One Hundred Deaths In 16 Months Is Record Hung Up By Chicago’s Underworld

News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio)/April 5, 1928


Leadership of men, the command of big business, calls for the highest qualities of mind and heart.

Johnny Torrio had elements of greatness—did he not show adaptability, alertness to opportunity, and great business acumen, when he seized upon Prohibition as the ladder by which a little local gambling and vice syndicate was to climb to a business of $75,000,000 a year? But he had his failings. For one thing, he was not sufficiently observant to mark the growing intimacy between Jack Cusick, financial officer of the syndicate and his chief executive officer, and Al Capone, who shared with Dion O’Bannion equal rank as, so speak, vice presidents.

For another thing, he was a man little mean of spirit. He was niggardly, surly. Many a humble worker in the ranks came to him with his trouble, only to be turned away, hurt and angry. Capone, on the other hand, always made friends. He would help—his hand was always in his pocket for the distressed retainer. Yes, he thought the chief might have gone to the front for the man—but he shouldn’t get sore, after all the chief had a lot on his mind, probably. Anyway, the loyal worker could always count on him, Al. And it was all in the family, wasn’t it?

Capone Made Friends

So Capone made friends, loyal friends, who would do a good turn for him any time.

Joe Howard, minor gangster, talked out of turn. A few days later he was shot down near the Four Deuces. Just before the guns barked, a witness heard him shout, unsuspecting, “Hello, Al!”

Capone was questioned too, when “Dutch” Buckner and “Georgia” Meegan, members of the Spike O’Donnell gang, fell to their death before the roar of sawed-off shotguns. Nothing came of that either.

When “Two Gun” Johnny Dougherty’s body was picked up from a desolate road on the outskirts of the city Capone again faced inquisitors. But by this time, under the able tutelage of Jackie Cusick, he was adroit in facing questionnaires successfully, and was released by the police.

Years Bring Change

In fact Capone, today, stands convicted of not one crime.

Years had brought about a change. No longer was Capone the flashy dresser, the gangland “sheik” of yesteryear. He was now the suave business man dressed in conservative fashion. He is today.

Murder followed murder. More than 100 men were killed in sixteen months. McSwiggin fell in front of a west side saloon. Jimmy Doughtery, “Red” Duffy and others were picked off by the deadly weapons of gangland. Their slayers are unknown to police.

Capone prospered. So did Cusick. So did Torrio—for a time. But one day as Torrio stepped from the doorway of his home, there was a roar of machine guns and Torrio fell. He wasn’t dead, however.

For weeks the gangster chief lay in a hospital, slowly creeping back from the death to which he had been sentenced. He finally walked straight from the hospital to the federal building. He had thought things over and, knew when to be quiet—something few gangsters ever have learned. His attorneys bargained with the federal prosecutors and in the end Torrio accepted a federal “rap” for nine months in the Waukegan, Ill. county jail.

Before he left, however, he took Capone by the hand, introduced him to the necessary persons and instructed them to accept Capone as chief until Torrio came back.

When Torrio’s nine months were up he approached Capone and asked for the reins of government back.

Torrio Banished

Capone laughed. So did Cusick.

“You’re through, Torrio. You’ve got about twenty-four hours. Beat it.” Torrio “got.” Like a ghost he flitted. From that day to this, “Scarface Al” Capone has ruled the Chicago underworld.

“Scarface Al” Capone, after ascending to power in the Chicago badlands, ruled with an iron hand which was soon felt by the many little “independents” who sought to oust him from power.

In a few years, directly or indirectly, he disposed of such luminaries as “Polack Joe” Saltis, south side beer baron; Frankie McErland, tried for murder in Indiana: Dion O’Bannion, former muscleman for the north side mob; Vincent “Schemer” Drucci; Hymie Weiss; Big George Moran and others. Only Spike O’Donnell is alive today—but very much out of sight.

There were others—lone wolves, heads of minor groups. The coroner was kept busy. Capone and Cusick went on.




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