Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tony D'Andrea and The Terrible Genna's, Old Time Taylor Street Gangsters

Tough Tony D'Andrea:
The story of Chicago in the roaring 20's is usually told in terms of Capone vs. the northsiders. But there were other powerful subgroups. Among them them the Unione Siciliane a powerful Scicilian/American social organization begun to help fight the black hand. The organization quickly became corrupted itself and by the mid-teens it was controlled by the Mafia and being led by Antonio D'Andrea a one time priest who went to prison for counterfeiting (dimes). After being released he changed his name and began a largely unsuccessful political career centered in the 19th ward or Taylor St, area on Chicago's near west side.

Most of the neighborhood was destroyed by highway construction and expansion by Rush Hospital and the University of Illinois. It is a nice area now and Taylor street has a lot of upscale restaurants. This is the first in a series of short clips showing some of the area's more colorful past. Besides it's mobster history the area was also an early home to the team that came to be known as the Chicago Cubs who played for decades at two different area locations. We have a clip that tells that story as well.

Anyway for more than half a decade Anthony D'Andrea fought for political control of this what was then a teeming slum with alderman John Powers. It was a battle that included, kidnappings, bombings, shootings and more than thirty murders. Things came to a head in May of 1921 just after D'Andrea had once again lost an aldermanic race by a very slim margin. On the evening of the 10th he was out with fellow gangster Diamond Joe Espositio who dropped him off at his home at 902 S. Ashland around 2 am. As he climbed the front steps the first floor window opened and a series of shotgun blasts tore into the night. Hit five times Antonio D'Andrea still clung to life for a few days before passing on.

Denied a church burial because he had been excommunicated they held the service right in front of the house with more than 8,000 people in attendance. His assassination was the frst in what would be six leaders of this organization to be murdered in the next eight years. The crime was never solved the two main suspects were of course political rival Powers. But why kill a man you just beat? Then there were D'Andrea's allies the Genna brothers. And their story is the next stop on our Taylor street tour.

The Terrible Genna's:
Immediatly following Tony D'Andrea murder two things happened Mike Menlo took over as head of the Uniome Scilianiand institued a reign of peace for the next four years until his death in 1924. The Unione was a natioanl organization with New York calling the shots. It's an important distinction to understand that the Chicago "outfit" that grew out of the Capone organization was not part of the Sicilian Mafia that dominated the east coast. The Chicago outfit was a local institution that grew out of a corrupted political system that grew out of the illegal but tolerated vice district known as The Levee.

Both Johnny Torrio & Al Capone were refugees from New York City who came west to escape the east coast organization. Since they were Italians they there was a natural alliance between the two groups but they were separate entities. And in many ways the Chicago organization needed what the additional clout the Sicilian Mafia provided. It was under Mike Menlo's reign that there was peace for the first four years of Prohibition. Until the terrible Genna's helped touch off the beer wars that would soon engulf the city in bloodshed.

While the national organization appointed a new leader out on the streets Tony D'Andrea's local organization and headquarters was taken over by a crime family of six brothers,Pete, Sam, Jim, Tony, Angelo, and Mike. Their fearsome reputation led them to be known as the terrible Genna's. Their headquarters was at 1022 Taylor has gone from olive oil importer to parking lot for the upscale restaurant Tuscany.

They had been the major supplier of muscle for D'Andrea. Now with him out of the way they filled the power vacuum. And once they took over they organized the residents of the area into manufacturing booze. For the then princely sum of fifteen bucks a day (three times the average daily pay) they became moonshiners churning out some real rot gut stuff in their bathtubs or where ever. Operating hundreds of stills they supplied the raw material for Al Capones organization.

Of course they had their own territory with speakeasies most of which were located in the shadow of Hull House on the 800 & 900 blocks of south Halsted Street Here clubs like the Bluebird owned by Genna ally Sam Anatuna and there was Diamomd Joe Esposito's joint where young Paul Ricca was to acquire the nickname "the waiter" operated. But they were an empire and like all empires they wanted to expand. They weren't going to go after Capone's territory to the east and there was more money in expanding north than south so they also got involved with the blood feud with Dion O'Bannions north side gang.

Because not only were the Genna's expanding into his territory Angelo Genna was refusing to honor a $40,000 gambling debt. O'Bannion prevailed on Torrio for his help which he couldn't/wouldn't offer. This is what led to O'Bannion setting up Torrio for arrest at the Siebens brewery raid. The incident that really set off the war that would cullminate five years later on Valentines Day.

This is another clip in ChitownViews series Chicago Crime Now & Then here is a playlist if you'd like to see more.

These two sites have proven to be invaluable resources for this series.
My Al Capone Museum:
The Chicago Crime Scenes Project:

And to further explore the world of MindsiMedia visit our web portal.

No comments:

Post a Comment