Abner Zwillman

July 27, 1904 - February 27, 1959)


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Abner Longie Zwillman was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 27, 1904.  After his father's death in 1918 he quit school to support his family.  He began working at a cafe on Prince Street, then began to sell fruits and vegetables in the neighborhood.  Not being able to compete with the local pushcart vendors he moved his cart to Clinton Hill where is augmented his income by selling lottery tickets which soon became his main source of income.  Hired muscle helped him control the majority of the numbers racket in the area.  Prohibition saw him switch to smuggling whiskey into New Jersey from his sources in Canada.  The money from this allowed him to expand his operations into illegal gambling, prostitution and labor racketeering.  Several prominent night clubs and restaurants were purchased by him.  His only criminal conviction was for assaulting an associate in 1929 for which he served six months.

Zwillman dated actress Jean Harlow and got her a two picture deal at Columbia Pictures.  Among the gifts bestowed on Harlow were a red Cadillac and a jeweled bracelet.  This didn't last and he married Mary de Groot Mendels Steinbeck in 1939.  Her father, Emanuel S. Mendels was a founder of the American Stock Exchange. 

After Dutch Schultz was murdered at the Palace Chop House on East Park Street in Newark, Zwillman took over his criminal operation in New Jersey, earning him the nickname of the "Al Capone of New Jersey".  Politicians fell under his spell and he eventually controlled the majority of local Newark politicians.

During the 1959 McClellan Senate Committee hearings on organized crime, Zwillman was issued a subpoena to testify before the committee.  Shortly before he was to appear, he was found hanged in his West Orange New Jersey home.  His death and burial occurred on February 27, 1959.  While his death was ruled a suicide, the police had found bruises on Zwillman's wrists supporting the theory that he was bound and then hanged.