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Al Capone
Al Capone Signature.svg
Official mugshot
OccupationGangster, bootlegger, racketeer
Criminal statusDeceased
Spouse(s)Mae Capone
ChildrenAlbert Francis Capone
Criminal chargeTax evasion
Penalty10 year sentence in Alcatraz

Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone (January 17, 1899 – January 25, 1947) was an American gangster. Capone made a lot of money (more than 100 million dollars) by illegally smuggling and Rum-running alcoholic drinks. Capone did this from the early 1920s to 1931 when he was sentenced to federal prison on charges related to avoiding taxes. Capone stayed at Alcatraz federal prison for seven years. After he got out, Capone could not run his illegal business because of his bad health. Capone died in his Palm Island home on January 25, 1947 of cardiac arrest.

Early life in New York[change | change source]


Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 17, 1899. [1] His mother was Teresina Capone, and his father was Gabriele Capone. The family came to America from Italy, where his father was a barber from Castellammare di Stabia, a town about 16 mi (26 km) south of Naples, Italy. His mother Teresina was a seamstress from Angri, a town in the province of Salerno.[2]

Gabriele and Teresina had nine children: James Capone, Raffaele Capone, Salvatore "Frank" Capone, Alphonse "Scarface Al" Capone, John Capone, Albert Capone, Matthew Capone, Rose Capone, and Mafalda Capone.

The Capone family came to the United States in 1893 and moved to 95 Navy Street,[1] in the Navy Yard part of downtown Brooklyn, near the Barber Shop that employed Gabriele at 29 Park Avenue.[1] When Al was 11, the Capone family moved to 38 Garfield Place[1] in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Capone quit the New York Public school system when he was 14. After that, Capone worked at odd jobs around Brooklyn, including a candy store and a bowling alley.[3] At this time, Capone was influenced by gangster Johnny Torrio, whom he came to regard as a mentor.[4]

Capone started out joining small-time gangs, like The Junior Forty Thieves. After those, Capone joined the Brooklyn Rippers and the notorious Five Points Gang. At time, he was employed and mentored by fellow racketeer Frankie Yale a bartender in a Coney Island dance hall and saloon called the Harvard Inn. It was in this field that Capone received the scars that gave him the nickname "Scarface";[5] He inadvertently insulted a woman while working the door at a Brooklyn night club, provoking a fight with her brother Frank Gallucio. Capone's face was slashed three times on the left side. Capone apologized to Gallucio at Yale's request and would hire his attacker as a bodyguard in later life.[6][7] When photographed, Capone hid the scarred left side of his face and would say his injuries were wounds he got in the war.[6][8] According to the 2002 magazine article from Life called Mobsters and Gangsters: from Al Capone to Tony Soprano, Capone was called "Snorky" by his closest friends.[9]

On December 30, 1918, Capone wanted to get married. He was under the age of 21, so his parents had to sign a Consent Form to let Capone get married. The consent was done, and Capone married Mae Josephine Coughlin. Earlier that month she had given birth to their son, Albert Francis ("Sonny") Capone.

Capone left New York and went to Chicago, without his new wife and son who would joined him later. Capone bought a house at 7244 South Prairie Ave. in the Park Manor neighborhood on the city's south side in 1923 for $5,500 USD.[10]

Al Capone's house at 7244 South Prairie Ave. Chicago, Illinois

Capone came at the invitation of Johnny Torrio, his Five Points Gang mentor. Capone saw many business opportunities in Chicago. Torrio had been given the crime empire of James "Big Jim" Colosimo after Colosimo refused to enter this new area of business and was subsequently murdered.[11] Capone was a suspect for two murders and a rape at the time, and was looking for a safer place to go and a better job to make more money for his family.[12]

Capone's wealth and power grows in Cicero[change | change source]

Torrio was badly injured in a 1925 assassination attempt by the North Side Gang. Torrio feared he would die, so he gave his business to Capone and went back to Italy. Capone was famous during the Prohibition Era for his control of large portions of the Chicago underworld, which provided the Outfit with an estimated US $100 million per year[13] in revenue. This wealth was made through illegal gambling and prostitution,[5] but the largest moneymaker was the liquor.

Demand was met by a transportation network that moved smuggled liquor from the rum-runners of the East Coast and The Purple Gang in Detroit and local production in the form of Midwestern moonshine operations and illegal breweries. With the funds generated by his bootlegging operation, Capone's grip on the political and law-enforcement establishments in Chicago grew stronger. He soon established a headquarters at Chicago's Lexington Hotel. This was soon nicknamed "Capone's Castle" after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Through this organized corruption, which included the bribing of Mayor of Chicago William "Big Bill" Hale Thompson, Capone's gang operated largely free from legal intrusion, operating casinos and speakeasies throughout Chicago. Wealth also permitted Capone to indulge in a luxurious lifestyle of custom suits, cigars, gourmet food and drink (his preferred liquor was Templeton Rye from Iowa), jewelry, and female companionship. He garnered media attention, to which his favorite responses was "I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want" and "All I do is satisfy a public demand."[5] Capone had become a celebrity.

Mob wars[change | change source]

The violence that led to Capone's unprecedented level of criminal success drew the ire of Capone's rivals, and spurred their retaliation, particularly by bitter rivals, North Side gangsters Hymie Weiss and Bugs Moran. More than once, Capone's car was riddled with bullets.

In a particularly unnerving incident on September 20, 1926, the North Side gang shot into Capone's entourage as he was eating lunch in the restaurant of the Hawthorne Hotel. A motorcade of ten vehicles, using Thompson Submachine guns and shotguns riddled the outside of the Hotel and the restaurant on the first floor of the building. Capone's bodyguard (Frankie Rio) threw him to the ground at the first sound of gunfire and lay on top of "The Big Fellow", as the headquarters was riddled with bullet holes. Several bystanders were hurt from flying glass and bullet fragmentation in the raid, including a young boy and his mother who would have lost her eyesight had not Capone paid for top-dollar medical care.[14] This event prompted Capone to call for a truce. Negotiations fell through.[14]

These attacks made Capone fearful that he would die, so he got bullet-proof glass for his Cadillac. Every attempt to kill Capone made him more and more fearful that he would die. This car was seized by the Treasury Department in 1932 and was later used as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's limousine.[15]

Capone placed armed bodyguards around the clock at his headquarters at the Lexington Hotel, at 22nd Street (later renamed Cermak Road) and Michigan Avenue. For his trips away from Chicago, Capone was reputed to have had several other retreats and hideouts located in Brookfield, Wisconsin; Johnson City, Tennessee; Saint Paul, Minnesota; Olean, New York; French Lick, as well as Terre Haute, Indiana; Dubuque, Iowa; Jacksonville, Florida; Grand Haven, Michigan and Lansing, Michigan and Hot Springs, Arkansas; where former New York Goffer Gang member Owney "The Killer" Madden retired and married the postmaster's daughter. Owney and the old gang never lost contact and were always welcome to visit for a safe peaceful vacation. First time Lucky Luciano was arrested was in Hot Springs. As a further precaution, Capone and his entourage would often suddenly show up at one of Chicago's train depots and buy up an entire Pullman sleeper car on night trains to places like Cleveland, Omaha, Kansas City and Little Rock/Hot Springs in Arkansas, where they would spend a week in luxury hotel suites under assumed names with the apparent knowledge and connivance of local authorities. In 1928, Capone bought a 14-room retreat[5] on Palm Island, Florida close to Miami Beach.

Saint Valentine's Day Massacre[change | change source]

The bloody events of February 14, 1929 began nearly five years before with the murder of Dion O’Banion, the leader of Chicago’s north side mob. At that time, control of bootleg liquor in the city raged back and forth between the North Siders, run by O’Banion, and the south side Outfit, which was controlled by Johnny Torrio and his henchman, Al Capone. In November 1924, Torrio ordered the assassination of O’Banion and started an all-out war in the city. The North Siders retaliated soon afterward and nearly killed Torrio outside of his home. This brush with death led to him leaving the city and turning over operations to Capone, who almost killed himself in September 1926. It is believed Capone ordered the most notorious gangland killing of the century, the 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Chicago's North Side, although details of the killing of the seven victims[5] in a garage at 2122 North Clark Street (then the SMC Cartage Co.) and the extent of Capone's involvement are widely disputed. No one was ever brought to trial for the crime.

The massacre was thought to be The Outfit's effort to strike back at Bugs Moran's North Side gang, which had become increasingly bold in hijacking the Outfit's booze trucks, assassinating two presidents of the Outfit-controlled Unione Siciliane, and three assassination attempts on one of Capone's top enforcers, Jack McGurn.[16]

To watch their targets' habits and movements, Capone’s men rented an apartment across from the trucking warehouse that served as a Moran headquarters. On the morning of Thursday February 14, 1929, Capone’s lookouts signaled gunmen disguised as police to start a 'raid'. The faux police lined the seven victims along a wall without a struggle then signaled for accomplices with machine guns. The seven victims were machine-gunned and shot-gunned, each with fifteen to twenty or more bullets.

Photos of the event shocked the public and greatly harmed Capone in the public opinion thereby prompting federal law enforcement to focus more closely on investigating his activities.[5]

Conviction and imprisonment[change | change source]

In 1929, Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness started an investigation of Capone and his business, trying to get a conviction for Prohibition violations. However, it was Frank J. Wilson who did the investigation into Capone's income tax violations that the government decided was more likely to end in a conviction.

Al Capone's cell at the Eastern State Penitentiary

In 1931 Capone was accused of income tax evasion and a few violations of the Volstead Act. Facing overwhelming evidence, his attorneys made a plea deal, but the presiding judge warned he might not follow the sentencing recommendation from the prosecution, so Capone withdrew his plea of guilty. Attempting to bribe and intimidate the potential jurors, his plan was discovered by Ness's men. The venire (jury pool) was then switched with one from another case, and Capone was stymied. Following a long trial, he was found guilty on some income tax evasion counts (the Volstead Act violations were dropped). The judge gave him an eleven-year sentence along with heavy fines, and liens were filed against his various properties. His appeal was denied. In May 1932, Capone was sent to the Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary, a tough federal prison, but he was able to obtain special privileges. Later, for a short period of time, he was transferred to the Lincoln Heights Jail. He was then transferred to Alcatraz, where tight security and an uncompromising warden ensured that Capone had no contact with the outside world. His isolation from his associates and the repeal of Prohibition in December, 1933, precipitously diminished his power.[source?]

Though he adjusted relatively well to his new environment, his health declined as the syphilis he caught as a youth progressed. Antibiotics to cure the disease, like penicillin, existed, but their use in the treatment of syphilis was not yet known. He spent the last year of his sentence in the prison hospital, confused and disoriented.[17]

Physical decline and death[change | change source]


Al Capone's grave

Capone's control and interests within organized crime ended quickly after he was put in jail, and he was no longer able to run the Outfit after his release because of his health. He had lost weight, and his physical and mental health had deteriorated under the effects of neurosyphilis.

On January 21, 1947, Capone had a stroke. He regained consciousness and started to get better, but fell ill with pneumonia on January 24, and had a fatal cardiac arrest the next day.

Capone was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, in Chicago's far Southwest Side between the graves of his father, Gabriele, and brother, Frank. In March 1950, the remains of the three family members were moved to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois, west of Chicago.

In popular culture[change | change source]

There have been many articles, books, and movies about Capone. Many criminals in movies and fiction have been based upon his life and personality, too. For example, gangsters in movies and fiction have looked, talked, and acted like him. One of the most famous examples of this was a 1932 movie called Scarface, which was somewhat based upon Capone's life (but the gangster in the movie was given another name.)

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Schoenberg, Robert L. (1992). Mr. Capone. New York, New York: William Morrow and Company. pp. 18–19. ISBN 0-688-12838-6.
  2. Kobler, John (1971). Capone. Da Capo Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-306-80499-9.
  3. Kobler, 27.
  4. Kobler, 26.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 The Five Families. MacMillan. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Kobler, 36.
  7. Bardsley, Marilyn. "Scarface". Al Capone. Crime Library. Retrieved 2008-03-29.
  8. Kobler, 15.
  9. Mobsters and Gangsters from Al Capone to Tony Soprano, Life (2002).
  10. Hood, Joel (2009-04-02). "Capone home on the market - Chicago Tribune Archives". Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  11. Bardsley, Marilyn. "Chicago". Al Capone. Crime Library. Retrieved 2008-04-03.
  12. Kobler, 37.
  13. Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to 2008." Online calculator appears on the right side of website.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "hymieweiss". hymieweiss. Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  15. By Mike M. Ahlers and Eric Marrapodi CNN (2009-01-06). "Obama's wheels: Secret Service to unveil new presidential limo -". Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  16. St. Valentine's Day Massacre Part I: Introduction. Retrieved on 2009-05-03.
  17. Al Capone: Chicago's Most Infamous Mob Boss - The Crime library.

Further reading[change | change source]

  • Kobler, John. Capone: The Life and Times of Al Capone. New York: Da Capo Press, 2003. ISBN 0-306-81285-1
  • Pasley, Fred D. Al Capone: The Biography of a Self-Made Man. Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Co., 2004. ISBN 1-4179-0878-5
  • Schoenberg, Robert J. Mr. Capone. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992. ISBN 0-688-12838-6
  • Ferrara, Eric - Gangsters, Murderers & Weirdos of the Lower East Side; A self-guided walking tour 2008
  • MacDonald, Alan. Dead Famous - Al Capone and his Gang Scholastic.

Other websites[change | change source]

Category:1899 births Category:1947 deaths Category:People from New York Category:Criminals Category:Al Capone Category:Gangsters