Summary: First published in 1928, Herbert Asbury’s whirlwind tour through the low-life of nineteenth-century New York has become an indispensible classic of urban history.
Focusing on the saloon halls, gambling dens, and winding alleys of the Bowery and the notorious Five Points district, The Gangs of New York dramatically evokes the destitution and shocking violence of a turbulent era, when colorfully named criminals like Dandy John Dolan, Bill the Butcher, and Hell-Cat Maggie lurked in the shadows, and infamous gangs like the Plug Uglies, the Dead Rabbits, and the Bowery Boys ruled the streets. A rogues gallery of prostitutes, pimps, poisoners, pickpockets, murderers, and thieves, The Gangs of New York is a dramatic and entertaining glimpse at a city’s dark past.
A girl in my thesis class did her thesis on the Irish of Five Points and this was one of her sources. I have been interested in reading it ever since.