St. Valentine’s Day Massacre


Not all messages on Valentines Days are romantic. The St. Valentine’s 1929 massacre shocked Chicago residents as it exceeded all other levels of gang violence during the Prohibition in its scope, sinister staging, and deadliness. Presiding over the initial inquest as elected Coroner of Cook County was 1928 President of APHA Herman Bundesen. For us, Bundersen’s career in public health was remarkable. His professional yet forceful crusading temperment wherein as Health Commissioner he advanced public health causes and services in the face of political and professional head winds.

Herman H. Bundesen, MD – APHA President 1928

Dr. Bundeson started an infant welfare program with emphasis on parental education. In this program, he was responsible for dramatic reduction in infant mortality in Chicago from 1921-1927.

He was forced to resign as city health commissioner in 1927 because he refused to include Chicago mayor William “Big Bill” Thompson’s political materials in the literature that was given to all parents through the infant welfare clinics.

When he was relieved of his commission, he ran for Cook County coroner and in 1930 he was reappointed as Chicago Health Commissioner after Thompson lost his mayoral re-election bid. By 1935, Chicago had the lowest infant mortality of any major city in the US.


APHA President/Coronerof Cook County

Born in 1882 and died in 1960. During his life he had a colorful career as a doctor, politician and author. In 1922 he was appointed Chicago Health Commissioner and immediately drew controversy by proposing that prophylactics be supplied in washrooms, drugstores and brothels and he wanted to set up city-funded free venereal disease clinics. He was scourged for these ideas by Illinois physicians. The Illinois Medical Journal called his ideas “revolting,” “outrageous,” and “an unlicensed exercise of power.”


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It HAS BEEN a long time since anything has occurred which has so shocked the public health officers of the United States, or done so much to upset the morale of those engaged in health work, as the dismissal of Dr. Herman N. Bundesen as Health Commissioner of Chicago. Some suspected that this would occur soon after the election of Mayor Thompson, but as the months went by, everyone felt that he had recognized the fitness of things by retaining a health officer who has been distinguished by his beneficent activities. We know of no charges which have been made against him. On the other hand, we know that he has received the highest commendation from the best class of physicians in Chicago, and in addition, has been the recipient of a number


Chicago Tribune Historical Photos

On Feb. 14, 1929, seven men were lined up against the wall in a North Side garage and gunned down execution-style. The infamous mob hit became known as the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Five known members of George ‘Bugs’ Moran’s gang, one associate and a garage worker were killed. The hit was allegedly orchestrated by rival mab boss Al Capone, who was conveniently at his Florida home at the time.


The body of one of the seven victims is placed in an ambulance with Coroner Herman M. Bundesen, center, in attendance after the mass shooting occurred.

Above on the right, Dr. Bundeson, elected as Coroner of Cook County at the scene of the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”.


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