On May 19, 1910, a young New York woman newspapers dubbed the “mulatto madam” was found guilty of selling young girls into lives of prostitution. Barely 30 years old and quite thin, Belle Moore got caught up in the “white slave” investigation conducted by the New York County District Attorney’s Office. In spite of calling herself a manicurist, she was believed to be the “leading white slave dealer of the west side.”
Morality was a public concern at the beginning of the 20th century. Prostitution was rampant. Muckraking journalists fanned the flames with stories of un-chaperoned young women being snatched off the streets, drugged and sold into lives of shame and debauchery by organized networks of immigrants. One magazine article went so far as to suggest that certain politicians were in control of the procurers. Home to innumerable brothels and streetwalkers, New York City was gripped with the fear of white slavery.
New York County District Attorney Charles S. Whitman responded to the hysteria by launching an investigation in New York City. He hired George A. Miller, 33, to investigate the white-slave trade. Miller was a former government agent who had worked for the Office of Indian Affairs at the Department of Interior. Using the name Dick Morris, he posed as a saloon owner from Juneau, Alaska, in order to infiltrate the white slave trade. He felt the alias was necessary because he had been involved in several Federal court cases in New York the year before and many of the same people from the Tenderloin could be a party to this investigation.
At times he was accompanied by Mrs. Francis M. Foster, who used the name Madame Fuller. She claimed to be the manager of two expensive bordellos called “Frankie Fuller’s” in Seattle. In reality she was a 40-year old, dark-haired, bespectacled Radcliff graduate with three years of investigative experience with the children’s societies of Boston.
Miller and Foster stayed in suites at the Hotel Albany, where Miller became acquainted with a doorman named Steve. He told Steve he was in New York for a good time and asked where to find some of the “sporting resorts.” Steve took him to a place called Barow Wilkins café on Thirty-Fifth Street and introduced him to Alex Anderson. Miller told Anderson that he was from Alaska and that he and his madam were in New York looking for very young girls for their business in Seattle.
Anderson was willing to introduce him to someone who could help find “babies.”Around midnight April 13, 1910, Miller accompanied Anderson to a third-floor apartment at 348 West Forty-First Street. The name above the door bell read Belle Moore.
At this first meeting, Moore offered to sell Miller a little girl who looked to be about 11 years old. Miller refused. He had a niece around the same age as this child, so it bothered him a great deal. When he returned to the District Attorney’s office and related what he had seen, he was told to go back and get the child no matter what.
According to newspaper accounts, the child was gone when Miller got back to Moore’s flat. She told him the girl broke her leg and had gone to the hospital. Authorities searched the hospitals, but found no trace of the child. Court transcripts revealed the child’s name as Helen Hastings, and because they could not find her they feared she had been murdered.
Between April 13 and 27, Miller visited Belle Moore’s third-floor flat several times. On one of those occasions, he brought “Madam Frankie Fuller” with him. She was explicit in telling Moore what she was looking for in girls for the brothels and saloon in Seattle. They had to be under the age of 18 and weigh less than 100 pounds…girls that could bring $20-$25 a trick. She told Moore that girls in the west were just too old.
“I can get you babies,” Moore promised.
According to trial transcripts, Moore provided entertainment for the two undercover agents that evening. She brought in a man with a mandolin and one with a guitar to play music. Two girls appeared and began to dance. Belle Moore, herself, started “dancing with her skirts up over her knees and higher.”
During the trial Foster testified in her low voice, “I told her that I would pay her well for an innocent girl, if she could get me one, and that at any rate, I must have those who showed no trace of Negro blood.”
Racial language was plain in both Miller’s and Foster’s testimonies, as well as in the newspaper accounts.
When the “mulatto madam” began dragging her feet, Francis Foster entertained her at a luncheon at the Albany and later wrote her notes coaxing her to come up with the girls. “Be a good old sport now, Belle, and see what you can do for me,” one note read.
To be continued…
All posts are copyright 2012 Jane Ann Turzillo