Committee of Fifteen Records, 1900-1901

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From the holdings of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, Center for the Humanities, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations

The Committee of Fifteen, a New York City citizens’ group that advocated the elimination of prostitution and gambling, was established in November 1900. The Committee hired investigators who visited city locations where "vice" crimes allegedly took place and filed reports on each site. The investigators scoured bars, pool halls, dance halls, "disorderly houses," and tenements during 1901, posing as clients to determine the locations where prostitution took place. The Committee disbanded in 1901 after evaluating the investigations.

The strength of this collection lies in the affidavits or investigators’ reports, arranged by police precinct and street address. Many reports include the name of the investigator, his age, address, date of visit, address of the building, description of activity at that site and investigator’s action, amount of money paid, name, physical description and ethnic background of the prostitute or others present, and general remarks.

There are also 258 letters to the New York City Department of Health on the location of "disorderly houses," and letters relating to police protection and corruption of city officials. The collection contains 26 scrapbooks of press clippings about New York City politics, police, and vice, typed abstracts of the events of the day, and a typescript of the defense testimony in the trial of police captain John D. Herlihy.

Number of rolls: 17