MGHL’s Gangster Line-Up

Lately, there have been a lot of gangsters popping up in the news.

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Illustration by Cliff Condak, unknown date.

In Boston, there’s the trial of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger while in suburban Detroit, the FBI used a mobster’s tip to justify digging up a field, in a continuing search for Jimmy Hoffa.  Add to that the revival of interest in The Sopranos because of James Gandolfini’s untimely death, there are gangsters everywhere….including Modern Graphic History Library.

MGHL has uncovered several gangsters we found hiding out in our artwork.  Here is their line-up.

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Illustration of Lt. Charles Becker by Cliff Condak, unknown date.

In 1912, a police lieutenant, Charles Becker, was extorting money from illegal casinos.  If casino owners paid him, he promised the police would not interfere in shutting down the casino operation.

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Illustration of Herman Rosenthal by Cliff Condak, unknown date.

One owner, Herman Rosenthal, informed the press and the police about Becker’s extortion.  In retaliation, Becker hired the Lenox Avenue Gang to kill Rosenthal.

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Illustration of Dago Frank by Cliff Condak, unknown date.

Four gangsters, including Dago Frank, were seen shooting Rosenthal and were quickly arrested.  Frank and the others then revealed Becker’s involvement.  Becker and Frank both received the death penalty.

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Illustration of Dillinger shoot-out and escape by Robert Weaver, for Unforgettable Crimes, Life Magazine, September 9, 1957.

In April 1934, bank-robber John Dillinger was one of America’s most wanted.  He hid out at Little Bohemia Lodge in the woods of Wisconsin, blending in with the other guests.  The FBI was tipped off of Dillinger’s whereabouts and surrounded the lodge.  After a gun-battle, Dillinger and his lieutenant, Baby Face Nelson escaped into the woods.  Three months later,  Dillinger would be shot and killed.

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Illustration of Al Capone in front of one of his clubs by Cliff Condak, for vol. 10 (Crime) of unknown book.

One of the most well-known gangster shootings was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. A north side Irish gang, led by Bugs Moran, was interfering in the bootleg liquor market, which had been controlled by Al Capone’s south side Italian gang.

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Illustration of St. Valentine’s Day Massacre by Robert Weaver,  for Unforgettable Crimes, Life Magazine, September 9, 1957.

In retaliation, seven members of Moran’s gang were lured into a Chicago garage and shot.  The suspected shooters who Capone used were connected to a St. Louis gang, Egan’s Rats.

Magazines and books would often run articles or sections on infamous crimes and hire illustrators, such as Cliff Condak and Robert Weaver, to recreate the crime scenes.  For more information on illustrators Cliff Condak or Robert Weaver, check out the finding aids.

 Credits

Information about the people illustrated above came from:

“Unforgettable Crimes”, Life Magazine, September 9, 1957.

Wikipedia entries for

  • Charles Becker
  • Frank Cirofici
  • Egan’s Rats

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.