Bribing the copper. RPPC. Private Collection.
Ok, this arcade RPPC is one of my top favorites. Buddy #2 is in a cop costume -complete with the blackjack and cigarette in mouth-, he’s looking about, making sure no one’s watching him, accepting a bribe from jailbird Buddy #1. Too much!
RPPC: AZO 1904-1918
Larceny! PRRC. Private Collection.
Larceny in progress on this RPPC! This staged stick up looks pretty good! Unlike most prank photos I came across no one here is giving the hint this is so. Nice job, fellas! Usually people smile and take on an exaggerated pose with hands raised, and the guns are held with bent arms. Here the robbers are aiming their rifle and gun the right way.
Everybody looks to be in front of a horse stable. I wonder what those small barn style windows are for. They seem too high for a horse head (and they’d probably be facing in), but they could have been used for ventilation. The victims are handing out coin purses -no wallets back then!
So, is this a prank robbery by some friends wanting to do something fun instead of a boring group picture? Maybe. Or this could be a reenactment of a robbery which actually happened.
The Short Tails gang by Jacob Riis. 1887
The only known photo of the Short Tails gang that roamed the Lower East side of Manhattan in the 1880s-1890s. This picture was taken under a pier by the East River at Corlears Hook (a notoriously bad spot known for their brothels).
The Short Tails were drinkers, brawlers, and generally the worst kind of bad boys honest New Yorkers had the bad luck of running into. They were known to push loaded wagons into the river and turning around to ask the owner for a reward if they saved the contents.
They were also known to pirate boats. Then of course they’d spend all their ill-gotten dough at the local saloons like the upstanding citizens they were. They numbered around at least 50 or more, often partying in large groups on the streets late at night. Because of their ‘achievements’, their precinct had to employ twice as many cops.
They’re thought to have disbanded in the 1900s, members joining either the Five Points gang led by John Kelly west of the Bowery, or the Monk Eastman one east of it.
Here they’re seen drinking. Notice the mountain of discarded large tins (growlers) they used to carry beer.
The ‘Swamp Jax’ gang of four. Snapshot. Private Collection.
These bad boys all swagger posing on the side of a road behind a car, with their guns prominently displayed, one just tucked into the pants. Don’t know if running into them was a good thing…Prohibition or not, bet they drank good. There was a brand of beer here in Dixieland called Jax. Bootleggers? :)
‘Dock Rats’ 1910s RPPC. Private Collection. Click for larger image.
Three best street lookin’ pals hanging out by the docks, one smoking a cigarette. Oh, those idle hands must be up to no good!
RPPC: AZO 1907-1914