Al Capone. Everyone is bound to hear the name at least once in his or her life. The charming, broad smile, the greenish gray eyes, heavy set, and five foot ten and a half; a seemingly normal man. Until someone notices the scars. A faded purple, still fresh looking, Al Capone’s scars marred the normal face, they gave a glance into the life of the notorious gangster. But who was Mr. Alphonse “Scarface” Capone? One reporter comments, “… Here is a man [Capone] who is an enigmatic, a man who nobody knows, not even his closest intimates.’” (Eig 198) What did the public think of “Scarface”? Katherine Geroud said, “It is not because Capone is different that he takes the imagination; it is because he is so gorgeously and typically American.” (Mr. Capone Quotes) What was this mysterious man involved in?
Al Capone was a complex man who controlled countless illegal businesses and somehow managed to catch the attention and interest of America as a whole. Al Capone was a complicated man; even though he scammed many people, Capone gave back to his community by creating soup kitchens and other forms of charity. Despite all this he appeared on up and coming gang leader, Johnny Torrio’s, radar. Capone went to Chicago to work for Mr. Torrio. “Capone was twenty-one years old and new in town.
He worked in Chicago’s Levee District, south of downtown, a neighborhood of sleazy bars and bordellos, where a man, if he cared about his health, tried not to stay long and tried not to touch anything.” (Eig 3) Capone was a great asset to the gang; after all he had grown up in the business. He was involved with street gangs when he dropped out of school in sixth grade, and worked as a bouncer when he got older. He tended to the bar called The Four Deuces; other times he resorted to his old job and worked the front door, acting as a bouncer. Soon, the Prohibition law came around and Torrio and Capone found themselves in a new business. Bootlegging.
Al Capone ran numerous businesses, most of them illegal; his most famous came with the passing of the Prohibition law. The Prohibition law banned the consumption and manufacturing of alcohol. Bootlegging was the act of smuggling alcohol to different places and customers. “Bootlegging offered a kind of dignity.” (Eig 9) With the help of the death of “Big Jim” Colosimo, Torrio became Chicago’s top gangster. By buying pieces of all sorts of businesses, illegal of course, Torrio and Capone soon controlled businesses all over Chicago, some being breweries. “Under the rules of Prohibition, brewers were still allowed to produce near beer, which contained only a minute concentration of alcohol… beer without alcohol was about as marketable as candy without sugar.” (Eig 12-13)
The illegal alcohol sold for more than fifty dollars a barrel with a profit of at least fifteen dollars. One freight car full was worth about $250,000 and that was just the profit! “History would remember them as warriors battling for the fat profits of Prohibition and the press would make them objects of affection. But when they set out in the bootlegging trade in the early 1920s, they were simply hoodlums.” (Eig 15) With the gangsters on the move towards the earnings from bootlegging, America was watching, all with baited breath.
Competition in the bootlegging and gang business was fierce, and if you weren’t strong enough to survive, you were quickly and efficiently disposed of, thus the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred. “…Inside a humdrum garage at 2122 North Clark Street, an unusually large gathering of Bugs Moran’s men came together for purposes unknown.” (Eig 187) At ten-thirty in the morning, two men dressed in police uniforms pulled up outside the garage. Two to three other men were dressed in street clothes. The neighbors though it was a routine raid. It wasn’t. Seven men were inside the garage. Moran’s men appeared calm, and they made no move to defend themselves. Two men posing as police officers ordered the other men against the wall. Then, they open fired. Machine guns made sure all the men were dead within two minutes. The neighbors though the gunshots were a car backfiring, although one man decided to investigate. The bodies were mutilated; six of the men were dead.
Frank Gusenburg was still alive when he was found. The room smelled of blood and gunpowder. Frank Gusenburg was taken to the hospital, where he soon died. Nothing like this had happened in Chicago for at least thirty-eight years. Capone, although blamed and rumored to have ordered the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, could not be pinned to it. The police attempted to follow every lead on him that they could, but they kept coming up short. Once again Mr. Capone jumped, hopped and shot his way to freedom. Although he couldn’t be traced to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Al Capone was no newbie with being arrested. Capone’s only arrests were minor and the most serious was for carrying a concealed weapon, which earned him ten months in jail. This didn’t seem to matter, especially since the charges that brought him down were for income tax evasion. In the end, he was given eleven years in jail.
Capone put on a brave face for the reporters and there is even a picture of him winking while coming out of the courthouse, even though he knew he was going to lose. “[Al Capone:] If the United States government thinks it can clean up Chicago by sending me to jail, well, it’s all right with me. I guess maybe I owe the government this stretch in jail, anyway.”(Mr. Capone Quotes) Al Capone was fist sent to a federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia in 1932. He was given special privileges, such as cigars, expensive shoes, and unmonitored business communication. It was even rumored he developed a way to take cocaine while in jail. In 1934, Al Capone was moved to Alcatraz.
He was one of the first prisoners at the maximum-security island. He was not allowed radios or newspapers and he could only write one letter a week, and it was monitored closely. Besides that he was allowed to see two family members a month, but they were his only visitors. Capone was released after eight years. It was said to be because of good behavior, but in reality it was because of his failing health. He had caught an STI in the 1920s and although it is treatable, he never was treated for it; perhaps he was ashamed or maybe it was his fear of needles, who knows? With the syphilis causing his health to deteriorate, the notorious Al Capone died in 1947 of a stroke that led to cardiac arrest.
His funeral only had a few family members and close friends. Alphonse Capone, notorious gangster. Admired by many, adored by few, hated by almost all. James O’Donnell Bennett best described him by stating, “With no conscious effort he emanated menace while saying please.” (Mr. Capone Quotes) Al Capone was a man who captured America’s interest, while he controlled numerous illegal businesses. People know of his business, but do they know the man behind the fancy façade and fedoras? Al Capone, America’s most wanted, most mysterious, man.
“Al Capone Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <http://www.biography.com/people/al-capone-9237536>. I used this as a quick fact checker. It was not quoted in my paper, but information was paraphrased and used. “Al Capone on Alcatraz.” Www.AlcatrazHistory.com.
Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <http://www.alcatrazhistory.com/cap1.htm>. I used this article to get information about Capone’s stay on Alcatraz and why he was moved there in the first place. Eig, Jonathan. Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America’s Most Wanted Gangster. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print. I took direct quotes from this book and paraphrased a lot of the information. “History Files – Al Capone.” Chicago History Museum |. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <http://www.chicagohs.org/history/capone.html>. I used this for a few facts and paraphrase a few parts of the article. Hollatz, Tom. Gangster Holidays: The Lore and Legends of the Bad Guys. St. Cloud, MN: North Star of St. Cloud, 1989. Print. This book was used to gather more information on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. I paraphrased it. “Mr. Capone.” Mr. Capone. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <http://www.mistercapone.com/>. I used a TON of quotes from this website. It had new and interesting information. Whiticker, Alan. “1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” 101 Crimes of the Century. Sydney: New Holland, 2008. 36-41. Print. This section was used to get in detail information about the Massacre. It helpeds with dates and keeping names straight.
“Al Capone.” : Chicago’s Most Infamous Mob Boss — Made In America — Crime Library on TruTV.com. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/gangsters_outlaws/mob_bosses/capone/index_1.html>. I used this article to help back up a few other sources and get some basic background information. Although there are no direct quotes, I used a lot of the facts and other information in my paper. “Al Capone.” FBI. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/al-capone>. I used this article to learn more about the actual investigation on Capone. This was helpful because I could use the background knowlegde from this site and apply it to my paper. Woog, Adam. “Al Capone:The King of Chicago.” Gangsters. San Diego, CA: Lucent, 2000. 25-35. Print. History Makers. This source helped me summarize the more difficult parts of my main book. It explained things more thoroughly and made them easier to understand and paraphrase. “World Biography.” Al Capone Biography. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ca-Ch/Capone-Al.html>. This was