Chicago Tribune, June 17, 1934
RUM RUNNING no longer is big business. The age of the rum runner, the heyday of the millionaire booze king and the millionaire beer baron, the stupendous profits from contraband whisky and illegal brew—all have vanished with repeal. That colossal industry entirely outside of the law, which flourished through more than thirteen years of the so called noble experiment, has departed with little possibility of return. The men made fortunes in it, the rum racketeers, the booze bandits, and the hoodlums, as typified by the rogues’ gallery upon these pages, in the main are hogtied and harmless. Most of those who escaped the machine gun’s fatal spray or the silent “ride” through the night to some rendezvous with death beside a lonely road are either in prison, beaten and broke, in flight from the authorities, or too conspicuously notorious to be longer really dangerous.
What is left of rum running is an unorganized, dispirited, and waning business, despite the recent report of Joseph H. Choate, Jr., director of the Federal Alcohol Control administration, who says that a large proportion, something like approximately half, of the liquor consumed in America today is manufactured illegally. The condition revealed by Mr. Choate is a natural one. Illicit distilling cannot be wiped out overnight. There are bound to be wholesale violations of the revenue laws and the regulations governing distillation of liquors until the nation can restore itself to order after the chaos of prohibition. But from mow on rum running can be nothing more than a furtive adventure. The “big shots” of the business when it was big cannot come back. Others know that futility of trying to imitate them.
Mr. Choate paints a pessimistic picture, indeed, in his report on the illegal manufacture of liquor, but that he is hopeful is evidenced by a number of measure he advocates to eliminate illicit distilling as still practiced. He recommends increased appropriations for enforcement; a public campaign to enlist all law enforcing agencies, federal and state, in a b=nation wide war on the criminal industry of unlicensed distilling; adoption of every reasonable means for cheapening and improving legal liquor in order to induce citizens to withdraw support from bootleggers; reduction in taxes and import duties as will enable legal producers and importers to compete; and relaxation of such forms of sales control as make it harder for buyers to get legal beverages than illegal goods.
Mr. Choate presents figures, based on legal production of liquor, capacities of seized stills, and estimate of capacities of stills yet to be seized and of those that never will he seized, to show that the drinking habits of the people have increased since before prohibition and that the government is losing more in taxes than it collects. His figures are no surprise to those who expected no miracles to happen immediately after repeal. If after a year or two new reports do not show a marked reduction in illicit distilling then there will be cause for alarm.In the meanwhile the law respecting people of the nation can remain calm in the assurance that virtually all the dangerous rum gangs have been broken up and routed, their leaders either dead, imprisoned, or rendered harmless, and that the surviving lesser figures of the age of rum running have been driven into obscurity, or locked up in places where they can do no harm.
During prohibition it was estimated that there were from 200,000 to 250,000 bootleggers plying their trade in variou parts of the country. A vast majority of those were merely retail peddlers of whisky or bathtub gin. The objectionahle fellows whose faces appear here and who, of course, never could have become powerful figures and forces of evil without prohibition, were not common bootleggers. They were the most important of the booze gang leaders, the liquor profiteers. the killers, and the like, and they were only a handful as compared with the hundreds who accumulated fortunes in the nefarious business and directed or executed its murders by the wholesale.
Chicago, which, despite ils great distance from the seashores upon which much of the smuggled foreign liquor was landed, was the center, in fact the capital of the prohibition booze busines , the golden city of the age of the rum runner. All roads from the east, from Florida, from Canada led to Chicago. Truckloads of whisky roared down from the north by night, resting in friendly barns and garages from dawn till twilight. Other trucks came from east and south on unfrequented side roads. Hidden stills within the city turned out “14-year-old bourbon” in fewer than that many days. Big breweries in abandoned warehouses turned out thousands of barrels of inferior beer. Chicago was the bloody battleground of a seven-year bootleg war that saw at least one killing a day over more than one considerable stretch of time and claimed hundreds of victims, as rival rum gangs staged a homicidal orgy beside which the most desperate western cattle war would have been as mild as a Sunday school picnic.
During the rum running era, whisky and beer magnates and even their lieutenants and hired hoodlums were virtually immune from legal punishment. Thpy made their own laws, organized their businesses on a comprehensive scale, bribed officers and officials, dealt out death to rivals, and ruled with a high hand in more than a few big cities. Chicago had its booze and beer syndicates. So did New York, and Detroit, and all other centers of population. It was only after their profits began to decline as a result of a combination of causes that some of the men who had made hundreds of thousands and even mi11ion5 in the business finally were placed behind prison bars as income tax violators, a curious legal procedure that actually made the government a partner in the illicit whisky and beer industry.
Of all the human products of prohibition. the most notorious was ① Alphonse Capone of Chicago, who now, not because he was a bad man and public enemy No. 1. but because he cheated. the. government out of income taxes due on his enormous profits from rum and rackets, is merely No. 40886 at Atlanta prison. Capone once was said to have amassed a fortune of 20 million dollars. Also it was said of him that he controlled sources of revenue estimated at 100 million dollars. He was the underworld boss of Chicago. His playground was Miami, Fla., where he maintained a private castle enclosed by a high wall.
He was a graduate of the Five Points gang of Brooklyn, appearing first in Chicago as a bouncer to a South Wabash café and as a lieutenant of Johnny Torrio, successor to Big Jim Colosimo, vice and gambling boss of the 1st ward. Prohibition put Capone into a lucrative business. It was not long after the supreme triumph of the Anti-Saloon league that Capone was the head of a booze gang. His gangsters were tougher than the hoodlums of other rivals, so more than one opposition gang was absorbed or wiped out. Only leaders with well organized followings had the courage to stand against him in the fight for Chicago’s whisky and beer business, which on Sept. 7, 1923, with the slaying of Jerry O’Connor, a beer runner for the South Side O’Donnells, flared into the sanguinary rum war that was to last for more than seven years. At its height rivals put a price of $50,000 on Capone’s head. His quarters in the Hawthorne hotel in Cicero were raided by a rival, Earl (“Hymie”) Weiss, at the head of eight automobile loads of machine gunners, but Capone escaped unscathed. Once, for fear, it is said, he took a sentence in Philadelphia for gun toting to escape vengeance of friends of murdered rivals. But in the main he was the important “untouchable,” eluding both the gunmen who would kill him and the authorities who would lock him up.
It was not until Oct. 18, 1931, that his bad deeds caught up with him, and then it was a verdict of guilty in a tax evasion case that finally brought his downfall. He entered the federal prison at Atlanta on May 4, 1932.
It might have been civic pride, or perhaps, only jealousy, but New York City simply had to have a super bad man to talk about and to set up as a rival to Capone. New York’s candidate in rum and rackets was ② Jack “Legs” Diamond, who was killed in a rooming-house in Albany on Dec. 18, 19831, a few hours after having been acquitted on a kidnapping charge. Diamond began his career of lawlessness as a bodyguard for Arnold Rothstein, the gambler, became a leader of a gang engaged in liquor traffic, and out of 23 times accused of crime, served only two sentences. A year before he was slain he was trapped in a New York City hotel by rival gangsters and shot five times.
Capone’s principal rival in his own city was ③ George “Bugs” Moran, who set himself up as an underworld boss on the north side and prospered handsomely until Saint Valentine’s day, 1929, when seven of his henchmen were mowed down withy machine guns in a North Clark street garage. “Only Capone kills like that,” said “Bugs,” who last was mentioned in the newspapers by connection with his retirement recently as vice president of the Central Cleaners and Dyers of 2705 Fullerton avenue.
Less capable than Al Capone as an organizer and leader of rum runners and other desperadoes was his brother, ④ Ralph “Bottles” Capone, who recently was freed from McNeil Island penitentiary after a term of imprisonment as an income tax evader. He Ralph first came to unfavorable notice in connection with gun toting and election fraud cases. Later his main business was the handling of hidden breweries that supplied the syndicate with beer.
Among hundreds of evildoers in Chicago who flourished in the age of the rum runner on profits from the bottle or on rewards for crimes committed in association with the rum business were:
⑤ Frank McErlane, Chicago’s “most vicious gangster” and alleged originator of the “death ride,” who died a victim of booze in a hospital in Beardstow, Ill., in October, 1932. His police record started in 1912. He entered the bootleg business as an underling of Saltis and passed out of the picture credited with more than a score of killings.
⑥ Lawrence Mangano, Capone gangster, owner of the notorious Minerva club at 516 South Halsted street, and for years a powe’r in west side politics. He was picked up as recently as April 23 on suspicion of being a vagrant.
⑦ William “Klondike” O’Donnell, notorious booze racketeer and brother of Myles and Steve 0’Donnell. He went to Leavenworth for siphoning government whisky out of Morand Brothers’ warehouse at 823 Norton street. His recent activities are said to have to do with labor racketeering.
⑧ “Machine Gun Jack” McGurn, golf playing gangster whose real name was Vincent Gebhardi. Though the reputed executioner of the Capone gang, he has managed to go unscathed since he was shot down in a hotel at Rush and Ontario streets six years ago.
⑨ Edward J. “Spike” O’Donnell, unrelated to “Klondike,” and for years a prominent figure in the south side beer business.
⑩ Nick Cramer, south side beer rummer and associate of Joe Saltis, Paddy Sullivan, and Ralph Buglio.
⑪ Ralph Buglio, Capone gunman. His automobile was the “death car” of the murder of Maurice “Mossy” Enright.
⑫ Michael “Bubs” Quinlan, south side gangster and beer runner and rival of Saltis.
⑬ Joseph Aiello, leader of a clan of alcohol cookers and ally of “Bugs” Moran, who was machine gunned Oct. 23, 1930, and buried in an $11,800 casket.
⑭ Danny Stanton, Capone gangster and beeF hoodlum.
⑮ “Polak” Joe Saltis; rustic appearing beer baron of the southwest side, who retired to a farm in Wisconsin when beer profits fell off and his gang was broken up by competitors and the police. Not long ago Joe was involved in charges of alleged game law violations in the Badger state.
⑯ Jack Zuta, vice monger and ally of Moran and. Aiello, who was killed by a rival gang in a quiet resort hotel near Delafield, \Vis., Aug. 1, 1930.
⑰ William “Three Fingered Jack” White, ex-convict and killer, who strove to rise to fortune on the ruins of the crumpled Capone gangland empire, but who was killed by two enemies in the apartment of his bride, a former night club entertainer, at 920 Wesley avenue, Oak Park, Jan. 23
of this year.
⑱ Dean O’Banion, who was one of the early victims of the bootleg war. As a front for his unlawful activities he operated a florist’s shop at 738 North State street, across from Holy Name cathedral, and it was in that shop on Nov. 10, 1924, that he was slain by three mysterious callers. His estate was valued at only $22,000.
⑲ Frank Diamond, brother-in-law of Al Capone and a member’ of the Capone gang.
⑳ George “Red” Barker, ex-convict, lahor racketeer, and gunman, who was killed June 17, 1932, by a rain of bullets from a machine gun nest at 1502 North Crawford avenue. He had entertained ambitions to succeed Capone as underworld boss.
㉑ James “Fur” Sammons, hired gunman associated with the Capones. Freed from prison by two Illinois govt;rnors” he now is in prison in Indiana under a life sentence.
The six Genna brothers, west side bootleg and Mafia gangsters. ㉒ Angelo Genna was the first of the three brothers slain. Tony was shot to death in July, 1925. Surviving brothers are ㉓ Peter Genna, who no longer figures in the news, and ㉔ Sam Genna who is reported to be back in Italy. ㉕ Mike Genne was killed in June, 1925, just a month after Angelo’s murder. ㉖ James Genna, head of an alcohol cooking clan, died Nov. 8, 1931. All of the Genna murders were reprisals for the killing of O’Banion.
㉗ Hymie “Loud Mouth” Levin, loop collector for the Capone syndicate in the era iof the rum runner. He was taken to Leavenworth prison May 18, last, to begin an 18-month stretch for income tax invasion.
㉘ Frank Augustus Lake was in partnership with fellow gang leader Terry Druggan. He served 14 months and 13 days in federal prison.
㉙ Terrence Jasper Druggan, who is scheduled to leave Atlanta prison soon. He went to Leavenworth Feb. 12, 1932, as an income tax evader, was shown considerable favoritism in the Kansas prison, and shifted to the Georgia lock-up. He was an operator of illicit breweries.
㉚ Anthony “Tough Tony” Capezio, Capone gunman, once thought as suspect in the St. Valentine’s day massacre.
㉛ John “Dingbat” Oberta, south side gangster and politician “taken for a ride” in his own automobile March 5, 1930. He and his chauffeur, Sam Malega, were found murdered at 103d street and Roberts road, west of Chicago Ridge. Like O’Banion, Oberta, who was a Saltis hoodlum and the swankiest of all Chicago gangsters, often appearing in evening clothes, maintained a flower shop as a fake front for his criminal activities.
㉜ Earl “Hymie” Weiss, who succeeded to the leadership of the O’Banion gang and who was killed Oct. 11, 1926, in a machine gun ambuscade in North State street near the florist’s shop in which O’Banion was murdered.
㉝ Murray Humphreys, associate of “Three Fingered Jack” White, former head of the racket division of the Capone organization. Humphreys is regarded as the organizer of the Trucking and Transportation exchange.
㉞ Jack Guzik, long known as No. 2 of Capone’s gang, who was sentenced to five years and one day in federal prison as an income tax evader Dec. 30, 1932, and a year later was transferred to the government penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pa.
㉟ Johnny Torrio, Al Capone’s predecessor in the high councils of the underworld. He fled Chicago in 1925 in fear of vengeance of O’Banion’s friends. In 1931 he appeared in Chicago for a short while, but returned to Long Island, where he is said to be living in retirement.
㊱ Joseph “Peppi” Genaro, notorious south side gangster and Capone lieutenant. His brother, Johnny, was killed in 1931.
㊲ Frank Nitti, business man of the Capone gang. He served time in Leavenworth for income tax evasion and later received a bullet in his lungs from Detective Sergeant Harry Lang’s revolver in a police raid on the Nitti headquarters in a loop building. The bullet did not kill him.
Among those conspicuous in New York City in rum or racketeering activities were:
㊳ William V. “Big Bill” Dwyer, turfman and booze overlord, who is said to have made 40 million dollars in the illicit liquor business and who was sentenced to Atlanta prison in 1927 and paroled 21 months later, ㊴ Waxey Gordon, whose real name is Irving Wexler, a stolid beer baron with breweries in New Jersey, who was sentenced to federal prison recently for income tax frauds; ㊵ Vincent Coll, a youthful killer who was trapped and slain by rivals in a drug store telephone booth in February, 1932; ㊶ Owen “Owney” Madden, night club owner and all around bad man in the liquor business, who was paroled from Sing Sing last on July 2, 1933; and ㊷ Larry Fay, night club owner, who was shot to death by one of his employes in his club Casa Blanca, Jan. 1, 1933.