Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hal Andrews

As my Friday night reading has been the delightful X Marks the Spot, I thought I'd see what I could find out about its author.

X Marks the Spot was an anonymously published, 64-page magazine telling the story, in both gory detail and gory pictures, of Chicago's "beer wars". As the introduction says:
It begins with the murder of "Diamond Jim" Colosimo at the dawn of prohibition and it continues on up through the years, death by death, until the killers of Gangland finally graduated from murder to massacre on St Valentine's day, 1929, and more recently hit one below the belt by assassinating Alfred "Jake" Lingle, a newspaper reporter. With the country-wide publication of the massacre photograph, public indifference to Gangland's crimes came to an abrupt end. The work of destroying organized crime in Chicago began determinedly, coldly, sternly. To use a phrase borrowed from Gangland, the exponents of the "gat" and the machine gun are today being "pushed around" by Decency and Integrity, and they must surely fall into the abyss of oblivion.
This remarkable publication was the work of Hal Andrews, who later advertised that copies of the book could be purchased direct from the author for 25 cents and giving his address as 5322 Lakewood Avenue, Chicago. In 1933, Andrews also published a second at-cost publication (10 cents) entitled Now I'll Tell About It (Chicago, Maltese Publications, 1933) in which he revealed his identity and answered "every question you have asked yourself" about his earlier book.

Andrews was born Harold Andrews on 20 May 1896 in Moulton, Iowa, the son of Lemuel Worth Andrews (1870-1941), a bridge constructor, and his wife Della (nee Kinnamon, 1874-1939). Harold had three younger siblings: Claude Richard Andrews (1898- ), Victor E. Andrews (1898- ) and Raymond M. Andrews (1913-1985). The family moved north to Moberly where Lemuel worked as a conductor on the railroad, and then to Des Moines, shortly before the First World War, where Harold was a student at college.

Andrews was a reporter in Chicago in the 1920s and had worked for the City News Bureau and United Press before joining the Herald-Examiner.

The origins of X Marks the Spot were the bloodless, and often bodyless, photographs published in newspapers too squeamish to print the gory images that came to them during this period of gangland killings. To protect the sensitivities of readers, photographers would take pictures of where a body had been, with an X marking the position of the body, as in the above photograph of the grave of Theodore Anton, owner of the hotel where Al Capone made his headquarters.

When it came to the St Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, editors were faced with some of the most startling photographs of all. Russell Hamm was one of the first photographers on the scene and when his picture were rushed into the newsroom, the editors stood, awestruck and stunned. The picture was just too gruesome for a family newspaper like the Daily News and was put aside.

John "Hack" Miller of the Chicago American and Mike Fish of the Chicago Tribune were also on the scene, standing on the roof of a Ford sedan, taking pictures, and other photographers were on the scene. But, like the Daily News, most newspapers carried banner headlines and, if photos appeared, they were pictures of the victims or the surroundings.

While the Herald-Examiner ran a famous photo of the murder scene with the bodies in view, a retoucher had carefully removed all of the blood from the picture.

What X Marked the Spot promised was unretouched photographs.
The publication of death pictures in newspapers is becoming more common every day. Editors have at last realized the terrific force a death picture can exert, particularly in driving home the lesson that the underworld has present day civilization in its grip. The ultimate good of the death picture far outweighs the shock that it may have on a certain delicate emotional segment of the newspaper readers. A famous New York newspaper editor commenting in Editor & Publisher recently on the publication of the Valentine massacre picture, declared that "it was a more powerful example of the defiance of law and order by the underworld than could be drawn by twenty-five columns of editorials.

Andrews is said to have gone to a number of newspapers that he knew to obtain uncensored photographs.
X Marks the Spot publishes those pictures for the first time. The body of the gangster which was blotted out and an X substituted is restored as the camera saw it.You have read the story in countless volumes, now, for the first time you can see it. You will see Chicago crime "put on the spot."
Although Andrews hoped that his uncensored content would shock the placid population into action to rid Chicago of gangsters, the book was was suppressed in some areas by those who found its content morally objectionable. In New York, John Sumner, the secretary of the Suppression of Vice and Crime, threatened to take action against its distributors if it remained in circulation; in Chicago, gangsters visited newsstands, removing copies and intimidating book sellers.

In response, Andrews penned "Gangsters Grip Chicago!" for Real Detective (September 1932) and followed up with a revelatory article the following month, "Author of 'X Marks the Spot' Tells All". and offered copies of his $1.00 book by post to readers of the magazine for 25 cents.

In the late 1930s, Hal Andrews moved in Gary, Lake Co., Indiana, and became the sub-editor, and later news editor, of the Gary Post-Tribune. He remained with the paper until the late 1950s when he entered the Veterans hospital at Downey. He remained there for four years before his death, aged 64, on 14 March 1961. He was survived by his wife, Betty, four daughters (Janice, Della, Susan, Carol) a son (Harold Jr.) and two brothers.


  1. You list Hal Andrew's age as 61 at his time of death, but the dates of birth and death that you give are 20 May 1896 and 14 March 1961, which would make 63. I am writing a little blurb about this book, and wonder if you can clarify.

  2. 61 was a typo - he died in '61, not aged 61. His age at death was 64.

  3. Do you know if any copies of X Marks the Spot are available to buy on any site? I would like to get one if they're not oppressively expensive. I understand there are originals and there are British reprints done a year or two after the original came out. I would be most interested in the original. Thanks. Bill

  4. You could try Abebooks, but the only copy I found was pretty expensive.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I'm glad you enjoyed Hal's work. I'm his granddaughter, from his daughter Della.

  6. Karen - I'm related to your grandfather through his cousin Jennie. My great uncle Harold was named after him. My great aunt (deceased in 2008 - age 97) often talked about Hal and his father "Uncle Lem". If you'd like, feel free to email me at

  7. Hi Steve

    Hope you check this site for comments with some frequency. I now have another question. The libraries that hold copies of this book list the publisher as Spot Publishing, I believe, in Rockford, IL. Do you know if this is accurate? I have examined the copy at the Newberry in Chicago, have purchased a copy of my own, and online have perused the copy at the U. of Ill. library in Champaign/Urbana, and none give that information. I am wondering how the library catalog entries found that publishing name.


    1. I have two different copies of X Marks the Spot and on the very bottom of the first page each has "Copyright 1930 by The Spot Publishing Company."



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