The “bloody angle” of Chinatown’s Doyers Street

Doyers Street, a former footpath with a 90-degree bend, got its name from Henrik Doyer, an 18th century Dutch immigrant who ran a distillery there.

By 1900, Doyers Street (in a Library of Congress photo from that year) had gone from colonial booze to Chinatown gang murders.

It earned the nickname the “Bloody Angle” because of numerous shootings committed by local tongs that lasted into the Depression.

Take the colorful moniker with a grain of salt; the police may not have had any evidence it was as bloody as they claimed.

[bustling Doyers Street in an 1898 postcard]

“The police believe, and can prove it so far as such proof is possible, that more men have been murdered at the Bloody Angle than any other place of like area in the world,” wrote Herbert Asbury in Gangs of New York.

“It was, and is, and ideal place for ambush; the turn is very abrupt, and not even a slant-eyed Chinaman can see around a corner.”

“Armed with snickersnee and hatchet sharpened to a razor’s edge, the tong killer lay in wait for his victim, and having cut him down as he came around the bend, fled through the arcade, or plunged into the theater and thence into Mott or Pell Street through one of the underground passageways.”

Today Doyers Street is pretty quiet—and strangely the site of numerous hair salons.

[A quieter, emptier Doyers Street in 1928, from the New York Public Library Digital Collection]

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8 Responses to “The “bloody angle” of Chinatown’s Doyers Street”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Excited to google “snickersnee”, then disappointed to learn it’s a only “a knife resembling a sword”. Anything so peculiar sounding should feature iron spikes, moving parts, possibly even feathers.

    • T.J. Connick Says:

      Snickersnee was also the name of a thoroughbred mare. Her sire was the immortal Native Dancer, and her dam was Glaive. Glaive’s dam was Blade of Time, whose sire was Sickle.

      If snickersnee was a let-down, try glaive.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I know, I looked it up with giddy anticipation too. It’s a word that needs to be brought back into today’s lexicon!

  3. Stephanie Says:

    It will survive as long as there are performances of “The Mikado”.

  4. Nom Wah with Zsa Zsa « I YUM New York Says:

    [...] to Doyers street before and while I was walking down it, I remembered a cool blog post I read on Ephemeral New York. It’s amazing how much history this city has. Here’s my photo that sort of looks like [...]

  5. See & Do: July 20 – 22, 2012 Weekender Events | OurChinatown Says:

    [...] most notorious slum to the once-secret Chinatown tunnels and the street once called “The Bloody Angle.” Once in Little Italy’s Historic District learn about the extortion tactics of La Mano [...]

  6. Jonky Says:

    Doyers St. is currently home to Apotheke, a popular and trendy ‘speakeasy.’ Interesting to know the story of the Doyers St can be followed, somewhat, through today.

  7. Left behind street signage of old Manhattan | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Grimy and hard to read after decades stuck to this building, it harkens back to a more down and dirty Chinatown of tong wars, when Doyers Street went by the infamous nickname the Bloody Angle. […]

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