacDonald of the Times was present, and as- 
sured the uneasy flier that his story was too important to belong 
to one paper. Thereupon Lindbergh began to answer questions 
and in his first reply used his famous We to unite himself and 
his brain-child plane. He told the press he had run into a sleet 
storm near Newfoundland and almost turned back. Close to 
Ireland, he had glided down to within fifty feet of a fishing 
boat and shouted, "Which way is Ireland?" In his book The 
Spirit of St. Louis he revealed that his flight had been a long 
battle with sleep, but no hint of this appeared in his first inter- 
view with the press or in the exclusive articles he wrote for the 
Times. Thus the world maintained an image of Lindbergh alert 
and ever-vigilant through the long hours in the cockpit of his 

Now Paris knew the whereabouts of its Hero. Later Lind- 
bergh vowed that his reception at Le Bourget and the excite- 
ment in days following had been the most dangerous part of 
his trip. For in Paris and elsewhere Lindy loosed the greatest 
torrent of mass emotion the world has ever known. In New 
York, newspapers hailed his flight as "The greatest feat of a 
solitary man in the records of the human race." The Tucson 
Citizen wrote: "One must go back to fictive times of the gods 
who dwelt on Mount Olympus for a feat that will parallel that 
of Captain Lindbergh." 

In Paris, Lindbergh awakened at noon on Sunday, May 
22nd, to find the plaza outside jammed with a mob of wor- 
shipers who waved hats and handkerchiefs and shouted for his 
appearance on a balcony. Up to this moment Lindbergh's 
knowledge of ceremonial banquets, honors, and florid speeches 
was nil. Yet as a conquering Hero he now with an appreciable 
assist from Ambassador Herrick began behaving with a sure- 
footedness as unerring as his aviation skill. 

The world would have gone mad over Lindbergh anyway, 

"Plucky Lindy s Lucky Day" 137 

but had he not acquitted himself so well afterward the peak of 
the furore might have come with the landing at Le Bourget. 
As it was, his general modesty and straightforward speeches 
were precisely what everyone wanted. Rather than lessening, 
world frenzy over Lucky Lindy rose higher and higher. 

On waking Sunday morning Lindbergh telephoned his 
mother over the new transatlantic phone put into successful 
operation only five months before. His motherhow the world 
responded to this act on the part of its boyish Hero! That after- 
noon Lindbergh was driven through streets lined with roaring 
crowds for a call on Madame Nungesser, mother of the flier for 
whom an Atlantic search was still under way. He assumed the 
weeping woman that hope still remained. Then he visited a hos- 
pital for blind and crippled veterans of World War I. Next he 
called on the President of the French Republic, who pinned the 
Legion of Honor on the lapel of his blue serge suit. 

Sometime during his first day in Paris, Lindbergh presided 
over the preparation of his first exclusive article to the New 
York Times. It began: "Well, here I am in the hands of 
American Ambassador Herrick. From what I have seen of it, 
I am sure I am going to like Paris." 

In this youthful prose, he went on to describe his flight, and 
such was the Lindbergh-enthusiasm in the United States that 
the price of the Times carrying this story rose to a dollar. Nor 
was America the sole area of Lindy madness. In Sweden thou- 
sands of Lindbergs were preparing to apply for court permission 
to add an h to their names. 

Lindbergh made his first speech on Monday at the Aero 
Club of France. In terse, laconic words that exactly fitted his 
personality, he told this assemblage of French aviators that the 
flight undertaken by Nungesser and Coli had been far more 
risky than his own, and urged those present not to give up hope 
for the gallant pair. 

During the rest of the day he was rushed from official spot 

138 "Plucky Lindfs Lucky Day" 

to official spot and given added honors. On Tuesday he was 
guest of honor at the American Club. On Wednesday the 
Chamber of Deputies applauded him. General Gouraud pinned 
another medal on his lapel, saying, "It is not only two con- 
tinents that you have united, but the hearts of all men every- 
where . . ." From poet Maurice Rostand the Hero accepted a 
poem called "A Lindbergh" which Rostand had emotionally 
scribbled on the back of an envelope during the tumult of the 
landing at Le Bourget. 

Louis Bleriot, first man to fly the English Channel, was a 
type Lindbergh thoroughly understood, and the Hero became 
almost eloquent answering a speech of Bleriot's. He called 
Bleriot the "Father of World Aviation" and gratefully accepted 
a piece of the propeller of the famous Channel-crossing plane. 
He then began another round of official visits which led him to 
Marshals Foch and Joffre and Aristide Briand. 

"Like a ferment of wine, Lindbergh's personality was work- 
Ing hour by hour," writer Fitzhugh Green has said. Paris next 
gave him an official welcome. With Ambassador Herrick by his 
side the hatless, waving Lindbergh traveled Paris streets lined 
by more than half a million people. At the City Hall he 
received the Gold Medal of the Municipality. In a brief speech 
he declared that he believed his flight the forerunner of regular 
commercial air-service between the United States and France. 
On the following day he went to the Ministry of War for 
luncheon, and was received by French Senators at Luxembourg 
Palace. Other receptions and honors followed. That night he 
sat in a flag-draped box at a gala performance at the Champs 
Elysees Theatre. 

As each tumultuous day became a more tumultuous tomor- 
row, Lindbergh's advisers adopted the strategem of announcing 
plans to be at one end of Paris, when in reality Lindy would 
be at the other. Thus the Hero was able to steal away from 
time to time to tinker with the Spirit of St. Louis. One thing 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 139 

in all this adulation particularly bothered him; the world 
seemed to think of him as a Hero, forgetting he was primarily 
an aviator. 

Early Thursday morning he was driven to Le Bourget. There 
he went to an Army hangar and climbed into a French Nieu- 
port 300 h.p. fighter plane. The pilot Detroyat who had rescued 
him from the welcoming horde got into a sister plane. Lind- 
bergh paid no attention to the instructions French pilots at- 
tempted to give him about the unfamiliar plane. Absently 
muttering Qui-oui-oui he adjusted his helmet, revved the motor, 
flawlessly took off. Behind him, Detroyat followed. 

Over Paris the two sleek craft dipped to salute Ambassador 
Herrick in the American Embassy, flew around the Eiffel Tower 
at the altitude of the second platform, dipped again at the Arc 
de Triomphe to honor the Unknown Soldier. For a short time 
they were out of sight, flying over the Paris suburbs. Then sud- 
denly they were back over the city. Somehow word had got 
around that Lindbergh was piloting one plane and crowds 
gathered in streets to watch openmouthed as the Lone Eagle 
proceeded to show his prowess as a stunt flier. Lindbergh did 
loop-the-loops, side-drafts, corkscrews, wingovers, head spins, 
grapevines, and the fluttering leap. Whatever he did, Detroyat 
tried to do better, and the two put on an air show of a type 
forgotten in an era when flying has become a joint enterprise 
rather than an individual one. 

At Le Bourget, military authorities stood quaking with fear 
not for their plane but for the safety of the Hero. Detroyat 
was ordered down when the two stunting planes roared over 
the field. Lindbergh was also signaled down, but he was ever a 
stubborn young man, especially where aviation was concerned. 
Alone in the sky, in the words of a newspaper account, "He 
stupefied watchers by the ease with which he handled the 
strange plane. The airman showed off a sort of air dance. To 
the left he went over on one wing, then to the right, and then 

140 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

on his tail and then on the nose. It seemed as if the airplane 
hung on wires while Lindbergh did gymnastic tricks." 

It was a dazzling display by the man who remains probably 
the greatest aviator the world has ever known. When finally 
Lindbergh landed, his face was flushed with pleasure. Field 
officials rushed to him, ashen and clamorous. Lindbergh 
thought they were agitated over the safety of the plane and 
said sharply, "I know what I am doing in the air. Don't forget 
I've made seven thousand flights in five years. I'm not exactly 
inexperienced, you know," 

This was his only moment of true relaxation in Paris. Next 
morning he was scheduled to leave for Belgium, where more 
receptions and honors awaited. Arising at eight he went to Le 
Bourget for a final three-hour grooming of the Spirit of St. 
Louis. Then the world-famous We were ready and Lindbergh 
took off over Paris boulevards thronged with people: "Dancing 
lightheartedly through the air, Ariel has left Paris behind," one 
paper rhapsodized. In Brussels, the reception committee at the 
Palace was led by Burgomaster Max, who said, "In your glory 
there is glory for all men." Close by, King Albert of the 
Belgians waited and Lindy's next day dispatch to the New 
York Times began: "I have met my first King, and if they are 
all like him, believe me, I am for Kings." 

After a day in Brussels, We took off for Croydon Airport, 
near London. There a clamoring crowd of 150,000 waited far 
more than at Le Bourget on the night of the landing. Again 
the mob was a riot of enthusiasm, the mood of which was re- 
flected by a news account beginning: "Captain Lindbergh 
swooped out of the skies like a sun god today." For a second 
time in a week Lindy peered from his cockpit and saw a milling 
crowd below, but this time he knew why it was there. 

He landed cautiously in the center of the field and sat wait- 
ing. As he did, an official car with four policemen lying on the 
mudguards raced toward him. It reached him just ahead of 

"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 141 

sprinting members of the mob, which had broken through 
strong police lines. "Watch out for the plane, watch out for 
the plane!" Lindbergh called. He then climbed out, a slender 
boyish figure in a leather flying jacket. Commander Perrin, sec- 
retary of the Royal Aero Club, pulled him into the official car, 
but by now so many people pressed close that it could not 
move. Men leaned over to pump Lindy's hand and women 
tried to kiss him. Others begged him to give his famous grin. 
Police were powerless, and Commander Perrin stood up on the 
back seat to give the classic British cry, "Be sportsmen! Please 
be sportsmen! Let the car go through!" 

Together with efforts of the police this produced results, but 
Lindbergh would not quit the area until the Spirit of St. Louis 
was safely in a hangar. At last, the car began inching toward 
Aero Club headquarters on the field. Lindbergh was hustled 
inside, but the mighty throng remained outside chanting, "We 
want Lindy." Commander Perrin appeared and begged for 
quiet. The crowd reminded him that morning papers had 
promised everyone a good look at the Hero. The Commander 
shrugged and summoned Lindbergh who stepped outside to 
give a quick wave. It was not enough. "Up on the control 
tower/' the crowd chanted. Lindbergh flashed his boyish grin 
and started up the wooden ladder of the control tower. As he 
went, someone handed him a megaphone. From the top he 
shouted through it: "I just want to tell you this is worse than 
Paris." Then he waved and started down the ladder. The crowd 
roared its disappointment he had been seen by those facing 
only one side of the tower. "Other side, other side," the mob 
chanted. Lindbergh climbed back and faced the opposite direc- 
tion. "I've just said this is a little worse than Le Bourget or 
should I say better," he called through the megaphone. Then 
he climbed down. 

It had been Lindbergh's intention to remain abroad for 

142 "Plucky Lindys Lucky Day' 7 

several weeks or perhaps months studying European com- 
mercial aviation, which reputedly was far ahead of American. 
But almost from the moment he landed at Le Bourget pres- 
sures \vere exerted on the Lone Eagle to force him home as 
quickly as possible. America wanted its Super-Hero, for in the 
words of Paul Sann, "With seven years of scandal, crime, and 
the Prohibition Follies under its belt, America was ready for a 
genuine All-American pin-up ... It \vas ready for a collective 
love affair with someone nice, like a clean-living boy from the 
Mid- West who wouldn't know a hip-flask from a nightclub 
doll." This resulted in pressures even stronger than Lindbergh's 
vaunted stubbornness and through his public utterances for 
the remainder of the year would run veiled references to the 
fact that he had really wished to stay abroad. 

Oddly 7 the person who seemed most intent on bringing the 
Hero home was President Calvin Coolidge. The cryptic man 
in the White House appeared to sense the earth-shaking pro- 
portions of the world's Lindbergh worship and wished to attach 
his bleak personality to it. Coolidge was departing on June 13 
for a vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and now the 
ice-blooded Vermonter set lips tight and decreed that Lind- 
bergh return before that day. More, he wanted Lindbergh to 
arrive in Washington so that he, Coolidge, could dominate 
America's first huge welcome. 

At this Mayor Walker of New York let out a piercing cry of 
protest: "The President's request that Lindbergh go to Wash- 
ington first violates all tradition," he stated angrily. It did no 
good. Calvin Coolidge was frigidly adamant. He announced 
that a special Distinguished Flying Cross Medal was being 
designed for the Hero and he himself wished to pin this on 
the Lone Eagle's chest. When this failed to nail things down 
Coolidge ordered that the cruiser Memphis, flagship of the 
Atlantic fleet, be dispatched to bring Lindbergh home for a 

"Plucky Lind/s Lucky Day" 143 

monster reception on Saturday, June nth. Coolidge made this 
a nationwide holiday Lindbergh Day. 

Meantime, in London, Lindbergh was being received at 
Buckingham Palace by King George V and Queen Mary. This 
proved a disconcerting meeting for the bashful Hero who had so 
far impressed everyone with his calmness and modest poise. He 
was first led into a small sitting room where the King of Eng- 
land waited alone. After the briefest of formal greetings, the 
King stated that he and the Queen were curious as to how 
Lindbergh had taken care of necessary bodily functions during 
the epic flight. Lindbergh was shocked. Then he remembered 
that he was talking to a king. He collected himself, swallowed 
hard, and revealed that he had taken medicine to solve one 
phase of the problem. As for the other, he had worked out a 
system with a chain and a container at his feet. When nature 
called, he yanked the chain and the container opened. 

Lindbergh ended here, but the interest of the King of Eng- 
land did not. "Yes, yes, young man, go on," he snapped im- 
patiently. Lindbergh gulped and admitted that he had used 
this contraption twice, once over Newfoundland, and again 
over the Atlantic. 

Next, Lindbergh was escorted to York House where he met 
the boyish-looking Prince of Wales. Next day, he sat in the 
Royal box at the Derby. Afterward he told reporters that he 
had thought the great race dull, but any Britishers alienated by 
this lack of true sportsmanship were won back by the Hero's 
frequent references to the 1919 transatlantic flight of the 
Englishmen Alcock and Brown. This, Lindbergh maintained, 
had been the first great ocean-spanning flight. 

The honors he received in London were as long and arduous 
as those in Paris, and not until June 2nd did he go to Kinnerly 
Airdrome for a flight back to France. The celebrated English 
fog kept him overnight, but he started off at six-twenty a.m. 
Because of low visibility the Spirit of St. Louis came down at 

144 "Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" 

Lympnel. At eight lie was aloft again, setting a course straight 
for Le Bourget 

On June 4th, he left Paris for Cherbourg, this time with an 
escort of twenty planes. The Memphis waited while Lindbergh 
supervised the dismantling and crating of the Spirit of St. 
Louis. Full Speed Ahead were the orders given Vice Admiral 
Burrage and after leaving France the Memphis plunged along 
so fast that once it almost lost its celebrated passenger. The 
six-day voyage brought the Lone Eagle a much-needed rest and 
he seemed to find particular solace in standing alone in the 
prow of the ship. He stood there one day when, in rough 
weather, the ship hit a mountain of water. Plucky Lindy held 
lifelines to avoid being swept away. For a time he was com- 
pletely cut off from the rest of the ship. This was the sort of 
rugged adventure the intrepid aviator relished and he en- 
thusiastically discussed his emotions under stress with officers 
of the Memphis. 

Thus in fitting fashion the Hero returned to his native land, 
where a new abundance of honors waited. In mid-Atlantic 
Lindbergh learned that President Coolidge had appointed him 
a Colonel in the Missouri National Guard. Captain Lindbergh 
was gone, and with him also went the boyish "Slim" who had 
planned and so unerringly executed the flight to Paris. In his 
place stood Colonel Lindbergh, an erect demigod known as 
"Lindy" to an adoring country. "Our Number One Triple A 
Hero/' the show business paper Variety dubbed him. 

Cornet Urn 

S THE Memphis sliced through the 
waves toward the shores of the United 
States it took the 75,ooo-ton cruiser four times as long to cross 
the Atlantic as Lindbergh had taken to fly it people in all sec- 
tions of the country packed up and started by train and auto to 
Washington for Lindbergh Day. Some of the Lone Eagle's 
fellow pilots in the airmail service announced plans to attend, 
as did numerous citizens of Little Falls, Minnesota, the town 
in which the Lone Eagle had spent his boyhood until his father 
was elected to the House of Representatives in Washington. 

Those in Little Falls unable to travel to Washington were 
consoled by sight of the Model T Ford with which the me- 
chanically-minded Lindbergh boy had once tinkered. This 
skeleton had been miraculously discovered in the town dump 
and hauled to the village green, where mechanics were trying 
to restore it to life. LINDY'S FIRST PLANE was painted on the side 
of this automotive wreck and townfolk declared that if it 
could not be transported to Washington for Lindbergh Day 
the local post of the American Legion would certainly take it 


146 "Here Comes the Boy/" 

to Paris for the giant Legion convention scheduled late in the 

Many of those unable to make Washington for Lindbergh 
Day wrote instead. As Lindbergh approached home 500,000 
letters addressed to him piled into the Washington post office. 
Some enclosed return postage to assure an answer, and it is 
said that eventually this unused postage amounted to $100,000. 
Local offices of Western Union and Postal Telegraph staggered 
under more than 75,000 messages. Most of these were stereo- 
types, for the enterprising companies had devised Lindbergh 
Specials Your Choice of a Telegram to Lindy for 30^. Of 
these, Number Two read: "Glad you're back, Colonel, When 
you're out this way drop in and see us. n 

While such emotional outpourings spilled from ordinary 
citizens, the offices of Bruno and BIythe and other represent- 
atives of the Flying Fool were trying to cope with business 
offers for the most famous young man in the world. 

Some of these might be called legitimate. Lindy was offered 
$1,000,000 to appear in a movie based on his life and flight. 
Vaudeville interests offered him $100,000 for twenty-eight 
weeks of appearances on the two-a-day. The Roxy Theatre 
promised $25,000 for a week of personal appearances. Slightly 
lesser amounts were dangled for books, magazine articles, and 
cigarette testimonials. 

But others were only too typical of the Era of Wonderful 
Nonsense. Lucky Lindy was guaranteed a million dollars if he 
would End the girl of his dreams and marry her, giving a film 
company exclusive rights to films of the marriage. Another 
group wanted to back him in a rocket-flight to the moon a 
feat which seemed silly then, if not now. There were 20,000 
assorted gifts already awaiting him and 500 requests from 
"close" relatives for financial assistance ... All of which may 
have been staggering, but the worst was yet to come. On land- 

"Here Comes the Boy!" 147 

ing, the Lone Eagle found that he could not send his shirts to 
the laundry, for they were never returned laundries kept them 
as souvenirs. This was equally true of his checks. When he paid 
a bill by check the uncashed paper was retained as a souvenir. 

During the first four days of Lindbergh's flight, over 250,000 
stories about him had been splashed across American news- 
papers. This has been estimated as 36,000,000 words more 
than the number given to any other event in history. As Lind- 
bergh receptions in Washington, New York, and St. Louis 
loomed, the press began to demolish even this record. For 
Lindbergh Day, the New York Times announced sixteen extra 
pages of human-interest stories and photographs, while other 
newspapers prepared similar splurges. 

Once more the dignified Times erupted into poetry, placing 
on page one a poem by Donald Gillies, which extolled Lind- 

Age hears, and old dreams waken 

Youth hears, and vows anew 
Man's common kinship rallies 

And joy and pride undo 
Misunderstanding's mischief, 

Prejudice's wrongs 
God send, at need, the voices 

To sing for us such songs. 

The airwaves also hummed with songs about Lindbergh. 
"Plucky Lindy's Lucky Day" (sung by Irving Kaufman) was a 
national hit, as was Vernon Dalharfs "Lindbergh, Eagle of 
the USA" ("Lindbergh, oh what a flying fool was he /Lind- 
bergh, his name will live in histore-e-e"). George M. Cohan, of 
"Over There" fame, came through with a tune for Lindbergh 
Day called "When Lindy Comes Home." Eddie Dowling and 
Jimmy Hanley composed a Lindbergh song entitled "Hello, 
Yankee Doodle." Vaughn de Leath, velvet-throated queen of 

148 "Here Comes the Boy!" 

the loudspeakers, added new dimensions to her soaring popular- 
ity with a Lindbergh ballad called "Like an Angel You Flew 
Into Everyone's Heart": 

The spirit of youth 

Carried you on. 
A mother's prayer 

Did its part. 
And God on His throne 

Guided you 'cross the foam . . . 

It was a nation gone mad but with a curious quality to the 
madness. Every American seemed to regard the Super-Hero 
subjectively. Super-Heroes were few and far between once in 
a lifetime phenomena, if that yet everyone appeared to have 
his own image of precisely how such a rare being should be- 
have. Lindbergh had ceased to be a flesh and blood flier, to 
become instead a world symbol of decency, a demigod, even a 
god. Writing of Lindbergh in The Aspirin Age, John Lardner 
says: "His performance was instantly recognized as the 
climactic stunt of a time of marvelous stunts: of an epoch 
of noise, hero worship, and a sort of individualism which seems 
to have meant that people were not disposed to look at them- 
selves, and their lives, in general, and therefore ran gaping and 
thirsty to look at anything done by one man or woman that 
was special and apart from the life they knew." 

America had found a true Hero at last and was determined 
that he would behave as a Hero, even if he toppled from ex- 
haustion or died of boredom in the process. Lindbergh him- 
self discovered this impersonalor inhuman attitude on the 
part of his countrymen when the Memphis steamed up Chesa- 
peake Bay late on the afternoon of June loth. A convoy of 
four destroyers, two blimps, and forty airplanes saluted the 
cruiser. Yet this was done as unobtrusively as possible, for the 
Memphis had crossed the Atlantic with such speed that it 

"Here Comes the Boy/" 149 

arrived early for Lindbergh Day. But the Hero, who by now 
must have found cabin quarters confining, was not permitted 
to leave the ship, even surreptitiously. He must wait until noon 
tomorrow, with its official reception. It was for this reason that 
the convoy blew no whistles and the accompanying planes did 
no stunts over the Memphis. 

Even so, word gradually seeped through Washington that 
the Memphis was anchored offshore and once again, on the eve 
of a memorable event in his life, Lindbergh's sleep was rudely 
shattered. This time a group of schoolchildren they were not 
called teenagers in those happy days climbed into a motor- 
boat and chugged out to the Memphis. By ill-luck they stopped 
directly under Lindy's cabin and began to serenade the craft 
with loud songs and hoarse shouts. Aboard, Lindbergh was just 
falling asleep. He stood the noise as long as possible, then 
stuck his head out the cabin window and tried to persuade the 
children that they were serenading the wrong ship. Oddly, none 
of the youngsters seemed to realize that the Hero himself was 
addressing them, but they did recognize the Memphis and 
answered with derisive shouts and laughter. The boisterous 
serenade continued, while Lindbergh tossed on his sheets. At 
last, the children departed, still singing and cheering. 

So finally Lindbergh got to sleep. But soon, at six-thirty in 
the morning, he was wakened by more noise. This was the first 
stage of the Barnum-like display of Lindbergh Day: a zooming, 
roaring, stunting cavalcade of Army, Navy, and Marine planes 
over the Memphis. At times the planes flew so low that the 
ship seemed to vibrate in the water. In his cabin, the hard- 
sleeping Lindbergh slowly became conscious of the unholy 
racket. Once more, as in the early hours of May 2oth, he 
realized that further sleep was impossible. Reluctantly he got 
up and dressed. 

Through the rest of the morning various privileged people 

150 "Here Comes the Boy!" 

were ferried out to the Memphis. One was Dick Blythe, who 
emotionally embraced the young man who had become his 
close friend. Then Blythe pulled back in astonishment. The 
Lindbergh before him was neither the Slim he remembered 
from Curtiss Field nor the modest hero pictured in the recep- 
tions abroad. At this moment Charles A. Lindbergh stood 
proudly attired in the dress uniform of a colonel in the United 
States National Guard. He looked glossy and erect. The uni- 
form fitted perfectly and he was impressive in it, but a far cry 
from the homespun hero the nation was prepared to clasp to 
its heart. Lindbergh, seemingly the man without vanity, was 
proud as a peacock of the showy uniform. "Not bad for an air- 
mail pilot/ 7 he boasted to Blythe and Blythe suddenly realized 
that the Hero planned to wear the dress uniform during the 

He took a deep breath and said, "Slim, you can't do it." 

Lindbergh stared at him. "What do you mean I can't? 7 ' he 

Blythe tried to explain: "It'll label you. Up to now you've 
been young, healthy, good looking and single a possible future 
husband for every American girl. You weren't an Army man or 
a Navy man, but a plain civilian with a job. Nobody could 
claim you and nobody could be against you. This Army uni- 
form would spoil that image." 

"But I always was a captain in the Army Reserve," Lind- 
bergh protested. 

"You went to Paris as a civilian. The public remembers you 
in that old blue suit You can get another one, but don't wear 
the uniform." 

Lindbergh's stubbornness was roused. "It's orders," he said 
firmly. "I've got to wear it." 

Blythe took a different tack. "But it's such a lousy fit." 

Lindbergh looked at him in amazement. "Where doesn't it 

"Here Comes the Boy!" 151 

fit?" he demanded angrily. He studied himself in the mirror 
and, reassured, began to argue hotly. Suddenly he relaxed, 
giving a sheepish grin. "I get you/' he said. "You're dead right. 
Mufti for me." 

It was in the familiar rumpled blue suit, clutching a gray 
felt fedora hat in his hand, that Lindbergh stood on the sunny 
bridge of the Memphis at eleven o'clock as the flagship ap- 
proached the Potomac. Above, the giant dirigible U.S.S. Los 
Angeles floated in stately circles, while one hundred Army and 
Navy pursuit planes darted above and below and around it 
like sharks baiting a whale. Salutes of naval guns boomed be- 
tween ships, including the Presidential yacht Mayflower. 
Nautical tunes from bands on other ships bounced gaily over 
the waves. From the shore the factory whistles, church bells, 
fire sirens, and automobile horns of Alexandria and Wash- 
ington could be heard. At the main Navy Yard Dock waited 
Secretary of the Navy and Mrs. Curtis D. Wilbur, Secretary 
of War and Mrs. D wight W. Davis, Postmaster General and 
Mrs. Harry S. New, and former Secretary of State Charles 
Evans Hughes. Also present was Mrs. Evangeline Lindbergh, 
who had been an overnight guest of President and Mrs. 
Coolidge. Some fifty thousand people assembled in the vicinity 
of the Navy Yard and another hundred thousand lined the 
streets to the Washington Monument where waited the Pres- 
ident and his wife, more cabinet members, and distinguished 
guests from home and abroad. 

As the Memphis became visible from the Navy Yard dock, 
and the tall, boyish figure of Lindbergh could be distinguished 
on the bridge, a huge gulp of emotion swept over the crowd. 
Then a resounding organ-like roar burst from the throats of 
Lindy's admirers. Russell Owen, covering the event for the 
New York Times, saw in this something intangible, spiritual: 

152 "Here Comes the Boy!" 

What manner of a man could it be that would invoke such 
enthusiasm? Few had ever seen Lindbergh, although many knew 
his picture was that of a youth. Would he be in his new uniform 
of a Colonel in the Reserves? 

And then the cruiser drew near, and high up on the bridge, 
standing in a corner at the outside, could be seen a tall, slirn 
figure, hair blowing in the wind. He wore a plain blue suit and 
not the uniform of a Colonel in the Missouri National Guard. 
. . . That was all. Just a lad coming home, rather puzzled that 
people should make such a fuss over him. 

As tie Memphis drew closer to the dock, the thundering 
throng got a first sight of the unassuming young man's wave 
of acknowledgment. This would instantly become famous, and 
it has been described as "a quick, brief wave of the hand, a 
wave checked almost immediately as if he feared he was show- 
ing himself too eager to acknowledge tribute." Usually Lind- 
bergh's facial expression was reserved and serious, but from 
time to time he broke into a wide, friendly grin LINDBERGH 

line would declare. The boyish grin, the deprecating wave, the 
modest demeanor, the youthful appearance all these made an 
irresistible combination. 

What was described as the mightiest radio broadcasting 
machine ever assembled was providing the coverage for Lind- 
bergh Day. Fifty N.B.C. stations were connected in a nation- 
wide radio network and it was believed that practically every 
one of the nation's six million receiving sets would be in action 
with at least five persons listening to each. This was a radio 
audience of thirty million, and in all probability the number 
was much more, 

In the forefront of the crowd at the Navy Yard Dock stood 
the eager figure of Graham McNamee, the silver-tongued en- 
thusiast who was the outstanding announcer of the day. 
McNamee had covered every notable event of the past five 

"Here Comes the Boy! 77 153 

years. His glorious voice had radiated excitement as Firpo 
knocked Jack Dempsey from the ring in 1923. He had lost 
none of his professional poise when Trudy Ederle thrillingly 
rode up Broadway in 1926. Yet now the experienced Mc- 
Namee, no less than others in the welcoming crowd, was re- 
duced to choked-up emotionalism by sight of the Hero. The 
announcer's splendid vocal equipment faded as he spotted 
Lindy on the bridge of the Memphis. As if through layers of 
soggy flannel a drained, timbre-less voice reached the country: 
"Here comes the BOY! . . . He stands quiet, unassuming, a 
little stoop in his shoulders. . . . He looks very serious and 
awfully nice. ... A darn nice boy!" 

The Memphis was close to the dock planes darting and 
swooping overhead heavy bombers thundering in formation 
the Los Angeles unmoving as if suspended by strings whistles 
stridently blowing sirens sounding guns booming military 
bands playing but loudest of all the background diapason- 
roar of the seething crowd. As the gangplank shot out, Lind- 
bergh and Vice Admiral Burrage left the bridge, the Admiral 
on his way to escort Mrs. Lindbergh aboard. Now for a mo- 
ment the Lone Eagle was entirely alone. He stood amidships 
facing the bellowing thousands of his countrymen who had 
come to pay him homage. 

It provided an interesting moment, for Lucky Lindy seemed 
briefly to cease being the Hero. He clapped the gray fedora on 
his head and those nearby thought that the hat robbed him of 
his distinctive good looks in it he resembled a Minnesota 
youth uncomfortable in city garb. Wearing the unbecoming 
hat he moved toward the rail, the better to look at the mob 
below. Gone was the boyish smile, vanished the bashful wave. 
For an instant Lindbergh looked like a man peering into a 
giant madhouse, struck with wonder that human beings could 
behave like those he observed. "He had become accustomed to 

154 "Here Comes the Boy!" 

crowds abroad/ 7 Russell Owen's account would say, "but these 
were his own people. It seemed to hit him as a blow, and for 
the first time he apparently realized what a symbol he had be- 
come to all America." 

The moment ended, for suddenly Lindbergh saw his mother 
being escorted up the gangplank by Admiral Burrage. He took 
off the unbecoming hat (it was not seen again that day), 
walked toward her, and the two embraced (MA'S ARMS ENTWINE 
BIG SON, Cincinnati Enquirer] . For a short while the two were 
closeted In Admiral Barrage's quarters. Outside a reverent hush 
fell over the crowd: "Many wept, they knew not why," sobbed 
one story. Then Lindy reappeared and turmoil commenced 
again as he descended the gangplank. 

It was slightly after noon when the parade to the Wash- 
ington Monument started. Before the open Pierce Arrow bear- 
ing Lindy and his mother pranced a detachment of cavalry, 
with horseshoes clattering bravely on the pavement of Pennsyl- 
vania Avenue. Behind him came units of every branch of mili- 
tary service. "Hey, Lindy, stand up in the car," photographers 
shouted. Lindy smiled slightly and remained seated. Along the 
path of the parade people clogged the sidewalks or leaned from 
windows and roofs. Planes zoomed and the dirigible Los 
Angeles circled. 

As Lindy passed by people shouted or wept. Russell Owen 
saw: "One woman, standing with a small boy at her side, per- 
haps wishing that when the child grew up he too might be 
the clean, brave lad which this flier had become, smiled up at 
Lindy, her lips trembling a little. It was easy to read her 
thoughts. She held her boy's hand tightly and bent down and 
spoke to him and pointed upward . . ." 

At the dock, Graham McNamee's voice had regained its 
soaring resonance and the announcer was telling the country: 
"There goes the boy Lindbergh . . . The cavalrymen with 
drawn sabres make a dashing picture . . . Now I will turn the 

"Here Comes the Boy/" 155 

microphone over to my colleague, Phil Carlin, at the Wash- 
ington Monument , . ." 

Around the official reviewing stand in the natural amphi- 
theater of the Washington Monument, hillsides were packed 
and greensward jammed with pulsing humanity. The thousands 
assembled here were already seeingas best they could a rare 
sight. Saturday, June nth, had become a day of scorching heat. 
Nonetheless, President Calvin Coolidge and the remaining 
members of his Cabinet had mounted the high reviewing stand 
attired in gleaming top hats and heavy diplomatic swallow-tails. 

It seemed to most of those present that on this occasion the 
sour-faced Chief Executive was determined to out-do James J. 
Walker, the debonair, song-and-dance Mayor of New York 
City. Jimmy Walker's glibness and know-how at official recep- 
tions were famous across the land. To the amazement of those 
who watched him, Calvin Coolidge began to carry on with a 
Walker-like animation. He smiled, shook hands, cracked New 
England jokes, and laughed a grating chuckle. When Lind- 
bergh arrived, he displayed a truly unaccustomed warmth. 
Stepping forward, he pumped the Hero's hand. Shortly the 
President topped this. Introducing Mrs. Evangeline Lindbergh, 
he himself led the clapping of the multitudes. When the flier's 
modest mother showed a reluctance to stand up in acknowl- 
edgment, Coolidge behaved like a musical-comedy master of 
ceremonies. By expansive motions he gallantly insisted that she 
rise and take a bow. 

The President also excelled in the length and pith of his 
speech. In its course, he also coined a phrase something highly 
unusual for him. "You have been an Ambassador without port- 
folio," he informed Lindy, and thus another colorful phrase 
enriched the language. At the end of his speech, Coolidge 
pinned the Distinguished Flying Cross on Lindbergh's blue 
serge suit. Now it was the flier's turn to speak. The slim, blond- 

156 "Here Comes the Roy!" 

headed figure stepped up to a microphone, which turned his 
calm voice into a boom, and made one of the terse speeches 
for which he had become famous abroad. 
He said: 

On the evening of May 21, I arrived at Le Bourget, France. I 
was in Paris for one week, in Belgium for a day and was in London 
and in England for several days. Everywhere I went, at every 
meeting I attended, I was requested to bring a message home to 
you. Always the message was the same. 

"You have seen," the message was, "the affection of the people 
of France for the people of America demonstrated to you. When 
you return to America take back that message to the people of the 
United States from the people of France and Europe/' 

I thank you. 

This, as well as the blue serge suit, was what America wanted 
and some unhesitatingly compared this less-than-a-minute effort 
to Lincoln at Gettysburg. The emotional simplicity of it caught 
people by the throat. "Just as when Lincoln finished his Gettys- 
burg address his listeners sat stunned at the very brevity of it, 
so was there a curious silence . . . following Lindbergh's utter- 
ance. Then came long applause." Again thousands wept and a 
radio announcer who followed Graham McNamee at the 
NJB.C. microphone outdid his predecessor by breaking into 
audible sobs. 

Finally, with a tribute to Mrs. Evangeline Lindbergh, the 
ceremonies ended. Lindbergh was to ride the rest of the way in 
the Coolidge car and the President deferentially led him there. 
Mrs. Lindbergh was escorted by the likable and gracious Mrs. 
Grace Coolidge, who was described as laughing like a school- 

All the way to the White House, police fought to hold back 
the excited thousands. The Los Angeles still floated impres- 
sively overhead and the formations of planes shuttled up and 
down the line of march. Yet still the loudest noise remained 
the full-throated cheering of the crowd. 

"Here Comes the Boy/" 157 

It was after three o'clock before the hot, hungry Hero was 
permitted a few minutes to himself. During this precious inter- 
val he inscribed his emotions for the New York Times, to 
which he had continued to contribute personal dispatches. In 
this, he first mentioned the fact that he had been forced to 
return home: 

The Washington reception was wonderful. It was dignified, but 
it certainly made me feel right at home, and Fm genuinely glad 
to be back. 

I said in Europe that I would like to stay a little longer and fly 
to various countries and study aviation, but now that I have 
reached home I'm awfully glad I didn't stay longer. 

He also expressed dismay at the extreme ardor of his wor- 
shiping countrymen: "Everybody seems to want to speak to 
me and shake my hand. While that is very pleasant and I'd 
like to be able to oblige them, I am only a human being after 
all and I'm afraid I would end up in a hospital, suffering from 
an overdose of kindness/' 

Lindbergh was anxious to meet with his airmail buddies and 
perhaps with home folk from Little Falls. But that night he 
was the guest of President and Mrs. Coolidge at a dinner for 
members of the Cabinet. Lindbergh was twenty-five years old 
and at this dinner, as at endless others to follow, he was seated 
between two middle-aged-or-more ladies, Mrs. Coolidge and 
Mrs. Postmaster General New. It is reported that he enter- 
tained them with details of his flight, but it is doubtful that 
this one subject lasted through a long state dinner. 

After dinner, Lindy was whisked to a banquet of the Min- 
nesota State Society. Crowds lining the street yelled "There 
he fa! There he goes/ I see him! There's Lindy!" as the 
dinner-jacketed Colonel shot by behind a screaming-siren 
police escort. From the Minnesota State banquet, he was 
rushed to a gathering sponsored by the National Press Club at 
the huge Washington Auditorium. "I was pretty tired by the 

158 "Here Comes the Boy!" 

time I got there, but the way people received me made me feel 
fine again," his Times account says. 

Next day was Sunday. Lindbergh and his mother attended 
church with the Coolidges, then were driven past enthusiastic 
thousands to Arlington National Cemetery, where more thou- 
sands watched the Hero place a wreath on the grave of the 
Unknown Soldier. As Lindbergh climbed back into the car 
after this ceremony, he discovered still another dimension to 
his country's adulation. Three schoolgirls bearing autograph 
books slipped through the protecting police. At the side of the 
Lindbergh car the girls eagerly extended pens and open books 
towards the seated Colonel, who pretended not to see them: 
"He said not a word, but gripped his hands and looked sternly 
into the vague distance." At first police were prepared to be 
indulgent with the adolescent autograph-hunters, but observ- 
ing the Hero's reaction cops hustled the girls off. So far as the 
record shows, refusal to give autographs became a steadfast 
Lindbergh policy. Apparently he never did sign one, and it is 
terrifying to imagine what would have happened if he had 

Lindbergh and his mother drove to Georgetown to visit the 
wounded veterans at Walter Reed Hospital. Followed every- 
where by the rolling cheers of the crowd, they went next to 
the steps of the Capitol where Charles Evans Hughes presided 
over ceremonies in honor of the i5oth anniversary of the 
American flag. 

But with such official ceremonies finally ended, the day really 
began for the Lone Eagle. He and his mother were driven to 
where Navy mechanics were reassembling the Spirit of St. 
Louis. The day before, souvenir hunters had tried to break 
open the crates containing the immortal plane, and so the job 
of reassembly was being done on a raft a safe distance out on 
the Potomac. It was to this raft that Lindbergh was now ferried 
(his mother remained in the car ashore) and it is said that 

"Here Comes the Boy!" 159 

when he saw the second half of We taking shape Lindbergh's 
face lighted up with joy. "He has the affection for his plane 
that a father has for a son/ 7 noted a reporter present. 

Lindbergh knew that New York City, outraged by Wash- 
ington's gall in pre-empting the initial official reception, was 
making plans for the greatest celebration of all time in his 
honor. Where Lindbergh Day ceremonies in Washington filled 
only a Saturday-Sunday weekend, New York was arranging a 
Monday-to-Friday jamboree which would cost $75,000. School 
children had been granted a holiday on Monday and most 
businesses in the city would also be closed. Windows along 
the Lindbergh parade route were commanding prices as high 
as a thousand dollars, and it was predicted that New York's 
hero-worshiping hysteria would break all records. 

In view of this, it was deemed unsafe for the Spirit of St. 
Louis to land at an airfield near the city. Crowds might mob 
the plane and its occupant. Authorities had decided that Lind- 
bergh should fly from Washington in an amphibian plane, 
then land in New York Harbor, where a measure of protection 
was possible. This seemed like an excellent idea to everyone 
but the Super-Hero. Like a true father who wished his son to 
share all glory, he doggedly insisted on flying to New York in 
the Spirit of St. Louis. 

For a time Dick Blythe appeared to have- persuaded him that 
an amphibian arrival might be better, but sight of the re- 
assembled Spirit of St. Louis swung him back. Again Lind- 
bergh changed his mind: tomorrow he would fly his own plane 
or nothing. A frantic Blythe contacted New York. He was told 
to tell Lindbergh to land quietly at Mitchel Field, the military 
counterpart of Roosevelt and Curtiss Fields on Long Island. 
From there an amphibian would fly him to the Harbor. 

As it turned out, however, Lindy did not fly the Spirit of St. 
Louis. On the morning of Monday, June 1 3th while New 
York gathered forces for its stupendous show he arose shortly 

160 "Here Comes the Boy/" 

after dawn. He arrived at the Mayflower Hotel at a quarter to 
seven and at this unusual hour was tendered an honorary break- 
fast by the National Aeronautical Association. An hour later 
he was at Boiling Field, where the reassembled Spirit of St. 
Louis had been towed after its sojourn on the Potomac raft. 
Lindbergh examined his beloved plane, then slid his frame into 
the cockpit. Started, the plane's motor sounded off-key. Ever 
the perfectionist, Lindbergh got out and examined the engine 
minutely. He found rust from sea air on one valve. We could 
not iy today, he instantly decided. 

As an Army reserve colonel, Lindbergh could command the 
facilities of the armed services. He commandeered an Army 
pursuit plane and with an escort of twenty-three others set out 
for Long Island. 

When the air cavalcade passed over Baltimore, Wilmington, 
and Philadelphia it engaged in maneuvers to salute each city. 
Below church bells rang, factory whistles pierced the air, auto 
horns honked, and the populace howled. 

At Long Island, Lindbergh settled on Mitchel Field, where 
he switched without ceremony to a Navy amphibian. Here, in- 
deed, was a new experience for the Lone Eagle. Seldom in his 
years of flying had he been a passenger in a plane piloted by 
someone else. It was such an unusual occurrence that he men- 
tioned it in his dispatch to the Times. 

The amphibian arrived over Manhattan, circled New York 
Harbor, and Lindbergh saw below one of the amazing sights 
of all time. The harbor was crammed with seagoing craft- 
yachts, excursion boats, motorboats, tugs, ferries, fireboats, 
even dredges all hung with pennants, festooned with bunting, 
and jammed to the rails with festive human beings. Dominat- 
ing all this was the city welcoming tug Macom, with gardenia- 
sporting Grover Whalen beaming on its bridge. 

And the Harbor was only the beginning! Four of New York's 
seven million had turned out to welcome Lucky Lindy. The 

"Here Comes the Boy/" 161 

line of march had been well publicized and every inch of 
window and sidewalk taken. Crowding the Battery were en- 
thusiastic thousands and Broadway up to City Hall was packed 
sardine-tight with worshipers. Already the air resounded to 
cheers, and from the windows of office buildings fell ticker 
tape, shredded waste paper, and pages of telephone books. 
Twelve thousand of New York's police had been instructed to 
leave clubs at home. With bare hands and linked arms they 
struggled to hold back the welcoming thousands, while 
mounted cops galloped importantly up and down the line of 
march. The sky also seemed alive as cavalcades of planes criss- 
crossed each other, at times blotting out the sun. Among the 
planes was Commander Byrd's three-engine Fokker. Byrd him- 
self, immaculate in Navy whites, waited among a reception 
group at the Battery. 

Because of the salutes to cities along the way, Lindbergh was 
nearly two hours behind schedule, but no one cared: the 
weather was brightly beautiful and the crowd in high good 
humor. A mighty roar of good will reverberated through the 
area as the amphibian swooped down to land. Shrill sirens and 
deep boat-whistles created what one account calls a din beyond 

As the amphibian stopped a police launch came close. Lind- 
bergh was assisted aboard and rushed to the Macom. Top hat 
in hand Grover Whalen waited at the rail, his official welcome 
lost in the thunder of whistles and a mighty swoosh as fire- 
boats loosed streams of water high into the air. 

Lindbergh was escorted to the Macom bridge. There the 
tall, slightly stooped, unassuming young man regarded the 
bunting, the pennants, and the people and decided that the en- 
tire pageant of reception was astounding. Turning to Whalen, 
he shouted, "I never expected anything like this!* ' But though 
he appeared dazed by the first phase of the New York welcome, 
vestiges of the old practical-joking Slim Lindbergh remained. 

162 "Here Comes the Boy!" 

When one fireboat hose misfired, dumping a cascade of water 
full on an innocent vessel, Lindbergh roared with amusement. 
Such were the wonders of the gala day that so did the people 
who got wet. 

As the Macom chugged forward, an unwieldy fleet of ac- 
companying vessels fell into rough line behind. For a brief 
five minute period during the trip to the Battery, Lindy was 
led to the cabin for a press interview and one reporter noted 
that as he answered questions "his fine long fingers plucked at 
the blue serge suit" The Hero seemed in fine spirits and did 
not mind silly questions put to him. "Do you expect to be 
w-earied by the New York reception?" one reporter asked. 
"That's hardly a question I can answer now," he replied in 
the best of humor. 

New York Bay was so cluttered with vessels that a full hour 
was required to reach the Battery, thus putting the whole 
program further behind schedule. At the pier, Commander 
Byrd and other important men greeted the hatless young flier. 
His mother waited as well, having arrived from Washington by 

Already a parade of 15,000 marching soldiers, sailors, marines, 
and municipal officials was starting up Broadway. Lindbergh 
got into an open car with Grover Whalen beside him. He did 
not sit down on the seat, but rather on top of it, sitting on the 
back edge. Whalen sat beside him. Mrs. Lindbergh was seated 
in the car behind. The cars edged into the parade, and now 
followed one of the wildest moments in history as a blizzard 
snowstorm is too mild a word of ticker tape drifted from 
windows overhead, while on the street bellowing crowds 
strained to break through police lines. "Newsreel and press 
photographs do scant justice to the spectacle," a later account 
has said, and this is no exaggeration. 

All the way up Broadway to City Hall a chain of police held 
back the surging mobs who cheered themselves hoarse and 

"Here Comes the Boy!" 163 

tried to reach the smiling, waving young man perched in the 
official car. From building windows eighteen hundred tons of 
ticker tape, torn phone books, and miscellaneous memos 
floated down. Once Lindy peered up into the blizzard and asked 
Whalen, "Where does it all come from?" It seems almost too 
pat to be true, but contemporary sources testify to it: one of 
the thousands in the throng around Wall Street was a chunky 
girl who used her considerable strength to force a path to the 
front of the crowd. There she was shoved back by an irate 
policeman. Her name was Gertrude Ederle. Less than a year 
before the crowds had been screaming for sight of her. 

It was now close to two o'clock and a throng of nearly 
100,000 had been waiting in the vicinity of City Hall since 
8 A.M. No one cared to catch a glimpse of the Hero was 
THE DEPTHS OF ITS HEART, read one headline. 

Mayor Walker, top-hatted, slick and smiling, waited with a 
group of city dignitaries. Lindy was led to the reviewing stand 
on the City Hall steps by Grover Whalen, who presented him 
to Mayor Walker. The glib Mayor began his speech of wel- 
come with a Walker wisecrack: "Let me tell you, Colonel, 
that if you have prepared yourself with any letters of introduc- 
tions to New York City, they are not necessary." 

In a more serious vein, the Mayor spoke of the heartbeat of 
the city's millions and said: "Colonel Lindbergh, New York is 
yours I don't give it to you, you won it/' He then presented 
the Hero with the keys to the city in the form of a Medal of 
Valor and an illuminated scroll of welcome. 

Lindbergh accepted both with his abrupt little bow and 
wide smile. In Washington his speech had been brief, but in 
New York he opened up and talked at greater length, ending 
with a second reference to the fact that he had not been 
allowed to remain in Europe: "By the time ... [I] had 
opened a few cables from the United States, I found that I 

164 "Here Comes the Boy!" 

did not have much to say about how long I would stay over 
there ... So I left Europe and the British Isles with . . . 
regret. . . . [But] when I started up the Potomac from the 
Memphis I decided that I was not so sorry. . . . After spend- 
ing about an hour in New York, I know I am not/' 

With Mayor Walker supplanting Grover Whalen at his 
side, Lindy stepped back into the official car. Slowly, past mobs 
occupying every possible inch of the way, the parade wound up 
Broadway, through Lafayette Street, to Ninth Street and over 
to Fifth Avenue. All along the procession route people pressed 
close, horns blew, and paper floated from above. Wiping a page 
of telephone book from his blue serge shoulder, the Hero said 
to Mayor Walker, "I guess you'll have to print another edition 
of the phone book after Fin gone." Walker cocked an eye- 
brow. "You'd better get us a new street cleaning department, 
too," he said. 

Many who viewed the Hero at Wall Street or City Hall 
hastened to the subways to entrain for Central Park, there to 
see him a second time. Thus the crowd at the Central Park 
Mall was larger than any other: estimates place it at 500,000. 
Here military bands played and air armadas zoomed. High in 
the azure sky a skywriter began to spell out HELLO LINDY! It was 
after four o'clock, for the slow progress of the parade had de- 
layed the reception further. When Lindbergh arrived, salvos of 
applause and rousing cheers echoed through the Park. The 
Hero was presented to Governor Smith by Jimmy Walker and 
the State Medal of Honor was pinned on his chest. Al Smith 
supplied fitting verbal tributes, and at last the official part of 
the greatest welcoming reception the world has ever known 
had reached its end. 

Yet there was scant rest for the weary Hero. At the Park 
Avenue apartment of baseball magnate Harry Frazee, which 
had been loaned to the Lindberghs for the duration of the 
New York reception, old friends and new clamored to see him, 

"Here Comes the Boy!" 165 

as did numerous brash individuals with commercial offers. 
There were also social engagements. At eight-fifteen that night 
Lindy and his mother were to be honored at a dinner party at 
the Roslyn, Long Island, estate of Postal Telegraph multi- 
millionaire Clarence H. Mackay. This was to be the biggest 
social shindig on Long Island since the charm-boy Prince of 
Wales cavorted there in 1924. 

The Hero covered the miles to Roslyn behind a police es- 
cort, while crowds of worshipers waved from the roadsides. 
He and his mother seemed to enjoy the dinner, but when a 
swarm of new guests arrived for dancing there arose a ques- 
tion. Where was Lindbergh? A frantic Clarence Mackay de- 
manded this of Grover Whalen, who began a gradually widen- 
ing search through baronial halls, out in the grounds, and 
(finally) to the garages. Here he learned that immediately after 
dinner, Lindbergh and his mother had got back into the of- 
ficial car and ordered chauffeur and police escort to take them 
to New York. 

When this information was relayed to Clarence Mackay, he 
looked like a man struck by an invisible uppercut. He rallied 
himself to peer into the ballroom, where nearly five hundred 
decked-out socialites were asking, "Where's Lindy?" There was 
only one thing to do and Mr. Mackay did it. He went to bed. 

Having earned himself several hours of sleep by walking out 
(perhaps inadvertently) on the Mackay party, the Hero found 
himself further rewarded on waking up the next morning. 
Through the windows of his Park Avenue apartment he saw 
driving rain. This would render impossible an eleven o'clock 
gathering on the Mall in Central Park at which ten thousand 
schoolchildren were to serenade him with songs. Lindbergh 
rolled over and went to sleep. 

He got up refreshed and transacted personal business it is 
likely that here he made known his firm resolve never to cash 

166 "Here Comes the Boyf 

in on his flight in a cheap or sensational way. Yet advisers were 
able to assure the Lone Eagle that he would never starve. The 
New York Times, dazzled by the success of his personally by- 
Hned story, had upped payment from $10,000 to $60,000. There 
was the Orteig prize of $25,000. A book called We would bring 
in an additional $200,000. Soon Lindbergh would accept an 
offer from the Guggenheim Foundation for a series of aviation 
good-will flights to American cities and countries south of the 
border. For this he would receive $2,500 a week. He would 
also become an adviser to airlines, one of which promptly 
dubbed itself the Lindbergh Line. In all, Lindbergh would reap 
from $300,000 to $500,000 without resorting to the vulgar com- 

But this was yet to come . . . With rain still pelting out- 
side, the Hero's thoughts turned to more personal matters. 
"The Spirit of St. Louis was calling Lindbergh/' a sob sister 
sobbed and it was true. That night he w f as scheduled to be 
guest of honor at a dinner given by 3,500 captains of finance 
and industry at the Hotel Commodore. Since the rain pre- 
vented engagements until then, why not go in an Army plane 
to Washington, fly his plane back? 

Lindbergh phoned the veteran pilot Casey Jones, enlisting 
his support. When Jones stopped for Lindbergh in his car, he 
was accompanied by a most unexpected passenger. This was 
Nils T. Granlund, the procurer of talent and torsos for Texas 
Guinan. N, T. G. w'as, oddly enough, a flying enthusiast. 
Wedged beside Lindbergh in Casey Jones' car, Granlund 
urged the Hero to talk. Amazingly, Lindbergh did, cheer- 
fully pouring out details of flight and receptions that he had 
kept from newsmen. 

Back in New York that night, Granlund rushed to a type- 
writer and pounded out two stories, one for the New York 
World and the other for the Daily Mirror. These were so rich 
in intimate detail that he was allowed to by-line them By Nils 

"Here Comes the Boy!" 167 

Thor Grarilund, Director of Publicity, Loew Theaters. So 
Granlund became one of the few ever to capitalize on Lind- 
bergh in any way. 

With Casey Jones and Granlund by his side, Lindbergh 
sloshed around Curtiss and Roosevelt Fields greeting old friends 
among Wright mechanics and field personnel. He reminisced 
about the take off and seemed anxious to find out exactly how 
it had looked from the field. The weather grew worse and 
everyone advised the stubborn Colonel against a flight to 
Washington. Nevertheless, he climbed into Casey Jones' plane 
and took off. Half an hour later he returned, admitting that 
flight was impossible. Accompanied by Jones and Granlund, 
whom he favored with more inimitable material, he drove back 
to the city. 

In New York Lindbergh went from luncheon to luncheon, 
reception to reception, dinner to dinner. Everywhere crowds 
jostled, reporters asked questions, horns blew, and bedlam 
erupted. To one sob sister he expressed a desire to walk around 
the city alone. Then he grinned such a thing was plainly im- 
possible. To some he seemed to be wilting from the strain of 
being on public display nearly every moment of every day. 
News stories mentioned this. "Please don't say that I am tired 
or fatigued/ 7 Lindbergh lectured reporters gathered in the 
Frazee apartment. "I arn not. I feel fine. I read regularly that 
I am supposed to be all in. The only time I was tired was when 
I landed in Paris, but I was all right the next day." A few hours 
later, as a luncheon wound its lengthy course, reporters noted 
that, no matter what he said, the Lone Eagle looked exhausted. 

On the night of Wednesday, June i5th, Lindbergh was 
finally to see Rio Rita though not as a shy aviator who would 
enjoy going backstage to meet showgirls. By now, the Hero was 
quite accustomed to wearing black tie evening attire, and white 
tie on occasion. To Rio Rita he wore a tuxedo. He was late and 
perhaps for the only time in history an audience at a hit show 

168 "Here Comes the Boy!" 

refused to sit down until one member of the audience arrived. 

At nine-twenty Lindbergh appeared, flanked by Mayor 
Walker and Grover Whalen. Flash bulbs popped as he posed 
in the lobby with Florenz Ziegfeld. The orchestra played the 
"Star Spangled Banner" as he was led to a seat in the third 
row. Still the audience refused to sit. Crowds from the balcony 
pushed down the center aisle to peer at the Hero. Ushers 
begged and pleaded, and finally summoned the police from 
Lindbergh's motorcycle escort. Only then did Rio Rita begin. 

Even so, Lindbergh did not see a full performance. At eleven 
o'clock he was due at the Roxy Theater for a monster benefit 
for the French fliers Nungesser and Coli. At eleven-thirty 
Lindbergh and his party ducked out a side door of the Ziegfeld 
and behind motorcycle escort drove to the Roxy. Nor did Lindy 
see all of the Nungesser-Coli benefit, for at one-thirty he slipped 
out a Roxy side door. This time he was driven to Mitchel Field, 
where he borrowed a helmet and put on a flying suit over his 
tuxedo. Then he hopped for Washington. 

At Boiling Field he carefully examined the Spirit of St. 
Louis. It was flight-worthy and after a stopover of twenty-eight 
minutes, he pointed the plane toward New York. At seven- 
thirty he landed in Mitchel Field, a happy man. We were a 
team again. 

Lindbergh reached Park Avenue just in time to change into 
the trusty blue serge suit for a reception in Brooklyn. This was 
to be his last full day in New York and a million inhabitants 
of Brooklyn were prepared to give him a memorable send-off. 
Crowds numbering 500,000 packed twenty-two miles of Brook- 
lyn streets as the Lindbergh parade went by. Again schools 
were let out, businesses closed. An additional 200,000 yelling, 
perspiring people filled Prospect Park during official cere- 
monies. A fortunate Knights of Columbus had snared the Hero 
for luncheon. After this, a screeching escort took him to Roose- 
velt Field for ceremonies honoring his take off. 

"Here Comes the Roy!" 169 

At the Hotel Brevoort late that afternoon came teatime 
ceremonies of a particularly pleasant kind. Here Raymond 
Orteig handed lindy a check for $25,000, the promise of 
which had first made him think of the Paris flight. But again 
the Hero was far behind schedule. He could not tarry at the 
Brevoort for reminiscence. There were other ceremonies wait- 
ing, among them presentation of a lifetime pass to any major- 
league baseball game ever played anywhere. 

At 8:17 a.m. on Friday, June lyth, Lindy took off in the 
Spirit of St. Louis for the most sentimental welcome of all: 
the one in St. Louis. This should have been the Hero's greatest 
day, but was it? That morning the N#w York Times printed 
in a box on its front page a letter from the author-historian 
Hendrik Willem Van Loon: 

Cannot someone pluck that tired kid out of his "bus" and take 
him to a farm and let him sleep for a couple of weeks? 

By the merest fortunate chance I was face-to-face with him 
yesterday. Never have I seen anyone as hopelessly tired, as cour- 
ageously tired, as that boy whose brain was still doing a duty 
which the rest of his body could no longer follow up. Another 
three days of this and trie reflected-glory hounds will chase him to 
his death. 

If this sounds like sentimentality, make the most of it. But, 
meanwhile, give him a bed! 

On the nine-hour flight to St. Louis, Lindbergh again circled 
and dipped wings over major cities. He flew low over airfields 
to wave at crowds assembled below. Flying had always refreshed 
him and on arriving at Lambert (St. Louis) Field he appeared 
fit. A few minutes later he was plainly dead on his feet "the 
flier looked completely exhausted," one account says. Sight of 
old friends from "Slim" days revived him for a moment, but 
when flash-popping photographers yelled "Smile that old St. 
Louis smile," he was too groggy to respond. 

170 "Here Comes the Boy/" 

Yet the reception did not slacken, nor the public show 
mercy. High on the seat of an official car the weary Hero drove 
three miles through howling mobs to the presentation of keys 
to the city. And again this was only the beginning. Ceremonies 
in St. Louis would continue for days . . . The country had its 
Hero 7 the Hero must play his part. The world was cleansing 
itself through worship of Lucky Lindy. "His effect on the 
world was orgiastic and orgastic," John Lardner would say. The 
Super-Hero had his role, the show must go on! 

It was a world gone mad, and this was its peak of mad- 
ness. . . . 



HE United States seemed to be lost in 
Lindbergh worship, but there remained a 
few signs that the Era of Wonderful Nonsense had not de- 
parted. As New York went wild over Lucky Lindy, Shipwreck 
Kelly sat in magnificent isolation atop a fifty-foot flagpole 
over the Hotel St. Francis in Newark. Under him fluttered a 
long banner which read BABY PEGGY AT LOEW'S STATE Baby 
Peggy being the child film star who had supplanted a maturing 
Jackie Coogan in public affection. Shipwreck Kelly was out 
to break his record of seven days, one hour, set in St. Louis. 
Since the June spring-into-summer weather was unusually balmy 
there appeared a good chance that the dedicated pioneer would 
succeed. The weather also allowed much latitude to his red- 
headed flapper wife, again officiating at the bottom of the 
flagpole. Once more she held court for newspapermen and 
fifty-cents-a-head gawpers, and grew properly fiery when asked 
what the hell her husband was trying to accomplish on top 
of that pole. 

In New York City, Texas Guinan, her Three Hundred Club 
closed by the determined forces of Prohibition, took to the 

172 The Big Parade in the Air 

theater In a brassy revue called Padlocks of 1927. With her 
were the faithful George Raft and a girl singer named Lillian 
Roth. In the show Tex made her entrance attired in white 
cowgirl costume, riding a superb white steed. "Hello, suckers/ 7 
she howled into the auditorium, and the fun (at a much 
smaller price than in her night clubs ) began. 

Also in the drama world, Roscoe "Fatty" ArbucHe, the 
screen comic whose million-dollar Hollywood career had been 
ruined by a trial for rape, attempted Broadway in a revival of 
Baby Mine. Critics turned thumbs down on this, and Baby 
Mine ran only twelve performances. Still, it remains notable 
because one member of the cast was a bouncy juvenile named 
Humphrey Bogart. 

From Hollywood came news that stirred the hearts of mil- 
lions of moviegoers whose minds may have been in the clouds 
but whose emotions were still attached to sentimental movies. 
Vilma Banky and Rod La Rocque, romantic lovers in films, 
had become romantic lovers in life. When their engagement 
was announced Samuel Goldwyn, Miss Banky's employer, 
stated that he would give the pair a Hollywood wedding more 
sumptuous than any ever shown on the screen. 

In the advertising columns of magazines and newspapers, 
"Quick, Henry, the Flit!" was the slogan-sensation of early 
summer. "Quick Henry" was also one of the few major adver- 
tising campaigns which did not attempt to stir up feelings of 
human inadequacy, Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Boofe, Dr. Eliot's 
Five-Foot Shelf, and the Pocket University pictured young 
men and women either writhing with social nervousness or 
holding a roomful of people spellbound. An ad for the Pocket 
University showed a firm-jawed young man at a party: "Ali 
Baba? I sat forward in my chair. I could tell them all about 
this romantic, picturesque figure of fiction." 

Emily Post's Book of Etiquette conjured up the awful re- 
sults of social solecisms and promised to Tell You Exactly 

The Big Parade in the Air 173 

What To Do, Say, Write or Wear On Every Occasion. Ads 
for a correspondence course named French At Sight recounted 
the sad experience of a flapper who thought filet mignon was a 
kind of fish. It also pictured in a different ad the young man 
whose friends laughed when the waiter Spoke To Him in 
French. The same lucky fellow was triumphant again on being 
introduced to a very pretty girl: "'Comment ga va?' she said 
with a laugh and I astounded her with my reply." 

From Fall River, Massachusetts, newspapers relayed the 
news that Lizzie Borden was dead. Even barring the recent 
fame of Ruth Snyder, Lizzie Borden was the nation's most 
famous (suspected) murderess. A generation of children had 
chanted the jingle, "Lizzie Borden took an axe/ And gave her 
mother forty whacks." In 1893, her trial for the murder of her 
parents had rocked the country almost as much as the case of 
the Tiger Woman in 1927. After her acquittal who could 
imagine a plump New England spinster resorting to murder? 
she had lived quietly in the murder-house^ showing a strange 
partiality for theaters and theater-folk, some of whom became 
her close friends. 

From Chicago came strange news. Mayor Big Bill Thomp- 
son, resoundingly re-elected on his platform of I-tate-King- 
George-V, had immediately appointed a committee to super- 
vise the eradication of all references to England from Chicago 
libraries. The Mayor's sleuths had made an embarrassing dis- 
covery. In 1871, as Chicago lay smoldering from the fire which 
may have been started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow, the city of 
London perhaps because of its own Great Fires had dis- 
played vast sympathy. A city-wide collection had been under- 
taken in London, with the money gathered dispatched to 
Chicago as fire-relief. In addition, Londoners had sent seven 
thousand books to the Chicago Public Library. These had 
formed the nucleus of the Library's present large collection. 
Several of the volumes sent from England bore the autograph 

174 The Big Parade in the Air 

of Queen Victoria, the grandmother of Mayor Thompson's 
arch enemy. . , . 

But such nonsense matters were a trifle old-stuff, old- 
fashioned, out of date. Even Shipwreck Kelly's feat of success- 
fully setting a new record of twelve days, twelve hours, zero 
minutes, on the St. Francis flagpole rated only small day-by-day 
paragraphs at the bottom of more important columns. A year 
before Shipwreck might have been the wonder of the world. 
Now he, too, seemed a bit out of things. 

Hero-worship of Charles A. Lindbergh was not the sole rea- 
son for this change. In Lindy the country -even the world- 
may have found a Super-Hero, but such were the excesses of 
1927 that even before Lindy arrived home a cast of subordinate 
Heroes had started to assemble around him. 

First of these came by way of the yellow plane Columbia, 
designed by the highly esteemed Guiseppe Bellanca, owned by 
the stormy petrel Charles A. Levine, and piloted by the likable 
Clarence Chamberlin. 

On the morning of May 2ist, while Lindbergh flew, the 
Columbia camp at Curtiss Field was a melancholy place. The 
weather had improved, as Lindbergh had hoped, and it was 
apparent that the Columbia's hesitation of the night before 
had been a dreadful error. Now Chamberlin, in the bow tie, 
plus fours, and golf socks that were his trademark, stood beside 
his plane as it waited with tanks loaded on the runway. He 
was, he told reporters, ready to follow Lindbergh. 

But from inside the Columbia hangar came sounds of wrath- 
ful argument between Bellanca and Levine. Then Bellanca, 
whose extreme caution of the previous night may have pre- 
vented a simultaneous take off with Lindbergh, stormed out. 
He shook hands with Chamberlin and told the press that he 
had resigned from the Columbia Aircraft Corporation, of 
which he was president with Levine Chairman of the Board, 

The Big Parade in the Air 175 

"Two such characters as myself and Mr. Levine could not 
continue," he stated flatly. No sooner had Bellanca departed 
than the stocky, bald stormy petrel emerged to declare: "Mr. 
Bellanca's resignation causes us to abandon plans for the New 
York to Paris flight." The Columbia was unceremoniously 
hauled back into its hangar. 

For several days it seemed that Levine meant these strong 
words. PLANE TO BE IDLE, ran the headline over a story on the 
misfortunes of the Columbia. Yet it is possible to suspect that 
Lindbergh's feat rather than Bellanca's abrupt departure caused 
this change of plan. With a perfect flight to Paris just accom- 
plished, why make another? For a week all seemed hopeless 
around the Columbia, and Chamberlin returned to his home 
in Teterboro, New Jersey. Then one of the group had a brain- 
storm. The Columbia had already set an endurance record by 
remaining aloft for more than fifty-one hours. It was a two- 
seater plane, making possible the services of a relief pilot. Also, 
it could carry more gasoline than the Spirit of St. Louis, and 
supposedly could get ten miles a gallon to Lindbergh's eight. 
In short, the Columbia was equipped to fly farther and keep 
aloft longer than the Spirit of St. Louis. Why not try to sur- 
pass Lindbergh's flight by setting a new long-distance flying 

Again the Columbia camp was full of life. Chamberlin, espe- 
cially, seemed to be his old self. "He is ordinarily a quiet, 
reserved, silent person," states one contemporary account, "but 
when he gets near his plane he radiates happiness." On June 
2nd the day Lindbergh attended the English Derby the 
Columbia made a test flight, after which it was decided to 
abandon the heavy radio which had been installed in the 

Also on a trial flight was Commander Byrd's America, with 
Bert Acosta at the controls. The world took eyes off its Super- 
Hero long enough to realize that, though the Atlantic had been 

176 The Big Parade in the Air 

spectacularly spanned, the thrills it promised were not over. 
The Transatlantic Derby that the world expected in May might 
still come to pass. . . . 

But who would sit beside Clarence Chamberlin as co-pilot 
and navigator of the Columbia? When reporters asked, 
Chamberlin gave a wry grin. For a time there was speculation 
that his companion and co-pilot might be his wife, Mrs. Wilda 
(or Wylda) Chamberlin. Blue-eyed and attractive, a Main 
Street girl no less than her husband was a Main Street boy, 
Mrs. Chamberlin had been at her husband's side through many 
flights and often had taken the joy stick to pilot the plane. She 
had been beside her husband when he made a dramatic forced 
landing on the cinder yard of a Pennsylvania state penitentiary. 
She was a tiny woman whose weight would add only slightly 
to the Columbia's overall load, and the fact of her sex made 
small difference. Already the ambition to be the first woman 
to fly the Atlantic had sprouted in numerous female minds. 
But Mrs. Chamberlin feared that the shock of such a flight 
would have an unfortunate effect on the health of her ailing 
mother. The world did not know it, but she had decided not 
to accompany her husband. 

Then who would? The question remained unanswered while 
the Columbia made additional test flights. One morning mem- 
bers of the ground crew painted out the words BeUanca and 
Paris on the side of the plane, so that the wording read New 

On the afternoon of Saturday, June 4th, Chamberlin was 
handed weather reports indicating improving weather over the 
Atlantic. Turning to his wife, he said, "This looks good enough 
for me." But where was he headed? To reporters he stated that 
his intention was to beat Lindbergh's record by flying farther 
into Europe. One reporter quipped "Destination Europe" and 
Chamberlin smiled. He passed around a cable from the pres- 
ident of the American Club in Berlin, stating that all Germany 

The Big Parade in the Air 111 

hoped the Columbia would land at Tempelhof Field in Berlin. 
"HI be glad to drop in on him on the way back/' Chamberlin 
remarked drily. This gave rise to rumors that he planned to go 
as far as Moscow. 


GOAL, shouted headlines in the late editions of Saturday, June 
4th. Since this was a weekend no alarm clocks would ring the 
next morning, and many New Yorkers set out for Curtiss Field. 
In numerous ways this proved to be a duplication of the Lind- 
bergh take off. Again a light rain fell over the field. Chamber- 
lin also tried to sleep at the Garden City Hotel. He could not 
when his plane took off he had been without sleep for twenty 
hours. Attired in the familiar plus fours and bow tie, the wiry, 
relaxed aviator strolled to the field and walked by the side of 
his plane as it was towed to Roosevelt Field andlike Lind- 
bergh'sperched atop Commander Byrd's runway. There be- 
gan the long business of filling the tanks with gasoline. 

The Spirit of St. Louis had carried no safety equipment. The 
Columbia loaded a rubber collapsible raft, Very pistols, and 
flares. Mrs. Chamberlin packed aboard ten chicken sandwiches 
on toasted rye, two bottles of chicken soup, a bottle of coffee, 
and a half-dozen oranges. 

Like Lindbergh, Chamberlin had been signed by the New 
"York Times to write his experiences, and with him he carried 
five copies of the June 5th edition of that newspaper, which 
had been rushed to the field with ink still moist from the 
presses. One copy was addressed to Mussolini, another to 
Hindenburg, and a third to President Doumergue of France, so 
that no matter where he landed Chamberlin would have a 
special issue for the top man. The other two copies were to be 
used for purposes of general good will. 

In addition to the New Yorfe Times, the Columbia carried 
250 letters which would constitute the first transatlantic 
aviation air mail. These later caused a furore, for they had been 

178 The Big Parade in the Air 

put aboard solely on the authority of Postmaster Sealy, of 
Hempstead, Long Island. Postmaster General New had him- 
self promised Commander Byrd that the America would carry 
the first official air mail. When Mr. New learned that he had 
been bypassed by a local postmaster he was furious and issued 
a statement which branded as unofficial the mail carried by the 
Columbia. Said Postmaster Sealy: "Gosh, I'm sorry I got into 
this mix-up. Gosh, I didn't mean any harm. I just felt patriotic 
and wanted to do a personal favor, that's all." 

By six a.m. the Columbia was ready. It was weighed for the 
final time and found to be 5,418 Ibs., three hundred more than 
the Spirit of St. Louis. Chamberlin appeared to be in no hurry, 
and stood beside the plane chatting with friends. Charles A. 
Levine, strangely unobtrusive on so important an occasion, 
stepped up to the plane and stowed aboard a batch of naviga- 
tion charts. The two men spoke quietly for a few moments, 
after which Levine melted into the crowd. Someone reminded 
Chamberlin that Lindbergh would return to the United States 
within the next few days. He took a pencil and wrote on a 
scrap of paper: "Captain Charles Lindbergh Sorry not to wait 
to greet you, but I have the breaks in the weather, so Fm off." 
He also obliged a New York Times reporter with a written 

While Chamberlin did all this, many eyes fixed on the 
second seat in the plane. It seemed now that the lowan 
planned to fly alone, but if such was the case why had no 
announcement been made? If the seat were not occupied, it 

The Big Parade in the Air 179 

should be piled high with equipment. As it was, it stood glar- 
ingly empty, an open invitation to anyone who wished to be- 
come another Hero of the year 1927. 

Wright Whirlwind experts, giving the plane a final inspec- 
tion, decided that ten more gallons of gas could safely be 
added to the tanks. This was done. "I can fly for forty-five 
hours or longer," Chamberlin told reporters. "My distance de- 
pends on the winds I get. I'm going to fly until the gas gives 
out." Chamberlin adjusted his flying helmet and climbed into 
the cockpit while mechanics still fussed with the carburetor 
heater. John Carisi, head mechanic, started the motor. Then 
he rushed to the cockpit, where he kissed Chamberlin fare- 
well. "Fin one of those emotional Wops/' he explained to the 

Chamberlin let the motor idle, then raced it. The plane 
shook under the mighty pull of the motor, strained at the 
chocks. He throttled down again and leaned out the window of 
the plane. Smiling broadly, he beckoned to someone in the 
crowd. With this the bald, stubby figure of Charles A. Levine 
suddenly rushed forward. Running around the plane, Levine 
quickly sat himself in the seat beside Chamberlin. The Mil- 
lionaire Junkman was attired in a business suit of dashing 
vertical stripes and this, together with his lack of stature, 
brought little resemblance to a Hero. The crowd watched in 
silent stupefaction, unable to comprehend. 

Nor did Levine help. The usually aggressive man hunched 
down in the co-pilot seat as if anxious to obliterate his pres- 
ence: "He almost crouched down beside Chamberlin, his face 
set in tense emotion." Chamberlin reached across Levine's 
figure to shut the door, gave the signal for the chocks to be 
pulled. Then the probable cause of Levine's uneasiness became 
apparent. Like the rest of the crowd, Mrs. Grace Levine, the 
onetime beauty queen of Brooklyn, had been slow in catching 
on. All at once she grasped what her husband was doing. In 

180 The Big Parade in the Air 

the time-honored tones of the long-suffering wife, she screamed, 
"Oh-h-h-h. He's not going! He's not going!" Then she fell 
backward in a dead faint, landing conveniently in the sturdy 
arms of a cop. 

By this time the Columbia was inching forward. Chamber- 
lin found the tail of the plane heavier than anticipated. He 
braked and the plane was pulled back to the starting point. 
Whether he planned to lighten the load in the tail is not 
known, but he did discover what to expect if he tarried. A man 
rushed up to the plane and beat on the side. "Mr. Levine! Mr. 
Levine!" he shouted. "Do you realize what you are doing to 
your wife?" Chamberlin may have thought any risk better 
than a public squabble at departure. He started the heavy 
plane down the runway once more, this time achieving a take- 
off which news accounts hailed as a work of art. 

Now, with Lindy just stepping aboard the cruiser Memphis 
on his way home, the nation had two more Heroes-in-the- 
making. For Charles A. Levine was in the process of winning 
the eminent status of history's first transatlantic passenger. 
Even his outraged wife was prepared to forgive him. Returning 
red-eyed to the Levine summer home in Rockaway, Long 
Island, she paused to say, "He's gone and I know he'll make 
it. I'm proud of him." In this the rest of the world joined her. 
The New York Times hailed Levine as a true hero, adding: 
"The going of Levine was an answer to those who have called 
him a poor sportsman. It thrilled the crowd even more than 
the actual take-off. By a simple act of courage Levine reversed 
the public opinion which only a few hours before had appeared 
to be strongly against him." 

The yellow monoplane winged on, and the world held its 
breath for the second time in fifteen days. The Columbia was 
sighted over Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, at midday and at three 
minutes after six passed over the jumping-off-spot of Trepassy, 
Nova Scotia. Next morning it circled the liner Mauretania, 

The Big Parade in the Air 181 

340 miles out from Liverpool. This was an amazing sight for the 
ship's passengers who lined the rails shouting and waving. The 
Columbia came out of the sky as if out for a joy ride. 
Chamberlin made a complete circle of the ship, coolly ex- 
amined her name, then shot off eastward. Three minutes later 
he was gone. In a state of high excitement the captain of the 
Mauretania flashed this news to Lindbergh on the Memphis, 
which had been sighted by the Mauretania only half an hour 

According to the exclusive dispatches the flying pair would 
send to the New York Times they exchanged many memorable 
words over the heavy pounding of the Columbia's 220 h.p. 
motor. Thus, as darkness fell over the Atlantic Levine bellowed 
into Chamberlin's ear: "My nine-year-old daughter Eloyse is 
going to bed at home many miles westward. I can almost hear 
her say her prayers, asking God to get Daddy over there safely 
and her mother joining her in the prayers and perhaps crying." 

Other heartfelt conversations were duly immortalized in the 
Times, but indications are that instead of sentimental chitchat 
the stormy petrel Levine sparked the first tiff over the Atlantic. 
Levine later said that he had not been bored for an instant 
during the flight. At times he took the controls and flew the 
plane. Yet the Columbia was in mid-Atlantic when the restless 
man began rooting among the stowed gear and found that 
Chamberlin had neglected to put aboard the oars for the 
rubber boat. He began to berate his partner for this oversight. 
"How could you be so stupid?" he shouted. "What was the 
use?" Chamberlin answered mildly. "It would be too far to 
row, anyway." 

Levine sat silent following this, but soon his roving atten- 
tions were again occupied. He had arrived that morning with 
cash in his pocket to pay off all field employees of the Columbia 
Aircraft Corporation. Over the Atlantic he suddenly recalled 
that this large amount of folding money still reposed in the 

182 The Big Parade in the Air 

pocket of his striped suit. According to Chamberlin, who would 
make the anecdote a highlight of numerous after-dinner 
speeches: "We were quite a distance out before he recalled 
that he had forgotten to pay the money out. When he thought 
of it, he shouted in consternation, declaring that he certainly 
would hate to go down into Davy Jones 7 locker with all that 
money on him." 

Yet such episodes were minor compared to the real mis- 
fortunes of the Columbia. The plane had only reached New- 
London when Chamberlin realized something was wrong with 
the earth-induction compass. In many interviews abroad, Lind- 
bergh had paid tribute to the Pioneer compass in the Spirit of 
St. Louis. It had worked flawlessly, he stated, and his flight 
could not have been accomplished without it. Chamberlin's 
compass w T as made by the same company and had worked on 
innumerable test flights; later it w r as decided that the tre- 
mendous vibration of the Columbia's motor had upset its 
balance. So almost immediately after the take off Chamberlin 
and Levine were faced with the question of whether to turn 
back ignominiously. Levine, aware of the dislike the general 
public held for him, insisted that the flight continue. Cham- 
berlin, weary of days of waiting at Curtiss Field, agreed. Among 
the miscellaneous gear he had stowed an outmoded fifty dollar 
magnetic compass, in case of accident. He dug this out and 
began navigating by it. 

With this clumsy instrument, the Columbia was frequently 
lost. Indeed, Chamberlin's apparently nonchalant circling of 
the Mauretania was anything but nonchalant. Rather it was a 
bit of navigation as odd as Lindbergh's swoop over the fishing 
boat to shout, "Which way is Ireland?" When Chamberlin 
sighted the Mauretania, he was lost. Passengers aboard noted 
that he made a special point of ascertaining the name of the 
ship. There was method in this. Once he knew the ship's name, 
Chamberlin told Levine to open one of the copies of the New 

The Big Parade in the Air 183 

Yorfc Times. From this paper, Chamberlin found the date and 
time of the Mauretania's departure from Liverpool. He then 
estimated where the liner would be at this precise moment. 
Thus he figured his own location, and set the course of the 
Columbia accordingly. 

In the United States newspapers reported that weather over 
the Atlantic was perfect. This was far from true. Chamberlin 
encountered storms, heavy clouds, and fog banks. He wasted 
valuable gas climbing over and around this bad weather, and 
was driven so far north by winds that he missed Ireland. 
Where Lindbergh had averaged 107 mph, Chamberlin could 
make only 100. 

On the second night he \vas flying at twenty thousand feet 
over the North Sea, with the temperature a frigid eighteen 
degrees. Here again controversy arose between Chamberlin and 
his passenger. Chamberlin now wished to land at Tempelhof 
Field in Berlin, making his flight as neat as Lindbergh's. Levine 
insisted on flying until every drop of gasoline was gone. Yet 
argument was rendered futile by the fact that Chamberlin still 
navigated by the old-fashioned compass, and would be unable 
to pin-point a destination like Berlin. Passing over Dortmund, 
he saw the airfield, dropped low, and shouted, "To Berlin? To 
Berlin?" Men waved frantically in the direction of the capital, 
but soon the Columbia was lost again. 

Chamberlin and Levine had been in the air for forty-two 
and a half tense hours, covering 3,923 miles, when the plane's 
engine began to sputter from lack of gasoline. It was shortly 
after midnight, German time. The Columbia was far off course, 
over a town near Eisleben, no miles southeast of Berlin. It 
was a disappointing finale, but at least the Columbia had made 
the longest flight in the history of aviation, surpassing Lind- 
bergh by 295 miles. 

Chamberlin, past master at postage-stamp landings, brought 
the plane down in the middle of a farmer's field. Their 

184 The Big Parade in the Air 

thundering arrival at first attracted only a single farm woman 
who beheld a strange sight as she approached. Two dirty- 
looldng men in those days of spitting engines flying was a 
filthy business climbed from the plane. One (Chamberlin) 
was so dizzy that he could barely stand, and lurched around as 
If drunk. Levine, who had donned a heavy flying suit to protect 
himself from the cold, was stiff and sore. He began jumping an 
invisible rope to limber up muscles. Both were deaf from the 
engine noise, and it seemed to the German woman that they 
shouted threats at her. She turned and fled. 

Soon a crowd from neighborhood farms gathered around the 
plane and its curious occupants. Remembering that he spoke a 
little German, Levine succeeded in persuading a native to set 
out for Eisleben to bring back containers of gasoline in a cart. 
Soon the man returned with twenty gallons of a fuel called 
benzol which were funneled into the Columbia. Four hours 
after landing the plane took off again in the direction of 
Berlin, where crowds still waited patiently at Tempelhof. 

Almost immediately a thick fog descended, and once more 
Chamberlin was lost. He thought Berlin lay in one direction; 
Levine insisted on another. Weary at last of arguing, Chamber- 
lin figuratively threw up his hands, solving the difference in 
informal fashion: "I steered for awhile toward where I thought 
Berlin was, then Levine took the controls and went his way/' 

As they circled in this manner, the benzol ran out. By now 
the Columbia was over Kottbus, seventy miles southwest of 
Berlin. Again Chamberlin picked a field and landed. This time 
the ground was soggy and the plane sank low into the mud, 
ploughing deep furrows with wheels and tail. Suddenly it struck 
an obstruction, to nose forward, the still-whirling propeller 
snapping off at the ends. This was a major calamity, yet for the 
moment a minor one seemed more important. Another farm 
woman had appeared, but instead of being frightened she was 
furious at the damage done her precious field. "Bezahlen! 

The Big Parade in the Air 185 

Bezahlen! Pay! Pay!" she screeched, and according to some 
accounts waved a menacing pitchfork at the exhausted men. 

Soon she was joined by a man, who also shouted threats. But 
others around the countryside had heard the plane and soon 
the Mayor of Kottbus appeared. With its propeller damaged, 
the Columbia could not fiy, so Chamberlin and Levine World 
Heroes Two and Three were led to the Kottbus Inn. Towns- 
folk toasted them in German beer and the burgomaster made 
a speech in which he declared that the Columbia's forced 
landing constituted the most memorable moment in the thou- 
sand-year history of Kottbus. Pretty girls in peasant costumes 
popped up and the two Americans posed for pictures which 
would appear the world over captioned The Fliers and the 
Frauleins. Then Chamberlin and Levine were allowed to go 
upstairs for a few hours of solid rest. 

A day later June yth the repaired Columbia winged its 
way to Tempelhof. With an escort of hulking Lufthansa 
planes, the transatlantic craft looked small indeed. At Tempel- 
hof cries of "Hoch! Hoch!" resounded from 150,000 throats, 
while Hussars marched and brass bands oom-paahed in all 
directions. The Columbia landed and the two fliers alighted, 
bringing stolid Berliners to a high pitch of excitement. Unlike 
the Lindbergh crowds in Paris and London, however, Berliners 
did not burst through police lines German respect for law and 
order was too deeply ingrained for that. But reporters of all 
nations made a miniature mob scene around the pair. 
Chamberlin was asked, "Weren't you afraid didn't you feel 
like turning back?" The easy going American smiled his quiz- 
zical grin. "Well," he said, "you're so excited during the first 
half of the trip that you don't stop to worry. By that time, you 
realize it's just as far back as ahead, that it's too far to swim 
either way, so you just keep on going." 

In Berlin, the two fliers were widely feted. President von 

186 The Big Parade in the Air 

Hindenburg, Foreign Minister Stresemann, and Dr. Hugo 
Eckener of dirigible fame paid fulsome tribute. At the Pilsen 
breweries in Munich a bock beer was named in honor of 
Chamberlin. From New York came word that the fliers' wives 
had boarded the first available liner to join the triumphant pair. 
Chamberlin was pleased by this, but Levine professed to be 
alarmed over treatment he might expect from the onetime 
Belle of Williamsburg. "When she sees me she will certainly 
deliver a knockout blow/' he told newsmen. 

Up to now, the press of the United States had been content 
to regard the Millionaire Junkman as a stormy petrel. But with 
the success of the flight to Berlin, Levine suddenly seemed to 
warrant more. For at times Charles A. Levine, World Hero 
Number Three, bore the personality-stamp of the Era of Won- 
derful Nonsense. Papers back home began to call him the 
erratic Mr. Levine in an effort to capture the essence of his 

Not all the hoopla which began to surround him stemmed 
from the First Transatlantic Passenger himself. Some was sup- 
plied by the President of the United States. For when the 
Bellanca plane landed in Germany, Calvin Coolidge cabled a 
message of congratulation. There was something peculiar about 
these congratulations: they were addressed only to Clarence 
Chamberlin. This vastly upset the Jewish press and much of 
the Jewish population. Coolidge was branded an anti-Semite 
and a Jewish newspaper called The Day reminded him: 

Two men left New York; two men risked their lives; two men 
have showed heroism and created a record even greater than Lind- 
bergh's. Two men left; two men arrived, Americans both. But the 
President of the United States congratulates only one, and by 
strange coincidence the one whom the President has not found 
worthy of being mentioned is named Levine . . . 

How Levine felt about this slight is not known, for the 
Presidential cable was one of the few matters on which the 

The Big Parade in the Air 187 

erratic man maintained discreet silence. But if he was dis- 
pleased by Coolidge, he must have been delighted by Tin Pan 
Alley. The Street of Songs had disregarded Chamberlin to pro- 
duce two rousing songs extolling Levine. One was "Levine, You 
Are the Greatest Hebrew Ace." The other (inevitably) was 
"Levine and His Flying Machine." 

In far-off Berlin, the Millionaire Junkman may or may not 
have heard of these songs, or known that the New York Times 
had labeled him a bona fide Hero. At any rate, he completely 
failed to mend his stormy ways. While he and Chamberlin 
were supposedly filing exclusive dispatches to the New York 
Times, Levine undertook to unburden his true feelings to the 
Hearst press. "If we had had one-tenth of Lindy's luck, we 
would have made it," he cabled home. The United States re- 
acted with shock and outrage. Once again Levine was accused 
of being a poor sport, and the figure of Levine the Hero slowly 
began to tarnish. 

This did nothing to curb Levine's energies. From his emi- 
nence as a slightly faded Hero, the stubby little powerhouse an- 
nounced plans for a two million dollar transatlantic airline 
which would be fueled by huge floating islands spaced across the 
ocean. He also met the photogenic German aviatrix Thea 
Rasche and signed her up for an American barnstorming tour. 
On June 1 3th the day of the tumultuous Lindbergh welcome 
in New York Charnberlin and Levine were relaxing in Baden 
Baden. Here Levine exposed another facet of his character. 
Few would have credited him with a sense of humor. Yet at 
Baden Baden he was to play host to a group of German indus- 
trialists, all of whom knew him and were familiar with his 
blunt, dynamic features. Levine set off to meet his friends in 
an old-fashioned Victoria driven by a coachman in a battered 
high hat. Midway to the railroad station he bribed the coach- 
man to disappear, leaving behind the high hat. Levine clapped 
this on his own bald dome, mounted the coachman's seat, and 

188 The Big Parade in the Air 

drove to the station. He sat stiffly at attention while his busi- 
ness associates climbed into the Victoria to be driven back to 
the hotel in style by Levine himself. No one recognized him as 
the efficient coachman. 

Next, business problems began to bedevil Levine. In past 
years international deals had brought the Millionaire Junkman 
into negotiation with steel firms in the Ruhr. In one he had 
availed himself of the advisory services of Dr. Julius Puppe, a 
native of Germany. For this, Dr. Puppe had rendered a bill 
for ten thousand dollars. Levine had sent him five thousand 
dollars, disregarding all subsequent howls of outrage from the 
Ruhr. When Levine landed in Berlin, he was handed a fulsome 
message of congratulation from Dr. Puppe. Shortly, however, 
Dr. Puppe tried to slap a five thousand dollar writ on the 
Columbia. Berlin authorities were anxious to have their city 
appear every bit as hospitable to transatlantic fliers as Paris had 
been. Police took the server of the writ and bounced him from 
Tempelhof, Yet the episode made international headlines, and 
added a twist to the history of aviation. 

In time, Mrs. Wilda Chamberlin and Mrs. Grace Levine 
arrived in Germany, where it was noted that Mrs. Levine 
greeted her husband affectionately, omitting the knockout 
blow he had anticipated. Then the fliers announced plans for 
a good-will tour to such major European cities as Munich, 
Vienna, Warsaw, Rome, and Paris. Meantime, they showed 
their wives the sights of Berlin ... 

For the Year of the Big Shriek this was tame stuff indeed, 
and in the United States people cast about for new thrills. 
Promise of such immediately came from the West Coast where 
James D. Dole, the Hawaiian pineapple king, offered $25,000 
for a non-stop flight across the 2,400 miles of Pacific to Hawaii. 
This would be the longest over-water flight ever attempted. 
Yet the Dole Pacific Race, as it came to be called, was a 
thoroughly senseless undertaking. Even as it was announced 

The Big Parade in the Air 189 

two Army Signal Corps lieutenants, Lester J. Maitland and 
Albert F. Hegenberger, were poised at Oakland airport await- 
ing the right weather to make the same flight. Further, two 
civilians named Ernest L. Smith and Emory B. Bronte were 
only slightly behind the Signal Corps officers in plans for an 
identical hop. Thus Mr. Dole's rich offer smacked only of pub- 
licity for his pineapple products. Nevertheless, fifteen fliers rose 
up to take part. One entrant was an exceedingly pretty school- 
teacher-passenger named Mildred Doran. 

The Dole Prize, so hastily conceived, brought protests from 
serious-minded aviation enthusiasts. If Lindbergh had showed 
aviation at its best, view-with-alarm newspaper editorials stated, 
the Dole Race exposed the worst. Yet a world hungry for 
aviation-thrills found the Dole Flight acceptable. Indeed, the 
urge to make record-breaking flights seemed to be everywhere. 
In Detroit, Edward F. Schlee and William Brock were quietly 
planning a flight around the world, involving the fewest num- 
ber of stops possible. In Florida, an attractive dental assistant 
and beauty contest winner named Ruth Elder had joined with 
experienced pilot George Haldeman in purchasing a Stinson- 
Detroiter plane to be called the American Girl. It was Miss 
Elder's modest aim to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic. 

In Brunswick, Georgia, a frail young music-student-turned- 
pilot named Paul Redfern had succeeded in persuading local 
businessmen to subsidize him in a 4,600 mile flight to Rio de 
Janeiro, his plane to be called the City of Brunswick. In New 
York City curious ideas of vindication smote tabloid editor 
Phil Payne, who suffered the dislike of his colleagues because 
of the fiasco of the Hall-Mills trial and alleged breach of con- 
fidence in the Earl Carroll bathtub party. Payne sold his chief, 
William Randolph Hearst, on the idea of a Hearst-subsidized 
flight to Rome. Payne signed Lloyd Bertaud and James De 
Witt Hill as pilot-navigators of a supposedly fool-proof plane 
named Old Glory. Payne himself intended to go along on this 

190 The Big Parade in the Air 

flight but like Levine would not reveal it until the last 

Equally determined to fly the Atlantic was a Long Islander 
named Mrs. Frances Wilson Grayson, who had made one 
million dollars selling real estate around Forest Hills. As the 
owner of the Sikorsky amphibian plane Dawn, she was cor- 
ralling experienced personnel for a flight to Copenhagen. Over- 
seas, the picturesque foreign correspondent H. R. Knicker- 
bocker was circulating among German pilots, attempting to 
find a pair who would take him on an east-west flight. In Eng- 
land, a lady of wealth and title dominated the flying picture. 
Princess Lowenstein-Wertheim, first woman to fly the English 
Channel, had joined forces with the elegant Captain Leslie 
Hamilton in projecting a flight to the United States. In 
Ireland, Princess Xenia of Greece announced a hop from 
Dublin to New York, backed by the fortune of her millionaire 
husband William B. Leeds. Her plane, named the Princess 
Xenia, would be flown by two Irish pilots. 

In the midst of all this activity, one plane stood poised and 
ready. This was Commander Byrd's America, which had been 
waiting since April to start its flight over the Atlantic. Ameri- 
cans of the Twenties had been so often hoodwinked by 
scientific claims which turned out to be pure ballyhoo that 
many were inclined to put the Byrd flight on a level with other 
flights. Aviation men, though, considered it the first truly 
scientific transatlantic flight. "Lindbergh blazed the trail, and 
Chamberlin followed. But the flight of the Fokker meant the 
beginning of the new day in air transport/' states a tribute to 
the America. The handsome, thirty-seven-year-old Byrd was 
backed by Rodman Wanamaker, who had already spent from 
$250,000 to $300,000 on preparations for the flight. The tri- 
motor Fokker plane had cost $70,000 to $80,000, where the 

The Big Parade in the Air 191 

Spirit of St. Louis had cost $18,000 and the Columbia $25,000. 
The America's wingspread was 25 feet wider than the others 
and the 14,500 pound plane outweighed them by 9,000 pounds. 
Loaded aboard the America was almost every possible scientific 
device, including a radio which for the first time would allow 
an ocean-crossing plane to communicate with the world. 

Perhaps the great emphasis on science was responsible for 
the caution in the Byrd camp. Twice now the FoHcer had 
missed out on adequate flying weather over the Atlantic, and 
as June progressed there were signs that Commander Byrd was 
becoming impatient. On June 23rd, he journeyed to New 
Haven, where Yale gave him an honorary degree. After he re- 
turned to Roosevelt Field, the tempo of excitement around 
the America increased. Byrd hinted that a take off was im- 
minent and announced that the plane's crew would be himself 
as captain and navigator; Bert Acosta, the swashbuckler with 
the gleaming Latin smile, number-one pilot; Lieutenant George 
Noville, a broad-shouldered ex-athlete and Navy hero, radio 
engineer; and 28-year-old Bernt Balchen, emergency pilot and 

It is conceivable that Byrd was determined to fly before the 
month of June ran out. Because on June 28th weather reports 
were no better, no worse, than on many other days. Yet at 
ten-thirty that night Byrd stated that he would fly at dawn on 
June 29th. Once again a light rain fell over the field as the 
America's tanks were filled with one thousand three hundred 
gallons of gas, approximately nine hundred more than either 
the Spirit of St. Louis or the Columbia had carried. At one 
point a mail truck drew close to the pkne to load aboard two 
hundred and fifty letters for foreign dignitaries. This, of course, 
was the first official airmail. 

At four that morning Byrd appeared, upright and aristocratic 
in the uniform of a Navy aviator. The daredevil Bert Acosta 

192 The Big Parade in the Air 

was already there. Noville and Balchen made last minute 
checks of equipment. Roast chickens were stored aboard, and 
Noville listened to last minute instructions about a crash-valve 
which would dump the plane's huge load of gasoline in less 
than a minute. 

At five-fifteen the four men climbed into the plane, Byrd 
and Acosta in the pilot-chairs in front, Noville and Balchen 
among the scientific equipment behind. The America now 
weighed 17,820 pounds, six hundred more than had ever be- 
fore been lifted into the air. At five-twenty-five the plane 
started wallowing down the runway, so weighted by its enor- 
mous load that many thought it would never rise. But then the 
clumsy plane began a slow, reluctant lift. Once in the air, the 
America regained dignity and grace. It pointed northeast as 
one reporter rhapsodized, "its three motors roaring a song to the 

To the watching world of 1927, each of the three great trans- 
atlantic flights seemed to have a personality of it own. Lind- 
bergh's seemed the Super-Flight, brave, daring, confident. Be- 
cause of the legal controversy swirling around the Columbia 
and the comic-opera activities of Charles A. Levine, the 
Chamberlin flight never seemed one-hundred-percent serious. 
But to the world the Byrd flight became a mixture of irony and 
courage. The America carried every safety device known to 
aviation. For trouble, there were flares and inflatable rafts. To 
defeat fatigue there were two pilots. Byrd had waited months 
for perfect weather. Nothing about the flight had been left to 
chance. Yet, ironically, it encountered the worst weather of all. 

As Byrd and his crew flew over Newfoundland word was 
flashed that after a twenty-six hour flight through rain and 
cross-winds the Army fliers Maitland and Hegenberger had 
landed in Hawaii. At once from the America came a gallant 
message: "Wire our congratulations to Maitland and his crew. 

The Big Parade in the Air 193 

We are keeping a sharp lookout for Ntingesser. Think we are 
getting some scientific data. Byrd." Soon came another radio 
signal: "Message for good old Floyd Bennett. Tell him we miss 
him like the dickens. 7 ' 

These were the only cheerful messages Byrd tapped out. 
From Nova Scotia on, he and his men flew in fog so thick that 
it was impossible to see wing-tips. Byrd's wireless messages took 
on a ghastly vividness as murky, foggy night enveloped the 
plane: "Airplane America at Sea Via Chatham, Mass. We 
have seen neither land nor water since 4 p.m. yesterday, on 
account of dense fog and low clouds covering an enormous 
area/ 7 Byrd later called the flight "forty-two hours of Hell" and 
his radio messages contained such phrases as "a great prison 
of darkness." After the first night turned into the second day 
the Commander and his men found themselves inhabiting an- 
other world as he later put it in a book: 

There were at times some terrible views. We would look hun- 
dreds of feet into fog valleys dark, ominous depths. At times the 
cloud peaks or the horizon looked exactly like a land of moun- 
tains. At other times they took on the appearance of a beautiful 
lake or river, . . . 

As hours passed the America's vaunted scientific instruments 
began breaking down. Compass wild, radio working inter- 
mittently, the big plane flew through a fog world that again 
turned into ink black night. "Nothing in my North Pole flight, 
no hard experience, no strain, can equate what we endured in 
this flight," Byrd later wrote. "There was no way for us to 
know where we were going. Because of the lowness of the 
clouds and the pitch darkness we were hopelessly lost." 

Byrd's wireless could send messages, but not receive. Thus 
he remained unaware of the most ironic twist of all. A great 
storm covered Western Europe that night, and in its exact 
center lay Paris. At Le Bourget, rain lashed down in a teeming 

194 The Big Parade in the Air 

deluge. Thunder, lightning, winds, fog, and low black overcast 
combined to make one of the most awful nights in the 
memories of Parisians. Even so, several thousand persons stood 
waiting under umbrellas at Le Bourget. For a time Chamberlin 
and Levine were among those waiting, for the Columbia had 
landed at Le Bourget that afternoon on the last leg of its good- 
will tour. But after midnight most of the crowd drifted away, 
leaving only journalists and an ambulance which waited 
ominously at the side of the runway. 

Byrd's earth-induction compass was useless. "We are flying 
by a compass that has gone crazy," he relayed. Yet by a miracle 
he had located Paris and for some twenty minutes those at Le 
Bourget could hear the thunder of the Fokker engines above 
the low clouds. " 'Allo, 'Allo," the crowd yelled up into the 
pelting rainor was it "Ah, Feau" that the French shouted? 
American reporters in the rain were too miserable to care. 

Byrd knew he was above Paris. "I am flying around Paris- 
Am I to the west of Paris? Give me my position," he begged 
frantically. This was heard by a transmitter on the Eiffel 
Tower, but Byrd could not get the answer. He and his men 
flew on, assailed by driving rain and shut in by fog which re- 
duced visibility to zero. It was a mighty drama, and only later 
did the world learn of the drama-within-a-drama enacted in the 
America's cabin. During most of the forty hours of flight 
swashbuckling Bert Acosta held the controls. Where the other 
members of the America crew were primarily technicians, ac- 
customed to the patient working out of detail, Acosta thrived 
on speed and excitement. His feat in blind-flying the America 
for nearly two days was remarkable, but as the plane criss- 
crossed Paris the daredevil pilot began to crack. As the scene 
has been recreated in a biography of Byrd, the Commander 
suddenly shouted to his chief pilot, "You're off your course, 
man. You're flying in a circle!" Byrd's flashlight: 

The Big Parade in the Air 195 

stabs a dazzling naked hole through the darkness, and in its unholy 
glare Acosta turns savagely, his eyes red and bulging "I'm going 
back!" his voice rasps brazenly. He whirls back to the controls, the 
motors burst into a screaming crescendo and the America wheels 
abruptly and spurts back toward the sea. 

At such a moment a commander can do only one thing. 
Byrd grabbed a heavy metal flashlight and stepped behind 
Acosta. He lifted the flashlight, ready to bring it down in a 
knockout blow on the pilot's skull. But before he could do this, 
Acosta collapsed, falling nervelessly into the two feet of leg 
room between the pilot seats. Calm young Bernt Balchen 
slipped into his chair and took over the controls. 

Balchen was piloting some two hours later at two-thirty in 
the morning, Paris time when murky clouds below suddenly 
parted for a split second. Through this break could be seen an 
expanse of what appeared to be sea. Actually it was the English 
Channel just off Ver sur Mer, a quiet fishing village which had 
last known excitement when a ship of the Spanish Armada 
foundered there in 1588. 

The tanks of the America held only enough gas for another 
half hour of flight. Since the sea below seemed calm, Byrd 
decided to land in the water. "We landed voluntarily," he said 
later, "choosing the sea as safer than unknown ground/ 7 By 
this time all crew members were stone deaf, and Byrd scratched 
out on a piece of paper, "We are going to land." He passed 
this around, as Noville later said, "like an invitation to a tea 
party." Balchen read, nodded. He pointed the huge plane 
downward. Wheels touched water and were instantly shorn 
from the fuselage. A second later came a mighty crash and the 
plane went under. Byrd, Balchen, and Noville fought their way 
out of the fuselage and rose to the surface. For a moment 
Acosta seemed lost, but almost at once the dashing fellow 
popped up, revived by the dip and smiling his flashing smile; 
The men peered around and saw the shore about two hundred 

196 The Big Parade in the Air 

yards away. Noville inflated the rubber raft and in it the four 
paddled ashore. 

"The taste of France for hero worship has not been ex- 
hausted/ 7 read a dispatch to the New York Times a few days 
later. Byrd and his men had been rushed to a hospital, where 
all four were found to be suffering varying stages of exhaustion. 
Acosta had painfully fractured a shoulder and on Byrd's chest 
was a large contusion. At Ver sur Mer the four were permitted 
some sleep, but Paris was impatiently awaiting them. 

In Paris, the men of the America found Chamberlin and 
Levine, and it was as a group of six Heroes that the trans- 
atlantic fliers were greeted by President Doumergue and other 
high officials of France. 

In Byrd, Paris found a new kind of inspiring Hero. Chiseled, 
erect, aristocratic in Navy whites, he seemed a man where 
Lindbergh had been a boy. Byrd was capable of salty speech 
"High up in the clouds it was cold as hell," he told one admir- 
ing group. Again, "I tell you, it was one hell of a strain." 
Despite his chiseled features and erect bearing, Byrd possessed 
a keen sense of humor and much enjoyed listening to yams 
spun by the drily humorous Clarence Chamberlin. In public 
Byrd made speeches and accepted honors with the dash of a 
Virginia gentleman. Because of his rank and previous accom- 
plishments, the precise French accorded him even higher official 
honors than were given Lindbergh. 

Emphasis on Byrd left the others free to enjoy Paris. 
Chamberlin and his wife went sightseeing like tourists from 
Iowa. Balchen discovered a cafe in Montparnasse called the 
Viking and there the young man of the north established a 
Hero-hangout. Dashing Bert Acosta soaked up night life at Joe 
Zellf s. On the night of Commander Byrd's thirty-eighth birth- 
day the group went en masse to the Folies Bergeres. The new 
American Heroes seemed to be having a grand time in Paris, 

The Big Parade in the Air 197 

and newspapers lamented that Lindbergh had not been let 
loose on the town to taste its rare pleasures. "It is not on the 
record," declared a journalist solemnly, "that Colonel Lind- 
bergh ever really enjoyed himself in Paris, unless doing barrel- 
rolls and looping-the-loop in a French military plane consti- 
tutes enjoyment." 

Came a shift in the cast of Hero characters, for Clarence 
Chamberlin at last became fed up with the antics of his erratic 
transatlantic partner. An open break between these two became 
public knowledge when Levine announced plans to fly back 
across the Atlantic in the Columbia. Chamberlin felt this was 
pushing good luck. He bowed out. Levine announced that his 
probable pilot would be Fraulein Thea Rasche, and that as an 
extra added passenger the plane might have a much-publicized 
American lady known as Mabel Boll, the Queen of Diamonds. 
After this had won suitable headlines, Levine dropped the 
ladies to hire a French pilot named Maurice Drouhit, who 
had been planning his own flight. By then Chamberlin and 
Levine ceased appearing together in public. When queried 
about this, Chamberlin answered tersely, "Our programs will 
be separate from now on." 


Joe College: See that fellow over there? That's Lindbergh. 
Dumb Dora: Let's seewhen was it he swam the English 


Mother: Aren't you ashamed of yourself wearing so little 

clothing to a party? 

Flapper: Goodness no, mother. If I were ashamed of my- 

self I wouldn't wear so little clothing to a party. 

College Humor 

He: What happened to your stenographer? 

Him: She left she caught me kissing my wife. 


Shiek: Has Tom learned to play the saxophone yet? 

Sheba: It's hard to tell. 


ist Flapper: The boy Tm going with now thinks of nothing 

but necking. 

2nd Flapper: What can you do with a fellow like that? 
ist Flapper: Neck. 

College Humor 

Twelve Little Words 199 

Chuck: I thought you promised to save me some of the 

hooch you had. 
Wally: I tried to, but it ate holes through everything 

and I finally had to drink it. 

College Humor 

Bystander: Good heavens, you shot the -wrong man. 
Chicagoan: What of it? 


Show Girl: For heaven's sake, stop showing your ignorance. 
Chorus Girl: My God, I knew I should have worn a petticoat! 


Have you some of that gasoline that stops knocking? 


Then give my wife a glass. 

Literary Digest 

With such enormous events transpiring in the air, it would 
seem impossible for anyone landbound to make banner head- 
lines in 1927, Yet as June became July, and July approached 
August, this feat was accomplished intermittently by a man 
who apparently decided that in view of the soaring flights he 
could make the headlines only by the shrewdest kind of under- 

In this he was like a highly experienced actor, aware of 
every possible trick of his trade. On a stage in the midst of a 
group of youngsters with looks, adventure-appeal, and a super- 
abundance of It, the seasoned performer would know that 
only by relying on scene-stealing could he win the attention 
of the audience. He could stand corner-stage and lingeringly 
extract a long white handkerchief from a pocket during the 
leading actor's soliloquy. Or wear different colored socks, to 
strategically reveal this interesting fact as he sat observing a 
highly emotional scene acted by others. Or he could be the 

200 Twelve Little Words 

old-time buffoon who would don ridiculous attire to stalk 
wordlessly across the stage the low comedian who will wear 
anything, do anything, to pull attention to himself. 

The man who, by a combination of all such methods, fre- 
quently won headlines in the summer the world went mad 
had alreadylike an expert actor great prestige and a large 
following. He was Calvin Coolidge, thirtieth President of the 
United States. Coolidge's superb skill at capturing the spot- 
light at moments during his somnolent administration has sur- 
prised some historians, but it never surprised the few who knew 
the silent Chief Executive well. The Coolidge horizon was 
bounded by his sparse Vermont boyhood, and he seemed to 
regard the Presidency of the United States as tantamount to 
operating a small store. So long as the shelves were orderly and 
expenses kept low that was enough. Thousands of office- 
holders lost jobs as a result of Cautious CaFs ceaseless econ- 
omies, but he never considered expanding or introducing new 
ideas. In a devastating essay called "A Study In Inertia," 
Irving Stone has written: "Calvin Coolidge believed that the 
least government was the best government; he aspired to be- 
come the least President the country had ever had; he attained 
his desire/' 

Under Coolidge, the capital city of Washington was as quiet 
as a New England village. A few stop-and-go traffic lights had 
just been installed, but this was a sign of rare progress. In 1927 
the Coolidge workday averaged a mere four hours. The Pres- 
ident was much pleased by this, as was the rest of the country 
which called his tenure the Era of Coolidge Prosperity. 
Coolidge firmly believed that by easing the tax burdens of the 
rich he benefitted all in other words, the rich as they grew 
richer would take care of the poor. "The business of America 
is business," he stated on one famous occasion. Again he said, 
"brains are wealth and wealth is the chief end of man/ 7 His 
grasp of economics was exposed as he solemnly declared; 

Twelve Little Words 201 

"When more and more people are thrown out of work, unem- 
ployment results." Of all this, William Allen White stated: 
"He was an economic fatalist, with a God-given inertia. He 
knew nothing and refused to learn." 

In little more than twenty years the tight-lipped Coolidge 
had made an astounding rise from City Councilman to the 
Presidency. "He ain't gabby/' opined the first voters to en- 
counter him. He was not gabby in the White House either. 
His four-hour work day was largely spent in listening to the 
reports of subordinates or to receiving distinguished guests. 
When the man across his desk ceased speaking, the pickle- 
pussed President merely looked at him. Shortly the visitor rose 
and left. For the rest of the time he walked about offering his 
cold-fish handshake to White House tourists, rocked on his 
Pennsylvania Avenue porch, prowled the White House kitchens 
in search of excess spending, or threw temper tantrums because 
Secret Servicemen did not instantly carry out his cryptic orders. 

The man who cut the duties of office by seventy percent was 
also able to nap every afternoon from two to four, his feet 
neatly crossed atop the Presidential desk. Just about the only 
thing to be said in favor of Coolidge is that he may have 
realized subconsciously that he was ill-equipped for such high 
office. But if he did not grow in mental stature during his 
tenure, Coolidge gradually became aware that a spotlight of 
national interest was eternally focused on him. 

"Coolidge has been an old man from the age of twelve," one 
observer decided. "He is spending his adolescence in the White 
House." The adolescent in the joyless man found a new toy 
in his ability to get publicity. Because of his inertia almost any- 
thing Coolidge said or did was news, often with accompanying 
photographs. But as always Cautious Cal took the limited view. 
From the White House, he could project almost any image of 
himself. Characteristically, he chose the most sedate. He 
watched with a careful eye every detail of his quiet daily life, 

202 Twelve Little Words 

noting anything out of the ordinary that happened. Regularly 
he parceled out these morsels to reporters. It became a major 
news event when Mrs. Coolidge baked a souffle that her hus- 
band liked. 

As Coolidge evaluated his own news potential, the most ex- 
citing material he had to offer stemmed from what newspapers 
called the White House menagerie. The President and his 
warmhearted wife had two collies named Rob Roy and 
Princess Prim, together with a raccoon named Rebecca. They 
also owned five assorted birds. Coolidge watched the antics of 
this menagerie with an avid eye and instantly reported any 
cute behavior to the waiting press. Such stories were designed 
to make Coolidge himself seem simple, friendly, and con- 
tented. But the important thing is that they came from 
Coolidge. He was letting the world see him as he saw himself. 

So the country became familiar with the man whose per- 
sonality was once compared to a block of ice, and in whose 
veins supposedly ran ice water. In photographs the dour man's 
head seemed to be topped by black hair. Actually his hair was 
sandy with a few glints of red. It was the only colorful thing 
about him. In 1924, the Republican Party had waged its cam- 
paign with the slogan Keep Cool with Coolidge, which com- 
pletely summed up the President's philosophy. As Frederick 
Lewis Allen has written: "Considering that he was in the 
White House for five years and seven months, his Presidential 
record was surprisingly negative. But it was just the sort of 
record he preferred." 

Rob Roy, Princess Prim, and Rebecca Raccoon the birds 
had been left behind were members in top standing of the 
Presidential vacation special which departed Washington early 
in June. This was several days after the thundering excitements 
of Lindbergh Day, and the President and his wife were bound 
for the Black Hills of South Dakota on a vacation scheduled 

Twelve Little Words 203 

to last from June i$th to September i5th. For his 1927 change- 
of-scene, Coolidge had chosen a territory far different from the 
rocky hills of his native Vermont. The Black Hills were really 
mountains, 3,500 feet above sea level, with travel folders en- 
thusiastically hailing the region near the South Dakota- 
Wyoming border as an American Switzerland. The Summer 
White House would be in the i25,oa>acre Custer Park forest 
reserve, famed for elk, buffalo, trout, natural caves, bottomless 
lakes, and (it was promised) cool breezes. High altitudes would 
help keep away annoying flies and mosquitoes. The White 
House itself would be a thirty room State Game Lodge, and 
reporters sent ahead to scout the area wrote: "Past its porch 
elk, sheep, and deer stroll. Almost at its door is a stream 
stocked with rainbow trout. One sleeps under blankets." 

Coolidge's executive offices would be in the classrooms of a 
school house in Rapid City, an automobile ride of thirty-two 
minutes from the State Game Lodge. Nearby lay the fabled 
town of Deadwood, hallowed by Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill 
Hickok, Calamity Jane, and other legendary figures of the 
Northwest. Also close by was Mount Rushmore, where the 
sculptor Gutzon Borglum was preparing his massive sculptures 
of the faces of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Theodore 
Roosevelt out of the sheer mountainside. 

South Dakota had been picked as Presidential vacationland 
for reasons other than invigorating air and plentiful trout. In 
legislative and other matters, the Northwest had felt slighted 
in recent years. Party bosses, eyes on 1928, had pressured 
Coolidge into traveling to this far region for the summer. 
When the selection of South Dakota was announced all 
animosity faded behind a huge eruption of local pride. This 
became clear as the Presidential special approached Rapid City. 
The final four hundred miles turned into a giant cheering 
session, with South Dakotans gathered at whistle stops to ex- 
press themselves in such cheers as: 

204 Twelve Little Words 

South Dakota is the sunshine state 
All the people here are feeling great. 

South Dakota was not a region noted for literary productivity^ 
yet now and through the summer its delighted inhabitants 
exposed a happy talent for creating jingles. Most of these 
rhymed the name Cal and as the Presidential Special huffed 
along school children waved banners which read: 

Well back you, Cal 
Like we would a pal. 

There was yet another reason for this warmth. It may be 
hard to believe ? but Calvin Coolidge was the President who, 
up to this point in history, had reached closest contact with 
the people of his country. Even dynamic, picturesque Teddy 
Roosevelt had been a remote figure compared to the block-of- 
ice personality of Coolidge. One reason for this was radio, by 
which the twangy, impersonal Coolidge voice could be heard in 
any living room. Almost equally important were the movie 
newsreels, in days before television the most dramatic method 
of watching great events and personages. Coolidge had a great 
partiality for Movietone News and others, perhaps because he 
could run them off at will, observing himself in action. He 
showed an almost childish fondness for newsreel cameramen., 
and this was never more apparent than during the Black Hills 
sojourn. Because of various delays, the Presidential party did 
not reach the State Game Lodge until after dark on the night 
of arrival. Next morning Coolidge personally herded the entire 
party two hundred yards down the road. Bags were stowed in 
motor cars as before, and a second arrival at the summer White 
House was staged in daylight for the benefit of newsreels. 

On the placid mind of President Coolidge reposed such in- 
ternational matters as the Second Geneva Naval Conference, 
which like the first seemed doomed to failure. At home he was 
slightly unpopular in rural districts because of a steadfast re- 

Twelve Little Words 205 

fusal to sign bills bringing farm relief. Just before Coolidge 
departed for South Dakota, the great rise in stock market prices 
suddenly halted, for all the world like the gasp which indicates 
a healthy man is not as robust as he looks. Coolidge and Sec- 
retary of the Treasury Mellon took due note of this, with the 
result that both went to great lengths to proclaim greater faith 
than ever in the future of America. Immediately stocks jumped 
twenty-six points. Coolidge and Mellon were enormously 
pleased with themselves. What they had done, however, was 
to boost prices by exploiting their prestige and the great con- 
fidence the public reposed in them. A trusting public which 
had used up its savings began to borrow on farms, homes, and 
cars for money to invest in the glorious American bull market. 

None of this dawned on Coolidge, who after restaging the 
daylight arrival at Custer Park promptly repaired to nearby 
Squaw Creek where he donned rubber hip boots over his busi- 
ness suit and, with a sedate gray fedora on his head, proceeded 
to fish. This was the day an exhausted Lindbergh flew from 
New York to St. Louis, and while he did Coolidge caught 
seven rainbow trout, the largest one and seven-eighths pounds. 
Returning to the lodge, he proudly held them up for the 
admiration of Mrs. Coolidge, while the newsreel cameras 
ground away. 

Coolidge did have problems. So little happened around him 
that even so simple a matter as catching seven rainbow trout 
could embroil him in nationwide controversy. On the night of 
the arrival at Custer Park, Rebecca Raccoon had slipped out 
of her cage and climbed up into the limbs of a tree. For the 
next half hour the President of the United States stood under 
the tree, whistling gently to bring her down. Reporters 
watched hungrily, and this mild scene became a major story 
enshrined in news columns around the country. 

Similarly, when Coolidge carried a tin of wriggling worms 
on his first day's fishing, this too made news though of a 

206 Twelve Litde Words 

more explosive sort. Across the country, members of the Izaak 
Walton League thought fishing for trout with worms unsports- 
manlike. A howl of public protest arose, and the summer 
White House was inundated with fishing flies, while various 
publicity-minded individuals offered to rush to Custer Park to 
instruct the President in their use. To all this Coolidge re- 
acted sourly. "Ill let the fish teach me how to use flies/' he 

The clear air of South Dakota wrought no visible change in 
the Coolidge personality. One of the hardships of office was 
that so many people wished to lunch or dine with the President 
of the United States. At such moments Coolidge said nothing 
to his guests, leaving conversation entirely to the charming 
Mrs. Coolidge. Yet guests felt impelled to address some remark 
to the taciturn host. At one Black Hills luncheon a Republican 
committeewoman turned with great animation to say, "Mr. 
Coolidge, you must get a great many important dispatches from 
Washington out here. How do they come by air mail?" 

"Special pouch," Coolidge answered without lifting eyes 
from food. 

It was a moment Mrs. Coolidge had faced many times be- 
fore and she hopped into the breach. "Oh, yes," she said, "we 
get a great deal of mail. Even books and magazines if we send 
for them " 

"Not by special pouch," Coolidge snapped. 

"Oh, no, I didn't mean they came by special pouch." 

"You implied it." 

At the Custer Park White House, Coolidge continued his 
afternoon naps. Mornings he either went to the Rapid City 
executive offices or fished. A good deal of his time was spent in 
a rocking chair on the front porch of the Game Lodge. Since 
the Lodge was in a public forest preserve, any citizen of the 
United States willing to take a long auto trip might have the 
privilege of standing a few feet from the nation's Chief Execu- 

Twelve Little Words 207 

tive as he sat in his shirt sleeves rocking "back and forth. So 
many seized this priceless opportunity that Rapid City hotels 
were jammed and neighboring localities began pioneering in 
the American institution of the overnight tourist home. The 
fact that crowds had eyes glued on him as he rocked never 
bothered Calvin Coolidge. Several times during the summer he 
called the White House valet to the side of the rocking chair. 
The valet donned a white coat, extracted snipping shears, and 
trimmed the sandy Presidential hair while hundreds gaped. 

Oddly enough, Coolidge was a Yankee Doodle Dandy, born 
on the Fourth of July. His fifty-fifth birthday fell on July 4, 
1927 and suitable ceremonies were arranged by enthusiastic 
South Dakotans. Yet this and other peaks of Coolidge's Black 
Hills vacation only served to highlight the canny manner in 
which the President spread himself in the department of pub- 
licity. Between the arrival of the Presidential party and late 
June, Coolidge was content to fish. He permitted photog- 
raphers and newsreel cameramen to photograph him holding 
his fishing catch, but never in the act of fishing. This last he 
was saving and with reason! The worm controversy still raged 
in the American press, focusing sufficient attention on him. 
Weeks had passed since Coolidge first impaled a worm on his 
hook, yet now the New York Times carried one of the strangest 
story-heads ever to appear in its august pages: 


Under this, the story begin: "The lowly angle worm is being 
dragged into national politics by political foes of President 
Coolidge with a view to causing loss of the anglers' vote if he 
should be a candidate for re-election claims Fred B. Shaw, 
former international fly fishing champion." 

208 Twelve Little Words 

Mr. Shaw reporters called him a rugged character of 
seventy-three who looked forty-fivehad been scheduled to de- 
liver an address Our President, Our Trout, and Our Fishing 
Methods over radio station WABC in New York. Though a 
vigorous member of the Izaak Walton League, Mr. Shaw could 
see both sides of any question and was prepared to defend the 
President: "It is my intention to offer honorable amends to our 
President for the many slurs and gibes that have been launched 
against him by anglers since it became known he was using 
worms as bait for trout/' Immediately before this stout defense 
went on the air, Mr. Shaw was told to make certain deletions 
in his talk. He refused. Stalking from the radio station, he 
called a press conference at which he charged that Democrats 
were conniving to make Coolidge lose the next election. He 
would, He declared, find another radio outlet for his speech of 

So the worm story raged and Coolidge calmly permitted it to 
do so. Another running story involved his adoption into the 
Sioux Indian tribe. Coolidge boasted a drop of Indian blood in 
his ice-cold veins, and the South Dakota Sioux had decided to 
christen him Great White Chief, an honor never before ac- 
corded an American President. This was even more of an honor 
because the Sioux had filed suit against the government for 
seventy thousand dollars, claiming ownership of the land on 
which the Custer Park game reserve stood. Another delicate 
shading was provided by the fact that seventeen living members 
of the Sioux tribe had taken part in the Custer massacre. 

Even so, Chief Henry Standing Bear was determined to 
honor Coolidge. He drew up plans for a solemn tribal cere- 
mony in which Rosebud Robe, most beautiful of living Sioux 
maidens, would present Coolidge with a war bonnet, the 
feathers of which would reach the ground; Chief Chauncey 
Yellow Horse would elucidate the honor bestowed on the Pres- 
ident; and, finally, Henry Standing Bear himself would puff the 

Twelve Little Words 209 

pipe of peace before holding it out to the Great White Father. 

Already theatrical agents were fanning out from major cities 
to sign Rosebud Robe to a personal appearance contract, and 
in this and other matters pertaining to the Coolidge ceremony 
the Sioux showed a sense of publicity almost equal to the 
President's. What Indian name should be given the Great 
White Chief? This was a matter of vast import to the Sioux 
and shortly became important to the rest of the country as 
well. Every few days Chief Henry Standing Bear leaked a new 
name to the press. Was Silent Waters the right name for 
Coolidge, or would Solemn Warrior be better? The Sioux 
chose and cast aside, faithfully informing the press each time. 

For Coolidge's birthday on July 4th, cowboys and cowgirls, 
Indians and prospectors, school children and parents, local 
families, tourists, Republican committee members, business- 
men, and miscellaneous dignitaries swarmed to Custer Park. 
Not the least prominent among these was "Aunt Mary" Halley, 
a pioneer grandmother, considered the best cake and bread 
baker in the Black Hills. Rhapsodized the New York Times: 
"Her cakes are baked from her own recipes which she carefully 
guards. They have a richness that tickles the palate but does 
not disturb the digestion." 

Aunt Maty had been delegated to bake the official Coolidge 
birthday cake and from her huge store of knowledge decided 
on a sour-cream chocolate cake. At one-fifteen on July 4th, 
Aunt Mary appeared on the doorstep of the summer White 
House bearing this offering. Coolidge, in a blue serge suit and 
stiff straw hat, accepted the gift. "I had a day of days," Aunt 
Mary confided later. "I suddenly found myself in the center of 
a group, pleasantly received by President and Mrs. Coolidge." 

Aunt Mary's presentation of the cake was the signal for 
South Dakota's birthday celebration to begin. Multitudes 
jammed the spacious lawns of the Game Lodge, and straight- 
way South Dakotans began to prove their new-found genius for 

210 Twelve Little Words 

jingles. From one end of the lawn a group of high school boys 
and girls cheered in unison: 

He's Our Pal 

From another side of the crowd came a competitive cheer: 

We're With You, Cal 
With You and Your Gal 


He's Our Pal 
Is Cal 

And another: 

Cal and His Gal 
May God Be Their Pal 

As the cheering sections vied to outdo each other, a group of 
Boy Scouts presented Coolidge with a complete cowboy outfit. 
The President smiled painfully as the beauties of this regalia 
were indicated to him, especially the fact that down the sides 
of the wide chaps stippled letters spelled out: 



When the cowboy suit had been stowed back in its box 
Coolidge began offering his lifeless handshake to local officials 
and Republicans who had traveled from afar to greet him. 

The President was an especial favorite of the Woman's 
Christian Temperence Union, for he had never been known to 
sip an alcoholic beverage, and his views on Prohibition were 
characteristically negative. "I believe the law should be up- 
held," was all he had ever said about the God-given right of 
a man to take a drink. Groups of grateful WCTU ladies now 
reached for his hand, thanking him fervently for such righteous 

Twelve Little Words 211 

Temperatures in the Black Hills had "been reaching the 
upper nineties, and members of the Presidential entourage 
were sure Coolidge wished he had vacationed as usual in the 
coolness of Vermont. July 4th was another scorching day and 
after an hour the birthday ceremonies showed signs of sagging. 
Coolidge may have been unable to detect signs of dangerous 
overexpansion in the national economy ("There was a volcano 
boiling under him, but he did not know it," H. L. Mencken 
would write), but he did know when a celebration in his honor 
was falling flat. Sizing up the unhappy situation, he disap- 
peared inside the summer White House. 

When he came back, the President wore the full cowboy 
costume presented by the Boy Scouts. He made a curious, in- 
congruous, and thoroughly astonishing sight: "Booted and 
spurred, with flaming red shirt, a dashing handkerchief of blue 
around his neck, fancy boots carrying silver spurs upon the 
heels, chaps around his legs, a belt around his waist, and on his 
head a ten gallon hat that looked as if it would hold fifteen." 
Smiling sheepishly, Coolidge walked through the awe-struck 
crowd until he stood in front of his wife. "How do I look?" he 
asked her. "Like a real Westerner," she tactfully said. 

Coolidge allowed newspaper photographers to take his pic- 
ture in the cowboy outfit. Then he perched on the wooden 
fence of a corral and mechanically lifted the ten-gallon hat up 
and down for the newsreel boys. COOLIDGE AS COWBOY WINS 
WEST'S HEART, newspapers headlined the next day, thus effec- 
tively stealing space from Commander Byrd and his men, who 
were being feted in Paris. 

But the cowboy suit was no one-shot scene-stealing effort 
with the President. He became deeply attached to it, wearing 
the ten-gallon hat on all occasions. Far more surprising was 
the sight that greeted those who visited the President after 
dinner. One man so honored reported that he "found the 
President seated in his living room wearing cowboy boots, 

212 Twelve Little Words 

chaps, and ten-gallon hat. There he sat late into the night 
smoking his cigar. He is said to put on these clothes of the 
West after dinner, using them as other men do a lounging 

In addition to his skill at headline-stealing, Coolidge had 
the most priceless asset of all an ace up his sleeve. Would he 
run for the Presidency in 1928, or would he not? To the people 
of the United States Coolidge seemed, during the halcyon 
summer of 1927, to be giving a most effective demonstration of 
a man running hard for re-election. Yet no announcement 
came from the summer White House. Time was running short, 
and an increasing procession of Republican bigwigs visited the 
President in the Rapid City executive offices. Emerging, they 
stood on the stone steps of the school house to inform the 
twenty-five reporters assigned to the Black Hills that Coolidge 
seemed certain to run again. COOLIDGE VISITORS SAY HE is CAN- 
DIDATE, became a familiar headline. Everyone agreed that if 
Coolidge did run again, he would be splendidly re-elected. 
With just the slightest of exceptions, Coolidge Prosperity still 
blanketed the land. 

Only Silent Cal kept silent. Following his July 4th birthday 
celebration, he parceled himself out with customary canniness. 
Now at last he permitted himself to be photographed while 
fishing, and captions under the pictures said he was using a red 
spinner. In New York, angler Fred Shaw had finally delivered 
his speech over station WGY, summing up: "It is perfectly 
legitimate for the President to use worm-bait when fishing for 
trout in the Black Hills, because in some places it is the only 
bait to use." This, together with the President's use of the 
spinner, closed the worm controversy. 

Coolidge was not dismayed. On July 4th the civilian fliers 
Smith and Bronte took off from Oakland for Hawaii. Fuel 
tanks dry, they crashed twenty-five hours later on the leper- 
colony island of Molokai, southeast of Honolulu. On this day, 

Twelve Little Words 213 

Coolidge made equal news by going on a picnic to an old 
mining camp deep in the Black Hills. It was a steep, uphill 
climb to the abandoned camp, and horses pulling the picnic 
wagons puffed hard. Newsmen who raced ahead to be on the 
spot before the Presidential Party beheld a strange sight: "Up 
a steep mountain trailed a wagon drawn by two horses adorned 
with American flags. In the wagon sat Mrs. Coolidge. Behind 
the wagon, pushing it, was the President. Sweat poured down 
his face, his coat was off, and his vest had climbed up, an- 
nouncing the fact that the President wears suspenders/' 

On this picnic Coolidge outdid himself. Not only did he 
make news by shoving the wagon. He also donned hip boots 
and panned for gold like an oldtime prospector. Cameras 
clicked as he did. Then he fished, again permitting photog- 
raphers to take pictures, and earning himself the headline: 




On July i8th Commander Byrd and his crew, together with 
Clarence Chamberlin, returned on the Leviathan. New York 
staged another monster welcome, with Lindbergh and Floyd 
Bennett riding down the Bay to greet the returning heroes. The 
Byrd welcome cost twenty-six thousand dollars compared to 
Lindbergh's seventy-five thousand dollars, yet it made headlines 
and Coolidge temporarily bowed to the inevitable. But soon he 
was back in the news by attending the Belle Fourche Rodeo 
wearing the ten-gallon hat. Protests from the Anti-Rodeo 
League failed to create the stir made by the Izaak Walton 
League perhaps to Coolidge's disappointment. Yet, the rodeo 
had its incident. As he stood surrounded by the reception com- 
mittee, Coolidge suddenly broke silence to demand, "Where's 
Badger Clark?" Badger Clark, author of such epics as "The 
Cowboy's Prayer/ 7 was the President's favorite poet. The recep- 

214 Twelve Little Words 

tion committee was covered with confusion. Badger Clark had 
not been included among the distinguished guests. 

As July ended, Lindbergh began his cross-country tour to 
promote aviation, winning headlines by the roaring receptions 
he received in such cities as Boston. After many false starts, 
the Sioux Indians finally settled on a name for the Great White 
Chief. The President would be christened Leading Eagle 
(Wamblee-Tokaha). Meanwhile, Coolidge let his personality 
out another notch by permitting photographs in full cowboy 
regalia astride a horse as he took a canter with a local woods- 
man named Dakota Clyde Jones. 

In one way, Coolidge was a special trial to those around 
him. He steadfastly kept his watch on Washington time. Thus 
when he arose at seven in the morning, it was in reality five, 
Black Hills time. Coolidge was always the first to arrive at his 
schoolhouse office, and Presidential Secretary Everett Sanders 
experienced many headaches keeping the Coolidge appoint- 
ment book straight. By August 2nd, when the President called 
a press conference, the twenty-five Black Hills correspondents 
had finally mastered the art of arriving in the Rapid City 
schoolhouse at the right time. 

August 2nd was the fourth anniversary of the death of 
Warren G. Harding, as well as the dramatic midnight swearing- 
into-ofEce of Coolidge by his Justice-of-the-Peace father in the 
family's Vermont homestead. In view of this, reporters ex- 
pected that the press conference would be no more than a few 
perfunctory words about the anniversary. None suspected that 
Coolidge was going to play his tantalizing ace. Nor did any- 
one notice that Everett Sanders surreptitiously locked the door 
after the reporters had assembled. 

Coolidge stood behind his desk smoking a cigar in a stubby 
ivory holder. "Is everyone in now?" he inquired in his flat New 
England twang. Assured the entire press corps were present, he 
told reporters to form a line and pass in front of him one by 

Twelve Little Words 215 

one. To each he handed a small slip of paper on which was 
typed, "I do not choose to ran for President in Nineteen-twenty- 

Reading this, the first reporter gasped and plunged for the 
door. It was locked, and he like the others had to stand wait- 
ing until the twenty-fifth man reached Coolidge. This gave re- 
porters time to dwell on the inadequacy of the announcement 
and one begged, "Mr. President, can't you give us something 
more than this?" No flicker of satisfaction or amusement 
showed on the Presidential countenance. Tightening thin lips, 
he said, "There will be nothing more from this office today/ 7 
Sanders unlocked the door, and the reporters raced for tele- 
phones and telegraph wires. Next morning the country rocked 
to the headlines: 


So Calvin Coolidge played his ace, providing one of the major 
news sensations of 1927. I-Do-Not-Choose-to-Run came as a 
shattering surprise to the country. Coolidge and Coolidge 
Prosperity seemed to belong together. No one had really 

thought Coolidge would end his pleasant White House tenure. 
Said a shocked Senator Hiram Johnson, "I am astounded," 
After recovering from the initial surprise newspaper editorials 
looked ahead: "The effect of the Coolidge message is like the 

breaking of a log jam on a river in the lumber country. As long 
as the President remained silent, the Presidential timber piled 
up behind him unable to move. Now it will burst loose with 
full vigor." 

Still unable to assimilate the unwelcome announcement the 
nation turned to examining the word choose. Was it a tight 
word, or a loose one? Had the President used it in a Chaucerian 
or Websterian sense? There was, pundits opined, a vast differ- 

216 Twelve Little Words 

Across the country collegiate youths lettered I Do Not 
Choose to Run in 1928 on the sides of their Model T flivvers, 
but newspapers took the statement with the utmost serious- 
ness. Most believed that choose was a loose word which in- 
dicated Silent Cal might still be prevailed upon to run. Will 
Rogers examined the controversy with a humorist's eye and 
quipped that choose was "a foxy word." No one else put it 

Several days after the Coolidge announcement a large dele- 
gation of WCTU ladies from northwestern states descended 
upon Rapid City. Outside the President's schoolhouse offices, 
the portly matrons fell to their knees, bowed heads, and offered 
up silent prayer that God in his infinite wisdom would make 
Calvin Coolidge change his mind. The ladies remained on their 
knees a considerable time, and at least twice Coolidge walked 
to the window of his office to see if they were still there. They 
were, and without altering his sour expression, the Chief Ex- 
ecutive returned to his desk. 

Nor would Coolidge say anything further to reporters. In 
desperation, newsmen made a big event of the arrival at Custer 
Park of young John Coolidge, the President's college student 
son, who had been taking summer courses at the University of 
Vermont. Asked his opinion of the "I-Do-Not-Choose" state- 
ment, young John replied, "Father usually says what he means." 
The passage of time proved him correct. Coolidge did not run 
in 1928, even though he was reported to have thrown himself 
on his bed in a tantrum when finally Herbert Hoover was 
nominated in his place. 

The Coolidge decision against running again may well have 
been influenced by another event of 1927. Both before and 
after the I-Do-Not-Choose statement, the bones of Coolidge's 
predecessor in Presidential office were rattling in their resting 
place. In November 1927 the infamous Teapot Dome scandals 

Twelve Little Words 217 

would reach the trial-point, thus bringing final disgrace to the 
shade of Warren Gamaliel Harding. If, as is possible, Coolidge 
realized certain of his own inadequacies as President, he may 
have feared something similar for himself if he held office too 
long. Get out while the getting is good, an inner voice may 
have counseled. 

But far more shocking to a man like Calvin Coolidge and 
his WCTU cohorts was another scandal which enlivened the 
summer of 1927. This was publication of a book called The 
President's Daughter, by Nan Britton. Telling the all-too- 
familiar American tragedy of a very human man, an older, 
nagging wife, and a beautiful girl thirty years the man's junior, 
it abounded in such convincing detail that few who read its 440 
pages doubted that the true father of the daughter was the late 
lamented Warren G. Harding. "Truth is patent in its every 
chapter/' opined the journalist-biographer Samuel Hopkins 

In the book were sex scenes too hot for Hollywood. They 
took place in a tiny White House closet where important 
visitors stored coats, galoshes and rubbers. As one historian has 
described the coat-closet assignations of Harding and his 
twenty-year-old mistress: 

The man was handsome and silver-haired. . . . The girl was 
young, trim and blonde, with wide, intelligent eyes and the fresh 
look of a college sophomore. In the White House hall outside she 
had seemed demure, might have been the big man's devoted 
daughter. . . . 

With the closet door shut, the windowless cubby hole was pitch 
dark and perhaps better so. For the two who outside had seemed 
so heartwanningly handsome and respectable began kissing fever- 
ishly, lips pressing against lips. For a few minutes this seemed to 
suffice, then the man's heavy body bent forward, crashing the girl 
hard against the wall. In answer to an unspoken signal, the hands 
of each furiously began exploring the body of the other. 

Nineteen twenty-seven was the world's greatest year of sen- 

218 Twelve Little Words 

sations all blazoned in full ballyhoo style on the front pages 
of newspapers. The President's Daughter was just about the 
only under-the-counter sensation offered by the tumultuous 
year. The Republican Party tried to prevent publication, yet 
overnight it became, says Paul Sann in The Lawless Decade, 
"a kind of bootleg best seller. Many stores kept it under the 
counter as if it were a collection of French postcards between 
covers. But 50,000 Americans paid $5 apiece for it that summer 
and fall." 

No one knows whether Calvin Coolidge read The President's 
Daughter, or was briefed on its contents. But he must have 
been aware of the book's existence and of the sub rosa stir it 
was creating in the summer of 1927. This and Teapot Dome 
may have driven him to contemplate the unexpected things 
that can rise to sully the reputations of those who fail to 
measure up to high executive office. Get out while the getting 
is good! The President's Daughter, under-the-counter best seller 
of the year, may well have been a factor in Calvin Coolidge's 
surprising I-Do-Not-Choose-to-Run. 

O DOUBT Americans living through the 
splendid summer of 1927 would be sur- 
prised to learn that thirty-three years later in distant 1960 
the two most momentous events of the Year of the Big Shriek 
would be the Lindbergh flight and the execution on August 
22nd of the so-called anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo 

By the same token, those peering back at 1927 may be sur- 
prised at the tumult of emotion stirred up by the Sacco-Van- 
zetti case. With the passage of years the impression has grown 
that Sacco-Vanzetti was considered a minor matter at the time 7 
only to become heavy on the country's conscience in later years. 
This is not so. True, few Americans in the Teeming Twenties 
bothered to follow all ramifications of the involved case. It 
was in and out of newspaper headlines for seven long years ? 
and after its unhappy end the majority of Americans were only 
too anxious to forget it in favor of the next big sensation. For 
a time they succeeded. But Sacco-Vanzetti again rose to take 
its place among the major happenings of 1927. 


220 Sacco-Vanzetti 

If nothing else, the bewildering story of Nick Sacco and Bart 
Vanzetti to Americanize the first names of the pair, as their 
adherents quickly didexposed the cleavage between the 
American minority who thought for itself and the majority 
content to let thinking be done for it. Those pondering the 
trials and subsequent tribulations of the two men usually de- 
veloped grave doubts about the integrity of the charge on 
which they were convicted by the Commonwealth of Massa- 
chusetts. Rather than murderers, the two Italian-born men 
seemed to have been victims of the Red Scare sweeping the 
United States immediately after World War I. 

In that transition period, returning soldiers found that the 
world might be safe for democracy but it was still rough on 
the common man. There was unemployment and much dis- 
content. Looking around for convenient scapegoats, a lot of 
disgruntled citizens decided that radicals among foreign immi- 
grants were responsible. Led by Attorney General A. Mitchell 
Palmer the country began a hysterical campaign against for- 
eign-born Reds. Most hated of these were the anarchists who 
allegedly planned to throw bombs and upset the government of 
the United States by violence. Fury was fanned when some 
anarchists did toss bombs. One blew off the porch of Attorney 
General Palmer's home in Washington, getting himself killed 
in the process. Another exploded a bomb in the middle of Wall 
Street. Anarchists, Mitchell Palmer shouted, were determined 
to blow up the country. 

Yet there were anarchists and anarchists. A few were bomb- 
throwers, many more considered themselves philosophical 
anarchists. These were dreamers rather than doers. In 1920 
Bart Vanzetti, aged thirty-three, was such a man. After fifteen 
years in this country he still peddled fish from a broken-down 
cart which he pushed around the suburbs of Boston. Vanzetti 
was a remarkable figure to be doing this. A bravura fellow, he 

Sacco-Vanzetti 221 

was tall, with a high, intelligent forehead, hawk nose, piercing 
eyes, and an enormous drooping moustache. As he peddled, 
Vanzetti passed out anarchist leaflets advocating a kind of 
idealistic thought which has been called noble nonsense. Van- 
zetti was, in fact, opposed to all existing orders. Where Com- 
munists advocated more rigid laws, he wanted to abolish law. 
Vanzetti's noble nonsense was somewhat Tolstoyan: he be- 
lieved that, were legal restraint removed, people would behave 
better of their own accord. No government, in his mind, was 
far superior to government of the people, by the people. He 
was also a pacifist, in 1917 he had hidden in Mexico rather 
than be subject to the draft. 

No one who knew Vanzetti thought him violent. He was a 
man of sweeping good will The anarchist pamphlets he passed 
out merely urged people to throw off their shackles by attend- 
ing protest meetings against the existing order. "Freedom of 
discussion to all Take the ladies with you," they ended. 

Nick Sacco was a mild and unobtrusive shoemaker, a man 
who spoke only when spoken to. (Vanzetti was likely to grasp 
every chance to proselytize.) Sacco was a devoted husband and 
father of two his son bore the poetic name Dante who 
earned a good income in a shoe factory outside Boston. Sacco 
and Vanzetti were intelligent men (Vanzetti particularly so) 
but they had been leisurely in adapting themselves to the 
United States. They had made no application for citizenship. 
Both still spoke heavily accented English and wrote worse. 

Sacco was hard at work at his factory bench on December 24, 
1919 (Vanzetti later swore that at the same time he was ped- 
dling fish) when a holdup gang attempted a store robbery in 
Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The gang behaved like thorough 
professionals, yet in planning the job they had overlooked the 
fact that the store lay in view of passengers on streetcars which 
clanged by at intervals. In mid-holdup, the trolley could be 

222 Sacco-Vanzetti 

heard heading down upon the scene. The thieves dropped 
everything to flee in a most unprofessional manner. No money 
was stolen, no one hurt. 

Four months later, on April 15, 1920, a far more serious 
holdup was staged in South Braintree, Massachusetts. Before 
the horrified eyes of a gang of Italian ditch diggers, five men 
in a stolen car accosted and cold-bloodedly killed a paymaster 
and factory guard. The murderers got away with a payroll of 
$15,776.51. None of this money, incidentally, was ever traced 
to Sacco or Vanzetti. Nor was any real attempt made to track 
down, or even explain, the other three murderers who might 
have been in the stolen car. 

On May 5th, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested in an auto- 
mobile containing Vanzetti's subversive leaflets. Both men had 
loaded pistols in their pockets, which led police to question 
them about the robbery in December and the double murder 
in April. The result was confusion. Sacco and Vanzetti, still 
clumsy with English, believed the questioning was about the 
leaflets. "The charge of dual-murder seems utterly fantastic 
when applied to this unworldly pair/ 7 stated novelist Phil 
Stong, who covered the case as a young reporter. Soon, how- 
ever, the police had decided that the confusing interrogation 
added up to guilt: by 1920 reasoning, "Reds" who carried 
pistols and distributed anarchist leaflets were capable of any 

When finally Sacco understood what the questioning was 
about he sent for his factory timecard proving he had worked 
all through the day of the December holdup. But as ill-luck 
would have it, on April i5th, Sacco had gone to the Italian 
Consulate in Boston. Certain consular officials recalled his 
visit, but this still left unaccounted the time required to travel 
to and from Boston. The police became convinced that the 
gentle little man could have detoured long enough to become 
one of the five involved in the double murder. 

Sacco-Vanzetti 223 

Vanzetti had no real alibi for either December 24th or April 
i5th. He was a familiar figure in the Italian districts of sub- 
urban Boston where his periodic appearances were so frequent 
as to be taken for granted. To him, December 24th and April 
ijth were like other days of fish-peddling. This lack of specific 
alibi allowed District Attorney Katzmann who had quickly 
become convinced of the guilt of the foreigners to perform a 
deft legal maneuver. He put Vanzetti on trial alone for the 
bungled Bridgewater holdup. Thirty witnesses rose to say that 
to the best of their recollection Bart Vanzetti had been selling 
fish in Plymouth that day. Seated on the bench was the soon- 
to-be-celebrated figure of fifty-seven-year-old Judge Webster 
Thayer, a dried-up, narrow-minded jurist who hated Reds even 
more than did the rabid District Attorney. At the end of the 
trial Judge Thayer delivered an inflammatory charge to the 
jury in which he said: "This man, although he may not 
actually have committed the crime attributed to him, is never- 
theless morally culpable, because he is an enemy of our existing 
institutions . . . the defendant's ideals are cognate with crime. 7 ' 
Vanzetti was quickly found guilty and sentenced to fifteen to 
twenty years in prison. District Attorney Katzmann's plan be- 
came apparent. Vanzetti was now a convicted criminal. 

The slight sympathy engendered among New Englanders by 
this biased trial all but disappeared when the burgeoning 
American Communist Party undertook to beat drums for Sacco 
and Vanzetti. The Communists even provided a lawyer to han- 
dle the defense in the second, or double murder, trial. Here the 
suspicion arises that the Communists really wished the two 
men to remain martyrs, for their lawyer hideously bungled the 
case. Again, Judge Webster Thayer presided and many Bos- 
tonians considered this a mistake. "They were fools to put 
Thayer on that case," one Back Bay figure said later. "He's 
conspicuously bigoted, and what is more he's maladroit." An- 
other said: "I have known Judge Thayer all my life. I could 

224 Sacco-Vanzetti 

not say that I think [he] is at all times a bad man or that he 
is a confirmed wicked man. But I say that he is a narrow- 
minded man; he is a half-educated man; he is an unintelligent 
man; he is full of prejudice; he is carried away with his fear of 
Reds " 

The second trial began on May 31, 1921 and again witnesses 
painted a confusing picture. The prosecution offered sixty-one 
people who placed Sacco and Vanzetti at the scene of the 
killings. The defense countered with one hundred and seven 
who swore the two had been elsewhere. Most damning to the 
defense was the testimony of the Italian ditch diggers who wit- 
nessed the crime. Yet it was noted that most of these men 
were recent immigrants, terrified at being caught in the toils 
of a murder trial and only too willing to answer Si, Si, Si to 
prosecution questions. As before, Judge Thayer used his charge 
to the jury as the excuse for a flag-waving, hate-spewing oration. 
Frank P. Sibley of the Boston Globe, dean of reporters present, 
later wrote that in all his years of covering courts he had never 
heard a charge so slanted as Judge Thayer's: "His whole 
manner, his whole attitude, seemed to be that the jurors were 
there to convict these two men." Even so, the twelve New 
England jurors took seven hours to find the pair guilty. 

At this point the Sacco-Vanzetti case ceased to be a murder 
trial. It now began to revolve about the question of justice in 
an honorable state like Massachusetts. Could this go so far 
astray as to convict innocent men? If so, must the entire legal 
system of the United States be doubted? Few alive in those 
times dared to face this squarely. As one Bostonian put it: 
"This state has, I believe, the oldest legal code built on English 
foundations in the United States. It worked very well for more 
than three hundred years. We can't have fingers pointed at it 
because of two interlopers who are inimical to our social sys- 
tem and take so little interest in our institutions that they 

Sacco-Vanzetti 225 

avoided the draft. More than two men gave up their lives to 
establish our order and maintain it/ 7 

Still, some did begin to doubt Massachusetts justice as in 
following months "evidence piled on evidence to throw massive 
doubts on the conviction." One who began to wonder was a 
patrician New England lawyer named William G. Thompson. 
Later he explained his increasing preoccupation with Sacco 
and Vanzetti by saying: "I went into this case as a man of 
old American tradition to help two poor aliens who had, I 
thought, been unjustly treated. I have arrived at a humbler at- 
titude. Not since the martyrdoms of the sixteenth century has 
such a steadfastness of faith, such self-abnegation as that of 
these two poor Italians been seen on this earth. Nowhere in 
my soul is to be found such strength and faith and gentility as 
make the man Bartolomeo Vanzetti." 

Thompson became attorney for the two men, and started 
peppering Judge Thayer with appeals. The judge rejected them 
all summarily, but their preparation and presentation took 
much time. Simultaneously Judge Thayer's own behavior 
called new attention to the case. In the eyes of the country, 
a courtroom presided over by a Boston judge named Webster 
Thayer seemed sacrosanct. Yet Judge Thayer was not as well 
entrenched in Boston as his distinguished name implied, and 
many Bostonians believed that he pursued the case of Sacco 
and Vanzetti relentlessly in order to ingratiate himself with 
old-line Bostonians. Declared one cynical reporter: "Thayer is 
a country-club boy. He thought he'd get in good with the 
Cabots and the Lowells and the Lodges by sending these Reds 
over tootsweet. It backfired on him." 

Whatever his motives, Judge Thayer talked too much. "Did 
you see what I did to those anarchist bastards . . . ?" he de- 
manded of locker room cronies. He laced his every day speech 
with hate-references to "Dagoes," "Wops," and "Italian sons- 
of-bitches." He gloated that he had "got those damn Reds 

226 Sacco-Vanzetti 

good and proper/' One person to whom such extravagant state- 
ments were repeated was Robert Benchley, Harvard graduate, 
wit, and drama critic of Life. In an affidavit placed before 
the court, Benchley reported Judge Thayer's indiscreet talk. 
Through Benchley top echelon American writers like Edna St. 
Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, Heywood Broun, and John 
Dos Passes rallied to the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti. 

Over seven years the unusual case rolled to a climax in the 
summer of 1927. One of its unusual aspects had come with 
the involvement of an admitted criminal named Celestino 
Madeiros. As the confessed murderer of a bank cashier in 
Wrentham, Madeiros had been sentenced to die along with 
Sacco and Vanzetti. In Dedham prison, Madeiros got to know 
the other two and suddenly confessed to the South Braintree 
murders for which they had been convicted. This might have 
been true, for when he was arrested Madeiros had on his 
person $2,800 approximately one fifth of the $15,766.51 
stolen. Madeiros swore that he was a member of the notorious 
Morelli Gang, which had staged many holdups in the Boston 
area. Judge Thayer impatiently brushed this confession aside, 
saying that a man sentenced to die for one murder might as 
well confess to two more. But there were aspects of the 
Madeiros confession which cried out for investigation. 

Judge Thayer's last official act in the Sacco-Vanzetti case 
was to sentence the men (and Madeiros) to death in July 1927. 
Lawyer William G. Thompson, feeling that he had exhausted 
his own legal ingenuity in the matter, retired in favor of At- 
torney Arthur D. Hill. With the death chair looming, Hill 
decided to concentrate on obtaining either a pardon or a com- 
mutation to life-imprisonment from Governor Alvan Tufts 
Fuller. Bluff, handsome, an automobile dealer in private life, 
Governor Fuller now found himself caught in the whizzing 
crossfire of articulate protest and conventional thought. On his 

Sacco-Vanzetti 227 

gubernatorial desk lay Sacco-Vanzetti appeals from such world 
figures as George Bernard Shaw, Romain Holland, John Gals- 
worthy, and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. On the other 
side, even heavyweight champion Gene Tunney had been heard 
in the clamor. Speaking at an American Legion meeting in 
Syracuse the ex-Marine had ringingly declared, "Radicalism 
must be suppressed and the Legion can help in suppressing it!" 
True, the clean-cut fighter did not mention Sacco and Van- 
zetti by name, but in the summer of 1927 no one could speak 
of radicalism without meaning them. 

An unhappy Governor Fuller sought to remove himself from 
this bewildering situation by postponing the execution date to 
August ioth, then appointing a three-man committee of proper 
Bostonians to consider the case further. The men he choose for 
this were eminent: President A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard; 
President Samuel Stratton of the Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology; and Robert Grant, retired judge of the Probate 
Court. Yet seldom it would seem has a distinguished com- 
mission done its work with so little true interest. Before the 
Commission, witnesses testified that the foreman of the jury 
had been heard to say, "They ought to hang, anyway." Other 
witnesses swore that Sacco had been in Boston at the time of 
the killings, while several pictured Vanzetti selling fish on the 
murder date. A linguist charged that key testimony from the 
Italian had been wrongly translated. 

But through all this the only matter which seemed to con- 
cern the committee was that a trial had been held in a Massa- 
chusetts courtroom: twelve New Englanders had sat in the 
jury box and a judge named Webster Thayer had been on the 
bench and at the trial's end, a verdict had been duly rendered. 
Brushing aside all doubt, the Commission reported to Governor 
Fuller that it agreed with the 1921 verdict: "Complaint has 
been made that the defendants were prosecuted and convicted 
because they were anarchists. As a matter of fact, the issue of 

228 Sacco-Vanzetti 

anarchy was brought in by them as an explanation of their 
suspicious conduct." 

The only surprising feature of the Lowell Commission re- 
port was a censure of Judge Thayer for his out-of-court con- 

From all that has come to us, we are forced to conclude that 
the Judge was indiscreet in conversation with outsiders during the 
trial. He ought not to have talked about the case off the bench, 
and doing so was a grave breach of official decorum. But we do 
not believe that he used some of the expressions attributed to 
him. . . . Furthermore, we believe that such indiscretion in con- 
versation did not affect his conduct at the trial or the opinions of 
the jury. . . . 

At Dedham Prison, the news was relayed to Sacco and Van- 
zetti. "It is not every prisoner who has a President of Harvard 
throw the switch for him," Heywood Broun had written that 
morning in the New York World, but Sacco and Vanzetti did 
not seem comforted. Sacco, on the thirteenth day of a hunger 
strike, was barely able to mutter, "I told you so, I told you so/' 
Informed that the execution date of August loth would stand, 
Vanzetti wrote out a statement which read: "Governor Alvan 
T. Fuller is a murderer. . . . He shakes hands with me, makes 
me believe he was honest intentioned. . . . Now, ignoring all 
proofs of our innocence, he insults us and murders us/ 7 At his 
side when he wrote was Warden William A. Hendry. Like most 
people who came in contact with the prisoners Hendry had 
become deeply devoted to them. 

Outside prison walls, protest mounted. Governor Fuller's 
confusion was further confounded by the fact that most of the 
protests came from beyond the state. The Massachusetts man 
in the street held to a near-hysterical belief that the legal 
processes of the Commonwealth must be upheld. Despite the 
passage of seven turbulent years, Sacco and Vanzetti were still 
"Reds," "damn Reds," or "goddam Reds" to most voters in 
the Bay State. Even the clergy failed to commiserate with the 

Sacco-Vanzetti 229 

doomed men. Wrote one Protestant clergyman to Governor 
Fuller: "You will, I am sure, allow me to express to you my 
admiration of the way you have done your duty in the Sacco- 
Vanzetti case. You have been wise, patient., dignified, and 
courageous worthy of the best traditions of the Common- 

Not all Bostonians supported the Governor, however. Pro- 
fessor Felix Frankfurter of Harvard University had early called 
Judge Thayer's conduct of the 1921 trial "contemptible/ 7 and 
nothing had happened in intervening years to change the 
opinion of this outstanding legal light. Edward Holton James, 
nephew of the philosopher William James and novelist Henry 
James, was a sharp thorn in the side of Boston officialdom. 
Smartly attired, looking every inch the Back Bay aristocrat, 
James diligently attended rallies for Sacco and Vanzetti. As the 
day of execution approached he assaulted a cop, shouting, 
"Down with the police!" In court he refused to plead. "I'll not 
stand up before murderers, whether they are judges, police 
officers, or governors," he declared. He was fined seventy-five 
dollars and permitted to return to the picket lines marching 
around the State House and similar points of legal importance. 
Shortly police began arresting other pickets, and among those 
bagged by the local law were Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy 
Parker, and John Dos Passos. Each was fined two dollars for 
disturbing the peace. 

The last days of Sacco and Vanzetti mounted to intense 
drama, with the entire world watching. Shortly before the 
execution hour on August loth, Governor Fuller gave the 
doomed men a twelve-day stay, so that he might consider new 
petitions Hooding his desk. In the minds of some, this was not 
altogether a generous act. Time Magazine called the reprieve a 
brutal shock to Sacco and Vanzetti: "Society, through its legal 
machinery in Massachusetts had started to bare the skins of 
prisoners Sacco, Vanzetti, and Madeiros for the touch of 
Death. Then, with a reprieve of which the melodrama was a 

230 Sacco-Vanzetti 

cheap insult to whatever dignity human life may have, virtually 
mumbled Live on for another twelve days longer. Our mind is 
not quite made up!' 

As the days ticked off, word leaked from the State House 
that Governor Fuller would do no more. Now only the highest 
forces in the land could save the two. Attorney Hill decided 
to try to find a member of the United States Supreme Court 
who might order a review of the case. Chief Justice William 
Howard Taft, was vacationing in Canada. Hill reached him by 
telephone, but the connection was poor and Taft kept shout- 
ing, "Telegraph! Telegraph!" Hill did so, and Taft replied that 
it was impossible for him to act since he was outside the 
borders of the country. The lawyer next turned to three as- 
sociate justices who were vacationing in New England. Justice 
Louis Brandeis, at Chatham, Massachusetts, refused to inter- 
vene because his wife had become interested in the case and 
in so doing had become friendly with Mrs. Sacco. Justice 
Holmes, at nearby Beverly, Massachusetts, said he felt unau- 
thorized to meddle in a state case. Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, 
off the Maine coast, echoed Justice Holmes. Hill then rushed 
to see United States Attorney General Sargent, at Ludlow, 
Vermont. The Attorney General listened for three hours, then 
declared he could not act because Department affairs were in 
the hands of subordinates in Washington. 

Hill now appealed to Acting Attorney General Farnum in 
Washington. Farnum refused to move unless requested to do 
so by Governor Fuller or the Lowell Commission. Hill fran- 
tically appealed again to Justice Holmes, asking for a writ of 
habeas corpus. The Justice refused. Then Hill began directing 
petitions to Governor Fuller six in all. The Governor did not 
reply. Hill finally telegraphed to President Calvin Coolidge 
who, after smoking the pipe of peace with the Sioux Indians, 
was on the verge of departing for Washington by way of 
Yellowstone Park. Coolidge gave no answer. 

Sacco-Vanzetti 231 

On the morning of Monday, August 23rd a day many con- 
sider Massachusetts* day of infamy Governor Fuller walked 
briskly into his office in the State House. "It's a beautiful mom- 
ing, isn't it, boys?" he said to the horde of reporters waiting 
there. No one agreed. On this beautiful morning Boston was 
like an occupied city. Boston Common, for the first time in 
history, was closed to public orators. The full Boston police 
force, on twenty-four hour duty, roamed mid-city arresting 
picketers and protesters. Riot squads equipped with automatic 
rifles, hand grenades, and tear-gas bombs were busy breaking up 
street corner meetings. 

If Boston looked like an occupied city Charlestown Prison, 
where Massachusetts had its electric chair, resembled a be- 
leaguered fortress. As night fell, search lights, machine guns, 
and hoses protected the prison walls. No one was allowed to 
approach closer than a thousand feet. Only relatives of the 
doomed men were allowed to enter the prison, and on the way 
to the death cells these unhappy folk were required to pass 
within sight of the electric chair. Among those who made this 
grisly walk were Sacco's fourteen-year-old son and Vanzettfs 
sister Luigia, who had just arrived from Italy. 

At the zero hour Sacco and Vanzetti with Madeiros met 
death stoically. A single newspaper reporter representing the 
Associated Press was allowed in the execution chamber and ac- 
cording to him Sacco shouted Viva Anarchia! as he sat down 
in the death chair. Some who followed the case felt that the 
reporter, stationed thirty to fort} 7 feet from the death chair, 
heard exactly what he wanted to hear. The words were too pat, 
and besides the fiery Vanzetti was more likely to cry out Long 
Live Anarchy! than the mild Sacco. 

Nor was it like either man to speak his last words in Italian, 
for both had become accustomed to speaking English in prison 
surroundings. But it is certain that the articulate Vanzetti did 
say before entering the death chamber: "I want to tell you that 

232 Sacco-Vanzetti 

1 am innocent and that I have never committed any crime, but 
sometimes some sin I am innocent of all crime, not only this, 
but all. I am an innocent man. I wish to forgive some people 
for what they are now doing to me." 

The ghastly event had a suitably ghastly finale. The account 
by the Associated Press reporter in the death chamber was suf- 
ficiently harrowing, but on top of this the New York Graphic 
piled more horror by printing an alleged eyewitness account of 
the execution by Jack Grey. Grey was a curious reporter for he 
had once been the nation's top safecracker. The Graphic em- 
ployed him because he was on a first-name basis with most 
hardened criminals. Though the world knew only one reporter 
had been permitted in the Sacco-Vanzetti death chamber, the 
Graphic carried the headline SACCO-VANZETTI ROASTED ALIVE 
above a story by Grey. "Come into the deathhouse with me," 
it began. Next Grey described Sacco in the electric chair: 

Elliott, the official killer, stood to the right of him with a 
fiendish grin on his face. . . . He leaped, literally leaped, to the 
switchboard. . . . The switch went in ... Sacco's hands . . . 
doubled into a knot. The veins in his long, thin, white hands began 
to rise and kept on rising until I thought they would burst and 
drench all of us with blood. . . . Sacco's neck was swelling to a 
huge inhuman size. . . . The saliva was literally pouring out of his 
mouth. . . . Try to compare 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit [the tem- 
perature of the death shock] with 100 degrees in the shade when 
you complain of the heat and you get some idea how cultured and 
conservative Massachusetts roasts her murderers alive. . . . And 
how these Bostonians get a dead man out of the chair! . . . Elliott 
. . . started to put on the electrode and now I observed that Van- 
zetti was getting nervous. . . . There was a sickening stench of 
scorched flesh in the abattoir. 

With Sacco and Vanzetti dead, a sickening stench also filled 
the nostrils of many citizens of the United States. Some with 
eyes glued on Massachusetts had failed to realize what a symbol 

Sacco-Vanzetti 233 

the case had become around the world. In Paris news of the 
execution flared into riots as angry mobs attacked the American 
Embassy. In Geneva protesting crowds took control of the city, 
smashing forty thousand dollars worth of plate glass and rain- 
ing merchandise in many stores. In Germany, Japan, South 
America, and other sectors of the globe there was furious in- 
dignation. "The world scene/' reported Time, "was like a 
balloon full of illuminating gas with leaks which are invisible 
until ignited. The electricity from Boston ignited demonstra- 
tions from Detroit to New South Wales, from Sweden to 

Anxious to evade feelings of guilt, the United States cast 
about uneasily for quick distraction. It was instantly provided 
by aviation. Once more the summer had turned into a period 
of air-madness. Indeed, with Lindbergh on his triumphant 
three-month tour of major cities, it had never really been other- 
wise, lindy-worship still had the forty-eight states in a tight 
grip. In big cities, the tumultuous Lindbergh welcomes had all 
the hysterical adoration of Washington, New York, and St. 
Louis. The waving, grinning Hero sat in the back of an open 
car while hundreds of thousands roared. 

But if Plucky lindy retained the old magic, there was some- 
thing new about transoceanic flights. This was noted by Com- 
mander Byrd who said: "On both sides of the Atlantic rose the 
clamorous tocsin of aerial emprise . . . But about the middle 
of August the pendulum began to swing back." 

Commander Byrd was too much the Virginia gentleman to 
say so, but it was the Dole Race to Hawaii which ended the 
grandiose spell, turning the aviation-summer sour. Trail-blazing 
flights to Hawaii had already been made by Maitland and 
Hegenberger and, to a slightly lesser extent, by Smith and 
Bronte. The Dole Prize Race was daredevil stuff, in the words 
of Commander Byrd "hasty and ill advised." Before the race, 
three pilots were killed on trial flights. Of fifteen planes 

2 34 Sacco-Vanzetti 

entered, only eight were able to start on August i6th. One 
could not lift its heavy load off the ground. Two promptly dis- 
appeared Into the Pacific, and a rescue plane sent out to find 
them joined the list of fatalities. 

The race was won by Art Gobel who after 26 hours stepped 
smiling from his cockpit and said, "Gee, folks, it's good to be 
here." Only Gobel and his runner-up Martin Jensen successfully 
finished the Dole Race. Behind them the 2400-mile stretch of 
Pacific had claimed the lives of nine men and pretty Mildred 

On August 25th only two days after the Sacco-Vanzetti 
execution a nation in search of distraction shifted eyes to 
Brunswick, Georgia, where slight, music-minded Paul Redfern 
started on his flight over uncharted waters and unexplored 
jungles to Rio de Janeiro. The young pilot took off without a 
radio, in the face of adverse weather reports. He was spotted 
three hundred miles east of the Bahamas, where he flew over a 
steamer to drop a note that said: "Point ship to nearest land, 
wave flag for each hundred miles." After this Redfern joined 
the missing, but he has enjoyed a distinction not shared by 
other aviators lost in 1927. For years his name popped up in 
the news as explorers in Central American jungles brought back 
tales of a white man held captive by native warriors. Despite 
the frequency of such reports, Paul Redfern has never been 

Now the supreme challenge was a flight from Europe to 
America. Princess Lowenstein-Wertheim took off for New York 
from Croydon Airdrome near London in a plane piloted by 
Captain Leslie Hamilton. Soon the world wished that the 
Princess had remained content to be the first woman to fly the 
English Channel. Her plane, the St. Raphael, was never seen 

From Germany two low-winged monoplanes named Bremen 
and Europa took off for America. In them as passengers were 

Sacco-Vanzetti 235 

Baron Guenther von Huenfeld, who would make the flight suc- 
cessfully a year later, and the American correspondent H. R. 
Knickerbocker. Over England the planes ran into a fog bank 
and turned back. "No one could fly in such weather/' one pilot 
said. The Princess Xenia hopped from the tip of Ireland, and 
in several hours turned back. Charles A. Levine, still in Paris, 
made front pages by periodically announcing that he and pilot 
Maurice Drouhit were on the verge of a take off in the tried- 
and-true Columbia. 

Then the plans of the erratic Levine hit a snag, and as a 
result visitors to Croydon Airport beheld one of the stranger 
sights of the aviation summer. Suddenly a monoplane of much- 
described color and contour appeared over the field. "A big 
plane rocking and careening, dipping and swerving, as it four 
times circled the field in irregular fashion." Frantic land crews 
sent appeals to the local hospital, for they saw tragedy in the 
craft wobbling above them. An ambulance raced to the field, 
where men stood in tense postures as, with a great bounce, the 
plane made a lopsided landing. 

Out of it stepped none other than Charles A. Levine, who 
had solo-piloted the Columbia from Paris. To those excitedly 
clustering around him Levine proudly admitted that he had 
never flown solo before. He had decided the time had come 
to do it, he stated. As a result, he had bravely taken off from 
Le Bourget for London. From Paris came a different story. 
Pilot Maurice Drouhit charged that Levine had made the flight 
to escape a subpoena from a French court. "I have had only 
2000 francs of my two months' pay of 100,000," Drouhit 
sputtered. This was bad enough, but Levine had also tried to 
use the proud Gallic ace as an aerial chauffeur. That morning 
the Millionaire Junkman had ordered Drouhit to fly him to 
Deauville for the races. "I am no taxi driver," Drouhit had ex- 
ploded, thus commencing the events leading to threat of sub- 
poena. "I am not going to chase Mr. Levine to London," 

236 Sacco-Vanzetti 

Drouhit now declared. "If I saw him I would feel like killing 
him, and the English would put me in jail." 

If a Europe-to-America flight was the supreme challenge, 
one from America to Europe still seemed a possibility to 
many. Though the Atlantic had been spanned by three great 
flights in forty-one days, attempts from this side of the water 
continued. Some of the pilots involved were inexperienced, 
others flew inadequate planes. None of the planes was equipped 
with radio, so that when they fell in the Atlantic authorities 
had no idea where to search. Today the names of men who 
made these disastrous flights are forgotten who but their im- 
mediate families remembers Captain Terence Tully and Lieu- 
tenant James Medcalf? 

Yet equipment and experience were no guarantee of success. 
The Old Glory, owned by William Randolph Hearst, boasted 
the ultimate in scientific equipment and a top navigator-pilot 
team in James De Witt Hill and Lloyd Bertaud, who for a 
time had been scheduled to fly with Clarence Chamberlin in 
the Columbia. The Old Glory's destination was Rome, and at 
the last moment Philip Payne, editor of the New York tabloid 
Daily Minor, had announced plans to go along as the second 
transatlantic passenger. Payne's statement provoked much 
drama, for Mr. Hearst was not inclined to risk the life of the 
editor who single-handedly had opened up the Hall-Mills case 
and whose indiscretion had sent the orchidaceous Earl Carroll 
to jail. But Payne considered his Hall-Mills sensation a failure 
and was stung by the scorn of his colleagues in the Earl Carroll 

Altogether, he was in a morose state of mind, but a firm one. 
Defiance of Mr. Hearst required courage, yet Payne possessed 
it. He sat in the Old Glory on September jth when it flew 
from Roosevelt Field to a two mile stretch of smooth beach at 
Old Orchard, Maine. Next day the Old Glory roared toward 

Sacco-Vanzetti 237 

Rome with the thunderous support of the Hearst press behind 
it. The radio signal of the plane was WRHP: William Randolph 
Hearst's Plane. For a time reports signed WRHP came cheerful 
and confident from the Old Glory. Suddenly, after fourteen 
hours, came SOS-WRHP, SOS-WKHP. Five ocean liners swung to 
race toward the signals. A day later one found wreckage, but 
no bodies. 

Not every late summer flight was a tragedy. In 1926, Detroit 
businessman Edward S. Evans had joined with journalist-ex- 
plorer Linton Wells to establish a new round-the-world- travel 
record. In a truly spectacular junket, the two utilized train, 
boat, auto, and plane to set a world-girdling record of twenty- 
eight days, fourteen hours and thirty-six seconds. In 1927 an- 
other Detroiter named Edward F. Schlee decided that by using 
only a plane he could beat the Wells-Evans record. He en- 
listed as his partner William S. (Billy) Brock, a onetime mail 
pilot, and the two took off on August 2yth without fanfare in 
a Stmson-Detroiter named Pride of Detroit. The first stop was 
Harbor Grace, Newfoundland. Neither Brock nor Schlee was 
a trained navigator, yet they flew the plane unerringly to 

Every split second counted with the peerless pair and after a 
quick nap at Croydon they raced to Munich. The world began 
to pay attention as, on the third day, they winged from Munich 
to Belgrade. Reports of bad weather forced a stopover in Bel- 
grade, where reporters rushed to interview them. Schlee de- 
clared that the plane really deserved credit for the flight. "Pride 
of Detroit is more faithful than a woman," he testified fondly. 
Next the pkne zoomed toward Stamboul, Turkey, a flight of 
some five hundred miles. There trouble appeared. Turkish of- 
ficials refused the permit necessary to continue the flight "Fly- 
ing the Atlantic is a cinch compared to flying over Turkey," 
quipped Billy Brock. Yet Brock and Schlee, who never seemed 

238 Sacco-Vanzetti 

to sleep, argued the Turks Into providing the permit. They 
raced on from Constantinople to Bagdad 1075 miles, two 
days* flying in one. 

On the eighth day they landed at Karachi, India. Brushing 
aside an official reception, they serviced the plane. On to 
Allahabad, the one-third mark of the journey and with this 
landing came the unhappy realization that despite excellent 
progress they were running behind the Wells-Evans record. 

On the eleventh day Pride of Detroit reached Calcutta. 
Again the two flyers ignored an ofEcial reception at the Ameri- 
can Embassy to work over the plane. Whereupon the reception 
came to them. Dinner-jacketed diplomats stood around watch- 
ing the two Americans wield wrenches and wipe spark plugs. 
On the twelfth day the astonishing adventurers reached Ran- 
goon. On the thirteenth, bad luck again struck. The men who 
had so skillfully navigated over unknown territory missed 
Bangkok, the official stop, to land at Hanoi, French Indo- 
China. On the fourteenth day they overhauled the plane in 
the morning, then set off for Hong Kong. On the fifteenth day, 
they calmly landed at Shanghai. 

This was the last day of good fortune. Flying toward Tokyo, 
Pride of Detroit ran into a severe thunderstorm and for the 
first time made a forced landing sixty miles short of Tokyo. 
Japanese officials forbade the pair to fly a straight course to 
Tokyo because of war fortifications. On an altered route the 
plane was buffeted dangerously by a belching volcano and 
pelted evilly by rain. Again a forced landing, at Omura. Now 
the two men undertook an agonizing appraisal: they still had 
not reached the halfway point, yet two-thirds of their time had 
been used up. Next day a typhoon delayed flight further. On 
the nineteenth day the plane swooped into Toyko, with both 
men determined to fly the Pacific in the desperate hope of beat- 
ing the record. 

Unknown to them American public opinion agitated by 

Sacco-Vanzetti 239 

the Dole losses, Paul Redfem, the Old Glory, and others was 
attempting to prevent Pride of Detroit from making the 2500- 
mile overwater hop to the tiny Midway Islands. Protests in- 
undating the Department of Aeronautics in Washington urged 
that land planes be stopped from long overwater flights. Other 
citizens had cabled Brock and Schlee in Tokyo begging them 
to abandon the flight. Family pressures were heavily exerted. 
Among the messages was a cable from Schlee's ten-year-old 
daughter Rosemary: "Daddy Please take the next boat home 
to us." 

Official Washington instructed diplomats in Tokyo to dis- 
courage the fliers by warning that Army and Navy facilities 
would not assist during a transpacific hop. This was taken to 
mean that if Pride of Detroit fell into the ocean the Navy 
would not search for survivors. Yet the dauntless pair might 
still have kept on had not word come from the Midways that 
the gasoline needed for a jump to Hawaii had not arrived. 

At this, the two threw up their hands. Why risk lives in a 
jump to a spot where they was no waiting store of gasoline? 
"We quit because the whole world seemed to be against us/' 
lamented Billy Brock. Sadly Brock and Schlee dismantled Pride 
of Detroit and returned home by slow boat. 

A nation with its eyes fixed on the daring peregrinations of 
Brock and Schlee also had another pair of travelers to observe. 
Mayor James J. Walker of New York City had embarked on 
one of the grandest of grand tours of Europe. Insiders around 
New York's City Hall, together with all Broadway, knew that 
the dandy Httle Night Mayor had become infatuated with a 
dark-haired, bright-eyed dancer named Betty Compton. Walker 
was forty-six, Betty half his age. Walker's political supporters 
were concerned to paraphrase the popular-song-to-come, They 
called it madness, but he called it love. Rumors of the illicit 
romance had begun to reach an impressionable voting public 

240 Sacco-Vanzetti 

and it had been decreed that on his European junket the Mayor 
must be accompanied by Mrs. Janet Walker, his wife of many 

The record fails to show exactly how Mrs. Walker felt about 
this, but her position was not exactly enviable. Mrs. Walker 
was a small, plump lady, with the smallest female foot in New 
York City and possibly in the United States. It may be that 
she hoped to enjoy the trip to Europe in the company of her 
erring spouse, but it soon became apparent to her (and the 
world as well) that her presence was only window dressing. 
New York's gaudy, fast-stepping Jimmy was determined to en- 
joy himself in his own inimitable way. In vaudeville terms, his 
European jaunt was to be a single act. 

Aboard the Berengarid, Mrs. Walker sunned herself while 
the breezy Mayor cavorted. At the deck-sports competition, he 
was called upon to award prizes. The first nine winners were 
pretty girls. Mayor Walker kissed each resoundingly, then 
danced with them interchangeably through a carefree night. In 
New York, the Night Mayor seldom rose before noon and he 
saw no reason to change his habits now. When the ship 
docked the Mayor of Southampton stepped aboard, wearing an 
official expression and full diplomatic attire. Jimmy Walker 
was not yet awake, but shortly he rose to greet his fellow mayor 
wearing bright yellow pajamas and sipping a matching glass of 
orange juice. 

In London the Mayor unveiled a wardrobe that gave English 
tailors the shivering shakes. Beau James was a slight man 
whose song-and-dance flamboyance made it possible for him to 
wear tight-fitting, pinched-in double-breasted suits. In London, 
he burst out in wasp-waited double-breasted jackets of violent 
hue. With them he affected cream-white flannels and black- 
and-white sport shoes. The Mayor's sartorial trademark was a 
hatbrim snapped down jauntily over one eye, and he even con- 
trived to wear a tall silk hat in such debonair fashion. In Lon- 

Sacco-Vanzetti 241 

don he first tried a flat straw hat, or skimmer, then changed to 
a rakish panama. So attired he seemed, in the words of one 
august journal, "a chipper urchin among the graybeards." 

By day Mayor Walker dashed to luncheons, ceremonial 
handshakings, tours of inspection, and official dinners. He 
always managed to be late, and missed one important function 
entirely. At night he investigated London night life, diplomat- 
ically calling it superior to New YorFs. The vintage wines and 
liquors that caressed his palate especially delighted the Night 
Mayor; they were so different from the raw stuff imposed by 
the Eighteenth Amendment. Mayor Walker took full ad- 
vantage of all opportunities to drink, and responded in flowery 
terms to the toasts addressed to him. 

Next, the Walkers journeyed to Ireland to visit the birth- 
place of the Mayor's father. Here, for a brief time, the Mayor 
calmed down. He kissed babies and grandmothers, dined with 
tenor John McCormack, and made a sentimental speech stand- 
ing on a chair in the kitchen of his ancestral home in Castle- 
comer. But with this done, he reverted to normal. He was late 
for the mail steamer which took the Walkers to England, and 
in London quickly resumed his all-night hoofing. 

Mayor Walker's next stop was Berlin, and either humorously 
or by mistake Berlin newspapers referred to him as Mayor Jazz 
J. Walker. If this was intended as insult Berlin still simmered 
over the Sacco-Vanzetti execution the dapper little Mayor did 
not take it so. He was reported to be delighted with the name, 
considering it apt for a man who had once written a song called 
"Will You Love Me In December as You Do In May? 7 ' But 
aside from pleasure at being called Jazz J. Walker, the Mayor 
did not enjoy Berlin. He was no beer drinker and the night life 
was too realistic for his cultivated taste. 

The Lido, near Venice, to which he traveled with the utmost 
speed, was far more to his liking. Indeed, he behaved there as 
if his middle initial might also stand for Jazz. The Mayor, 

242 Sacco-Vanzetti 

with his skimpy frame, was never one to be photographed in a 
bathing suit, but photographers did catch him lolling on the 
beach in colorful garb. Delighted reporters discovered him stay- 
ing up until five in the morning dancing. When this news was 
flashed to the United States, the New York Times felt im- 
pelled to editorialize: "It is a comfort to New Yorkers to think 
of their Mayor dressed in a double-breasted gray coat and con- 
trasting trousers as he reclined upon the sunny sands assimilat- 
ing the wisdom he has acquired on his Grand Tour. They are 
proud to realize that his motto has been to improve each 
shining hour, even if this meant activities far into the night, 
including a tour of Venetian ballrooms lasting until dawn." 

Such carping did nothing to dampen the Mayor's bubbling 
vitality. In Venice he was guest of honor at a luncheon at the 
Hotel Royal Danieli. When it ended the Mayor quipped, "Best 
lunch I've ever drunk." In Rome he cocked an irreverent eye 
at St. Petefs Basilica and observed, "They must have passed 
the hat around several times to build all this/' He was received 
by the Pope who, gauging the calibre of his man, interrogated 
Walker about the health and welfare of the Italian-bom prize- 
fighter Johnny Dundee. On a tour of the Catacombs, the 
Mayor cracked, "Wish we could find some Catacombs in New 
York's subsoil. It would save some money when we build sub- 

From Rome the Walkers went to Paris, where the Mayor 
alighted dressed in a chocolate-colored crush hat, matching 
blue shirt and suit, green and brown tie, beige topcoat, and 
lavender pocket handkerchief dashed with brown and purple. 
Again the reception committee had donned severe formal attire, 
and some members felt insulted by the Walker informality. 
The quick-witted Mayor noticed this and, sniffing the intoxicat- 
ing air, asked "How the hell can you be dignified in these sur- 
roundings?" A member of the committee inquired about his 
plans for the Paris stay. "Indefinite," the Mayor grinned. "How 

Sacco-Vanzetti 24 3 

can such a gamin be definite?" one committee member whis- 
pered to another. 

The Walkers repaired to the finest suite in the Hotel Crillon, 
where twelve servants stood ready to do their bidding. The 
Mayor immediately hastened out on the town. That night he 
sat in the front row to watch tawny, American-born Josephine 
Baker in the Folies Bergeres. Next day he was guest of honor at 
a luncheon of the American Club and addressed his remarks 
to "Fellow refugees from the Eighteenth Amendment." 

At the Paris City Hall, he cast a knowing eye over the paint- 
ings of lush nudes on the wall of the Mayor's office and said, 
"If I had an office like this, I'd have a hard time keeping my 
mind on my work." Next day he was an hour late for an official 
luncheon. The toastmaster, a man with a luxuriant red beard, 
undertook to chide him for this. When Mayor Walker rose 
to his feet he said, "All human sins such as lateness may be 
condoned, but as for whiskers that's a man's own business." 

Jimmy Walker's champagne-taste stay in Paris topped off a 
more earthy one by some twenty thousand members of the 
American Legion, most of whom had brought wives along. This 
was the tenth anniversary of the arrival of the American Ex- 
peditionary Force, and the Legion was determined to make its 
rendezvous in Paris a resounding event. Some Parisians, alarmed 
at the thought of so many rugged ex-doughboys, left the city 
for the duration of the Legion stay. Paris in the Twenties had 
little use for the average American tourist, who seemed to have 
too much money and not enough manners. 

But the American Legion turned out to be not such a head- 
ache. For one thing, the Legionnaires seemed to be swallowed 
by Paris. Wearing Legion hats instead of tin ones, carrying 
suitcases instead of Army packs, canes rather than guns, the 
ten-years-older doughboys came and saw but failed to conquer. 
"They were in evidence everywhere and in a hilariously happy 
mood," writes Al Laney, in his book Paris Herdd, "but at the 

244 Sacco-Vanzetti 

same time they were curiously invisible/' Singly and in groups, 
Legionnaires toured old battlefields and haunts, but most of 
them were unexpectedly quiet about it. Perhaps it was the 
presence of so many wives; perhaps the passage of years; per- 
haps the money invested in the long trip. In any event, the 
Legion seemed to behave better in Paris than at Legion conven- 
tions in the United States. 

Paris was pleased, and what appeared to be the entire city 
turned out for the climactic Legion Parade, which among 
other things introduced drum majorettes to French view. Long 
before the parade was scheduled to begin Parisians were packed 
along the Hne of march. Those who established themselves 
early saw a curious sight which represented the extremes in 
American culture. Three days before, the American dancer 
Isadora Duncan had seated herself in a motorcar in Nice. She 
failed to notice that the long end of her Italian scarf had be- 
come entwined in one of the front wheels. The car started 
with an unexpected jerk and the scarf around her neck tight- 
ened like a noose. Miss Duncan was not a light woman, but 
she was snapped out of the car by the neck like a feather. She 
landed violently on the pavement and lay there while one of 
the rear wheels passed over her body, breaking her back. Within 
a few minutes she was dead. 

So the Paris multitudes lining up for a view of the Legion 
Parade beheld another procession wending its way along the 
line of march. It was the funeral procession of Isadora Duncan, 
en route to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Over the great dancer's 
coffin lay her famous purple dancing robe. Her brother Ray- 
mond in his classical sandals, toga, and long hair followed the 
casket with bowed head. Isadora Duncan was a highly popular 
figure in Paris where she was considered to represent the finer 
qualities in the American spirit. Yet in the tumult and excite- 
ment of the Legion visit her funeral had been all but over- 

Sacco-Vanzetti 245 

Or so it seemed. The Paris Herald, whose reporters scrambled 
all over Paris in search of human interest stories about the 
Legion, headlined its account of the funeral FEW ATTEND 


perfunctory story began "It was a sad motley little procession 
that followed the body of the greatest dancer since the ancient 
Greeks." But if reporters had followed the funeral procession to 
its destination they would have found some five thousand of 
the plain people of Paris gathered to pay last respects as Isadora 
Duncan was put to rest. Not a word of this appeared in Paris 
papers the next day; there was too much about the parading 

In the United States, as the American Legion marched and 
Jimmy Walker wisecracked, i6-year-year Lois Eleanor Delander 
where is she now?- was crowned Miss America in the Atlantic 
City Beauty Pageant . . . The makers of Old Gold cigarettes, 
launched during the year by a giant advertising campaign, an- 
nounced that the new smoke had proved a success and that 
Old Golds were here to stay. . . . On Broadway the play 
Burlesque, with Hal Skelly and Barbara Stanwyck, opened. The 
story of a no-good burlycue comic and his true-blue Lou (She 
was a dame, in love "with a guy), it was called by one critic a 
stunning, crafty show. In the crafty show, the small part of a 
piano player was filled by a youth named Oscar Levant. 

In the Pictorial Review (15^ circulation 2,400,000, Robert 
W. Chambers was represented by a serial called the "Sun 
Hawk"; Dr. Will Durant by the "Breakdown of Marriage"; and 
rough, tough Jim Tully by "Clara Bow, a Modem Nell Gwyn" 
(From Brooklyn Slum to Beverly Hills Mansion. A Modern 
Fairy Story, Sad, Gay, Fascinating) .... In the upper-echelon 
literary world there was much agitation over the runaway best 
seller Trader Horn, the autobiography of a seventy-three-year- 
old tinware salesman in darkest Africa. With a foreword by 

246 Sacco-Vanzetti 

John Galsworthy, this purported to be Trader Horn's life 
"With such of his philosophy as is the gift of age." At Man- 
hattan cocktail parties, where the old Trader had rapidly be- 
come a stellar attraction he showed a monumental capacity for 
drink but none whatsoever for philosophy. Could the life story 
of Trader Horn be a fake? 

Early in October Mayor Walker returned to his native land. 
Somewhere in mid-Atlantic, Hizzoner must have realized that 
his playboy tour of Europe had made a bad impression on New 
Yorkers, not to mention others in the land. Ship-news reporters 
climbing aboard ship to interview him found a serious chief 
executive of the nation's largest city. Gone was the snappy, 
wisecracking Jazz J. Walker. No gaudy attire covered his trim 
frame. Instead, he wore a serious expression and a severe blue 
suit. The hat cocked as always over one eye was an unobtrusive 
gun-metal gray. Demurely at his side stood plump Mrs. Janet 
Walker. The Mayor informed reporters that he had enjoyed 
his vacation surely the understatement of i927!but that the 
chief virtue of the trip was that it had revitalized him for the 
rigors of office. He would, he vowed, wade into the problems 
on his City Hall desk with renewed vigor. 

Unhappily, he was given scant time to impress the public 
with this new personality. For once again aviation seized the 
headlines. On October nth late in the year for a trans- 
atlantic flight George Haldeman and Ruth Elder hopped for 
Paris in the plane American GirL Miss Elder was the onetime 
dental assistant and beauty contest winner who had announced 
in midsummer that she would try to be the first woman to 
span the Atlantic. Her statement coincided with so many 
others that little attention had been paid it. Yet unlike her 
rivals Miss Elder had battled through obstacles to achieve a 
take off. Hers was unashamedly a commercial flight. As the 
American Girl winged toward Europe her manager-backer sat 

Sacco-Vanzetti 247 

in a Manhattan hotel anticipating movie, vaudeville, and testi- 
monial offers. "I've promoted projects in Canada and Fve pro- 
moted oil wells," he told reporters. "Now I'm promoting the 
first girl across the Atlantic.' 7 

Ruth Elder was indeed a nifty jane to promote. Newspaper 
readers who had treated her as a human curiosity now looked 
again and found a stunning girl. If Lindbergh was the All- 
American Boy, Ruth Elder in a somewhat more sophisticated 
way was the All-American Girl. With her wide smile, she 
looked exactly like the Pepsodent ads in contemporary maga- 
zines. Even the New York Times became smitten by her, report- 
ing in warm detail that she was smaller than her photographs 
made her seem and that she spoke with a soft Alabama drawl. 
From here on the Times unprecedentedly called the All-Ameri- 
can girl "Ruth." 

Miss Elder had been bom in Alabama, migrated to Florida 
with her family. Aviation-struck, she had taken lessons at a 
nearby flying field from George Haldeman. Arriving at Roose- 
velt Field with Haldeman in the American Girl, she increased 
her allure by setting a new style. The possessor of one of the 
first boyish bobs in recorded history, she decided to let her 
hair grow back into a full bob. "While this happened she 
wound a scarf around her head gypsy fashion, and soon girls 
across the country were doing the same. Miss Elder also wore 
plus fours and golf socks in the Clarence Chamberlin manner. 
Altogether, she added up to the image of an attractive, intrepid 

Ruth Elder was married. Her husband, Lyle Womack, had 
departed for Panama on business just before the October nth 
take off. He had done so in the belief that he had persuaded 
his adventure-minded wife not to attempt the flight that year. 
Others had also objected, and the uproar around Miss Elder's 
pretty head much resembled the pressures applied to Brock 

248 SaccoVanzetti 

and Schlee. "Even if she succeeds, what will she have accom- 
plished for the common good?" demanded Katherine B. Davis, 
an eminent sociologist of the day. 

Other women echoed this, and newspapers like the New 
York World editorially suggested that Miss Elder be officially 
restrained. While seeming to accede, the two fliers went ahead 
and plotted a course to Europe which would keep the Ameri- 
can Girl far south of the Great Circle Route, cold and hazard- 
ous in October, The southerly course would be near shipping 
lanes. Even so, American Girl ran into heavy squalls several 
hundred miles after the take off and flew straight into the teeth 
of them for eight terrifying hours. At one point the plane 
heaved so dangerously that the comely Ruth Elder crept out 
on the tail to balance it. Other times she relieved Haldeman at 
the controls. At one danger point Haldeman was forced to 
dump gasoline to help the pkne in its fight against the storm. 
Next the oil pressure began to fall. "Look for a ship," Halde- 
man finally ordered. Five hours later Ruth spied the Dutch 
tanker Barendrecht 

Still hoping to reach Europe, she dropped a note: "How far 
are we from land and which way?" On deck, in large letters, 
the captain painted: "True south, 40 west, 360 miles, Terceira, 
Azores." This meant that the American Girl was more than 
500 miles from the coast of Portugal. Haldeman brought the 
plane down into the choppy ocean. He and Ruth climbed out 
on a wing, from which a lifeboat rescued them. For a moment 
the American Girl bobbed in the water, then gasoline ran over 
her steaming engine and caught fire. Came a fearsome ex- 
plosion. Flames shot up in a pyramid higher than the rescuing 
ship. In Paris a week later, Miss Elder was sad about the loss 
of her plane. "It was like watching an old friend drown/' she 

So a woman had yet to span the Atlantic by air, and in Old 
Orchard, Maine, hope flared anew in the breast of Mrs. 

Sacco-Vanzetti 249 

Frances Grayson, the Long Island real-estate dealer who had 
also announced plans for a transocean hop. After Ruth Elder's 
take off, Mrs. Grayson with pilot Wilmer Stultz and navi- 
gator Bryce Goldsborough had flown in her amphibian plane 
to the Old Orchard runway used by the ill-fated Old Glory. 
On October 23rd, these three took off on a nonstop Sight to 

After Eve hours, Stultz decided the flight was impossible and 
turned back. It was a livid Mrs. Grayson who alighted from 
the plane at Old Orchard. She announced that she had not 
been consulted about a turn-around and never would have per- 
mitted it. ""Next time/' she stated ominously, "will be dif- 
ferent." Residents of Old Orchard recall that the determined 
woman began carrying a revolver in her handbag. To news- 
paper reporters and other favored folk she displayed this ugly 
weapon. "I'd kill them both before I let them trick me again/' 
she promised. 

No one took this very seriously. It was now mid-October, and 
it seemed unlikely that there would be another transatlantic 
attempt this year. . . . 


F ALL those enjoying life during the 
rambunctious summer of 1927 Flaming 
Youth, the paper-profits rich, the aviation-happy, the pleasure 
mad, the Shipwreck Kelly gawpers -there was one group to 
which the season brought extra added thrills. This lucky group 
comprised the sport fans, for in that field the year hit diz- 
zying heights. "In 1927, the sports world wore seven-league 
boots," Grantland Rice has written. Nineteen twenty-seven 
will almost certainly go down in history as the greatest year in 
sports, and no fan the word is a contraction of fanatic who 
lived through the year or looks back on it will dispute the 

At year's end, sports-cartoonist Robert L. Ripley drew a pic- 
ture called Breaking the Tape. It showed a manly figure at the 
finish line of a foot race. As the runner touches the tape it 
breaks to form the words World's Records. Yet 1927 was 
epochal not only because of records broken and new one estab- 
lished, though there were plenty of these. Rather, the year's 

The Greatest Year in Sport 251 

real thrills lay in the personalities dominating the various 
sports. In golf there was Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones, Jr. 
Twenty-five-year-old Bobby Jones was a golfing amateur. 
Among professionals, Walter Hagen was the picturesque player 
to watch and read about. Tennis offered the flamboyant figure 
of William T. "Big Bill" Tilden. 

On the distaff side of tennis stood twenty-one-year-old Helen 
Wills, she of the poker face, the individual green and white 
sunshade, and the unswerving confidence. Writers of the year 
hailed the headstrong determination of twenty-eight-year-old 
Tommy Hitchcock, the rising star in polo, a game which here- 
tofore had been dominated by men in their mid-forties. Johnny 
Weissmuller retained his place as the country's leading amateur 
swimmer by setting new world's records. Eleanor Holm, age 
thirteen, and Ray Ruddy, fifteen, were the coming stars of the 
aquatic field. 

Each of these was outstanding a few with special drama. 
Helen Wills had been out of tennis competition during 1926 
recovering from an operation for appendicitis. In her absence 
Molla Mallory regained the Woman's National Singles cham- 
pionship. At Wimbledon in mid-igzy it was apparent that the 
enforced rest had aided the game of the cucumber-cool Miss 
Wills. Her strokes were stronger, her ability to place balls more 
unerring than before. She quickly trounced Molla Mallory, and 
in the finals bested Senorita Lili de Alvarez, a contest watched 
attentively by King Alfonso of Spain, Returning to the United 
States, the fresh-looking young girl in the sunshade easily re- 
won the national singles title. Eventually she completed a full 
year of tournament play with the loss of only one set. 

In international competition, America's big setback of the 
year came with loss of the Davis Cup to France. The year be- 
fore, Vincent Richards, America's ranking player, had caused a 
sensation by joining the emotional Suzanne Lenglen in the 
ranks of tennis professionals. This firmly re-established thirty- 

252 The Greatest Year in Sport 

four-year-old Bill Tilden as number one. Teamed with Little 
Bill Johnston, Francis Hunter, and R. Morris Williams, Big Bill 
Tilden was unable to defeat the dazzling French team of 
Lacoste, Cochet, Borotra, and Brugnon. So, for the first time 
in history, the Davis Gup departed for a country where English 
was not spoken. The lanky Tilden, teamed with Francis 
Hunter, was able to win the national doubles, though the 
canny Lacoste won the singles, as he had in 1926. 

Bobby Jones greatest of golfers was in 1927 a student at 
Emory Law School. One of the numerous remarkable things 
about Jones was that he did not often play in tournaments; 
three or four a year, whereas the professionals against whom he 
was matched played golf the year round. Yet Jones always, or 
almost always, won. He began 1927 in almost-always fashion, 
going down to defeat before Tommy Armour in the United 
States Open. He then traveled abroad to defend his British 
Open title at the historic St. Andrew's course. Newspapers 
made much of the fact that here Bobby Jones for the first time 
would be under the immediate scrutiny of the Scots who had 
invented the game of golf. This may have inspired the young 
American, for he immediately began outdoing himself. The 
Scots responded by calling him "Bawby" and dubbing him 
"the gr-reatest gowfer in the wur-rld." All Scotland itched to 
see Bawby Jones in action: "Excursion trains stopped to watch 
him. Clergyman, grandmothers, cripples, policemen, made shift 
to get a view." At one green Bawby respectfully eyed the forty 
yards between his ball and the hole. 'This is the longest putt I 
ever had to make/' he said quietly. He made it and won the 
tournament as well. Cheering Scotsmen carried him to the 
clubhouse on their shoulders. Back home, Bobby Jones calmly 
won his third U. S. Amateur title. 

Golf professionals and other tournament players always 
heaved a sigh of relief when Bobby Jones decided against enter- 

The Greatest Year in Sport 253 

ing a tournament. He did not play in the Western Open, 
which left Walter Hagen free to trounce Wild Bill Melhorn, 
Gene Sarazen, Bobbie Cruikshank and others. Hagen, chunky, 
debonair, and bibulous, was by far the most colorful of all con- 
temporary golf pros. Best dressed, however, was dark-haired 
Johnny Farrell who this year quietly went about winning such 
tournaments as the Metropolitan Open, Wheeling Open, 
Shawnee Open, Eastern Open, Massachusetts Open, Philadel- 
phia Open, Pennsylvania Open, and Chicago Open. Finally 
the well-dressed pro simultaneously held eight titles more than 
any other golfer had ever won at once. 

Whiskery, with jockey Linus "Pony" McAtee up, won the 
1927 Kentucky Derby. Yale student Sabin Carr set a world's 
pole-vault record, while DeHart Hubbard set a new broad-jump 
mark. The Columbia crew won an unexpected victory at the 
Poughkeepsie Regatta. The thirteen-year-old Zittenfeld twins, 
Phyllis and Bernice, set a new mark in swimming the Hudson 
River from Albany to New York. George Young, seventeen, 
swam from California to Catalina Island. 

In another indication of the tumultuous times, the curious 
sport of six-day bike racing became more popular than ever. 
After-theater crowds and Broadway celebrities suddenly dis- 
covered the ragged competition still dominated by the veteran 
Iron Man, Reggie McNamara. Instead of going to night clubs 
and speakeasies, the thrill-hungry jammed Madison Square 
Garden to watch the six-day riders. 

At the other end of the sports spectrum, the aristocratic 
game of polo was thrown open to the masses. At Meadow- 
brook, Long Island, for two dollars to five dollars a head, the 
common man could watch this exciting spectator sport, pre- 
viously known only to the rich. In 1927, the American team, 
composed of Devereux Milburn, J. Watson Webb, Malcolm 
Stevenson, and Tommy Hitchcock (substitute: 2i-year-old 

254 The Greatest Year in Sport 

Winston Guest), defeated an English team to retain the Inter- 
national Cup for the United States. 

All this was a part of sport's noblest year but only parti 
For the two sports which reached true heights were baseball 
and prizefighting: those to which Americans have always re- 
sponded with the wildest enthusiasm. With singular lavishness 
1927 offered not only all-time greats in both these sports, but 
colorful and contrasting rivals as well. 

In baseball the great Babe Ruth was the dominant figure. A 
huge, friendly overgrown-boy-of-a-man, Ruth had achieved 
prominence in the national game when baseball reeled from 
the disgrace of the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Almost single- 
handedly he had by the vigor of his personality, his unspoiled 
honesty, and his ability to clout balls into the bleachers kept 
the game alive. In 1921, he had hit fifty-nine home runs to set 
an all-time record. Before his arrival, the New York Yankees 
had never won a pennant. After his arrival, they began to. 

As a tribute to Ruth's greatness, the mighty new Yankee 
Stadium was informally called The House That Ruth Built. 
"Babe isn't a man, he's an institution," Hoe Berg, the erudite 
catcher, summed up. 

In 1927 the institution lusty, untutored, uncouthfound 
himself challenged by a clean-cut rival. Lou Gehrig was big, 
shy, handsome and a Columbia man. When he first appeared 
in uniform at Yankee Stadium a player said, "I've just seen an- 
other Babe Ruth." It was almost true. Gehrig, a highly com- 
petitive player, loved baseball as much as Babe Ruth did. So 
the national game boasted not only a titanic figure, but a young 
and colorful challenger-of-titans as well. 

The same exciting contrast existed in prizefighting. From 
1919 to 1926, Jack Dempsey had been boxing's Olympian. 
Where Babe Ruth appeared a jovial, harmless man, the 
Manassa Mauler stood before the public of the Twenties as a 

The Greatest Year in Sport 255 

terrifying figure. Indeed, it is hard today to recapture this 
menacing Dempsey. He was considered the abysmal brute, and 
it is said that playwright Eugene O'Neill, a fisticuffs fan, used 
the popular image of Dempsey in creating the name-character 
in his play The Hairy Ape. 

"Dempsey was a mixture of two men," Grantland Rice has 
written. "In the ring he was a killer, with steel fists and iron 
jaw. Outside he was gentle, courteous, patient, considerate." In 
the interest of million-dollar-gates, promoter Tex Rickard, 
aided and abetted by Dempsey ? s canny manger Jack Kearns, 
placed only the first Dempsey before a credulous public. The 
idea of a brutish Dempsey was carefully nurtured by these two 
astute men. 

An early step in the campaign to persuade the public that 
Dempsey was a menacing brute came when in 1921 the Ma- 
nassa Mauler was matched with Georges Carpentier, the Orchid 
Man of France. Dempsey always entered the ring with a three- 
days' growth of black, stubbly beard and a terrible scowl. 
Carpentier, on the other hand, was slight, graceful and almost 
too good-looking. "Michelangelo would have fainted for joy 
at the beauty of his profile," burbled Neysa McMein, the noted 
magazine-cover artist. Heywood Broun, a sportswriter then, 
spoke for the male sex when he said, "He has the body of a 
Greek statue " 

At Boyle's Thirty Acres, across the Hudson in New Jersey, 
Dempsey finished off the Orchid Man in four mild rounds. (In 
a preliminary James Joseph "Gene" Tunney, billed as the 
Fighting Marine, defeated Soldier Jones.) Realizing that the 
Carpentier fight had been a trifle one-sided, Rickard in 1923 
matched the champion with a fighter who also looked the 
brute. This was Luis Angel Fiipo, Wild Bull of the Argentine 
Pampas, and by defeating Firpo in a slug-fest Dempsey ap- 
peared to become more the abysmal brute. 

For the next three years Dempsey failed to defend his title. 

256 The Greatest Year in Sport 

He lived well, married movie star Estelle Taylor, and under- 
went an operation that brought a new shape to his nose. Then 
in 1926 Dempsey fought Gene Tunney, as much his opposite as 
Gehrig was Babe Ruth's. Dempsey was a slugging fighter. 
Tunney proudly called himself a boxer, practitioner of the 
manly art of self-defense. Where Dempsey could be scowlingly 
ferocious, the placid Tunney always seemed clean-cut and gen- 

To many, Tunney was a young man easy to admire but hard 
to like. He appeared to live entirely by logic, insisting that 
brains were far superior to brawn. Sports writers found him 
reluctant to discuss his ring career but eager to talk Shakes- 
peare, for he was a recent convert to culture who read the 
Rubdiydt between sparring sessions in his training camp. 

The first Dempsey-Tunney bout was fought in September 
1926, through a light rain at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial 
Exposition in Philadelphia. At the end of ten rounds, Dempsey 
was tired and worn, Tunney cool and fresh. The Fighting 
Marine got the decision, to become heavyweight champion of 
the world. Still, the canvas had been slippery, the weather wet. 
Had these conditions blunted Dempsey's panther-like style? No 
one could say. The happiest man at fight's end was Tex 
Rickard, for with such questions hanging unanswered a return 
match between the two men became inevitable. And such was 
the lush crop of heavyweights available that Rickard could go 
through the elaborate pretense of a series of highly profitable 
elimination bouts during 1927, the winner to meet World's 
Champion Gene Tunney! 

The first elimination came in February, with a Jack Delaney- 
Jim Maloney fight, won by Maloney. Jack Sharkey next beat 
Mike McTeague, then Maloney. Late in July Jack Dempsey 
and Jack Sharkey fought at Yankee Stadium, in a brawling 
bout which also exposed a strange quirk in the temperament of 
American fight fans. While the elimination bouts ran their 

The Greatest Year in Sport 257 

course, Gene Tunney had embarked on the inevitable (in 
1927) money-making vaudeville tour. It was noted on tour 
that Tunney was almost never addressed as Champion or more 
familiarly as Champ. "Prizefighting is popular because, watch- 
ing it, people are vicariously purged of their primitive inclina- 
tions/' one pundit of the day stated. Jack Dempsey had always 
aroused crowds in this manner Tunney did not. With his de- 
feat by Tunney, the world had taken another look at Dempsey, 
and approved what it saw. No longer did he resemble the 
abysmal brute. He was a brutal fighter, but isn't a prizefighter 
supposed to be brutal? Outside the ring, people suddenly 
realized, he lived quietly with Estelle Taylor, whose pet name 
for him was Ginsburg. So in defeat Jack Dempsey had re- 
mained the Champ the verbal accolade no one ever bestowed 
on Tunney. 

This public switch toward Dempsey was already an estab- 
lished fact by the time the ex-champion entered the ring for 
the July elimination bout with Jack Sharkey. 

The crowd (which included Heroes Chamberlin and Byrd 
in ringside seats) gave Dempsey a thundering ovation and, in 
a way, this ovation won him the fight. Lithuanian-bom, Boston- 
bred Jack Sharkey was in top fighting trim. At twenty-five, he 
was speedy and eager, on the upswing of what looked like a 
triumphant career. He radiated a cocky confidence too much 
perhaps for the crowd that cheered Dempsey booed him. 
This annoyed Sharkey, who rushed from his corner to begin a 
slugging match: 

They drove their fists into each other savagely, scarcely bother- 
ing to protect themselves. Eighty thousand people, swarming 
around them in the night, bellowed with joy. They drove each 
other back and forth around the brightly lighted enclosure, grunt- 
ing, snuffing for breath, dripping sweat and blood. 

Sharkey soon had the thirty-two-year-old Dempsey weary, 
and the frenzied crowd stood on seats to see the ex-champ 

2 $8 The Greatest Year in Sport 

felled by a knockout blow. But now Sharkey did something in- 
explicable. The booing of the crowd rankled in his heaving 
chest, and instead of flattening the groggy Dempsey, he sud- 
denly turned to the mob and shouted, "Here's your bum 
champion. How do you like him?" 

Sharkey stood glaring out at the crowd for a moment, then 
turned back to resume fighting only to discover that the few 
seconds' respite or perhaps the words of scorn had rekindled 
Dempsey's fury. There was no knockout blow by Jack Sharkey 
that night. Instead the fighters went after each other with 
new ferocity. Dempsey was known to feel that his celebrated 
fighting crouch left his head open to punishment and that 
battering might harm his eyes. Sharkey was notoriously weak 
in the solar plexus. Each went for the other's weak spot. 

It was Sharkey's tender solar plexus that Dempsey aimed for 
in the seventh round. His right hand delivered a shattering 
blow which most ringsiders thought landed on the waistband 
of Sharkey 's trunks. Sharkey grunted, his face contorting with 
pain. Dropping his arms, he looked appealingly at the referee. 
Plainly he thought Dempsey's blow a low one to the groin. 
Yet, Jack Sharkey was a contender for the heavyweight 
championship of the world: he should have known better than 
to stand defenselessly in front of the Manassa Mauler. With- 
out waiting, Dempsey sent a thunderbolt left to Sharkey's jaw. 
Face still twisted with the groin-pain, Sharkey toppled to the 
canvas, lay motionless through the count. 

Was Dempsey's solar-plexus punch foul? World's Champion 
Gene Tunney, seated coolly at ringside, thought not. The 
highly respected sportswriters Grantland Rice and Joe Wil- 
liams thought it was. Fight fans across the country were 
similarly divided. It was hoped that motion pictures of the fight 
would show, but at the second in question Dempsey's broad 
back was to the camera. Sharkey's body bore no telltale bruises 
and the Boston fighter complicated matters by failing to lodge 

The Greatest Year in Sport 259 

an official protest. So Dempsey's hand was held high and pro- 
moter Tex Rickard glowed with happiness as he officially in- 
formed reporters that Dempsey would fight Gene Tunney in 
Chicago two months hence. Rickard had even more reason to 
be happy, for the Sharkey bout had built up a $1,083,529 gate, 
which in days before big-bite income taxes was divided as 

U.S. Government $ 98,502 

NT. State 49,251 

Dempsey 352,000 

Sharkey 210,426 

Rickard (balance) 373*3 50 

Never in American history has a sporting event been awaited 
with such feverish anticipation as the Dempsey-Tunney fight 
of September 22, 1927. Before it the national frenzy rose to 
such a pitch that the New York Times pontificated in an edi- 
torial headed THE THRILL HUNTERS: " Whatever place the year 
1927 may take in history, no future chronicler of our times 
can fail to note that people will contribute about $3,000,000 
to see two men fight for something less than forty-five minutes. 
It will not only be an index of the prosperity of the period, but 
it will reveal to the historian how much the 2oth century 
American was willing to pay for a thrill/' 

The bout was to be held at Soldiers Field in Chicago, which 
the ingenuity of Tex Rickard had stretched rubber-like to a 
point where 150,000 fans could be accommodated. "This fight 
will be my life's achievement," Rickard declared, pointing out 
that the anticipated Soldiers Field throng would fill two 
Yankee Stadiums, two Yale Bowls, or pack the Polo Grounds 
to capacity and leave 100,000 waiting outside. 

But would all ticket-buyers be able to see the ring? Long 
before September 22nd vaudeville comedians got loud laughs 
by wisecracking that the five dollar bleacher seats would be as 
far off as Milwaukee. Said the humor magazine Judge: "Ladeez 

260 The Greatest Year in Sport 

and Gentlemen! In this cornah, Mr. Takes-Us Rickard, heavy- 
weight publicity champ of the woild. And in that cornah, 
Battling Sucker-Public, the woild's champeen lightwit. CLANG! 
Takes-Us leads with three-thousand columns o publicity, 
catching Battling Sucker between the eyes. He follows up with 
a $40 blow to the pocketbook. Battling Sucker is out! But hell 
come back for more. It's the old circus game. He'll cough up 
$20 or $30 or $40 for a ticket marked Ringside that's about half 
a mile from the ring and stand on the back of cardboard seats 
with thousands of other suckers trying to get a glimpse of two 
bums dividing up over a million dollars!" 

Both Dempsey and Tunney earned tidy sums ahead of time 
by allowing the public to watch their training sessions at one 
dollar a head. As many as eight thousand people attended 
some of these workouts. "My plans are all Dempsey/ 7 stated 
Tunney when reporters asked him his strategy for the great 
fight. Dempsey, the oldster of 32, seemed heavy in the legs at 
some training bouts and sportswriters began calling him a 
hollow shell of his former self. This and other criticism crept 
under the ex-champ's tough hide, for just before the fight he 
released an ill-advised Open Letter accusing Tunney of con- 
niving with Philadelphia gambler Boo Boo Hoff to secure a 
friendly referee in the bout the year before. Tex Rickard 
summed up public feeling when he said of the surprising letter, 
"It makes me sick." Such things, however, were meat to the 
passionless Tunney, who condescendingly replied: 

My dear Dempsey Your open letter to me has been brought to 
my attention. My reaction is to ignore it and its evident trash 

However, I cannot resist saying that I consider it a cheap appeal 
for public sympathy. Do you think this is sportsmanlike? 

Gene Tunney 

To which Dempsey snarled back, "Til murder that big book- 
worm in less than eight rounds. . . ." 

The Greatest Year in Sport 261 

According to newspapers, Dempsey lost favor with many 
fans because of the open letter. Yet it was not apparent in the 
numbers of ticket holders who now descended on the city of 
Chicago. "Even Al Capone seems lost in the crush/ 7 wrote 
Grantland Rice, while another scribe reported it impossible to 
walk on the sidewalks in the Loop. Thomas Cook & Son had 
anticipated the future by chartering planes to fly a wealthy few 
to the fight, but the vast majority came by train. Out from 
New York rolled the Madison Square Garden Special, the Jim 
Corbett Special, the Billy Duffy Special, and the Tex Rickard 
Special. The Twentieth Century Limited stretched three times 
its normal length. In all, the New York Central ran thirty-five 
specials, the Baltimore and Ohio the same. 

"Governors, Mayors, Senators, and millionaires!" burbled 
press accounts. From Los Angeles came Douglas Fairbanks, 
Harold Lloyd, John Barrymore, and Charlie Chaplin. The 
Broadway contingent was led by David Belasco, Florenz Zieg- 
feld, and Al Jolson. From the ranks of millionaires came Otto 
Kahn, Bernard Baruch, Charles M. Schwab, and Julius Rosen- 
wald. In New York, those unable to travel to Chicago might 
see what was advertised as a reasonable facsimile of the real 
thing. At the yist Regiment Armory at Park Avenue and 
Thirty-fourth Street, two fighters would re-enact the Chicago 
fight as it came over tie radio. "See the Dempsey-Tunney 
Bout Reproduced in the Ring by Expert Boxers," the ads for 
this event suggested. "As soon as each round is completed in 
Chicago, the fighters in New York will reproduce the battle 

On the big morning both Tunney and Dempsey jogged five 
miles. In the afternoon Dempsey rested while Tunney im- 
proved his mind by examining manuscripts in a private library 
in the suburbs of Chicago. At Soldiers Field an army of 6,800 
ushers and special policemen received last minute instructions 
for handling the unprecedented throng. Eagle-eyed reporters 

262 The Greatest Year in Sport 

noted the genteel Tunney influence in the armbands worn by 
night fell and the fans were assembling, Soldiers Field turned 
into a place of surprising beauty, causing one reporter to write: 
"The veil of darkness over it all; the rippling sea of humanity 
stretching out as far as the eye could see; the Doric columns of 
Soldiers Field glowing a soft white along the upper battle- 
ments of the arena; and finally the ring itself where two men 
would fight it out with their fists in a pool of white light 
these were the high spots of an unforgettable spectacle." 

From a favored spot at ringside, the celebrated larynx of 
Graham McNamee warmed up, bidding a network of eighty- 
two stations: 

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the radio audience 
This is a big night. Three million dollars worth of boxing bugs 
are gathering around a ring at Soldiers Field, Chicago Burning 
down on us are 44 looo-watt lamps over the ring All is darkness 
in the muttering mass of crowd beyond the light The "mike" is 
fixed on the ring floor in front of us The crowd is thickening in 
the seats There's Jim Corbett Mayor Thompson of Chicago in 
a cowboy hat Irvin Cobb John Ringling Tex Rickard in a 
beige fedora It's like the Roman Coliseum 

Here comes Jack Dempsey, climbing through the ropes 
white trunks, long bathrobe Here comes Tunney He's got on 
blue trunks with red trimmings Hear the roaring of the crowd. 
Both men are in the ring now They're getting the gloves out of 
a box tied with a pretty blue ribbon The announcer shouting in 
the ring trying to quiet 150,000 people Robes are off. 

Jack Dempsey, fresh-shaven in Philadelphia, entered the ring 
with his traditional three-day growth of forbidding black beard. 
In contrast, Tunney looked pink and white. Referee Dave 
Barry called the two men to him and repeated the rules. He 
put great emphasis on the fact that in Illinois and only in 
Illinois the fighter still on his feet when a knockdown occurred 
must retire to a neutral comer. Only after he got there could 

The Greatest Year in Sport 263 

the referee began to count. "Do you understand, Champ?" he 
asked Tunney. It was one of the few times Tunney had been 
addressed as Champ and the self-possessed young man made a 
mental note of it. He nodded his head, indicating he was 
aware of the instructions. "Understand, Jack?" Barry asked the 
glowering Dempsey. The ex-champion also nodded. "Then may 
the best man win," Barry said, and the greatest ring spectacle 
of all time the Fight of the Ageswas on. 

Until the seventh round, the five-years-younger Tunney 
seemed to be in control. It was gentleman versus brute, as at 
Philadelphia. Tunney himself has written: "I had been out- 
boxing Jack all the way. He hadn't hurt me, hadn't hit me with 
any effect. I wasn't dazed or tired. I was sparring in my best 
form." As at Philadelphia, Tunney's sparring his refusal to 
trade slugging blows infuriated Dempsey. "C'mon, and fight," 
he taunted. In the past Tunney had fought vicious slugfests 
with Harry Greb and others. But as world's heavyweight 
champion he seemed satisfied to keep jabbing and dancing 
away, winning his victories on points. 

To some sportswriters at ringside, Dempsey resembled the 
hollow shell of pre-fight stories. But suddenly, in the seventh, 
the hollowness filled with furious energy. As Graham McNamee 
pictured the scene to a palpitating radio public: 

Gene is stabbing Jack off oh-o Jack wandering around Gene 
Dempsey drives a hard left under the heart Jack pounded the 
back of Tunney's head with four rights Gene put a terrific right 
hardest blow of the fight Gene beginning to wake up like a 
couple of wild animals Gene's body red hits Dempsey a terrific 
right to the body Jack is groggy Jack leads hard left Tunney 
seems almost wobbling they have been giving Dempsey smelling 
salts in his corner Some of the blows that Dempsey hits make 
this ring tremble Tunny is DOWN down from a barrage they 
are counting six-seven-eight 

What McNamee had described apparently without know- 

264 The Greatest Year in Sport 

ing it was the Long Count, the most controversial ticked-off 
seconds in all "boxing history. Dempsey, full of splendid energy, 
had unleashed a left swing that hit Tunney square on the jaw: 
"With all his accuracy and power, Dempsey hit me flush on 
the jaw, the button. I was knocked dizzy/' Such were the 
moments for which the Manassa Mauler crouched in wait. Like 
a fury he closed in, landing seven crashing blows. Battered by 
superhuman rights and lefts, Tunney lost consciousness. He 
slumped against the ropes and slid to a sitting position on the 

By Illinois rules, Dempsey must now retire to a neutral 
corner while the referee counted. But Dempsey, his vaunted 
killer instincts fully aroused, stood over his fallen opponent 
ready to land a punch the moment he got up. Referee Dave 
Barry, remembering the instructions given both fighters, paused 
uncertainly for two seconds. Then he rushed to Dempsey, en- 
circled the ex-champion with his arms, and shoved him in the 
direction of a neutral corner. Dempsey then recalled the 
Illinois rule. Barry waited until Dempsey reached the corner. 
He then bent over Tunney to begin one, two. 

At ringside the official timekeeper had already reached four, 
and it is these priceless seconds over which fight fans have 
argued endlessly since 1927. According to Tunney's story, con- 
sciousness came back as Dave Barry reached two. 'What a sur- 
prise!" he has written. "I had eight seconds in which to get 
up. ... I thought what now? I'd take the full count, of 
course. Nobody but a fool fails to do that/' 

As Dave Barry tolled nine, Tunney got to his feet. Dempsey 
tore in for the kill. But, says Tunney, "My head was clear. I 
had trained hard and well, as I always did. I was still in the 
proverbial pink/' His legs felt light and elastic, and he im- 
mediately began the light sparring-and-flicking that drove 
Dempsey into a rage of frustration. More than this was bother- 
ing Dempsey, however. He had knocked his man down for 

The Greatest Year in Sport 265 

what, with his great ring savvy, he knew was more than ten 
seconds. Yet his opponent had been permitted to rise and 
resume the fight. From here on Dempsey's legs seemed heavy 
and so no doubt was his heart. . . . 

In the last three rounds the fight reverted to its early pattern, 
with Tunney's skillful jabbing putting him ahead on points. 
Yet Dempsey's knockdown might still cancel this out. As the 
gong clanged to signify the end of the tenth and final round, 
Graham McNamee could only prolong the agony of the radio 

Yes, Tunney, I feel sure, retains his championship because at 
the last moment Dempsey was practically out on his feet. And, 
ladies and gentlemen, I assure you there were no fouls in this fight. 
There were no fouls here. There was nothing questionable that I 


GENE, GENE! Here is Tunney come to say something 

Tunney: Hello, everybody! It was a real contest all the way 
through. I want to say hello to all my friends in Connecticut and 
elsewhere. Thank you! 

McNamee: And now Jack comes out of the ring half beside him- 
self with anger, and we hope he is not going to knock all the type- 
writers and telegraph operators over. Well, at the last moment 
JACK, JACK! Well, we wanted Jack to say hello, too He boxed a 
real good fight. Gene Tunney managed to master him, but by no 
great margin and there was one time when Tunney might have 
taken the long road himself back to oblivion. 

So the Battle of the Century ended. Ten people died of 
heart attacks while listening to Graham McNamee's highly 
charged account of the bout, and next morning the front page 
of the New York Times was topped by a headline worthy of a 
declaration of war 


266 The Greatest Year in Sport 

In trains and cars leaving Chicago, fight fans argued pros 
and cons of the Long Count. Most of the details of these 
arguments were provided by newspapers, for events in the 
spectacular seventh had occurred so fast that few observers 
were aware of their real significance. Further, most of those at 
the fight had been so far away from the ring that such subtle 
nuances were lost. 

But with the exception of Dempsey, everybody appeared 
happy. The Fight of the Ages had been a more-than-a-million 
gate- actually over two-and-a-half million! Of the $2,658,000 
take Tunney received $990,000 and those addicted to pinpoint 
mathematics figured he earned $7,700 while reclining on the 
canvas during the Long Count. Dempsey's take-home was 
$447,000, making his income from two bouts during the year 
an approximate $800,000. This, noted one commentator, was 
a fee slightly in excess of that paid out to bricklayers and 
plumbers for a similar period of service. Of his Tunney fight 
money, Dempsey gave $75,000 to his manager, Leo Flynn, and 
lesser amounts to handlers. After a moderate tax bite the rest 
was his own, and he sensibly considered it sufficient. The 
Manassa Mauler never fought again. Tunney fought once 
more, knocking out Tom Heeney in a mild battle in New York. 
Then the champion who never was called Champ retired to 
the life of a self-made millionaire. 

Sports fans recovering from the hysteria of the Battle of the 
Century were given no time for catching breath. Simultaneously 
with the end of the Dempsey-Tunney fight, the game of base- 
ball exploded into stupendous thrills. Nineteen twenty-seven 
has been called the Yankee Year, the finest that New York 
team has ever known. With the so-called Murderers Row bat- 
ting order of Ruth, Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri plus the 
pitching of Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, and George Pipgrass 
the Yanks swept through a brilliant season that set an Ameri- 

The Greatest Year in Sport 267 

can League record of one hundred and ten games won and 
forty-four lost. In this mighty year the Yanks won the pennant 
by a comfortable margin of nineteen games. As if this were not 
enough, the conquering team won most games in the final, 
suspenseful innings. Five O'CIock Lightning, their eighth and 
ninth inning rallies came to be called. 

Baseball excitement built from peak to peak through the 
season. On July 4th the Yankee-Athletics double-header, held 
at Philadelphia, attracted a smashing 72,641 paying patrons, 
But it was not the near-flawless Yankee playing that did this. 
Rather it was Ruth and Gehrig, the Home Run Twins. From 
the first day of the season these two were locked in a deadly, 
day-to-day home-run rivalry. First Gehrig was in the lead, then 
Ruth, making a seesaw between the greatest pair of power 
hitters the game has ever produced. 

In 1927 George Herman "Babe" Ruth was, at 32, a national 
figure. "He snarled traffic and jammed parks everywhere," 
Frank Graham has recalled. "His progress was like that of a 
president or a king." Ruth's bat was half-a-pound heavier than 
others. He gripped it low for maximum swing, and the crack 
of it hitting a pitched ball made a clean, almost symphonic, 
sound. His confident jog trot around the bases, arms close to 
body, almost mincing along with short, quick, pigeon-toed 
steps, was imitated by sand-lot ball players across the country. 
Ruth loved life, and the greatest thing in life was baseball. 

But in 1927, as in other years, the great Bambino had head- 
aches. He was, as Red Smith would say later, "unschooled, un- 
polished, profane, widely uninformed, rowdy, generous, bull- 
headed, warm and utterly natural, and gloriously himself." This 
child of naturebrutalized by a saloon-keeper father; tobacco 
chewer and whiskey drinker at the age of ten; discoverer of 
baseball at a school for incorrigibles kept bumping into the 
sharp edges of alleged civilization. Yet, Red Smith continues: 
"he was in no sense stupid, though there were many things he 

268 The Greatest Year in Sport 

did not know. His mind was a blend of shrewdness and sim- 
plicity, quick perception and cheerful innocence. It was, in its 
special way, a great mind." 

Ruth's chief irritations were provided by Miller Huggins, 
manager of the Yankees. Huggins was a small man with the 
instincts of a martinet and a limited knowledge of human be- 
havior. He expected George Herman Ruth to give an example 
of clean living to other members of the team. With Huggins 
at tie Yankee helm, the freewheeling Babe was in constant hot 
water, receiving five thousand dollar fines and frequent sus- 
pensions from play. In addition, the Yankee front office wanted 
the Sultan of Swat to set an example to the rest of the country. 
The front office supported Huggins. 

Yet Ruth persisted in living life his own way. He liked to 
drink, though he never got drunk. He liked to gamble, and 
during a vacation at Havana race tracks lost a neat forty thou- 
sand dollars. He also liked good-looking girls, and was keeping 
close company with one he would soon marry. Ruth could 
double or triple his baseball salary by vaudeville tours and 
testimonials. He earned far more money than he ever needed, 
and spent much of it for $250 suits and expensive touring cars 
which he drove with his own happy brand of individualism. 
"Hey," a New York traffic cop once yelled at him, "this is a 
one-way street." "I'm only driving one way," Ruth roared back. 

1927 was the most Ruthian of years. Early in January news- 
papers reported that the Bambino had been ordered arrested in 
California for employing under-age children in his vaudeville 
act. The Yankee management, juvenile authorities, and even 
police might take Babe Ruth with dead seriousness, but the 
public viewed him with indulgence. The charge that Babe Ruth 
would victimize children was considered preposterous. He loved 
children and children loved him the Sultan of Swat was noth- 
ing but a big kid himself. In the words of his wife-to-be: "Babe 
and kids went together. He was bluff and blunt, but he could 

The Greatest Year in Sport 269 

reduce the shyest of kids to the status of boon companion in 
three minutes or less." 

When Babe Ruth ran afoul of the law, news stories had a 
way of making splash headlines, then fading away as the 
charges remained unproved. Later in 1927 the Babe was 
charged with attacking a cripple at the corner of Broadway 
and Seventy-second Street, in New York. A young woman 
(Ruth's companion, the cripple charged) had accused the lame 
man of insulting her. Whereupon a huge fellow (Ruth, claimed 
the cripple) punched him. In court the charges proved ground- 
less but Ruth, who wanted his public to admire him, took the 
matter gravely. Said a news account: "Of all those in court, 
none was more serious than Mr. Ruth, who stood before the 
bench with arms folded, a giant immobile figure." 

The Bambino had a special reason for wanting public ap- 
proval in 1927. Early that year he had signed a three-year con- 
tract for $210,000 or $70,000 per annum. This was the highest 
salary ever paid a baseball player, and the fact that a man 
without education had been put in a higher salary bracket than 
the President of the United States caused much hue and cry. 
This, in turn, drove Ruth to vow that he would prove himself 
worth an annual $70,000. 

The best way to do this was a break his record of fifty-nine 
home runs, set in 1921. He set out to do so and immediately 
found himself aided by two factors. One was the new and 
livelier baseball introduced that year. The other was the 
presence of Lou Gehrig immediately behind him in the Yankee 
batting order. With Gehrig in that spot, there was no point in 
deliberately passing Babe Ruth on balls. So the Babe got more 
and better pitches in 1927, and the ball was livelier than before. 

Even so, he began the season in a manner that was exciting 
but not great. He and Gehrig slugged it out on an even basis 
until the late-season date of September 6th. On that day, in 
the fifth inning of a game in Boston, Gehrig smashed his forty 

270 The Greatest Year in Sport 

fifth home run of the year. It placed him ahead of Ruth, who 
had so far hit only forty-four. This seemed to light a bonfire 
under the Sultan of Swat. The season had less than a month 
to ran, and he was thirteen home runs behind his 1921 record. 
However, supermen rise handsomely to the right challenge. In 
this September 6th game Ruth proceeded to clout no less than 
three home runs. Said the Times: "The reign of a great 
monarch was being seriously threatened here this afternoon 
when the king himself rose in his wrath, struck three mighty 
blows in his own behalf that removed all doubt that for the 
moment at least the master home run swatter of the age is 
still George Herman Ruth, called the Babe." 

So Ruth had forty-seven homers to Gehrig's forty-five. Next 
day the monumental man connected twice, bringing his total 
to forty-nine. By September lyth, he had fifty-two. Gehrig 
reached forty-seven, to remain there for the rest of the season. 
Then the country turned to enjoy the Dempsey-Tunney fight. 
But on the morning after the fight, the sports world discovered 
that Babe Ruth had clouted number fifty-six. On September 
27th, he hit his fifty-seventh, with bases full. "One every game 
now, until sixty," Ruth grimly promised reporters. On Sep- 
tember 29th, he hit two more, tying the 1921 record. Fittingly, 
number fifty-nine was a tremendous clout, again with bases 
full. Of it, one sportswriter said: "That, countrymen, was a 
wallop. It went halfway up the right field bleachers. The crowd 
fairly rent the air with shrieks and whistles as the bulky mon- 
arch jogged majestically around the bases behind the three 
other Yankees, doffing his cap and shaking hands with Lou 
Gehrig, who was waiting to take his turn at bat." 

Now Ruth must hit a single home run to achieve his goal. 
Only two games remained. Could he, would he do it? Suspense 
became unbearable as Ruth did not in the next-to-last game. 
In the final game of the season the Yanks faced Washington 
southpaw Tom Zachary at the Yankee Stadium. Came the 

The Greatest Year in Sport 271 

eighth inning, the moment of Five O'Clock Lightning. The 
score was 2-2, with a Yankee on base. It was Ruth's last time 
at bat: he must do it now or join Casey in Mudville. 

The first ball was fast, a called strike. The next came high, 
a ball With the third pitched ball, Ruth's massive body coiled 
like a spring. The great arc of his home-run swing commenced 
while the crowd sat breathless. Through the ball park rang a 
clear and beautiful sound the symphonic ring of the Babe's 
bat connecting with a well-pitched ball. The fans hardly 
needed to watch its soaring flight- this was a home run! Bel- 
lowing, cheering, pounding each other, seventy thousand peo- 
ple jumped to their feet to give Ruth what must be the most 
tumultuous ovation ever accorded a ball player. 

After such a stunning finale to the regular season, the World 
Series of 1927 could only be an anticlimax. The Pittsburgh 
Pirates, having earned the doubtful honor of facing the greatest 
team the game had ever known, were hardly in a winning frame 
of mind. The first game was played at Pittsburgh, and in sport- 
ing fashion the Pirates permitted the Yankees to take the field 
first for a practice session. From home dugout the National 
League champs watched Ruth and Gehrig hit practice home 
runs that shot out of the ball park. Sportswriters noted that 
the rugged Pirates seemed to wilt physically. 

In play, the series became a World Series of Errors all by 
Pittsburgh. Babe Ruth hit two more home runs, while Herb 
Pennock and George Pipgrass pitched exceptional games. De- 
feated in three straight games, the Pirates came to life slightly 
in the fourth. This, however, was largely the result of relaxa- 
tion induced by resignation to inevitable defeat. Final scores 
were 5-4, 6-2, 8-1, and 3-2 all in favor of the Yanks. 

But to salve any disappointment over the World Series, fans 
could immediately turn to football. This game, until recently 
the exclusive property of polite Ivy League colleges, had at- 

272 The Greatest Year in Sport 

tained nationwide prominence with rugged teams like Notre 
Dame, Georgia, and Southern California outstanding. Harold 
"Red" Grange, most colorful player in the game, had turned 
professional two years before. In 1927, the outstanding players 
were Caldwell of Yale, Lane of Dartmouth, Oosterbaan of 
Michigan, Wilson of West Point, Flanagan of Notre Dame, 
and Drury of Southern California. Most remarkable record of 
the year would be made by Alton Marsters, a sophomore triple- 
threat halfback of Dartmouth who gained 1,934 yards in eight 
games, nearly 700 more than the mighty Red Grange during 
his best season in 1924. 

Even so, the notable football personality of the year was not 
a player, but a coach. Since 1918 the Notre Dame teams of 
Knute Rockne had won sixty-four games, lost six, tied two. For 
this he had been raised in 1926 from an $8,500 annual salary 
to $10,000. Lately Rockne had branched out into lecturing, 
writing, and after-dinner speaking. A man who looked like an 
angry bulldog, and often behaved like one, he has been de- 
scribed as "teacher, fighter, psychologist, orator, scientist, actor, 
salesman, and diplomat." He also had what is recalled as a 
rollicking sense of humor. Using these diverse talents, Rockne 
had become nationally famous for his between-halves pep talks 
to Notre Dame teams. In these sessions, he rose to histrionic 
heights. "Win it for the Gipper," Rockne would beg his teams, 
while tears flowed down his rough cheeks. Notre Dame's all- 
time top player had been George Gipp who was worshiped by 
all players after him. 

To Rockne and to football fans all over the country the 
season of 1927 was full of excitement and bruising thrills. At 
the same time, it was bewildering and inconclusive, for none 
of the top teams of the day escaped defeat. Yale and Pitt were 
the leading teams in the East, but Yale lost to Georgia and 
Pitt was tied by Washington and Jefferson. The almost un- 
beatable Notre Dame was tied by Minnesota and defeated by 

The Greatest Year in Sport 273 

Army. Georgia, after defeating Yale, lost heartbreakingly to 
Georgia Tech in the final game of the season. Minnesota was 
tied by Indiana and Notre Dame. Big Ten leader Illinois was 
tied by Iowa State. On the West Coast, Southern California 
was tied by Stanford and beaten by Notre Dame. At the 
Tournament of Roses on New Year's Day, Stanford would 
play Pitt 

// W of 

.ATE in October, Lindbergh finished his 
around - the - country aviation - promotion 
tour, and Charles A. Levine returned by ship from Europe. The 
gripping aviation summer appeared to be over. With a sigh 
of regret or perhaps relief the American public began to 
accustom itself to finding only routine news in the papers. 
Through November news stories revealed that Secretary of 
Commerce Herbert Hoover, because of his efficient handling 
of Mississippi Flood Relief, was considered the outstanding 
candidate for the Republican nomination in 1928. Al Smith 
was still top man in the Democratic camp. In Washing- 
ton, oil millionaire Harry Sinclair and former Secretary of 
the Interior Albert Fall went on trial for their part in the Tea- 
pot Dome scandal. Newspapers claimed that a suicide wave 
among college and high school students was in full swing, but 
insurance company statistics failed to bear this out. Andrew J. 
"Bossy" Gillis was elected mayor of Newburyport, Massa- 
chusetts. Lita Grey Chaplin collected a $825,000 divorce settle- 
ment from her movie-comedian husband. Of this, $200,000 
was to be devoted to the education of the couple's two sons. 
The remainder ($625,000) was the eighteen-year-old girl's con- 
solation for devoting two years of her adolescence to a middle- 
aged spouse. 

End of the Big Shriek 275 

Mr. and Mrs. Martin Johnson revealed plans for another 
penetration into Darkest Africa. Earl Carroll was paroled from 
a Federal penitentiary, having served with good conduct his 
sentence for perjury in the girl-in-the-champagne party. In 
Chicago, where gangster killings had become a fearsome com- 
monplace, Al Capone gave a press interview which indicated 
that he had entrusted himself to the ministrations of a press 
agent. The purpose of the interview was to announce the gang 
lord's departure to Florida for the winter, but in the course of 
it he vigorously denied that his crime empire raked in a 
munificent seventy-five million dollars a year. In a statement 
that exposed the press-agent touch he tried to paint himself a 
friend of humanity. "I've been spending the best years of my 
life as a public benefactor/' he declared virtuously. "But all I 
get is abuse the existence of a hunted man. I'm called a 
killer. . . ." 

Behind front page stories were matters cultural. Indeed, the 
autumn of 1927 had proved an exciting one for culture-hounds. 
Those who enjoyed books could pick from a dazzling assort- 
ment of newly published volumes, among them: The Woman 
at Point Sur, by Robinson Jeffers; Meanwhile, by H. G. Wells; 
Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Gather; Circus 
Parade, by Jim Tully; A Good Woman, by Louis Bromfield; 
Little Sins, by Katherine Brush; We, by Charles Augustus 
Lindbergh; Mother India, by Katherine Mayo; What CAN a 
Man Believe? by Bruce Barton; Men Without Women, by 
Ernest Hemingway; The Companionate Marriage, by Judge 
Ben Lindsey and Wainwright Evans; The Mad Carews, by 
Martha Ostenso; The Grandmothers, by Glenway Wescott; 
Jalna, by Mazo de la Roche; The Human Body, by Dr. Logan 
Clendening; Mosquitoes, by William Faulkner; and Carry On, 
Jeeves, by P. G. Wodehouse. Harold Bell Wright, perhaps the 
most popular novelist of the time, was favoring his public with 
God and the Groceryman. ("Full of Wrighteousness," quoth 

276 End of the Big Shriek 

one critic.) The amazingly prolific E. Phillips Oppenheim was 
represented by his one hundredth book, a story of high-toned 
intrigue called Miss Brown of XYO. 

The Broadway theater offered a harvest almost as rich. The 
early 1927-28 season brought not only Burlesque, but The Trial 
of Mary Dugan, with Ann Harding and Rex Cherryman; The 
Letter, with Katharine Cornell; The Ziegfeld Follies, with 
Eddie Cantor; Women Go On Forever, with Mary Boland, 
Osgood Perkins, James Cagney, and Sam Wren; Four Walls, 
with Muni Weisenfreund, the soon-to-be Paul Muni; the 
original, non-musical Porgy, with Rose McClendon and Frank 
Wilson; the zestful Good News, with its sprightly 'Varsity 
Drag"; and a forgotten item called High Gear, with a dewy-eyed 
ingenue named Shirley Booth. At the Republic Theater on 
Forty-second Street the seemingly indestructible Abie's Irish 
Rose finally advertised "Last Weeks" after a run of five long 
years. A few blocks uptown was Dracida, with Bela Lugosi 
("Ye who have fits, prepare to throw them now" Alexander 
Woollcott), ("See it and creep" John Anderson). 

Motion picture quality did not match that of books and 
plays. Clara Bow was still the country's number-one box office 
attraction, and her big-eyed charms were on display at New 
York's Criterion in Wings, a spectacular aviation picture, with 
Richard Aden and Buddy Rogers. The Hottest Jazz Baby of 
Them All was also appearing in Hula, in which she portrayed 
an Irish colleen turned Hawaiian grass skirt dancer. Featured 
with her in this was the stone-faced English actor Clive Brook, 
also visible in a second concurrent film. This was the first of 
the gangster pictures, the memorable, mature, and timely 
Underworld, with George Bancroft, Fred Kohler, and Evelyn 

The Big Parade had moved from the Astor to the Capitol in 
New York, and its run at popular prices was about to start. 
Around the country Seventh Heaven was cleaning up finan- 

End of the Big Shriek 277 

dally, and impressionable women were advised to take at least 
four handkerchiefs with them to this superior tear jerker. 
Moviegoers in search of average films could find them in The 
Patent Leather Kid, with Richard Barthelmess, based on the 
slang-and-sport stories of H. C. Witwer; William Haines in 
Spring Fever, with Joan Crawford; Rolled Stockings, with 
Louise Brooks and James Hall; Will Rogers in A Texas Steer; 
An American Beauty, with Billie Dove, Lloyd Hughes, and 
Alice White; and Marion Davies in Quality Street. 

But if movies seemed weak, they were actually in a stronger 
position than ever. For The Jazz Singer had opened at the 
Warner Theater in New York. Up to this moment a few 
Warner Brothers films had been accompanied by a symphonic 
sound track. Also, there had been Vitaphone Shorts featuring 
singers and monologists. But now, incorporated for the first 
time in a full-length picture, Al Jolson sang three songs and 
spoke a snatch of dialog. On the Hollywood sound stage as the 
first song ended, the great man was so carried away that to the 
assembled extras he shouted his familiar, "You ain't heard 
nothin' yet!" These informal, not-in-the-script words were re- 
tained on the sound track, and suddenly at the Broadway 
premiere the singer's electric personality flooded the theatre by 
means of the new medium. The audience rose to its feet and 
cheered, and another ovation came at the picture's end. 

Motion picture critics of the day seemed strangely obtuse 
where sound was concerned. Mordaunt Hall of the New York 
Times hardly mentioned the innovation in his next-morning 
review. Instead, he hailed Jolson as the possessor of "the voice 
with a tear" and complimented May McAvoy on her per- 
formance in a saccharine role. Time took an even odder tack, 
saying that by means of this, his first movie, the fulsome his- 
trionic talents of Broadway's Al Jolson could at last be seen in 
the hinterlands. A 1928 publication called Mirrors of the Year, 
recalling the milestones of 1927, does not even mention The 

278 End of the Big Shriek 

Jazz Singer. Yet the public quickly discovered the rich attrac- 
tions of sound. Long lines formed in front of The Jazz Singer 
box office, and in Hollywood the Warner Brothers rousingly 
congratulated each other on having pioneered a winner. 

On Thanksgiving Day of the Year of the Big Shriek, Ameri- 
cans boasted some twenty million cars in which to travel the 
country's roadsthere were no highways then. This had, in- 
deed, become the era of the automobile. "In a position of 
honor/' writes Frederick Lewis Allen in Only Yesterday, "rode 
the automobile manufacturer. His hour of destiny had struck. 
By this time paved roads and repair shops and filling stations 
had become so plentiful that the motorist might sally forth for 
the day without fear of being stuck in a mudhole or stranded 
without benefit of gasoline . . . Automobiles were now made 
with such precision . . . that the motorist need hardly know a 
spark plug by sight . . ." 

Of the twenty million cars on American roads almost ten 
million were the ugly, clumsy, cheap, and altogether endearing 
(in retrospect) Ford known as the Model T or, more ele- 
gantly, as the Flivver or Tin Lizzie. Over the past decade the 
Tin Lizzie had come overwhelmingly to symbolize a period 
when Americans thought of motor cars as a method of getting 
from one place to another. But with Coolidge prosperity, 
paved roads, and frequent gas stations, Americans began to 
conceive of touring in automobiles, as well as impressing neigh- 
bors with the opulence of cars. 

So began an era in car-making which one editorial writer 
called the craze for external beauty. Leader in this advance to- 
ward automotive design was General Motors, the combine 
which had risen to challenge the supremacy of Henry Ford. To 
the buying public General Motors offered no less than seven 
different makes of car: Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Oak- 
land, Buick, LaSalle, and Cadillac. Ford, in turn, manufactured 

End of the Big Shriek 279 

only the redoubtable Model T and the high-priced Lincoln. 
"If the auto war between Mr. Ford and General Motors Cor- 
poration were symbolized by armaments/' wrote Time at this 
point, "Mr. Ford would be a cannon and GM a machine gun." 

Early in 1927 it became apparent that General Motors, with 
its wide variety and nifty design, was winning the automotive 
war. Henry Ford had piled up a fortune of $347,000,000 from 
his Model T and customarily paid income taxes in the vicinity 
of $2,500,000. A small percentage of this money had been de- 
voted to bringing back the past by restoring wayside inns, sub- 
sidizing country fiddlers and in the teeth of such mad crazes 
as the Charleston and Black Bottom attempting to revive 
square dancing. In short, Mr. Ford appreciated the past and did 
not relish change. Yet he was also America's most conspicuous 
self-made man, a primitive mastermind who could not tolerate 
any competition. In April 1927 Henry Ford's last Model T 
flivver rolled from his Detroit factory. On May 3ist he abruptly 
closed the factory, except for sections of it that made parts for 
the ten million Fords still in rattling action. While the Ford 
Motor Company lost one million dollars a day, Henry Ford 
and his engineers set out to regain supremacy in the low cost 
car field by producing a new Ford car. 

In several ways, 1927 had been a difficult year for the opinion- 
ated genius of the Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford was, in 
the polite phrase of Time, a Hebrew-phobe. His vast empire 
employed no Jews. His private newspaper, the Dearborn Inde- 
pendent, spread such rabid anti-Semitic propaganda as the fake 
Protocols of Zion. Yet to the American public Ford seemed a 
paragon among self-made millionaires, and the Jews for a long 
time dared not fight back. Then in 1927 a Chicago attorney 
named Aaron Sapiro decided he had been libeled by a Dear- 
born Independent article which began "A band of Jew bankers, 
lawyers, advertising agencies, produce buyers .... is on the 
back of the American farmer/' Sapiro sued for one million dol- 

280 End of the Big Shriek 

lars and in court thoroughly disproved the Ford charges. On the 
witness stand. Ford revealed himself ignorant of almost all 
worldly matters except the construction of motor cars. The 
Sapiro trial ended in a mistrial, and with this Ford was advised 
by his legal staff to apologize to the Jewish people for everything 
the Dearborn Independent had said about them since 1920, as 
well as withdraw from circulation a Ford-subsidized book called 
The International Jew. 

All this was gall to the proud spirit of Henry Ford. Still, it 
may have caused him to sink himself with special zeal into the 
new Ford car the Model A, it would be called. Through the 
summer Ford and his associates bent over planning boards, 
labored in the factory, and finally reached a proving ground 
obscured from view by a towering wooden fence. In October 
word came that the first Model A Ford was officially off the 
assembly line and that Henry Ford's gaunt face had worn a 
happy smile as he finished a trial drive in it. 

Mr. Ford was still losing one million dollars a day. He was 
determined, therefore, to place the new car before the public 
in record time. In an announcement which told that the 
Model A had been constructed at a cost of $100,000,000 of his 
own $347,000,000, Ford revealed that in less than a month 550 
of the new models would be ready for display in strategic spots 
across the country. Meantime, tests on the enclosed proving 
ground continued. Several times the new model was drastically 
readjusted. Finally word leaked that the Model A was being 
tested on roads around Detroit. Newspaper photographers sta- 
tioned themselves at intersections over the countryside, and one 
at last succeeded in snapping the new car as it shot by at sixty 
miles per hour. In a blurred photograph the Model A looked 
something like a poor man's Lincoln and that, indeed, is what 
it turned out to be. 

In an extremely opinionated lifetime, Henry Ford had often 
expressed contempt for advertising. Get a good product, he be- 

End of the Big Shriek 281 

lieved, and you don't need to advertise. But this was a changing 
world, and Mr, Ford was forced to use advertising in carrying 
his new model to the public. Display date for the new car was 
set at Friday, December 2nd. In the five days before that the 
Ford Motor Company spent two million dollars to mate the 
biggest advertising splurge the world had known to that mo- 
ment. Full-page advertisements in some two thousand news- 
papers across the country announced "THE NEW FORD CAR will 
sell at a SURPRISINGLY LOW PRICE the minute you see the pic- 
ture of the new Ford you will be delighted with its low smart 
lines and the artistic color combinations. There, you will say, 
is a truly modern car. . . ." 

Those reading the ad to the end and what American did 
not? found that the Model A would be full of innovations. 
Gone were the three foot-pedals that had been a Model T 
trademark; instead, Model A boasted a standard gear shift. No 
one would have to crank the new model, then dash around to 
the wheel to adjust the spark; Model A had a self-starter like 
any other car. It also had four-wheel brakes, four cylinders, 
steel-spoke wheels, windshield wiper, speedometer, and stop- 
light. The new car could travel fifty-five to sixty-five miles an 
hour, get twenty to thirty miles to a gallon of gas. Model A 
would be available in body types from Tudor sedan to snappy 
roadster. Eager purchasers found a choice of four body colors: 
Niagara Blue, Arabian Sand, Gray, and Gunmetal Blue. 

But the most exciting feature of all was the cost the full- 
page ad had been absolutely right in calling this SURPRISINGLY 
LOW. In characteristically informal manner, Henry Ford had 
gathered his associates around him one day on the fence- 
enclosed proving ground. Then he himself had figured that the 
Model A could be sold at a price almost identical with Model 
T. A new roadster would cost $385 as compared to $360 for the 
Model T. The Tudor Sedan would be priced at $495, the exact 
price of the old. Thus, Ford would still lead the low price field. 

282 End of the Big Shriek 

The most expensive Model A model was the coupe. This cost 
$550. The cheapest Chevrolet model was $625; Chrysler, $870; 
Whippet, $755; and Star, $650. 

The five-day saturation advertising brought a Ford-conscious 
public to a state of churning excitement. Never before, wrote 
a pundit, had newspaper readers been worked up to a point 
where advertising matter became front-page news. "There has 
never been more public excitement in Denver except at the 
time of the famous robbery of the United States Mint/ 7 re- 
ported the Denver Post. A magazine called the Independent 
(not to be confused with the Dearborn Independent) stated: 
"Had the high talents of the late P. T. Barnum, the brothers 
Ringling, and Tex Rickard been united in one grand effort, it 
is doubtful whether they could have brought to pass any such 

Police were needed to regulate the crowds around Ford 
showrooms in Kansas City, Cincinnati, Norfolk, Omaha, 
Boston, St. Louis, Richmond, Chicago, Washington, Philadel- 
phia, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, New York, New Orleans, and 
Atlanta. In London, Englishmen paid sixpence to view the new 
marvel of the age. The cars had been transported in ungainly 
crates, to hide the new body contours, then stored away in 
the depths of showroom buildings like Christmas presents. 
Dealers were advised to whitewash showroom windows to add 
to the mystery of the unveiling. Early Friday morning the 
whitewash was wiped away, and the fun began. 

Nervous Ford officials got the first intimation that the new 
model was a success at a preview unveiling on the night of 
December ist. This was held in the Empire Room of the 
Waldorf-Astoria, in New York City. Ford salesmen in evening 
attire led important guests from model to model: "Elegant 
people climbed in, out, and under the new car, and all agreed 
it was a true quality offering." The venerated Oscar of the 
Waldorf, one of those who examined the new car most 

End of the Big Shriek 283 

thoroughly, made the perfect remark for the occasion. 'Tm 
going to sell my two big cars and buy two of these," he said, 
while Ford representatives beamed. Another reporter followed 
two Lorelei-Lee gold diggers, swathed in furs and glittering with 
diamonds. "It's a beaut," one of these connoisseurs of cars told 
the other. 

Even Ford dealers were astounded at the rumpus over the 
official unveiling on December 2nd. In New York City, nearly 
a million in all stormed the major Ford display room at 1710 
Broadway. Another sixty-five thousand tried to get in a down- 
town display room on Broad Street. Outside a special show- 
room on Park Avenue, forty thousand turned up, while thirty 
thousand milled around an uptown showroom on i2jth Street. 
Learning this, Eastern Sales Manager Gaston Plantiff realized 
he had made a colossal blunder. He should have hired Madison 
Square Garden for the unveiling of the new Ford and, with 
this realization, he went downtown and rented it as a supple- 
mentary showroom. In the auto city of Detroit, 114,000 visited 
the display at the Ford Highland Park plant. In Newark, 
eighty-year-old Thomas Alva Edison examined his old friend's 
product and made another quotable remark: "It's an awful lot 
for the money," he said. On Wall Street, Ford stock zoomed 

Delivery of the new models was promised for January, but 
with such unprecedented turmoil, the date was more likely to 
be April or May. Nevertheless, people frantically waved money 
and insisted in placing orders. At 1710 Broadway the rate of 
orders was one thousand a day. One inspired crook described 
as a "rascal" by the local press circulated through the crowds 
with open order book. He could, he said, promise immediate 
delivery in return for an on-the-spot twenty-five dollar bonus. 
His pockets were crammed with greenbacks when police 
grabbed him. 

The new Ford was a huge success, and Americans told them- 

284 End of the Big Shriek 

selves that resulting sales would benefit the entire auto in- 
dustry and further swell the national economy. Only editorial 
writers seemed to take an unhappy view. In the New York 
Evening Post one such dipped his quill pen to write a nostalgic 
paean to the old Model T: 

The old Ford dript oil into our upturned faces as we lay under 
it on country roads at midnight. The new Ford is shown off like 
a modiste's mannildn to a generation which has lost the joy of 
getting its hands dirty. The old Ford ruined ten million pairs 
of overalls. The new Ford is unveiled in hotel ballrooms by sales- 
men in dinner jackets. 

The new Ford is new; but it isn't a Ford. It has theft-proof 
coincidental locks, pressure grease-gun lubrication, and five steel- 
spoke wheels; it is as silky as a debutante and as neat as a watch; 
it will go sixty-five miles an hour and thirty miles on a gallon; it 
has a gas-tank behind the engine and a switch for all lights on the 
steering post; it was made with Johannsen precision gages, accurate 
to the incalculable fraction of an inch, and it wipes its own wind- 

It is a remarkable piece of machinery, but it isn't a Ford, be- 
cause the Ford was an educational institution as well as a machine. 
The old Ford, the old, black, rusty, cantankerous, obstinate, sput- 
tering Ford, brought wisdom to many fools and made many wise 
men go raving, tearing mad. This new lily-of-the-valley isn't going 
to teach us anything. It looks as if it would run indefinitely with- 
out complaint, which is all wrong. It is made for serenity and com- 
fort, which is also all wrong. Where is the gas-tank? Out in front 
where it can be reached. Where is the timer? Up on top where it 
can no longer bark your knuckles. Where are the brake-bands? In 
a ridiculously exposed position where their value as trainers of 
character and refined language is completely lost. 

We are degenerating. We are entering a period of Roman 
luxury. The new Ford is a garage car. Back to the pioneer days 
when we threw sand under the fan belt and tightened the horn 
with a dime! 

While Model A was Topic A around the country, Calvin 
Coolidge orated that the United States prosperity was sound as 
a dollar. Thus he gave several newspaper cartoonists an 

End of the Big Shriek 285 

identical idea. They drew a healthy male figure, stripped to 
the waist, standing in a doctor's office. Attending him was a 
medical man marked Dr. Coolidge, listening with visible satis- 
faction to the patient's heartbeat through a stethescope. "Sound 
as a dollar/' the caption read. 

In New York, the great Negro cafe singer Florence Mills 
died and was given a bang-up Harlem-to-Broadway funeral. The 
1928 edition of Emily Post's Book of Etiquette hit the book- 
stores for Christmas purchase. Also for the Christmas season, 
colored bed linen went on sale for the first time ever at 
McCutcheon's, on Fifth Avenue. 

On Broadway, Helen Hayes opened in Coquette. Another 
important opening was the musical comedy Funny Face, with 
Fred and Adele Astaire and Victor Moore (not to mention 
Betty Compton, Mayor Walker's flapper date), as well as a top 
Gershwin score including the lilting "S'Wonderful." Other 
recent openings on the Gay White Way were Bernard Shaw's 
The Doctor's Dilemma with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne; 
A Connecticut Yankee, with a score by two newcomers named 
Rodgers and Hart (hit songs: "Thou Swell" and "My Heart 
Stood Still"). Playing "An Unidentified Man" in The Racket 
was Edward G. Robinson. In a tiny part in the cumbersome 
operetta Golden Dawn was Archie Leach, soon to become 
Gary Grant. Mae West, as yet to find her true art form as the 
Gay Nineties harlot in Diamond Lil, opened in a play of her 
own devising called The Wicked Age. Percy Hammond, drama 
critic of the Herald-Tribune, flatly called her the worst actress 
in the world. Rumor had it that the doughty Miss West was 
stalking him with a horsewhip. 

In the concert world, Geraldine Farrar gave a Standing 
Room Only recital at Carnegie Hall. Douglas Fairbanks and 
Lupe Velez opened in a film called The Gaucho. On December 
5th, in the midst of the Ford-furore, The Bridge of San Luis 
Rey, by Thornton Wilder, was published. Critics praised it, 

286 End of the Big Shriek 

while booksellers predicted that it would be the gift-book of 
the year for Christmas. 

Yet in the midst of such distractions, 1927 remained the 
Lindbergh Year. On December gth it was announced that the 
Lone Eagle would next take off on a good-will flight to Mexico. 
He would spend Christmas in Mexico City as the guest of 
Ambassador and Mrs. Dwight Morrow and their daughter, 
Anne. Instantly the United States and its neighbor to the south 
lighted up with fresh excitement. The flight to Mexico was 
only seven hundred miles shorter than the flight to Paris, over 
much uncharted territory. This would be another thrill for a 
thrill-happy world, and in Mexico City, inhabitants began act- 
ing like Parisians on the night of May 22nd. Lindbergh would 
land at Mexico City on December i4th, and that day was 
ordained a national holiday the first Mexican holiday ever de- 
clared in honor of a gringo American. Correspondents in 
Mexico reported: "All Mexicans speak of Lindbergh with eyes 
that sparkle, words that sing." 

Nor had the American press changed concerning the nation's 
number one Hero. Lindbergh took off from a rain-soaked 
Boiling Field in Washington on December i3th. Describing 
this, the New York Times pulled out all stops to record: "In- 
tent, cool, clear-eyed and clear-headed, under conditions re- 
quiring supreme moral and physical courage, America's young 
viking of the air lifted his gray Spirit of St. Louis from a hum- 
mocky, soggy, puddle-bespattered morass with an underhanging 
fringe of threatening mists just before noon today, pointed its 
nose southward and was off again on a new, hazardous venture 
to a foreign land personifying again in the hearts of his people 
their unofficial ambassador of good will. And, as always, he flew 
alone. . . ." 

Once again, as Lucky Lindy flew, the world stood rooted. By 
now everyone expected Lindbergh to land unfailingly on time, 
wherever he went. But for a brief time on the Mexico City 

End of the Big Shriek 287 

flight, he was lost. This brought extra drama to a story which 
on newspaper tickers in American city rooms unfolded this way: 








New York Times 
New York City 

Mrs. Evangeline Lodge Lindbergh, the flier's mother, declared 
that his latest undertaking was a matter that concerned him alone. 
... She then returned to her class (she teaches chemistry in the 
Cass Technical High School) . 

Mexico City 
To Many U. S. newspapers: 

Thousands of Mexicans were at the Valbuena Flying Field at 
dawn this morning eager to greet Col. Lindbergh. ... At 8:40 
President Calles arrived accompanied by his entire cabinet . . . 
Ambassador Morrow, seated between President Calles and General 
Obregon. . . . With reports at 10:30 that Col. Lindbergh was 
half way between Tampico and Mexico City, the huge crowd 
(more than 25,000) began to mill around eager to get good posi- 
tions. Nine Mexican Army airplanes hopped ofi to meet him. One 
of the planes doing stunt flying went into a nose dive and crashed 
several hundred yards in front of the Presidential stand. The pilot 
was not injured. Federal soldiers constantly arrived. . . . 10,000 
men in and around the inclosure. . . . Returning scout planes 
landed at 11:42 without having sighted Col. Lindbergh. . . . 

288 End of the Big Shriek 

Silence almost approaching gloom prevailed over the great crowd 
as the 25th hour passed with Lindbergh's whereabouts unknown. 
. . . The authorities set fire to dry grass which covers the field to 
make a smoke signal. . . . Although hoping for the best, both 
President Calles and Ambassador Morrow were unable to conceal 
grave emotions. . . . 

The Associated Press 

In addition to Mexican President Calles and Ambassador 
Morrow, humorist Will Rogers was among the distinguished 
guests awaiting Lindbergh. These three nervously paced the 
center of the airfield, while around them men grew silent and 
plucked the dead grass on which they sat in the sun and women 
wrapped their shawls more tightly. In the first hours of the 
vigil a huge blackboard reporting the Lone Eagle's progress had 
been toted around the field for all to see. As time passed with 
no further word, the blackboard disappeared. Suddenly it re- 
appeared, with the chalked-up word that the Spirit of St. Louis 
had been spotted over nearby Toluca. Almost immediately the 
speck of the plane itself could be seen. There was a roar and 
the crowd went into transports of excitement. In the New York 
city room of the Herald Tribune the ticker began to click out 
more of the story- 
Mexico City 

New York Herald Tribune 
New York City 

The intrepid American flyer brought his Spirit of St. Louis down 
on Valbuena Field at 2.39. ... He had covered more than 2,000 
miles in 27 hours, 15 minutes . . . from the crowd delirious 
shouts of joy . . . motorcycle police rushed toward the spot . . . 
Lindbergh was lifted upon the shoulders of his new Mexican ad- 
mirers and placed into an automobile which began a slow trip to 
the Presidential stand. . . . The American hero seemed tired 
when he marched up to the President, but he was smiling happily. 
Speaking through an interpreter, President Calles assured him of 
Mexico's delight. . . . The greeting not entirely formal. The 

End of the Big Shriek 289 

President grasped the flyer's hand warmly and threw his arms 
around the Colonel's shoulder. . . . 

Jack Starr-Hunt 








Mexico City 
New York Times 
New York City 

President Calles issued a statement tonight. . . . "The latter 
portion of Col. Lindbergh's flight over territory absolutely un- 
known to him over zones of a particularly difficult and dangerous 
nature because of a lack of means of communication and the 
deviation from his original route . . . put to the proof his great 
skill for navigating aloft. His marvelous resolution and energy 
alone prevented him from coming down and maintained him in 
his firm intention to reach Mexico without a stop." 


New York Times 
New York City 

"That's all that matters/' said Mrs. Lindbergh, told of her son's 

290 End of the Big Shriek 

safe landing in Mexico City. "He has always talked of seeing 

Mexico City 
New York Times 
New York City 

This has been in some ways the most interesting flight I have 
ever made. ... I managed to get completely lost in the fog over 
Mexico . . . something went wrong. I guess it was me. ... I 
am sorry that those waiting for me had such a long time under 
the hot sun but I was just as anxious to come down as they were 
to have me. . . . After 10 o'clock the moon came up and I think 
the first sight of the ground after leaving Washington was some- 
where in Mississippi. Then I laid a course for the Gulf and hit it 
fairly close ... fog for two or three hours ... it was necessary 
to come down low over the water sometimes only 200 or 300 feet 
above the white line of surf ... it was far from pleasant flying. 
... I recognized Tampico by the oil tanks despite the heavy cur- 
tain of fog which lay over it ... unable to get beneath the fog I 
went up again and set a compass course for Mexico City. ... I 
must have made some bad errors for when I dived down out of 
the clouds iVi hours later there was not a sign of Mexico City. I 
got completely lost. I knew I was in a bad country to play around 
in. I tried to puzzle it out by the watersheds. . . . But it was not 
until I saw a sign of the Hotel Toluca that I really managed to get 
located and then set my course again for Mexico City. ... I saw 
the planes of the Mexican Army coming to greet me. ... Of the 
reception I can only say that it was equal, in all its sincerity, with 
that which I received in France and England. . . . Mexico has 
some splendid pilots. ... I am grateful to President Calles. . . . 

Charles A. Lindbergh 





End of the Big Shriek 291 




Telephone call from American Embassy in Mexico City to Mrs. 

Lindbergh in Detroit: 

"We made it mother. I have already been presented with a fine 
Mexican sombrero." 
A moment later (another voice) : 

"This is Ambassador Morrow. I congratulate you on your son. 
May I extend to you a cordial invitation to spend Christmas in 
Mexico City with your son?" 















So the thrills of the Year the World Went Mad carried up 
to the last moment. Yet all were not happy thrills some were 
sad and shocking. Even as Lindbergh was feted in the first days 

292 End of the Big Shriek 

of his Mexico City stay, the U.S. destroyer Paulding on patrol 
through rough weather in the Atlantic off Provincetown ? 
Massachusetts, rammed the submarine 8-4. The sub, which had 
come to the surface without signal during a trial run, had 
thirty-nine crew members and one civilian aboard. When 
rammed it sank heavily to the ocean floor. Two years before 
the Navy had gathered a salvage fleet in an attempt to raise 
the S-5i off Block Island. Now a similar force was hurriedly 
reassembled under the direction of Commander Edward Ells- 
berg. Divers going below found that six men remained alive in 
the submarine's torpedo room. "Is there any hope?" the men 
asked in tapped-out words. "Yes, there is hope," the diver 
tapped back. 

But was there? The American public, accustomed to the 
wonders of the past year, could not comprehend why the six 
could not be saved. A great fleet hovered above the 8-4, while 
rescue sirens wailed balefully. "Please hurry, air getting bad," 
the men below tapped. Secretary of the Navy Wilbur, arriving 
in Provincetown, became the target of nationwide frustration. 
Was the salvage being bungled? newspapers demanded. Had the 
first airhoses been attached to the wrong vents, as sensational 
papers charged? Crackpots of all types descended on Province- 
town with ideas for raising the sub. One suggested that every 
craft in the area be attached to the sunken craft, which by 
main force could be dragged inshore. Days passed and rescue 
efforts got nowhere. If any section of the sealed-off part was 
opened, tons of water would rush in. Tapping from the tor- 
pedo room dwindled, which meant the six survivors were dying. 
Commander Ellsberg talked of waiting until summer to raise 
theS-4. . . . 

In Los Angeles a young man named W. Edward Hickman 
decided he needed fifteen hundred dollars for college tuition. 
He obtained it by driving to the playground of a junior high 
school and beckoning to an attractive twelve-year-old named 

End of the Big Shriek 293 

Marian Parker. 'Tour father sent me to get you/' he told her. 
The trusting Marian got in beside him. She was a bright-look- 
ing child with a sunny disposition, but to Hickman this 
counted for naught. He cold-bloodedly strangled her, then dis- 
membered the body by clumsily chopping off the legs. He next 
telephoned the girl's father, saying Marian had been kid- 
napped but would be returned unharmed on payment of one 
thousand five hundred dollars. 

The two men agreed to rendezvous that night on a dark 
road. At the appointed moment Marian's father drove up be- 
side Hickman's car. "Is my daughter alive?" he asked. Hickman 
held up Marian's body wrapped in a blanket. The child ap- 
peared to be asleep. "Give me the money, and I'll leave her 
down the road a little way," Hickman instructed. Parker 
handed over the money. Hickman drove a short distance, 
stopped to place Marian's body on the ground. Her father 
rushed to the child, opened the blanket and never in his own 
words could describe what he saw. 

The hunt for Hickman fanned up and down the Pacific 
Coast. Finally, he was captured in Seattle^ As his train pro- 
ceeded southward crowds gathered at every stop. These were 
not vengeful crowds, but rather curious folk out for a glimpse 
of a killer. Could it be, moralists asked, that the unending sen- 
sations of the year had left the public drained of emotion, 
completely jaded? It seemed so, as the peculiar reactions of the 
Hickman crowds were reported. Their apathy seemed to say: 
we've had everything else this year, now here's a chance to look 
at a murderer. In Los Angeles, thousands lined the route Hick- 
man took from train to jail. Again there was neither anger nor 
hostility. Simply a passive, gloating curiosity. 

Christmas 1927 came, and with it a final sensation. On 
December 23rd, Mrs. Frances Grayson's amphibian plane 
Dawn took off from Roosevelt Field on a twelve hundred mile 
flight to Harbor Grace, Newfoundland. This was to be the first 

294 End of the Big Shriek 

leg of the hop to Denmark which the ambitious woman had 
attempted in late summer. Mrs. Grayson had a different pilot 
for the new venture, Oskar Omdal, a lieutenant in the Nor- 
wegian Navy. Bryce Goldsborough, navigator and radioman, 
was once more aboard. Fred Kohler, Wright Whirlwind engine 
expert, was flying as far as Harbor Grace. With Mrs. Grayson 
went the trusty revolver which she allegedly waved at Old 
Orchard with the promise to use it on any pilot who dared 
turn back. Reporters saw her slip this weapon into the depths 
of her fur-lined flying suit. "Is that your badge of authority?" 
she was asked. The compact, attractive woman gave a Mona 
Lisa smile. 

Mrs. Grayson's departure was so unexpected that her finan- 
cial backer in Denmark was unaware of it. The American pub- 
lic, still simmering over the aviation deaths of late summer, 
was given no time to protest Mrs. Grayson had consulted 
Clarence Chamberlin and Bernt Balchen, and presumably both 
had advised against a flight late in the year. Wilmer Stultz, her 
pilot of the previous attempt, warned the flight was foolhardy. 
Yet Mrs. Grayson went. Reminded by reporters that her sched- 
ule would have her flying the Atlantic on Christmas Day, she 
gave an answer which may help explain her determination: 
"All my life Christmas has been the same. Same friends, same 
gifts that don't mean anything. Telling people things you don't 
mean. But this one will be different!" Another clue to her per- 
sonality may be found in her behavior just before stepping into 
the cockpit of the Dawn. Lifting her eyes heavenward, she in- 
quired of the universe, "Am I a little nobodyor a great 
dynamic force?" 

Neither the Dawn nor its crew was seen after the pre-Christ- 
mas take off, and the disappearance holds several mysteries 
within its own mystery. One, naturally, is whether Mrs. Gray- 
son used the revolver on her crew, as she threatened to do in 
the case of another turn-back. Still, it is unlikely that she 

End of the Big Shriek 295 

would be able to shoot three able-bodied men. One man per- 
haps, but not three especially when the three must have been 
aware that she carried a revolver. More likely she turned it on 
herself when death became inevitable. Yet the question re- 

Almost equally tantalizing is why no radio messages ever 
came from the plane. Radio operator Goldsborough, a much- 
respected expert in his field, had promised to send reports al- 
most from the moment of departure. None came. Later, a radio 
base at Sable Island, Newfoundland, reported a message which 
said, "We are in trouble." But this appeared to come from a 
small emergency set Goldsborough had taken along. On Christ- 
mas Day, the dirigible Los Angeles, Navy destroyers, and rescue 
planes covered the area between Maine and Newfoundland, 
but there were no signs of the plane. Closing its account of the 
Grayson flight Time wrote sententiously: "There are no head- 
stones in the graveyard of the sea." Soon the flight of the 
Dawn, with its four dead, was just another ill-fated attempt of 
the year 1927. 

During Christmas Week, college student John Coolidge de- 
lighted reporters by appearing in Washington in a heel-length 
raccoon coat typical of collegians of the time. With this 
formidable garment he, like other Joe College types, went hat- 
less. Sheiks and shebas in Washington and elsewhere did the 
Charleston and Black Bottom, or fox-trotted to such dansapa- 
tion melodies as "My Heart Stood Still," "Ain't She Sweet? 
(See her comin' down the street)," "Mary Lou (I love you)," 
"Blue Skies," "Hallelujah," "Side by Side," and "Diane," the 
theme song of the tear-jerking Seventh Heaven. 

It was a good Christmas in bookstores, with The Bridge of 
San Luis Rey, highly touted by Dr. William Lyon Phelps, a 
favored gift. Runner-up in fiction popularity were Willa 
Gather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, Rosamond Leh- 

296 End of the Big Shriek 

mann's A Dusty Answer, and Sinclair Lewis 7 Elmer Gantry, the 
last suitable only for those conditioned to robust reading. In 
the non-fiction field Andre Siegfried's America Comes of Age 
had been a Yuletide best seller; in biography Andre Maurois' 
Disraeli; in travel books Richard Halliburton's The Glorious 
Adventure; in mysteries S. S. Van Dine's The Canary Murder 
Case, with its ineffable Philo Vance. 

Of all those prepared to enjoy themselves during the Christ- 
inas holidays of 1927 none found richer fare than Broadway 
first-nighters. No less than thirteen plays opened between 
Christmas and the New Year. Among them were Behold the 
Bridegroom, by Pulitzer Prize winner George Kelly, with Judith 
Anderson; Bless You, Sister, with Alice Brady and Charles 
Bickford; Venus, by Rachel Crothers, with Cissie Loftus, 
Patricia Collinge, and Tyrone Power, Sr.; Celebrity with Crane 
Wilbur; Paradise, with Lillian Foster, Elizabeth Patterson, and 
Minnie Dupree; It Is To Laugh, by Fannie Hurst, with Edna 
Hibbard; L'AfgZon, with Michael Strange; Excess Baggage, with 
Miriam Hopkins; Paris Bound, by Philip Barry, with Madge 
Kennedy; The Royal Family, by Edna Ferber and George S. 
Kaufman, with Otto Krager and last but by no means least 
S/iow Boat, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, from 
the book by Edna Ferber. S/zow Boat, the greatest of all Ameri- 
can operettas, opened gloriously on December 28th before an 
audience that mixed the elite of Park Avenue and Broadway. 
In the cast were Charles Winninger, Edna May Oliver, Jules 
Bledsoe, Howard Marsh, Helen Morgan, Norma Terris, and 
Sammy Puck and Eve White. 

While most of the nation applied itself to holiday matters, 
a few deep thinkers undertook to evaluate progress in 1927. 
With a start, they realized that the world had indeed moved 
forward. Twelve months before, the country had anticipated 
the trial of Daddy and Peaches. Now such spicy matter seemed 
adolescent and outmoded. Somehow the country in a manner 

End of the Big Shriek 297 

resembling the product of Henry Ford had progressed from 
Model T thinking to Model A. 

What brought this change? Partly the natural course of 
events. But mainly the reason seemed to have been aviation. A 
country that had been mesmerized by such local sensations as 
the death of Valentino, the antics of Daddy Browning, and 
the Queens Village murder had, with the coming of the 
aviation-summer, raised eyes to encompass the world. Lind- 
bergh, Byrd, and Chamberlin had spanned the Atlantic, Mait- 
land and Hegenberger the Pacific, Brock and Schlee had nearly 
circled the globe. Altogether the world seemed a smaller place, 
requiring American minds to grow bigger. Also, the Lindbergh 
receptions in Paris, London, and Mexico had been as wildly 
enthusiastic as those in Washington and New York people 
were the same the wide world over. America, with leadership in 
the air, was now a vital part of the world. Aviation had given 
America's shell of isolation its final crack. 

Aviation was still inextricably mixed with the image of Lind- 
bergh. Elmer Davis, evaluating the departing year, saw in the 
clear-eyed Lone Eagle a signpost pointing upward on a road 
that led from the Era of Wonderful Nonsense to an Era of 
Comparative Sanity. Why else, he asked, would the nation go 
mad over Lindbergh: 

What conceivable impulse could have stirred up a nation im- 
patient of exactitude and devoted to ballyhoo to fiing itself in an 
ecstasy of adoration at the feet of a man who is everything that 
the average American is not? It suggests some dissatisfaction with 
the way we are going, a feeling that the things we are doing are 
not the things that ought to be done, or that our way is not the 
right way to do them; it suggests a pervasive insecurity, a loss of 
confidence. ... It is possible that the qualities conspicuously 
present in Lindbergh are the qualities that the nation at large needs 
most acutely. 

Others saw in science the force that would transport the 
United States to nobler heights. Only the readers of scientific 

298 End of the Big Shriek 

magazines knew the full wonders in this field. One new dis- 
covery was television. In 1927 the image of Secretary of Com- 
merce Herbert Hoover had been flashed from Washington to 
New York. "One of the most spectacular culminations of re- 
search during the year/' this was called. Dr. Herbert E. Ives of 
the Bell Laboratories was the pioneer who accomplished it. 
Viewers today would hardly recognize his effort as television, 
for as seen on a small receiving set the image looked like a half- 
tone, two inches high, printed in the pink sheet edition of a 
daily newspaper. 

Yet such wonders as television were in the happy future. 
Much closer to the national interest was the paradox of Pro- 
hibition. The Eighteenth Amendment was the law of the land 
and by it Americans were supposed never to touch an alcoholic 
beverage. Yet as New Year's Eve approached newspapers pre- 
dicted the wettest holiday the nation had ever known. AMERICA 


"When the New Year arrives on the stroke of midnight he will 
find awaiting him a madder, wetter, merrier welcome than has 
ever been accorded any of his predecessors/ 7 

In New York, night clubs took newspaper space to advertise 
that despite threats of law enforcement they would remain 
open until at least eight a.m. New Year's Day. Veiled refer- 
ences to drinks and expensiveness filled these ads. The Cafe 
Des Beaux Arts, promising a peppy show and orchestra to- 
gether with souvenirs, noise, and fun makers, warned that 
prices were high: a cover charge of seven dollars and fifty cents 
a person in the Parisian Room; ten dollars in the Grill; and 
fifteen dollars in the Gold Room. 

Another New York night club listed a gala unveiling for New 
Year's Eve. This was Mae West's Club Deauville, at Park 
Avenue and Fifty-ninth Street. Here a New Year's Eve Supper 
was advertised for a cover charge of ten dollars. Together with 

End of the Big Shriek 299 

this went "A Program of Distinctive and Unique Entertain- 
ment Conceived and Directed by the Distinguished Star in 
Person/ 7 At Les Ambassadeurs the name the gangster owners 
still could not pronounce the night's entertainment would be 
Lew Leslie's Revue, with Adelaide Hall. Texas Guinan, having 
been padlocked out of the Three Hundred Club, would bellow 
the new year in at the Century Club, on Central Park West. 
Clayton, Jackson, and Durante were at the Parody Club, en 
route to the Silver Slipper where the madcap trio found greatest 

Theatres, too, asked top prices. S/iow Boat, already the hit of 
the decade, charged twenty-five dollars a seat for New Year's 
Eve. Musicals like Funny Face, Hit the Deck, Good News, A 
Connecticut Yankee, and Manhattan Mary (with Ed Wynn) 
got fifteen dollars a seat. Dramatic shows like Burlesque, Broad- 
way, The Royal Family, and The Trial of Mary Dugan charged 
ten dollars. Movie palaces along the Main Stem advertised spe- 
cial Welcome the New Year shows, but retained what were 
euphemistically called popular prices. Moviegoers could choose 
among W. C. Fields and Chester Conklin in Two Flaming 
Youths, at the Paramount; William Haines in West Point, at 
the Capitol; Norma Talmadge in The Dove, with Gilbert 
Roland and Noah Beery; John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in 
Love; John Gilbert (again) and Jeanne Eagels in Man, 
Woman, and Sin; and Lon Chaney in London After Midnight, 
with Marceline Day and Conrad Nagel. 

For those at home radio offered music and fun for the mid- 
night hours. Over WEAF from ten o'clock at night until two 
in the morning a parade of dansapation included B. A. Rolfe 
from the Hotel Park Central; Cass Hagan, Hotel Roosevelt; 
Ben Bernie, Palais D'Or; and Vincent Lopez, Casa Lopez. 
Over WOR came the orchestras of Larry Siry, Fletcher Hender- 
son, Bernhard Levitow, Hale Byers, and Jimmy Carr. At mid- 

300 End of the Big Shriek 

night WJZ would sedately broadcast services from Trinity 
Church in downtown Manhattan. 

Now only New Year's Eve remained of the Year the World 
Went Mad. . . . 

Exactly how Peaches Browning disported herself at this 
merry moment is not on the public record. But Peaches, now 
sweet seventeen, was earning fifteen hundred dollars a week as 
part of a vaudeville dance act and would in time amass over 
one hundred thousand dollars which in emulation of Daddy 
she invested profitably in metropolitan real estate. Daddy 
Browning, a reformed character, had confined himself this 
Christmas season to presenting gifts to boy and girl tots under 
the age of ten. Explaining this, he said wistfully, "I won't have 
to come in contact with any young ladies or girls. It isn't good 
for me to have to come in contact with young ladies or girls." 

Shipwreck Kelly, also a potent vaudeville attraction, was 
already in training for the summer of 1928, when he would 
shatter his twelve-day flagpole-sitting record. In Sing Sing 
Prison, with less than two weeks to live, Judd Gray immersed 
himself in the Bible, while Ruth Snyder, her behavior increas- 
ingly irrational, dickered with magazine editors to sell a non- 
existent autobiography. Lindbergh was in Belize, British Hon- 
duras, having arrived there by way of Guatemala. Commander 
Byrd was deep in plans for air-conquest of the South Pole. 
Charles A. Levine was in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter 
Eloyse never again would he achieve newspaper headlines. 
The likeable Clarence Chamberlin had resumed his career as 

In honor of New Year's Eve, Calvin Coolidge had permitted 
Mrs. Coolidge to arrange for Army buglers to stand on the 
White House lawn, to play Taps just before midnight and 
Reveille just after. Crowds gathered to watch this simple cere- 
mony, then lined up to shake the limp hand of the President 

End of the Big Shriek 301 

of the United States. In this country the Sacco and Vanzetti 
case seemed to be forgotten, but in Paris a memorial service 
for the martyred pair generated so much emotion that it turned 
into trouble. Mayor Jazz J. Walker, immaculate in top hat and 
tails and still wearing New York City like a boutonniere 
made holiday whoopee with Betty Compton on his arm. Babe 
Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Henry Ford, Ruth Elder 
all these greeted the bright New Year according to varying 

The crowds gathering to welcome the New Year at Times 
Square were a year older -but what a year! Yet each fondly 
expected 1928 to be bigger and better. The weather was clear 
and nippy, with no deluge of rain like the year before. Police 
had accumulated more experience with heavy traffic and no 
jam of motor cars clogged the streets around Broadway. Slowly 
at 11:59:50 the illuminated ball atop the Times Tower began 
its slow descent, and a happy cheer rose from the jampacked 
throng. Horns and whistles blew. Off with the old, On with 
the new! Nineteen-twenty-seven the Year the World Went 
Mad was gone. 

It would never come again! 

The author is indebted to Patricia Collinge Smith and James 
Nichols Smith for generous use of their collection of Lind- 
bergh phonograph records. To the United States Weather 
Bureau for data concerning the weather on January i, 1927. 
To Richard Jablow, for advice. To Professor Edwin Arthur Hill 
of the College of the City of New York, for assistance. To Mrs. 
Ad Schulberg and to William Poole, of the Thomas Y. Crowell 
Company, for encouragement. 

In an effort to catch the flavor of the period, the chief 
sources relied upon were contemporary ones like the New Yor& 
Times, New Yorfe Sun, Time, and Literary Digest. However, 
the following books also yielded source material and quotes: 

BISHOP, JIM: The Mark Hellinger Story 
BRITTON, NAN: The President's Daughter 
BROWN, WENZELL: They Died in the Chair 
BRUNO, HARRY: Wings Over America 
COOK, FRED j.: The Girl in the Death Cell 


GRAHAM, STEPHEN: New York Nights 
GAUVREAU, EMILE: My Last Million Readers 
GRANLUND, NILS x.: Blondes, Brunettes, and Bullets 



304 Bibliography 

LANEY, AL: Paris Herald 

LEIGHTON, ISABEL (ed.) : The Aspirin Age 

LINDBERGH, CHARLES A.: The Spirit of St. Louis 


MARKET, MORRIS: That's New York! 

MERZ, CHARLES: The Great American Band Wagon 

MORRIS, LLOYD: Incredible New York 

RICE, GRAOTLAND: The Tumult and the Shouting 

SANN, PAUL: The Lawless Decade 

STOKES, HORACE (ed.) : Minors of the Year 

WALKER, STANLEY: Mrs. Astor's Horse 

The Night Club Era 


A & P Gypsies, 6, 16 
Abie's Irish Rose, 6, 276 
Acosta, Bert, 79, 97, 117, 122, 

175, 191, 194, 195, 196 
advertisements (1927), 13, 172 
advertising slogans, 13, 172-173 
airmail, 178, 191 
Allen, Freerick Lewis, 126, 278 
American Legion, 145, 243-245 
Arbuckle, Fatty, 172 
Armour, Tommy, 5, 252 
Astaire, Fred and Adele, 285 
Atkinson, }. Brooks, 52 

Balchen, Bernt, 121, 191, 192, 

195, 196, 294 
Banky, Vilma, 172 
Barnes, Ralph, 135 
Barry, Jack, 263, 264 
Barrymore, Ethel, 6 
Barrymore, John, 7 
baseball (1927), 266-271 
Battle of the Long Count, 259- 


Bellanca, Guiseppe, 116, 174- 


Benchley, Robert, 226 
Bennett, Floyd, 21, 115, 193, 


Berlin, Irving, 15 
Bernie, Ben, 15, 75, 299 
Bertaud, Lloyd, 117-118, 121, 

189, 236-237 
Big Parade, The, 7, 276 
Blythe, Richard, 118-20, 122, 

123, 133, 146, 150, 159 
Bogart, Humphrey, 172 
Boll, Mabel, 197 
books (1927), 17, 80-1, 275-6, 


Borden, Lizzie, 173 
Bow, Clara, 7-8, 245, 276 
Brandeis, Justice Louis, 230 
Britton, Nan, 217-218 
Broadway, 3, 25 
Brock, William, 189; around the 

world flight, 237-239 
Bromfield, Louis, 81 



Bronte, Emory, 189, 212 
Broun, Heywood, 22 6, 228, 255 
Browning Case, trial of, 40-50 
Browning, Dorothy Sunshine, 

Browning, Edward West, 24- 

50, 85-86, 300 

Browning, Mrs. Frances Heenan 

"Peaches," 24-50, 85-86, 300 

Bruno, Harry, 118-19, 122 > 12 3? 

133, 146 

Burrage, Vice-Admiral, 144, 153 
Byrd, Commander Richard Eve- 
lyn, 21, 79, 114, 115, 118, 
120, 123, 133, 161, 162, 175, 
190-197, 211, 213, 233, 257, 

Byrd Flight, take-off, 192; flight, 
192-196; reception in Paris, 
196-197; in New York, 213 

Cagney, James, 3, 276 

Capone, Al, i, 19, 51-52, 2 75 

Carpentier, Georges, 255 

Carr, Sabin, 253 

Carroll, Earl, 6, 19-20, 275 

Chamberlin, Clarence, 79, 97, 
114, 116, 118, 121, 123, 
174-188, 194, 196, 197, 213, 
257, 294, 300 

Chamberlin-Levine Flight, take- 
off, 177-180; flight, 180-185; 
reception in Germany, 185- 
188; in Paris, 196-197 

Chamberlin, Mrs. Wilda, 176, 

Chaplin, Charlie, 7, 19, 84, 274 

Chaplin, Lita Gray, 19, 84, 274 

Clark, Badger, 213-214 

Clayton, Jackson, and Durante, 

71-75, 299 

Cliquot Club Eskimos, 6, 16 
Coli, Francois, 112-114, 117, 

121, 168 
Composographs, 22, 40, 41, 43- 


Compton, Betty, 62, 239, 285, 

Coolidge, Calvin, 4, 11, 52, 77, 
133, 142, 1 55-i5 8 > lS6 ; ca- 
reer, 199-202; vacation in 
Black Hills, 202-216, 216- 
218, 230, 284, 300 

Coolidge, John, 216, 295 

Crawford, Joan, 9-10, 75 

"Crazy Words, Crazy Tune," 

Dalhart, Vernon, 113, 133 
Davis, Elmer, 77, 78, 126, 297 
Delander, Lois Eleanor ("Miss 

America 1927"), 245 
Delaney, Jack, 5, 256 
De Leath, Vaughn, 147-148 
Dempsey, Jack, 5, 254-266 
Dole, James D., 188 
Dole Pacific Flight, 188, 189, 


Doran, Mildred, 189, 234 
Dos Passes, John, 226, 229 
Dragonette, Jessica, 6, 16 
Drouhit, Maurice, 197, 235 
Duncan, Isadora, 244-245 
Durante, Jimmy, 71-75, 76, 299 

Ederle, Gertrude, 21-22, 163 
Edison, Thomas Alva, 4, 283 
Elder, Ruth, 189; flight, 246- 
248, 290, 301 

Ellsberg, Commander Edward, 


Etting, Ruth, 75 
Evans, Edward S., 237 

Fall, Albert B., 274 

Farrell, Johnny, 253 

Fay, Larry, 57 

film stars (1927), 7-10 

films (1927), 6-10, 81, 277, 

285, 299 

Firpo, Luis Angel, 255 
Florida boom, i 
Fokker, Anthony, 115 
football (1927), 272-273 
Ford, Henry, 278-284 
Frankfurter, Professor Felix, 229 
Froessel, Charles W., 102 et 

Fuller, Governor Alvan Tufts, 

226 et seq. 

Garbo, Greta, 7 

Gehrig, Lou, 254, 267, 269-270 
General Motors, 278-279 
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 14, 


Gershwin, George, 5, 285 
Gilbert, John, 7, 9 
Gillis, Andrew J. "Bossy," 274 
Gobel, Art, 234 
Goldwyn, Samuel, 172 
Graham, Frank, 267 
Graham, Stephen, 60, 63 
Granlund, Nils T., 56-57, 64, 


Grant, Robert, 227 
Graphic (newspaper), 18, 22, 

39, 41, 43-44, 111-112, 232 
Gray, Henry Judd, 86-110 

Index 307 

Grayson, Mrs. Frances, 190, 

249; flight, 294-295 
Grey, Jack, 232 
Guinan, Texas, 51-76, 171-172, 

Guinan, Tommy, 62 

Hagen, Walter, 251, 253 
Haldeman, George, 189; flight, 


Hall-Mills Case, 19, 20, 21, 23 
Halley, "Aunt Mary," 209 
Hamilton, Captain Leslie, 190, 


Happiness Boys, 6, 16 
Harding, Warren G., 9, 78, 214, 


Haver, Phyllis, 81 
Hawley, Joyce, 20 
Hazelton, Edgar, 102 et seq. 
Hearst press, 187, 237 
Hearst, William Randolph, 20, 


Heenan, Mrs. James, 32 et seq. 
Hegenberger, Lt. Albert F., 189, 


Held, John, drawings of, 14 
Hellinger, Mark, 57, 64, 65, 69 
Herrick, Ambassador Myron C., 

121, 126, 131-132, 134-135 
Hickman, W. Edward, 292-293 
Hill, Arthur D., 226 et seq. 
Hill, James De Witt, 189, 236- 


Hitchcock, Tommy, 251, 253 
Holm, Eleanor, 251 
Holmes, Justice Oliver Wendell, 


Hoover, Herbert, 78, 274, 298 
Hubbard, DeHart, 253 



Huenfeld, Baron Guenther, 235 
Huggins, Miller, 268 

"I Do Not Choose to Run," 

214-215, 216, 218 
Izaak Walton League, 206, 207, 


James, Edward Holton, 229 
Jazz Singer y The, 81-82, 277- 


Jessel, George, 81-82 
Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Martin, 


jokes (1927), 198-199 
Jolson, Al, 64, 81-82, 275 
Jones, Casey, 166-167 
Jones, Robert T. "Bobby," 251, 

Joyce, Peggy Hopkins, 100, 103 

Kahn, Roger Wolfe, 15, 75 

Kane, Helen, 75 

Kearns, Jack, 255 

Keeler, Ruby, 64 

Kelly, Alvin "Shipwreck," 82- 

84, 171, 174, 300 
Knickerbocker, H. R., 190, 235 
Kofoed, Jack, 59, 76 
Ku Klux Klan, 4 

La Guardia, Fiorello, 11 

Lardner, John, 148, 170 

La Rocque, Rod, 172 

Lawrence, Gertrude, 5 

Les Ambassadeurs, 57, 299 

Levant, Oscar, 245 

Levine, Charles A. (see dso 
Chamberlin-Levine flight ) , 
116-118, 121-122, 174-188, 

194, 196, 197, 235-236, 274, 
Levine, Mrs. Grace Nova, 117, 

180, 188 

Lewis, Sinclair, 81, 296 
Lillie, Beatrice, 6 
Lindbergh, Charles A., Jr., 79, 
111-144, 145-170, 174. 197. 
213, 233, 274; flight to Mex- 
ico, 286-291, 297, 300 
Lindbergh flight, preparations 
for, 114-124; take-off, 124- 
126; landing in Paris, 128- 
132, reception in Paris, 134- 
140; in England, 140-144; in 
Washington, 145-160; in 
New York, 160-169; in St. 
Louis, 169-170 
Lindbergh poems, 127-147 
Lindbergh songs, 133, 147-148 
Lindbergh, Mrs. Evangeline, 
121, 127, 133, 151, 153, 155 
etseq.; 289, 291 
Little Falls, Minnesota, 145 
Lowell, A, Lawrence, 227 
Lowenstein-Wertheim, Princess, 
190, 234 

McAtee, Linus "Pony," 253 
McLaughlin, Police Commis- 
sioner George V., 87, 104 
McNamara, Reggie, 253 
McNamee, Graham, 10, 152- 

153, 154, 262, 263, 265 
McPherson, Aimee Semple, 62, 

100, 105 

Macfadden, Bernarr, 18, 111 
Mack, Willard, 100, 109 
Mackay, Clarence H., 165 
Madeiros, Celestino, 226 et seq. 



magazines (1927), 13 
Maitland - Hegenberger flight, 


Maitland, Lt. Lester J., 189, 192 
Mallory, Mrs. Molla, 251 
Maloney, Jim, 128, 256 
Marie, Queen of Rumania, 22- 


Marsters, Alton, 272 
Mauretania, 180-181, 182, 183 
Mellon, Andrew, 4, 5, 78, 205 
Mencken, H. L., 12, 81, 211 
Millard, William J., 102 et seq. 
Millay, Edna St. Vincent, 226, 


Miller, Samuel L., 102 et seq. 
Mills, Florence, 285 
Mississippi River flood, 97 
Mix, Tom, 59 
Model A Ford, 278-284 
Model T Ford, 278, 284 
Morgan, Helen, 75 
Mussolini, Benito, 227 

New Year's Day, 1927, 10-17 
New Year's Eve, 1926-7, 1-10; 

1927-8, 298-301 
New York Yankees, 266-271 
Newcombe, Richard S., 102 et 


news stories, 17 
newspapers (1927), 17 
Novarro, Ramon, 7, 9 
Noville, Lieut. George, 191, 

192, 195, 196 
Nungesser, Captain Charles, 

112-114, 117, 121, 168 

Palmer, A. Mitchell, 220 

Parker, Dorothy, 226, 229 

Payne, Philip, 20, 23, 189, 236- 

Phelps, William Lyon, 80-81, 

Pictorial Review, 245 

plays on Broadway (1927), 5-6, 
81, 245, 276, 285, 296, 299 

Post, Emily (Boofc of Eti- 
quette), 172-173, 285 

President's Daughter, The, 217- 

Prohibition, i, 3; enforcement 
of, 12, 78, 298 

radio (1927), 6, 10, 16, 152, 


Raft, George, 65-66, 70, 72, 172 
Rasche, Thea, 187, 197 
Redfern, Paul, 189, 234 
Rice, Grantland, 250, 255, 258, 


Richards, Vincent, 251 
Richman, Harry, 75 
Rickard, Tex, 5, 255 et seq. 
Rio Rita, 52, 167 
Ripley, Robert L., 250 
Rockne, Knute, 272-273 
Rogers, Will, 77, 216, 288, 291 
Rolland, Romaine, 227 
Rothafel, Samuel L. "Roxy," 80 
Roxy Theatre, 79-80, 128, 168 
Ruddy, Ray, 251 
Runyon, Damon, 32, 36, 41, 46, 

47> 7, 97. 100 > lo8 
Ruth, George Herman "Babe," 
254, 267-271 

Orteig Prize, 79, 112, 166, 169 8-4 (submarine), 292 



Sacco, Niccola, 97, 219-232, 301 
Sacco-Vanzetti Case, world re- 
action to, 219, 232-233, 241, 


Sarazen, Gene, 5, 253 
Schlee, Edward F., 189; around 

the world flight, 237-239 
Scudder, Judge Townsend, 102 

et seq. 

Seeger, Justice A. H. S., 41, 84 
sex (1927), 24-2 5 
Sharkey, Jack, 5, 128, 256-259 
Shaw, Fred B., 207-208 
Shaw, George Bernard, 227 
Show Boat, 296, 299 
Sibley, Frank P., 224 
Sinclair, Harry, 59, 274 
Sioux, South Dakota, 208-209, 


slang (1927), 14,82 
slogans, 82 
Smith, Alfred E., 11, 78, 164, 


Smith, Ernest L., 189, 212 
Smith, Red, 267 
Snyder-Gray trial, 101-1 10 
Snyder, Ruth Brown, 86-110 
Sobol, Louis, 57 
songs (1927), 15-17.82 
Spas, Mary, 28-29 
sports (1927), 250-273 
Stanwyck, Barbara, 61, 245 
Stein, Mrs. Mary, 4 
stock market, 5, 205 
Stone, Justice Harlan Fiske, 230 
Stong, Phil, 222 
Straton, Dr. John Roach, 53, 

100, 104 
Swanson, Gloria, 9, 80 

tabloids, 17, 39, 43 

Taft, Chief Justice William H., 


Taylor, Estelle, 256, 257 
Teapot Dome, 216, 274 
television, 298 
Thayer, Judge Webster, 223 et 

Thompson, William G., 225 et 

Thompson, William H. "Big 

Bill/' 84-85, 173-174 
Three Hundred Club, 60-71 
Tilden, William T. "Bill," 251, 


Tracy, Lee, 3, 25 
Trader Horn, 245-246 
Tully, Jim, 245 
Tunney, James Joseph "Gene," 

5, 227, 255, 256-266 

Uncle Don, 6 

Valentino, Rudolph, 22 

Vanities, 6, 120 

Van Loon, Hendrik Willem, 

Vanzetti, Bartolomeo, 97, 219- 


Walker, Mayor James J., 12, 23, 
26, 53, 54, 62, 132, 134, 155, 
163-164, 168; tour of Europe, 
239-243, 245, 246 

Walker, Mrs. Janet, 240 et seq. 

Wallace, Dana, 102 et seq. 

Wanamaker, Rodman, 190 

Warner Brothers, 7, 81, 277- 


Weissmuller, Johnny, 251 

Wells, Linton, 237 
West, Mae, 6, 285, 298 
Whalen, Grover, 21, 123, 161, 

163, 165, 168 

Wheeler, Harry, 131, 134 
Whiteman, Paul, 1 5 
Williams, Hannah, 66 
Williams, Joe, 258 
Wills, Helen, 251 
Winchell, Walter, 18, 25, 43, 


Index 311 

Women's Christian Temperance 

Union, 4, 210, 216 
Woollcott, Alexander, 3, 60, 98 
World Series (1927), 271 

Xenia, Princess, 190, 235 
Young, George, 253 

Ziegfeld, Florenz, 6, 52, 168 
Ziegfeld Follies, 6 
Zittenfeld Twins, 253 

(Continued from front flap) 

step on it, it might be Lon Chaney." Against 
such a backdrop are discussed the classic 
news events which succeeded each other 
during this Hoopla Year. 

The first of these was the famous trial 
of Peaches vs. Daddy Browning which 
labeled the New York Graphic the Porno- 
Graphic for its uninhibited use of Com- 

"If Jimmy Walker runs the city by day, 
Texas Guinan runs it by night," wrote a 
commentator, and in a chapter entitled 
"A Night with the Padlock Queen" the 
author pictures raucous Mary Louise Cecelia 
Guinan in her famous 300 Club. 

Following the juicy Snyder-Gray trial, 
the Roaring Twenties climaxed in the 
phenomenon that was Lindbergh. Here the 
author covers the story of Lindbergh's de- 
parture and return, and the many other 
courageous and foolhardy pilots who dared 
in those early days to follow his path 
across the sea or to chart their own bold 
journeys. There were Byrd and Chamber- 
lin, the erratic Levine, and the daring 
peregrinations of Brock and Schlee. 

The violence of the Sacco-Vanzetti case 
then builds toward the close of this turbu- 
lent and unforgettable era, ending with a 
round-up in the field of sports, calling to 
mind the appearance of Bobby Jones, "Big 
Bill" Tilden, Knute Rockne; two great 
figures emerge in baseball Babe Ruth 
and Lou Gehrig and in boxing, Jack 
Dempsey and Gene Tunney. 

As if all this weren't enough, a motion 
picture called The Jazz Singer premiered 
and set everyone talking. 

And so, although 1927 technically ended 
on New Year's Eve, all the color and 
flavor of that stupendous year has been 
unforgettably re-created in The Year the 
World Went Mad.