Gangs Of Old New York
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Basic Information

New York City in the 19th Century (and early 20th Century) featured several Street Gangs that seem almost surreal from the modern perspective. No doubt some of the claims have been inflated over the years, but even if it turns out to be mostly exaggerated, they were clearly quite memorable characters.

Many of the gangs operated out of the Five Points neighborhood.

List of Gangs of Old New York

  • The Bowery Boys - Known for their Beaver Hats and fancy clothes. Ran their own fire department. Rabidly patriotic and violently anti-immigrant.
  • The Dead Rabbits - Irish gang. Their standard was a dead rabbit, carried into battle by a woman named Hell Cat Maggie.
  • The Whyos - Known for gouging out the eyes of their foes. Invented special thumb-worn apparatus to make doing so much easier.
  • The Midnight Terrors - A murderous baseball team, complete with uniforms and cleats. (I'm not making this up!)
  • The Crazy Butch Gang - A gang of children, lead by (appropriately enough) Crazy Butch.
  • The Mollasses Gang - A small gang named for the clever con they used to temporarily incapacitate Shop Keepers before robbing them.
  • The Forty Thieves - A gang based out of a Green Grocer's.
  • The Slaughterhousers - Based out of an Abattoir.
  • The Daybreak Boys - This gang of teenage boys all died in gunfights with the police.
  • The Nineteenth Street Gang - A gang of Irish boys whose main M.O. was breaking the windows of Protestant schools and churches.
  • The Tub of Blood Bunch - A homeless gang that never changed clothes until a set wore out. Then they'd kill someone to take his.
  • The Plug Uglies - Wore armored hats and heavy boots. Beat people with bricks. Had over 1,000 members in their heyday.
  • The Car Barn Gang - Starting in 1911, this gang actively hunted policemen on patrol, and put up signs advertising it.
  • The Eastmans - A Jewish gang with over 1,000 members, lead by the infamous Monk Eastman.

1857 Gang-and-Police battle

In addition to the gangs, in 1857, the city had two different police departments, who were basically at war with each other. This came to head on July 4, 1857 when the Bowery Boys and Metropolitan Police fought a bloody battle against their common foes the Dead Rabbits and the Municipal Police.

Teddy Roosevelt vs The Gangs Of Old New York

Theodore Roosevelt was Police Comissioner of NYC for a few years at the tail end of this time period (1895-1897). Which means, in an alternate history game, Teddy might reunite the Rough Riders or call in some favors from the White House Gunfighters to battle the Gangs and Tammany Hall.


1. The Big Book of Thugs - A graphic novel anthology by DC featuring "Tough-As-Nails True Tales Of The World's Baddest Mobs, Gangs, and Ne'er-Do-Wells"
2. Website on Herbert Asbury - in 1928, Asbury wrote the nonfiction book "The Gangs of New York"
3. Wikipedia on "The Gangs of New York" book - book by Herbert Asbury
4. Wikipedia on "The Gangs of New York" movie - A film by Martin Scorsese that catches the feel of the era and the gangs, even if plays a little loose with certain characters and historical facts.

Game and Story Use

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