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The Murder of Harry Hamberg, South End Tailor

Russian immigrant, family man, tailor shot to death at work in the South End in 1924.

On the evening of Dec. 31, 1924, two men entered Harry Hamberg’s tailor and second-hand clothing shop at 358 Shawmut Ave. They planned to commit robbery.

When they entered, Harry attempted to rise but one of the men struck him in the head with a revolver, knocking him back. Yelling, Harry tried to get up and the same robber shot him in the mouth, fatally wounding him.

William Kendricks and Claude Townsel of 15 East Brookline St. and Emil Hudson of 7 Fairweather St. were in the lunch room next door to Harry’s tailor shop. Upon hearing Harry’s screams, they ran from the lunch room to the tailor shop and reached the door as the two criminals emerged.

“One of the men pointed a pistol at the trio and told them to get back into the lunch room.

‘Move quick! Get back where you came from or you’ll die too’,” yelled the gunman.

“Still covering the three men with the pistol, the bandit, reinforced by his companion, followed the men back to the lunch room and then warned them not to come out for several minutes because…he would shoot.”[1]

The thieves fled toward West Dedham Street, chased by people who had been attracted to the scene by Harry’s screams. The convicts turned onto Newland Street, where the pursuers lost their trail.

Meanwhile, Harry “staggered from his store and into the street, where he collapsed.”[2] Passersby transported him to a nearby butcher shop, where the police found him, still alive, a few minutes later. He deteriorated rapidly and could not speak to the police. An ambulance brought Harry to nearby Boston City Hospital, where he died shortly after arriving.

At 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 10, 1925, following “clews,” police arrested 16-year-old Henry Alexander of 6 ½ Arnold Street, Roxbury, for the murder of Harry Hamberg and for the robbery of Manuel Oumanian at 333 Shawmut Ave. a few days before Mr. Hamberg’s murder. Henry Alexander confessed to the robbery at Mr. Hamberg’s but claimed that his partner, Frank Kearney, fired the gun. Henry pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 19 to 20 years in prison.[3]

Henry Alexander’s partner in crime, the man who shot Harry Hamberg, eluded authorities until 1941, when authorities captured him near the Mexican border. Frank Kearney managed to avoid arrest for  17 years and his “travels took him to many parts of the world, including Europe, South America and Mexico. He left France at the outbreak of the war (World War II).”[4] Kearney claimed that during the robbery of Harry Hamberg’s shop, the “revolver accidentally discharged when he struck the victim on the head.”[5] Kearney was sentenced to 28 to 30 years in prison for manslaughter.

At the time of his murder, Harry was 63 years old and lived at 30 Emerald St. with his wife, children, and an occasional boarder. Emerald Street was located in the Castle Square area and ran between Dover (now East Berkeley) and Castle (now Herald) Streets. The 1922 Bromley map attached indicates Emerald Street’s location.

Harry and his wife Ida came to the United States from Russia in 1908 with three children: Benjamin, born in 1893; Dora, born in 1894; and Samuel, born in 1897.[6] Dora married Samuel Katz, who lived in the Castle Square area and at one time had a shop at 488 Tremont St. The 1930 census shows that Dora and Samuel Katz lived at 30 Emerald St. with their children, Arnold, Shirley, and Leon, as well as Dora’s mother and Harry’s widow Ida and Dora’s nephew Morris Hamburg.

[1] “Tailor Shot to Death in South End Holdup,” Boston Daily Globe, January 1, 1925.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Roxbury Boy Accuses Pal in South End Murder Case,” Boston Daily Globe, January 10, 1925 and “Guilty of Manslaughter,” Boston Daily Globe, May 26, 1925.

[4] “Boston Slayer Suspect Back after Seventeen Years,” Daily Boston Globe, August 19, 1941.

[5] Ibid.

[6] United States Federal Census, 1930.

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walter ferme February 15, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Hope Shannon, I love these stories from the South End past!
Hope Shannon February 16, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Hi Walter- I'm glad to hear it!
waltham rocks August 02, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Hi Shannon -- I found this post today, doing a random search. Harry Hamburg was my great grandfather. I would be most interested in learning more about ANYTHING you have discovered about this. In addition, my father and grandfather owned a hardware/pawn-shop on Tremont...the first was located where Castle Garden Apartments was. It then moved across the street and was knocked down in the first wave of urban renewal. It's now a park. Would love to contact you for more info! Thanks!
Ilene Weiner August 02, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Harry Hamberg was my great-grandfather. I knew about his murder as it is family lore, but it was interesting to read the whole story. Thanks.
Hope Shannon August 13, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Hi Waltham Rocks, For more information send me an email at hope.shannon@southendhistoricalsociety.org. Let me know what sort of info you are looking for and I can see what we have at the office. Thanks! Hope
Hope Shannon August 13, 2012 at 12:40 AM
You're very welcome Ilene!

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