Gallus Mag, The Most Brutal Bouncer in 1860s New York
May 1, 2022 ~ By Shari Rose
During the 1860s and 1870s, Gallus Mag was a prominent bouncer in New York City’s Fourth Ward neighborhood with a fierce reputation for brutally beating rowdy customers and even keeping their severed ears as trophies.
Gallus Mag At The Hole-In-The-Wall
Throughout the 19th century, many neighborhoods in New York City that housed European immigrants were extremely impoverished. With cramped living conditions in tenement buildings and little access to decent wages, crime flourished and dangerous gangs became an integral part of daily life in neighborhoods like the Fourth Ward and Five Points.
Hole-In-The-Wall was a popular bar on Dover Street where gang members commonly visited to have a drink. Gallus Mag worked as a bouncer for this establishment in the late 1860s. As a 6-foot-tall English woman armed with both a pistol and bludgeon, Gallus Mag was a formidable adversary to any gang member who threatened her or the staff at the bar.
According to Herbert Asbury’s 1928 book, “The Gangs of New York,” she was “an extraordinary virtuoso in the art of mayhem.” Gallus Mag was quick to beat unruly customers with her bludgeon and drag them by their ears out the door. Occasionally, she completely bit the ears off rowdy patrons, much to the delight of the regulars at Hole-In-The-Wall. It’s believed she kept a mason jar filled with alcohol and the severed ears of past customers behind the bar as a warning against future trouble-making.
Gallus Mag and Sadie The Goat
In Asbury’s novel, Gallus Mag crosses paths with another tough woman of the era known as Sadie the Goat. Like Mag, Sadie was well-accustomed to the difficult conditions of the Fourth Ward and did not step down from a fight. Within no time, they entered into an argument that soon escalated into an all-out brawl. During the fight, it’s believed that Gallus Mag bit off Sadie’s ear and placed it into her mason jar.
Though her real name is Margaret Perry, there are different theories as to how Gallus Mag received her famous nickname. One holds that she often wore suspenders, or “galluses.” Another contends that gallus refers to her character, meaning she was quite boisterous, similar to someone who would thumb out their suspenders when taking a bold stance on an issue.
After the owner of Hole-In-The-Wall, Charley Monell, was sent to prison for assault with intent to kill, Mag set her sights elsewhere. She and her husband, John, owned a saloon together for several years until the mid 1870s. Due to her popularity in town, the establishment was affectionately known as “Gallus Mag’s.”
Unlike Sadie the Goat, Gallus Mag has a historical record that proves she was a real person of this era who worked in multiple saloons in Manhattan. However, there are no police reports that mention her proclivity to bite off the ears of her victims, though there is ample evidence of her getting involved in many fights.
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