The Tale Of Bill The Butcher: From Gangster To Politician

By: Ene Ayegba | Last updated: Nov 07, 2023

The streets of 19th-century New York will never forget Bill the Butcher. He was popularly known as the knife-wielding gangster with a massive top hat, charm, and excessive ego.

He was also greatly feared on the streets. So much so that his character made it into the hit movie, Gangs of New York.

William Poole, aka "Bill the Butcher"

Bill the Butcher was the nickname for William Poole. He was born to a poor family in Sussex, New Jersey, in July 1821. 


Source: Wikipedia

Poole’s father owned a butcher shop, and even though he later took over the shop, William still needed more money. So, he turned to the streets to find more meaning in life.

Forming a Gang to Rival the Irish and Catholics

Besides segmenting pieces of beef, William “Bill the Butcher” Poole discovered a cause he was passionate about—stopping the new wave of European migration to America.


Source: Unikpics/Reddit

Most of the immigrants – who were Catholics and Irish – began to dominate the population and take over the few jobs that weren’t even bountiful enough for residents. Bill formed a gang called the Bowery Boys to counter the growing influence of these immigrants.

Lord of the Rings

Bill the Butcher had one more talent, which was fist fighting. He soon joined boxing and rose to become one of the most-feared fighters of his time. Bill showed his opponents little mercy, ensuring that he thumped them till their bodies resembled bloody cuts of beef.


Source: Jerrysaltz/Twitter

To add insult to injury, he would also bite off his opponent’s noses and gouge out their eyes. Bill the Butcher was also a notorious knife wielder who wasn’t afraid of a knife fight.

The Bowery Boys Became Firefighters With Massive Egos

Bill the Butcher and his Bowery Boys later volunteered as firefighters. However, it was probably just to rival the Irish gang, The Dead Rabbits, who were also in the business of putting out fires.


Source: Junky_Juke/Reddit

Both gangs were known to fight over the right to put out a fire even as the flames raged unattended. However, Bill’s fiercest rivalry was against another boxer named John Morrissey.

The John Morrissey Rivalry and the Demise of Bill the Butcher

Poole met his match in John Morrissey, who was also a feared boxer with an imposing figure and lots of bad intentions. It was the match of the century when the two boxers squared off against each other.

Source: JohnPliskin6/Twitter

However, Bill had the upper hand to the displeasure of John’s supporters who claimed that Bill’s followers had interfered in the fight. So, John planned his revenge. However, it was a pair of Irish gangsters and politicians, Jim Turner and Lewis Baker, who later brought Bill to the ground.