Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Forgotten Gang: The Genna Brothers (part 1)

I've always had a fascination with the Genna Brothers, an early 20s gang that is nearly forgotten today, though they were known as particularly viscous hoods back in their time. Tony, left, was murdered half a block from my apartment. A couple of them were given funerals on my block, as well.


The Genna Brothers were a refined bunch of gangsters - the kind who had a dozen front row season tickets to the opera. Using loophole in prohibition laws that allowed the manufacture of rubbing alcohol, they paid people all over Little Italy very good money to set up stills in their houses.

In those early days of prohibition, the city was divided into neat lines: The north side was run by, well, the North Siders, led by Dean O'Banion. On the South Side, Johnny Torrio hired some thugs to kill the boss of the area, Big Jim Colosimo, in order to move into the liquor racket. Peace between the two was kept by Mike Merlo, a poltician.

The Gennas were on Torrio's side, but on the very northern end of it. Having made more liquor than they knew what to do with, they wanted to expand up into O'Banion's territory, and often told Torrio they'd be only too happy to kill him. Torrio got a taste of O'Banion's blood after O'Banion double-crossed him in a liqour sale (he told Torrio he wanted out and offered to sell him his business for 500K. He got the money, but the whole thing was a set-up that landed Torrio a short jail term). Two days after Merlo died, a trio led by Mike Genna assassinated O'Banion in his flower shop. The great gang war of the 1920s had begun.

Three of O'Banion's men (Vincent Drucci, Hymie Weiss, and Bugs Moran, two of whom lived at the Congress Hotel, where Tony Genna also lived in a $100 a night suite) attacked and nearly killed Torrio (after the trio pumped his guts full of lead, Moran fired right at his head point blank - but was out of bullets). Torrio wisely got the hell out of Chicago and turned his operation over to Al Capone, his young lieutenant.

Things were just about to get rough for the Genna brothers....

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a relative of the genna brothers on my mothers side and was wondering if you might have anymore info on the genna family. thnak you, h. freeman

Quail said...

I'm also a relative, who are you?
Please email me at Winsomehag@live.com

Anonymous said...

Okay...all you Genna's out there. I am in a direct line...the WIFE of Mary Genna's Son...Nino Genna's Sister. Family Reunion is coming up...August 17th. Please contact me for Details IF you are in fact a Relative.Contact GennaClan@Hotmail.com

lee said...

i have always been fascinated with the genna brothers good to see there are genna relatives posting comments the genna brothers were the kings of the bootleggers

leedumett said...

i have always been fascinated with the genna brothers good to see there are genna relatives posting comments the genna brothers were the kings of the bootleggers

Anonymous said...

I'm also a relative of the Genna Family. My grandmother's mother is first cousins with the Genna's. My great-grandmother was a Capra. Would love to connect with any other relatives in Chicago, if they're out there. My grandmother (89 years old) was 1 years old when the first Genna brothers were murdered. She remembers all the stories her parents told her about them.

My email is chicagoadvisor@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I'd be very interested to know if anyone knows anything information about one particular Genna family member living on Ashland and Taylor back in 1931. My great-aunt Rose Genova was married to Jim Genna when he was killed in 1931. He in fact was murdered when he went for surgical procedure because of failing health. My email is jtorrio1@gmail.com. Thanks.

Kathy Scaturro said...

I've been told that my family is distantly related to the Genna's on my dad's side.

Silvana Zamudio said...

I'm also related to the genna brothers. They are my great great uncles and our relatives own the genna brothers' home in sicily.

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