Mob Fest ’29

In this brilliantly subversive work, Bill Tonelli investigates the long-standing myth of the mob’s founding—a legendary week in May 1929 in which Al Capone is said to have assembled a Who’s Who of criminals in Atlantic City to plot and make peace. But what really happened that week? Tonelli sifts the facts from the malarkey.

  • Byliner Original
  1. Prologue

    In the spirit of e-publishing—where no trees need be sacrificed nor extra production costs incurred by even the gassiest of writers—let’s begin with a timely digression. (Don’t worry, it lasts just to the end of this paragraph.) For the sake of morality and democratic ideals, we have prohibited all the traditional rewards for holding political office: Graft and other forms of illicit enrichment—gone. Favoritism toward friends and vengeance for foes—gone. Discreet philandery (even at a time when experts say we should be getting more physical activity, not less)—gone. Really, all the fun stuff that made life bearable for those servants of the public will—gone, gone, gone. Now we hold office seekers to pitiless standards of behavior, speech, even thought that no normal human being can ever live up to. And then we wonder why our candidates are all embarrassments, fools, or psychos. Who else would want the job?

    This digression is occasioned by thoughts of a public official who knew how to serve the people and still squeeze in a little enjoyment now and then. I speak of Enoch Lewis Johnson, clerk of the New Jersey State Supreme Court, treasurer of Atlantic County, sheriff of Atlantic County, and secretary of the Atlantic County Republican Executive Committee, among other public sector jobs held a century or so ago. He remained in office for roughly three decades, and the list of his infractions is, by today’s standards, endless. He earned an estimated $500,000 a year, which was re...

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