ABSTRACT

Much of the political career of William O’Dwyer, New York’s major political figure and was centrally affected by changes in the symbolization of organized crime. The depths of O’Dwyer’s fall can only be gauged by the interplay between the changing perception of organized crime emerging in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and his perceived betrayal of his former persona as a stalwart against syndicate criminals. Born in Ireland, he migrated to the United States in 1910 and joined the Police Department in 1917. William O’Dwyer’s famous investigation into gangland murders began in a curious way with a letter sent from the City Workhouse by Harry Rudolph which implicated Abe Reles and several others in a seven-year old murder. The unravelling of O’Dwyer’s New York political career over the issue of organized crime which had seemingly threatened in 1945 actually began in 1949 after his second triumphant campaign for Mayor.