Prohibition Chicago

The Northsiders

1924 -- Prelude

 1925 -- War in Chicago

1926 -- "A Real Goddamn Crazy Place!"

October 11, 1926

October 11, 1926
Part II

St. Valentine's Day

Part I Introduction
Part II Top Ten Myths
Part III 10 Questions
  (and 10 answers)


Photo Gallery







1. This bit of contrived motive came directly from the Chicago Police Department, almost immediately after the massacre. Although booze hijacking was a routine part of the business, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest a scenario of this type was used to set up Moran's Northsiders.

2. There is solid evidence that one of the participants may not have been part of Frank Nitti's usual stable of Capone gunmen. Other evidence strongly points to front line participation by a number of very familiar Capone hitmen.

3. Is there any actual evidence the Clark Street lookouts were waiting for Moran? The implied assumption here is that the lookouts could possibly hope to identify Moran from among a group of similarly dressed men entering a building from across a busy Chicago Street in mid winter during a snow fall. Given the otherwise careful planning of this operation, if you assumed anything, it would be that the people targeted to be hit had entered the garage that morning and were successfully eliminated.

4. Although it defies both the evidence and logic (for those paying even a little attention to Chicago mob hits between 1924 and 1928), you will find this number in almost all major texts on the subject. My own research starts the count at eleven Capone participants on or about North Clark Street that morning.

5. Moran's actual gang headquarters was 127 North Dearborn Street. 2122 North Clark Street was a garage used for Northsider vehicle and contraband storage.

6. Funny how so many false leads on the crime were immediately given to newspaper reporters by various police brass. Strange that Moran's top people gathered at their obscure booze depot, seemingly dressed for a very important meeting and carrying thousands of dollars in cash.

7. The autopsies showed that the two Capone shot-gunners began firing at the same time as the two machine-gunners. Again, virtually every major book describing the crime states the shot-gunners only stepped up to fire after the initial shooting, to "finish off" two of Moran's men.

8. Book after book blindly repeats this tired fiction. There is no academically  researched evidence proving that any of this occurred.

9. In the mid-1990s, several researchers given access to 1960s FBI wiretap information on Chicago mobsters excitedly announced an entirely new history of Prohibition Chicago. Unfortunately, almost all the information was an embarrassing concoction of lies, macho posturing and seemingly calculated misinformation. For a time, it seemed that Tony Accardo participated in every major 20th century combat incident except the raising of the flag over Iwo Jima.

10. The perfect quote for the newspapers, and a startling break in the traditional gangster code of keeping one's mouth shut even in the face of the most heinous of crimes. Only the quote never happened. But an out of town newspaper ran it, and decades of writers have found the made up quote just too irresistible to ignore.

11. At first glance, killing George Moran appears to be Al Capone's primary goal. But I am convinced by the available evidence the real objective of this crime was not to target aging Northsider George Moran. The goal was to eliminate the Northsider gunmen working for Moran who had spent the previous two years actively hunting Jack McGurn and the team of Capone killers who successfully ambushed Hymie Weiss on October 11, 1926.
In 1929, the Northsiders were not Al Capone's problem-- they were Jack McGurn's problem.


St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Part II: Top Ten Myths (plus one)

Sensational crimes breed reams of newspaper print,  media coverage and (eventually) books. The St. Valentine's Day massacre may be the prototype hyped national crime-- primed by the 1921 Sacco and Vanzetti trial, a precursor to the outrageous 1935 Lindberg baby kidnapping trial, a distant cousin to John Kennedy's 1963 assassination and the 1995 O. J. Simpson murder trial. Today, there are no "trials of the century" or "crimes of the century"; many dozens of murder investigations and court trials now automatically qualify for gavel to gavel coverage by the networks, cable news outlets, and every major newspaper in the nation.

The sensational exception has become just another mass media cliché.

Intense media scrutiny can provide enhanced public oversight which, in theory, brings out the truth. O. J. Simpson may have been found "not guilty" at the close of his criminal trial, but blanketing media coverage and exposition allowed the thoughtful to understand that someone guilty of a double murder had been acquitted.

The media did little factual analysis and in-depth research in 1929, when five Northside gangsters, their auto mechanic, and a gangster "hanger-on" were murdered in a Chicago garage by Al Capone's organization. Cynical Chicago crime beat reporters who worked in a town on the take, and wanted to live to write another day, dutifully repeated information fed to them by ineffectual local police officials (many of whom were themselves on gang payrolls). We are left with a seventy-seven year trail of books, virtually all of which reverently pass down a series of fairytales as to how these killings went down.

Recent efforts to explore old FBI files brought new focus on a theory of the crime first discussed by author John Kobler in his 1971 Capone biography. Given the FBI's disconnect with the history of organized crime until the late 1950s, and the fact that J. Edgar Hoover ran the Bureau not as a crime fighting unit, but to enhance FBI public relations and assemble reams of celebrity character assassination material, any FBI information on the subject of organized crime pre-1958 is suspect on its face.

 What follows are the top ten myths about the St Valentine's day massacre. These are the so-called "facts" traditionally pasted onto the story of the crime over the years, all of which are unsupported by any academically referenced historical research. Without credible references from either multiple or unimpeachable sources, these fake "facts" remain nothing more than assumptions, fabrications, charming anecdotal family myths, or sensational theories.

Myth #10

The Northsiders who gathered at the SMC Cartage Company at 2122 North Clark Street on February 14, 1929, were there to receive a truckload of hijacked liquor. This was part of a setup by the Capone organization to lure George Moran and his top people to that address at a specific day and time to be killed.

Myth #9

The persons in charge of planning the hit, and all the participants, were not part of Al Capone's outfit, but a group of mid-western bank robbers and kidnappers hired by Capone.2

Myth #8

Capone lookouts across the North Clark Street misidentified Northsider Albert Weinshank as George Moran, setting off the carnage before the real Moran could arrive at the garage that morning.

Myth #7

The hit team consisted of five men, two of whom were dressed as Chicago policemen, plus two lookouts in a rooming house across the street.4   

Myth #6

2122 North Clark Street was the "headquarters" for Moran's Northsiders.5

Myth #5

Members of the Chicago Police Department were not involved in the crime.6

Myth #4

During the shooting, the two Thompson machine guns and the two shotguns used were not fired simultaneously.7

Myth #3

George Moran, and either one (or two) members of his gang, were walking down North Clark Street toward the garage just as the crime went down. Seeing the police car in front of the garage, they either, 1) ducked into a coffee shop until the police car drove off; or, 2) went into a restaurant to hide; or, 3) walked past the garage without stopping; or, 4) hurriedly returned to Moran's hotel.8

Myth #2

Anthony Accardo (or Murray Humphreys) were part of the hit team.9

Myth #1

After the massacre, when confronted by newspaper reporters, George Moran stated, "Only Capone kills like that."10

And the final, and most important, myth in understanding this crime:
The St. Valentine's Day hit team's primary goal was to kill George Moran.11

Part III will appear as a chapter in book form...