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Tennes (4)

The complete life history of one man, were it known in every detail, would disclose practically all there is to know about syndicated gambling as a phase of organized crime in Chicago in the last quarter century. That man is Mont Tennes. (Illinois Association for Criminal Justice, Illinois Crime Survey, Chicago: Blakley Printing Company, 1929, pg. 867.)

Jacob “Mont” Tennes was born in 1873 to German immigrant parents, and by all accounts, he started gambling young. He eventually controlled nearly all gambling on the north side of Chicago, counting in his empire both bookmaking operations and gambling saloons. Mont’s official business endeavors included real estate, a cash register company, and the General News Bureau, an operation that largely monopolized the telegraph and telephone transmission of news from race tracks, not just to Chicago, but to a number of major United States cities. As any student of organized crime would expect, Tennes engaged in both bribery of the local law enforcement and battles to attempt to drive other gambling bosses out of business and expand his own territory. During what was called the “gamblers’ war” beginning in 1907, Tennes was assaulted and beaten and his home and businesses were bombed. Tennes faced a legal inquiry into his business dealings from Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, but hired Clarence Darrow for his defense. The ultimate ruling was that his activities did not fall into federal jurisdiction. Tennes retired sometime in the 1920s.

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