Sunday, August 17, 2014


Last week I told the story of the murder of motion picture projectionist Jack Kaufman.  I related that the main suspect in the murder was Kaufman's rival and the head of the Motion Picture Operators Union, Thomas Maloy.

I ended the story of Jack Kaufman with some unanswered questions:

But what about Tommy Maloy?  Did he really get off scot-free from his crimes?  Did he ever stand trial for the murder of Jack Kaufman?  Did Maloy ever spend a night in jail? That is an interesting story, as well. Check back with this blog next week, when I'll tell the sordid tale of the life and death of Tommy Maloy.

As promised, here is the sordid tale of the life and death of Tommy Maloy.

Thomas Edward Maloy was born October 14, 1890 (some sources say 1887) to Joseph Maloy (1860-1920) and Elizabeth, nee Hannigan (1859-1940).  Thomas joined his older brother Joseph (1886-1933). Not much is known about the elder Joseph Maloy except that he had been born in New York.  By 1900 Elizabeth was indicating that she was a widow, however I was unable to find a death record for Joseph Maloy.

The 1900 US Census has the Maloy family living at 4215 S. St. Lawrence Avenue in Chicago.  There is now a new apartment building on that site.  Elizabeth was head-of-household and a dressmaker, Joseph and Thomas were "at school."

The 1910 US Census showed the family still living at 4215 S. St. Lawrence Avenue.  Elizabeth was still a dressmaker, twenty year old Thomas was an "electrician" for an "electric company."  Joseph was living elsewhere but the family had been joined by Elizabeth's sister Margaret Hannigan.

When Thomas Maloy registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 he was living at the same address; he listed his occupation as "electrician" for the "operator's union".

Sometime between June 1917 and January 14, 1920 (the date of  the 1920 US Census), Maloy had gotten married to Effie Preston (1892-1940).  He is listed in the 1920 census as "Edward Maloy."  He and his bride were living at 4404 S. Calumet Avenue in Chicago:

4400-4404 S. Calumet, Chicago

Maloy lists his job as an "electrician" in a "shop".

The first mention of Thomas Maloy in the Chicago newspapers came on July 3, 1920 when he was listed as "business agent" for the Motion Picture Operators Union.  The theater musicians had gone on strike and they had asked the operators (projectionists) to go out on strike in sympathy.  Maloy was calling a meeting with his union members to discuss the request.

He again shows up in the Tribune in 1922, still the business agent for the union, having averted a strike of the projectionists by getting the projectionists in the Chicago Loop a minimum of $80.00 per week.

By February 19, 1923 Maloy is in the news again.  This time it is in a front page article "One Labor Business Agent Kills Another in Pistol Duel in Al Tierney's Grand Boulevard Café."  Maloy was not killed, but he was sitting at the same table as Steve Kelliher of the Teamsters Union who was shot and killed by Daniel McCarthy of the Plumbers Union. 

Thomas Maloy's name was in the Chicago newspapers on almost a daily basis in the late 1920s.  The motion picture business was turbulant in those days and strikes were common.

There were different unions involved:  motion picture exhibitors, motion picture operators, theater musicians, stage hands, to name a few.  And every time one of the unions went on strike, the members of the other unions walked out in support of their striking brethren. 

There was an especially bad strike in September of 1928.  The musicians union called a strike and on September 3, 1928 over 300 movies were shown in Chicago without music.  These were, for the most part silent films - talking movies were in their infancy at that time.  Without the musicians - organists, piano players and full orchestras - the films shown were indeed silent.  As the strike went on, by September 6 the other unions were threatening to walk out in sympathy and as a result all the movie theaters in Chicago would not be allowed to open.  No music, no ushers, no projectionists, no electricians - opening the theaters would have put the public in grave danger.  And who was in the middle of all this?  Tommy Maloy.  On September 6, the Chicago Daily Tribune announced that "Thomas Maloy, business agent for the operators, and George Browne, head of the stage hands organization, delivered their ultimatums early this evening to Jack Miller, president of the Motion Picture Exhibitors Association.

Faced with empty theaters the exhibitors had no choice.  An end to the strike was announced on September 7, 1928.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that

The apparent end of the tense situation in which Thomas Maloy and George Browne, business agents respectively of the motion picture operators and stage hand's unions, had joined with James C. Petrillo, president, and other officials of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, came suddenly after it was believed a strike that would close all the motion picture houses could not be averted.    

The 1930 US Census was the last one that Thomas Maloy would be alive for.  The family was now living at 6806 S. Chappel Avenue in a two flat they owned worth $25,000.00:

6806 S. Chappel Avenue, Chicago

It was just Thomas and Effie and their nephew Edward, the son of Thomas Maloy's brother Joseph.  Edward went to live with Tom and Effie Maloy after Edward's father Joseph remarried in 1930.

We have already seen that Thomas Maloy was all over the newspapers in 1931 concerning the murder of Jacob Kaufman.  Thomas Maloy's name was in the Chicago newspapers on an almost daily basis.

The 1931 theater labor strikes were especially bloody.  The Chicago Daily Tribune declared on October 14, 1931 that thirteen different movie theaters had been bombed in the two months "since the trouble began."   All in all a total of fifteen theaters were bombed before things were finally settled on October 20, 1931.  Maloy and his wife celebrated their victory by taking a lengthy trip through Europe at the union's expense.

Things finally began to turn against Thomas Maloy in 1933.  On May 6, 1933 it was announced that the Internal Revenue Service would be launching an investigation against Maloy, reminding readers that "the move is along the lines of the campaign that sent Alphonse Capone to prison."  It was alleged that union officials as well as theater owners and others gave Maloy "gifts" of cash that amounted to, at the very least, hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.  It was alleged that Maloy never listed any of these "gifts" on his tax return or paid any income tax on these "gifts."

Maloy was in the news again on October 25, 1934 when the Chicago Daily Tribune headline screamed "ROB UNION HEAD OF $63,000 - 5 Raid Home of Tom Maloy at Lake Resort."  It was reported that "Five armed and masked men raided the summer home of Tom Maloy...near Michigan City last night, and after tying up Mrs. Maloy, her maid, and chauffeur, and the town marshall of Long Beach, ransacked the house and escaped with money and jewels, amounting in all to a reported $63,000.00."  Maloy was not present; he was in Canada on a hunting trip.

It looked like the empire of Thomas Maloy was beginning to crack.  Day after day the newspapers reported another attack on Maloy or the Motion Picture Operators Union that he headed.  Let's take another look at the questions I asked at the start of this article:

Did (Maloy) really get off scot-free from his crimes?  To this point there were nothing but allegations.

Did he ever stand trial for the murder of Jack Kaufman?  No - Kaufman's murder was officially "unsolved".

Did Maloy ever spend a night in jail? There is no evidence that Thomas Maloy ever spent even one night behind bars. 

So what ultimately happened to Thomas Maloy?  The answer can be found below:

So, it seems that Tommy Maloy's lifestyle caught up with him after all.

Here is his Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of February 7, 1935:

Of course, the newspapers covered the funeral.  From the Chicago Daily Tribune of February 9, 1935:


Thomas E. Maloy, slain czar of the Motion Picture Machine Operators' union, was buried yesterday in Calvary cemetery.  More than 1,000 fiends and curiosity seekers followed the body to the grave.

Brief funeral services were held in the Maloy apartment at 6806 Chappel avenue, where the body lay beneath a neon lighted crucifix.  The widow, Mrs. Effie Maloy, was attended by Ralph O'Hara, organizer of the union, and by her adopted son, Edward.

The New York Times added that there were 310 cars in the cortege, including ten flower cars.

Thomas Maloy was buried in a simple grave with a flat headstone in Section Y of Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois, next to his brother Joseph, who died in 1933. 

So what was the aftermath of the death of Thomas Maloy? The Motion Picture Machine Operators Union was taken over by its international parent, The International Association of Theatre and Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators' Unions.  Never again would one man have as much unchecked power as Maloy had.

Effie Preston Maloy never remarried, dying in Chicago in 1940.  She chose to be buried in Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois, not with her late husband at Calvary.

After spending thirty five years as a motion picture projectionist, Edward James Maloy, nephew and then adopted son of Thomas and Effie Maloy died September 2, 1982 in Chicago.  He had served as a tailgunner in the Korean war.

By the way, the murder of Thomas Maloy, like the murder of Jacob Kaufman, remains "unsolved."

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