Maxwell Levy moved from San Francisco to Port Townsend, Washington, in the late 1880s and opened a boarding house out of which he ran a long-running and infamous enterprise “crimping” or “shanghaiing” sailors — that is, forcing inebriated or indebted sailors into service on ships sent toward China. In some cases, sailors were drugged or knocked unconscious. Though never indicted for a criminal act, Levy was at the center of a number of schemes and brawls and almost went to jail for assault with a deadly weapon. Only in 1906, when laws went into effect protecting sailors from this widespread kidnapping practice, did Levy’s business decline. He gave it up in 1910 and returned to San Francisco.
Gone by Morning
Port Townsend has its fair share of Jewish history — and a good amount of intrigue to go along with it. The Olympic Peninsula town was led by two Jewish mayors during the early years of the 20th century. One was Israel Katz. Katz took over as the owner of the Waterman and Katz mercantile business after both Sigmund Waterman and William Katz (Israel’s brother) died in 1880. Israel Katz sought a wife from his native Germany, Adele Maas (or Moss). She was half his age and in love with a soldier (who committed suicide, possibly due to losing Adele). Israel and Adele had four children, two of whom died. Adele ended up running off with another man, who eventually left her alone and penniless. Israel lived an otherwise successful life, serving on the city council and two terms as mayor, until the fateful morning of January 14, 1917. After seeing off his son on a 4 am steamer to Friday Harbor, Katz returned home. At 7 am, his maid discovered his room empty save for his hat, coat, watch, and glasses. No trace of Katz was ever found.
Bohemia native Jacob Furth arrived in Seattle in 1882 and opened the Puget Sound National Bank. He lent money based on the character of the borrower and his own judgment. One of the people he funded was Lou Graham, a successful and wealthy madame who lost her brothel in Seattle’s 1889 fire. Furth contributed to “Graham Block” — a brick Victorian building that still stands on the corner of Washington Street and Third Avenue. According to late Seattle historian Bill Speidel, Graham and Furth were effectively business partners, with Furth directing riskier loan applicants to her. Legend has it that Graham bailed him out during the economic Panic of 1893. Furth’s reputation was only tarnished years later when he was arrested for a scandal involving a bank in La Conner. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see his conviction overturned and his name cleared.