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The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York

2 Ratings: 5.0
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The Bobbed Haired Bandit  A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York  Stephen Duncombe and Andrew Mattson     Ripped straight from the headlines of the Jazz Age, The Bobbed Haired Bandit is a tale of … see full wiki

Author: Steven Duncombe and Andrew Mattson
Publisher: NYU Press
Date Published: February 6, 2006
1 review about The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of...

Long forgotten saga is resurrected in this colorful and entertaining book.

  • Jan 2, 2010
Rating:
+5
As far as I can tell there was simply never a dull moment in New York City during the first few decades of the 20th century.  In those days the city was ruled in large measure by the legendary men of Tammany Hall and it seemed there was hardly a week without some controversy surrounding that bunch.  At the same time, anarchists like Emma Goldman worked tirelessly to improve conditions for the working poor in the city in the years following the tragic 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory.  Meanwhile, vaudeville was at the height of its popularity with live performances daily at hundreds of theaters throughout the city.  There was so much going on and no shortage of newspapers to cover it all.  Amid this backdrop a feisty 20 year old woman named Celia Cooney would make headlines in all of these papers for several months.  Celia would come to be known as "The Bobbed Haired Bandit".  This sensational but long forgotten tale is brought to life by authors Stephen Duncombe and Andrew Mattson in this fast moving new book.

The story of "The Bobbed Haired Bandit" would begin with the wedding of Ed Cooney to Celia Roth in the Spring of 1923.  In September Celia and Ed found out they were expecting a baby.  Celia was frantic.  She did not want to raise a child in the tiny room they had been living in.  And so they put their heads together and came up with a brainstorm.  They would hold up a store.  But what made this pair so very different was that Celia would be cast in the leading role.  It was Celia who would pull the gun and shout "Stick 'em up!"   Their very first robbery netted the couple over $600.00!   This was too easy.  And so they did it again...and again...and again.   Because of the way she wore her hair Celia Cooney would be dubbed "the bobbed haired bandit" by the newspapers.  After just a couple of weeks Celia would become a front page sensation.  Celia and Ed were making fools of the NYPD and the papers were ratcheting up the pressure on Commissioner Richard Enright to apprehend this pair.

And then came the copycats.  Others began using roughly the same MO and so even in those robberies where Celia and Ed were not the least bit involved the legend of the so-called "bobbed haired bandit" would loom ever larger.  It would be several months before Celia and Ed would finally bite off more than they could chew.  When the jig was up thousands of people would show up to catch a glimpse of the notorious larger-than-life "bobbed haired bandit".

In "The Bobbed Haired Bandit:  A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York" Stephen Duncombe and Andrew Mattson present a snapshot of life in the City in 1924.  It is fascinating to learn how the various newpapers of differing politcal persuasions presented this story to their readers.  Equally interesting is the way the NYPD responded to the pointed criticisms directed at them by the press and the business community.  It is quite apparent to me that this book was a labor of love for Duncombe and Mattson.  The amount of painstaking research involved must have been incredible.  Recall that at that time there were 4 dailies in Brooklyn and perhaps10 or more in New York City proper.  That's an awful lot of coverage to digest!  In the end what we have here is a true story that reads like a novel.  This is one book that nearly everyone can enjoy.   Highly recommended!!!
Long forgotten saga is resurrected in this colorful and entertaining book. Long forgotten saga is resurrected in this colorful and entertaining book.

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