Al Capone

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Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone (Template:IPAc-en; January 17, 1899 – January 25, 1947) was an American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate. The Chicago Outfit, which subsequently also became known as the "Capones", was dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor, and other illegal activities, such as prostitution, in Chicago from the early 1920s to 1931.

Born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City to Italian immigrants, Capone became involved with gang activity at a young age after having been expelled from school at age 14.[1] In his early twenties, he moved to Chicago to take advantage of a new opportunity to make money smuggling illegal alcoholic beverages into the city during Prohibition. He also engaged in various other criminal activities, including bribery of government figures and prostitution.

Despite his illegitimate occupation, Capone became a highly visible public figure. He made donations to various charitable endeavors using the money he made from his activities, and was viewed by many to be a "modern-day Robin Hood".[2] Capone's public reputation was damaged in the wake of his supposed involvement in the 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, when seven rival gang members were executed.[3]

Capone was convicted on federal charges of tax evasion in 1931 and sentenced to federal prison; he was released on parole in 1939. His incarceration included a term at the then-new Alcatraz federal prison. In the final years of Capone's life, he suffered mental and physical deterioration due to late-stage neurosyphilis, which he had contracted in his youth. On January 25, 1947, he died from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke.

Early life

Al Capone's son Albert Francis "Sonny" Capone with Al Capone's mother, Teresa

Alphonse (or Alfonse, which one is unknown) Gabriel Capone was born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York on January 17, 1899.[4] His parents, Gabriele Capone (December 12, 1864 – November 14, 1920) and Teresina Raiola (December 28, 1867 – November 29, 1952), were immigrants from Italy. His father was a barber from Castellammare di Stabia, a town about Template:Convert south of Naples, and his mother was a seamstress and the daughter of Angelo Raiola from Angri, a town in the Province of Salerno.[5]

Gabriele and Teresa had nine children: Alphonse "Scarface Al" Capone, James Capone (who later changed his name to Richard Hart and became, ironically, a Prohibition agent in Homer, Nebraska), Raffaele Capone (also known as Ralph "Bottles" Capone, who took charge of his brother's beverage industry), Salvatore "Frank" Capone, John Capone, Albert Capone, Matthew Capone, Rose Capone, and Mafalda Capone (who married John J. Maritote). His two brothers, Ralph Capone and Frank Capone worked with him in his empire. Frank did so until his death on April 1, 1924 and Ralph ran the bottling companies (both legal and illegal) early on, and was also the front man for the Chicago Outfit for some time until he was imprisoned for tax evasion in 1932. The Capone family immigrated to the United States, first immigrating from Italy to Fiume, Austria–Hungary (now Rijeka, Croatia) in 1893, traveling on a ship to the U.S. and finally settled at 95 Navy Street,[4] in the Navy Yard section of downtown Brooklyn. Gabriele Capone worked at a nearby barber shop at 29 Park Avenue.[4] When Al was 11, the Capone family moved to 38 Garfield Place[4] in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Capone showed promise as a student, but had trouble with the rules at his strict parochial Catholic school. He dropped out of school at the age of 14, after being expelled for hitting a female teacher in the face.[1] He worked at odd jobs around Brooklyn, including a candy store and a bowling alley.[6] During this time, Capone was influenced by gangster Johnny Torrio, whom he came to regard as a mentor.[7]


After his initial stint with small-time gangs that included the Junior Forty Thieves and the Bowery Boys, Capone joined the Brooklyn Rippers and then the powerful Five Points Gang based in Lower Manhattan. During this 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. After he inadvertently insulted a woman while working the door at a Brooklyn night club, Capone was attacked by her brother, Frank Gallucio, and his face was slashed three times on the left side. These scars gave him the nickname "Scarface", a nickname he despised.[3] Yale insisted that Capone apologize to Gallucio, and later Capone hired him as a bodyguard.[8][9] When photographed, Capone hid the scarred left side of his face saying the injuries were war wounds.[8][10] Capone was called "Snorky", a term for a sharp dresser, by his closest friends.[11]

Marriage and family

On December 30, 1918, at age 19, Capone married Mae Josephine Coughlin, who was Irish Catholic and who, earlier that month, had given birth to their first son, Albert Francis ("Sonny") Capone. As Capone was under the age of 21, his parents had to consent to the marriage in writing.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

Chicago career

Capone departed New York for Chicago without his new wife and son, who joined him later. In 1923, he purchased a small house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue in the Park Manor neighborhood on the city's south side for US$5,500.[12]

Capone was recruited for Chicago by Johnny Torrio, his Five Points Gang mentor. Torrio had gone there to resolve some family problems his cousin's husband was having with the Black Hand and killed them. He saw many business opportunities in Chicago, especially bootlegging following the onset of prohibition. Chicago's location on Lake Michigan gave access to a vast inland territory, and it was well-served by railroads. Torrio took over the crime empire of James "Big Jim" Colosimo after he was murdered. Yale was a suspect, but legal proceedings against him were dropped due to a lack of evidence.[13] Capone was suspected in the murders of Colosimo and two other men. He was seeking a safe haven and a better job to provide for his new family.[14]

The 1924 town council elections in Cicero became known as one of the most crooked elections in the Chicago area's long history of rigged elections, with voters threatened by thugs at polling stations. Capone's mayoral candidate won by a huge margin and weeks later announced that he would run Capone out of town. Capone then met with his puppet-mayor and knocked him down the town hall steps.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

For Capone, the election victory was also marred by the death of his older brother Frank at the hands of the police. Capone cried at his brother's funeral and ordered the closure of all the speakeasies in Cicero for a day as a mark of respect.

Much of Capone's family settled in Cicero as well. In 1930, Capone's sister Mafalda married John J. Maritote at St. Mary of Częstochowa, a massive Neo-Gothic edifice towering over Cicero Avenue in the Polish Cathedral style.[15]

Capone's power grows in Chicago

The Torrio-Capone organization, as well as the Sicilian-American Genna crime family, competed with the North Side Gang of Dean O'Banion. In May 1924, O'Banion discovered that their Sieben Brewery was going to be raided by federal agents and sold his share to Torrio. After the raid, both O'Banion and Torrio were arrested.[16] Torrio's people murdered O'Banion in revenge on October 10, 1924, provoking a gang war.[17][18]

In 1925, Torrio was severely injured in an attack by the North Side Gang; he turned over his business to Capone and returned to Italy. During the Prohibition Era, Capone controlled large portions of the Chicago underworld, which provided The Outfit with an estimated US$100 million per year in revenue.[19] This wealth was generated through numerous illegal vice enterprises, such as gambling and prostitution; the highest revenue was generated by the sale of liquor.[3]

His transportation network moved smuggled liquor from the rum-runners of the East Coast, The Purple Gang in Detroit, who brought liquor in from Canada, with help from Belle River native Blaise Diesbourg, also known as "King Canada", and local production which came from Midwestern moonshine operations and illegal breweries. With the revenues gained by his bootlegging operation, Capone increased his grip on the political and law-enforcement establishments in Chicago. He made his headquarters at Chicago's Lexington Hotel; after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, it was nicknamed "Capone's Castle".

The organized corruption included the bribing of Chicago Mayor William "Big Bill" Hale Thompson, and Capone's gang operated largely free from legal intrusion. He operated casinos and speakeasies throughout the city. With his wealth, he indulged in custom suits, cigars, gourmet food and drink (his preferred liquor was Templeton Rye from Iowa[20]), jewelry, and female companionship. He garnered media attention, to which his favorite responses were "I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want", and "All I do is satisfy a public demand".[3] Capone had become a celebrity.

Unemployed men outside a soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone, 1931

His rivals retaliated for the violence of Capone's enforcement of control. North Side gangsters Hymie Weiss and Bugs Moran wanted to bring him down. More than once, Capone's car was riddled with bullets. On September 20, 1926, the North Side gang shot into Capone's entourage as he was eating lunch in the Hawthorne Hotel restaurant. 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. Several bystanders were hurt from flying glass and bullet fragments in the raid. Capone paid for the medical care of a young boy and his mother who would have lost her eyesight otherwise. This event prompted Capone to call for a truce, but negotiations fell through. The attacks were believed to have been made at Moran's direction and left Capone shaken.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

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 in places including Couderay, Wisconsin.[21]

Capone's Couderay hideout (a popular tourist attraction in later years) is a 407-acre property, complete with a 37-acre lake which reputedly was used to land planes filled with illegal liquor for shipment south to Chicago.[21][22] Former New York gang member Owney "The Killer" Madden retired to Hot Springs and invited his former colleagues to visit him there; this was also the place that Lucky Luciano was first arrested. As a further precaution, Capone and his entourage would often show up suddenly at one of Chicago's train depots and buy up an entire Pullman sleeper car on night trains to places such as Cleveland, Omaha, Kansas City, Little Rock or Hot Springs, where they would spend a week in luxury hotel suites under assumed names. In 1928, Capone bought a 14-room retreat on Palm Island, Florida, close to Miami Beach.[3]

Saint Valentine's Day Massacre


File:Valentine Day massacre.jpg
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre eliminated some of Capone's enemies, but outraged the general public

It is believedTemplate:By whom that Capone ordered the 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Chicago's North Side. Details of the killing of the seven victims[3] 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. They had been increasingly bold in hijacking the Outfit's booze trucks, assassinating two presidents of the Outfit-controlled Unione Siciliana, and made three assassination attempts on Jack McGurn, one of Capone's top enforcers. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

To monitor 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.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }} Photos of the massacre victims shocked the public and damaged Capone's reputation. Federal law enforcement worked to investigate his activities.[3]

Conviction and imprisonment


Al Capone's cell at the Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA

In 1929, the Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness began an investigation of Capone and his business, attempting to get a conviction for Prohibition violations. Frank J. Wilson investigated Capone's income tax violations, which the government decided was more likely material for a conviction. In 1931 Capone was indicted for income tax evasion and various violations of the Volstead Act (Prohibition) at the Chicago Federal Building in the courtroom of Judge James Herbert Wilkerson.[23] His attorneys made a plea deal, but the presiding judge warned he might not follow the sentencing recommendation from the prosecution. Capone withdrew his plea of guilty.

His attempt to bribe and intimidate the potential jurors was discovered by Ness's men, The Untouchables. The venire (jury pool) was switched with one from another case, and Capone was stymied. Following a long trial, on October 17 the jury returned a mixed verdict, finding Capone guilty of five counts of tax evasion and failing to file tax returns[24][25] (the Volstead Act violations were dropped). The judge sentenced him to 11 years imprisonment, at the time the longest tax evasion sentence ever given, along with heavy fines, and liens were filed against his various properties.[26] His appeals of both the conviction and the sentence were denied.[27] One of the Capone properties seized by the federal government was an armored limousine. The limousine was later used to protect President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the attack on Pearl Harbor.[28]

In May 1932, Capone was sent to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary, 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 transferred to Alcatraz on August 11, 1934, which was newly established as a prison on an island off San Francisco.[29] The warden kept tight security and cut off Capone's contact with colleagues. His isolation and the repeal of Prohibition in December 1933, which reduced a major source of revenue, diminished his power.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

Al Capone at Alcatraz

During his early months at Alcatraz, Capone made an enemy by showing his disregard for the prison social order when he cut in line while prisoners were waiting for a haircut. James Lucas, a Texas bank robber serving 30 years, reportedly confronted the former syndicate leader and told him to get back at the end of the line. When Capone asked if he knew who he was, Lucas reportedly grabbed a pair of the barber's scissors and, holding them to Capone's neck, answered: "Yeah, I know who you are, greaseball. And if you don't get back to the end of that fucking line, I'm gonna know who you were."[30]

Capone was admitted into the prison hospital with a minor wound and released a few days later.[2] In addition, his health declined as the syphilis which he had contracted as a youth progressed. He spent the last year of his sentence in the prison hospital, confused and disoriented.[31] Capone completed his term in Alcatraz on January 6, 1939, and was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island in California, to serve the one-year contempt of court term he was originally sentenced to serve in Chicago's Cook County Jail.[32] He was paroled on November 16, 1939, and, after having spent a short time in a hospital, returned to his home in Palm Island, Florida.[33]

Later years and death

Capone's control and interests within organized crime diminished rapidly after his imprisonment. Additionally, 20 years of high living had seriously ravaged his health. He had lost weight, and his physical and mental health had deteriorated under the effects of neurosyphilis. In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist performed examinations and concluded that Capone, due to brain damage caused by the syphilis, then had the mental capability of a 12-year-old child.[34] He often raved about Communists, foreigners, and Bugs Moran, who he was convinced was plotting to kill him from his Ohio prison cell.

Unable to resume his criminal career, Capone spent the last years of his life at his mansion in Florida. On January 21, 1947, Capone had a stroke. He regained consciousness and started to improve but contracted pneumonia.

He suffered a fatal cardiac arrest the next day. On January 25, 1947 Al Capone died in his home, surrounded by his family,[35] and wаs buried аt Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

In popular culture

One of the most notorious American gangsters of the 20th century, Capone has been the subject of numerous articles, books, and films. Capone's personality and character have been used in fiction as a model for crime lords and criminal masterminds ever since his death. The stereotypical image of a mobster wearing a blue pinstriped suit and tilted fedora is based on photos of Capone. His accent, mannerisms, facial construction, physical stature, and parodies of his name have been used for numerous gangsters in comics, movies, music, and literature.


  • Capone is featured in a segment of Mario Puzo's The Godfather as an ally of a New York mob boss in which he sends, at the mob boss' request, two "button men" to kill Don Vito Corleone; arriving in New York, the two men are intercepted by and brutally killed by Luca Brasi, after which Don Corleone sends a message to Capone warning him to not interfere again and Capone apparently capitulates.[36]
  • Capone is featured in the Kinky Friedman novel, The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover (1997). {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B=

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  • In a book of photographs titled New York City Gangland (2010), both Capone and his NYC bootlegging ally, Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, appear in Prohibition-era "bathing beauty" portraits.[37]
  • A reincarnated Capone is a major character in science fiction author Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy.
  • Capone's appearance was the model for the dummy of Batman villain the Ventriloquist, aptly named Scarface.
  • Capone's niece, Deirdre Marie Capone, wrote a book titled Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story from Inside His Family.[38]
  • Al Capone is a central character in the fantasy novel Cosa Nosferatu, which imagines Capone and Eliot Ness entangled with Randolph Carter and other elements of H.P. Lovecraft mythos.
  • Al Capone is the central character of Armitage Trail's novel Scarface (1929),[39] which was the basis for the 1932 film of the same name.

Film and television

Capone has been portrayed on screen by:

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Actors playing characters based on Capone include:


  • Prince Buster, Jamaican ska and rocksteady musician, had his first hit in the UK with the single "Al Capone" in 1967.[43]
  • The Specials, a UK ska revival group, reworked Prince Buster's track into their first single, "Gangsters",[44] which featured the line "Don't call me Scarface!"
Graffiti of Al Capone made by Partizan fans in Belgrade, Serbia.
  • Paper Lace, The Night Chicago Died is a song by the British group Paper Lace, written by Peter Callander and Mitch Murray. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week in 1974. It is about a fictional shoot-out in Chicago between Al Capone's Gang and the Chicago Police.Quote from the song "When a man named Al Capone Tried to make that town his own And he called his gang to war With the forces of the law"
  • Al Capone is referenced heavily in Prodigy's track "Al Capone Zone", produced by The Alchemist and featuring Keak Da Sneak.[45]
  • Al Capone transcribed a love song called Madonna Mia while in prison. In May 2009, his rendition of the song was recorded for the first time in history. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B=

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  • He is referenced in a homonymous song by Brazilian singer Raul Seixas.
  • His name also appears in the song Stone Cold Crazy by Queen.
  • Megadeth's song "Public Enemy No. 1" is about Capone.
  • Al Capone is referenced in song lyrics by the group: TESLA. (Album: Mechnical Resonance. Year: 1986. Song: Modern Day Cowboy-track 7. "Al Capone and his bad boy Jones ...")
  • "Al Capone" is a song by Michael Jackson. It was recorded during the Bad era (circa 1987) but wasn't included on the album. The song was released however in September 2012 in celebration of the Bad 25th anniversary.
  • The Violent Femmes song "To the Kill" (1983) references both Chicago and Al Capone.
  • The YouTube channel Epic Rap Battles of History uploaded a rap battle between Al Capone and Blackbeard on the 21st of October 2013, with Al Capone being played by EpicLLOYD and Blackbeard by Nice Peter.


  • Fans of Serbian football club Partizan are using Al Capone's character as a mascot for one of their subgroups called "Alcatraz", named after a prison in which Al Capone served his sentence. Also, in honour of Capone, a graffiti representation of him exists in the center of Belgrade.

Video games

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Template:Cite web
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:Cite web
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  5. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  6. Kobler, 27.
  7. Kobler, 26.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kobler, 36.
  9. Template:Cite web
  10. Kobler, 15.
  11. "Mobsters and Gangsters from Al Capone to Tony Soprano", Life (2002).
  12. Template:Cite web
  13. Template:Cite web
  14. Kobler, 37.
  15. Template:Cite web
  16. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  17. Bergreen, pp 134–135
  18. Bergreen, p 138
  19. "Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to 2008." Online calculator appears on the right side of website.
  20. Template:Cite web
  21. 21.0 21.1 Template:Cite web
  22. Template:Cite web
  23. Template:Cite web
  24. Template:Cite web
  25. Bergreen, p. 484
  26. Bergreen, pp. 486–487
  27. Capone v. United States, 56 F.2d 927 (1931), cert. denied, 286 U.S. 553, 76 L.Ed. 1288, 52 S.Ct. 503; (1932); United States v. Capone, 93 F.2d 840 (1937), cert. denied, 303 U.S. 651, 82 L.Ed. 1112, 58 S.Ct. 750 (1938).
  28. Benford, Timothy B. The World War II Quiz and Fact Book (1999) New York, NY: Random House
  29. Template:Cite web
  30. Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
  31. Al Capone: Chicago's Most Infamous Mob Boss – The Crime library.
  32. J. Campbell Bruce, "Escape from Alcatraz", Random House Digital, Inc. (2005), p 32.
  33. John J. Binder, "The Chicago Outfit", Arcadia Publishing (2003), p 41–42.
  34. Template:Cite web
  35. Template:Cite news
  36. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  38. Template:Cite web
  39. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  40. 40.00 40.01 40.02 40.03 40.04 40.05 40.06 40.07 40.08 40.09 40.10 40.11 40.12 40.13 40.14 40.15 40.16 40.17 40.18 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  41. Template:Cite news
  42. Template:Cite news
  43. Template:Cite web
  44. Template:Cite web
  45. Template:Cite web
  46. Nikita "Al Capone" Krylov's profile, from
  47. Template:Cite web
  48. Template:Cite web

Further reading

  • Capone, Deirdre Marie; Uncle Al Capone – The Untold Story from Inside His Family. Recap Publishing LLC, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9828451-0-3
  • Hoffman Dennis E. Scarface Al and the Crime Crusaders: Chicago's Private War Against Capone. Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition (November 24, 1993) ISBN 978-0-8093-1925-1
  • Kobler, John. Capone: The Life and Times of Al Capone. New York: Da Capo Press, 2003. ISBN 0-306-81285-1
  • MacDonald, Alan. Dead Famous – Al Capone and his Gang Scholastic.
  • 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
  • Helmer, William J. Al Capone and His American Boys: Memoirs of a Mobster's Wife. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-253-35606-2

External links

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