Director’s Choice for Fall 2016
A Narrative of the Crapshooters Club
William Osborne Dapping
Edited and with an Introduction by Woody Register
Written in the vernacular of the streets, a firsthand account of the
author’s youth as a member of a boys’ gang in 1890s New York City.
"The Muckers, a long-unpublished and thinly-veiled memoir laced with grime and grit, takes you inside the world of New York City street kids in the 1890s.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
"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
"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
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.
Book Description »[Close »]
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 exposés 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.
6 x 9, 272 pages, 10 black-and-white photographs, annotations, index