Posts Tagged ‘Owney Madden’

A 1930s gangster guns down a little boy

August 18, 2011

On the evening of July 28, 1931, five-year-old Michael Vengalli was playing with a group of friends on East 107th Street in Harlem’s Little Italy.

The block, between Second and Third Avenues, was crowded with several hundred children and adults, news accounts reported, who sat on stoops and leaned out tenement windows that summer evening.

Little did they know that ruthless Bronx-born gangster Vincent Coll, 22, was also in the neighborhood, driving toward 107th Street.

Coll, a former protege of Dutch Schultz, was planning to kidnap a Schultz underling.

Things didn’t go as Coll planned, and a shootout ensued. Coll fired his machine gun repeatedly, missing his target but hitting Michael in the stomach. He died instantly; four other kids were wounded.

Dubbed the “baby killing” (watch a clip of the boy’s massive funeral procession here), the entire city was outraged. Newspapers offered thousands of dollars in reward money to anyone who could help ID the gunman.

Coll was soon caught; Mayor Jimmy Walker gave him the nickname Mad Dog. Thanks to a strong defense lawyer, Coll was acquitted later that year.

He got his due in February 1932. 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).

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

August 22, 2009

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.