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The real Gangs of New York: Remarkable photos show the original mobsters who ruled Manhattan's brutal Five Points neighborhood in the 19th century

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 9/12/2018 George Martin For Mailonline

a group of people posing for a photo: The Montgomery Guards, an Irish-American gang who took their name from an old Irish-American militia, pictured relaxing in the docks near the Five Points. The original Montgomery Guards were an Irish-American militia company that formed in Boston in 1837 and were forced to disband the following year due to extreme nativist and anti-Catholic sentiment in the city

The Montgomery Guards, an Irish-American gang who took their name from an old Irish-American militia, pictured relaxing in the docks near the Five Points. The original Montgomery Guards were an Irish-American militia company that formed in Boston in 1837 and were forced to disband the following year due to extreme nativist and anti-Catholic sentiment in the city
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited
From the Short Tail Gang to the Gopher Gang, these are the remarkable photos of the real-life gangs who ruled New York in the late nineteenth century.

For nearly one hundred years, these infamous gangs - which were collectively known as the Five Points Gang - practically ran the city and made their New York neighborhood one of the deadliest on earth.

Under their rule, Five Points gained international notoriety for having the highest murder rate of any slum in the world and stories of violent confrontation between warring gangs became legendary.

This incredible collection of images show the nineteenth century mobsters who inspired Martin Scorsese's film 'Gangs' of New York'.

The images show violent thugs like the Short Tail Gangs who were known to the police as hard drinkers and thieves.

Also pictured are an Irish-American group known as the Gopher Gang at the peak of their power and groups of young boys robbing drunk men in New York in the early 1900s.

Five Points was a nineteenth century neighbourhood in the area now known as Lower Manhattan in New York City. Sometimes considered the original American melting pot, this run-down Manhattan district became the centre of settlement for the poorest and least fortunate immigrants. Irish, Italian and Eastern European immigrants and freed Black slaves settled in Five Points.

Gambling dens and brothels were numerous in the Five Points area, and it was considered a dangerous destination, where many people had been mugged particularly at night and where race riots would regularly break out. In 1842, Charles Dickens famously visited the area and was appalled by the terrible living conditions.

At the height of occupation of Five Points, only certain areas of London's East End vied with it in the western world for population density, disease, child mortality, prostitution and crime.

Five Points was a place where life was short and violent and the place where the original gangs of New York were formed.

a vintage photo of a group of people posing for the camera: Members of the Irish-American Whyos Gang. Top row left to right: Baboon Connolly, Josh Hines and Bull Hurley. Middle row left to right: Clops Connelly, Dorsey Doyle and Googy Corcaran. Bottom row left to right: Mike Lloyd, Piker Ryan and Red Rock Farrell

Members of the Irish-American Whyos Gang. Top row left to right: Baboon Connolly, Josh Hines and Bull Hurley. Middle row left to right: Clops Connelly, Dorsey Doyle and Googy Corcaran. Bottom row left to right: Mike Lloyd, Piker Ryan and Red Rock Farrell
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

Organized criminal gangs, like the Bowery Boys, the Dead Rabbits, the Short Tails, the Gopher Gang, the Whyos Gang and the Montgomery Guards cropped up across Manhattan.

Each group had had their own way of letting people know who they stood with. The Bowery Boys, a gang mainly made up of firefighters, would go out in red shirts and stovepipe hats; the Short Tails went out with their shirt untucked and the Irish Dead Rabbits would head out with a rabbit nailed to a stick.

Meanwhile the Whyos - an Irish-American criminal group who ranged from pickpockets to murderers - had a distinctive gang's cry which sounded like a bird or owl calling 'Why-oh!' to let people know they were on the streets.

All of the gangs of Five Points competed for control of the revenue made from illicit activities and fights would break out over most anything.

The Five Points gangs made their neighborhood one of the deadliest places on earth. It was said that they had the highest murder rate of any slum in the world. According to the legends, the most dangerous building - a housing tenement called the 'Old Brewery' - saw a murder every single night.

Above all, it was nationality and race that turned the Five Points gangs against one another. Riots and fights broke out between the staunchly anti-Catholic Bowery Boys and the Irish Dead Rabbits.

In one brutal two-day battle, an estimated 1,000 people took to the streets of New York to fight, beating each other senseless and looting one another's homes. By the time the blood had dried, eight men were dead and up to a hundred more lay injured - an event that inspired Martin Scorsese's 2002 film Gangs of New York.

For a century, these notorious gangs ruled their neighbourhood but by the early 1900s, Five Points was torn down piece by piece. Politicians railed for it to be ripped apart with one telling his constituent, 'This hot-bed of infamy, this modern Sodom, is situated in the very heart of your City!'  

The crime-riddled Old Brewery was pulled down, missionary houses were brought in, and bit by bit, the face of the city changed.

The Five Points gangs were broken up and slowly faded into history. These images remember their notorious legacy.

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