Red Is for Valentine's Day (Massacre)

Eleanor Pontikes 1929 was a notable year for the Latin School community and the world: Mabel Slade Vickery retired after 41 years of teaching at Latin, the era of flappers was coming to an end, the stock market crashed, and about a mile away from the school’s old location at 18 E Division St, seven men were murdered in a garage in what would soon be known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. On February 14 of that year, four men rode up to known-gangster George “Bugs” Moran’s garage in a black Cadillac– the police car of the time. Two of the men were dressed in police uniforms, the other two in black suits, and they were all seeking revenge. The men barged into the SMC Cartage Co. garage where Moran ran his illegal business. Moran’s men were expecting a shipment of contraband whiskey that morning. Alarmed by the appearance of men dressed like police officers, Moran’s men lined the brick wall thinking they were about to be arrested. Instead, they were gunned down by the intruders, who drove off unharmed afterwards in their car. Over 90 bullets were shot in total from machine guns, rifles, and a pistol. All of Moran’s men were instantly killed by the rounds except for gangster Frank Gusenberg who died in a hospital hours later. Moran’s men didn’t stand a chance. Facing away from the shooters, they had no idea that they were about to be killed. The aftermath was gruesome: blood splattered the brick walls of the garage and an array of bodies piled on the concrete floor. Although the exact culprits of the massacre were never officially identified, evidence points to rival crime boss Al Capone. Capone sought to eliminate his competition after members of his gang had been murdered by Moran’s men weeks prior. His alibi: a vacation in Palm Springs that left him virtually untouchable by the police. Although Capone’s intention was to lure Moran himself into the garage to his death, some members of Moran’s gang noticed the police-issued black Cadillac and fled to a local coffee shop, escaping a most certain death. Chicagoans were frightened by this unprecedented display of violence. Never before had so much blood been shed during daylight hours. Images of blood and gore filled newspapers for weeks to come. On a day meant for roses, chocolate molten lava cake, and love letters, Valentine’s Day in 1929 would be remembered for the crack of gunshots and the screech of tires escaping the scene. While a lot has changed in Chicago since 1929– the parking lot of a nursing home now occupies the spot of the massacre on Clark Street, and Latin’s location has moved to a mere seven blocks away from the site– the legacy of gang-related violence continues to haunt Chicago.]]>