Monk Eastman’s notorious Bronx gang fight

Even in gang-ridden 19th century New York, with mobsters being rubbed out by rival thugs with guns and other weapons all the time, the old-fashioned fistfight was still used to solve disputes.

That’s what happened in the turf war between criminal Monk Eastman and Paul Kelly, leader of the Five Points Gang.

The simian, wild-haired Eastman (right) controlled Chrystie Street to East 14th Street, wrote Andrew Roth in Infamous Manhattan.

Paul Kelly (below), a dapper Italian with an Irish name, ruled west of Bowery.

Both gangs were under the thumb of Tammany Hall politicos. Tired of their gun battles over disputed neutral territory, Tammany brass organized an old-school fight in a barn in the Bronx in 1903 between the two men.

This “fist duel,” as a 1923 New York Times article dubbed it, didn’t solve a thing.

Eastman and Kelly went at each other in that barn for hours before it was called a draw.

The turf war mostly resolved itself when Eastman was sent to Sing Sing for robbery in 1904, then fought in World War I (he became a decorated soldier).

Kelly had control of the Lower East Side until 1908, when a deadly gun battle—and then Tammany Hall’s desire to clean up the Bowery—reduced his criminal power.

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2 Responses to “Monk Eastman’s notorious Bronx gang fight”

  1. The History of Prohibition – Pt 07 | asa-nc.com Says:

    […] Kelly and Eastman were ordered to face off in the ring and to the victor would go the spoils.  Kelly held a decided advantage as he had been a professional boxer in his younger days, but Eastman outweighed him by fifty pounds. After two hours of duking it out, Kelly couldn't put his opponent down so the fight was declared a draw.  Because no one conceded,  Foley threw the support of Tammany Hall to Kelly and withdrew any further legal or political help from Eastman.  It was the beginning of the end for Eastman and the Coin Collectors.  Their territory was soon swallowed up by Kelly and The Five Points Gang. […]

  2. An ode to the original Second Avenue subway | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] rep: Under its tracks at Allen and Rivington Streets in September 1903, The Five Points Gang and Monk Eastman’s Gang drew their guns and duked it out in a deadly […]

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