Gangs of New York (excerpt dump)


Lets get it out of the way, this book  has barely any historical value. Yet I read it twice. Twice, cover from cover within a few months lapse! That’s because it’s pretty unique in its genre. It reads more like an ancient epic tale or saga. There’s no main character, no plot either, what it got is a whole lot of over the top scenes! But I’m not doing a review here, merely dumping inspiring bits…

And many a boy became a gangster solely because of an overwhelming desire to emulate the exploits of some spectacular figure of the underworld, or because of a yearning for fame and glory which he was unable to satisfy except by acquiring a reputation as a tough guy and a hard mug.

One of the tenements was called Jacob’s Ladder, because it was entered from the outside by a rickety, dangerous flight of stairs. Another rejoiced in the name of Gates of Hell. A third was known as Brick-bat Mansion.

Even the most ferocious of the Paradise Squares eye-gougers and mayhem artists cringed when a giant Plug Ugly walked abroad looking for trouble, with a huge bludgeon in one hand, a brickbat in the other, a pistol peeping from his pocket and his tall hat jammed down over his ears and all but obscuring his fierce eyes. He was an adept at rough and tumble fighting, and wore heavy boots studded with great hobnails with which he stamped his prostrate and helpless victim.

Gangsters and other criminals who sought refuge from the police in the dismal chambers of the Court cut other openings from the cellars of the tenements, and hid themselves and their plunder on the side ledges of the sewer or in niches cut in the walls.

…the honest citizens decided to fight fire with fire, knowing that they could not depend upon the police for protection. The word went out that they wished to employ a gang leader who would pit his strength against Poole and his minions.

Walling had always been impressed by the fact that the gangster would seldom stand up before a policeman armed with a heavy locust club, and that there was nothing a thug feared so much as a sound thumping.

The gangs of the Five Points and the Bowery, by far the most turbulent of the city’s inhabitants, took advantage of the opportunity to vent their ancient grudges against each other, and engaged in almost constant rioting.

Barricades of carts and stones were piled up in the streets, and from behind these defenses the gangsters shot and hurled bricks and used their club.

Travelling Mike sold needles and other small articles for the use of the housewife, but his box was more apt to contain pearls and diamonds, or stolen bonds, than legitimate objects of barter.

She also offered advanced courses in burglary and safe-blowing, and to a few of the most intimate of her associates gave post graduate work in blackmailing and confidence schemes.

…a Bowery drinking place called the Morgue, the owner of which boasted that his product was equally efficient as a beverage or an embalming fluid. …Soon a score of men were blazing away with revolvers, but all were drunk and no one was injured. The proprietor of the Morgue said they were very silly to expect to hit anyone after drinking his liquor.

With the connivance of crooked officials and politicians, contractors had hurriedly flung together cheap and flimsy tenements in the congested districts to house the hordes of immigrants, and these structures soon degenerated into slums of the utmost depravity.

…was divided by the gangs into clearly defined kingdoms, and the boundaries were garrisoned and as carefully guarded as are the frontiers of civilized nations.

Over a period of more than a half dozen years Battle Annie was the Queen of Hell’s Kitchen, and acquired widespread renown as the most formidable female of her time.

Perhaps fifty small groups which operated south of Forty-second street owed allegiance to the Gophers, Eastmans, Five Pointers, Gas Housers, and Hudson Dusters, and in the event of a general gang war rallied under the banners of the great captains. Each of these small gangs was supreme in its own territory, which other gangs under the same sovereignty might not invade, but its leader was always responsible to the chieftain of the larger gang, just as a prince is responsible to his king.

In addition to the great gangs and their vassal combinations, there were also a large number of independent groups which controlled small areas within the domains of the larger gangs, and vigorously opposed any attempt to absorb or suppress them.

They were greatly feared by their simple countrymen, for not only were they amazingly proficient in the use of the bomb, revolver and stiletto, but were reputed to be able to cast the evil eye, and to possess other magical powers.

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