Born Arthur Flegenheimer to German-Jewish immigrants on August 6, 1902, Bronx native Dutch Schultz grew up to make a fortune brewing and distributing bootleg alcohol during Prohibition.
Schultz rose to the highest echelons of New York City’s organized crime kingpins — so much so that he came to be known by the regal moniker, “Beer Baron of the Bronx.”
Before his decidedly sudden 1935 death at age 33, Dutch Schultz reigned as one of the most savagely violent gangsters of the Roaring Twenties and into the Great Depression. Check out these five killer facts about The Dutchman.
1. THE MOST FAMOUS DUTCH SCHULTZ WASN’T THE ORIGINAL “DUTCH SCHULTZ”
After a hardscrabble upbringing wherein his father walked out on the family, young Arthur Flegenheimer dropped out of school at 12 and took to working odd jobs that required muscle. He acted as a bouncer at a local mob-owned nightclub, ran scams, and stuck up back alley dice games.
At 17, cops popped Arthur for a series of burglaries and sentenced to 17 months upstate. Flegenheimer “made his bones” by proving to be one of the toughest young inmates in lock-up.
Upon returning home, Arthur immediately assumed total dominance over the street thugs he’d left behind, beating and breaking any naysayers and laying out plans for how things were going to go his way — or else!
Arthur so impressed associates and observers that they took to calling him “Dutch Schultz,” after a dead gangster by that name who’d been feared and revered for his merciless tactics. It also dovetailed nicely when the former Flegenheimer went to work for Schultz Trucking Company — a concern he’d later put to work for him once he took up running illegal liquor. [J-Grit]
2. THE BEER BARON BUILT HIS BOOZE EMPIRE BY BUSTING SKULLS — & WORSE
With Prohibition in full swing, Dutch Schultz partnered with speakeasy owner Joey Noe to open a series of underground saloons around New York City. They also ran beer out of a secret brewery in New Jersey and made it clear that, if you wanted to sell it, you had to buy it from Schultz and Noe.
Bronx brothers Joe Rock and John Rock, who had their own bootlegging network, attempted to refuse. Schultz responded by kidnapping Joe Rock, hanging him by his thumbs from a meathook, and wrapping a gauze bandage around his eyes that had been infected with gonorrhea. John Rock paid $35,000 for his brother’s release. Afterward, Joe went blind and the Rocks conceded their entire business to Schultz. [Jewish Currents]
3. DUTCH SCHULTZ DECLARED WAR ON LEGS DIAMOND
On October 16, 1928, an unknown shooter blasted Dutch’s partner Joey Noe outside the Chateau Madrid in midtown Manhattan. Noe survived but died from a resulting infection several weeks later. The enraged Schultz pinned the assassination on rival gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond — and declared war.
As an Irish-American gang leader, Legs Diamond was the only non-Italian mobster besides Schultz and Noe to mount a prominent stronghold in illegal New York City liquor distribution. Diamond expressed clear anger when Schultz’s impact started to stream down from the Bronx into his territories in Manhattan.
Shortly after Noe’s death, Diamond’s mentor and moneyman Arnold Rothstein took a fatal bullet at the Park Central Hotel. Many believe Schultz ordered the hit in retaliation. And Dutch still wasn’t finished.
In October 1929, gunmen burst in on Diamond and his girlfriend as they ate dinner in his suite at the Hotel Monticello. They sprayed the room bullets and nailed Diamond five times. He lived, but hightailed it to Europe to recover. When Legs returned, his gang abandoned New York City, and he had to start over in Albany. In 1931, Diamond finally died at the hands of either cops or other Irish mobsters. [National Crime Syndicate]
4. THE IRS DECLARED WAR ON DUTCH SCHULTZ
Following the end of Prohibition, Schultz switched his focus to numbers rackets, slot machines, union infiltration, and business shakedowns, particularly in the realm of restaurants and hotels.
It all proved, in fact, too successful, as the Internal Revenue Service took notice of Schultz’s influence and lifestyle versus his reported earnings. In 1933, the agency indicted him for tax fraud and evasion. Schultz lived on the lam for a year before surrendering.
Schultz went to trial twice in 1935 on tax charges. The first jury deadlocked and forced a mistrial. The second ended with Schultz being found not guilty. Few doubt that Schultz influenced the jurors, if only by way of his fearsome reputation.
Mob-hating New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia expressed such outrage over Schultz being cleared that he ordered the NYPD to arrest the gangster on sight should he ever set foot in the city. Schultz subsequently had to relocate his headquarters to Newark, New Jersey.
In addition, Schultz’s legal trouble had badly damaged his businesses and his crew members were looking for other gangs to join. His old pal Lucky Luciano even mounted what was effectively a takeover of the Schultz operation and Dutch simply had to go along with it.
Most imposing of all was United States Attorney Thomas Dewey, who Schultz blamed for exposing him to the IRS, refused to give up the fight. Schultz wanted to respond the most logical way he knew how: by dispatching paid assassins to rub out the nation’s highest-ranking prosecutor. [Criminal Element]
5. MURDER INC. GUNNED DOWN DUTCH SCHULTZ ON A STEAKHOUSE TOILET
Knowing the weak position he was in, Dutch Schultz consulted with the heads of the Italian-American and Jewish Mafia organization — who, by this time, were known as “Murder Incorporated” — to ask permission to assassinate Thomas Dewey.
The commission of mobsters voted unanimously against invoking that kind of wrath from the United States government. Infamous godfather Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonanno outright told Schultz the very idea was “insane.”
Schultz stormed out from the meeting and the assembled leaders then proposed killing him before he tried anything stupid. That vote, too, was unanimous.
On October 23, Schultz ate dinner at Newark’s Palace Steakhouse with his right-hand man Abe Landau, his accountant Otto Berman, and his bodyguard Bernard “Lulu” Rosencrantz. Just before 10:30, Schultz got up to use the bathroom.
Once inside the stall, thugs burst into the lavatory and mowed Schultz down. He stumbled out to the main floor, and collapsed on a table.
Unlike the three associates who got blitzed alongside him, Schultz didn’t die on the spot. Instead, Schultz lingered in a hospital for 22 hours, attempting to bribe doctors and babbling nonsense (including the immortal phrase “Oh, oh, dog biscuit, and when he is happy he doesn’t get snappy”) before succumbing to an infection from rust on the bullets he took. He was 33. [Haaretz]
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Main image: Dutch Schultz [WikiMedia Commons]