Green’s Dictionary of Slang

highbinder n.

[SE high, haughty, pretentious, arrogant + bender n.2 , a hard drinker or drinking spree. Note, however, high-binder, an early 19C New York City gang, composed orig. of butchers’ boys and simultaneously known as the Hide-binders; ult. f. the similarly named mid-19C Chinese secret society, supposedly terrorizing fellow-Chinese throughout the US]

1. (US) a rowdy person, a vandal; a gangster, a thug.

[US]N.Y. Eve. Post 26 Dec. 2: There has for some time existed in this city, and in and about George and Charlotte Streets, a desperate association of lawless and unprincipled vagabonds, calling themselves ‘Highbinders’ .
Public Advertiser (N.Y.) 24 Jan. 2/5: It was testified on the trial that Pitt and Noah belonged to the association of Hide Binders.
[US]N.Y. American 1/6–2/1: [The alibi] refused to come and [gave] as her reasons for refusing, that she was sick, had no shoes to her feet, and all she knew of Green was that he was a highbinder* [note] *This word seems to be, with a certain class of people, sinonymous [sic] with a blackguard or low fellow.
[US]Knickerbocker (N.Y.) July 65: He was one of our distinguished ‘high-binders,’ and deserved promotion, and a good office [DA].
[US]Whip & Satirist of NY & Brooklyn (NY) 23 July n.p.: As she parades the streets she has a long train of loafers and high-binders after her.
[US]Life in Boston & N.Y. (Boston, MA) 1 Oct. n.p.: Mr Editor — Permit me to show up some of the highbinders of Stonington.
[US]H. Blossom Checkers 219: Now, you thieving old highbinder [...] take the change.
[US]Day Book (Chicago) 7 Mar. 31/2: Geo. W. Perkins [...] about as fine a specimen of a kid-gloved highbinder as you could wish to see.
H.L. Wilson Ma Pettingill 9: All the trout in the pool are knocked out and float on the surface, where this old highbinder gathers ’em in .
[US]D. Hammett ‘The Gatewood Caper’ Story Omnibus (1966) 145: Just the sort of girl who could easily fall into the hands of a mob of highbinders.
[US] (ref. to late 19C) N. Kimball Amer. Madam (1981) 100: There was gay time life of the high-binders and the sports in the hotels.
[US]N. Nye Breed of the Chaparral (1949) 72: Tell those highbinders to get those bonds in the mail right away.
[US](con. c.1900) J. Thompson King Blood (1989) 77: there’s a flock of sharpers and high-binders floddin’ into El Reno.

2. (US) a member of a secret society supposedly existing among the Chinese in the US for the purpose of blackmailing, extortion and murder.

[Scot]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 24 Sept. 2/5: Statistics of the Chinaman in San Francisco [...] (16) It is unhealthy to meet a highbinder after dark [...] (18) Every Chinaman is a highbinder.
[Scot]Edinburgh Eve. News 26 Aug. 3/5: The latest ourage inflicted on the unfortunate Celestials in San Fracisco has been [...] the arrest of a gang of ‘highbinders’.
[US]Abbeville Press (SC) 18 Jan. 3/3: The ‘Highbinders’ of San Francisco [...] Among the hatchet men will be found the depserate criminals who have fled from Canton or Hong Kong.
Herald (Los Angeles) 19 Dec. 1/2: [headline] Highbinders Must Go. A Crusade Against Chinese Felons.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 365: It began to look to me like a case of tackling a Chinese highbinder for a job.
[US]O. Wister Jimmyjohn Boss and Other Stories 39: Smile, you almond-eyed highbinder.
[US]S.F. Call 8 June 29/1: Mah Noon is a highbinder, a gun and hatchet man.
[US]D. Lowrie My Life in Prison in Hamilton Men of the Und. 244: The Chinaman in charge — a highbinder serving life.
[US]Day Book (Chicago) 22 Oct. 18/1: The three wicked men were highbinders [...] men belonging to a cruel society who make a business of killing.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 331: If a rich Chinese merchant of the Hip-Sing tong wishes an enemy killed, he summons a ‘high-binder,’ gives him coin and the work is done neatly and expeditiously.
[US]H. Asbury Barbary Coast (2002) 185: The boo how doy, popularly known as hatchetmen or highbinders, received regular salaries, with extra pay for exceptional bravery in battle.
F. Riesenberg Golden Gate 165: Their membership then included the feared highbinders, or hatchetmen, as they were better known, who stalked the streets and alleys of Chinatown, bringing swift punishment to any who opposed their tong.
[US]C. Hamilton Men of the Und. 322: High binder, A Chinese blackmailer.

3. (US) a criminal or fraudulent politician.

C.L. Norton Political Americanisms 54: Highbinders — Conspirators, ruffians. A term originally applied to Chinese detectives in California; afterward to political conspirators and the like.
[US]A.H. Lewis Boss 136: He’s goin’ to take copies of th’ accounts that show what th’ Chief an’ them other highbinders at the top o’ Tammany have been doin’.
[US]‘A-No. 1’ Mother of the Hoboes 79: I become aflaid of Melican high-binders and we had chased them flom the laudry.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 72: Among the Managers of the Party Machine were many Ex-Barkeeps, former Poker Players, perjuring Tax Dodgers, and amateur High Binders who had been waiting for years to take a Punch at the lilywhite Samaritan.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Spanish Blood’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 10: I’m a sucker to play any games at all with you, you damned highbinder.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 18 Oct. [synd. col.] Brian Donlevy and Alan Ladd are a pair of political highbinders.
[US]Chicago Daily News 4 Nov. 6/1: Central characters of both plays are engaging highbinders and sharpies who are not exactly thieves, but more than slightly overoptimistic in their use of the mails and other people’s money [DA].

4. a snobbish person.

[US]Mexico Missouri Message (MO) 18 Jan. 3/1: You’re the real Boston Bunker-hill Cream Puff. You’re making them Highbinders look like an Uncle Sam toy terrier with a Philippine tin can tied to his tail.
[US]Ade Knocking the Neighbors 123: When all the Push gathered at the Round Table and some one let fall the Name of the High-Binder, they would open up on Rufus and Pan him to a Whisper.
[US]H.L. Wilson Somewhere in Red Gap 21: I left these two lady highbinders and went on into the retail side of the Family Liquor Store.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 23: I wouldn’t want to go there to dinner with that gang of, of high-binders.
[US](con. 1916) G. Swarthout Tin Lizzie Troop (1978) 226: They were snobs and highbinders, but I miss ’em.

5. (UK/US prison/Und.) a criminal; a prison inmate.

[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 35: Highbinder A criminal or prison inmate.