Joe Bruno on the Mob – Gallus Mag – The Most Savage Female the New York City Police Ever Encountered

Dating back to the 1700’s, the waterfront of the 4th Ward was a haven for robbers, killers and pirates. Vicious gangs like the Daybreak Boys, Buckoos, Hookers, Swamp Angels and Slaughter Houses prowled the streets, robbing and murdering any poor fool with cash in his pocket who was stupid enough to wander into their sacred domain. Yet the most feared denizen ever to set foot in the 4th Ward of the mid 19th Century was not a man, but an amazon named Gallus Mag.

Gallus Mag was an Enlishwoman who stood over six feet tall and was the bouncer in a Dover Street bar called the Hole-In-The Wall. The Hole-In-The-Wall was originally built in 1794, and is now the site of the famed Bridge Cafe. It was owned by one-armed Charlie Monell and ruled by Mag, who got her nickname “Gallus” because she kept her skirt from falling with suspenders, or galluses, as they were called at the time. Mag stalked the bar looking for troublemakers, with a pistol stuck in her belt and a bludgeon strapped to her wrist. If someone was dumb enough to challenge her mettle, she would hit them with her club, then clutch his ear in her teeth, drag him to the front door and throw him out into the gutter. If the lad put up a stink, she would bite his ear off and store it in a large bottle of alcohol she kept in plain site behind the bar; sort of a “Gallus Mag Trophy Case.” The New York City police of that time proclaimed Gallus Mag the most savage female they had ever encountered.

Mag was challenged one day by another woman, Sadie the Goat, a member of the Charlton Street Gang. Sadie the Goat got her name because her preferred manner of robbery, was slamming her head into the stomach of her victim, whereas her male companion would then nail the sucker in the head with a rock from a sling-shot, then rob him of all his valuables. One day in the Hole-In-The-Wall, Sadie, three sheets to the wind, foolishly challenged Mag to a fight and was beaten to a pulp. As was her wont, Mag severed one of Sadie the Goat’s ears with her teeth, and deposited it into her favorite liquor jar behind the bar. Sadie was glad to escape with her life, and she fled the 4th Ward for the foreseeable future, to prowl the West Side piers.

Years later, after she had made considerable cash performing her specialty on the streets of the West Side, Sadie returned to the Hole-In-The Wall and made her peace with Mag. Mag was so touched by Sadie’s gesture, she immediately went into her liquor jar, removed Sadie’s severed ear and returned in to its rightful owner. The legend is that Sadie was so overjoyed by the return of her ear, she wore it in a locket around her neck until her final days.

In 1855, the Hole-In-The Wall was closed down by the law after a slew of seven murders were committed in the space of three months. There is no record of the year of Mag’s demise, but her ghost is said to haunt the Bridge Cafe to this very day.


2 Responses to “Joe Bruno on the Mob – Gallus Mag – The Most Savage Female the New York City Police Ever Encountered”

  1. There is little reference to Gallus Mag in the literature of the Period. She came alive in Herbert Asbury’s book The Gangs of New York. His account of her is almost word-for-word from Charles Sutton’s 1874 book The New-York Tombs. Sutton had been a warden at the Tombs. In turn, Sutton’s account is based heavely on an 1871 article in the Brooklyn Eagle. Charlie Monell appeared in several directory entries in mid century but not on Dover Street. On June 12, 1872, the New York Times reported that Joseph Hudson had entered a den
    at 14 Dover Street called the Hole In The Wall. Here he was robbed of his watch and chain. During much of the19th century 14 Dover was the side entrance of 279 Water Street, today the Bridge Cafe. Asbury is wrong about Police Captain Thorn closing the Hole In The Wall. He had closed the dive Slaughter House Point a block away on Water Street.

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