Organized Crime has for nearly one hundred years held an unseen control over the United States. Running both illegal and legal businesses they have captivated the lives of the country. Here is an overview of the history of this power that knows everything and everyone that has power or wishes to rise to power. The beginning of organized crime goes back to the 13th century. The Mafia was formed in Sicily to help farmers from being terrorized by French and Spanish looters (Waller, p.16). It was not until the 19th century that the Mafia began to show up in cities like New York and New Orleans.
By World War I, every major city had powerful local gangs, not necessarily a Mafia group. The Mafia’s discipline held all of the gangs together. The Mafia had only two major objections dealing with crime. There was to be no drug dealers in the Mafia and prostitiution was not allowed. The cheif weapons of the Mafia were death threats and the code of omerta'(the code of silence).
When omerta’ was broken, the police cleaned up the mess while the rival gang took over. Prohibition brought the birth of organized crime to the United States. Prohibition was ratified on January 29, 1919 but didn’t take hold until 1920 (Compton’s,p.1). Prohibition, which was the 18th Amendment of the Constitution, made it illegal to buy, sell, or transport alcoholic beverages. It also opened a new market for illegal booze to those who would risk it.
Prohibition also proved to be filled with murder and corruption. Men like Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, and Vito Genovese got started during this time. Prohibition began with the sale of foreign booze that was smuggled into the country. After several raids and many thousands of dollars lost, the mob turned to more producing of their own illegal alcohol. Bootlegged whiskey was known as “white lightning” (Waller,p.29). Illegal alcohol was sold two ways: you could put it in bottles or it was sent to the taverns in tin cans. The highly violent city of Chicago had been divided up into five different turf areas for bootleggers. This agreement would have worked out except that one major bootlegger was excluded from the deal.
The O’ Donnell brothers had controlled the southern most area of Chicago but had not been allowed to join the meeting. This group of brothers eventually met their match after many years of war. The city of Chicago had been split up between six gangs. It was an agreement over areas of control. The noth side of Chicago was divided between Al Capone and Dion O’Banion. O’Banion was to control the beer while Capone controlled the hard liquor.
This eventually led to the death of O’Banion. The south side of the city was ran by the Genna family. The west side was controlled by the Valley Gang while the southwest side was ran by the Saltis-McErlane Gang. To the far south side the Ragen’s Colts controlled the bootlegging industry (Waller,p.31). During this time, a new weapon came into play.
The Thompson submachine gun, also known as the tommy gun or chopper, became a major factor in criminal activity. This machine gun also became known as the Chicago violin because of its heavy use in the city. It was a sad day for several organized gangs when Prohibition was repealed. On December 5, 1933 the 21st Amendment was passed making it legal to buy, sell, and transport alcoholic beverages. The fourteen years of Prohibition had made the mob and Mafia grow powerful and rich.
One of the most famous mobsters of all time was Al Capone. Born Alphonse Capone in Brooklyn, New York, he was the son of immigrants from Naples, Italy (Waller, p.27). Although Capone was of Italian descent, he was never a member of the Mafia. As a teenager Al Capone was involved with crime. His first crime job was as a bouncer in a mob bar called Harvard Inn (Waller, p.27).
In 1918, Capone married a woman of Irish background. Then in the early part of 1919, Al Capone moved to Chicago with John Torrio to work for Torrio’s uncle. Once Capone got his bootlegging business running he came in contact with his first rival, Dion O’Banion. After several problems with the Chicago police, Capone moved to a near by town of Cicero, Illinois (Waller, p.32). There Capone rigged elections to control local politicians.
Capone quickly rose to power in the midwest. He controlled most of the criminal activities the happened outside New York. Capone even made friends with the head of the New York Mafia, Lucky Luciano. Together they attempted to calm the blood shed and secretly increase the underworld’s power. By the age of 26, Al Capone managed over 1000 employees with a pay roll of more than $300,000 a week (Compton’s, p.1). One of the largest incidents that Al Capone was tied to was that of the mass slayings of six mobsters on Febuary 14, 1929.
This notorious even became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (Compton’s, p.1). Although Capone was suspected of this crime, he was in Florida at the time of the killings. He later told police that he had over 300 witnesses to his story but he was still considered the main suspect. Unfortunately for Capone, his days of living the high life were headed down hill.
A man by the name of Eliot Ness, who headed the Special Investigation Squad, went after Capone looking for any reason to put him behind bars. Eliot Ness and his men were dubbed “The Untouchables” for their resistance to accept bribes or threats from the mob (Jacobs,p.44). Capone’s time in the sun ran out on March 13, 1931 when he was indicted for tax evasion. Capone received a quick trial and was found guilty on October 17, 1931. He was sentenced to eleven years in prison, $50,000 in fines, and $30,000 for court costs (Jacobs, p.
50). Al Capone was sent to Atlanta Federal Penitentiary on May 4, 1932. While there, a rumor of a maximum security prison being built off the coast of California surfaced. It was said that this prison was to house the most infamous criminals and the most deadly killers. In August of 1934, Al Capone was moved to the “Rock” (Jacobs, p.
52). Known as the “Rock”, Alcatraz Island was soon to be the most famous prison ever to be built. Capone’s days of happiness were far gone when in Febuary of 1938 he had began to show symptoms of advanced syphillitic disorder (Jacobs,p.52). Upon hearing the seriousness of his condition in the prison infirmary, Capone confessed his sins to a priest. Capone was also dubbed no longer able to run his operations back in Chicago. Al Capone left Alcatraz on January 6, 1939 and was transfered to a prison near Los Angeles (Jacobs,p.52).
There he received an operation to attempt to cure his illness. On November 16, 1939 Al Capone was released on good behavior. He lived the remainder of his life in seclusion fearing being hunted by fellow mobsters. Al Capone died January 25, 1947 of a brain hemorrage. He was burried in Chicago’s Mount Olivet Cemetery without full rites of the Catholic church.
Capone died a penniless man (Jacobs, p. 53). Another man who started his rise to power during the Prohibition era and also later controlled the national network of organized crime was Lucky Luciano. Luciano’s birth name was Salvatore Luciana but went by such names as Charlie Lucky, Charles Luciano, and Charles Ross (Waller, p. 24).
He moved to the United States in 1904. Luciano became a member of the Mafia as soon as his late teens. He never liked publicity and never lost his temper. Lucky Luciano was the right hand man for Giuseppe Masceria, also known as Joe the Boss. Luciano eventually wanted his turn at power so he had Masceria murdered.
With the death of Masceria and the respect Luciano received from the killing, he soon became the head of the Masceria crime family. Soon Lucky Luciano planned the murder of all the Moustache Petes, the old time Mafia bosses (Waller, p. 51). With the old leaders dead and the new ones in place, Luciano was crowned the “Boss of Bosses” without his own wanting (Jacobs, p. 70).
Also during this time, the formation of an organization known as the Syndicate was happening. Luciano had attempted to gain control of the political figures but had to deal with a group of investigators trying to tie him with organized crime. In an effort to get the investigation team off his back, Luciano came up with a plan. New York’s governor, Franklin Roosevelt, was running for president and needed the primary votes of his own state. To do so he must win the votes of Tammany Hall which was controlled by Luciano and his associates. Roosevelt had agreed t …