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Gang warfare ruled the streets of Chicago during the late 1920s, as chief gangster Al Capone sought to consolidate control by eliminating his rivals in the illegal trades of bootlegging, gambling and prostitution. This rash of gang violence reached its bloody climax in a garage on the city’s North Side on February 14, 1929, when seven men associated with the Irish gangster George “Bugs” Moran, one of Capone’s longtime enemies, were shot to death by several men dressed as policemen. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, as it was known, was never officially linked to Capone, but he was generally considered to have been responsible for the murders.
From 1924 to 1930, the city of Chicago gained a widespread reputation for lawlessness and violence. Not coincidentally, this phenomenon coincided with the reign of chief crime lord Al “Scarface” Capone, who took over from his boss Johnny Torrio in 1925. (Torrio, who was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in 1924, had “retired” to Brooklyn.) Prohibition, ushered in by the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1920, had greatly increased the earnings of America’s gangsters through bootlegging (the illegal manufacture and sale of alcohol) and speakeasies (illicit drinking establishments), as well as gambling and prostitution. Capone’s income from these activities was estimated at some $60 million a year; his net worth in 1927 was around $100 million.