Vanishing Point: The Disappearance of Judge Crater, and the New York He Left Behind

Overview

The sudden disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater nearly 75 years ago led to perhaps the most famous missing persons case of the twentieth century. Crater, a justice of New York's state Supreme Court, vanished amid political scandal. Within days, questions arose about Judge Crater's finances and his liaisons with numerous women. A public frenzy about what happened to Crater provided impetus for scrutiny of New York's Tammany Hall political machine—and ultimately for the vanishing of Tammany Hall as well. The cast ...
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Overview

The sudden disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater nearly 75 years ago led to perhaps the most famous missing persons case of the twentieth century. Crater, a justice of New York's state Supreme Court, vanished amid political scandal. Within days, questions arose about Judge Crater's finances and his liaisons with numerous women. A public frenzy about what happened to Crater provided impetus for scrutiny of New York's Tammany Hall political machine—and ultimately for the vanishing of Tammany Hall as well. The cast of characters in this book—the first-ever serious look at the Crater case—includes Franklin D. Roosevelt, the governor who named Crater to the bench; Senator Robert Wagner, Crater's mentor, but also the leader with the most to lose from having Crater found; Al Smith, Tammany's ebbing leader and failed presidential candidate; Jimmy Walker, the rogue Mayor of New York City and the darling of Tammany Hall; and Fiorello La Guardia, the crusading reformer who finally came to power on the back of the scandals. Richard J. Tofel's Vanishing Point is a revealing look at New York as the Jazz Age gave way to the Depression, and at one of the most intriguing stories in the annals of urban America.
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Editorial Reviews

Times Record News, Wichita Falls, TX - Gracie Gregg
Using a substantial body of evidence Tofel...offers a tentative, yet intriguing solution…
Tucson Citizen - Larry Cox
He makes the case relevant and fascinating for the reader.
Green Bag - Eugene R. Fidell
This makes for fascinating reading.
New York Daily News - Owen Moritz
Compelling.
Kevin Baker
A fascinating look at a great city’s greatest mystery.
Ric Burns
Extraordinarily deft and skillfully written...[An] admirably understated book...
Wall Street Journal
Offers a portrait of Tammany personalities and their intricate political deals...The first book to piece together his [Crater's] surprising story.
Times Record News
Using a substantial body of evidence Tofel...offers a tentative, yet intriguing solution…
— Gracie Gregg
Tucson Citizen
He makes the case relevant and fascinating for the reader.
— Larry Cox
Dallas Morning News
It's a fascinating tale, even after all these years.
Midwest Book Review
Fans of true crime and New York City politics alike will be attracted to Vanishing Point, an excellent survey.
New York Post
Tofel has written an entertaining account...For those who recognize the name, but don't know the fascinating story behind it, this is the book to read.
New York Sun
With a newspaperman's eye for drama, Tofel covers a great tale about a New York just beyond our living memory.
New York Law Journal
Excellent...a vivid portrayal...New York lawyers should find fascinating the depiction of a New York legal world...Illuminating.
Smoke
An intriguing mystery built around the author's compelling argument about the truth behind Crater's disappearance.
New York Times Book Review
Shrewd, terse, engrossing study...
Green Bag
This makes for fascinating reading.
— Eugene R. Fidell
New York Daily News
Compelling.
— Owen Moritz
The Wall Street Journal
Offers a portrait of Tammany personalities and their intricate political deals...The first book to piece together his [Crater's] surprising story.
The New York Times
Shrewd, terse, engrossing study...
Smoke
...An intriguing mystery built around the author's compelling argument about the truth behind Crater's disappearance.
New York Times Book Review
...Shrewd, terse, engrossing study....
Wall Street Journal
...Offers A Portrait Of Tammany Personalities And Their Intricate Political Deals.... The First Book To Piece Together [Crater's] Surprising Story.
New York Sun
With a newspaperman's eye for drama, Tofel covers...a great tale about a New York just beyond our living memory.
Dallas Morning News
It's a fascinating tale, even after all these years.
New York Post
Tofel...has written an entertaining account.... For those who recognize the name, but don't know the fascinating story behind it, this is the book to read.
Midwest Book Review
Fans of true crime and New York City politics alike will be attracted to Vanishing Point, an excellent survey...
New York Law Journal
...Excellent... a vivid portrayal.... New York lawyers should find fascinating the depiction of a New York legal world.... Illuminating.
Kirkus Reviews
The life and colorful times of a New York State Supreme Court justice who went missing one warm August evening in 1930. Ever since, numerous magazine articles and many book chapters have contemplated the celebrated case of Joseph Force Crater, but this appears to be the first book entirely devoted to the classic mystery since his widow's unsurprisingly partial account in 1961. Given the paucity of available evidence, Wall Street Journal assistant publisher Tofel has chosen to focus on the political history behind Crater's disappearance, painting a mordant picture of the fading Tammany machine and the judge's place in it as they "approached the vanishing point together." In 1930, Jimmy Walker was Mayor of Broadway (and only incidentally of the rest of the city), FDR was governor of the Empire State, and the price of a seat on the bench was approximately a year's judicial salary. This was the world from which Crater suddenly vanished, not long after making large withdrawals of cash that his wife discovered some weeks later in their New York apartment. The judge was last seen on Wednesday, August 6, after dinner with some acquaintances, headed for a musical show. His wife was at their home upstate. Without a telephone, she wasn't immediately concerned when she did not hear from her husband. After some time, however, she concluded that he was murdered, or at least so she claimed to the insurance company. Tofel, less certain of foul play, offers a plausible alternative involving madam Polly Adler. The judge was declared dead in 1939, and the case was closed by the NYPD in 1979 after a fruitless half-century. Tofel's surmise about what happened to Judge Crater would explain why hisdisappearance wasn't investigated terribly vigorously. Casts intriguing new light on a famous unsolved mystery. (8 pp. b&w photos, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566636056
  • Publisher: Ivan R Dee
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Pages: 236
  • Sales rank: 1,323,228
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard J. Tofel is president and chief operating officer of the new International Freedom Center, a museum of freedom and a cultural center to be built at the site of the World Trade Center. Formerly assistant publisher of the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Tofel is a graduate of Harvard College, the Harvard Law School, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Before the publication of Vanishing Point, Tofel wrote A Legend in the Making, a book about the 1939 Yankees. He recently published Sounding the Trumpet, a fascinating look into the making of Kennedy's inaugural address, also published by Ivan R. Dee. He lives with his family in Riverdale, New York.
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Table of Contents

Preface 9
1. The World He Left Behind 15
2. The World of Tammany Hall 33
3. The La Guardia Phenomenon 62
4. Franklin Roosevelt Names a Judge 77
5. Crater at the Vanishing Point 93
6. Never to Be Seen Again 125
7. Tammany at the Vanishing Point 157
Epilogue 185
Acknowledgments 189
Sources 193
Notes 199
Index 211
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