- Public enemy
Public enemy is a term which was first widely used in the
United Statesin the 1930s to describe individuals whose activities were seen as criminal and extremely damaging to society. However, the phrase (often spelled "publick enemy") has been used for hundreds of years to refer to pirates, outlaws, and rebels [http://www.google.com/books?q=publick+enemy>] .
The term was first popularized in April 1930 by
Frank Jommission, in an attempt to publicly denounce Al Caponeand other Chicago gangsters.
It was later appropriated by
J. Edgar Hooverand the FBI who used it to describe various notorious fugitives that they were pursuing throughout the 1930s. Among the criminals whom the FBI called "Public Enemies" were John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde, Ma Barker, and Alvin Karpis.
The term was used so extensively during the 1930s that some writers call that period of the FBI's early history the "Public Enemy Era". [Owen, Richard. " [Gangsters and Outlaws of the 1930's: Landmarks of the Public Enemy Era] ".] [Burrough, Bryan. " [Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34] ".]
Original Chicago usage
Frank J. Loesch first devised the term "Public Enemy" in the title of a list he wrote of Chicago's most prominent and influential gangsters.
The Public Enemies list, as printed in the "
Chicago Tribune" on April 24, 1930, included the followingCharles Nicoletti and Salvatore Gianacana were not listed in the Chicago Crime Commission's April 24, 1930 list of Public Enemies. "The Complete Public Enemy Almanac" by William J. Helmer and Rick Mattix, page 283.:
# Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn
# Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik
George "Bugs" Moran
Edward "Spike" O'Donnell
Joe Saltis"Polack Joe"
All of those listed were reputed to be
gangsters or racketeers and most were bootleggers. Although all were known to be consistent law breakers (most prominently in regard to the widely broken "Prohibition" law banning alcohol) none of those named were fugitives or were actively wanted by the law. The list's purpose was clearly to both shame those named and spur the authorities to prosecute them.
In 1933, Loesch recounted the origin and purpose of the list: :"I had the operating director [of the Chicago Crime Commission] bring before me a list of the outstanding hoodlums, known murderers, murderers which you and I know but can’t prove, and there were about one-hundred of them, and out of this list I selected twenty-eight men. I put Al Capone at the head and his brother next, and ran down the twenty-eight, every man being really an
outlaw. I called them Public Enemies, and so designated them in my letter, sent to the Chief of Police, the Sheriff every law enforcing officer.
:"The purpose is to keep the publicity light shining on Chicago's most prominent, well known and notorious gangsters to the end that they may be under constant observation by the law enforcing authorities and law abiding citizens." [Bergreen, Laurence (1994). "Capone: The Man and the Era". New York: Simon and Schuster.]
Capone's ranking at the top of the list led to his gaining the
sobriquet"Public Enemy No.1", a title he would continue to be referred to by newspapers and the authorities until his conviction on tax-evasion charges in 1931.
The term "Public Enemy" was later further popularised when
Warner Bros.released the film " The Public Enemy" in 1931. Starring James Cagneyas a ruthless criminal. The film's use of the term was clearly inspired by Loesch's original list.
FBI use of the term
Later, after the term Public Enemy was popularised by Loesch and the 1931 movie,
J. Edgar Hooverand his then fledgling FBI began to use the term widely to describe prominent criminals whom they were pursuing.
However unlike Loesch's use of the term, the FBI's "Public Enemies" were wanted criminals and fugitives who were already charged with crimes.
As the FBI's website describes::" [The] FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice made use of the term, "public enemy," in the 1930s, an era in which the term was synonymous with "fugitive" or "notorious gangster." It was used in speeches, books, press releases, and internal memoranda. However, neither the FBI nor the Department had any type of publicity program which concentrated on a "public enemy" number 1, number 2, etc." [" [http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/tenfaq.htm#12 Frequently Asked Questions] ",
Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 05-23-2006.]
Among those widely referred to as "public enemies" during this period were
John Dillinger, Alvin Karpis, Baby Face Nelson, Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Kate "Ma" Barker, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
Enemy of the people
Enemy of the state
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives
* Bergreen, Laurence (1994). "Capone: The Man and the Era". New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-82447-7.Jehan Mirzaei(2006) "A Day in the life of Al Capone". California: Simon and Garfunkle
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