Island of Vice

Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-loving New York

Zacks, Richard

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Island of Vice
Random House, Inc.
When young Theodore Roosevelt was appointed police commissioner of New York City, he had the astounding gall to try to shut down the brothels, gambling joints, and after-hours saloons. This is the story of how TR took on Manhattan vice . . . and vice won.

In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital, and also its preferred destination for sin, teeming with forty thousand prostitutes, glittery casinos, and all-night dives. Police cap­tains took hefty bribes to see nothing while reformers writhed in frustration.

In Island of Vice, Richard Zacks paints a vivid portrait of the lewd underbelly of 1890s New York, and of Theodore Roosevelt, the puritanical, cocksure police commissioner resolved to clean it up. Writing with great wit and zest, Zacks explores how young Roosevelt goes head to head with Tammany Hall, takes midnight rambles with muckraker Jacob Riis, and tries to convince two million New Yorkers to enjoy wholesome family fun. When Roosevelt’s crackdown succeeds too well, even his supporters turn on him, and TR discovers that New York loves its sin more than its salvation.

With cameos by Stephen Crane, Mark Twain, and a horde of very angry cops, Island of Vice is an unforgettable snap­shot of turn-of-the-century New York in all its seedy glory and a brilliant miniature of one of America’s most colorful presidents.

Baker & Taylor
An account of the effort by newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to shut down late 19th-century New York City's brothels, gambling houses and after-hours saloons traces the future 26th President's failed confrontations with Tammany Hall, muckrakers and irate everyday citizens.

Book News
Zacks, a New York City based nonfiction author, provides a well-researched, lively popular history describing the cultural ethos of New York in the 1890s, and police commissioner T. Roosevelt's vigorous stand against Tammany Hall, his friendship with muckraker Jacob Riis, and the responses to his campaign. A section of photos, notes, and a bibliography support the narrative. Zacks is the author of The Pirate Hunter (Hyperion 2003). Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Recounts the effort by newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to shut down late nineteenth-century New York City's brothels, gambling houses, and after-hours saloons.

Publisher: New York : Doubleday, c2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385519724
Branch Call Number: 363.2309 Z
Characteristics: viii, 431 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.


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