November 10, 1924
Today is the anniversary of the death of the mobster florist and devout Catholic Dean O’Banion.
Dean bootlegged beer during prohibition, and he led a group of mobsters in Chicago known as the North Side Gang. At one point, Dean was making almost a million dollars a year from selling his beer and liquor.
In 1921, after marrying Viola Kaniff, Dean bought a stake in William Schofield’s River North Flower Shop near West Chicago Avenue and North State Street. Conveniently for Dean, Schofield's Flower Shop was directly across from Holy Name Cathedral, where he attended daily mass. The business gave him a front for his criminal operations, and the rooms above the shop served as the headquarters for the North Side Gang.
At the same time, Dean had a lifelong love of flowers, and he was especially good at floral arranging. In a short while, Schofields became known as the flower shop that serviced all of the mob’s floral needs from weddings to funerals. It’s no surprise then that Dean’s murderers used the guise of a mob funeral to plan his death.
Dean had encroached on the south side territory of Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, and by so doing, Dean had signed his own death warrant. After meeting with Dean to scout the floral shop, three mobsters returned on this November day. They murdered Dean as he was working with Chrysanthemums. One of the men locked on Dean’s hand in greeting as they shook hands, and the other two men quickly shot him in the head and throat and then again in the back of the head. The assassination method became known as the “Chicago Handshake,” and Dean’s death lead to a five-year gang war.
Through the ages, chrysanthemums have been associated with death. In many European countries, including Belgium, Italy, France, and Austria, chrysanthemum floriography ("FLOOR-EE-ah-grah-FEE") is associated with death. In particular, White chrysanthemums are regarded as a funeral or graveside flower.