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The 1920s was a time when anything seemed possible in the underworld, and much of it was due to the illegalization of alcohol. Prohibition made the use of alcohol totally illegal, and that caused Americans to turn to gangsters in order to get their fix.
This was the era where big names like Bugsy Siegel and Al Capone got their rise to power, but you already knew that. Everyone does. These are facts about organized crime in the 1920s that everyone knows.
But, we're willing to bet that we know cool trivia about this slice of history that you don't. Check out some of the lesser-known facts about organized crime during the 20s, 30s, and 40s...
Gangsters were so iconic during this time, even 'Looney Tunes' riffed on them.
This is one of the facts about organized crime in the 20s that might take people by surprise. Unlike what conservatives would have you believe, gangsters during this time did have a bit of fame and adoration in their own rights.
Iconic doesn't even begin to describe the level of fame and power these guys had. In fact, gangsters today get far less respect than they did during the 20s. Looney Tunes even made a point of poking fun at how insane some of the ways mobsters behaved.
Though most people assume that organized crime meant you were Italian, that really wasn't the case.
Yes, La Cosa Nostra really does have a lot of Italians in it. After all, it is an Italian organization. However, there's a common misconception that you have to be Italian in order to be in the mob. This isn't true in the least bit!
One of the lesser-known facts about organized crime in the 20s is that many of the biggest mob members weren't Italian. Some were Jewish, like Bugsy Siegel. Others were German, Russian, or just random Americans who ended up rolling with the wrong (or right) crowd.
Gangsters' girlfriends were called "gun molls," and they often helped with gang operations.
Girls who dated gangsters weren't the innocent types you'd think they were. They were called "gun molls" for a reason. They often would help men with operations, provide distractions to police, and may have even packed heat.
The root for the actual term is sketchy at best. Some suggest "moll" is short for "mollisher," an old-world term for a prostitute or a woman who dates men of ill repute. Either way, one of the facts about organized crime during the 20s is that gun molls existed.
In many cases, molls are the ladies who oversaw illegal gambling and prostitution circles. They were pretty gangster themselves, with some even working closely with bigwigs like Al Capone.
The US government actually poisoned alcohol storages used by mafia as a way to "dissuade" people from drinking.
In order to put the clamp down on the alcohol organized crime groups would distribute, the US government started to taint alcohol supplies with antifreeze and other toxic chemicals. Mafiosos became aware of the practice, then quickly warned clients to avoid stocks they knew were compromised.
Alcohol deaths soared by over 400 percent during the Prohibition Era. Many of those deaths were poisonings.
This is one of the only facts about organized crime in the 1920s that makes you wonder who was the real bad guy in the situation. Was it really the mob? Or, was it Uncle Sam?
Rappers didn't invent car mods. Gangsters from the 20s did.
Most people already know car mods to be a favorite among circles where illegal things happen. That's why car mods are regularly mentioned by rappers; they're badass. However, these now hip hop-associated car accessories weren't originally part of hip hop culture.
One of the most surprising facts about organized crime in the 1920s is that mobsters were the first ones to modify their cars. Bulletproof car bodies, specialized wheels, and other upgrades were part of the mob lifestyle. Keeping it classy, though, was the fact that most mobsters enjoyed driving Dusenbergs and Cadillacs.
To this very day, car mods remain police magnets. Coincidence? Not really.
Labor racketeering was the other big product in the 1920s.
Maybe this crosses the lines into facts about organized crime in the 1920s you already may have known, but we'll get into it once more. Labor racketeering was the infiltration of gangsters into legitimate businesses and organizations such as labor unions, companies, and press.
They'd infiltrate these groups as a way to gain power over politicians. It worked, and actually caused a number of labor union scandals later on. Law enforcement remained powerless to stop it.
Guns, knives, and razor blades weren't the only weapons used by the mob.
Guns definitely were the biggest weapon of choice among gangsters in the mob, but that wasn't the only weapon they used. They also had a makeshift weapon called a "pineapple," which acted similarly to a grenade.
Sometimes, they'd even use real grenades and call them pineapples. This remains common slang that is still used by mob bosses in letters today, with one major mafia letter from the 70s making an allusion to filling a car up with "fruit."
The mobs often acted as law enforcement in their neighborhoods.
During the 1920s, cops were crooked—possibly more so than they are today. With the police often being of no use to locals, people began to turn to the mafias that ran cities for help.
This isn't that surprising, considering that the mob would often start gaining power through protection rackets. Those who refused to pay protection money were often killed or run out of town.
Murder Incorporated, wasn't just an edgy rap group name.
You might have heard of Murder Inc, the 60s movie. What you might not realize is that one of the most shocking facts about organized crime in the 1920s involves a real-life version of it.
Murder Incorporated, which was started by the legendary mobster Bugsy Seigel, was the enforcement arm of a number of organized crime groups during the 20s. The entire operation was run out of a cafe, and it basically did for murder what mass production did for cars.
The 20s were an era where life was cheap, and murder could be arranged just by walking into the right cafe. This death squad committed a massive amount of murders in NYC, Boston, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles.
No one knows how many people died by their hands.
The 1920s era of crime actually was what laid the foundation for organized crime's power today.
While we're talking about facts about organized crime in the 1920s, let's talk about the aftereffects. Though Prohibition is now a very long-gone thing, the power that the mobs gained definitely did not go away.
Had Prohibition never happened, the organized crime we see in power today wouldn't have had a third as much success as they do now. It makes you wonder, doesn't it?