1950 gang

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R&B guitar duo Mickey & Sylvia (1956-1958)

In 1955 Mickey Baker (1925-2012) formed Mickey & Sylvia with his guitar student Sylvia Vanderpool (1936-2011). Their biggest hit was Love is Strange in 1956. It topped Billboard’s R&B chart for two weeks and reached No. 11 on the Hot 100. They  followed up with “There Oughta Be a Law,” which hit the R&B top 10 but would be the duo’s last big hit. They split up in 1959 but would record together off and on into the mid-’60s. More than a decade later, Vanderpool under her married name, Sylvia Robinson would be dubbed The Mother of Hip Hop. She helped introduce the world to rap music as founder Sugar Hill Records. The act she discovered, Sugarhill Gang, recorded rap’s first national hit single, “Rapper’s Delight, in 1979. 

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THE FORTY ELEPHANTS

The ‘Forty Elephants’ or 'Forty Thieves’ were a London-based all-female crime syndicate in existence from at least the 19th century until the 1950’s. The gang specialised in shoplifting expensive clothes and jewelry worth thousands of pounds, dressing in coats, skirts and hats with hidden pockets to hide their loot. The women also used false references to work as housemaids and steal from their employers homes, and they blackmailed men after seducing them. 

They tried to live the lives of glamorous movie stars and the 1920s flapper society, giving extravagant parties, spending money in restaurants and wearing designer clothes (they didn’t wear the clothes they stole, but sold them) . The leader or 'queen’ of the gang during part of the 1910’s and 20’s, the haydays of the gang, was Diamond Annie, called this because she punched people with a fist full of diamond rings. By this time most of London knew the gang, their raids were getting more fearless, and they used fast cars to get away. Diamond Annie herself was jailed in 1925 for taking revenge on a male crook, but continued leading the gang from prison until the 30’s. 

The Forty Elephants

The Forty Elephants or Forty Thieves were a 19th-20th century all-female London Crime group who specialized in shoplifting. The gang was notable for its longevity and skill in avoiding police detection. 

They raided quality stores in the West End of London and ranged all over the country. The gang was also known to masquerade as housemaids for wealthy families before ransacking their homes, often using false references. They were in existence from at least 1873 to the 1950s with some indications that they may have been in existence since the late 18th century. During the early 20th century the gang was led by Alice Diamond, known variously as the Queen of the Forty Thieves and as Diamond Annie. 

Their heyday was between the two World Wars when the gang raided on a large scale not only in the West End of London, but also other major shopping centers across the country. They also forced smaller gangs to pay tribute on what they had stolen and would punish criminals that didn’t obey their rules. The gang had its own set of rules and demanded loyalty from it’s members and others in the supply and distribution network. Over seventy direct members of the gang operating in the 1920s and 1930s have been identified.