No. 424
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
May 21, 2019

Boss Cox.

October 17, 2011
...
...


Chapter 2
This broadside comes from the National Library of Scotland’s vast collection of print ephemera, “The Word on the Street”. Account of the Execution of Elizabeth Nicklson, or Shafto, or Jeffrey, when was Executed in front of the Jail, this morning, for a Double Murder, 1st, with administering, on the 4th October last, to Ann Newal […]
More...
ExecutedToday.com - 5/21/2019


`
Coming in May! Warps and Wefts is excited to announce the publication of “Dressing Miss Lizzie”, a collection of paper …

Continue reading

More...
Lizzie Borden : Warps & Wefts - 4/23/2019
Montreal Gazette, October 13, 1857, via Newspapers.com William Townsend was, on the whole, a very ordinary sort of villain. His numerous grim deeds were brutishly uncomplicated, wholly lacking any of the originality, enterprise, or even flashes of humor that go to make some crimes permanently capture the public imagination. Townsend, in his private life, had a talent for mimicry that in
More...
Strange Company - 5/20/2019

Jeff and Joe Soapy Smith buries Joe Simmons The Illustrated Police News April 9, 1892 (Click image to enlarge) oe Simmons was a tall, slender gambler known to many as “Gambler Joe” Simmons, a member of the Soap Gang who managed Soapy Smith's Tivoli Club in Denver, 1890, and Soapy's Orleans Club in Creede, 1892. According to William Devere’s poem "Two Little Busted Shoes," Simmons
More...
Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 3/25/2019
In July 1890, a man came into the 126th Street Police Station in Harlem, New York City, to report a conversation he had overheard in an elevated train. A young man and woman sitting near him were talking about the mysterious disappearance of Miss Goodwin from the Storm King flats on East 126th Street. They believed that she had been foully dealt with by “professional malpractioners.” The woman
More...
Murder by Gaslight - 5/18/2019
I’m not the first old sign enthusiast who came across this beauty of a beer sign on the tenement at 317 East Fifth Street. Grieve wrote it up back in January, and I’m sure other fans walking along this quiet East Village block noticed the ancient signage, too. “S. Cort Wines & Lager Beer” the […]
More...
Ephemeral New York - 5/19/2019
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
More...
Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
Anxious For a Funeral | Trixie Got the Best of It.

Boss Cox.

Cincinnait-cox

For most of the nineteenth century, political power was a greased pig in Cincinnati, Ohio, chased by a multitude of neighborhood gangs, and seldom held long by anyone. But by the 1890s, though still wild, it was tightly sacked by “Boss” George B. Cox. In an age when every city in America was governed by some form of political machine, in Cincinnati Boss Cox had constructed a machine that was all but frictionless.[more]

George B Cox

Unlike New York’s Tammany Hall, which provided cover for graft at every level of city government, in the Cox machine all graft rose directly to the top, where it was distributed to those below according to a predetermined schedule.  Everyone who did business in Cincinnati - from constructing streetcar lines to sweeping the horse dung off the track - did so at the whim of George B. Cox. If you ran a bawdy house, or owned a saloon and wanted to sell drinks on Sunday or run games of chance upstairs, payment to the Cox machine was merely the cost of doing business.

The story of George Cox is a Horatio Alger tale gone awry. The orphaned son of English immigrants, Cox worked as a bootblack and a delivery boy. He also ran the keno game in his uncle’s saloon. While still in his twenties, he bought a saloon of his own at the corner of John and Hollingsworth streets, known as “dead man’s corner” for the number of murders that occurred there.

When Cox tried to run a faro game in his saloon, he was repeatedly shaken down by the police. Blaming the Democrats, who were then in power, Cox became a Republican, ran for city council and won. It would be his first and only elected office. What he learned in city council was that every deal that mattered was sealed outside the halls of government, and that no one’s word could be trusted. As Cincinnati struggled to emerge from a period of political chaos, George Cox rose to prominence by forging deals backed by his growing reputation as a man who never made a promise he did not keep. Boss Cox ruled Cincinnati from the outside by guaranteeing the election of candidates who would tend the machine without question.

By 1896, when the machine was fully polished, Boss Cox kept a sparse office above the Mecca Café, where he gave audiences to job seekers and dealmakers.  His work did not end when the sun went down. He went next to Weilert’s Beer Garden,Wielerts where he and his lieutenants sat at a round table, drinking beer from monogrammed mugs and discussing the state of affairs in the Queen City. This group, informally known as “the gang” or "the sports" includeed of August “Garry” Hermann and Rudolph “Rud” Hynicka. They would later be joined by Mike Mullen, a Democratic ward healer who had been instrumental in electing Cox’s protégé, John Caldwell, mayor in 1894.

August Hermann
August Hermann

Hermann, who gained the nickname Garry by his unfortunate resemblance to the Italian leader, Garibaldi, was the ultimate glad hander. After a meeting at Weilert’s, which could easily go past midnight, he was likely to have an appointment to entertain another favor seeker somewhere else around town. No matter what was done, no matter how much beer was drunk, no matter what time they all broke for home, Hermann would be back in his office by nine the following morning, ready to start all over again. An avid baseball fan, Garry Hermann was the de facto commissioner of baseball, before the job officially existed, and he is considered the father of the World Series.

Rudolph Hynicka
Rudolph Hynicka

Rud Hynicka’s interests were somewhat less wholesome. He ran a burlesque theater and was expanding his holdings to create an intercity circuit for the sexual entertainment of the day. Hynicka was also the Boss’s political man on the ground. He kept a file on voting habits that included a card for every eligible voter in Cincinnati. Hynicka also organized the bummers and floaters, the citizens-for-a-day, fresh off the river, who voted in proxy for those otherwise disenfranchised Cincinnatians who had died since the last election.

The newspapers hounded Cox and his machine, and average citizens were not pleased with the way the machine worked, but Cox held on to power despite numerous challenges from reform campaigns in both parties. Reform candidates faced trouble in Cincinnati because there were no active reform movements that did not also advocate tight regulation, if not outright prohibition, of alcohol. With a growing population of immigrants from hard-drinking cultures and an influx of American blue-collar workers, restriction of alcohol was not a winning platform. Under Boss Cox, even Sunday-closing laws, already on the books, were ignored.

Boss Cox suffered a stroke in February 1916 and died three months later. The machine struggled on for another decade before breaking down, unable to run smoothly without its engineer.

In spite of a driving rainstorm, Cox's funeral drew an enormous crowd--one of the largest in Cincinnati's history. The massive turnout at his funeral appeared to confirm Boss Cox’s often stated self-assessment, "A boss is not necessarily an enemy."


Sources:

  • Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb 28, 1897.
  • Miller, Zane L., Boss Cox’s Cincinnati Urban Politics in the Progressive Era. Westport, Conn:Greenwood P, 1981.
  • Police and Municipal Guide Cincinnati 1901. [Cincinnati], 1901.
  • Wright, Henry C. Bossism in Cincinnati. Cincinnati, 1905.
  • Wielerts Cafe