Newark's most notorious gangster of the Prohibition era was Abner (Longy) Zwillman, one of the organizers and a founding member of the nationwide crime syndicate known as Murder Incorporated.
Longy Zwillman had his roots in Newark's old Third Ward. He grew up on Charlton Street and had attended Charlton Street School. At the age of l4, in 1918, as he was about to graduate, he was forced to quit school to help support his mother and six brothers and sisters after his father died suddenly.
At first Longy, given that nickname because of his early 6 foot 2 inch height, worked in a Prince Street cafe which was the headquarters of the Third Ward political leader. But when the job failed to provide sufficient income, he turned to selling produce, taking to the streets with a rented horse and wagon.
His Third Ward neighbors were too poor to buy from his wagon, preferring the bargains of the Prince Street pushcarts. So he turned to the more affluent housewives in the Clinton Hill area. Early on, he began supplementing his fruit and vegetable sales by selling lottery numbers to the same housewives.
He soon saw that there was more money to be made selling lottery numbers than in selling produce. So he started his own numbers bank and began selling numbers exclusively, mainly through small neighborhood merchants, Eventually, with the aid of hirelings and musclemen, he controlled the numbers business in most of Newark.
With the outset of Prohibition in 1920, he turned to running and distributing bootleg alcohol, using three World War 1 surplus armored trucks to offload the booze off ships from Canada in the dark of night at Long Branch and convoying the trucks back to his Third Ward Newark warehouse with the aid of Third Ward hirelings. His own close associates rode shotgun. The liquor was then distributed from his warehouse.
Longy's criminal enterprises were vastly expanded, ultimately, to include all types of crime, including gambling, prostitution, and control of some labor unions, as well as financial backing of some well known nightclubs 1 and restaurants.
He continued his operations from Newark's Third Ward and maintained a Third Ward residence at Riviera Hotel on the corner of High Street and Clinton Avenue.
Longy's operations eventually expanded to where it was estimated his income was two million dollars a year. In the post-Prohibition era, he had partnerships or was part owner of a number of large industrial establishments, hotels, and restaurants from Havana, Cuba, and Miami to Las Vegas and several Hollywood production companies. He also exercised control over cigarette vending machine businesses in several parts of the country, including New York, New Jersey and Las Vegas.
At one time he was also romantically involved with the blonde Hollywood screen star, Jean Harlow.
Longy's criminal career and life came to an abrupt end in 1959 when he was found hanging from a ceiling rafter in the basement of his then West Orange home on Beverly Road2. Some called it suicide; others believed it to be a mob rub-out.
After the funeral service from a Third Ward funeral parlor , Apter's on Stratford Place, Longy was buried at the Temple B'nai Abraham Cemetery on Route 22 in Union.
The legacy of the mobster from Newark's Third Ward is the inclusion of Zwillman's name in the title of a book published in 1999 "The Mafia Encyclopedia From Accardo to Zwillman" published by Facts on File.
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