Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Chicago and Crime
You can't talk about Chicago in the 1920's without mention of Al Capone AKA Scarface. He rose to infamy as one of America's most famous gangsters and leader the Chicago mafia during Prohibition.
Capone was a master of public relations. He saw to it the press was friendly toward him. He never missed an opportunity to play up his charitable donations. He was seen as the "hero" of Chicago saving them from the oppression of Bible thumpers.
The biggest thorn in his side was the North Side Gang run by Dion O'Banion and later by Bugs Moran. Moran became the leader when most of his associates were killed by Capone's South Side Gang (or outfit) AKA La Cosa Nostra. Capone had been from Brooklyn and relocated to Chicago's Little Italy.
Gangsters were popularized to folk hero status during this time. Chicago with it's close proximity to Canada became a major point of liquor distribution for the U.S. This impacted everyone because of the cash flow. Chicago had a major growth spurt between 1920 and 1931. This lead to the 1920's being the decadent era it was.
Many cons came out of this time. Couples would promote speculative schemes promising huge returns: such as buying swamp in Florida for development.
On the streets were crooked card and dice games, the shell game, and other flim-flam scams. They flourished.
Burlesque Theaters with their vices flourished as the last of the vaudvilleians were cast out in favor of motion pictures which were the new craze crossing the country.
The Chicago Police Department was rife with corruption. Eitghty to ninety percent of the police officers were on someone's payroll. There was no law and order in Chicago.
Parlor games, seances, fortune telling and ouija boards were all part of a good dinner party. The wealthy enjoyed the company of psychics and astrologers. Carnivals and fairs featured these charlatans and books on tarot and witchcraft. Most cities had a rich oral tradition of urban legends and Chicago was no exception.