Alphonse Lambert

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Alphonse Lambert (1875-1939) was arguable the most famous gangster in NAL history, rising to near-total control of the criminal underworld of Chicago by the year 1930. He is perhaps most famous for his nickname, "Scarface," and for being the (presumed) mastermind behind the St. Patrick's Day Massacre.

Early Life

Alphonse was one of seven children in the Lambert household, only two of which lived to adulthood--Alphonse and his younger brother Henri (1879-1934). Their parents were working class. Claude Lambert, their father, was a barber in Toronto, Ontario while their mother Janette was a part-time seamstress. Both boys were indifferent students but physically very able and hard-working. Each began work in the shipyards of the Great Lakes still in their teens.

More importantly, Alphonse became involved in some Francophone gangs, which were the nascent form of the Pègre. He was a very strong, ruthless fighter unafraid of pushing to get what he wanted. Alphonse was also cleverer than most gang members, which got him noticed by Toronto's gang bosses. With time, he advanced in the gangs as a smuggler (due to his knowledge of ships, sailors and shipping) but also as an enforcer, where his penchant for making brutal and gory examples of people was an asset. He reportedly boasted to having killed no less than ten people by the time he was twenty five. Other boasts included raping all three daughters of a man who owed his boss money. Yet he showed a curious respect for the Church. He claimed to have never been so much as rude to a priest or nun, and later in life it is a matter of record that he honored the idea of "sanctuary" should one of his would-be victims make it inside a Church or Cathedral.

By the same token, however, he had a life-long loathing of Mormons and when targeting them would indulge his sadistic tendencies to the full.

In 1910, Alphonse was sent to Chicago in an attempt by make contacts with Pègre gangs there. Although he told various stories later in life, it is from this time that the appearance of his famous scar was noted. It ran from his forehead halfway down his left cheek, forcing one eyelid to droop. He liked to say it was from a knife fight over a girl, but the rumor ran that a rival gang of Lithuanians had kidnapped and tortured him as a warning to the local Pègre. Since open warfare between the French and Lithuanian gangs broke out in 1912, continuing off and on until 1919, most biographers consider this the more likely origin.

Rise to Power

During the gang warfare of the next seven years, Alphonse Lambert rose steadily in the ranks of the Pègre. Initially, he led quick vicious raids against Lithuanian and other rival gangs. But he was also proving himself a shrewd criminal organizer who knew how to run illegal gambling dens, brothels and smuggling operations. This combination meant rapid advancement.

But it was Prohibition that really brought Alphonse to power. The Pègre grew by leaps and bounds, overwhelming other gangs and pulling in far more profits than it ever had before. Even a relatively young and minor (albeit promising) crime lieutenant like Alphonse could soon start living a lavish lifestyle. Many did, but most agree Alphonse Lambert succeeded better than the vast majority. He had a personal barber, exquisitely tailored suits, an automobile and even began to collect religious art.

With the swelling profits from Prohibition, the Pègre upper ranks began to suffer from leadership of men who knew how to operate street gangs but not international businesses. This proved an opportunity which resulted in the murders of several key figures between 1920 and 1925.

At first, no one realized that Alphonse was behind several of these killings, as leader of a new generation of Pègre lieutenants who were staging what amounted to a coup. By the time this became general knowledge, there was little stopping him. By 1925 he was one of the most powerful men in the city.

This same period saw him marry a singer named Bette Danglars, and start to make a name for himself through philanthropic works. He was lavish in this as with most things, at one point taking an entire orphanage to lunch at a five star restaurant. He even paid for the renovation of a convent. The publicity for all this was something in which he basked, but it also made him an increasingly controversial figure.

TO BE CONTINUED

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