The Life Of Al Capone Essay, Research Paper
The Life and World Of Al Capone
Written By, John Kopler
Report By, Adam Monteverde
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 him.
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 of Capone?s 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,
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.
In conclusion this book had alot of knowledge to offer about the life of the most
notorius gangster the world has ever known. I greatly enjoyed reading it.