Memmingers Saloon on Broadway Trashed



Dateline: 1900

Michael O'Neill and Two Friends Were Very Rough in Alois Memminger's Place--O'Neill Was Alone When Arrested.


Alois Memminger was the proprietor of a saloon at No. 550 Broadway yesterday, but today there is little but a heap of wreckage, broken decanters, glasses, dishes and bar utensils in the place. it is all said to be due to the pugnacious tendencies which dominated the being of Michael O'Neill, a molder, who is under arrest at the William Street Station, on a charge of malicious mischief.

O'Neill is in bad condition. His head is one mass of bruises, bumps and scalp wounds, presented to him by Mr. Memminger, when he saw the work of demolition being waged with such ceaseless energy by O'Neill and his friends.

Two men accompanied O'Neill into the saloon yesterday. he came out alone, they forgetting their friendship, and leaving him to fight the battles alone when the fight was at the fiercest. O'Neill was in the place on Tuesday night, and when he came out he bore a bad scalp would, which was treated at the Fitch hospital. Then he was locked up on a charge of disorderly conduct, bailed out and failed to appear for trial.

On Saturday last he lost his position at the Buffalo Forge Company, and since that time he has been desperate. He and his friends sauntered into the saloon shortly after 12 o'clock yesterday. They walked to the lunch counter and started throwing mustard cups at the man behind the bar, could not evade a single one. Then they started throwing bottles.

Memminger did not know what to make of the proceeding. he felt he was being given more than was his due, but he did not have the presence of mind to remonstrate, until with one fell swoop the three men had wiped every decanter and glass off the side-board, and on to the floor. Then he awakened to the condition affairs were in, and he seized a club which was behind the bar and set out to do battle. The friend of O'Neill saw him coming, with club upraised, and they ran. But as they ran they paused long enough to pick up a cuspidor from the floor, and thus they heaved it through the plate- glass window of the place. Then they fled, but O'Neill was not so fortunate.

As mercilessly as man ever inflicted punishment, did Memminger bring down that stick of his on the head of O'Neill, and every time it landed it left a gash at least for or five inches long. When seven of these had been inflicted, Memminger paused to consider his work. this was O'Neill's opportunity.

With blood streaming down his face, he ran into the street, and thence into the office of Dr. Koehler at No. 582 Broadway, where Patrolman Glaesser of the William Street Station found him. he called the Fitch ambulance and sent him to the hospital.

The surgeons were treated to a sample of his "roughhouse" tactics. he fought them as fiercely as he had combated his enemies on Tuesday night, and they were forced to administer chloroform, and then strap him to the table until his injuries were attended to. then he was taken back to the stationhouse where the charge of malicious mischief was registered opposite his name on the blotter.

The damage done to Memminger's place will be no small amount. O'Neill would not give up the name of his friends who deserted him, and he will be arraigned alone in Police Court this morning.--Buffalo Daily Courier, January 4, 1900

-Excerpted from the book "Rushing the Growler" by Stephen Powell






Before Prohibition men did almost all of their drinking in bars. Much, much more than today. Bars were only for men, if a decent woman were to step inside one the bar would fall silent and all would stare until she left. Prostitutes and disreputable women were they only ones who would dare enter this once man’s only world. It was widely held that women were the cause of trouble and were not wanted in the bars (for the same reasons they were not allowed on ships crews).

Apparently, the disturbance at Memminger’s was caused by a dispute over a woman, but more likely the real cause was drinking. It should be noted that this event was tame when compared to the many the events we will read about in future issues.

"...Memminger did not know what to make of the proceeding. he felt he was being given more than was his due, but he did not have the presence of mind to remonstrate, until with one fell swoop the three men had wiped every decanter and glass off the side-board, and on to the floor..."

Violence in the saloons has been a problem for a long time in America. The newspapers have always been full of stories of bar fights. Perhaps more then than now. The newspaper editors chose to print such occurrences because they thought it is what their readership wanted. Today, people are saturated with stories of brutal violence that occur at home, at the post office, or half way across the world in some unknown village. Maybe the newspaper editors don’t feel everyday bar fights are violent enough for the average reader (unless it involves a triple murder committed with an uzi).

Whatever people want to read about there is plenty to report. According to E.H. Powell in his book The Design of Discord: Studies of Anomie, the arrest rate for "Personal (violent) crimes" in Buffalo in 1870 was around 30 people per thousand of the population. By comparison in the late 1940’s the rate was only around 6 per thousand. This hints toward the possibility that things were rougher back then...were they?

All material copyright 1996-2001 all rights reserved by Stephen R. Powell

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