Showing posts with label Bootleggers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bootleggers. Show all posts

18 February 2017

92 years ago: Explosion in Pittsburgh

On this date in 1925: A massive explosion destroyed two buildings and severely damaged several others in the Produce District of Pittsburgh.

The 5 a.m. blast seemed to originate inside the office safe of the Landolina Bros. & Co. wholesale produce firm at 2028 Penn Avenue. The safe itself was obliterated, turned into shrapnel by the detonation within. Investigators wondered if the bomb was placed by a "Black Hand" extortion gang or personal enemies of the East End-based Landolina family.



Fires broke out following the explosion, and it took firefighters until 10 a.m. to get the blazes under control. Though an estimated $110,000 worth of damage was caused, authorities said no one was killed or injured.

In addition to the Landolina building, an adjacent building at 2026 Penn Avenue, owned by produce merchant William J. Joyce, was destroyed. Another Joyce-owned building at 2024 Penn was thrown sideways by the force of the blast and was described in the press as sagging "crazily over the wrecked street." Two bank buildings - the William Penn Trust Co. at Penn Avenue and 21st Street and the Franklin Savings and Trust Co. across the street - were damaged. Warehouses in the district were forced to dispose of large quantities of produce, as shards of shattered window-glass became embedded in the foodstuffs.


Police immediately arrested Angelo Valeti of 2028 Spring Way in Pittsburgh, a partner in the Landolina firm. A witness saw him in the area just before the explosion. Authorities were searching for other roomers at the same Spring Way address who disappeared after the explosion. According to reports, Valeti and others had been arrested and fined just weeks earlier for their roles in a suspicious fire.

At the time of the explosion, no one suspected that it was triggered by an underworld rivalry. By the fall of 1928, however, the Landolina family - originally from the Trabia-Caccamo-Termini Imerese area of Sicily and related to western Pennsylvania Mafia chieftain Salvatore Calderone - was known to be embroiled in a regional bootlegging feud.

In July of that year, 75-year-old Nicaso Landolina was shot to death at his home, 203 Mayflower Street, while he was watering flowers in his front yard. Police noted that Nicaso was carrying a revolver in his pocket as he tended to the garden. An investigation showed that the Landolinas had received a number of threatening letters from Italian gangsters. Two months later, Nicaso's nephew, Anthony, was shot to death in front of 1619 Penn Avenue. Rumors suggested that Anthony had learned the identities of the men and had sworn to kill them. They got him first.

29 January 2017

La Smootch Mort II

In the previous installment we were introduced to Chicago's Kiss of Death Girl-Mary Collins and John Sheehy her first paramour to bite the dust.The distinction of being the second hoodlum to fall as a result of Mary Collins’s curse goes to North Side gang leader and pal of victim number one, Dean O’Banion, who was put on the spot the following November 10.  It was said that Collins and O’Banion were one time paramours. It was also suggested hat they may simply just been friends, so the reader can decide for themselves.

#2


Victim number three was the young—he never saw his twenty-second birthday—Mister Irving Schlig. Starting off with two cars, Schlig became a successful bootlegger. His gang’s modus operandi was to sell alcohol to crooked pharmacists and then come back the following night and steal it, and then sell it back to them.

Irving was also a progressive gangster attempting to take advantage of modern technology. He bought an airplane and paid a pilot to teach him to fly. After a mere two hours of flight training, Schlig flew to Canada for a cargo of booze. Unfortunately for the neophyte pilot, engine trouble on the return trip forced him down in a Kalamazoo, Michigan, cornfield. He destroyed his cargo lest he be caught with the goods. A month later he bought another plane and on August 27, 1925, he and an associate named Harry Berman took off for the airfield for another trip to Canada. The following morning they were found dead on the roadside near the airfield. Both had been shot through the back of the neck.

 #3

By the time of Schlig's murder, Mary’s ghastly reputation was already spreading through gangland. One of those picked up for the murder was gangster Eugene “Red” McLaughlin, who, when told that Mary was going to testify against him, stated, “If you drag that broad in you’ll never hang me. All her friends get the bump before they get the rope.” Red was eventually released for lack of evidence.

Coming up- Nos. 4 & 5...

28 January 2017

La Smootch Mort



Ah, the Prohibition Era; a time when a guy with a fast car, a dream, and a machine-gun, could make oodles of kale supplying an insatiable citizenry with their much desired clown juice. For a bootlegger, one of the grand things about having the grands in your pocket was being able to blow some of it on a jane before getting yourself dead.

For the gangsters of old, romance and death went together like gin and tonic, a situation that produced one of the semi-legendary figures to come out of this alcohol fueled epoch: The “Kiss of Death Girl”, so called because a large number of her paramours ended up on the slab. Lots of women lost their men to the gun but a “Kiss of Death Girl,” had more than the average bear. New York City had one and so did Chicago. We shall examine the Windy City’s hexed vixen first.

Her name was Mary Collins and she was a North Sider who became acquainted with the gangsters of her bailiwick in the early days of the Dry Era. The first of Mary’s fellas to end up with a toe tag was a friend and fellow gun man of North Side gang leader Dean O’Banion named John Sheehy.

Kiss of Death Girl a.k.a. Mary Collins

The end of Sheehy came in a speakeasy known as the Rendezvous on the evening of December 7, 1923. As the story goes, Sheehy simply asked for a bucket of ice and was told no by the waiter. Gangsters don’t like to hear no; so Sheehy went to the bar to fetch it himself, but again was told no. One writer put it that it was Mary, whose birthday they were celebrating, that wanted the ice so she could throw the cubes at the band’s drummer and this is why Sheehy’s request was denied.

Sheehy didn’t appreciate the inhospitable nature of both the waiter and club’s steward so pulled out his roscoe and killed them both. Before Sheehy and Mary had a chance to vacate the premises however, police arrived and Sheehy managed to wing one of them before catching a bullet himself and expiring the next day.

Headline for Sheehy shooting

In our next installment we'll meet victims #2 and #3 of the Kiss of Death Girl.