Posts Tagged ‘New York’s criminal underworld’

Notorious criminal “Marm” Mandelbaum

July 8, 2009

When you think of the criminal element in New York City in the late 1800s, portly immigrant ladies rarely come to mind.

But 250-pound Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum, who arrived in Manhattan from Prussia in 1849, became one of the city’s most infamous thieves, a kind of mother hen to organized crime in post–Civil War New York.

FrederickamendelbaumAfter moving to the U.S., Marm and her husband opened a dry goods store at 79 Clinton Street, which quickly became a front for her various illegal activities. Marm fenced stolen goods, financed gangs, assisted con men and blackmailers, and even taught pickpocketing to kids on Grand Street.

This godmother also had a ladylike side. She gave lavish dinner parties mixing New York’s elite with crooks. Supposedly she tried to improve the manners of her criminal cohorts, and she was a queen bee to other female swindlers of the time.

Finally arrested in 1884, she took off for Canada with a million bucks. She died there in 1894.