Al Capone: "Modern Day Robin Hood"
Alphonse Gabriel Capone
Gangster. What does that word mean to you? If you are above the age of 50 the word gangster may draw to mind sharply dressed Italian men in Italian suits, a fedora with a light accent smoking a cigar or holding a Tommy gun. If you are closer to the age of 20 the word gangster would most likely draw to mind a young African American man wearing a dirty white tank top, a scarlet or navy bandana around his mouth, expensive basketball shoes and a gold chain sagging his pants and holding a Glock sideways.
The first type of gangster is the type that I'll be focusing on today. Gangsters featured in movies like Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Gangs of New York and most notably the Godfather are usually referred to as the mafia and by this definition are typically from Italy, with many families having roots in Sicily.
One of the most notable mafiosos whose influence can still be felt in today's media was Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone. He grew up wanting to be someone and make an impact on the world and made a great difference for many people. He 'took from the rich and gave to the poor', almost like a modern day Robin Hood. He also killed a lot of people, let's take a look at his life, achievements and ideas and see what we can gain from them.
His Life, Ideas, Achievements and Shortcomings
Al Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York to Italian immigrant parents on January 17, 1899 and was quickly led down the mafia road. While Capone lived in Brooklyn he led a pretty normal life for the son of immigrants at that time. He went to school, made a few friends, had pretty good grades, but ultimately was expelled for being unable to follow the rules. This rebellious attitude defined most of Capone's life, but I'm willing to say that he wasn't just some lawbreaker thug. The man was hard working, had morals, but was naive and also susceptible to big mistakes.
After being expelled from school, Capone had some odd jobs, like working at a bowling alley and cleaning up at a candy store, just so he and his family could get by. It was at this time he first got exposed to mafia influence by Johnny Torrio, a mafioso involved in Chicago and New York. They would later get very close and would later form the Chicago Outfit.
The Young Mafioso
After being exposed to the culture and the glamorous lifestyle, Capone decided to start working for the mafia. First for a few little gangs here and there, but Capone's first big job was for Frankie Yale, a racketeer, and bartender who employed many Five Points mafioso.
It was near this time that Al Capone got his most famous nickname, Scarface. He was working the door at a bar Yale owned and insulted a woman unintentionally, her brother, Frank Gallucio pulled a knife on his and Capone got scars on the left side of his face.
Capone married Mae Josephine Coughlin on December 30, 1918 when he was only 19, because she had given birth to his son about a month earlier. While this may seem like a bad mistake for a 19 year old to make, the two were actually in love with each other and Mae supported him until his early death.
Chicago and Torrio
With his wife at his side, Capone was on the fast track to becoming a 'someone' in the mafia world, and at the age of 20 was invited to Chicago by his friend and mentor, Johnny Torrio. In no time he was Torrio's right hand man, at the forefront of a large mafia syndicate in Chicago.
At this time he learned a lot from Torrio and gained many values and teachings from him. Capone learned that the organized crime had a reason besides making the family rich, Torrio taught him that the family was there to keep order, form unity and help the community of Italian immigrants in the area. Capone learned to give back and to avoid violence over turf disputes as much as possible.
Extravagant Life as the Boss
He would later take these ideas with him when he ran the Chicago outfit and supported the model of the mafia that was more like a disciplined, official business corporation, rather than murderous outlaws of the Wild West.
When Johnny Torrio was shot several times during an ambush in 1925, Capone saw the opportunity to take control of the Outfit and make some money while doing so. During the high time of the Prohibition Era, Capone saw the opportunity to 'satisfy demand' and created a sort of Underground Railroad for liquor that stretched all the way into Canada.
Needless to say, he made a lot of money and a lot of enemies in the process. Capone began to live very lavishly, he was known for his flamboyant and extensive jewelry and very expensive taste in liquor.
The power, the money and the women got to Capone's head and he began to make mistakes. Instead of the nonviolent approach taken in Torrio's era or in his early time as boss, Capone turned to violent shakedowns of stores that wouldn't buy from the Outfit, even bombing them to the ground. This change of strategy signified bad things to come for the outfit and turbulence in the near future.
During the Depression, Capone and his Outfit had bribed nearly every politician and policy-maker in the area, so he thought of himself as above the law. The police liked Capone and his gang, they appreciated them making their jobs easier by intimidating would be thugs and largely playing by the rules. Not many got hurt, people were getting fed because of Outfit sponsored soup kitchens. Even when hit hard by the Great Depression, life in Chicago wasn't bad, as long as you stood by the Outfit, no one got hurt and people were happy.
Saint Valentine's Day and Downfall
Capone had made numerous mistakes during his career, but they were mostly to the benefit of the gang, which in turn, led to the benefit of the citizens of the city. But the one mistake that could be connected to Capone's arrest and imprisonment, as well as the stigma towards gangs and the mafia was made on February 14, 1929.
Capone wanted to get rid of his rival across town, Bugs Moran. So hired some assassins to do his dirty work and planned an elaborate scheme so the cops would never be able to pin him on it. They got Bugs Moran's gang to be led to a storehouse where they were to buy some bargain liquor. Then they had his assassins supposedly bust the place in a fake sting operation. The assassins lined them up and had them all shot, Bugs Moran wasn't present.
Shooting 7 people in broad daylight left a bad taste in Chicago's mouth. The police and the politicians could tolerate racketeering and shakedowns, because of how much good the Outfit was for the city. But shooting 7 'innocent' people while being dressed as the police ended up being too much. Herbert Hoover signed on an elite task force to put Capone to justice and they succeeded in getting him on charges of tax evasion. The feds sent him to Alcatraz
The feds sent him to Alcatraz but released him early on good behavior and on account of him worsening mental and physical state. He lived out the rest of his life, true to himself in Florida with his wife. He eventually died from cardiac arrest from a stroke on January 25, 1947 aged 48.
The Takeaways from Al Capone's life are pretty simple. The positive impact organized crime can have on a community. The ideas that bind gangs together, like the nonviolent approach to gang activities. And corporations helping out their communities.
Organized Crime was a positive for the city of Chicago, the Outfit largely played by the rules, and didn't make much trouble with the police. They intimidated small-time troublemakers and thugs into joining and thus following the rules or getting out of crime itself. The Outfit contributed heavily to the community, employing many and actually promoting commerce and business with their spending habits.
Although that sort of situation would be near impossible in today's gangster landscape, with the whole scene having a lack of morals and desire to help the community, corporations can take up what the Outfit did and support the community, without committing the crimes that they did. Philanthropy and community development should be a necessary thing for large and powerful local organizations and the least they could do is hire local workers.
This hub was meant to show the potential positive sides of a very iconic man who wasn't seen as very positive, providing lessons for large corporations to help their local communities prosper.