James Colosimo

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Giacomo Colosimo
James "Big Jim" Colosimo.jpg
Born (1878-02-16)February 16, 1878
Colosimi, Calabria, Italy
Died May 11, 1920(1920-05-11) (aged 42)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Cause of death
Multiple gunshot wounds
Resting place
Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago
Nationality Italian, American
Other names "Big Jim", "Diamond Jim"
Occupation Businessman, Crime boss, Mafioso, Mobster, Racketeer
Known for Boss of the Chicago Outfit
Religion Roman Catholicism[citation needed]

James "Big Jim" Colosimo (born Giacomo Colosimo) (February 16, 1878 – May 11, 1920), also known as "Diamond Jim" was an Italian-American Mafia crime boss who built a criminal empire in Chicago based on prostitution, gambling, and racketeering. Immigrating from Italy in 1895, he gained power through petty crime and the heading of a chain of brothels. From about 1902 until his death in 1920, he would lead a gang that would be known after his death as the Chicago Outfit. Johnny Torrio, an enforcer Colosimo imported in 1909 from New York, seized control after his death. Al Capone, a Torrio henchman, allegedly was directly involved in the murder.[1]

Early years[edit]

Born Giacomo Colosimo to Luigi Colosimo and his second wife Giuseppina Mascaro in the town of Colosimi, Province of Cosenza, Italy, he emigrated to Chicago in 1895. Beginning as a petty criminal, Colosimo was noticed by First Ward aldermen Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna and John Coughlin. He worked for them first as a precinct captain and later as their bagman. This provided Colosimo with the political connections that aided him in his rise to power as a mob boss.[2]

Prostitution empire[edit]

Later on, Colosimo acquired another nickname, "Diamond Jim." This name was given to him because he frequently dressed in a white suit and wore diamond pins, rings, and other jewelry. This jewelry, combined with his charm and money, helped him establish relationships with women. He had a strong interest in women and money, which fueled his enthusiasm for prostitution. In 1902, Colosimo married Victoria Moresco, an established Chicago madame, and the two opened a second brothel. Within a few years, Colosimo expanded his business to nearly 200 brothels and had made inroads into gambling and racketeering.[2]

Help from New York[edit]

By 1909, Black Hand extortion was a serious threat to Colosimo in Chicago. He recruited gangster John "The Fox" Torrio from Brooklyn and made the Fox his second in command. The following year, Colosimo opened Colosimo's Cafe, a restaurant and nightclub at 2126 South Wabash. It became a popular destination for prominent Chicagoans, other celebrities and visitors to Chicago. In 1919, Torrio and Colosimo opened a brothel at 2222 South Wabash called Four Deuces (a reference to the address). Torrio brought his old Brooklyn lieutenant, Al Capone, to work there as a bartender and bouncer, providing Capone his introduction to Chicago.[2]


Frankie Yale
Al Capone mugshot

When prohibition went into effect in 1920, Torrio pushed for the gang to enter into bootlegging, but Colosimo refused. In May 1920, Colosimo went out of town to marry his second wife, Dale Winter, after he had deserted his first wife. When Colosimo returned to Chicago a week later, Torrio called him and let him know about a shipment arriving at his cafe. When Colosimo appeared at the cafe to wait for its delivery, he was shot and killed.[3] The initial murder suspect was his new wife Dale, but no one was ever arrested for the murder. It was widely believed that Torrio ordered Colosimo's killing so that the gang could enter the lucrative bootlegging business. Torrio reportedly brought in New York colleague, Frankie Yale, to murder Colosimo. Al Capone has also been suspected as Colosimo's assassin.[2]

Colosimo was the first to organize disparate parts of Chicago's crime scene. After his death, his gang was controlled first by John Torrio and then by Al Capone. It became the infamous Chicago Outfit.[2]

In popular media[edit]

  • In the 1932 gangster movie Scarface: The Shame of a Nation, the death of "Big Louie" Costillo is loosely based on his assassination; Big Louie is killed by the main characters Johnny Lovo and Antonio Camonte; the first of which is based on Johnny Torrio and the latter based on Al Capone, with their murder of Costillo based on their plan for bootlegging. Colosimo was allegedly assassinated by his own men so that Torrio could start a bootlegging career.
  • In 2010, Colosimo's murder was depicted in the series premiere of HBO's Boardwalk Empire. The show depicts Colosimo, played by Frank Crudele as the victim of a hit ordered by Torrio and committed by Frankie Yale so that Torrio's gang could enter into the bootlegging business.


Further reading[edit]

  • Bilek, Arthur J. The First Vice Lord: Big Jim Colosimo and the Ladies of the Levee. Nashville: Cumberland House, 2008.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
New title
Chicago Outfit Boss
Succeeded by
John Torrio