Notorious Chicago | Massacre Cars
Chicago Tribune, February 15, 1929
In the state’s attorney’s investigation last night of the “north side massacre” in which seven men were shot dead against a wall in a garage at 2122 N. Clark street yesterday morning a dovetailing of underworld rumors developed a double motive.
It is the police belief that the gangsters who were killed paid the penalty for being followers of George Moran, successor to Dean O’Banion. The historic antagonist, as history goes in the swift careers of gangsters, of the O’Banion-Moran drew, is Alphonse Capone, otherwise Al Brown.
See 20th Ward Motive.
While that historic antagonism furnished the police a background of hate, jealosy, and revenge, it was also reported that a more immediate reason for the seven murders lies in a campaign of Moran’s alcohol sellers to take liquor from Detroit sources and with it penetrate the Bloody Twentieth ward, the booze territory of the Capone gang.
While the police under Commissioner Russell and State’s Attorney Swanson were hunting evidence a special coroner’s jury was impanelled by Coroner Bundesen to investigate the murders of the men listed and described as follows:
Dr. Reinhardt H. Schwimmer, resident of the Parkway Hotel, an optometrist with offices in the Capitol Building. Had no criminal record, but was known as the companion of hoodlums and was said to have boasted recently that he was in the alky racket and could have any one “taken for a ride.”
Peter Gussenberg, 434 Roscoe Street, for 27 years a criminal and one of the leaders of the Moran gang.
Albert R. Weinshank, owner of the Alcazar Club, 4207 Broadway, and an official of the Central Cleaners and Dyers Company, 2705 Fullerton Avenue.
Adam Heyer, alias Frank Snyder, alias Hayes, 2024 Farragut Avenue, owner of the S. M. C. Cartage Company, where the murders took place.
John May, 1249 West Madison Street, father of seven children, and an ex-safe blower.
James Clark, brother-in-law of Bugs Moran, and said to have a reputation as a hardened killer.
Frank Gussenberg, brother of Peter, who died in the Alexian Brothers’ Hospital after refusing for an hour to give any information to the police about his assailants.
CARRYING THE BODIES OF SLAIN GANGSTERS FROM SCENE OF MASSACRE.
Scene in the rear of the garage at 2122 N. Clark Street as the police were removing the six victims slain instantly and Frank Gusenberg, who died later of his wounds.
The members of Coroner Bundesen’s special jury which will meet at 10 a.m. today are:
Ben A. Massee, president of the Palm Olive Company.
Walter E. Olson, president of the Olson Rug Company.
Fred Bernstein, manager od the Covenant Club.
Dr. John D. MxCormick, dean of Loyola University Law School.
Attorney Felix J. Streyckmanns.
Master in Chancery Walter W. L. Meyers.
As a start in the investigation the state’s attorney’s office raided Cicero last night, sending in fifteen prisoners, taking them from the Capone strongholds.
Report Moran in Hiding.
As officials viewed the bodies after the shooting they sought to locate Moran without success. But last night it was reported by friends of the gang chief that he was secluded and refused even to leave his room. Capone was found to be in Florida superintending his dog track venture there.
And startling to the prosecutors was the report that the Moran gang had sought to take advantage of the absence of the head of the Capone organization and seize one of the prize beer-alky and booze territories of the city, the Twentieth ward, a privileged district bossed by City Collector Morris Eller. This report—and it means sure death if true, as the toll from this ward is said to be tremendous, the still concessions almost amounting to a prince’s ransom—received immediate attention.
A red-hot aldermanic fight is in progress in this ward, known as the Bloody Twentieth, the Capone faction supporting State Representative William V. Pacelli, who entered the race at the instigation of City Sealer Daniel Serritella, a Capone henchman. To get any foothold in the liquor business of that ward the Moran gang would have to throw their support to Ald. Prignano, and killings have been done there before over election contests, the officials admitted. So that possibility took its place with the others as the next question was up for consideration.
Planned Trip to Detroit.
“How could this have happened?” detectives who knew the valor of six of the dead men wondered. The explanation came:
Two of the executioners were in police uniform and the seven men thought they were facing only arrest, yielding to disarming and obeying orders to stand in a row facing the wall. A clever trick. Otherwise the seven men would have sold their lives dearly.
“Were they ‘put on the spot’?’ the police wondered, thinking it strange that that the seven men should have been caught unawares in one of their beer depots at 10:30 a.m. The answer came in a statement that a rum running expedition was contemplated; the Gusenbergs and their aids were to leave for Detroit at noon with several of the trucks then in the garage and they had expected to come back heavily laden with forbidden beverages.
Six of the bodies had been quickly identified during the afternoon, all of them being made positive by a comparison of their finger prints with others on file at the bureau of investigation. It was not until late in the evening that it was Dr. Schwimmer was one of the dead.
Dr. Earl Meyer, chief surgeon of the county hospital, recognized Dr. Schwimmer’s body. Schwimmer, who called himself a doctor of optometry, had attended a patient Dr. Meyer knew as Peter Gorman—in reality Peter Gusenberg, who was operated on for appendicitis.
MEMBERS AND ASSOCIATES OF MORAN GANG WHO WERE KILLED IN GARAGE.
Left to right, upper row: Peter Gusenberg, former convict, and one of principal lieutenants of Moran; Frank Gusenberg, brother of Peter, who was left alive by assassins, but died of wounds; James Clark, brother-in-law of Moran.
Lower row: Albert Weinshank, a recent recruit of the gang; Adam Heyer, who rented the garage in which he and his companions were slain; John May, auto mechanic, who is said by police to have been a former safe blower.
Friend of Gang Leaders.
Other inquiries brought the word that Schwimmer had been proud to call himself friend of O’Banion and had followed up that association with Hymie Weiss until Weiss was killed, with Vincent Drucci, until Drucci was killed, with the Gusenbergs until they were killed and with them, the doctor.
Dr. Schwimmer was divorced in 1923 from his wife, Fae Johnson Schwimmer, and then he went to live at the Parkway Hotel, where O’Banion and his gang lived under assumed names and under assumed respectability. He was requested to leave there because of his debts and hotel attaches recalled that he returned some time later, announcing that he had married a Mrs. Risch, a wealthy widow, and that henceforth he would quit associating with hoodlums.
But the former Mrs. Risch divorced him a year or so ago, the detectives were told, and Schwimmer returned to his old ways, telling his acquaintances he enjoyed sharing in the dangers of the Moran gang in bringing in contraband here from Detroit. Recently he talked of sharing in the profits, those who knew him told the authorities, and he told of what a power he was on the north side, fearing no one and able to have whoever he willed put to death.
The information available about Weinshank caused the officials to pause and consider the feud between cleaning and dyeing associations as a possible reason for the slaughter yeaterday. Weinshank had become some kind of a power in the Central Cleaning and Dyeing Company, 2705 Fullerton avenue, manager or business agent of the employees’ union, the detectives did not establish which.
That is an organization of many small shop keepers who send garments to the central establishment, which is a cooperative venture, for cleaning, and which had considerable trouble, having its garments explode, its trucks wrecked and its employees slugged and intimidated. Racketeers were seeking to take over the entire industry in Chicago and the Becker system, for protection, gave an interest in its business to Alphonse Capone.
The Central Association thereupon engaged the services of the Moran gang, Moran, Pete Gusenberg and Willie Marks being given some sort of financial guarantee. As this gang was already deeply involved with a rum feud with the Capone gang, the business rivalry intensified the hatreds of the rival gangs.
Booze Basis of All.
But before much consideration had been given to that phase of the gang war, the officials came to the conclusion that but one thing could have endangered sufficient venom for seven murders—booze. As Inited States District Attorney George E. Q. Johnson put it:
This ghastly occurence is further proof of a statement I have made a number of times. From reports it appears that this murderous mob was engaged in the violation of the national prohibition act.
Still another possibility cropped up, however. Some police recalled that Frank Miller had been released from the penitentiary recently after serving a sentence for his part in the $1,000,000 Werner Brothers’ Warehouse safe-blowing of several years ago. Miller let some of his friends know that he felt he had been illy treated by O’Banion and Moran, who were said by him to have suggested the looting of the safety deposit boxes of the warehouse.
Mention McGurn Attack.
Again, it was said that the Gusenbergs were responsible for the attempt on the life of Jack McGurn at the McCormick Hotel a year ago and that McGurn was a freelance gunman who always paid his gun debts.
But, harking back to the gang killings of the last half decade, the probers could see the relation of each succeeding murder to the first or key murder of Dean O’Banion in 1924. Until O’Banion was killed there had been some sort of agreement among the bigger men of the bootleg world., and Mike Merio was alive to keep the Sicilians in check, Merio believing that there was plenty to be made by all and there was no necessity for killings. But Merio died and before he was buried and Sicilians had eliminated O’Banion from further competition with them and from further hijacking.
Jun Fujita, Chicago Daily News
Killings on Both Sides.
Then followed the shooting of Torrio by Moran, and others, killings on one side and retaliations on the other, the Sicilians “getting” Hymie Weiss and eventually losing their own chieftain, Tony Lombardo, who was slain at Dearborn and Madison Street, the center of Chicago’s downtown, at 3 o’clock of a summer afternoon.
That slaying indicated an alliance of the powerful Sicilian tribe of the Aiello brothers and the Moran-Gusenberg boys, and the never-ending war once more flared up. It sounded simple and logical as veteran detective pieced the war history together, battle by battle, but it was remarked significantly that “they didn’t get Moran or Willie Marks” and it was mentioned that the Aiello brothers have been in seclusion for some time.
Aside from these deductions the officials devoted their time to investigating the Detroit angles. They had confidential sources of information that within the last week several of Detroit’s “bad men” were here seeking the names of hijackers who infested the routes from Detroit to Chicago and who “hoisted” the caravans of contraband—confiscated them.
Booze Cargoes Stolen.
Word came from Detroit that such suspicion was well founded. Chicago bound cargoes have been intercepted and stolen, the messages said, and Detroit bootleggers are not known for their gentle dealing with men who rob and despoil them. In the now international code of the rum runners a hijacker is classified as a horse thief formerly was, and a death sentence is always imposed if the hijackers are caught, the officials emphasized.
From some of the Cicero followers of Capone came the suggestion that the financial drain on Moran’s purse was so great that he might have plotted their deaths, having them hijack Detroit goods, and then betraying them to the Detroiters. The suggestion was given a place in the list of possibilities.
The story of the depressed financial condition of the Moran gang was told, even as the pockets of the dead members were yielding large sums and expensive wrist watches were being taken from the bodies and large diamond rings from the stiffening fingers.
“Body of No. 1,” Lieut. John L. Sullivan would announce to Lieut. Otto Erianson of the homicide bureau, and as it was identified as Pete Gusenberg off came a large diamond ring and $447 in cash. His papers and all were put in a bag.
Gang Hits Hard Times.
“Times have been tough for the Moran gang since the gambling joints were put out of business,” a squad leader explains. “You see, Moran has to keep a great many men in luxury and money so he’ll have them for bodyguards. Formerly he could get them large sums of money by forcing the gambling joints to hire them as inside guards, preventers of stickups.
“The beer racket, which used to be tremendously profitable, has fallen off and all the Moran bunch had to subsist on recently has been the booze and alky business of their boss. Remember the gang trying to kidnap Abie Cooper a few months ago. They were desperate to get money and they were unable to operate openly because of the police raids, so they have been sticking up booze and beer cargoes coming here from Detroit. Anything to get a dollar without working. Well, here they are.”
Named in Cleaning Racket.
“Body No. 2,” sings out Lieut. Sullivan, and cards give it the name of Albert Weinshank, and some one asks if it is the former state representative and is told it is his cousin.
Weinshank had only $18 in cash on him when he was killed, but he had a fine diamond ring and a bank book showing his account in the name of A. R. Shanks.
The scene of this gruesome job is in a cleared space in the middle of the long and narrow garage that fronts on Clark Street and runs a hundred feet or more west to the alley. Over along the north wall are the bodies. All around are trucks and automobiles.
Back in the rear is a big police dog, chained beneath a truck that Pat Roche of the United States special intelligence service says is a typical beer truck. The dog looks vicious, be looks scared, too.
Like the precise work of a Mexican army firing squad, gangland’s emissaries snapped a command to seven men in a N. Clark st. garage to line up. A roar of machine and shotguns—and seven bodies crumpled to the floor. Photo shows bodies, except that of Frankie Gusenberg, who died in hospital, as police found them. Slumped over chair is Pete Gusenberg; next to him is Alfred Weinshank, then Adam Heyer. Against the wall is James Clark, while John May and Arthur Davis are in the foreground. Flattened bullets and empty shells were scattered all over the room.
Jun Fujita, Chicago Daily News
They Died Like Dogs.
“Seven men died like dogs, but the dog lives,” a detective says as he warns others against getting too close to the dog. But the dog does not even bark; he seems mystified that so many strange men dare walk back and forth within his reach.
“Clear the way,” order four bluecoats carrying out a stretcher and its burden.
“Body No. 3,” Lieut. Sullivan calls to Erianson, and at first the body is identified as Adam Heyer, who rented the garage, but also as John Snyder, alias Hayes. It is said he was the owner of the Fairview kennels, a dog racing track rivaling Al Capone’s Hawthorne dog racing track. “He was the brains of the Moran mob,” some one advises Chief Egan.
Heyer had $1,339 in cash in his clothing and the searchers moved over to the next body, that of a man in a brown overall suit, obviously a garage attendant. He later gets the name of John May, an ex-safeblower and the father of seven children. He had bit a few dollars in his trousers.
“Look,” says Lieut. Erianson as he takes a leather case from May’s back pocket. A machine gun bullet had gone through the case and it had dented two metal objects.
“St. Christopher medals, they are,” a policeman reads the inscription. St. Christopher medals are usually carried by motorists, as he is the patron saint of travelers, but sometimes they are given to someone who has led an evil life and whose women relatives think think can be reformed if they pray for him and he will pray for himself.
Shotgun Figures in Fusilade.
The left part of May’s face had been shot off by a shotgun charge. An empty shotgun shell was near by. It was thought he had turned his head around to face the killers just as they fired and the slugs struck his head from the front but the machine gun bullets hit him in the back.
Next to his body was that of the man given the name of Dr. Schwimmer, whim detectives at the first thought was Frank Foster. This was the fifth body in a row, all heads to the southand all flat on their backs.
Closer to the wall, face down, head to the east, was the remains of James Clark, brother-in-law of Moran and rated as a killer with many notches in his many guns. His clothes contained $681.
“Four of the bodies have overcoats,” the homicide squad notes. “Clark in undercoat only and May in overalls. Count the hats.”
Police and spectators gather in front of the infamous garage where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred.
Seven Hats Are Found.
And there were seven hats counted—significant but still no help, as it would be hours, days, or perhaps weeks before the hats could be traced and perhaps they never would be traced to their purchasers.
“Bullet marks on the wall?” Capt. Thomas Condon asks, and it is seen that few of the bullets missed their marks, for there were only seven or eight places where the detectives were sure bullets had struck. Over toward a little bench a saw had been hanging on the wall and the lower part of it had been broken off by a bullet.
The police talk about Mexican firing squads—”the Mexican standoff” they called it—and they expressed amazement that the seven could have been induced to face the wall and certain death without resistance.
“That bunch always went well heeled,” a policeman insists, and then Lieut. Loftis states that he has picked up one revolver from the floor—he being the first policeman to arrive—and it had six unfired cartridges.
Mrs. Alphonsine Morin, who lived across the street from the garage, was one of two witnesses who saw the assassins leave the garage after the massacre. Morin saw two men who looked like policemen coming out of the garage after hearing the shooting. Both Morin and the other witness, Mrs. Jeanette Landesman, received a letter six days later advising them to “keep your mouth shut.” Morin, seen here circa February 1929, left town the minute she received the letter. .
Woman Tells of Shooting.
The explanation was seen in the story of Mrs. Alphonse Morin, who lives at 2125 North Clark Street, just across the street from the garage. She mentioned seeing men she thought were policemen coming out after hearing the shooting.
“Two men in uniforms had rifles or shotguns as they came out the door,” she said, “and there were two or three men walking ahead of them with their hands in the air. It looked as though the police were making an arrest, and they all got into an automobile and drove away.”
“Quite simple,” Chief Egan comments. “They’d never got that gang to line up unless they came in police uniforms. They wouldn’t have got into the garage unnoticed but it would appear that as policemen they walked in and surprised the gang sitting there and waiting for a message or for orders. Fir policemen the gang would line up and face the wall and I suppose the fake policemen disarmed them before they lined them up. Then when the stage was set perhaps the other killers came in and they took aim and started the machine gun and fired the shotguns and then as a precaution against trouble if they should meet policemen coming out, two or three of the killers put up their hands to indicate they were prisoners in custody of police.
The two Thompson submachine guns used in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre are the ones on the far left and far right in this photo.
Find Woman at Flat.
The first part of then police work that followed was in locating Peter Gusenberg’s apartment at 434 Roscoe Street. A blonde young woman there gave her name as Mrs. Myrtle Gorman and said her husband was Peter Gorman. Later she said she had been living there since June and that she didn’t know Gusenberg was a bootlegger, and she said she believed his name was Gorman.
She said she lived in the apartment, but not with Gusenberg. She said she divorced her husband, whose name was Coppeliman, a year ago, and that her maiden name was Nelson. She gave no information of value, Assistant State Attorney Walker Butler stated.
Frank Meizen and his wife, 616 Clinton Avenue, Oak Park, were brought to the state’s attorney’s office for questioning. What information was available about the case was that in tracing a telephone call the police learned that the Gusenberg brothers had some slot machine deals with someone at a number found to be Matson’s.
Typical of his life, Frank Gusenberg refused during his last hour to tell the police anything. He was conscious, but he kept defying the the police who sought names from him, who asked him whom they would notify when he died, and who told him his brother was instantly killed in the garage.
Assistant State’s Attorney David Stansbury was put in charge of the investigation last night by State’s Attorney John A. Swanson, who said the inquiry would go on all night. Stansbury ordered a raid on a restaurant at 842 West Polk Street where it was said a machine gun had been seen early in the morning. Onillo Spino, his son, Sam, and three customers were taken for questioning, but all denied having seen any machine gun there.
Seize Auto in Cicero.
A final bit of evidence came early this morning when Sergt. Healy of the detective bureau reported that he had seized a Cadillac car in Cicero, near a poolroom, which he said was similar to that used by the killers, a car resembling a detective bureau squad car such as Mrs. Morin and Samuel Schneider, a tailor whose place of business is next to the garage, said they saw as the killers departed.
One of Sergt. Healy’s prisoners had a story of interest. He gave his name as Louis Orloff, his residence as St. Paul, and he held out $500 to Sergt. Healy when the policemen covered inmates of a Cicero hotel with guns. He thought at first it was a robbery, he said.
“I came here to buy alky,” he said. “Three weeks ago I bought load for $500. I took it to St. Paul and made $400 on the deal. I came here for another load.”
He claimed not to know the name of the seller, saying he was called only Steve. Orloff had a loaded pistol in his car.
Auto-Ordinance Corporation Catalog.
Chicago Tribune February 21, 1954
In the days when gangsters fought gun battles in Chicago’s streets and Scarface Al Capone boasted that he “owned” the city hall, Judge John H. Lyle of the Municipal court won fame as a public servant who dared to stand up against Capone and his hoodlums, As the leading official in the fight on crime, Judge Lyle acquired much inside knowledge of the activities of the gangster criminals. In this series of articles, he is telling the full story for the first time.
Now this is the story of the planning behind the St Valentine’s Day massacre. My information has come from the police, federal government agents, representatives of the state s attorney, reporters who swarmed over the scene of the murders, and others. Since I had been the Criminal court judge most active against the gangsters in the official move to end Chicago’s epidemic of murders, I believe my information is better than most given out, for I had access to police and coroner’s records and all officialdom concerned.
The negotiations for the St Valentine’s Day massacre were carried on in a suite of rooms in a hotel not far from Michigan avenue and Congress street. Al Capone made it a point to be out of town. He was in his Palm island home, near Miami, supposedly ill. But his lieutenants were on the job, including McGurn. For days preceeding the murders, telephone conversations, partially in code, had been relayed between some small time north side mobs faithful to Capone and Frank Nitti, “The Enforcer,” who acted for Capone.
For weeks south side killers had been watching the Moran headquarters, a garage at 2122 N. Clark st. There were lookouts stationed in various buildings across the street and all around the block. It was intended, of course, that the killings should take place when the Moran gang leaders had assembled.
(Left) S.M.C. Cartage building located at 2122 N. Clark St. in 1929.
(Right) As Werner Storage Company in 1953.
The building was torn down December 1967.
McGurn was in charge of the actual arrangements and he was to have the privilege of shooting down the Gusenberg brothers. It was planned that the killers would stage a fake police raid on the Moran headquarters. Since local gangsters would be recognized by the intended victims, who might start shooting, Fred “Killer” Burke and his machine gun outfit were brought in from East St. Louis. They were supplied with policemen’s uniforms and automobiles resembling Chicago police squad cars. The killers were housed in an apartment building not far from the scene of the massacre and the imitation squad cars were parked in a garage at the rear.
McGurn had an unlimited expense account. Captain Stege learned after the massacre that McGurn allowed Burke $5,000 for his part. Two others were said to have received a similar amount, and two Chicago hoodlums, John Scalisi, and Albert Anselmi, got $1,000 each. Both were murdered, incidently, on May 7, 1929, two months and 23 days after the massacre.
McGurn himself received $10,000, according to Stege’s information, plus money for incidental expenses. It was McGurn who paid the rent for the lookout spots and the rendezvous.
Machine Gun Jack McGurn (real name Vincenzo Gibaldi).
On the morning of Feb. 14, the Capone mob headquarters received information that Moran, Willie Marks, and Ted Newberry were enroute to the Moran garage for a meeting with seven of Moran’s followers. McGurn was in- formed. The killers, in police uniforms, piled into the fake squad cars and headed for the garage. Killer Burke and McGurn carried machine guns.
What actually happened after McGurn’s assassins entered the garage can only be guessed at. Obviously, the Moran mobsters first thought they were victims of a police raid, something not too serious in their lives. The Moran men—and an oculist who had thought it was exciting to be a friend of hoodlums, were lined, up facing a garage wall for what presumably was a routine search for weapons.
Then McGurn stepped out and the machine guns chattered.
Seven men were slain, shot in the back. The evidence of McGurn’s vicious vengeance was there—Frank Gusenberg, who had used a machine gun on him, was the worst mutilated. His head was shot off and the wall was still spattered with blood when I visited the scene an hour later.
Chicago was shocked and aroused by this wanton killing. Nobody doubted who was re- sponsible. Moran, who had been delayed in reaching the garage and thus escaped, voiced what everyone thought: “Only the Capone gang kills like that! ” he declared.
But Capone was in Miami with his alibi well established. Investigators learned that Jack Guzik, his business manager, had talked with him frequently by long distance telephone from Chicago on the days prior to the murders, but that proved little. And the actual killers had scattered.
There were many conferences on the subject of law enforcement in Chicago following the SL Valentine’s Day massacre. It was clear that Capone was now the ruler of the underworld, that his crime syndicate was supreme. His next step would be to complete the job of taking over government.
Capone had to be stopped, but how?
Col. Robert R. McCormick, editor and publisher of The Chicago Tribune, suggested a way—a way that finally worked.
On a trip to Washington he discussed the prohibition problems besetting the country with President Herbert Hoover. Colonel McCormick told the President that department of justice agents were picking up little people who wanted to drink and were letting the big professional gangsters alone. “They’re not touching Al Capone,” Colonel McCormick concluded.
“Who is Al Capone?” the President asked.
Colonel McCormick explained. Hoover then promised that he would call in the people of the justice department to see what could be done. It was decided to investigate all possibilities of Capone violations of federal law, including the income tax laws.
The federal government could not act, however, until it had collected evidence. My policy of issuing vagrancy warrants for the arrest of hoodlums was of help to the government, because the gangsters, in their anxiety to prove they were not vagrants, often furnished useful leads to their sources of income. Also, I had a part in the work of collecting evidence against Capone himself thru raids, which I will tell of later.
As for Machine Gun Jack McGurn, he was repeatedly arrested on many charges, including complicity in the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, but never convicted. Once, trapped by police in a hotel room on West Washington street, he had in his possession a machine gun loaded with dumdum bullets, two automatic pistols, and a quantity of cartridges. In his automobile was a police short wave radio set. Still no conviction.
On Feb. 15, 1936, gangland finally caught up with him. McGurn was in a poolroom at 805 Milwaukee av., with 20 witnesses present, when a man with a revolver entered. He shot without warning, and Jack McGurn slumped to the floor. Then the assassin stood over McGurn and emptied his revolver into the 32-year-old man who probably had committed more crime in one week than Jesse James did in his lifetime. And that was the end of Machine Gun Jack.