Nationwide Prohibition did not begin in the United States until January 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The 18th amendment was ratified in 1919, and was repealed in December 1933 with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment.
At the onset of Prohibition, the Bielfeldt Brewing Company was sold to Head Brewer, Carl Ebner, Sr. According to the 1920 census, Ebner ran a “soda-pop” bottling plant that proved to be a front for a massive illegal bootlegging operation. Soon, federal agents raided the brewery with axes, smashed the vats, and thousands of gallons of beer were poured into Thorn Creek.
Ebner was ruined and the brewery quickly fell into the control of the Chicago crime syndicate. First to take control was Al Capone who re-established the brewery to supply the countless speakeasies he controlled throughout Chicagoland. Capone had a subordinate henchman named Joe Saltis manage his operation.
Naturally, the Thronton brewery had everything necessary to bootleg large volumes of beer and spirits. What’s more, the brewery was located off-the-grid, just a few miles outside the city of Chicago. Chicago politicians and public officials had much deeper pockets so operating in Thornton was much more affordable.
The Syndicate was able to operate with near impunity in Thornton. The Thornton Brewery/bootlegging operation continued to grow and was soon the largest bootlegging operation in Chicagoland, generating ungodly amounts of wealth for the gangsters.
It was only a matter of time before Chicagoland’s bootlegging gangsters engaged in territorial disputes and the violence of gangland wars began. Capone established a vast network of beer and booze suppliers for speakeasies throughout Chicagoland. Eventually, Capone and Saltis were named on the first “Public Enemies List” released by the Chicago Crime Commission in 1930. They were Numbers One and Nine, respectively.
As more of Joe’s associates were murdered or were forced to flee, his syndicate collapsed, and he fled to Wisconsin. Without Capone’s funds to subsidize his lavish lifestyle, Joe lost it all. Al Capone was later sent to prison for tax evasion. But the effects of crime syndicate interference would be felt for decades to come.