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Al Capone. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114627).

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Capone, Al (17 January 1899–25 January 1947), Chicago bootlegger and symbolic crime figure, was born Alphonse Capone in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Gabriel Capone, a barber, and Teresa Raiola, both immigrants from the Naples region of Italy. At age fourteen, Capone dropped out of school, joined the gang life of the streets, and soon worked as a bartender and bouncer on Coney Island. In 1917, in a brawl with a customer, he received the knife wound that earned him the media nickname “Scarface” (although his friends called him “Snorky”). In December 1918 he married Mary “Mae” Coughlin, the daughter of a laborer....

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Gordon, Waxey (1888–24 June 1952), bootlegger, was born Irving Wexler on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of poor Polish-Jewish parents. His formal education did not extend much beyond grammar school; he ceased attending in his early teens. He became one of the most successful bootleggers in New York during Prohibition, earning the sobriquet Public Enemy Number One from the state of New York in 1930 for his criminal exploits. He initially pursued a relatively normal criminal career among the tenements of his home neighborhood. His skill as a pickpocket earned him the nickname “Waxey” (for smooth fingered), while “Gordon” came from one of the numerous aliases he gave the police. In his late teens he served several short terms for grand and petty larceny in reformatories and other penal institutions. At this point in his career (c. 1912) he seemed destined for the obscurity of petty street crime....

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Guzik, Jack (between 1886 and 1888–21 February 1956), bootlegger and gambling entrepreneur, was born probably in Russia, the son of Max Guzik and his wife (name unknown). Guzik was brought to Chicago in 1891–1892 and became a U.S. citizen through the naturalization of his father in November 1898....

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Hoff, Max (29 May 1893–27 April 1941), bootlegger and boxing manager and promoter, was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Harry Hoff and Sara (maiden name unknown). He attended the local Horace Binney elementary school and was a newsboy in the city’s downtown. As a teenager, Hoff (known as “Boo-Boo”) became part of a group of largely Jewish young men involved in the boxing and gambling world that centered in gyms on the southern edge of the downtown. There he developed ties central to his successes during the 1920s, including one to Charlie Schwartz, with whom Hoff probably ran small gambling establishments in South Philadelphia before Prohibition. In 1917 he married Helen Flynn. They had one son....

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Meyer Lansky Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114645).

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Lansky, Meyer (28 Aug. or 4 July 1902–15 January 1983), bootlegger and gambling entrepreneur, was born Meyer Suchowljansky in Grodno, Belorussia (then Russia), the son of Max Suchowljansky, a garment presser, and Yetta (maiden name unknown). Lansky’s father emigrated to New York City in 1909 and brought the family over two years later. Meyer, who left school in 1917 at age fourteen, was fascinated by the street life and crap games of the Lower East Side and while still a teenager associated with other hustlers, such as ...