As a boy, Dion O’Banion had sung in the choir at Holy Name Cathedral. On this date, as a 32-year-old man, he was killed in his florist shop across the street. Flowers were only a hobby. His chief occupation was mob boss of Chicago’s North Side.
He’d started as a slugger is the newspaper circulation wars, later graduating to hijacking and safecracking. When Prohibition came in 1920, O’Banion saw opportunity. He put together a booze-smuggling operation that soon dominated the area north of the river.
It was a boom time for bootleggers. Everyone was making money. The South Side group, led by Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, brokered a peace agreement among the rival operators. But late in 1924 that peace was growing uneasy.
Different explanations are offered. The North Siders had cheated the South Siders in a brewery deal . . . A man in one mob was consorting with a woman in another mob . . . West Side bootleggers were trying to muscle in on another group’s territory . . . O’Banion had publicly insulted his counterparts, saying “The hell with those Sicilians!”
O’Banion was a cautious man–he carried three guns. On November 10 he was in the shop preparing a floral display. Only the porter was with him.
Shortly after noon, three men sauntered into the emporium to pick up a wreath. While the first man shook hands with O’Banion, his two companions produced pistols and pumped six bullets into the gangster-florist. Then they left, without bothering to take their order.
The gang war did develop. With a few pauses, it lasted for five years.
In the longer term, the O’Banion shooting was a cultural event. For one thing, it provided scriptwriters with a dandy scenario. The Murder Among the Flowers has been reworked nearly as much as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Among the floral tributes was a small basket of mixed blooms. It bore the simple inscription, “From Al.”