calumet412:

In the days before Big Jim Colosimo, Al Capone, the Syndicate and the Outfit, organized crime in Chicago was known as The Black Hand.

Mostly run by recent Italian immigrants, The Black Hand specialized in extortion.

Extortion letters were often written phonetically or with only symbols.

To receive a letter with a black hand symbol would mean, without complying, certain death.

The interesting point here is that the two typed letters shown were written by a Polish gang member to appear as if they had been written by an Italian - complete with accent.

via archives.gov