If you love the romance and intrigue associated with the rough and raucous heyday of early American gangsters you will appreciate the “Gangster Museum of America” located in historic Hot Springs, Arkansas.
A Brief Hot Springs Gangster History
Back in the late 1800’s for gangsters what happened outside of Hot Springs did not necessarily spill over into Hot Springs.
Many rival made men would travel to the resorts and spas of Hot Springs for a little rest and relaxation. During their time in Hot Springs bloodshed was put on hold and having a good time was the order of the day.
For example, Al Capone would frequent Room 422 at the “Hotel Arkansas Casino” and his arch enemy Bugs Moran would stay just a dice roll away in a room at the nearby “Majestic Hotel.”
Hot Springs didn’t originate as an illustrious den of ill repute and mafia merriment. In the late 1800’s Hot Springs was home to only two rival mob families; the Flynn’s and the Doran’s.
These two families constantly fought tooth and nail with each other over who was going to control Hot Springs’ illicit business ventures. It is said that it was the fighting between these two rival mob families that was the impetus behind the infamous “March 16th, 1899 Hot Springs Gun Fight.”
The winds of change eventually blew through Hot Springs like an Ozark cowboy’s pay in Madam Maxine’s brothel. On them they brought in a notorious gangster from “Hell’s Kitchen” in New York City who had decided to move to Hot Springs, Arkansas and make it his own.
The year was 1935 and the gangster was none other than the “English God Father” also known as Owney “The Killer” Madden.
Madden became the proprietor of the “Hotel Arkansas Casino” and was connected to the “Southern Club” as well.
After Madden’s arrival on the Hot Springs scene the gangster population of Hot Springs exploded.
It remained a celebrated mafia playground right up until the Federal Government became cracking down on the mob hard in the 1960’s.
Before the gangster era was to come to an end the likes of Lucky Luciano, Madam Maxine Harris, Bumpy Johnson, Bugs Moran, Al Capone, Owney Madden and others made an indelible impression on Hot Springs history. The remnants of that mark are on display at the “American Gangster Museum.”
Visitors to the “American Gangster Museum” are able to partake in a self-guided audio tour that will take them through Hot Springs gangster history.
Highlights of the museum’s four galleries of exhibits include an old victrola that was owned by the Capone family, gaming tables and slot machines from the “Hotel Arkansas Casino” and the “Southern Club”, gangster weaponry and photos.
Hours of Operation and Admission
As of 2010 admission to the “Gangster Museum of America” is $10.00 per adult, $9.00 per senior citizen and $4.00 per child between the ages of 6 through 12. Children ages 5 and under are admitted into the museum for free.
The “Gangster Museum of America” is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm and on Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am until 9:00 pm.
Hours of operation and admission prices are subject to change without further notice and are exclusive of any applicable taxes or additional fees.
Therefore, visitors are encouraged to contact the “Gangster Museum of America” staff prior to arrival to confirm details.
American Gangster Museum
113 Central Avenue
Hot Springs, AK 71901
For some extra added fun, before visiting the “Gangster Museum of America” why not host your own mafia inspired dinner and a movie event or whip up a batch of some mafia or good cop versus bad cop inspired drinks to get you in the mood?
Those that want to learn more about the other exciting things to do and see in Hot Springs, Arkansas should log onto the region’s tourism website.