Al Capone And The St Valentine's Day Massacre Feb 14th 1929
Every year on the 14 February, St Valentine's Day, lovers show their affection for each other by exchanging cards, flowers, chocolates and romantic messages. Often these shows of affection are anonymous and may come as a surprise to the recipients. And so it came to be that on February 14, 1929, Al Capone decided to show his true feelings for fellow gangster George 'Bugs' Moran. A shocking event still remembered to this day as the St Valentine’s Day Massacre.
A Congressional Act
I doubt if Andrew Volstead, the author of the National Prohibition Act, which was passed by Congress in 1919 had any idea of its real consequences. The National Prohibition Act made it illegal to manufacture, transport or sell beverages containing more than 0.5% alcohol. The act was generally unpopular and condemned by many at the time as a violation of their constitutional rights. Millions chose to ignore the law and new ‘creative’ chains of supply and demand were established
A Criminal Act
The enforcement of prohibition was an impossible task. During the 1920s crime-rate across America saw a rapid increase because of the activities of gangsters and bootleggers. The economics of scarcity created by the Prohibition Act created a black economy where anyone prepared to oppose the law could get very rich very quick.
Chicago, Chicago--That Toddlin' Town
Every major city during prohibition saw crime rise as Mob Bosses fought amongst themselves to control the flow of alcohol and other rackets. But none are more synonymous with this period than Chicago and Al Capone. Born January 17, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York, Alphonse Gabriel Capone was to become the most infamous gangster in American history.
It is estimated that in 1929 Al Capone’s take from his interests in speakeasies, bootlegging, brothels, and gambling joints exceeded $100,000,000. He employed an army of over 600 thugs and gangsters to protect his business assets from rival Chicago gangs. He also paid large sums of money to police officials and local politicians to turn a blind eye to his activities.
By the late 1920s, the power struggle between rival gangs saw Chicago split between two fierce gang bosses, Al Capone and George "Bugs" Moran. Capone and Moran were engaged in a deadly struggle for power and money. Both had plotted and attempted the murder of one another for years and the St Valentine’s Day Massacre remains testimony as to how far they were prepared to go.
10.30 am Saint Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14th 1929
On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, a police paddy wagon drew up at the rear of the S.M.C Cartage Co. garage located at 2122 North Clark Street in Chicago's North Side. The police car was stolen and the occupants were gunmen hired by Capone. Four gunmen, two dressed as police officers, later named as Fred "Killer" Burke, John Scalise, Albert Anselmi, and Joseph Lolordo) exited the vehicle and rushed into the garage believing that “Bugs” Moran was inside.
Inside the garage were seven members of the Moran gang who were waiting for a delivery of bootleg whisky. Seeing the police uniforms Moran’s men assumed it was a routine bust so when asked to face the wall they complied without question. This was normal behavior prior to a pat down.
This gave the gunmen the opportunity to remove their weapons and open fire. Each of the seven victims suffered multiple bullet wounds to the head and body. Six died at the scene, and one died later in hospital. Witnesses, alerted by the sound of gunfire, reported seeing two policemen exiting the building and escorting two men with their hands up back to the paddy wagon. Observers of the gunmen’s getaway believed that the police had raided the garage and were taking the two men into custody.
Despite 22 bullet wounds, Frank Gusenberg survived the shooting was rushed to a hospital but died a short time later. Before dying Gusenberg momentarily regained consciousness, but refused to name those responsible.
George "Bugs" Moran's Narrow Escape
The target of the assassination, George “Bugs” Moran, was running a couple minutes behind schedule and was late for the 10:30 a.m. meeting. By the time he arrived, the paddy wagon was already parked outside the garage. In the belief that a raid was underway he drove off without entering the building. His action undoubtedly saved his life that day.
The press of the day dubbed the events as the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" and the story was front page news nationwide. Although Moran had escaped, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre brought fame and celebrity to Alphonse Gabriel Capone. Along with the fame came the unwelcome attention of federal law enforcement officials and Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness.
Capone was never charged in connection with the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, however, a few years later in 1932 he was behind bars serving an 11 year sentence for tax evasion.