THE EXTENSIVE NEWSPAPER RECORDS
Newspaper reports are primary source material for biographies about politicians, business leaders, and criminals, and for law enforcement investigations as well. The U.S. Attorney in Chicago who successfully directed the IRS investigative team that prosecuted Al Capone and his lieutenants for income-tax evasion, George E. Q. Johnson, testified to a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on April 2, 1932 about the importance of newspaper articles in building these cases. He explained, “I made up a card index. Newspaper men have amazingly accurate information. It was rather astonishing. It was not evidence, but it was very accurate information as to who the gangs were and the leaders [and their activities], so I had a newspaper man make a card index of all the gangs, taking it from newspaper stories.” This was his principal source material to identify and locate the criminal associations and financial holdings of Capone and his lieutenants.
In an era when many newspapers specialized in publishing organized-crime exposés, their articles were a useful law-enforcement source tool. For example, from the 1920s through the 1980s, about half the pages in the FBI files of members of organized crime were reproductions of newspaper articles. (I did not study the FBI files after the 1980s because they were no longer relevant to the Nevada casino industry.)
Nevada’s early gaming controllers depended heavily on press reports to determine if casino license applicant’s should be granted a license. During the 1940s through the 1960s, Nevada knowingly licensed illegal casino owners and executives from other states for two reasons. First, Nevada had no home grown operators, so the newcomers were the only experienced and knowledgeable casino managers available. Second, a high percentage of casino dealers and executives in that era were accomplished slight-of-hand cheats. Thus casino officials had to be very knowledgeable or their operations would have gotten ripped off. Legitimate businessmen who were licensed in this era had a high-rate of quick bankruptcies after opening because of employee theft. The goal of the early gaming controllers was not to keep experienced illegal casino operators out, but “to determine the good hoods from the bad hoods.” Nevada wanted licensees who had been involved only with the crimes of gambling and Prohibition, not those who had committed crimes of exploitation or violence. To accomplish this, they depended on interviews with crime reporters in the cities the applicants came from. The first Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman, Bob Cahill, told me,
“Newspapermen were a very important arm of my law enforcement program. There were the out-of-state newsmen. Every town has a reporter who specializes in hoods and syndicated crime. I got more information from newsmen than from official law enforcement agencies. They have access to information the police do not have through personal acquaintance with the criminal element.”
I studied the microfilms of six archived daily newspapers from five key cities. I read the relevant articles in a total of 123,200 newspapers from the following years.
• The New York Times – 1910 through 1959 (50 years)
• The Chicago Daily Tribune – 1910 through 1959 (50 years)
• The Los Angeles Times – 1920 through 1949 (30 years)
• The Reno Gazette-Journal (it was the Nevada State Journal until its merger with the Reno Evening Gazette) – 1931 through 2006 (76 years)
• The Las Vegas Review-Journal – 1931 (the year Nevada legalized casinos) through 2006 (76 years)
• The Las Vegas Sun – its first edition on July 1, 1950 to the final edition on September 30, 2005 (55 ¼ years)
The New York Times is an exceptional newspaper that had a liberal editorial page but employed both top liberal and conservative reporters to obtain balanced news coverage. Its articles gave in-depth analysis of most issues and included much historical information. The Times is a researcher’s dream because its articles often lead to other sources and related issues and individuals.
The Chicago Daily Tribune was staunchly conservative, but the publisher valued law and order and honest politicians more than its political agenda. Thus, this paper led the fight to topple Al Capone and exposed Republicans as readily as Democrats when it found them to be corrupt. It endorsed Democrats against the worst-offending Republican candidates and elected officials.
The Los Angeles Times during this era was a huge research disappointment. It carried sparse coverage of Prohibition and illegal gambling in Southern California, even though casinos operated openly in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. The Los Angeles Times’ articles did not list all the facts from police reports, and often did not list the address or even the city where illegal casinos were busted or having legal problems. Its reporters did almost no research, so unlike the other five newspapers, which frequently exposed the activities of major criminals in their communities, the Los Angeles Times produced almost no crime exposés during the 1920s through the 1940s. At least part of the reason can be found in the paper’s political agenda. It endorsed and supported the most corrupt politicians and DA’s during this period. It even editorialized in news stories on behalf of the crooked officials who protected the serious criminal element in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The Los Angeles Times contained some useful information, but unfortunately buried much more.
The three Nevada newspapers effectively covered the casino industry and its leaders in Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe. They also reported on the strength of the economies, market trends, and state politics, including actions and decisions by the state legislature and the city councils, courts, and state and gaming control authorities. Each newspaper had an aggressive investigative reporter who specialized in the gambling industry and politics. (There were four excellent ones until the merger of the Nevada State Journal with the Reno Evening Gazette, when it was reduced to three).
Activities that occurred primarily in Kansas City, Missouri are presented in the last four chapters of this book. The Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Times for the years 1923 through 1950 were critical for this history. Fortunately both newspapers had excellent investigative reporters who provided much of the raw material available for the city’s political and criminal history. The knowledgeable and exceptionally helpful staff at the Kansas City Public Library provided the
multitude of critical newspaper articles and many of the biographies produced in-house about the city’s political and criminal figures. In recent years federal and state government agencies have placed many of their historical records on the internet, and the endnotes list the numerous sources that were drawn from.
It is important to note that reporters sometimes write inaccurate information because some of their sources lie, and reporters sometimes present incomplete or distorted information because press deadlines occasionally require them to submit articles before fully completing their investigations. Thus, my research of many other types of documents was invaluable in confirming, correcting, and expanding upon these newspaper reports.
THIS HISTORICAL PRESENTATION’S UNIQUE FEATURES
A history is a chronology of events, but when multiple incidents occur at the same time, it can be difficult for the reader to clearly focus on any specific topic. Thus each chapter section in this historical presentation follows a single gang or individual and takes each issue one at a time to its conclusion. This makes each event or subject much easier to follow and view in its entirety.
To further make the storyline clearer and easier for the reader, only the names of key participants and dates are presented in the text. The names of people who appear briefly in a single incident are listed only in the endnotes to be available for historians without cluttering, complicating, or slowing reading of the text. These people’s roles are clearly identified in the text according to their relationship to the event. For example “an eyewitness” or “his girlfriend.”
Dates in the text are replaced with the length of time in days, weeks, or months between pairs of related events to make the time frame clear. The date of every major event is presented in the source notes, and the key dates for related events are listed in chronological order to create clear historical timelines.
The information contained in this text was found in a variety of sources, which are identified in the extensive endnotes to assist historians interested in further study or to confirm the accuracy of their use in this text. For every quote, the name of the person who said it and the source where it was found are identified either in the text or in these notes. Quotes taken from gambling-industry pioneers who contributed to my research are listed as “my interview.”
Facts contained in most consecutive sentences in the text are from different sources, so a complete documentation would require a book much longer than this one. The simple but effective solution when dealing with newspaper reports was to not identify the specific sources when it was obtained from the following six daily newspapers from 1930 on – the New York Times, the Chicago Daily Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Las Vegas Sun, and Reno’s Nevada State Journal. Additional valuable sources for this book were two more daily newspapers from 1923 through 1950 – the Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Times.
In addition to these newspaper sources, many documents were used, and each is identified either in the text or the source notes. They include FBI internal reports, Congressional hearings, legislative and court records, books and magazines, federal and state government departmental records like the Missouri Secretary of State Archives & Records, and unpublished documents. In the text these are cited by type – for example, “in testimony before the U.S. Senate Kefauver Committee.”