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All About Al Capone
Everyone has heard his name. He was the hot shot gangster back in the 1920s and 1930s who ran Chicago. He was the master mind behind the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. He gave Chicago its reputation as a 'lawless city' and put Chicago on the map.
Al "Scarface" Capone gained power and noteriety in Chicago. As both a businessman and criminal, he was a genius. His rise and fall is legendary.
Alphonse Gabriele Capone was born January 17th, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York to parents Gabriele and Teresina Capone. His parents were Italian immigrants and came to America in 1893. Their hometown, Castellammare di Stabiai, is 15 miles from Naples. Gabriele was a barber. They had eight children and Al Capone was their fourth child.
Al Capone's life of crime started young. Although very bright, he dropped out of the sixth grade. Prior to this he had beat up his teacher. He was always violent and was involved in at least two gangs in Brooklyn.
Interestingly, his eldest brother, Vincenzo, was a role model Italian-American. He fought in World War I and eventually became a lieutenant. He had won an award for his efforts in the war and later he became a policeman. His other brothers followed Al Capone's life of crime and worked for him.
While still very young, Al worked as a bouncer in Coney Island at Harvard Inn for Frankie Yale. At the time, Yale was the mob boss in NYC. Frankie Yale had always been impressed with Al Capone. As a bouncer, Capone beat up men who owed money to Yale.
One night Capone had insulted a female patron. The woman's brother overheard and demanded an apology from Capone. He had refused to apologize and in anger, the man slashed Al Capone's face three times with a razor. Oddly enough, Al Capone did not retaliate. He was later reprimanded by Yale and forced to apologize. Capone had the scars ever since.
Capone had a few nicknames and was dubbed Scarface by the press. Within his group of friends, he was known as Snorkey and Big Al.
Mae Coughlin and Sonny Capone
Al Capone met his future bride, Mary 'Mae' Coughlin at a dance. She was a very pretty Irish girl who was two years his senior. Out of wedlock, Mae gave birth to their son, Albert Francis Capone on December 4th, 1918. His nickname was Sonny. Later that same month, on December 30th, Al Capone and Mae Coughlin were married.
Unbeknownst to Al Capone, he had passed syphilis on to his son. He had admitted to contracting syphilis from a prostitute before his son was born but thought he was cured of it. Sonny had ill health for most of his life. Al and Mae did not have other children.
Al Capone kept his family and business life seperate. He was a doting father and provided well for his family. Despite his adultery, he kept his family safe and out of the public eye.
Deidre Capone Shares a Memory of Uncle Al
Capone's Rise to Power in Chicago and Cicero
When Al Capone was 20, he moved to Chicago to flee a murder charge. He began working for Joe Torrio, where he assisted him in bootlegging. After proving himself to Torrio, Capone became Torrio's partner. Along with bootlegging, together they ran gambling houses, saloons and brothels.
As Chicago law enforcement began cracking down on illegal activity, Capone and Torrio set up new headquarters in Cicero, a suburb on the south side of Chicago. Since Capone, Cicero has maintained a reputation of being a corrupt town. Capone kept his Chicago home and also had a home not far from his headquarters in Cicero. His home was mostly used for all night parties.
Torrio was more of a business man than a criminal. He didn't drink, smoke, do drugs or cheat on his wife. In 1925, Torrio was seriously injured and nearly killed during an attack. After the injury, Torrio decided to leave his business. He moved back to Italy to retire and left his business to Capone. Soon enough, Capone was running Chicago. At his height of power, Chicago politicians and the Chicago police force were on Capone's payroll. He fixed elections, helped some and destroyed others. He even controlled the mayor. Everyone knew that Capone was Chicago's real ruler.
Capone's Generous Side
Shortly after the death of his father, Capone moved his family to Chicago. At this time he was very successful and rich. Family members of Capone remember him as a man who loved and provided for his family. He was like a big kid who loved playing with his son, nieces and nephews.
Al Capone was generous and outgoing. He attended baseball games and city functions. He donated money and was charitable.
Many people do not know that Al Capone opened up the very first soup kitchen. He wanted to make sure everyone in Chicago who were jobless or homeless had a hot meal. Capone's kitchen served three meals a day and soup kitchens exist to this day.
The Violent Side of Capone
Al Capone was also a cold-blooded murderer. He murdered at least two people in New York and many more in Chicago. When he was powerful enough, he had his people do the dirty work for him. Capone always had an alibi. He had a home in Florida that he would go to hide out at. The law always knew he was involved, but they could never catch him.
Capone gained nationwide attention after the St. Valentine's Day massacre. Filled with greed, Capone wanted north side gang leader Bugs Moran out of the picture so that he could have full control of the city. Both men tried for years to kill each other. When an associate of Capone's told him that they would have to kill a lot of people to kill Bugs Moran, Capone simply said, "I'll send flowers."
On February 14th, 1921 Capone's men, two dressed as cops, busted into a garage on 2122 North Clark Street. The garage was actually the headquarters for Moran's gang. Thinking they were being raided by cops, the men held their hands up against the wall, and Capones men had shot them all, execution style.
Fortunately for Bugs Moran, he was not there at the time. It's been rumored that after hearing the news of his men being shot execution style, Moran said, "Only Capone kills like that."
The Fall of Capone and His Incarceration
After Moran's gang was assassinated in such a horrific style, Capone became "Public Enemy #1" Politicians and policemen started to back away from him. President Herbert Hoover was committed to have Capone brought to justice. The only problem was that it was virtually impossible to connect him with any crimes. Once he was held for a murder charge and was released the next day due to lack of evidence. It was fustrating, Capone just seemed to be too smart and extremely lucky. This was soon to change.
Hoover had the U.S. Treasury department investigate Capone for tax evasion. It was difficult to prove. Capone was rich and was making a reported one billion per year, however nothing was in his name. Everything was paid by cash and he did not even have his house in his name. Others who worked for him, his brother, Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzi and Frank Nitti, were also being investigated.
After years of investigation, Frank Wilson from the IRS found a cash receipt ledger that contained a record of Capone's income. Capone had turned himself in, believing he could just pay the money back and later boasting that he had cut a deal.
He was instead sentenced to 11 years in prison, including thousands in fines. He was sentenced and sent to an Atlanta prison. He immediately rose to power in the prison and getting special privilege. After causing enough trouble, he was sent to spend the rest of his sentence in Alcatraz.
In stark contrast, Capone became a model prisoner in Alcatraz. Towards the end of his stay, he began to break down mentally. His syphilis was left untreated for years and it began to affect his mind. He spent the last year of his sentence in a mental institution.
His Final Days
When he was finally released, he retired to his home in Palm Island, Florida. He was mentally unstable, confused and slowly deteriorating in his final years. He was paranoid and believed Bugs Moran was haunting him.
Alphonse Gabriele Capone died on January 25th, 1947. The cause of death was heart failure. He was only 48.
Capone was originally buried at Mount Olivet in Chicago. In 1952, after the death of his mother, he was buried beside her at Mount Carmel Cemetary in Hillside, IL.
Al Capone's family suffered riddicule after his downfall and eventually most of his family members changed their names to avoid discrimination. It was difficult to find work and many family members had eventually left Chicago to start a new life.
Over the years, Al Capone has become a legend. In the last four decades, mobsters have been glorified in movies and television. Gangsters of the past have become fascinating.
Chicago became infamous for its mobsters and almost nintey years after Capone's move to Chicago, people still think of him when they think of Chicago. Clearly, the Windy City would not be what it is today if not for Capone.
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