The Police Commish

With righteous fury and mixed results, Roosevelt tried to weed out corrupt cops and suppress vice in big, bad New York City in the 1890s

In the 1890s, New York City was unrepentantly wide open. Day or night, a man with a thirst or a letch or the urge to gamble could satisfy his cravings with ease. Long past midnight, small bands played in dozens of Manhattan concert saloons while prostitutes in floor-length dresses trawled the tables. Streetwalkers divvied up the various corners in the Tenderloin, and touts handed out cards for $1-a-date Bowery brothels. Bettors wanting action could wander into Frank Farrell's crystal-chandeliered casino on West 33rd Street. Tourists could smoke opium in no-frills dens in Chinatown.

And where were the cops? Quite a few were busy...

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