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Daybreak Boys

Daybreak Boys
Founding locationNew York City, New York
Years activeMid-19th century
Membership (est.)?
Criminal activitiesstreet fighting, knife fighting, assault, murder, piracy, robbery

The Daybreak Boys was a New York City street gang during the mid nineteenth century.

Formed in the late 1840s, by 1852 the teenaged Daybreak Boys were suspected by police to have been responsible for 20 to 40 murders between 1850 and 1852 as well as stealing goods estimated at $200,000. The gang was said to have a prospective member kill at least one man as a requirement for joining. Newspapers at the time report, perhaps with some exaggeration, that many gang members may have been as young as 12.

Under the leadership of members such as Nicholas Saul, Bill Howlett, Patsy the Barber, Slobbery Jim, "Cowlegged" Sam McCarthy, and Sow Madden, the gang was known for its reputation of unprovoked murder and sabotaging ships and other property, regardless of value, along the New York waterfront. The gang's actions would soon force police to take action against them. Led by New York police officers Blair, Spratt, and Gilbert, over 12 gang members were killed in several gunfights in 1858. By the end of 1859 the gang, having lost much of its membership, was eventually broken up. Many of its members later became prominent criminals during the next several decades.

See also


  • Sifakis, Carl. Encyclopedia of American Crime, New York, Facts on File Inc., 1982