Crime History: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, February 14, 1929

Chicago Daily News dated February 14, 1929, front cover image

On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, seven members of George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side Gang in Chicago gathered inside 2122 North Clark Street, a garage in the city’s Lincoln Park district.

Four assailants, including two dressed as police officers, stormed the garage brandishing pistols, shotguns, and pair of Thompson submachine guns. The invaders lined their seven targets up against a wall and opened fire, blasting more than 90 bullets into their victims.

While the general public would be marking the date with flowers and candy, this unprecedentedly brazen and brutal execution was a Valentine message from Italian-American Chicago crime lord Al “Scarface” Capone to his crosstown Irish-American rival, Bugs Moran.

In no uncertain terms, Capone announced that he was putting the North Side Gang out of business. And he did.

Among the dead were Albert Kachellek aka James Clark, Moran’s second-in-command; Adam Heyer, the gang’s money man; John May, Moran’s auto mechanic; Albert Weinshank, a “cleaner” for the mob; and enforcer brothers Frank “Hock” Gusenerg and Peter “Goosey” Gusenberg.

Related: 10 People Who Are Having a Worse Valentine’s Day Than You

Dr. Reinhardt Schwimmer also died. He was not an actual mobster, but a local optician who simply got a kick out of spending time with gangsters.

Alas, Capone’s main target, Bugs Moran himself, missed the action by sleeping in late that morning. In fact, it’s believed that Capone’s spotters mistook Albert Weinshank to be Moran, as the two men closely resembled one another, and ordered the hit too early.

The explosive gunfire alarmed neighbors, who immediately notified authorities. The suspects sped off in the mock police car they had driven to the scene. Various witnesses noticed odd details about the vehicle, which figured into the later investigation.

The mass murder horrified America. The press, in turn, had a field day covering the abomination that was immediately deemed, “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”

Gangland warfare in general had been a sensational topic throughout the “Roaring ’20s.” This new level of atrocity, however, seemed to have finally prompted the public to demand an end to such savagery exploding in the streets— particularly in Chicago.

The following day, The Chicago Tribune editorialized: “These murders went out of the comprehension of a civilized city. The butchering of seven men by open daylight raises this question for Chicago: Is it helpless?”

Al Capone, suspect number one, actually had an alibi. He was vacationing at the time in his winter getaway home in Palm Island, Florida. The police couldn’t pin anything on him.

Other investigations led to years of dead ends. Ultimately, no one was ever convicted for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Brick from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre site, National Museum of Crime [WikiMedia Commons]

Brick from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre site, National Museum of Crime [WikiMedia Commons]

Related: Crime History — Al “Scarface” Capone Goes Down for Tax Evasion

Still, this one definitive act that catapulted Capone to the absolute top of the Chicago underworld also set in motion his downfall.

Law enforcement, up to and including on the federal level, responded to the public pressure to end mobster rule and gangland combat decisively and with relentless force. Capone served as their main target.

The garage where the massacre took place stood until 1967, when it was demolished. It is presently a parking lot and, to a fair degree, it remains a tourist attraction. Bricks from the building are presently on display at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.

Read more:

Chicago Tribune
Prairie Ghosts
CBS News

Main image: Chicago Daily News dated February 14, 1929, front cover image



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