Organized Crime

Gangster Era Reborn: Unearthed Crime Scenes from New York’s Prohibition Underworld

Nearly 100 years later, there's still new information to discover.

THE END FOR LITTLE AUGIE – OCTOBER 16, 1927

Jacob Orgen Mugshot
Courtesy of the New York Municipal Archives

A mere 34 years old at the time of his death, Jacob “Little Augie” Orgen was already a legend. He started his career in the early 1910s as a labor slugger under the equally legendary Benjamin “Dopey Benny” Fein, survived the three labor slugger wars and outlived fierce rivals like Nathan “Kid Dropper” Kaplan and Johnny Spanish. With the advent of Prohibition, Orgen expanded his empire to include ambitious gunmen and future organized crime legends like Jack “Legs” Diamond, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, the latter two being instrumental in the formation of the infamous Murder, Inc.

Unfortunately for Orgen, it would be his contentment with arcane labor slugging and not having the ambition to infiltrate and take over labor unions that likely lead to his final betrayal.

While walking with bodyguard Diamond down Delancey and Norfolk streets around 8:30 p.m., Orgen was ambushed by two assailants, reputed to be Buchalter and Shapiro. A dozen shots were fired at Diamond and Orgen before they could run. Orgen was killed instantly by a bullet through the right temple. A wounded Diamond managed to return fire and hit the getaway car, which was later found abandoned.

A former police captain had ran into Orgen two weeks before his slaying and had urged the gangster to leave New York.

“If you want to live, go west to some small town and settle down there,” the captain reportedly said. “You’ve been a man-slayer and it’ll come back to you, if you don’t get out of the way.”

“I’ve been going straight,” Orgen laughed. “I’ve cut out all that stuff and I want them to forget me.”1

With this area being well-populated, police and citizens surrounded the murdered gangster’s body within minutes. The ripped open shirt indicates the police attempted to save his life. His bodyguard, Jack Diamond, was immediately taken to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds.

Body and scene of Jacob Orgen, 9348a: Courtesy of the New York Municipal Archives
Onlookers gawk at Orgen’s body, the man the New York Times once called the “King of Gangdom”

Body and scene of Jacob Orgen, 9348b: Courtesy of the New York Municipal Archives

Sources

  1. “Bury ‘Little Augie’ Today Under Guard” The New York Times, October 17, 1927

16 comments

  1. Are there anymore gangsters pictures from the archives? They were incredible. The Vincent Coll pictures were insane. I’d love to see some of Maseria and Marrazano. That would be incredible. Please let everyone know if there’s anymore being released. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for checking it out, Jonathan! So Masseria and Maranzano photos remain big targets for me. My take is they have to be somewhere, just a matter of if the Archives have it or the NYPD themselves. Believe it or not, even all these decades later there’s still records the NYPD haven’t transferred over to the Archives. There’s definitely more gangster photos. The tricky thing with the searches is that a lot of times the names are completely misspelled due the officers who arrived on scene (you’ll notice this on some of the pictures as that’s how they’re listed in the Archives records). So, it’s really a grind to go through the records but so worth it when you find gems like these. Rest assured, once the pandemic slows down and the Archives are open to the public, I’ll be right back in there searching.

      1. Couldn’t email you directly but try this – At the bottom of the first page on the site, you should should see a list of numbers going horizontally across the page in little boxes. Each of these represents a different page with the pictures. If you’re on a mobile device, it’ll be right before title of the next article.

    1. Appreciate the support James and I absolutely loved your Youtube video! You put a big smile on my face and I’ll proudly carry that new favorite person title haha Once the pandemic slows down and the Archives reopen, I plan to get right back in there digging for more gems.

  2. Amazing pictures. Nice research Ismael. I enjoyed it including the stories that go with it. I hope you find more (Greetings from the Netherlands)

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