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Dean Charles O'Banion
Dean O'Banion - Dean Charles O'Banion



Born July 8,1892 in Maroa, Illinois (150 miles South of Chicago)

Grew up in a loving family. Was a childish prankster in school who teased his classmates. His mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died in 1901 when Dean was only nine years old. He loved his mother very much, writing her letters daily and bringing her flowers. Because of her t.b., poor Dean could not have the normal loving contact a mother would normally have with her child.

In this shot, a serious Dean as a child is writing a letter to his bedridden mother.
( Screenshots from an excellent documentary by Irish production company Abú Media features Dean O'Banion's life.
It's called (Mobs Mhericea = "Irish Gangs In America")
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)

Dean smiles as he writes and thinks of his mom.
( Screenshots from an excellent documentary by Irish production company Abú Media features Dean O'Banion's life.
It's called (Mobs Mhericea = "Irish Gangs In America")
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)




After becoming successful in Chicago, Dean O'Banion purchased this stone for his mother. He often went to Maroa to visit and placed flowers on her grave. Her death date is erroneous. She had died in 1901.
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)




Her death devastated Dean and his father.
His father Charles O'Banion sold his house and gave up his barber business and moved his sons Dean and Floyd to Chicago. His daughter remained in Decatur with her Aunt.

Letter written by Dean'O'Banion to his bedridden mother.
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)



Dean found Chicago exciting. He grew up in little hell section of Chicago called Kilgubbin centered around Erie and Kinzie streets and mixed with other races.  
The boys at that time used to play "Bumper riding"
It was here that Dean got his limp by trying to get a free ride on a trolley car and getting his foot run over when it backed up after stopping. Dean was always tempting fate and had a certain twisted zest for life. This limp would have discouraged most, but not Dean his charm made up for any remarkable disability.

In 1908, 16 year old Dean gets a job at McGovern's Tavern mopping floors and slopping beer to the clients all the while singing to them. The patrons at McGovern's are mostly criminals who honed his art of safecracking. It is here that his associations lead him to a life of crime.



Where a young Dean O'Banion got his start as a waiter. McGovern's Liberty Inn circa 1940's and in 1995.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)



In 1909, Dean got caught stealing stamps and a bottle of perfume from a drugstore. He ended up 6 months in Bridewell reformatory for burglary.

In 1911, he received a three month sentence for carrying a concealed weapon.

O'Banion later became a labor slugger and participated in the circulation wars in which newspaper was pitted against rival newspaper for control of distribution around the city.
Although disabled in one leg, O'Banion was powerful and could beat the living daylights out of someone, as he did one time to Mike Carrozzo at the Friar's Inn in response to Carrozzo beating a woman.  

The golden opportunity of prohibition on the horizon was to make many aspiring criminals into respectable gangsters.

Dean and Viola just got married.
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)




O'Banion's marriage certificate with his buddy Ralph Moss as witness.
Ralph would change his middle initial to "C" in later years.
(Mario Gomes)


Right after Prohibition kicks in, O'Banion spots a liquor truck backing up. On a whim he jumps on the running board and beats the driver senseless with a fist full of rolled coins. Dean throws out the driver and makes off with his liquid gold. Dean makes off with his booty to his jewish friend gangster Samuel "Nails "Morton's garage where they split up the profits.
Meantime, O'Banion's heart has fell for a sweetheart named Viola Kaniff.
The two eventually get married. She has fallen for the the sweet side of O'Banion.
O'Banion always treated women with respect.


O'Banion is in awe of Morton's war hero achievements. O'Banion meets Morton's other florist friend named William Schofield and buys into the partnership of the flowershop after Morton is killed while riding a horse in Lincoln park.


O'Banion pals florist William Schofield and Jewish gangster/ WW1 hero Samuel "Nails" Morton.

SEE SAMUEL MORTON

O'Banion's gang make their best to get along with Torrio's mob. All in the name of profits. O'Banion helps Torrio with votes and vice versa. They share various interests in gambling houses and booze distrbution. O'Banion will not touch whorehouses with a ten foot pole. These are totally against his morals and basic principals.

One problem O'Banion does have is with the Terrible Gennas. The Genna gang has encroached many times on O'Banion gang turf and sell their rotgut homemade moonshine in their Northside territory. O'Banion brings this up with Torrio who passively says he will deal with it. Gennas continue to dance around O'Banion's dividing lines.
O'Banion is also owed a debt by one of the Gennas at one of Torrio and O'Banion's joint gambling house. The Genna asks that Torrio, as a favor, erase the debt owed  to him and O'Banion. It is in the tens of thousands. O'Banion is told of the planned debt erasure and becomes livid!! He calls Torrio and Genna demanding payment. O'Banion becomes more and more arrogant.  


A young and confident Dean O'Banion.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Helmer)



He constantly breaks peace treaties with the Southside chieftain Torrio. He is in constant quarrel with Torrio's allies the SouthWest sides' Terrible Gennas. He badmouths the Sicilians, and now in turn, encrouches on their territories and peddles his liquor there instead. The buyers prefer O'Banion's good liquor as opposed to the Genna's blind rendering hooch cooked in home stills.The sicilans have had enough of O'Banion, but Torrio manages to keep the peace.On O'Banion side is Michael Merlo, who is at the time the head of the Italian brotherhood known as the Unione Siciliana. Mike is repeatedly ask to give the go ahead on ending O'Banon's life. Merlo will not hear of it. He is a man of peace and honor and asks all concerned to come to some kind of peace agreement. O'Banion has plans of his own to get back at the Gennas and a non receptive Torrio.

 O'Banion states to Torrio that he is leaving the rackets and would love to sell his brewery called Siebens.Torrio jumps on this occasion and buys out O'Banion.Torrio has already been charged once with a Prohibition offence and the next time is jail time.Nonetheless Torrio wants this action so O'banion meets Torrio at the brewery and at that moment police arrive arresting everyone in sight. O'Banion pays for everybodies bail except Torrio's who is instead charged once again and this time given a prison sentence.Torrio knows he's been doublecrossed by O'Banion who had himself called the cops that arrived at the brewery. Torrios' blood is boiling, the Gennas blood is boiling as they learn that O'Banion may had stated"The Hell with them Sicilians". *


*Often repeatedly mistaken by historians and true crime authors as being some sort of Irish speaking lucky charm character, Dean was in fact American born with only the Irish as part of his ancestry.
He was often written about his hate for Italians and Sicilians. This couldn't be further from the truth. O'Banion either liked you or not. He didn't get along the Gennas and disliked them, but had no problems with Italians. If he had one iota of hate towards Italians, then why would he have Vincent Drucci in his gang? He really didn't care about someones nationality as the Northside gang boss had employed various ethnicities. O'Banion was even known to understand and speak a few words of Italian himself. This was related by a truck driver named Mr. E. Barnett who knew and worked for O'Banion.



Realizing the havoc he has created for Torrio, O'Banion decides to take the summer off and heads up with his new bride Viola to Louis Alterie's Colorado ranch. O'Banion enjoys the cowboy life. While there he also makes a deal to have some new fangled Thompson submachine guns sent to Chicago for his Northside gang.




Dean O'Banion (Front third from left) and his new bride Viola at a Louis Alterie (Front sixth from left) owned Colorado ranch.
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)






City sealer Carmen Vacco

Torrio and the Gennas get lucky. Although an unhappy occaision, this one has a silver lining for them. Mike Merlo dies of cancer and an execution order is immediately placed on O'Banions' head by Torrio. Frank Yale is summoned immediately in from New York.The plan is for three to visit O'Banion shop. They are Jim Genna, along with Carmen Vacco and Pete Pizzo.They call to place a huge order of flowers worth thousands of dollars for Merlo's funeral and want to make sure O'Banion is on hand to greet them. O'Banion doesn't normally appear at the shop at this time of day according to his flowershop partner William Schofield.
For this huge order O'Banion makes an appearance the following morning. Unfortunately for him, Louis Alterie, his bodyguard is hung over and does not make it to the flower shop that morning.



O'Banion extends his hand in friendship to incoming customers.
( Screenshots from an excellent documentary by Irish production company Abú Media features Dean O'Banion's life.
It's called (Mobs Mhericea = "Irish Gangs In America")
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)



On November 9,1924, James Genna, city sealer Carmen Vacco and Pete Pizzo enter the shop.They greet 'Banion. Seeing a Genna, O'Banion decides to momentarily put aside all quarrels out of respect for the deceased and also to make big business during this mega flower selling event. He and partner William Schofield make a literal killing when it comes to mob funerals. Pete Pizzo makes special note to case the joint to make sure no O'Banionites are in the back.


Northside O'Banion bodguard and friend Louie "Two gun "Alterie
Cowboy gangster of the Northsiders, Alterie was known as O'Banion's sidekick and bodyguard. He would often carry up to three guns and would get into trouble by drinking moonshine at Cabarets. Alterie was once slapped in public by detective Stege. Ostracized by the remaining Northsiders, who were tired of Alterie's antics and mouthing off in public.  He had publically challenged O'Banion's killers to a shootout ala O.K. Corral. He left Chicago in 1925 to seek refuge on his ranch in Colorado and later returned to Chicago in the 30's, only to be eventually killed by the Southside mob. Was once shot by his brother.
Alterie was an interesting character certainly worth writing a book about.
(Photo courtesy of www.bugsmoran.net)




O'Banion is perplexed as to why they only purchase several hundred dollars of flowers and not thousands as they have stated in the phone call.They explain that three others of their mourning brethren will be showing up soon for the rest of this order.
They leave Schofield's and several minutes later, up pulls a blue Jewett car in front of Schofield's



William Crutchfield, O'Banion's porter who saw the killers walk in.



Yale and the killer twins John Scalise and Alberto Anselmi to enter O'banion's flower shop to pick up a the rest of the order for Merlo's funeral.
O'Banion greets the three men with a handshake. One of the men holds O'Banion's hand in a tight grip while the other let's him have it with a .38. He is shot in the chest, throat at point blank range, So close that the gunpowder burns the skin on O'banion's face. The killers get away in their blue Jewett automobile. Yale is stopped on a train with his friend Sam Pollaccia enroute to New York. He says he was in town for Merlo's funeral. He is released.




Rival gangsters grab hold of O'Banion and end his short life.
( Screenshots from an excellent documentary by Irish production company Abú Media features Dean O'Banion's life.
It's called (Mobs Mhericea = "Irish Gangs In America")
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)






X marks the spot where O'Banion fell.
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)






A artist's conception of the O'Banion murder handshake.
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)





Dean O'Banion is killed by three visitors Nov.10,1924






Dean O'Banion slaying in Chicago Tribune Nov.11,1924
 (Mario Gomes collection).





Back page photos of this edition.






 
O'Banion killers Albert Anselmi, John Scalise and Frankie Yale.
(Otis Miller and Mario Gomes collection)


Upon hearing the news of O'Banion's death, Hymie Weiss crumples to the floor of his bathroom sobbing uncontrollably. He has lost his best friend, boss and mentor. Louis Alterie loses it and makes crazy statements during the funeral. He is prepared to have a shoot out in the street with O'Banion's killers.
George Moran chastizes Alterie and tells him to quietly leave town.

O'Banion's wife Viola O'Banion is totally devastated.


O'Banion's funeral was one of the biggest gangland funerals ever held in Chicago. It was so extravagant that the archdiocese took great offence to it.
Dean was refused a church held service by the same people whom he held in high esteem.
Holy Name Cathederal had been a big part of his life and probably one of his biggest joys was seeing the church everyday through Schofield's shop window.


O'Banion's funeral was so massive that there were hundreds of people on the rooftops for that event.
(Photo courtesy of www.deanobanion.com)


On November 14,1924 the hearse leaves Sbarbaro's Funeral chapel followed by cars carrying flowers en masse and made it's way to Mount Carmel Cemetary.

At the crowded cemetary, Father Patrick Malloy of St. Thomas of Canterbury church recites prayers for for the kind person he knew in O'Banion. Father Malloy stated that "One good turn deserves another" this in reference to O'Banion's helping needy and poor families on the Northside. After O'Banion is laid to rest, the Northsiders go on the hunt for everyone implicated in O'Banion's murder.





Dean C. O'Banion lying dead in the Cook County morgue.
Cook County morgue photo from taken from "In the Morgue"
(Mario Gomes collection)



Outside Schofield's right after O'Banion was hit
(X Marks the Spot)



What's left of Schofield's Flower shop circa mid 1950's. Note the only other building left standing beside is where a gun nest was situated  at the second floor  window to kill Hymie Weiss and Patrick Murray. All the other businesses, such as the phonograph company at the left, and rooming houses on the right were all knocked down.






O'Banion's tall obelisk. The Original on had huge angel wings which the Archdiocese forced O'Banion's widow to have taken down and replaced with this more modest one.
(Mario Gomes).




Dean O'Banion's headstone in Mt. Carmel.
(Mario Gomes).




For further more indepth reading on the life of Dean O'Banion please visit www.deanobanion.com or pick up the excellent book called "Guns and Roses The untold story of Dean O'Banion".

Special thanks to author Rose Keefe for info and photos supplied.


First Posted November 2009