Manhattan’s problem of corrupt government is a modern Minotaur. Reformers, violent critics, campaigns and crusading journalism have availed nothing against the monster. It survives today but according to one of Tammany’s most bitter foes, Irving Ben Cooper, Fusion candidate for City Court Judge, the reckoning is about to arrive.
What Tammany has done to Mr. Cooper, one of the most promising among New York’s Jewish attorneys, and what Mr. Cooper is hoping to do to Tammany will some day make a story worth its salt. David’s quarrel with Goliath will possibly recede into myth when this short, lively, direct-from-the-shoulder investigator writes the record of his battle against Tammany Hall.
The rough material for the story consisting of thousands of clippings, records, photostats and printed matter, was viewed by a representative of the Jewish Daily Bulletin in the offices of Mr. Cooper, 551 Fifth Avenue. Mr. Cooper quieted the rising astonishment of a reporter with the assurance that "this wasn’t all" to the story of his nine year’s work as crusading member of the bar. But the temptation to search the files for more details of his fight against the "doctor and nurse racket," the "flopper racket", the "ambulance chasers’ racket", the expose of Tin Box Tom Farley, former Sheriff McQuade of Brooklyn, and countless other stories of front-page interest, was too great.
Mr. Cooper was born February 7, 1902, in London, England, the son of poor parents who brought him to the United States at the age of 11. As a boy he worked for pin-money in ###rious jobs, including dish-washing, paper selling, subscription soliciting and helping his folks at home. He studied at P. S. 123, Brooklyn, and later at the University of Missouri and the Law School of George Washington University.
"I earned my own way by teaching foreign languages which I didn’t know very well, but slightly better than my pupils," said Mr. Cooper. "Even in my childhood I always had a keen sense of justice. Today I feel sympathy for the underdog, for the oppressed, and I can’t control my anger when I find that so many people have a lot of money to which they have no right."
Mr. Cooper has a sense for catchwords. He called the scions of the rich "oatmeal and cream" boys. He knew them at college. He knows them today. He coined the famous "Tin-box Farley" nickname. He established as part of American folk lore the "McQuade and 34 little McQuades," a result of his investigation into the five million dollar bankroll of Brooklyn’s former sheriff who could not explain the source of his wealth except as the "stuff on which my family feeds and lives."
Samuel Seabury’s chief assistant, Mr. Cooper disclosed threats made against his life during the notorious investigation by thugs whom he judged to be emissaries of certain individuals into whose affairs he was investigating. One of the threats was a letter warning, that physical violence would be done him unless he resigned from the Investigation Committee.
Mr. Cooper’s hair is turning gray. He wears a boyish smile and hardly looks the matured, successful gentleman of the long robe who today stands a fair chance of being sent to the judicial bench.
The names Mr. Cooper mentioned, Chile Acuna, Vivian Gordon, Jimmy Hines, Anita Bennett, Willard, Patocki, James J. Quinlivan, John W. Kenna, are names to conjure with. They have been on the lips of the nation and are all but legendary characters. They were brought into the spotlight by Irving Ben Cooper who used their knowledge, or their evidence, or their records, as weapons against crookedness and dishonesty. Some of the names were those of persons who today are behind lock and key. Others are types of the underworld, a few are lost in the yellowed newspaper pages of the past.
Mr. Cooper told of how he had "by means of a kind of intuition," happened upon persons who later proved important witness in his investigation of the Magistrates Courts when he assisted Isidore J. Kresel. He explained how millions of dollars were mulcted from innocent women framed as prostitutes by members of the obsolete vice squad which has been abolished and restored and today functions in spite of Mr. Cooper’s firm opposition to the view that it serves a useful purpose. He recalled how dishonest policemen hoodwinked money out of poor store-keepers and physicians who were "pinned" with scandals of great goings on in their offices with nurses and patients. At one point in the interview Mr. Cooper grew eloquent, possibly forgetting for the moment he was not talking before the jury panel.
Mr. Cooper is never without a cigar in his mouth. He acquired the nervous habit during the intense days of the Walker trial when for hours without end he bit into the little known story of "New York’s Jimmy" and helped to provide much of the "dope" which sent the former Mayor out of office.
With pride Mr. Cooper exhibited a letter from Samuel Seabury praising in glowing terms his service in the investigation.
Then Mr. Cooper did something which made his eyes look round and large, and emphasized his eyebrows. He touched his pert little mustache and smiled.
"Then there was the forged check racket. . ."
RECEPTION FOR DR. GOLDSCHMIDT
A reception in honor of Dr. Alfons Goldschmidt, formerly of the University of Leipzig, now an exile from Germany, will be given by the Menorah Graduate Society of New York Sunday, at 8 P. M., at the Hotel Brevoort, Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street. Dr. Goldschmidt will speak.