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When mischief turns criminal Previous


The history of street battles from the 1880s to the present reveals a vast escalation in weaponry. Henry Noble MacCracken recalls how his 1880s gang fought “The Great Whip War” with the "Micks," escalating the level of violence by introducing the riding whip, a common piece of paraphernalia in a horse-drawn city. In the 1950s, gangs fought with zip guns and switchblades, and deaths became commonplace; but these battles seem tame when contrasted witb today’s drug wars fought not over control over play spaces, but over business rights to drug turf-—and fought not with fists and knives but with automatic weapons.

Manhattan gang The Cadets
1978: The Cadets, Lower East Side, Manhattan
(Photo copyright ©1978 Martha Cooper, used with permission)

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Taken from City Play, copyright ©1990. Used with permission by Streetplay.com.

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