RR sent a mimeographed copy to EWB in 1962 but was still working on it in September 1964 when he wrote EWB requesting photos, presumably to submit for publication with his text whenever, or if ever, finally finished. This review of the manuscript focuses mainly on the correction history aspects although other phases in RR's "many lives" are mentioned.
The concluding page of this extended review of the Rosenbluth ms will address his becoming the "American Dreyfus."
THE MANY LIVES OF ROBERT
ROSENBLUTH: 1887 THROUGH 1962
On Page 6 of the 94-page manuscript, Robert Rosenbluth expanded upon his earlier Dannemora references:
I remember very well on that North slope of the Adirondacks, a temperature of 44 degrees below zero at 11 o'clock in the morning and trying to go out and work -- but having to turn back.
In discussing the selection of the first group of inmates to work in the woods, he told on Page 7 an amusing story how the warden, refusing to give any guidance in picking prisoners for the forestry project on which his opposition had been overruled by the state prisons superintendent, lined up the 1,200 convicts in the yard under armed guard.
I called for a show of hands as to how many had worked in the woods and had woodsmen experience, and the 1200 prisoners' hands went up. Every other question I asked, 1200 hands went up.
Finally, I said, "look, I like to eat, and I am going to eat with you; how many experienced cooks in the group?" 1200 hands went up. By this time every one including myself was laughing . . .
The same page includes a moving description of the forest camp's first night after the four guards returned to Dannemora with the wagons that had brought Rosenbluth, the dozen inmates he had picked and their supplies to the site reputedly 20 miles from the Canadian border.
Slim, whom I had chosen as camp cook, stood outside the tent ignoring my orders to go to bed.
Finally, I said to him, "Slim, you have to get up at 4:30 in the morning to get breakfast; you need sleep."
To this he replied, "Look Bob, I haven't seen a star for 13 years (the length of time he had been in prison for his fourth offense) and I just can't sleep!’
I said, "Will you get up and get breakfast?" He said "Yes." I said, "Will you shake on it?" We did, and he got breakfast. . . .
On Page 8, RR remarked:
It was known to the then-Senator Franklin D. Roosevelt, with whom we in the Conservation Commission then had frequent contact, because he was Chairman of the State Senate Conservation Committee. It led also to my being made head of the New York City Reformatory which was to be established at New Hampton, sixty miles from New York City, and to be run on an "Honor System."
On the same page and Pages 9 and 10, Rosenbluth detailed how he and his assistant, Ernest Blue, uncovered and documented use of state lands that resulted in a successful lawsuit, State of New York vs. the Chateaugay Ore & Iron Company, the latter being a subsidiary of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad.
Page 11 of the RR ms is the text of a letter to him written by EWB December 12, 1961 from the Blue residence in Poland, N. Y.:
Thank you for your interesting letter.
First of all let me tell you that the credit for winning that case against the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company is all yours for I did only what you asked me to do.
It seems to me that you became interested when we just happened to stumble on to one of the original corners of the so-called Vaughan Allotment which did not jibe with the western boundary of the [Dannemora] State Prison land.
The company had just finished cutting the virgin timber on their side when we first went over this line.
You found out that a surveyor named Vaughn divided Township-5 Old Military Tract, into mile-square lots and later on a paper allotment called the "Hannah Murray Allotment" was drawn up and a map recorded in the County Clerks Office in P1attsberg.
Since many conveyances were made in accordance with this paper allotment, the only way they could be located on the ground was to locate the original Vaughan lot and then divide it into thirds since the Hannah Murray lots were a mile in length (North & South) and 1/3 of the length of the South Line.
Surveyor Johnson told us that he was instructed to locate the State boundaries in this way although he knew from his work in locating Hannah Murray lots within the framework of the Vaughan lots that there was a big overrun in Township-5 from East to West.
The State won, I believe, because it was held to be entitled to its share of this over-run.
I was never called as a witness in the case but I once did bring Mr. Johnson to Albany on the train and had a hard time getting him from the railroad station across the street to the old Keeler Hotel for he was very badly crippled.
David C. Wood was the surveyor who had overall charge of the re-survey. I had already located the southeast corner of Township-5 and pointed it out to him. Two survey crews began at this corner. One was in charge of Pete Gaylord and Al King took the other.
Sorry I am such a poor typist.
Yes, I do remember our trip to Montreal and I also remember that we ran out of money and got real hungry.
As we were waiting in the railroad station for the train back to Plattsburgh (luckily we did have return tickets) a lady sitting near us took an earlier train, leaving a large paper sack in her seat.
When she had gone out of sight, we retrieved the sack -- it was full of bananas. Your comment was "Manna from Heaven."
Obviously, EWB wrote the letter in direct response to a written request by RR about two specific events -- their extremely low-budget visit to Montreal and their getting Dannemora land back for the State from an iron ore company.
The RR ms Pages 12 through 36 cover such subjects XYZ.
Page 37 has the heading "Chapter IV: Jails I have Been In."
In my forestry days, I started work outside the wall with the prisoners in the eight New York’s State Prisons, reformatories and juvenile custodial institutions. (I also started and worked with inmates at 15 Insane Asylums” (now called ‘Hospitals) and other state institutions, and many private ones.
After that very brief paragraph reference to the 8 state prisons, 15 state asylums and other facilities, the rest of Page 37 and next 13 pages of the manuscript focus mostly on NYC Correction's Orange County "honor farm."
In l9l1 and 1915, I started the New York City Reformatory at New Hampton, developing it on an honor basis, and building with inmates the temporary buildings which housed then; operated a very large farm; built railroad sidings, and the foundations, water supply, sewage disposals and roads for the permanent institution, and developed educational programs, and even more important, selected and trained the staff.
Rosenbluth recalled how at the beginning, New Hampton Farms had no operating budget appropriation and how
I begged and borrowed equipment (mostly broken-down, needing extensive repairs) and also begged live-stock, educational material and everything else needed.
Youths were transferred from the old NYC Reformatory on Hart Island.
I well recall the first time I went to Hart Island; I came into New York City by the Erie Railroad to Jersey City, by ferry to New York; by horsecar to the Brooklyn Bridge and by the elevated train to the Bronx. Then by monorail to City Island; then walked to the dock and finally took a rowboat, manned by inmates to Hart Island (a three-hour trip in all).
The taking of the first prisoners from Hart Island to the new Reformatory site at New Hampton received newspaper coverage. The prisoners were transported in a prison van to the Erie Railroad station in Jersey City, where they were transferred to RR's custody, without any guards accompanying them the rest of the way.
RR acknowledged the "complete and unswerving" support of "the famous Katharine Bement Davis, the best Commissioner the city has ever had." He also credited the help of "my principal assistant [who] had worked with me at Dannemora" [the name of Ernest Blue is written in] and the son-in-law of another Dannemora worker [who] became the head farmer.
He, his wife and his children lived in the only habitable house on the 600-acre farm, while the rest of us lived with the inmates in a house which was not habitable until we repaired it, and then built bunk houses as the population expanded.
When ready for parole, RR placed him on a farm and enrolled him in correspondence courses. Then, in World War I, the ex-inmate distinguished himself as a soldier, and 20 years later, when Rosenbluth helped establish the New York Training School for Boys, RR made him Assistant Superintendent, in which position "he achieved outstanding success."
One of the more amusing "Recollections" tells the tale of a civilian member of the parole board that decided questions of Reformatory inmate releases.
The meetings [of the NYC Reformatory parole panel] always started this way: The Commissioner [Davis] would call the Board into session and one of the members, always smoking a big black cigar, would immediately address the Commissioner with this question: "I am informed that Mr. Rosenbluth provides the inmates at New Hampton with cigarettes and I ask him whether this is true, since it is contrary to law."
I would, of course, answer "Yes, because these 17 to 20 year-old youths had been smoking for years; would always smoke; and that more violations of institutional discipline took place because of illegal attempts to get cigarettes than for anything else, and, since the cigarettes I gave them (one after each meal) was a better and more adequate source than any other, and since cigarette smoking, law or no law, never got anyone into trouble or made anyone delinquent, I gave them cigarettes and got in return, not only great cooperation, but also one of the best ways of reformation."
The Commissioner, laughing, would then say, "Is there a second to the motion?" Invariably, there was none, and we would go on with the parole hearing.
Of course, in our own time, cigarettes are once again jail contraband, and even the complaining member would be in violation of the law if he smoked his "big black cigar" at an official government agency meeting. . . .
The RR ms goes on to suggest that the New Hampton Farms parole board served as the precursor for the NYC Parole Commission that Commissioner Davis initiated and on which she served first chairperson in 1915 and 1916:
One particularly good thing came out of the New Hampton Parole Board meetings; namely that for the first time, a small full-time, all-paid Parole Board was created for all New York City's Correctional Institutions . . . . Subsequently, this same principle of a full-time paid parole board was extended to New York State for all the State Correctional Institutions.
Dr. Davis' experiences presiding over the New Hampton parole panel may well have reinforced the progressive principles that she brought with her to the post of NYC Correction Commissioner after 13 years of running Bedford Hills Reformatory (where she also a significant parole role). But RR's remarks seem to imply that the NYC Parole Commission begun by her and eventually the state parole board were the direct happy byproducts of the reformatory parole proceedings in which he played a part.
Was the NYC Reformatory experience at New Hampton one of the factors that figured in the city parole panel's emergence? Quite likely. Was it as a decisive a factor as RR's remarks suggest. Quite unlikely. The decisive factor was Commissioner Davis.
Instead of returning to forestry after expiration of his two-year commitment at New Hampton Farms, Rosenbluth accepted a position as assistant director of the Institute for Public Services headed by Dr. William H. Allen, one of the pioneers of what has become known variously as municipal research, performance measurement, and government accountability. His work for the Institute -- what today we would call a think tank -- occasionally involved analysis and recommendations concerning correctional systems in other states.
In later years (1928 - 1935), as NYS Department of Social Welfare Assistant Commissioner, Rosenbluth
. . . I went into government research (which needs a chapter in itself). then into World War I, and subsequently into Welfare and other activities, including working now as Assistant Director of Cook County (Chicago) Department of Welfare, because, fortunately among other things, there is no compulsory retirement here because of age.
It was as Assistant Director that RR signed off his 5-page response to J. S. Stokes.