Bill the Butcher

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Bill Poole portrait from a tobacco company boxer profile card, circa the late 1880s.

“I Know Nothing”

Bill the Butcher

William Poole, also known as Bill the Butcher, was a founder of the street gang the Bowery Boys and a leader of the Know Nothing political movement in mid-19th century New York City. He was one of the most prominent gangsters in 19th Century New York. A butcher by trade who was very skilled with knives, he was a large, imposing man, and was known as one of the toughest street fighters in New York. He led a large gang of hoodlums of American descent, at the behest of the Native American political party. Their chief rivals were Irish gangsters under John Morrissey.

?The Butcher? was a champion New York City pugilist in 1855?before the Marquess of Queensbury rules?when kicking, biting and eye-gouging were acceptable tactics and ?fight to the death? was more than a metaphor.??It was also a time when a challenge was likely to be issued out of pure hatred for your opponent. When John Morrissey, the Irish enforcer for Tammany Hall challenged Bill Poole of the anti-immigrant ?Know Nothing? Party it promised to be the ultimate grudge match. But when the fighters turned to knives and guns, all pretext of sport was gone. It would be Bill ?The Butcher? Poole?s last fight.

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