Baxter Street Dudes

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Baxter Street Dudes
Founding location New York City
Years active 1870s
Territory Baxter Street
Membership Newsboys, bootblacks
Criminal activities Tax evasion, thievery, entertainment

The Baxter Street Dudes were a New York teenage street gang, mostly of former newsboys and bootblacks, who ran the Grand Duke's Theatre from their headquarters in the basement of a Baxter Street dive bar during the 1870s. They were known by trade as neighborhood thieves led by a tough known as Baby-Face Willie. However, they also wrote and performed plays, musicals and variety shows which were enjoyed by other street toughs and slummers throughout the city.[1][2][3] The theatre house eventually became a popular underworld hangout, from which the gang found financial success. However, they soon came under attack from rival gangs from the Five Points and Mulberry Bend. The gangs began throwing rocks in order to disrupt the performances and violent fights would often break out. The club was eventually shut down by police both due to the frequent fighting as well as the gang's refusal to pay amusement taxes to the city.[4][5][6]

The gang has been portrayed in a number of historical novels including Dreamland (2003) by Kevin Baker, The Five Points Concluded (2003) by Rocco Dormarunno, Sweet America: An Immigrants Story (2004) by Steven Knoll and Heyday: A Novel (2007) by Kurt Andersen.


  1. ^ Donovan, Frank D. Wild Kids: How Youth Has Shocked Its Elders--Then and Now. Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1967. (pg. 176)
  2. ^ Maffi, Mario. Gateway To The Promised Land: Ethnic cultures of New York's Lower East Side. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994. (pg. 90) ISBN 90-5183-677-5
  3. ^ Cullen, Frank; Florence Hackman and Donald McNeilly. Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Vol. 1. New York: Routledge, 2007. (pg. 101) ISBN 0-415-93853-8
  4. ^ Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the New York Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928. (pg. 225-226) ISBN 1-56025-275-8
  5. ^ Harlow, Alvin F. Old Bowery Days: The Chronicles of a Famous Street. New York and London: D. Appleton & Company, 1931. (pg. 482)
  6. ^ Knowles, Mark. Tap Roots: The Early History of Tap Dancing. McFarland, 2002. (pg. 176) ISBN 0-7864-1267-4