Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dean O'Banion (also Dion O'Banion) (8 July, 1892 - 10 November, 1924) was an Irish-American mobster who was the main rival of Johnny Torrio and Al Capone during the brutal Chicago bootlegging wars of the 1920s.
Charles Dion O'Banion was born to Irish Catholic parents in Aurora, Illinois. He spent his early boyhood in the small town of Maroa in southern Illinois before moving to Chicago in 1901 with his father and sister after his mother's death. The family settled in Kilgubbin , a once heavily Irish area on the North Side that was notorious citywide for its crime; it was known as "Little Hell".
"Deanie", as he became known, sang in the church choir at Holy Name Cathedral as a youngster. However, neither music nor religion held interest for him; instead it was the street life of Kilgubbin that caught his eye. He and his friends (Hymie Weiss, Vincent Drucci, and George Moran) joined the Market Street Gang, which specialized in theft and robbery for the black market; they later became "sluggers" who beat newsstand owners who didn't sell the paper they were pushing. They started out working for the Chicago Tribune, but switched to the rival Chicago Examiner after a more attractive offer from mob boss Moses Annenberg. Through Annenberg, the group met safecracker Charles Reiser, who taught them his trade; in 1909 O'Banion was nabbed for safecracking, and a short time later was picked up on assault charges. These would be the only times he would ever spend in a correctional institution.
O'Banion wowed patrons with his beautiful Irish tenor voice at McGovern's Liberty Inn, where he worked as a singing waiter; later, he and his pals would rob drunken customers of their wallets and mug others outside. The boys then met the political bosses of the 42nd and 43rd wards through Annenberg; their job was to help steer the outcome of elections through violence.
With the advent of Prohibition in 1920, O'Banion made arrangements for beer suppliers in Canada to start shipments immediately, and also struck deals with whiskey and gin distributors as well. He originated liquor hijacking, performing Chicago's first on 19 December, 1921. He and the "lads of Kilgubbin" quickly eliminated all their competition so that the O'Banion mob ruled the North Side and the Gold Coast, the wealthy area of Chicago situated on the northern lakefront. As O'Banion's name grew in the underworld, he attracted even more followers: Samuel Morton, Louis Alterie, and Dan McCarthy . However, he also made enemies along with friends; two of these foes were Johnny Torrio, the head of the predominantly Italian South Side mob, and his lieutenant, Al Capone.
The Torrio faction, which coveted the Gold Coast, compromised with O'Banion, agreeing to a sharing of profits in breweries and casinos and the North Siders becoming part of a huge Chicagoland bootlegging combine. However, O'Banion continued lifting South Side freight, angering Torrio and Capone.
O'Banion married Viola Kaniff in 1921, and bought an interest in William Schofield's Flower Shop on North State Street as a legitimate front and an outlet for his fondness for flowers. Schofield's became the florist for mob funerals.
In February 1924, O'Banion sought to one-up his South Side rivals by framing Torrio and Capone for the murder of North Side hanger-on John Duffy . Despite their enmity, he did lend a hand to Torrio and Capone when they attempted to influence the results of the mayoral election of Cicero on 1 April by supplying some of his own thugs for their use. In return for the use of his men, Torrio allotted him some of Cicero's beer rights and a quarter-interest in a casino called The Ship. O'Banion then cheated Torrio by moving some Cicero speakeasies into his North Side territory, thus increasing his own profits. When Capone protested, Torrio attempted to convince O'Banion to abandon his plan in exchange for some South Side brothel proceeds. O'Banion staunchly refused, as he abhorred prostitution.
In May, O'Banion tricked Torrio into thinking he was leaving organized crime and so set him up for a police raid on the Sieben Brewery on North Larabee Street while "The Fox" was attempting to buy it from O'Banion. Meanwhile, the Genna brothers, who controlled Little Italy west of The Loop (Chicago's downtown region), began marketing their whiskey in the North Side. When O'Banion complained to Torrio, Torrio did nothing. O'Banion made the tension between himself and the Gennas worse on 3 November by insisting that one of the Genna siblings, Angelo, pay in full the $30,000 debt he owed to The Ship. Following this incident, the South Side hoods and the Gennas passed a unanimous vote to kill Dion O'Banion.
As the Gennas were Sicilians, they had to answer to the Unione Siciliane , a front organization for the Mafia. The Chicago chief of the Unione, Mike Merlo, was an unflinching advocate of peace, but he was ill with cancer and died on 8 November. O'Banion's flower shop, Schofield's, was called upon as the florist, and over the next couple of days, several Italians, including Unione national director Frankie Yale, visited the shop both to make orders and to memorize its layout for the future hit on its co-owner.
On the morning of 10 November, 1924, O'Banion was clipping chrysanthemums in Schofield's back room when Frankie Yale entered with Torrio/Capone gunmen John Scalise and Albert Anselmi . When O'Banion attempted to greet Yale with a handshake, Yale clasped O'Banion's hand in a death grip while Scalise and Anselmi fired two bullets into O'Banion's chest, two in his cheeks, and two in his throat.
O'Banion was given a lavish funeral, much larger than Mike Merlo's had been the day before, and was buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. The killing sparked a brutal gangland conflict in Chicago between the North and South Sides that would last until the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details