Al Capone

Al Capone is America's best known gangster and the single greatest symbol of the collapse of law and order in the United States during the 1920s Prohibition era. Capone had a leading role in the illegal activities that lent Chicago its reputation as a lawless city.

Capone was born on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York. Baptized "Alphonsus Capone," he grew up in a rough neighborhood and was a member of two "kid gangs," the Brooklyn Rippers and the Forty Thieves Juniors. Although he was bright, Capone quit school in the sixth grade at age fourteen. Between scams he was a clerk in a candy store, a pinboy in a bowling alley, and a cutter in a book bindery. He became part of the

notorious Five Points gang in Manhattan and worked in gangster Frankie Yale's Brooklyn dive, the Harvard Inn, as a bouncer and bartender. While working at the Inn, Capone received his infamous facial scars and the resulting nickname "Scarface" when he insulted a patron and was attacked by her brother.

In 1918, Capone met an Irish girl named Mary "Mae" Coughlin at a dance. On December 4, 1918, Mae gave birth to their son, Albert "Sonny" Francis. Capone and Mae married that year on December 30.

Capone's first arrest was on a disorderly conduct charge while he was working for Yale. He also murdered two men while in New York, early testimony to his willingness to kill. In accordance with gangland etiquette, no one admitted to hearing or seeing a thing so Capone was never tried for the murders. After Capone hospitalized a rival gang member, Yale sent him to Chicago to wait until things cooled off. Capone arrived in Chicago in 1919 and moved his family into a house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue.

Capone went to work for Yale's old mentor, John Torrio. Torrio saw Capone's potential, his combination of physical strength and intelligence, and encouraged his prot? g? . Soon Capone was helping Torrio manage his bootlegging business. By mid-1922 Capone ranked as Torrio's number two man and eventually became a full partner in the saloons, gambling houses,and brothels.

When Torrio was shot by rival gang members and consequently decided to leave Chicago, Capone inherited the "outfit" and became boss. The outfit's men liked, trusted, and obeyed Capone, calling him "The Big Fellow." He quickly proved that he was even better at organization than syndicating and expanding the city's vice industry between 1925 and 1930. Capone controlled speakeasies, bookie joints, gambling houses, brothels, income of $100,000,000 a year. He even acquired a sizable interest in the largest cleaning and dyeing plant chain in Chicago.

Although he had been doing business with Capone, the corrupt Chicago mayor William "Big Bill" Hale Thompson, Jr. decided that Capone was bad for his political image. Thompson hired a new police chief to run Capone out of Chicago. When Capone looked for a new place to live, he quickly discovered that he was unpopular in much of the country. He finally bought an estate at 93 Palm Island, Florida in 1928.

Attempts on Capone's life were never successful. He had an extensive spy network in Chicago, from newspaper boys to policemen, so that any plots were quickly discovered. Capone, on the other hand, was skillful at isolating and killing his enemies when they became too powerful. A typical Capone murder consisted of men renting an apartment across the street from the victim's residence and gunning him down when he stepped outside. The operations were quick and complete and Capone always had an alibi.

Capone's most notorious killing was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. On February 14, 1929, four Capone men entered a garage at 2122 N. Clark Street. The building was the main liquor headquarters of bootlegger George "Bugs" Moran's North Side gang. Because two of Capone's men were dressed as police, the seven men in the garage thought it was a police raid. As a result, they dropped their guns and put their hands against the wall. Using two shotguns and two machine guns, the Capone men fired more than 150 bullets into the victims. Six of the seven killed were members of Moran's gang; the seventh was an unlucky friend. Moran, probably the real target, was across the street