prosperity in 1920s - part 2



prosperity in the 1920s

growth of organised crime and its effects on society

  • criminal gangs were already powerful in the usa before WW1.
  • wherever there was urbanisation - crime bosses would fight to control the profits to be made from gambling, prostitution and protection rackets.
  • new york and chicago - large criminal networks were established - often linked by ethnic loyalties to particular immigrant groups - italians or irish-americans
  • these connections between immigrant communities and organised crime played a big part in the anti-immigration movement and the campaign for prohibition
  • crime entered a new phase after 1920
  • huge industry was opened up to illegal monopolies
  • prohibition was the key factor in making organised crime organised. it provided the ideal conditions for organised crime to grow bigger and gain some kind of respectability and acceptance in the eyes of otherwise law-abiding people
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prosperity in the 1920s

  • production, distribution and selling of alcohol handed criminals the opportunity to control a huge multi-million dollar industry
  • alcohol was closely linked to other enterprises already controlled by criminal gangs, such as gambling and prostition
  • effective enforcement was impossible. the budget for law enforcement officers was tiny compared with the spending power of organised crime, and the sheer length of the US borders made stopping the importation and transportation of alcohol a hopeless task
  • because decent people opposed prohibition and were willing to see the law broken, they were willing consumers and many policemen & officials were ready to accept payoffs.
  • 1st of the big bew criminal organisations by the volstead act - torrio-capone gang - torrio grabbed control of the mob previously controlled by his partner colosimo and set about building up a huge bootlegging operation. torrio could not rely on police or courts to protect his business dealings, they needed their own enforcers to fight off rival gangs and to intimidate operators of hotels and speakeasies. torrio brought in extra gunmen.
  • most efficient of these enforcers - al caopne - capone became the driving force of the gang when torrio was badly wounded in 1925
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prosperity in the 1920s

  • took until 1929 for the torrio-capone gang to win the 'beet wars' and secure their monopoly in chicago
  • gang-related killings became a weekly occurence, leading to lurid newspaper coverage.
  • 1929 - al capone - dominant figure in the world of organised crime.
  • supply lines ran from canada, the atlantic coast and the caribbean as well as from illegal producers within the usa.
  • his business empire also covered prostitution, slot machines, betting and loan-sharking, property, highway consttruction and rubbish collection.
  • thousands of people were involved - boat operators, car dealers, railway porters, hotel staff, restaurant owners, runners collecting bets and touts finding customers for 10,000 speakeasies.
  • al capone achieved celebrity status, always in the news and often seen as some kind of working-class folk hero.
  • sheer nastiness of the violence and the corruption invovled
  • there was much more to organised crime than guns and gang warfare in chicago. organised crime was big business and it set up operations in amost all major cities.
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prosperity in the 1920s

the effects of crime on US society

  • organised crime at the end of 1920s was big business
  • operated nationwide and provided countless job opportunities
  • bootlegging was still the core business but organised crime increasingly diversified into all kinds of activities - many of them legitimate
  • impact of organised crime on american society was significant because it blurred boundaries between crime and decent society
  • huge numbers of law-abiding people continued to drink illegally
  • poorer classes made do with home-produced beer or moonshine
  • the wealthy could go to speakeasies
  • respect for the law was lessened
  • sensational reporting of crime in enwspapers often made gangsters and bootleggers appear as larger-than-life celebrities. this trend was boosted by the popularity of feature films about gangsters as the rise of 'talking pictures' in 1927 dominated mass entertainment
  • moralists saw the explosion of gangland violence as proof that alcohol was indeed the source of wickedness and that prohibition was more necessary than ever - others - prohibition failed to reform US society
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