On October 28th, 1919, US Congress passed the Volstead Act – the popular name for the National Prohibition Act – bringing a constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages.
Those who demanded Prohibition as a way of curing the social ills of the time would never have imagined what its legacy would be. Until it ended in 1933, the Volstead Act brought about the rise of some of the largest criminal organisations the US has ever seen, along with some of the most notorious gangsters of all time.
From The Untouchables to the excellent Boardwalk Empire (which features many of the criminals from this list) tales of speakeasies, mobsters, and broads from the era have long been popular in movies and TV shows. But behind the glitz and glamor were some very dangerous, violent criminals, and here are ten of the worst.
10. Giacomo ‘Big Jim’ Colosimo
Giacomo Colosimo, aka ‘Big Jim’ or ‘Diamond Jim,’ was as well-known for his white suits and diamond rings as he was for the prostitution, gambling, and racketeering empire he built. He ran a network of 200 brothels, many containing under-age immigrant girls held against their will.
Colosimo didn’t embrace bootlegging in the same way as many of the other criminals of the time, as he was making plenty of money selling illegal alcohol from his restaurant. This unwillingness – and the fact that Colosimo divorced his aunt – resulted in Jonny Torrio ordering a hit on Colosimo. Big Jim was killed in 1921, gunned down in his own establishment. After his death, which is thought to have been carried out by Frankie Yale, Torrio took over Colosimo’s mob, which became known as the Chicago Outfit.