Crime in Richmond in the 1940s.
Below is a selection of items found in the John Edward Lawler Papers that concern suspected criminal activity and actual crime in 1940s Richmond. These items were compiled by the F.B.I. Richmond field office and were often used for training purposes.
The collection also contains numerous FBI photographs and training manuals, and reports on crime and suspected criminal activity whether it be inside the clubs and bars along Second Street in Richmond's Jackson Ward district to Virginia's political Byrd Machine.
Click on each image for a larger view.
Images from the Schwarzschild Bros. Jewels Heist
These three images are part of a set of a dozen photographs produced by the Richmond police in the course of their investigation of the 1949 Schwarzschild Bros. Jewelers heist. Three thieves broke into the Schwarzschild Bros. jeweler store, corner of Broad and Second Streets in downtown Richmond, and walked away with $222,000 in jewels. By the end of the year the three men were caught and sent to prison. Most of the jewels were never found. Lawler’s FBI unit ended up with these and other photographs documenting the crime. More about the heist can be found in an online article entitled Burglars and Bungles: Richmond's Most Infamous Heists - Clever and Otherwise that was printed in Style Weekly magazine.
Richmond's "Alarming" Murder Rate
Newspaper clipping from the Lawler Papers: "Big Increase in Murders During '43," Richmond News Leader, August 10, 1943. " Homicides in Richmond: Round Dots Indicate Negro Murders, Crossed Dots White"
Statistics compiled by the FBI Uniform Crime Reports show an erratic pattern of murders in Richmond from 1939 until 1947. There were 11 murders in 1939. 8 murders in 1941, 19 murders in 1942, 22 murders in 1943, 8 murders in 1944, 12 murders in 1945, 25 murders in 1946, and 20 murders in 1947.
The high jump in the Richmond murder rate from 1941 to 1942/43 prompted great concern in the city. Richmond Mayor Gordon Barbour Ambler (1896-1951) appointed a seven member committee to study the problem and make recomendations. That report was published in the Richmond News Leader, August 10, 1943, and is availble as a PDF HERE. Much of its focus was on race and economic factors leading to crime.
That article on Richmond's murder rate and others were collected by Lawler and are part of his papers. A second article from the Richmond News Leader published on August 10, 1943, written by James J. Kilpatrick (1920-2010), is availble HERE as a PDF.
The Second World War brought on an increase in the number of reports of prostitution in Virginia. This newspaper clipping, April 8, 1943, was written by James J. Kilpatrick (1920-2010) who went on to be the long time editor, 1954-1966, of the Richmond News Leader and a nationalll known conservative columnist.
Portion of a list of "Houses of Ill Fame [prostitution], Richmond, Va" from the early 1940s. Since this document was not a public record, the names of the women have been obscured for purposes of this web site. The collection contains other materials about prostitution in Richmond.
During the 1940s, the Richmond F.B.I. field office was also concerned with the activities of members of the Communist Party in Virginia. The item above is one of several documents concerning the F.B.I.'s surveillance of Alice Burke who headed the Communist Party in Virginia in the 1940s. Burke, a resident of Richmond, ran openly for political office as a Communist. The collection also contains lists of "known" communists in Richmond and in other parts of Virginia, handwritten field notes on suspected Communists, and other related materials.
A fact sheet highlighting the John Dillinger case from the early 1930s produced by the F.B.I.
A fact sheet showing automated fingerprint searching by the F.B.I.
Examples of the numerous F.B.I. produced publications from the 1940s
that are a part of the John Edward Lawler Papers.