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Mayhem in Detroit

Haley Chapleski
Mrs. Baker
Literature Analysis
9 April 2014

Chapleski 1
Haley Chapleski
Mrs. Baker
Literature Analysis
9 April 2014
Mayhem in Detroit
The 1920s the age of Jazz, social change, and organized crime. With the Prohibition
under way, towns and cities became crawling with speakeasies and under the table businesses.
In addition to those businesses, came gangsters and gangs. In the city of Detroit one gangs name
became very well known The Purple Gang. They ran the city of Detroit and the bootlegging
business across the Detroit River, were known for violence, and became the law of the city of
In the 1920s the Purple Gang controlled the city of Detroit and the bootlegging business
across the Detroit River. With the Detroit River less than a mile across in some places, and 28
miles long with thousands of covers and hiding places along the shores and among the island, it
was a smugglers dream (Gribben 2). The Detroit River, along with Lake St. Clair and the St.
Clair Rivercarried 75 percent of the liquor supplied to the US during the Prohibition (Gribben
2). The Purple Gang controlled much of the distribution of this liquor and if people wanted some
of it they would have to deal with them. During the 20sthe Purples ruled the Detroit
underworld. Anyone doing business in the Motor City paid tribute to the gang or ceased to
operate (Kavieff 2). It was an era of ingenuity, crime, and gangster rules, (Mobsters 1), and
in the city of Detroit the Purple Gang was in control.
The Purple Gang became notorious for their cruel violent acts and struck fear in many
people. In the 1920s there were several gangs in all parts of the US, including Detroit, but the

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Purple Gang came out on top, they became so well known for their violence that even the
infamous Al Capone knew not to cross them. Capone thought it more prudent to make the
Purples is liquor agents rather than go to war with the gang (Mobsters 2). Even when the gang
was young they were known for their cruel acts. That is, in fact, how they got their name The
Purple Gang. It came from a conversation between two shopkeepers whose shops had been
terrorized by the gang. One of the shopkeepers exclaimed, These boys are not like other
children of their age, theyre tainted, off colour. and the other replied, Yes. Theyre
rotten, purple-like the colour of bad meat, theyre a purple gang (Mayhem). They used fear
and violence to keep control of Detroit and to keep other gangs off of their territory. Anyone
landing liquor along the Detroit waterfront had to be armed and prepared to fight to the death, as
it was common practice for the Purples to steal a load of liquor and shoot whoever was with it
(Murder). In the 1920s everyone knew not to mess with the Purple Gang.
In the 1920s the Purple Gang became the law of the city of Detroit. Just like organized
crime ran the 20s, the Purple Gang ran the city of Detroit. The 1920s was an era filled with
organized crime. For several years the Purples enjoyed almost complete immunity from police
interference. Witnesses to crimes were terrified to testify against any criminal identified as a
Purple Gangster (Mobsters 3). Just as the Purple Gang ran Detroit, gangsters such as Al Capone
ran cities in other parts of the US, like Chicago and New York. Authorities were not only
helpless to stop [the gangs, but] many were a part of the problem (Gribben 2). During this time
in the United States several major cities were under the control of local gangs and gangsters. The
Prohibition created an era of gang influence over major cities.
In the 1920s the Purple Gang ran the city of Detroit and the bootlegging business across
the Detroit River, became known for violence and struck fear in many people, and became the

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law of the city of Detroit. One of the great ironies of [the] Prohibition is that instead of
creating a perfect society by banning the consumption of liquor, the era produced one of the most
violent, crime ridden periods in American history (Murder). It was a time when gangsters
flourished through organized crime and their underground businesses. The Purple Gang remained
in power in Detroit until 1935, when the gang was destroyed by long prison sentences and intergang disputes. (Mobsters 4). They represented the influence organized crime had over many
cities in the 1920s and reigned superior in an era filled with crime and gangster rules.