February 14th 1929, Chicago, Illinois.
St. Valentine’s Day 1929, grey skies, bitterly cold, snow, just a normal winter’s day in Chicago. A day when the course of organised crime in the city was about to take a radical turn. 1929 was seeing the beginning of the end of the Jazz Age.
The rise of Al Capone was complete, but in so rising to the top enemies lurked in the shadows. Chief protagonist was George ‘Bugs’ Moran, an Irish-American mob Boss of the North Side gang which controlled brothels, casinos and the movement of illegal booze.
Although no one has ever actually identified the exact perpetrators, Capone is widely believed to be the root source of the decision to get Moran and his closest lieutenants. An apartment had been rented across the street from 2122 North Clark Street, a nondescript garage in a quiet residential neighbourhood.
The garage was rented by George Moran and his gang for repairs and storage and was a large space with little light and on the morning of February 14th, seven men arrived and went inside. Watching from the apartment the executioners believed that Moran was amongst them, he was not. They were all, bar one the mechanic John May, dressed well, suits, ties, tie-pins, smart shoes, coats and hats, one even wore a carnation.
A Cadillac pulled up outside, four men got out, apparently ‘police officers’ and went inside. They ordered the Moran gang to line up facing the wall and then signalled to two other plain clothed men from the car to come in.
The massacre left all bar one dead, but he died hours later. The brutality and ferociousness of the attack was widely reported and photographs from inside the garage seen around the country.
Up to this point two things had been accepted in American society. Prohibition was an inconvenience, but people had found ways around it via the speakeasy and bootleggers. Al Capone was a known criminal but had been tolerated due to his role in bootlegging illegal liquor.
The ground swell of opinion now changed because of the massacre, leading to Capone becoming ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ and the beginning of the end of Prohibition.
The Roaring Twenties up to 1929 were to change into the Great Depression of the 1930s. The rise of organised crime during Prohibition was to now see a steady increase in reach of the Mafia that would culminate in the 1960s.
There was only one survivor of America’s most infamous and unsolved crime, a dog named Highball who was the mechanic John May’s dog.