"This volume offers us a rare chance to explore what the world looked like to the “bad boys” who roamed, played, and worked on America’s city streets in the early 20th century. Woody Register’s fine introduction illuminates the rich social and literary context, helping us appreciate the unique voice of “Spike,” and the remarkable career of Spike’s creator, William Osborne Dapping. "—Ernest Freeberg, author of The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America
"Provides the point of view of street kids or gang members, something heretofore very hard to have access to in the primary documents of the period, except in tiny bits and snatches. Here, we have a booklength insider’s account."—Keith Gandal, professor of English, City College of New York
"Dapping’s book is a welcome addition to Progressive Era books on the culture of the streets and, more particularly, street children, the objects of much moralistic, philanthropic, and official attention in this period."—Amy Schrager Lang, author of The Syntax of Class: Writing Inequality in Nineteenth-Century America
"The Muckers, a long-unpublished and thinly-veiled memoir laced with grime and grit, takes you inside the world of New York City street kids in the 1890s. Written with energy in the voice of a gang member, and complemented by Woody Register’s historical introduction, the book brings to life children otherwise glimpsed in police reports and the anxieties of urban reformers. It’s a dead cinch: The Muckers can teach us a lot about youth, poverty and urban reform."—Robert W. Snyder, author of Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City
"Dapping's look at the real lives of the boys living in the slums without the kind of sensationalism that was popular with sociological investigators and reporters at the time….The vernacular of the book and the cultural insights are sure to be of interest to any New York history buff."—Casey Rose Frank, Contributing Writer, Syracuse.com
"The Muckers is a highly entertaining and revealing narrative of New York in the late nineteenth century, and it will be of great interest to scholars of the Progressive Era, urban culture, depictions of adolescence, class divisions, and ethnic literature."—Rebecca Troeger, Studies in American Naturalism
"Now published for the first time, The Muckers: A Narrative of the Crapshooters Club (Syracuse University Press, 2016) recovers a long-lost fictionalized account of Dapping’s life in a gang of rowdy boys. Simultaneously a polished work of social reform literature and a rejoinder to the era’s alarming exposés of the “dangerous classes,” The Muckers stands as an important reform era primary document."—New York History Blog
In 1899, William Osborne Dapping was a Harvard-bound nineteen-year-old when he began writing down exploits from his rough childhood in the immigrant slums of New York City. Now published for the first time, The Muckers: A Narrative of the Crapshooters Club recovers a long-lost fictionalized account of Dapping’s life in a gang of rowdy boys. Simultaneously a polished work of social reform literature and a rejoinder to the era’s alarming exposes of the “dangerous classes,” The Muckers stands as an important reform era primary document.
The thinly disguised autobiographical narrative is told in the slangy, profane voice of the gang’s leader, Spike, who describes life through the eyes of the young boys who thronged the city’s streets, hawking newspapers, playing baseball, shooting craps, pilfering beer, and tormenting any and all adult authorities. These muckers are dirty and insubordinate, and prefer to steal rather than to work, but they also possess a high-spirited zest for life and mischief, a wily intelligence, and a sturdy code of honor that help them exploit the good intentions of social reformers and survive in a darkly violent and hypocritical world.
Historian Woody Register’s introduction explores the book’s documentary value as a social history of 1890s tenement life; as a literary work that challenged the conventions of writing about children and the poor; and as a window through which to observe the remarkable story of the author’s transformation from slum mucker to Harvard man. Destined to become a classic of Progressive Era literature, The Muckers reads with the lively cadence of a novel, told in the voice of an unforgettable narrator of wit, grit, and heart.
William Osborne Dapping (1880–1969) was an American journalist and editor from Auburn, New York. In 1930, the Pulitzer Prize Committee awarded him a special prize for his reportorial work in connection with the outbreak at Auburn prison in December 1929.
Woody Register is the Francis S. Houghteling Professor of American History at Sewanee, the University of the South. He is the author of The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements, and he is coauthor of the two-volume series Crosscurrents in American Culture: A Reader in United States History.
6 x 9, 288 pages, 10 black and white illustrations