By C.A. Sarsfield


Saint Valentine’s Day, is a day for romance and is celebrated by lovers all over the world. But there was no sign of love or romance at the St. Valentine’s Day party held at 2122 North Clark Street, Chicago, on February 14th, 1929. This was a party that would become world famous within a matter of days and was hosted by none other than ‘the Mayor of Crook County’, better known as Al Capone.

January 16th, 1920, is not a date that appears in school history books, but in social history it’s about as important as the dates of any war, inauguration of any president or succession of any monarch. Because as the clock ticked nearer to midnight, Americans downed their last legal alcoholic drinks, and as the last chime of midnight faded, the National Prohibition Act, popularly known as the Volstead Act, became law.

America became ‘dry’, and prohibition began. Like many other governments of the world, the American government failed to take into account the feelings of the ordinary man and woman on the street who wanted the right to enjoy a drink. By taking away this right the government handed power to the rum-runners and those who controlled them, men like Al Capone, who, with the door now opened, wasted no time in firmly attaching himself to the brickwork of society, and turned Chicago into the bootlegging capital of the USA.

Capone now ran one of the richest territories in the whole of America, making in the region of $5m a year from prostitution, gambling, extortion and bootlegging, which he ran in a grandiose manner from fifty rooms on two floors of the Hawthorn Hotel in the wholly corrupt Chicago suburb of Cicero.

But the life of the gangster was never a quiet one. In August 1926, Capone ordered two attempts on the life of George ‘Bugs’ Moran, who had put a reward of $50,000 on Capone’s life, and despite Capone’s reputation, there were several takers, though none succeeded. Both the attempts on Moran’s life failed, and he started to hijack the trucks carrying Capone’s booze, and at the same time started to bomb Capone’s bars.

Capone had to hit back, or lose face. In the week running up to St. Valentine’s Day, 1929, he made sure that everyone – especially the police – knew that he was going on holiday to Florida, in doing so, establishing an alibi.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own