When groups of veterans who had returned from overseas looking to replicate the thrills they had in World War II banded together, they quickly embraced the outlaw life - drinking, drugs, theft, and fighting. A moral panic broke out, and after the Hollister Riot of 1947 saw three gangs take over a small town for several days, a mystique was born.
Most news organizations and law enforcement officials call these bike gangs "Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs," or "OMGs." But the bikers call themselves a different name: one percenters. After the Hollister Riot, it was supposed by the American Motorcycle Association that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, and the last one percent were outlaws or outlaw biker gangs.
The Highwaymen were formed in Detroit in 1954, and while they initially were a legitimate motorcycle club, this quickly gave way to a legendary criminal history. Authorities in Detroit have battled the group for decades, executing a massive raid on their clubhouse and homes in 2007, finding dozens of illegal weapons.
In 2009, the FBI unsealed a massive RICO indictment against more than 70 members, accusing them of murder, robbery, extortion, and arson, among other crimes.
Sons of Satan
The Sons of Satan began life in 1949 as a legitimate motorcycle and car club, but later became involved in a war with the Pagans, one of the most notorious OMGs in America. The groups united in friendship soon after, with the Sons of Satan's president moving over to join the Pagans – at least until he went to prison for murder.
The group is still allied with the Pagans and has a long-running feud with the Hells Angels. In 2002, their Lancaster County, PA clubhouse was blown up by a pipe bomb, possibly planted by the Hells Angels.
Chosen Few were one of the first racially-integrated outlaw motorcycle club in America. The gang formed in Los Angeles in 1959 as a response to African-American bikers being excluded from other motorcycle gangs, many of which had strict whites-only policies. The group’s status as pioneers doesn’t make them any less outlaw, though, as the FBI raided the group in 2011.
Another one of the “Big Four,” Pagans are a legendary club formed in 1958 or 1959 in Maryland. They are active primarily on the east coast, and have been accused of involvement in the murder of a state trooper in 1983, extensive drug dealing, numerous shootings, arson, and widespread insurance fraud. They’ve also been accused of building a drug ring with the Amish.
The Pagans have a long-running rivalry with the Hells Angels, and among the battles in this feud are an incident in 2002 where 73 Pagans were arrested (and one killed) during a brawl with Hells Angels members at Hellraiser Ball, an annual Angels event that the Pagans stormed. A few years later, 55 Pagans were indicted by the FBI on a slew of criminal charges.