Gangsters, Mobsters & Outlaws of the 20th Century

Prohibition Gangsters

Prohibition Gangsters

If the Old West Outlaws get a lot of historic attention, a close second are the gangsters of the 1920s Prohibition era and the 1930s Depression period. Feared and revered, these American gangsters often controlled liquor sales, gambling, and prostitution while making popular silk suits, diamond rings, guns, booze, and broads.

These many men, though often murderers and outright robbers, were sometimes also involved in the times’ political, social, and economic conditions. Infamous names of the era included people such as Al Capone, Vito Genovese, Dutch Schultz, Jack “Legs” Diamond, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, John DillingerBugsy Siegel, and many more.

The Depression created another type of outlaw, fed by both need and greed. Though not as “revered” as the 1920s gangsters, Depression-era outlaws with names like Bonnie and Clyde, “Baby Face” Nelson, Ma Barker, and “Pretty Boy” Floyd also became legends, as their deeds included some of the wildest and deadliest stories ever to hit newspaper front pages.

Much like the days of the Old West following the Civil War, these were difficult times for the vast majority of Americans. Like the gunmen before them, the outlaws of the 1920s and ’30s gained fame among those who dreamed of individuality and fast money. The “romance” of the lifestyle and resistance to the socially imposed rules of the times led numerous men and a few women into a criminal life that included bank robberies, illegal sales of alcohol, gambling, prostitution, and black market drugs.

With it came violence, spawned mostly by bitter gang rivalries in the 1920s. In those days, gangster killings were unlike those of the Old West or those of today. They generally calculated business practices rather than personal vendettas, where one gang would line up rival gang members and shoot them down or make a surprise attack on them, blasting or bombing until their rivals were dead. In the 1930s, the violence was more desperate as outlaws were determined to have their way at any cost.

Though these men and women were violent criminals, like their predecessors in the days of the Old West, the public couldn’t get enough of them – craving the news stories, photographs, tales of luxurious living, and the morbid facts of violent deeds.

Ultimately, most of these outlaws were sent to jail, killed by rival gangsters, or killed by law enforcement, but their legends live on.

Bugsy Siegel, American Mobster

Bugsy Siegel, American Mobster


20th Century Outlaw List & Summaries

Edward “Eddie” J. Adams – Kansas Bootlegger

John William Anglin and Alfred Clarence Anglin – Escaped From Alcatraz

Arthur R. “Doc” Barker – Member of Barker-Karpis Gang

Barker-Karpis Gang – Terrorized the Midwest

George Kelly Barnes, aka George “Machine Gun” Kelly

Bennie Iva “Blanche” Caldwell Barrow – Barrow Gang Member

Bonnie & Clyde – Stars of the Public Enemy Era

D.B. Cooper – Airplane Highjacker

Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone – Chicago Mobster

DeAutremont Brothers – Train Robbers

Dillinger Gang, aka The Terror Gang

Benny and Stella Dickson – Bank Robbers

The FBI and the American Gangster

Gangsters, Thugs, and Mafia in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Jack Gilbert Graham – The Fatal Flight of UA 629

John Herbert “Jackrabbit” Dillinger

“Hell’s Belle” Gunness – Black Widow of the Midwest

John “Red” Hamilton, aka Three Finger Jack

Raymond Elzie Hamilton, aka Floyd Beatty,

Albert Kachellek, aka Jim Clark

Kansas City Massacre – Gangsters vs. the Law

Matthew Kimes – Bank Robber

La Cosa Nostra – American Mafia 

James C. “Tex” Lucas – Bank Robber

Charles “Lucky” Luciano – Mafia

Typhoid Mary Mallon – Spreading the Fever

Henry Methvin – Barrow Gang member

Vernon C. Miller – Involved in the Kansas City Massacre

Joseph P. Moran – Depression-era gangster

Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello – Member of the Morello crime family

Murder, Inc. – Part of the Italian-American Mafia

Edna “Rabbits” Murray – Depression-era Outlaw

George “Baby Face” Nelson  – Bank Robber

Purple Gang – A mob of bootleggers and hijackers

Mobster Dutch Schultz & His Hidden Treasure

Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel – Jewish American mobster

Gangsters, Thugs, and Mafia in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Giovanni “Johnny” Torrio – Italian-American mobster

Roger Touhy – Irish-American mob boss

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated October 2023.

Also See:

20th Century History

Great Depression

Outlaws Across America

Prohibition in the United States