Organized crime made its first appearance during the 1920s when the Eighteenth Amendment ceased and prevented the consumption, transportation, sale, and production of alcohol. Americans were not fond of the new law that was put in place and voiced their protests until national prohibition ended . Gangsters heard America’s uproar and saw a chance to get ahead in the economy; many of them were immigrants and weren’t given equal opportunities in the community. Before the 1920s, gangs extorted money from legitimate corporations in order to protect themselves from past settlers who discriminated against them.
However, gangs upgraded from low level citizens to criminal masterminds during prohibition as people came to them in search of alcohol. The rise of gangs was a crucial part of why the 20s roared and why it is still iconic today. Their ways of corruption, lucrative methods of breaking the law, and creating a reputation for future gangs to follow became an important part of the 20s as they left a lasting impact throughout the Prohibition era.
For the first time in American history, more people lived in cities than in rural areas; roughly six million people left farms for cities in search of greater economic opportunities. To add to the influx of population, soldiers were returning from the first World War and immigrants were flooding in at exponential rates (Roaring Twenties). Like many major cities that surged in immigration population, Chicago was now home to many Irishmen, Italians, and Jews searching for the “American dream.
” However, they often found themselves being denied employment and housing. These new-immigrants were also under a constant threat of physical violence as they were targeted by previous settlers who didn’t like the change in culture (Kelley, Beverly Merrill, and Mitchel P. Roth).
In an effort to get a leg up in the economy and earn protection against British settlers, new-immigrants formed tight knit groups which later became known as gangs. When prohibition went into action heavy drinking immigrants, such as Irishmen, Germans, and Poles ignored the law and kept operating their saloons (Kelley, Beverly Merrill, and Mitchel P. Roth). As gangs were the peoples’ supplier and now dominated the industry, there wasn’t anyone willing or coherent enough to turn them in. Even if someone did, mass corruption through the police force and politicians had already begun.
Chicago was taken over by organized crime as it housed the most notorious criminals of this period. Anyone who had political connections and a tendency for breaking the law, a career in quenching America’s thirst for alcohol during the Prohibition era offered almost limitless wealth. The most well known mastermind was Al Capone who brought to light organized crime on a national level.