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.
1935 snapshot. Private Collection.
This one packs much style for a tiny photo that is only 1″ 1/2 x 2″.
This dashing gentleman is standing in the sun with his hands in the back, a white fedora hat with the black band tilted on his own tilted head. Match this with a randomly dotted tie and dark suit with the white pocket handkerchief.
On the back is a first name: Julia. His sweetheart? It looks like the man’s on a boat by a dock.
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? :)
1/9th plate tintype. Private Collection.
This one made me laugh out loud. Can you picture this tough looking fella doing shady business at the local saloon, or fighting at illegal gambling halls? This solid looking gent looks like he knew where to get ale on a pretty regular basis too, and with the baggy-eyed side glance with cigar in mouth and bowler on top? Mr, you’re a character!
Yes, he looks like he had no trouble making his voice heard!
1920s Betty & “Kurlie” in front of tavern. Private Collection.
The note on the back says Aunt Betty / ‘Kurlie’ Buair. 1920’s
“Kurlie” with the cigar and flashy smile under the homburg was dressed to the nines!
Click for larger picture.
The Free Lunch sign tells us these two were in front of (what used to be) a tavern. Since prohibition started January 16, 1920 this either was taken across the Canadian border or they were in the U.S, the sign is outdated and this is now a speakeasy!
Betty is simply dressed and seems a little nervous and camera shy checking out the street! By contrast “Kurlie” the peacock is all too eager to show off for the camera! Oh, and the spats! I’ll bet a whole American dollar this one was a character.