Wednesday, 12 November 2008


Today, the stretch between Greenwich Village and The Meatpacking District, Hudson Street presents a relative picture of calm, tranquillity and even a hint of genteelness compared with other thoroughfare's in Lower Manhattan.

One cannot imagine this area being associated with the criminality and brutality that was rife in The Five Points, The Bowery and elsewhere during the 19th century and beyond.

However, this area had its very own gang which was called The Hudson Dusters.

The 'Dusters' did not designate a single headquarters but used a number of premises from which to operate, and had a den in Bethune Street and an apartment house on Hudson Street. Formed in the late 1890's by Circular Jack, Kid Yorke and Goo Goo Knox, The Dusters through ruthless brutality soon dominated most, if not all of the criminal activities, controlling most of Manhattans Westside as far as 13th Street, and eastern Broadway bordering The Five Points Gang of Paul Kelly to the North.

The photograph above is of Mulberry Street circa 1900 and is typical of most street scenes at that time in Lower Manhattan and shows the ease in which crimes could be committed and escapes made.

Many of the gang members, including its leaders, had become drug addicts and were known for their wild "cocaine parties" in which the gang wandered the city afterwards committing violent acts. One victim of these attacks was a rival Gopher gang member Owney Madden who was shot 6 times ooutside The Arbor Dance Hall, 7th Avenue at 52nd St, on 6th November 1914 resulting in the deaths of 3 Dusters less than a week later.

Typical of the crimes was the speciality of Dusters member, a legendary thief called Ding Dong, who had organised a corps of children who would assist him on his rounds by climbing onto express wagons and throwing parcels down into his waiting arms, after which they would disappear.

The Hudson Dusters dominance came to an end in 1916 when The Marginals, who had been vying for Duster territory, finally took control of the West Side Docks District.

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