block and fall

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Jul 2 21:51:20 UTC 2001

Barry has gone through the autobiography of Izzy Einstein, of the team
Izzy and Moe, Prohibition agents:
> by Izzy Einstein (former Prohibition Sleuth)
> with an introduction by
> Stanley Walker (city editor, NY Herald Tribune)
> Frderick A. Stokes Company, New York
> 1932
>   Izzy Einstein was a famous Probihition agent, but he didn't
> provide much slang in this book.  Here goes:

> Pg. 240:  There was a kind of bargain stuff called "block-fall"
> which certainly did live up to its name--you took a drink of it,
> walked a block, and fell.  And from the samples I collected I'd
> say it was guaranteed.

I have this expression from another source of about the same time,
though my source is referring to an earlier period: the last of the
19th century or the first years of the 20th:

They used to call them “block and fall joints.”  You get a shock walk a
block and fall in the gutter.
Cornelius W. Willemse, A Cop Remembers, N. Y.: E. P. Dutton, 1933, p.

Willemse defines "a shock" as a drink of cheap liquor; on p. 24 he
uses "block and fall" in its literal sense as a piece of tackle for
lifting things: "We had a block and fall over the hold. . . ."
Willemse was a cop, on the NYPD force from the 1890s through the
1920s.  He had written his autobiography, "Behind the Green Lights",
probably around 1931.  It was successful, its pretty easy to find a
copy in second-hand book stores.  "A Cop Remembers" was a sequel,
hoping for the same success, but he had used most of his good stories
in the first book -- there's a lesson there for all autobiographers, I
suppose -- and it wasn't nearly as successful.

I don't remember the last name of Moe, Izzy's partner as a Prohibition
agent.  Wonder whether he wrote an book too.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African
Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

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