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A look at some gangsters in the prohibition era, some of which opposed Al Capone

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George Moran was born on a farm just outside of Minneapolis in 1893. His father was Irish and his mother was Polish. At six years old George and his family moved to Chicago in 1899. They settled in Kilgubbin, an Irish populated urban area north of the Chicago River.

At a young age George quit school and started making money on his own. He’d steal horses and keep them in abandoned garages until the owners paid ransom. Falling in with other unruly kids under the leadership of Dion O’Banion, George began pick pocketing, shoplifting, breaking and entering, and eventually armed robbery and safecracking. Others who were also under O’Banion were Earl Weiss and Vinnie Drucci.

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Weiss was known as Hymie, and Drucci was known as The Schemer for his planning of successful robberies. In 1912 while trying to rob a warehouse, the boys weren’t so lucky. The night watchmen heard them, and everybody ran. They all managed to get away except Moran. At age 19 he was taken off to Joliet State Prison, south of Chicago for a 24 month sentence.

Moran was released in 1914, and returned to his gang as a hero. They looked highly of him because he had loyalty and didn’t squeal on any of the other boys. These boys, who by now were young men, were the starting foundation of the Northside Irish Gang. Since Moran had been gone the game had matured. They were no longer pick pocketing and committing petty thefts. Now they were stealing furs and selling them in the underground mob channels, and cracking safes. Out of all the boys Moran was the least controlling of his temper. His outburst earned him the nickname Bugs. At first he hated the name, but he learned to love it as people learned to fear it.

In 1917 Moran was caught red handed in the middle of an armed robbery attempt. It was his third time being convicted and he returned to Joliet for five more years. All O’Banion could do was promise to take care of him when he returned.

During the prohibition years in the 1920s there were many clashes between the north and south sides over liquor. The leader of their southside rival was Al Capone. Capone and O’Banion had a strong mutual hate for each other. One day when O’Banion was working in his flower shop, three men came in claiming to be purchasing flowers for a funeral. While O’Banion shook one of the men’s hand, the other two fired, killing O’Banion. With O’Banion gone, Hymie Weiss was the new leader of the northside gang. It wasn’t long before Capone knocked off Weiss also. Weiss was shot to death in his office above O’Banion’s old flower shop. Capone had a hit man in an apartment across the street.

Next to take power of the gang was Vinnie The Schemer Drucci. He wasn’t able to keep that power long. He was shot by a police officer on April 4th, 1927. Drucci’s death put Moran in power of the gang. With all his old friends gone, Moran had to staff up his organization and prepare for the war that he feared was coming.

Most of the gang business was handled at an old S-M-C Cartage Company garage on North Clark St. Moran bought the garage as a new headquarters, after the deaths of O’Banion and Weiss at the flower shop. Little did he know that his new headquarters is where a terrible massacre would take place.

It was a Thursday morning, February 14, 1929, Valentine’s day. Moran had asked some of his men to be at the warehouse by 10:30 to help unload a delivery. The first to show was John May, the mechanic. He came in and opened up at 8:30. An hour later the Gusenberg brothers walked in, and shortly after them came James Clark, Adam Heyer, Albert Weinshank, and Reinhardt Schwimmer. By 10:30 there were seven men gathered in the garage, but Moran hadn’t shown yet.

Across the street from the garage a spy had been watching from the third floor window of a boarding house. After the spy saw the seventh and last man arrive, he ran straight for the phone. All he said was, He’s here and hung up. All the spy had to do was watch out the window and wait for Moran to appear. The only problem was that he mistook Albert Weinshank as Moran.

At the Parkway Hotel, Moran kissed his wife goodbye and raced downstairs realizing he was late. He met Ted Newberry who had been waiting. The two of them set off to the garage to unload the shipment that should be arriving.

When the spy uttered hes here, it set in motion Capone’s plan to finish Moran. First Capone had a low ranking member of his gang pose as a liquor hijacker. He sold a truck load to Moran gaining his trust. Then he set up a date to deliver another truck load, February 14th at 11:00. Capone contacted four of the Midwest’s top hit men, and filled them in on the plan.

Moran and Newberry nearing the garage noticed a cop car out in front and five men walking inside. They darted into a coffee shop and were going to wait until the cops left. Moran figured it was just a shakedown and was hoping the alcohol hadn’t arrived yet.

Inside the garage the seven men saw the cops come in, not recognizing any of them as Capone’s men. The cops made them get against the wall, they were expecting to be frisked. The cops fanned out behind them and blew them all away, ripping bullets into them with their machine guns.

Moran sitting in the coffee shop noticed a cluster of people around the garage. Realizing something was wrong they went out and asked a young boy what was going on. The boy told him that some hoods had gotten in a gunfight with some cops. Moran didn’t believe it, but when the morgue attendants came and carried out the bodies, then he knew that it really was true. All he could say was, Capone..its Capone.

After the massacre of his men, Moran’s power was broken and so was his luck. He left Chicago and did petty crimes just so he could get by. In 1946 the Federal Bureau of Investigation nabbed him. He served ten years in Leavenworth, and was released in 1956. He was immediately re-arrested for an earlier bank hold up. He was sentenced to another ten years. He died in prison of lung cancer on February 25th, 1957.

Some say Moran did get some revenge for the killings of his men. Jack McGurn, Capone’s top gunman who was involved in just about every major hit, was shot to death while bowling on February 14th 1936. He was killed by an unknown gunman, who left a Valentine’s Day card in McGurn’s hand. The card read:

You’ve lost your job,

You’ve lost your dough,

Your jewels and handsome houses.

But things could be worse,

you know.

You haven’t lost your trousers.


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