Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Organized Crime, Mafia and Gangsters: Gangsters Outside NYC

Guide for Library Research on Crime, Mafia, and Gangsters; Now Including Crime Fiction

Public Enemy Era

John Dillinger Wanted Poster

John Dillinger Wanted Poster

The 1920s and 1930s were a time of rising crime, driven at first by Prohibition and then after its repeal, taking on a life of its own. The 1930s was a period of famous gangsters such as John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, and Ma Barker. It also became known as the Public Enemies Era when the FBI began to keep "Public Enemies" lists of wanted criminals charged with crimes. 

"Baby Face" Nelson

"Baby Face" Nelson

Lester Joseph Gillis

Also known as George Nelson, Baby Face Nelson was a bank robber and murderer during the Great Depression. He was often called "Baby Face" because he was short and looked young. His main claim to fame was his association with John Dillinger. Baby Face died in a shootout with the FBI in 1934.

John "Red" Hamilton

John "Red" Hamilton

John Hamilton

John "Red" Hamilton was a bank robber and killer largely associated with John Dillinger. He was wounded during a robbery and died in 1934.

Frank Nitti

Frank Nitti

Francesco Raffaele Nitto

Frank Nitti was Al Capone's right hand man, in charge of all his strong-arm operations. Nitti was only ever convicted of tax evasion and committed suicide in 1943.

Bugs Moran

Bugs Moran

George Clarence Moran

Bugs Moran was a Chicago gangster most famous as the rival of Al Capone for control of Chicago and for his gang's being killed in the 1929 St Valentine's Day Massacre. Moran is considered to be the father of the drive-by shooting technique. He died of lung cancer in Leavenworth prison in 1957.

Mickey Cohen

Mickey Cohen

Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen

Micky Cohen was a Los Angeles based gangster. He was one of the founders of the famous Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas and was focused mostly on running gambling operations. He was also considered to be extremely violent and short tempered. He was convicted twice for tax evasion and died in his sleep in 1976.

Al Capone

Al Capone

Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone

Al Capone, also called Scarface, was a major gangster during the Prohibition era in Chicago. He was eventually prosecuted and convicted for tax evasion in 1931. He was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison and served 8 before he was released. He died from a stroke in 1947.

John Dillinger

John Dillinger

John Dillinger

John Dillinger was a gangster and bank robber during the Great Depression. He was a very famous criminal whom the media delighted in writing about, usually in a sensational manner. Dillinger was famous for having escaped from jail twice, one time carving a bar of soap to look like a gun. He died in a shootout with Federal agents in Chicago in 1934 after he was identified by his escort, who wore a red dress and became kown as the woman in red.

"Pretty Boy" Floyd

"Pretty Boy" Floyd

Charles Arthur "Pretty BoyFloyd

Pretty Boy Floyd was a bank robber during the Great Depression and very popular with the media at the time. The public generally had a positive view of him because when he robbed banks, he would destroy mortage documents, freeing many people from their debts. He was killed in a shootout with the FBI in 1934.

Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow

Bonnie and Clyde were a romantic couple who were also outlaws and theives from the area of Texas. They and their gang were particularly famous in the early 1930s and ultimately killed nine police officers and several civilians before they themselves were ambused and killed in Louisana in 1934.

Roger “The Terrible” Touhy

Roger “The Terrible” Touhy

Roger Touhy

Touhy "The Terrible" was a Chicago based bootlegger who spent 26 years in prison after having been framed for a fake kidnapping. He was killed a month after he was let out of jail in 1959.

Frank Costello

Frank Costello

Frank Costello

Costello, called "Prime Minister of the Underworld" was head of the Genovese crime family and founder of the Cosa Nostra (Italian for "Our Thing") was one of the most powerful mob bosses in US history. He died from a heart attack in 1973.

"Whitey" Bulger

"Whitey" Bulger

James Joseph "Whitey" Bulger, Jr.

Whitey Bulger is an organized crime figure who was tried on 32 counts of racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and weapons charges, including complicity in 19 murders and found guilty on 31 counts, including both racketeering charges, and involvement in 11 murders.  Bulger was sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus five years. Bulger had served as an informant for the FBI in the 1970s and went into hiding for 16 years to avoid arrest starting in 1994.

Ma Barker

Ma Barker

Arizona Donnie Barker

Ma Barker was the mother of many criminals who belonged to the Barker gang during the Great Depression. She was killed in a shootout in 1935 and afterwards became known as having been ruthless, controlling her sons' gang and directing their exploits. There is some dispute over whether that was true or not. 

Alvin "Old Creepy" Karpis

Alvin "Old Creepy" Karpis

Alvin Francis Karpis

Nickednamed "Creepy" because of his smile, Karpis was a prominent member of the Barker gang during the Great Depression. He served 26 years in Alcatraz, the longest time a federal prisoner spent there. He was paroled in 1968 and died in Spain in 1979.

"Machine Gun" Kelly

"Machine Gun" Kelly

George Francis Barnes Jr.

Machine Gun Kelly was a gangster and kidnapper during Prohibition and the early part of the Great Depression. He was nicknamed "Machine Gun" because his favorite weapon was a Thompson machine gun. He was arrested in Tennessee in 1933 and died in jail from a heart attack in 1954.

The Purple Gang

The Purple Gang

Photo of the Purple Gang

The Purple gang was a mob of bootleggers and thieves that operated out of Detroit. They were the dominant crime gang in the city through the 1920s but fell apart and self-destructed in the 1930s.

Albert "Tik-Tock" Tannenbaum

Albert "Tik-Tock" Tannenbaum

Albert Tannenbaum

Tick-Tock Tannenbaum was a hitman for Murder, Inc. during the 1930s. He is responsible for the first-ever mob assassination in Southern California. He died in 1976.

Frank Wallace

 

Frank Wallace

 

Frank Wallace

Wallace was a Boston based gangster during Prohibition who was in charge of the Gustin Gang. He was the last Irishman to run illegal rackets in Boston from the turn of the century until the 1960s. He was assassinated in 1931.