The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre—Excerpt from ‘Get Capone,’ by Jonathan Eig

THE COLDEST CASE: Since February 14, 1929, when seven men were gunned down inside a Clark Street garage, the mastermind behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre has remained a mystery, though suspicions usually point to Al Capone. Now a new biographer has uncovered fresh information implicating a different suspect—a forgotten Chicago felon with a simple and timeless motive: revenge.

The grisly aftermath of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre  

(page 5 of 5)



Chicago editor Richard Babcock interviews Jonathan Eig


Images from the 1929 case

Official website

Shortly after the massacre on Clark Street, two eyewitnesses came forward to tell police that they had seen some of the action on the street. Their testimony seemed inconsequential at the time and was quickly forgotten, but it included this nugget of information from one of them: “Just about the time I arrived in front of the place, an automobile I thought was a police squad car stopped in front of the garage. There were five men in it. The fellow who stayed at the wheel had a finger missing. His hand was spread out on the steering apparatus, so the old amputation was apparent.” Police, it seems, never followed up on the lead.

For several years in the early 1930s, White worked as a federal informant, supplying information about Chicago hoodlums to federal agents in exchange for their protection, according to FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. If John Edgar Hoover knew of White’s role in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the bureau might have helped to cover his tracks for fear of losing an informant and jeopardizing the lives of the agents who worked with him.

In January 1934, when some of his peers figured out that White was a rat working for the Bureau of Investigation, White was executed in his home. Federal agents were seen visiting White at home shortly before the murder. The killers were never caught.

A year later, when Hoover received the letter from Frank T. Farrell suggesting that White had been responsible for the nation’s greatest unsolved crime, the director replied that the gangland killing was a matter for local police and of no interest to the bureau. In other words, as far as he was concerned, the case was closed. Farrell was never again heard from. Recent attempts to locate his family were unsuccessful.

* * *

Whether Capone had anything to do with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre or not, one thing is clear: He was punished for it. The crime lit a fire under the federal prosecutors. Capone’s imprisonment became a national priority. The U.S. attorney eventually settled on a charge of felony income-tax evasion, and he wound up winning the stiffest sentence ever handed down for such a crime at the time: 11 years.
“A blow to the belt,” Capone called it. “But what can you expect when the whole community is prejudiced against you?”

The punishment proved effective: When Capone emerged from prison, his mind was wrecked by syphilis, and his criminal power was gone.

Over the course of his prison term, the great gangster was interviewed dozens of times by psychiatrists and prison officials. He spoke of his regrets: He said he wished that he had not been so friendly toward the press, because the publicity he earned had put a target on his back. He said he felt that his lawyers had failed him and that the judge assigned to his case had been unfair. He apologized for the grief he had caused his mother, his wife, and his son.

But he never spoke of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the crime that helped cement his legend and end his career.

He never knew what hit him.



2 years ago
Posted by Chuck40

As a huge fan of the earlier gangsters, in particularly the mobster's of the roaring mid 1920's and 30's. I was extremely fascinated,and mesmerized with this well written story on the Valentine's Day Massacre. The story showed how the mobsters lived by their own set of rules and regulations. Behavior that destroyed and manipulate innocent lives throughout their criminal tenure.

No one can dispute the toll prohibition has taken upon our great nation as a whole. The level of death and destruction that laid in it's path will never be forgotten. It had blossom from the seedy dark roots of the grimey alley ways, to the light of day.

Thank you so much for such an insightful article. God bless you!

2 years ago
Posted by Phanon

Very interesting. I would say " The cops did it. or did they?

1 year ago
Posted by stripes

This is great. I'm doing this event as a topic for my research paper. This is perfect for the last part, which is significance of the event itself. Thank you.

11 months ago
Posted by CJ

Al had a lousy lawyer.

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