Theodore Allen, or known as The Allen, was an American gambler, political organizer, saloon keeper and head of a criminal family in New York City during the mid-to late 19th century. Born in Syracuse in New York to well to do & deeply religious parents in 1823, he was one of nine children.

Two of his brothers would become Presbyterian preachers and another brother would become a Baptist minister, the rest of the Allen brothers, Wesley, Martin and William became criminals and burglars in New York City, Theodore being probably the best known known at the time.

John Allen “The Wickedest Man in New York”, who was a notorious underworld gangster himself, owned a saloon on Water Street in early New York. John Allen attended the Union Theological Seminary when he was young but decided religion wasnt for him and joined his brothers in New York. However, years later John Allen was caught up in the Water Street Revival, a scam where saloon owners and Reverend A.C. Arnold, founder of the Howard Mission were investigated by the New York Times & New York World.

It was discovered that the Reverend had been paying Allen $350 a month to use the hall, though the agreement was that Allen said they could use the hall for free and he would sing hymns. The reports devastated the Water Front Revival and seriously damaged the preachers standing, due to the dishonesty of the campaign. The Water Street Revival faded away and the saloon keepers returned to their criminal ways.

He was the owner of The American Mabille, located on Bleecker Street near Broadway. The Allen’s place was popular, it included a dance hall and concert saloon, in the basement and first floor respectively, which housed “all classes of the demi-monde from the sun-bleared Cyprian of the Bowery … to the diamond-bedecked mistress of some sporting man” and where it was said “dissolute women in gaudy tights danced and sang ribald songs”.

Allen owned half a dozen similar establishments, among them the St. Bernard Hotel at Prince and Mercer Streets, as well as financed gambling dens, brothels and other “places of ill-fame”. He was closely associated with many criminals and he planned and participated in numerous bank and store robberies and was onfriendly terms with gang chieftains of the period, including the notorious William Poole or “Bill the Butcher” Poole.

According to the biography Brandy for Heroes, about John Morrisey who was a Heavyweight Champion & New York State Senator, The Allen gave a written account to the Police Gazette detailing the rivalry & fight between “Bill the Butcher” Poole & “Old Smoke” John Morrissey.

The two met in a bar at the City Hotel, Morrissey was accompanied by his associates Baker, Turner, Cunningham & Burns at the bar when Poole and his associates came in, “the two looked at each other with cold alertness” Morrissey was the first to speak, “so there stands the black muzzled American fighter” to which Poole replied, with his trademark sneer “and Im a Dandy”.

Morrissey challenged him to fight the following morning and bet $5,000 that Poole wouldnt show up, he let Poole pick the place. Poole chose Christopher Street, Morrissey declined as that was Poole territory and Morrissey knew he wouldnt get out alive and paid a forfeiture and challenged again, Poole chose Amos street also within Poole territory, this time Morrissey accepted.

On the morning of the fight The Allen was with Poole and his associates as Poole was warming up for the fight. News traveled that Morrissey supporters had been ambushed along Hudson street by Pooles supporters, the coaches and carts were “upset or emptied of their inmates” and fight between the two groups of supporters broke and ended with Morrissey’s supporters “going home or to the hospital”.

Morrissey arrived around 7 am with his trainer, Johnny Lyng and more supporters. However, in the gathered crowd was John Poole, who had received a brutal beating at Johnny Lyng’s place, hit Johnny Lyng as he passed, this caused another scuffle with Poole and Morrissey supporters, after the delay the fight got underway. The fight was described as light sparring for the first while, with Poole mostly on the defence, suddenly Morrissey made a lunge but Poole was too quick and delivered a terrible beating to Morrissey until he said “Im satisfied, Im done”, the crowd cheered for Poole.

That was not the end of the violence between Poole and Morrissey supporters about an hour after the fight a wagon carrying “Smut” Ackerman, a Poole supporter to the New York Hospital and was blocked by Morrissey supporters who were gathered outside, police had to be called to beat back the crowds and locked the hospital gate. “Smut” Ackerman died that afternoon, outside at the gate Paugeen McLoughlin, a Morrissey associate challenged The Allen to a fight and punched him, which led to fights breaking out in the street.

A few nights later, The Allen and two friends were trapped in Bradys Hall near Bayard Street and Bowery, near the Bowery Boys headquarters, they were beaten so badly that The Allen had to undergo surgery and was in bed for several weeks after. On his first day permitted out The Allen hunted down Bob Linn who he blamed for the assault.

Despite his criminal ways, when The Allen was in his country home in Bayport, Long Island, he was a pillar of society, the residents knew Theodore Allen as a good man who they respected, according to the New York World in 1892.

The American metropolis – From Knickerbocker Times to the year 1900 – By Frank Moss
Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York
Koefed, Jack. – Brandy for Heroes

Owen Forsyth

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