The Prohibition Era: Come see us!

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The Prohibition Era

The Prohibition era lasted from 1920 to 1933. In this time, the United States decided to ban all use of alcohol. This caused a tremendous outrage within the country. The government was really serious in trying to enforce this law, but they didn't plan very well: They were just too many people who opposed Prohibition. TOO MANY. Many people saw this as an opportunity to get into criminal activities, while others, who were already engaged with them, saw this as an opportunity to earn more money. Since the police were too focused on enforcing Prohibition, they didn't pay that much attention to the other crimes: Murder, Arson, and all sorts of crimes were either overlooked or were impossible to stop, because of the culprit's high political or popular power. The Prohibition Era also saw the rise of organized crime, which is now known as either the Mafia or simply The Mob. Many Mafiosi groups were really famous and powerful, and the police couldn't do anything about them. Eventually, Mafia bosses were convicted of crimes which are sure to make them lose, like tax evasion. They did this because the amount of corrupt officials and lawyers was too high to even get a chance of winning. Also, if they convict their boss, other gang members may attack, making it dangerous as well. Most Mafia groups were called families, and they usually had fights between them to ensure power over something. Many famous Mafiosi were connected to each other in some way or another, either by coincidence or by simply them being famous enough for them to meet all the time. Eventually, in 1933 the United States gave up and told the population to vote for the continuation of Prohibition. Obviously, a huge majority voted for the legalization of alcohol, and so Prohibition came to an end. But, the Mafia didn't stop there. Many Mafia families even continue to this day. Mobsters like Mickey Cohen and Lucky Luciano found other illegal ways of earning money, while others, like Bugsy Siegel, resorted to more "legal" methods of earning money.

Alphonse Capone

Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone, born January 17, 1899, was an American crime boss who lived in the Prohibition Era. He was born in Brooklyn, and then became involved with gang activity after being expelled from school at age 14. He then moved to Chicago in the early twenties to take advantage of the Prohibition law and smuggle illegal drinks into the city in exchange for money. He also engaged in other criminal activities, such as prostitution and bribery to government officials. But, despite his criminal activities, he did donate some of his earnings to charity, making him look like "a modern day Robin Hood", and earn the trust and protection of the people that way. Unfortunately, (kind of) his reputation went down after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which he ordered to kill seven mob ASSOCIATES (aka having little to no relation with the gang) who were tied to the North Side Irish gang, led by Bugs Moran. This lead to many people hating him, so much that the Bureau of Prohibition saw this as a chance to try to capture him with the approval of the people, making them more popular. They figured out that the most likely way to suceed in his case would be to charge him for tax evasion. They succeded, charging him for 11 years of prison for that. Meanwhile he was in jail, Prohibition was lifted, so his gang was then disbanded because they couldn't profit that much anymore. When he left Alcatraz, he had lost his popularity, and, because of contracting neurosyphillis, he then had the mental capacity of a 12-year old.

Mayer Harris Cohen

Mayer Harris "Mickey" Cohen was born on September 4, 1913n in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Los Angeles. In his teenage years, he began boxing, and that is when he got his first connections with top Jewish and Italian mobsters. He acted as a muscle for Mafiosi and Jewish gang bosses in Cleveland, New York, and Chicago. In his early 20s, he began working for famous gang boss Bugsy Siegel. By the early 1940s he partnered up with Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello. This was approved by Lucky Luciano, and sponsored by his old Cleveland supproters, the Milano family. In addition to regular mobster stuff, Cohen took advantage of the movie industry by controlling unions and through blackmail. In 1947 Siegel was assasinated and Cohen then became the West Coast crime boss. Cohen's exploits made him nationally notorius, and his own ambitions exemplified the Noir City that he both bled and served. His connections were so wide that every trial he went through he was proved innocent, due to governmental corruption done by him. He even was proved innocent of MURDER. He DID get convivted twice, but because of tax evasion.

Charles Luciano

Charles "Lucky" Luciano was one of the most famous gangsters in the US during most of the 20th century, who turned syndicated crime into a nation-wide organization based on legitimate business models. Born in Sicily, he and his family moved into New York City in 1906. At an early age he demonstrated others that he was a creative thug on the Lower East Side, and eventually, he made his way up the ladder to being a top aid to boss Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. In the 1920s Masseria was involved in a prolonged turf war with rival crime boss Salvatore Maranzano. Luciano, who by this time had earned the nickname "Lucky" (supposedly by surviving a brutal attack on his life, which made his eye look all weird), made a deal with Maranzano and arranged for Joe the Boss to be assassinated in 1931. He then became the biggest crime boss in New York City. With the help of childhood friend Meyer Lansky and strongman Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Luciano then restructured organized crime. Together they created an organization that had a board of directors that focused on profits instead of traditional ethnic loyalties. He then became a celebrity, knowing stars such as Frank Sinatra and George Raft. Evetually, his gangster fame caught up with him, and he charged for 62 counts of compulsory prostitution, sentencing him for more than 30 years of prison. "Luckily" for Luciano, in February 1946 Governor Dewey struck a deal with Luciano to let him out of prison, but that he must be some sort of distance away from the US (some say this is because Luciano, with his contacts and information, helped the US defeat the Nazis in World War II). Even after that, he still continued to create crime everywhere he was exiled to. He finally died of a heart attack in 1962.

Benjamin Siegel

Benjamin Siegel was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to a poor Jewish family
from Letychiv, Podolia Governorate of the Russian Empire, in modern
Ukraine. As a teenager Siegel worked with Meyer Lansky doing illegal car robbery, and forming a car robbery ring. He later became a hitman for various crime families. He then met Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello, who would later be future bosses of the Genovese crime family. He became a member of the family and did various bootlegging work in New York, New Jersey, and Philadephia. He was one of the four gunmen sent to kill Joe Massaria by Luciano's request, ending the Castellammarese War. In 1937 the East Coast Mob sent Siegel to California to develop syndicate gambling rackets with Los Angeles mobster Jack Dragna. On November 22, 1939, Siegel, Whitey Krakower, and two other gang members killed Harry "Big Greenie" Greenberg. Greenberg had become a police informant. Siegel was acquitted of the crime, but his reputation was in ruins. During the trial, newspapers revealed Siegel's past and referred to him as "Bugsy”, a name that he despised. In 1946, Bugsy Siegel was given the job of watching the mobs interests in the growing gambling paradise of Las Vegas, specifically overseeing the construction of William R. Wilkerson's Flamingo. Siegel wanted the Flamingo to be the best casino ever made in Las Vegas. He used a lot of the mob's money to fund the project. Over $6 Million dollars was invested on the project, and soon the mob leaders got tired of funding him. Somehow, he still got enough funding, and people began to suspect him from stealing money. The Flamingo turned out to be a really profitable build, but before he could repay his stolen money, he got killed by an unknown assailant, most likely someone sent by his fellow mobsters.
What Goes Into a 1920s Prohibition Cocktail

Really Long Documentary on Prohibition

The Prohibition Years Documentary -

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Al Capone Image:

Al Capone. Digital image. The Biography Channel, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013. <>

Mickey Cohen Image:

Mickey Cohen. Digital image. Vintag. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <>.

Lucky Luciano Image:

New York Police Department. Lucky Luciano. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 1936. Web. 30 Oct. 2013. <>.

Bugsy Siegel Image:

Bugsy Siegel. Digital image. Fineart America. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2013. <>.

Citation Image Citation:

Why Cite? Digital image. Library Guide. University of Toronto, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2013. <>.