Al Capone

Al Capone
Al Capone is America’s best known gangster and the single greatest symbol of the collapse of law and order in the United States during the 1920s Prohibition era. Capone had a leading role in the illegal activities that lent Chicago its reputation as a lawless city.
Capone was born on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York. Baptized “Alphonsus Capone,” he grew up in a rough neighborhood and was a member of two “kid gangs,” the Brooklyn Rippers and the Forty Thieves Juniors. Although he was bright, Capone quit school in the sixth grade at age fourteen. Between scams he was a clerk in a candy store, a pinboy in a bowling alley, and a cutter in a book bindery. He became part of the
notorious Five Points gang in Manhattan and worked in gangster Frankie Yale’s Brooklyn dive, the Harvard Inn, as a bouncer and bartender. While working at the Inn, Capone received his infamous facial scars and the resulting nickname “Scarface” when he insulted a patron and was attacked by her brother.
In 1918, Capone met an Irish girl named Mary “Mae” Coughlin at a dance. On December 4, 1918, Mae gave birth to their son, Albert “Sonny” Francis. Capone and Mae married that year on December 30.
Capone’s first arrest was on a disorderly conduct charge while he was working for Yale. He also murdered two men while in New York, early testimony to his willingness to kill. In accordance with gangland etiquette, no one admitted to hearing or seeing a thing so Capone was never tried for the murders. After Capone hospitalized a rival gang member, Yale sent him to Chicago to wait until things cooled off. Capone arrived in Chicago in 1919 and moved his family into a house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue.
Capone went to work for Yale’s old mentor, John Torrio. Torrio saw Capone’s potential, his combination of physical strength and intelligence, and encouraged his prot g . Soon Capone was helping Torrio manage his bootlegging business. By mid-1922 Capone ranked as Torrio’s number two man and eventually became a full partner in the saloons, gambling houses,and brothels.
When Torrio was shot by rival gang members and consequently decided to leave Chicago, Capone inherited the “outfit” and became boss. The outfit’s men liked, trusted, and obeyed Capone, calling him “The Big Fellow.” He quickly proved that he was even better at organization than syndicating and expanding the city’s vice industry between 1925 and 1930. Capone controlled speakeasies, bookie joints, gambling houses, brothels, income of $100,000,000 a year. He even acquired a sizable interest in the largest cleaning and dyeing plant chain in Chicago.
Although he had been doing business with Capone, the corrupt Chicago mayor William “Big Bill” Hale Thompson, Jr. decided that Capone was bad for his political image. Thompson hired a new police chief to run Capone out of Chicago. When Capone looked for a new place to live, he quickly discovered that he was unpopular in much of the country. He finally bought an estate at 93 Palm Island, Florida in 1928.
Attempts on Capone’s life were never successful. He had an extensive spy network in Chicago, from newspaper boys to policemen, so that any plots were quickly discovered. Capone, on the other hand, was skillful at isolating and killing his enemies when they became too powerful. A typical Capone murder consisted of men renting an apartment across the street from the victim’s residence and gunning him down when he stepped outside. The operations were quick and complete and Capone always had an alibi.
Capone’s most notorious killing was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. On February 14, 1929, four Capone men entered a garage at 2122 N. Clark Street. The building was the main liquor headquarters of bootlegger George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side gang. Because two of Capone’s men were dressed as police, the seven men in the garage thought it was a police raid. As a result, they dropped their guns and put their hands against the wall. Using two shotguns and two machine guns, the Capone men fired more than 150 bullets into the victims. Six of the seven killed were members of Moran’s gang; the seventh was an unlucky friend. Moran, probably the real target, was across the street when Capone’s men arrived and stayed away when he saw the police uniforms. As usual, Capone had an alibi; he was in Florida during the massacre.
Although Capone ordered dozens of deaths and even killed with his own hands, he often treated people fairly and generously. He was equally known for his violent temper and for his strong sense of loyalty and honor. He was the first to open soup kitchens after the 1929 stock market crash and he ordered merchants to give clothes and food to the needy at his expense.
Capone had headquarters in Chicago proper in the Four Deuces at 2222 S. Wabash, the Metropole Hotel at 2300 S. Michigan Avenue, and the Lexington Hotel at 2135 S. Michigan Avenue. He expanded into the suburbs, sometimes using terror as in Forest View, which became known as “Caponeville.” Sometimes he simply bribed public officials and the police as …..in Cicero. He established suburban headquarters in Cicero’s Anton Hotel at 4835 W. 22nd Street and in the Hawthorne Hotel at 4823 22nd Street. He pretended to be an antique dealer and a doctor to front his headquarters.
Because of gangland’s traditional refusal to prosecute, Capone was never tried for most of his crimes. He was arrested in 1926 for killing three people, but spent only one night in jail because there was insufficient evidence to connect him with the murders. When Capone finally served his first prison time in May of 1929, it was simply for carrying a gun. In 1930, at the peak of his power, Capone headed Chicago’s new list of the twenty-eight worst criminals and became the city’s”Public Enemy Number One.”
The popular belief in the 1920s and 30s was that illegal gambling earnings were not taxable income. However, the 1927 Sullivan ruling claimed that illegal profits were in fact taxable. The government wanted to indict Capone for income tax evasion, Capone never filed an income tax return, owned nothing in his own name, and never made a declaration of assets or income. He did all his business through front men so that he was anonymous when it came to income. Frank Wilson from the IRS’s Special Intelligence Unit was assigned to focus on Capone. Wilson accidentally found a cash receipts ledger that not only showed the but also contained Capone’s name; it was a record of Capone’s income. Later Capone’s own tax lawyer Lawrence P. Mattingly admitted in a letter to the letter, and the coercion of witnesses were the main evidence used to convict Capone.
In 1931, Capone was indicted for income tax evasion for the years 1925-29. He was also charged with the misdemeanor of failing to file tax returns for the years 1928 and 1929. The government charged that Capone owed $215,080.48 in taxes from his gambling profits. A third indictment was added, charging Capone with conspiracy to violate 1922-31. Capone pleaded guilty to all three charges in the belief that he would be able to plea bargain. However, the judge who presided over the case, Judge James H. Wilkerson, would not make any deals. Capone changed his pleas to not guilty. Unable to bargain, he tried to bribe the jury but Wilkerson changed the jury panel at the last minute.
The jury found Capone not guilty on eighteen of the twenty-three counts. Judge Wilkerson sentenced him to a total of ten years in federal prison and one year in the county jail. In addition, Capone had to serve an earlier six-month contempt of court sentence for failing to appear in court. The fines were a cumulative $50,000 and Capone had to pay the prosecution costs of $7,692.29.
In May 1932, Capone was sent to Atlanta, the toughest of the federal prisons, to begin his eleven-year sentence. Even in prison Capone took control, obtaining special privileges from the authorities such as furnishing his cell with a mirror, typewriter, rugs, and a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Because word spread that Capone had taken over in Atlanta, he was sent to Alcatraz. There were no other outfit members in Alcatraz, and security was so tight that he had no knowledge of the outside world. He was unable to control anyone or anything and could not buy influence or friends. In an attempt to earn time off for good behavior, Capone became the ideal prisoner and refused to participate in prisoner rebellions or strikes.
While at Alcatraz, he exhibited signs of syphilitic dementia. Capone spent the rest of his felony sentence in the hospital. On January 6, 1939, his prison term expired and he was transferred to Terminal Island, a Federal Correctional Institution in California, to serve his one-year misdemeanor sentence. He was finally released on November 16, 1939, but still had to pay fines and court costs of $37,617.51.
After his release, Capone spent a short time in the hospital. He returned to his home in Palm Island where the rest of his life was relaxed and quiet. His mind and body continued to deteriorate so that he could no longer run the outfit. On January 21, 1947, he had an apoplectic stoke that was probably unrelated to his syphilis. He regained consciousness and began to improve until pneumonia set in on January 24. He died the next day from cardiac arrest. Capone was first buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago’s far South Side between the graves of his father, Gabriele, and brother, Frank, but in March of 1950 the remains of all three were moved Cemetery on the far West Side.
Bibliography
– Allsop, Kenneth. The Bootleggers: the Story of Chicago’s Prohibition Era. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1968.
– Bergreen, Laurence. Capone: the Man and the Era. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.
– Enright, Richard T. Capone’s Chicago. Likeville, MN: Northstar Maschek Books, 1931; 1987 reprint.
– Halper, Albert, editor. The Chicago Crime Book. Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1967.
– Hammer, Richard. The illustrated history of organized crime. Philadelphia: Courage Books, 1989.
– Kobler, John. Capone: the Life and World of Al Capone. New York: Da Capo Press, 1992.

Al Capone

By all accounts, Alphonse did well at school until the 6th grade, then at the age of 14 he was expelled for retaliating against a female teacher who hit him. Following his expulsion, the Capone family decided to move neighbourhoods – a chance move that would have a huge impact on Al’s criminal future.


Just round the corner from Capone’s new home was the headquarters of gentleman gangster Johnny Torrio’s East Coast operation. And like many boys in the area, he became involved in running errands for Torrio, just to earn a little extra money.

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Despite his involvement with Torrio and street gangs, Capone continued to work and support his family. However, when Torrio moved to Chicago, Capone was left open to some bad influences.
At the age of 18, Capone was hired by an aggressive gangster Frankie Yale to work in his bar, the Harvard Inn. It was an incident in the Harvard Inn that earned Capone his nickname “Scarface”.


One night local gangster Frank Gallucio was drinking with his sister at the Harvard Inn, when Capone approached the young girl to pay her a compliment. Gallucio took offence to the young punk and began a brawl with Capone, it was during the scuffle the older man pulled a knife and cut Capone’s face three times – Scarface was born.


In early 1918, the career of Capone took another unexpected turn when he met the other most influential person in his life – his future wife Mae. Later that year, on December 4th, Capone became the proud father of Albert (Sonny) Francis Capone – Johnny Torrio became the godfather to his son.


Such a dramatic change in lifestyle made him reconsider his career, and he resigned from the Harvard Inn and went to work for a construction firm as a bookkeeper.


Chicago’s underworld beckons
In January 1920, the 18th Amendment of the Prohibition Act came into force, which made the brewing, distilling and distribution of alcohol completely illegal. The Prohibition era had begun, and Chicago’s criminal underworld, including Johnny Torrio, was well prepared to make bootlegging illegal alcohol an extremely profitable business.
Back in New York, Capone continued to concentrate on his legitimate career right up until the end of 1920 when his father tragically died. Without this strong parental figure, he resumed contact with Torrio, who had built up an influential racketeering empire in Chicago.
It wasn’t long before Torrio invited him to join him, and within a few months, Capone’s life took a drastic turn that would change his destiny forever.


At just 22 years of age Capone became Torrio’s partner in his Chicago businesses. Torrio’s empire had grown following Frankie Yale’s assassination of Big Jim Colosimo, and despite Yale’s intention to cash in on Big Jim’s floundering enterprises it was Torrio who took advantage of the situation. On the back of this success, Capone was given greater responsibilities and an opportunity to expand the operation to the Chicago suburb Cicero.


With his considerable and steady income, Capone bought a family home in Chicago, and moved several members of his family there, including his brothers Frank and Ralph. With Frank and Ralph on hand, Torrio decided to take a break from work, and while he was away, he went on to win a significant political victory in Cicero – but at a devastating price.


The 1924 primary election was key to Torrio and Capone’s dominance in Cicero, and on Election Day Capone’s men threatened voters and kidnapped the opponents of the candidates that their bosses were backing. The police looked on as Capone’s men rigged this election and finally decided to retaliate. It was Frank Capone not Al who bore the brunt of this reprisal, and he was gunned down because he was unfortunate enough to be recognised.


Al’s initial reaction to Frank’s death was surprisingly controlled, but a month later he shot petty thug Joe Howard dead for assaulting his Jewish friend Jack Guzik. Until now Capone had conducted his criminal career with considerable discretion, but at just 25 years of age, his cover was finally blown.


O’Banion’s set-up
Gangland florist and North Side gang leader Dion O’Banion was something of a loose canon. Already causing Capone and Torrio problems with the law, O’Banion’s troublemaking culminated in a

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