During the era of Capone, there were numerous mobsters who held power. Al Capone’s rise to prominence was facilitated by his associations with various bosses and his residence in a neighborhood that had multiple gangs run by mobsters. Eventually, he joined a gang led by Johnny Torrio, who aspired to become the top figure in the criminal underworld. Several factors contributed to Capone’s growth and eventual status as Chicago’s most infamous mobster. A common misconception is that he was born in Italy like many gangsters of his time, but this is incorrect; he was actually born in New York. According to Bardsley (1), “Alphonse Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899, to an immigrant family. His father, Gabriele Capone, was one of 43,000 Italians who immigrated to the United States in 1894.” Gabriele worked as a barber and was among the few who could read and write in his native language.
Al Capone was born in Castellmare di Stalia, a village located sixteen miles south of Naples. His mother, Teresina Capone, immigrated to America with her two-year-old son Vincenzo and infant son Raffaele. In May 1906, Gabriele Capone became an American citizen. Al Capone left school after sixth grade and joined a well-known street gang where he eventually became a member. The leader of the gang was Johnny Torrio, and one of its members was the renowned Lucky Luciano (Al 1).
As Capone grew, Torrio gave him more responsibility and Capone soon became apprenticed by him. “On December 18, 1918, Capone married at the age of 19, to a 21 year old Irish girl names Mae Coughlin. A short time later Albert Francis Capone was born to the couple. At the same time this was going on, in New York Johnny Torrio moved all of his operations to Chicago. Torrio’s prospects in New York looked dim because Capone was indicted for two murders. He was released when a witness lost her memory, and evidence suddenly vanished from the court. Capone knew that he had Torrio to thank for his fortunes. In 1920, Capone then joined Torrio in Chicago where he had become an influenced lieutenant in the Colosimo mob (Tyler 1). “He moved his family to a home at 7244 Prarie Avenue, Chicago”.
Capone gained notoriety in the Mob for his involvement in theft, murder, and deceit. His disregard for the law made him a dangerous presence on the streets, earning him the nickname “Scarface” after an incident at a bar. During a conversation with an unknown girl, Capone complimented her posterior, provoking her brother to punch him. The brother believed that Capone had disrespected his sister and retaliated by stabbing him, leaving three scars on his face. This event is widely believed to be where Capone’s infamous moniker originated from. Later on, Capone sought out and killed the man responsible for this altercation. He expressed immense gratitude towards Torrio for guiding and befriending him, acknowledging Torrio’s crucial role in propelling him to power.
In 1920, a man known as “Big Jim” Colosimo became the new leader of the underworld. An individual named Johnny Torrio grew envious of Colosimo’s power and sought to obtain it for himself. Torrio enlisted the help of Capone, leading to Colosimo’s murder on the night of May 11, 1920 (World Crime 606). This event was largely influenced by the passing of the Prohibition Act in the same year. The act prohibited the distribution of alcohol to all Chicago saloons. Torrio urged Colosimo to establish an underground operation to supply beer and liquor to these establishments, but Colosimo refused. Consequently, Capone was designated as his executioner.
During this period, Al Capone became popular and even idolized by some bar hoppers. It is said that he received cheers at a baseball game in Chicago’s Rigley Field, while President Herbert Hoover faced boos. Capone’s street mob experienced significant growth and reached its pinnacle with over 1,000 members, including half of the police forces in Chicago. Notably, Capone had numerous individuals on his payroll such as police officers, aldermen, state’s attorneys, mayors, legislators, governors, and even congressmen. John Scalise and Albert Anselsni were two individuals who planned to assassinate Capone; however, he somehow discovered their scheme and cleverly invited them to an honorary banquet only to reveal his true intentions later on. At the climax of the evening’s events, Capone lured them into his office for a private meeting where he proceeded to restrain them to their chairs and mercilessly murder them by using hammers to smash their heads.
Capone was arrested for tax evasion during his prime. Eddie OHare, an undercover IRS agent, searched Capone’s files and found evidence of unpaid income tax. As a result, Capone received a lengthy sentence including a 50,000-dollar fine, 30,000 dollars in court costs, and eleven years in jail. He was initially held in an Atlanta prison but later transferred to Alcatraz (“The Rock”) in 1934. Throughout this period, Capone was declared insane but eventually released to his family. Tragically, Edward J. OHare was assassinated by gunmen while sitting in his car in Chicago at the same time.
Al Capone, known as the “most Notorious Mobster,” died in January 1947 due to a severe brain hemorrhage in Florida. Despite his infamous reputation, he was transported back to Chicago by train and accompanied by guards to Mt. Olivet Cemetery for protection against potential threats, including grave robbers. His family conducted a private ceremony at the cemetery, taking precautions to secure his body. Finally, Alphonse Capone was laid to rest in a seaside lot at Mt. Carmel Cemetery.
Undoubtedly, Alphonse Capone epitomized a ruthless mobster and murderer throughout the century. His violent ascent in organized crime from an early age left an indelible mark on other mobsters and solidified his lasting influence within the criminal syndicate.
- “Al Capone”http://www.fbi.gov/yourfbi/history/fancases/capone/capone.htmBardsley, Marilyn. The Crime library. Al CaponeWysiwy://62http://www.crimelibrary.com/capone.capone/caponemain.htmBender, David. Gangs. Sandigo, CA: Gren Havn Press, inc., 1997Cook, Fred J. Mob Inc. New York, NY Motta press, Inc., 1997.
- Cox. Bill G. et. al. Crimes of the 20th Century. Lincoln, Illinois. Publications international, 1991Jackson, Robert. True Crimes. New York, NY: Smith Mark Publishers, 1992Tyler, Gus. Organized Crime in America. Binghamton, NY: the University of Michigan Press and Simultaneous, 1962Historical Society 1998, Al Capone.
- Http://wwwchigts.org/history/capone/cpn1.htmlWorld Crime Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL: International Printing, vol. 11, 1997