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St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Calvin Coolidge

St. Valentine's Day Massacre: Calvin Coolidge was the 30th American President who served in office from August 2, 1923 to March 4, 1929.  One of the notorious events at the end of his presidency was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Definition and Summary of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Summary and definition:
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre took place in a garage in Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois on February 14, 1929. Seven members  of the "Bugs" Moran North Side Gang mob of gangsters were machine-gunned against a garage wall by four mobster rivals posing as police.

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre was generally ascribed to the crime boss Al Capone and his Chicago Mafia, although Al Capone was in his Florida mansion on the date it occurred. There were plenty of suspects but no concrete evidence surfaced in the case and the perpetrators of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre were never convicted.

What was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre? The St. Valentine's Day Massacre was the murder of 7 members of the George "Bugs" Moran mob, who were machine-gunned against a garage wall by rivals posing as police.

When was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre? The date of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre was on February 14, 1929.

Where was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre? The St. Valentine's Day Massacre was at the S.M.C Cartage Co. garage, 2122 N. Clark Street, Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois.

Who were the victims of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre? The seven victims of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre were members of the “Bugs” Moran mob, known mobster rivals and enemies of Al Capone's Chicago Mob. Their names were Peter Gusenberg, Frank Gusenberg, Albert Weinshank, Adam Heyer, John May, Reinhardt Schwimmer and James Clark.

What guns were used in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre?
The guns used in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre were identified as .45-caliber Thomson submachine guns. The Thompson submachine gun was invented by John T. Thompson in 1919. The guns used were the Colt M1921A & the other one was the Colt M1921AC as manufactured by Colt Firearms in 1921. The Thompson had a variety of nicknames such as the "Tommy Gun," the "Trench Broom," the "Chicago Piano" and the "Chicago Typewriter.

Why was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre important?
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre was important as the publicity it attracted, together with graphic photographs of the event, made Al Capone a national and international celebrity. Newly-elected President Herbert Hoover became determined to end the career of Al Capone and his Chicago Mafia. In 1930 J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the Prohibition Bureau (later called the FBI) appointed Eliot Ness to select an elite squad of special Prohibition enforcement agents  to take down Capone.

The squad became known as "The Untouchables" and within 6 months their investigations ultimately led to the conviction of Al "Scarface" Capone and other Chicago gangsters involved in organized crime. The St. Valentine's Day Massacre led to the establishment of the Wickersham Commission on May 20, 1929 (1929-1931) that reported that Prohibition was not working and resulted in the repeal of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and the end of bootlegging in America.

Facts about St. Valentine's Day Massacre
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Chicago in the 1920's became the base for the illegal activities of rival gangs of mobsters and gangsters. Until 1920 gangsters had mainly limited their activities to prostitution, theft, extortion and gambling. The Prohibition Era then provided mobsters with the illegal, and highly lucrative crime of 'bootlegging' and the vast profits to be made from 'speakeasies'.

Violent gang warfare was rife and the hostility between gang leaders Al "Scarface" Capone and George “Bugs” Moran led to the infamous 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Al Capone was the crime boss of the notorious Chicago Mafia, also known as the Outfit or the Chicago Mob who operated in the south side of Chicago. George "Bugs" Moran was the boss of the North Side Chicago Gang.

Al Capone wanted to extend his territory to cover the whole of Chicago and double the $60 million per year he was raking in from his activities. He  certainly had a motive for ordering the St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The garage on Clark Street was used as a distribution point for north side liquor and often frequented by "Bugs" Moran. It was believed that "Bugs" Moran had been 'set up' by Capone associates to meet at the garage with a promise of a stolen shipment of whiskey. However, George "Bugs" Moran was not in the garage when the slaughter occured.

"Bugs" Moran, together with his bodyguards Willie Marks and Ted Newberry, was due at the garage for the delivery on 14th February. However, they had seen a police car outside the garage and believing a 'shakedown' was in operation drove straight passed.

The 'police car' was part of the audacious plan to take out the gangsters in the garage. Five men were in the police car, two of them in police uniforms and three in civilian clothing. A light snow was falling and the temperature was freezing on this infamous day on 14th February 1929.

Inside the garage were a group of "Bugs" Moran men. James Clark (Moran's brother-in-law), Frank and Peter Gusenberg who were delivery drivers for bootleg liquor, mobsters Adam Heyer and Al Weinshank, Johnny May, an ex-safecracker who had been hired by "Bugs" Moran as an auto mechanic and Reinhardt Schwimmer, a young optometrist who was a 'hanger-on'.

Johnny May was working on a truck accompanied by his German Shepherd dog, named Highball, who was tied to the bumper of the truck.

At approximately 10.30am on February 14, 1929, the five men got out of the police car and went into the garage on Clark Street.

The two fake police officers, carrying 'tommy guns',  ordered the men to line up against the wall. Moran's men did not put up a struggle, assuming they were going to be searched in a routine 'bust'.

Two of the killers opened fire with the Thompson sub-machine guns, spraying the men with a shower of deadly bullets. Each victim received at least 15 shots each.

Six of the seven men were immediately. Despite 22 bullet wounds, Frank Gusenberg survived the attack, but died three hours after arriving at Alexian Brothers Hospital.

The Alsatian dog, Highball, also survived the attack.

After the attack, the uniformed 'police officers' marched their plain-clothed accomplices out the front door of the garage with their hands raised, just in case anyone was watching. The hit men piled into the 'police car' and drove away.

Nobody was convicted of the murder. "Bugs" Moran immediately accused Al Capone and the Chicago Mafia of the murders. But their was no concrete evidence.

Alibi: Al Capone was in Florida at the time of the massacre and had an air-tight alibi.

The blonde alibi: "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn, a key member of the Chicago Outfit, was questioned, but never arrested. His girlfriend, Louise Rolfe, vouched for him and said that they had spent Valentine's Day together in bed until 1 o'clock that afternoon. Louise Rolfe was nicknamed "The blonde alibi".

"Machine Gun" Jack McGurn was found murdered on February 15, 1936 seven years and one day after the massacre. A Valentine was left in the lobby of the bowling alley where he was murdered

The press instantly picked up on the violent crime and published graphic photographs of the killings. The newspapers dubbed it the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." The story appeared on front pages around the country, making Al Capone a nationwide celebrity. He photo was even featured on the cover of Time Magazine on March 24 , 1930

The publicity and speculation surrounding Al "Scarface" Capone also brought him the unwanted attention of the federal government. J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Prohibition Bureau, understood the publicity value of taking out Al "Scarface" Capone. J. Edgar Hoover  and the newly-elected President Herbert Hoover were determined to end the career of Al Capone.

A special squad of agents (The Untouchables) headed by Eliot Ness brought down Al Capone, not for his violent crimes but for tax evasion. On November 24, 1931 he was sentenced to 11 years in jail, fined $50,000 and charged  $215,000 (plus interest) due on back taxes.

Neither Al Capone, nor any other gangsters, were convicted of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. To this day it remains the most famous unsolved crime in American history.

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition

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