The Eternal Boy

We adults do not commonly understand boys. Half of us, to be sure, were boys ourselves; but when we became men and settled down to our work, we did not merely put away childish things—we went further and forgot them. To-day, we read a story of boy life and we say, “Why, yes. That’s just the way boys do. I used to do exactly that sort of thing myself.” But the next hour we have forgotten again, and the boy we were is once more a stranger. Boyville is so far removed, both from Delos and from Babylon, that we seldom think the thoughts of its inhabitants, nor see the world with the boys’ eyes. Only a few men are at home in both worlds,—Lindsay, George, some schoolmasters, an occasional father,—and these can do anything with a boy.

2 The difficulty seems not so much to be that we have forgotten the incidents of our boyhood as that we have lost its feelings. So far as specific doings are concerned, we probably remember those crowded years more distinctly than any equal period of our entire lives. Most of us, too, remember them happily, as happily probably as any years we have lived. No, the trouble is not with the memory, but with the self. The experiences of life since we were boys have shifted our psychic centre of gravity, so that we realize the particular incident far more easily than we realize the being to whom it occurred. We do not completely feel that the boy that was is quite ourselves; and while the memory of the fact is sharp, the memory of the mental state that went with it has become dim. Therefore, it costs a distinct effort to put one’s self in the boy’s place. Any proper man will recite by the hour tales of the old swimming-hole in the summer. But if men actually felt toward the water as boys do, every club and half the private houses would have a swimming tank instead of a smoking room.

3 But if we men fail to comprehend boys, what shall we say of the women! The experiences which we have forgotten, they have not even had; if there is a psychic fence which separates men from boys, there are at least knot-holes in the boards; but between boys and women there is a solid wall. There are parts of a boy’s soul which any woman may observe or imagine, but which no woman can ever feel. That women often do understand boys, understand them sometimes better than men do, is simply one of the marvels of feminine insight.

This book is, then, addressed, first of all, to fathers, with the hope that it will, in some sort, serve to revive memories of boyhood days, not so much of specific acts of boyhood as of long-dead impulses and past ways of envisaging the world. Every man who sits down and thinks out for himself, not only what he did as a boy, but also how it feels to be a boy, and how the world and the people in it appear through a boy’s eyes, has taken a long step toward the understanding and the control of his own sons. A scientific account4 of certain aspects of boy psychology, such as this book aims to be, may aid this introspective process.

On the other hand, so far as this book is an account of the natural history of the genus boy, it may well be an aid to mothers, and to other women who, with no children of their own, are yet concerned for the welfare of adolescent males. If it does not help these to a sympathetic understanding of a boy’s soul, one may at least hope that it will serve to warn them of those regions of it most foreign to their sex. Next to a knowledge of boy nature, comes the knowledge of when to keep hands off and let some man have his chance. To the smaller group of women, mothers and aunts and elder sisters, and especially teachers, who already possess the heaven-sent gift of understanding boys, any assistance may well seem superfluous. Still, intuition may often be supplemented by science. The clearest insight does sometimes fail, and need to be helped out by a more analytical approach from another side than its own. To men, women, and teachers, then,5 this book,—an ‘apology,’ in a sense, to women, of men who once were boys.

Whoever it was that opined that

“Men are but children of a larger growth”
knew little about boys. The child becomes a youth, and the youth becomes man, by virtue of a process not so very different from that which transforms the caterpillar into a butterfly or the tadpole into a frog. As truly as the caterpillar takes on wings, and the tadpole lungs and limbs, of which neither had any trace before, the child and the boy take on not only habits and instincts and ways of getting on in the world, but actual new structure as well. Boyhood begins with the second set of teeth; it ends with the advent of the beard and a new set of enzymes in the blood. Neither child nor boy nor grub nor pollywog passes on to the next stage of his existence by any mere enlargement.

Nor is it altogether true that with the approach of manhood

“Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy.”
6 The little child, in his father’s house and under his father’s care, feels the stir of newborn gregarious instincts, and takes his first steps into the larger life of the world. Boyhood proper begins with the rise of impulses which make us citizens and lead us to take care of ourselves; and it ends with the rise of impulses which make us heads of families and lead us to take care of other people. Each step is an enlargement of life. Each transition is marked by a psychic change so profound that it makes the previous narrower condition appear as shadowy almost as a dream, and almost as difficult to recall.

We are concerned here with the second of the seven ages of men: with the period, that is, which begins at about the age of ten with the rise of the herding instincts, and ends with the rise of the mating instincts at, say, eighteen. The child, who thus far has been a solitary animal, suddenly becomes a social one. He is profoundly interested in youth of his own sex, while at the same time he cares less than nothing for youth of the7 other. Therefore, he associates himself with other boys and forms gangs.

The gang, therefore, while it lasts, is for the boy one of the three primary social groups. These three are, the family, the neighborhood, and the play group; but for the normal boy the play group is the gang. All three are instinctive human groupings, formed like pack and flock and hive, in response to deep-seated but unconscious need. Like all such instinctive associations, the gang appears useless or stupid to those who have never felt the inner impulse which caused it, or who, having felt, have forgotten. The boy’s reaction to his gang is neither more nor less reasonable than the reaction of a mother to her babe, the tribesman to his chief, or the lover to his sweetheart. All these alike belong to the ancient, instinctive, ultra-rational parts of our human nature. They are felt, and obeyed; but only in part are they to be explained, for no man understands any of them fully unless he knows how it feels from the inside.

The gang age, from ten to sixteen, is one of the most important eras in a boy’s life. One man out often may belong to a church, one out of five to a fraternity: but as Sheldon has shown, three boys in every four are members of a gang; and the character of this gang determines in no small degree what sort of men these boys shall become. Taking our lives through, our parents probably make us most, and next to these our wives. But next to our wives, in their influence over our characters and careers, come for most of us, the group of companions whom we knew as boys and who together with us formed our special gang. Our domestic education takes place in our parents’ home and in our own; but our social training has had at least its foundations in our gang.

9 Curiously enough, in spite of the fact that three quarters of all boys are members of gangs, the gang plays a somewhat inconspicuous part in the literature of boyhood. Neither in “David Copperfield,” nor in “Being a Boy,” nor in “A Boy’s Town,” nor in “Tom Brown,” does the gang, qua gang, appear. There are traces of it in Owen Johnson’s Lawrenceville stories, and in certain tales of Elisha Kellog, dear to the heart of a generation ago. Only one story of boy life, so far as I know, gives the gang anything like its full value in boy psychology.

This tale is “The Story of a Bad Boy” of Thomas Bailey Aldrich. The “Centipedes,” to which the Bad Boy belonged, were a real gang. They had their local habitation, their badges, their ceremonies, their secrets. They went camping together, swam and boated and fished, snowballed the constables, fought the boys from the other end of the town, bombarded the sleeping inhabitants of Rivermouth on the night before the Fourth, and altogether comported themselves like the indefatigable young savages10 which all proper boys have been since boys were. The story is said to be highly autobiographical, to be, in short, the inside history of Aldrich’s own gang. At any rate, it seems to be the most adequate account yet in print of a typical boys’ gang, told with insight and skill. One can hardly imagine a better introduction to the ways of all boys than this story of a bad one.

Like most persons who were once boys, I was myself in my boyhood days a member of a gang; but I never began to realize the spirit and power of gang life until, between 1902 and 1905, I sat behind the Principal’s desk in an Industrial School for Boys. Before that desk stood each new-comer, and it was my duty to place each boy in his school work, and to be responsible in part for his discipline. I soon learned that rightly to guide a boy in the School, it was essential that I know pretty thoroughly, not only the boy’s personal traits, but also the social conditions of his home and of his neighborhood. I asked, therefore, many questions about home, school, and playmates,11 especially about playmates and the way in which the boys spent their leisure time.

Many boys, after a short acquaintance, told me freely the inside stories of their gang life. Occasionally, to start a narrator when he stopped talking, I would put in a question: “When do you meet?” “Where?” “What do you do nights?” “Saturdays?” “Sundays?” “Whom do you let in?” “Have you any rules?”—and the like. Where a boy had a good memory and a fair command of English, no questions were necessary; he simply went ahead and told me quite frankly all he knew, while I wrote down the story as nearly as possible in the boy’s own words. Later when, as probation officer in a juvenile court, I became responsible for the behavior of dependent and delinquent boys, I carried the study further.

As a result of this information, it soon became evident that certain gangs were doing irreparable harm. Two boys, for example, out of one gang had been sent to the State Reform School on the same day; another12 contributed to the same institution, five of its six members. Good, promising boys, too, they were, though the world thought otherwise. Apparently, then, some gangs at least were pretty thoroughly bad.

On the other hand, some gangs proved to be almost as thoroughly good. Their members were real boys, but on the whole the gang was helping them to become worthy citizens and upright men.

I have especially full information concerning sixty-six gangs; and I pass without more ado to the boys’ account of certain of them. Most men who read these pages can supply the inside history of at least one other.

The Morse Hollow Athletic Club
This is a typical all-round gang, though its main purpose was to play games. Its membership varied somewhat with the game, but it usually contained from nine to eleven boys, between twelve and seventeen years of age. Of these one was Irish, two were French, two Americans, one Negro, and one Scotch. The historian of the gang is13 the Scot, a distinctly bright boy who is now doing well at the printing trade.

“Met nearly every day in vacation time; had a shanty for a clubhouse over in the woods; met there most of the time; met on R. A’s hill.

“R. A. was the leader. One that could jump the farthest was made president; one could jump next farthest, vice-president; next, secretary; one that could jump least distance of all was made treasurer; club was for athletics, so that was the way we wanted it.

“We played baseball in the spring and football in the fall. We didn’t let a fellow into our club unless he could play baseball or football. Nights we would meet on the corner of the street and talk over games. We have been going together four years; we take in a new lot of younger boys every year. Sometimes we put a fellow out of the club because he will not pay his share of the expenses.

“Sundays we went to church; sometimes we would go up on R. A’s hill in the afternoon and watch some men play cards for money; they gave coppers to the boys.

14 “We often jumped a freight to Gates Crossing and then went berrying or after nuts. We used to play Indians in the woods; one boy captured the others and put them in a hole. We had three detectives. We stole some apples out of orchards. We had a fight with the ‘Garden of Eden’ gang; we were coming home from football; we guyed them for beating us; they fired sticks at us; we made some swords out of wood, got an air rifle, and made an attack on them and drove them up on to a haymow in a barn.

“We sometimes ran away from school; two of us would go out at a time, so as not to throw any suspicion on the gang. Our rules were that all members should be present Wednesdays and Saturdays, and each boy should pay equal parts for ball. When there were disputes the officers would most always settle them.”

The Tennis Club
This is a thoroughly good gang, one of the best gangs I know. In fact, I came to know about it at all only because one of its15 members dropped out, joined the distinctly evil “Dowser Glums,” the account of which immediately follows that of the Tennis Club, and as a result got himself into various kinds of trouble. The same boy gave me the stories of the two gangs, adding frankly, “If I had stopped in the Tennis Club, I should never have been sent to a Reform School.” A thoroughly worthless man, twenty-six years old, was in the Glums, while Mr. M., the father of one of the boys, was practically in the Tennis Club. The contrast cannot be described in words.

There were fifteen boys in the Tennis Club, twelve to seventeen years of age, all Americans except two Swedes.

“Met at tennis court at M.’s house. Met after school, nights and Saturdays. Had a captain of baseball nine, captain of football, and treasurer. Treasurer collected things at M.’s house,—gloves, rackets, etc. If a fellow was a good ball player or an all-round athlete, let him in. Sometimes fellows [by way of initiation] pounce on a fellow and give it to him for two or three minutes. Tell a fellow16 he didn’t belong there and he would leave. Been going together for seven months when I left off going.

“M.’s parents would buy things for their boy and we could use them. We played tennis, baseball, football, cricket; went bicycle riding; camping out. Went a little ways from M.’s house; went out to camp days, swimming, boating. Made a boat and went fishing for pickerel and perch. Play ball and cricket after supper till dark. Sit in porch and talk over stories a little after dark.

“Ring doorbells and play tick-tack on windows of fellows of our club. Sometimes would have a fight; other fellows would stop it. Never let a big fellow pick on a little fellow. We were against smoking.”

The Dowser Glums
This tough gang contained four Irish boys, three French, one American. The members were for the most part seventeen or eighteen years of age, except the man of twenty-six. The place-names, I suppress, as of no interest.

17 “Met out in the woods back of an old barn on Spring Street. Met every day if we did not get work. Any fellow could bring in a fellow if others approved. Put a fellow out for spying or telling anything about the club. Tell him we didn’t want him and then if he didn’t take the hint force him out. It had been going for two years; broke up now, I think.

“We played ball; went swimming, fishing, and shooting. Each of us had a rifle. Meet [at night] and tell stories of what we had done during the day. Go to shows. Go and watch dancing class. Sundays we loafed around streets. Sometimes went on a trip in the country. Went shooting. Other days catch a freight and go to W—— and L——. Went to B—— to shows and circus.

“Purpose of club was to steal; most anything they could get their hands on; fruit off from fruit stands; snag ice-cream at picnics. Robbed a store and put it in an old barn,—revolvers, knives, and cartridges. Work for two or three days, then loaf round and spend our money; spend money for18 circus. Sometimes folks would make us spend for clothes. Play cards,—poker, whist, high low jack. Played in the woods. Smoke cigarettes, pipe, and cigars. Biggest fellow drank; he tried to make the other fellows drink but they wouldn’t.”

The Island Gang
Twelve boys: four Irish, three French, two Poles, two Germans, one Jew. Ages between twelve and eighteen, but generally about fifteen. The boy who told me the story, one of the Frenchmen, said with much pride, “We never got caught stealing.” I have since watched boys stealing from the big markets; they certainly have reduced it to a science!

“Met on L. Street; all lived on that street. Would not let any gang on that street. Give a strange boy a licking.

“M. was ring-leader,—steals most; says, ‘Come on’; biggest and oldest. Didn’t let anybody in after we started; been going together five years. M. started it, and asked us to be in the gang.

19 “We played run-sheep-run, tag, relievo, hide and seek. Stay out all night; have a fire down by the foundry. Go to shows Monday and Saturday nights; like Railroad Jack, Great White Diamond, White Eagle; like plays where there was fighting.

“Jumped freights to S—— and P——. Ran away from home to U——; stayed up there two weeks. Hated to go to school; ran away because I didn’t like to study. Saw boys out, so I liked to stay out and play baseball. Go to W—— Market in a crowd; steal apples, candy, grapes, and peanuts; we never got caught.

“Put wires across the sidewalks. Fight with another gang; fought for the fun of it, to see which was the strongest; fought with clubs. If there was a dispute in our crowd, leader settled it. If two fellows were fighting for a thing, the leader took it away from them and gave it to another fellow. If a member of the gang lied to one of us fellows, we called him a squealer; if he told on us, we called him a spy.

“Get our money from junk. Drink beer.20 All smoke. We had our best times bunking out, ringing doorbells, and tying cats’ tails together. We like to plague girls,—ask them for a kiss, and things like that.”

The Medford Street Gang
Six boys: two Americans, four Irish. Ages between twelve and fifteen. This is, paradoxically, a bad gang of good boys. Five out of the six members landed in Reform Schools, and I knew personally four of the five. All were distinctly above the average, and all are now doing well in life.


“Met on corner of street. We had three different leaders; I was leader; St. J. was leader. When we first moved there we gathered together and kept together all the time.

“We played baseball, football, cricket, tag, and hide and seek. We had a tent,—stayed out nights. We stole pigeons, broke into slot machines. We all divided up about the same. If a fellow lied to one of us, we put him out of the crowd for a week. Used to think school was too hard; didn’t want21 to go because there was a show in town; stayed away just for the fun of it. Best time was going to theatre, like comical plays, Irishmen and fighting.

“We never used to think of girls, [“How do you treat them?” I had asked.] I don’t know how to treat them; never tried it.”

Another boy’s report of the same Gang—one year later
The gang now contained seven boys: four American, three Irish.

“Met every day, right after school, corner Medford Street and Somerville Avenue; thought that Medford Street belonged to us. If a strange boy came around, try to pick up a fight with him to see if he was a good fighter. A. was leader; St. J. was leader sometimes. Anybody moved around there we thought safe to come in, would let him in. Put a fellow out if he go and tell on us. We have been going together five or six years.

“We play baseball, hoist the sail, how many miles to Barbery; go to beach; go to22 theatre once or twice a week, City Square and Grand Opera House; like love plays best. Sundays go around in city; wander around the streets; go to beach. Other days go down to freight yards and jump freights. We used to snowball Jews who came to slaughter house to get food. Plague a man down there; ring doorbells; play tick-tack. Steal money, candy, hens, iron, and fountain pens.

“All of us smoked. Get lager beer Saturday nights off beer wagons. Boys gamble with dice; shoot craps. Chuck a fellow out who made a dispute.”

The Methuen Gang
Six boys: five Irish and one “Yankee,” between thirteen and sixteen years of age. This is an especially adventurous gang, whose chief amusement is travel. Note especially the characteristic initiation to test the candidate’s resourcefulness.

“I was called ‘Bull-dog,’ because I stuck to it when I started a thing. C. called ‘Gulliver’ because he traveled around so much.23 M. called ‘Puggie’ because he had a flat nose. O. was leader; biggest and best fighter.

“When one fellow went out, let another fellow in; get a fellow who would keep things to himself; make him take an oath. Put him [as initiation] on a freight train and send him off alone to see if he could get back alone; if he came back he was a member of the gang.

“Been going together three years. All live on the same street. Play baseball, football, punch bag, tag, hide and seek, bull in the ring, leap frog. Build forts and capture them.

“Go to boys’ club twice a week. Go to shows two or three times a week. Like tragedies. Get up shows ourselves and let fellows from the district in. Went to a show and traveled with the show as far as W——. Stay out all night sometimes. Go off to different cities. Jump freights. Sundays sometimes go off on a fishing trip, or a picnic out in the country.

“Plague the ragman; upset his cart; run24 off with the rags. Ran away with banana team. All work for a spell and then all loaf a while. If one of the gang got hit, stand up for one another. Save up our money and then go off for a good time; go to B—— Saturday afternoons; buy our tickets on that trip.”

* * * * *
Boys’ gangs, then, as one may readily infer from the foregoing accounts, are of various types. They may be large or small, good or bad, long-lived or evanescent. Yet with all their superficial differences, they are fundamentally alike. Each exists for the sake of a definite set of activities—to play games, to seek adventure, to go swimming, boating, and playing Indians in the woods, to make mischief, to steal, to fight other gangs. Few are the groups which do not, at one time or another, do all these things. Especially noteworthy is the desire of the gang for a local habitation—its own special street corner, its clubroom, its shanty in the woods.

All normal gangs, in short, are so much alike that if we discovered any group among25 the lower animals acting with equal uniformity, we should unhesitatingly ascribe their behavior to instinct. Without doubt, there is a gang-forming instinct set deep in the soul of boyhood. Whoever, therefore, would understand boys, must study their spontaneous organizations.

The gang age, as we have seen, is from ten to sixteen. In a few cases, this organized group life begins as young as seven; in a few, also, it lasts up to eighteen or nineteen. Between thirteen and fourteen is the average age; and in a general way, the boy’s social education in the gang takes about five years. Before this period, the little boy plays a good deal by himself, or plays in company with other boys a good deal as if he were playing alone. After it, he cultivates individual friendships, or courts a girl.

Nearly always, the gang is a strictly local affair, limited to a certain district or to one or two streets. “We all live on L street,” run the boys’ reports. “We all come from one street and a little street off from it.” “Fellows who lived up that way could be in the crowd.” “Come from down around27 the wharves.” “If he lived down there, and the fellows knew him, he could get in with them.” The neighborhood spirit is strong in boys; it needs to be regarded in all social work.

Nationality and Social Class
As for nationality, the gang is apt to be thoroughly unprejudiced and democratic. To be sure, twelve of my sixty-six gangs were all of one nationality. But that is largely because the streets or sections of the city where the boys live are likely to be given up to a single race. Fifty-four of my gangs were of mixed nationality, while in only one was any line drawn at breed or color—“No Jews or Negroes allowed.” Far more than we realize, the boys’ gang is helping out the public school in the great problem of assimilating the diverse races in the United States.

Nevertheless, there are some curious differences of nationality in the membership of gangs. Irish boys are especially gangy, with Americans and French a good second. Jews,28 on the other hand, are conspicuous for their absence. I questioned several Jewish boys, without discovering a single typical gang; and only two of my sixty-six gangs had Jewish members, though Jews are decidedly numerous in the regions from which the boys came. The reader who is interested in race psychology will find food for thought in the differing instincts of Irishman and Jew.

There is also some social difference in boys’ gangs. Boys from well-to-do homes are, as one might expect, less gangy than those brought up amid poorer surroundings. In the case of the more fortunate boys, the gang is only one of a number of factors in their social development. But boys from bad, broken, or inefficient homes are forced to provide their own social life, and the gang is their one instinctive reaction to their social environment.

Curiously, too, boys from the better class of homes more often form their social groups de novo to suit their individual social needs; while boys whose home training is deficient tend more to become members of gangs already29 formed. For this reason the permanent and long-lived gangs are apt to be tough, with fixed and dangerous traditions. Thus, while among well brought up boys a gang rarely survives the boyhood of the group which formed it, among delinquents of my acquaintance hardly more than a quarter were original members of their gangs, or could tell how their gangs started. The bad gang, therefore, tends to be a persistent and dangerous institution, taking in new members as the older ones graduate. But the good gang dies young. This circumstance probably accounts in no small degree for the bad odor in which all boys’ gangs are commonly held.

In respect to definiteness of organization, there are marked differences in gangs. Some are loosely knit and of short duration; others are select in their membership and rigid in their structure, so that they last through several generations of boys. Some gangs are autocratic, some democratic,—this, naturally, depending largely on the leader.

30 Most of them have names,—The Hicks Street Fellows, The Bleachery Gang, Morse Hollow Athletic Club, Wharf Rats, Crooks, Liners, Eggmen, Dowser Glums. Most have a regular time and place of meeting, rules and officers, though only a few have written constitutions and by-laws. Moreover, the definiteness of the organization and the esprit de corps seem to be quite independent of any formality or written code. Two organizations may be equally definite and forceful; and yet one may have its organization explicit in articles of federation, while that of the other is covert in the brain and muscles of its leader.

Time and Place of Meeting
Boys at the gang age intend to get together whenever possible. They will use all the time in which they are free from work or school. I have known boys to leave their proper occupations to go with the gang; and to reckon out carefully the balance between a day’s fun with the gang and a general warming-up reception at night by father. Most31 of the sixty-six gangs met every day, many met morning, noon and night, or all day. The evening hours are, naturally, the most active and the most dangerous part of the day, for then mischief-making is likely to be rampant, encouraged under the veil of darkness.

During the larger part of the year in most parts of the United States boys prefer the outdoor life. In the cities, a certain street or corner is the customary meeting-place. In the fall and winter months boys look for shelter. In the country they build a cabin of boards or logs in the woods; in the city they get clubrooms, make a shanty in the back yard, or fix up an empty room in the cellar, attic, or shed. In one gang, for example, “the Club met down at one boy’s house—in the cellar of the shed. Fixed up the place, had pictures out of magazines and papers,—funny pictures. Made a little table and benches, had boxing-gloves. Two boys had them an hour. No fighting allowed. Spent our evenings in the ‘Clubroom.’ Go to church Sundays and then skip down to the club and read books.”

32 In general, about half the city gangs have their regular meeting-place on street or street corner. For the other half, my records show four gangs meeting in clubrooms; three in houses; two in a shed; and one each in a shanty, behind a barn in the woods, in a house made of old barrels in a back street, a hencoop, a hut in the woods, a tent in the woods, a tent in the yard, a dugout, an empty attic, and the cellar of a shed.

Boys do not like parlors. They prefer a rather rough and crude place in shed or attic which they can fix up to suit their own tastes. Benches, working-tools, boxing-gloves, punching-bags, pictures, magazines and books, form the natural furniture of a gang clubroom. Fortunate, indeed, are the parents who can provide the right kind of a room in their home for their boys, and are wise enough to let the neighbors’ boys use it freely, without too much attention to their muddy feet.

Naturally, the boys have a sense of ownership of their clubroom tents or camps; but we find the same sentiment of ownership33 developing over the street or corner where they meet. The following are familiar expressions of the boys in regard to ownership: “Had a shanty in the woods. Other fellows would come and tear it down. Had a right over it.” “Wouldn’t let any gang in that street. Gave a strange boy a licking.” “Thought that Medford Street belonged to us.” “Every corner has a gang. That corner belongs to us.”

Two boys said: “We didn’t have no leader.” This is not correct. Consciously or unconsciously there must be a leader in every social group. A few gangs have a long list of officers elected formally by ballot at stated periods. But forty-four gangs (66⅔ per cent) have one leader, who takes his position naturally with little form or ceremony. Of the sixty-six gangs—

1 gang had six officers or leaders
1 four
4 gangs three
8 two
44 one officer or leader
8 no regular leader
34 The following words express the spirit of the boys in reference to leadership:—

“J. was ringleader. Steals most; says, ‘Come on.’” “I was leader. Had stumps, and the one who could do the most stumps would be leader.” “D. was the leader. He could fight best and had most money.” “G. was leader. He gave you anything if he had it. Worst one in the gang.” “G. was leader. Big, strong fellow. He is always bringing a gang around him.” “D. was leader. Pretty good fellow. Most daring fellow. Choose him by ballot. He got seven votes.” “No regular leader. One fellow proposed a thing. He knew most about it, and take the lead.”

The leader of the gang is such an interesting personality that we shall make a more careful study of him later, in another work.

Commonly when boys enter a new gang some form of a reception is tendered them. In winter the new fellow may get a rub in the snow; in summer months he may be given a ducking or a little rough-and-tumble35 good time. In the Jenhine Boys, the new fellow “had to wrestle with Gibson to see if he was strong,” while in the Tennis Club, they “pounce on a fellow and give it to him for two or three minutes.” In a few gangs there were definitely planned initiation ceremonies. In the Jeffries Point Gang they threw a new fellow up in the air for five or ten minutes to test his grit. “If he didn’t cry, let him in.”

The object of the initiation ceremony appears to be to test the new fellow’s grit and strengthen his spirit of loyalty.

In the sixty-six gangs we find—

18 rules as to “squealing,” snitching,
or tell-taleing
8 lying to one of the gang
8 standing by each other in trouble
5 “divvying up” or paying equal parts of the expenses
3 unjust fighting
2 using tobacco
1 rule swearing
1 stealing
36 We find the demand for loyalty and justice in the foreground and for morality in the rear. Although the rules are rarely put on paper there are few gangs without an unwritten code. These rules are necessary for the existence of the gang. They must be strictly enforced or the gang is dissolved. Expulsion is the usual penalty.

Dropping out of Gangs and Expulsion
Boys drop out of the gang suddenly, so that very few remain after sixteen years of age. At this time boys are entering the second adolescent period, and become intensely interested in girls. They feel so far above boys twelve or thirteen years old that they no longer care to affiliate with them. In gangs where younger boys have been allowed to enter, the older boys retire without disturbance to the structure of the group or its object; but in a gang where younger members have not been admitted and the boys are about the same age, the group may sometimes continue with a new set of interests.

37 As for involuntary withdrawals, ten boys were expelled from their gangs for “squealing,” three for unjust fighting, one each for bossing, failure to pay dues, cowardice, getting fresh, and disobedience. “Kicked one fellow out,” ran the reports, “for telling on the others.” “Put a fellow out for fighting with another boy. The other fellow was in the right.” “Put him out because he would run off when needed to fight.”

Settling Disputes
Disputes are sure to arise in any social group and especially in a gang. “If there was any dispute, have a scrap over it. Fellow who got the worst of it, gave up.” “If there was a dispute the leader settled it.” “The officers would most always settle disputes, talk it over, get circumstances, and then settle it.”

These cases illustrate the most common methods of settling internal troubles. In ten cases the boys fought it out; in seven other cases the matter was settled by the leader, a bigger boy, or an outsider.

38 The typical boys’ gang, then, is no mere haphazard association. Accidents of various sorts—age, propinquity, likeness of interests—bring together a somewhat random group. Immediately the boys react on one another. One or more leaders come to the fore. The gang organizes itself, finds or makes its meeting-place, establishes its standards, begins to do things. It develops, in some sort, a collective mind, and acts as a unit to carry out complex schemes and activities which would hardly so much as enter the head of one boy alone. The gang is, in short, a little social organism, coherent, definite, efficient, with a life of its own which is beyond the sum of the lives of its several members. It is the earliest manifestation in man of that strange group-forming instinct, without which beehive and ant hill and human society would be alike impossible.

eCommerce Basis

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