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Joe Bruno on the Mob – John Morrissey

Joe Bruno on the Mob – John Morrissey

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Published by Joe Bruno
Johnny Morrissey started out as a feared bare-knuckles boxer, but later became a gang member and leg breaker for the politicians of Tammany Hall.
Johnny Morrissey started out as a feared bare-knuckles boxer, but later became a gang member and leg breaker for the politicians of Tammany Hall.

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Published by: Joe Bruno on Dec 07, 2010
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Joe Bruno on the Mob – John Morrissey (Old Smoke)Johnny Morrissey started out as a feared bare-knuckles boxer, but later became a gang member and leg breaker for the politicians of Tammany Hall.Morrissey was born in Templemore, County Tipperary, Ireland in 1831. The famed potatofamine was in its infancy, but his parents saw the writing on the wall. They immigrated to America in1833 and settled in Troy, New York. Not being educated, but good with his fists, Morrissey wasrelegated to working as a collection agent for the local Irish crime bosses. While working as a bouncer in a Troy brothel, Morrissey taught himself how to read and write. Realizing his future was limited inTroy, Morrissey made the short trek to New York City. There he made his name as a rough hooliganfighting often in various bars and piers, just for sport.One day he engaged in a impromptu fight with Tom McCann, at the indoor pistol gallery under the St. Charles Hotel. McCann was getting the best of Morrissey, when a powerful punch droveMorrissey over the coals from a hot stove, which had been overturned. Morrissey's clothes and fleshwere badly burning, and with smoke comes from his backside, he leaped forward and battered McCannsenseless. Hence, the nickname “Old Smoke.”After winning a few more battles inside and outside the ring, Morrissey challenged worldchampion Yankee Sullivan for the world title. The fight took place on October 12, 1853, at BostonCorners, on the border of Massachusetts and New York. Morrissey was battered throughout the fight, but won by disqualification in the 37
th
round, when Sullivan hit him while he was down.Buoyed by his newfound fistic fame and now a member of the Dead Rabbits, a feared streetgang, Morrissey was hired by Tammany Hall to protect the polling places from the Bowery Boy'sgang, led by Butcher Bill Poole. Poole and his pals terrorized the polling places on election days infavor of the Native American, or Know-Nothing political party. On Election Day, 1854, Pooleannounced that he and thirty of his Bowery Boys were headed to a certain local election place todestroy the ballot boxes. Tammany Hall called on Morrissey to protect their interests, and with John A.Kennedy, who later became New York City's Superintendent of Police, they assembled a gang of over fifty Dead Rabbits. They and stood in wait at the polling place for Poole's arrival.A man of his word, Poole arrived the polling place and he and his gang entered, looking to doas much damage as possible. Immediately Poole realized his group was vastly outnumbered byMorrissey and the Dead Rabbits. Poole met Morrissey in the center of the room, and after staringmenacingly at each other for a few moments, without saying a word, Poole abruptly turned and left,taking his gang with him. Tammany Hall was so overjoyed by Morrissey's heroics, they gave him afree gambling house, under the protection of the police, of course.In 1855, Morrissey changed Poole to a bare-knuckles fight on a pier near Christopher Street.Poole accepted, but instead of fighting with his fist, Poole tried to crush Morrissey to death, which healmost did. A few months later, Poole was shot and killed by Morrissey's close friend Lew Baker, atStanwix Hall, a bar on Broadway near Prince Street. Both Baker and Morrissey were arrested for themurder of Poole, but after three mistrials (rumor had it that Tammany Hall influenced some jurors inMorrissey and Baker's favor), the charges were finally dropped.In 1857, after he retired from boxing, Morrissey opened 16 gambling house, including anexceptionally profitable one in Sarasota Springs. With the backing of Tammany Hall, he was electedUnited States Congressman from New York from 1867-71. In 1873, tired of Tammany Hall's illegal

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