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American Gangsters of the 1920s and 1930s

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  • Fred R. "Killer" Burke (1893 - 1940)
    Fred "Killer" Burke (May 29, 1893 – July 10, 1940) was an American armed robber and contract killer responsible for many crimes during the Prohibition era. He was considered a prime suspect in the St. ...
  • John Jacob Factor (1892 - 1984)
    John Factor (October 8, 1892 – January 22, 1984), born Iakov Faktorowicz, was a Prohibition-era gangster and con artist affiliated with the Chicago Outfit.He later became a prominent businessman and La...
  • Giuseppe Morello (1867 - 1930)
    "the Clutch Hand" Morello (May 2, 1867 – August 15, 1930), also known as "The Old Fox", was the first boss of the Morello crime family and later top adviser to Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. He was ...
  • Velma C. Capone (1902 - d.)
    Velma was the youngest child born to Ira Ennis Pheasant and Grace Swimery. Velma was first married to William Verhulst. They were married on August 23,1919 in Des Moines Iowa. They had divorced by 1924...
  • Dutch Schultz (1902 - 1935)
    Schultz (born Arthur Simon Flegenheimer; August 6, 1902 – October 24, 1935) was a New York City-area German Jewish-American mobster of the 1920s and 1930s who made his fortune in organized crime-relate...

Scope of project

This project seeks to identify American gangsters during the Prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s.


A gangster is a criminal who is a member of a gang; some gangs are considered to be part of organized crime. Gangsters are also called “mobsters,” a term is derived from "mob" and the suffix "-ster."

The terms "gangster" and "mobster" are mostly used in the United States to refer to members of criminal organizations associated with Prohibition or with an American offshoot of the Italian Mafia (such as the Chicago Outfit, the Philadelphia Mafia, or the Five Families).
Gangsters have been depicted in American popular culture in films such as The Godfather, War, Hell Up in Harlem, Scarface, and Goodfellas, and in television shows (e.g.,The Sopranos).


As American society and culture developed, new immigrants were relocating to the United States. The first major gangs in 19th century New York City were the Irish gangs such as the Whyos and the Dead Rabbits, followed by the Italian Five Points Gang and later a Jewish gang known as the Monk Eastman Gang. There were also "nativist" anti-immigration gangs such as the Bowery Boys.


The stereotypical image and myth of the American gangster is closely associated with organized crime during the Prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution banned the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption. Many gangs sold alcohol illegally for tremendous profit, and used acute violence to stake turf and protect their interest. Often, police officers and politicians were paid off or extorted to ensure continued operation.

Suggested reading

Pileggi, Nicholas. Wiseguy. (1986). Pocket Books.