19 March 2018
Organized Crime in 1920’s
Throughout the 1920’s people’s actions began to change and it wasn’t for the better. “The tremendous growth in crime aroused during the prohibition era” (“Organized Crime”). “In January of 1920 the American government banned the sale and supply of alcohol, the government thought that this would curb crime and violence, prohibition did not achieve its goals, leading more toward higher crime rates and excessive violence”(Nash). “The mid 1920s saw the birth of organized crime” (Gingold). “Organized crime is a complex of highly centralized enterprises set up for the purpose of engaging in illegal activities. Organizations engage in offenses such as cargo theft, fraud, robbery, kidnapping for ransom, and the demanding of “protection” payments. The principal source of income for these criminal syndicates is the supply of goods and services that are illegal but for which there is continued public demand, such as drugs, prostitution, loan-sharking, and gambling”(“Organized Crime”).
The people that are doing that crime are often involved in gangs, mafias, or mobs. These organizations were very intellectual when it came to casting crime. They would have plans drawn out for what to do and where to do it at certain times so they wouldn’t get caught. “Often times gangs usually avoided attacking ordinary citizens and law enforcement officers were strictly off-limits. In fact, bootleggers usually had little trouble with police officers because thousands of big-city officers were on the take from local mobs paid off to look the other way when shipments of bootleg alcohol were on the move. Sometimes crooked cops even rode along on the trucks to make sure they reached their destinations” (Gingold). That’s how most organizations avoided being caught.
Organized crime had many effects on American society: job loss, tax loss, hypocrisy, disrespect for law and religion, increase of drinking, increase of drugs, and glorification of gangsters. “When breweries and saloons started shutting down this also led to truck drivers, barrel makers, glass workers, hospitality workers and many others losing their job”(Hanson). “At the same time, organized crime groups have played important roles in assisting labor unions to resist employers and in putting together the multiethnic labor force. In these roles, gangsters acted as “padrones,” as labor disciplinarians, and as gatekeepers for industrialists concerned with keeping prices stable, controlling labor costs, and limiting the number of competitive firms in the industrial arena” (Kelly). Breaking the law was coming more and more popular. The act of committing a crime was now becoming a fun thing to do. This increase of drinking caused an increase in death rates. When the news started following criminals, the public started admiring the work these people have done causing crime rates to steadily increase because the young wanted to be like the people on the news.
In The Great Gatsby there are a few cases of organized crime. In chapter four Wholfshiem and Gatsby have a sketchy conversation about business and this foreshadows that Gatsby is a part of an illegal activities. Later on in chapter 7 Tom says, “I found out what your ‘drug stores’ were.” He turned to us and spoke rapidly. “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drugstores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts.” (Fitzgerald 133). At this point it can be inferred that Gatsby and Wolfsheim were involved in the production and sale of alcohol and gambling. Due to Gatsby having a very close relationship with Wolfsheim, Gatsby’s friends are very doubtful on how he acquired his new found wealth.
Another case that Gatsby was accused of being involved in illegal activity was when he was trying to impress Daisy. He was desperate for money and would do anything to convince Daisy to love him. What Gatsby doesn’t realize that Daisy comes from old money so Gatsby changes his life to fit her standards. Gatsby starts to sell booze to he can make money and become wealthy to impress Daisy. Gatsby doesn’t take into perspective there is a difference between old money and new money. Old money is wealth being passed down from generation to generation. Which is the social class that Daisy is under. Gatsby is a part of the new money class who are usually involved in organized crime. They are considered being a part of organized crime since them earn so much money is such a short period of time. Even though Daisy understands the difference in social class Gatsby still tries to impress her. The first thing Gatsby does is by a house neat Daisy. “Gatsby bought this house so that Daisy would be just across the bay” (Fitzgerald 78). Then he planned a reunion to meet Daisy. Gatsby arranged a time and place so they could catch up on each other’s lives. As soon as Daisy saw his mansion she was in awe. Once Daisy walked inside she started to admire all his decorations especially the silhouette. She also loved his gardens and the odor that his plants put off. Once Gatsby finished showing Daisy his mansion they sat down in the living room. Nick left the room so they could have alone time to catch up on each other’s lives. The whole time Gatsby is doing everything in his will to impress daisy. Gatsby brings out clothing to try to impress her. “They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the think folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before.”(Fitzgerald 118). When Daisy sees the shirts she can’t hold herself together because she is starting to fall in love with Gatsby. This shows that Gatsby doing illegal activities is helping him get the love of his life.
Prime examples of organized crime were illustrated at Gatsby’s parties. By throwing these parties he was able to show off his new wealth. Gatsby was involved with the illegal selling of alcohol. “Prohibition made alcohol illegal, but it did not eliminate it” (Thornton). Gatsby threw multiple parties a week and invited everybody. Nick stated, “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and he champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his motor-boats slid the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains” (Fitzgerald 39). With that being said his parties consisted of music, dancing, food, and most importantly bottomless alcohol. Everyone that drank any of Gatsby’s alcohol that he provided technically committed a crime.
Hanson, David J. “Effects of Prohibition Were a Disaster. Created Rather than Solved Problems.” Alcohol Problems ; Solutions, 26 Mar. 2017
Gingold, Craig. “The Bootleg Wars. (Cover Story).” Cobblestone, vol. 14, no. 8, Oct. 1993, p. 28. EBSCOhost
Fitzgerald, F.Scott. The Great Gatsby. Penguin Books, 1950.
Kelly, Robert J. “Organized Crime.” The Oxford Companion to American Law.: Oxford University Press, 2002. Oxford Reference. 2004. Date Accessed 7 Mar. 2018
Nash, Tim. “Organized Crime in the 1920s and Prohibition.” Organized Crime in the 1920s and Prohibition | 20th Century Crime,
“Organized crime.” Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 6 Feb. 2018.
Thornton, Mark. “Prohibition Caused the Greatness of Gatsby | Mark Thornton.” Mises Institute, Mises Institute Donors , 14 May 2013,