Snatch Racket

The Kidnapping Epidemic That Terrorized 1930s America

Carolyn Cox

The Snatch Racket will take the reader behind the scenes of gripping kidnapping crimes that terrified the American public in the 1930s.
Publication date:
March 2021
Publisher :
Potomac Books, Inc.
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781640122031

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
Not Yet Published. Available for PreOrder.


• How kidnapping came to be the FBI's signature crime
• Relies heavily on newspaper archives and on the first-person accounts and memoirs of key participants in these events
• Unique look at the relationship between the War against Kidnappers, the Lindbergh kidnapping, and the rapid transformation of the FBI from a small cadre of investigators of primarily business crimes into a popular crime-fighting organization of well-trained "G-men”

The Snatch Racket uncovers the massive wave of kidnapping that shook the nation's communities. An estimated three thousand Americans were kidnapped for ransom in the year 1931. They were early victims of a kidnapping wave that grew to be an epidemic in the twilight days of Prohibition as urban gangs looked for new revenue streams to replace the once lucrative business of bootlegging. Wealthy families and celebrities began purchasing kidnap insurance, hiring armed chauffeurs and bodyguards, and carrying loaded handguns. Some sent their children to school or summer camp in Europe to get them out of harm's way. Guards kept kidnap watch over both President Hoover and President Roosevelt's grandchildren. The "Kidnapped,” as the racketeers referred to it, reached its peak in 1933 and 1934: "Recent Kidnappings in America” was a regular feature in the New York Times, and Time magazine included kidnappings along with its weekly list of notable births, deaths, and other milestones.

The Snatch Racket is the frightening story of this crime epidemic and the three-year War against Kidnappers waged by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration to eradicate it. At the heart of the narrative are some of the most iconic names of the twentieth century: Rockefeller, Ford, Lindbergh, Roosevelt, Hoover, Capone, Schwarzkopf, and Babe Ruth. All were caught up in some way in the kidnap frenzy - as victims and intended victims, as law enforcement officials and political leaders, or as individuals attempting to alleviate suffering or to benefit personally somehow from the scourge that took such a toll on the country.

The War against Kidnappers also revolutionized and modernized law enforcement in the United States, dramatically expanding the powers of the federal government in the fight against not only kidnapping but many new types of interstate crime. It would make J. Edgar Hoover the face of law enforcement in America, a role he would play for another three decades. Not least, the crime of kidnapping would be recognized as a devastating form of domestic terrorism against which the public would come to expect special protection from government, making the War against Kidnappers the first of the declared wars on terrorism that continue today.