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The sun. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]) 1916-1920, July 20, 1919, Section 3 Magazine Section, Image 25

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dT IT" T PW
va m
I J
ON
SECTION 3
NEW YORK, SUNDAY, JULY 20, 1919 cowrw. m. mmm, a,
TWELVE PAGES.
Gangs and the Gangsters as They Pass From View,
HARRY
ifa YAT r
FAMILIAR,
GANG TYPE
Cowardice Matches
Viciousness in
Criminals Whose
Black DeedsStand
Out in Under
world History
This is the first of a series of
three articles in which the full
history of the gangs and gang
sters of New York, from the
earliest days, will for the first
time be told. In the next article
will be some extremely interest
ing facts about the great power
wielded by these organisations in
the last century and tome of the
great gang fights that waged for
days.
By HERBERT ASBURY.
THE gangs and gangsters who
flourished in varying degrees
In New York city for almost a
century, reaching the height of their
power and strength in the palmy days
of the Bowery- and Chinatown and dur
ing the rule of the crooked politician,
constituted an interesting and a sinis
ter phase of city life, largely because
they and the conditions which were re
sponsible for their being were funda
mentally preventable.
Essentially creatures of circum
stance and the logical outgrowth of the
conditions and influences with which
they were surrounded, the gangsters
all through the history of New York
have kept pace with their environ
ment. As the divea and resorts were
allowed to increase in numbers and
In depravity, so did the gangs and the
power of the gangsters multiply and
grew; and as the moral crusades of
the early part of the present century
succeeded in closing the dives, and as
politics became a little less crooked,
the gangs dwindled in membership
and in criminal activity. At the close
of Arthur Woods's administration as
Police Commissioner, with practically
no open dives and with the city In bet
ter condition morally than It ever had
been, New York was almost gangless;
or at any rate there wore no gangs In
any way comparable to the bands of
plunderers and cutthroats that ruled
the lower East Side from 1900 to 1911
or 1M.
I'"l""' noriirr m Myth.
Much has been written about gangs
during the last twenty-five years, and
in a great deal of it the gangster has
been held up as a brave and skilful
plunderer and murderer, spectacular
and crafty. But police officials who
know the gangsters say there was
nothing brave or spectacular about the
gangster. Crafty he was, to be sure,
and a long practice In picking pockets,
or robbing drunken men, or blowing
safes, or using knives and revolvers
had made him skilful. But he was
really anything but brave. When hs
killed, nine times out of ten it was
from the shadow of a dark doorway, or
he slipped up behind his victim and
knocked him out with a blackjack or a
piece of leud pipe. He killed from be
hind. He plundered, but usually he
plundered those who could not afford
to complain tu the police because they
themselves were crooked, and those
who knew that it was of no use to
complain, because the police were con
trolled by the crooked politician, and
the politician had election day uses for
the gangster.
Thsrs are very few Instances where
gangsters have stood toe to toe with
their victims and killed them In fair
combat, except, perhaps, In the old
days when the only weapons used by
the gangsters were Asts and clubs and
brick bats. With few exceptions the
police have always t"en able to worst
them in fights. Ther. Have been few j
gangsters with sufflcle'-.i nerve to face
a cop's nightstick. The way the
gangster fought was to hide In the
darkness of a doorway and when his
enemy passed stick him in the back
with a dirk, or else pump a few bul
lets into Him and then run.
The gangsters of the sort that ruled
kept alive the dives there used every
means of getting a livelihood that
could be conjured up by a perverted
brain. When stuss and poker and
other gambling games were running
wide open on the East Side it was
their favorite pastime to hold up th
owners of the game. They- levied
blackmail on the merchants and
pedlers of their territory, they held
up and robbed the dives and Baloons
owned by members of opposing gangs,
they were pickpockets, footpads, loft
workers and a great many of them
were that lowest of all thieves, the
"lush-worker" a man who lays In
wait for drunken men and robs them.
Many of them were Kagins, that Is,
they trained boys to pick pockets, and.
some years ago, at the height of the
gangster's power, the police estimated
that no fewer than a hundred men In
New York had from twenty to thirty
boys picking pockets for them and
turning over the procieds of the rob
beries. Many Modern Kin,
And an excellent idea of the manner
of men the gangsters were may be
gained from the fact that at least 90
per cent, of them lived largely on the
earnings of women of the streets.
There were few gangsters who did
not have at least one woman walking
the streets for them. Some of these
women were pickpockets and shop
lifters, also, and such was their men
tal peculiarities that the woman rare
ly failed to hand over to her man, her
gangster, the proceeds of every rob
bery she committed provided he beat
her often enough.
Police records, -and the newspaper
stories of the gangsters and the gang
fights, show that a great many of the
murders among the gangs were over
women usually occurring when a
woman tired of some particular
gangster and cast her lot with an
other. Such noted gangsters as
"Spanish Louis," 'Crazy Butch," one
of the most famous of the Kagins of
his time, and Bill Harrington, owed
their deaths primarily to their women.
What the police thought of the
gangsters is well summed up In a
statement made back In 1912 by
George S. Dougherty, when he was
Deputy Commissioner of Police,
"The gangsters." he said, "are the
vilest and meanest criminals we have
to deal with. They are vicious, cow
ardly and repulsive creatures, who rob
the poor, levy tribute on the gamblers
and rob the unfortunute women of the
streets. They are a disgusting lot."
Yet there have been a few of them,
such men as "Eat-'em-up" Jack Mc
Manua, Biff Ellison and Monk East
man, who were brave men and will
ing to stand toe to toe and fight with
anybody. Such men as these, so far as
the police ever knew, never lived on
the earnings of women, although they
did practically everything else that
was criminal. But after all gangsters
such as these were the exception that
proved the rule.
The conditions under which the
gangster flourished and came Into
being made him stunted mentally,
physically and spiritually. Few of
them were big men physically, and
some of the most famous of them all,
such as "Humpty" Jackson, who car
ried his pistol under bis hat. were
wf t- fcursnhlwnk,
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1
Price Lists for Kill- ,
ing and Maiming nn
Show How Cheap1
Human Life Was
Held by Notori
ii i
s c v u iwn rvv i o
t i iirvgy - - paopd 'now m ii' mam . wm , m i mm mm i imp v
small BsWsVsHJHHHHnBi WVyTO swrwirwi 'i ii.i.ii,nnw rk-j BJK j SHSk ' " Hi i II III I I Warn II II III I Mill
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GYP the, BLOOP, TWO of tA
LEFTY LOUIE m
Z MURDERERS of HERMAN ROSENTHAL,, NOTORIOUS GANGSTERS
in tong circles such up to data
methods as turning on the gas whlh
their victims were deep in the pleas
ures of an opium sleep. That was
the way the killers of the Hip Sing
Tong got rid of "Big Mike" Abrams.
a noted gangster and opium fiend,
whose (-real delight it was to beat up
chinamen. The Italian gangs of to
day are more or less quiescent, al
though there are still plenty of them
up in Little Italy and in Mulberrv
Bend.
The gangs that terrorized the Bow
ery and Chinatown for almost fifteen
years and won many a notable elec
tion victory and whose decline started
when the Committee of Fourteen be
gan closing the dives In the neighbor
hood of Chatham Square were led by
Jews and Irishmen. These gangs used
the pistol and the knife, one as well
as the other, and besides that they
slugged with blackjacks and leadpipe,
they gouged nut eyes, they cut throats
and they used poison and gas. There
is even one instance where a gangster,
wishing to rid the earth of a rival,
Hi Lumpllshed his purpose by introduc
ing a live and poisonous snake intd
the rival's bed. although where tin
gangster git the snake the records
say not.
The QsBugstrs Price List
Hut the plundering methods of the
gangs have ever been the same. They
lived off crooked politics, receiving
money for voting a score and more
times and for using strong arm meth
ods to keep decent citizens from vot
ing. They would do any sort oi
iTimin.U Job for hire. Murder was
cheap and maiming whs cheaper. It
Warn possible to get a man killed for
ten dollars, although if the prospective
victim were prominent enough tii
make it likely that there would be snv
activity by the police the price ran as
rrlgh as J100 and on rare occasions
tftOO. Some year ago the police had a
price list, supposed to be in the hand
wilting of "I'lker" Ryan, a noted gang
lighter and killer who flourished abont
ll'OO or thereabout. This list had this
schedule of prices for killings and
maimings
Punching!!
Both eyes blacked 14
Nose ;il)d Jaw bust $lu
Jacked out (knocked out
blackjack) $15.
Ear chawed off 11 Ti
Leg or arm broke I i
Shot in leg -123.
Stab wound $2.'.
liolng the big Job J100 up.
That is exactly the way
written in Piker Ryan's notebook, an4
later on it lias been said that he added
another item that uf 110 for the goug.
ng out of an M e
.sd
Mis
T.
MS
n
a-
f
!
t
n
h
M
b
k
sickly, whining and wheedling, but a
!ad man with a gun so long as he
could shoot from the cover of a door
way. It has been estimated by the
police that the average gangster Is
not morn than five feel and four luetics
in height and 130 pounds or so In
weight. In many Instances the gang
Bter became u criminal simply because
he had nothing better to do. Tills is
proved by the fact that the establish
ment of clubs and community houses
end places of that sort in a gang terri
tory lias almost always resulted in a
clean up of the district so fur as gangs
are concerned.
Roughly, the gangs of New York
may be divided Into three periods,
those of the Irish, the Italian and the
is any record In New Toi k, those of be
fore the sivll war and for ten to thirty
years afterward, were dominated by
the Irish. Then cume the gungs in
which the Italians were the dominant
race, and finally came the time when
the gangs were controlled und led by
Jews. Most of the gangs of the early
part of the present century were com
posed of Jews, with a smattering of
Irish and ltullans, although of
late years the Italians have shown
a tendency to fling together and
have gangs of their own, princi
pally ill Harlem's Little Italy.
This is all true in spite of the
fact that in all the periods the gung
fcters bore principally Irish names. But
the records will show that a great
(jieii or were muri". a gang lights
had orthodox Jewish lunar all. There
was the case of "Spanish Louis." popu
larly supposed to bo of Spanish und
I'ortuguese descent but who when he
was shot had a Jewish funeral. The
Irish names were udupted because of
the traditional prOWSSM of the Irish
man in battle and the belief of gang
land that the name of O'Brien and Mc
Carthy was half the battle.
The old Irish gaiiKs. such as the an
cient Pivg Points, the Bowery Boys,
tiui Dead Rabbits, the Plug I'glies and
others that flourished before and Im
mediately after the civil war were not
properly composed of gangsters In the
modern sense of that word. They were
rea)ly hoodlums, young toughs and
else to do loafed on I he street corners,
rushed the can for beer and fought at
the drop of a hat. They were in evi
dence principally around election time,
when they voted it di7.en times each
ni"i then dbi strong arm work at the
pells for the politician who had them
i niler his wing iiml gave tliem protec
tion. Most of their tK'hts were among
themselves and with the police, and In
those days the gangsters would stand
US and fight regardless of the cop's
nightstick, Their principal weapons
wen clubs und ll-is and brickbats.
But the gangs that followed these
old time bunds introduced a little more
refinement and a little more depravity
into their work. They began to use
the pistol a bit and they could he hired
' uf Murder I all.
Hut in I9K' murder was a
Ml
murder, They became pasl masters in
the art of maiming on enemy by such
gentle methods us nouging out an eye
or biting off an ear or doing all man
ner of tilings to his anatomy. But
still they lei the general public pretty
much alone and confined their mean- I
i ess for the most part to rival gangs.
The gangs In Which the Italian ele
ment predominated, -which cams inter.
Introduced the knife into gangland and
II goon became the most popular
weapon. They used the pistol alao,
and later these weapons be Cams 10
Wall liked and possessed such obvious !
advantages, that the hatchet men ,,fl
the Chinese tongs abandoned their
ancient Implements of killing and used
the tools of the "white devils.
meaner, in tost year me ponce cap
tured a gangster who cave them what
lie siii'l was a schedule of prlcCfl thai
his gang charged for doing variout
things like maiming ami killing Thii
Is It:
Slash on cheek II to $10
Shot III leg Jl lo 2u
Shot in arm I., to )i
Throwing bomb to i
Murder 110 lo 1100
It was in (he veil lin oi Iheret
abouts thai gangstei known at
Toske Niggfi whose real name wat
Joseph ToplinsUv conceived the ides
of poisoning horses He organized
gn.'ig and msile I reinendous profits b.1
biting out to various truckmen anil
others to poison the horses ol theif
rivals. In time there came to be tfe

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