Public Raids, Undercover Investigators, and Native Informants

in New York Undercover

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226266091
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226266114 | DOI:
Public Raids, Undercover Investigators, and Native Informants

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In the early part of the twentieth century, New York City's foremost businessmen and clergymen were alarmed by the rising disorder in the metropolis. Business, good-government, and social activist groups were particularly concerned with the “flagrant offenses against public morality and common decency” that thrived in “certain districts.” Although the city's social activists had grappled with the problems of poverty and morality for decades, they realized that these old problems required new strategies. In November 1900, the Committee of Fifteen was founded, initially conducting public raids to realize its vision of a “morally clean” New York. When the public and even its own members raised a howl against the use of such tactics, the Committee of Fifteen turned to undercover investigators and “native informants” from the tenement districts to continue gathering the information that permitted it to impose its agenda on New York City. In 1902, the Committee of Fifteen was disbanded, following the sudden and unexpected death of its chairman, William H. Baldwin, Jr.

Keywords: Committee of Fifteen; New York City; social activists; poverty; morality; public raids; undercover investigators; native informants

Chapter.  12588 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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