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.
Crowds gather at the scene where five children were shot in a crossfire between Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll and rival gangsters. One child, 5-year old Michael Vengalli, later died.
Scene of felonious assault at 210 E 107th St., 14341D, Courtesy of The New York Municipal Archives

THE INFAMOUS HARLEM BABY MASSACRE (JULY 28, 1931)

On this hot summer day, the temperature reflected the bloodthirsty rage of one Vincent Coll. Not yet known by the “Mad Dog” nickname that would become his permanent moniker, the 23 year old had lost his brother Peter to gangland violence two months earlier. Coll was embroiled in a vicious war with his former employer, Dutch Schultz, for control of the Harlem and Bronx bootlegging trade. Coll aired daring raids and ransom kidnappings until Schultz’s gunners caught up to his brother.

Now, Coll was prowling the streets for any Schultz men to fire on. As he turned onto East 107th Street, he spotted a Schultz man, Joey Rao, standing outside of the Helmar Social Club with several bodyguards. Never mind that the scene also included several children outside playing in close vicinity.

Coll opened fire with a tommy gun, spraying the walls and front door of the social club but missing Rao and his bodyguards. His bullets did find five children. Several tore into a baby carriage, seriously wounding a 4 year old and Michael Vengalli, 5 years old, was killed.

The reckless shooting would earn Coll the revulsion of the public and underworld. Schultz and Owney Madden allegedly each put up $25,000 contracts for Coll’s head. The man now known as “Mad Dog” Coll would eventually face trial for Vengalli’s death in December 1931 but was acquitted of all charges.

Coll escaped legal justice but would soon have his reckoning with the streets two months later in February 1932.

Upon zoom-in, 10 bullet holes are seen on the stroller of 4 year old Michael Bevllaequa, who suffered serious wounds but survived.
Scene of felonious assault at 210 E 107th St., 14341A, Courtesy of The New York Municipal Archives
A wreath is placed where 5 year old Michael Vengalli was killed in the crossfire of gangster’s bullet. Additional bullets can be seen around the door, indicating the reckless nature of the shooting.
Scene of felonious assault at 210 E 107th St., 14341G, Courtesy of The New York Municipal Archives
Coll’s viewpoint before opening fire on Joey Rao.
Scene of felonious assault at 210 E 107th St., 14341B, Courtesy of The New York Municipal Archives

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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