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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York City Criminal Courts: Historical Research: Researcher/Student Guide to the John Jay Criminal Trial Transcript Collection

Links and information on historical research on documents produced by NYC, NY State and Federal court proceedings in NYC.

Suggestions for Researching a Trial Transcript

If your research assignment is to read and write a paper on a transcript in the John Jay Criminal Trial Transcript Collection [sometimes called the Crime in New York 1850-1950 Collection] it is best to browse for a transcript digitally available. You can also  make an appointment to view the transcript on microfilm if your find a transcript not digitally available on our long list of all 3,369 trial transcripts , but it is going to be much easier to read a transcript that is digitally available

The transcripts can be read quickly, so choose carefully it will be easier to write a paper on an interesting and complete one than a short and/or incomplete one. Sometimes there is no additional information on the specific case documented in the transcript specifically. For example, the many cases in our collection in which the defendant(s) are charged with burglary and/or larceny are not reported upon in newspaper reports. But there are plenty of supporting materials that place the transcript in context of the history of crime and the general situation in NYC at the time. This page is intended to provide you with helpful resources for researching your paper. 

If you would like to contribute your research to help us enhance our digitally available transcripts with more information and citations to the case, we would love to hear from you. Email us at libspcoll @ - please include the transcript number in your email.

Research suggestions:

Try searching for articles on the crime and trial by defendant or victim's name (if known) in the New York Times Historical File  (CUNY use only) or other New York State Newspapers (John Jay use only) or The New York Tribune (freely available from the Library of Congress Newspapers Chronicling America).  Try searching CUNY+Academic Search Complete or America: History and Life  for the historical or criminal context to the case. 

Be sure to remember that there are often variant spellings of names and aliases, particularly those of immigrants and sometimes intentionally by defendants. Sometimes crimes and charges are described differently in the press. For example the charge/crime of Abortion was reported in the newspapers as an "Illegal Operation" as in this 1893 article: "DOLORES GLODECK'S ILLNESS.: SHE DENIES THAT SHE HAS BEEN ILLEGALLY TREATED." (1893, Feb 11). New York Times

Case on Appeal and Court/Case Reports:

Search Nexis Uni (formerly LexisNexis Academic) by defendant name to determine if the case was appealed.You can also try searching Google Scholar Case Law for New York (State). Some case reports may appear in the [difficult to navigate] Courts of Record (1892-1948) The Miscellaneous reports of selected cases decided in courts of the State of New York other than the Court of Appeals and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.  Reference Law - KFN 5051 .A3 There are/were many such NY State case reporters published, with overlapping information, some volumes are searchable on Google Books - such as this title, and this title, and this title.  The works listed below provide historical context for specific transcripts in the collection as well as crimes that were prosecuted in the transcripts. 

District Attorney Reports and Indictments

Try looking up the case in the Annual report of the Chief Clerk of the District Attorney's Office, county of New Yorkfreely available on HathiTrust Library. The individuals involved in the case including District Attorney (prosecutor) or Defense Lawyer or Judge may have Wikipedia pages - several appear there.


We also have a few books that discuss some some individuals and crimes appearing in our transcript collection- try searching their names on OneSearch - but first look at the lists below.

Resources related to jury trials of the time:

Tales from the Criminal Court a website based upon John Jay's Criminal Transcript Collection and others.

Courtroom warrior; : the combative career of William Travers Jerome- Stacks - KF373 .J47 O26 William Travers Jerome was NY County District Attorney who appears often as prosecutor in the transcripts.

Mr. District Attorney  [a book about Frank Hogan]

Münsterberg, Hugo (1908) On the witness stand: essays on psychology and crime.

Tappan, P. W. (1969). Delinquent girls in court; a study of the Wayward Minor.  Montclair, N.J., Patterson Smith. Stacks - KFX 2007.35 .T3 1969

Underwood, Richard (2017) Gaslight lawyers: criminal trials & exploits in gilded age New York. Stacks - KF355.N4 U53 2017

Murphy, Cait (2010) Scoundrels in law: the trials of Howe & Hummel, lawyers to the gangsters, cops, starlets, and rakes who made the Gilded Age. New York, N.Y.: Smithsonian Books Stacks-KF355 .N4 M87 2010

Resources on the History of Crime in NYC

For the Record is NYC Department of Records and Information Services Blog features resources on topics on a range of City history including Prostitution Incarcerated Girls, Lucky Luciano and Prostitution, Reform SchoolsRiker's Island and more topics 

Knickerbocker’s New York Murder in 19th Century Gotham – A Legal History Blog -  includes a post on 19th century NYC Riots. you can follow this blog on Twitter.

A Selection of Books about the History of New York and New York City Crime:

Abelson, E. S. (1992). When Ladies Go a-Thieving: Middle-Class Shoplifters in the Victorian Department Store.  New York: Oxford University Press. Stacks - HV 6658 .A24 1992

Alexander, R. M. (1995) The girl problem:  female sexual delinquency in New York, 1900-1930.  Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1995. Stacks - HV 9105 .N7 A67 1995

Arnold, M. H. (1989). “The Life of a Citizen in the Hands of a Woman: Sexual Assault in New York City, 1790–1820.” In , K. Peiss and C. Simmons eds. Passion and Power: Sexuality in History Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Stacks – HQ18 U5 P37 1989

Brazil, J. (1981). Murder Trials, Murder, and Twenties America. American Quarterly, 33(2), 163-184. doi:10.2307/2712314

Carter, S. (2018). Invisible: The forgotten story of the black woman lawyer who took down America's most powerful mobster.Stacks - PS3603.A78 Z46 2018

Crapsey, E. (1872). The Nether Side of New York. Montclair, N.J., Patterson Smith. Stacks - HV6795.N5 C8 1969

Peterson, Carla L. Black Gotham : a family history of African Americans in nineteenth-century New York City. Stacks - F130 .N4 P47 2011

also available as an ebook

Fried, A. (1980). The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Stacks - HV6194 .J4 F74

The Gentlemen's Directory [A Pocket Guide to Brothels in 19th-Century New York] - reproduced from the original in the NYPL - and discussed on Gothamist.

Gilfoyle, T. J. A pickpocket's tale:  the underworld of nineteenth-century New York. Stacks - HV6653 .A66 G55 2006

Gilfoyle, T. J. (1992). City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1820-1920. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton  Stacks - HQ 146 .N7 .G55 1992

Monkkonen, E. H. (2001). Murder in New York City. Berkeley: University of California Press.  Stacks - HV 6534 .N5 M65 2001

Odem, M. E (1995) Delinquent daughters: protecting and policing adolescent female sexuality in the United States, 1885-1920.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.  Stacks - HQ 27.5 .O34 1995 (available as e-book from our CUNY+ Catalog)

Reagan, L. J. (1997) When abortion was a crime:  women, medicine, and law in the United States, 1867-1973.  This study utilized the Chicago Coroner’s records and court transcripts. See: Stacks & Reserve - HQ 767.5 .U5 R378 1997 (available as e-book from CUNY+ Catalog)

Sante, L. (1992). Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York. New York: Vintage Books Stacks - F128.47 .S23 1992

Robertson, S. (1998): "Signs, Marks and Private Parts: Doctors, Legal Discourses and Evidence of Rape in the United States, 1823-1930," Journal of the History of Sexuality 8/3: 372-385.

Sacks, Marcy S (2006) Before Harlem: the Black experience in New York City before World War I. Stacks - F128.9 .N4 S33 2006

Schatzberg, R. (1993). Black organized crime in Harlem, 1920-1930. New York : Garland Pub. Stacks - HV 6452 .N7 S34 1993

Segrave, K. (2007). Women swindlers in America, 1860-1920. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Stacks - HV6695 .S44 2007

Spingarn, Arthur B. (1930) Laws relating to sex morality in New York City, Special Collections - HQ 146 .N5 S64 1915  - We have digitized this book with the Internet Archive where it is freely available. 

Sutton, C. (1973). The New York Tombs: Its Secrets and Its Mysteries. Montclair, N.J., Patterson Smith. Stacks - HV9481.N62 T68 1973

Tappan, P. W. (1969). Delinquent girls in court; a study of the Wayward Minor.  Montclair, N.J., Patterson Smith. Stacks - KFX 2007.35 .T3 1969

White, S., Garton, S., & Robertson, G. (2010). Playing the Numbers: Gambling in Harlem Between the Wars. Cumberland: Harvard University Press. Stacks HV6721 .N5 P54 2010 also available as an ebook (JJay login required) authors used many archival resources directly related to our trial transcript collection, including the NY District Attorney 'Closed Case' files at the Municipal Archives.

Books & Articles Written From our Trial Transcripts

Books & Articles written from research in our Trial Transcript Collection these works can both be an example of what can be written from a transcript as well as research materials on the specific transcripts that were used to write them.

Arons, Ron (2008) The Jews of Sing Sing: Gotham Gangsters and Gonuvim. Fort Lee: Barricade Books. Stacks - HV6194 .J4 A76 2008
Brooks, Tim and Richard Keith Spottswood (2004) Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919. University of Illinois Press.  Available as an e-book (CUNY use only) Chapter three uses The People vs. George V. Johnson (our trial number 183) as a resource.
Bunk, Tobin (2014) Poisoning the Pecks of Grand Rapids: the Scandalous 1916 Murder Plot. History Press (expected soon at John Jay Library). Used People vs. Arthur Warren Waite (our trial number 3241) as a resource for this book.
Carnevale, Nancy C.  (2010) A New Language, a New World: Italian Immigrants in the United States, 1890-1945. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.  Avail. As an e-book (CUNY use only)Used People v Calandra Biaggio (our transcript number 601, which is digitally available) and People vs. Dominick DeMasso (our transcript number 322)
Cole, Simon A. (2001) Suspect Identities: A History of Criminal Investigation and Fingerprinting. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Reserve Room - 3 hour loan - HV 6074 .C557 2001 Also available as an e-book (CUNY use only). Used transcript of People v. Crispi (our trial number 176) as a resource in this book.
Chauncey, G. (1994) Gay New York:  gender, urban culture, and the making of the gay male world, 1890-1940.  New York: Basic Books. Stacks - HQ 76.2 .U52 N53 1994. Used sodomy cases related to bath houses in the Court of General Sessions Transcripts at John Jay as a resource for this book.
Critchley, David.  The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia 1891-1931. New York: Routledge. Stacks - HV6452 .N7 C75 2009 Used transcript of People vs. John Russomanno (our trial number 1856) as a resource for this book.
Donovan, B. (2005), “Gender Inequality and Criminal Seduction: Prosecuting Sexual Coercion in the Early-20th Century.” Law and Social Inquiry, 30 pp. 61–88. Analyzes narratives of sexual consent and coercion in 15 criminal seduction cases as recorded in transcripts in the John Jay Collection.
Donovan, B., & Barnes-Brus, T. (2011). Narratives of Sexual Consent and Coercion: Forced Prostitution Trials in Progressive-Era New York City. Law & Social Inquiry, 36(3), 597-619. doi:10.1111/j.1747-4469.2011.01244.x (John Jay Log-in required) discusses 'white slavery' transcripts in the collection.
Donovan, B. (2016) Respectability on trial : sex crimes in New York City, 1900-1918.  Albany: State University of New York Press. Stacks - HQ72.U5 D66 2016 Used 75 transcripts from our collection as references in this book.
Lui, M. (2005). The Chinatown trunk mystery : Murder, miscegenation, and other dangerous encounters in turn-of-the-century New York City. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Stacks - JV6483 .L85 2005  used trial #1659 People vs. Lee Dock and Eng Hing as well as other trials in our collection.
Livingston, David (2010) Arsenic and clam chowder: murder in gilded age New York. Albany : Excelsior Editions, State University of New York Press.. Stacks - HV6534 .N5 L58 2010 Detailed account of a murder for inheritance in a famous NYC family, and the trial (our trial number 70).
Mcillwain, Jeffrey Scott (March 1997) “From tong war to organized crime: Revising the historical perception of violence in Chinatown.” Justice Quarterly  14, 1 pp. 25-52. Used the Court of General Sessions, New York County transcripts amongst other primary and secondary documents in this study.
Murphy, Cait (2010) Scoundrels in law: the trials of Howe & Hummel, lawyers to the gangsters, cops, starlets, and rakes who made the Gilded Age. New York, N.Y.: Smithsonian Books Stacks-KF355 .N4 M87 2010 This law firm regularly and famously represented defendants in the Court of General Sessions and many other NYC Courts.  Many of our transcripts were used as reference for this book.
Robertson, S. (2002), “Making Right a Girl's Ruin: Working-Class Legal Cultures and Forced Marriage in New York City, 1890–1950.” Journal of American Studies 36: pp. 199-230.
Robertson, S. (2002) Age of Consent Law and the Making of Modern Childhood in New York City, 1886—1921 Journal of Social History 35.4 pp. 781-798. Used several transcripts in the John Jay Collection as material for these and forthcoming studies.
Schoepfiln, Rennie B. (2002) Christian Science on Trial: Religious Healing in America (Medicine, Science and Religion in Historical Context) Johns Hopkins University Press. Available as an e-book (CUNY use only) Used transcript of People vs. Willis V. Cole our trial number 1767 (case on appeal was 148 N.Y.S. 708) as a resource in this book.
Underwood, Richard (2017) Gaslight lawyers: criminal trials & exploits in gilded age New York. Stacks - KF355.N4 U53 2017
Used many transcripts from our transcript collection to write this book, which is dedicated to the librarians at Lloyd Sealy Library.