The photo is a picture of an unnamed dive bar on Thompson Street. Its part of an exhibition called How The Other Half Live, the photo was taken by Jacob Riis in 1888.

Throughout early New York dive bars were as violent and dangerous as any of the other places around, maybe more dangerous as some of the gangs and gangsters made these places their headquarters. Indeed even the owners of these places were gangsters.

Some places were the scenes of some famous murders, others were the scenes of bizarre shootouts and other places people would be drugged and robbed. The other places were places of sheer sin where anything goes.

Some of the more infamous Dives were Shang Drapers bar the scene of a shootout between gangs leaders, Johnny the Mick of the Walshers & Johnny Irving of the Dutch Mob, Johnny the Mick shot and killed Johnny Iriving, Billy Porter another Dutch Mob then shot and killed Johnny the Mick, then Shang Draper shot and injured Billy Porter. Shang Draper was a criminal too, he would drug unsuspecting people and when they woke up later they were on a boat somewhere across the world, it was known as Shanghaing. he would also use prostitutes to lure drunk men into a dark room to be ebaten and robbed.

Then there was Billy McGlory’s Armory Hall. It was described by a journalist for the Cincinnati Inquirer as having “a beastliness and depravity… compared with which no chapter in the world’s history is equal.” Drunken customers were robbed, mostly by the female regulars who flirted with the victim beforehand, and then dragged from a table by a bouncer and thrown out into the street. Once outside, the victim would be searched for anything of value and was usually stripped of his clothes

Many of the bouncers were well-known criminals and hired thugs of the Five Points. These men were described as “some of the most expert rough-and-tumble fighters of the period” and could be seen walking the club freely wearing pistols, knives, brass knuckles, and bludgeons which they often used against unruly or otherwise uncooperative customers

Another bouncer that was employed in a waterfront dive bar was Gallus Mag, a six foot tall huge woman. It was her custom, after she’d felled an obstreperous customer with her club, to clutch his ear between her teeth and so drag him to the door, amid the frenzied cheers of the onlookers. If her victim protested she bit his ear off, and having cast the fellow into the street she carefully deposited the detached member in a jar of alcohol behind the bar…. She was one of the most feared denizens on the waterfront and the police of the period shudderingly described her as the most savage female they’d ever encountered.”

Another saloon that was used by the Gopher Gang and in particular the Battle Row Ladies’ Social and Athletic Club or the Lady Gophers were headquartered at Mallet Murphy’s Battle Row saloon. Mallet Murphy was a popular Bowery saloon keeper, his nickname was attributed to his use of a wooden mallet as a weapon against unruly customers and to defend his bar against criminals.

Owen Forsyth

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