Al Capone: the man, the myth, the mobster. Al Capone is one of the most known mob bosses in America, but we look at him like a fictional character. We see him as a bad guy that was finally caught by the good guys and taken to Alcatraz.
We don’t realize that he was a very dangerous and rich man who didn’t think twice about killing someone who was in his way. His great niece said, “I grew up with headlines about the menace of Al Capone’s “Outfit” splashed across the front pages. I grew up seeing my classmates’ parents look at me and my family with suspicion and fear. I grew up well accustomed to men in dark suits guarding the Capone family home with machine guns.
My children, on the other hand, grew up thinking of Al Capone as the stuff of celebrity, more a folk hero than a criminal.” (Capone 3)She lived through the horrible times that Capone had brought on. She loved him and he loved her because he was a human who had family and friends that he cared about.
She knew the reality that Uncle Al was widely known and had various opinion thought about him. Her Uncle Al Capone’s highly illegal activities of bootlegging alcohol during the Prohibition made him very popular to the people who wanted to drink and party, but his popularity diminished when he started killing anyone who crossed him. Either way you look at it Al Capone was a very powerful and dangerous man who was in the public eye, whether it was being loved and revered or hated and feared. The Capones were an Italian family, with no affiliation with crime at all, they were just a poor family trying to make a good life for themselves.
Alphonse (Al) Capone was the fourth son born out of seven boys and two girls and the first child to be conceived and born in the United States on January 17, 1899. “He was their all-American kid. ‘I’m no Italian. I was born in Brooklyn,’ he would later brag.” (Burdick 3) Al was very proud to be American, especially one from Brooklyn.
Although his family was not involved in the crime world Al became associated with it very quickly. When he was in the sixth grade a group of boys broke Al’s shoe-shine chair So, little Al went to the police, but the officers brushed off the little boy and Al learned that the police were not on his side. Al’s shoe-shining days were over, in fact Al would never have any legitimate job ever again; Al got expelled from his grade school after hitting his teacher after she hit him and never went back to school. That’s when he became friends with Johnny Torrio who got him into the gangster, mob boss scene. He got him a job and soon Al was making more than most teenage thugs. When Torrio relocated to Chicago he hooked Capone up with Frankie Yale. Yale gave Al the nickname Scarface after Capone catcalled a woman and her brother slashed Capone’s face with a knife that left a long bashing scar. When Capone was 19 years old he met his soon to be wife, an Irish girl, Mary (Mae) Coughlin.
Later the 18th Amendment was put in place. “Prohibition proved to be a golden business opportunity for the underworld. Of course, high rewards came at a high price: There would be more than 700 gangland killings during the ensuing 13 years.” (4) Johnny Torrio wanted to own the bootlegging industry in Chicago and needed Capone’s help to do so. Torrio got a hold of Capone again because he needed him to move to Chicago to be his bodyguard. Capone picked up and moved his whole family to Chicago and became the source of most of the “gangland killings.” (4) When Torrio was accused of selling beer to speakeasies he gave the whole operation to Al Capone and his brothers.
From there Al got targeted very frequently. He even purchased a Cadillac that was armor plated and had bullet proof glass. Lots of people hated Capone, but lots of people loved him as well. They thought of him as a hero for bringing beer and alcohol to the speakeasies making it possible for them to drink. He began to gain the public sentiment as the press kept following him.
They found he lived life very extravagantly and that he tipped very well. He always paid in money as to not leave a money trail to avoid tax income fraud. “Some even considered him a kind of Robin Hood figure, or as anti-Prohibition resentment grew, a dissident who worked on the side of the people.” (History.
com Staff 4) People even had written in votes for him in the 1940 election. He was on the cover of Time magazine in the 1930s when he was at the height of “popular power”. Although he was very liked, that popularity diminished when he got involved with murders. The crime got so bad that people asked the gangs to have ceasefire. Al Capone agreed, but the peace only lasted about two months before his next murder which was Dion O’Banion. Now that Al Capone was in charge he didn’t let anyone pull a fast one on him.
He even murdered one of his old friends Frankie Yale for rigging the system. When the authorities came to talk to Capone about his murder Capone put on his poker face and said he didn’t know anything about the murder. The authorities said, “…he seemed quite content to sit and talk.
‘I’m a gambler. I play the horses,’ he informed his questioners. ‘I never was a bootlegger in my life.'” (Burdick 5) Obviously Al was lying and he did have a hand in the murder of Frankie Yale. Ironically all the while he was getting questioned he had the same men who murdered Yale murder his enemy and competitor bootlegger George ‘Bugs’ Moran and his men. This was called the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. Capone’s men dressed as police and raided a garage where the gang was at.
“The men drove away, neighbours cautiously investigated and found a scene which would make headlines all over the country. Six dead men and another who was dying were lying on the concrete floor among scattered tyres, pools of blood, chairs and shell casings at the foot of a wall. Five of them were members of Moran’s gang, another was a Moran hanger-on and the last was an unfortunate mechanic who worked in the garage and just happened to be there.” (History Today 1)Essentially the men didn’t even end up killing Moran because he showed up later, saw the car, and fled the scene. Capone’s men never got caught and even the man who was dying and being taken to the hospital said “‘Nobody shot me..
.'” (1) when asked by the cops who had shot him and the others. Finally when the stock market crashed the police put their blame on the mob bosses, first and foremost Al Capone.
“‘They’ve hung everything on me except the Chicago fire,’ he whined. Later that year, when the stock market crashed, Al proclaimed, ‘I deny absolutely that I am responsible.'”(Burdick 6) He finally gets caught by Eliot Ness and his Untouchables. Eliot Ness was the leader of the Untouchables, a group of men who were the Justice Department Squad that fought against Capone.
“Nicknamed the Untouchables for their incorruptibility, he and his nine-man team disrupted Capone’s illegal breweries and speakeasies, and their efforts helped lead to the successful prosecution of Capone for federal tax evasion.” (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 1) After his trial he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He spent some time on Alcatraz which is a super prison for the very, very dangerous criminals. There he was treated very bad and mostly by the other prisoners. He began acting weird and did things that weren’t normal. The doctor finally diagnosed him neurosyphilitic and he spent the rest of his sentence in the prison hospital. Once he got out he was still sick and would have hallucination often.
Finally he died of a stroke a few years later, but left his family no will so his family had no money to go off of. He died at age 48. Al Capone was a real man that had a real threat to the city of Chicago. Unlike Cassetti who, in Murder on the Orient Express, is a fictional gangster who terrorizes the city of Chicago. Agatha Christie wrote the book in 1934, so she may have gotten inspiration from Capone for her character Cassetti. Al Capone was an almighty gangster who was loved and hated by many for many different reasons. He was a nightmare brought to life and many lives have been affected by his reign.
Work Cited “Al Capone.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition, Mar. 2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.
ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,cpid&custid=cincy&db=aph&AN=39050374&site=ehost-live.Burdick Harmon, Melissa. “Badfella the Life and Crimes of Al Capone.” Biography, vol.
5, no. 5, May 2001, p. 100.
EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=4375954&site=ehost-live.Capone, Deirdre Marie. “Remembering Uncle Al (Capone, That Is).” USA Today Magazine, vol.
140, no. 2802, Mar. 2012, pp. 52-54. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.
com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=73785344&site=ehost-live.”Eliot Ness.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition, Mar.
2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.
aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,cpid&custid=cincy&db=aph&AN=108460083&site=ehost-live.”FEB 14 1929: The St Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago.” History Today, vol. 59, no.
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