Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dutch Schultz: Beer Baron of the Bronx

Early Years

Arthur Simon Flegenheimer was born on August 6, 1902 in the Bronx. His parents were both German Jews. His mother, Emma had tried to raise little Arthur in the orthodox faith. Her efforts were not entirely in vain, in later years Schultz would develop respect for his religious upbringing. At different stages of his life he claimed to be Jewish, Protestant and Catholic. It was not uncommon for him to turn to religion at times of crisis during his career.

Dr. John F. Condon
Dr. John F. Condon
Growing up in the tough Bergen and Webster Avenues section of the Bronx, Flegenheimer joined a street gang for protection and to be part of a cohesive group in which he could make a name for himself. He attended Public School 12, where the principal, Dr. J. F. Condon, would one day gain notoriety by delivering the Lindbergh baby ransom money to Bruno Richard Hauptmann.

When Flegenheimer was fourteen, his father left home. What effect this had on the young man is hard to determine. Shortly after this desertion though, Flegenheimer quit school. Schultz never admitted that his father abandoned the family. He preferred to tell people that his father was a fine person and died during Schultzs teenage years. Working a variety of odd jobs, Flegenheimer soon realized that an honest days work was not going to make him happy...or rich. He began hanging out at the Criterion Club where Marcel Poffo, a local hoodlum whose police record included bank robberies and extortion, befriended him. Hoping to impress his mentor, Flegenheimer began his criminal career by holding up crap games that refused to pay a percentage to Poffo.

At the age of seventeen, Flegenheimer received his first and only prison sentence. Arrested for burglarizing a Bronx apartment, Flegenheimer used the name Charles Harmon (an alias he would continue to use). He was sent to Blackwells Island, a brutal prison located in the middle of the East River. It later became Welfare Island and today is known as Roosevelt Island. Flegenheimer was not an ideal prisoner, and the experience certainly did nothing to rehabilitate him. In fact he was so unruly that he was transferred to a tougher prison, Westhampton Farms, from where he escaped for a few hours. He was returned and an additional two months were added to his sentence. Upon his return to the Bronx, his old Bergen Gang buddies anointed him Dutch Schultz, much to the chagrin of his loving mother.

By the mid-1920s, Schultz realized that bootlegging was the way to make serious money. He got involved in the beer trade working as a strong-arm goon for some of the bigger operators. He once drove a beer truck for the legendary Arnold Rothstein, and at one time he and Charles Lucky Luciano were members of the Jack Legs Diamond gang.

Dutch Schultz early in his career
Dutch Schultz early in his
career
In early 1928, Schultz was bartending in a speakeasy owned by childhood friend Joey Noe (pronounced Noy or Noey, depending on whose book you read). While working here Schultz gained a reputation for brutality when someone triggered his temper. It was perhaps this ruthlessness that made Noe admire him and take him on as a partner. The two men were soon on their way to building a beer empire in the Bronx and beyond.

With the profits from their speakeasy they opened more operations. They began to purchase their own trucks to avoid the delivery cost of wholesale beer. The beer for their operations was obtained from Frankie Dunn, a Union City, New Jersey brewery owner. Schultz would ride shotgun to protect his trucks from being hijacked.

The two partners realized they could increase their profits by supplying beer to their rivals. If speakeasy owners turned down overtures to purchase beer from the Schultz/Noe combine, they were soon warned to buy it, or else. Joe and John Rock were brothers who decided to play hardball with Schultz. John quickly stepped aside, but his stubborn Irish brother refused to give in. One night Joe Rock was kidnapped by members of the Schultz / Noe gang, and brutalized. Rock was beaten and hung by his thumbs on a meat hook. The gang allegedly wrapped a gauze bandage over his eyes that had been smeared with the discharge from a gonorrhea infection. His family reportedly paid $35,000 for his release. Shortly after Joe Rock went blind.

These tactics instilled fear among Schultzs competitors and heightened his reputation for utter ruthlessness. It also made it easy for the partners to muscle in on the beer trade in the Bronx. As the operation grew, new beer suppliers were needed to fill the orders the gang was receiving. In addition, they began to attract a group of enforcers who would soon make a name for themselves. Among this group of toughs were Abe Bo Weinberg and his brother George, Vincent Coll and his brother Peter, Larry Carney, Fatty Walsh, Joey Rao, and Edward Fats McCarthy.

The operation, which began modestly in the Bronx, was now expanding over to Manhattans upper West Side into the neighborhoods of Washington Heights, Yorkville, and Harlem. Schultz and Noe moved their headquarters out of the Bronx and onto East 149th Street in Manhattan. However, the gangs move to Manhattan brought them into direct competition with Jack Legs Diamond.

Jack 'Legs' Diamond (POLICE)
Jack 'Legs' Diamond
The response from the Diamond gang came quickly. At seven oclock on the morning of October 15, 1928, Diamonds men ambushed Joey Noe outside the Chateau Madrid nightclub on West 54th Street near Sixth Avenue, while Schultz was rumored to be meeting with rumrunner William V. Big Bill Dwyer. Although Noe was wearing a bulletproof vest, slugs ripped through his chest and lower spine. Noe apparently got off a number of shots in return. Witnesses reported seeing a blue Cadillac bounce off a parked car, losing one of its doors before speeding away. When police found the car an hour later, they discovered the body of Diamond gunman Louis Weinberg (no relation to Bo and George) dead in the back seat.

Noe was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital. Despite a valiant effort by the hospitals staff, Noe slowly faded away. By the time he died, three weeks later on November 21, he weighed a mere ninety pounds. In Paul Sanns excellent biography, To Kill the Dutchman, he discusses Schultzs feelings about Noes death:

There is no question that Schultz was crushed. Noe was the closest intimate of all his days. He might have drawn some inspiration from a hoodlum like Marcel Poffo, but Noe, who always called him Arthur, as when they were kids on the street corner without a care in the world, put him on the golden highway. When Noe was with him, he could give the armed guard a night off, and Noe for that matter, was the only one he ever took along when he went to see his mother.

In the wake of the shooting of Joey Noe, Schultz was bent for revenge. On November 4, 1928, the financier of the New York underworld, Arnold Rothstein, was shot in the Park Central Hotel and died two days later. While the most common theory for the murder was that Rothstein had welshed on a gambling debt to George McManus, it was rumored that Schultz may have been involved because of Rothsteins friendship with Diamond. Perhaps supporting this theory was the fact that the first person McManus called after the shooting was Schultz attorney, Richard J. Dixie Davis. After the phone call, Schultz associate, Bo Weinberg picked up McManus and spirited him away. McManus was later cleared of the killing.

Bo Weinberg
Bo Weinberg
Another theory involved Diamond because he felt Rothstein had double-crossed him in a recent narcotics deal. Whatever the case, when Diamond, the so called clay pigeon of the underworld due to the number of times he was shot, met his demise on December 18, 1931, Bo Weinbergs name was connected to the murder.

Schultz was then on his own. He would never again have a partner and he moved freely in the New York underworld as an independent operator. By the late 1920s his influence became so great that he was invited to meetings called by Lucky Luciano and his associates as they began to build a national organized crime structure.

At one of Lucianos meetings the importance of police and political payoffs was being discussed. A vote was taken and everyone agreed with Luciano that more money should be expended for protection, except Joe Adonis. Schultz, suffering from the flu, sat alone in a corner of the room so not to spread his germs. Adonis stood looking at himself in the mirror and combing his hair. He then wheeled around and, referring to himself, said, The star says yes. With that, Schultz darted across the room, grabbed Adonis in a headlock and breathed heavily into his face.

Now, you fuckin star, you have my goims, roared Schultz.

The others howled with laughter. However, Adonis did get the flu and was grounded for a week.

In May 1929, Schultz participated in the Atlantic City Conference. The meeting was attended by dozens of mobsters of various ethnic and religious backgrounds from around the country. The main topic of the conference was cooperation between the gangs and the cities they represented, and to discuss plans for the day Prohibition was repealed.

Due to his working relationship with Luciano, when the Castellammarese War began in February 1930, Schultz was aligned with the forces of Giuseppe Joe the Boss Masseria. Opposed to the Masseria faction was Salvatore Maranzano who was actively seeking to become the capo-di-tutti-capi, boss of all bosses. The war raged on for fourteen months until Luciano setup Masseria to be murdered in a Coney Island restaurant. Not satisfied with the spoils of war, Maranzano put together a hit list of people he wanted out of the way. On the list were Luciano, Adonis, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, and Schultz himself. Hired to carry out these murders was Vincent the Mad Mick Coll, who at the time was in the middle of a gang war with Schultz.

When Luciano was informed of the hit list from traitors inside the Maranzano organization, an assassination team was put together to murder the treacherous newly crowned boss of bosses. The hit squad dressed as police officers, murdered Maranzano in his Park Avenue office on September 10, 1931. Rushing out of the building, one of Maranzanos employees ran into Coll and warned him to leave. The Mad Mick was on his way to a meeting with Maranzano. Reported to be part of the hit squad was Schultzs man Bo Weinberg.

 

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