Clap Hands for Patrolman Gallagher

In continuation of the accolades received from thwarting the escape of three hardened criminals, several articles appeared in the paper over the days following.  This is one of them.  Thank goodness these men were locked up without a moment’s delay.  Clearly, this was before Miranda – “Jersey Justice” indeed.


1930 02 26 - Clap Hands for Patrolman GallagherCLAP HANDS FOR PATROLMAN GALLAGHER

CLAP hands for Patrolman Walter Gallagher of Ridgefield, whose alert eye knew three disreputable citizens when it lit on them, and whose persistence, bravery, and quick-wittedness resulted in the arrest of three dangerous, and much-sought offenders of the law, this week.

A member of the Ridgefield police force only six months, Gallagher was standing on duty, Tuesday afternoon, when three suspicious-looking men were passing through the town.  He hailed them, and, when they refused to acknowledge his hail, he leaped into a police runabout and chased them, defying what might have developed into a shower of bullets for him.  [Even though the only shots fired were from the police]

He picked another patrolman up, and they both continued the chase.  Finally, after being cut off and subjected to other tricks well-known to escaping gangsters, he and his companion, Patrolman Henry Lustman, another courageous policeman, corralled the men.

The trio, with records of auto stealing, robberies and assaults innumerable, were sentenced to seven years in States prison, TWENTY-FOUR HOURS LATER.

Clap hands not only for Patrolmen Gallagher and Lustman, but also for the “Jersey Justice” that refused to delay trial of these men so that they could retain loophole-finding criminal lawyer sharks.


Walter makes good!

In April 1929, Walter decided to leave the “restaurant” business.  He and his wife Ruth were living in an apartment at 1 Elizabeth Street, Ridgefield, New Jersey.

1929 - 1 Elizabeth Street Ridgefield

He completed his application to the Ridgefield Police Department, and it was received on April 17, 1929.

1929 06 12 - Police Department applicationHe was applying for the position of Patrolman.  He states that he has been living in New Jersey for 12 years, but I found him and his wife Ruth enumerated at 1600 Jackson Avenue in Jackson Heights (Queens County), New York, in the 1925 New York state census.  Not sure what’s going on there.

I got a chuckle when I reached item #9.  Apparently the only marital conditions available were “single” or “divorced.”  Clearly, the creator of this form had a very jaded view of society at that time.

On June 18, 1929, the Police Commission sent a letter to the Mayor requesting appointment of Walter to the position of Patrolman.

1929 06 18 - Request to Mayor for appointment of Walter Gallagher


And on July 10, 1929, Walter appeared for his physical examination.  At the time, he was working as a night manager at a restaurant.  The person who taught penmanship to this examiner should have their hands rapped with a yardstick.

1929 07 10 Walter Gallagher Physical Exam for police dept

I love that it gives a physical description: Height 5’8-1/4″, weight 190 lbs., chest girth 36.4″, and abdominal girth 34″.  He has one child age 4 (his adopted son – my grandfather – John Joseph Gallagher).  He looks to be in pretty decent health, with the only thing notable listed under ‘other illnesses’ is what looks like either “H of C” or “D of C” only.  I can’t really tell what letter that is supposed to be, but by comparison, I know it’s not a G.  If you know of any illness that might fit that description, please share.

It is interesting to note that (spoiler alert) Walter eventually contracted diabetes. I’m curious to know whether this ‘other illness’ is related to that in any way.


Blanks Are Filled. Now, More Questions!

question panelTo recap what we discovered about Billy Gallagher and his family previously (items in bold are new information):

William Gallagher b. ~1847 Ireland m. ~July 1869 to Catherine Fields “Kate” (b. Pennsylvania)


  1. William J. “Billy” b. 8 Sept 1870
  2. Frances “Fannie” b. 1873 m. Joseph Zarnski 1893
  3. Lizzie b. Jul 1874  d. 17 May 1883 Camden, NJ of ‘malarial fever’ 
  4. Emma b. 1877 m. Daniel J. Woods 1904
  5. Joseph b. Apr 1880 m. Alma Louise ?? 1901-02
  6. Benjamin Franklin “Frank” b. Apr 1884
  7. Lillian “Lillie” b. Jun 1886 m. Michael John Durkin 1905 (which is the subject of this post on my other blog)
  8. Bertie b. Oct 1888 d. 3 may 1892, Camden, NJ of ‘acute meningitis’
  9. Unknown child (d. before 1900)
  10. Unknown child (d. before 1900)

Billy married Mary Wilsey around 1892 (still looking for that documentation) and had the following children:

  1. Burnet J. b. 23 May 1893  d. bef 900
  2. Joseph b. May 1894 m. Agnes O’Toole 1919
  3. Bernard b. Jun 1898
  4. Walter b. 22 Feb 1902 m. Ruth Olmstead 1921; m. Ruth Burrows 1922
  5. Unknown child (d. bef 1900)

Billy and Mary divorce shortly after Walter is born.  Those records continue to elude me as well … but I will find them.  In 1904, Mary has remarried and she and her three boys are living with Arthur Cohen.  By 1912, they have two more children together: Arthur Jr. and David.

Here is where Billy’s life starts getting even juicier:

By 1905, Billy is living in a boarding house on W. 79th St. in Manhattan.

Sometime before 1909, Billy enters into a business partnership with

In 1910, things get a little sketchy.  I found multiple census records for William Gallaghers.  The first shows a 39-year-old William J Gallagher living at 510 W. 114th Street in Manhattan with a new wife named Lotta, whom he married around 1906, apparently a second marriage for both of them.  His occupation is listed as the manager of a cafe.

Billy Gallagher (Lotta) 1910 US census clip

Another is a white male identified only as “Gallagher” and listed as a lodger in a some sort of boarding house on or near Bowery Street in Manhattan (the area is current-day Chinatown).  All the fields are completed as “Un” (which I take to mean ‘unknown’).  Other than Billy living in a boarding house in 1905, I have little reason to believe this is my Billy Gallagher.  Unfortunately, there is nothing to tell me he isn’t, either.

Unk Gallagher 1910 US census clip

Fortunately, this can (hopefully) be resolved by finding the marriage record for William and Lotta (which is on my list of things to do).

On 22 Dec 1919, Billy leased the building at 727 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan from Frederick and Eleanor Hussey for 12-1/2 years and named the building the “Film Cafe.”  (Probably because nearly all the tenants that he found were in the film industry or something).

In 1920 the only William J Gallagher I could find is a married, 49-year-old white male living at 508 W. 144th Street in Manhattan, and working as a restaurant keeper.  His father was born in Ireland, and his mother in the United States.  I believe this is the same William J Gallagher listed in the 1910 census with Lotta.  Unfortunately, he is listed on a supplemental sheet that was completed in the census office three months after the census enumerators made their rounds, and I haven’t been able to locate a listing for anyone else at the same address.  Perhaps Billy and Lotta have gone their separate ways by this time; perhaps Lotta died before the 1920 census … more questions that can only be answered by court records or death records.

In or around 1920, Billy marries a woman named Betty, who is nearly 30 years his junior.  She is also apparently an employee in one of his clubs.  Shortly after they were married, Billy bought some property in Yonkers along the bank of the Hudson River (Warburton Avenue) for about $25,000.  He and Betty lived together on this property until about 1928.

Meanwhile, in August 1921 Billy enters into a business partnership with a man named John Weeks and with $10,000 capital, they obtain a charter for Gallagher-Weeks Company, manufacturer of shirts made of the cloth used to cover the wings of airplanes.

Gallagher-Weeks charter 1921 NY Times

I have not been able to determine the fate of the business, but I do know that by June 1922, there were several judgments against the company for unpaid debts.  There were help-wanted ads placed in newspapers throughout the northeast through 1923:

Gallagher-Weeks ad 1923 PA
Gallagher-Weeks ad 1922 NY Top: Times Herald (Olean, NY) 12 Aug 1922, p12 col3; Bottom: Evening Standard (Uniontown, PA) 17 Mar 1923, p2 col3

For all the business ventures Billy undertook, he was apparently always broke and borrowing money from someone.  According to the court records we found, he was constantly defaulting on loans and even filed bankruptcy at least once.

Stay tuned … we’re still uncovering information!

… in which I attempt to fill in some blanks

As I mentioned in my previous post, my aunt stumbled upon a New York Supreme Court case that involved Billy Gallagher.  The original trial occurred in 1929 and arose out of the sale of some property a few months before an involuntary bankruptcy petition was filed on his behalf.

This court record included hundreds of pages of testimony and exhibits that contain clues that led me to other court records, which I am in the process of requesting.

So now I’m going to hop into my Time Machine (bet you wish you had one of these!) and take us about 145 years in the past.

[cue the “rewind” sound effect]

William “Billy” Gallagher was born on September 8, 1870 to William and Kate Gallagher.  William was born in Ireland around 1847 and immigrated with his family when he was only 2 years old.  Kate was born in Pennsylvania.  William and Kate were married around 1869, possibly July (if the 1870 census record I found is the right one).

William and Kate had at least three more children by 1880: Fannie, Lizzie, and Emma, and they were living at 1025 Broadway in Camden, New Jersey.  This address looks a little something like this today:

1025 Broadway Camden

It looks like William was working in a planing mill.

William 1880 p1

An index listing for the 1885 New Jersey census shows the family living in Camden, and now there are two more children: Joseph and Franklin.  Lizzie is missing from this enumeration – I found a death record for an Elizabeth Gallagher, age 9, who died on 17 May 1883.  The dates roughly fit, but I won’t know until I see the actual certificate, which I have ordered.  There is also a person (whom I assume is a boarder of some sort): Watson Parker.  (This name never appears in any other record at any other time, as far as I can tell).

William 1885 The following year, a daughter, Lillie, would be born.  The couple had a total of 10 children by 1900, but only six survived to that date.

I sort of lose track of Billy between 1885 and 1900, but during this time he marries Mary Wilsey and they have four children.  Burnet J. was a male child born on May 23, 1893, but died before 1900.  Joseph M. is born in May 1894, and Bernard was born in June 1898.  Another child is born during that time, but dies before 1900.

In 1900, Billy and Mary are living at 201 W. 46th Street in Manhattan (which today can be found smack in the middle of Times Square).  Too bad they were only renting.  Billy owns a saloon located at 31st and Broadway.

Billy 1900

I think it is also appropriate to add at this time that in 1900 Billy’s father William was ALSO a saloon keeper in Camden, New Jersey.  Guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

William 1900

So here is another mystery:  Who is this Henry Gallagher listed with William as a boarder in 1900?  He is an iron moulder and is 10 years older than William, but is supposedly born in New Jersey.  I found a couple I believe to be William’s parents (Patrick and Mary – don’t get much more Irish than that, I guess) in Camden, New Jersey in 1860.  William has a brother, Harry, who is an “iron moulder” and is 10 years older.  Sounds plausible that this could be William’s brother.  Obviously, I need to dig deeper into this.

On February 22, 1902, Billy’s son Walter is born.  Shortly thereafter, likely before Walter’s first birthday, Billy and Mary are divorced.

For me, this was a big deal.  This was the first divorce (the most recent two generations notwithstanding) I had run across in my entire tree.  This means court records, potential church records, and who knows what else might be uncovered!

What we discovered next will surprise you too!

Regular Programming Will Resume Shortly …

CBS_News_Bulletin_1963The next dated entry in the scrapbook is from 1932.  That’s a pretty big jump, considering the last entry was from 1923.  Now, there are many undated entries that may fall between these dates, but I am having a hard time nailing down any definite dates.  I was curious what happened during this period of time that wasn’t worthy of being recorded in the scrapbook.

I felt compelled to interrupt the scrapbook entries and focus on the story.

Making a Supreme Court Case Out of It

The other night, my aunt sent me a link in an email and said “Have you seen this?”  It was a link to an item in GoogleBooks.  My first instinct was that it was unrelated because (1) we’re searching for Gallaghers, which is quite common, and (2) we’re never THAT lucky.

I was wrong.

What she found was the 693-page record of an appeal to the Supreme Court of New York County Appeal Division on a 1929 case involving Billy Gallagher.  The case itself is virtually irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but the testimony offered throughout the case from various witnesses is priceless!

Walter’s Dossier

My great grandfather’s police department file is resting peacefully on the corner of my desk following a traumatic mission of frantic scanning and digital organizing.  Fortunately, nearly every single piece of paper in that file has a date on it, which will make it easy to fill in some of the blanks for Walter.  Even better, some of those papers coincide with some of the articles in the scrapbooks.

I will try to weave the testimony from the court case and the police department records into the articles from the scrapbook to fill out the story a little more than I could with just the scrapbooks.

Stay tuned for a story riddled with deception, intrigue, debauchery, and more!


Meet Walter Gallagher

Walter W. Gallagher is the eldest son of William J. “Little Billy” Gallagher.  He followed in his father’s footsteps in the entertainment industry, acting as manager for several of his father’s establishments, and even running a few of his own.


Walter Gallagher business card

This is his business card when he was Manager at Billy Gallagher’s Broadway Gardens Restaurant:






Rainbo Gardens Card (Atlantic City) - Walter Gallagher Manager

Here is another when he was Manager at Rainbo Gardens in Atlantic City:






And he was running the Monte Carlo “barely out of his teens” – and the media was predicting a bright future for him!

Wally Gallagher runs Monte Carlo - no date Wally Gallagher, son of the popular Billy Gallagher, is putting over the handsome Monte Carlo all by himself.  Although scarcely out of his teens he already knows all the tricks of the trade and he seldom, if ever, has anything put over on him.  There’s no prettier restaurant in town than the “Monte,” formerly the Club Maurice, and Wally conducts it in a high class manner.  He sure is a “chip of the old block,” it being a case of like father like son, and if Wally keeps on as he is going some day he may be as popular as his dad – if such a thing is possible – as up to date no one yet has been able to endanger Billy Gallagher’s reign as the king of restaurateurs.

In June 1929, Walter applied for and was appointed as a patrolman in the Ridgefield (NJ) Police Department, where he would become popular in a whole different way.


Stay tuned!


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!