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

The On Leong Tong 

Tom Lee (1845-1918). Über boss who ruled New York Chinatown with an iron fist for nearly four decades and was the key link to Tammany Hall. Headed the On Leong Tong and sometime Deputy Sheriff of New York County.  

Charlie Boston (1866-1930). Merchant, financier and drug kingpin who ran opium dens in Manhattan and controlled a nationwide drug smuggling and distribution syndicate. Served 18 months in the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.  

Gin Gum (1863-1915). Longtime secretary, consigliere, interpreter, spokesperson and peace negotiator for the On Leong Tong. Appeared in New York in mid-1900 after serving three years in San Quentin for forgery.  


The Hip Sing Tong 

Mock Duck (1879-1941). Head of the Hip Sing Tong whose boyish appearance belied his cunning and brutality. Tried twice for murder and once for felonious assault but convicted only of running a lottery. Served a term at Sing Sing Prison.

Wong Get (1869-aft. 1927). Indispensable Hip Sing strategist, director, officer, spokesperson and sometime interpreter who converted to Christianity. Did outreach to progressive whites as a device to gain leverage over the On Leong Tong.

Chin Jack Lem (1884-1937). Sometime national On Leong Tong head whose decision to seek Hip Sing membership after his expulsion caused a multi-city tong war. Sentenced to 15 years in the Ohio State Penitentiary.


The Authorities 

William McAdoo (1853-1930). New York City Commissioner of Police, 1904-1906 and later chief of the city’s magistrate courts. Determined to crack down on police extortion. Considered Chinatown “an ulcer spot on the face of the city.” 

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919). New York City Commissioner of Police, 1895-1897, who dismissed a veiled threat from the Hip Sing Tong. Responsible for many reforms and appointed a hard-nosed captain to oversee Chinatown.  

Warren W. Foster (1859-1943). Court of General Sessions Judge who was prevailed upon to mediate the disputes between the tongs in 1906, 1910 and 1913 and was feted as the “great White Father of Chinatown” for restoring peace. 


The Women  

Bow Kum (1888-1909). Sold into slavery and rescued by missionaries. In New York, her favors were offered to many men. Her brutal murder at the age of 21 launched a full-scale war between the On Leong Tong and the Four Brothers’ Society. 

Tai Yow Chin (1878-19??). First wife of Mock Duck who moved in with him after being widowed and may have been sold to liquidate one of his debts. Shortly after she returned to her native China in 1911, he took another wife.  

Ha Oi (1901-19??). Half-Chinese, half-Caucasian child forcibly removed from the custody of Mock Duck and Tai Yow Chin at age six as a result of a spiteful letter from Mock Duck’s enemies. Never saw her Chinese guardians again. 


The Progressives  

Rev. Dr. Charles Henry Parkhurst (1842–1933). Presbyterian minister and firebrand who used his pulpit and the Society for the Prevention of Crime to launch an attack on Tammany Hall and government corruption.

Frank Moss (1860-1920). Attorney and social reformer who served the Parkhurst Society, the Lexow Committee and the District Attorney’s office. Longtime champion of the Hip Sing Tong, which he supported for decades.

William T. Jerome (1859-1934). Associate Counsel to the Lexow Committee and later New York County District Attorney from 1902-1909. Staunch anti-Tammany figure who prosecuted Mock Duck for murder twice and jailed him for half a year.  


 

© Scott D. Seligman, 2016. All rights reserved.  Contact