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Citation : Target: Mafia—the prohibition years [Video file]. (1996). Retrieved May 17, 2017, from https://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspxID=18566&xtid=42372
Welcome to the world of Arts andEntertainment. And thank you for joining ushere on A&E Home Video.
The mafia is a basic part of American life, denyit or not. Every generation has had it'sunderworld kings. Unforgettable personalitiesthat commit unspeakable crimes. The mafia,it's a name that speaks fear, representing thefascinating, appalling underside of our nationalexperience.
Often, they've been glorified. We call themnames like Al "Scarface" Capone, LuckyLuciano, or the Dapper Don. Many meet theirfates in undignified ways. It's not surprising,they're playing a high stakes game. The mafia isa business. It turns over more money thanAmerica's 10 largest industrial corporations.How did they get this big? Who runs the show?To understand, one has to go back to a quieter,more peaceful time.
Back at the turn of the century, America wasstill a largely white Anglo-Saxon Protestantcountry. But the face of America was changingdramatically. The new wave of immigrantsjostled the sense of stability of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, known as WASPs. Manycities became clusters of ethnic neighborhoodspopulated by the Irish, the Jewish, the Italians,and others. Most immigrants arrived in the USwith very little money. They lived in poverty andcity slums. And their lifestyles seemed improperto some WASPs.
Local crime was on the increase, street thefts,prostitution, gambling, and burglary. And crimewas also becoming more violent.
Well, it's been said in the defense of ethnicgroups that feel slighted by their associationwith crime, particularly the Italians, that crimeis not an ethnic phenomenon, which it certainlyisn't. It certainly goes across all ethnic groups.But, one must understand that extremecriminality is often found among groups whichare, let's say, the hungriest when they arrive.
There was also another side to it. Manyimmigrants brought with them a hostileattitude toward the law. The Irish had beenoppressed by the British, and, for them,opposition to British law was heroic. TheItalians from Southern Italy felt that the lawwas unjust, and the Jews fled Eastern Europebecause they'd been persecuted and denied theright to own property. So for many, gettingaround the law was an honored activity.
The WASPs feared the changes they wereseeing. They wanted to establish more control.They were particularly worried about thedrinking habits of the new immigrants. TheAnti-Saloon League and other temperancemovements were already making their opinionsknown.
Alcohol is a detriment to youth. I wish that allthe youth in America would see it in the samelight that I do.
On January 16, 1920, the EighteenthAmendment to the Constitution became federallaw. Enforced by the Volstead Act, it bannedliquor sales, production, and consumption.Most just called it prohibition.
Prohibition was hoisted on this country bywhite Protestants who were worried about thenew immigrant groups, worried about socialcontrol, and they saw the abolition of the liquortraffic as a way of imposing a kind of socialcontrol on these new immigrant groups.
However, many Americans did not want to stopdrinking. They'd suffered through World War Iand they wanted to have some fun. A strongdemand was created that needed someone tosupply it. For many immigrants and we'relooking for ways to make money, prohibitionwas a dream come true. An illegal, but highlyprofitable career as a bootlegger, provedirresistible. The Irish were the first bootleggers.In many cities, they were the saloon keepersand bar owners, and they had close ties to thepolice and to the politicians. Very soon,however, the Irish met fierce competition.
Then when you come down to bootlegging, ofcourse, this would be at precisely the time thatthe young Italians and the young Jews raised inAmerican slums would be coming to manhood.And there was an opportunity to move quicklyinto an expanding business activity.
Most newly arrived Americans played the gamestraight, committed no crimes, and rose bytheir own legitimate efforts. Gangsters decidedto steal and kill not because they were Irish,Jewish, or Italian, but because they werecriminals. Ironically, for the WASPs, however,criminal circumstances actually worsened as aresult of prohibition.
No one could predict what would happen withprohibition. People expected it to work. It's anexample of the inscrutability of history. Often,consequences are unintended and prohibitionis a classic example of it. No one thought that itwould produce an organized crime institutionlike it did.
The WASPs believed they could use prohibitionto control the recent immigrants, what theydidn't know was that a new defiant attitudetoward American justice was taking root. SomeItalians believe more in the Mafia code that inany United States law. And soon, Italiancriminals would begin to dominate the otherethnic gangs. But as we'll see, the 1920s werestill a time when all the gangs needed eachother. Bootleggers connected coast to coastmoving booze. The underworld was becomingcoordinated and organized crime, the Mafia,was born. In turn, the Mafia helped organizeAmerican justice.
The onset of prohibition proved an enormousbusiness opportunity for the underworld. What it really spawned were the criminal gangs thatwe know today. With the passage of theVolstead Act, modern organized crime cametogether and developed it's web-like structure.It was like an event waiting to happen.
Many of the early bootleggers had beeninvolved in the newspaper wars. Majornewspapers hired gangs of thugs to force newsdealers to carry their paper and not theoppositions. It was a natural graduation intothe prohibition liquor trade, where makingmoney and violence went hand in hand.
The most violent and the most successfulbootlegger in New York was the Irishman,Owney Madden, a convicted murderer and gangleader. When illegal bars or speakeasies openedall over New York, many of them serveMadden's beer, a brew called Madden's NumberOne. Like other successful bootleggers duringthis time, Madden went from being a nasty,small time killer to running a major underworldbusiness empire.
Owney Madden of New York was a stone killer.He ran that town. Ed Sullivan, who was aBroadway columnist in the 1920s, said thatknowing Owney Madden in the '20s was likeknowing the mayor.
The story was the same in Boston, a city with astrong Irish community and a history ofresistance to prohibition. Most of thebootleggers had names that we've forgottentoday, with one notable exception, Joseph P.Kennedy, the founder of the Kennedy dynasty.During prohibition he was already a bankpresident and making money on the stockmarket.
So many of the Boston Irish were involved inbootlegging in the 1920s. And I think, perhaps,Joe did it, on one level, just be one of the guys.To have this connection to the old communityfrom which he had sprung and which he had,frankly, long ago left behind. It's a way ofreturning to his ethnic roots in East Boston, tobecome a bootlegger.
I think Joe Kennedy did have a natural affinitywith other people who saw themselves asfighting the establishment. I don't think there'sany doubt that Joseph Kennedy was in contactwith a number of Mafia characters during the1920s.
Kennedy kept quiet about his underworldassociates although, he would maintaincontacts with organized crime figures all his life.His public associates were more refined. Whenthe Harvard class of 1912 had its 10th alumnigathering, Joe played a critical role in making ita roaring success.
Ralph Lowell of the Boston Lowell's, who wasthe secretary of the class of 1912, laterdescribed Joe as our decennial Santa Claus, theman who provided the booze. Joe's operativesbrought the booze ashore in Plymouth just asthe pilgrims had come ashore in 1620, and itwas great stuff. The Harvard reunion in 1922,was very grateful for this high class boozeprovided by Joe Kennedy to the class.
Most of his bootlegging activities weren't soaltruistic. Bootlegging was a business for Joe,and it helped him launch the Kennedy fortune.It was, of course, also illegal, and the federalgovernment was doing its best to stop the bootleggers. It was a difficult task. Many peopledidn't respect the law, and their determinationto keep drinking demonstrated that creativitywas alive and well in the 1920s America.
Much of the alcohol came across the Canadianborder. Much of it came from another famousfamily, the Bronfman's of Canada. SamBronfman used the prohibition trade to buildthe Seagram's empire, which he ran from anoffice in Montreal.
The Bronfman group we're able to set up clanshipping company in the West Indies, and evenin Mexico. So what they really did was to set upa transportation system all the way around theUnited States, West coast, East coast, WestIndies, and so on.
All of this took sophisticated organization, andit was a major reason why prohibitioneventually led to the creation of organizedcrime. Moving large amounts of liquor aroundwas quite different from robbing banks or pettyextortion. You had to ship the liquor, you had toget it passed through the Coast Guard, you hadto stored in warehouses, and sell it tocustomer's. This was big business, and itbecame the business of organized crime.
One of the main masterminds was ArnoldRothstein, who was aptly called The Brain.
Rothstein is significant because his complete, Ican only say intellectual, involvement as TheBrain marked the emergence of organized crimeas a complete business entity. If furtherelaboration of the syndicate along businesslines is generally due to him.
Arnold Rothstein didn't have a gang as mostbootleggers did. He was the money man,fronting money for various enterprises, andthen, being owed money. Rothstein came froma comfortable orthodox Jewish family on theUpper West Side of New York. He was aninveterate gambler, and legend has it, that thenotorious 1919 World Series was fix byRothstein. It's the greatest scandal in thehistory of American baseball. Eight members ofthe Chicago White Sox were bribed to throw theseries to the Cincinnati Reds, but it's one fixthat Rothstein didn't do. He just heard aboutthe tampering and made a fortune betting onthe right side.
Rothstein has a pupil, the young Meyer Lansky.Lansky will eventually take over from Rothsteinas the mastermind behind the Mafia. Lansky isone of the contacts between the bootleggers inNew York and Seagram's liquor in Montreal.He's one of the ways that the Bronfman movethere booze into the United States. Much of theblues came from Canada or Europe, and one ofthe most important stepping off points for thisflow of alcohol was a small island about 20miles off the coast of Newfoundland. The islandof Saint Pierre, a vestige of the French empire,was outside the legal jurisdictions of both theUnited States and Canada. It provedenormously useful to bootleggers like Rothsteinand Lansky.
Legal booze would come into Saint Pierre fromCanada and Europe, be offloaded there, and getfraudulent papers for shipment somewhereelse. So the legal manufacturers could say, wejust sent it to Saint Pierre, we don't know whathappened to it after that.
The liquor would them make its way to the UScoast, where the large ships would anchor threeto five miles offshore, outside US coastal limits.
So every summer, you would have what werecalled mother ships off the coast of anywherefrom Boston to South Jersey, and small shipswould go out and take the booze off. It was socommon, of course, that you could go to NewYork and tourist ships would take you out andyou can watch the bootleggers at work.
The Coast Guard would send high speed boatsout to try and intercept the bootleggers, butsometimes the corruption of prohibition wouldreach them too. Once, Owney Madden's partnerbribed the Coast Guard cutter to bring in 700cases of booze to a Manhattan dock.
For the bootlegger who got his shipmentashore, the challenges weren't over. Anybodywho wanted to hijack his booze could do so. Itwas frequently known where the booze wasgoing, even what truck it was on. And this, inturn, meant that rival bootleggers had to highergunmen to protect their trucks, which provedyet another step in fostering the armedmobsters who would control organized crime.Prohibition had been meant to herald an era ofsobriety and clean living, instead it was thedawn of unprecedented violence in Americanlife.
Gangsters were becoming a way of life. And fewcities would prove to be more tainted, morecorrupt and more violent than the city ofbrotherly love, Philadelphia. It was a townwhere the politicians were bootleggers, thecops were criminals, and the good times rolled.
Philadelphia, in the 1920s, America's secondlargest city. The rivers ran murky in this town.February, 1927, the city witnessed its firstmachine gun slaying. A murder worthy of themovies. That night's evening bulletin used aphoto diagram to show how it happened.Racket chieftain, Mickey Duffy was the target.Badly wounded, he escaped with his life. Hisbodyguard died.
So what was going on in this city of brotherlylove, Philadelphia? This was one of America'soldest, most respected cities. It called itself theworkshop of the world and led the nation inproducing locomotives, street cars, textiles, andeven hats. It was a proud place with a blue blood upper class that lived on historicChestnut Hill, at along the so-called mainline.
But there was another side to Philadelphia, lessproper, more seamy. Philadelphia didn't justlead the nation in industrial production. It was aleader in corruption. It was a one party town.The Republican machine had run the city sincethe 1870s. The politicians ran a protectionracket, being paid off by the gambling houses,the prostitutes, and the saloon keepers.Philadelphia's best known mobster was Boo Boo Hoff. He had grown up in a Jewishimmigrant neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
Boo Boo Hoff, who was the most importantbootlegger in Philadelphia, was a relativelysmall man. Looked really, very much like anysmall businessman. That is, nobody would havemistaken him for a criminal or certainly, for aguy who may have been behind violence.
He didn't look much like a gangster. Had noreputation himself for violence, althoughobviously, his bootlegging operations involvedoccasional killings and beatings. Any majorbootlegging operation necessarily, had toinclude such things.
Boo Boo Hoff had an office in a downtown bankbuilding. It was here that he ran his uniqueblend of legal and illegal enterprises.
He had good ties with some of the top policeofficers. Probably, in part, not so much throughhis bootleggings as through a shared interest inboxing. I mean, this was a guy who ownedboxers, who was part of the sporting world ofPhiladelphia, and would have gotten to knowlots of politicians and policemen at fights.
It's a crooked enterprise in large measure inthose days. There are many fixed fights. Thereare many fixed odds. Bets are often smelly. It's anatural place for the gangsters, but it also givesthem a cover. If they're in another city, awayfrom their base to have a meeting with agangster, they can say they're just there for aboxing match.
And obviously, there's a connection betweenthe violence of boxing and the violence of theunderworld. Gangsters, of all people, we're notgoing to object to the violence of boxing. Theyliked it. It's blood. It's something there used toand comfortable with. It's a natural place for them.
Boo Boo Hoff used his political connections tomove into a number of profitable areas. Withthe onset of prohibition, he turned his attentionto Philadelphia's massive industrial alcoholindustry. To companies like Publickers andQuaker Industrial Alcohol.
What they're doing, then, is redistilling thealcohol to make it palatable, consumable inbeverages. Unfortunately, they typically don'tdo a very good job of this, and the city coronerreports that 10 to 12 people a week are dyingfrom alcohol poisoning. And it's probably anundercounting because, of course, if dad hasdied from tainted gin, his family doesn't wantthe neighbors or the minister to find out aboutit.
Only part of Philadelphia's alcohol wasdoctored, most of the rest arrived via Europeand Canada. Sometimes, it came straight upthe Delaware through the docks. Andsometimes, just sometimes, the Coast Guardcaught the bootleggers. But more often thannot, Philadelphia's booze made its way in viarum row. Philadelphia's bootleggers had aperfect area for smuggling among the vaststretches of tidal salt marshes on the Delawarebay. They were few people there, just isolatedfishing and farming families.
So the mobsters from Philadelphia would godown to South Jersey and they would hide,particularly after the depression hit. Theywould hire these oyster men, fishermen, whocouldn't make a living anymore at their trades,and stick them on a power boat.
They'd run out to the ships, waiting ships fromCanada or whatever, they'd fill the rum runningboat with booze, often in steel cases, in casethey had to dump it, if a revenuer cutter camealong, and pick it up later. And then, they'd runthe stuff into these isolated rivers, creeks, andinlets along the bay and the estuary. Thefarmers then warehoused the stuff and it couldstay there for a week, a day, or months. And itbecame a very important part of the localeconomy.
The mobsters didn't just hand over the drink totheir clients, they wanted a bigger piece of theaction. They moved into entertainment.
There's a natural connection between thebootleggers and the nightclubs because, wheredo the night clubs get their liquor? Obviously,from the bootleggers. So the bootleggersbecome partners with many of the peoplerunning the nightclubs at that time, andultimately, they own many of the clubs.
Boo Boo Hoff ran the Turf Club, in the SylvaniaHotel, and several other clubs, which attractedthe city's upper class. At the speakeasies, theelite could rub elbows with the underworld.
The speakeasy was the daring, in place to go.Anybody who was anybody wanted to be seenin these kinds of places. You had to have abusiness card to get in. You had to know theowner. There was a daringness to it. There wasa bravado. In a sense, it was kind of avoyeuristic thrill. You were doing somethingdaring. You were tweaking the nose of UncleSam, while at the same time, experiencing agreat new art form in jazz, socializing with thehigh brows of society and the literati, and theGold Coast mavens. It was a wonderful time tobe alive.
Many of America's most famous musiciansplayed in the speakeasies, also rubbing elbowswith mobsters.
There was a certain affinity between thegangsters and the jazzmen. They have a certaincommon ground. Nocturnal habits, a style ofdressing, disapproval by the straight world,things to hide, glamorous women, secrets. Theyunderstood each other in interesting ways at atime when blacks and whites had very littlecontact as social peers.
There was no question who ran the show. TakeNew York's Cotton Club, one of the fanciestnightclubs in the country. It's ownership wasconcealed, but the boss was Owney Madden.Owney Madden wants the best entertainers. Hewants Duke Ellington, and he's distressed whenin 1927, the Duke goes to play at Philadelphia'sStandard Theater.
So Owney Madden calls down to his buddy inPhiladelphia, Maxie Boo Boo Hoff, and Boo BooHoff sends his associate, Charlie YankeeSchwartz, over to the manager of the Standard,who delivers his famous line, be big or be dead.And Ellington and the orchestra pack up theirbags, head back to New York, and begin theirfamous engagement at the Cotton Club. Thereafter, any time Ellington wants to take his bandon the road, he has to pay Cab Calloway's bandto take his place at the Cotton Club, theconnection is that type. Essentially, Maddenowns Ellington's band in those years.
In Philadelphia, the sound of music was turningugly, and the bell began to ring for reforms.When the city elected a new mayor, FreelandKendrick, he asked President Coolidge to sendsomeone to clean up the city. Marine BrigadierGeneral Smedley Darlington Butler arrived andstarted a determined campaign to stomp outcrime and enforce prohibition. Butlerdiscovered that nearly everyone was on thetake, the police, the politicians, and themobsters.
Butler becomes increasingly frustrated. He goespublic with his frustrations. He gets inarguments with the mayor. And finally, beforeleaving after the end of his second year, in aspeech before a group of women in Pittsburgh,he calls Philadelphia a cesspool on the edge ofthe state. And says that Philadelphia simplylacks the will or resolve to enforce prohibition.
Philadelphians are upset about the situation.So in 1928, Judge Edwin Lewis convenes agrand jury to look into the matter. He takes lotsof evidence from lots of witnesses and the storyis grisly. The extent of the graft, he estimates at about $2 million a year, is being paid toPhiladelphia cops and politicians by thebootleggers.
In August 1928, the jury announced its findings.It was a damning indictment of thePhiladelphia police. They had discovered 24high ranking officers with bank accounts worthabout 3/4 of a million dollars. Not bad when theaverage policeman salary was only about$2,000 a year.
The policeman came up with some weakexcuses. Some said they'd been lucky in crapgames. Others, that they had bet on the righthorse. In the end, 138 policemen were foundunfit for service.
Boo Boo Hoof, the grand, jury' final statementsays, is probably behind all this, but we can'tindict him. He's too insulated by fronts andcovers, and so the grand jury really amountedto not very much. They got some veryinteresting information but no arrests, noprosecutions can from it. They could not touchBoo Boo Hoff.
Boo Boo Hoff survived prohibition withoutgoing to jail, but there were crime fighters whorefused to give up, and one was anextraordinary young woman. At the time, a rarefigure in American justice.
Alcohol is hindering the coming of world peacebecause it is befuddling the thinking ofhumanity. It is no laughing matter today whenthe National Survey of Education on alcoholismstates that six out of-- that one out of every sixboozers are women.
It was the women's movement, theSuffragettes, the Women's ChristianTemperance Union, and the powerful Anti-Saloon League that had been the driving forcebehind prohibition. So it was logical, ifsomewhat radical, for a woman, Mabel WalkerWillebrandt, to be asked to enforce the new law.
A woman was very important to be in thatposition because prohibition was looked at as awoman's issue. Women had just got the vote, soit was a high visibility position. It was a moralcrusade to many people.
Mabel Walker Willebrandt was an unusualwoman. She was born in Kansas, began schoolat 13, was a principle by 22, a lawyer at 27, andwas just 32 when President Harding appointedher Assistant Attorney General in 1921. Shebecame the enemy of the bootleggers and whatwould become organized crime.
For all of my life, I've had the most uncannyfeeling that always seems to say to me, you aremarked to step into a crisis sometime as theinstrument of God. It seems that it may meandanger or disgrace or in some way cause meagony of heart but I can't escape it. Withrecurring frequency, I've had the feeling sooften, all my life since I was a very little girl.Lately, I've quit fighting it.
Apparently, trying to enforce prohibition wasthat special mission that God had in mind forher. That gave her the strength she needed topersist, but it also gave her a kind of fanaticaledge.
Willebrandt believed in upholding the law ofprohibition. She had had wine, certainly,before-- whiskey sours before she came intooffice. She didn't drink at all while she was inoffice and she worked fiercely and was viewedas a zealot to enforce the law.
It's often said that drinking actually went upduring prohibition, but that wasn't the case.The only thing that went up was the price.Name brand whiskey, for instance, went from adime a shot to as much as $3. People may have just thought there was more drinking because itwas more daring, more celebrated, moreextreme. One drinks recipe from the timecaptured the atmosphere.
Take three chorus girls and three men, soak inchampagne till midnight, squeeze into anautomobile, add a drunken chauffeur, and adash of joy. Shake well and serve at 70 miles anhour. Chaser, a coroner's inquest.
The saloon had been replaced by speakeasies,some of which lived up to their Hollywoodimage of secret peepholes, breathlesspasswords, and fantastic decor. Many of thebest known people in society visited thespeakeasies.
So you have millions of lawbreakers, perfectlylaw abiding citizens otherwise, who now arebreaking a federal law by drinking. So the linebecomes blurred, and organized crime is muchmore intertwined in American life because ofprohibition in a way that it had not before that.
She kept saying that the upper class, theKennedy's of this world, had a particularresponsibility. She felt that was very importantand she pressed that. And said, they seemed tobe sometimes, just the working class that wasout there, made prey of the bootleggers.
But she found yourself with few true allies in theJustice Department.
She was surrounded by older, skeptical menwho are doubtful about the whole enterprise.She got very little cooperation from theAttorney's General, Harry Daugherty, forexample. Harding's notoriously crookedAttorney General give her no cooperation.
The Justice Department made a great song anddance about clamping down on bootleggers,calling in the newsreel cameramen to showtheir dramatic raids to the public.
When I was appointed to this office, I statedpublicly and promised myself that we wouldenforce the national prohibition policieshonestly and earnestly and lawfully. I do not like spectacular methods or anything that may be described as a [? drive. ?] Steady, relentlesspressure intelligently applied to the maximumof our resources at all times and in all seasons isour aim and intention.
The truth was that the feds frequently turned ablind eye. The Prohibition Bureau agents werepoorly paid and easily bribed. One in 12 wasdismissed for corruption, and many quit tobecome bootleggers. But Willebrandt refused togive up. She began a campaign in Florida,where much of the booze was coming in via theBahamas and Cuba. Willebrandt wasdetermined to clamp down.
The most dramatic was in Florida, where shereally got all of the government agencies, theNavy which sent down 11 destroyers, the CoastGuard, you have 30 vessels, two airplanes, in agigantic attack. You really had to maketremendous raids.
It was something of a personal triumph forWillebrandt, but when she turned her attentionto padlocking New York's speakeasies, shestirred up criticism.
People did call foul because they thought it wasa little unfortunate they you were having allthese raids, and the raids were highly publicizedbecause there are so many of them. Plus which,the US Attorney, obviously, was not agreeingwith Mabel, and was giving out adverse storiesthat there was sort of a Roman holiday going onthere. But great, great was flapdoodle. She justblew it off and said, this is something we'vebeen doing. And in her annual report that yearshe pointed out that 7,000 padlocks injunctionshad been actually instituted that year. And shewas pleased because after the headlines went,they'd taken 18 to court and they'd found guilty15 of them.
But Willebrandt was getting worn down by theconstant struggle.
Mabel's great frustration was she always got thelittle fish. It was very hard to get the big fish,and she wanted the big fish. She had a cartoonthat she kept, which showed her with a moptrying to mop it up and keep it back, theincoming waves, and it was obvious that therewas this inundation coming. When she leftoffice in 1929, she wrote to her parents that shefelt very often like the little boy who put his armin the dike. And so she'd stopped a lot of things,she said, but it's a wearing way to be a hero.
Years later, a judge said of Willebrandt, if Mabelhad worn trousers, she would have beenpresident. But despite her good work, some ofthe worst criminals in American history we'rebeginning to emerge.
The most important legacy of prohibition wasthe creation of organized crime. But it wasn'tthe Irish gang or the Jewish mob that wouldultimately rule. It was the Cosa Nostra, betterknown as the Italian Mafia.
Italians had the Mafia. No one else had thatsecret criminal brotherhood. And that gives theItalians an extraordinary cohesiveness and akind of national organization that the Irish andJewish gangs did not have.
From the quiet dark alleys of Little Italy to theflamboyance of Al Capone, the Italian criminalshave survived and flourished like no others. Butto understand their dominance in theunderworld, one must go back. After World WarI, powerful Irish gangs controlled the lucrativeBrooklyn waterfront, collecting tribute, about$1,500 a week, from each of the more than 60dock owners. Those who declined, saw theirwharfs and vessels looted, burned or wreckedor worse.
The East Coast Longshoremen had been a mobbed owned union for most of the century. Itstarted even before prohibition. Originally withIrish guys on the Brooklyn docks. It was a verydangerous occupation to be head of theLongshoremen's Union on the docks becauseyou have a short life expectancy. Six or eightguys in a single decade would take this job, bekilled off, someone else would get the job, hekilled off.
The Brooklyn Bridge area was traditionally Irishterritory.
The White Hand Gang, or shall we say the IrishMafia, they were an underworld superpower.They had control, literal control, over 60 piers inoperation in Brooklyn at the time. It was a goldmine.
But the White Hand would soon meet theirmatch. The Italian gangs, known as the BlackHand, wanted the riches for themselves. From1920 to 1925, a grim war waged along thewaterfront for control of the lush extortionrackets. For a time, the leader of the WhiteHand, Bruce Wild Bill Lovett, held off the ItalianBlack Hand.
Wild Bill Lovett was the most spectacular gangleader the White Hand ever had. On thewaterfront everybody knew that this man willsoon as look at you, blow your head off. Theman was a very dangerous man, really.
No less fearless was the Italian leader of theBlack Hand, Frankie Yale. He retained an ironfisted control over his men.
Frankie Yale was the first celebrity godfather. Noquestion about it.
Yale was the first of the openly flamboyantgangsters. He was known as the Prince of Pals.He was an extremely popular person. Not leastfor the fact, that he had to cultivate a sort ofRobin Hood image of taking from the rich andgiving to the poor.
For instance, during the coal strike of 1922,Yale's men delivered coal to hundreds offamilies who were freezing. This was theparadox about Frankie Yale. He was vicious andyet, he was also sympathetic.
The reason for Frankie Yale's generosity, in mypersonal opinion, was he was born into abjectpoverty. He knew what it was to be poor. Hisheart went out for the poor people.
But still, the bloody feud went on, and Yaleneeded tough henchmen.
He was introduced to Alphonse Capone at avery young age, and he took a liking to Al. Hetutored Al in the ABCs of the underworld.
Yale put Capone to work as a bartender and abouncer in his dance club. From his humblebeginnings in Brooklyn, Al Capone would carrya nickname for the rest of his life, Scarface. Onenight while Capone was working, he told afemale customer, you got a beautiful ass. Herbrother, Frank Galluchio, took out his knife,aimed for Capone's throat, but instead, slashedhis face three times. Gangsters live dangerously,and before long Capone savagely beat up amember of the White Hand Gang. Their leader,Wild Bill Lovett, came looking for him.
Frankie Yale got word that Wild Bill Lovett wastrying to track down Capone. He says, Al, look,the best thing I can tell you, this man is goingto, sooner or later, with the scars and all foridentification, he's going to get you sooner orlater.
So Frankie Yale sent Al Capone to work withJohnny Torrio in Chicago. It proved a luckymove. When prohibition began, Frankie Yalemobilized his Black Hand troops intobootlegging using his links in Chicago.
What prohibition did was it took rather looselyorganized neighborhood gangs and it put theminto transnational communication with eachother. Because what was involved, was theshipping various liquors from one part of thecountry to another, even from outside thecountry, it was of enormous benefit towardsmaking this a sort of national combination.
The White Hands power was waining. Theirleader, Wild Bill Lovett, was gruesomelymurdered by the Black Hand. When RichardPegleg Lonergan took over, Al Capone returnedthe Brooklyn to get rid of this Irish gang onceand for all.
Sylvester course there was the man chosen tostart the ball in motion. He was to wack the toplieutenant of the Irish White Hand gang acrossthe head with a meat cleaver. That was thesignal. The lights went out and the gunfireerupted immediately. The outcome was, themurder, a triple gangland murder as a matter of fact, Al Capone had finally murdered a man,Richard Lonergan, it turned out to be the mostimportant murder of his whole career. Hisreputation throughout the Italian underworld,nationally really zoomed. Of course, what heactually did was hand over the entire Brooklynwaterfront to the Italian underworld. Soon, verysoon after, the White Hand gang evaporatedinto nothing at all. Just died out.
Now, Frankie Yale controlled the New Yorkwaterfront and was Al Capone's chief liquorsupplier. Capone quickly became Chicago'scrime boss. It was the beginning of the rise of the Italian Mafia.
The prohibition era created many underworldcriminals, but ultimately, the Italians wouldreign supreme. In the years to come, the ItalianMafia would take aim at many other targets,but, in turn, they would become the crimefighters main target themselves. I'm Bill Kurtis.
The secret ceremony where somber menbecome mafiosi, vowing to live and die by theknife and the gun. A mysterious world ofshifting alliances and blood oaths. Reminders inthe flames that they are doomed if they breakthe code of omerta, the vow of silence. They arethe only secret criminal brotherhood, the Mafia,only an Italian can belong. It is the key to theirtakeover of organized crime. But ultimately, itall comes down to murder and money. A mafiacontrols by fear, a fear that has its roots in theparched soil of Sicily.
The Mafia flourished in Sicily during the centuryof political upheaval and disorder betweenNapoleon and Mussolini. Economic conditionswere grim, brought on by the Italiangovernment's total neglect of this island.
During that 100 years, there wasn't much realgovernment in Sicily, and so the Mafia arises asa mediator between the citizens on the groundin Sicily and the distance governments thatwere out of reach, beyond reach, and corrupt.The Sicilians were pretty much kicked around inthose days. So there was a tradition of seeingthe law as distant and unfriendly and beyondreach. The saying was, the law works againstpeople.
So respected local men took control andcreated their own rules. The poor turned tothese men because they stood up to thegovernment and met the needs of their village.These local men became the functioninggovernment of a village. It was the local Donwho drew up contracts, arranged marriages,loaned money, mediated disputes, and chosepolice chiefs and judges.
Young Salvatore Lucania, later known as LuckyLuciano, was accustomed to seeing men ofrespect in their expensive suits walking thepiazza receiving the homage of hisneighborhood. By 1880, the men of respect, ormafia, secretly ruled Sicily. They had infiltratedthe local police, the army, and all branches ofgovernment. Honest government officials whotried to combat the mafia were invariablymurdered.
Lucky's father, Antonio, heard that in Americahe could earn more in one day than he could inone month in the sulfur mines.
So they come here essentially, for economicopportunity, and they try to recreate the oldconditions that they knew at home. Here theyare in this strange land, with its strange moresand strange language. The Mafia is familiar andit has its own code of honor, a code that is oftenbreached, but still the code is there. Forexample, the mafiosi could not mess with thewife of another mafiosi and if such happenedthen the man who had been cuckold had theright to kill the seducer. Well, that's not allowedin American customs, but it was part of theMafia code.
The Mafia is a criminal gang. They're a bunch ofthugs and murderers, but they are giving theirmembers a sense of stability in the face of thiscountry where everything is progress andchange. The underside is that it means they'renot assimilated into America, and that setsthem up for the Mafia.
The Mafia had first surfaced in America in NewOrleans, just after the Civil War, amid conditionsof political chaos because of reconstruction.Once again, the Mafia appears because theItalian immigrants need some mediating forcebetween them and the government. And theMafia steps into that breach, while alsocommitting crimes. It's always doing both.
Two Mafia families successfully transplantedthemselves from Sicily. Soon they were battlingfor control of the lucrative shipyards andvegetable markets. And one encroaching uponlocal politics. One Mafia member, VincenzoOtungo, was disgruntled at having been cut outof the group spoils, and threatened to go to theauthorities. On January 24, 1889, his throat wasslit while playing cards.
Police chief, David Hennessy, led aninvestigation. He was the first in the US to learnof the Mafia's existence. He openly criticizedItalians, boldly stating he had no use for them.On October 15, 1890, he was shot and killed infront of his house. The press screamed forvengeance, the police embarked on a wholesaleroundup of Italians. On March 14, 1891, a mobof 8,000 people stormed the old parish prison,broke into the jail, shot nine Italian fishermen intheir cells and hanged two more. No one wasever indicted.
There's no doubt some of them were involvedin organized crime, as was Police ChiefHennessy. He was in the pay of one of the Mafiafamilies that was fighting each other, and so theother family killed him. He was no knight inshining armor.
By 1900, the Mafia was stronger than ever inNew Orleans, and worked in silence withmembers belonging to one powerful family witha boss. The strict family code of the Mafia waskept intact as new chapters were established inother cities.
Sicilian immigrants to America brought alongthe Mafia as a culture, not an organization. TheMafia offered them a sense of order in the newworld, but it was also a secret criminalenterprise, threatening immigrants withrobbery, extortion, kidnapping, even murder.The blending of Sicilian traditions within acrowded, often hostile, American contextspawned a particular hybrid, the AmericanMafia, which we'll see posed a new threat toAmerican justice.
The Lucania family's dreams of America wereshattered by the reality of the tenement of New York when they arrived in 1906. At 700 peopleper acre, the Lower East Side was morecrowded than Bombay. These Sicilianimmigrants lived on the streets, trying torecreate the piazza they had known back home.Antonio became a day laborer, and the fiveyoung Lucania's quickly Americanized theirnames. Giuseppe became Joseph. Francesca,Fanny. Bartolo, Bart. Concetta, Connie. AndSalvatore, Charles. They also changed their lastname from Lucania to Luciano.
Practically any neighborhood where a largepopulation of Sicilian immigrants lived, theMafia also existed. At the time, the Mafia wasalso known as the Black Hand. A group that'smainly preyed on fellow Italians. They're mainline was an extortion racket. They had afearsome reputation in the neighborhood, butone policeman fought back.
Tenente Giuseppe Petrosino was the first ItalianNew York City policeman to ever reach thestatus of a lieutenant. He was doing a veryeffective job against the Black Hand. Whenevera man came from Italy, a paison or a friend of his, would bring this man to policeheadquarters, stand in front of the [INAUDIBLE]until he saw Giuseppe Petrosino and point thisdreaded enemy of the Black Hand out.
As the Black Handers grew in size and musclepower, they began harassing the most famousItalian of his day, Enrico Caruso.
The Mafia sent him a letter demanding a$10,000 payment within a week, or meet yourdeath. Not even the dust of your family willremain. Caruso, wisely, got in touch withLieutenant Petrosino and showed him the letterand he was given around the clock bodyguards.Now, if Caruso would have yielded to theirdemands, I mean, there would have been noend to it.
When he performed at the Metropolitan Opera,Petrosino was assigned to protect him. But nosuch protection was possible for others. WhenPetrosino investigated the man in the barrelcase, it was too late.
A corpse was discovered in a wooden barrel.Some woman walking to work, she was Irish, bythe way, she saw this lid open and there was apiece of clothing hanging. And she opened thelid and saw this man stuffed into this barrel andhis genitals shoved in his mouth.
Well, Petrosino was an extraordinary individualmainly, because he can be considered to be thefounder of the modern Interpol concept. Withall these Sicilian criminals who were coming tothe United States, he realized that there wouldhave to be some cooperation with the Italianpolice so that they might be prosecuted, or atleast removed as undesirable aliens.
In 1909, Petrosino went to Sicily to check outpolice records. He went through the Italian filesand saw many familiar faces from hisneighborhood in New York, but his moves werebeing watched.
On March 12, 1909, he was eating dinner at thePiazza Marina and he was told to meet partiesunknown so many feet around the GaribaldiGarden. And there three men come up to him,push him up to a fence and shot him. It was, tome, it was suicide. Really. I don't know why hedid it but he was a very courageous man.
In New York, the Mafia was strengthening itshold and in the melting pot of the Lower EastSide, Lucky Luciano with three other youngimmigrants, an Italian from Calabria, namedFrank Costello and two Jews, Meyer Lansky andBugsy Siegel. An alliance was forged, whichwould come to dominate organized crime in theUnited States and change its character forever.
The most important hoodlum of his time was ayoung Italian, named Frankie Yale. He was morethan just a two bit head cracking gangster andextortionist.
He was the first celebrity godfather. Noquestion about it. He owned a cigar companywith his portrait on the box. He was the BeauBrummel of the Brooklyn underworld and akiller, the country over, really.
In New York, as in Sicily, the Mafia ran their localcommunities, providing services that thegovernment couldn't or wouldn't. Yale was theprotector.
His heart went out for the poor people onholidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, he wouldsend his men out with baskets of macaroni,canned goods, turkeys, to feed the poor peoplein his area.
He set himself up as a dispenser of justice. Forinstance, a common robbery, especially ofpeople who were poor, he would simply nottolerate it.
One of Yale's prodigies was forever proud thathe was born in the United States, not Naples.He Americanized his name from AlphonseCapone to Al Capone and modeled himself afterhis mentor, Frankie Yale.
He tutored Al in the ABCs of the underworld. Heput Al to work as a bartender and a greeter atthe Harvard Inn. It was a dine and dance jointon the Coney Island waterfront. All showed a lotof potential. He was tough. He was a good shotwith a gun. With a bat, he was terrific.
But when Capone nearly killed a member ofWild Bill Lovett's White Hand gang, he'd gonetoo far. By 1919, Capone's violent reputationhad spread throughout the Brooklyn docks hewas already a murder suspect in two cases.Finally, Frankie Yale decided to send him out toChicago for his own safety. As we'll see, it was amove that changed the face of organized crimeforever.
Chicago was never innocent. The city swarmedwith pimps and pickpockets operating in andout of brothels, saloons, and dives of everydescription. For Chicago's gangsters, thebeginning of prohibition in 1920 was ananswered prayer, especially for young AlCapone, who was now under the tutelage ofJohnny Torrio. Johnny Torrio was noted for hisintelligence rather than his muscle. From thefirst, Capone reserved his loyalty for Torrio. AndTorrio's views automatically became Capone's.
Torrio saw the potential in this man. He was big,he was willing to do what was necessary.Meaning to harm somebody, a hit. And he wassmart. But before they went into bootlegging,Big Jim Colosimo, Torrio's uncle, refused toinvest one dime in the bootlegging business. Hesays, we're doing OK without houses ofprostitution or gambling. What do we needbootleg booze for? I don't want to tangle withno feds.
Jim Colosimo, the last of the mustache Pete's ofChicago, an old time crime boss, who by 1920,even though he'd only been around 20 or 25years in the city, was very much out of step withhis young contemporaries who were on the wayup.
Well, there was only one thing to do. The guy'sgot to be hit, uncle or no uncle. The man has tobe hit. I mean, here's a business we're going tomake millions in this bootleg booze.
Big Jim was gunned down as he was leaving hiscafe. A cryptic note read, so long vampire, solong Lefty. With Big Jim Colosimo out of theway, Torrio and Capone expanded theirbootlegging. In 1924, a gangster named DionO'Banion became troublesome, as he startedhijacking their liquor.
Dion O'Banion was the boss of the vicious NorthSide Gang. However, O'Banion's demeanorbelied what he really was. He was a formerchoir boy. He ran a flower shop on State Streetwith his partner, Schofield, and he was agangster of some refinements.
Dion O'Banion became a thorn in Torrio's side.Torrio put in a call to Brooklyn, Frankie Yale tocome out to do a special job. Frankie takes thetrain up, orders a floral display for MicheleMerlo's funeral on the appointed day. Theycame in, you got my flowers? You for MikeMerlo's? Yes. It's good to see you. Shook hands.Frankie held tight while the other twotorpedoes opened up one him. Shot him dead.Yale was given $10,000, in 1920 dollars we'retalking about, and a four carat diamond ring
O'Banion's funeral was a top mob social event.The streets were so jammed scalpersdemanded $1 for vantage points on buildings.The florist was buried in a $10,000 bronzecoffin.
With O'Banion out of the way, the prohibitionwar of Chicago really escalates in the next fewyears, as one North Side boss after another isgunned down and retribution follows.
You see the thing is not to get the assassin. It'sto get the guy that pays the assassin. They triedto ambush Capone, Torrio was a victim of theshooting. Decided to pack it in and he handedover the whole of Chicago. Al, it's all yours. I'mleaving. He came close to dying and he handed over the whole works to Capone.
By 1927, Al Capone had become one ofChicago's top media celebrities.
But his reputation has been somewhat inflatedbecause he loves to be interviewed byjournalists. He makes himself available tojournalists, and he talks on about this and that.He's not very bright. I mean, even for agangster, Al Capone is pretty stupid. But thejournalists take these meanderings, theserandom reflections of Al Capone and turn theminto sentences and paragraphs. So he's made toseem intelligent.
Al Capone loved to go down the street in thisbig black limousine with bodyguardssurrounding him. He loved to go to ballparksand have the crowd cheer when he entered hisbox.
Chicago's most notorious citizen, Al Capone,king of the gangsters, appears in a new role,that of public benefactor, when he sets up soup kitchens to feed the unemployed.
If it wasn't for our friend, Al Caponio, that grewup in this here warehouse on 1935 South StateStreet, we wouldn't eat.
But what the Chicago Capone really enjoyedwas the Chicago of the nightclubs, and it's morethan 10,000 speakeasies.
There were so many nightclubs that youcouldn't wade through them. I played thepiano. I sung. I played a musical saw. And Inever cared too much for dancing, and I didn'tconsider myself a flapper. I considered myself aSouthern lady.
Rio Burke knew Capone well. She was marriedto Dominick Roberto, one of his lieutenants.
He was always having him out to the house witha group of men, and we had one long table andthey all sat at the table. The men, the womendidn't. We stayed in the background. Servedthem and cooked for them.
Dominick's line of work became more apparentwhen Rio's maid found a huge gunny sack inthe closet.
It was loaded with all kinds of guns. Pistols,Aristotle sawed-off shotguns, every kind of gunso we put it back. And when Dominick camehome, I said, Honey, what are all those gunsdoing downstairs in that gunny sack? Well, hesays, some of the boys are going hunting. Theywent hunting, all right. And then, of course, I'dhear things. But he wouldn't let me socialize.And the wives did not socialize. If they hadbusiness to take care of, they did it somewhereelse, in Al's office or some place like that. Theywould never do it in a place like or house.
Capone always had someone to do his thinkingfor him. It's Johnny Torrio at first, and then afterTorrio retires, or is retired and returns to NewYork in 1926, there's a man named GreasyThumb Guzik, Jake Guzik, who was a Jewishgangster and is sort of the man who is atCapone's right hand telling him what to do, howto handle his money and so on.
Throughout all the vicious years, Capone sawhimself as really providing services for others. Igive the people what it wants. I've given peoplethe light pleasures of all I get is abuse.
He developed contact with the New York mob, he was operating in the city and the suburbs.And one-by-one he ruthlessly closed down all ofhis competitors.
Capone was buying booze from all over thecountry. Doing business with Frankie Yale, a lotof trucks were being hijacked before they evenleft Brooklyn. So he was suspicious. Caponehad a friend in Brooklyn, James [? Falsi ?]D'Amato, who he asked to keep an eye on Yale.[? Falsi ?] wound up dead.
On July 1, 1928 around 4:00 PM, Yale wasdrinking in his speakeasy, a call came in.Something happened to your wife. Runs out to his car, suddenly he spots a black Nash trailinghim. He speeds up, the other car gained on him.Hey, Frankie. That's it. They hit him, machinegun, shotgun, and pistol fire. And to make- Thisis true, to make sure, the car came to ascreeching halt as Yale's car crashed into abuilding. One of the gunmen leaped out, drew a45 automatic, ran up to the fallen Yale, andpumped the whole clip into his head.
Frankie Yale, the first celebrity godfather,received the biggest gangland funeral in thenation. There were 250 cars in the processionplus 38 flower cars, and the casket he rested inwas a nickel and silver casket that cost-- 1928dollars, now we're talking about-- 15 grand.
There was at least 12,000 to 15,000 mourners.Alphonse Capone, was, and is still, the mostfamous gangster of the 20th century. But thething is, who was the man who started him onhis way to becoming what he was? A celebritygangster. Frankie Yale, who he modeled his lifeafter.
But the bloodiest event was yet to come. Whennews of the Saint Valentine's Day massacrebroken in the Chicago Press, few people couldbelieve what had happened. It was an eventunparalleled in gangland history, and a sad dayfor American justice.
With rival bootleggers eliminated, Al Caponefaced a challenge from the lone survivor,George Bugs Moran. In the struggle for controlof Chicago's liquor trade, Moran had twice triedto kill Capone and failed. On February 14, 1929,seven Moran gangsters were huddled in a coldwarehouse awaiting a shipment of whiskey.
According to a housewife next door, a Cadillacpulled up and four men went inside, to inuniform, leading the way. She assumed it was apolice raid, and so did the seven men inside.They lined up against the wall expecting to bearrested. The machine gun swung back andforth three times. First, at the level of theirheads, the chests, then stomachs. Over 1,000bullets shattered their bone and cartilage atpoint blank range. A pool of blood formed 40feet wide.
Capone was in Florida at the time, but it wasclear his gang did it. It was most notoriousexample of bootlegging violence, and it'sultimately, the catalyst for Capone's downfall.For the two main trigger men of the massacre,Albert Anselmi and John Scalise, there was acruel reward. Capone assembled a room full ofmobsters to honor them for their recent deeds.Capone heard that his guests of honor we'repart of a conspiracy to dethrone him.
In the course of the dinner, Al Capone takes abaseball bat and beats them to death.Hammers away at their heads and they'rekilled. The bodies are carted off and the dinnercontinues as though nothing happened.
Get these criminal behind prison walls. It's toobad that we even have to pay for their support.Their extermination would be much moresatisfactory.
Already these rats are running for cover. It's theduty of every law abiding citizen to help ferretfrom the hiding place and see when caught theyare treated the way they really are, rats.
President Hoover responded to the public'soutrage. Parallel investigations were launchedwith Prohibition Agent, Elliott Ness, and theJustice Department searching for bootleggingevidence. And the IRS's, Frank Wilson, lookingfor proof of taxable income. He wanted to knowwhy the high living Capone never filed a taxreturn. Like Capone, Elliott Ness loved thelimelight, and guaranteed coverage by tellingthe press in advance what he planned to raid.
Somebody spilled the beans and now,prohibition agents are spilling the beer.Thousands of gallons with plenty of kick.There's no doubt about it, the raid is asmashing success. Talk about showers, how would you like to stand under this one?
The IRS men, Elmer Irey and Frank Wilson,operated in secrecy and obscurity, and we'reable to infiltrate Capone's organization.Although Capone never signed any checks, theyuncovered $165,000 worth of taxable income,but Wilson wasn't satisfied. He wantedevidence to put Capone away for good. Heneeded an informer, but no one was talking.
Omerta is actually the Mafia law of silence.When you become a number of the Mafia, youtake an oath that you will with love and secrecy.You cannot expose the secrets of theorganization. It's absolute and it's enforced.
It should be noted that the very strictness andharshness of the code of omerta contains,implicit in it, the very fact that informing is apossibility.
Artful Eddie O'Hare was a lawyer, one ofCapone's lawyers. He ran racetracks for theCapone's. He had a son named Butch on whohe doted. He peppered his conversations withreferences to my son, Butch. He wants Butch tobe able to go to Annapolis, and he can'tbecause Artful Eddie is a gangster.
So as Eddie told the story, he turns against AlCapone, provides evidence for Al Capone's taxcase. And so Artful Eddie is sort of pardoned. Hebecomes a good citizen. The Capone's learnabout this treachery and kill him. But EddieO'Hare is indeed, a Navy hero during World WarII, and O'Hare Airport, in Chicago, is named forthe son of a gangster.
As a last desperate attempt, Capone offered amillion and a half dollars in cash to IRS man,Elmer Irey. Irey turned him down.
Mr. Alphonse Capone, alias, Al Brown, alias, theBig Shot, has met the enemy and he is there's.Now, for a change, they are taking him for aride. And so, up until 1940, Mr. Capone will beMr. 40,886. Let that be a good lesson to you.Always be sure and pay your income tax.
Capone was not put away by Eliot Ness. It wasthe pencil pu