Alphonsus "Scarface" Capone

Child Hood:

Al Capone was one of eight children born to Gabriel and Teresa Capone. His parents came to United States from Italy in 1893. His father Gabriel was a barber. Capone attended school through the sixth grade; he beat up his school teacher one day and was beaten up by the schools principle afterward. When Capone was a child he was taught that the main purpose of life was to acquire wealth and that the United States was land of opportunity. He was looked down on by the American children because he was an immigrant. He was angered by the gap between the American dream and his own reality, as he got angrier he began to engage in criminal activities as a way of achieving success in an unjust society.

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On January 17, 1899 Gabriel and Teresina Capone gave birth to one of America’s most infamous gangsters Al Capone. Al Capone grew up in rough neighborhood with his parents, six brothers, and one sister. He joined two gangs as a child Forty Thieves and the Brooklyn Rippers and even though he was bright he dropped out of the sixth grade at 14. Al Capone had various jobs growing up besides scamming. He worked as a clerk in a candy store, pin boy at a bowling alley, as well as a cutter in a book bindery. He soon became a part of notorious 5 Points gang in Manhattan and worked in the gangsters Frankie Yale’s dive the Harvard Inn. Capone was a bouncer and bartender at the dive and received his facial scars by insulting a patron and being attacked by her brother, he received the name Scarface. At 19 he met an Irish Girl Mary “Mae” Coughlin at a dance. On December 4, 1918 they had a son named Albert “Sonny” Francis. They married the same year on the 30th.
His 1st arrest was for disorderly conduct while he was working for Yale he murdered two people. This was his testimony as his willingness to kill. When policed questioned neighbors, they all stated that they didn’t hear or see anything. He also hospitalized a rival gang member and was sent to Chicago by Yale to wait until things cooled off. He arrived at Chicago in 1919 with his family. Capone then worked for Jon Torrio, Yale’s old mentor. Torrio encouraged his protégé because of his physical and mental strength. Capone helped Torrio with his bootlegging business and in 1922 Capone ranked as his number two man. He eventually became a full partner in the saloons, gambling houses, and brothels.
Many of the outfit's men liked, trusted, and obeyed Capone. Capone quickly proved that he was even better at organization than Torrio by syndicating and expanding the cities vice industry between 1925 and 1930. Capone controlled speakeasies, bookie joints, gambling houses, brothels, horse and race tracks, nightclubs, distilleries, and breweries at a reported income of $100,000,000 a year.

Capone with deputy chief of police, John Stege, who eventually asked Capone to leave Chicago.
Capone with deputy chief of police, John Stege, who eventually asked Capone to leave Chicago.

The Mayor William "Big Bill" Hale Thompson had been doing business with Capone and stopped because he thought it would be bad for his image. He hired police Chief John Stege to run Capone out of Chicago. He moved to Florida but still had many death threats. All of which were unsuccessful because of his extensive spy network. He everyone in his pocket from policemen to newspaper boys and all plots were quickly discovered. Capone annihilated his enemies skillfully by isolating them and then killing them. His plots consisted of: men renting an apartment across the street from where the victim lived, he victim walked out he was quickly gunned down. Capone always had an alibi. One of his most famous killings was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre on September 14, 1929. Four of Capone men entered a garage. The building was the main liquor headquarters of bootlegger George "Bugs" Moran's North Side Gang. Two men were dressed as police. The seven men at the headquarters thought it was a police raid and put down their guns. Capone's men fired more than 150 bullets into the victims. 6 out of the 7 were in the gang, the other was a friend.

The Tribune headline after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929.
The Tribune headline after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929.

Even though Capone ordered dozens of death and even killed with his hands, he treated people fairly and generously. His violent temper was equal for known sense of loyalty and honor. He was the first to open a soup kitchen after the 1929 stock market crash. He ordered merchants to give clothes and food to the needy at his expense.

Capone’s mafia side still overpowered his caring side when he had headquarters in Chicago at the Four Deuces, Metropole Hotel, and the Lexington Hole. His terror enlarged to the suburbs in Forest View which was later known as Caponeville. Capone bribed public officials and police officers in Cicero and organized suburban head quarters in Cicero’s Anton Hotel and Hawthorne Hotel. He disguised his self as an antique dealer and a doctor to set up headquarters.

Capone maintained a five-room suite and fourguest rooms at the Metropole Hotel. The hotel served as his base of operations until 1928.
Capone maintained a five-room suite and fourguest rooms at the Metropole Hotel. The hotel served as his base of operations until 1928.

Capone was never tried for most of his crime due to lack of evidence. He was arrested in 1926 for killing three people but was let out of jail after one day because of insufficient evidence. When Capone served his first prison sentence in May 1929 it was gun possession. In 1930 he was the head of Chicago’s top 28 worst criminals as public enemy number one. Capone was indicted for tax evasion 1931 because he thought that illegal profits were not taxable, but because of the 1929 law this was untrue. He was indicted for tax evasions for the ears 1925-1929, and a misdemeanor of failing to file tax returns for 1928 and 1929. The government charged Capone for owing $215,080.48 and indicted him with conspiracy to violate Prohibition laws from 1922-31. He pleaded guilty to all 3 charges. He was given a plea deal and changed his plea to not guilty. He tried to bribe but they changed the jury at the last minute. They charged him guilty on 18 of 23 counts and was sentenced to 10 years of federal prison and 1 year in the community jail. He also had to serve a six-month contempt of court sentence for failing to appear. Capone’s fines were about $50,000 not including the prosecution fee of $7,692.2

He was sent to Atlanta in 1932 for an eleven year sentence but was quickly removed when word got out that Capone had taken over the prison and was sent to Alcatraz. He was unable to continue control on the outside world because of tight security, and refused to participate in rebellions and strikes due to the lack of influence among other prisoners.
While in Alcatraz, he showed signs of syphilitic dementia* and spent the rest of his felony sentence in the hospital. He was transferred to Terminal Island, and served his one-year misdemeanor sentence. He was finally released on November 16, 1939. Capone spent a short time in the hospital but was left to stay at home. He could no longer run the gang and on January 21, 1947 he had apoplectic stroke unrelated to syphilis. He regained consciousness but he got pneumonia set in on January 24. He died the next day from cardiac arrest.

The Good and Bad Sides of Capone:

Capone had two sides of his personalities. He had a cruel, crazy, ruthless side. He also had an extravagant and generous side. In his mean side he was a multimillionaire dollar criminal empire bootlegging, prostitution, illegal gambling generated annual revenues estimated about $100,000. He also illegally manufactured and smuggled alcohol. People knew that he murdered people; Capone paid bribes to police and politicians in Chicago and in return they either left him alone or protected his criminal activities. The Chicago’s mayor, William “Big Bill” Thompson, was on Capone’s payroll and other city alderman. Cops that tried going after Capone were beaten up or either murdered. Capone had a lot of money but he never paid any federal income tax. In his good side he earned him celebrity status along with gratitude of many Americans, for Thanksgiving he fed 5000 men, women, children a beef stew dinner. For Christmas he spent $100,000 on presents for friends and family. Capone helped less fortunate; did Soup kitchens for the unemployed on the South State Streets.

A line outside Capone's
A line outside Capone's

Capone Success in Chicago:

In 1919 the U.S government approved the 18th amendment to the Constitution, to prevent the manufacture, sale, and transport of liquor. In the same year Capone worked as a bartender and enforcer for Torrio and was arrested many times for assaulting people, but Torrio’s influence saved him from jail. Capone found himself in control of bootlegging in Chicago that had spring up after Prohibition. Most of the people of Chicago were upset about the Prohibition. Many of them were willing to break the law by purchasing alcohol. Capone took advantage of this and made his business openly. Capone would say “I make money by supplying a public demand”.
Capone protected his business interests, which included gambling houses, by waging war on rival gangs. As Capone’s profit continued to grow, he started acting as if he were a well to do businessman, rather than the vicious criminal he really was. Many people admired him including the city police and government. Between 1927 and 1931 he was viewed as the real ruler if Chicago. Capone was a cold blooded criminal who killed hundreds of people without a second thought. He influenced elections by having members of his gang intimidating people into the way he wanted.
Capone gave the city of Chicago a reputation as a gangster- infested place that would hold for years, even after when he was long gone.

Life in Prison

Even in federal prison Capone was the man in charge, he was able to convince guards to bow at his every whim. He made guards put personal bedding, carpeting, a mirror, radio, typewriter, and even a full encyclopedia in his cell. Capone controlled his own privileges and had man guards working for him. Capone had a series of visitors each day and even had family in a nearby hotel. He was moved when word got out that he controlled the prison. He was moved to Alcatraz where he immediately tried to work the system. He attempted several times to “lead” the prisoners and acquire privileges from the Warden but all attempts failed. As he was completing his jail time he got into a fight on the yard and received 8 days in the “whole”. Capone was also stabbed with cutting shears when he “exchanged words” with a fellow inmate, he was admitted to the prison hospital but was released with minor wounds. He became diagnosed with syphilitic dementia* from previous years of syphilis and was transferred to Terminal Island Prison in 1938 to finish out his sentence.


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AFre Federick Lewis. Only Yesterday; an Informal History of the Nineteen-twenties,. New York: Harper & Bros., 1931. Print.
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Kobler, John. Capone. New York: Putnam, 1971.
Pasley, Fred D. Al Capone: The Biography of a Self-Made Man. 2nd ed. London, Faber, 1966. Web.

"FBI — Al Capone."
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