Notorious American Gangsters

Posted by Alex Rogers at

If you’ve watched Boardwalk Empire, you already know that American gangsters have been around for more than a century, profiting off gambling, prostitution, and the illegal drug trade. Although a fictional series, the show does a good job of portraying some of America’s most iconic gangsters, and if you haven’t seen it, you should check it out - the 1920’s sets and costumes are on point and the plot is intricate. Inspired by the style of these crime bosses, here is a list of 5 of the most dangerous old school gangsters:


Arnold Rothstein was a gambling addict and the kingpin of the Jewish mob in New York for close to two decades. He is famously known for fixing the World Series in 1919, and was involved with corrupting numerous other sporting events. Known for his intelligence and smart business moves, he was a millionaire by 30 and would pay large amounts of money for valuable information, which aided in his success. He was murdered in 1928 after failing to settle a large gambling debt.

Al Capone was a member of the Five Points gang and was one of the most notorious gangsters during the prohibition era in the United States. He was a ruthless killer who essentially ran most of the illegal business in Chicago during the 1920’s. In 1932 he was imprisoned and diagnosed with syphilis. This eroded his health until he died in 1947 of a severe cardiac arrest.

I can’t list Al Capone without mentioning Johnny Torrio. He was Al Capone’s mentor and an Italian-American gangster who came to power in 1920 after murdering his business partner James Colosimo. After being cheated out of half a million dollars in a business deal, Torrio ordered the assassination of rival gang leader Dean O’Banion. After a brutal retaliation by the North Side rivals, Torrio barely survived and passed his business down to Al Capone.

Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano was one of the founding fathers of organized crime in the United States, splitting New York into five Mafia families and creating The Commission in 1931. He started his own gang as a teenager, making money by offering people protection from Italian gangs. His rise to power was filled with betrayal, organizing the death of two crime bosses, Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano in order to gain power in New York. In 1936 he was sentenced to life in prison for 62 counts of compulsory prostitution. He remained head of his family for 2 more years while incarcerated, relaying orders through his second in command until stepping down as leader in 1938.

Vito Genovese rose to power after collaborating with Luciano in a series of murders. After Luciano was imprisoned, he took control of his family in addition to his own. Genovese was responsible for countless murders, and would have people killed just for looking at him wrong. It was only a matter of time before his crime caught up to him. In 1937 he was close to being prosecuted on a murder charge, so he fled the country with $1 million in cash. He returned to the United States later, but was eventually charged with the murder of Ferdinand Boccia. After bribing witnesses and organizing the killing of several witnesses, the case collapsed and the charges were dismissed. However, he was convicted of conspiracy to sell narcotics in 1958 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, where he continued to run the Mafia family. He died of a heart attack in prison in 1969.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →


Leave a comment