In his chapter on “The Whyos and Their Times,” (Chapter XI, Section 1) Asbury cites a Bowery dive known as the “Morgue” as being one of the last haunts of the Whyo gang. In it–according to Asbury–the Whyos had their last great battle, caused by a disagreement between Denver Hop and English Charley which led to gunplay. Asbury wrote: “soon a score of men joined in with revolvers, but all were drunk and no one was injured.”

Asbury’s source for this information was Frank Moss, in volume 2 of his American Metropolis. Moss identified Denver Hop and English Charley as members of a party of petty thieves and panhandlers, suggesting they were relics of the Whyo gang, and that their disagreement was over the division of spoils. Moss’s source was a November 21, 1896 article in the New York Evening Journal entitled “Duel at Close Range,” which does not invoke the name “Whyo” at all. The newspaper account makes it clear that the two men, and others with them in the bar, were professional beggars, i.e. panhandlers, who comprised a community in the Bowery/Chinatown area at that time.

According to the Journal account (and those of other newspapers), the shots were only exchanged between the two men. One eyewitness said that only four shots were fired. The saloon was owned by “Herman Brown & Brother,” and was indeed nicknamed the “Morgue.” It was run as a Raines Law hotel, i.e. it was allowed to serve liquor through the night because it also rented rooms and offered food items.

The Whyo gang flourished in the late 1870s and early 1880s, with its members involved in a variety of crimes: pickpocketing, muggings, thievery, gambling, pimping, and as hired muscle. By 1888, many of their leading lights had been jailed. By 1896, the date of this incident, the Whyos had long been supplanted by other gangs.

Denver Hop’s real named was Edward Johnson, alias Henry J. Marshall. His many arrests from 1894-1925 were for pickpocketing. He was born in Salt Lake City, and earned his nickname from a wooden leg (a severe handicap for a pickpocket, since police detectives could spot him easily by his gait). His arrests occurred throughout the United States, from California to Boston, a pattern shared by many professional pickpockets.

Denver Hop was real, as was the Morgue. But the Morgue had a short existence in the mid 1890s; and by the time of Denver Hop’s first appearance in New York City, the Whyos were only a memory. There is a lot that can be said about the Whyos and their most celebrated alumni, but Denver Hop wasn’t one of them.

2 thoughts on “Denver Hop at the Morgue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s