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Colliers -July 1908

The Rise of "FINGY" CONNERSWILLIAM J. CONNERS

The Democratic State Boss of New York, who "looks like a prize-fighter and talks like a tough" -Dock scrapper, freight contractor, millionaire. The record of how
he split the scalp of a Pole laborer, and jumped from cowhide boots through brogans to spats -Bruised but victorious

By WILL IRWIN

WILLIAM J. CONNERS measures up as one of the most powerful figures in the convention at Denver which is nominating a candidate for President of the United States. He is chairman of the Democratic State Committee of New York, and, with
Charles F. Murphy, controls completely the party in the largest of the Slates. The New York delegation, which he dominates, composes 78 out of the 1,002 delegates to the Denver Convention.
THE Buffalo docks, thirty years ago, were as Hibernian as a potato. Those were the days when the peasant Irishmen, new to liberty, a great, stalwart, energetic people, disorderly from the very excess of spirit in them, were still living in colonies by themselves. The A. P. A. spirit still raged in the land, a protest against the religion and customs of the uncomprehended newcomers. Although the Irish colonies of Manhattan Island were breaking up, although the new generation was already making its inextricable mixture with the native people, the region of small cottages, tenements, little stores, overshadowed by the great Buffalo grain elevators, held a colony that was Irish of the Irish holds it even now for that matter. The Buffalo dock region is a survival of earHer days, as though an ichthyosaurys should come hopping down the street. It formed a busy, wild city ward. At the head of the lake region, it included the human flotsam and jetsam of the waters which banks up always on a sea terminal, as well as that permanent population of splendid virtues and splendid possibilities in disorder. Turbulent labor troubles, turbulent social upheavals, turbulent politics, were its brand and mark.

This text is Copyright 2001 all rights reserved by Stephen Powell and buffalonian.com. This electronic text may not be dupicated or used in any manner without written consent of Stephen R. Powell or buffalonian.com™

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Conners Saloon
Conners Saloon
Conners Saloon

On the Ohio Basin, center of all this region, stood a little saloon cocked up on trestles over a culvert --a bar downstairs, a few rooms, used for a sailors' boardinghouse, upstairs; and the sign over the door --but lately changed --read: "William J. Conners."
The proprietor, "Fingy" Conners, had a reputation as the stoutest man in a free fight, the merriest roisterer on a spree, the toughest keeper of a tough saloon, of all the dock region. In these late twenties of his, he was a thickset. strong young tough, with an accent that shook his cheeks, a coarse face, good-humored enough has his early photographs show-but the kind of face withal that would cause one to shrink in a dark street. When he was not needed behind the bar, He used to "mix" with the loungers about the front of his place, exchanging the jokes of the street, shaking dice, scheming over time cheap politics of his ward. At the first sign of trouble from drunken longshoremen or scoopers, he used to plunge into the thick of war with that joy and delight in a scrap which had made him the terror of the wharfs before he acquired property and became a saloon man. If they were too many for him, he reached for the bung starter; if that failed, He took to the methods of Chinese highlanders. There were no rules in his scrapping. When life in his own saloon became too peaceful and wearisome, he salHed forth at the head of his toughs, among whom he was king by right of might, to clean out the saloon of some dirty Democrat --for he was a Republican at the time. ...more>>

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