More New York in the 30s questions
August 8, 2009 10:45 PM   Subscribe

Some more 30s New York questions: Would a police detectve in 1930s New York be a uniformed or a nonuniformed role? In the 30s would there be such a thing as plainsclothes police outside of the feds? Are there any years in the 30s in which the New York summer was particularly hot? And, just to be totally random, what popular newspapers in New York in the 30s would have been giving favourable coverage to Hitler, and when would he have started being front page news?
posted by Artw to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've read Nero Wolfe mysteries from the 1930's which pretty clearly suggest that Inspector Cramer wore a suit and tie rather than a cop's uniform. And I think that was the case for Sergeant Stebbins, too.

Whether it's true or not, you could get away with it in fiction for the book/story you're writing.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:15 PM on August 8, 2009

I did some messing around with this page, and it looks like the climate in NY State was quite consistent in the 1930's. Virtually no differences year to year from 1930 to 1940.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:23 PM on August 8, 2009

I'm not sure about New York, but the midwest had several high temperatures that haven't even been touched since the dust bowl 30's. It looks like New York's highest high ever was only 102 degrees in 1966 (, so I would expect any officer to be in full uniform. That's not that hot.
posted by sanka at 11:55 PM on August 8, 2009

what popular newspapers in New York in the 30s would have been giving favourable coverage to Hitler

The pro-Nazi German-American Bund had a weekly newspaper the Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter ("German Clarion and Observer"), and there were several other German-language papers pubished in New York in the thirties.
posted by orthogonality at 12:06 AM on August 9, 2009

Hitler's name was appearing in front page headlines in the New York Times as early as 1930. This is the earliest front page headline I could find, from September 15th, 1930.
posted by Kattullus at 7:01 AM on August 9, 2009

I just re-read the first eight Nancy Drew books, and although they 1. are fiction and 2. were re-edited sometime in the late '50s to early '60s, they were originally written 1930–32 and draw upon a lot of customs of the time (metal "charge plates," anyone?)—and they feature several instances in which plainclothes local policemen (sometimes even in unmarked cars) play prominent roles that don't seem to have been edited in after the fact. While the frequency with which these plainclothesmen are assigned solely to protect the Drew household or a location Nancy's investigating seems a bit of a stretch, their existence in that time period doesn't feel out of place.
posted by limeonaire at 7:16 AM on August 9, 2009

In the 30s would there be such a thing as plainsclothes police outside of the feds?

Yes. If you can get your hands on it, get the book New York Noir, which will show you exactly what the cops were wearing. But my copy of it shows many, many plainclothes policemen.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:27 AM on August 9, 2009

As regards newspaper coverage, the best thing I know of is merely google news archive, which can be searched by date range. I use it all the time for work (one of my functions is Anachronism Police). Many actual texts are pay, but you'd be surprised what you can get from the OCRed snippets with clever search terms.

News archive is even useful for heat waves!
posted by zusty at 10:16 AM on August 9, 2009

New York doesn't get super hot but it can get super muggy, which makes even 80 degrees unbearably unpleasant and sticky. A lot of residents flee the horrible late-august, soggy yellow-haze that makes everyone grumpy and tense. If you're using a horrible summer as a plot device, making it a dusty-yet-muggy-but-not-a-cloud-in-sight heat wave would ring true and give reason for everyone who can't get out of the city to be extra on edge.
posted by The Whelk at 3:54 PM on August 9, 2009

Well, my beloved grandfather was a detective first class in NYC around that time. He wore a suit, a heavy coat (concealed his firearm) and a fedora. All the pics of him with his fellow detectives look the same. I don't have any pics of him in plainclothes that aren't packed away in a box somewhere, but if it helps, here he is :)
posted by jeanmari at 9:01 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

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