Thieves’ World

Among the many studies of the vaunted Bureau of Municipal Research, police organization was one of the earliest. On this topic, the Bureau assembled a large body of printed materials in English and half a dozen other languages — the collection includes many such rare volumes.  Among them: a set of Russian police books from the time of Tsar Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, dealing with subjects from phrenology to police dog training.

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Police and service dog training manual

One of the more curious items was a small autographed handbook  intended for police officers.

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In it, the author championed advances in law enforcement in the second half of the 19th century, among them the Bertillion System, which stressed the detailed measurements of a criminal’s physiognomy for signs of his supposed outlaw proclivities and ease of identification. A number of mugshots were included as examples.

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In the back of the manual, the author included a brief list of code words any good policeman had to know in order to understand the criminal world. Among them: “guitar”, which meant “crowbar”; “long” which translated as “smart”; “to buy” which meant “to steal”;  and “grave”, which was an apartment used at night.

Individuals had their own slang names: a police officer was called a” spirit” or “ghost”; a “puppeteer” was a person who sold counterfeit currency; and a “washer” was someone who robbed sleeping train passengers.

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An abridged dictionary of the thief’s language


Gulick’s Guru

Charles Austin Beard, the historian who would inspire and mentor Luther Gulick, was born in 1874 in Knightstown, Indiana. Beard attended DePauw, Oxford, and Columbia Universities,soon joining the faculty at Columbia where he had received a graduate degree in 1904. Over the next decade he would author a number of books that would make him a familiar name in the scholarly community, the most famous of which was “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution.” Beard’s scholarly pursuits coincided with the birth of the Bureau of Municipal Research and soon the two became very close.


Possible photo of Charles Beard (center) among the members of the Bureau

After the Training School of Public Service was founded in 1911, Beard visited the institution and made a case that the training received there should be transferable to college credit. As a result Columbia, NYU, and the University of Pennsylvania passed resolutions crediting Training School field work toward graduate degrees at their institutions. In 1915 Beard began teaching courses at the school and was quickly offered the position of head of the school, which he readily accepted.

At the same time at Oberlin College in Ohio, a young Luther Gulick, was able to convince the administration to invite Beard to be a commencement speaker and the two men met for the first time. Gulick was greatly impressed by the New York professor later noting: “Beard, with his flashing eyes and realistic analysis of human political behavior, was a truly revolutionary teacher. With his economic analysis of American history, this Hoosier from the West had debunked the Sunday School interpretation of politics and administration.”

Gulick soon followed Beard to New York, becoming his protege and enrolling at Columbia University. After his first year of graduate school and upon Beard’s recommendation, he enrolled in the Training School of Public Service. In 1918 Beard became the director of the Bureau of Municipal Research, handing the directorship of the Training School to his protege in 1919.


Charles Beard’s business card plate

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Memo mentioning the appointment of Charles Beard as director of the Bureau

Under Beard, the Bureau began making its first international forays, helping establish the Tokyo Institute for Municipal Research. Beard himself traveled around Japan, presenting a series of lectures on American local government in several cities. According to some accounts, the first telegram sent out of Tokyo after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 was from its mayor, Count Shinpei Goto, who was a close friend of Beard, asking that Beard return to Japan as an expert to help plan the reconstruction of Tokyo.

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Beard’s account of his trip to Tokyo after the earthquake.

In 1921, with the reorganization of the Bureau and the Training School into the National Institute of Public Administration (later the IPA), Beard decided to step down, once again leaving his post to Gulick who would remain there for many decades.

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Draft of Beard’s letter of resignation from the Bureau

The two men remained good friends and stayed in touch until Beard’s death in 1948 in New Haven, Connecticut. Gulick lived another 45 years.

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Letter from Beard to Gulick


The Training School for Public Service

In the second decade of the 20th century the Bureau of Municipal Research was riding high. The group had survived the attacks of Tammany Hall and its reputation was spreading throughout the United States. Local civic groups began creating their own Bureaus based on the New York model; however, lacking experience, they increasingly turned to the original for expertise.

Members of the New York Bureau were frequently lent out on projects and many quickly obtained high positions in other cities, permanently leaving New York. This drain was one of the reasons that Dr. William Allen, one of the founders of the bureau, decided to create a school program to provide training to public administration professionals. Mary Williamson Averell Harriman,  widow of the railroad tycoon Edward H. Harriman (who was one of the earliest supporters of the Bureau), agreed to contribute $40,000 — about $1 million today — to the cause, leading to the birth of the Training School for Public Service in 1911.


Edward Harriman

The School aimed to train men — women were only added later — to administer public business, improve the methods used in government service and to generally advance the fields of political science, accountancy, engineering, law, public hygiene, school administration, journalism, medicine and any other fields that related to public service.

In the first year, 485 applications and inquiries were received from 106 cities in 25 states. The first class, of 25 students, included eight studying finance (either Ph.D’s or already engaged in some sort of business), a lawyer, an army engineer, a sanitary engineer, a civil engineer, a school superintendent and two recent college graduates.

Admission was based on certain minimums including “…good physical condition, able to do exacting work under continuous pressure,” as well as  “habits of industry, force of character, and a genuine interest in public affairs.” Also vital: “Courtesy, tact, good address, maturity, discriminating judgement, and ability to command respect and confidence…”


Students of the training school attend a session on public accounting

New York City was to be a giant laboratory in which these hopeful public servants were going to hone their skills. However at first no formal curriculum was contemplated. Each student was under the general supervision of the director of field work and was also assigned to one of the men in the Bureau for supervision in the particular field work.

There was no set length of time the students were required to spend at the school, most doing between one and two years. Eventually a more rigid two-year program was formulated where the students split their time between theory received in a class or lecture setting and the practical portion where they worked alongside a member of the Bureau, on assignments and projects.

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Assignment sheet for the Training School for Public Service

The program was not for the faint of heart or those not ready to hit the ground running.

When a new student first entered the program, he was given an assignment right away. If he failed to perform his first task satisfactorily, he had to withdraw from the School. The thoroughness and follow-through required of the students made the program unique.

A graduate who attended part time between 1912 and 1916 remembers being given an assignment to attend the meeting of the City Council. Having only recently arrived in New York, the neophyte first had a difficult time locating City Hall. Once there, he saw that the only business transacted by the Council that day was passage of one resolution appropriating $25,000 for paving a certain street.

The student submitted a report on everything he’d heard and thought that ended the assignment. The Bureau quickly disabused him. The next day he was sent to look for the street mentioned in the resolution to see if it indeed needed paving, or even existed.

The street was even more difficult for him to find than City Hall, but he eventually succeeded, reporting that the street had never been paved before.

However the assignment continued, the next task being a trip to the city clerk’s office to search the records on the street. There the student discovered that the street had been “paved” — and paid for– every year for the past 25 years! With this evidence of chicanery in hand, the Bureau made sure that the street was finally paved for real and the student could finally put that assignment to rest.


One of the bureau staff rooms where students worked alongside full-time staff

The Bureau aimed to build an amiable atmosphere between its staff and the students since they spent long periods of time working together. With this view in mind, various bonding events were staged.

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Announcement of a joint event between the Training School and the Bureau

A more formal mechanism for interaction and socialization was the creation of a social club whose members went to the theater, played games, and went on various outings together.

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The Training Schools also issued its own newsletter, although it appears to have been relatively short lived. Searching for an appropriate motto for their new institution, one of the students suggested the following ditty:

“A wise old owl lived in an oak

And the more he saw the less he spoke

While the less he spoke the more he heard

Why can’t we all be like that bird?”


The publication contained informational pieces mixed with humor,  a sampling of which may be found below:

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Naturally the school attracted a high caliber of students many of whom went on to be leaders in their fields. Luther Gulick, who spent a better part of the century working at the Bureau and later the Institute of Public Administration, started out as a humble student at the school in 1916 while attending Columbia University (some institutions of higher education began giving academic credit to students to attended the Training School).

Another notable graduate was Robert Moses who, like many other students, ended up working in the Bureau itself after finishing up his training.

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Robert Moses and of some of the other Training School graduates

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Mention of Robert Moses in the Training School newsletter


Letter from another Training School graduate who became a Mayor

By the 1920s, various universities had began to develop their own public administration systems and with the attention of the Bureau starting to concentrate more and more on national issues, the school was transferred to Syracuse University, becoming the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

And this brings the tale full circle: in 2010, the City University of New York appointed a new president of Baruch — Mitchel B. Wallerstein, then dean of the Maxwell School!



It’s Bigger On the Inside

One of the recently discovered items in the collection is an old photo album with images and descriptions of various police boxes throughout Great Britain — part of a study on policing practices outside New York. (Fans of the show “Doctor Who” will be familiar with the Tardis, a blue police box used by The Doctor to travel through time and space, as well as his constant exclamation: “it’s bigger on the inside.”)

Police boxes were small communication centers from which officers could call headquarters and members of the public could get in touch with police in case of an emergency before the widespread availability of portable two way radios.

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Although cities in the United States experimented with police boxes, they had a relatively short life compared with their cousins across the  Atlantic. Below are just some examples of what could have been…

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“To Devote My Life to Government”

Luther Gulick and his family left Japan in the summer of 1904, temporarily settling in Oakland, CA., where relatives were living. Taught to speak “King James English,” young Luther initially experienced difficulty with the American vernacular; however, before he had a chance to properly adjust, the family moved to Germany in 1905.

Establishing themselves in Marburg, Luther was enrolled in the Marburg Oberreal Schule, learning German. The next year, when he was 14, he returned alone to the United States where, after another brief stay in Oakland, he won a scholarship to the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, spending the next three years there.

Encouraged by his older sister, Sue, Luther applied to and was accepted by Oberlin College where he quickly plunged into adulthood. To pay for his upkeep, he  worked a variety of jobs, eventually building up a yard maintenance business with three employees and his own stock of equipment. Over time, he took over most of the college concerts, and other special events – he sold tickets, did the advertising and hired ushers.

In summer he did various odd jobs, from door-to door selling  to stoking on a coal-burning ore boat which he called “the dirtiest job I ever had.” At Oberlin he majored in political science, being greatly influenced and attracted to that field by Professor Carl F. Geiser of the Political Science department. Addressing Professor Geiser decades later in a letter, Gulick wrote almost apologetically:

“Lippus Brandolinus, in his Comparative Republicae et Regni said, ‘no one can ever have any solid quiet and tranquility, if he sets out to be a good citizen.’ The same is true of one who is a ‘good teacher.’ Those of us, who in the course of events, with all our growing pains and troubles, became your students are those who stole away your solid quiet and tranquility.”

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In the course of his coursework in political science, Gulick read books and articles by Charles Beard, a pioneer in public administration (more on him later).  In Gulick’s senior year, as a member of a committee to select a commencement speaker, he was instrumental in inviting Beard. When they met, each man was impressed with the other and established what would become a long lasting friendship.

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Gulick’s letter of introduction from Charles Beard

Prior to graduating in 1914 with honors, Gulick met and became engaged to classmate Helen McKelvey Swift, daughter of a Congregational minister. Their plans, according to Gulick were “to finish our graduate work, she in education or social work and I probably at Oberlin Theological Seminary, before getting married. We then thought of going to Japan or China in missionary work. Nothing was settled, however, except that we would get married as soon as it was economically possible, and for this I had to have a profession and a job.”

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Gulick with Helen

Enrolling in the Oberlin Theological Seminary for an M.A. in philosophy, Gulick experienced a change of heart during the first year, deciding to pursue a course that differed from that of most of his family members:  “the decision to devote my life … to public law and government came about not as a rejection of fundamental religion but as an alternative, and what seemed to me to be for my generation a more productive and revolutionary way to achieve the goals of human welfare and dignity in the progressive unfolding of the Universe.”

Gulick would follow this new calling for the next eight decades  — and posterity is much in his debt.