Tag Archives: Chicago

Dion O’Banion

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Dion O'Banion

Dion O'BanionThe first great North side gangster was Dion O’Banion, who ruled from this location at 736 N. State St.

O’Banion was the Renaissance man of crime, a professional singer who was a talented pickpocket and safe-cracker. But the great love of O’Banion’s life was floral arrangement, for which he had a passion and talent. In the halcyon days of gangland, it was customary to send flowers to the funeral of a man you shot, and O’Banion supplied the goods for most of the underworld’s needs. In was at his flower shop that he ran his gang, and it was at the flower shop, while working late at night on arrangements needed for the next morning, that he was assassinated by Mike Genna, and the famous assassins, Scalisi and Anselmi, in November, 1924., at the behest — or at least with the indifference of — Al Capone and Johnny Torrio. O’Banion was Torrio’s North Side operative, but was restless and eventually betrayed Torrio to the police in an elaborate scheme. It was O’Banion who coined the famous gangland phrase, “To Hell with the Sicilians.” Men like O’Banion did not last long in those days. After his death, O’Banion’s gang was later led by Bugs Moran, who moved the headquarters north to a garage on N. Clark Street, the site of the famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Despite the value of this property, located in Chicago’s Gold Coast just two blocks from the tourist meccas of N. Michigan Ave., the location of O’Banion’s flower shop is a strangely nearly empty block which serves largely as a parking lot for the Holy Name Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Chicago, which was built in 1874. O’Banion had served in this church as a choir boy, and due to his infamy, the rector refused to allow his funeral service to be held there.

Al Capone

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Al Capone

Al CaponeThe most notorious gangster in the history of the nation, Alphonse Capone, better known to most as Al Capone or Scarface, ran Chicago with blood and guns.

Capone was born in Brooklyn in 1899 to two Italian immigrants. From the beginning, he never responded well to authority. He beat a female teacher while in his sixth grade year and left after the principal verbally chastised him for the incident. Facing a life of low paying jobs, he joined the street gang led by Johny Torrio and Lucky Luciano.

Late in December 1918, Capone killed a man in an argument. Rather than face the charges, he called his old friend Torrio, who was now in Chicago. Capone moved to Chicago on the invitation of Torrio.

He carried his rough style of dealing with people to Chicago. As the bartender at Torrio’s club, he broke the bones the arms, legs, and even skulls of those he evicted from the establishment.

However, Torrio did not bring Capone to Chicago to beat up drunkards. As Torrio’s right hand man, he received the job killing off “Big Jim” Colosimo, who ran Chicago’s underground. After the passage of prohibition in 1920, Torrio was constantly harrasing the boss to establish underground drinking esablishments. Tired of hearing “NO” from Colosimo, Torrio had him killed by Capone on May 11, 1920. Torrio became boss of Chicago, and Capone became the manager of alcohol for the city.

Al Capone became head of the Chicago mafia after Torrio was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt and stepped down from the head spot in 1925. Throughout his reign he ran the streets of Chicago with his mob. When his mob with at its prime, Capone had city aldermen, mayors, legislators, governors, congressmen, and over half the Chicago police force on his payroll.

In 1929 he made his biggest blunder by ordering the shooting of Bugs Moran, part of another Chicago underground faction, on February 14. In what is known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Capone’s men killed a group seven people, but Moran was not in the group. The even, however, changed the public mind about pursuing organized crime.

By now, the IRS had been gathering tax evasion information on Capone for some time through a hired agent, Eddie O’Hare. O’Hare ran Capone’s dog and race tracks and told the IRS where they could find Capone’s financial records. On November 24, Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in Federal prison, fined $50,000, charged $7692 for court costs, and $215,000 in back taxes for tax evasion.

He was released in 1939, after serving seven years and paying all of his back taxes. His mental and physical condition had severely deteriorated and he entered Baltimore hospital for brain treatment immediately after his release. He died of a stroke and pneumonia on January 25, 1947, having killed Eddie O’Hare before he died.