The Real People of Boardwalk Empire: Part 3 – Henry Earl J. “Hymie” Weiss to Santo Trafficante Sr.

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Though once seen as the Las Vegas of the East Coast before Vegas, Atlantic City, New Jersey was also known for its beaches as well as King Neptune which is a cultural icon of the area. Of course, as someone well versed in Greek mythology, I just known him by Poseidon. Still, he was featured in an episode of Boardwalk Empire when the whiskey swept ashore but he ended up having to cut his speech short and heading to the waters to get some. Still, if Atlantic City is hurting because of other states legalizing gambling, it can sure benefit from its beaches. Nevertheless, in this selection, we’ll look at famous gangsters like Hymie Weiss, Mickey Duffy, the Lanzetta brothers, and Santo Trafficante Sr. We’ll also get to know public officials like New Jersey politician Walter E. Edge, Harding era aide who killed himself Jesse Smith, and Jersey City Mayor and Democratic political boss Frank Hague. We’ll get to boxer and heavyweight champion  sensation Jack Dempsey and renown rum runner Bill McCoy. Finally, we’ll meet some entertainers who may have a minor role but were major figures like actress and singer Edith Day, African American blues and jazz singer the Queen of Blues Mamie Smith, the musical comedic Sophie Tucker, and the magician and escape artist Theodore Hardeen best known as Harry Houdini’s younger brother. So without further adieu, let me introduce to you some real historical figures from Emmy winning HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

27. Henry Earl J. “Hymie” Weiss (1898-1926)

Not a bad looking guy here despite having the nickname of "Hymie." Still, was said to be no guy to mess with since he shot his own brother, threatened photographers, and chased after US marshals as well as sued the police over stolen shirts. Won't be North Side Gang leader for long though.

Not a bad looking guy here despite having the nickname of “Hymie.” Still, was said to be no guy to mess with since he shot his own brother, threatened photographers, and chased after US marshals as well as sued the police over stolen shirts. Won’t be North Side Gang leader for long though.

Known in Life as: American mob boss who became leader of the North Side Gang and a bitter rival of Al Capone.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he’s an associate and close friend to Dean O’Banion (they knew each other as kids). Also, would take over the North Side Gang after O’Banion’s death.
Differences: Born in Poland and always carried a rosary and Bible with him to remind everyone he was Catholic despite the Jewish sounding name. Brother said he once saw him in 20 years “when he shot me.” When photographers tried to take his picture, he’d glare at them and say in a low voice, “You take a picture of me and I’ll kill you.” Once chased away a US marshal at gun point who came to arrest a friend for a Mann Act violation at a party he attended. After the marshal returned with reinforcements, arrested the friend, and confiscated a bunch of booze and weapons, Weiss would file a lawsuit to recover some silk shirts and socks he claimed the marshals had stolen. It came to nothing.
Ultimate Fate: Unfortunately, he wasn’t head of the North Side Gang for long. Was killed at O’Banion’s old flower shop in 1926 by two gunmen wielding submachine guns. He was 28.

28. Mickey Duffy (1888-1931)

Does Mickey Duffy always that glum or did he just not like getting his picture taken? Still, didn't have as much as Mickey Doyle does on Boardwalk Empire.

Does Mickey Duffy always that glum or did he just not like getting his picture taken? Still, didn’t have as much as Mickey Doyle does on Boardwalk Empire.

Known in Life as: Polish American gangster and rival Max “Boo Hoo” Huff during Prohibition. Was one of the most powerful beer bootleggers in Philadelphia.
Character or Inspiration? Inspiration for Mickey Doyle.
Similarities: Well, both were born Polish with the name Cusick (or Kuzik) yet changed to Irish sounding names (but while Duffy did it to fit in with Irish gangs in Philly and married an Irish girl, Doyle just thought the name sounded better).
Differences: Was a criminal from the time he was a child and had served time in prison in 1919 for assault and battery with intent to kill for 3 years. Got into organized crime and smuggling during Prohibition. Was one of the most dominant bootleggers in the Delaware Valley in the early 1920s with breweries in Philadelphia, Camden, and South Jersey. Despite being engaged in fights with his rivals, he owned several clubs and ran bootlegging numbers at the old Ritz-Carlton hotel. Was shot 3 times with a Thompson submachine gun and survived. Wasn’t as much of an idiot as Doyle nor as lucky either.
Ultimate Fate: Shot to death by unknown assailants at Atlantic City’s Ambassador Hotel in 1931. He was 31. The murder remains unsolved to this day. Thousands try to come to his funeral but were blocked by police.

29. Walter E. Edge (1873-1956)

Despite how he's depicted on Boardwalk Empire, Walter Edge wasn't an old man in the early 1920s and actually wore glasses. And no, he didn't have a construction business, he was a media guy.

Despite how he’s depicted on Boardwalk Empire, Walter Edge wasn’t an old man in the early 1920s and actually wore glasses. And no, he didn’t have a construction business, he was a media guy.

Known in Life as: New Jersey US Senator from 1921-1929 as well as governor from 1917-1919 and 1944-1947. Also served as US Ambassador to France from 1929-1933.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Campaign manager’s name was Nucky whose relationship with him would soon sour (in real life they openly broke in 1928 though). Also was on a possible shortlist to be Warren Harding’s VP (though he lost out due to a Republican Party leader holding a grudge against him because Edge wouldn’t appoint his guy to be county prosecutor).
Differences: Wore glasses and was never in the construction business but in media and publishing. Was only 47 in 1920. Education was in a 2 room school house and went only as far as 8th grade. Started a weekly newspaper devoted to social news when he was 10 which had a circulation of 100. Owned his own advertising business in Atlantic City when he was 17 which became a multi-million dollar agency with offices in numerous US and European cities. Founded two newspapers and bought another. Helped get worker’s compensation in New Jersey. As governor obtained legislation consolidating state boards, improving the civil service, imposing a franchise tax on public utilities, allowing greater home rule for cities, reforming corporation law, and improving state institutions, especially the prisons. Also reorganized the state road department and authorized a few bridge constructions. Was openly anti-Prohibition. Married twice and fathered 4 kids.
Ultimate Fate: Edge would go on to be Ambassador to France as well serve another term as governor in the 1940s. His second term as governor would be marked with numerous battles against Frank Hague. He would also restructure the civil service system, incorporate an anti-discrimination agency into the education department, and create a department of economic development. Would retire from politics for good in 1947 but would spend his later years as an elder statesman of New Jersey’s Republican Party. Owned the home of Richard Stockton for a time. Died of natural causes in 1956 at 82.

30. Jesse Smith (1871-1923)

I know he's supposed to be known for being found mysteriously shot in his green house on K Street, yet I can't help but say that Jesse Smith looked like a muppet. Seriously, he reminds me of the disgruntled customer at Grover's diner but in 1920s clothes.

I know he’s supposed to be known for being found mysteriously shot in his green house on K Street, yet I can’t help but say that Jesse Smith looked like a muppet. Seriously, he reminds me of the disgruntled customer at Grover’s diner but in 1920s clothes.

Known in Life as: Member of Warren G. Harding’s Ohio Gang as well as friend and gofer of Harry Daugherty.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he’s an aide to Daugherty and wielded considerable influence in the Justice Department. His activities were said to make him become an embarrassment to Daugherty and the Harding administration. Was found dead with a gunshot wound in his home and a pistol by his side.
Differences: Though fat, he actually wore Harry Potter glasses and had a bit of a Hitler mustache. Was divorced and it’s only alleged that he sold liquor to bootleggers at his little green house on K Street. It’s said that Harding wanted Smith out of Washington before he went to Alaska while his administration was engulfed in the Teapot Dome scandal.
Ultimate Fate: Found dead at his K Street home with a gunshot wound and a pistol by his side. He was 52. Death was ruled a suicide though many authors who write about the Teapot Dome scandal and the Harding administration say he as murdered. Still, Smith’s well-timed death through gunshot wound is was during the worst of the Harding administration scandals of 1923 and the reason why he’s best remembered.

31. Theodore Hardeen (1876-1945)

Well, he sure looks like he could be Houdini's brother. Yet, Hardeen also had a good bit of talent as a magician and escape artist, tool. Also founded a union for magicians as well.

Well, he sure looks like he could be Houdini’s brother. Yet, Hardeen also had a good bit of talent as a magician and escape artist, tool. Also founded a union for magicians as well.

Known in Life as: Magician and escape artist who was the younger brother of Harry Houdini. Founder of the Magician’s Guild and first magician to escape from a submerged straitjacket in full view of the audience, rather than behind a curtain.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, when his brother was alive, he was the guy you got when you couldn’t get Houdini.
Differences: Born in Hungary. While he did study under his brother, he’s also said to have considerable talent of his own. He did many of his brother’s routines after the former’s death in 1926. Entertained the troops during World War II.
Ultimate Fate: Though he planned to write a book about his brother, he died from surgical complications in 1945 at 69.

32. Edith Day (1896-1971)

Edith Day in a film by Republic Pictures called Children Not Wanted. I suppose this is a comedy, right? Still, she was more of a musical gal if you know what I mean.

Edith Day in a film by Republic Pictures called Children Not Wanted. I suppose this is a comedy, right? Still, she was more of a musical gal if you know what I mean.

Known in Life as: Actress and singer best known for her roles in Edwardian musical comedies and operettas, first on Broadway and then on London’s West End.
Character or Inspiration? She’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Sang “Alice Blue Gown.”
Differences: Was born in Minnesota. Married 3 times and saw her only son die in WWII. Best known for the title role of Irene. Was part of the 1928 cast of Show Boat in which she did 350 performances. Has a cocktail named after her.
Ultimate Fate: Died in London in 1971 at 75.

33. Mamie Smith (1883-1946)

Mamie Smith was one of the first female African American singers to work in a recording studio. She was also called "Queen of the Blues" and ushered the careers of the female singers. Apparently Niki Minaj and Beyonce probably don't know who she was.

Mamie Smith was one of the first female African American singers to work in a recording studio. She was also called “Queen of the Blues” and ushered the careers of the female singers. Apparently Niki Minaj and Beyonce probably don’t know who she was despite owing their careers to her.

Known in Life as: African American Vaudeville singer, dancer, pianist, and actress who appeared in several films late in her career. Performed in a number of styles including jazz and blues. Was the first African American artist to make vocal blues recordings in 1920.
Character or Inspiration? She’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Sang “Crazy Blues.”
Differences: Born in Cincinnati. Was a successful blues artist as well as helped the recording industry see African Americans as a great market since they bought most of her records. Helped usher careers for other female blues artists like Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday as well as opened the music industry for other African Americans in other genres. Once billed, “Queen of the Blues.” Also performed on radio. Married to movie producer Jack Goldberg.
Ultimate Fate: Died in New York in 1946 at 63.

34. Sophie Tucker (1887-1966)

Despite being overweight, Sophie Tucker would enjoy a long career in show business entertaining generations around the world. Apparently comical risque songs never seem to go out of style. Still, you can't help but be creeped out seeing her holding flowers in this picture.

Despite being overweight, Sophie Tucker would enjoy a long career in show business entertaining generations around the world. Apparently comical risque songs never seem to go out of style. Still, you can’t help but be creeped out seeing her holding flowers in this picture.

Known in Life as: Jewish American singer, comedian, actress, and radio personality. Known for her stentorian delivery of comical and risqué songs, she was one of the most popular entertainers in the US for the first half of the 20th century. Known as “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.”
Character or Inspiration? She’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Sang “Some of These Days.”
Differences: Born in Russia. Married 3 times and had at least one son. Began singing at her parents’ Connecticut restaurant for tips. Before taking orders she, “would stand up in the narrow space by the door and sing with all the drama I could put into it. At the end of the last chorus, between me and the onions there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.” Would continue to sing at cafes and beer gardens until she made her first Vaudeville appearance in 1907 but in blackface. When she lost her makeup, she just performed without it, she stunned the crowd by saying, “You all can see I’m a white girl. Well, I’ll tell you something more: I’m not Southern. I’m a Jewish girl and I just learned this Southern accent doing a blackface act for two years. And now, Mr. Leader, please play my song.” Though made fun of herself for being overweight, she didn’t see anything wrong with being chunky. Performed with the Ziegfield Follies as well as for King George V. Elected present of the American Federation of Actors in 1938. Had her own radio show and made numerous guest appearances in radio and television including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. Was a punchline to a Beatles joke by Paul McCartney.
Ultimate Fate: Continued to perform for the rest of her life until her death from a lung ailment and kidney failure in 1966 at the age of 79. Still, she influenced a lot of female performers including May West, Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, “Mama” Cass Elliot, and Bette Midler.

35. Jack Dempsey (1895-1983)

Jack Dempsey would win the World Heavyweight Championship title for most of the 1920s. Still, despite being a Mormon since he was 8, he married his 3 wives one at a time.

Jack Dempsey would win the World Heavyweight Championship title for most of the 1920s. Still, despite being a Mormon since he was 8, he married his 3 wives one at a time.

Known in Life as: American professional boxer and cultural icon of the 1920s. Held World Heavyweight Championship from 1919 to 1926. His aggressive style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Had many of his fights set financial and attendance records, including the first million dollar gate.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he’s a famous boxer and his fights were frequently broadcasted on the radio.
Differences: Born in Colorado and was baptized at 8 into the LDS church with his parents in 1903. Elementary school dropout and left home at 16. Frequently traveled underneath trains and slept in hobo camps in his early years. Started his career in barroom brawls saying, “I can’t sing and I can’t dance, but I can lick any SOB in the house.” Was a part time bodyguard for John Kearns who was the son of a US Senator. Lost the World Heavyweight Championship title in 1926 to Gene Tunney coining the phrase, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” Married 3 times and had at least 3 kids.
Ultimate Fate: Retired from boxing in the 1930s and went on to other things like writing, training, and philanthropy. Assisted Joe Louis when the latter fell on hard financial times as well as made friends with former rivals Henry Wills and Gene Tunney. Was a close friend of famous Watergate judge John Sirica. Beat up a couple of muggers in 1971. Died of heart failure in New York in 1983 at 87. Influenced Bruce Lee.

36. Frank Hague (1876-1956)

Frank Hague would be Jersey City's mayor and political boss for the New Jersey Democratic Party for 30 years. Was known to be very corrupt and a chronic backstabber as well.

Frank Hague would be Jersey City’s mayor and political boss for the New Jersey Democratic Party for 30 years. Was known to be very corrupt and a chronic backstabber as well. Still, nice suit though.

Known in Life as: Mayor of Jersey City from 1917-1947 and prominent Democratic politician and political boss. Had a widely known reputation for corruption and bossism and by 1947, enjoyed palatial homes, European vacations, and a private suite in the Plaza Hotel. Said to have amassed wealth of over $10 million at the time of his death though his city salary never exceeded $8,500 annually and he had no other legitimate income. Personal influence extended to national level, especially in federal patronage and Presidential campaigns.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Was well known as a chronic backstabber (even before the 1920s). Didn’t bat an eye at doing nefarious deeds with Democrats.
Differences: Born to Irish immigrants. Expelled from school at 14 for poor attendance and unacceptable behavior. Worked as a blacksmith’s apprentice and tried to be a boxer. Won his first election at 20. Pride and joy was the Jersey City Medical Center. Had a wife and son. Was seen as a reformer who wanted to reshape the corrupt Jersey City police force and spearhead crackdowns of prostitution and narcotics trafficking. Also made improvements to the city’s fire department. Had very little tolerance for those who opposed him publically. Took a lot of kickbacks but was able to avoid state and federal investigations for years. Use of voter fraud was said to be the stuff of legend.
Ultimate Fate: Retired from politics in 1947. Died at his Park Avenue duplex in New York in 1956 at 79. Though hundreds attended his funeral only a few removed their hats while passing his coffin. One woman held an American flag and a sign reading, “God have mercy on his sinful, greedy soul.”

37. William “Bill” McCoy (1877-1948)

Of course, I could only wonder what kind of booze Bill McCoy brought to the Eastern Seaboard. Let me see, Bacardi or Captain Morgan? Oh, wait, that's rum and he transported his stash from the Bahamas.

Of course, I could only wonder what kind of booze Bill McCoy brought to the Eastern Seaboard. Let me see, Bacardi or Captain Morgan? Oh, wait, that’s rum and he transported his stash from the Bahamas.

Known in Life as: American sea captain and rum runner smuggler during Prohibition. Smuggled whiskey from the Bahamas to the Eastern Seaboard.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Retired from bootlegging after a stint in jail in late 1923.
Differences: Though seen drinking on the show on numerous occasions, he was actually a teetotaler. Viewed John Hancock as a role model and called himself, “an honest lawbreaker.” Never paid a cent for organized crime, politicians, and law enforcement for protection. Born in Syracuse and had a bricklayer father who served in the Union blockade during the American Civil War. Attended the Pennsylvania Nautical School on board the USS Saratoga and graduated first in his class. Served as mate and quarter master on various steamers. Had a reputation as a skilled yacht builder. Moved to Florida in 1900 and only went into the bootlegging business because he and his brother fell on hard financial times. Also smuggled liquor from other Caribbean islands and Canada.
Ultimate Fate: After being arrested by the US Coast Guard, he spent 9 months in a New Jersey jail. Quit bootlegging upon his release and spent the rest of his life investing in Florida real estate as well as build boats and travel down the coast. He died in 1948 at 71.

38. The Lanzetta Brothers
Known in Life as: Six gangster brothers from Philadelphia during the 1920s and 1930s. Were notorious gunmen, numbers gamblers, narcotics dealers, and liquor bootleggers. Used an “Alky Cooking” supply network by providing a contingent row of house dwellers with home sills and paying them to sell saleable liquor. Criminal career was marked by frequent arrests and brutal violence.
Character or Inspiration? Inspiration for the D’Alessio brothers, particularly Leo and Ignacius.
Similarities: Well, both clans have brothers named Ignatius, Pius, Lucien, and Leo, who was considered the leader.
Differences: Two of the brothers were named Willie and Teo and I’m not sure if they had a brother who was a dentist anywhere. May have possibly murdered Mickey Duffy. Held out for much longer than their TV counterparts (who all die by a half-faced war vet in the first season). Leo was considered the leader since he was the oldest. Pius was “the Brain.” Ignatius was always impeccably dressed. Lucian had the explosive temper. Willie was the quiet one. And Teo, “the Baby” made women swoon because of his matinee idol good looks.
Ultimate Fate: Well, a lot of them didn’t come to good ends. Leo was killed in 1925 after leaving a barbershop in an apparent retribution of the murder of rival Joseph Bruno. Pius and Willie were killed by enemy bullets in 1936 and 1939. By 1940, Teo was serving a sentence in drug trafficking and Ignatius was released by a US Supreme Court decision declaring the New Jersey “Gangster Law” unconstitutional and might’ve joined Lucian and their mother in fleeing to Detroit.

39. Santo Trafficante Sr. (1886-1954)
Known in Life as: Sicilian born American gangster based in Florida and father of notorious mobster Santo Trafficante Jr.
Character or Inspiration? Possible inspiration for Vincenzo Petrucelli yet he hasn’t actually appeared on the show, yet.
Similarities: Both had a long time alliance and friendship with Masseria. Both were based in Florida.
Differences: Married with 5 sons. Wasn’t Masseria’s cousin, though he did send Santo Jr. to New York to learn under other mobsters. Gained power as a mobster and ruled the Mafia in Tampa from the 1930s to his 1954 death. Was a well-respected boss with ties to Luciano and Thomas Lucchese.
Ultimate Fate: Died in Tampa, Florida in 1954 at 68 and left his organization to his son who was respected under the New York bosses.

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The Real People of Boardwalk Empire: Part 2 – Jimmy Boyd to Frankie Yale

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So we’re off to a good start. Of course, there may be plenty of famous gangsters you might recognize, some you may not, and some you may think were just made up by the writers of Boardwalk Empire but weren’t. Of course, I have to open this post in this series with a poster of Babette’s Supper Club which was a real place in 1920s Atlantic City but didn’t get the name until the 1930s. Still, it’s one of the more iconic places in the Prohibition era HBO show as well as one of Nucky Thompson’s frequent hangouts with his friends, lovers, and associates. In fact, it’s his favorite restaurant. Still, in this selection, we’ll look at Atlantic City notable Jimmy Boyd who was a partial inspiration for Jimmy Darmondy but came on the scene after the 1920s. At this time, he’s just a bell boy. Yet, I’ll also introduce to you two of Al Capone’s brothers who joined him in the Chicago Outfit bootlegging business. Their names were named Ralph and Frank. Then we’ll get to know officials in government like Gaston Means (who’s a con artist), Attorney General Harry Daugherty, Treasury Secretary, banker, and Treasury notable Andrew W. Mellon, the infamous FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and Assistant Attorney General Mabel Walker Willebrandt who’s the inspiration for Esther Randolph. We also have famous booze baron and possible inspiration for Jay Gatsby, George Remus who you remember referring to himself in 3rd person as well as the renown entertaining powerhouse Eddie Cantor you recall for telling all those stupid jokes about dumb women. Oh, yeah, almost forgot gangsters Waxey Gordon, Dean O’Banion (the mob boss with the flower shop), and Frankie Yale. So without further adieu, in this second installment, here are some more real people from Boardwalk Empire.

14. Jimmy Boyd (1906-1974)
Known in Life as: Political operative who worked closely with Nucky Johnson and Frank Farley as well as become member of the Atlantic Board of Freeholders for about 40 years as well as executive chairman of the 4th Ward Republic Club for 2 decades.
Character or Inspiration? An inspiration for Jimmy Darmondy (though maybe a bit of a stretch).
Similarities: Well, they were war veterans and have rags to riches stories. Both were married. Both did dirty work for their bosses. Yet, that’s about it.
Differences: Probably started off as a bell hop at the Ritz and worked his way up. Served in WWII. Was never a gangster nor was killed by Nucky Johnson. Certainly wasn’t the son of “the Commodore” and a teenager nor did he go to Princeton.
Ultimate Fate: Died in 1974 at 68. His widow is still alive and established a scholarship at Atlantic Cape Community College in his name.

15. Gaston Means (1879-1938)

Actually he looks quite like the guy who played him in the show. Not sure if he made Jess Smith commit suicide but I wouldn't be surprised if he did. Nevertheless, he'll go to Leavenworth after he tried to pull a con during the Lindbergh kidnapping. Bastard.

Actually he looks quite like the guy who played him in the show. Not sure if he made Jess Smith commit suicide but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. Nevertheless, he’ll go to Leavenworth after he tried to pull a con during the Lindbergh kidnapping. Bastard.

Known in Life as: Private detective, salesman, bootlegger, forger, swindler, murder suspect, blackmailer, and con artist. Though not involved with the Teapot Dome scandal, was associated with other members of the so-called Ohio Gang that gathered around the Harding administration. Also tried to pull a con associated with the Lindbergh kidnapping.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Had a Southern accent. Was a con man and master manipulator you couldn’t trust. Was hired as an investigator for the FBI despite his dubious reputation as a detective. Wasn’t well liked by Harry Daugherty (but for the right reasons). Assisted bootleggers and was arrested for perjury.
Differences: May or may not have had anything to do with Jess Smith’s death. Wrote a book saying that Warren G. Harding was killed by his wife and later repudiated it.
Ultimate Fate: After trying to pull a con associated with the Lindbergh kidnapping, he was arrested, found guilty, and sentence to 15 years of prison. Died at Leavenworth in 1938 at 59.

16. Eddie Cantor (1892-1964)

Yes, this is Eddie Cantor during his younger years. No, this isn't Mr. Bean I'm sorry to say. Still, you have to love how he looks in that outfit.

Yes, this is Eddie Cantor during his younger years. No, this isn’t Mr. Bean I’m sorry to say. Still, you have to love how he looks in that outfit.

Known in Life as: Performer, comedian, dancer, singer, actor, and songwriter. Worked in vaudeville, Broadway, radio, movies, and early television.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he was a well-known Vaudeville performer on stage.
Differences: Raised by his maternal grandmother (whose name was Kantrowitz but was shortened to Kanter by a clerk when he attended the Surprise Lake Camp). Though you might not know it on the show, he was a happily married man from 1914 to 1962 (to a woman named Ida Tobias who suggested he used Eddie as a stage name) and father of five daughters. Also was known to entertain the audience with his intimate stories and anecdotes of his wife and kids, sometimes to his children’s chagrin. Was president of the Screen Actors Guild in the 1930s and coined the term for “the March of Dimes” for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and was its spokesman for its 1938 campaign.
Ultimate Fate: Though he lost his multi-millionaire status and was left deeply in debt in the 1929 Stock Market Crash, he managed to rebuild his fortune with a new bank account and a series of highly popular bestselling humorous books with cartoons. In 1935, he, Charles Tobias and Murray Melcher would write “Merrily We Roll Along” which he recorded in the 1950s but was used as a theme song for the Merrie Melodies cartoon series for Warner Brothers between 1937 to 1964. Also had a successful career in film and television despite being turned down for The Jazz Singer. Died of a heart attack at 72 in 1964.

17. Harry Daugherty (1860-1941)

Looked much different than I thought he did. Sure he's wearing a nice 3 piece suit but he's corrupt as hell and tried to say his friend killed himself after being diagnosed with diabetes. Seems suspicious.

Looked much different than I thought he did. Sure he’s wearing a nice 3 piece suit but he’s corrupt as hell and tried to say his friend killed himself after being diagnosed with diabetes. Seems suspicious.

Known in Life as: Attorney general under Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Was an influential official behind the election of several Congressmen and US Senators and served as Harding’s campaign manager in 1920. Instrumental for winning presidential pardons for jailed anti-war dissidents including one Eugene V. Debs. “Ohio Gang” member and may have been involved in the Teapot Dome scandal. Forced to resign as attorney general after being twice subject to US government investigations in 1924.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Was massively corrupt and untrustworthy. Shared a hotel room with Jesse Smith and was close friends with him.
Differences: Let’s just say that he and Jesse Smith may have just been good friends and leave it at that. Also, was married with two kids, fat, and bald. Was about 60 in 1920.
Ultimate Fate: After indictments and his resignation, he returned to practicing law until his retirement in 1932. Wrote a book trying to clear his name pinning the Teapot Dome scandal on Albert Fall and saying that Jesse Smith killed himself because of diabetes, not a guilty conscience. He planned on writing two more. Died in his sleep in 1941 at 81 a year after he experienced two heart attacks and pneumonia that made him blind in one eye.

18. Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1937)

Now I know that Andrew Mellon exists since he's a Pittsburgh native. And the Mellon name is incredibly famous in the area with the now Bank of New York Mellon. Nevertheless, he didn't look at all like James Cromwell as you see here.

Now I know that Andrew Mellon exists since he’s a Pittsburgh native. And the Mellon name is incredibly famous in the area with the now Bank of New York Mellon. Nevertheless, he didn’t look at all like James Cromwell as you see here.

Known in Life as: Banker, businessman, industrialist, philanthropist, art collector, US Ambassador to the UK, and US Treasury Secretary under Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he was Harding’s Treasury Secretary. Responsible for upholding taxes and Prohibition despite that he hated both.
Differences: Resembled nothing like James Cromwell. Had a mustache and a head full of white hair at this time period. Believed in a progressive income tax but at lower rates. We’re not sure whether he owned a distillery in the 1920s though he denied it amid rumors. Fathered two children and was divorced. Was in his 60s and early 70s during the 1920s.
Ultimate Fate: Became unpopular with the onset of the Great Depression that he was nearly impeached but resigned in 1932. Was investigated and indicted over his personal tax returns by the FDR administration though he’d later be exonerated. Died in New York in 1937 at the age of 82.

19. Waxey Gordon (1888-1952)

Let's just say that while Waxey Gordon may seem like a guy the Boardwalk Empire writers made up, he actually was a real gangster. Still, he was born Irving Wexler and the name he's best known by was made up.

Let’s just say that while Waxey Gordon may seem like a guy the Boardwalk Empire writers made up, he actually was a real gangster. Still, he was born Irving Wexler and the name he’s best known by was made up.

Known in Life as: A Jewish American crime boss in Philadelphia during Prohibition who specialized in bootlegging and illegal gambling.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Was an associate of Arnold Rothstein and helped run most of his East Coast bootlegging operation.
Differences: Real name was Irving Wexler and was born in New York. Married to a rabbi’s daughter and had a son in medical school. Was a chunky dark skinned man. Started out as a pickpocket before he became a rum-runner during the early days of Prohibition. Lived an extravagant lifestyle from his multi-million dollar empire and had mansions in New York and Philadelphia.
Ultimate Fate: After Rothstein’s death in 1928, his glory days were over. Though he made alliances with future National Crime Syndicate founders Luciano, Lansky, and Louis Buchaller, his struggles with Lansky over bootlegging and gambling interests would lead to a gang war between the two as well as the deaths of several associates (the writers missed a great opportunity there). Lansky and Luciano would later supply US Attorney Thomas E. Dewey with evidence that led to his conviction of tax evasion in 1933. After his 10 year prison sentence, he found his gang disbanded, divorced, and his East Coast empire lost. Tried to start over as a single man by moving to California, selling 10,000lbs of coupon rationed sugar during WWII, and imported illegal drugs. Was busted for selling heroin to an undercover cop in 1951. He was convicted of narcotics and trafficking and sentence to 25 years. He died of a heart attack on Alcatraz in 1952 at 64.

20. Ralph “Bottles” Capone (1894-1974)

Now he doesn't seem to resemble Herc from The Wire at all who plays him on the show. Reminds me more of Al Capone if he ever became a milkman in a newspaper cap. You can see the family resemblance there.

Now he doesn’t seem to resemble Herc from The Wire at all who plays him on the show. Reminds me more of Al Capone if he ever became a milkman in a newspaper cap. You can see the family resemblance there.

Known in Life as: Chicago gangster and brother of Al Capone. Most famous for being “Public Enemy #3.”
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Got his nickname “Bottles” for running a legal bottling plant (it was for soft drinks like ginger ale as well as soda water for mixed drinks and was very profitable for the Chicago Outfit).
Differences: Was born in Italy and came to the US as a baby making him older than Al. Married three times and divorced twice. Took his son Ralph Jr. away from his wife and had his mother raise him as her youngest child. Was the dominant soft drink vendor other than Coca Cola during the 1933 World’s Fair. Had relatively little power in the Outfit and the National Crime Syndicate.
Ultimate Fate: Remained in the Outfit after his brother’s arrest as well as hosted several high-level Outfit conferences from his brother’s Palm Island, Florida residence. Managed Chicago’s Cotton Club where he was involved in syndicate gambling and vice districts. In 1932, was convicted of tax evasion and served 3 years. Purchased a home and was a silent partner in a hotel/tavern at Mercer, Wisconsin. Moved to Wisconsin after his release. Died of natural causes in Hurley, Wisconsin in 1974 at 80. His widow would marry his best friend three years later. So let’s just say that Bottles post-crime life was very good indeed.

21. Frank Capone (1895-1924)

I know this isn't much but this is the only picture I could find of Frank Capone alive. Most of the photos featured of him on Google Images show him shot up and dead. Still, probably the best looking brother in the Capone bunch as we've seen.

I know this isn’t much but this is the only picture I could find of Frank Capone alive. Most of the photos featured of him on Google Images show him shot up and dead. Still, probably the best looking brother in the Capone bunch as we’ve seen.

Known in Life as: Chicago gangster and Al Capone’s brother who participated in the attempted takeover of Cicero, Illinois for Al’s criminal organization.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Dressed in well attired clothes to project an image of a mild-mannered businessman. Was shot to death by Chicago police shooting him up on Election Day.
Differences: Older than Al but they were close. Was involved in the Five Points Gang with Johnny Torrio. Was considered more violent than his younger brother and certainly didn’t die just defending him. Actually unleashed a wave of terror during the Illinois Democratic Party that April sending Southside gang members with submachine guns and sawed-off shotguns to make sure the locals voted for Cicero city manager Joseph Z. Klenha. Those who didn’t cooperate were assaulted and blocked. Also led an attack at the opponent’s campaign headquarters ransacking the office and assaulting several campaign workers, one of whom was shot in both legs and held hostage along with 8 others until after the primary was over. CPD had to send 70 plainclothes officers over this.
Ultimate Fate: Was shot dozens of times by Chicago police during the Illinois Democratic Primary on April 1, 1924 at 28. It was considered a justifiable shooting since police said he pulled out a gun at them though some witnesses disagree. Al escaped unharmed but retaliated by murdering one official, kidnapping others, and stealing ballot boxes from the polling stations. Still Frank Capone was laid in a silver laden casket and had an extravagant funeral that costs $200,000 worth of flowers from Dean O’Banion’s florist shop as well as over 150 cars in the motorcade. Al also had gambling dens and speakeasies closed for two hours for the funeral.

22. J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972)

Sure the young FBI director was a rabid lifelong racist but damn, did he really know how to dress. Also, didn't wear women's clothes but sure knew how to wear a suit. Probably should've considered becoming a male model and save people from decades worth of pain with him in government.

Sure the young FBI director was a rabid lifelong racist but damn, did he really know how to dress. Also, didn’t wear women’s clothes but sure knew how to wear a suit. Probably should’ve considered becoming a male model and save people from decades worth of pain with him in government.

Known in Life as: First FBI director in the United States and led the bureau from 1924 to 1972. Instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935 and is credited with building it into a large crime fighting agency and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology such as a centralized finger print file and forensic laboratories. Was a much more controversial later in life as evidence of his secret actions became known. His critics accused him of exceeding the FBI’s jurisdiction and used the organization to suppress dissidents and activists, to amass secrets on political leaders, and collect evidence using illegal methods. Amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting US Presidents.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Was only 29 in 1924. Was obsessed with bringing down Marcus Garvey as well as racist (remember he opposed the Civil Rights Movement and taped Martin Luther King Jr.). Instituted highly selective hiring standards and ruthlessly efficient investigation procedures that provided his organization to infiltrate and thoroughly investigate criminal empires during Prohibition.
Differences: Helped carry out the Palmer Raids in 1919 (hated liberals, too, as you know) and was appointed as director of the BoI when his boss was alleged to have been involved in the Teapot Dome scandal. Despite his racism and obsession with hunting down black civil rights leaders, he didn’t ignore organized crime (at least later on). Was noted to be rather capricious in his FBI leadership as well as frequently firing agents or singling out those who “looked stupid like truck drivers” or considered “pinheads.” He was even said to relocate agents who’ve displeased him to career-ending assignments and locations (Melvin Purvis is a good example of this). Was alleged to be gay as well as had a close lifelong friendship with Clyde Tolson (as we know it).
Ultimate Fate: Hoover will lead the FBI for a very long time serving as its director under every US President to Calvin Coolidge to Richard Nixon and will gain a lot of power and notoriety. Died from a heart attack at his Washington D. C. home in 1972 at 77 and his body lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda with Warren Burger and Richard Nixon. Still, Nixon’s appointment of L. Patrick Gray over Hoover’s No. 2 at the time Mark Felt would lead Felt to leak information to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on the Watergate Scandal.

23. Mabel Walker Willebrant (1889-1963)

And you thought Esther Randolph was just totally made up to make the 1920s seem like a more feminist time than it was. Actually, she's based on a real Assistant Attorney General named Mabel Walker Willebrandt who actually did nail George Remus and other wrongdoers during Prohibition. Too bad she didn't get promoted to Attorney General under Herbert Hoover. Damn, and we couldn't get a woman Attorney General until the 1990s. Isn't sexism unfair?

And you thought Esther Randolph was just totally made up to make the 1920s seem like a more feminist time than it was. Actually, she’s based on a real Assistant Attorney General named Mabel Walker Willebrandt who actually did nail George Remus and other wrongdoers during Prohibition. And this is her picture here. Pretty wasn’t she? Too bad she didn’t get promoted to Attorney General under Herbert Hoover. Damn, and we couldn’t get a woman Attorney General until the 1990s. Isn’t sexism a bitch?

Known in Life as: “First Lady of Law” was US Assistant Attorney General from 1921-1929 handling cases concerning violations of the Volstead Act, federal taxation, and the Bureau of Federal Prisons.
Character or Inspiration? Inspiration for US Attorney Esther Randolph.
Similarities: Well, they’re both Assistant Attorney Generals in the 1920s who deal with the Volstead Act. Both were willing to take down bootleggers when their superiors wouldn’t. Brought down George Remus and were successful in the biggest prosecutions during Prohibition. Both showed high degrees of professionalism.
Differences: Was divorced but she probably didn’t sleep with her assistant. Wasn’t reduced to prosecuting bit time bootleggers at the D. C. night court circuit for she had other things to do. And she’d probably not ally herself with booze barons. Yet, she did get her start defending prostitutes without pay and handled 2000 cases pertaining to them. During WWI, she served as head of the Legal Advisory Board for draft cases in Los Angeles, California. Oh, and she was the second woman appointed as Assistant Attorney General but the first to serve an extended term, which made her the highest ranking woman in the federal government. Her administration the establishment for the Alderson federal prison which was the first of its kind for women. She was also an opponent to Prohibition but aggressively upheld the Volstead Act but criticized the federal government’s efforts to enforce the law in her book The Inside of Prohibition describing political interference, incompetent public officials, and public indifference. Her efforts to prosecute bootleggers were hampered by the Treasury and Justice Departments though she managed to prosecute 48,734 Prohibition-related cases from June 1924 to June 1925, of which 39,072 resulted in convictions. Submitted 278 cases of certiorari to the Supreme Court regarding defense, clarification, and enforcement of Prohibition and the Volstead Act. Also argued more than 40 cases before the Supreme Court and won several victories.
Ultimate Fate: Though she heavily campaigned for Herbert Hoover in 1928, she failed to be appointed Attorney General (not surprisingly) and resigned her post in 1929. She continued to work as an attorney having offices in Washington and Los Angeles. In 1950 she represented the Screen Actors Guild during a labor hearing as well as California Fruit Industries. Became the first woman to chair a committee of the American Bar Association on the committee of aeronautical law as well as held several honorary doctorates. Later converted to Roman Catholicism and died of natural causes in Riverside, California in 1963 at 73.

24. George Remus (1874-1952)

Cincinnati booze baron George Remus behind bars. After he gets out of prison he's going to find out his wife had an affair and basically swindled him royally. He'd then kill her in front of a lot people in broad daylight and get off on temporary insanity. Yet, George Remus won't be nearly that rich again.

Cincinnati booze baron George Remus behind bars. After he gets out of prison he’s going to find out his wife had an affair and basically swindled him royally. He’d then kill her in front of a lot people in broad daylight and get off on temporary insanity. Yet, George Remus won’t be nearly that rich again.

Known in Life as: Cincinnati lawyer and bootlegger during Prohibition. It’s been claimed that he was the inspiration for the title character in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Was brought down by a female Assistant Attorney General. Exploited a loophole in the Volstead Act that permitted its trade for medicinal purposes (which was why he moved to Cincinnati where 80% of the US “bonded” whiskey was located). Entered the booze business to get rich but wasn’t really violent. Was a teetotaler as well as short, fat, and bald. Actually referred to himself in the 3rd person.
Differences: Born in Germany and came to the US at 5. Supported his family by working in a pharmacy at 14 because his dad couldn’t work. Bought the pharmacy at 19 and another at 24 but became a lawyer after getting bored. Daughter was Romola Remus who played Dorothy Gale in the 1910 silent version of The Wizard of Oz when she was 8. Specialized in criminal defense and became rather famous that he was earning $50,000 annually by 1920 on his legal career alone. Married twice and divorced once. Was known as “The King of Bootleggers” for his vast booze empire as well as extravagant lifestyle and parties you’d see in The Great Gatsby including one in which he gave all the adult male guests diamond watches and their wives a brand new car. At his peak he owned 10 distilleries, employed 3,000 people, and had the most dominant bootlegging operation in the Midwest that would put Al Capone to shame. Loved fine food, art, literature, and swimming. Was well liked by the local kids as well as let them swim in his Grecian Olympic sized swimming pool. Beloved in Cincinnati and known for his generosity.
Ultimate Fate: In 1925, he was indicted for 3,000 violations under the Volstead Act and convicted by a grand jury in just 2 hours as well as received a 2 year prison sentence. While in the slammer, befriended a fellow prison inmate who turned out to be an undercover Prohibition agent named Franklin Dodge who later resigned and had an affair with his second wife Imogene. Dodge and Imogene would liquidate his assets and hide as much money as possible, strip his large Marble Palace mansion of everything of value and nail the doors shut, attempt to deport him, and even hire a hitman to murder him for $15,000. Imogene sold his Fleischmann distillery in which she gave him $100 for it and would file for divorce. In 1927, he had his driver chase his second wife and daughter through Eden Park on her way to the divorce finalization, where he fatally shot his wife in the abdomen in front of the Spring House Gazebo in front of horrified onlookers. He successfully pleaded temporary insanity in record time while acting as his own attorney with a case bringing national headlines for a month as well as prosecuted by a former president’s grandson. Was sentenced for 6 months. Upon release, tried to return to bootlegging but found it was taken over by gangsters so he moved to Covington, Kentucky where he lived a modest life for the next 20 years without incident and though he tried to regain his vast fortune, he was never successful. He died there in 1952 of natural causes at 77.

25. Dean O’Banion (1892-1924)

Dean O'Banion posing in a photo with his wife Viola holding one of his bouquets he styled himself. Too bad he'll be whacked by Frankie Yale's boys in his own flower shop.

Dean O’Banion posing in a photo with his wife Viola holding one of his bouquets he styled himself. Too bad he’ll be whacked by Frankie Yale’s boys in his own flower shop.

Known in Life as: Irish American gangster in Chicago and rival of Johnny Torrio and Al Capone during the brutal Chicago bootlegging wars of the 1920s. Led the North Side Gang until his murder by Frankie Yale, John Scalise, and Albert Anselmi in 1924.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Owned a flower shop (which was originally set up for a money laundering scheme but he found out he actually liked it). Had his men encroach others’ territory and breweries.
Differences: Was once a choir boy as a kid and sang at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. Childhood buddies were Hymie Weiss, Vincent Drucci, and Bugs Moran who were in the Market Street Gang specializing in theft and robbery. Worked as a singing waiter at McGovern’s Liberty Inn and was said to have a beautiful tenor voice while his buddies picked pockets in the coatroom. Also drugged his patron’s drinks known then as “slipping a Mickey Finn.” They also inflicted violence in the 42nd and 43rd ward for political bosses. As a head of the North Side Gang, his men stole liquor from other bootleggers, hijacked trucks en route (a pioneer in that), tried to frame Torrio and Capone for a murdered, trolled the Genna brothers (a Chicago Outfit affiliated gang) for no apparent practical reason, and conned Angelo Genna out of a large sum of money. Also did flower arrangements for mob funerals and regularly attended Mass at Holy Name Cathedral. At his height he was making $1 million in the early 1920s when he and his gang eliminated the bootlegging competition. Abhorred prostitution.
Ultimate Fate: Shot up by two of Frankie Yale’s hitmen in his flower shop in 1924 at the age of 32. Was denied to be buried on consecrated ground by the Catholic Church but his funeral was presided by a priest who knew him since childhood and was quite lavish. His killing would spark a 5 year gang war between the North Side Gang and the Chicago Outfit which would culminate in the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

26. Frankie Yale (1893-1928)

Yes, that's Frankie Yale. Despite the Ivy League sounding name, he's actually was an Italian born gangster who didn't go to college. Still, he and Al Capone were good friends, for a while.

Yes, that’s Frankie Yale. Despite the Ivy League sounding name, he’s actually was an Italian born gangster who didn’t go to college. Still, he and Al Capone were good friends, for a while. Had a very expensive gangster funeral.

Known in Life as: Brooklyn gangster and original employer of Al Capone before the latter moved to Chicago.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he was responsible for killing Dean O’Banion in his flower shop though possibly could’ve killed Colosimo (we aren’t sure on that one).
Differences: Born in Italy, came to the US at 7, and befriended Johnny Torrio as a teenager who ushered him in the Five Points Gang. Believed in putting business ahead of ego. Took over Brooklyn’s ice delivery trade by selling “protection” and creating monopolies. Opened a bar on the Seaside Walk in Coney Island with the proceeds known as Harvard Inn. It was in this place where a young waiter named Al Capone got his famous scar. His gang also engaged in Black Hand extortion activities (especially in rackets with dock workers and unions) and ran a string of brothels. Had a sideline of notorious foul-smelling cigars packaged in boxes that bore his smiling face as well as operated his own funeral home. Was one of Brooklyn’s biggest bootleggers at the beginning of Prohibition as well as known for his generosity for the less fortunate people in his neighborhood. Yet, was a violent man who didn’t hesitate to inflict pain on others and beat his younger brother so badly he wound up in the hospital. Married twice as well as fathered 3 daughters. Survived a lot of assassination attempts and supplied much of Al Capone’s whiskey imported from Canada and would oversee the transport personally.
Ultimate Fate: Unfortunately, his long friendship with Capone began to fray when his Chicago bound trucks would fall to hijacking before leaving Brooklyn. When Capone found that Yale was stealing his booze, his informant tried to kill Yale but was gunned down instead. On July 1, 1928, Yale received a cryptic call in his Sunrise Club saying that something was wrong with his wife. Yale would dash out in his brand new armored coffee-colored Lincoln coup (but lacked bullet-proof windows) and took up at New Ultrecht Avenue in which he was chased by a Buick sedan carrying four armed men (who were from Capone’s Chicago Outfit). The Buick would catch up to him and Yale was murdered in a storm of bullets that cause his car to crash into the stoop of a brownstone at No. 923. He was 35 (still, the writers missed a great opportunity here). Had one of the most impressive gangland funerals in American history which was attended by thousands of people and set a standard for opulence for American gangsters that has been seldom matched over the years. Also led to drama when two different women claimed to be his wife.

The Real People of Boardwalk Empire: Part 1- Enoch “Nucky” Johnson to Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle

boardwalk-empire

A few months ago my dad was reading a book about the Rooney family and the early days of owning the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since we’ve been watching the first three seasons of Boardwalk Empire, my dad had to show me the name of “Arnold Rothstein” when he got to the part about Art Rooney’s luck as a gambler on the horse racing track. Let’s just say that before he managed to read the guy’s name, he thought that Rothstein was just a fictional character created by the writers of the hit Emmy-winning HBO show. Of course, I couldn’t write about Boardwalk Empire at that moment since I was possibly working on my blog series on movie history. Yet, that incident got me to thinking about doing a series dedicated to the historical figures who’ve appeared or inspired  characters on the show no matter how minor. I mean sure I’ve watched the first three seasons but I really like the show and it’s not because of the violence. I like the characters, the clothes, the sets, and well, the historicity of it all. Still, since Boardwalk Empire is airing it’s final season around this time of year, I thought this little five part blog series would be a nice commemoration as a tribute to the Prohibition Era, the 1920s, the Jazz Age, and all that. In this selection, we’ll look at Atlantic City locals like Enoch L. “Nucky” Johnson and his brother Alf, Mary Ill, Mayor Edward L. Bader, and Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle. We’ll also get to know Casper Holstein an inspiration to Casper Holstein. Of course, we’ll also get to see famous gangsters like Johnny Torrio and Al Capone from Chicago and men like Arnold Rothstein, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, and Joe Masseria. So without further adieu, let me introduce you to my first installment of the real people of Boardwalk Empire.

1. Enoch L. “Nucky” Johnson (1883-1968)

Doesn't seem to remind me of Steve Buscemi in the least. Rather he seems to resemble an old timey college professor of some sort. Still, very well dressed.

Doesn’t seem to remind me of Steve Buscemi in the least. Rather he seems to resemble an old timey college professor of some sort. Still, very well dressed.

Known in Life as: He was a New Jersey political boss and racketeer. From the 1910s to his 1941 conviction and imprisonment, he was the undisputed “boss” of the political machine that controlled Atlantic City and the Atlantic County government. His rule saw Atlantic City as a refuge from Prohibition and was at its height of popularity as a tourist destination. His organization engaged in bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution. Yet, he was also known for giving freely to those in need and was widely beloved by local citizens, among whom his benevolence and generosity were legendary.
Character or Inspiration? He’s the main inspiration for “Nucky” Thompson and to a lesser extent Chalky White.
Similarities: Well, he and Nucky had wives named Mabel who died in 1912 (but from TB not suicide) and began to live fast lives after that. They both lived on the ninth story of the Ritz-Carlton rather lavishly, wore a fresh red carnation on their lapels daily, and had a German personal assistant and valet. They also both served as Atlantic County treasurer and were natty dressers. Like Chalky, he was seen as a benefactor to the Northside African American community but that’s pretty much it.
Differences: Unlike Nucky on the show, Johnson didn’t have any kids and didn’t remarry until 1941 and to a showgirl 25 years his junior. Also, in addition to mob boss, booze baron, political boss, sheriff, and county treasurer, Johnson was also county collector, campaign manager to Walter E. Edge, publisher of a weekly newspaper, president of a banking and loan company, and director of a Philadelphia brewery. Yet, though a political boss, he didn’t have much influence in US politics outside the state of New Jersey where he helped get several governors and US Senators elected. Not to mention, he briefly studied to be a teacher and before quitting for an unpaid clerkship and eventually work for his sheriff father (thus, he basically rose to power through nepotism). Still, Johnson didn’t have a terrible childhood, was probably a WASP, or an abusive dad who was a drunk(as far as we know) and wasn’t known for killing anybody (at least in the premeditated sense) or engaging in competition or turf wars with organized crime (though he did take a cut in illegal alcohol sales in Atlantic City). Also was 37 in 1920 as well as a tall, muscular, and bespeckled man who weighed 225 and stood 6’4” tall. Not to mention, he swam every week to keep in shape and was a forceful and outgoing personality.
Ultimate Fate: Was convicted and imprisoned for tax evasion (after being under investigation since 1933 thanks to William Randolph Hearst who leaked his name out of spite because they were both after the same showgirl). Was paroled in 1945 as well as worked in sales at the Richfield Oil Company and with his wife for Renault Winery. Yet, he did continue to dress impeccably and attend political events. Died of natural causes in 1968 at 85.

2. Alfred “Alf” Johnson (1878-1958)

Of course, I don't know if this is from the 1920s but it's the only picture I could find of him. Still, he doesn't look that bad and seems to love his little kitty.

Of course, I don’t know if this is from the 1920s but it’s the only picture I could find of him. Still, he doesn’t look that bad and seems to love his little kitty.

Known in Life as: Sheriff of Atlantic County and Nucky Johnson’s brother.
Character or Inspiration? Inspiration for Eli Thompson.
Similarities: Well, he was his brother’s henchman and did serve as county sheriff.
Differences: Unlike Eli Thompson in the show, Alf Johnson was actually older than his more famous brother Nucky. Also, he didn’t have any kids and may not have been married. Not to mention, his father was also a sheriff as well and wasn’t brought up in an abusive home and probably not Irish Catholic. In addition didn’t become sheriff until after 1920 long after his brother and father served that post.
Ultimate Fate: Died from a lingering illness in 1958 at 80.

3. Mary Ill
Known in Life as: Housewife, boardinghouse maid, and political activist. Best known for requesting a meeting with Nucky Johnson and being one of his political supporters.
Character or Inspiration? Inspiration for Margaret Shroeder.
Similarities: Well, they were both married to part-time baker’s helpers who were gamblers and abusive drunks. Like Margaret, she was also active in local politics and charitable organizations.
Differences: It’s fair to say that she and Nucky Johnson were never romantically involved (and certainly not married, though they did remain friends and he did give her $100 and a house). Nor did Johnson have her husband murdered (actually had him banned from local gambling halls instead). Also, we’re not sure whether she’s even an Irish immigrant.
Ultimate Fate: Well, her extensive interviews were used as research for a non-fiction book (the show was based on) and helped create Nucky Thompson’s character on the show. She at least lived long enough for that.

4. Arnold Rothstein (1882-1928)

Yes, ladies, this is a genuine photograph of the guy who fixed the 1919 World Series on his telephone. Kind of disappoints you that he doesn't look like the New York Jewish mob boss from Boardwalk Empire doesn't it?

Yes, ladies, this is a genuine photograph of the guy who fixed the 1919 World Series on his telephone. Kind of disappoints you that he doesn’t look like the New York Jewish mob boss from Boardwalk Empire doesn’t it?

Known in Life as: Jewish American racketeer, businessman, gambler, and kingpin of the Jewish mob in New York City. Best known for being a corrupting influence in professional sports and fixing the 1919 World Series. According to Leo Katcher, “transformed organized crime from a thuggish activity by hoodlums into a big business, run like a corporation, with himself at the top.” Rich Cohen says he was the first person to realize that Prohibition was a business opportunity, a means to enormous wealth who, “understood the truths of early century capitalism (giving people what they want) and came to dominate them.”
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he did have a criminal organization that included notables like Meyer Lansky, Jack “Legs” Diamond, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, and Dutch Schultz. Frequently mediated differences between the New York gangs and reportedly charged a hefty fee for his services. Did business in both bootlegging and narcotics as well as on the street (but surrounded by bodyguards). Wore bow ties.
Differences: He was nowhere near as attractive as Michael Stuhlbarg is and certainly didn’t fit the mainstream idea of handsome. And despite what the show implies, he wasn’t faithful to his wife (had at least 2 known mistresses). Also, he’s only alleged to fix the 1919 World Series while official records state it wasn’t fixed at all nor was he involved. Let’s just say that all the evidence and minutes of the Grand Jury disappeared during the investigation and the case was dismissed. While not shown on the show, he also exploited his role as mediator in the legitimate business world and soon forced Tammany Hall to recognize him as a necessary ally in its running of the city. Let’s just say Nucky Thompson’s role in Atlantic City is similar to his in New York City.
Ultimate Fate: Due to failure to pay a large debt of $320,000 that resulted from a 3 day long fixed high stakes poker game, he was shot and mortally wounded during a business meeting at Manhattan’s Central Park Hotel on 7th Avenue near 55th Street in 1928. He died at 46 at Stuyvesant Polyclinic Hospital. Who was responsible for his murder remains a mystery to this day. Still, by fast forwarding to 1931, I think the show’s writers missed a great opportunity with this. His illegal empire was divided by his underlings after his death and the political boss system of the 19th century was in total collapse. Ten years after his murder, his estate would be bankrupt and all his wealth would disappear.

5. Charles “Lucky” Luciano (1897-1962)

Now seriously, I'm not sure if I'd want that guy to star in Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys. Then again, he doesn't look that bad, for an outright Prohibition bootlegging gangster. Of course, he'll whack anybody who stands in his way.

Now seriously, I’m not sure if I’d want that guy to star in Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys. Then again, he doesn’t look that bad, for an outright Prohibition bootlegging gangster. Of course, he’ll whack anybody who stands in his way.

Known in Life as: Sicilian-born American mobster and considered the father of modernized crime in the United States for splitting New York City into 5 different Mafia crime families and establishment of the first Commission. He was the first official boss of the Genovese crime family. Along with Meyer Lansky, he was instrumental in the development of the National Crime Syndicate of the United States. Said to be the most powerful American Mafia boss of all time.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Met and befriended Meyer Lansky as a teenager as well as Rothstein’s protégé. Was a womanizer. Arranged Masseria’s murder in 1931.
Differences: Actually started working as a gunman for Masseria before he went to Rothstein in the early 1920s and didn’t return to him until after Rothstein’s murder. He didn’t turn against Rothstein nor did Rothstein double cross him. Also, may have been called “Lucky” as early as 1923 after being severely beaten by 3 men and having his throat slashed. Not to mention, despite being arrested 25 times between 1916 to 1936, he spent no time in prison. Actually he got beat up a lot over his lifetime and survived a 1929 kidnapping when he was beaten and stabbed by 3 men before being dumped on a Staten Island beach (this would’ve made a great episode). Certainly wasn’t nearly as handsome as Vincent Piazza on the show.
Ultimate Fate: Though he’d continue trying to run his criminal enterprise, Luciano would later see prison in the late 1930s, would strike a deal with the US government to help root out German and Italian agents in New York, and would be deported to Italy in 1946. Except for a stint in Cuba, he would remain in Italy for the rest of his life. Also, would get in trouble with the Italian authorities which would result in a ban from Rome and his passport revoked. Died of a heart attack in Naples International Airport in 1962 at 65.

6. Alphonse “Al” Capone (1899-1947)

Now this is the 1920s Prohibition gangster we all remember unless we're under 5 or hiding under a rock somewhere. Still, he had great fashion sense.

Now this is the 1920s Prohibition gangster we all remember unless we’re under 10 or hiding under a rock somewhere. Still, he had great fashion sense and today he’s the most famous American gangster who ever lived.

Known in Life as: A violent Chicago gangster who attained national fame during Prohibition and was crime boss of that city for seven years. Alleged to be responsible for the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 (show missed great opportunity there). Possibly the most famous Prohibition gangster in the United States who ever lived.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Was born in New York. Said he served in WWI (even though he didn’t but he was embarrassed that he got his nasty scar from a knife fight). Had an Irish wife and brothers in the business as well (save one who was a Prohibition agent).
Differences: Was bigger than Stephen Graham. Moved to Chicago after being in memberships with small town gangs and the Five Points Gang where he was mentored by Frankie Yale. Was 21 in 1920 and started out in Chicago as a Johnny Torrio’s bodyguard not driver. Still, though he may have been a violent gangster who gained control of the Chicago bootlegging through violent means, he knew the value of PR and would stylize himself as a generous benefactor and a modern day Robin Hood. He’d also help cultivate relationships with Mayor William Hale Thompson and the city police.
Ultimate Fate: Was investigated and convicted of tax evasion thanks to the efforts of IRS agent Frank J. Wilson. Was sentenced to 11 years in prison but would serve 7 including a stint in Alcatraz where he’d be diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhea. Was paroled in 1939 and would spend his remaining years in Florida where he showed symptoms of syphillic dementia. Died of cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke in 1947 at 48. His Chicago Outfit would continue at a low profile though and is still around.

7. Meyer Lansky (1902-1983)

Still, while Luciano is the better looking gangster on Boardwalk Empire, Lansky probably beats him in the looks department in real life. Of course, that's just my opinion. Nevertheless, Lansky will eventually outlive most of his peers from this era and enjoy a nice retirement in Florida.

Still, while Luciano is the better looking gangster on Boardwalk Empire, Lansky probably beats him in the looks department in real life. Of course, that’s just my opinion. Nevertheless, Lansky will eventually outlive most of his peers from this era and enjoy a nice retirement in Florida.

Known in Life as: Called the “Mob’s Accountant” was a major organized crime figure who along with Luciano was instrumental in developing the National Crime Syndicate in the United States. Thought to be one of the most powerful men in the country for decades. Had a gambling empire that stretched across the seas and was said to own casinos in Las Vegas, Cuba, the Bahamas, and London. Despite being in the Jewish Mob, he had as strong influence on the Italian Mafia and played a large role in consolidating the criminal underworld.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Met and befriended Luciano as a teenager as well as served as Rothstein’s protégé. Also was acquainted with Bugsy Siegel during that time as well (they became lifelong friends as well as had the latter save him several times).
Differences: Was 18 in 1920. Was much closer to Siegel than Luciano (he and Bugsy formed their own gang and were BFFs for life). Probably didn’t turn on Rothstein. Also didn’t quite look like Anatol Yusef.
Ultimate Fate: Well, he’s much luckier than a lot of his colleagues. Though he did get deported to the US from Israel and have his Cuban ventures end to the rise of Castro, he manage to establish a lot of gambling operations (considered to have high integrity) and transferred a lot of his earnings to a Swiss bank account. Was instrumental in Operation Underworld during World War II for the US Navy. From 1974 to his death of lung cancer at 81 in 1983, he spent a long peaceful retirement at Miami Beach. Yet, the amount of money he left will never be known though he was survived by his widow and 3 children.

8. Casper Holstein (1876-1944)

Let's just say that while the Harlem Renaissance had it's share of African American musicians, academics, scientists, and writers, they also their share of Prohibition era gangsters. Casper Holstein is the most famous despite his Germanic name. Yet he had a Scandinavian father.

Let’s just say that while the Harlem Renaissance had it’s share of African American musicians, academics, scientists, and writers, they also their share of Prohibition era gangsters. Casper Holstein is the most famous despite his Germanic name. Yet he had a Scandinavian father.

Known in Life as: Prominent New York gangster involved in the Harlem “numbers rackets” during the Harlem Renaissance. He, along with his rival Stephanie St. Clair, was responsible for bringing back illegal gambling to the neighborhood after an 8 year absence following the conviction of Peter H. Matthews in 1915. Was well known for his generosity with his wealth in Harlem.
Character or Inspiration? Main inspiration for Doctor Valentin Narcisse and to a lesser extent, Chalky White.
Similarities: Both hailed from the West Indies. Both were prominent crime figures in Harlem during Prohibition. Both were philanthropists and financed the Harlem Renaissance (Holstein donated money to build dormitories at black colleges, was patron to the area’s artists, writers, and poets.) Were very supportive of the UNIA-ACL and wanted to improve African American society.
Differences: Didn’t call himself a “doctor of divinity.” Was of mixed African and Danish descent. Regularly contributed to the NCAAP’s Crisis. His operation actually focused more on “number rackets” and illegal gambling than anything (though he owned a few nightclubs and other legitimate businesses). Was in the US Navy during WWI as well as had several jobs like a Manhattan porter and doorman as well as head messenger to a Wall Street brokerage firm. Was kidnapped by a few whites in 1928 for a $50,000 but was released days later with the ransom never paid. Was never involved in drugs as far as I know.
Ultimate Fate: After serving a stint in prison following his 1937 arrest for illegal gambling (after leaving the numbers game in 1932), he “retired” from gambling but continued his philanthropic activities in Harlem and got in the real estate business. He died in 1944 at 67. 2,000 people attended his funeral. Has a scholarship in at the University of the Virgin Islands and a housing development in St. Croix named after him.

9. Johnny Torrio (1882-1957)

Sure he may remind you of some distinguished gentleman you'd see at Barnes & Noble. However, this guy was a Chicago Outfit mob boss as well as Al Capone's immediate supervisor and mentor.

Sure he may remind you of some distinguished gentleman you’d see at Barnes & Noble. However, this guy was a Chicago Outfit mob boss as well as Al Capone’s immediate supervisor and mentor. He’d later quit the racket and would later become a mob consultant in New York.

Known in Life as: Italian American gangster who helped build the Chicago Outfit in the 1920s that would be inherited by his protégé Al Capone in 1925. Also put forth the idea of a National Crime Syndicate in the 1930s and later became an unofficial adviser for the Genovese crime family.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he was Al Capone’s mentor who helped bring him to Chicago and was second to Big Jim Colosimo (who was his uncle by marriage and invited him to deal with extortion demands from the Black Hand.) Might’ve set up Colosimo’s murder after he refused to invest in the alcohol business (though we aren’t so sure). Made no distinction between Irish and Italians in his gang. Was a rival of the Northside Gang headed by Dean O’Banion. Handed over the reins to Capone after an assassination attempt put him in the hospital and moved to Italy in 1925.
Differences: Was only 38 in 1920 while Greg Antonacci is certainly not. Also, resembled much more of a grandfatherly businessman in his later years. Not only that, but Torrio also may have set up Colosimo’s murder for a more personal reason which was divorcing his aunt so he could marry an actress and singer. Still, we’re not sure whether he did.
Ultimate Fate: Of course, he only lived in Italy for 3 years and moved back to the US due to the rise of Benito Mussolini. Engaged in a number of legitimate businesses including liquor distribution and bail bonds and acted as a crime consultant before his income tax arrest and conviction in 1939 which resulted in 2 years in prison. After his release, dabbled in real estate and spent a nice long retirement as a promise he made to his wife. Died in a Brooklyn barber shop of a heart attack in 1957 just before he was to get his hair cut. Left a wife and three kids.

10. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (1906-1947)

Oh, my is this bad boy a very handsome man? And in a checkered sports coat who knew? Still, it's a shame that this gangster would go to a bad end and with a left eye blown out of its socket. Jesus Christ!

Oh, my is this bad boy a very handsome man? And in a checkered sports coat who knew? Still, it’s a shame that this gangster would go to a bad end and with a left eye blown out of its socket. Jesus Christ!

Known in Life as: Jewish American gangster with the Luciano crime family and known to be one of the most infamous and feared gangsters of his day. Was one of the first front-page celebrity gangsters and a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas strip, a founder and leader of Murder, Incorporated, and Prohibition bootlegger. One of the most feared hitmen in history.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Was a teenager in the 1920s as well as a close associate with Meyer Lansky (they were BFFs for life). Lansky would hire him out as a hitman. Was bloodthirsty, aggressive, and audacious.
Differences: Was a boyhood friend to Al Capone and allowed him to hide out with his aunt. Would soon rise to prominence as a gangster. Had a record that included armed robbery, rape, and murder dating back to his teenage years.
Ultimate Fate: Would soon have to move to California and develop a syndicate with Mickey Cohen during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Befriended a lot of Hollywood stars and had an extravagant life. Went to Las Vegas to develop the Flamingo Hotel on the strip which was an initial failure but made a profit. Shot in the head by an M-1 carbine at his girlfriend Virginia Hill’s Beverly Hills home in 1947 at 41. May have received “the Moe Greene Special.” His murder remains unsolved. The Flamingo Hotel still stands though.

11. Edward L. Bader (1874-1927)

Not a great photograph of the Atlantic City mayor of the 1920s who died from peritonitis, but it'll have to do. Still, very different looking from the Ed Bader we see on the HBO show.

Not a great photograph of the Atlantic City mayor of the 1920s who died from peritonitis, but it’ll have to do. Still, very different looking from the Ed Bader we see on the HBO show.

Known in Life as: Mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey from 1920-1927.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Had a construction business prior to his election as mayor.
Differences: Was actually bald and son of Catholic German immigrants (since he was part of the Atlantic City Knights of Columbus). Played for the Latrobe Athletic Association in US professional football after attending the University of Pennsylvania. Was a champion for education. Spoke out against the KKK, was a patron of athletics, and set up a garbage collecting operation as well as helped rebuilt Atlantic City during a hurricane. Very active in his community, sponsored a lot of construction projects, organized the first Miss America pageant, as well as had a wife and four kids. Still, he was much more than a pawn to the political bosses and he and Nucky Johnson were good friends (the latter was at his deathbed).
Ultimate Fate: Died of peritonitis in 1927 at 52 (and the fact his appendix was on the left side of his torso).

12. Joe Masseria (1886-1931)

Man, he doesn't seem like a nice guy here. Still, seems to have a lighter skin complexion than Ivo Nandi on the show to my surprise. Of course, he'll be done in by Luciano some time after this picture is taken.

Man, he doesn’t seem like a nice guy here. Still, seems to have a lighter skin complexion than Ivo Nandi on the show to my surprise. Of course, he’ll be done in by Luciano some time after this picture is taken.

Known in Life as: Early Mafia boss in New York City and what is now called the Genovese crime family. Waged a bloody war to take over criminal activities in the city.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Was the big Italian crime boss in the 1920s who gangsters feared and respected. Survived numerous assassination attempts save the one ordered by Luciano.
Differences: Gave Luciano his start as a gunman before he left for Rothstein. May have played a role in the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. Was only top mob boss in New York for 3 years. Wasn’t the head of the Morello crime family until 1922.
Ultimate Fate: Assassinated at a Coney Island restaurant in 1931. He was 45. We’re sure it was on Luciano’s orders since he wanted to end the Castellammarese War and dissolve the old Costa Nostra structure.

13. Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle (1857-1934)

I know this is a picture of Kuehnle from 1916 but it'll have to do. Yet, he doesn't look in the way I expected him to. Wonder if he hunted animals enough to make them an endangered species.

I know this is a picture of Kuehnle from 1916 but it’ll have to do. Yet, he doesn’t look in the way I expected him to. Wonder if he hunted animals enough to make them an endangered species.

Known in Life as: American business entrepreneur and politician. Leader of the Republican organization that controlled Atlantic City during the early 1900s. Was pursued for election fraud by New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson in 1910 and was convicted on conflict of interest in 1913 where he served 6 months in prison.
Character or Inspiration? Inspiration for Louis Kaestner a. k. a. “the Commodore” (also has a personality more akin to an evil Teddy Roosevelt).
Similarities: Both founded a political machine and were succeeded by a guy named Nucky. Both were crooks who served jail time.
Differences: Didn’t really successfully challenge Nucky Johnson (at least not to have him put in prison, though Nucky did help him to get elected as City Commissioner which he served for the rest of his life). Owned the Kuehnle Hotel where he ran a gambling and prostitution racket. Probably didn’t rape a 13 year old girl and didn’t have a maid try to poison him. Was clean shaven and had no kids.
Ultimate Fate: Died of complications from appendicitis operation in 1934 at the age of 76.