View Full Version : Herbert Asbury's 'Gangs of New York' (1927 book)

01-30-2018, 05:56 PM
Spinoff from a conversation on understanding American urban politics and legal/illegal immigration, comparing the imagery from the movie of the same title versus the realities found in the book.

Setting aside the specifics of 21st century America, I figured someone out there might find it useful in today's environment - if only for historical perspective.


NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Magazine did an interesting compare-und-contrast. Money shot in bold.

In fact, gangs like the Dead Rabbits and Bowery Boys were political clubs that met at nights and on weekends to promote their candidates. "They would fight at the polls and sometimes beat up their opponents, but not just for fun or plunder," Anbinder says.
So why fight? Nearly every scuffle was designed to help a gang's chosen candidate into public office. Once there, the candidate would reciprocate, bestowing good, steady-paying patronage jobs and municipal funds on his constituency.
Anbinder also faults the movie for its emphasis on Catholic-Protestant conflict. Most fighting was among gangs of Irish-Catholic Five Pointers. And it was rarely as bloody or deadly as in the movie. "Rioters did not go about with swords and broadaxes. Every once in a while one person would have one, but never whole mobs armed like that."*

[Original hyperlink now dead, cache trail of breadcrumbs here]

* Meh, not quite, Rabbit (as Bugs use to say).

From the service (combat?) history of the 7th NYSM;

at the Election Riots, April 10, 1834; Abolition Riot, July 11 to 12, 1834; Great Conflagration in New York city, December 17, 1835; Stevedore Riot, February 24, 1836; Flour Riots, February 6 and March 6, 1837; Anti-rent War, December 9 to 10, 1839; Croton Water Riot, April 22 to 23, 1840; fire in New York city, July 19 to 21, 1845; Astor Place Riot, May 10, 12 and 14, 1849; Police Riot, June 16, 1857; *Dead Rabbit Riot, July 5, 1857

* The Dead Rabbits riot was a two-day civil disturbance in New York City resulting from what was originally a small-scale street fight between members of the Dead Rabbits and the Bowery Boys into a citywide gang war which occurred July 4–5, 1857.

Militarization of the New York Metropolitan Police, circa 1860 (https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-n5_R3L7ZLHk/Vyd7lmA-brI/AAAAAAAAGUg/8jo1DRt2v6AeXoYfs4-MrtsCZ3t7fWBlACLcB/s1600/armed%2Bpolice%2Bofficers%2Bmetropolitan%2Bhotel%2 Bnew%2Byork%2Bcity%2B1860%2527s.jpg)