The Lager Beer Riot and the Birth of Law and Order

by Emmet Stackelberg February 27, 2015

One Saturday in April of 1855, a large group of German immigrants assembled around the courthouse in downtown Chicago, hoping to attend a hearing at which nineteen saloonkeepers would stand before a judge for violating one of two new laws enacted by the new nativist mayor, Levi Boone, who had promised during his campaign to curb liquor consumption. One banned the sale of alcohol on Sunday, while the other mandated a three-hundred-dollar fee for a liquor license (up from fifty dollars in previous years). As constables tried to move the crowd out of the street, a tussle broke out. The Chicago Tribune fashioned the crowd as monsters. The street, it claimed, was “crowded with a multitude of the most desperate and savage characters in the city, ready for any blood, rapine or murder.” It’s true that the crowd was angry and agitated, but it was the show of force by a constable that turned the assembly into a melee, a mob against the police.
Working-class taverns were often the center of immigrant community life, especially on Sundays, the one day most workers had off, and the liquor license fees threatened to make the cost of running one too high. What the Chicago Tribune later framed as an “ordinance requiring them to close their Lager Beer Halls on the Sabbath, and restrain their Bacchanalian revels for one day,” was in practice a great challenge to leisure and to community. German and Irish immigrants quickly found their own taverns and Bierstuben raided on Sundays, and owners of establishments in immigrant neighborhoods faced arrest for not paying the higher fees. (Drinking establishments frequented by the elite, many just blocks from the city hall and courthouse, quietly broke the law without interruption.) The Germans who assembled that Saturday feared the loss of their neighborhood life—in fact, many worried that German-style lagers, brewed mostly in Wisconsin would cease be exported to Chicago entirely without a healthy collection of Bierstuben.
When the fighting broke out, as more patrolmen showed up, the crowd began retreating north, back up the street and across the Chicago river. Eight men were arrested and placed in the jail beneath the courthouse. A mob formed on the north side of the river, determined to free the eight. The mayor had the newly constructed pivot bridge of Clark street swing open, cutting off the mob on the other side of the river from the courthouse. He handed out stars to a force of temporary patrolmen. But with the police still greatly outnumbered, he called in three independent militia as well. After a few hours, and with the assembled men on either side having not dispersed, officials decided they had to briefly swing the bridge back around to relieve backed up traffic. The moment the bridge connected both sides, the mob in the north rushed over it. In the confrontation, shots rang out, shattering a window, but in the end only two deaths were recorded: one cop and the man who shot him. The militia arrived shortly after to fully clear away bystanders. Boone declared martial law, and militia patrolled the streets that night. Two cannons sat at the ready, aimed at the scene where the mob and patrols had met.
In the week that followed, some of Chicago’s most prominent figures advertised a “Law and Order” meeting to discuss ways to “preserve the public peace.” J. Young Scammon, owner of the Marine Bank and one of the financiers of Chicago’s first railroad, was elected president of the meeting. Those present advocated for the formation of a unified police force. At the time, Chicago had two sets of police. Daytime constables and night watchmen both worked part time, with roughly the same responsibilities. They were not professional defenders of the peace; they were by and large elected directly by city residents. In fact, they didn’t even have uniforms—only small star-shaped badges.
There are two origin stories for police departments in the United States. As historian Sam Mitrani notes in his book on the origins of Chicago’s police department, the earliest departments were Southern ones, organized like militaries. They came into being to control large populations of slaves. The archetype of these was in New Orleans, a uniformed and armed force called the “Gendarmerie” that briefly patrolled between 1805 and 1806. Then there were the industrial cities’ police departments, like New York City’s and London’s, which arose out of the need to control dense populations of workers in newly crowded neighborhoods. The impetus to found London’s department—the first municipal force to have men assigned to patrol neighborhoods at all times—came out of riots surrounding the return of Queen Caroline to England in 1820. Sir Robert Peel, the department’s architect and strongest advocate, modeled it almost entirely on the department he led in Dublin—one run as an explicit arm of English power over Ireland. In New York, a series of riots in 1834 and looting after the great fire of 1835 provided the spark of encouragement to professionalize and militarize a set of constables that had originally been established in 1741, after a failed slave revolt. In both the South and North, the object was at its core the same—to try and diminish the power that comes from a lot of otherwise powerless people gathering together in a space; riots and revolts, not theft and murder, were what police departments were first made to combat.
A week after the meeting, Chicago’s city council passed sweeping police reforms: night watchmen and day patrolmen would regularly trade shifts, wear uniforms, and take orders from a superintendent of police. It followed the New York City model, with armed officers organized like a military force, designed in large part to keep the urban poor from demonstrating.
In 1856, immigrant communities rallied together behind the Democratic candidate, named Thomas Dyer, defeating Boone’s effort for re-election. The Republican Chicago Tribune declared that Dyer would likely preside over “such a police as the mob which rallied in our streets after the battle would elect. What vindicators of law and order they will be let their shouts, blasphemies and orgies on the day of the ‘big drunk’ bear witness.”
That phrase, “law and order,” which seems to gesture toward all of the ideals of urban civilization, of a clean and polite city filled with obedient citizens, had circulated in discourse about urban unrest since the turn of the nineteenth century, but with the emergence of professional police forces, its cultural meaning became solidified. Since then, the phrase has remained the essential rhetorical shorthand of police advocates—it had a particularly potent moment during the Republican electoral successes in the nineteen sixties—helping sell ideas about strengthening drug laws, restoring state death penalties, building prisons, and more heavily arming officers. From their beginnings all the way to today’s black sites and armored vehicles, police forces have been haunted by a military spirit. Armed forces and law enforcement are two guns of different gauge, forged by the same maker.
“It Was a Riot” is an occasional series about riots in American history.



Jim Colosimo
Colosimo primarily dealt in prostitution, extortion, narcotics, gambling and bootlegging inside the city of Chicago. Executed by Underlings

Johnny Torrio
Torrio expanded the mobs interest outside Chicago to the surrounding suburbs. Deposed by Underlings. Died of natural causes.

Al Capone
Capone kept the status qua given to him and did little to expand the mobs holdings or interest in other areas, although he did solidify the organizations stranglehold on Chicago bootlegging. Sentenced to prison. Died of natural causes

Frank Nitti
Committed suicide.

Paul Ricca
1943- 1945. Retired, died of natural causes.

Tony Accardo
1946- 1956. Retired, died of natural causes.

Sam Giancana
1956- 1964. Fled under indictment, executed on mob orders

Sam "Teets" Battaglia
1966- Convicted in federal court. Died in prison.

John Cerone

Felix Alderisio
1969 to 1971
Convicted of bank fraud. Died in prison

Joseph Aiuppa
Convicted of skimming profits from a Las Vegas casino.

Joseph Ferriola
1986 to 1989

Sam Carlisi
1989 to 1993



In 1940 Johnny Wooley took over the late Ernie Henderson's Chicken Shack at 4647 S. Indiana, to use as Policy cash drop. Wooley was part of the Jones Brothers policy operation  

The Drexel Bank, one of several banks used to hold the cash of Mack and George Jones policy operations.

 5906 South Parkway An independent gambling book in 1940, closed by police who suspected the place was run or at least owned by gambler Pat Manno and Golf Bag Hunt

 5531 S. State Street, An independent gambling book in 1940, closed by police who suspected the place was run or at least owned by gambler Pat Manno and Golf Bag Hunt

5929 S. Indiana. An independent gambling book in 1940, closed by police who suspected the place was run or at least owned by gambler Pat Manno and Golf Bag Hunt

464 South State street was a gambling den owned and operated  by Mushmouth Johnson  was by far his most opulent. A multi-purpose facility, the site also housed a popular saloon patronized by the cities elite.

Corner of 11th and State Street said to be a “house of "assignation" owned by gambler Mushmouth Johnson

5051 South Michigan Ave., the site of the Kelly Brothers (Illy and Hoppy) headquarters.

Was Eliot Ness a hero or Hollywood-inspired myth?

CHICAGO (AP) — In the pantheon of Chicago crime fighters, nobody has the worldwide reputation of Eliot Ness.
He's the Prohibition agent who brought down Al Capone, the principled lawman in a city awash in corruption, the relentless investigator portrayed by actors Robert Stack and Kevin Costner and the legend who is said to have inspired comic-strip detective Dick Tracy.
Nearly six decades after his death, Ness is still so admired that Illinois' two U.S. senators want to name a federal building after him in Washington, D.C.
But a Chicago alderman, citing a recent Capone biography, concludes that Ness had about as much to do with putting the gangster behind bars as Mrs. O'Leary's cow had to do with starting the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, when the animal supposedly knocked over a lantern. And he's trying to persuade the senators to drop the whole idea.
"There are literally hundreds of heroic law enforcement officials" who would be deserving of the honor, "but Eliot Ness is simply not one of them," said Ed Burke, who hopes the senators will abandon the proposal much the way the council formally cleared Mrs. O'Leary's cow in 1997 at Burke's urging.
Ness' career has always been imbued with a mix of fact and fiction. He did go after Capone, but his role was probably less heroic than many Americans imagine.
Ness, Burke said, "is a Hollywood myth," and to honor him would be a disservice to others.
There are no signs the senators are considering backing down from a resolution to put Ness' name on the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters.
Capone "believed that every man had his price," Sen. Dick Durbin said earlier this month in a statement with fellow Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. But for Ness and his law-enforcement team known as "The Untouchables," ''no amount of money could buy their loyalty or sway their dedication to Chicago's safety."
The ATF declined to comment on the issue. Judging by the agency's website, where Ness is the first entry in the "history" section, its support of Ness remains unwavering.
"Against all odds, he and his Untouchables broke the back of organized crime in Chicago," reads the agency's short biography of Ness.
The author of an upcoming Ness biography has also weighed in, saying while Ness was not involved with the income tax case that sent Capone to prison, he was a key figure in the broader battle against Capone in Chicago, and his contribution to law enforcement has been misunderstood and discounted for too long.
"Ness never claimed to have anything to do with the tax case on Capone," said Doug Perry, the author. "The Untouchables' job was to harass Capone's operations and squeeze his income stream, and they did that."
These facts are undisputed: After graduating from the University of Chicago, Ness was barely into his 20s when he took a job as a temporary Prohibition agent in 1926. He quickly climbed through the ranks until, according to the ATF website, he put together a squad in 1930 to go after Capone's bootlegging operation. But prosecutors chose to pursue the gangster on tax charges instead.
A few years later, Ness' law enforcement career took him to Cincinnati and Cleveland, where in 1933 he left his job to become, at just 33, the city's public safety director. He was widely praised for cleaning up Cleveland corruption.
Ness ran unsuccessfully for Cleveland mayor in 1947. He died a decade later but not before co-writing a book about his exploits titled "The Untouchables," a "highly fictionalized" account that "made him uncomfortable," according to Perry.
The problem, it seems, is that much of what we think we know about Ness comes from that book, the television show starring Stack a half-century ago and Costner's portrayal of Ness in the 1987 movie.
There is even suspicion that the virtuous character the public knows may not be Ness at all because Ness's co-author, Oscar Fraley, took the qualities ascribed to Ness from Elmer Irey, another famous lawman who played a key role in sending Capone to prison.
"My guess is that Oscar Fraley stole all that from Elmer, his makeup, and gave it to Ness," said Paul Camacho, an IRS special agent in Las Vegas who has made it his mission to rescue Irey's name from obscurity. "He was a real American hero."
By the time, the story got to Hollywood, the goal was to tell a good story, not give a history lesson.
Bob Fuesel, a former IRS agent who knew Mike Malone, the inspiration for Sean Connery's character in the movie, said he did his own research of the intelligence unit that conducted the tax-evasion investigation and later became the IRS's criminal division. When he was a consultant on the film, he said, he told Costner that Ness had nothing to do with the tax-evasion case and that men who worked with Ness told stories about how he was afraid of guns.
"I told Kevin that Eliot Ness did not do any of this stuff, and Kevin said, 'Bob, this is Hollywood. ... We make it up as we go along,'" said Fuesel, who is also the former head of the Chicago Crime Commission.
Costner did not respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Jonathan Eig, author of "Get Capone," the book Burke wants the senators to read, said that while Ness did investigate Capone's bootlegging activities in Chicago, none of what he discovered helped put Capone behind bars. And there is no evidence that Capone and his supposed nemesis ever even met.
"My guess is that Al Capone never heard of Eliot Ness," he said, "even after he went to jail."