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Frank Costello testifying before the Kefauver Committee, photograph by Al Aumuller for World Telegram & Sun, 1951

Frank Costello, the head of a powerful New York crime family, was a key figure in the Kefauver investigation. When he objected to testifying on television, the committee agreed to restrict the cameras. The cameramen focused only on Costello’s hands.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Frank Costello testifying before the Kefauver Committee, photograph by Al Aumuller for World Telegram & Sun, 1951

Gambling and Racketeering

Facing a crime surge after World War II, local officials requested help from Congress. To determine the extent of organized crime and whether it could be handled by the states, the Senate created a five-member Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce. In 1950 and 1951 the committee investigated gambling and organized crime in 14 cities. Its televised hearings, particularly in New York, raised public awareness of crime syndicates, led to more effective local law enforcement, and enhanced the political profile of its chairman, Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee.

Through the country the crime committee became. . . . a national crusade, a great debating forum, an arouser of public opinion on the state of the nation’s morals.

Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, Crime in America, 1951