Bowery Bums

Posted August 30th, 2003 by Anthony

“Cripple” jumped out at me while reading “The Gangs of New York,” Herbert Asbury’s book that inspired Scorcese’s movie of the same name. While describing the Bowery at the turn of the last century he said, “Probably no American City has ever been able to boast of resorts as depraved as… the Cripples’ Home, and the Billy Goat, all in Park Row…”

Asbury also names more “dives” and says they were frequented not only by gangsters, but beggars, addicts, and “those homeless dregs of humanity who have never been know otherwise than as Bowery Bums.” It sounds to me like many of them would, today, be considered people with disabilities.

I would like to think that the “Cripples’ Home” name carried for its disabled habitues some of the swagger that we now associate with cripple — defiant and proud outsiders.

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