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Culture

April 18, 2003

100 YEARS AGO

• The police arrested a gang of eight Italians and charged them with the murder of an unknown person whose body had been found stuffed in a barrel on 11th Street. Those arrested are alleged to be members in the mysterious secret society called “mafia.” The group of eight was already under surveillance by detectives, who observed a meeting at Vito Laducca’s butcher shop on Chrystie Street during which a heated argument broke out. According to detectives, the blinds were shut for a few minutes, after which two groups left the shop. Shortly thereafter, the body was discovered in the barrel. Police said sawdust found in the barrel matches that found on the floor of the butcher shop.

75 YEARS AGO

• Not many people know that San Francisco once had an emperor and, on top of that, that he was a Jew. Joshua Abraham Norton, known as the “Emperor of San Francisco” (though he also considered himself sovereign of the United States and parts of Mexico), was one of the city’s most interesting characters. In addition to making daily street patrols in outlandish outfits, “Emperor Norton the First,” as he called himself, printed his own money and often made “official” proclamations, including one requesting that the citizens of San Francisco attend the funeral of his two dogs, which they apparently did, en masse. Emperor Norton died in 1880.

50 YEARS AGO

• If the great chasidic rebbe Levi Yitzhok Barditshever would have made a visit to the Jewish prisoners of Sing-Sing, he would surely say, “Look here, King of the Universe, how wonderful your people the Jews are. Even when they’re sitting here in Sing-Sing, separated from the rest of the world, locked up behind bars, they haven’t forgotten that they are Jews. They stick together; they have a nice shul with an ark where they pray and celebrate Jewish holidays. And they’re proud to be Jews. They even collect funds for the UJA — last year they donated $150.” So begins a profile of Jewish prisoners in Sing-Sing Prison.

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