TONG WARS: the untold story of vice, money and murder in new york's chinatown    
The Chapters

Chapter I: An “Army of Almond-Eyed Exiles”

Chinese from the West begin arriving in New York in large numbers; a Chinese colony is established in the vicinity of Mott Street; and Tom Lee arrives and assumes leadership, begins outreach to Tammany Hall and is appointed a deputy sheriff of New York County.

Chapter II: The Gamblers’ Union

A furtive real estate deal divides the Chinese community and precipitates the first challenge to Tom Lee’s rule; and Lee creates an organization to protect illegal Chinatown gambling halls, opium dens and brothels from police interference and is accused of extortion.

Chapter III: A “Clear Case of Corruption”

The arrival of a new police captain temporarily suppresses Chinatown gambling; the Gamblers’ Union becomes the On Leong Tong; Hip Sing Tong agitators are violently suppressed; the Rev. Charles H. Parkhurst crusades against corruption in city government; and the Hip Sings testify before the Lexow Committee.

Chapter IV: The Chinese Parkhursts

Tammany Hall is ousted by voters in favor of reformers; Theodore Roosevelt is appointed Police Commissioner and attempts to stamp out corruption; the two tongs compete for favor with the police; and Mock Duck emerges and attempts to assert Hip Sing control on Pell Street.

Chapter V: The War Begins

Friction between the tongs provokes the First Tong War; several Hip Sings are accused of murder and flee; Mock Duck stands trial but goes free; and the Committee of Fifteen exposes Chinatown brothels and other vice dens.

Chapter VI: A “Regular Highbinder, Six-Shooter War Dance on the Bowery”

Mock Duck is wounded by a hired On Leong gun; the Parkhurst Society goads the police into raiding Chinatown betting parlors; On Leongs attack Hip Sings in front of their Headquarters; and Hip Sings arrange a raid on an On Leong gambling den.

Chapter VII: A Price on Tom Lee’s Head

On Leongs pledge to kill a Hip Sing in retaliation for each police raid; the Hip Sings offer bounties for the murder of Tom Lee and senior On Leongs; Mock Duck is arrested on a pretext; and the tongs trade blows and are threatened by the District Attorney.

Chapter VIII: The Chinese Theatre Massacre

Police launch an Easter Sunday raid on On Leong-protected gambling halls; the Parkhurst Society arranges Tom Lee’s arrest for graft; On Leongs effect a retaliatory police raid in which Hip Sing resorts are destroyed; and the Hip Sings stage a massacre at the Doyers Street Theatre.

Chapter IX: Profit Sharing

Pell Street is the scene of a Chinese New Year bloodbath; a New York County judge helps end the First Tong War; an effort to raze Chinatown nearly succeeds; and Mock Duck quits the Hip Sings and is forced by enemies to give up a foster child.

Chapter X: Have Gun, Will Travel

The New York tongs are drawn into conflict between branches in Philadelphia and Boston; attempts are made to burn down Mock Duck’s house; and he goes on the road.

Chapter XI: The Four Brothers’ War

The brutal murder of a young female consort and the trial of her alleged killers pits the On Leongs against the Four Brothers’ Society in the Second Tong War; a police crackdown suppresses vice in Chinatown; the warring parties trade blows and peacemaking efforts eventually yield a truce; and Mock Duck returns and rejoins the Hip Sings.

Chapter XII: Mock Duck’s Luck Runs Out

Federal Customs agents smash a nationwide opium smuggling and distribution ring and arrest an On Leong kingpin, ushering in the Third Tong War; On Leong gunmen assassinate top Hip Sing officers; Hip Sings attempt to blow up On Leong Headquarters; Mock Duck is sent to Sing Sing; and a flawed armistice ends the fighting.

Chapter XIII: Chinatown: “Renovated, Disinfected and Evacuated”

The police redouble efforts to rid Chinatown of gambling houses, confiscate weapons and harass merchants; two Hip Sings are sent to the electric chair; Tom Lee passes from the scene; and the tongs cooperate in the wake of World War I.

Chapter XIV: The Defection of Chin Jack Lem

The defection of an On Leong boss sparks the Fourth Tong War, which spreads to a dozen cities; personal feuds continue to cause new clashes; the Federal Government attempts to deport out-of-status Chinese residents; tong bosses are unable to control the killings; and a hard-fought truce appears to hold.

Chapter XV: Coexistence

The Tung On Society battles the On Leongs over a drug deal; a multilateral treaty ends the Fourth Tong War; Mock Duck re-emerges as head of the Hip Sing Tong; and the Great Depression and other factors put a permanent end to hostilities.


Scott D. Seligman, 2019-21. All rights reserved.  Contact