Mar 8, 2017

March 8: Goodbye To Bill The Butcher And Hello To Big Money Politics

On March 8th in 1855 Bill "The Butcher" Poole died in New York after being shot 12 days prior at a bar on Broadway in Manhattan.

Poole, a butcher, was the leader of the Bowery Boys Gang, made up exclusively of native born volunteer firemen. He was also a leader in the Know Nothing political organization, a movement of native born Americans who felt immigrants (mostly Irish) were gaining too much political and social power; Mostly due to the power of Tammany Hall, an organization that helped push Irish immigrants into local political seats of power.

   Bill the Butcher's archenemy was Irish immigrant John "Old Smoke" Morrissey, leader of the Irish gang Dead Rabbits, and an integral member of Tammany Hall.

The two gangs, The Bowery Boys  and The Dead Rabbits, being on opposite sides politically were mortal enemies and fought over 200 gang battles in under 10 years, and the rival between Poole and Morrissey was well documented in newspapers at the time.

   On February 24th 1855 at Stanwix Hall two members of the Dead Rabbits, Lew Baker and Jim Turner, shot Poole as he stood at the bar. He was taken to his home on Christopher St and died on March 8th.

Morrissey went on to become a Democratic State Senator and U.S. Congressman and died a millionaire.

   Bill the Butcher's last words were "Good-bye boys; I die a true American." and was the inspiration for Daniel Day-Lewis' character in Martin Scorsese's film Gangs of New York (2002).

Photo: Bill The Butcher wearing the Bowery Boys uniform of stovepipe hat, red shirt, and dark trousers tucked into boots. (public domain photo).