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Boardwalk Empire vs. History: Al Capone Didnít Look Like That!


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#1

TWoP Howard

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Posted Sep 15, 2010 @ 11:48 PM

Since Boardwalk Empire deals with a historical situation, and has some real life characters, there are bound to be some discrepancies between what we see on the show and what happened in real life. This is the place to discuss and snark on those differences.

#2

clack

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Posted Sep 19, 2010 @ 9:29 PM

Well, I was glad to see that they didn't have Capone killing Big Jim, as most seem to think Frankie Yale (Torrio's old partner and Capone's former boss) was brought in from Brooklyn to do the job.

Was Luciano really tied in with Rothstein this early (1st months of 1920)? I always thought that Rothstein hooked up with Luciano and Meyer Lansky in 1921 or so, and that Legs Diamond was Rothstein's muscle and right-hand man early on.
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#3

cwaldo

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Posted Sep 19, 2010 @ 9:50 PM

For those of you that were just as weirded out and curious about the incubator storefront, here's an explanation:

Another quirky attraction was the ďInfant Incubator ExhibitĒ across from the Million Dollar Pier. In the early 20th century, incubators for premature babies were a technological noveltyĖbut hospitals needed funds to purchase them, and that required public support for the idea. To raise interest, incubators were displayed to the public with the tiny preemies still inside. ďBaby HatcheriesĒ were found at state fairs,amusement parks like Coney Island, and of course Atlantic City. Admission was charged to view the tiny human babies in incubators as they were cared for by nurses.


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#4

sopheeso

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Posted Sep 19, 2010 @ 9:52 PM

Thanks cwaldo! I was alarmed at first when she put the baby in the cabinet...I thought she was leaving the baby there to die!
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#5

clack

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Posted Sep 19, 2010 @ 9:57 PM

The Coney Island incubator exhibit lasted from 1904 to 1943. People used to check the babies from week to week, hoping that the babies survived.
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#6

mochamajesty

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Posted Sep 19, 2010 @ 10:03 PM

Thanks for the information about the incubators, cwaldo. I am glad to know that the purpose of the exhibits were to raise public awareness rather than to showcase the babies as circus freaks.
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#7

Souvien

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 12:11 AM

Having just read Okrent's "Last Call", it seems that they're taking some liberty with the Prohibition Agents, in that they were not at all that organized at the beginning of prohibition, and were underfunded and in large part inept/corrupt throughout...still I appreciate that they need antagonists for Nucky...
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#8

tardigrade

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 12:38 AM

Premie incubators were brand new technology and a big draw at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901 (the one McKinley got shot at). It was only a dime to see the babies then, as opposed to a quarter in Boardwalk; it seems like exploitation to us, but it did save a number of at-risk newborns back then.
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#9

Scorpiosrule

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 9:45 AM

I wonder if we'll get to see Bugsy Seigel and Meyer Lansky as well as Lucky.


Since I didn't want to go off topic in the episode thread...I doubt we'll see Bugsy or Lansky, as they're more part of Lucky's story, and from what I gather, this show, although about Prohibition, is also Nucky's story/journey.

Though it would be cool to see Lucky meet with Messaria and have him whacked, Bugsy being one of those that took him out.
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#10

clack

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 10:31 AM

Since Siegel and Lansky were at the Atlantic City meetings that set up first the East Coast Syndicate, then a year later the National Syndicate (1928/29), I assume we will get to see them eventually, if BE lasts enough seasons.

This episode had Colisimo's stance toward bootlegging oversimplified. He wasn't against it -- in fact, he and Torrio were involved with blackmarket booze even before Prohibition -- he just didn't buy into Torrio's plans to form a syndicate of Chicago gangs that were to set the price of booze (so as to not undercut each other's prices), and to cooperate in setting up beer and whiskey distribution territories, with each gang getting a monopoly in their home territory.

Edited by clack, Sep 20, 2010 @ 10:32 AM.

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#11

sekhet7

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 5:53 PM

For those who want to know more about the effects the dangers of Prohibition had on New York culture in the early 1920's, there's a wonderful book called The Poisoner's Handbook. It may mostly deal with the forensics of the time but several chapters discuss the dangers of the chemicals used to make illegal booze (i.e., formaldehyde, wood alcohol, methyl alcohol, etc.) and the many fatalities it caused (hundred of people died in New York alone).

Here's a link: Amazon.com's page
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#12

Scorpiosrule

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 8:21 PM

I've also found trutv's crime library a good source of information about past and current mobsters. The author supplies all the bibliographical information as well.
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#13

mshepnj

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Posted Sep 20, 2010 @ 8:53 PM

Having just read Okrent's "Last Call", it seems that they're taking some liberty with the Prohibition Agents, in that they were not at all that organized at the beginning of prohibition, and were underfunded and in large part inept/corrupt throughout...still I appreciate that they need antagonists for Nucky...



I read Last Call this summer and was really curious to see how the semi-fictitious version of Prohibition would play out in BE. They did deal a little with the incompetence issue with the guy on the phone getting the names all wrong, but my first reaction to all those G-Men taking their oaths was "and they were corrupted too".
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#14

Opus8

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Posted Sep 24, 2010 @ 12:11 AM

The incubator discussion put me in mind of a family story. One of my grandfather's brothers was born premature in rual Texas in the 1920's and the story goes my great-grandmother kept him in a shoebox either on or by the stove until he got bigger and healthier.
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#15

Jacob's Hair Dye

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Posted Sep 25, 2010 @ 5:42 PM

Could you really see the ocean directly from the Boardwalk in 1920?

Now there are giant sand dunes between the beach and the Boardwalk, and I never considered they might be a recent addition to the shore until watching the show.

ETA: did some research - looks like the dunes really are a recent project done by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Details are here Absecon Island Shore Protection Project if you're curious.

Edited by Jacob's Hair Dye, Sep 25, 2010 @ 8:33 PM.

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#16

Scorpiosrule

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Posted Sep 28, 2010 @ 9:42 AM

I couldn't find the real Nucky Johnson in tru tv's crime library, so I googled him; Wow. He looked like someone's very genial grandpa/avuncular Uncle! Would never have guessed he was a crime boss just by looking at him. Steve Buscemi looks NOTHING like him, lol.
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#17

eejm

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Posted Sep 28, 2010 @ 12:42 PM

I'm thinking more and more that Buscemi was cast in part because his looks could emphasize that Nucky has gotten to where he is based completely on his intelligence and charisma. Whether it is true or not, we tend to think of attractive people having an easier time in life, whereas people who are less conventionally good-looking have to rely on something else. While looks are totally subjective, I don't think Nucky attracts the ladies (and people in general) on his appearance alone.
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#18

Boisvert 8

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Posted Oct 2, 2010 @ 5:31 AM

Boardwalk Empire vs. History info treasure trove to be had by anyone with access to HBO On Demand. This heads up is for those that want in-depth historical background on BE, plus great sneak-peek future ep clips (BIG SPOILER WARNING ON SIN CITY: AC SEGMENT CLIPS).

I finally had time to watch all of HBO OD "Creating an Empire" where all this is available - very highly recommend the Sin City: AC, Speakeasy Tour, & Color Barrier segments.

ETA- Just one of dozens of fun factoids from these Boardwalk ODs: In ep 2 Capone was most likely tending bar at the Four Deuces, located @ 2222 South Wabash Avenue, a very lucrative joy house Johnny Torrio ran for Big Jim Colosimo. No wonder shots there were so pricey, considering what (who?) else you were paying for...

Edited by Boisvert 8, Oct 2, 2010 @ 12:07 PM.

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#19

fashionista79

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Posted Oct 3, 2010 @ 9:37 PM

What an anachronistic mess this show is turning out to be. African Americans running booze? The KKK operating in NJ in 1920? Oy.

I'm not sure that it's exactly anachronistic. The KKK weren't only concentrated in the south, especially since The Birth of Nation came out before 1920. Also, Chalkie White is a black gangster on the black side of town. They did exist (and weren't only relegated to number running. Larry Fishburne played numbers runner and bootlegger Bumpy Johnson in Hoodlum, so it doesn't seem that far-fetched to me that Chalkie would try to find a way to get in on the action when it's being offered). And seeing as how Nucky is about money first, I can't see him turning his back on business just because a potential associate is black.

Edited by fashionista79, Oct 3, 2010 @ 9:38 PM.

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#20

clack

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Posted Oct 3, 2010 @ 10:10 PM

Well, the Klan did operate in NJ, though I don't know whether they did in Atlantic City. But they didn't arrive until 1921, and they were non-violent (unlike the Indiana chapter, say).

Of course they were African American racketeers, and historical Nucky did do business with them (as did Capone) but they were confined to operating in their own neighborhoods. They were no more welcome in the criminal big leagues than they were in the baseball big leagues.
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#21

mshepnj

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Posted Oct 4, 2010 @ 7:02 AM

Well, the Klan did operate in NJ, though I don't know whether they did in Atlantic City. But they didn't arrive until 1921, and they were non-violent (unlike the Indiana chapter, say).



Well, South Jersey is below the Mason-Dixon line and there were plenty of Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War. According to Daniel Okrent's "Last Call" the KKK was part of the Dry coalition but their reasons for supporting Prohibition had more to do with anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism (anti immigrants in general). Racial animus existed even if the KKK wasn't violent nor solely targeting blacks at that point. I have a feeling that the KKK will be fingered for trying to interfere with the liquor deal Nucky set up with Chaulky but it wouldn't surprise me if it was Doyle's men who killed Chaulky's man and tried to make it look like the KKK.

Edited by mshepnj, Oct 4, 2010 @ 7:03 AM.

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#22

clack

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Posted Oct 4, 2010 @ 9:16 AM

It feels like Terence Winter flipped through some reference book on the 20's, noticed that the Klan was powerful in parts of the country during the period, and decided to include them for dramatic effect, as part of an overall portrait of Jazz Age America.

Trouble is, it gives the show a cartoon-y tone. It's as if, 90 years from now, a TV show about the Atlantic City of 2010 would include Tea Party rallies and al-Qaeda terrorist cells.
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#23

BrahmaGirl

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Posted Oct 4, 2010 @ 9:26 AM

I know 1920 =/= 1922 and that there's more to NJ than Atlantic City, but this guy became Grand Dragon of NJ "around 1922".

Edited by BrahmaGirl, Oct 4, 2010 @ 9:27 AM.

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#24

Mathematician

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Posted Oct 4, 2010 @ 11:24 AM

I'm just writing to add that, Rhode Island, of all places had an active KKK in the 1920s (mostly focused against Catholics - but also black school children), so I doesn't seem out of place to me that New Jersey woud also have an active KKK. I only know this because I'm from the Foster area and know old people who were in the clan. Note the clan had gatherings upwards of 2000 people, even today in Foster that is a huge gathering.

Winning quote on the KKK in Rhode Island: ''Outside of New England, you didn't see many Klans celebrating at clambakes,'' says Smith.


That same news article on the clan's presence in RI goes on to say as the 20s went on clan announcements became common enough that they were in the newspaper without much comment. Something along the lines of: "Bring your sheet, we're having a clambake and bitching about Papists."

http://www.projo.com...nth4/426nw1.htm
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#25

kay1864

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Posted Oct 4, 2010 @ 4:34 PM

For the "prequel" to Boardwalk Empire, this fascinating article from Smithsonian magazine, on the diverse forces (and the one man, who wasn't even a politician) that led to Prohibition.

(BIG SPOILER WARNING ON SIN CITY: AC SEGMENT CLIPS)

Boisvert 8, I watched that 20-minute AC documentary last week (fascinating stuff, how AC was "Vegas before Vegas", how Nucky courted the black vote, and how he wasn't really a Republican or Democrat, he just liked that the GOP gave him $$, etc), but I didn't notice any big spoilers. Can you please post? (with spoiler tags if you like)
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#26

clack

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Posted Oct 4, 2010 @ 5:14 PM

Hey Mathematician -- yeah I'm a Rhode Islander myself and know about the RI KKK. In fact, the RI chapter committed the one act of violence from any Klan group on the East Coast : the burning of an African American church (no one was hurt, thankfully).

(Growing up, the kindly owner of my local candy store was head of the local KKK, I found out years later.)
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#27

Boisvert 8

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Posted Oct 4, 2010 @ 8:26 PM

kay1864-

Trying to stick to the letter of the Do & Dont's & use an abundance of caution here on the TWoP BE boards- I was referring to all the snippets from future episodes (for example that one of The Commodore on what looks to perhaps be his deathbed) that the HBO OD segment contains.
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#28

Ankai

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Posted Oct 5, 2010 @ 12:59 PM

A possible bit of fanwanking concerning the KKK. Wikipedia says:

The first appearance of the KKK in New Jersey was in 1921, where it had crossed over from New York and Pennsylvania.

The footnote for that, however, says:

The KKK first spread to New Jersey from the states of New York and Pennsylvania early in 1921 and has had a history of being a peaceful Klan.

"First spread" and "first appearance" may mean the same thing, but not necessarily all of the time. I have not looked through all of the other sources, and I am definitely not an expert on the Klan, but is it possible that there had been a few recruiters scattered throughout New Jersey the year before the big push into the state?

As for violence or non-violence, there has been no evidence of either so far in the show. The man being lynched probably had a racial component to it, but I noticed nothing indicating the involvement of the Klan in terms of either the scene itself or the characters.
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#29

ReesieKitty

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Posted Oct 5, 2010 @ 2:21 PM

I think its interesting that in this 'modern' day so many people see a lynching and think 'It had to be the KKK!" It absolutely didn't take an established KKK chapter to lynch a black man in the 1920s in the US. And- even if it had been made clear that it was the KKK specifically, it doesn't make it cartoonish- such things happened all too often. Lynching would be a terrifying tool if you wanted to scare the local black population and intimidate them.

But- I felt that after they showed us the conversation in the bar with 'Doyle' - who obviously KNEW Chalky's men had taken over his watering-down business and was extremely angry about it- that it was Doyle and his comrades who had lynched Chalky's driver. They had a specific motive to get back at Chalky- and making it a lynching just would have added extra emphasis and brutality- not to mention costing Nucky more money and possibly sparking a race war as a nice little extra, courtesy of Doyle.
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#30

Ankai

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Posted Oct 5, 2010 @ 2:46 PM

I think that that was what we were meant to believe; that Doyle was responsible. The KKK had such a small presence in one of the three aired episodes; if they were barely there in 1920, then their reach was probably negligible. Doyle has not had much screen time either, but he has actually been part of the story proper. As of now, all signs point to Doyle.

To me, the real question is how common lynching of Black people was in post-WWI New Jersey.
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