Location: NW Corner of Bleeker Street and Bowery
The blow came suddenly and silently. Without a whisper, a whimper or a groan, Thomas “Eat ‘Em Up Jack” McManus fell face down into his derby; his skull crushed like an egg. One hardest gorillas to ever drag his knuckles down the streets of New York, the legendary barroom bouncer could realistically hold claim to the title of: Toughest Man in New York. Now he was dead.
In his 1905 obituary, the New York Sun wrote,
For years back “Eat-‘Em-Up” has borne all but unchallenged the distinction of being about the toughest and most brutal of all the tough and brutal Bowery gangsters.
Toughest Man in New York
Born in Boston in 1862, McManus was seemingly destined for underworld stardom like his older brother, the infamous international safe cracker, Kid McManus. However, unlike his brother, Jack earned a living with his fists from the beginning, eventually following his knuckles to New York City as a champion lightweight prizefighter.
Unfortunately, the prize ring proved unsuitable for McManus’s constitution, and he quickly sunk into the employ of the underworld. Alfred Henry Lewis wrote in his 1912 book, the Apaches of New York,
…but a liking for mixed ale and a difficulty in getting to weight had long cured him [McManus] of that [boxing].
Barroom Bouncing At McGurk’s Suicide Hall
Without boxing, Jack reverted to the only skill he knew, fisticuffs. He became a sheriff or bouncer, bringing law and order to the toughest Bowery dives and saloons in the city like the Tivoli and McGurk’s Suicide Hall. Whirling in like a Tasmanian devil with blackjacks, fists and hobnailed boots, Jack earned the nickname Eat Em Up for eating and digesting all comers. In time, McManus’s body became a patchwork quilt of wounds and welts. His front teeth were knocked out. A knife scar ran across his throat from ear to ear (back before one of his ears was chewed off).
That’s the way I serve ‘em.—Eat ‘Em Up Jack McManus, NY Sun 1903
Paul Kelly’s Five Points Gang
The mayhem artist caught the attention of Paul Kelly, and the mobster hired Eat ‘Em Up Jack as bouncer at Kelly’s Little Naples Café and New Brighton Hall, sowing the seeds of McManus’s death.
One night Chic Tricker, a member of the Jack Sirocco clique, drunkenly wandered into Kelly’s club and insulted the showgirls. McManus stepped in, throwing Tricker out on his ear. During the scuffle, a challenge was issued for gats on 3rd avenue. Later that night, Eat Em Up and Tricker traded pistol shots under the shadow of the 3rd Avenue “El.” Jack put two slugs in Tricker’s leg and walked away unscathed. But Tricker swore revenge.
The next day Kid Griffo and Eat ‘Em Up Walked down the Bowery. Just as they reached the corner of Bleeker Street, a burly hoodlum named Sardinia Frank stepped from the shadows clutching a gas pipe wrapped in newspaper, and as the New York Sun put it:
…a section of lead pipe was wrapped around the base of the skull to his bulldog chin, cracking the cranium all the way.
McManus died in Belleview Hospital calling out for his beloved wife Gertrude. He was 40
years old. Eat ‘Em Up Jack McManus’s death would kick off a gangland war between Kelly and Jack Sirocco which would close the New Brighton, leaving Kelly scampering uptown for a more “respectable” life.