Sunday, August 9, 2009

Excerpt: About a great-grandfather

The headline on the front page of The New York Times of April 24, 1910, was big and bold, its lengthy and detailed article stretched down the entire news page.


The news had federal authorities listing Joseph F. Gatins Sr. as the “bankroll man” behind a string of unlawful bucket shops operating across the East Coast, under the banner of the Baltimore-based William B. Price & Co. My great-grandfather was taken to the Tombs that night and briefly lodged in cell 718, according to The Times and subsequent news articles in many other papers. The Washington Post the next day had him posting a $5,000 bail in cash, a proceeding during which he appeared to “take his apprehension to heart.” He appeared “decidedly agitated during the examination,” the newspaper said. He was 45 years old at the time.

Newspapers in Washington, where the case was to be prosecuted, also had a field day with the bucket shop cases, and it became obvious federal authorities were feeding the press of the day. The Washington Star, (in an article of April 23, 1910), described Gatins as “reputed both here and in the South, where he has been a prominent figure, to be worth something like $10,000,000.” (That $10 million would be worth more than $228 million today).

What was a bucket shop anyway?

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