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Hoover Tells a Key Aide that Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Occupies FBI in New York
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““I think what you have to say about Reinecke is certainly true and I doubt whether his conceit and egotism can ever be curbed. Certainly he is a liability in a large office. I shall await the report of Clegg… but have no doubt but that it will be necessary for me to make a change.

I shall look forward with considerable interest to your report upon the Pittsburgh office and as soon as you have finished that I am planning to have you move on. I realize that the New York office may be in somewhat of a hectic situation at the present time, in view of the Lindbergh case which is taking the time of so many Agents of that office, but you may be able to get a slant on how things are running there.

J. EDGAR HOOVER. Typed Letter Signed with Initials, to John J. Edwards, March 17, 1932. 1 p., 8½ x 11 in. 3/17/1932.

Inventory #22439.05       Price: $750

Historical Background

On March 1, 1932, Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., the twenty-month-old son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, was kidnapped from their New Jersey home. The crime captured the attention of the nation, and turned into a tragedy when the baby’s body was found on May 12 a few miles from the Lindbergh home. In September 1934, police arrested Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant found with a portion of the $50,000 ransom the Lindberghs had paid. Tried and convicted of the murder of Lindbergh’s baby, Hauptmann was executed on April 3, 1936.

J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was born in Washington, D.C. and graduated from the George Washington Law School in 1916. He learned the value of research in his first job, as a messenger in the Library of Congress. After graduating from George Washington University Law School, in 1917 he went to work for the War Emergency Division of the Justice Department. He soon became head of the Alien Enemy Bureau, monitoring activities of Germans in the United States. In 1919, he became head of the new General Intelligence Division, monitoring domestic radicals, and participating in the First Red Scare. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Hoover director of the Bureau of Investigation. During the early 1930s, Hoover waged war against high-profile gangsters in the Midwest. In March 1935, he became the first director of the new Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a post he held until his death in 1972. He expanded the Bureau, modernized its scientific crimefighting techniques, and created the FBI Laboratory in 1932 to analyze evidence.

More concerned about subversives than about civil liberty, Hoover led the FBI to investigate tens of thousands of “suspected radicals” from the 1930s through the 1960s, including members of the civil rights movement. Hoover’s growing power, partly treating the FBI like a secret police force, may have prevented Presidents Truman and John F. Kennedy from dismissing him.

John J. Edwards (1894-1956) was born in Tennessee and served in the Army during World War I.  He graduated from George Washington Law School, then served as an attorney for commissions to settle claims against Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Mexico. He married Monte Walton (1901-1988) in 1925, and they had a son in 1928. He was promoted to inspector within a of joining the FBI, and became a member of the Bureau’s “Big Five” during the mid-1930s gangster battles. Edwards was in charge of the Technical Laboratory and Identification (fingerprints). He resigned as assistant director in 1936, and became a special attorney in the Justice Department, dealing with claims under the Trading with the Enemy Act. He then served as an attorney in the Office of the Alien Property Custodian, retiring in 1954.

Harold H. Reinecke (1900-1985) earned a law degree from the University of Iowa, served in the U.S. Army and joined the FBI in 1924. Two months after this letter, Hoover transferred Reinecke to run the Cincinnati office, and by 1934, moved him to Chicago. He participated in the famous shootout with parts of the Dillinger gang at the “Little Bohemia” Lodge in Wisconsin. John Dillinger’s girlfriend Evelyn “Billie” Frechette alleged that he slapped her, prevented her from calling a lawyer, and withheld food and water for hours when he interrogated her. Dillinger vowed to kill Reinecke, but within three months, Dillinger himself was killed. Reineke later served in Indianapolis and Detroit.

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