No single individual symbolizes the gangsters that dominated American newspapers during the 1920s more than Scarface Al Capone. The 18th Amendment in 19?? brought prohibition after World War I. This opened up a vast
new activity to criminals. The result was a ramapange of lawlessness unlike that American had ever seen and Al Capone became a symbol of that lawlessness.
Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York of Italian immigrant parents (1899). He was baptized "Alphonsus Capone" and grew up in a rough neighborhood plagued
by "kid gangs". Capone was an intelligent child, but quit school in the 6th grade when he was 14 years old. He was soon involved in various youthful scams and worked in a series of low-paying jobs. He gravitated to the notorious Five Points gang in Manhattan and gradually developed into a full-fledged gangster in Frankie Yale's Brooklyn dive, the Harvard Inn where he worked as a bouncer and bartender. It was at the Club that Capone's face was scarred when after insulted a female patron, he was attacked by her brother. It earned him the nickname "Scarface", Capone went on the dominate the Chicago rackets and became a well-known national figure. He had a son, Sonny, to whom he was devoted.
Alphonsus' parents were Italian immigrants from Naples.
Alphonsus was born in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York (1899). He was the fourth of nine children. He was baptized "Alphonsus Capone" and grew up in a rough neighborhood plagued by "kid gangs".
Capone was an intelligent child, but quit school in the 6th grade. He had beaten up his teacher and after the principal beat him, he decided to leave school. He was 14 years old.
Whiskey was an important commodity in colonial America and continued to be so after Independence in the 19th century. Farmers in the West could no transport grain to Eastern markets. With the poor roads at the time and absence of rail links, the cost of transportation exceeded that of the grain. One solutuion was to convert the grain to whiskey whivh had a higher value and was less dexpensive to transport. The first revolution in American history was the Whiskey Revolt when farmers in western Peensylvania resented new Federal taxses. Gradually in the 19th century social reformers focused on temperance as the solution to America's problems. At first social reformers were absorbed with abolition. After the Civil War it was temperance which attacted their interest. The temperance movement was especially supported by Church groups and persued with religious fervor. The self rightious moralism of the Victorian era gradually built support for prohibition. Women were strong supporters for temperance and the demon rum was seen as the reason for the breakup of many families. This gathering movement, religious fundamentalism, anti-immigrant, and women's sufferage combined at the end of World War I to secure the passage of the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the production and sale of alcholic beverages. National prohibition of alcoholic beverages (1920-33) in America was referred to as the "noble experiment". Prohibition had many lofty goals. It was adopted to curtail crime and corruption, better society, protect women and orphans, reduce government spending on prisons and poorhouses, and improve public health. Prohibition was a dismal failure. The results were rampant crime and corruption. Alcohol consumption appears to have declined, although not all authors agree on this. The great social benefits anticipated from prohibition did not materialize. In this case the iron laws of economics easily overwealmed moralistic social engineering.
After quitting school, he was soon involved in various youthful scams and worked in a series of low-paying jobs. He quickly learned "street smarts." He joined the tough James Street Gang. Johnny Torrio ran the gang. A close school friend who also joined the gang was another Italian kid--Lucky Luciano who would himself become a famed gangster and mafioso. Luciano and Capone would remain life-long friends. Capone gravitated to the notorious Five Points gang in Manhattan and gradually developed into a full-fledged gangster in Frankie Yale's Brooklyn dive, the Harvard Inn where he worked as a bouncer and bartender. It was at the Club that Capone's face was scarred when after insulted a female patron, he was attacked by her brother, another hoodlum named Frank Galluccio. It earned him the nickname "Scarface". (Capone later concoted the story that he was wounded serving with the "Lost Battalion" in France dufring World War I. Capone became a mindless killer in New York and the police were getting close with their investigaions. Then after mauling a fellow gangster, Capone decided to flee the city. He headed west for Chicago.
Capone went on the dominate the Chicago rackets and became a well-known national figure. No single individual symbolizes the gangsters that dominated American newspapers during the 1920s and early 30s more than "Scarface" Al Capone. Chicago was chosen because his old mentor Torrio, had been summoned by his gangster uncle, Big Jim Colosimo to help run his organization. When Capone arrived in Chicago he found Torrio and Colosimo at odds. Torrio wanted to enter the lucrative new racket of illegal booze. Colosimo wanted to stick to prositution. Capone and Torrio had Colosimo killed and provided each other alibis. Torrio and Capone than began taking ober small mobs all over Chicago. Those who failed to cooperate were eliminated. Only the North Siders effectiveky resisted. Torrio was shot up ans after recovering met with Capone and repotedly said, "Al, it's all yours." Torrio retired to Brooklyn with millions of dollars he had stashed away and became a kind of momster elder statesman. Capone in Chicago transformed himself from a street into an effective, calculating criminal executive. One interesting aspect of Capone's operation in contrast to Luciano in New York was that Caoone was an equal oportunity mobster. He was quite willing to work with other ethnics, including Jews, Irish, and Blacks as long as they were effective crooks and joined his organization. By the age if 26 he had builtup an effective organizatuon. Using an extensive payroll he organized a criminal organization unhearled at the time. The goal was to keep channel the progits of a variery og criminal enterprises to him. In an era of gangsters, Capone at a very young age was the most powerful crime boss in America. He boasted that he "owned" Chicago and he was not far from the truth. The Capone organization numbered about 1,000 members, many of whom were experienced gunmen. But the key to Capone's success was the payments to policemen and politicans. Capone monrey flowed to aldermen (city councilmen), state's attorneys, mayors, legislators, governors and even congressmen. Capone even managed to detetmine the outcome of elections. Once when the mayor of Cicero (a Chicago suburb) angered Capone, the gangster seized the mayor on the steps of City Hall and beat him viciously while a police oifficer looked on. Capone worked on his public image. He restricted his organization to criminal activites that had some degree of public support (booze, gambling, and prostitution). He also contributed to cgarities and after the Depressuon began to soup kitchens. Capone demanded loyalty from his men and gave the same in return. As long as his men did not steal from Capone, they had a high degree of security. This was one reason why many smaller gangs jouned Capone rather than fighting him. Betraying the boss was dangerous. Three members of the organization working against Capone had their brains smashed by Indian Clubs--an execution performed personally by Capone after dinner. Capone's most famous action was the St. Valentine Day's Masacre in which the North Side Mob was finally eliminated, although Capone's men missed the intended victim Bugs Moran.
Capone met an Irish girl named "Mae" Coughlin at a dance. Mae Josephine Coughlin was born in New York City (1897). Her father was Michael Coughlin and her mother was Bridget Gorman. Capone and Mae married December 30, 1918 a few weeks after Sonny's birth. Mae, a good Catholic girl, was an ardent church goer. She insisted that Sonny go as well. She was insistent that sonny not become involved in her husband's criminal activities, telling the boy "Don't do as your father did, he broke my heart". She always tried to prevent photographers from taking her photograph in public.
Capone had a son, Albert Francis Capone, born December 4, 1918. Capone was devoted to the boy who was usually called Sonny. Sonny yad a hearing problem as a result of a mastoid infection when he was little. Hs father took him to
a specialist in New York City for a not altogether successful operation (1925). Sonny went to St.Patrick High School, a private school in Florida, along with Desi Arnaz. He later attended Notre Dame University (1937-38) and the University of Miami (1938-41) earning a B.S.degree in business administration. He ran a Miami flower shop (1941-42). During the War he worked at a Miami air depot as a mechanic's apprentice. Later he worked on an aircraft assemly line. He married twice.
The St. Valengtine Day Masacre proved to be a serious miscalculation for Capone. As a result of this and other shootings, the public attitude in Chicago and the rest of the country began to change over the bootleg wars unfolding on city streets all over America. The Federal Government sent in Ness's "Untouchables". Capone could not be convicted of murder, but it proved impossible to cover up all the money. Capone was convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years. Capone in 1934 was transferred to to the maximum securuity Federal prison at Alcatraz (an island in San Franciso Bay, now a national park), commonly known as "The Rock". At Alcatraz Capone began going "stir crazy," a not uncommon coindition as a result if the tough terms of confinement.
A few years after reaching Alcatraz, Capone's health began to decline. He was relaeased in 1939 for meduical reasons. He was by this time a helpless paretic, caused by untreated syphilis. His family brought him to his Florida mansion. He livered there for 8-years. His mental consituion varied. He was reportedly at times lucid, but at other times barely conscious of those about him. His former Chicago assocuates would occassionally visit. One of his Chicago associates judged him, "Nutty as a fruitcake." He died on January 25, 1947.
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