Posts Tagged ‘Monk Eastman’

Monk Eastman’s notorious Bronx gang fight

May 11, 2011

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.

Girl gangsters of 19th century Manhattan

December 2, 2009

When you think of the criminal gangs of New York in the 1800s, ruthless young men probably come to mind.

But these gangs had female members as well, some of whom were notorious fighters.

There was Hell-Cat Maggie, a member of the Irish-American Dead Rabbits in the 1850s. Her home base was the Five Points slum, near today’s City Hall. Supposedly her teeth were filed into sharp points and she clawed rivals with brass fingernails.

Another was Sadie Farrell, aka Sadie the Goat. Reportedly she robbed East Siders by first head-butting them in the stomach. In the 1860s she joined the Charlton Street Gang, river pirates on the West Side.

Ida Burger, called Ida the Goose, was a prostitute and Lady Gopher, part of the Gophers of Hell’s Kitchen. In the 1910s she was lured away to the Lower East Side’s Eastman Gang, led by Monk Eastman, but eventually went back to the Gophers after a bloody shootout.

The illustration above, from the New York Public Library, depicts tough chicks rumming it up at a Five Points tavern in the 1870s.