Al Capone

12107775_170519936623430_6361702069550509372_n“You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” – Al Capone

Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born January 18th,1899 not 17th as is often stated, to Italian immigrants Gabriele Capone and Theresa – Teresa in Italy – (née Raiola) in Brooklyn, New York. He was one of nine children, some of whom would assist Al in his endeavors later in life. His father was a barber and his mother was a seamstress, both born in Angri, a town in the Province of Salerno. The family first immigrated from Italy to Fiume, Austria-Hungary (present day Rijeka, Croatia) in 1893, traveling on a ship to the U.S., and finally settling at 95 Navy Street, in the Navy Yard section of downtown Brooklyn. Gabriele worked at a nearby barber shop at 29 Park Avenue. When Al was 11, the Capone family moved to 38 Garfield Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Capone was an excellent student, but had trouble with the rules at his parochial Catholic school. Most sources agree Al dropped out of school at the age of 14, after being expelled for hitting a female teacher in the face, however it has been stated to Naked History that Al actually graduated, the first one of the children to do so. He worked at odd jobs around Brooklyn, including a candy store and a bowling alley. Capone would marry Mae Josephine Coughlin on December 30, 1918 at the age of 19. She was Irish Catholic and had given birth to their son Albert Francis “Sonny” Capone earlier that month.

Capone became involved with many small gangs including the Junior Forty Thieves and the Bowery Boys. He then joined the Brooklyn Rippers, and then the Five Points Gang from Lower Manhattan. During this time, he was employed and mentored by Frankie Yale, a bartender in a Coney Island dance hall and saloon called the Harvard Inn. During this time while working the door at a Brooklyn nightclub, Capone would inadvertently insult a woman and her brother Frank Gallucio slashed the left side of Al’s face. The scar that was left would cause people to give him the nickname “Scarface” (He hated it). Yale insisted that Capone apologize to Gallucio, and later Capone hired him as a bodyguard. When photographed, Capone would hide the left side of his face, saying that the injuries were war wounds.

At about 20 years of age, Capone left New York for Chicago at the invitation of Johnny Torrio, who was head of a criminal syndicate that illegally supplied alcohol to many different areas and was the forerunner of “the Outfit”; he was also politically protected through the Unione Siciliana. Torrio was imported by bootlegger James “Big Jim” Colosimo as an enforcer. Capone contracted syphilis during this time and never sought treatment for it.

In the early years of the 1920’s, Capone’s name began appearing in newspaper sports pages, where he was described as a boxing promoter. Torrio took over Colosimo’s crime empire after Colosimo’s murder on May 11, 1920, in which Capone was suspected of being involved. Torrio headed one of the biggest Italian organized crime syndicates in the city, with Capone as his right-hand man. He was wary of being drawn into gang wars and tried to negotiate agreements over territory between rival criminal factions. The smaller, mixed ethnicity, North Side Gang led by Dean O’Banion (also known as Dion O’Banion) came under pressure from the Genna brothers, who were allied with Torrio. O’Banion found that, for all Torrio’s pretensions to be a settler of disputes, he was unhelpful with the encroachment of the Gennas into the North Side. In a fateful step, Torrio either arranged for or acquiesced to the murder of O’Banion at the latter’s flower shop in October 1924. This placed Hymie Weiss at the head of the gang, backed by Vincent Drucci and Bugs Moran. Weiss had been a close friend of O’Banion, and the North Siders treated revenge on his killers as a priority

In January 1925, Capone was ambushed, leaving him a bit shaken but unhurt. Twelve days later, Torrio was returning from a shopping trip when he was shot several times. After recovering, Torrio resigned and handed control to Capone at the age of 26, he became the new boss of an organization that took in illegal breweries and a transportation network that reached to Canada, with political and law-enforcement protection. In turn, he was able to use more violence to increase revenue. Refusal by an establishment to purchase liquor from him often resulted in the premises being blown up. As many as 100 people were killed in such bombings during the 1920s. Capone expanded the bootlegging business through increasingly violent means, but his mutually profitable relationships with mayor William Hale Thompson and the city’s police meant that Capone seemed safe from law enforcement. Capone loved all the attention he received, such as the cheers from spectators when he appeared at ball games. He made donations to various charities and was viewed by many to be a “modern-day Robin Hood”.

The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre would bring an end to his public fame turning their love into hate. In an attempt to assassinate Bugs Moran, the head of the North Side Gang, Capone supposedly came up with a plan. On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, Capone’s lookouts signaled gunmen disguised as police to start a “raid.” The faux-police lined six mob associates of the North Side Gang and a mechanic along a wall without a struggle, then signaled for accomplices with machine guns. The seven victims were machine-gunned and shot-gunned. Photos of the victims shocked the public and damaged Capone’s reputation. Within days, Capone received a summons to testify before a Chicago grand jury on violations of the federal Prohibition Law, but he claimed to be too unwell to attend at that time. Capone was in Florida at the time of the shootings and some believe to this day he had nothing to do with the St. Valentine’s Massacre. His Great Niece, Deirdre Capone, grand-daughter of Al’s brother and business partner, Ralph Capone, has recently released a controversial new book ‘Uncle Al Capone – The Untold Story from Inside His Family’, claiming to have proof beyond doubt that her Uncle Al had nothing to do with the massacre.

The federal authorities became very interested in jailing Capone, and they prosecuted him for tax evasion in 1931. The case was highly politicized and both prosecutors and judge later received preferment. Capone had made admissions of his income during prior negotiations (which ultimately were abortive) to pay the government any back taxes that he owed. The judge deemed these statements usable as evidence at the trial, and refused to let Capone plead guilty for a lighter sentence. The effect of such decisions by the judge was added to by the incompetence of Capone’s defense attorneys. Capone was convicted and sentenced to a record-breaking 11 years in federal prison. He replaced his old defense team with experts in tax law, and his grounds for appeal were strengthened by a Supreme Court ruling, but Capone again found that his status as a mobster meant that judges already viewed him unfavorably.

Capone was sent to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary in May 1932, aged 33. Upon his arrival at Atlanta, the 250-pound (110 kg) Capone was officially diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhea. He was also suffering from withdrawal symptoms from cocaine addiction, use of which had perforated his septum. Capone was believed to be receiving special treatment while there. No solid evidence ever emerged, but it formed part of the rationale for moving Capone to the recently opened Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.

At Alcatraz, Capone’s decline became increasingly evident as neurosyphilis progressively eroded his mental faculties. He spent the last year of his sentence in the prison hospital, confused and disoriented. Capone completed his term in Alcatraz on January 6, 1939, and was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island in California to serve out his sentence for contempt of court. He was paroled on November 16, 1939.

On January 25, 1947, Capone died of cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke. He wаs buried аt Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

Adela

Naked History would like to extend personal thanks to Ms Deirdre Marie Capone for contacting us and supplying us with the amended personal details of Al and his family, childhood etc.