Al Capone is one of the most recognized names in American history. Capone ran the City of Chicago with illegal activities. He appeared many times on newspapers all over the country. Every one of us has heard of Al Capone, but most of us dont k
now the story behind him. What made him to be the most feared gangster in the city of Chicago? How did this kid from a rough neighborhood and no money grow up to have $60,000,000? Ive always been fascinated with organized crime but had never been taught anything in school about it. This report gave me the chance to explore something interesting and also educational. The more I researched Al Capone, the more I wanted to learn about him. He may look like an innocent Italian at a glance, but he has done a lot of crime in the city of Chicago.
I knew going into this topic that there would be more than enough information. Going on the Internet I found many web sites that went in detail about certain aspects of Al Capones life. I found web pages on the St. Valentines Day Massacre and even a haunting of his ghost. My Grandpa had books that helped me including The Encyclopedia of World Crime and The Mafia Encyclopedia. He also had a great deal of information to tell me.
Most of Al Capones life seems unreal, but it is true. It all started when he was born on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York. He was baptized Alphonsus Capone. As the fourth oldest of nine children, he didnt receive much attention. At birth, Capone’s parents never would have believed that their son Alphonse would grow up to be a murderous thug without remorse. (The Encyclopedia of World Crime 603) Capone was very wise when it came to living on the streets of New York. He was a genius when it came to street smarts. As far as school goes, Capone was almost illiterate. He came from a poverty stricken neighborhood in Brooklyn, so education was not a top priority. Capone was forced to either deal with a low wage job with a hopeless future or make an improvement for himself by committing crime. Al Capone’s philosophy was to the effect that laws only applied to people who had enough money to abide by them. (The Mafia Encyclopedia 603)
Al Capone became a member of the Bim Booms Gang as a teenager. He learned to defend himself by way of a knife and revolver. By the time Capone reached the sixth grade he had already become a street brawler. Capone never responded well to authority and his schooling would soon come to an end. While attending school, Capone was responsible for beating a female teacher and knocking her to the ground. For this very reason he would never return to school again. After giving up on school, Al Capone took up odd jobs such as working as a pinsetter at a bowling alley, and working behind the counter at a candy store. He also became an expert knife fighter.
Although the Bim Booms Gang was the first gang Capone ever entered, he was quickly picked up by the Five Pointers. The Five Pointers was the most powerful gang in New York City. The gang was headed by Johnny Torrio, and was made up of over 1,500 thugs who specialized in burglary, extortion, robbery, assault, and murder. While working as a strong-arm enforcer under Torrio, Capone learned all the lethal tricks that would turn him from being poor to rich in hardly any time. Capone was very grateful to Torrio and is quoted as saying: I looked on Johnny as my adviser and father and the party that made it possible for me to get my start. (The Encyclopedia of World Crime 604)
Torrio first set Capone out to do all of his dirty work. Capone was sent to beat up loan shark victims behind on their payments, then a pimp, beating up girls who were holding out on their nightly take. (The Mafia Encyclopedia 68) Torrio finally got Capone a job as a bouncer at the Harvard Inn. By this time Capone was recognized by his gang as being a vicious fighter with both fists and knives. He also became an excellent marksman with both a revolver and automatic weapons. This was due to many months of shooting empty bottles in the basement of the Inn.
Al Capone was later promoted to bartender at the Inn. One night he made a remark about the sister of Frank Galluciano, and Galluciano slashed Capone’s face with a pocketknife, leaving three large scars on the left side of his face. For much of his criminal career, newspapers would call Capone by the hated name Scarface. On December 18, 1918, Capone was wed at the age of 19, to a 21 year old Irish girl named Mae Coughlin. A short time later Albert Francis Capone was born. At the same time this was going on, in New York Johnny Torrio moved his operations to Chicago. Torrio’s prospects in New York looked dim because Capone was indicted for two murders. He was released when a witness lost her memory, and evidence suddenly vanished from the court. Al Capone knew that he had Johnny Papa Torrio to thank for this. A few days later, Capone got into a scruff with another man and killed him. Rather than being indicted again, Capone called Torrio and received an invitation to move to Chicago. So he packed up his wife and child and did just that.
Upon arrival in Chicago, Capone was given a job as a bartender at Torrio’s newest club, The Four Deuces. Capone was known as an aggressive and hospitalized most of the drunks he evicted. Men were hospitalized with broken arms, broken legs, skull fractures, and on one occasion even blood poisoning because Capone bit through the skin directly into the man’s artery. Capone was repeatedly arrested for assault, but was always released thanks to Torrio’s police connections.
While working at The Four Deuces, Capone strangled at least twelve men with his bare hands. The bodies were dragged to the basement through a trap door that led to the alley behind the club. There was a fast getaway car outside that would always be waiting for Capone to flee in. Chicago at the time was being run by the gangster named “Big Jim” Colosimo. Colosimo dressed lavishly in expensive suits and was covered in diamond jewelry. He was always seen eating at expensive restaurants, and owned all the whore houses, saloons, and gambling dens in Chicago. (The Encyclopedia of World Crime 606)
Johnny Torrio grew very jealous of Colosimo and soon sent for his most loyal hit man, Al Capone. “Big Jim” Colosimo was killed on the night of May 11, 1920. The reason for his death was due mostly to the prohibition act to be passed in 1920. Torrio, the nephew of Colosimo, wanted him to start an underground still that could supply all the bars with beer and liquor. (The Encyclopedia of World Crime 606) Torrio knew there were thousands of dollars to be made in this racket, but Colosimo never wanted to do it. In this instance “Big Jim” Colosimo sealed his own fate. This is also how Torrio’s right hand man Al Capone was soon to become the great purveyor of booze in Chicago during Prohibition. (The Mafia Encyclopedia 87)
Torrio imposed a peace treaty on the other gangs, which lasted until the OBanion-Genna war. Torrio was shot by OBanion men in reprisal for Obanions slaying. He barely survived. Before retiring to Italy, Torrio turned over leadership of his gang to Capone. Capone’s mob of thugs literally ran the streets of Chicago. While Capone’s street mob was in its prime, it consisted of over 1,000 members and half of the Chicago police force. Capone’s payroll at the time consisted of police officers, aldermen, state’s attorneys, mayors, legislators, governors, and even congressmen. (The Encyclopedia of World Crime 608)
Capone was the leader of Chicago. It had its downfalls though. Numerous threats on his life were made over his notorious reign. He was shot at in streets, had poison slipped into his food at clubs, and numerous other occasions. Dion O’Banion emptied 1,000 rounds into the Hawthorn Inn where Capone was staying. This was perhaps Capone’s closest call to death, as he watched the bullets hit the wood and glass that covered the Inn, from his back on the dining room floor. Later, Capone arranged O’Banion’s death and would be marked as one of his greatest accomplishments. Capones two best gunners, John Scalise and Albert Anselmi, were assigned to this assassination. As it turns out, Scalise and Anselmi were conspiring a plan with enemies of Capone to kill him. Capone invited them to a banquet in their honor and, at the climax of the evening, produced a gift wrapped Indian club with which he bashed their brains out. (The Mafia Encyclopedia 62)
One February evening in North Chicago, seven well-dressed men were found riddled with bullets inside the S.M.C Cartage Co. garage. They had been lined up against a wall, with their backs to their executioners and shot to death. These men were mobsters working under the leadership of gangster and bootlegger, Bugs Moran. This became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Investigators on the scene found the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to be somewhat puzzling. The victims were mobsters, with an endless supply of weapons. Why would they turn their backs and face the wall for anyone without putting up a fight? That was one of many questions to be answered. It turns out Al Capone ordered the massacre. The reason was to kill Bugs Moran who was the last major leader of the O’Banion’s street gang. Capone’s men dressed as police officers and lined seven of O’Banion’s gang members up across a garage wall. The gang offered no resistance because they thought it was a routine bust. Instead Capone’s men opened up over 1,000 rounds of machine gun fire instantly slaughtering the members. Unfortunately Bugs Moran was not present when it happened. This notorious blunder caught the eye of the public and caused opinions to change concerning the bootleg wars. (The Encyclopedia of World Crime 612)
Capone’s downfall was caused by one of his own business agents who ran Capone’s dog and horse race tracks. The man’s name was Eddie O’Hare, one of the best undercover men hired by the IRS. He informed the IRS where books reflecting Capone’s income could be seized. Capone had never paid any type of income tax and for this very reason he was brought up on charges of tax invasion in front of the federal court. Capone offered the federal government $400,000 to drop the case against him, but they rejected the offer. Capone was convicted and given the maximum sentence, which was a $50,000 fine, court costs of $30,000, and eleven years in jail. The government seized all of his assets. Most of these holdings were in the names of others, so they remained in the family.
Capone started his sentence in an Atlanta prison. In 1934, Capone got transferred to the most brutal prison in America, Alcatraz. Alcatraz was a place of total punishment and few privileges. They used terrible methods to have vengeance against the prisoners. One of the most successful methods of punishment were the prison’s “holes”, places that were little more than dungeons and where prisoners could be severely beaten for the slightest infractions.
Capone spent three stretches in the hole during his years at Alcatraz. The first years of the new prison were known as the silent years, where no prisoners were allowed to speak to each other, sing or even whistle. Talking was forbidden except for three minutes during the morning and afternoon recreation periods and on weekends for two hours.
Capone was quite arrogant when he arrived at the prison. He had no idea the rule of silence applied to him. He found himself in the hole for two stretches for this offense and once more for trying to bribe a guard for information from the outside. On all three occasions, Capone returned from the hole just a little worse for wear.
Eventually, it would break him.
Many of the Alcatraz prisoners went insane and Capone was possibly one of them. The attempts on his life, the beatings, a stabbing and the prison routine began taking a terrible toll on Capone. After several attempts on his life in the prison yard, he was excused from going outside and later joined the four-man prison band. Gifts to Alcatraz inmates were forbidden, but musical instruments were allowed. Capone’s wife sent him a banjo. He would often sit in his cell and play when the other prisoners were outside.
After five years, Capone’s mind snapped and there were times when he would refuse to leave his cell and go to the mess hall to eat. Sometimes he would crouch down in the corner of his cell and babble to himself in baby talk. Another inmate recalled that sometimes Capone would stay in his cell and re-make his bunk over and over again.
He spent the last portion of his time at Alcatraz in the hospital ward. He was being treated for an advanced form of syphilis, which he had been carrying since his youth.
Five years later he was released from Alcatraz because of the untreated syphilis. Later that year, Al Capone was judged insane and was released to the care of his family. While Capone had once killed off most of his enemies, he could not get rid of one of the spirits. It was the ghost of James Clark, the brother-in-law of Bugs Moran and a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre victim, who Capone claimed hounded him from 1929 to his grave. There were many times when Capone’s employees would hear him begging for the ghost to leave him in peace.
In January 1947 Capone had a massive brain hemorrhage and died. His body was removed from his estate in Florida and transferred back to Chicago. Even in death, Capone had gunmen legions to protect him against unseen enemies such as ghosts. The family held a private ceremony at the cemetery, but worried about grave robbers taking the corpse. They reburied Capone in a secret plot in Mt. Carmel Cemetery. This is where the crime lord rests in peace.
Capone surely had an eventful life. He was responsible for the death of over 500 people. As a young boy, he had no opportunities to be rich and live in a big home. The only way out was through a life of crime. Thats where he turned and he succeeded with over $60,000,000. To do something well you have to have the drive to do it. This was how Al Capone was and he was a natural at what he did. He had the right personality and the right connections to be at the top. This was how he became the most feared gangster in the city of Chicago and got that $60,000,000. I noticed a connection to Al Capone and Adolf Hitler. They both seemed to have it all then have it suddenly swept under them. They lived lives of crime and hatred but in the end it took a turn. Hitler ended up putting a gun to his mouth while Capone went insane from his stay at Alcatraz. I learned a lot from doing this report. Besides the amount of typing, which has repeatedly cramped my fingers, it let me read some interesting articles that made me really know what Al Capones life was like. It may seem cool to talk about Al Capone, but behind his innocent face, was an evil gangster. Al Capones name will live on as the crime czar who ruled Chicago.