The Sideshow

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre left seven dead, one man in charge

Al Capone quickly became 'Public Enemy No. 1'

The Sideshow

View photo

.

Al Capone circa 1935 (Wikimedia Commons)

Al Capone is a legendary gangster, romanticized as a renegade entrepreneur of sorts, but he was also one of America's most dangerous men — and nothing better shows his true colors than the St. Valentine's Day Massacre exactly 85 years ago, Feb. 14, 1929.

It's worth noting that Capone was never charged with a role in this particular crime. In fact, nobody was. Most historians believe Capone was the man calling the shots, though some do contest that version of history.

So, what was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and why was it such a big deal in Chicago? Books have been written on the topic, but the basics go like this: Seven men from Capone rival Bugs Moran's gang were enthusiastically executed in a Chicago garage by alleged members of Capone's gang. Though Moran wasn't there and neither was Capone, the move effectively gave Capone control over the city's crime.

However, the murders also did something else — they turned the public against Capone and led him to become "Public Enemy No. 1." Up until then, many in Chicago viewed mobsters as modern-day outlaws who stood up to a government that outlawed alcohol.

But the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, as it came to be known, changed that. Once the public saw photos of the gruesome massacre, carried out against the backdrop of a white wall, the tide turned and people began to demand more from law enforcement.

It took a while, but eventually Capone went to prison at Alcatraz. Not for murder, though. The feds got him on charges of income tax evasion. Capone died in his Florida home in 1947. That same home is now for sale, by the way, and can be yours for $8.5 million.

Lead investigator Eliot Ness (played by Kevin Costner in the fictionalized "The Untouchables") never equaled his success after becoming known as the man who got Capone. He attempted to solve the case of Cleveland's infamous Torso Murders but failed. He later headed the Diebold Safe Company in Washington, D.C., before making an unsuccessful run for Cleveland mayor in 1947.

Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).

Related: From NY To Italy, Two Dozen Arrested In Mob Bust

View Comments (445)