This Week in History | Valentine’s Day 1929

Al Capone Mugshot - public domain
Al Capone’s Mugshot

Rory Larson |

The Roaring Twenties—what many people conjure in their minds when they think about the twenties is an era of glamorous parties, flappers and, of course, gangsters.

Our modern image of the 1920’s gangster is somewhat idolized, when in actuality the life of a gangster was a gritty and hazardous one. Anyone could be a cop or a member of a rival gang, and your life was on the line if you could not make the distinction in time. It is on this stage that Al “Scarface” Capone rose up to be America’s famed “public enemy number one” and became the king of Chicago’s criminal underbelly.

“Public Enemy Number One”

Capone inherited the position of mob boss from his previous boss, Johnny Torrio, when he was wounded in an assassination attempt in 1924 and retired. By this time Capone was already well known to many gangsters and police men in Chicago. He had always had his eyes set on taking over all of the bootlegging, gambling and prostitution within Chicago. Capone accomplished his takeover by picking off his rivals at gunpoint. It is believed that one of these attempted hits was the St. Valentine’s Massacre.

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

Though it has never been proven, Capone was—and still is—believed to have put a hit out on George “Bugs” Moran, boss of the North Side Gang. This “hit” was carried out at a garage on the north side of Chicago on Feb. 14, 1929, where seven members of Moran’s gang were lured under the guise of purchasing bootlegged whiskey. Moran himself was running late and missed his own assasination by mere minutes.

All seven men that went to the garage to pick up the whiskey were lined up against the garage wall by rival gangsters dressed as police officers under the pretense that they were being arrested. They were shot while facing the wall, over 70 rounds being fired at the unsuspecting men.

When interviewed by the media after the incident Moran was quoted having said, “Only Capone kills like that.” Capone, who was currently at his residence in Florida gave his own response to Moran’s accusation—“The only man who kills like that is Bugs Moran.” Nobody was ever put on trial or charged for the massacre.

The Fall of Capone

Al Capone wasn’t brought down for another two years. What was the final nail in the coffin you might ask? Tax evasion. In 1931 Capone was charged with 22 counts of tax evasion and served 11 years between Atlanta and Alcatraz Penitentiary. In 1939 he was released and retired to his Florida residence, dying eight years later in 1947.

To this day Capone has never been definitively proven to have caused the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and there are others who have taken credit for the crime. Unfortunately, as with most cold cases, we may never have the answers to what really happened in that garage on the north side of Chicago.

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