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Facts about Al Capone

Calvin Coolidge

Facts about Al Capone: Calvin Coolidge was the 30th American President who served in office from August 2, 1923 to March 4, 1929.  An important event during his presidency was Prohibition with the emergence of gangsters such as Al Capone and the rise of organized crime.

Definition and Summary of the Facts about Al Capone
Summary and definition:
Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone (1899-1947) was the son of Italian immigrants who gained world-wide celebrity and notoriety during the Prohibition Era as Al "Scarface" Capone.

His rise to fame involved violence, gang warfare, bribery and corruption in New York and then Chicago where he became the powerful, brutal and wealthy crime boss of the South Side Italian gang, the Chicago Mafia.

His alleged involvement with the St. Valentine's Day massacre (February 14, 1929), that targeted his bitter rival George “Bugs” Moran, received unprecedented publicity that both fascinated and repelled the public. Despite his violent reputation and his connection with organized crime Al Capone assumed airs of respectability as a legitimate businessman and philanthropist. Some viewed him as a 'Modern day Robin Hood' others saw him as a dangerous mobster. One thing is certain......Al Capone was the most famous gangster in American History.

Who was the Al Capone? Al Capone was a notorious gangster during the Prohibition Era. He gained his notoriety due to his involvement with organized crime as the boss of the Chicago Mafia and his alleged involvement with the St. Valentine's Day massacre (February 14, 1929).

What was Al Capone's car?  Al Capone's favorite car was a 1928 Cadillac V-8 Town Sedan which was customized to his requirements by crooked auto dealer Joe Bergl. The Capone Cadillac car was protected by 3,000lbs of steel armour and bulletproof windows.

How did Al Capone die? On January 21, 1947 Al Capone had an apoplectic stoke which led to Bronchial Pneumonia (Bronchopneumonia). He died of heart failure on Saturday January 25,1947 at 7:25 pm at his home in Palm Springs.

Where was Al Capone buried? Al Capone was first buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago's far South Side between the graves of his father and brother Frank. In March, 1950 their remains were moved to Mount Carmel Cemetery on the far West Side of Chicago.

Facts about Facts about Al Capone
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Facts about Al Capone.

He lived the American Dream becoming a Millionaire before he was 30 years old. His lavish lifestyle included expensive, elegant clothes and diamond jewelry, customized cars, houses and boats.

He was one of 7 children born to Gabriel and Teresa Capone who had immigrated from Naples in Italy to  Brooklyn, New York City in 1894. He was the fourth of five sons and two daughters. His brother names were Salvatore (Frank) Raffaele (Ralph "Bottles") and Vincenzo. The names of his sisters were Rosalia (Rose) and Mafalda.

He quit school in the sixth grade at age fourteen and joined two "kid gangs" the Brooklyn Rippers and the Forty Thieves Juniors.

Al Capone's nickname was due to the three scars on his left cheek. In 1917 he was slashed across the face by Frank Gallucio whilst working as a bouncer for gangster Frankie Yale in a in Coney Island night club called the Harvard Inn.

Al Capone was recruited to the James Street Boys gang by Johnny "The Brain" Torrio, one of the most successful Italian-American gangsters in Brooklyn.

Johnny Torrio moved to Chicago in 1909 at the request of "Big Jim" Colosimo, an Italian-American Mafia crime boss who built a criminal empire in Chicago based on prostitution, gambling, and racketeering.  Extortion by the Black Hand ‘La Mano Nera’ was a serious threat to Colosimo's operation in Chicago that Johnny Torrio would help him tackle.

In 1918 Al met a tall slim pretty Irish girl named Mae Coughlin at a party. The couple married the same year. The following year Mae bore their first & only child, Albert (later nicknamed Sonny) Johnny Torrio was his Godfather.

In 1919 Al Capone beat Irish "White Hand" gang member Artie Finnegan to a pulp in a saloon brawl. White Hand Gang boss William "Wild Bill" Lovett let it be known that he was hunting for a scar-faced man. Johnny Torrio transferred Al from New York City to 'lie low' in Chicago

Gangsters traditionally made their money from prostitution, extortion, gambling, and theft but the passage of the 18th Amendment on Prohibition provided the opportunity to develop another illegal activity, bootlegging of illegal beer & whiskey.

The 18th Amendment on Prohibition was ratified on January 16, 1919. The 18th Amendment was enacted by the Volstead Act which went into effect January 29, 1920. The Prohibition Era (1920 to 1933) was born and saw the rise of speakeasies, roadhouses and bootlegging which led to widespread political corruption.

The lucrative business of bootlegging saw the rise in the criminal activities and gang warfare of the Prohibition Gangsters which would later result in the infamous 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

In May 1920 "Big Jim" Colosimo was murdered by an unknown assailant. Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, took over control of his v ast crime empire. They negotiated peace & cooperation amongst the various Chicago gangs by organizing them into distinct territories ruled exclusively by each gang. In 1923Al Capone established his headquarters at the Lexington Hotel, at the corner of east 22nd Street (Cermak Road) and south Michigan Avenue, in Chicago.

Johnny Torrio retired in 1925 with $30 million after North Side gangsters almost killed him. At the age of just 26 years old Al became the boss of the Chicago mob earning millions of dollars from illegal breweries and a transportation network that reached to Canada.

Combining the methods of the Italian Mafia with those of American big business, Al Capone evolved one of the most efficient financial enterprises in the Prohibition Era - which became known as organized crime. His rivals were gangsters such as George "Bugs" Moran and Earl "Hymie" Weiss.

The National Crime Syndicate was the name given by the press to the organized crime syndicate established at the 'peace meeting'. It later became known as Murder, Inc.

The bribery and corruption of the police, politicians, judges, Prohibition agents and city officials and the cooperation of Mayor Big Bill Thompson, enabled Capone to operate his crime empire with relative impunity. By 1924 he had gained control of the suburb of Cicero, and had installed his own mayor. Chicago's Police Chief Healy admitted about 60% of his policemen were in the bootleg business, or in the pay of gangsters.

By 1927, Al Capone and his Chicago Mafia were pulling in approximately $60 million per year and controlled the sale of liquor to over 10,000 speakeasies.

In 1928 he bought a palatial, waterfront $40,000 mansion in Palm Springs, Florida designed in the latest Art Deco style. The security minded gangster chose this retreat, 1,300 miles away from Chicago.

Al Capone's car was customized for his protection by crooked auto dealer Joe Bergl:

  • The 1928 Cadillac V-8 Town Sedan armor plated car had 3,000lbs of steel armor fitted and a bulletproof gas tank

  • The car was green with black fenders (same colors as police cars)

  • It had bulletproof windows and a police siren. The back window dropped down so machine guns could be fired

  • Speed: 120mph

  • The car had device that created a smoke screen via the exhaust system

  • The gangster paid $20,000 for the car

The violence of the St Valentine’s Day Massacre on 14 February 1929 attracted unprecedented publicity. Seven members of the “Bugs” Moran mob were machine-gunned against a garage wall by attackers posing as police. The massacre was generally ascribed to the Capone mob, although Al himself was in Florida.

Nicknames: Al Capone loathed the nickname "Scarface" which had been given to him by the press. His close associates called him "Snorky", slang for a sharp dresser. He was also known by the pseudonym 'Al Brown' and the nicknames "King Alphonse" and the "Big Fella". The FBI had another nickname for him - "Public Enemy Number One".

In 1929 the New York Times had observed "Probably no private citizen in American life has ever had so much publicity in so short a period". Al Capone attempted to improve his image by financing a Soup Kitchen during the Great Depression. His action strengthened his persona as a 'Modern day Robin Hood'. For additionalfacts and information please refer to the Social Effects of the Great Depression.

On May 17, 1929, Scarface and his bodyguard were arrested in Philadelphia for carrying concealed deadly weapons by John J. Creedon and James "Shooey" Malone. The members of the Outfit were sentenced to terms of 1 year each. Al served his time and was released in 9 months for good behavior on March 17, 1930.

Al Capone wanted to be a celebrity and created a flamboyant public image. He even employed a press agent called Damon Runyon. He photo was featured on the cover of Time Magazine on March 24 , 1930

The FBI: The gang warfare of the period were not within the Bureau’s investigative authority. The FBI's involvement arose from his reluctance to appear before a federal grand jury on March 12, 1929 in response to a subpoena.

The FBI: The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) set up a special squad to take on Al Capone at the end of 1930, headed by Special Agent Eliot Ness.

The FBI and Eliot Ness: Eliot Ness (April 19, 1903 – May 16, 1957) was an American Prohibition agent, famous for his efforts to enforce Prohibition in Chicago, Illinois, and was the leader of a team of law enforcement agents nicknamed "The Untouchables".

The FBI and Eliot Ness: The squad of the  "Untouchables" led by Eliot Ness tailed the lorries of the Chicago Mafia which collected empty beer barrels from speakeasies and returned them to Capone’s breweries. Once the FBI agents had identified the Mob's warehouses, they busted one after another with their battering ram.

The FBI and Eliot Ness: The efforts of the squad of "Untouchables" were rewarded when, in June 1931, just 6 months after its formation, Al Capone and his associates were indicted on more than 5,000 Prohibition-related offences.

The FBI and Eliot Ness: There was considerable legal wrangling and was decided it would be difficult to get a jury to go against someone with the celebrity status of Al Capone who had provided alcohol to willing customers. It was decided that it would be easier to have him found guilty for tax evasion.

On June 16, 1931 Al Capone went to court to answer tax evasion and prohibition charges. George E.Q. Johnson United States district attorney and prosecutor Jacob I. Grossman went after Capone for income tax charges and won. Federal prosecutor, Dwight H.Green, helped put Al behind bars. Michael J. Ahern, part of Capone's team of lawyers, was the chief defender.

On November 24, 1931 he was sentenced by Judge James H. Wilkerson to 11 years in jail, fined $50,000 and charged $7,692 for court costs, in addition to $215,000 (plus interest) due on back taxes.

Following Capone's conviction for income tax evasion Frank Nitti nominally assumed power of the but it was run by Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo for over 60 years.

After lodging appeals, he waited for the results in the Cook County Jail. His appeals were denied and he entered the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta and was then transferred to Alcatraz.

The US Treasury seized his armor-plated, bulletproof car in 1931 when "Scarface" was sent to jail for tax evasion. Rumor has it that Secret Service men briefly used the car for the protection of President Franklin Roosevelt during WW2. The infamous 1928 Cadillac car is now on display at the Gangster Museum in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Al Capone was released on November 16, 1939, after having served 7 years, 6 months and 15 days in jail

On release from jail he entered a Baltimore hospital for brain treatment and then retired to his Florida estate

He suffered had an apoplectic stoke on January 21, 1947 which led to Bronchial Pneumonia (Bronchopneumonia). Al Capone died of heart failure on Saturday January 25,1947 at 7:25 pm at his home in Palm Springs, Florida.

Al Capone was initially buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago's far South Side between the graves of his father and brother Frank. In March, 1950 their remains were moved to Mount Carmel Cemetery on the far West Side of Chicago.

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition

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