Prohibition and Depression Era Gangsters
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If the Old West Outlaws get a lot of historic attention, a
close second are the gangsters of the 1920’s
Prohibition era and the
1930's Depression period. Feared and revered, these American gangsters
often controlled liquor sales,
gambling, and prostitution, while making popular, silk suits, diamond
rings, guns, booze and broads.
These many men, though often murderers and outright
robbers, were sometimes also involved in the political, social, and
economic conditions of the times. Infamous names of the era included
people such as
Al Capone, Vito Genovese, Dutch Schultz, Jack "Legs"
Diamond, Charles "Lucky" Luciano,
John Dillinger, and Bugsy Siegel.
Depression created yet another
type of outlaw, fed by both need and greed. Though not as "revered" as the
outlaws with names like Bonnie and Clyde,
"Baby Face" Nelson, Ma Barker, and "Pretty Boy" Floyd, also became
legends, as their deeds included some of the wildest and deadliest stories
ever to hit newspaper front pages.
Much like the days of the
Civil War, these were difficult times for the vast majority
of Americans and like the gunmen before them, the
outlaws of the 1920s and
'30s gained fame among those who dreamed of individuality and fast money.
The "romance” of the lifestyle and resistance to the socially imposed
rules of the times led numerous men and a few women into a criminal life
that included bank robberies, illegal sales of alcohol, gambling,
prostitution, and black market drugs.
Bodies of gangsters
lying on a
Chicago garage floor following
the St. Valentine's Day
With it came violence, spawned mostly
by bitter gang rivalries in the 1920s. In those days, gangster killings
were unlike those of the
Old West or those of today. They were generally
calculated business practices rather than personal vendettas, where one
gang would line up rival gang members and shoot them down, or make a
surprise attack on them, blasting or bombing until their rivals were dead.
In the 1930s, the violence was more desperate as
outlaws were determined
to have their way at any cost.
Though these men and women were
violent criminals, like their predecessors in the days of the
the public couldn’t get enough of them – craving the news stories,
photographs, tales of luxurious living, and the morbid facts of violent
In the end, most of these
sent to jail, killed by rival gangsters, or killed by law enforcement, but
their legends live on.
Gangsters & Outlaws
Edward "Eddie" J. Adams (1887-1921)
Kansas bootlegger, car thief,
Adams was eventually
captured and sentenced to life imprisonment. He escaped custody twice
and was killed in a shootout with police in Wichita,
Kansas on November 22, 1921.
- Involved with Verne Sankey in a kidnapping, Alcorn was sent to
Leavenworth Federal Prison.
William Anglin (1956-??) - Georgia bank robber who was arrested in
1956 and ultimately sent to
escaped in the June 1962 was never seen again.
George "Dutch" Anderson (1879-1925) A Danish criminal, Anderson, along with
Gerald Chapman, co-led a
Prohibition-era gang during the late 1910s
until the mid-1920s. He and his associates successfully robbed a US Mail truck of $2.4
million in cash, bonds, and jewelry. Finally captured, he was sentenced
to 25 years in prison but later escaped. He was killed in a police
shootout on October 31, 1925.
Ashley Gang - Led by John H. Ashley,
the gang terrorized
Florida’s southeast coast for more than 15 years, committing crimes that
ranged from murder, bank robbery, hijacking, bootlegging, to piracy on
the high seas.
John H. Ashley (1895-1924) - Leading
the Ashley Gang, which
terrorized Florida’s southeast coast for
more than 15 years, the gang committed crimes that ranged from murder,
bank robbery, hijacking, bootlegging, to piracy on the high seas. He was
killed by law enforcers on November 1, 1924.
Theodore "Blackie" Audett - A prisoner of
claimed to have been a
Barker-Karpis Gang, but this has been disputed by the facts. He was
a jailhouse author noted for his fantastic claims about other prisoners
and his own life. While in
Alcatraz, he was also known to have been a
snitch who was a defense witness in the 1946 Blast-Out Trial.
Abe Axler - A member of the Purple Gang,
Axler was assassinated in November, 1933.
Harvey John Bailey (1887-1979) - A
partner of Machine Gun Kelly, Bailey was considered one of the most
successful bank robbers of the 1920's, Bailey stole over a million
dollars. He was thought to have been involved in the
Kansas City Union Station Massacre. He was eventually captured and spent 31 years in prison.
He died at the age 91 in Joplin, Missouri.
Basil Hugh "The Owl" Banghart
(1900-1982) - An underworld legend, Banghart was
a machine gunner and
aviator for the mob. He was eventually sentenced to prison and was
released at the age of 60. He lived out the remainder of his life
on a small island in Puget Sound.
Arthur R. "Doc" Barker
(1899-1939) - Member of
Barker was shot and killed while trying to escape from
Kate "Ma" Barker (1873-1935) - An alleged member of the
Barker-Karpis Gang, who committed a spree of
robberies, kidnappings and other crimes between 1931 and 1935, Barker
was killed in a shoot-out with police on January 16, 1935.
- A bank robber, Barkdoll was sentenced to prison and wound up in
where he attempted to escape in 1941.
Barker-Karpis Gang (1931-1935) -
Barker and her sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur, and Fred teamed up with
Alvin Karpis and several other criminals, who terrorized the Midwest and
position of Public
Enemy #1 on the
FBI "Most Wanted List."
Kelly Barnes, aka: George "Machine Gun" Kelly (1900-1954) -
A notorious Prohibition era criminal, his crimes included bootlegging,
armed robbery and, most prominently, kidnapping. He spent some time in
Alcatraz before dying of a heart attack at Leavenworth Federal Prison,
Kansas on July 18, 1954.
Barrow Gang (1932-1934)
- Well known outlaws, robbers, and criminals who traveled the Midwest
and Texas during the
Bennie Iva "Blanche" Caldwell Barrow (1911-1988) - The wife of
Marvin "Buck" Barrow and a member of the
Clyde Barrow (1909-1934)
- Half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde pair, these two were criminals who, with
Barrow Gang, traveled and robbed numerous locations in the Central United
States during the
Marvin "Buck" Barrow - Marvin Ivan "Buck" Barrow was the older brother
of Clyde Barrow, leader of the
Albert Bates (??-1948) - A partner of Machine Gun Kelly,
Bates served time in Alcatraz.
"Eddie" Wilheim Bentz (1895-1936) - Partnered with such names as
Machine Gun Kelly and Baby Face Nelson, Bentz was one the
shrewdest, most resourceful, intelligent and dangerous bank robbers of
the Depression era.
Joe Bergl (1901-1950) - A
Al Capone, he supplied Capone with custom-made vehicles
designed for protection and evasion purposes that included armor
plating, smokescreens, and oil slicks.
Abe Bernstein (1892-1968) - A Detroit, Michigan gangster
and a leader of the infamous Prohibition-era Purple Gang. He began
branching out to other major cities during the mid-1920s, eventually
becoming an associate of New York mobsters and a partner in several
syndicate gambling casinos in Miami, Florida. He died on March 7, 1968.
Raymond Bernstein - a member of the Purple Gang,
Bernstein was sentenced to life in prison in 1931 for murder.
George Birdwell (1894-1932) -
A partner and friend of
Oklahoma outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd, Birdwell and
Floyd robbed a number of banks in
Oklahoma, including two banks on one
day on December 12, 1931 in Castle and Paden,
Oklahoma. Alone, Birdwell
attempted to hold up the bank in the African-American community of Boley,
Oklahoma in November, 1932 and was shot from within the vault by a
James Boarman - A bank robber, Boarman was sent to Alcatraz
and during a 1943 escape attempt was killed.
Joe Bowers (??-1936) - Sent to Alcatraz for robbery, Bowers
was the first man to attempt to escape Alcatraz. He was killed in the
Ford Bradshaw (1908-1934) - One time leader of Cookson Hills Gang and
partner of Wilber Underhill and Charlie Cotner. He was suspected of
numerous bank robberies in
Arkansas, and Nebraska, and
suspected of four murders. He was killed by Constable Bill Harper at
in March, 1934.
Tom "Skeet" Bradshaw - Brother of notorious bank robber
and murderer Ford Bradshaw and member of the Cookson Hills Gang. Suspect
in bank robberies in Vian,
Oklahoma and Chetopa, Kansas. Convicted of
attempted murder and bootlegging in 1934.
Al Brady (1911-1937) -
Wanted for murder and robbery in the Midwest, Brady was killed by FBI
men in Bangor, Maine in October, 1937.
Harold Brest - A Pennsylvania bank robber, Brest was sent
Alcatraz and participated in Participant in Floyd Hamilton's 1943 escape attempt.
Harry Brunette (1911-??) -
Kidnapper and bank robber. In 1936 he was involved in a gunfight with
the FBI and arrested.
Fred "Killer" Burke (1885-1940) - An
armed robber, contract killer, and primary suspect in the St.
Valentine's Day Massacre. Once named America's most wanted man, he was
eventually imprisoned and died there of heart disease.
Continued Next Page
Speakeasy of the
History of Alcatraz Island
Ghosts of Alcatraz
Kansas City Massacre
Speakeasies of the Prohibition Era
The Great Depression
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