New York City in the Jazz Age. The setting of the Great Gatsby, home to gangsters and speakeasies, a playground for the rich and famous. Well, at least in the wealthier parts of the city.
The population of Queens nearly doubled in the 1920s. The subway system expanded, the automobile grew increasingly popular, and newly-built bridges made the borough much more accessible.
For some families, like the Snyder’s, an address in the Queens neighborhood was a move up in life. You were on your way, one step closer to the parties, the wealth, the celebrities. Unfortunately, Ruth Snyder didn’t share her husband’s sentiments and this was the beginning of the end. Mr. Snyder’s final scene would close with him being bludgeoned, suffocated with chloroform-soaked cotton, and strangled with picture frame wire.
Ruth Snyder was born Ruth Brown in 1895. Where she would eventually find herself living with her husband and daughter wasn’t too far from her place of birth, 125th Street, Manhattan. Her Scandinavian parents were average and of the working class. Like many immigrants of the time, they got by and that was enough.
But Ruth had higher aspirations. She completed the eighth grade and then left school; forsaking a formal education for a job with a telephone company. At night she took classes in both shorthand and typing. While she was a hard worker and one would believe she was determined to make a living for herself as a single woman, Ruth said she always “thought more of marriage than [of] a business career.”
Little did she know, her ticket to success was closer than she could have imagined. At nineteen, Motor Boating Magazine offered her a secretarial position. Ruth was dedicated but she was also spunky and lively, described as “gay” and “fun-loving.” A product of the 1920s, she possessed the energetic freedom and sometimes risky behaviors of her feminist peers, the flappers of the Jazz Age.
It is no surprise then that the magazine’s art editor, Albert Snyder, was intrigued by the company’s new sassy secretary. At thirty-two, he was thirteen years Ruth’s senior, but she didn’t mind his attention in the least.
She had far less experience than Albert in the romance department, a fact that may have contributed to the events to come. Albert was Ruth’s first true “gentleman friend,” and after courting for a few months they were engaged and shortly thereafter married.
At twenty years old, Ruth was now a housewife. It would be three more years before she was a model Queens housewife, the envy of her fellow secretaries.
Ruth’s aspirations of being a businesswoman slowly faded away. She was preoccupied with taking care of the home, then she became a mother. The couple named their daughter Lorraine and needing a bigger space, upgraded to a larger Bronx apartment.