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The Big Policeman: The Rise and Fall of America's First, Most Ruthless, and Greatest Detective

The Big Policeman: The Rise and Fall of America's First, Most Ruthless, and Greatest Detective

by J. North Conway


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The remarkable career of one of America's greatest detectives-a story of murder, mayhem, and intriguePhilip Marlowe, Dirty Harry, and even Law & Order-none of these would exist as they do today were it not for the legendary career of nineteenth-century New York City cop Thomas Byrnes. From 1854 to 1895, Byrnes rose through the ranks of the city's police department to become one of the most celebrated detectives in American history, a larger-than-life figure who paved the way for modern-day police methods, both good and bad.During the age of Gangs of New York, Byrnes solved many of the most sensational and high-profile cases in the city and the country. He captured Manhattan's Jack the Ripper copy-cat killer; solved the murder of prostitute Maude Merrill, who was killed by her jealous lover-her own uncle; solved the largest bank heist in American history; arrested anarchist Emma Goldman for inciting a riot in Union Square; and accomplished much more. For both good and ill, according to the New York Times, Byrnes "shaped not just the New York City Detective Bureau but the template for detective work . . . in every modern American metropolis." He not only pioneered crime scene investigation, but also perfected the brutal interrogation process called "the third degree." He revolutionized the gathering of evidence and was the first to use mug shots and keep criminal records. But when Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt investigated the corruption that had plagued the department for decades, the man one prominent journalist had dubbed the "big policeman" was forced to resign.Bringing the Gilded Age to life as he did in his acclaimed King of Heists: The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878 That Shocked America, J. North Conway narrates in thrilling, vivid detail the crimes, murders, corruption, and gritty police work associated with the father of the American detective.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781493040551
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 05/01/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 1,147,037
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

J. North Conway is the author of King of Heists: The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878 That Shocked America and the upcoming Bag of Bones: The Sensational Grave Robbery of the Merchant Prince of Manhattan; in addition to seven other nonfiction books. He has been a daily newspaper reporter and editor, and a columnist and feature writer for the Providence Journal and Bostonia, the alumni publication of Boston University. He has worked as an editor/writer for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the second oldest international learned society in the country. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth and Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts. He previously taught at Boston University, Northeastern University, and Fisher College. He lives in Assonet, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 THE CASE OF JACK THE RIPPER (Chief Detective Thomas Byrnes solved the case of the brutal slaying that prompted the press to speculate that London's Jack the Ripper had struck in New York City.)American Almanac 1854 (A selection of social, political, cultural and historical details depicting the tenor of the times are presented in this intercalary chapter.)Chapter 2 NO IRISH NEED APPLY (The Byrnes family immigrated from Ireland during the Potato Famine and settled into one of New York City's worst slums, Five Points.)American Almanac 1863 Chapter 3 NEW YORK CITY UNDER SEIGE (Byrnes distinguished himself as a brave and fearless police officer during the infamous New York City draft riots in the summer of 1863.)American Almanac 1872 Chapter 4 THE MURDER OF MAUDE MERRILL (Byrnes solved the sensational murder involving a fashionable courtesan, Maude Merrill, who was brutally killed in an upscale house of prostitution.)Chapter 5 THE MURDER OF JUBILEE JIM (Byrnes apprehended the murderer of James Fisk Jr., one the country's most successful Wall Street financiers.)American Almanac 1878Chapter 6 THE GREATEST BANK ROBBERY IN AMERICA (Using gritty detective work, Byrnes tracked down the criminals responsible for robbing close to $3 million from the Manhattan Savings Institution.) Chapter 7 BAG OF BONES (Byrnes tracked down the grave-robbers who stole the body of millionaire department store magnate, A.T. Stewart.) American Almanac 1880-1884 Chapter 8 CHIEF OF DETECTIVES (In 1880 Byrnes was promoted to Inspector and took command of New York City's detective bureau. He instituted a series of protocols that modernized the detective bureau including the use of mug shots, police line-ups and the use of undercover detectives to infiltrate criminal gangs.)Chapter 9 THE CASE OF THE MURDERED WINE MERCHANT (Byrnes tracked down and apprehended the murderer of New York City wine merchant, Louis Hanier.)American Almanac 1892-1895 Chapter 10 AN UNSPEAKABLE ROTTENESS (After being appointed Superintendent of the New York City Police Department in 1892, Byrnes faced a series of legislative investigations into police corruption. Although Byrnes was never directly implicated in any corrupt practices, he was forced into retirement in 1895 by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt when it was revealed that he had amassed a small fortune on his meager $5,000 yearly salary. Byrnes became an insurance investigator, opening a detective agency on Wall Street and died in 1910.)

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