Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Joseph Pulitzer, the "Father of Journalism"


Hungarian-born journalist and newspaper publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, was born Jozsef Politzer in 1847. Several years after the death of his father--and after the family’s reversal of fortune--Pulitzer emigrated to the united States. Trying his hand at a variety of jobs, Pulitzer eventually found his true calling as a journalist. In his lifetime, he owned both the New York World and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Yet, it was what his considerable wealth made possible after his death that has made the Pulitzer name synonymous with Journalism: In 1912, the fist school of journalism was established at Columbia University and in 1917, the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded.


In October 1911, Pulitzer died unexpectedly aboard his yacht in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor, at the age of 64. The boat had been en route to Pulitzer’s winter home in Jekyll Island, Georgia, when a hurricane threatened. “Leise, ganz leise, ganz leise (softly, quite softly), were said to be his last words.

On the day of his funeral, employee’s of both Pulitzer-owned newspapers stopped work in honor of their late employer. Pulitzer’s body lay in repose in the library of his NYC home, where friends and colleagues came to pay their respects. In a room overflowing with floral tributes, Pulitzer could be seen in his casket, a copy of one of his newspapers in his right hand. Among the many telegrams of condolence, was one from former US Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks, which echoed the sentiments of many. It read, “The country has lost one of its greatest newspaper men and able citizens in Mr. Pulitzer...

After a religious service, mourners were transported by a private train to the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, where Pulitzer was buried late that afternoon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Olive Oil King" Joseph Profaci

Joseph Profaci was characterized as “one of the most powerful underworld figures in the United States” by Robert F. Kennedy during Kennedy’s tenure as US Attorney General. Born in Palermo, Profaci was the first boss of the crime family that originally bore his name --ruling from 1931 to 1962--and which later became the Colombo family. During Profaci’s reign, he was arrested several times, but unlike many of his cohorts, he never served time in an American prison. Often referred to as the “olive oil king” Profaci ran the Mama Mia Importing Company, a leading importer of olive oil and tomato paste.

Profaci died from liver cancer in 1962, at the age of 64 and is buried in St. John Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, among a plethora of well-known organized crime figures.  Said to be the most devout Catholic of Mafia leaders, Profaci had an altar constructed in his home. His private mausoleum references his religious beliefs as well: A figure of Jesus, with arms outstretched, adorns the door, while a sculpture of St. Aloysius, bearing a cross signifying the saint’s piousness and clutching a skull, representing his early death, stands atop the building.

After Profaci’s death, his brother-in-law, Joseph Magliocco,  succeeded him as interim head of the crime family. This promotion did not sit well with the Gallo brothers, touching off many violent episodes in New York City. In 1965, Joseph Colombo assumed control of the Profaci family.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Jasper Newton Smith Watches Over Oakland Cemetery

One of the most unique mausoleums to be found in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery is that of successful Atlanta businessman, Jasper Newton Smith. Occupying a prominent site close to the cemetery’s main entrance, the structure’s focal point is the life-sized statue of Smith perched in a chair atop the building. The sculpture, commissioned by Smith for the purpose of constructing his mausoleum, originally depicted him wearing a tie---something Smith never wore because of a boyhood episode in which he almost choked to death. This detail became a point of contention between Smith and sculptor, Oliver W. Edwards, who, for two long years, refused to remove it. In turn, Smith refused to pay him and eventually Edwards relented and chipped away the offending cravat.


Smith is the only one of his family to be entombed in the mausoleum, where, from his vantage point it has been said he is able to “watch the comings and goings”. Local lore has it that Smith gets up out of his chair and walks the cemetery at night.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dr. Noel d'Alvigny Inspired a Beloved Fictional Character

Until his death, in 1877, Dr. Noel d’Alvigny, was one of the most prominent doctors in Atlanta. An original faculty member and former president of Atlanta Medical College (renamed Emory University School of Medicine), Dr. d’Alvigny is credited with saving the school from burning down at the hands of General Sherman’s troops.


In 1850, d’Alvigny performed a helpful act of an entirely different sort. Soon after Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery opened in 1850, Dr. James Nissen became the cemetery’s fist interment. The physician died while visiting the Atlanta during a medical convention. Afraid of being buried alive, Dr. Nissen requested, prior to his death, that his colleague, Dr. d’Alvigny, open his casket at the cemetery and sever his jugular vein. Although Nissen’s headstone is now faded and illegible, a plaque laid at the site recalls this incident.

Dr. d’Alvigny, also buried in Oakland Cemetery, is believed to be the inspiration for the character of Dr. Meade, the dedicated and wise doctor in Gone With The Wind. A plaque at his grave makes note of this.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Arthur Flegenheimer aka Dutch Schultz

Infamous 1930s crime lord, Dutch Schultz, is buried beneath a bench-like monument --which bears his birth name, Arthur Flegenheimer—in Hawthorne, New York’s Gate of Heaven Cemetery. Schultz, who was murdered in 1935 by rival gangsters, was a convert to Catholicism. As Schultz lay dying from gunshot wounds in a New Jersey hospital he was baptized by Father Cornelius McInerney, a Catholic priest who had befriended the gangster while he was in prison.

That Schultz’s body was taken to Coughlin’s Undertaking parlor in Manhattan, remained a closely guarded secret. The morning of his funeral, a throng of people gathered outside the funeral home, along with reporters, to witness  Schultz’s body being carried out in its casket. Unbeknown to them, his wood casket had been whisked away in the early morning hours for a leisurely ride to the cemetery.

At the graveside --nearby that of former cohort, Larry Fay, also gunned down-- Father McInerney performed a short Catholic service for the five family members in attendance. Afterwards, Schultz’s mother, Emma, draped a Jewish prayer shawl over his casket. Outrage followed that such a notorious and recent convert had been permitted burial on sacred Catholic ground. An editorial in Catholic Weekly posed the question: “If a guy like that can go to heaven there won’t be anybody in hell?” Monsignor John L. Bedford of Brooklyn, responded with an article in The Monitor which read in part, “Was Schultz worse than the penitent thief? He was a criminal. He seemed unworthy of the least consideration. Perhaps he was. But who will close the gates of mercy? The fact that he received the sacraments is no guarantee than he received God’s forgiveness.” 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cash Was King: James Cash Penney

Missouri-born James Cash Penney was the 7th of 12 children born, in 1875,  to James Sr. --a farmer and Baptist minister--and his wife Mary. As a child, when he wasn’t attending school, James worked on the family farm. His father stressed the value of money and by the time James was eight years old, he was expected to pay for his own clothing. Penney began his work in retail at J. M. Hale and Brothers dry good store, shortly after he graduated from high school. Before long, he was trained as a salesman. In 1902, James Cash Penney opened his first store named Golden Rule for the credo by which Penney lived and did business. His business and personal philosophy paid off : By 1912, there were 34 Golden Rule stores across the country. In 1913, the name was changed to the J.C. Penney Co. and the company headquarters were relocated to NYC.

  Penney died at the age of 95, on February 12, 1971, in New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. His funeral service took place several days later, on February 16th  at St James Episcopal Church on Madison Ave. under the direction of the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel. There was no public visitation and his burial in the family mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx was private. On the day of Penney’s funeral, J.C. Penney Co. headquarters were closed and the 1660 stores which comprised the vast J.C. Penney Co. network, did not open until 1:00 PM in honor of their founder. A philanthropic man throughout his lifetime, Penney’s New York Times obituary suggested donations to the YMCA and 4H Club in lieu of flowers.

 It is interesting to note that J.C. Penney is among a number of famed American retailers --F.W. Woolworth, Franklin Simon, Samuel H. Kress Frederick A. Constable, Charles Loehmann, George A. Hearn, Roland H. Macy and the Straus (Abraham & Straus) Family--interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx..