Looks can be Deceiving

Peaceful activities can be very deceptive. Especially when it seems too quiet, as it has lately around the streets of Chicago. There is a growing unrest that cannot be denied. As prohibition advances through the decade, it inspires tremendous growth in the very vice it aims to eliminate. Good intentions can have unexpected consequences. They can even backfire. So it is with great concern that The Chicagoan is on the lookout.

Observant citizens can’t help but notice that the city is growing very quickly. Unlike in a small town, new faces don’t stand out very much; they are expected. But there is some strange behavior that is starting to get noticed. Men in expensive suits are gathering in small groups on street corners, standing too close together, whispering, and glancing about. What is of particular concern to this publication is that many of these frequent but short meetings are happening just outside The Chicagoan office. Granted there is a popular shoeshine stand positioned at the corner of the building, but informants coming in and out of the office with scoops seem to feel a bit intimidated by the well dressed men standing about.

Business is business and everyone understands that. Each has a unique way of conducting it and Chicago has proven itself as quite tolerant. However, there is a difference between tolerance and denial, between naïveté and skepticism, between seeing the good in people and being prepared for the worst.

shoe shine stand activity

Shoeshine stand is strategically placed so any action can be seen up and down Center Street. Mister Moorlord keeps his shoes in top condition while he stays current with published opinions. Mister Cascone happily gives these well-known shoes their continual perfect patina.

It is particularly notable that Mister Shepham Moorlord always has the shiniest shoes. If anyone has important business to discuss with Mister Moorlord and has the guts to interrupt his reading of The Chicagoan (and less reputable newspapers sprouting up in town), he can be found frequenting this particular location. Served by Mister Vinny Cascone, it is a good idea to make friends with this more quiet and unassuming fellow first. Mister Cascone has been around town all his life observing and making smart associations, but not astute enough to elevate his profession from shoe shine to dreams of influence. Perhaps, though, much like a barber, he is in a great position to gather and pass on information, thus making his home life a bit more comfortable than the meager salary from his modest enterprise might allow. Maybe the tips are particularly good for a man with his experience.

"businessmen"

Mister Carrollo is barely communicative, Mister Colosimo sees more than he tells, and Mister Tony is seen everywhere.

Several of the newcomers of mysterious business must go unnamed because they won’t respond when questioned by reporters. Only Mister Carlo Carrollo was polite enough to offer a minimum of introduction. Most of these men don’t use too many words. And the words they do use are spoken so low and quietly, it is hard to hear them. They will not repeat themselves either. In fact, they ignore everyone who is not of their own kind—except for their gracious lady companions who dress as nicely as they do. Leading the group of fashionable “businessmen” is Mister BigJim Colosimo who likes to observe more than be watched.

Mister Fat Tony is also a known name about town, though he is as tight-lipped as his colleagues. Hopefully the good citizens of Chicago will not let these “businessmen” (who lurk outside the Chicagoan office) deter them from doing their civic duty by dropping in with tips to enrich this publication with different views and understandings.

(Photos by Misses Starla Huntress Moorlord)

For information on upcoming activities please see www.1920chicago.com.

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Historical notes:

The romance and the glamour of gangsters in the 1920’s has given Chicago its continuing international reputation. The drama and intrigue are played up; the sordid and evil are swept under the rug. The SIM is realistic in its gathering of fashionable and questionable characters. It portrays the gradual decline of legal power as the decade progresses. By 1929, the year of the infamous massacre, morals in the city had degenerated to the point of alarming the average citizen. Ringing the downtown business district, private speakeasies and brothels were almost beyond counting. While bootlegging flourished and businesses profited, the influx of questionable characters also increased, seeing a marked rise in the crime rates.

At the end of the decade, several developments occurred that concluded the culture of the Roaring 20’s—as if someone threw a switch. First the St. Valentine’s Day massacre stirred the attention of tax payers who demanded that something be done. Secondly, the stock market crashed that fall, plunging the entire country into depression and transformed gangsters into heros. But not yet. The SIM still stirs with those last days of the decade—days of more unsavories joining the population and more women seeking some of the world’s oldest professions. Organized crime is inspired by prohibition to develop a powerful black market; the structure continues today in the SIM as well as in the real life city. The black market grew from alcohol to arms to prostitution and to countless “reputable” front businesses. It spread its tentacles into every level of society. This assembly of mysterious “businessmen,” secretly led by warring puppet-masters is replayed on these streets. Citizens beware.

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