, Research Paper
Reid BengschMarch 12, 2001Mr. SchauerAP US History Blk. 2Capone On Top of Chicago After the end of World War I, America had immediately felt the effects of what they got themselves into. We started to go in a decline and there was not a whole lot that we could do about it. So we had to make a few changes in all aspects of the country including politically, socially, and economically. We tried a few things just as an experiment and some of it had started to work, but nothing drastic. So then we went out on a limb and tried what was known as the Noble Experiment or what later went in the Constitution(but later repealed) was Prohibition. Granted it was just an experiment, but if only we would have knownthe consequences of what we had done. In the late 1920 s the rise in organized crime had grown enormously. Amongst the many gangs emerged one man that would change the face of the country. Of course this man was Al Scarface Capone or even the Chicago Gangster. Unfortunately, he setup shop in one of the most lawless cities of the time, Chicago. Capone, born on January 17, 1899 in Brooklyn, has had his hands in gangs since the early age of eleven. He started off in the Five Points gang in New York working for Frankie Yale as a bouncer and a bartender in one of his brothels. Capone was asked to leave Brooklyn in 1919 after an investigation of some murders had been brought up, but no hard evidence was able to be established against him. From there Capone moved to Chicago under the Bengsch 2famed crime boss Johnny Torrio. He became known once Torrio had him remove his uncle from his position to become Torrio s right hand man. Torrio then had Capone run his bootlegging branch. From there he escalated his business to a multi-million dollar operation. That is why Al Capone is America s best known gangster and the single greatest symbol of collapse of law and order in the United States during the 1920 s Prohibition era. When Capone arrived in Chicago things were relatively quiet among the gangs and racketeering business. Even though Capone had many enemies and numerous times was his life threatened he was still able to control them and the business they ran. So basically Capone ran it all and no one could stop him. Every man had a reason to be afraid of him; they didn t call him Public Enemy #1 for anything. Capone had an ending amount of enemies who in a way were some of his colleagues too. To name a few include Dion O Banion, George Bugs Moran, and Hymie Weiss. Many others hated him, but didn t dare to mess with him. Dion O Banion was one of his main archrivals only until he was assassinated by a few of Capone s friends in 1924 . Up until that day Capone s main problem with O Banion was that he tried to interfere in his bootlegging campaign. One thing Capone did not like was people stopping him from making more money. Besides this Capone did not like how O Banion got things done. O Banion himself was not a scary man. Once referred to as having a perennial-boy likeability. Dion at times Bengsch 3called his enemies swell fellows. Their beef really came when Dion dragged Capone into an unnecessary murder investigation. Then when Capone s allies, the Genna brothers disgraced Dion s bootlegging company, O Banion hijacked one of the Genna s truckloads. O Banion then setup Torrio to be busted and sent to jail. Capone ran things during the time and knew Dion s fate was sealed. Hymie and Bugs took over O Banion s gang when he died. They both ran it well for awhile, but neither was able to grab a major foothold as a major competition for Capone. Still they were considered a threat especially after Bugs and Weiss pulled up behind his mentor, Torrio, got out and shot up his car. Then they saw him and pumped four bullets in his body. They tried to shoot him point blank, but the gun clip was empty. From then on Capone knew they had to be dealt with. If assassinating O Banion wasn t enough Capone scared off many of his remaining enemies during the St. Valentines Day Massacre in 1929. On February 14, four of Capone s men walked into 2122 N. Clark Street, Moran s main bootlegging headquarters. Since two of them were dressed as policeman Moran s men thought it was a raid, dropped their guns and put their hands up. Capone s men unloaded 150 bullets from two shotguns and two machine guns into six of Moran s men and unfortunately a friend to Capone. Still they were unable to hit their main target of Moran. When he saw the police he just kept on walking. Capone s other major nemesis was the Chicago Police Department, but that I ll get into later on.
Bengsch 4 Besides his enemies, Capone had law and order over his friends and fellow gangsters. This guy could practically get anybody to do anything. Even though some of it was influential it was partially due to fear. Of course with all the success and money accumulated over the years I m sure even the nicest person could be influenced to do things that were illegal or cruel especially back then. Some of Capone s friends included Johnny Torrio, the head crime boss, Mike Merlo, head of Unione Sicilana, a group that provided national cover to gangsters, Frankie Yale, head of the New York branch, Lucky Luciano, a childhood friend, and the Genna brothers. Torrio, a bigger crime boss than Capone, was even under the control of him and in fact after seeing that he wasn t needed anymore in the crime business Torrio gave the entire business for Capone to run. Although Capone could have influenced any man he was not greedy like that. Instead of himself running the Chicago branch he let Angelo Genna run it. This was mainly because Capone operated secretly and felt he would have been seen more and possibly get caught. Capone didn t have to try much to influence his friends especially when they saw how much money he had amounted too. Contrary to popular belief underneath all the killing and crime from Capone he did a lot of things to help out the city. In fact he was equally known for his sense of loyalty and honor. He was one of the firsts to open soup kitchens after the stock market crash and ordered merchants to give clothes and food to the needy at his expense. Besides giving Bengsch 5back to the city he ran, Capone was also a forgiving man. He hired the very man that scarred him for life. Before I get into Capone s power over the law and order in the city of Chicago, city of Cicero, over the mayor, and the Chicago Police Department let me give a little background on Chicago at the time. Like most cities Chicago was suffering, but they weren t the worst of all the cities. politics in the city were corrupt to begin with especially being controlled by one of the most corrupt mayor s in the country, Mayor Big Bill Thompson. So Capone decided to spice things up a little. Since he couldn t control all of Chicago he moved to a small suburb on the outskirts called Cicero. There he took over their entire police department. From there he could get anything done he needed to do. At one time of the 850 gunmen in the town of Cicero 800 were Capone s men and the other fifty were actual police officers. Capone amounted to an enormous payroll. Of all the people on his payroll Capone averaged $100,000,000 per year. Almost $300,000 a week at times. Out of Cicero he ran businesses such as bootlegging, nightclubs, whorehouses, gambling joints, and speakeasies. Even the police of Chicago could not do anything to him. He was practically untouchable. Many a time did Capone and his crew murdered people, but trials and investigation were never really brought up against him. To prove he ran the police department here s some evidence. One time Capone was enraged with Joseph Klenha, mayor of Cicero, he Bengsch 6knocked him down the steps of City Hall and continued to kick him repeatedly in the groin. Meanwhile several policeman looked the other way. Klenha had to ask Capone permission to get up. In fact of all the bad things Capone did only one man, Elmer Irey, was able to nail him on some major tax evasion charges. Capone was sentenced eleven years in prison, most at Alcatraz, and a meek $50,000 fine. If you think about it in a whole spectrum he was pretty lucky he had money to pay off people or he would ve been in jail for a long time. After Capone was sent to Alcatraz, it was discovered he was suffering from a severe case of syphilis. He was released to his family in 1939 where he spent his time at Palm Beach, Florida. He died in 1947 of a brain hemorrhage. His legacy was never really carried out because after his death no gangster could match up to the status he brought with him. Plus Prohibition had ended so there was no need for it. Also as the years went on gangsterism died out and the law came back in town so the trouble left.Bengsch 7Bibliography Allsop, Kenneth. The bootleggers and their era. Doubleday, Garden City, New York., 1961. Kobler, John. Capone; the life and world of Al Capone. Putnam, New York., 1971. Capone On Top of ChicagoReid Bengsch March 12, 2001Mr. SchauerAP US History Blk. 3