Old Photos: Charles Binaggio

These old photo posts are probably not my most popular posts but definitely some of my most favorite. I usually start with a random query, then something attracts my attention and turns into a short lesson in history. This time, almost by accident, I found a few photos of Charles Binaggio and of course had to find out who Charles Binaggio was.

Charles Binaggio (January 12, 1909 – April 5, 1950) was a Missouri gangster who became the boss of the Kansas City crime family and concocted a bold plan to control the police forces in Kansas City, Missouri and St. Louis, Missouri.

Charles Binaggio sitting with his wife, while attending the William M. Boyle Jr. testimonial dinner.

Charles Binaggio sitting with his wife, while attending the William M. Boyle Jr. testimonial dinner. © Time Inc. George Skadding

Kansas City politician Charles Binaggios house, where he is a quiet nieghbor and enjoys working in the yard.

Kansas City politician Charles Binaggio's house, where he is a quiet neighbor and enjoys working in the yard.© Time Inc. George Skadding

On the night of April 5, 1950, Binaggio and his underboss, Charles “Mad Dog” Gargotta (a notorious enforcer within the Kansas City family), were called to meet some unknown persons at the First Ward Democratic Club near downtown Kansas City. Binaggio left his driver/bodyguard, Nick Penna, at a tavern owned by the mob, saying that he would return in a few minutes. Binaggio and Gargotta then borrowed a car and drove off to the Democratic Club.
Shortly after eight pm, residents in apartments above the Democratic Club heard several shots. Eight hours later, a cab driver going to a nearby cafe noticed that the club door was open; he also heard water running inside. The police were called and they found the bodies of Charles Binaggio and Charles Gargotta inside the club. Binaggio was seated at a desk and Gargotta was lying inside the front door. Both men had been shot in the head four times with separate .32 caliber revolvers. The police theorized that Gargotta had been trying to escape the club when he was shot in the back of the head. As for the running water heard by the cabbie, it came from a broken toilet and was unrelated to the hit.

Kansas City politician Charles Binaggio and his wife, were last seen here gambling.

Kansas City politician Charles Binaggio and his wife, were last seen here gambling.© Time Inc. George Skadding

The wake drawing crowds from all citys to see Charles Binaggio.

The wake drawing crowds from all cities to see Charles Binaggio.© Time Inc. George Skadding

Some people theorized that Binaggio and Gargotta were murdered by St. Louis gunmen; others said the hitmen came from Chicago. However, it is most likely that the two mob bosses were killed by members of their own crime family under orders from the Mafia Commission in New York The probable organizer of the hit was Gizzo, who no doubt received the leadership of the Kansas City family as a reward. In any case, the murderers were never found.

Charles Binnagio’s grave is at the Mount Saint Mary’s Cemetery.
Murder on Truman Road – an article in Time from April 1950.

I have a lot more of the Life Magazine photos bookmarked and I intend to share them  mostly on weekends, so if this is not something you enjoy feel free to skip these posts in the future.

  • I love old photos. In fact, during my recent visit to the dentist, I spent time in the waiting room reading “Kansas City, Then and Now”, and resolved to find it on half.com and buy it for myself.

    I was successful. Doubly. Because I found there are three books in that series, so I ordered #1 and #2.

    I can’t wait for them to arrive!

  • I got these books from the library few years ago. I am pretty sure I mentioned them here in one of my posts with old photos.

  • Cara

    Interesting to see that gigantic, ostentatious crosses have always been a part of a mob wife’s wardrobe.

  • midtown miscreant

    love the old pics and history. keep em coming

  • amy

    i love these posts. the neon lights that say “mortuary” are sweet. it’s like, “mourning – vegas style”

  • The New Yorker

    I love black & white photos. Frankly, I think this was very interesting.