A mohawk is a hairstyle whereby all the head is shaved except a stripe down the middle. It is worn by a surprising variety of people, from working professional's to homeless anarchist junkies. It is normally worn in order to make a statement against society, and simply to say to the world at large "hey, I'm gonna do what I want, and look how I want to". Contrary to many peoples misconception that anyone with a mohawk is either a drop out or an unthinking exhibitionist, in general thay seem to be eloquent, intelligent people who won't simply lay down and go with the flow. Surely it takes more creativity to be original than to copy the crowd.

The original idea behind a mohawk was that if you get scalped whilst wearing one then all your enemy will get is a thin stripe of hair and skin. The Mohawk Nation is a living sovereign nation, and part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. It is also known as KANIEN'KEHAKA, and like most indian nations is still struggling for equal rights of trade and property. It is a shame that people who follow the examples of these native americans are treated with almost as much misunderstanding.

The 4-8-2 type of steam locomotive was known as the Mountain type on other roads, but the mighty New York Central didn't see the name to be fitting on its famous Water Level Route, so it instead picked the name of one of those rivers its rails followed, the Mohawk River, to name its newest type of locomotive. Despite the more common name, the 4-8-2 was actually suited in many ways more to flatland running than slow mountain slogging, with its 4-wheel leading truck for stability at speed.

Indeed, the New York Central became the largest user of this wheel arrangement in North America, with 600 locomotives of this type built for its service; only the Pennsylvania Railroad came anywhere close, with 301 of the type.

The Mohawk type was the pre-eminent freight power of the System, displacing the Mikado (2-8-2) type from first line service. While other roads obtained much more massive freight power, Decapods (2-10-0s), Texas (2-10-4) types and a multitude of articulated designs, the New York Central, with its practically gradeless high-speed raceways along the rivers, needed speed, not lugging ability.

The 600 Mohawks delivered were divided into four main classes, plus a few experimentals and prototypes:


The first Mohawks delivered for the NYC were delivered by Alco in 1916; these were purely freighters, with 69" drivers and small tenders. Further orders of L-1 subclasses followed in subsequent years, including some from the Lima Locomotive Works. All these locomotives had uncluttered lines, mostly thanks to the lack of such modern appliances as feedwater heaters, boosters and the like. 185 L-1 locomotives were produced.

Experimental 3-Cylindered

The New York Central had two L-1 locomotives rebuilt by Alco in 1922 with three cylinders to help determine if three-cylinder drive was worthwhile. They were substantially more powerful than the two cylinder locomotives but it was debatable if the additional maintenance headaches of that third, hard to reach central cylinder, valve gear, main rod and crank axle were worthwhile. The NYC must have come down on the negative side of that question, for no more were built.


The next development of the Mohawk type for the New York Central was the L-2, 300 of its various subclasses being built between 1925-1930. These were rather more modern locomotives than the L-1 class, fat-boilered, long-tendered, fitted with feedwater heaters, mostly of the Elesco type and generally mounted in front of the smokebox at the top, giving an aggressive, beetle browed look. Later L-2 subclasses, the L-2b and L-2c, had somewhat smoother lines with recessed feedwater heaters and cleaned up lines. The later L-2 locomotives, in fact, looked very close in styling to the Central's fleet of Hudson passenger locomotives.


The next development of the Mohawk type was that of the dual service locomotive, capable of working passenger as well as freight trains. Passenger service required the ability to work at 80mph, as opposed to the 60mph required of freight. The NYC's fleet of Hudsons, 275 strong though it was, was proving inadequate to handle peak traffic demands, and some dual-purpose power would fix the problem nicely, as well as giving the ability to handle express freight and mail services.

Two L-2 locomotives were given modifications for dual service work; higher boiler pressure, smaller cylinders, light-weight reciprocating parts, dynamic counterbalancing of the drivers, roller bearings on all axles, etc. The success of these modifications prompted the construction of the L-3 class in 1940, 25 of which were built for dual service and the remaining 40 for freight only.

All L-3 locomotives were given axle spacing that could accomodate 72" drivers, but only one was ever fitted with such. This locomotive, #3000, paved the way for the final class of Mohawks on the Central, the L-4.


50 L-4 locomotives were produced by the Lima Locomotive Works in 1943. None of them had booster engines, although they were built to take them should they be ever needed -- they weren't. The L-4s were truly dual purpose locomotives, and worked the heaviest freight and passenger trains during the war. The L-3 and L-4 classes had huge tenders riding on two six-wheel trucks that were almost as long as the locomotives hauling them, and were mostly coal space, a capacity for 43 tons of the stuff; water was taken en route using the tender scoop from track pans and thus the locomotives did not need to have that great an on-board water capacity.

Many L-4 locomotives were fitted with smoke deflectors later on.

True name of the Mohawk nation is 'KANIEN’KEHAKE': 'People of the Flint'. The name ‘Mohawk’ was given them by the Algonquin Nation, and it was later picked up by Europeans who found it much easier to spell and pronounce than KANIEN’KEHAKE. The Mohawks were (and still are) part of the Iroquois Confederacy which, according to Iroquois oral tradition was formed some time between 1000 and 1450 AD. Some writers say as late as 1600, but it is agreed that it happened before the arrival of Europeans.
Mohawks today live over the border between northern New York and Southern Canada near the St. Lawrence River. This area has always been their traditional hunting grounds, but the area itself used to be much larger. During the Summer, for example, they used to migrate down to what is now Central New York, an area still called the 'Mohawk Valley'.

In ice skating, the easiest way of changing direction from forward to backward or vice-versa. It consists of two steps, and the change of direction occurs at the same time as the change of foot. It always goes from an inside edge to another inside edge (on the other foot going the other direction), or from an outside edge to another outside edge.

If you can picture this in your head, or draw it out, you'll see that the two edges will always continue around the same curve. Contrast this to the more difficult choctaw, which is identical except the skater changes edges when they change feet, which leads to an "S" shape.

The most common and easiest mohawk is from the forward inside edge to the back inside edge. If you've ever tried skating backwards you've probably done one without realizing it when you turned around.

The key to making it easy is in the setup: if you pre-rotate your hips and upper body, the change of foot just happens without much effort. The effort is in controlling the rotation going in and coming out, what skaters call the "check".

In ice dance the mohawks are done with an emphasis on control and neatness, and the step will occur with the two feet almost touching at the transition. In freestyle they're commonly done with much wider steps. An advanced freeskater, moving fast, will probably leave the ice (unintentionally) for a few feet when doing a mohawk.

Much like its more difficult cousin, the choctaw, I don't know how the word came to be used in this rather non-Native American-related context.

How to cut your hair into a Mohawk
Thus showing how hardcore anti-whatever you are.

Note: I did this myself a couple of times and it is very satisfying to say you did it yourself.

  • First, grow your hair until it is the desired length or longer for your Mohawk. This can be anything from say an inch to a foot or more if you desire. Make sure the hair is long enough all down the back as well as on top.

  • Get some hair clippers or a beard trimmer (preferably borrow someone else’s!) or, if you are particularly adventurous, some scissors. Also make sure you have a way of looking at the back of your head, either a hand held mirror or a mirror behind you that can be angled easily.

  • Optional credit: Indulge in the soft drug of your choice to make your haircut a little more dodgy, for that ‘home-made hardcore look. Also should fill you with a sense of light headed immaturity and rebelliousness.

  • Go into the bathroom as this usually has an easy to clean floor and accessible mirrors. Put old newspapers all over the floor to catch the hair.

  • Get in the shower and make your hair wet, followed by a light towel drying. Stay naked or at least topless so it is easy to clean the hair off you afterwards.

  • Comb through the hair either pushing it all forwards or all backwards (make sure it’s at the angle you want your Mohawk to go, a slightly sideways Mohawk can be very cool). Make sure you use a wide comb so that you can see parting lines in between the locks of hair easily.

  • Choose where you want the Mohawk to start on one side of your head and create a side parting there (just on the top for now).

    WARNING: This is your last chance to back out before you start shaving hair off!

  • Turn on the clippers and shave the side of your head as short as you feel it should be (Go against the grain for an easier cut). Remember you can always go shorter, but you can’t put it back for a fair while.

  • Repeat on the other side of your head. You should now have a strip of hair down the top centre of your head and a lot of hair that now looks distinctly mullet-esque on the back.


  • Now comes the difficult bit. Set up the mirror so you can see the back of your head. Doesn’t it look pretty?

  • Comb all the hair down at an angle that matches up with the sides of the Mohawk on the top of your head. Repeat the parting exercise as with the top of your head and again shave against the grain. Try to pay extra attention because you are now shaving backwards in a double mirror which is just confusing. You don’t want to shave the wrong bit.

  • Hopefully you now have a strip of hair down your head that is longer than the rest. Get yourself some styling product that is sufficiently strong to hold your hair up and preferably straight. If like me you have a strong curl then you may need to try some ceramic straighteners.

  • Put on a sufficient amount of goo and push your hair into a Mohawk from either side. Now look and double check if it is the right length. If not, it is now easy to use a pair of scissors to chop off the excess length in the required style.

CONGRATULATIONS! You now have a genuine fully functional Mohawk! Now clean up after yourself like a nice boy/girl and go show your friends! (Beware, you may need a shower first as you will be covered in hairs.)

Note: For extra effect, try dyeing your hair an unnatural colour as well.

In the winter of 1771, a set of wild young men made their appearance, who, from the profligacy of their manners and their outages conduct in the theatres, taverns and coffee houses in the vicinity of Covent Garden, created general indignation and alarm, actually driving away many sedate persons from their customary amusement in the evening.

This 'set of wild young men' became known as the Mohawks or Mohacks and attracted something of a reputation as evildoers. It was alleged that their objective was "to do the most possible hurt to their fellow creatures" and that they once nailed the ear of a Portuguese gentleman to a wall and then stabbed him to death when he broke free. Their fame was such that even a century a more after their heyday Webster 1913 felt obliged to include them in his dictionary definition and the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue also refers to their practice of 'sweating' that is, of repeatedly pricking a passer by in his posterior with their swords "till they thought him sufficiently sweated".

Oddly enough for a gang whose fame had reached as far as the dictionary very little detail appears anywhere regarding their identities or activities, but fortunately we can look to the Memoirs of William Hickey for an honest account of the Mohawks, as he was personally acquainted with the gang. He spent many an evening in their company during which he sought to dissuade them from harassing other people, so much so that he became known as, (or at least claimed to be known as) the 'Anti-Mohawk'.

According to William Hickey "they consisted of only four in number". The leader of the gang being one Archibald Hamilton Rowan, although known to Hickey under the name of 'Rhoan Hamilton', "a man of fortune", the second was a Mr Hayter, the son of "an opulent merchant and bank director"; the third a Mr Osborne "a young American who had come to England to study law"; whilst the fourth and final member was Mr Frederick "a handsome lad without a guinea", who claimed to be a descendant of one Theodore von Neuhoff, a Westphalian adventurer who in 1736 had somehow managed to get himself briefly recognised as King of Corsica.

These four were certainly responsible for creating "general indignation and alarm" and achieved a great deal of notoriety being "severely attacked by the public newspapers" and "were in a constant state of inebriety, daily committing the most wanton outrages upon unoffending individuals who unfortunately fell in their way". However it appears that these 'wanton outrages' did not extend much beyond minor assaults and certainly did not extend as far as murder or even nailing ears to walls. Indeed the only specific incident which Hickey quotes relating to the activities of the Mohawks is when Rowan accosted a Mr Hare in a private room at an inn, tore up his correspondence and challenged him to fight, which he then proceeded to lose.

Picking fights and 'sweating' the odd passerby appears to be the extent of the Mohawks reign of terror; the rest appears to be down to the exaggeration of the contemporary press and the eagerness of subsequent commentators to place the responsibility for an crime in the capital at the door of Rowan and his companions. The truth is that Archibald Hamilton Rowan was a wealthy Irish landowner and that "his dissolute companions kept him in a constant state of intoxication, whereby they found they could manage him as they pleased, besides supplying themselves from his purse with cash". When sober and away from the influence of his followers Rowan appears to have been as genial and well-intentioned a gentleman as you could desire.

The Mohawks continued their activities until they were eventually arrested in 1774. Subsequently Rowan jumped bail and fled to the safety of Paris and from there onwards to America where he lived for a number of years until he obtained a pardon and returned to Britain. Deprived of their leader and source of funds the other gang members rapidly faded into obscurity.


Sourced from the Memoirs of William Hickey, specifically the Folio edition of 1995 published under the title Memoirs of a Georgian Rake from which naturally all the above quotations are taken.

Observations on Having a Mohawk:

    Musicians, especially of the punk, indie, or rock variations, automatically pay attention to you. It's a bit like joining a secret club. Your opinion matters, you are acknowledged in a crowd, and you are introduced to their friends.

    People want to stroke your hair. This is natural. This is not always a flirtatious behavior. Your best bet, if you desire a good laugh, is a request that the petitioner stroke your hair "sensuously". This rarely results in physical violence.

    People, even those of conservative natures, compliment your haircut. Yes, even your parents, teachers, and local policemen. Reason: no one wants to be uncool. Insulting a mohawk is basically the most uncool thing you can ever do.

    No matter how short or tall your mohawk is, you will duck to get through anything shorter than an 8 foot tall doorway.

Disclaimer: This list is based on changes I've observed while living in a large Southeastern American city, going to a small liberal arts university, and taking the train to school every day. Your mileage may vary.

Mo"hawk (?), n.

1. Ethnol.

One of a tribe of Indians who formed part of the Five Nations. They formerly inhabited the valley of the Mohawk River.


One of certain ruffians who infested the streets of London in the time of Addison, and took the name from the Mohawk Indians.


Spectator. Macaulay.


© Webster 1913.

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