Meet Billy Gallagher

William J. (affectionately known as “Little Billy”) Gallagher was born around the late 1860s/early 1870s, either in Ireland or Camden, New Jersey (I have conflicting stories).  He was something of a “big deal” in New York restaurant/entertainment circles in back in the day.  Several of the entries in the earliest scrapbook are about him or one of his cabarets.  He was a restaurateur/night club proprietor for about 40 years.

Billy Gallagher business card

This is the front and back of his business card for his underground cabaret in New York City.  His cabaret on Seventh Avenue was open from about 1919 until his death in 1934.  Many of these items are undated, so I can only guess as to when they were created.


When he put on a show, he really put on a show.  He was, after all, “The Nations Host from Coast to Coast.”  (I’m still looking for any of his establishments on the west coast).  Here is a flyer for one of his special events.  I believe it’s from 1933, since that’s the most likely year before Billy’s death in which October 30th fell on a Monday (the only other possible year would have been 1922).  Plus, Henny Youngman would have only been 16 years old in 1922.  Unfortunately, I’ve never heard of Pat Goode, Marie Austin, Gerty Dwyer, Bubbles Shelby, Allyn Reese, Mary Titus, or Lillian Wayne.

Apparently, Henny Youngman was a regular entertainer at Billy Gallagher’s.  Here is a flyer for another event, clearly in favor of repealing the Volstead Act.

Billy Gallagher Election Day Party p3-4

… and seriously – how can you go wrong with acts like “Twelve Appealing Repealers”?  He’s also added Billie Roberts and Accordionist Pete Marconi to the act!  (And no, I won’t comment on the misuse of apostrophes in this one).

Sometimes the party theme was even more blatantly political:

Billy Gallagher Election Day Party p1   Billy Gallagher Election Day Party p2

This one is clearly from 1933.  I can see how it might have been difficult to run a cabaret-style club during Prohibition.  But somehow (I’m not at liberty to say), Billy made it work.  And the people – and celebrities – kept coming.

I think I’m going to enjoy getting to know Billy!


The Lost Scrapbooks Finally Have a Home!

First, a little background.

My grandfather was born Joseph Smith on September 30, 1924 in New York, New York.  He was adopted by Walter and Ruth Gallagher on December 4, 1928, and given the name John Joseph Gallagher.

Walter Wiltse Gallagher was the oldest of six children of William J. “Billy” and Mary Gallagher.  He was born February 22, 1902 in New York, New York.  Walter married Ruth Burrows around 1921.  John Joseph was their only son.  Ruth passed away in April 1971, and Walter married a woman named Marie Talmo.

When Walter passed away in September 1973, instead of offering Walter’s belongings to his only son, Marie decided she would just divvy everything between her nieces and nephews (she had no children of her own), and donate the rest to the Ridgefield Public Library without mentioning them to Walter’s family.

But I’m not bitter.

Fast forward to 40 years later … we are finally made aware of the existence of these scrapbooks quite by accident.  We were told there were three or four of these books.   My mom, two of my aunts, and I traveled to Ridgefield, New Jersey, to look at the scrapbooks ourselves.

2014-03-04 22.14.59

We discovered a total of at least 11 scrapbooks (I’m still not convinced that we found them all) and 5 other books that were donated in his name (Police Journal magazines and Chief’s Association Annual Meeting Books).  The scrapbooks date from the early 1920s to the mid 1960s.  We made a request to the Board of Trustees of the library to allow us to borrow or have the scrapbooks, and they agreed to let us have them.  As I scan them for my blog, I will be putting them on a CD so I can provide a digital copy to the library when it’s all done.

There are very few articles and photos that are dated, and even fewer that contain the name of the newspaper from which they were cut.  Several of the articles are duplicates – possibly from multiple newspapers.  I can’t begin to imagine how many bottles of rubber cement were used.

I will attempt to date as many of the articles as I can and post them chronologically, in an effort to tell the stories of my great grandfather, Walter Gallagher, and his father, Billy Gallagher.  Occasionally, I will make a mistake.  So, I’ll say it ahead of time … oops.  Ultimately, this blog may read like the story of the Ridgefield, New Jersey Police Department, because it played such a huge role in my great grandfather’s life and the majority of the newspaper clippings are related to his activities within the police department.  There will also be people (criminals and victims alike) who are named within the articles that are no relation, but I feel compelled to list them since I know of no other place that the Ridgefield area newspapers are archived and searchable online.

My intent is to post at least one article per week – hopefully more.  I just hope you enjoy watching the story unfold as much as I will enjoy telling it!