The Gophers: Hell’s Kitchen’s most brutal gang

Given the name because of their penchant for hiding in cellars, the Gophers formed in the 1890s and went on to rule the West Side between Ninth and Eleventh Avenues around 42nd Street through the 00’s and teens.

Their main target: the  New York Central Rail Yards, which ran up the far West Side. 


One Lung Curran, Happy Jack Mulraney (who always looked like he was smiling but supposedly had some kind of facial paralysis), Stumpy Malarkey, and Goo Goo Knox. Gang leaders back then had some colorful names.

They also had a female auxiliary gang, the Lady Gophers, headed by notorious tough chick Battle Annie—the “Queen of Hell’s Kitchen.” Reportedly she was “the most feared brick hurler of her time.”

UK-born Owney Madden, fourth from left in this 1910 gang photo, earned a rep as one of the most brutal Gopher leaders. Nicknamed The Killer, he’s responsible for numerous deaths of other gang members, especially from the rival Hudson Dusters.

After serving time in Sing Sing, he became a bootlegger and co-owner the Cotton Club, Harlem’s flashy club in the 1920s.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Responses to “The Gophers: Hell’s Kitchen’s most brutal gang”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Any pictures of the Lady Gophers and Battle Annie?

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I didn’t find any. I’d love to see what she looked like though!

  3. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I guess we have to imagine a very feminine but tough looking broad, will rip you off as easily as she pretends to kiss you…To her you might not lose your wallet it’s your life that’s at stake.

  4. Girl Gangsters Of 19th Century Manhattan : Just Plot Says:

    […] It really starts to come to life when you read the names these women had, like Hell-Cat Maggie, whose base was the notorious Five Points slum and whose teeth were supposedly filed into sharp points while she clawed rivals with brass fingernails. Then there’s Sadie the Goat, who reportedly robbed East Siders by head-butting them in the stomach and Ida the Goose, a prostitute and Lady Gopher, part of the Gophers of Hell’s Kitchen. […]

  5. Nocturne (Nov. 11, 1946) « OCD Viewer Says:

    […] in crime melodramas, along with Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. His boyhood friendship with gangster Owney Madden and association with men like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky aided the public’s perception of […]

  6. A 1930s gangster guns down a little boy « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] That’s when Schultz’s men pumped 15 bullets into Coll while he was on the phone with gangster Owney Madden at a London Chemists drugstore on Eighth Avenue and 23rd Street (above). Eco World Content From […]

  7. Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in « Rambler's Central Says:

    […] fu attraversato dagli elefanti? A Hell’s Kitchen è sempre meglio guardarsi le spalle dai Gophers? Chi sono gli uomini baffuti di Williamsburg? Facile perdersi in questo infinito archivio di storie […]

  8. Two 19th century slums known as “Battle Row” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] got its name due to all the street fights among the packed-like-sardines population, was the territory of the Gophers and other […]

  9. P.I. Becky Says:

    I’m trying to find out what my grandfathers crime was when he was with the Hudson Dusters. I know he went to Elmira State Reformatory Seventh Ward in 1930. His name is Louis Dragicevich and his date of birthday is March 29 1911. Is there anyway you can help me find out why he was there. What was his crime?

    • Joe Hegarty Says:

      My Fathers brother was a member of the Hudson Dusters,I have no info other then he was stabbed( not fatally) in a Greenwich village bar. Circa 1925 The last name was Hegarty.Any info you may have,regarding that gang i would like to hear about.Thanks Joe

  10. Two portraits of one lowdown saloon in 1919 Greenwich Village | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] prohibition was looming, after all.) While the front of the tavern may have catered to locals and Hudson Dusters gangsters, bohemians made the back room—aka, the Hell Hole—their […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: