The duties of a poormaster were to validate those who applied for relief and issue funds. The job was often a political sinecure before the 1930s. However the job was not without its risks. Those rejected often held grudges and poormasters were sometimes guarded by police officers during the Great Depression.
Harry L Barck was one such. He held the position of Poormaster for the city of Hoboken, New Jersey. He was killed by Joseph Scutellaro, a frustrated applicant, on February 15, 1938. Scutellaro, who killed Barck with a spindle, received two years.
The occupation ceased to exist after the 1940s, with the advent of Social assistance.
- Barbagallo, Tricia A. (4 August 2001). "The Poor of Albany". New York State Museum. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
- "RELIEF: Last Client". Time. 7 March 1938. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
- Reynolds, Quentin (1952). "Chapter 7, Part 4". Courtroom. Popular Giant.
- "POORMASTER Slayer Guilty/ ONE JUROR SWAYS ELEVEN TO CONVICT DEFENDANT". Middletown Times Herald (Jersey City). 16 January 1939. p. 6. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- Historian Holly Metz has received a grant to write a book on Barck, to be titled Killing the Poormaster.