Irving Wexler better known as Waxey Gordon was born to Polish – Jewish Immigrants in 1888, he grew up to become an infamous Prohibition Era gangster who specialized in bootlegging, illegal gambling and in later years, narcotics.
He grew up in New York’s Lower East Side and became known as a pickpocket and sneak thief, becoming so successful he earned the nickname “Waxey” for supposedly being so skilled in picking pockets it was as if his victims’ wallets were lined with wax.
In 1914, he participated in a gang fight that resulted in the death of a court clerk named Samuel Straus. Wexler was put on trial for the crime but acquitted by a jury in February 1917
Joining “Dopey” Benny Fein’s labor sluggers in the early 1910s Gordon helped organize Fein’s operations before being noticed by Arnold Rothstein, who hired him away from Fein and put him to work as a rum-runner during the first years of Prohibition. Gordon’s success led him to running bootlegging operations along most of the east coast, specifically New York and New Jersey, and importing large amounts of alcohol over the Canada–United States border.
At some point he became involved with a mobster from St. Louis, Maxie Greenberg, a former member of the Egan’s Rat’s gang in St. Louis. As the operation expanded they started to takeover breweries, they seized the breweries of two Irish bootleggers named Frankie Dunn and James “Bugs” Donovan. “Bug” Donovan was gunned down in September 1929 near his girlfriends house, Frankie Dunn had made his name during the early years of Prohibition leading a gang of hi-jackers who would rob competitors beer trucks, decided to retire soon after Donovans murder. However Dunn was murdered at his office a few months after his retirement, one of his killers commit suicide when cornered on a tenement rooftop by police.
Gordon began to live the life, fine dining, night life and regularly staying in prominent hotel suites, he also owned mansions in New York and Philadelphia. His lifestyle brought him into contact with other high profile mobsters of the time, in January 1931 all hell broke loose in the Club Abby when the Dutch Schultz and Waxey Gordon mobs collided.
The Club Abby was a popular spot during Prohibition in the Harding Hotel, it was once owned by Oweny “The Killer” Madden & the queen of the nightclubs, Texas Guinan and was known by the name Club Intime @ the Hotel Harding, a lush cabaret dripping with wall-to-wall red velvet and hanging Chinese lanterns, hidden in the basement of the Hotel Harding on West 54th Street.
While on the dance floor the two gangs began arguing over a female companion. Suddenly, Schultz and Waxey’s lieutenant Charles Chink Sherman exchanged punches on the crowded dance floor. Sherman landed multiple punches, staggering the Dutchman, causing Schultz to ram a broken beer bottle into Sherman’s face. The Waxey Gordon mob pulled guns and pumped lead into Dutch, but his bulletproof vest saved his hide, leaving him with a shoulder wound.
Because of the wild affray, the police closed the basement speakeasy for good.
Gordon had a large million-dollar operation that included many trucks, buildings, processing plants, and associated employees and his business front could not account for this ownership and cash flow and he paid no taxes on it. June 22nd 1931, in major racketeering arrests, some big names all taken in 74 people, including Waxey Gordon, Big Frenchy De Mange, Larry Fay, William Duffy, Owney “The Killer” Madden, Dutch Schultz, Charles “Vannie” Higgins & Ciro Terranova “The Artichoke King”. Waxey Gordon was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.
Upon his release from prison, Waxey Gordon found his gang long since disbanded. He was ignored by his former political connections & reportedly remarked to a journalist, “Waxey Gordon is dead. Meet Irving Wexler, salesman.” He moved to California, and was arrested in 1951 for supplying heroin and sentenced to 25 years. He died in Alcatraz in 1952.
If you like what we do and would like to support our work, please consider donating.