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Showing posts from June, 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…

"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. JohnCemetery in MiddleVillage, 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,…

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 cemeter…

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 doct…

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 famil…

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…