Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper reported what happened on the 4th of July, in 1857, when a gang-related riot erupted in New York City's Five Points neighborhood. Image online via the Library of Congress.


By 1857, vast numbers of Irish working people—trying to escape restrictive laws and famine in their own country—had moved to New York City. Aiming to curb immigrants’ drinking habits, the New York State Assembly passed a Liquor Excise Law which closed saloons on Sundays. The law took effect on Sunday, the 4th of July, 1857.

Totally disregarding the law aimed directly at them, the Irish people of Five Points kept their saloons open. When the police tried to enforce the law, the Irish—led by the “Dead Rabbits” gang—started a riot. The police—aided by the “Bowery Boys” gang—were quick to respond. Several people died in the fighting which was reported in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

Although the lives of street children in tenement New York were extremely difficult, "Amsterdam Vallon" and "Jenny Everdeane" (as depicted in the movie Gangs of New York) are works of fiction. It is not hard to imagine, however, that historical gang members (like William Poole—known as "Bill the Butcher") were capable of killing people the way "Bill the Butcher" dispatches Liam Neeson in the film.

Who were the historical characters William Poole and Monk Eastman? Were they really part of the gangs who lived and fought in New York City during the Civil War?

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Jul 08, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"DEAD RABBITS vs. THE BOWERY BOYS" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 01, 2002. Jan 26, 2020.
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