The Mob Built This City

Las Vegas - Flamingo Road

By Judy Berman

Did the mob once run Las Vegas? Some dispute that, but few would quibble about the explosive growth in Sin City as a result of the Mob’s presence.

This reputation is one that The Mob Museum in Las Vegas capitalizes on. The $42 million museum opened two years ago on Feb. 14, 2012.

That date is probably no coincidence. One of the artifacts on display on the third floor is the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.

A Chicago Tribune newspaper clipping reported that gunman dressed as policemen lined seven men of George “Bugs” Moran’s gang up against the whitewashed wall and gunned them down.

“It was the most infamous of all gangland slayings in America, and it savagely achieved its purpose – the elimination of the last challenge to Al Capone for the mantle of crime boss in Chicago.”

Mob Museum - Las Vegas - Wall of Mobsters

The way the museum tells it: “This is truly the underworld uncovered.” It’s billed as “An authentic exploration of the endless tug-of-war between organized crime and law enforcement.”

Last July, my husband and I spent more than two hours in the museum and, truthfully, we could have spent much more time there if we didn’t have a pressing engagement. (No. Forget the scene in Goldfinger when James Bond referred to a dead mobster who was entombed in a crushed car.)

On the second floor of the museum is the courtroom. This is the same federal courthouse where the 1950-51 Kefauver Committee hearings were held to expose organized crime. Here, you can see film clips of those hearings.

Las Vegas - Mob Museum - July 2013 055

Longtime locals are fond of saying that Vegas was better when the Mob ran the casinos. They felt there was less crime and the mob took care of – policed – their own.

The tour quickly dispels that notion by showing some of the innocent bystanders who were rubbed out by those “connected” to the Mob – along with a few of the bad guys, of course. The focus is not just on the Mob that infiltrated Vegas nightlife, but on major cities throughout the U.S.

Some of the exhibits aren’t for the faint-hearted. There are gory ones that show what happens when you run into the wrong end of a gun. For example, you can see the barber chair that mobster Albert Anastasia was murdered in on Oct. 25, 1957, in Manhattan, New York.

You can listen in on authentic Mafia Omerta induction ceremony or to actual FBI surveillance tapes on wiretapping equipment.

For a more glamorized look of the mob, sit a spell in the theater room and watch clips from gangster movies.

Parting words from philosopher/mobster Al Capone, “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” This quote is just one of the souvenirs I picked up from the gift shop at the Mob Museum.

Hey! They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. But I took an oath not to reveal it.

Not to be a Wiseguy, but you can get the total scoop on the cost of admission, hours and attractions at The Mob Museum’s web site:

Movie Trailer: Casino with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: 60 Years: KLAS-TV Documents Mob’s Rise, Fall in Las Vegas

Main Photo: Las Vegas – Flamingo Road – Taken April 24, 2012, by curimedia

Photo: Mob – The Skim at the Flamingo – my photo collection

Photo: The Mob Museum – Las Vegas – Wall of Mobsters – Taken Feb. 14, 2012 by Kremerbi

  1. Shucks! I missed it when I was in Vegas a few years ago. Although I enjoyed my visit there it’s not a place high on my list for a return visit. I do like to read about the history of the mob though. I always get amazed at the crime and control they had.

    1. The Mob Museum shows organized crime’s influence in several cities across the U.S. It was pervasive. Where lucrative amounts of money was involved, it also was deadly.

      We go to Vegas every year to visit family (now, only my brother lives there). There’s much to see if you get off The Strip. 😉

  2. The Capone quote about the kind word and gun is one of my favorites, Judy!
    This post is a fun, amazing history lesson. What a wonderful job you did. I’d ask you questions, but I understand the importance of keeping your lip buttoned. Hey, I’ve seen all of the GODFATHER movies!

  3. What a strange love-hate relationship our culture has with gangsters. For the most part, they’re despicable people doing horrible things, but because they’re portrayed in movies by some of our favorite actors, we find ourselves rooting for them. My father watched the film, The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, every time it was on, and always insisted I watch it with him. And each time I saw it, the execution scene scared the life out of me.

    Another great post, Judy. I had never heard about this museum.

    1. Charles, I think my brother tipped me to this museum. There were a variety of things to hold your interest there. I certainly agree about our odd fascination with gangsters. While I’ve enjoyed many movies and TV shows (“The Untouchables”) about organized crime, I wouldn’t want to be in their cross hairs. You live by the sword, you die by the sword – and many of them did.

      1. Oh yes, I think it totally works in terms of setting the scene 🙂 Just don’t want it in my living room 🙂

        note from earthrider to Photography Journal:
        I do have a red couch in the living room, but it also has a splash of buttercup yellow, a soft green and off white. But red walls in the living room? Heaven forbid. 😉

        The one time I thought red worked was in a lawyer’s office. Three of the walls appeared to be charcoal black. The fourth wall was a real pop of red. Stunning.

    1. Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. I’d sworn off accepting any more awards. Then I was taken in by the charming dragon Mark bestowed upon me. Thank you, Mark. I will follow thru in my own fashion. 😆

    1. We go every year, Lisa, to see my family (now, it’s just my brother living there). I wanted to do some different things and The Mob Museum fit the bill. It was very informative, entertaining and eye-opening. Yes, even after all my years watching The Untouchables on TV and in the movies. 😉

  4. A thrilling look at the past and as well as a scary thought of what may still be going on in the present. Most people only sees Vegas as a place of fun. What happens when the lights are out, most don’t see. This is a perfect place to learn not to mess with the wrong crowd. Great post.

    1. On the plus side, the lights NEVER go out in Las Vegas. 😉 Thank you for your comments, Island Traveler.

      Those who decide to con or rip off the wrong crowd do so at their own peril.

  5. “A kind word and a gun…”– no wonder Al sold more ribbon candy than any other kid in his Cub Scout troop! Was there a section on Utica, NY in the Mob Museum? A coupla guys named Schultz and Dooley ran the rackets there, I believe… great post, Judy, and I hope ya bought a pork pie hat at the gift shop!! : )

    1. No, no section on Utica. They should have had one on Syracuse, too. There’s no justice. Schultz and Dooley – I have a couple of those mugs! The only souveniers I bought at The Mob Museum were refrigerator magnets. (I have so many of them that you can no longer see the fridge.) Glad you liked this post, Mark. 😉

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