The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum
“[Fox has] a nose for interesting facts, the ability to construct a taut narrative arc, and a Dickens-level gift for concisely conveying personality”—New York Magazine
In 1850, an impoverished twenty-five-year-old named Fredericka Mandelbaum came to New York in steerage and worked as a peddler on the streets of Lower Manhattan. By the 1870s she was a fixture of high society and an admired philanthropist. How was she able to ascend from tenement poverty to vast wealth?
In the intervening years, “Marm” Mandelbaum had become the country’s most notorious “fence”—a receiver of stolen goods—and a criminal mastermind. By the mid-1880s as much as $10 million worth of purloined luxury goods (nearly $300 million today) had passed through her Lower East Side shop. Called “the nucleus and center of the whole organization of crime,” she planned robberies of cash, gold and diamonds throughout the country.
But Mrs. Mandelbaum wasn’t just a successful crook: She was a business visionary—one of the first entrepreneurs in America to systemize the scattershot enterprise of property crime. Handpicking a cadre of the finest bank robbers, housebreakers and shoplifters, she handled logistics and organized supply chains—turning theft into a viable, scalable business.
The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum paints a vivid portrait of Gilded Age New York—a city teeming with nefarious rogues, capitalist power brokers and Tammany Hall bigwigs, all straddling the line between underworld enterprise and “legitimate” commerce. Combining deep historical research with the narrative flair for which she is celebrated, Margalit Fox tells the unforgettable true story of a once-famous heroine whose life exemplifies America’s cherished rags-to-riches narrative while simultaneously upending it entirely.