Gangsters, Mobsters & Outlaws of the 20th Century

Prohibition Gangsters

Prohibition Gangsters

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 DillingerBugsy Siegel, and many more

The Depression created yet another type of outlaw, fed by both need and greed. Though not as “revered” as the 1920’s gangsters, Depression-era 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 Old West following 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.

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 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 Old West, the public couldn’t get enough of them – craving the news stories, photographs, tales of luxurious living, and the morbid facts of violent deeds.

In the end, most of these outlaws were sent to jail, killed by rival gangsters, or killed by law enforcement, but their legends live on.

St Valentine's Massacre, Chicago, Illinois

St Valentine’s Massacre, Chicago, Illinois

20th Century Outlaw List & Summaries

Featured Articles:

Edward “Eddie” J. Adams – Kansas bootlegger

John William Anglin and Alfred Clarence Anglin – Escaped From Alcatraz

Arthur R. “Doc” Barker – Member of Barker-Karpis Gang

Barker-Karpis Gang – Terrorized the Midwest

George Kelly Barnes, aka: George “Machine Gun” Kelly

Bennie Iva “Blanche” Caldwell Barrow – Barrow Gang Member

Bonnie & Clyde – Stars of the Public Enemy Era

D.B. Cooper – Airplane Highjacker

Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone – Chicago Mobster

DeAutremont Brothers – Train Robbers

Dillinger Gang, aka: The Terror Gang

The FBI and the American Gangster

Gangsters, Thugs, and Mafia in Hot Springs, Arkansas

John Herbert “Jackrabbit” Dillinger

“Hell’s Belle” Gunness– Black Widow of the Midwest

John “Red” Hamilton, aka: Three Finger Jack

Raymond Elzie Hamilton, aka: Floyd Beatty

Albert Kachellek, aka: Jim Clark

Kansas City Massacre – Gangsters vs. the Law

Matthew Kimes – Bank Robber

La Cosa Nostra – American Mafia 

James C. “Tex” Lucas – Bank Robber

Charles “Lucky” Luciano – Mafia

Typhoid Mary Mallon – Spreading the Fever

Henry Methvin – Barrow Gang member

Vernon C. Miller – Involved in the Kansas City Massacre

Joseph P. Moran – Depression-era gangster

Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello – Member of the Morello crime family

Murder, Inc. – Part of the Italian-American Mafia

Edna “Rabbits” Murray – Depression-era Outlaw

George “Baby Face” Nelson  – Bank Robber

Purple Gang – A mob of bootleggers and hijackers

Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel – Jewish American mobster

Gangsters, Thugs, and Mafia in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Giovanni “Johnny” Torrio – Italian-American mobster

Roger Touhy – Irish-American mob boss

By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated January 2020.

Also See:

20th Century History

Great Depression

Outlaws Across America

Prohibition in the United States

2 thoughts on “Gangsters, Mobsters & Outlaws of the 20th Century”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *