14 Historical Shots Of Mobster Life In The 1920s

Organized crime has a long history in the major cities of the United States. Over the last century, mafia and mob bosses have maintained their power through violence, extortion, and access to corrupt public officials.

The roots of organized crime date back to the Prohibition era of the United States from 1920 to 1933. Bootleggers operated distilleries and distributed their products while evading law enforcement. After the repeal of Prohibition with the 18th Amendment, organized crime activity focused on bank robberies and theft.

Take a look at these photos that profile infamous mobsters, historical moments, and more. Organized crime isn’t a thing of the past, either; read through to learn more about what the FBI does to combat today’s broad, complex groups.


14. Putting A Bulletproof Shield To The Test

001-14-putting-a-bulletproof-shield-to-the-t-9d177c38803321dfdfa3663fed0abc2cElliott Wisbrod invented the bulletproof shield pictured here. In this photograph, Wisbrod holds up the metal shield as Lieutenants Frank Ballou and Samuel Peterson fire shots.


Wisbrod lived under multiple aliases throughout his lifetime. He conducted business in Chicago as Louis Wisbrod, selling firearms and equipment to both police officers and criminals.

13. The Aftermath Of A Massive Prison Riot

002-13-the-aftermath-of-a-massive-prison-rio-40c85987ce18b13b44eb8add51b1399cIn this photo, state highway policemen stand after a riot at Stateville Prison in Illinois in March 1931. Over 1,500 convicts were part of the uproar, destroying prison property and setting several buildings on fire. The New York Times estimated damages of up to $500,000.

Three inmates were shot and one was killed with a bullet to the abdomen.

12. Bodies Exhumed As Evidence For Murder Trial

003-12-bodies-exhumed-as-evidence-for-murder-dfe5bd53af88cc861a2915b934437404Ottilie “Tillie” Klimek, a Polish American serial killer in Chicago, is thought to have killed up to 20 victims.

Husbands, neighbors, and even animals around Klimek were found to have died by arsenic poisoning. In her 1923 trial, the bodies of her husbands and friends were exhumed and tested positive for lethal doses of arsenic.

Klimek had taken out life insurance policies on her husbands and profited greatly after their deaths.

11. Law Enforcement Officials Look Over Confiscated Booze

004-11-law-enforcement-officials-look-over-c-d3d92c8b4d47aba748b2c94ab0079f75This photo, taken around April 1925, shows Captain A.C. Townsend, U.S. Marshal Palmer Anderson, Deputy U.S. Marshal A.J. Jostock, and a laborer. The men are reviewing seized liquor at a federal warehouse.

Over the years of Prohibition, corrupt officials were known to accept bribes, escort liquor deliveries, and protect smugglers.

10. “Scarface” Al Capone Relaxing On His Yacht

005-10-scarface-al-capone-relaxing-on-his-ya-61a0626cd75340f7c25e50ec6b575ad8Pictured is one of the most famous mobsters in history, Al Capone. He spent seven years operating the Chicago Outfit and was eventually dubbed “Public Enemy No. 1.”

Here, Capone is fishing onboard his yacht in Florida. This photo was taken shortly after he was released from prison, where he served a one-year sentence for carrying a concealed weapon.