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Chief Rabbi Joseph’s Funeral and Riot

From the autobiographical notes of Captain Charles Albertson  regarding his career in the New York City Police Department and his travels and adventures during retirement beginning in January 1905.

In the early summer of 1902 [July 30, 1902], I was in command of the Delancy Street precinct. A Jewish Rabbi known as Chief Joseph died. There was a very large crowd at his funeral and the procession marched through many of the east side streets and passed over the Grand Street ferry on the way to the cemetery on Long Island. At exactly one P.M. a vast number of the procession were waiting in front of the Robert C. Hoe printing press factory which occupies an entire block on the north side of Grand Street near the ferry. When the whistle blew, the employees who had been sitting in many of the raised windows eating their lunch, cast down on the crowd in the street the paper that their lunch was wrapped in, banana peels and other light remains of their dinner. The mourners were furious. Within five minutes they broke every window in the building on the Grand Street side. There was more than a bushel of broken bricks, pieces of stone and iron and other missiles gathered up from the inside of the building, and as much more from the outside that failed to enter the structure.

The police were quickly on the scene and dispersed the mob. Inspector Adam Cross was in charge of the district and soon arrived with the reserves from several precincts. We were kept busy the entire afternoon, as there was great excitement among the Jewish people. There was a very bitter feeling between them and the Hoe employees due to little petty acts of annoyance on the part of the employees from time to time. There was no construction of buildings or repairing being done within several blocks of the Hoe factory. Therefore, there could be no other conclusion arrived at than that the assailants were prepared for trouble, for the dame was done and the mob dispersed before they could have secured the missiles from elsewhere. Inspector Cross stated these facts in his report of the disorder.

Mayor Seth Lowe appointed a committee to investigate the disaster which was headed by the eminent Jewish lawyer Louis Marshall. This committee spent several weeks in their very thorough investigation which I assisted in as far as possible, devoting much time to the work. Their very voluminous report to Mayor Lowe criticized the statement of Inspector Cross in his report, where he stated “the mob must have come prepared with missiles”. This statement was correct. They did not find any fault with me but specially commended my action in the matter. Mayor Lowe ordered Commissioner Partridge to prefer charges against Inspector Cross and myself, stating that while the committee had no fault to find with my conduct, they thought I best be given a chance to explain. I had been explaining all summer.

In compliance with the Mayor’s orders, charges were preferred against Inspector Cross and I. We were tried and charges against me were dismissed.

Late in December following the trials, Commissioner Partridge sent for me to come to his office. When I arrived he said, “I have resigned and my successor has been appointed and is now on his way here. I want you to know that the recent charges against you did not emanate from this office. Is there anything that I can do for you” I said, “Transfer me to the Eldridge Street Station.” (I was then in Delancy Street precinct.) My request was complied with. His last official act My conversation with the commissioner at this time convinced me that the cause of his resignation was his refusal or failure to dismiss Inspector Cross from the department.


This excerpt from “The Chief Rabbi’s Funeral” by Dr. Yitzchock Levin explains the events from the perspective of the mourners.

As the procession began to pass the Hoe factory, some workers … started throwing … food, water, oily rags, and pieces of wood and metal at the mourners. The mourners were outraged … Some of them began throwing the missiles back at those who had tossed them; others burst into the factory in an effort to stop the assault. The first-floor office workers were unaware of what was transpiring outside. Therefore, when the irate mourners … burst into the … factory … police were called… [O]ut in the street, a general melee ensued. The fire hose was aimed indiscriminately at those outside the building…. The mourners responded by hurling bricks, rocks and other items at the Hoe Building. Most of the building’s windows were shattered… A few minutes later, a squad of 200 policemen … arrived on the scene under the leadership of Inspector Adam A. Cross. Without a word of warning or any request to disburse … police rushed upon the remnant of the gathering, some of them with … violence of manner.

Read the rest of the exciting “Chief Rabbi’s Funeral,” by Dr. Yitzchok Levin, Jewish Press, July 2, 2008.

You can read the report from the City Magistrates on the Riot Committee’s Imputations, published in the New York Times, October 2, 1902, on microfilm at the Orlando Public Library.


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