They sprang up during the time when conformity, at least in public, was the unspoken law-of-the-land. It was the 20 year period 1945-1965 when WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) ruled America. As young men and women (not all whites of course) they’d beaten the dictators in World War II and came to be known, deservedly so in many ways, as “The Greatest Generation.”
But new generations were emerging; some were kids during the war and some were born after the war. Many didn’t want to conform; they learned that from their conforming parents. Some wanted to be “free.” A few didn’t care how they achieved it.
Early on they were called “rebels”. They were labeled “outlaws” because they operated outside the auspices of the American Motorcycle Association which from its inception in 1924 sought to protect “the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle.” They acquired the handle “One Percenters” because, according to urban legend, a motorcycle industry spokesman said “99% of all motorcyclists are peace-loving, law-abiding citizens.” The inference was obvious, motorcycle gangs weren’t.
The USDepartment of Justice says that Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) are…
Highly structured criminal organizations whose members engage in criminal activities such as violent crimes, weapons trafficking, and drug trafficking. OMGs maintain a strong centralized leadership that implements rules regulating membership, conduct, and criminal activity
The Hells Angels were formed in 1948 in San Bernadino/Fontana California. By 1961 it was an international organization. By its own admission, the Hell’s Angels wasn’t formed by ex-World War II servicemen. Notice there’s no apostrophe in “Hells.” According to the Hells Angels website it’s because “there are many hells.”
When, in 1966, a Hells Angels leader was asked about the club’s use of the swastika he said it didn’t have anything to do with racial hatred but was merely used for the “shock factor.” It meant “don’t mess around with us”…”we live in our world. We just want to be left alone to be individuals”
The definitive history of the Hells Angels is Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga which first appeared in 1966. It was written by Hunter S. Thompson who spent a year riding with the Angels.
According to the US Department of Justice the Hells Angels has 2000-2500 members worldwide who produces, transports, and distributes marijuana and methamphetamine and transports and distributes cocaine, hashish, heroin, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), MDMA, PCP, and diverted pharmaceuticals. Their other known criminal activities include assault, extortion, homicide, money laundering, and motorcycle theft.
The Pagans motorcycle gang was formed in 1959 in Maryland near Washington DC. The “club” has known strong ties to organized crime.
The Bandidoswere formed in Texas in 1966. The club is most active in the Pacific, southeastern, southwestern, and west central regions. It’s considered one of the largest US OMGs with 900 members.
The Mongols Nationwas formed in 1969 by what is said to have been Hispanic-American Vietnam veterans who couldn’t join the Hells Angels. In the 1980s, the Mongols seized control of southern California from the Hells Angels and today Mongols is allied with Bandidos, Outlaws, Sons of Silence, and Pagan’s. Many Mongols members are former street gang-bangers mostly in California. Mongols members are said to be “extremely violent” ATF agents have called Mongols Motorcycle Club the most violent and dangerous OMG in the nation.
The Outlaws, originally McCook Outlaws Motorcycle Club,was formed in Chicago in1935 out of patrons of Matilda’s Bar and by 1963 was considered the first “One Percenter” motorcycle club east of the Mississippi. Today’s Outlaws Motorcycle Club has more than 1,700 members belonging to 176 chapters in the United States and 12 foreign countries. Outlaws members engage in various criminal activities, including arson, assault, explosives operations, extortion, fraud, homicide, intimidation, kidnapping, money laundering, prostitution operations, robbery, theft, and weapons violations. The Outlaws ensign is a skull and piston “crossbones.”
Sons of Silencewas founded in Colorado in 1966. Today it numbers nearly 300 members in 12 states and in Germany. Sons of Silence have been implicated in numerous criminal activities, including murder, assault; drug trafficking, intimidation, extortion, prostitution operations, money laundering, weapons trafficking, and motorcycle and motorcycle parts theft.
All the OMGs say that if you have to ask how to join their club, you have no business joining.
The Justice Department says today’s OMGs number some 400 gangs totaling 20,000 members. Their criminal activities included smuggling marijuana and ecstasy across the US-Canadian border, theft, extortion, prostitution, arms sales, assault, and murder.
American Motorcycle Association
Ebony December 1966
US Department of Justice