Gangsters & organized crime in the 20s

Written by lauren corona
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Gangsters & organized crime in the 20s
The 1920s was a big era for organised crime. ( Images)

Prohibition laws were passed on January 17th, 1920, and with these new laws came a golden age for gangsters and organised crime in America. In addition to crimes that were a product of the prohibition era, such as bootlegging, activities such as gambling and racketeering were also wide spread. The big hot spots for organised crime in the '20s were New York and Chicago.


Prohibition laws meant that producing, selling and consuming alcoholic beverages became illegal. This gave rise to a new activity in organised crime -- bootlegging -- which continued throughout the whole of the '20s. Organised crime gangs, during the decade, illegally produced or imported alcohol and sold it to underground bars and clubs. Bootlegging was big business for gangsters, and this caused rivalry. Just in Chicago in the 1920s, there were more than 100 gang related murders each year.

The Mafia

The Mafia is perhaps the largest and best-known organised crime syndicate in the world. In the 1920s, the gang was especially prominent, particularly in Chicago and New York. Al Capone was a big gangster in the Chicago mob scene, and was famously convicted for his part in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. In New York, Charles "Lucky" Luciano was particularly active and well-known. He was an especially violent man, who killed anyone who got in the way of him making money.

Harlem Gangs

Organised crime gangs in Harlem, New York, in the 1920s were primarily populated by black gang members. The Harlem gangs formed out of social unrest and the racial inequality of America in the 1920s. These gangs were involved in gambling, especially the numbers game or the policy, and also in prostitution, robbery and drugs. Illegal bets could be placed all over Harlem, and runners spent their time collecting these bets and taking money between the customers and the clearing house.

Atlantic City

Organised crime in Atlantic City was run by the city's Republican party leader, Enoch "Nucky" Johnson. As well as dictating the direction of politics in Atlantic City, he was also a gangster, in charge of an organised crime racket which controlled the area. His power was particularly prominent during the prohibition era of the '20s, as he kept the city flowing with alcohol. Nucky and his organised crime syndicate were also entwined in gambling and prostitution.

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