Tales from the Criminal Court

Crime and Punishment in New York, 1880-1930


No American city has had a more lurid criminal history than New York.  Crime in all its varieties has flourished at all times and in all districts, encompassing every economic and social class in the city; but never was it more ubiquitous than in the decades from 188o to 1930.   New York was fast developing as a center of industrialization, as a railroad transportation hub, and as the major port on the East coast; and the extent of its criminal activity kept pace with the city's development. 

This website serves as a resource for information on crime and criminal justice during the half-century when New York transformed itself into the leading metropolis in the United States.  Few criminal courts were more important than the Court of General Sessions, a state court that had jurisdiction in New York County (Manhattan) and this website includes also the  transcripts of trials that took place before the Court of General Sessions during the decades when New York became the financial, industrial, and cultural center of the United States.  The trial transcripts show New Yorkers at their worst -- on trial for murder, manslaughter, extortion, burglary, assault, rape, forgery, bigamy, and larceny -- but they present also a fascinating picture of immigrants and native-born alike struggling, against the odds, to make their way in the world by fair means or foul.

Our website will eventually include over 780,000 pages from approximately 3,300 court transcripts of criminal trials held in the Court of General Sessions, New York County, from the years 1883 – 1927. These verbatim transcripts are contained on 425 master microfilm reels on permanent deposit at the New York State Archives in Albany. We have transcribed the first 170 cases into text-based PDFs and HTML files, accompanied by extensive supporting material and photographs.

Search the Trial Transcripts