Home > Chi Town Views > The Outfit, A Look At Big Jim, Scarface, Momo & the Rest Of the Chicago Mob Part 1

The Outfit, A Look At Big Jim, Scarface, Momo & the Rest Of the Chicago Mob Part 1

On our ChiTownView YouTube station we are posting a series of old gangster homes and other “hood” places of historical interest. We provide some history in the descriptions of the clips. Some of the clips have already been posted here on our blog. This is the first part of an overview of our series on the Chicago mobs history. The links will take you to our videos with other links there to dig deeper.

They were a remarkable, ruthless, deadly group of men, Refugees, some on the run from other countries or the sons of impoverished immigrants. They all started out during prohibition working for a man called Al Capone. They went on to develop a criminal organization that ruled Chicago for more than half a century. It has been alleged that this group helped elect John F. Kennedy and then helped in his assassination. The organization was known as “the outfit” and it members included Frank Nitti, Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo, Sam Giancana, Sam De Stefano and Sam Battaglia.
Prohibition turned them from street corner punks and common criminals into men of wealth and power. And for decades they used America’s undying desire to eliminate vice to maintain their control and increase their wealth. For the most part they didn’t pay for their crimes and lived long lives that ended in solid comfort.
The the roaring 20’s  in Chicago was a time of open warfare between two powerful criminal organizations each seeking to control the cities illegal vice industry. It was the south side Italians led by Johnny Torrio then Al Capone against the northside Irish headed by Dion O’Banion, Hymie Weiess, and Bugs Moran. This was part of a national stratagy by the mafia to organize crime.In the end the Italians were victorious because they could deliver the big hit while the north siders blew their big chances.

Beginning with prohibition in 1920 the Chicago crime gangs each had their own territory and conflicts were pretty low-key. Conflicts arose and twice in 1924 O’Banion tried to get Torrio and Capone arrested. In february he tried to have them framed for the murder of Frank Duffy. Frank was a gunman for O’Bannion and he killed his wife and went to O’Bannion for help.  Dion had Duffy meet him at The 4 Duces a Capone club. In the end no one was charged with the murder.The next place he was found was dead in a snow bank.

Until 1924 the O’Banion mob was working with the Italians and then the northsiders got wind of a police raid coming on the Siebens Brewery 1464 N. Larrabee.  This was operation that they co owned so O’Banion arranged to meet Johnny Torrio there on the night of the raid to finalize the buyout of the north side gangs share. Torrio was caught faced jail and lost the half million dollars O’Bannion had already been paid for his share.

In November Torrio struck back right at the heart of the northsiders. Their headquarters was in  Schofield’s, a flower shop on north State street right across from Holy Name Cathedral. On the morning of the tenth two men walked into the shop one man shook O’Banions hand and held on as the other man shot him. The leader of the north side gang was gunned down in his own shop.

Two months later the north side gang now headed by Hymie Wiess struck back with an attempted assassination pf Johnny Torrio. Badly wounded Torrio retired leaving Al Capone in charge. Wiess was in prison for almost a year so things were pretty quiet until Aug. if 1926 when Al Capone’s chauffeur Anthony Cuiringlione was found tortured and murdered. A week later there was an attempted hit on Weiss in downtown Chicago.
Next came what has to be one of the most flamboyant hits in Chicago history. A caravan of six cars fire hundreds of rounds of tommy gun fire into the restaurant of the Hawthorne Hotel. Capone’s Cicero headquarters and where he was eating. Al was saved by his bodyguard Frank Rios. So for the second time in two years the north side gang had missed a big opportunity.
Capone was scared and wanted a truce but the price that Weiss wanted was too high so on October 11th at four in the afternoon Al decided on another assassination. Weiss and some of his men were crossing State St. to their headquarters at Schofield’s when gunmen located in the rooming house next door opened fire. The the street in front of Holy   filled with bullets.  Weiss was killed, by an errant shot from one of his own men. So for the second time in two years the head of the  north side gang had been gunned down. Leaving Bugs Moran in charge.

Of course the war between north and south would continue. Moran and the gang did not back down they continued to hijack Capone’s booze trucks and assassinating associates of his. It is widely believed that this is what led to the St. Valentines Day massacre in 1929. Since no one was ever convicted of this crime it’s generally accepted that Capone sent a crew of hitters led by “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn to the north side garage in an effort to kill Bugs Moran and finally put an end to the gang war now in its fifth year. There is an alternative theory that the massacre was the work of another gangster Jack “3 Finger” White in revenge for the killing of his cousin by the Gussenberg brothers. Who were killed that day.

But Despite the carnage they missed their target Moran had been running late and spotted the “police” entering his garage as he turned up the ally. The resulting outcry over the slaughter of so many at once was the downfall of Big Al. Although he was never convicted of this crime within three years he would be sitting in Alcatraz.

It would also result in a stronger, smarter organization headed by Paul “the Waiter” Ricca. One that would control the city and surrounding area for all practical purposes for almost forty years. It was in fact the most powerful criminal organization in the country because of its local control.

More to come.


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