Brandon Johnson unearthed a gem that caught his eye amongst his father’s keepsakes — a gangster business card. That warrants a head scratch.
Naturally, his interest was piqued. After some investigating, he found that in 1970s and '80s Chicago it was actually common practice to be quite literally a card-carrying mafioso. To hear it from Johnson: "Street gangs made business cards displaying their symbols, nicknames, territories, and enemies."
This info inspired Johnson to embark on a research crusade to track down as many gangster cards as he could. The results led to the creation of his new book Thee Almighty & Insane: Chicago Gang Business Cards from the 1970s & 1980s. Complete with hand-drawn symbols, slogans and Old English aplenty, the cards are handsome and gully with a few spelling errors to boot.
Gang Cards (5 images)
These tokens are a highly interesting time stamp on history, uncovering the code of a bygone era. “For example, an upside-down symbol or name is a sign of disrespect. Acronyms ending with the letter ‘K’ mean ‘killer’ – so ’S.D.K’ is short for ‘Satan’s Disciples Killer,’ Johnson explains.
Some of the gangs are extinct today. A few still remain. But as far as we know, for obvious reasons, the gentlemanly gangster business card is a practice of the past.