Everyone knows the name Al Capone. He’s arguably the most famous criminal in American history, and his life story is still studied to this day. But sometimes the rival criminals who fought against Capone and other famous gangsters get lost to history. Which is a shame because these mostly unknown men led fascinating lives in their own right, and they deserve to be explored. One such man was George ‘Bugs’ Moran.
With a name like George Moran, you would think the man they called ‘Bugs’ was an Irishman, but he actually adopted the name later in life. Moran was born Adelard Cunin to French immigrant parents in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1893. Although he attended a private high school, Moran fell in with a local St. Paul gang and started committing petty crimes at a young age. Before he turned 21, Moran had several convictions under his belt. He eventually made his way to Chicago, where he would make his name as a high-profile bootlegger and gangster.
When Prohibition became law in 1920, Chicago, like other large American cities, became a battleground. Rival bootleggers fought a bloody turf war that claimed victims in every corner of the city. Bugs Moran joined up with the North Side Gang, the biggest Irish-American criminal organization in Chicago at the time. The North Side Gang was led by Dean O’Banion, and Moran and a fellow gangster named Hymie Weiss became two of his most trusted men.
The North Side Gang was at war with a number of criminal factions during the 1920s, but one proved to be their toughest foe: Johnny Torrio’s gang, which reigned from Chicago’s South Side. Torrio’s main lieutenant was a young man from New York named Al Capone. For years the two groups fought bitterly to control the illegal booze trade in Chicago.
On November 10, 1924, Dean O’Banion was shot and killed by South Side gangsters in the flower shop he owned. Bugs Moran and Hymie Weiss were now in control of the North Siders, and they decided that their boss had to be avenged. On January 24, 1925, Johnny Torrio was shot several times in an assassination attempt by the North Side Gang. Torrio, though gravely wounded, somewhat miraculously survived. He was so spooked by the attack, however, that he decided to return to his native Italy. Before he left, he handed over his criminal empire to his protege, Al Capone.
A year later, on October 11, 1926, Hymie Weiss was killed in a shooting that left his body riddled with bullets. There were now only two bosses standing: Bugs Moran and Al Capone.