The Usual ‘Unusual’ Suspects

“I was immediately struck by the number of young Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry, and all talking in low, earnest voices to solid and prosperous Americans.”

The Great Gatsby

I’d like to go back to another Max Gerlach conundrum. On Max’s 1942 World War II Draft Registration Card, Gerlach gives the name of James F. Pershing of 17 East 55th Street as a “person who will always know” his address. [1] No real explanation is provided. The field was typically filled in with the details of your nearest relative. Married men would usually name their wives. Single men or widowed men would usually enter the details of their parents, a sibling, a friend or employer. For whatever reason, Max names James F. Pershing of 17 East 55th Street as the person who was most likely to have this information. And because there is little chance the men were related by blood, it may be reasonable to infer that Pershing Jr was someone that Max knew in either a personal or professional capacity. Whatever the reason, Max would appear to have been in touch with him on a regular basis and might have occasionally felt obliged to inform him of his movements.

Extraordinarily enough, the man that named in this column was the nephew of General John J. Pershing, the legendary US Army Officer who led the hunt for Pancho Villa in Mexico in 1916 and acted as Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in the WWI. He was big deal then and he is a big deal now. In her interview with Henry Dan Piper in March 19147, Zelda Fitzgerald is alleged to have said that Max was a ‘nephew of General Pershing or something’. [2] This was patently not the case, but the reason for her confusion may be simple enough to explain: Zelda had been confused after being introduced to both men at the parties that she and Scott attended in Great Neck, or Max, for whatever reason, was being introduced as the General’s nephew (perhaps as a way of greasing his way into the more privileged elites). Thankfully, the information we have on James is a little less ambiguous than it is on Max.

At 26 years of years of age, James F. Pershing had enlisted with the Motor Supply Depot of the Medical Department in December 1918 before moving across to the Sanitary Corps as a Lieutenant in July 1918. [3] After his discharge from the army in 1919, James continued his work as President of the Nonpareil Fuel Corporation before taking up an appointment as Assistant Director of the New York State under Director Ralph A. Day. [4] An announcement was made to this effect in February 1922, but by August the young man had resigned. In a statement he made to the press, Pershing Jr explained that the role of Assistant Director had grown ‘distasteful” to him. The $3000 salary was unattractive and the work was odious. Once he had seen out his notice in September, James said he intended to give his full attention to the affairs of the family business, the New York Mortgage Company, at that time being run by ‘War Bonds’ man, Oscar Price and the company’s chief, James F. Pershing Sr. [5]

A short time later, the full dramatic truth of his ‘resignation’ emerged; Pershing Jr had in fact been forced to quit. According to Federal Investigators, New York’s two prohibition directors had been complicit in the disappearance of 4,900 cases of Auld Scotch whisky and 295 cases of Champagne from a US Customs held at the Republic Storage Warehouse on the corner of 12th Avenue and West 45th Street. It was claimed that the pair had accepted cash from ‘King’ of New York bootleggers, Emanuel ‘Mannie’ Kessler, a criminal associate of Arnold Rothstein. [6] The liquor would be reappropriated on forged customs permits and Kessler, using trucks organised by Rothstein’s man, Frank Costello, would haul the cases from the Hudson Yard warehouse to Long Island and load them on to boats moored off The Sound ready for distribution along the coast. [7] Pershing Jr, who requested but was refused immunity declined to testify. [8]

The most extraordinary development was yet to come. Among the Prohibition Agents serving under Pershing Jr at this time was Henry W. Grunewald, the man who just five years earlier had compiled an intelligence report on Pershing Jr’s friend, Max Stork Gerlach for the Bureau of Investigation. In November 1922, Grunewald along with six other ‘dry agents’ were charged with conspiring to defraud the US government of duties and taxes on thousands of dollars’ worth of liquor. [9] As the whole embarrassing scandal was being played out in court, Pershing’s uncle, General Pershing, was quickly rethinking his plans about where he would write his memoirs. Press interest in the case was now spiralling out of control, and the damage that it was doing to the Pershing name, and to the estimated sales of his book, were beginning to look irreversible.

In September it was being reported that the General was arranging to lease the home of opera impresario, Oscar Hammerstein at Elm Point. The house, a modestly-sized colonial style affair was located on the north-westernmost fringes of the Great Neck peninsula. [10] Just down the road from Hammerstein at 6 Gateway Drive was Scott Fitzgerald, the author and his family having newly arrived from Minnesota. Among the General’s neighbours was Sam H. Harris, the rags-to-riches Broadway producer at that time working with Scott on his Gatsby-prototype play,  The Vegetable. The current occupant of the house was Hammerstein’s son, the songwriter and theatre manager, Arthur Hammerstein, whose legendary work with his father for Otto Kahn and the Metropolitan and Chicago opera companies would almost certainly have brought him into contact with several associates of Gerlach. [11] The man who is most likely to have brought these vastly two different cliques together was Damon Runyon, the swashbuckling Hearst reporter who had accompanied General Pershing on the Villa Expedition and then introduced him to his friends in opera. One of those friends was the legendary Enrico Caruso, the dramatic tenor that Hammerstein had helped turn into a household name. At the other extreme of Runyon’s circle was Owney Madden and Arnold Rothstein, two of New York’s most notorious gangsters who would generously grease the wheels of Runyon’s drink and gambling benders. [12] According to his biographer, Jimmy Breslin, Runyon had even dreamed of forming a company with his two formidable heroes; the name of Pershing would guarantee the respect of the nation’s elites, and Caruso would ensure the glamour and the box-office draw. [13] Pershing’s appearances in Great Neck are documented in Scott’s letters from this period: “Great Neck is a great place for celebrities—it being the habitat of Mae Murray, Frank Craven, Herbert Swope … Samuel Goldwyn, Ring Lardner … General Pershing. It is most amusing after the dull healthy middle west.” [14] The man handling negotiations for the lease of the Hammerstein property was the General’s brother, James F. Pershing Sr.

As news broke of Ralph A. Day’s indictment and the demands for Pershing Jr to testify at the trial, the General seems to have changed his mind about the move. By October, the General was informing the press that the house deal had fallen through in Great Neck. He’d be writing his memoirs somewhere else, perhaps on the infinitely more secluded Naushon Island between Buzzard’s Bay and the Vineyard Sound. [15] Whether he actually went through with the alternative plan remains unknown although he certainly used the playground island to vocation from time to time. Scott’s letters, written sometime after October 1922, suggest that the General stayed in Great Neck. Here he could relax among his much cherished ring of opera and theatre stars, his occasional bursts of writing frequently interrupted by invites from his and Fitzgerald’s friend, Tallulah Bankhead and the colourful Broadway set hanging off the coat-tails of that ever-adventurous trader in gangster-chic, Damon Runyon.

Murray W. Garsson

The man who seems to have been pulling all the strings backstage at the New York Department of Prohibition and the illicit arrangement it had with Kessler, was Murray W. Garsson, a man of mysterious origin, reportedly born in London who, according to his own creatively massaged entry in the Who’s Who of American Jewry, had served as a captain in the ‘Special Services’ department of New York Police under Commissioner, Arthur H. Woods during the 1914 to 1918 period. [16] Based on information learned during a 1946 Senate inquiry, it seems that Garsson’s tenure in the NYPD had been brought to crashing halt when he was questioned as a material witness in an undisclosed murder case. Soon after, Garsson, now a fully-paid up member of the New York Republican Club, had started a film company, helping to distribute, for no apparent fee, America’s first anti-Communist propaganda film, Dangerous Hours. [17] This film, and others that followed, received the backing of National Americanism Commission, an aggressively patriotic off-shoot of the newly launched American Legion who had been formed in opposition to the undemocratic excesses of Revolutionary Communism. The work that Garsson appears to have performed for the Commission appears to have come off the back of the support he had provided in raising funds for the War Bonds campaign under US Secretary of Treasury, William McAdoo and his assistant, Oscar Price. [18]

In January 1920 Franklin K. Lane, the founding chief of the Commission, was replaced by Garsson’s old boss at the NYPD, Commissioner Arthur Woods. After leaving the Police Department, Woods has been drafted in as a Colonel in the US Army. Now he was a respected figure at the newly launched American Legion and a trusted ally of US Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover. Through his ongoing work with the Legion and the National (New York) Republican Club, Woods was tasked with promoting “100% Americanism”. The films that Garsson (and others) produced acted as a supporting mechanism in the group’s obsessive bid to the prevent the inevitable slide toward Bolshevism among the thousands of unemployed ex-Servicemen, and the swelling number of immigrants fleeing from Central and Eastern Europe. Woods and the Commission had been persuaded that in order to promote “100% Americanism” among members of the Legion, it would first need to be defined, and some kind of consensus reached across its broad and cross-party member base. Only then would it be able to gain traction among the local labour unions and improve accord between the two main political parties and the various clubs and groups promoting strong American values. [19] The ball got rolling in 1918 with the release of 100% American in theatres across the States The film, made by the Famous Players Lasky Studio and starring Mary Pickford (a 100% Canadian at the time the film was made), told the beautiful, heroic journey of a girl who donates her precious Liberty war bond to a friend. The actress, the press were quick to emphasise, had purchased several hundred thousand dollars of war bonds herself. Shortly after the film’s release, the studio printed a full page tribute to the scheme in the New York Times. ‘One third of the American people visited movie-theatres’, the advert trumpeted. A word of thanks was now going out from the people who made this possible — the ‘silent salesmen’ of the American Dream. [20] After his death in November 1928 (alleged to have been over deals of bootleg liquor to Cuba), Arnold Rothstein — the Meyer Wolfshiem of the Gatsby novel — was rumoured to have made as much as $5 million in stolen liberty bonds. That Fitzgerald’s novel revealed the sinister, criminal underbelly of trade in illegal bonds may well have chimed with Famous Players boss, Jesse Lasky whose studio produced the first-movie version of Gatsby for Paramount in 1926. [21]

In the early 1920s Garsson, possibly on account of his voracious gambling habit, had somehow been drawn into bootlegging and racketeering, first with men like Mannie Kessler and Dutch Schultz and then with Owney Madden, co-owner of the El Fey Club with Larry Fay and a good friend of General Pershing’s pal, Damon Runyon. The adrenalin rush that came at the poker table was now being stimulated and consumed by the risks of illegal enterprise. Supported by the strong arm of Madden and his boys, Garsson and his brother Irving — another of the Dry Agents charged alongside Day and Grunewald in October 1922 — arranged protection for the profusion of speakeasies, bars and restaurants operating clandestinely in Broadway and the Lower East Side. Astonishingly, just a few years later, Garsson would be appointed as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Labour by President Herbert Hoover. It is alleged that within weeks of his appointment, Garsson would be seen in Cuba flashing his Bureau of Immigration badge around, busting human smuggling gangs and also, so its alleged, engaged in illegal arms sales. [22] Life in Havana was good. Rothstein’s men Meyer Lansky  and Lucky Luciano had made credible gains in the gambling and racketeering markets here, and the locals were gradually coming round to the uncompromising ideals of Mafia-freedom.

By 1940, Garsson was working from Gerlach’s old 42 Broadway address on a much bigger arms project. Immediately prior to the war, and with no prior sales and manufacturing experience in the industry, Murray and his brother Henry set up a munitions company — Erie Basin Metal Products Inc. Within weeks of the deadly attack on Pearl Harbour, Garsson travelled to Cuba with Andrew J. Day, Chief of America’s  Military Affairs Committee. [23] Although Day denied being aware of Garsson’s presence on the trip, it was learned subsequently that the men shared adjoining rooms at the same hotel in Havana. In the Senate inquiry that followed at the end of the war, it was discovered that May had awarded corrupt war contracts in excess of $70 million to Murray and Henry Garsson. After failing to defend charges of war profiteering, all three men were sentenced to a two and half year stretch in prison.

Six years after his release, Murray W. Garsson died in abject poverty at the home of a friend. Among those not mourning his passing was director and screenwriter John Farrow. Shortly before his removal as special assistant to the Secretary of Labor, William M. Doak, Garsson had launched a blistering crackdown on all non-American movie professionals. Farrow was the second of his arrests, the first being Duncan Renaldo, a Romanian-born actor who would later find fame as The Cisco Kid. It was alleged the Farrow, an Australian, had overstayed his leave in the country and was faced with deportation. Hollywood reacted with fury, with many of its best known faces, including Farrow’s future wife Mauren O’ Sullivan, threatening to boycott the American movie industry forever.  [24] The far reaching probe into overstayed permits, an obvious demonstration of strength on Hoover’s nativist policy of eliminating inward migration, was threatening a mass exodus of foreign talent at the country’s most vulnerable point of entry — Los Angeles. ‘US Eclipse Looms’, bawled the headlines. As usual, America was pushing and enforcing policy in the most theatrical of ways. It was shock and awe tactics at the level of public relations. Hoover had no sooner arrived in office than he was pushing his ‘National Origins’ bill through Senate. If Hoover got his way there would be a strict quota on immigrants for each country, and totally exclude those from Asia. [25] The headlines that followed Garsson’s sensational warning to the stars ensured the message was being heard, not just in America but around the world. [26] In the 1940s it was disclosed that at the same that Garsson, was embarking on his campaign of intimation against visa-defying actors, this shamelessly ambitious  risk-taker  was paying upwards of $50,000 to suppress the deportation of his mobster friend, Owney Madden. [27]

In a bizarre twist of fate, it turns out that Farrow had originally been hired to direct Alan Ladd in the Paramount production of The Great Gatsby in 1949.  Farrow remained on the production for several months but left after a disagreement with producer Richard Maibaum about the casting of Daisy Buchanan. There would be a similar disagreement in 1974 when Farrow’s daughter Mia was cast in the role. [28]

17 East 55th Street

After his resignation from the Department of Prohibition, James F. Pershing Jr disappears from the news columns entirely. The sequence of events, as far as we are able to ascertain, has James leave his role at the New York Mortgage Company and take up a position at the Chelsea Management Corporation, where he serves for the next ten years as the company’s Vice President. Chelsea Management, formed in the early 1930s to rescue the ever-decreasing fortunes of property developers, the Mandel Group, was part of a huge and dominating series of companies owned and founded by Henry Mandel, the man who built Pershing Square near Grand Central Station. In later years, Mandel’s grandson, William, a talented student of art with firm links to the Labor movement, would battle it out with Joseph McCarthy at the House Un-American Activities Hearings over the latter’s paranoid delusions about a Soviet fifth column in America. In the late 1940s, Chelsea Management would feature in a list of companies identified by the FBI in their investigation into Abraham Brothman, a member of the Chelsea section of the Communist Party of America, who was suspected of spying for Russia. [29] Among Brothman’s wider circle was Julius Rosenberg, who with his wife Ethel was executed in June 1953 for sharing highly confidential military and atomic secrets with the Soviets. Interestingly, Pershing Jr’s 17 East 55th Street address features in his FBI file too. The man who is believed to have been residing at this wasn’t Rosenberg himself but Richard Dennis Flanagan, a 21 year old intern at Life and Time magazine. Ten years later Flanagan would be involved in another ‘spy’ sensation. Now serving as co-editor of Scientific America, Flanagan was questioned by the FBI over the role he had played in preparing for publication, an article written by atomic scientist and suspected Communist, Hans Bethe. According to reports Bethe had been making the argument that America’s development of the H-Bomb was making the country more vulnerable to hostile actions rather than more secure. Although the government suggested that it was the technical aspects of Bethe’s article that had led to it being censored, there’s no hiding the fact that comments made by the Los Alamos scientist had brought him into direct conflict with the newly formed Atomic Energy Commission. [30] The article was seized, shredded and then all 3,000 copies of the magazine were burned. [31] Pro-Soviet and anti-American sentiments were believed to have played their part in the paper’s destruction and Flanagan would spend much of that year defending his and the magazine’s decision to print the views expressed by Bethe. In some ways, the incident couldn’t have been any more apt, because in February 1943, just six months after arriving as Major at Fort Wingate — the depot that supplied over 100 tons of Composition B high explosives to the Manhattan Project — Pershing’s brother Frank was redeployed to the relative mundanity of dispatching medical supplies at the Pueblo Depot in Colorado. [32] Although no particular reason was given, one wonders if his brother’s shameful record at the New York Prohibition office, and the vociferous, defiant stand that his uncle had taken against the non-action of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the summer and autumn of 1940, had played their own quiet but significant part in Frank’s transfer. [33]

James F. Pershing’s 17 East 55th Street address would also play a part in the life of James Fiene Hodgson, a long-time member of the American Consular Service Association, whose retirement details are recorded in the Foreign Service Journal of 1953 and onwards. [34] Like Scott’s brother-in-law Newman Smith, Hodgson had begun his illustrious career in Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Administration. The immediate post-war period had seen the loyal and indefatigable officer  serving as District Supervisor of Operations in Odessa, Ukraine. When Gerlach was residing at Hoover’s 42 Broadway address, the former West Point cadet was in Russia ensuring the vital distribution of relief with boots on the ground support from Gerlach’s army sponsor, Cushman A. Rice. After observing Hodgson’s sad, impossible task in Russia, Rice had come to the same conclusion as Hoover: for all those Americans who sympathized with the Soviet or were “dissatisfied” with the American Constitution, they should spend some time in Odessa. [35] The 31 year old Hodgson had headed out to Russia with his family in December 1921 and remained there some two years, eventually heading back home to the US in October 1923 after spending an unspecified period of time in Moscow with Colonel William Haskell. [36] On his return to New York, Hodgson was re-recruited by Hoover, first as his Commercial attaché in Cairo and then as his personal assistant at the Department of Commerce in Washington. [37] When Hoover succeeded Calvin Coolidge as President in 1929, Hodgson was immediately appointed chief of the district offices of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce in New York. In his boastful interviews with the press, Hoover made it clear that he was going run The White House like a business. His approach to the Presidency was simple: he was going to tackle the Depression Era America as one ‘vast engineering project’. If any top-flight businessman should arrive in New York from abroad, Hoover wanted to know about it. America would be approached as a ‘reconstruction’ program, and men like Hodgson would apply the diplomacy and hawk-like sensitivity to opportunity, progress and rehabilitation that they had brought to bear in Hoover’s post-war Relief Administration. [38]

Whilst James F. Pershing Jr appears to have been retained by Henry Mandell’s Chelsea Management Corporation, there’s no evidence that the company ever had offices at East 55th Street. In 1942, the company was in fact operating from 28 East 10th Street on the eastern flanks of Greenwich Village, near Union Square. In a copy of the New York Times dated January 1942, it is reported that the same five storey business property had just been purchased by Brett, Wyckoff, Potter and Hamilton for an undisclosed investor. The 17 East 55th Street plot, 16.8 by 100 feet had been valued at $82,000. [39] Several years later, agents representing the Federal Bureau of Investigation would search the offices of the company for any information that might shed light on Communist activities in the Philippines, in an investigation that appears to have been triggered by interest in the activities of the League of American Writers. It would be the same 17 East 55th Street address that would feature several times in the FBI investigations into Julius Rosenberg and Klaus Fuchs.

What Pershing Jr was actually doing at East 55th Street, and whether any of the things that he was doing here reflected personal or business affairs, isn’t known. The purchase of the building plot in January 1942 suggests there may have been a period of transition in ownership and use. However, in the period that Pershing was based here, the property also appears to have been among a number of offices being used by publisher, Howell, Soskin & Co, a brand new publishing venture that had taken control of Stackpole Sons. In 1939, Stockpole’s groundbreaking translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf had created something of a sensation among the uncommonly vigilant members of the House of Un-American Activities committee. How the publisher’s new executive editor, William Soskin had acquired the translation remains the subject of debate, with some alleging that Intelligence man, William J. Donovan with the support of propaganda specialists, the British Security Corporation, had put it in his hands. The idea is not without some merit as Soskin’s new publishing company, Howell, Soskin & Co, had drafted in Frank J. Manheim, an expert in International Relations, as President. Within twelve months Manheim would be recruited for Donovan’s fledgling OSS — America’s precursor to the CIA. The second sensation came in the summer of 1940 when yet another translation fell into Soskin’s hands. This time, Soskin had the full support of the Berlin Foreign Office. The German White Paper as it became known, was the brainchild of Nazi propagandist, Dr Manfred Zapp. The book consisted of papers, allegedly seized in Poland, that made the shocking revelation that America’s Ambassador to France,  William C. Bullitt, was presently engaged in secret discussions that would seal America’s entry into World War II — contrary to the more cautious government policy that was being promoted, somewhat reluctantly, by President Roosevelt.

Unbeknown to the Nazis, British and American Intelligence had been covertly using the release of the paper to inform the American public of the full scale of the Nazi threat as experienced and shared by Ambassador Bullitt in France. Shortly after publication, Bullitt submitted his resignation and a full and immediate inquiry was launched into the whole Soskin, Howell affair. In August that year, Bullitt addressed the American people from Independence Square in Philadelphia, bluntly predicting an imminent attack on the United States of America by a relentless and totally uncompromising German war machine whose appetite for global domination was increasing by the day. “America is in danger”, he said gravely. Bullitt then asked the people to contact their senators and representatives and tell them that they backed General Pershing. [40] The previous year, James’ uncle  John J. ‘Black Jack’ Pershing — a leading voice in the pro-war lobby of 1916 — had demanded that President Roosevelt shore-up Britain’s defences with the donation of another fifty naval destroyers. Both men were supported by Intelligence man, Colonel William J. Donovan,  who was now advancing the theory that Hitler’s marauding success in Europe was down not to his passionate and well-drilled military but to his sympathizers in Europe and Latin America. The message that Donovan was pushing was that German spies were now actively engaged in espionage at every level — everywhere. [41] The inquiry into the whole German White Paper affair that followed in November that year would, perhaps unintentionally, help substantiate Donovan’s claims. The war wasn’t over there, it was over here. The whole stunt had been a genius stroke of entrapment; a sleepwalking American public was suddenly roused from their slumbers by news that a secret column of Nazi spies and sympathizers were jamming the liberty-loving mechanisms of American democracy in the most devious of ways. The German Embassy in Washington could do little more than watch as several Nazi officials were charged with espionage. The Embassy wasn’t the only casualty. After being lined up as Bullitt’s successor in France, General John J. Pershing was left with very little option but to decline the appointment on ‘health’ grounds. The two men had been close allies for years, and the General’s appointment would have been a significant and practical boost among those lobbying for intervention on behalf of France and Britain. [42] Everybody was looking to Pershing to carry the torch of his old friend, but for the next fifteen months at least, the flame died.

One of the addresses being used by the publishers of the German White Paper was, incidentally, 17 East 55th Street — the building that was at that time being shared by Pershing’s nephew — and Gerlach’s draft buddy — James Fletcher Pershing Jr. [43] Whatever their agendas, the backgrounds of all four men — Gerlach, Grunewald, Garsson and Nosovitzky — remain a secret and perplexing mystery.

Henry W. Grunewald. 100% American. One 100% Corrupt

In 1953, Jim Pershing Jr’s old pal Harry Grunewald — the man who questioned Gerlach over rumours that he was spying for Germany —  became the subject of a Senate inquiry every bit as sensational as the one into their old friend, Murray Garsson. It seems that Grunewald, dubbed by the press as a ‘mysterious wirepuller in Washington’, had been involved in arranging various illegal tax schemes featuring senior members of both the Republic and Democratic parties. The charges dwarfed anything he had faced as Ralph A. Day’s personal investigator in the Federal bust of the New York Prohibition Department back in 1922. By comparison, the bungs that he and Day had taken from Mannie Kessler and his bagman, Murray Garsson, had amounted to little more than small change.  There was another bombshell three years later when a further inquiry revealed that Grunewald had been paid $75,000 by the Chinese Government to purchase 100 fighter planes in defiance of government policy. Grunewald said he wasn’t certain of the dates, but it was probably when the Japanese were threatening British interests in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).

Since his shameful exit from the New York Prohibition Department, Grunewald had become the go-to man for getting dirt on everyone from judges to district attorneys. Politics didn’t even come into it. Just as it was for Rothstein, it was always about the cash and the sheer uncomplicated joy of wielding power. Among his broad and unfussy parade of clients was Union leader, John L. Lewis, a hardened isolationist who had broken with Roosevelt on entry into the Second World War, and sprawling media behemoths like the American Broadcasting Company. Another of his clients had been Pan American Airways, and it had been his involvement in the wiretapping of their rival, Howard Hughes. Unfortunately for Grunewald, it had been this relatively routine job for the airline that had first put him under the scrutiny of Washington Merry G-Round journalist, Drew Pearson. Word about Grunewald had bubbling to the surface for months and Pearson would later say that it was only the intervention of Grunewald’s friend, Joseph McCarthy that prevented him from being exposed much earlier. [44]

Among the more controversial individuals that Grunewald had helped over the years was Tommy Corcoran, the reconstruction and New Deal wizard who was then serving as advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt — a man who had been given unconditional by Grunewald’s whistleblower, Drew Pearson during his 1933 presidential campaign. If you wanted unsavoury information about your rivals, Grunewald was the man for the job. His ability to ignore all the traditional political and ethical boundaries that narrowed the field of his rivals meant he was always in demand. From his swank Westchester apartment, the gravel-voiced fixer, fluent in German, moved from lifting top secret documents of the German High Command from their hiding place in the Swiss Consulate to being a top-tier public relations man to the some of the prominent names in Congress. He could even count the former US Secretary of War, harry Hines Woodring, among his friends. Nothing and no one was off-limits. After several years of inquiries, the ‘influence peddler’ was sentenced to five years in prison for tax fixing. Just two weeks before Gerlach died at Bellevue Hospital in New York, Grunewald, the ‘colourful mystery man’ suffered a fatal stroke in Washington. At the time of his death, he was awaiting a third trial on conspiring to fix income tax lawsuits. [45]

Like Garsson, Grunewald stonewalled any attempt by the press to get a clearer picture of his early life and career. Although his 1917 draft papers and his various passport applications and census entries all state that he was born in America to German parents, the press had other ideas. At the height of the inquiry, news started coming through that a 17 year old Grunewald had arrived in New York from South Africa in the early 1900s. According to the details he supplied on his ship manifest, he was German. [46] In 1910, Grunewald became a clerk in the US Navy at Newport, Rhode Island and in 1914 he joined the Bureau of Investigation. The whole thing was ambiguous at best. Either Grunewald had spent some time in South Africa and returned to the United States, or he had lied on both his passport applications, his census records and his draft records. Grunewald’s passport application in 1923 states that he had visited Germany in 1908 and his marriage certificate informs us that his parents were Heinrich Wilhelm Grunewald and Anna Wieben. [47] At some point in 1917 Grunewald was tasked by the Justice Department with building a case against anarchist, Emma Goldman and it was also in June that year that he compiled his rather shallow and unimpressive intelligence report on Max Stork Gerlach. Grunewald’s efforts to stamp out anarchism in the USA came to head in 1919 when acting as head of a private detective agency, he spearheaded raids on Ludwig Martens’ so-called ‘Soviet Bureau’ on West 40th Street, work that led directly to Palmer Raids — the most brutal and comprehensive sweep of anarchists and communist sympathizers to date. [48] The legendary ‘Red Scare’ had been born and Harry Grunewald was leading the charge.

During the course of the Senate Inquiry into Grunewald’s affair in the 1950s, it was learned that ‘The Dutchman’, as he was now being referred to by the press, had been recruited for special assignments early on in his detective career by millionaire anti-Communist, Henry W. Marsh. Marsh, who had earned his wealth in Insurance Brokerage was something of a mystery-man himself. As an ultra-nationalist trustee of the American Defense Society, Marsh had lobbied hard for American intervention into World War 1 and the cultural marginalisation of ‘hyphenated’ Americas (German-Americans). After the war had finished, Marsh, together with the support of the Society’s President, Theordore Roosevelt and fellow-trustee, Lothrop Stoddard switched their attention to the ‘American Bolsheveki’. [49] On the one hand he was the great summation of the American Dream and on the other, a slippery, elusive wirepuller for the British. Marsh’s cosy relationship with the British Secret Service in America resulted in several audacious plots — the most sensational of them being the recruitment of ex-Soviet spy (and probable double agent) Jacob Nosovitzky. [50] The pair’s relationship with the British Secret Service adds an intriguing new dimension to Gatsby’s English affectations and the large number of well-dressed Englishmen “dotted about” at Gatsby’s parties. Marsh was a notorious anglophile. In fact his fondness for England ran so deep that for several months of the year he would lease Warwick Castle from the Earl of Warwick where he would entertain friends like Charles Spencer-Churchill, the 9th Earl of Marlborough, first cousin of Winston Churchill.

In September 1925, Nosovitsky revealed that Marsh, working closely with Scotland Yard and J. Edgar Hoover, had hired him on behalf of a private organisation made-up of capitalist businessmen from around the world.  His job, he was told, was to infiltrate the Communist Party of America and sabotage it from within. Accompanying Marsh to the pair’s first meeting at the Hotel Plaza in 1921 was ex-Commissioner Woods, the man who appears to have been personally responsible for recruiting Grunewald’s bootlegging associate — and fellow arms trader — Murray W. Garsson into the ‘special services’ department of the NYPD in the previous decade. Nosovitzky’s name would crop again in 1937 when he was declared the main suspect in the kidnap and murder of old Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr — the two year old son of  aviator, and future anti-war activist, Charles Lindbergh. In a worrying twist it transpires that Grunewald’s old bootlegging associate, Murray W. Garsson had attempted to shift the focus of the Police investigation onto the parents themselves when he volunteered to ‘solve’ the case in March 1932.

Just how long James F. Pershing Jr remained with the New York Mortgage Company isn’t known, but the appointment of Oscar Price as President of the company in April 1925 is an interesting one, as it had been Price who had assisted Secretary McAdoo in the State-wide Liberty Bonds campaign of 1918. According to the 1946 Senate inquiry,  Pershing Jr’s liquor associate, Murray W. Garsson, ably assisted by his newly formed ‘Film Foundation’ had also played a role in raising these Liberty funds with Price and McAdoo. After the success of Mary Pickford’s 100% American, the group had immediately got to work on producing Knocking Knockers starring Pickford’s fiancée, Douglas Fairbanks Snr, another Treasury-backed effort made specifically to promote the War Bonds effort. [51] Before long, Price along with Fairbanks, Pickford and Chaplin — the movie industry’s most successful fundraisers for the first and second war bonds campaigns — formed United Artists, with McAdoo brought in by Chaplin as company counsel. [52] 1925 would also be the year that Scott’s book cover designer, Francis Cugat would relocate to Hollywood to begin his job as Fairbank’s set-designer. [53] Joining Price and Pershing in their New York Mortgage concerns was Veterans chief, General Frank T. Hines, who would provide Garsson with support at the US Department of Labor, when he served as assistant secretary during the Hoover administration of 1929-33.

[1] Kruse, pp.42-43. The property was just a few streets down from the Hotel Plaza in Mid-Manhattan.

[2] ‘How are you and the family, old sport’?, Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual, C. E. Frazer Clark, Matthew Joseph Bruccoli, 1975, p.33

[3] The Pershing Family in America, George Ferguson & Company,  1924, p.236

[4] ‘Pershing Nephew Dry Agent’, Washington Times, February 17, 1922, p.1

[5] ‘Behind the Screen in Hollywood’, The Enterprise, April 2, 1925, p.6

[6] ‘Pershing Nephew Quits Post with Dry Forces’, New York Tribune, August 15, 1922, p.4

[7] Costello v. United States, 365 U.S. 265, 81 S. Ct. 534 (1961)

[8] ‘Dry Director Day is Hailed Into Court’, New York Times, 27 October 1922, p.1

[9] Dismissed Rum Jury Indicts 30 Men, 3 Firms, New York Tribune, November 24, 1922

[10] ‘General Pershing Purchases Hammerstein Residence’, Boston Sunday Globe, September 24, 1922, p.6; ‘House Where Pershing Will Write His Memoirs’, Midweek Pictorial  October 5, 1922, Vol 16, No.6, 00040

[11] ‘General Pershing Buys Hammerstein Residence’, Boston Sunday Globe, September 24, 1922, p.6. Gerlach appears to have known opera singers, Lydia Lindgren (coached by Hammerstein star Mary Garden) and Alice Peroux-Williams.

[12] Damon Runyon, Jimmy Breslin, Ticknor & Fields, 1991. The man who looked after Caruso in America was his old friend, Tommy Francis who became racing adviser to the Black Hand crime syndicate.

[13] Damon Runyon, Jimmy Breslin, Ticknor & Fields, 1991, p.180. Runyon is believed to have based a character in the musical Guys and Dolls on Rothstein.

[14] ‘Dear Cousin Cecie’, after October 1922, Great Neck, Long Island,  A Life in Letters, p.63

[15] ‘Pershing in Mufti’ New York Herald, October 1, 1922, p.13; ‘Pershing at Naushon Today’, Boston Daily Globe, September 30, 1922, p.1

[16] Investigation of the National Defense Program: Hearings Before a Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program, United States Senate, Seventy-Seventh Congress, First Session-Eightieth Congress, First Session. S. Res. 71. (1946), p.17698. Neither Garsson or his family features in any British birth or census records.

[17] Investigation of the National Defense Program: Hearings Before a Special Committee, Seventy-Seventh Congress, First Session-Eightieth Congress, First Session. S. Res. 71. (1946), p.17698.  Dangerous Hours was made by Famous Players Lasky, the studio behind the first movie version of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1926). It had originally been titled American versus Bolshevism.

[18] Investigation of the National Defense Program: Hearings Before a Special Committee, Seventy-Seventh Congress, First Session-Eightieth Congress, First Session. S. Res. 71. (1946), p.17698. 

[19] ‘Ask Definition of 100% Americanism’, Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, March 7, 1920, p.12; One Hundred Per Cent American, National Republican Club, George H. Doran Company, 1918

[20] ‘The Silent salesman of Liberty — Motion Pictures!’, New York Times, October 14, 1918, p.4

[21] It is implied that Jay Gatsby was running trade in illegal bonds at the time he meets Nick.

[22] Congress: Corruption and Compromise, H. Hubert Wilson, Rinehart & Company, 1951, p.88

[23] Travel records show both Murray and Henry Garsson making regular trips to Havana in the 1930s and 1940s. It is worth noting the timing of the case against May. May had just introduced a controversial draft resolution for the Atomic Energy Act of 1946. The resolution would place America’s post-war nuclear research under the ultimate command of the military. It was believed that in peacetime the free exchange of ideas among civilian scientists was in the best interests of research.

[24] ‘US Opens Drive on Foreign Actors’, Washington Evening Star, January 28, 1933, p.2

[25] ‘Congress to Hold First Session on Sunday since 1923 over Alien Clause’, Washington Sunday/Evening Star, March 3, 1929, p.1

[26] As the US adjustment to the mass unemployment of the Great Depression, Hoover made attempts to ensure that any jobs that were available would go to American (and preferably non-Hispanic) workers. The President tasked Garsson and the Secretary of Labor with reducing the number of visa to zero.

[27] Congress: Corruption and Compromise, H. Hubert Wilson, Rinehart & Company, 1951, p.88

[28] Filming The Great Gatsby, Bruce Bahrenburg, Berkley Publishing Corporation, 1974, pp.30-31. Mia Farrow’s mother Maureen O Sullivan would later star in Two Yanks at Oxford, a screenplay that Scott had worked on in Hollywood.

[29] Names, Chelsea Management Corporation, Abraham Brothman, Federal Bureau of Investigation. During the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the Chelsea district of Manhattan was among the most Left-leaning neighbourhoods in New York. Brothman was a member of the Hettie Lapatins section of the Chelsea Communists.

[30] ‘Richard Dennis Flanagan: Security Matter’, Julius Rosenberg, Federal Bureau of Investigation October 1, 1951

[31] ‘U.S. Censors H-Bomb Data; 3,000 Magazine Copies Burnt’, New York Times, April 1, 1950, p.1

[32] ‘Major Pershing Now Stationed at Pueblo’, Desert Sun Palm Springs, February 5, 1943, p.7

[33] Just prior to his discharge from the army, a bearded Frank Pershing would win an uncredited performance in MGM film, They Were Expendable.

[34] ‘Addresses of Former Foreign Service Personnel Retired or Resigned’, Foreign Service Journal, November 1953, Vol 30, No.11, p.56

[35] ‘Col Rice Says One Trip to Soviet Russia would cure Radicals and Socialists’, The Bismarck Tribune, September 21, 1923, p.6

[36] ‘Plan to Aid Russia in Solving its Tremendous Food Problem’, Cincinnati Times Star,  December 19, 1921, p.20; ‘Last of American Crusaders Against Famine Leave Russia’, The Bradford Era, October 23, 1923, p.2; American Relief Administration Bulletin, Issues 30–39, 1922

[37] Foreign Service of the United States, Diplomatic and Consular Service, G.P.O, Washington, 1924, p.9; Indianapolis Times, May 23, 1928, p.2

[38] ‘US Trade Heads to Attend Parley’, The Evening Star, Washington DC, May 18, 1929, p. A-7; ‘Foreign Relations Gives Hoover 3 Major Tasks’, March 3, 1929, Part II, p.1; ‘America’s Sparrow Hawks of Commerce’, Washington Evening Star, March 3, 1929, Part II, p.4.

[39] 15 East 55th Street Bought, New York Times, January 16, 1942, p.38

[40] ‘Bullitt Forecasts German Invasion of US If British Fail’, Ogden Examiner, August 19, 1940, p.1

[41] ‘Donovan Says Democracies Prove Easiest for Nazis’ Fifth Column’, New York Times, August 21, 1940, p.9

[42] ‘Pershing Decline Diplomatic Post’, November 23, 1940, p.1

[43] ‘The Black Book of Fascist Horror’ (advertisement), Howell, Soskin Publishers, 17 East 55th Street, Soviet Russia Today, November 1945, Vol 14, No 7, p.30. The company had started with an office on N.E 45th Street. It’s not clear if they occupied the two locations simultaneously. The address is also occasionally given as 17 East 45th Street.

[44] ‘The Washington Merry Go Round … Mystery Man’, Drew Pearson, Yuma Sun, May 4th, 1953, p.10

[45] ‘Mister X’, Albuquerque Tribune, September 27, 1958, p.4; ‘Grunewald Dies in Capital’, New York Times, September 26, 1958, p.28

[46] Henry Grunewald, New York Passenger Lists & Arrivals, 1909, SS Oceanic, residence: Rustenburg, South Africa, b.1892. On his 1916 marriage to Christine Marie Schumacher he lists Heinrich Wilhelm Grunewald as his father, and Ann Wieben as his mother.

[47] There is a record of a 17 year old Henry Grunewald arriving in New York on the Oceanic in 1909. He had travelled via England from Rustenburg in South Africa. His date of birth ranges from 1890 to 1893.

[48] ‘Martens and Tons of Data Subpoenaed’, New York Tribune, June 1919, p.1

[49] American Defense Society Inc, National Headquarters, 1133 Broadway, NY, The Lying Lure of Bolshevism, William T. Hornaday (pamphlet) 1919

[50] It is possible that the various mentions to quiet and earnest looking Englishmen at Gatsby’s parties, and the hero’s own Anglophile tendencies are a nod and wink to British influence in American domestic and intelligence affairs. The British Secret Service had a bureau in New York including several bases on Long Island. Gatsby mentions ordering all his shirts from London and attending Oxford University.

[51] ‘Victory Loan Picture to Be Taken East by Oscar Price’, Los Angeles Daily Times, March 27, 1919, p.3

[52] Flickers of Desire: Movie Stars of the 1910s, ed. Jennifer M. Bean, Rutgers University Press, 2011, p.238

[53] Lucille Lortel: The Queen of Off Broadway, Alexis Greene, Limelight, 2004, p.43

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