He was born in Russia on July 15, 1901, (some say 1903), and came to the United States as a young child with his parents. Law enforcement authorities say that Hyman Chaim Stromberg (aka Harry Stromberg) was actually raised and reared on the gritty streets of New York before later relocating to the City of Philadelphia during the “Roaring Twenties” Prohibition era, where he quickly established himself as a “kingpin” bootlegger with a large gang of fledgling gunmen and gangsters, bootleggers, and rumrunners at his command.
He either migrated on his own or was sent to the City of Brotherly Love by mob higher-ups from New York. But either way, Philadelphia is where he would first truly establish his underworld credentials within the American underworld and become notorious under the moniker, “Nigger Rosen,” or “Nig Rosen.” It’s also where he would begin to establish a very impressive underworld resume.
Once he got to town, Stromberg, or Nig Rosen, organized a syndicate that quickly strong-armed their way into control of the city’s illicit alcohol-bootlegging rackets. And anyone who balked at that notion quickly got a savage beating, or worse. They found themselves on the wrong end of a gun. Malcontents were usually found in a remote ditch somewhere with two in the back of the head…or they were just made to disappear and never found at all.
After showing he meant business, almost everybody else eventually fell in line pretty quickly. Rosen and his gang soon controlled a good portion of Philadelphia’s bootlegging trade (in Delaware County,) sharing control of the city’s underworld with the Italian Mafia which was headquartered in South Philly.
Through the years, Philly’s Jewish mob was known to work hand-in-glove with their Italian counterparts. This mutually beneficial alliance could best be described at times as that of “friendly competitors.” It was sometimes a love-hate relationship, but it was also a much-needed partnership built on mutual trust and convenience.
Too Notorious For His Own Good
After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Jewish mob needed another “golden goose,” so they seamlessly pivoted into gambling rackets to make up for their lost revenue. Pulling a page from the same playbook, the gang quickly went out and knocked heads again. This time around, they either pushed out and took over, or strong-armed their way into, partnerships with all the smaller independent numbers banks and bookmakers who operated within their perceived territory.
They had to kill dozens of gamblers and racketeers who resisted their advances before their message finally sunk in. That message was: “Move over because the real gangsters are here now!”