Vice Investigations, 1921


Vice Investigations, 1921


Vice Investigations, 1921


In 1921, Mayor J. Hampton Moore hired private vice investigators to observe and report on criminal activity in the Seventh ward.


City of Philadelphia


The J. Hampton Moore Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania


WCU HIS 601/HON 452 Great Migration and Digital Storytelling, Fall 2014




Kristin Geiger and Renee Williams


Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania




"JANUARY 8, 1921. 506 SOUTH 11TH STREET: This is a very well furnished three story brick dwelling house, a so-called furnished room house that has all appearances of being a quietly conducted sporting house. A rather stout, brown skinned colored woman called Miss Della, is the landlady. I ran the bell, a dark young colored man William by name, answered the door. I asked to see the landlady and was admitted but left standing at the door while he went up to her room. In a few minutes he came to the head of the stairs and told me to come up, showed me where to go and went downstairs him-self. I found the landlady lying across the bed. I said I had been directed there for a room and was sorry to find her ill, that had I known it I would not have disturbed her. She said, "I am not ill, am simply trying to get a bit of rest, that she had been up late every night during the holidays and since, that so many friends had come there that she simply had to entertain, so was worn out. She further said that she was all filled up, said there were few vacancies now in this part of the city, since the whole next block had been vacated to be torn down, being owned by the city, the space was wanted for a playground. She said, "This of it, a playground being built in the heart of this big sporting district, where there are so few children." She said the people were driven out without any place to go and the city had gone on the bum since they got a new Mayor, that in fact the whole country was getting to be no good since prohibition had gone into effect, but they really weren't stopping anything only making the graft bigger, that people would always drink liquor just as they will always sport, that it couldn't be stopped. Further said, it was getting so a woman could hardly make a dollar, the law was getting so tight, especially with those who went on the street to get theirs. Said it wasn't the pol-ice, they were all right, they have to do as they are told or get it in the neck, but it is those confounded fools in City Hall. On their account the police have to pick up women on the street and when they get down to the front they are given time. Said the girls who have men friends come to see them are the only ones living now. Said she couldn't exist but for her few good men friends and her roomers and a a few women friends who meet friends pretty regularly. In her room saw two light girls, in appearance prostitutes, who loudly sanctioned everything she said; in another room a young woman loosely dressed was entertaining somebody playing a victrola. Two colored fellows of the gambling type came and left during my stay. She said she wished she could accommodate me, that if I was a stranger in the city I should get in a protected house, to try the number------ 412 and if I couldn't go there to try Miss Alice next door, 504, and say she sent;mehat a constable was a landlord of the houses and of course if any of his good roomers got locked up he would do all he could to help them."

“JANUARY 14, 1921.
A colored woman known as Mamie, Henderson’s Court, second house in the rear of 1041 South Street, occupies a small house, three plainly furnished rooms. The place is a sporting resort. A colored girl known as Lena and another known as Sadie, and other girl friends bring men here for immoral purposes. Mamie rents the top floor room to Buddie Johnson, a colored detective, whom she says is a relative of her consort, a colored man known as Tar-Heel. Mamie further told me that Buddie lives here with a colore"d sporting girl known as Evelyn, since they were compelled to move from 513 S. 11th St. one of the houses being torn down by the City. Further said that Evelyn is sporting in Newark, N. J. now, that since Buddie is on the police force she don’t do any sporting in this City and that Buddie is very good about letting her use his room while he is out. While I sat there Buddie Johnson came in, sat down on the settee and began discussing with them the good time they had the night before, in the coarsest kind of a manner, that all were drunk. They’d sent out for liquor, Mamie called “Jump Steady”, a kind of gin. Buddie said that all he had gotten out of $50.00 was a pair of over-shoes, said the rest went for booze. He laughed with them about the way Lena hollered, she was so drunk and also about Florence, the girl who evidently was there with him, saying he made her get up and beat it early in the morning, said that she was crazy about him and seemed unwilling to go, said he was only playing one night stands, that he couldn’t use her unless she got some money and told her not to come back unless she brought him some money. He pulled out $15.00, a ten and five dollar bill, saying that he was almost broke, that that was all he had. I said, “Gee, man you got plenty of jack in these hard times. Why you’re rich.” He said, “This ain’t much. It won’t last long, once I get started at buying booze again.” He went out. After he was gone I said to Mamie, “Why girlie I hear that fellow is connected with the law. Course I don’t want to tell you nothing about your friends, but I believe in keeping shy of them. What they don’t know don’t hurt them, that’s why I didn’t say much to him. When friends of mine get to be cops I’m through with them.” She said, “While he is a cop, he’s all right and he will spend his money freely with girls. Why if you hadn’t been strange to him he would have started in buying booze right then.” She further said, “We were all drunk here together last night and he comes in here and sees fellows with girls and never bothers. When Evelyn’s away girls come and stay with him.” She then said to me, “You ought to remember him when you were here before he had this house and Evelyn hustled here. Then he worked at City Hall but wasn’t a cop. After he got advanced they moved on 11th St. and took a rooming house, but when the City ordered those houses vacated he couldn’t find a house so he stored their things and came here.” By this time he returned with a large package. Two other men came in. I left them discussing the time they had had the night before. Mamie formerly had rooms across the court, which she rented furnished for $7.00 a week. She moved here because it was so much cheaper, only $10.00 per month. She is a regular street walker, well known in this section. I met her during a previous investigation at Mo Naughton’s resort, Clifton and South Sts.”

“FEBRUARY 1, 1921. At about 7:00 P. M. called at Mamie’s in the rear of 1041 South Street. Found that Buddie Johnson was giving his girl, Evelyn, a blowout, she having just returned from Newark, N.J. He sent his cousin Tar Heel, out for gin and whiskey. There were two other girls present, the girl who came with Evelyn, Lena, and Bertha. There was also a couple of colored men. Bud-die played the victrola. They really had a great time of its kind. Once when they were real noisy, Lena told them they better be a little more quiet. Buddie said, “No one will bother anyone here” and laughed about a time when he said last summer a white officer who really didn’t know who he was, in trying to be fresh, locked him up three times in one day. He said he told the officer when he was taking him that he’d be back there as soon as he, the policeman, was. Each time he was taken to the station-house they turned him out. He finally wore the officer out so he let him alone. Buddie boasts about his old lady, said she came back with a roll. She said that Newark was wide open. There was plenty of money there. She said that as her old man didn’t want her to go back, so she guessed she would have to stay here. Buddie said why should she go, that he was in right here and she could do just as well in Philadelphia as she could anywhere, that he was not only able to say that things went all right with her but he was doing it for others as she knew, so she ought to be satisfied. I left when their adtions became so indecent it seemed best for me to go.”

“February 1, 1921”
“THE GEORGIA & FLORIDA RESTERAUNT- 1244 South Street. Mrs. Harris is in charge. This is a plainly furnished dirty restaurant on the first floor. It is a dump of a cheap eating house. Food is served to order and is a very poor quality. Its principal patrons are prostitutes, gamblers and rough workmen. An electric nickel in the slot piano provides the en-tertainment. My attention was attracted to this place by a young colored man who stood in the doorway and boldly solicited me by oogling, flirting and finally called me, saying, “Come on in. I want to talk to you a few minutes. I entered the place and found six colored men, three women whom I have frequently seen soliciting on the streets in this vicinity, a waitress and a woman called Mrs. Harris in the cafe. Of the men, two were seated at tables, the others with the woman were at the rear of the restaurant seated around a stove. These people seemed to be loitering. As I entered, the man who called me asked where my old man was. I said, “Up the street. I’m on my way to meet him now. He said, “I thought if you had nobody, I might do. I’m looking for a good girl. I sat down at the table and ordered some food, which when served, was unfit to eat but serv-ed as a pretext for remaining. The fellow who invited me in put a nickel in the piano and the actions of a part of the crowd who considered themselves dancing, was ridiculous. After the piano stop-ped playing, this man made some remarks about getting himself a brown. The crowd laughed heartily and then a short, very light colored man, who is a well-known gambler, began giving advice as to the handling of woman, told the crowd that such fellows as this man make mistakes by giving women money, said even when he was South he used to collect the two and three dollars per week his girls made, met them regularly when they came off from their service places, said that he always had a half dozen girls who handed him their money, otherwise he wouldn’t have them, that $15.00 or $18.00 per week enabled him to get in a game and win himself money. Of course if he got broke, these girls were in the white people’s houses so could slip him out food. Then he said, “You known when I made my women give up the little bit they made down there I am bound to make them come across here, where they can go out on the street and steal in one night, more than I could win in a month, if lucky. When times are good, my girls go out in the street and bring me four or five hundred dollars in a night. I buy them a new outfit and may be a new wig so they can change their looks and the rest is mine.” Another fellow spoke up and said, “One of your old ladies is in now ain’t she?” He said, “I know she fell a couple of weeks ago. Oh, man I got her right on out. It cost me $100.00, but she is in the street, so that ain’t a match.” Another fellow asked, “How is Rose?” He said, “I don’t see her much any more.” He said, “O, she’s got a house and is doing fine. She bought out (Somebody, I couldn’t understand just who) a couple of months ago. They got scared when they thought things were going to be tight, on account of Charley Hall’s fight with the Mayor and sold out for almost nothing and left town.” Some of the crowd spoke up and said, “Why she was lucky to have the money to get it.” He said, “I couldn’t do nothing for her, these games keep me broke all the time but that white man friend of hers, you know, helped her with it.” Other people came into the rest-aurant but both Mrs. Harris and the waitress seemed so anxious to get rid of patrons, of the restaurant, who came in to be served, to re-join this group that they simply served the food at them. I left the gang there telling their various experiences with women and men.”

“MARCH 1, 1921. 12-- SOUTH STREET--CHOP SUEY RESTERAUNT. Hop Lee is the proprietor of this place. This is a plainly furnished Chinese restaurant in a building formerly a small picture theatre. Around midnight prostitutes loiter here. Found five women seated ate tables engaged in conver-sation of the roughest kind during which much indecent lang-uage was used. They talked on their men and of the money they had made and of the big hauls two friends had made during the past week in a way that anyone who overhead them would know they were prostitutes, even without taking into account their appearance and actions. Loretta and Viola, two of their num-ber who are so light that they frequent cafes and other places uptown where colored people are refused admittance on account of color, to pick up trade men, were very well dressed and both flashed a good sixed roll. These two were especially familiar in their actions with the Chinese and went in the bacj room several times. James, a hustler, who usually hangs out at Horan’s saloon back room, 13th and South Streets, came in about 1:00 A. M. with two fellows to divide the money they had stolen during the night. They seated themselves at a table in the corner nearest the door, spread out a considerable sum of money, bills, before them. After some argument they divided it, then all were served Chinese dishes.”

“MARCH 7, 1921. Having called at the home of Minnie Crampton in Henderson’s Court, rear of 1032 Rodman Street, in the early part of the evening on this date and found no one home, I returned at about 11:00 P. M. and found Minnie and Eva had just gotten in. I excused myself for calling so late but was told that both Tarheel and Buddie Johnson were out yet and was invited in. After taking a sea, Minnie told me she had had some bad luck so I suggested to Eva that we have something to drink. When asked what it should be I said, “Whatever you all want” and handed her a dollar. She went out and came back with a bottle of gin. While talking with Minnie I said, “Say kid, tell me about the trouble.” She said that one Wednesday night, March 2nd., after I had seen her she went down to 9th and Bainbridge Streets, picked up a colored man and was on the way to a room in that vicinity when both were arrested by vice men. Had they caught her with a white man the vice men would probably had turned her loose as had been the case before when the man claimed that he knew her and that she had not solicited him, but the col-ored man said that he didn’t know her and that she had sol-icited him to go to a room, so she was taken to the morals court. Her friend Tarheel didn’t know of her arrest so she remained there all night. The next morning she called up the 12th and Pine Stfeet station house and asked for Buddie Johnson but was told that he was not there yet. It happen-ed that morning he didn’t go there until late so she left the message and later in the day he came down and talked to the judge for her and decided it was useless to get her out on bail for the magistrate virtually promised to turn her out next day. Being already on probation to this court and this being her third offense Minnie said she expected to get sent up but instead, on the following morning she was re-leased on probation as promised by the judge before the court convened. She is satisfied that had not Buddie interceded for her she would have gotten time. Both she and Eva told me that in case anything happened to me, that if I appealed to Buddie he would get me out, of course he would expect you to pay for it anywhere from $20.00 to $50.00 according to the charge against me but was lenient if he felt a person meant right and would accept part payment down and the bal-ance in weekly installments. About this time Buddie came in very much under the influence of liquor. In spite of this he sat own and had a drink of the gin, said he had been down among the Italians had gone there because someone had told him about a colored fellow going among them passing himself off as Buddie Johnson an officer, and helping himself to a considerable amount of liquor, bottled goods. This man had told him that the Italians were going to do him bodily harm, so he went there for the purpose of hearing what they had to say and what they would do. When he went in the place and mentioned his mission they all agreed that it was not him that had taken their goods. He said that he told them if he caught them doing anything he’d lock them up but he wouldn’t take their goods, said that he knew he wouldn’t have to take anything for if he wanted a bottle of liquor he knew they would give it to him. Said everything was squared and they drank together, that’s where he got his jag. He had a home defense badge which he gave to Eva and she fastened it on her waist and another badge that looked like a regular policeman’s badge. Minnie and Eva mention that they had been telling me about the trouble and that they had said that as a friend of theirs, in case I got arrested, he would help me out. He said sure he would, that of course I understood it took a little money to square everything but if I didn’t have it all at once but could pay a part of it, he’d take care of me just the same, said there was no question but what he was in right not with the City Administration, the adminis-tration be damned, but with the real powers in Philadelphia who are becoming even more strong than they were when the Mayor was elected because he had shown the colored people good and bad alike that he was no friend of theirs, which was daily adding strength to Charlie Hall and his support-ers the Vares, for the fool colored people that had sup-ported the Mayor see now that he has absolutely no use for them which of course he and other colored men who knew everything so far as our people are concerned, had known all along. He said he could touch either Magistrate O’Brien or Judge Brown and if there was anything that he couldn’t do personally he could do it through Charlie Hall, for he was a man not above his supporters even though they are colored, instead he mingles with the colored people, knows many of them personally and can be reached by any of his friends at any time and when you reach him he don’t turn you off with a promise as does the other gang. He said he had been with Eva four years and was able to make a good living for her and his boy and then have a dollar or two, that what she did of her own account because being in the life and used th handling her own money, she found it hard to do with-out it.”

Original Format

Paper document


January 8, 1921 MissDella.jpg
January 14, 1921 BuddieJohnson.jpg
February 1, 1921 BuddieJohnson.jpg
February 1, 1921 FLandGARest.jpg
March 1, 1921 ChopSuey.jpg
March 7, 1921 BuddieJohnson.jpg


City of Philadelphia, “Vice Investigations, 1921,” Goin' North, accessed July 18, 2024,