Housing one of the oldest and most complete archives on organized crime throughout the past century, the Chicago Crime Commission has opened its vault to researchers and journalists in order to educate the public about lessons from the past, both successes and failures in law-enforcement initiatives and criminal activities. Our legal information center contains information about the organization of the court system, and applicable court procedures.
Every month, our research department sifts through our archives to find an article dated anytime within the past century to give the public a little more insight into Chicago's historic organized criminal events, Outfit figures and unsung heroes from the Prohibition Era through Operation Family Secrets.
For a more extensive insight into our archives, visit our storefront to purchase our recent publication, Friend and Foe. This book compiles glimpses of interesting moments of crime and crime history in a decade-by-decade pictorial featuring photographs, cartoons, newspaper articles, lithographs, fingerprints, and drawings.
To gain access to our archives, call (312)372-0101.
August 2016 - Samuel "Nails" Morton
The oldest of seven, Samuel “Nails” Morton was born in 1893 in New York. When he was young, his family moved to Chicago, IL. As a teen, he was admired by the residents of his community for keeping them “safe”. In actuality, Morton belonged to a Jewish street gang and his weapon of choice was a nail-studded baseball bat. In addition, the Chicago Police suspected him of at least two murders. When the law finally caught up with him, a judge gave him the choice of going to prison or enlisting in the army. Morton chose the army.
Morton was deployed to France where he was wounded twice. He earned a major decoration for his bravery. He entered the army as a private and returned home as a First Lieutenant.
Upon his return to Chicago, Morton continued to engage in criminal activities. He opened up a few gambling houses. At the time, Prohibition has taken hold, Morton partnered up with Dion O’Banion’s North Side Mob. O’Banion put him in charge of liquor distribution and enforcement. In 1921, Morton and Hirschie Miller were put on trial after an altercation that resulted in the death of two Chicago Police officers. Morton has done business before with the corrupt cops, however, the four men fought and Miller shot them both. Morton and Miller were both acquitted of the charges and there are rumors that the jurors had been bribed or threatened.
Morton became a gangland celebrity. He would frequent the city’s fanciest restaurants usually with a female companion or two keeping him company. Morton indulged in this lavish lifestyle by wearing custom-tailored suits and driving a block-long touring car. In his spare time, Morton could be seen horseback riding in Lincoln Park. By the age of 30, Morton was an accomplished horseman.
Despite his advanced experience with horseback riding, Morton was thrown off his horse after a stirrup broke, spooking the horse. As Morton fell to the ground, the frightened horse kicked him in the head, killing Morton instantly.
Morton received a funeral with full military honors. It was also noted that roughly 5,000 Jews paid their respects to Morton that day.