“Wild Jimmy” Haggerty was a criminal in Philadelphia and later in New York City during the mid 19th century. Jimmy Haggerty was the leader of the Schuylkill Rangers, a street gang which terrorized the South Philadelphia waterfront for over 25 years.
The notorious Philadelphia gang existed from 1836-1878 they were the prominent Irish street gang pre-twentieth century. There were sixty-five gangs in total throughout early Philadelphia’s history including the Schuylkill Rangers there was the Bleeders, Centre Street Boys, Flayers, Molly Maguires & Skinners to name a few. Many of these criminal gangs were originally organized as volunteer Philadelphia Fire Department companies.
James Haggerty was born into a large family whose home was located on Arch Street in the area between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Street known as “McAran’s Garden” near the Schuylkill River. Haggerty wasnt involved in criminal activity during his childhood but he did not attend school and received little education. When the Civil War started he voluntarily enlisted in the Union Army.
Returning to Philadelphia following the war he became involved in illegal bare-knuckle boxing and eventually petty theft, armed robbery and burglary along with a number of known criminals. He was considered to be extremely violent when drunk but unlike other criminals would not murder in cold blood
During his criminal career he was connected to a number of major robberies, the Eleventh Street and Chestnut Street Banks, the Philadelphia Savings Bank and the safe burglary of the Dancannon Iron Works. “Wild” Jimmy and another gang member Hugh Murphy were both convicted for the robbery of a store and sentenced to ten years in prison. Eight months later he was pardoned by Governor Andrew G. Curtin, in part to Haggerty’s political connections and his promise to leave the country upon his release. He lived in Canada for a brief time before returning to the city to resume his criminal career.
Haggerty remained a major figure in Philadelphia until 1869 when he moved to New York where he lived for the last two years of his life. He got involved in the underworld & had a number of disputes with criminal figures, for example, when he and Billy Tracy were thrown out of a Bowery gambling resort by its owner Harry Hill.
On the morning of 25th January 1871 “Wild” Jimmy & Billy Tracy went to Patrick Egan’s saloon. When in the saloon Billy Tracy got involved in a dispute with Shang Draper, which was connected to an earlier dispute at Jem Mace’s saloon. Reddy the Blacksmith, a longtime member of the Bowery Boys, attempted to separate the two but Haggerty confronted Reddy and demanded that he stay out of it. As the two argued, Reddy to drew his pistol and shot Haggerty in the abdomen, Haggerty refused to name his attacker and died from his wounds later that evening.