The Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929

WORLD HISTORY | January 5, 2019

Site of St. Valentine's Day Massacre - The S-M-C Cartage Company warehouse at 2122 North Clark St. in Chicago was the site of the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Source: (GettyImages-514977024)

On February 14, 1929, seven men who worked for mob leader Bugs Moran were killed inside the warehouse in a hit presumably ordered by Al Capone, who was never convicted for the crime.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre that took place in Chicago was one of the most gruesome crime scenes to ever be seen by police investigators, especially back in 1929. Al Capone, according to most theorists, was the most likely suspect behind the elaborate scheme but no one has ever taken the credit for it. Consequently, no one has even been tried for it. As horrible as it was, there have been several movies made about it including a comedy, Some Like It Hot, that depicts the massacre scene in accurate detail.    

Source: (missedinhistory-podcasts-wp-content-uploads-sites-99-2016-02-valentine-massacre-660)

A reenactment of the St. Valentine's Day massacre, also known as the Moran gang massacre, when reputedly members of Al Capone's gang disguised themselves as policemen and murdered members of the George (Bugs)Moran gang. 

What Happened?

On February 14, 1929, at 10:30 am, a long black Cadillac sped up to the doors of the SMC Cartage Co. that was being used as a garage located at 2122 N. Clark Street. This garage was being used by George (Bugsy) Moran as a headquarters for his illegal operation. Blocking the garage door and with the look of a police vehicle that included a siren and gun rack behind the driver’s seat, four men got out while the driver stayed inside the car. Two of the men were dressed like cops and with their sub-machine guns hidden inside their long raincoats, all four walked inside the garage. Demanding that the seven occupants that were inside all line up against the wall, they proceeded to shoot them to pieces. Only five of them were actually gangsters. Then the two fake cops appeared to lead the other two gunmen out as if they were arresting them and the four of them drove off in the black Cadillac.  

Five of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre victims. Source: (Photo from https://allthatsinteresting.com/st-valentines-day-massacre)

A Brief Background

Because of the Prohibition, there were a lot of gang wars that took place with each gang leader seeking to be top dog and in control of all the profits. It became a very nasty business. Al Capone was extremely power-hungry and wanted to be the head of the crime syndicate. Bugsy Moran had “obtained” the Northside Gang from Hymie Weiss who “obtained” it from Dion O’Banion. Capone arranged the killing of O’Banion in 1924 as well as the killing of Weiss in 1926; a police detective killed Weiss’ successor, Vincent Drucci which left it wide open for Bugsy Moran. Moran then got greedy and came up with a plan to obtain more profits for himself by hijacking Capone’s top quality shipments, from Detroit. He used his garage to hide his trucks that he used to transport the illegal shipments.

The Assumed Plot

Capone suspecting what was going on, arranged for a fake hi-jacker (who has never been identified) to propose a sale to Moran at a price too good to turn down. The first shipment was to be delivered to the garage on the morning of February 14, 1929. Lookouts were stationed in the apartments across the street to verify when Moran and his gang would be inside the garage waiting for the shipment. These lookouts saw seven men around 10:00 am enter the garage all dressed up in the usual attire, business suits, and hats, as they considered themselves high profile businessmen. Of course, Capone himself had a ready-made alibi for himself for that particular time. He was on vacation in Florida.  

St. Valentine's Day victims. Source: (Photo from https://www.wzzm13.com/article/news/local/michigan-life/st-valentines-day-massacre-tale-of-two-guns/28246308)

The Victims

There were seven victims that day. They were James Clark, Frank Gusenberg, Peter Gusenberg, John May, Reinhart Schwimmer, Frank Snyder, and Albert Wienshank. Because Wienshank was the same build and looked the most like Moran, it is assumed that he was mistaken by the lookouts to be Moran. He was also not even a gang member yet. His reason for being there was because he wanted to become one. Another one of the victims, Schwimmer was also not a gangster but an optician and friend of Moran’s.

Bugsy Moran was not even there yet. The gang was all waiting for him to arrive and then they were planning to take their shipment to Detroit to unload and then proceed on to Canada. Moran and one or two of his gang that was with him, saw the black car pull up to the garage door just before they got to the garage and decided to keep on going assuming it was some sort of raid.

Revisiting the St. Valentine's Day massacre. Source: (Photo from http://www.thecrimemag.com/revisiting-st-valentines-day-massacre/)

The Aftermath

There are many “known” facts about the case but also a lot of assumptions and speculations that cannot be proven; which to be sure, is the reason why there were no convictions. Along with not having enough concrete evidence, there is also the fact that any witnesses would have been too afraid to even think of testifying against the mob. Even one of the victims, Frank Gusenberg, when questioned by police, during his last three hours before he died, denied that he was even shot despite the fact that he was shot 14 times. The rest of the victims died instantly. The car was found right away about two miles away in an ally in Capone’s area partially burned and stripped. Two murder weapons were found 10 months later when a policeman was shot by Fred R. Burke, who died years later in prison but had no ties to Al Capone and was never tried for the massacre. Three of the killers were found dead not long afterward in an abandoned car and the other one disappeared. The assumption is that Al Capone decided to sacrifice them and call a truce between him and Moran.  

Source: (Photo from https://www.denofgeek.com/us/culture/valentines-day/232867/the-st-valentines-day-massacre-in-real-life-and-pop-culture)

A Ghostly Tale

It has been reported that Al Capone, while in jail, began to be haunted by James Clark, who was not only one of the victims but also Moran’s brother-in-law. According to the story, it was not only Capone that saw the ghost but also his driver. Some witnesses say that he was tormented by Clark for years. In 1967, the garage on Clark Street was demolished but people still claim that they hear the sounds and screams near the tree where the garage was. The bricks that were splattered with blood were sold to a Canadian who opened a bar with a gangster theme and even had the wall rebuilt. Before long, he sold it after reports came out that the bricks were haunted.   

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