Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fiftieth Anniversary

At about 2 in 1939
From Uncle Jack's photos

Jackie, Aunt Marie's only child, came to live with Grandma and Grandpa in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

With his Uncle Bud and Grandpa on the front steps in 1940

In 1945

Jackie recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife Marie.

His mother Marie (Mary)  in 1950

When Aunt Marie married Uncle John in 1935 it was news because of her Uncle Lew. Bambi found a newspaper story in the Long Island Press titled "Mary A. McNally, Valentine's Niece Will Wed Jan 12." Bridesmaids were sister Cecelia and Veronica and John's sister Catherine. Billie was maid of honor and John's best man was Harry Lyck. Ushers were Albert Hermann, Buddy Duane, Ben Brackman and Donald Haggerty. The wedding was at Our Lady of Lourdes in Queens Village followed by a reception and breakfast at the Commercial House.

As the eldest Marie was the first to marry. Billie followed in August of 1935.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Aunt Patty told us years ago about her Uncle Lew sending a big black car to take the younger kids to school when he was Police Commissioner. She was about 6 when he got that job in 1934 and he held it throughout her school years.

I loved hearing about the giant limousine that took them to grade school but it seemed like a strange perk for the Commissioner's nieces and nephews. I was recently looking at news stories about Lewis Valentine and saw several that explained why the McNally children rode in a police car to school.

"Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine and his daugher, Ruth who with her sister Miriam has been threatened by gangsters as a result of the police drive on policy and other racketeers. Detectives have been assigned to patrol the area within a block of the Valentine home at 1650 68th Street, Burough Park, Brooklyn."

These articles are from March, 1935. See complete transcriptions at the bottom of the post.

This one says that Ruth was 18 and Miriam 16 when a phone threat was received by a neighbor:

"You tell Mrs. Valentine and you can tell him, too, that Ruth and Miriam are liable to be snapped and we won't be responsible."

All the articles obligingly give the Commissioner's home address in case anyone thought kidnapping anybody was a good idea. The article above also says:
The younger daughter, who attends St. Brendan's Roman Catholic School at Avenue O and East Twelfth Street in the North Sheepshead Bay area, has been taken to and from school every day in a police car with two detectives from the Borough Park police station as an escort.
Miriam, her father and the boys in the neighborhood

There was some thought that the threats came from gambling interests who were upset with the new drive against the policy racket and vice, a campaign that received a good deal of newspaper publicity.

The Commissioner and a confiscated roulette table

LaGuardia at left next to the Commissioner
 tossing slot machine parts into the harbor

The Commissioner said in print that he was inclined to treat the threat lightly, but my guess is that he added an escort for his nieces and nephews as well as his own girls. Kidnapping was often in the headlines in the 1930s. The trial of the Lindbergh baby's murderer was going on in February,1935. Newspapers around the country had similar stories of ransoms and "snatches".

Nothing seems to have come of the Valentine kidnapping threat. I watch a lot of NCIS and I would have grilled that neighbor. The kids got a nice ride out of it anyway.

Transcripts of the two articles
New York Times March 9, 1935
Valentine's Daughters Guarded by Police;

Threatened at Start of Policy Inquiry

Two daughters of Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine have been under the guard of detectives whenever they have appeared outside their home in Brooklyn as the result of a telephone call two weeks ago threatening bodily harm to them, it was learned last night.

The two daughters are Ruth, 18 years old, and Miriam, 16. The telephone call was received at about the time preparations were being made for the present investigation of the policy game and other rackets.

Patrols of two detectives in police cars, it was learned have been assigned all day and all night to the area within a block of the commissioner's home at 1,650 Sixty-eighth Street in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn.

The younger daughter, who attends St. Brendan's Roman Catholic School at Avenue O and East Twelfth Street in the North Sheepshead Bay area, has been taken to and from school every day in a police car with two detectives from the Borough Park police stations as an escort.

The older girl does not go to school. But when she wished to go shopping in New York a few days ago a police car called for her at her home and two detectives accompanied her while she was shopping.

Both daughters attended Lenten services at 8 o'clock last night at the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seventy-Second Street and Fifteenth Avenue. They were taken to the church in a police car with an escort of detectives, and the police car was waiting for them when services were over at 9:30.

The call threatening the girls was received by a neighbor of the Police Commissioner, whose telephone number is not listed in the telephone directory. The voice over the telephone to the neighbor, it was learned said:

"You tell Mrs. Valentine and you can tell him, too, that Ruth and Miriam are liable to be snapped and we won't be responsible."

The neighbor immediately informed Mrs. Valentine of the call. At his home last night Commissioner Valentine had "nothing to say," when asked about the guards. A police radio car drove by the Valentine home twice between 9 and 9:30 P.M. and at a later hour a radio car with two men was seen parked with the lights out within four doors of the home.

New York Times March 18, 1935

Valentine Confirms Kidnapping Threat
Police Commissioner Asserts Warning Had No Connection With Drive on Gambling

Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine at the daily press conference at police headquarters confirmed yesterday the reports of the threat to kidnap his two daughters, Ruth and Miriam, which was received on February 18 by Mrs. George Scanlon, a neighbor, living at 1,660 Sixty-Eight Street, Brooklyn.

The threat came by telephone, he said, and the caller did not seem to be speaking for the would-be kidnapper himself but was attempting to give friendly warning. He said that in the version of the phraseology used, as he had understood, it was:

I have reliable information to the effect that they are threatening to snatch Mr. Valentine's youngest daughter."

"A man in public life," the commissioner asserted, "is bound to make a lot of friends, and also a lot of enemies. I know that the threats were not connected with the present drive against policy and vice because that was before the drive was announced."

The commissioner was inclined to treat the threat lightly. He admitted he had sent a detective to guard Miss Miriam immediately after the message was received.

The Valentine home is at 1,650 Sixty-Eighth Street.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Print-On-Demand Book

McNally Family Album

I've taken many of the photos and information from this blog and uploaded a book design to This is a print-on-demand service that makes books as they are ordered.

You can order The McNally Family Album as a paperback, a hardback with a dust jacket or a wrap-around image cover. Click here to see a preview (just turn the pages by clicking on the arrow).

A page spread

And order one or ten (there are discounts for quantity books).

The book is 40 pages, 7" square and contains geneaological information about the McNallys, the Valentines, the Curleys and the Dalys, most of it derived from Bambi's research. The photos were sent by several cousins and they've all appeared on the blog.

The book won't go out of print and you can order it any time. I've put a box on the left that you can click on any time to go directly to the page at

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Looking for John McNally

William McNally's father was named John McNally (maybe spelled MacNally or a Macanally or...) and his mother was Mary. These two extremely common names have made it difficult to find anything about them in the public records as there are so many.

I have a pen pal (an e-pal?) in New York City who has offered to do genealogical research for me while working on other projects and she reports on all the John McNallys she's discovered living in New York in the 1890s. None of these John McNallys she's found in the newspapers seem to be our John McNally but the stories do offer a slice of late-19th-century life in the big city (illustrated by pictures of the Dead End Kids or the Bowery Boys)

Young John McNally was identified as a member of the "Gashouse Gang" in Brooklyn and got into a shooting scrape which started when young John & other gang members made fun of a male passerby's black and yellow scarf and the passerby went after them. Shooting ensued.

John McNally in Manhattan was arrested as part of a sting operation (literally like the movie The Sting where McNally was the sting perpetrator, not the cops) in which telegraph lines were diverted into a basement of a house on the West side of Manhattan where the group, including McNally, were intercepting telegraph messages about sports, the races, etc. and passing them on to win at or fix the odds on bets. A fascinating aspect of this case is that the cops also arrested the man who lived upstairs who was a "bookmaker" who said he just lived upstairs and knew nothing about this operation. Amazing to me, but the bookmaker was exonerated and let go by the court the next day, his story found to be credible. Ya think the judge was a client????

Meanwhile John McNally in Sing Sing (not what you think -- the town, not the prison) is a pillar of the community and a fine up-standing man whose name appears in various laudible political and charitable notices.

John McNally in Manhattan gets arrested because there was a fight on the roof of a house on the West side between him and another guy with two friends around as well. On the roof, the guy goes after John to toss him off the roof. John pulls a gun and shoots the guy in the leg. They all run down the stairs to the street including the guy with the gunshot wound. Meanwhile a resident of the building summons the cops. By the time the cops get there, John and the guy are rolling on the ground beating each other up. Upon arrest the guy with the gunshot wound claims he wasn't shot.

My favorite (actually its a tie with the wiretapping story): An unemployed young mother jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge. She's weighted her legs with sand in her pantlegs so she doesn't "flip over" before hitting the water(?)and has taken other precautions. She is dragged out the of the water by cops and sent to the hospital unconscious with a broken bone or two but she survives (for that day and age, pre CPR, a bona fide miracle).
Meanwhile John McNally and another man are standing by the bank of the East River at the scene when the cops pull her out of the river. When asked if they know the woman, they reply, "She's the same woman that tried to jump off the bridge 10 days ago." Apparently that was an incident that hit the papers. Finding it more than coincidental that these guys knew her from before the jump and also knew that she's the one who had tried it before, the cops arrest the two and learn from another bystander that John and friend were paid by someone to drag her out of the river after she landed and that's why they're there. They were there doing the same thing 10 days ago.

All go to jail. The charge against the woman is attempted suicide and she is convicted and get a heavy sentence and the charge against John & friend is assisting attempted suicide. They have different stories in court, but the consensus is that the woman was in need and she or her husband made a deal with a man who agreed to pay her and her husband $300 if she jumped off the bridge as some kind of stunt. I really don't get it, but that's the story. John & friend admitted they had been paid to stand by and haul her in after the jump(s), their defense apparently being that it wasn't part of the plan that she could die.