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George Clarence “Bugs” Moran - The Truth!

Author: Mark Clifford

Book Series: American Gangsters Uncovered


Looking back on history is something that everyone can appreciate, especially when it comes to an exciting era like the 1920s. In Chicago, and to a lesser extent other places, there was a great deal going on that is still fascinating to consider today. Learning about the time and the people involved is one way that everyone can better understand the history of the country, the legalization of alcohol, and humankind in general. One of the reasons that Chicago is so interesting during this period of time is because of the intense gang activity.

The men involved in the gangs ranged from people that nobody remembers today to infamous names like Bugs Moran and Al Capone. Understanding what made these men tick and the inspiration for their criminal careers is truly fascinating. Although Bugs was not a native to the city, he moved there at an early age and established himself as a force to be reckoned with. He earned the respect of some and the disdain of others. One thing is for certain: everyone in the city knew who he was.

Had it not been for prohibition, the gang activity in the land might never have set deep roots the way it did. The federal illegalization of alcohol created criminals across the country, including those who manufactured and distributed the booze. However, there were plenty of other illegal activities that kept the gangs going strong. In fact, Chicago is infamous for the criminal activity of the period - a reputation that is still known around the globe to this day.

There were two major gang groups in the city, one being associated with Bugs and the other with Al Capone. The rivalry between the two began before Bugs ever entered the city. Many things happened during the time he lived in Chicago, which strengthened his opinions and created his lifelong rivalry with Al Capone. His cold-blooded actions were well thought out, and he had plenty of men to back him up in his plans.

Unlike many men in powerful positions, he did not have an interest in playing the field with multiple women. He married a woman whom he loved and preferred her company over that of other women. Perhaps this saved him from dying a painful death from syphilis, the disease that rival Al Capone lost his life to.

Many believe that he should have died in a gun battle, but that was not to be. He survived the many fights that took place during his time in the Windy City. Prohibition had ended, so the criminal mastermind focused his attention on other crimes, eventually being caught and jailed. While serving time in a penitentiary outside of Chicago, he succumbed to illness and died. For all of the crimes he committed and the money he flaunted during his life, he passed away with little to show for it.

Even after his death, interest in him and his life has continued. Movies have been made featuring his criminal activities and several books have been penned detailing the accounts of his gang. The advent of the Internet has allowed those with a penchant for organized crime to compile all kinds of data regarding this crime boss. He is one of the most fascinating criminals in modern history and is sure to be well known far into the future.


Although this criminal mastermind has gone down in history with the name George Moran, this was not the name given to him at birth, nor is it the one he was raised with. When he began his criminal career, the use of aliases was common among folks everywhere who were attempting to hide who they were. It is not entirely clear if he jumped onto that bandwagon just to keep the police at bay, or if part of his motivation was to protect his family. In fact, he had numerous other aliases including George Morrissey and John Phillips.

His father, Jules Cunin, immigrated from France and his mother Marie Diana Gobeil was a native of Chicoutimi, Quebec, Canada. The couple lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, where a large population of French speaking citizens existed. Jules was a skilled mason who was always able to find work because of his dedication to fantastic craftsmanship.

The couple welcomed their first child on August 21, 1891, and named him Adelard. That day, neither of them had any idea that their new baby boy would one day be one of the most notorious criminals of the century. Over the next few years, Marie Diane gave birth to two more children, a son and a daughter.

While still Adelard to those who knew him, George grew up in a world that he could not easily relate to. His mother was devoted to her religious beliefs, something which George himself simply couldn't embrace. On the opposite end of Christianity was his father, an intense man who had a strong sense of discipline. Neither could provide George with the love and stability he needed. Likewise, his siblings were of little comfort, as he was the eldest and could not depend upon them to take care of him.

Because of the strict religious beliefs in the family, George attended schools and related institutions that were ran by members of the clergy. As with the religious conflicts at home, the lessons presented by these men were not something that he could relate to, and he often found his time with them tedious. While there, he did learn to speak English so that he was fluent in both it and French.

He eventually became disenchanted with all of St. Paul and fled the city, ending up in Chicago, which would be his home for most of his life. This was in the year 1910 and where his career as a criminal began. Upon his arrival, he got involved with some other young criminals in a lucrative little racket. The boys would work as a team to steal a horse from an unsuspecting citizen. Once the person had discovered that their animal was gone, they would find a demand for monetary ransom. Though this was successful for some time, the boys were eventually caught and taken to jail.

This was the year 1912, and it was then that Adelard took on the name George Moran for the remainder of his life. He regularly used aliases and this arrest was no exception. However, it was the first time a false name was recorded for him. The lack of sophisticated record systems made this simple for people during that time. While some did it intentionally, for George Moran it was coincidence.


In order to understand the gangster related activities that happened in Chicago in the 1920s and 30s, it is vital to take a look at Prohibition. While any area is prone to some criminal activity, there are certain circumstances that encourage and promote it. People of the time and historians alike have considered that Prohibition met those circumstances. The criminal activities in many parts of the country increased.

In the late 1910s, the government was busy passing a variety of acts and amendments that influenced the operations and governing of the entire country. In the middle of December 1917, the Senate proposed the Eighteenth Amendment. Just over a year later, in January of 1919, it was ratified and became a part of the United States Constitution. This was an effort to ban alcohol consumption throughout the country. In January of 1920, it went into effect, making alcohol against the law.

As a temporary measure in the interim, they used a temporary act to reduce the consumption of alcohol. Known as the Wartime Prohibition Act, no beverages that were in excess of 2.75 percent alcohol could be sold or offered for consumer consumption. It was supposed to limit the amount of grain that civilians were using so that there were sufficient supplies for the soldiers in the first of the world wars.

During 1919, they also passed the Volstead Act, which finally defined intoxicants and the legal penalties that would be incurred by those who produced them. Additionally, the act of selling alcoholic beverages was also prohibited.

These laws remained in effect until March of 1933 when President Franklin Roosevelt legalized some forms of beverages containing alcohol. The Cullen-Harrison Act made beer legal, provided that it contained no more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, not volume. There were similar guidelines related to wine. The reigns have been loosened on the production and consumption of alcohol since then, though it is not practical for smaller manufacturers to adhere to the government regulations regarding distilled spirits. In December of the same year, the Twenty-first Amendment repealed the hated Eighteenth, which was at the heart of Prohibition and all of the societal ills caused by it.

There were several reasons that Congress passed the ruling in the first place, but it primarily relates to the effects of liquor and the Christian and religious expectations of people dating all the way back to the colonial times. As early as the 1650s at least one state, Massachusetts, declared the sale of any beverage containing alcohol to be illegal and punishable by law.

The majority of citizens prior to this time were professed Christians who attended services and understood the moral code that was being given to them by the church. Even those who were not active in the church often were raised around it, and it was generally perceived as the societal norm that governed and dictated the behaviors of those who lived in virtually every part of the country.

One of the things that most of the Protestant churches strongly discouraged was the excessive consumption of anything. Gluttony was a sin and every good Christian knew that, so the excess eating of food was discouraged, as was drinking way too much because it fell under the same moral umbrella. However, this was not enough to stop everyone in society from overindulging, so there were communities that began to impose criminal penalties for those who were caught inebriated in the public areas of town.

In fact, one of the first conflicts after the United States of America was formed came as a result of a ruling on alcohol. The government had a great deal of debt as a result of the Revolutionary War and needed to get it paid off as quickly as possible. There were several steps taken, including taxing whiskey. While this was the primary purpose for the tax, there were many people who also had a belief that it could help people to consume less alcohol. This was due to the sin tax and people becoming aware of the dangers involved with drinking too much of it at any time.

Citizens in the western part of Pennsylvania were opposed strongly to this decision and protested during the Whiskey Rebellion. In the year 1800, Thomas Jefferson and his political party repealed the tax, so that whiskey did not have any charges different than other items of the sort that were being sold in the country at that time.

The concerns about alcohol consumption continued for the nation. There was a variety of temperance groups formed across the states that worked diligently to get their citizens to stop drinking alcohol. The argument that drunkenness is a disease goes back to the 1780s and is attributed to Benjamin Rush. He wrote about the effects of excessive consumption, but he also believed that moderation was superior to prohibition, which makes some things appear to be even more appealing than they actually are.

Even so, there was still widespread alcohol consumption throughout the country, with the average person drinking more than a bottle and a half of distilled spirits each week, far more than today. Considering the citizens who did not drink at all or did simply consume in moderation, it is easy to see that there were a great many inebriated citizens in the country.

The concerns of the religious groups in the country regarding the consumption of alcohol continued, and they often worked diligently to get political candidates and elected officials to see their point of view. There was a strong focus on the moral implications, as well as showing how out of control people could be while intoxicated.

Additionally, there were other reasons that some wanted the manufacture and sale of alcohol to be illegal in the country. Take for example those who were involved in the business of tea, soda and other beverages. For them, the illegalization of alcohol made sense because it would likely increase their own sales. After all, if people were not drinking alcohol, they would need to have something else to drink.

As the country continued to grow and immigrants from other countries entered the land in the big cities, seeking a life of freedom in the new country, their presence made an impression upon the political landscape regarding alcohol and prohibition as well. In the larger cities on the East Coast, there was more crime and immoral behavior than was seen in the rural areas of the land. So, the cities were filled with immigrants and criminal activity plus one more important factor: saloons.

The people who were born already in this country certainly spent plenty of time visiting saloons, but there was an increasing amount of attention on those saloons and the activities therein that were frequented by immigrants. This is because politicians would go to these as well. However, the politicians had more motive than simply getting drunk. They wanted to get the new members of the country on their side, politically speaking.

The new citizens were offered an array of things from those with a political agenda, in exchange for their vote. This included things like employment, and in some cases an advance of money until a person could obtain suitable employment. Assistance with legal issues and membership in unions were also common tools that were used to bribe them. The political corruption that took place within the saloons was associated with the alcohol that was served inside. However, the issues that grew around it became even larger and more convoluted, some of which continue to haunt the moral landscape of the country to this day.

The doctrine of nativism became a part of the social and political talk and behavior of the time. The basic premise of this was that the only reason the newly formed country of the United States of America was having such fantastic success was due to the heritage of the founding fathers. Essentially, it was a declaration that the white Anglo-Saxon roots were superior to other lines and that they, and they alone, were collectively responsible for the grace of God shining down upon the land. This concept is still held as true by many to this day and has created huge rifts in the social development of the country. However, at the time of Prohibition, this concept was still in its infancy.

Thus, there were two distinct groups of people when it came to thoughts on alcohol. The one was from the Anglo-Saxon Christians who had a strong moral belief that excessive consumption was a sin. They believed that in order for the country to continue to be successful and receive the blessings of God, the nation needed to be moral, by banning alcohol. On the other hand, there were those who were against prohibition. Those who lived in the cities generally fell into this category. The majority of immigrants were against it, as were others who were not easily swayed by the moral argument against alcohol. In many cases, those of white ancestry who supported keeping alcohol legal, benefited from the manufacture and sale of the product in some manner.

In the decade prior to Prohibition, there were two other constitutional amendments that paved the way for it. The first occurred in the year 1913, when taxes that had been gained through the sale of alcohol were replaced with an income tax for everyone who worked. The other involved women being allowed to vote. As they gained a voice in the political arena, it was inevitable that it would reach far into the discussions regarding alcohol. As a general rule, they tended to strongly oppose the beverage. The temperance organizations and the women's suffrage movement worked together in many cases, so that both causes were advanced.

The social and political landscape had developed in such a manner that Congress had a great deal of pressure from all sides to create a Federal Prohibition. Once it had begun, Prohibition put pressure and change on society in ways that had not been thought of prior to this time. This federal law helped to create a way for criminals to make even more money. In fact, many believe that the intense gang activity that took place during 1920s Chicago would have been far reduced had Prohibition not occurred. If that is so, then Bugs Moran might never have advanced his criminal career far beyond the horse-thieving racket that he was involved with when he first entered Chicago.


The city of Chicago was founded in a prime geographic location for controlling commerce. Including the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River and railroads, the area was ideal for businessmen. There was a great deal of criminal activity in the late 1800s and into the next century, including an incredibly high murder rate. Often these cases went unsolved.

There were immigrants from around the world who had found their way to Chicago, and within each segment, there were also those who were criminally minded. One thing interesting to note is that there was a great deal of domestic crime among these groups. However, the motivations behind them were a bit different depending upon the country of origin of the criminal. While the general theme was that the men wanted to preserve their role within the household, there were some differences in their perception of authority and the challenges therein.

German immigrants often snapped due to a realization that they were not going to obtain the prosperity they believed they would find in the new land. Due to their decline in status and the knowledge that there was nothing that could be done about it, they would often murder their entire family before committing suicide, thus taking the final control into their own hands.

On the other hand, those who had immigrated from Italy felt that family honor and respect for the patriarchal ideal were supremely important. These men would murder family members, often women, who refused to show the proper amount of respect for their authority. They were generally younger men who had married a woman that did not fully understand the role in the household that he expected of them. African-American murders tended to be young as well. However, their motives were often less about honor and more about control of women. The vast majority of these murderers never went to jail for their crimes.

The city grew very rapidly in the late 1800s, more so than any other city in the nation. The high rates of crime and the diversity of the immigrants were a part of the pains experienced by the community during that time. The expansion was so rapid and included so much that many were simply unable to keep up with all of it. The diversity of languages and cultures being merged together into such a small area was amazing. It included groups primarily from eastern and southern Europe. The majority of these men were not skilled, hence part of the reason that they were unable to achieve the success and freedom that they believed they would find here.

There were men and women from Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy and a host of Jewish immigrants from varying countries. Although the influx of residents dramatically decreased after immigration from Europe was halted at the end of World War One, the city was still filled with a compressed population, many of whom had no skills to find good work.

At the turn of the century, much of the city was unionized, which afforded benefits to those fortunate enough to have employment. These unions strongly championed for their members when employers attempted to treat them unfairly. Unions and their leaders had a great deal of control over the city, which at times was abused, creating greater unrest in a place already on a short fuse.

Parks and buildings were designed all of the time and the city was known for things like the World's Colombian Exposition. Architecture and art were influenced by the landscape as some of the most amazing creations of the time began to dot the city. Skyscrapers were new, and something that Chicago was proud to work on developing. In fact, a huge Ferris wheel was constructed there that was the largest on record for an incredibly long period of time.

George Moran moved into a city that was much larger than the one in which he was raised. He learned quickly how to take advantage of the situation and find profit. The criminal element was already strong in the city on every level. However, there were more than just petty criminals working for themselves. The city also had the beginnings of organized crime. The lines drawn between the north and south had created two rival gangs that were responsible for a great deal of bloodshed, especially during the 1920s.


Prohibition was certainly not responsible for organized crime; it simply gave the criminals and their organizations yet another way to make money from others. In the city of Chicago, there were a variety of small gangs that dabbled in extortion, prostitution and a variety of other crimes. However, there were two groups that were a tremendous force. George joined one of these groups and his most famous rival, Al Capone, was a member of the other. A brief exploration of the history behind each group helps to put the life of Moran and other gangsters into context.

George eventually became a member of the north side gang that was founded by his friend Dean O'Banion. Al Capone was part of what was, and still is, The Outfit. Though there were some times of peace between the two, when it was in the interest of both to maintain a truce, there were also incredibly violent encounters that have lived on in infamy.

James Big Jim Colosimo was born in Italy and immigrated to the United States, where he resided in Chicago. Also known as Diamond Jim, he was granted control by the organized crime syndicate over the area that tied back to his native country. The Chicago Outfit was under his control and that group remains in control of some forms of organized crime to this day. In fact, they still have a seat in the mafia, providing them exceptional protection in most instances.

He began the operation with primarily prostitution and gambling ventures. His second wife, Victoria Moresco, was also in the business of running illegal operations. She had already established a reputation in the city as a prominent Madame, and once they wed the couple opened a second brothel together. In a very short period of time, Colosimo had grown his empire to include almost 200 brothels. He was also becoming more active in the gambling and racketeering business during this time.

In the year 1909, Colosimo had a gangster from Brooklyn join him. John The Fox Torrio served the organization directly under Colosimo. One of his first orders of business upon claiming his new title was to have a friend and trusted business partner from New York join him. Al Capone had served as his lieutenant, and in Chicago began as a bartender and bouncer for the organization.

Years later, when Prohibition became a reality, Torrio wanted the business to include rum running. While he could see the financial benefits and tried very hard to convince Diamond Jim to consider it, the elder man refused. This angered Torrio and he had the man killed. Some believe that Al Capone committed the murder, while others attribute it to Frankie Yale, an associate who had recently arrived from New York.

On the north side of the city, there were several gangs, the most noteworthy being the Market Street Gang. This group was primarily small time criminals who participated in illegal activities such as picking pockets. The 42nd and 43rd wards were the areas that were most affected by these criminals.

At the turn of the century, there were two newspaper publications in the city, the Chicago Examiner and the Chicago Tribune. There was an intense competition between the two newspapers, and sluggers would sometimes assault the owners of newsstands in the city who were not carrying a particular publication. This was known as the Circulation Wars.

At that time, one of the smaller factions was known as the Little Hellions. An important member of that gang was Dean O'Banion. Dean and other small time criminals in his group would eventually become some of the most notorious gang members in the history of the United States.

During the Circulation Wars, Dean met a wide variety of influential people in the city, including members of the journalism sector as well as politicians. This opportunity gave him many benefits in the years that followed. A top-notch safecracker, known as Charlie The Ox Reiser trained him.

Dean became the leader of the North Side Gang and remained so until his death. The group was comprised in large part of those of Irish descent, which further increased the rivalry between them and The Outfit, or South Side Gang. The two groups had different points of view on how many things should be handled, including prostitution.

While The Outfit proudly operated several brothels, the South Side Gang refused to become involved with prostitution. This and other problems kept the two groups from being able to obtain a long-term peace, and was the cause of countless men losing their lives, as each side attempted to prove their control over the other. George Moran was a part of the South Side Gang and was very loyal to Dean O'Banion.


Dean O'Banion was only a year younger than George Moran, whom he would not actually meet until they were adults. The Irish-American man was a mobster and a huge rival of Johnny Torrio and Al Capone. For unclear reasons, the newspapers tended to call him by the name Dion, though he never used that name himself.

He was born in central Illinois, though his family relocated when he was a small child. His mother died when he was not yet ten and the family relocated once again, with some members remaining behind in Maroa. They dropped down into a part of Chicago that was primarily Irish. Though he sang in the church choir as a boy, he had more interest in the street life and learning how to commit crimes.

Some people called him Gimpy due to the fact that his left leg was shorter than his right leg. It is believed that this condition was due to an injury that occurred when he was a youngster, which involved a streetcar. However, there were not a great many people who called O'Banion by the nickname, and it eventually quit being used by virtually everyone who knew him.

The group that O'Banion became tight with during the early parts of his criminal career included George Bugs Moran, Earl Hymie Weiss and Vincent The Schemer Drucci. The four of them ran around together and enjoyed working various types of robbery and theft scams. Eventually the group was hired by the Chicago Tribune where they worked as sluggers for quite some time, encouraging newsstands to carry the paper through violence, if the threat of it alone was insufficient to have the stand owners change their minds.

The newspaper boss, who went by the name of Moses Annenberg, gave the young men an opportunity to have more money through working as sluggers for the Chicago Examiner. It was during this time that they all met Charles Reiser. The gang met him through their relationship with the newspaper boss, and they were more than pleased to learn how to crack safes from the criminal who had already mastered the art.

One of the crimes that O'Banion made infamous was that of placing drugs into the beverage of an unsuspecting person. He did a sting at an Inn where he worked back and forth between being a waiter and also singing with his breathtaking Irish tenor voice. Both the singing and the drugging, which was known as slipping a Mickey, were a part of the gang activity.

During the times that Dean was singing to the customers and keeping their complete attention, George and the other guys would slip into the coatroom of the establishment. With someone keeping a lookout, the remaining men would go through pockets in search of cash or other valuables that could benefit them. The patrons who were drunk and or drugged when they left the Inn were also likely to be robbed by the group, who knew which of the patrons had the most valuable goods on them.

The group began to deepen their political connections through their relationship with newspaper boss Moses Annenberg as well. He introduced them to major politicians in both the forty-second and forty-third wards that were desperate to win their positions so that they could wield control over their part of the city. George, Dean and their companions found it to be a lucrative venture for themselves to inflict pain upon those who were not compliant with these desires. In fact, violence was a regular part of their lives no matter what the men were doing.

The arrest record of George Moran during the early years included a variety of crimes, beginning in September of 1910, shortly after he arrived in the Windy City, when he was arrested for burglary. He was paroled a couple of years later, but found himself behind bars again in the fall of 1913, this time for both burglary and larceny. Four years after that, he faced the courts yet again for two counts of robbery and another account the following year.

However, George did end up doing some time behind bars starting in 1918, for a robbery. He was also charged with an assault that was intended to end in a murder rap. Even though the victim was a member of the police force, George was able to use his connections in order to have the charges against him stricken from the record. This in fact happened with quite a few of the charges he faced throughout his life.

The small time crimes that he was committing began to grow when he met O'Banion and the others. As they became more organized in their crimes, it became increasingly difficult for law enforcement to stop them. During the jail sentence that began in 1918, George made a new friend during an attempted effort to break out of the facility. Tommy The Terrible Touhy joined the gang upon his release, increasing the manpower and criminal intent even further. George was released back to his life of crime in 1923.

It was around this time that George met a young woman who had recently immigrated to the country. She was a showgirl with Turkish origins and she captured the eye and heart of the gangster. Lucille Bilezikdijan already had a child and she feared that this fact would stop George from falling in love with her. However, her fears were unfounded as George welcomed them both into his life and his heart.

George raised his stepson along with a son that Lucille gave birth to, with a great deal of pride and joy. He embraced his role as husband, father and provider, wanting to show a different side of parenting than what he had experienced as a child. Things seemed to be going well for the criminal who had found his place both personally and professionally. Of course, being a gangster was a rough life, but George was at the upper end of things within the area and commanded respect because of it. Generally, he was left alone when he was out.

Once Prohibition took effect, O'Banion saw profit for the group in the making. Along with George and the others in the operation, they began to quickly incorporate bootlegging into their illegal operations. Smuggling beer from Canada began immediately, and was soon followed by deals that brought in gin and whiskey for those willing to pay the price. He is credited for the first hijacking of liquor in the city.

During 1921, the leader of George's group, Dean, married Viola Kaniff. This was not the only major change that the gangster made that year, as he determined that the group needed a better front for their illegal business practices. He purchased interest in a local flower shop, both because it would work as a good front and because he was fond of flowers, which made the choice seem logical.

William Schofield, who retained partial interest even after O’Banion invested into the property and store, originally owned the River North flower shop. In a short period of time, it became the most used florist by mobsters in the area, especially for funerals. The building was across the street from a church where he and other members of the gang had attended services while growing up. In order to have room for the North Side Gang to meet and converse privately about gang related business, George dedicated the rooms above the florist shop specifically to them.

During the early twenties, Johnny Torrio and Al Capone met with the bootlegging operators that lived and worked in Chicago, including representatives from the North Side Gang. Everyone agreed that having blood shed among themselves did nothing to advance the financial concerns of the gangs. Instead, it was believed that everyone could have a nice slice of the illegal operations pie and become wealthy, thanks to the ill thought out Prohibition.

The North Side Gang was given a handsome portion of land to control in the deal, which kept O'Banion and the other members of the team, including George, satisfied for a few years. However, there were some changes in the local political landscape and he wanted in on some of the financial gain that was to be had in the south side of the city. In an effort to maintain peace, Torrio gave some rights to the group.

The North Side Gang, O'Banion in particular, became greedy and wanted more and more cash and control over the illegal industries of the massive city. He began to convince the owners of speakeasies in town to move their business to the strip of land that he had been granted in Cicero by Torrio.

These establishments were named such perhaps because one had to speak softly or quietly about them, due to the illegal sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages within them. The demographic lines that tended to determine which establishment’s patrons frequented were not as clearly defined as with legal businesses. Men of various ethnic backgrounds found themselves in them regularly in the search for alcohol. Additionally, women would also go into these places, sometimes with a male companion, but not always.

With some of these establishments moving their business away from the territory controlled by some of the lesser rival gangs, Torrio could see that there was an increasing potential for a gang war over bootlegging operations. In an effort to stop this, he implored the leadership of the North Side Gang to reconsider. He offered to involve them in the brothel industry, which was quite lucrative. However, the members of the North Side Gang tended to have a different moral perception of prostitution and were angered, refusing to even consider the matter.

Around this time, a rival gang began to market whiskey in the north side, which brought about major troubles for the gangs. Torrio did nothing to stop the other gang, which was affiliated with Sicilian gangs. Thus, the North Side Gang determined that they would have to handle matters themselves and began to hijack booze from the Gennas.

This was not the only trouble between the two gangs. A far lesser member of the north side organization killed his wife, and when he asked O'Banion for assistance, the leader had the man meet him at an establishment being run by Al Capone. They were seen leaving and the gentleman was later found dead. Some have speculated that the move was an effort to put the South Side Gang under the spotlight of law enforcement. No charges were ever filed in the matter.

Dean double-crossed Johnny in what was to be the last big deal of his life. The Sieben Brewery raid was a planned heist that Dean orchestrated. He knew that the brewery was to be raided and when. He convinced Torrio that he wanted out of the business and wanted to sell his portion. When they were all arrested, Dean faced virtually nothing due to his clean arrest record, while the others faced a great deal of legal troubles. He would not return the funds to Torrio.

In November of 1924, the leader got into a heated argument with Genna. Al Capone was present for the beginning of the conversation, where it was known that Genna had invested a large sum of money, in addition to placing a substantial marker. While Capone thought it was good business to let the marker go, O'Banion disagreed. He threatened Genna and told him to pay the sum within a week. Until this point, Genna had been unable to obtain the okay to put a hit out on O'Banion. However, the upper member of the family who had been stopping him had recently passed away. This allowed the Gennas, along with the South Side Gang, to finally deal with O'Banion once and for all.

Under the guise of buying flowers for the funeral of the recently departed, a group of gangsters went into the flower shop that was operated by the North Side Gang. However, their actual purpose was to scope out the place. On the tenth day of the month, the leader of the North Side Gang was working, arranging some chrysanthemums. Three gunmen entered the establishment and took his life. There were two bullets in his head, another two were fired into his throat and as a measure to be certain, and possibly to make a statement, a fifth round was shot into his head while he was on the floor.

The death of O'Banion enraged George Moran, who had been one of his closest partners in the illegal business operations. This created a rivalry of intense and epic proportions, which saw a great deal of bloodshed on both sides of the matter. He was unable and unwilling to forget or forgive what had happened.


The fury of George Moran was well known in the city and Torrio even chose to leave town for a bit, hoping to give his rival the opportunity to cool off. However, this was not to be. George was an unstable man who was prone to fits of violence. In fact, there were many of his associates who believed that he was mentally unstable, or buggy. It was this belief that earned the career criminal the nickname of Bugs.

Hymie Weiss took the leadership role of the gang, though George was still one of the most prominent members of the group. The two of them along with pal Vincent Drucci were set on revenge and making someone pay for the death of their leader and friend. In January of 1925, the four of them decided that they would kill Al Capone, who was Torrio's lieutenant in the crime family. Although they fired multiple rounds into Capone's vehicle, the mobster escaped uninjured. His chauffeur did not make out so lucky and required medical attention.

Since this was unsuccessful, George determined that kidnapping a bodyguard for information was a good idea. At the same time, the group went after Torrio yet again. Johnny had only recently returned to the city, anxious to return to his former position of power. He and his wife had been out shopping and were returning home when the attack happened. They fired multiple bullets into the gangster.

Unfortunately for George, his gun misfired right as he was about to deal the fatal wound to his enemy. The police were arriving on the scene, so George had to flee without killing his nemesis. At this point, Torrio went back to Italy and handed the reigns of the Chicago operation over to Al Capone.

Next, the group killed Angelo Genna, the man responsible for the war to begin with. They took out a few more members of the group before the rest of them decided to flee the area. This left the two major gangs to enjoy the spoils that were left behind.

The North Side Gang made another attempt on the life of Capone, using Tommy-guns that were procured by O'Banion just before his death. Although Capone was unharmed, the hotel he owned where the attack took place was in shambles. He sent forth an olive branch to the gang, hoping for some peace in the city. The truce was short-lived and Capone ended up taking down the new leader Hymie Weiss, along with some other members of the gang. Moran and Drucci took control of their gang members and a great deal of bloodshed occurred, as each side killed and retaliated on a regular basis.

Moran began to work with the unions and continued in the bootlegging business. The gang remained operational despite the regular overturning of leadership that had happened in recent years. This was in part because of the strength that Moran held over the people under him and his intent loyalty to the gang. Additionally, he continued to do small things to annoy Capone, such as making prank calls where he blew raspberries through the phone. Though nowhere near as harmful as a bullet, these were perceived by Capone as disrespectful and unacceptable.

Eventually a peace fell on the land, though it was still incredibly tense. Drucci found himself at the wrong end of a police gun, and that left Moran as the sole leader of the gang. Within a short period of time, the two groups began fighting again. It began with smaller crimes and eventually escalated into terrible battles, the most notable of which is the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.


During the time leading up to the massacre, more than 200 men had died in the battle between the north and south side gangs. Over the course of less than ten years, there had also been considerable bloodshed that had left men crippled and scarred. Some of them had fled the city, while others stayed strong within their positions. However, the notorious gangster had yet to completely earn his name.

During the year 1929, St. Valentine's Day fell upon a Thursday. In the days prior, Moran had committed a few acts that finally broke Al Capone and made him decide to take the life of his rival once and for all. Moran had been regularly ordering hits on those close to Capone. Many of his trusted friends and allies, some of whom he had known even before he had relocated to Chicago, were dead and he had not been able to stop it. He had a special car created for himself that was supposed to be bulletproof, and he had more than a dozen bodyguards tending to him at any given time.

Capone was tired, scared and angry. In January of 1929, Moran ordered more hits, designed to break down Capone and his organization even further. Antonio Lombardo and Pasqualino Patsy Lolordo were heavily involved in the Unione Siciliana and had achieved high-ranking positions therein. Additionally, they were close friends of Al Capone on a personal level. He was devastated by the loss of these men and was still reeling from it when Moran pushed him even further.

Moran hijacked a shipment of alcohol that was supposed to be Capone's. It is believed that he had assistance through a gang known as the Sheldon Gang that claimed allegiance to the South Siders. Either way, Capone decided to order the hit for the morning of St. Valentine's Day.

The plan that was devised by Capone and his men involved primarily attacking George Moran. Though it was possible that a few of those closest to him would be lost in the attack as well, George was the victim that the Italian gangster desperately wanted to see dead. However, Capone was in the sunny state of Florida when the hit went down. A close friend and partner of his for several years, Jack McGurn, visited him. It is believed that the two of them discussed the plan in detail, with Al leaving it to his trusted colleague to take care of it, while he stayed safely away and far from suspicion. McGurn was more than willing to execute the plan, in part because Moran had attempted to take his life on two separate occasions.

The lesser known gangster decided to use men from out of town, although it is not certain if this was so that Moran would not recognize the gunmen or for some other reason that nobody knows. The six men who went to the planned murder site were Fred Burke, James Roy, John Scalise, Albert Anselmi, and Harry and Phil Keywell. These men were assembled from various places in the country, and each had a special purpose for being included.

For instance, the group in Chicago had involved John and Albert in previous murders. The plan that had been developed was quite complex and was actually quite brilliant in the eyes of many. The first step was for the gang to receive an offer of some high quality alcohol for a handsome rate. It was to be delivered on that rainy morning at ten o'clock. Instead, the criminals were to be waiting for the crime boss dressed in cop clothing that had been ripped off from the station. Additionally, they were wearing trench coats. The men were setting it up so that it would appear to members of the gang and outsiders that there was a raid.

Just as Capone was protected from criminal prosecution by being far away in the state of Florida, McGurn wanted to have an airtight alibi as well. To this end, once the plans had been laid out and reviewed with the men, he went to a hotel with his girlfriend, where plenty of others could testify to his whereabouts on that fateful morning.

The only problem with their plan was that Bugs Moran was not at the warehouse when the hit took place. He was running a bit late and did not enter when he saw what he believed to be a police presence. However, what took place inside was anything but legal.

Harry and Phil Keywell made the major misstep in the execution when they identified Bugs Moran in the building. The problem is that it was one of his associates who had a similar appearance. The men did not immediately realize their mistake though. They entered the property and acted as police officers, commanding the criminals to line up against the wall. Seven men who served Bugs were in the warehouse, and six of them died instantly during the subsequent gunfire. None of them had the opportunity to fight back, and even the one who did not die was severely injured.

They proceeded to walk out of the building, with two of them in trench coats looking as though the other two had just arrested them. The four of them drove away in the cop vehicle they used to get there, an illegally obtained rig that provided ideal cover for their story.

When the actual police arrived, they found a horrific scene of death. When they questioned the only member of the gang still alive, he refused to provide any information regarding who had taken the lives of his comrades. He maintained his story until his death a few days later.

Although everyone knew what had happened, the police had the burden of proof laid upon them. With Capone and McGurn the problem was that they had alibis that simply could not be contested. McGurn married his girlfriend, further cementing her loyalty and her unwillingness to speak against him in court.

This event made the national media and secured Al Capone a place in history as one of the most notorious gangsters of all time. It also saw a shift in behavior for George Moran, who had lost several more people who were close to him. The cops in the city were cracking down on organized crime.


The men who were lost during the massacre were some of the most experienced weapons experts that the North Side Gang had. The gang continued to control the same wards as before, under the power of Moran. The following year, Frank McErlane attempted to take over the group but his efforts were fruitless.

Even so, there were other forces that were beginning to cause a decline in the gang control. Congress repealed the Volstead Act, which was one of the primary factors in the illegal trafficking of alcohol. Once it became legal for some forms of booze to be manufactured, sold, and consumed, it sensibly followed that there was no longer a need for illegal supplies.

Al Capone, who was certainly the arch nemesis of George Moran, was arrested as the justice system targeted him in the only way that they were able to get charges to stick. He was arrested in 1932, on the simple charge of tax evasion. While it is known that he had syphilis at the time of his death, the exact circumstances are something that has been speculated about ever since.

Though he allegedly died behind bars, there are some who believe that he worked out a deal with prosecutors and lived the last of his days a free man under an assumed name. Either way, he was gone.

One more factor that pushed Moran's infamy to new heights was the development of the Public Enemies list, of which he was one of the first members. He took spot number six, several behind that of Capone, who had earned the top honor until his incarceration.


However, just because the gang and gang related activities were in decline does not mean that his life of crime was over. In fact, it is widely believed that he eventually exacted revenge upon Jack McGurn for planning the massacre. Exactly seven years and one day after the murders, McGurn was found dead.

His corpse was discovered in a bowling alley along with a humorous note. One of the things that Moran had in common with his late buddy O'Banion was a sense of humor that involved pranks. This type of joke was in line with the type of humor these men loved.

No matter what exactly happened there, the fact was that a much larger organized crime syndicate, with deep ties to the Old World, was taking over the city and squeezing out smaller criminal bosses like Moran. The National Crime Syndicate took their gambling operations from the gang, just as the repealing of Prohibition took the act of bootlegging. Since the gang was not involved in prostitution, this ended the most lucrative parts of their business. The new group had sprung from the old Chicago Outfit, so there was neither love nor room for Moran in the new organization. No longer ruling one of the strongest gangs in the city, he reverted back to the types of crimes that he had originally been involved with, like bank heists.

In the mid 1940s, George was arrested and sentenced to ten years in jail for a bank robbery. During the heist, he had taken a mere $10,000 from a bank messenger. He served the decade in the Ohio State Penitentiary. However, this did not prevent him from committing further crimes. Shortly after his release, he committed yet another bank robbery. This was to be the last crime for which Moran served time.

He had been sentenced to a ten-year stint in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, known as one of the most intense places in the country to serve prison time. However, five years into the stay he lost his life to lung cancer. The lifetime smoker was 65 upon his death.

Though he had once been a wealthy man, he only had around one hundred dollars when he died. Because he was so poor, the state paid for his burial in the cemetery attached to the prison. For all of his efforts to make a name for himself, his remains were placed among some of the poorest criminals in the country.


George Moran may have died in prison, but his name certainly did not. In the decades since his death, there have been countless tales regarding his life and death. The rich story along with some of the mystery have made it something that those intrigued by gangs have oft studied. The fact that his archrival conducted one of the most notorious hits of all time, in an effort to take his life, certainly adds to the intrigue. This section describes some of the publications where his life has been explored.

As early as the 1950s, works about him were already being produced for public consumption. Playhouse 90 was the first and was soon followed by the production simply entitled Al Capone. In the last year of the 1950s, another recreation in the United States offered the tale under the name The Untouchables.

Additionally, there have been movies and shows about the massacre and the life of Al Capone, which have naturally featured the crime boss.

Several books have been penned, some of which are exclusively about him, while others include him in a list of crime bosses of the era. There are many of these available that can provide additional insight and information regarding George Bugs Moran.


The little boy who was born as Adelard Cunin grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his parents and two younger siblings. He was never able to form close relationships with his family members and outwardly balked at the control the church wanted to hold over him.

When he reached the age where he legally could, he fled the city and ended up in Chicago. The city was undergoing a massive amount of growth, which created all types of openings for illegal activities. The large population was ever changing and it was easy for him to find an in, working with other youth running a horse thieving racket. Though he was caught for this and subsequently other activities, he had no intention of turning his back on life as a criminal.

Of course, there were things that set the way for him and other gangsters to begin to take such control over places across the country. When Prohibition became the law, it created a massive opening for those who were willing to work outside of the law.

The men and women of the country were accustomed to being able to drink their fill of alcoholic beverages whenever they chose. Many of them were uninterested or unwilling to give up the drinking, and did not mind if they had to resort to lesser means of legality in order to procure some of the beloved spirits.

In virtually every part of the country, this created a large number of people who were willing to operate illegal stills in order to have alcohol for themselves. However, the vast majority of those who went to such efforts did more than simply drink their creations. The majority of them also sold off portions of it, increasing their criminal activity.

Others who were involved in distribution were equally criminal. For those who were near the borders of Canada and Mexico, there was also the option of shipping in the booze illegally. The location of Chicago made it an ideal place for criminals to obtain Canadian alcohol swiftly. Once obtained, the alcohol was easily sold in the United States.

Speakeasies were one of the most popular venues for citizens to get drunk, although the establishments were technically not supposed to serve alcohol. Citizens learned to speak quietly about the places, and police learned to turn a blind eye to them as long as nobody created a stir in or around them.

George easily wedged himself into the North Side Gang where he became a strong team member who was incredibly loyal to everyone in the gang. They participated regularly in bootlegging and other criminal activities related to alcohol. Additionally, these men were glad to have a hand in illegal gambling operations and at threatening business owners for cash.

One of the distinctive features between his gang and their rival to the south was that he and his allies refused to become involved in prostitution, believing it to be immoral and beneath them. This was in stark contrast to the nearly 200 brothels that were once owned by South Side Gang leaders.

Before their gang took off, George and his dearest friend Dean O'Banion, along with a few others, got a start in working in groups by harassing newspaper stand owners who were not carrying the newspaper that employed them. The men worked for each of the major publications in Chicago and formed some strong political alliances during that time.

Afterwards, these relationships helped them to know what was happening in the city and to have security that their own interests were being taken care of. However, this could not provide them safety from the other gangs.

The intense rivalry that existed between the north and south left hundreds of men dead and the city in shambles. Though the citizens and the police force knew about the gangs and did not outwardly support them, most felt powerless to stop their activities. Held back by fear, they continued to watch, as men like Moran and Capone continued to commit crimes that included murder.

When Moran was targeted for death on St. Valentine's Day, it served, as a wakeup call to the community that gang related violence was serious. Around that same time, Prohibition was repealed, allowing for the legal manufacture and sale of alcohol throughout the land.

These events weakened the gang greatly. As the South Side Gang transformed and tied in even more deeply to the gangster roots in the Old World, men like George were no longer able to operate gangs, because there was simply nothing left for him to control.

As a result, the aging criminal turned back to the types of crimes that he had been doing originally. He did a ten-year sentence for bank robbery, only to be arrested less than a year after getting out. Once again, he was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to a decade behind bars.

However, the aging smoker would never be a free man again. While halfway through his sentence, the disease of lung cancer took his life. He passed away so poor that the state had to pay for his funeral. Although he is dead, his life and the crimes associated with him live on infamously.