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Without a whisper, a whimper or a groan, Thomas “Eat ‘Em Up Jack” McManus fell face down into his derby.

Without a whisper, a whimper or a groan, Thomas “Eat ‘Em Up Jack” McManus fell face down into his derby.

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].

 

Eat Em Up Jack McManus, Kid McManus, Paul Kelly, McGurk’s Suicide Hall, Chick Tricker, Kid Griffo, Five Points Gang, Gangs of New York, Apaches of New York, Tivoli, Jack Sirocco

Eat Em Up Jack McManus was killed by Sardinia Frank on the north west Corner of Bleeker Street and Bowery.

 

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.

 

Eat Em Up Jack McManus, Kid McManus, Paul Kelly, McGurk’s Suicide Hall, Chick Tricker, Kid Griffo, Five Points Gang, Gangs of New York, Apaches of New York, Tivoli, Jack Sirocco

Paul Kelly (right) and Eat Em Up Jack McManus (left) at the New Brighton.

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Mike Salter. Pelham Cafe

12 Pell Street

Status: Standing

Nestled among the steaming chop suey joints and smoldering opium dens of turn of the last century Chinatown, there was a dingy saloon that spilled ragtime piano into the moonlight.

On any given night, the bar played host to a packed crowd of millionaires and murders, pickpockets and tourists, all on account of The Professor on the piano and a seventeen year old singing waiter named Izzy Baline, who would one day be known as Irving Berlin.

Mike Salter's Pelham Cafe. Birthplace of Irving Berlin.

12 Pell Street today. The site was once home to Mike Salter’s election rigging gang. The ragtime piano saloon was the birthplace of the Irving Berlin.

 

The place was The Pelham Café, headquarters of the unbelievably politically incorrectly nicknamed Nigger Mike Salter, a Russian-Jewish gangster. The papers called Mr. Salter the uncrowned prince of Chinatown, and the prince had his hands in everything: prize-fights, dice games, opium parlors, and most of all, politics. He was rumored to have killed ten men on the road to becoming Big Tom Foley’s chief election captain, and Salter’s specialty was getting out the vote.

 

The House of a Hundred Entrances

 

False registration, ballot box stuffing, and good old fashioned repeat voting earned Salter a special place in the heart of Tammany Hall. As a reward in 1904, the Hall permitted him to open a saloon in the Chinatown vice district in a tenement known as the house of a hundred entrances located at 12 Pell Street.

Salter spared no expense decorating the joint. Ivory inlaid teak furniture filled the front room. Red burlap wallpaper, framed by gold paint, lined the walls. Sawdust covered the floors, and a dense, ever-present fog of bluish cigar smoke hung above the bar, a bar that sat the A-list of the New York sporting set.

 

A Den of Ragtime and Vice

 

Characters like Big Mike Abrams, Chuck Connors, Staten Island Sally, and Hoboken Harriet, wined, dined, and danced the night away. At the bar, Sulky, a homicidal loanshark that kept a tidy ledger, served brews to gangland’s finest. Part time pugilist and full time gangster, Jack Sirocco, and his chief gorilla, Chick Tricker, could be found there on the regular.

In the back room, the Professor, “Nick” Nicholson manned a tinpan piano while Izzy the singing waiter belted out raunchy versions of hit songs that kept Chinatown abuzz.

 

Mike Salter Pelham Cafe Irving Berlin

Mike Salter’s Pelham cafe was located at 12 Pell Street in the heart of the old Five Points district.

 

Nobility Visits The Pelham

 

Word spread of Izzy’s musical talents, and Chuck Connors guided legions of celebrity slummers through the saloon’s double doors. John Jacob Astor, Sir Thomas Lipton (of tea fame), and August Belmont all came to sample the hullabaloo, but nothing could top the visit by Prince Louis of Battenberg, a Rear Admiral in the British Navy and the fourteen reporters following him.

Before leaving the prince remarked to Izzy:

I have had a delightful time, not dreariness, not weariness, and not one bit lonesome.

 

Ludwig_Alexander_von_Battenberg

Prince Louis of Battenberg.

 

When the prince attempted to tip Izzy, the singing waiter waved away the coin, exclaiming:

No, sir, it was my honor to sing.

On the Prince’s way out, Izzy and the orchestra of banjos, coronets, and fiddles stuck up a ragtime version of God Save the King.

 

The Making of Irving Berlin

By this point Salter knew he had something. Inspired by booze, he badgered Izzy and The Professor into writing a song because of the success of “My Mariucci Take a Steamboat”, a ditty written in a rival saloon on Doyers street.

 

 

The result of their collaboration was: “Marie from Sunny Italy.” The effort earned Izzy a whopping thirty-seven cents; but more importantly, the sheet music listed the lyricist as I. Berlin, and Irving Berlin was born.

 

IrvingBerlin

 

Berlin later reminisced:

It was an important song, though, because it did get me out of Chinatown.

 

However, Salter’s success was short lived. In 1907, the police arrested The Prince of Chinatown on charges of false voter registration. Marshals closed down his bar, and Salter skipped bail and skidooed off to Canada for three years. Berlin wouldn’t see his boss again until 1922, when he came to pay his respects at Salter’s Funeral.

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