Al Capone Essay, Research Paper
Background-Along with thousands of other Italians, the Capone family moved to Brooklyn near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was a new beginning in a New World. The Capone?s were a quiet and conventional family. Nothing about the Capone family was inherently disturbed, violent, or dishonest. The children and the parents were close. There was no apparent mental disability, no traumatic event that sent the boys hurtling into a life of crime. They did not display sociopathic or psychotic personalities; they were not crazy. They were a law-abiding, unremarkable Italian-American family with conventional patterns of behavior and frustrations. They displayed no special genius for crime.
Parents-Gabriele and Teresina Capone
Brothers-Vincenzo (James), Raffaele (Ralph), Salvatore (Frank), Alphonse (Al).
Home-The Capone?s lived in a cold-water tenement flat that had no indoor toilet or furnishings. The neighborhood was virtually a slum. The family moved to better lodgings in an apartment over their father?s barbershop at 69 Park Avenue in Brooklyn. This move exposed Al to cultural influences well beyond what was supplied by the Italian immigrant community. Most of the people living around Park Avenue were Irish, although Germans, Swedes and Chinese were also in the neighborhood. Moving into a broader ethnic part of town allowed Al to escape from the all-Italian neighborhood. In their spare time, the ragged children gave the streets an explosive vitality as they played stickball, dodged traffic, brawled and bawled. To be a kid growing up in immigrant Brooklyn, you had to be in a gang (Italian, Jewish or Irish gang). They were not the vicious urban street gangs of today, but rather groups of territorial neighborhood boys who hung out together. Capone was a tough, scrappy kid and belonged to the South Brooklyn Rippers and then later to the Forty Thieves Juniors and the Five Point Juniors
Education-The school system was deeply prejudiced against them and did little to encourage any interest in higher education. Al Capone found school a place of constant discipline relieved by sudden outbreaks of violence. At fourteen, Al lost his temper at the teacher; she hit him and he hit her back. He was expelled and never went to school again. The immigrant parents expected their children to leave school as soon as they were old enough to work. There is no question that this cultural exposure would help him in his future role as the head of a criminal empire.
Introduction to Crime-A few blocks away from the Capone house on Garfield Place was a small unobtrusive building that was the headquarters of one of the most successful gangsters on the East Coast. Johnny Torrio was a new breed of gangster, a pioneer in the development of a modern criminal enterprise. Torrio’s administrative and organizational talents transformed crude racketeering into a kind of corporate structure, allowing his businesses to expand as opportunities emerged. Torrio was a role model for many of the boys in the community. Capone, like many other boys his age, earned pocket money by running errands for Johnny Torrio. Over time, Torrio came to trust Al and gave him more to do. Meantime, young Al learned by observing the wealthy, successful, respected racketeer and the people in his organization. Despite Al’s relationship with the street gangs and Johnny Torrio, there was no indication that Al would choose to lead a life of crime. He still lived at home and did what he as expected to do when he quit school; go to work and help support the family. Al Capone learned invaluable lessons from Torrio that were the foundation of the criminal empire he built later in Chicago.
Wife-At the age of nineteen, Al met a pretty blond Irish girl named Mae Coughlin, who was two years older than he was. Her family was comfortable and solidly middle class. It’s hard to imagine that Mae’s family embraced her relationship with Capone and it was not until after their baby was born that they married.
Children-Albert Francis Capone was born December 4, 1918. His godfather was Johnny Torrio. While Albert or Sonny, as he was known all his life, seemed okay at birth, he was in fact a victim of congenital syphilis. Years later, Al confessed to doctors that he had been infected before he was married, but he believed that the infection had gone away.
Life in Chicago-When Al Capone came to Chicago in 1920, the flesh trade was becoming the province of organized crime. The kingpin of this business was “Big Jim” Colosimo along with his wife and partner, Victoria Moresco, a highly successful madam. Together their brothels were earning an estimated $50,000 per month.
With his business acumen, soon Al became Torrio’s partner instead of his employee. Al took over as manager of the Four Deuces, Torrio’s headquarters in the Levee area. The Four Deuces was a speakeasy, gambling joint and whorehouse all in one. Soon his brother Ralph would come to join him in Torrio’s business. At this time, Al became associated with a man that would be his friend for life, Jack Guzik. Incredibly enough, Guzik’s large Orthodox Jewish family made their living through prostitution.
Al was not interested in prostitution, he was only focused on gambling and took an interest in a new gambling joint called the Ship. He also took control of the Hawthorne Race Track.
Rise to Power-After being shot, Torrio wanted out of this life of violence. He wanted to retire and live quietly on his substantial earnings. He called Al to the jail in Waukegan in March of 1925 and told him that he was retiring from the Chicago rackets and going to live abroad. Torrio was turning over his vast assets to Al and the rest of the Capone brothers. It was an amazing legacy: nightclubs, whorehouses, gambling joints, breweries and speakeasies. Capone’s power increased immensely.