Frank Moss (March 16, 1860 – June 5, 1920) was an American lawyer,
reformer and author. He was involved in many of the reform movements
New York City
New York City shortly before the start of the 20th century up until
his death. As a longtime assistant to District Attorney Charles S.
Whitman, he was involved in several high-profile criminal cases such
as the Rosenthal murder trial in which police detective Charles Becker
was found guilty of murder and executed.
5 Further reading
Frank Moss was born in
Cold Spring, New York
Cold Spring, New York in 1860 and moved to New
York City as a child. Attending
New York City
New York City College, he became
involved in "vice crusades" and other reform movements while studying
to pass the bar. Early in his legal career, he held important
positions such as president of the City Vigilance League and president
of the Society for the Prevention of Crime. He was also a member of
Union League Club
Union League Club and Republican Club.
While council for Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst, Moss helped police in
closing down gambling dens belonging to the
On Leong Tong
On Leong Tong in
Chinatown. Much of the information was supplied by Mock Duck, a rival
underworld figure of Tom Lee and the On Leongs, and who quickly
assumed control of these establishments after they were closed. In
Mock Duck replaced the traditional joss in the Hip Sing
Tong House with a crayon portrait of Moss.
Moss first came to prominence during the Lexow and Mazet
investigations, as an associate and chief council respectively, where
he established himself as an aggressive prosecutor and investigator.
Tammany Hall leader
Richard Croker during the
Mazet inquiry, Moss was able to provoke him into stating the now
famous statement admitting his corruption "I am working for my pocket
all the time, just like you, Mr. Moss".
In 1897, he succeeded
Theodore Roosevelt as president of the Board of
Police Commissioners. In 1901, during
Seth Low and William Travers
Jerome's campaign against the city's red light districts, Moss
famously addressed the court in a speech blaming Croker for the
existence of white slavery and forced prostitution. He and Jerome
became close friends after the trial, Moss working tirelessly on the
case to the point of exhaustion, however the two would later have a
falling out when the two noted attorneys faced each other during the
trial of John M. Wisker in 1902.
In the fall of 1909, Moss was unexpectedly chosen by District Attorney
Charles S. Whitman
Charles S. Whitman to become his first assistant. Although Moss was a
Republican, he was not a particular favorite of machine politics and
Herbert Parsons, political boss of New York County, was reportedly
displeased with his appointment. While under Whitman, Moss
successfully prosecuted the four members of the Lenox Avenue Gang
accused of murdering gambler Herman Rosenthal. It was partly on
evidence gained at this trial that he was able to greatly assist
Whitman in proving that police detective
Charles Becker hired the four
gunmen to kill Rosenthal resulting in his conviction and execution.
A devout churchgoer, Moss was an active member of the congregation of
St. James Methodist Episcopal Church. He served on the board of
directors for the New York Church Extension Society for a number of
years and his son, Reverend Arthur Moss, was on the Board of Foreign
Missions of the Methodist Church. In November 1919, Moss underwent
Roosevelt Hospital and suffered a relapse four months later
from which he would never fully recover. In poor health for the last
few months of his life, he died of heart disease at his East 127th
Street home on the night of June 5, 1920. He was survived by his wife
Elva E. Bruce and his two children Arthur and Elizabeth Moss.
Moss, Frank. The American Metropolis from Knickerbocker Days to the
Present Time (3 vols.). New York and London: The Authors' Syndicate,
^ a b c d e "Frank Moss Dies. Noted Prosecutor. Reformer and Once
President of Police Board Had Been Ill Many Months. Was Whitman's
First Aid. Conducted Trials of Gambler Rosenthal's Slayers and Won
Fame In Lexow Investigation". New York Times. June 6, 1920. Retrieved
2009-07-18. Frank Moss, known for a generation to New Yorkers as a
lawyer, reformer and vigorous enemy of the criminal elements of the
city, died last night at his residence, 23 East l27th Street, of heart
disease after an illness of several months.
^ Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the
New York Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928. (pg. 282-283)
Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Moss, Frank".
Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D.
Appleton. Birth date and further information on The American
Cohen, Stanley. The Execution of Officer Becker: The Murder of a
Gambler, the Trial of a Cop, and the Birth of Organized Crime. New
York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006. ISBN 0-7867-1757-2
Fried, Albert. The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America.
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980. ISBN 0-231-09683-6
Lardner, James and Thomas Reppetto. NYPD: A City and Its Police. New
York: Macmillan, 2001. ISBN 0-8050-6737-X
Logan, Andy. Against the Evidence: The Becker-Rosenthal Affair. New
York: McCall Publishing Company, 1970.
Mackenzie, Frederick A. Twentieth Century Crimes. Boston: Little,
Brown and Company, 1927.
Root, Jonathan. One Night in July: The True Story of the
Rosenthal-Becker Murder Case. New York: Coward-McCann, 1961.
Srebnick, Amy Gilman and René Lévy. Crime and Culture: An Historical
Perspective. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2005. ISBN 0-7546-2383-1
Willemse, Cornelius William. A Cop Remembers. New York: E.P. Dutton,