When Herbert Asbury’s Gangs of New York left readers with Thomas “Humpty” Jackson, the hunchback gangster was composting like a rotten potato in a prison cell upstate.
But what Asbury never told readers was that Humpty, a hoodlum known for packing a revolver in his hat and a copy of Voltaire in his pocket, spent his three year stretch reading every book he could get his thieving paws on. Stevenson, Huxley, Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and Thomas Paine, Humpty devoured every volume in the Sing Sing library, and when he got out; the Hump went straight.
Surrounding himself with books, pigeons, and toy poodles, Jackson eventually opened a pet shop on 125th Street where the mug dispensed a blend of streetwise philosophy and classical learning to anyone who would listen. Soon, newspapers from around the country came to sop up Humpty’s wisdom on diverse subjects such as: love, prohibition, capital punishment, and the secrets of life. These are his greatest hits:
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