New York city in the 19th century was famous for it's corruption, criminals and "Gangs of New York."
All of them knew exactly who to call when they were in trouble, the law firm of Howe and Hummel
Howe and Hummel was started by William
, specialist in criminal defense and courtroom histrionics, famous for his flamboyant dress and ability to cry at the drop of a hat. His partner, Abraham Hummel
, specialized in civil proceedings, including divorce and the lucrative practice of threatening wealthy men with breach of promise suits after their affairs with chorus girls. Hummel also represented many in the New York theatrical community, including P.T Barnum, Little Egypt
, and Lillian Russell
Because of their connections with the entertainment world, Howe and Hummel also represented clients in many censorship cases. They represented Olga Nethersole
when she was arrested
for "violating public decency" onstage in 1900. In 1873 Howe and Hummel represented sisters, spiritualists, stockbrokers and feminists, Victoria Woodhull
and Tennie C. Claflin
, who were arrested
for printing the indecent word "virginity" in an article accusing a prominent minister of adultery in their paper "Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly
When crusading politicians and district attorneys pledged to clean up New York in the early 20th century, Howe and Hummel
had to go as well. Howe died unscathed by reform in 1902, but in 1907, Hummel was sentenced to a year in prison
and disbarred for suborning perjury in a divorce case. After his release Hummel left the United States and spent the rest of his life traveling the world and spending his money, ill-gotten or otherwise.
A brief and entertaining book "Howe and Hummel, Their True and Scandalous History" by Richard H. Rovere is unfortunately, now out of print, and not old enough to be available in the public domain.