The second post for this month almost didn’t make it due to variety of factors, but mainly due to my desire to procrastinate. Nevertheless, it’s here. Without further fanfare, I end my West Coast trip of 2016 with…
The Mob Museum, located in Las Vegas, Nevada
The Mob Museum is officially the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (which sounds long and not quite as exciting as the Mob Museum.) The Mob Museum is open daily from 9am to 9pm. Admission to the museum is $23.95 when you buy in person at the museum and $19.95 when you buy online in advance. (Check for other types of discounts online, I was able to get my ticket for $17.) When you buy online, the site tells you to select a day and time for entry, but according to the Mob Museum website, you may enter any time as long as the museum is open regardless of what time you selected. The museum is accessible via walking, driving and public transportation. Should you choose walking as your mode of transportation, remember that the streets of Las Vegas are long, so something 2 blocks away could mean a 30 minute walk. If you choose to drive, there is a parking lot next to the Museum, which costs $6 for 3 hours and then additional after that. Public transportation is pretty convenient in Las Vegas, take the Deuce from the closest bus stop on the Strip and get off at Stewart Ave and 4th Street and walk a short block to reach the museum. Apparently there is a free Downtown Loop shuttle that one can take to reach the museum; unfortunately you’ll have to be in downtown Las Vegas for it to be useful as the shuttle doesn’t quite reach the more populated areas of the Strip. If you’re in the Downtown Las Vegas, check out the Freemont Street Experience or the Neon Museum to make a fun day trip of it.
The Mob Museum contains three floors of exhibits with a set route to explore the museum, starting on the third floor. Immediately getting out of the elevator, there is a photo-op for those interested to get a picture of themselves in a police lineup. As the photo-op is optional, those not interested can bypass the line and head to the first exhibit, “The Birth of the Mob”, to learn about the origins of the mob and how it came about in the early 1900s. There’s a short movie in this exhibit about Lucky Luciano, who is considered to be the father of modern organized crime in the United States.
In “A Tough Little Town”, visitors can learn how Las Vegas began as a frontier town and evolved to become a global capital of gambling and entertainment due to the construction of the Hoover Dam and the legalization of gambling and prostitution in Nevada. Next up is an exhibit documenting the Prohibition Era from 1920-1933, entitled “Prohibition”. The 1920s was a time of great economic and social change, where it was easy to defy Prohibition with bootleggers and speakeasies. The Prohibition Era saw a rise in crime due to the diversion of law enforcement to regulating alcohol distribution and to the establishment of black markets dominated by organized crime syndicates, which led to a stronghold for the Mob. The Great Depression brought about the repeal of Prohibition and ended the need for bootleggers and speakeasies, but the Mob had already laid deep roots and continued to thrive.
“The Feds Fight Back” focuses on law enforcement’s response to the growing Mob influence and rising crime sprees post-Prohibition. The exhibit highlights J. Edgar Hoover and his group of G-Men, known initially as the Bureau of Investigation, later as FBI. Originally, the agents weren’t allowed to carry guns or make arrests, but because of two sensational crimes of the era that led to murders in both cases, the G-Men were permitted to carry guns, make arrests and cross state lines to chase down suspects, as it isn’t within local police’s authority to do so. When the G-Men couldn’t get a Mob member through a serious criminal offense, the government brought in the T-Men, agents of the U.S. Treasury, who took down Mob members for tax evasion. (I find that quite funny and interesting.) Finishing out the third floor is “The Tentacle Spreads”, which focuses on the Mob’s endeavors after the Prohibition. With the end of Prohibition, people no longer needed to obtain alcohol illegally, so the Mob found other ways, such as gambling and dealing drugs, to make a profit.
First up on the second floor is “The Kefauver Hearings”, which includes a short 10 minute video in the actual courtroom used for the hearings in Las Vegas. The Kefauver Hearings provided many Americans with their first glimpse of organized crime’s influence in the US as the hearings were televised live on national television. The hearings concluded that the Mob existed, which was denied by some, including J. Edgar Hoover. “Open City” is another Las Vegas centered exhibit. Due to gambling being illegal in many states, mobsters focused on Las Vegas as the place for their ventures since Nevada legalized gambling. See a variety of items on display, including showgirl outfits and a small display of cheating methods, and learn how casino owners skimmed money to avoid taxes.
“Spinning A Deadly Web” explains how the Mob has a hand in everything, from politics to world affairs. Last exhibit on the second floor is “We Only Kill Each Other”, which focuses on how the Mob lifestyle affected the individuals, their families and innocent bystanders. Visitors can view a variety of weapons used for hits, and images of some of the Mob’s most notorious hits.
The first exhibit encountered on the first floor is “Bringing Down the Mob”, which focuses on the joint efforts of law enforcement to convict the mob. The exhibit highlights some of the newer technologies in the 1970s, such as wire taps and listening devices, to get incriminating evidence on criminals. Also, there is a small section on undercover work. “Weapons Training” is an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to test their skills and judgement in the virtual world. (It’s quite fun, you get to shoot bad guys, but also weird cause other people are just watching you act silly.) Right next to the this exhibit is “International Organized Crime” that explains about crime in the 21st century; modern crime transcends traditional boundaries and is a more global affair.
Next is “Memories of the Mob”, which contains a room full of pictures relating to the Mob members and their families. “100 Years of Made Men” highlights the most notorious figures from 100 years of Mob history; a brief story for each figure is included. Last, but not least is “Hollywood and the Mob”, which details how Hollywood has merged fact and fiction pertaining to the Mob to create fascinating stories for public entertainment.
My travel buddy and I spent about 3 hours exploring the Mob Museum, but as usual others may take more or less time depending on interest level. The museum contains lots of reading material, but it was pretty crowded when we went, so it might take some more time if you want to read everything. (I skipped some of the more crowded sections as there was just too much people.) The price of admission at the door is slightly steep in my opinion, so try to look for deals, or at least buy online in advance to save some money. Anyone interested in Mob or organized crime history, or just history in general, will have great time at the museum. The museum has several videos and plenty of interactive exhibits, but is much better suited for adults and older children as there is a lot of reading involved. Las Vegas is known as Sin City, so it’s only befitting that its history is deeply entwined with the Mob’s, and where better to learn about both then at the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, or better known as The Mob Museum.