Mobsters, Gangs – The Midnight Terrors

There’s an old boxing joke where a guy says, “Hey, you wouldn’t believe it, but I went to a boxing match last night and a hockey game broke out.” Well, imagine a New York City street gang that formed a baseball team so that they could expand their criminal empire. In the Gay Nineties in New York City, this actually happened, and the street gang was called The Midnight Terrors.

The Midnight Terrors were a group of young teenage boys, who terrorized the streets of the First Ward in the 1890’s. The First Ward was located on the southern-most tip of Manhattan. It ran eastbound on Liberty Street from the North River (now called the Hudson River), then continued on Maiden Lane, south to the Battery and all the way east to the East River. Governors, Bedloes, and Ellis Island were also part of the First Ward.

The Midnight Terrors were first called “The Dalton Gang,” after its leader, 14-year old “Chief” Dan Dalton, who commanded his gang from their headquarters on Broad Street. Other gang members included 14-year-old Bob Trail, 14- year-old Joe Hammill, 17-year-old Jim Styles, 19-year-old Al Morrett, 14-year-old Pete Oliver, and the baby of the bunch: 11-year-old Pat Kane.

Because he was so tiny, Kane’s specialty was to spread grease all over his body, then slither down the skylight of the business the gang was robbing. Once inside, Kane unlocked the front lock and let the rest of the gang in. The gang also specialized in the late-night muggings of any poor sap, dumb enough to walk the streets of the First Ward after dark. Each gang member carried a pistol and a straight razor, which they weren’t hesitant to use. The gang’s name was changed from “The Dalton Gang” to “The Midnight Terrors,” because the gang did all it’s business late at night, while the rest of the city was sleeping.

The biggest problem for the Midnight Terrors was boredom, especially during the day. One sunny afternoon, Dalton and a few of his gang members attended a local semi-pro baseball game. Dalton was quite impressed by the speed and ferocity of the event.

Dalton turned to a gang member next to him and said, “Hey dis game’s a pip! We ought to learn ‘ow to play.”

And that they did, but not very well.

Not that it made any difference. Dalton and his gang has other ideas in mind.

The Midnight Terrors tried to join a local baseball league, but were told they could not play in the league unless they wore proper uniforms, which cost a considerable amount of cash, to dress an entire team.

So a fast crime spree was required to raise the money to buy the uniforms.

In short order, The Midnight Terrors robbed Fredrick England’s Barber Shop at 4 Coenties Slip, Stephen Pyle’s Restaurant at 19 Coenties Slip, Charles Steckler’s Restaurant at 74 Pearl Street, and Meyer’s Saloon at 89 Broad Street. In addition, numerous individuals were robbed in the streets, sometimes even during the daylight hours. All the cash derived from these escapades were put directly into “The Midnight Terror Uniform Fund.”

Now resplendent in their sharp new uniforms, The Midnight Terrors were admitted into a baseball league, which played throughout the borough of Manhattan, and even into nearby Brooklyn. To make up for their lack of baseball ability, The Midnight Terror’s baseball team played a brand of baseball that could rightfully be called criminal. All the team’s member sharpened their spikes, and they did not slide directly into a base, but rather, right into the legs and chest of the opponent who was covering the base. As a result, countless fights broke out during games between The Midnight Terrors and their opponents, some of which became quite bloody. During these battles, baseball bats were used for other tasks besides just hitting the baseball.

To make sure they got the upper hand in these on-the-field-fights, The Midnight Terrors placed dozens of their non-baseball-playing gang members in the stands. As soon as an on-field commotion occurred, their cohorts would run onto the field, wielding bats, pipes, bricks, brass knuckles, and anything else they could get their hands on. The police were called in many times to break up these fights, but no arrests were ever made. The general feeling among the fuzz was that “boys will be boys,” and as long as no one was dead, or crippled, – no harm, no foul.

Fighting on the field was one thing. And as long as The Midnight Terrors concentrated their robberies and muggings in the First Ward, the First Ward police, most of whom were on the Midnight Terrors’ payroll anyway, looked the other way. However, “Chief” Dan Dalton’s plan all along was to expand his operations, by having his non-baseball-playing gang members rob the people sitting in the stands, while the game was going on. Since these games took place in several neighborhoods other than the First Ward, the police in other parts of the city would have none of The Midnight Terrors’ shenanigans. Besides, they had their own street gangs to deal with.

Spurred on by the police captains in other precincts, the First Ward cops rounded up as many of The Midnight Terrors that they could find, including “Chief” Dan Dalton. When The Midnight Terrors were arrested, the police found dozens of knives and guns in their possession. Dalton, sure he would be back on the streets in no time, told the police captain in charge of their arrests, “Say jes keep an eye on doze guns and keys for us, Cap, will yer. ‘Cause we’ll soon be back.”

However, the roof fell in on The Midnight Terrors, when the prosecuting attorney asked for, and received from the judge, a $500 bail amount for each member of the gang, which was a kingly sum in the Gay Nineties. It was also an impossible amount of money for any of the gang members to raise, since their had spent all their ill-gotten gains on their spiffy new baseball uniforms.

Since they could not hit the streets and attempt to jump bail, Dalton and all his top gang members had no choice but to go to trail. When Dalton took the witness stand, he was asked by Judge Voorhis what he had done with all the money he and his gang had stolen. Dalton replied, “We eat almost everythin’ and wot we culdn’t eat we sold. Dat’s the way we wuz to get de uniforms fer de ball club.”

The trial of The Midnight Terrors was a slam-dunk for the prosecution. Dalton and his gang were convicted of numerous crimes, and sent to the slammer for long periods of time. This effectively ended the reign of the Midnight Terrors in Lower Manhattan.

And the game of baseball, as we presently know it, was saved.

American Mobsters – The Hudson Dusters Street Gang

The Hudson Dusters were an unruly street gang that ruled the Greenwich Village area of New York City, starting in the late 1890’s. They were formed by the trio of Kid Yorke, Circular Jack and Goo Goo Knox, who was a former gang member of the Gophers, a group that ruled Hell’s Kitchen a few blocks to the north. Knox tried to take control of the Gophers, failed, then moved south to terrorize a different neighborhood, which was open to whichever gang could take command. The Dusters crushed local gangs like the Potashes and the Boodles, then took control of the Greenwich Village and the business of plundering the docks along the Hudson River, a few blocks to the west.

The crooked streets of Greenwich Village were perfect for getaways after the Dusters committed one of their varied crimes. Their most accomplished thief was Ding Dong, who would roam the streets with a dozen or so youths. He would direct them to jump on passing wagons and toss to him any valuables they could get their hands on. Before the police could respond, Ding Dong was long gone, having disappeared down the maze of streets that comprise the Village.

The Gophers became street legends, but they were not particularly known for their fighting prowess, as were other brutal New York City gangs. They hung out in the taverns and gin mills of the Village, mingling with the famous writers and artists of their time. The journalists also favored the Dusters, and they were portrayed in the newspapers as nothing more than a fun-loving bunch, who drank more than they fought. One of the Duster’s party pals was playwright Eugene O’Neil, who frequented the gang’s hangout – the Hell Hole, on Sixth Avenue and Fourth Street. It was there that O’Neil garnered most of his characters for his most famous play – The Iceman Cometh – the Iceman being Death.

At their inception, the Dusters moved their base of operations frequently, finally settling on a house on Hudson Street, just below Horatio, later the site of the Open Door Mission. More interested in partying than pillaging, the Dusters installed a piano and they danced the nights away, in a cocaine induced stupor, with the prostitutes who prowled the West Side piers a few short blocks away. This annoyed the neighboring homeowners and business owners to no end, but all were afraid to make a complaint to the police, because the Dusters had the reputation of seeking revenge in a hot moment on anyone who would rat. After a night of carousing, the Dusters were known to parade in the streets, boozed out and hopped-up on coke, looking to cause mayhem on anyone, or anything in their path.

One night, the Dusters asked a local saloon keeper to provide them with a few kegs of beer for a party, on the arm, of course, meaning they did not expect to actually pay the man money for his stock. The saloon keeper refused and the Dusters descended up his establishment, wrecking the joint and carrying away every ounce of booze on the premises. The saloon keeper ran to his friend Patrolman Dennis Sullivan. Patrolman Sullivan decided to declare war on the Dusters. He rounded up ten of them, including their leader Red Farrell, and arrested them for vagrancy.

The Dusters decided to retaliate, and with the blessing of a Greenwich Village politician, who used the Dusters for intimidation on Election Day, they ambushed Patrolmen Sullivan as he was about to arrest one of the Dusters on a robbery charge. They attacked him from behind and stole his jacket, gun and shield, while beating him with stones and blackjacks. As many as twenty Dusters took turns kicking and punching the distressed policeman after he was down. When Patrolman Sullivan was finally unconscious, four Dusters rolled him onto his back and ground their heels into his face, causing permanent scars. Patrolman Sullivan was finally taken to the hospital, where he stayed, recuperating for over a month.

The Gophers Street Gang congratulated the Dusters on their cop-beating accomplishment, and Gopher leader, “One Lung” Curran, felt moved enough to write a poem, praising their actions. The poem read:

Says Dinny “Here’s me only chance
To gain meself a name;
I’ll clean up the Hudson Dusters,
and reach the hall of fame.”
He lost his stick and cannon,
and his shield they took away.
It was then he remembered,
Every dog had his day.

The Dusters loved this poem so much, they printed up hundreds of copies and distributed them on the streets of Greenwich Village, even dropping one off at the Charles Street Station House, where Patrolman Sullivan was assigned.

By 1916, The Dusters had dissipated, as most of their gang members were either coke addicts, dead, or locked up in jail. Another Greenwich Village gang, the Marginals, led by Tanner Smith, took over the Duster’s rackets, and they controlled the Village until Tanner was killed by Chicky Lewis, inside the Marginal Club on Eighth Avenue, on July 29, 1919. For all practical purposes, that was the end of street gang presence on the Lower West Side.

Who Is in Your Gang?

The 1st of August was national Swiss day and to celebrate the occasion, the Swiss embassy and some of the Swiss clubs (yes, there is a yodel club, a fondue club, a Swiss folklore dance club in case you’d like to join one) organised a big get together for all the Swiss living in Sydney.

So I dragged my husband along to check it out, it was easy to convince him, I just needed to promise Swiss chocolate.

Anyway, we got there and it was really interesting to see this Swiss community getting together, proudly carrying their flags, wearing their traditional red yodel shirts, speaking the same language and sharing the same traditions. There was a sense of belonging, one of the core needs people have, the need to belong.

Now, the interesting fact is that you can leverage this need to belong in your business by building a community and invite people to belong.
Think about Apple, Apple is the perfect example for creating a community around their products. They have so many advocates promoting Apple better than anyone, it’s one of the best marketing tools and it’s free. I’ve come across a lot of Apple fans, they are so dedicated that they will try to convert anyone they cross paths with (and yes, they did succeed with me too).

Creating a community around your product or services is very powerful and the benefits can be huge:

Connecting: Having a community around your products and services helps you connect existing clients with prospects. Your ‘gang members’ support each other (Apple fans are helping each other with technical issues in online forums) and share their stories (hopefully about how awesome your product or service is).
This is crucial because it gives your product or service exposure without you doing a thing. People are talking about it and spreading the word for you.

Credibility: Your prospects hear from other clients rather than from a dodgy sales person. It’s a form of social proof to see other people using your services and talking positively about them. Your happy clients do the selling for you.

Getting to Know Your Clients: Creating a gang will help you getting to know your clients better. What do they want? How can you improve your current product or service? Your community will tell you. Having a community allows you to get feedback from people that are actually buying your products and services rather than spending money on focus groups that couldn’t care less.

Launching new services: Your loyal gang will be there for you when you are introducing a new product or service and you might even want to give them an early release or special offer as a reward for their loyalty.

The best and easiest way to build your community is having an outstanding product or service. Your clients will naturally want to be part of your gang. If your product is crap, it will be hard to build a community of supporters. So focussing on giving lots of value and engaging your clients is the best place to start.

To your powerful gang,

Franziska

PS: Thanks for all the great comments about our last article ‘Liberal vs Labor’, we always love receiving feedback.

‘We were born to unite with our fellow men, and to join in community with the human race.’
Cicero

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