"Little Augie" Jacob Orgen

Jacob "Little Augie" Orgen (January 1893 - October 16, 1927) was a New York gangster involved in bootlegging and labor racketeering during Prohibition.

Biography

Born to a middle class Orthodox Jewish family, Orgen became a well known labor slugger for Benjamin "Dopey Benny" Fein by the early 1910s. Being ambitious, he had formed his own gang, "The Little Augies" c. 1911. He operated his labor rackets diligently for the next five or six years until his former boss, Dopey Benny, had faded from prominence. His rising star was soon put on hold, however, in 1917 when "Kid Dropper" Nathan Kaplan and Johnny Spanish were both released from Sing Sing in 1917 and resumed their old rivalry. He was even further hindered in his rise in 1919 when he was jailed on a robbery charge. Kid Dropper soon eliminated Spanish in 1919 and reigned supreme while Orgen was in jail. While Orgen was in prison, his gang held together and fought, often unsuccessfully, against Kaplan's gang while waiting patiently for their leader to return to the streets. Orgen was released and on the streets again in 1923 according to author Patrick Downey.

Quickly becoming a formidable rival again to Kaplan, Orgen gradually built up a powerful organization which included members such as gunmen Louis Buchalter, Jacob Shapiro, and Jack "Legs" Diamond. Orgen, allied with Solomon Schapiro, challenged Kaplan over labor slugging activities, particularly in the garment district, and in 1923, a gang war broke out after a dispute over striking "wet wash" laundry workers.

After several months of fighting, including a particularly violent gunfight on Essex Street resulting in the deaths of two bystanders, Kaplan was murdered by gunman Louis Kushner on August 28, 1923. With Kaplan's death, Orgen gained complete control over labor racketeering.

However, city officials soon began investigating union racketeering in New York which threatened to expose other criminal operations. In 1927, through intermediary Louis Buchalter (although some sources claim Meyer Lansky), Orgen was advised by "The Brain" Arnold Rothstein to concentrate instead on infiltrating labor unions instead of traditional labor slugging and strong arm tactics. Although Orgen had started to move into bootlegging, supplying Broadway night clubs and speakeasies with Diamond by 1925, Orgen refused to cease labor slugging operations.

Personal life

In 1926, Orgen became a father when his wife gave birth to a girl whom the couple named Zelda. With his increasing wealth, Orgen moved his family out of the Lower East Side to the more affluent Upper West Side.

Though the labor rackets were his bread and butter, by the mid-1920s, Orgen was expanding his horizons. It was when he met Legs Diamond, who may have masterminded the murder of the "Dropper", in 1923. Their relationship were quid pro quo, which led to Augie's death, when they were exchanging business transactions that were not under his mob's approval.

During and after Orgen's death, his family were hysterical. Jacob brothers, Joseph and Samuel, were the first to know about his death. Friends and family gathered at his funeral to mourn the gang leader, then the grave was filled in bringing an end to Jacob "Little Augie" Orgen.

Death

On October 16, 1927, while walking on Norfolk Street in a Manhattan neighborhood on the Lower East Side, Orgen was killed by Buchalter and Shapiro in a drive-by shooting. Orgen bodyguard Jack Diamond was also seriously wounded during the attack. Although 34 years old at the time of his murder, Orgen's tombstone in Mount Judah Cemetery reads simply "Jacob Orgen, Age 26 Years", because his father had disowned him after he formed the "Little Augies" in 1919 at the age of 26.

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