Criminalizing poverty in the early 20th century: Bradley Street, New London

In a recent essay, I discussed the January 1909 statutory rape trial of Adelaide “Addie” Burns, the first wife of my wife Nell’s paternal grandfather. I now plan to write a book contextualizing the trial within Connecticut from the Civil War (spurring a dramatic increase in prostitution) through waves of primarily Catholic and Jewish immigration, arrivals at odds with what I dubbed the “Connecticut aristocracy”: white Northwestern-European, Yale-educated Protestant (usually Congregationalist) men. I also described the circumstances that led at least three Burns women to earn a living as brothel owners.

Briefly: on the morning of January 15, 1907, 15-year-old Mary “May” Burns (no relation) traveled by train[1] from New Haven to New London with 19-year-old John McNulty so she could move into the brothel run by Addie Burns at 41 Bradley Street. There, on the nights of January 19 and January 26, May had sexual intercourse with two never-identified men. As brothel owner and procurer, Addie was guilty under Connecticut law of statutory rape. Two years later, she was tried and prosecuted by two members of the Connecticut aristocracy: Judge Ralph Wheeler (former New London mayor) and State’s Attorney Charles Hadlai Hull. Between them they steamrolled the less-than-stellar defense offered by New Haven attorney Jacob P. Goodhart: after just 30 minutes of jury deliberation, Wheeler sentenced Addie – who had risen from impoverished orphan to successful businesswoman and entrepreneur – to an absurd 12-20 years in the state prison in Wethersfield. She was paroled after 9½ years.

Now, I examine Bradley itself, because it was also on trial in January 1909:

The arrest of a woman resident of Bradley street for a serious and brutal crime gives an idea of the vile dens that are permitted to exist near the business center of the town and in the same street where the police station is located.” (Boldface added.)

**********

New London’s 5.6 square miles of land – 4-to-5 miles north-to-south, 1-to-2 miles east-to-west – hug the western side of the Thames River, opposite the town of Groton; the Rhode Island state line is about 17 miles east. The city is surrounded to the west and north by Waterford, and to the south by Long Island Sound; Norwich, where the trial was held, is about 12 miles north. New London has one of the deepest harbors on the Atlantic coast of the United States (“US”), thus the seat of the US Coast Guard Academy and a US Navy submarine base have been here since 1876 and 1917, respectively.

New London is currently divided by major roads into three sections. Connecticut College has been located since 1911 in the more rural area north of what is now I-95. Roughly one mile to the south, Bank Street extends south and west from the central harbor to the city line, where it becomes US Route 1. The narrow strip of river-hugging land south of Bank Street – a primary commercial street –housed elegant summer homes in the early 20th century, including Eugene O’Neill’s boyhood home, Monte Cristo Cottage, as well as Fort Trumbull; what was once called Main Street, paralleling Bradley one short block west, is now Eugene O’Neill Drive. In between (Figures 1 and 2) lies the commercial heart of New London, roughly one square mile in size.[2]

Figure 1: Central New London, CT 1906

Figure 2: Bradley Street, New London, CT 1906

This 1908 postcard shows what May and McNulty saw upon exiting the Union train station, built along the Thames River in 1887: the confluence of Bank (lower left, just out of frame), State – running northeast and housing key city buildings, shops and the elegant Mohican Hotel – and Water Streets (lower right, out of frame). These three streets formed the upper part of a trident whose three tongs met at Union Station.

McNulty walked May past the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial, where 11-13 expressmen were stationed, and turned right past E.D. Steele Company (37 State), upscale purveyor of men’s clothing and hats. They likely also passed Fire Alarm Box #23.

With just those few steps, they were now “light years away”[3] from State: the southern end of Bradley. The street ran roughly 1,000 feet[4] north past Atlantic (#3), John (#101) and Douglass (#159) Streets before ending at Federal Street.[5] There, at #222 on the southwest corner, was the Lubchansky Brothers carpentry and building company, run by Max, Morris and, later, Nathan. Max was first to arrive, emigrating from the Pale of Settlement (“Pale”) – the vast Jewish expanse on the western edge of the Russian Empire – in 1892. Paralleling Bradley one short block east, albeit only between Atlantic and John, was Potter Street.

This undated photograph[6] looks south from the corner of Bradley and Douglass Streets; the corner building could be Barnett Lubow’s saloon at 152 Bradley Street.

The photograph purports to show the “teeming ghetto” that was Bradley in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – except my eye is immediately drawn to the four handsome boys standing atop the hill and the four younger girls in spotless white dresses on the right-hand side. Sure, the street is unpaved, and one senses a certain dilapidation – a February 1908 article about a rash of fires in New London said one “gutted the tenement house on Bradley street, where twenty-three Polish and Jewish families have homes.” Damage was estimated at $5,000 (~$152,000 in 2021).[7] Still, while “new brick buildings were replacing the rotting wooden storefronts of the last century” on nearby State,[8] those on Bradley were ignored. Other nearby tenements – just north of Federal on the west side of Main – were torn down or left to decay after the lots on which they stood were purchased by the New York, New Haven & Hartford railway company in March 1909.[9]

Bradley effectively began at Atlantic. There, likely on the northeast corner, was the saloon owned by Matthew McNamara – the first of 10 (or 13, depending how you count), out of 73 listed in the city directory. McNamara was prosperous enough to merit a regular advertisement in the New London city directory and a telephone; note Addie Burns also had a telephone.

From here, even-numbered addresses ran along the west side, odd-numbered addresses along the east. Unless otherwise specified, address data come from 1906 and 1907 New London city directories; as best I can tell, data are as of “July 1” of the titular year.

Thus, at #9 as of July 1, 1906 was the saloon run by Francis M. Ryan, though by the following July, it had become the Italian restaurant operated by Mrs. Andrianni Caracausa.[10] Frank Caracausa operated a saloon just north of Federal Street at 4 Hallam Street in 1906 – though within a year he was living, presumably with his wife Andrianni, at 9 Bradley. Next door at #11 was Harriet “Hattie” Thayer’s bordello; she is not listed in either the 1906 or 1907 New London city directories. She left there early in 1909, replaced by Mr. and Mrs. Salvatore Caracuasa and their 22-year-old son Salvatore, Jr. The elder Salvatore sold fruit with Joseph Caracuasa at two locations on State Street.

Three more saloons followed at #13, #19 and #23, operated by Joseph A. Jasper, John T. O’Connell and Galen B. Russell (who also lived there), respectively. The latter saloon is not listed in the Business Directory, however, and in 1907 it was a combination grocery/saloon operated by Gennaro DeLuca. Frank DeLuca – who had been a barber across the street at #30 in 1906 – worked with Gennaro as a bartender.

In between were the first strictly residential buildings. Nobody was listed at #15 in 1906-07, but as of 1910, it was the home of Joseph and Josephine Albino, eight other family members and their five boarders.[11] Eight members of the Albino family were born in Italy, with Joseph, who worked for the streets department, arriving first in 1891, followed by his wife Josephine and three children in 1902; two later children were born in Connecticut. His wife’s brother and sister arrived in 1906. Three of their boarders were also born in Italy, while two brothers – William and Tony Addad, who worked in a “silk mill” I assume is Brainerd & Armstrong Company at 82 Union and 54 Coit Streets – were Syrians born in Turkey. Meanwhile, eight Italian men lived at #21 in 1906; a bootblack named Nicholas/Nicola Miscarella/Moscarilla/Muscarella moved to #28 within a year. A shoemaker named Hyman Castle had “rooms” at 22 Bradley in 1907 – but as is this is the only person or business at that address, I assume it is a misprint. In fact, according to the 1910 US Census,[12] nobody lived between 15 and 32/33 Bradley.

On the opposite side of the street, meanwhile, we find the first even-numbered address and first Jewish resident: the tailor shop at #26 operated by Samuel Becker, to whom we return shortly. Hyman Mallen of 10 Mountain Street also worked there in 1907. Two buildings north, at #30, was the barber shop operated by Frank Giordano in 1907 (replacing Frank DeLuca and Alfred Sontelli).[13] Also working at #30 then was shoemaker Getzel Leybovitch, who had worked at #60 the previous year; he variously lived at 68 Bradley and 77 John.

In between, at #28, was a residential building occupied by 16 and 8 people (primarily Italian and Polish), respectively, in 1906 and 1907. The opposite is true for #32, where decades-married 73-year-old Joe Seung and 56-year-old Mon Chong – who arrived from China in 1867 and 1875, respectively – lived with 29-year-old Suey Fong, a single man born in California. No occupations are listed for them, and they do not appear in the 1909 or 1910 city directories.

**********

This brings us to the other three brothels.

Mrs. Jeanette Castaybert, a 39-year-old widow who emigrated from France in 1890, operate an official boarding house (per 1910 city directory and 1910 US Census), at #33. Living in her “boarding house” were 26-year-old French-Canadian Mary Tetro, 34-year-old American-born Alice Smith and 22-year-old Massachusetts-born Ruby Smith. These women were single and could speak, read and write English, yet not one listed a profession in the 1910 US Census. The same applies to the “boarding houses” (1910 US Census, but not 1910 city directory) run by Addies’ sister 48-year-old “Mrs. Sarah Fahey” at #41 and Mrs. Jennie B. Carr, a single woman of German ancestry born in New York around 1870, at #47. The latter lived at #45 as Mrs. Annie B. Carr in 1906 and 1907, unless these were two different women. Living at #41 and #47, respectively, were four and eight single women between the ages of 21 and 35; all but French-Canadian Frances Adams were born in the US. Not one of these 12 women listed a profession on the 1910 US Census, though all could speak, read and write English.

We know #41 was a brothel as of January 1909, and that Sarah assumed control when her sister was sent to prison, living there until her sudden death from cerebral hemorrhage on January 20, 1911.[14] It is thus reasonable to conclude it was still a brothel when Census enumerator Charles Cobb came to her door on April 27, 1910. The demographic similarities to #33 and #45-47 imply they were as well, revealing four brothels operating on Bradley Street as of January 1907.

Across Bradley was Mon Frond’s restaurant (and residence) at #34 and Samuel M. Elliott, harness maker, at #38; he died sometime between July 1906 and July 1907, and James N. Elliott of 26 Raymond Street was named administrator of Samuel’s estate. In between, at #36, was the business run by Maurice J. Downey and John C. Brennan.

Just opposite at #37, meanwhile, was a barber shop run variously by Antonio/Ontonio Bello and Luigi Ciagli/Ciaglin/Giagli, both residents of 28 Bradley; nobody lived at that address in 1910. It is possible the former’s barber shop was at #39 Bradley, where shoemaker Luigi Sinagra worked in 1906. At some point – likely in early 1911 – Addie’ brother-in-law George H. Beck acquired the four buildings from 39 to 47 Bradley – and in September 1916, Beck announced plans to combine them into a single store (and residence), with doors “which formerly led the way from the sidewalk to side tenements” replaced by large plate glass windows.[15]

Crossing back to the western side of the street, Harry and Louis Bendett’s restaurant and Mrs. Rachel Blaskin’s (of 68 Bradley) variety store stood at #44 and #46, respectively, while Chauncey E. Brand, agent for compressed yeast of The Fleischmann Company, lived and worked at #50. Just across from them at #53 was the Chinese laundry owned by Sing Wing. Curiously, while the 1910 city cirectory lists Wing working and living at #53, he was not enumerated in the 1910 US Census. Instead, 39-year-old China-born Charlie Lee and 42-year-old Keluie Lee – born in California to Chinese parents – lived and working there. Neighboring Sing Wing’s laundry to the north, at #55, was the home of a widowed nurse of Chinese and Irish descent in her late-40s named Mrs. Ellen Barry. Living with her in 1910 was 42-year-old Polish-born baker Frank Varvenous, his wife Victoria and their four children, age 4 months to 8 years old. Frank and Victoria – neither of whom spoke English – arrived in 1898 and 1900, respectively; Frank had not yet sought to become a citizen, though he could read and write, unlike his wife. Boarding in the same house since at least 1906 was 45-year-old, African-born, French-speaking bootblack (later bottling plant worker) Joseph William; Margaret Wiggins, widow of William, lived there in 1907. Also boarding there in 1910 was Newton Treadwell, a 14-year-old black student born in Africa to French-speaking parents, Jennie S. Barry, a six-year-old “mulatto” born in Connecticut who may have been a female relative of Ellen Barry, and six-month-old, Connecticut-born Joseph Jones.

Next come the only two Bradley-Street buildings shown on the city map, dividing the predominantly commercial southern section – home to four brothels and six saloons, and primarily Italian, Irish and Chinese – from the more residential, Polish Catholic and Pale Jewish northern section. That those brothels and saloons occupied roughly 100 yards of street – about half the distance from State/Atlantic to John – just off the town’s main commercial and governmental streets begin to explain Bradley’s pungent reputation.

First, at #54 was the Bradley Street Mission Chapel (“Chapel”) and Central Mission School (“School”). First established in November 1890 at what was then #16-20, it was incorporated in March 1897. In 1906-07, the Chapel’s officers were President Billings P. Learned, Secretary/Treasurer Alfred Coit (also Judge of Probate, one of two Registrars of Voters and a Justice of the Peace) and Superintendent William Peckham Smith. Coit also served on the School’s Board of Trustees[16] under Chairman Samuel Dudley and Secretary/Treasurer H. C. Weaver. Janitors George W. Loper and Peter Ross lived in the Chapel/School according the 1906 and 1907 city directories. Across the street and a short distance north at #57-61, meanwhile, was the Police Station and City/Police Court Room. As of 1897, the former was on Potter, the latter at 181 State. In 1898 and 1899, respectively, they moved to what was then 23 Bradley.

Just north of the Chapel were #60, where Getzel Leybovitch worked in 1906, and #62, home to tailor Ernest A. Kessler and Joseph Kimbroski. Then, at #68, we find the residence of Rachel Blaskin and Leybovitch, as well as telephone operator Abram Blaskin. Nobody was recorded living at these addresses in the 1910 US Census. And at #70 was 31-year-old Louis Sevigny’s barber shop; the French-speaker had arrived from Canada in 1901 and become a US citizen. Living with him were his 28-year-old wife Lucy, 15-year-old daughter Edwina and 12-year-old son Adlow, all born in New England. Working there in 1906 was barber Alphono Germain, while a father-son tandem named George Carpenter lived there in 1907. At #72, as of 1907, was the saloon run by 48-year-old Michael McCrohan, who had arrived from Ireland in 1867 (along with older sister Mary) and become a US citizen; his wife Nora arrived from Ireland in 1881. Only one of four children still lived: 19-year-old Mary A. As of 1910, they had seven male boarders, mostly Irish-born, ranging in age from 8-year-old John Dailey to 67-year-old stone mason Patrick Cleary. As of 1906, however, this was the workplace of a cesspool and vault cleaner named George P. Johnson.

Across Bradley at #69 was the first large residential building, housing 20 people in 1910: four Polish families totaling 15 people and five Polish-born boarders laboring in factories or the railroad. The most consistent residents were 37-year-old Polish-born railway worker Louis (or Max) Smith and his 35-year-old wife Sophia; they arrived in 1890 and 1894, respectively, with Louis yet to apply for citizenship.

The next odd-numbered address is #87, home to the W(illiam). R. Perry Ice Corporation, first incorporated in June 1902. Perry Pond, from which ice was extracted for sale, is still just northeast of where Colman Street crosses under I-95, just southwest of the Waterford city line. In 1907, the W. R. Perry Corporation – led by President L.E. Daboll, Secretary Mrs. A. B. Perry and Treasurer/Manager Courtland E. Colver – had $45,000 in capital, roughly $1,313,200 in 2021; this was a very successful small business. Besides clerk William L. Peck and bookkeeper Louise J. Egger, the W. R. Perry Corporation had two truck drivers (“teamsters”) and five “employees” – though their names changed from 1906 to 1907.

Crossing Bradley again, we find Miss Jennie Muzreall’s boarding house at #76, the only one on the street listed in the 1906 city directory; it was gone within a year. Besides Mary Muzreall, widow of Henry, nine men boarded there: five brakemen, a railway engineer, a fireman and an employee of the Palmer Brothers Company – which manufactured “Comfortables,” what we call “comforters” today.

After another sizable gap was the dry goods/clothing/second-hand furniture store operated at #92 by 41-year-old, Pale-born Meyer Boyer.[17] The naturalized Boyer arrived in 1885, followed by his wife (also 41) Fannie in 1887. Living with them were their 22-year-old son Max, a lawyer, and 19-year-old daughter Dora. Also living there in 1906 and 1907 was a clerk in Meyer’s store named Samuel Korin, an ice peddler named Samuel Curren – and the peddler who testified at Addie Burns’ trial about his interactions with May Burns, Fannie’s 42-year-old brother Morris Blaskin, also a naturalized citizen though is emigration year is unknown.

Across the street, #93 was home to Mrs. Lizzie Kelley and a salesman named Peter Kelley, though nobody lived at this address in 1910. Next door at #95, was a meat market owned by Antonio Gawrych, who lived at 80 Potter. This market was also a saloon, because on December 14, 1908, Gawrych was fined $250 (~$5,488) for selling liquor on Sunday;[18] Romaro Kuprewsky – a bartender in the saloon who lived at #109 – later assumed control of the market/saloon. The market/saloon employed as clerks fellow Poles Alex Schvenski and Michael Solowskai. Next door, at #97, was the home of yet another saloon keeper, 47-year-old Irish-born Michael Doyle, a naturalized citizen who arrived in 1880. His 47-year-old wife Mary was also born in Ireland, but their teenaged children James M. (realty office clerk), Mary E. and Donald J. were born in Connecticut. Doyle’s saloon was located next door at #101, on the southeast corner of the intersection of Bradley John. Bartender Florence Sullivan II lived with the Doyles in 1906 and 1907.

Just opposite Doyle’s saloon at #98, likely the southwest corner of Bradley and John, was another residential building; it housed 28 people of Polish descent in 1910, including 21 who arrived between 1902 and 1910, none of whom had started the citizenship process. Four families totaling 16 people – including seven Connecticut-born children younger than seven – shared the building with 12 boarders: 11 men and one woman aged 21 to 40 who worked as laborers, deckhands and truckers. One of the four fathers was 29-year-old James Albres (or Olbres), who operated a saloon at #121.

Crossing John, we find the saloon run by Felix Parcheski at #109; a bartender named Alex Parcheski worked there, while he, Kuprewsky and Adam Lenkavitz lived there. Nobody lived at this address in 1910. Felix Parcheski was found guilty in common pleas court on March 11, 1909 for selling liquor on a Sunday in apartments over the saloon accessed through an illegal door.[19] Assuming control of the saloon shortly thereafter was 33-year-old Polish-born Paul Smulgin who, as of 1910, lived at #111 Bradley with his 25-year-old, Polish-born wife Pauline and their two Connecticut-born children Agnes (3) and Victor (1 year, 3 months). Also living with them was their 17-year-old servant Sophia Pearauca; unable to read or write, she arrived from Austria in the first three months of 1910, speaking only Russian. Paul – yet to apply for citizenship – and Pauline arrived in 1900 and 1903, respectively; both could speak, read and write English.

At 110 Bradley, on or near the northwest corner of the intersection with John, was the grocery run by Miss Pauline Kurlandzek, who lived a few steps west at 77 John. Mrs. Pauline Padeska moved here from 137 Bradley in 1907; nobody lived at this address in 1910. Just north, at #114, was tailor Becker’s house. The 34-year-old naturalized citizen had emigrated from the Pale in 1896 with his new bride Sima – one year older – so all seven of their children (Isadore, Allie, Sarah, Harry, William, Joseph and, as of March 1910, Charles) were born in Connecticut. Living with them in 1906-07 were junk peddlers Hyman Baker and Max Cohen – who later tended bar at Louis Elfenbein’s saloon at 60 Bank – and shoemaker Jacob Frank. As of 1910, two other recently-arrived Pale families – totaling 11 people, including six children – also lived there, for a total of 20 residents. Living just north at #118 in 1906-07 were Mrs. Esther Kolancek – widow of Jacob who emigrated from the Pale in 1895 – and Miss Pauline Kolancek, who we saw earlier; nobody lived at this address in 1910.

Across the street at #117 was Saul Meyer’s bakery; we return to him shortly. His neighbor at #121 was the saloon run by Joseph Albres/Olbres, who then lived a short walk away at 33 Potter. A bartender named Adam Olbres lived there in 1907; nobody lived at this address in 1910. Just north at #125 was the home of a 44-year-old Polish-immigrant silk-dyer named Rock/Roch/Joseph Barlowski/Baslawski/Laska. He arrived in 1888, though he had yet to apply for citizenship (perhaps because he never learned English, though he could read and write), followed by his wife Mary, 11 years his junior, in 1891. All seven of their children – including one who died before April 1910 – were born in Connecticut. In 1906, Rock Barlowski operated a saloon at 127 Bradley, though Gawrych assumed control in 1907.

Living at 130 Bradley, meanwhile, were Max Frisch, a bartender at Elfenbein’s saloon, and a peddler named Louis Wimischer. Just north at #134 was the home (in 1906) of John Garvey (no occupation listed), machinist William J. Garvey, brakeman William Hayden, streetcar conductor Paul F. Vincent[20] and peddler Hertz Wolf, as well as (in 1907) Palmer Brothers employee Samuel Goldfinger, Mrs. Julia Markson (occupation unlisted) and tailors Emanuel and Mendel Shapiro.[21]

Opposite Bradley at #135-37 was the street’s fourth and final incorporated business:

On December 10, 1906, Max, Koleff, Charles, Rufus, Joseph and David Soltz filed a certificate of incorporation for a “meat and liquor business” in New London; their authorized capital stock of $20,000 (~$609,578) – identical to E(dmund). D. Steele, incorporated February 15, 1904 – was “all paid in.”[22] The incorporation became official in February 1907 under President and Treasurer Joseph Soltz and Secretary David Soltz (“with Charles Soltz”[23]). David and Charles lived over the grocery a few steps away on 54 John, while Joseph lived at 247 Huntington Street, about ½-mile north. Soltz saloon bartender John Dugolinski lived at 171 Bradley in 1906.

Besides prostitution – which the authorities, practically next door, preferred to address through quarterly fines – Bradley’s major “crime,” as reported in the newspapers I can access online,[24] was selling liquor on Sunday; Addie’s then-husband Clarence H. Broley ran afoul of this “blue” law in Meriden in 1901. Thus, it was no surprise when Thomas F. Morton, “said to be the New London correspondent for a Bridgeport weekly paper,”[25] wrote an article accusing the Soltz liquor store of “keeping a side door saloon on Sunday [April 26, specifically] and with doing a big Sunday business unmolested by the police,” who, I hasten to repeat, had their headquarters a few hundred feet to the south. What happened next, however, flipped the script. After threatening Joseph Soltz with another damaging “write up,” Morton met him at an unspecified New London hotel. There Soltz gave Morton $10 in marked bills (~$301) – then signaled with a handkerchief to Constable Frank W. Decker, who promptly arrested Morton on a charge of blackmail and held him under a $2,000 (~$60,128) bond. Morton then charged Decker with assault and battery; the latter was then held on a $100 (~$3,006) bond. Morton capped off his ill-fated caper by stating his “defense will be a general denial.” The following February (or early March), Soltz was again fined with Sunday selling, but his appeal never made it to the court of common pleas.[26]

Then, in July, a sailor named Harry Bohn was “terribly slashed by Sam Kelson, a negro, in the Soltz saloon.”[27] Kelson – described by the Norwich Bulletin as an “all ‘round bad black man”[28] – fled to Bridgeport, then to Philadelphia, after which he disappears. Joseph Soltz was tending bar at the time and, apparently, told police only that he witnessed a small fight after which he told the participants to leave; only 15 minutes later did the police realize how badly Bohn had been hurt (he did not leave Memorial Hospital for a month). Soltz, who admitted being afraid of some of his customers, knew Kelson was a “bad man” who carried a knife “as other negroes did.” And when a policeman told Soltz that Bohn had been stabbed, Soltz “said that Sam Kelson did the cutting.” The article in which this statement appears was a pointed response to the public questioning why a black man and woman who frequented the saloon had been jailed as important witnesses, but not Soltz; the author explicitly (albeit conditionally) suggests Soltz is a more important witness – and thus should be jailed – as the black man and woman. My read, however, is simply that a distracted Soltz had no idea Bohn had been stabbed, then naturally concluded Kelson was responsible.

The Soltz Corporation saga continued on September 1, when it was sued for $700 (~$21,276) by William E. Tinker because some of its cattle wandered onto Tinker’s land in Williams Street, which now runs north to Connecticut College.[29] Soltz Corporation then sued neighboring saloon owner Gawrych on November 16 for $760 (~$23,100) in unspecified damages.[30]

Also living at 135 Bradley in 1906 was an employee for the Brown Cotton Gin Company named William Rondomenski, who moved to #140 in 1907. And at #137 in 1906 were Mrs. Paulina Paudeska, rag picker John Bonitzky (who then moved to #198), laborer Marion Borchosky, laborer Adam Snarowsky and peddler Harry Wolf[31] – while in 1907, it was still Borchosky, as well as Benjamin Sherb, no listed occupation. As of 1910, nobody lived at 135, 137 or 1490 Bradley.

**********

With four exceptions – Abraham Gordon’s bakery/grocery at #142, Saul Meyer’s grocery at #149, Lubow’s saloon at #152 and Lubchansky Brothers at the intersection with Federal – the remaining buildings on Bradley were residential.[32] Gordon was the victim of an inept sting operation in 1909; the grocery was now at #110. On April 14, Deputy Dairy Commissioner Tyler Cruttenden purchased what he believed was “pure lard” at 10 cents a pound from Mrs. Gordon, taking a sample of it to “Dr. John P. Street, chemist at the state experimental station in New Haven.”[33] Street ascertained the lard contained beef fat and linseed oil, making it “compound lard.” After being arraigned on December 23 for violating the Food and Drugs Act of 1906 by selling “adulterated lard,” Gordon was released six days later when it was established Mrs. Gordon always sold customers lard from a barrel clearly marked “compound lard” unless she was specifically asked for pure lard.[34]

Again, however, this is it as far as crimes reported by the Norwich Bulletin in 1909: ongoing prostitution, a few Sunday liquor sales, a single violent stabbing (with racist overtones), once case of unspecified property damage and…wandering bovine – on an entirely different street. One begins to wander whence the sordid reputation of Bradley Street emerged, until one recalls the predominant demographics of this short street and its proximity to the gleaming jewel of State Street.

Here are the remaining residents as of 1910, who I assume are broadly similar to 1906-07 residents of these addresses; nearly all of the adults were immigrants, while nearly all of the children were born in the US (primarily Connecticut):

#138: 18 people of Polish and Russian descent – 2 families, 6 boarders

#139: 9 people of Polish descent – 1 family, 1 boarder

#141: 9 people of Polish descent – 1 family, 1 boarder

#146: 8 people of Jewish (Pale) descent – 2 families, 2 boarders

#149-51: 8 people of Jewish (Pale) descent – 2 families led by brothers Max and Saul Meyer

Crossing Douglass

#161: 21 people of Jewish (Pale) descent – 3 families

#163: 16 people of Jewish (Pale) and Polish descent – 3 families, 2 boarders

#169: 17 people of Jewish (Pale) and Polish descent – 3 families,[35] 3 boarders

#171: 15 people of Jewish (Pale) and Polish descent – 3 families, 4 boarders

#177: 13 people of Jewish (Pale) descent – 2 families

#185: 9 people of Polish descent – 1 family, 4 boarders

#185 Rear: 14 people of Polish descent – 2 families, 5 boarders

#192: 9 Jewish people: Louis and Sarah Elfenbein (emigrated Austria-Hungary in 1883-4), 7 children; 67-year-old Pale-born boarders Harry and Eva Tarnopol (1903) boarders

#194: 8 Jewish people: Louis (1880) and Ida (1898) Wolf, 4 children; Pale-born boarders Herman (1905) and Annie (1904) Zellinast (?)

#202: 7 Jewish people: Morris (State and Bradley expressman; 1893) and Esther (1899), 5 children

#206: 10 people of Jewish (Pale) descent – 3 families

#207: 16 people of Polish descent – 2 families, 7 boarders[36]

#210: 16 people of Polish and African descent – 3 families, 6 boarders; 31-year-old Thomas, a dining car waiter born in Maryland, and 27-year-old Anna Stevenson, laundress born in Virginia, were the two other black residents

#211: 12 people of Jewish (Pale) and Polish descent – 2 families plus 19-year-old Polish-born laborer Louis Swensick

#222: 10 people of Jewish (Pale) descent – 2 families

End at Federal

That is 245 residents – out of 430 total – packed into 20 buildings lining a stretch of road roughly one football field long. Table 1, meanwhile, reveals my best reconstruction of what Bradley Street looked like when May Burns and John McNulty entered it on January 15, 1907 (lower in table = further south; left side = west side):

Table 1: Bradley Street, 1906-07

Intersection with 8 Federal Street
222Lubchansky Brothers, carpenters, builders Family housing; Jewish   
   Family housing; Jewish, Polish211
210Family housing; Black, Polish   
   Family housing; Polish207
206Family housing; Jewish   
202Family housing; Jewish   
194Family housing; Jewish   
192Family housing; Jewish   
   (REAR) Family housing; Polish185
   Family housing; Polish185
   Family housing; Jewish177
   Family housing; Jewish, Polish171
   Family housing; Jewish, Polish169
   Family housing; Jewish, Polish163
   Family housing; Jewish161
Douglass Street
152Saloon – Barnett Lubow Grocery – Saul Meyer Family housing; Jewish149 151
146Family housing; Jewish   
   1906: Grocery – Nathan Ritt 1907: Tabernacle, Church of God and Saints of Christ Housing?143
142Grocery/Bakery – Abraham Gordon Family housing; Polish141
140Housing? Family housing; Polish139
138Family housing; Polish, Russian Saloon – Soltz Corporation Housing?137 135
134Family housing; Jewish   
130Family housing; Jewish   
   Meat market/Saloon: Rock Barlowski (1906) Antonio Gawrych (1907)127
   Family housing; Polish125
   Saloon: Joseph Albres121
118Housing (not in 1910) Bakery: Saul Meyer117
114Family housing; Jewish   
   Family housing; Polish111
110Grocery: Pauline Kurlandzik Saloon: Felix Parcheski109
102Housing (not 1910)   
John Street
   Saloon: Michael Doyle101
98Family housing; Polish Housing; Doyle family97
   Meat Market/Saloon: Antonio Gawrych (1906) Romaro Kuprewsky (1907)95
   Housing (not 1910)93
92Dry Goods/Furniture – Meyer Boyer Housing; Boyer family   
   Ice: W. D. Perry Corporation87
761906: Boarding house – Jennie Muzreall 1907: ???   
721906: Cesspool and vault cleaner – George P. Johnson 1907: Saloon – Michael McCrohan Housing; Irish   
70Barbershop: Felix Sevigny Family housing; Polish69
68Housing; Jewish   
601906: Shoemaker – Getzel Leybovitch Police Station City and Police Court61 57
   Family housing; mixed55
54Bradley Street Mission Church Chapel School Laundry: Sing Wing Housing; Chinese53
50Compressed Yeast (Fleischmann): Chauncey E. Brand   
46Variety Store: Rachel Blaskin Brothel: Annie/Jennie B. Carr47 45
44Restaurant: Harry and Louis Bendett   
   Brothel: Adelaide Burns41
   Shoemaker: Luigi Sinagra39
38Harness maker: Samuel M. Elliott Barbershop: Antonio Bello/Luigi Ciagli37
36Plumbing/Steam Fitting: Maurice J. Downey, John C. Brennan   
34Restaurant: Mon Frond Brothel: Jeanette Castaybert33
32Family housing; Chinese   
30Barbershop: Frank DiCarlo, Frank Giordano Shoemaker: Getzel Leybovitch (1907) Housing (not 1910)29
28Family housing; Italian (not 1910)   
26Tailoring: Samuel Becker Housing (not 1910)25
   Saloon/Grocery: Gennaro DeLuca23
   Family housing; Italian (not 1910)21
   Saloon – John T. O’Connell19
   Family housing; mostly Italian15
   Saloon – Joseph A. Jasper13
   Brothel – “Hattie” Thayer11
   1906: Saloon – Frances M. Ryan 1907: Restaurant – Andrianna Caracausa9
   Saloon – Matthew McNamara3
Atlantic Street
State Street: Expressmen, E.D. Steele – Men’s Furnishings

**********

Of the 430 Bradley Street residents listed in the 1910 US Census, 187 (43%) had Polish ancestry (and were Catholic), 157 (37%) were Jewish, 16 (4%) each were of Irish and Italian ancestry, seven (2%) were Chinese, with the remaining 43 (10%) residents a mix of French/Canadian, German, Russian, Syrian, West Indian or unknown; only four were black. Moreover, 137 (73%) Polish residents, 107 (68%) Jewish residents, 10 (63%) Irish residents, 13 (81%) Italian residents and 9 (17%) other residents were born outside the US. These 276 (64%) immigrants arrived between 1860 and 1910, with 150 of them (54%) arriving in 1904 or later. Emigration date varied by ancestry – in rough chronological order: Chinese (1867, 1875), Irish (1860-1906; median=1880), Italian (one 1891, otherwise 1901-06), Jewish (1880-1909; 1903), Polish (1888-1910; 1905). Fully half (141) of foreign-born residents of Bradley Street still could not speak English – including 109 Poles. Finally, of the 131 foreign-born residents with citizenship data, only 31 (24%) had either started the naturalization process (13) or become US citizens (18); of the citizens, 12 were Jewish, five were Irish and one was French.

Just over 1 in 3 (36%, 154) residents of Bradley Street in 1910 was under the age of 18 – of whom 107 (69%) were born in the US, 97 in Connecticut. The vast majority of their parents (83% of all adults) were not born in the US – but their children, raised hearing Italian, Polish, Russian and Yiddish, were automatically American citizens. Fully 72 of those 10 years of age or older[37] (22%, n=323) could neither read nor write, with 14 able to read but not write; of these 86 persons, 64 (74%) were born in Russian-dominated Poland.

In 1910, 70 married couples lived on Bradley Street, raising a total of 170 children – meaning 72% of the street’s residents were members of a nuclear family: father, mother, children.[38] These couples had been married an average of 12.7 years (median=9), with a range of 0 to 54 years – Harry and Eva Tarnopol.[39] Sixty-nine women living on Bradley Street had given birth to a combined 272 children (mean=3.9), of whom 80% (217) were still alive in April 1910. This mortality rate of 202.2 deaths per 1,000 live births compares quite favorably to the child mortality rate – through age 1 – in Connecticut from 1905-09: 132.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. Given that 27.3% of all deaths over this time period were children through age 5, compared to 19.5% through age 1, we extrapolate a child mortality rate of (27.3/19.5)*132.1 = 184.9 deaths through age 5 per 1,000 live births. Moreover, in 21 states – including Connecticut – assessed in 1910, 33.1% of all deaths were through age 19, so we further extrapolate a mortality rate of 225.6 deaths through age 19 per 1,000 live births. These back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest the children of these blue-collar immigrants, packed into tenements, surrounded by saloons and prostitution, were not dying at a worse than their neighbors in Connecticut and throughout the US.

**********

In short, a careful examination of the available data reveals a very different Bradley Street than Hull, Wheeler and newspapers like the Norwich Bulletin did.

Here is a street that housed – yes, as many as 13 saloons and four brothels – but also a handful of well-capitalized corporations, three restaurants, eight food markets, three barbershops, a Chinese laundry, a seller of yeast, a harness maker, two building companies (plumbing, carpentry) and a variety of shoemakers, tailors, rag and junk peddlers, and variety stores – along with the E.D. Steele men’s furnishings store at the intersection with State.

Oh, and the New London police station and police court, and as many as two churches – one with an attached school – were situated there as well.

Bradley was literally a family street: three of every four residents lived in a stable, relatively-young family with two parents and a handful of children. Most of the rest were boarders – primarily itinerant Poles in their 20s – who worked brutally-hard jobs as stevedores, on railways and in various factories and mills. But there were also a few lawyers, clerks and Yiddish teachers. Children attended local schools, where they learned to read and write English – just as my own (legal) grandparents did in Philadelphia just a few years later.

The saloons (suddenly under suspicion in a town with no fewer than eight temperance societies in 1906) and brothels apparently existed in a peaceful coexistence with the police force in their midst – other than mayoralty of Ralph Wheeler, 1891-93. And in an era when the slightest infractions made the local newspapers, very little actual crime from Bradley Street was reported – so far as I can ascertain.

It is hard not to conclude, then, that from the point of view of the “Connecticut aristocracy” the fundamental “crime” of Bradley Street, circa 1907, was that it housed a growing population of lower-class (mostly) “others,” primarily recent Polish Catholic and Jewish immigrants from the Pale. If Bradley Street had been at the opposite end of Bank Street, or a mile or so north on Williams Street, the town Brahmins would likely barely have noticed it. But because those saloons, brothels – and all those non-Protestant Polish- and Yiddish-speakers – were crowded onto a short street just steps from the Union train station and the gleaming confluence of Bank, Main and State Streets, it needed to be literally removed from the map via renaming, demolition and rebuilding.

At least, that is, until a chance find in a filing cabinet piqued the interest of an expert in interrogating memory.

Until next time…please wear a mask as necessary to protect yourself and others – and if you have not already done so, get vaccinated against COVID-19! And if you like what you read on this website, please consider making a donation. Thank you.


[1] Trial testimony varied widely regarding how willing May Burns was to relocate to New London.

[2] 1906 New London city directory, pg. 336. Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011

[3] Ruddy, John J, 2000. Images of America: Reinventing New London. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, pg. 12

[4] This is slightly less than distance from our Brookline front door south to the first left-hand turn (about 0.22 miles) – about a five-minute walk. I count 30 houses along this stretch of road, compared to 81 addresses on Bradley.

[5] Prior to an address renumbering in 1905, Bradley crossed John and Douglass at #35 and #45, respectively. Addie’s brothel had been at #5½.

[6] Ruddy, pp. 12-13. Ruddy, via e-mail, does not know for certain when it was taken, though internal evidence suggests it was within a few years of the Addie Burns trial.

[7] “HAD THIRTEEN FIRES IN AS MANY DAYS,” The Journal (Meriden, CT), February 13, 1908, pg. 9

[8] Ruddy, pg. 11

[9] “New London’s ex-Mayor Opposes Public Utilities Bills,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), March 27, 1909, pg. 9. The author later notes triumphantly notes that “Little Sheriff Tubbs of East Lyme and Niantic” (a few miles west of New London) finally put the owner of “The Admiral” saloon “on the sidewalk, so to speak,” using the excuse of an $800 claim (~$24,316 in 2021) against the saloon by a firm of wholesale liquor dealers. The underlying attitude toward Bradley Street – and its saloons – at least among the “committee of fifteen” organized to clean up Bradley Street is expressed in this truly snarky sentence: “When men in almost any other kind of business meet with financial reverses there is sure to be some sympathy, but there is none for the closing of The Admiral.” I have yet to uncover any evidence of what made the Admiral so objectionable, beyond its existence. In fact, it is not clear which of the 11 saloons then on Bradley Street (out of 72 total) IS The Admiral. Data from 1908 New London city directory.

[10] All women were either “Miss” or “Mrs.” in the New London city directories of the time.

[11] The 1906 city directory lists Joseph Girard of 431 Bank working in a saloon at 15 Bradley, but I suspect this is a typo.

[12]Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.

[13] Curiously, all three men lived at 34 Bank.

[14] She “was talking over a telephone [that] night [to someone in New London] from her home in New London, when she was attacked by a cerebral hemorrhage and fell dead to the floor.” A doctor was called, but he was too late. This is likely the same telephone on which Addie talked to McNulty four years earlier. “DIED WHILE TALKING OVER TELEPHONE,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), January 21, 1911, pg. 5

[15] “Will make one big store.,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), September 21, 1916, pg. 8

[16] Along with C. W. Chapin, William E. Greene and John McGinley

[17] Boyer sparked laughter in a Norwich courtroom on September 22, 1910 when he had difficulty during testimony in a theft trial pinpointing the location of his house: “When the state attorney asked him if his home was north or south of the police station…he said he had never figured that out. When asked if he went south when he left his home for State street, his reply was that when he left his home for State street he just went to State street. Adding later on that his home was on the corner of Bradley and John street, the state attorney in cross examination desired to know which of the four corners, and the witness set the crowd to laughing when he put out his hand and waved it and said, ‘On this corner!’” “Epstein Denies All Knowledge of Theft.,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), September 23, 1910, pg. 7

[18] “For Selling on Sunday.,” Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), December 15, 1908, pg. 1

[19] “CRIMINAL COMMON PLEAS COURT,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), March 10, 1909, pg. 7; “JURY WAS DISMISSED.,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), March 12, 1909, pg. 5

[20] The directory lists “yard conductor S.L.Div.,” but I suspect this is a misprint for the “N.L.” (New London) division of the New London & East Lyme Street Railway Company. If anybody knows differently, please let me know.

[21] The latter Shapiro toiled as a tailor at “56 Main Street,” likely a misprinting of 356 Main, where Harry Spiegelmann made “knee pants.”

[22] “NEW STATE CORPORATIONS,” The Journal (Meriden, CT), December 11, 1906, pg. 9

[23] 1907 New London city directory

[24] Newspapers.com carries no issues of the three New London papers of the era – The Day, The Morning Telegraph and New London Daily Globe – and no issues of the Norwich Bulletin prior to 1909.

[25] Either the Republican Farmer or Republican Standard. “PAID REPORTER TO PREVENT WRITE-UP,” The Journal (Meriden, CT), May 7, 1908, pg. 10

[26] “JURY WAS DISMISSED”

[27] “Sailor Bohn Steadily Improving.,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), August 25, 1909, pg. 5

[28] “POLITICS EVERY DAY IN THE YEAR,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), July 31, 1909, pg. 9

[29] “MORE SUPERIOR COURT BUSINESS,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), September 2, 1909, pg. 5

[30] “MORE CIVIL SUITS IN SUPERIOR COURT,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), November 17, 1909, pg. 7

[31] Unclear if this is also “Hertz Wolf” at #134

[32] The 1907 city directory lists “Tabernacle” of Church of God and Saints of Christ at 143 Bradley, after being at 24 Green Street in 1906; it was gone in 1908. Nathan Ritt operated a grocery at this address in 1906, living there with stevedore Joseph Potki, laborer John Soltz and a boarder of unknown occupation named Adam Dziesota; Soltz lived there in 1907 as well.

[33] “DEPUTY DAIRY COMMISSIONER CRUTTENDEN BOUGHT LARD,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), December 23, 1909, pg. 11

[34] “ACCUSED WAS DISCHARGED.,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), December 30, 1909, pg. 5

[35] The three-person Lesthla family were technically boarders.

[36] Living here since at least 1907 was a Palmer Brothers employee named Antonio Tonitsky/Antone Chonitzky. On August 9, 1909, he was sent to the state hospital for the insane at Brewster’s Neck “on the complaint of several persons whom he addressed in Williams Memorial Park…[H]e was approaching persons and after askjng them some sort of a question would look at the sun and make strange remarks about it.” “SENT TO STATE HOSPITAL.,” Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, CT), August 10, 1909, pg. 5

[37] The Census did not collect reading/writing ability data on persons 9 or younger.

[38] This excludes a smattering of the older parents and siblings of the married couples.

[39] This implies they were older than 67.

One thought on “Criminalizing poverty in the early 20th century: Bradley Street, New London

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s