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Jeremiah Brennan, acct. 2979

Additional Information on Jeremiah Brennan:

Jeremiah was single when he first opened account, then married Bridget Maroney 1852-1855. 

Jeremiah appears to have died between 1860-1870 (from census).

Widow Bridget is with children Dennis and Mary in 1870, 1880.


son, Dennis, didn't have an account. 

Dennis was a brush maker at 21; by 1900 was a police sergeant, then captain.  He was Capt. to Lt. Charles Becker and was a pallbearer after the guy was executed for the hit on Herman Rosenthal.  Apparently, this was a big scandal (NY Times article about it last year).  After that, in the 1915 state census, he was in real estate.

Then there is the business about him being a personal friend of Teddy Roosevelt.  Didn't pursue how that came to be.  Wasn't Teddy supposed to clean up the police department?  And Dennis had this corruption under his nose.

Saved 1900-1940 censuses but won't send unless you want them.  Dennis married, had a couple of kids, moved to Westchester.  His sister always lived with him.


July 15, 2012, 10:00 am

100 Years After a Murder, Questions About a Police Officer’s Guilt


Today, the only sign that cash once flowed bountifully at 104 West 45th Street is a sleek bank branch on the ground floor of a black glass skyscraper.

A century ago, the nondescript high-stooped brownstone that stood there masked a more pretentious interior. The lavish red-carpeted second floor was dominated by a cabinet of Japanese curios, copies of masterpiece paintings and expensive faro and custom-built roulette tables.

This illegal gambling den was one of several owned by Herman Rosenthal, known as Beansy, a flamboyantly indiscreet Estonian immigrant.

Mr. Rosenthal had high hopes that his establishment would thrive in the competitive tenderloin district of Manhattan under the patronage of Big Tim Sullivan, the local Democratic political boss, and the protection of a silent partner, Lt. Charles Becker, a member of the Police Department’s vice squad and a towering former beer hall bouncer.

Mr. Rosenthal’s casino opened on March 20, 1912. Barely a month later, Lieutenant Becker raided it to appease his nominal boss, Police Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo, a reformer.

Mr. Rosenthal was so furious at Lieutenant Becker’s betrayal and the damage the strong-arm squad inflicted that his bitterness got the best of him: He publicly claimed that Lieutenant Becker not only held a mortgage on the place, but also collected 20 percent of the take. Three months later, at 2 a.m. on July 16, 1912, only hours before he was to testify before a Manhattan grand jury, he was murdered outside a Midtown hotel. Lieutenant Becker was accused of the crime.

After two trials and countless appeals, Lieutenant Becker died in the electric chair at Sing Sing — becoming perhaps the only police officer executed for crimes connected to his official performance.

The Becker-Rosenthal affair became the police corruption case of the century — a crime that was recounted in “The Great Gatsby.” The case popularized a cocktail named the Jack Rose, cost Commissioner Waldo his job, catapulted District Attorney Charles S. Whitman into the governorship and still reverberates three generations later in the Becker family.

Regardless of whether Lieutenant Becker was corrupt — his assets wildly exceeded his police salary — questions lingered about whether he was guilty of first-degree murder.

His conviction at his first trial was overturned for lack of corroboration by independent witnesses. In 1970, Andy Logan marshaled a convincing argument in her book “Against the Evidence” that he was framed.

“She makes a good case, but I say yes, he was guilty,” said Thomas A. Reppetto, a police historian. “He had all the motive in the world, all the guys involved said it was him, and all his life he was a terribly reckless guy.” (Lieutenant Becker had been accused of arresting people on false charges and accepting bribes.)

In another book, “Satan’s Circus,” published in 2007, Mike Dash, a British journalist, also made a case that Lieutenant Becker was wrongfully convicted. He, too, argued that District Attorney Whitman was initially disinclined to give credence to Mr. Rosenthal’s charges until he was hounded by Herbert Bayard Swope, a reporter for The World. The book also claimed that arrangements were made by mobsters associated with Lieutenant Becker not to kill Mr. Rosenthal but to silence him by buying him off and spiriting him out of town.

Instead, the 38-year-old Mr. Rosenthal, who lived in the same brownstone as his gambling den, was gunned down outside the Metropole Hotel on West 43rd Street by four gangsters who pulled up in a Packard touring car and evaded the gambler’s hapless bodyguard, a convicted pickpocket named Boob Walker.

A young reporter, Alexander Woollcott, rushed over from The New York Times to cover the violence.

At Lieutenant Becker’s trial in the Jefferson Market Court House in Greenwich Village, the prosecution’s chief witness was Jack Rose, a gambler whose namesake cocktail was a mixture of applejack, grenadine and lemon or lime juice. He testified that Lieutenant Becker engineered the murder and, through a mobster, enlisted the hit men. (They were tried separately, convicted and executed.)

The driver of the Packard and three accomplices, including Mr. Rose, were granted immunity from prosecution.

The judge in Lieutenant Becker’s first trial was a fanatical foe of police corruption. In the second trial, conducted before a more sober judge named Samuel Seabury, the only independent corroborating eyewitness, as called for by the appeals court, was a waiter who said he had overheard the conspirators.

Lieutenant Becker was a big man. His electrocution on July 30, 1915, took nine minutes. From the grave, he sought to have the last word, in the form of a silver plate affixed to his coffin and engraved with the epitaph: “Charles Becker. Murdered July 13, 1915. By Governor Whitman.” Before he was buried, authorities alert to libel ordered the plate removed.

Lieutenant Becker was defended to the very end, and even after, by his indefatigable third wife, Helen, a schoolteacher and later an assistant elementary school principal, who died in 1962. “He was not an angel; he never made a pretense of being one,” she once said. “He was just an ordinary human being, and that is why I loved him so.”

Their son Howard grew up to become a prominent sociologist. Howard’s son, Christopher, taught history in Connecticut, at Yale and Quinnipiac. Christopher’s son, Austin (Charlie Becker’s great-grandson), is a doctoral student in environment and resources at Stanford. He recalled that his father learned of his relation to the convicted murderer only in adulthood.

“There was a strong denial of the incident, which only was revealed when my father happened upon a cousin who lived in Canada,” Austin Becker, 40, said. “The cousin mentioned to my father ‘the black sheep in the family.’ He quickly realized that his own father had deeply hidden this story from the children.”

“I think our family is in agreement that Charlie was framed and used as a scapegoat,” he said. “If nothing else, the Charlie Becker story has turned our family firmly against capital punishment.” A cousin is now a lawyer who does anti-death-penalty work, Mr. Becker added.

“Perhaps if he had been given life in prison, things would have turned out differently once the political tide had turned. Perhaps he would have been exonerated in later years or new evidence would have come to light,” he said. “While Charlie may have been guilty of other crimes, he was put finally to death for a crime he did not commit.”

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 17, 2012

An earlier version of this post misstated the given names of Lieutenant Becker's son and great-grandson. His son was Howard P. Becker, not Henry. And his great-grandson is Austin Becker, not Andrew. Austin Becker is a doctoral student in environment and resources, not "environmental science."



Jeremiah Brennan, acct. 2979