Some of my research entails data that is rather dull with numbers and percentages and dry quotes by New York State senators about juvenile delinquency. This is all part of it like any research topic. However, I also come across very interesting minutiae on a regular basis.
In 1958, the trial of seven boys who were involved in young Michael Farmer’s murder in July 1957 took place. The trial had all the hallmarks of a made-for-TV movie. The lawyers for the defendants were numerous, vocal and aggressive. The prosecutor did a masterful job of getting the point across with much consternation, there was a court outburst by a preacher from out of state, friends of the defendants ominously watched the proceedings from the court and there were numerous death threats. Some of the death threats were directed at the Judge in the trial, others towards the prosecutor and some were to the star witness Roger McShane.
The newspapers reported heavily on the trial and the whole city followed it closely. Even gangs from other boroughs watched the proceedings carefully. The Ellery Bops and Halsey Bops found this a good time to make their name known again and sent this letter to the New York Daily News:
This missive from the Ellery Bops came about because earlier, a letter was mailed to the Daily News from a large group of gangs commending the paper of doing a good job of the coverage of the trial. There was also a threat in their letter against the police at Wadworth station who allegedly beat some of the defendants during their interrogation. Here is some excerpts of what was written in the letter that precipitated the Ellery and Halsey Bop response:
Everybody knew that the Jesters were fooling around for a long time and planning to have Highbridge all for themselves. They did everything to keep us out. One of my friends little sister nearly got drowned up there by one of the Jesters. This made everybody mad. Especially the Egyptian Kings and the Dragons because the Jesters had been fooling around with their broads all summer. Those rape artists even tried to grab two Dragon girls in the pool one night. Right in the water man. So the thing was on. Everybody got the buzz that there would be a war… (in reference to if any of the defendants would get the electric chair) We plan to blast off a few balls if they get the chair. Everyone have vowed to get McShane. We all had a big meeting and swore on the Bible that if one of those guys gets toasted there will be a T E E N-A G E W A R. We have wide connections, man…
At the end of the letter a long list of gang names was listed, supposedly showing that they were all in support of the contents. Gangs such as the Egyptian Lords, the Enchanters, Brooklyn Bobsters, the Celestial Knights, Little Hoods, Norseman, Royal Czars, The Englishmen, the Eight Meanies, The Spartans, Harlem Lords, Fordham Baldies and many more. The letter ended by saying: “The others haven’t signed the pledge yet because it can’t go so very fast by mail. But you can be damn sure that this is only half of the gangs. We mean business.”
This threat written to the Daily News received a lot of publicity and so with the Ellery Bops and Halsey Bops feeling left out, they sent their own threat to the Daily News. Perhaps in their minds they thought this would garner more of a reputation amongst the gangs in the city. We don’t know who in the two respective gangs crafted the letter, but it stands as a very interesting piece of history on youth gangs in New York City in the 1950s.