1908 - The Bureau of Investigation was created by Theodore Roosevelt to investigate corrupt public land scheme in Idaho.
Justice and Interior Depts had no investigation agents; TR borrowed from Secret Service; when Congress voted opposition to "borrowing" agents, TR created a new "Bureau of Investigation" in the Justice Department.
1910 - the new BI was used to investigate "white slavery" and Stanley Finch urged new law - 1910 Mann Act - boxer Jack Johnson investigated by BI.
1918 - "slacker raids" against draft dodgers.
1919 - "red scare" against radicals and socialists.
1919 -A Mitchell Palmer hired J. Edgar Hoover to lead new "General Intelligence Division" in Red Scare investigation; Hoover compiled files on 450,000 suspected radicals and wrote the first government study of communism in 1919, the "Report on Radicalism." He became assistant director in 1921.
1924 - Teapot Dome scandal embarrassed the BI when Interior Secretary Albert Fall tried to use it to frame Senator Burton Wheeler of Montana until stopped by Sen. Tom Walsh.
1924 - new Attorney-General Harlan Stone appointed J. Edgar Hoover director of BI and ended the GID. The BI took over the old Bureau of Criminal Indentification that has been founded in 1905 and began a centralized fingerprint file. Hoover avoided politics, kept BI free of scandal; no investigation of organized crime.
Oct. 20, 1926 - At the Morrison Hotel peace conference, Chicago was partitioned by rival gangs of bootleggers; during the next 2 years, Al Capone and Johnny Torrio defeated the Genna brothers and Dion O'Banion and Hymie Weis to dominate the South Side; Bugsy Moran dominated the North Side.
1926 - Vice-President Charles Dawes sent to Congress a petition from the Chicago Better Government Association calling for a federal investigation of the growing problem of organized crime; the recent murder of young state attorney William McSwiggin had been bungled by state authorities; but the petition was rejected by Hiram Johnson's Committee on Immigration because the federal government had no jurisdiction in local law enforcement and did not seek any "unwarranted interference."
1927 - George E.Q. Johnston is appointed the new U.S. Attorney in Chicago; investigates gangs with help of Dwight Green from Bureau of Internal Revenue.
1928 - President Coolidge and Dawes created special tax intelligence unit Oct. 18, but Dawes left country to become ambassador to Britain 1929.
1929 - St. Valentine's Day Massacre at 10:30 am on Feb. 14; Al Capone's gang killed 7 of Moran's gang, firing 200 bullets in 8 minutes; the Chicago police were blamed because 2 Capone men were dressed in police uniforms; Capone fled to Florida, staying at his Palm Isle estate near the Belle Isle estate of J.C. Penney where J. Edgar Hoover visited (but myth that Hoover was disturbed by the sounds of loud Capone parties); E.Q. Johnston used federal grand jury and federal marshals to force Capone back to Chicago where he was arrested, tried, convicted, jailed for 1 year; however, Capone became a popular hero in Chicago, setting up soup kitchen to feed victims of the Depression, using the press to create an image of a modern Robin Hood, with 7 books written about him by 1931, including the classic by Fred Pasley, Al Capone: The Biography of a Self-Made Man.
1929 - Calvin Goddard in June started the first crime lab in the U.S., known as the "Laboratory Corporation" at Northwestern University until 1930, then the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory Feb. 1, 1930; funded by Samuel Insull and Julius Rosenwald, both members of the Secret Six.
1930 - Secret Six of the Chicago Crime Commission (founded 1919 because of the labor violence during WWI) decided to take action Feb. 5 against Capone - joint local-federal effort led by Alexander Jamie, chief agent of the Prohibition Bureau in Chicago (Elliot Ness was his bother-in-law and a minor figure in the crackdown, but later exaggerated in the book The Untouchables written by Oscar Fraley and Ness); helped by Elmer Irey and Frank Wilson of the Treasury Dept. and the infiltrator Pat O'Rourke; the Secret Six were Frank Loesch (leader of the Chicago Bar Association), Samuel Insull (owner of Commonwealth and Edison Power Co.), Julius Rosenwald (chairman of Sears), Robert I. Randolph (president of Association of Commerce), Edward Gore, George Paddock.
1930 - Henry Chamberlain created the first "Public Enemies" list Apr. 24 for the Chicago Crime Commission; Joe Aiello is Number 1, the Sicilian leader of the Moran gang; Al and Ralph Capone are #4 and 5 on the list of 28 Chicago gangsters; on March 13, 1931, Capone is finally indicted on tax fraud. In 1932, Hoover's Bureau of Investigation began to issue a bulletin called "Fugitives Wanted by Police."
1930 - 1st gangster film, Little Caesar with E.G. Robinson as Caesar Enrico Bandello in Chicago; by the end of 1931, over 50 gangster-genre films are produced, including Public Enemy with Jimmy Cagney in his first movie role as Tommy Powers, based on the real-life stories of Chicago gangsters Nails Morton and Dion O'Banion; the 1932 film Scarface with Paul Muni playing the role of Al Capone, was the bloodiest of all with 43 murders performed on-screen (but local censor boards would require some of the violence to be edited out); these films and the prison-genre films such as Big House and 20,000 Years at Sing Sing were criticized for glorifying the life of the criminal.
1931 - Chester Gould's comic strip Dick Tracy, about a plain-clothes avenger, glorified the crimefighter rather than the criminal
1931 - New York gang violence peaked between Dutch Schultz and Legs Diamond; Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll was arrested for killing children but he went free because the state bungled the case using a perjured witness and due to the skill of Coll's lawyer Samuel Leibowitz who became a symbol of the criminal's "mouthpiece"; Coll and Diamond were killed by Dutch Schultz in 1932.
1932 - The infant son of Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped March 1 but no arrests were made until 2 years later; President Hoover was criticized for lack of federal anti-crime effort.
1933 - FDR picked Homer Cummings as Attorney-General after first choice Tom Walsh died of heart attack March 2 on the railroad trip to the Inauguration.
May 22 - John Dillinger was released from prison after serving 9 years for robbing a grocery store in 1924; became part of "midwestern crime spree" in 1933 that captured national attention.
June 17 - "Kansas City Massacre" - prisoner Frank "Jelly" Nash who had escaped from Leavenworth was killed in gun battle along with 3 other criminals and 4 lawmen including federal agent Raymond Caffery; in July, George "Machine Gun" Kelly kidnapped Oklahoma City oilman Charles Urschel for $200,000 ransom.
July 1 - Homer Cummings created a "Division of Investigation" that was supposed to merge the Bureau of Investigation (renamed the United States Bureau of Investigation in 1932), the Prohibition Bureau, and the Bureau of Identification, but confusion led to changing the name to the current Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935; Director J. Edgar Hoover had 266 agents and 66 accountants.
August - Cummings transferred Alcatraz Island from the U.S. Army to the Justice Department to become a new federal prison; Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly (who coined the term "G-man" when he was arrested in Sept. 1933) were among the 1st inmates when the prison opened in 1934, but most of the 1545 prisoners were not as notorious during the prison's service period from 1934 to its closing in 1963 by Robert Kennedy.
1934 - Crime Control Laws passed by Congress and signed by FDR on May 18 that prohibit the sale of machine guns, define as federal crimes bank robbery and kidnapping and interstate flight and transportation of stolen goods; the FBI was allowed to carry weapons and make arrests.
1934 - Dillinger's crime spree continued afterhe escaped from Crown Point March 3; robbed a bank in Sioux Falls, SD, on March 6 by posing as a Hollywood producer shooting a gangster movie; escaped from FBI ambush and shootout at Little Bohemia WI April 22 leaving a guest and one agent dead; was shot and killed by FBI agents at Biograph Theater in Chicago July 22 after tip given to Melvin Purvis by brothel madam Anna Sage, the "woman in red"(actually an orange dress that appeared red in the theater lights); Hoover upset over the media's emphasis on Purvis rather than his bureau's work in tracing the fingerprint of one of Dillinger's girlfriends found on his stolen car.
1934 - Hoover helped Walter Winchell's radio campaign against American Nazi groups, especially William Pelley's Silver Shirts, and Winchell became one of Hoover's biggest promoters, and Winchell entertained Hoover and Clyde Tolson at the Stork Club in New York.
1935 - Hoover helped Warner Bros produce the favorable film G-Men with Jimmy Cagney as the heroic FBI agent, with favorable references to the arrest of Bruno Hauptman 1934 in the Lindbergh case (but it was Elmer Irey of the Treasury Dept that placed marked bills in the ransom, not the FBI) and to the Public Enemies list (but the list was started by the Chicago Crime Commission and not used by the FBI until the 1950's); Hoover also helped Courtney Cooper write Ten Thousand Public Enemies in 1935, a book based on earlier articles in American Magazine that created the myth of the FBI as a super crime-fighting organization that dealt only with super criminals
1939 - Frank Murphy replaced Homer Cummings
1940 - Robert Jackson replaced Murphy
1941 - Francis Biddle replaced Jackson
FBI historyAlcatraz National Park
Gentry, Curt. J. Edgar Hoover: the Man and the Secrets. New York: Norton, 1991.
Hoffman, Dennis. Scarface Al and the Crime Crusaders. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993.
Powers, Richard. G-Men, Hoover's FBI in American Popular Culture. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983.