Chicago Gang History

Loop

NameLoop
LocationChicago River on the north, Roosevelt Road on the south, Lake Michigan on the east, Chicago River on the west
Settled1803
FounderUnited States Army
Year annexed1837

 

After Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable became the first non-Native American settler to settle what would be Chicago in the 18th century, the area was now on the map for the United States government. 

In the year 1803 the United States Army came to this land near Lake Michigan and built a military fort directly south of the current Michigan Avenue Bridge (at Michigan Ave and Lower and Upper Wacker Drives) which puts the original site of the fort just within the boundaries of the Loop neighborhood.  The name of the fort was “Fort Dearborn” and it became a society of its own.  The fort did not last long; by 1812 it was attacked by Pottawatomie Native Americans on August the 15th of that year.  The United States was at war once again with Great Britain and the British loved to recruit Native Americans to attack U.S. troops and burn down military posts and that is exactly what happened to the first Fort Dearborn during the War of 1812. 

The war ended in 1815 and it was not until 1816 that the Army rebuilt Fort Dearborn.  The purpose of the Fort was to defend trade routes up Lake Michigan with Canada from Native Americans, eventually the trade route became so complex and flourishing that a decision was made to convert the fort into a town in 1833

By 1833 the United States had just about won the war on Native Americans and there was not as much of a need for military ran societies like Fort Dearborn.  There were already a few hundred civilians living in the fort so now the area became a town, a town called “Chicago.” 

By the year 1837 the town of Chicago had exploded in size to over 4,000 inhabitants, this brought the need for this town to become a city, the City Of Chicago.  Many immigrants poured into the city in search of a better life and the Loop was the first Chicago neighborhood and the first area to offer jobs and industry.  White collar jobs became affluent as early as the 1840s bringing about several upper classes that built mansions and lived in expensive quarters. 

Not the entire Loop was wealthy; there was a population of lower class and working class Irish and African Americans that lived on these streets.  Within the lower classes there emerged a criminal element as early as the 1840s.  The big business was gambling, smuggling and prostitution. 

By the 1850s gambling and prostitution became much larger of a problem; however, it was also viewed as a necessary evil.  In 1857, the prostitution ring known as “The Sands” was removed from the Streeterville section of the Near North Side neighborhood and now it was pushed down across the river into the Loop neighborhood. 

In the 1860s Irish organized crime was formed in Chicago thanks to the arrival of Michael Cassius Mcdonald who became the city’s first crime boss.  Mcdonald worked hand in hand with crooked politicians to help keep vice and gambling operations moving smoothly.  Most of the vice business was right in the Loop or in the “Little Hell” area of the Near North Side.  The roughest sections of the Loop were “Whiskey Row,” “Gamblers Row” and the “Vice District.”  Whiskey Row and the Vice District were located all along State Street just south of Van Buren Street.  This area was dangerous full of cheap saloons and brothels.  Underground and dangerous criminal elements hung out in the cheap saloons on Whiskey Row and very often several crimes would happen here.  The brothels in the Vice District further south were filled with dangerous elements and pimps that were quick to take you out if you threatened their business.  Gamblers Row was a small section right nearby the Vice District and Whiskey Row that was bounded by Harrison Street on the north, Polk Street on the south, State Street on the east and Dearborn Street on the west, this area is now known as “Printer’s Row” today. 

Gamblers Row is where the first African American organized crime gangster John “Mushmouth” Johnson had his beginnings working in the shady gambling dens in Gamblers row in the 1880s until he was able to open his very own saloon/Gambling den on State Street in Whiskey Row in 1890.  Mushmouth along with Big Jim Colosimo jointly operated another gambling hall in the Loop in 1906 until Mushmouth’s death in 1907. 

The Loop was also the home and working place of Chicago’s top corrupt politicians; therefore, they had a direct interaction and a foothold in the illegal businesses in the Loop.  The criminal element in the Loop would go on until the area became too expensive for illegal groups to operate; also lower classes were forced out by the 1950s to make way for more high profile elite Chicago businesses.  The Loop today is not an area for gangs or other criminal groups and has not been since the early 1950s.  This is mainly the business district of the city and home to upper classes only; however, this area was a gangster area in the early days.

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