Sunday, November 21, 2010

Someday I'll Write About . . .

Fredericka "Marm" Mandelbaum
. One of the most notorious criminals in 19th century New York was a portly Prussian woman. She worked out of a store at 79 Clinton St. in Manhattan (the building still exists today). Marm made a living fencing stolen goods. She also planned and financed some of the most impressive capers in New York history. But Marm was no "common" criminal. She threw swanky dinner parties for the city's finest citizens. And she was said to be a stickler for good manners.

But what interests me most about good old Marm is the school she started. The Grand Street School was Manhattan's elite academy for young criminals. There were classes in pocket-picking, safe-cracking, blackmail, and confidence games. Children under the age of ten were welcome to apply and those who graduated at the top of their class were hired by Marm herself. Hmmm. Sounds like a Dickens novel, doesn't it?

Here's Marm's obituary from the New York Times. She led an interesting life.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charles Dickens did a lot of research into crime, poverty, the courts, the police force, etc. In Great Britain at that time the legal penalties for petty theft, pickpocketing, etc., could go all the way up to capital punishment, so getting children to do the dirty work was probably a good career move for career criminals looking to have a long career.

Robert in San Diego

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were moving so much stolen merchandise I'd need an entire dry-goods store as a "cover" for my criminal operations, I'd probably invest in some underground passages to nearby warehouses -- especially if I'd been set up there for more than two decades.

Robert in San Diego, just musing about our latest cross-border smuggling tunnels.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Ari the Awesome said...

I would love to learn at the Grand Street School; it sounds like people learned useful skills. However, I wouldn't join Marm if I graduated.

She's a very interesting criminal.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

PLEASE write a book about this!

12:08 PM  
Blogger Ariana said...

Grand Street? as in the same Grand Street that the band Matt & Kim named their second album after?
I'm assuming yes, and that's awesome.

The band Matt & Kim's wikipedia page

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome. awesome. awesome.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Serena loi said...

i would definitely apply to the school if i can.

forget english and maths.
pocket-picking and safe-cracking ?

12:50 AM  
Blogger Rileydog said...

That is so amazing! I'm in the play Oliver Twist right now and that is almost exactly like Fagin's Gang! Who would've thought there used to be one in New York!

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They just don't make criminals like they used to. You should write about this Kirsten, you could make it into a really fascinating story. If only they taught history like this in school. I'd be more likely to pay attention, that's for sure...

11:06 AM  

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