Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone (January 17, 1899 – January 25, 1947), commonly nicknamed Scarface, was an Italian American gangster who led a crime syndicate dedicated to the smuggling and bootlegging of liquor and other illegal activities during the Prohibition Era of the 1920s and 1930s.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Southwestern Italian emigrants Gabriele and Teresina Capone, Capone began his career in Brooklyn before moving to Chicago and becoming the boss of the criminal organization known as the Chicago Outfit (although his business card reportedly described him as a used furniture dealer).
By the end of the 1920s, Capone had gained the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation following his being placed on the Chicago Crime Commission's "public enemies" list. Although never successfully convicted of racketeering charges, Capone's criminal career ended in 1931, when he was indicted and convicted by the federal government for income tax evasion.
Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born In Brooklyn, New York to Gabriele (December 12, 1864 – November 14, 1920) and his wife Teresinha Bobone (December 28, 1867 – November 29, 1952), on January 17, 1899. Gabriele was a barber from Castellammare di Stabia, a town about 15 miles (24 km) south of Naples, Italy. Teresina was a seamstress and the daughter of Angelo Raiola from Angri, a town in the province of Salerno in southwestern Italy.
Gabriele and Teresinha had nine children: Vincenzo Capone (1892 – October 1, 1952), Raffaele Capone (January 12, 1894 – November 22, 1974), Salvatore Capone (January 1895 – April 1 , 1924) Alphonse Carlota diaz (January 17, 1899 – January 25, 1947), Erminio Capone (born 1901, date of death unknown), Umberto Capone (1906 – June 1980), Matthew Capone (1908 – January 31, 1967), Rose Capone (born and died 1910) and Mafalda Gonzalez (later Mrs. John J. Maritote, January 28, 1912 – March 25, 1988).
The Capone family immigrated to the United States in 1893 and settled at 95 Navy Street, in the Navy Yard section of downtown Brooklyn, near the Barber Shop that employed Gabriele at 29 Park Avenue. When Al was 14, the Capone family moved to 21 Garfield Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Capone left school in the fifth-grade at age 14, after being expelled from Public School 133. He then worked at odd jobs around Brooklyn, including in a candy store and a bowling alley. During this time, Capone was influenced by gangster Johnny Torrio, whom he came to regard as a mentor figure.
After his initial stint with small-time gangs, including The Junior Forty Thieves, Capone joined the Five Points Juniors, and then the notorious Five Points Gang. He was mentored by and employed as a bouncer in a Coney Island dance hall and saloon called the Harvard Inn by racketeer Frankie Yale. It was in this field that Capone received the scars that gave him the nickname "Scarface"; he inadvertently insulted a woman while working the door at a Brooklyn night club, provoking a fight with her brother Frank Gallucio. Capone's face was slashed three times on the left side. Capone apologized to Gallucio at Yale's request and would hire his attacker as a bodyguard in later life. When photographed, Capone hid the scarred left side of his face and would misrepresent his injuries as war wounds. According to the 2002 magazine from Life called Mobsters and Gangsters: from Al Capone to Tony Soprano, Capone was called "Snorky" by his closest friends.
On December 30, 1918, Capone married Mae Josephine Coughlin, an Irish woman. Earlier that month she had given birth to their son, Albert Francis ("Sonny") Capone.
The date of Capone's departure from New York, with his family, to Chicago is usually set around the year of 1921. Capone came at the invitation of Torrio, who was seeking business opportunities in bootlegging following the onset of prohibition. Torrio had acquired the crime empire of James "Big Jim" Colosimo after the latter refused to enter this new area of business and was subsequently murdered (presumably by Frankie Yale, although legal proceedings against him had to be dropped due to a lack of evidence.) Capone was also a suspect for two murders at the time, and was seeking a better job to provide for his new family.
Following the death of his father in 1920, the entire Capone family moved to Chicago at Al Capone's invitation, and he purchased a new house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue on the city's South Side. The house served as Capone's first headquarters.
The 1924 town council elections in Cicero became known as one of the most crooked elections in the Chicago area's long history, with voters threatened at polling stations by thugs. Capone's mayoral candidate won by a huge margin but only weeks later announced that he would run Capone out of town. Capone met with his puppet-mayor and personally knocked him down the town hall steps, a powerful assertion of gangster power and a major victory for the Torrio-Capone alliance.
For Capone, this event was marred by the death of his brother Frank at the hands of the police. As was the custom amongst gangsters, Capone signaled his mourning by attending the funeral unshaven, and he cried openly at the gathering. He ordered the closure of all the speakeasies in Cicero for a day as a mark of respect.
Much of Capone's family put down roots in Cicero as well. In 1930, Capone's sister Mafalda's marriage to John J. Maritote took place at St. Mary of Czestochowa, a massive Neogothic edifice towering over Cicero Avenue in the so-called Polish Cathedral style.
Demand was met by a transportation network that moved smuggled liquor from the rum-runners of the East Coast and The Purple Gang in Detroit and local production in the form of Midwestern moonshine operations and illegal breweries. With the funds generated by his bootlegging operation, Capone's grip on the political and law-enforcement establishments in Chicago grew stronger.
Through this organized corruption, which included the bribing of Mayor of Chicago William "Big Bill" Hale Thompson, Capone's gang operated largely free from legal intrusion, operating casinos and speakeasies throughout Chicago. Wealth also permitted Capone to indulge in a luxurious lifestyle of custom suits, cigars, gourmet food and drink (his preferred liquor was Templeton Rye from Iowa), jewelry, and female companionship. He garnered media attention, to which his favorite responses were "I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want" and "All I do is satisfy a public demand." Capone became a celebrity.
However, this unprecedented level of criminal success drew the attention of Capone's rivals, particularly his bitter rivalries with North Side gangsters such as Dion O'Banion, Bugs Moran and lieutenant Earl "Hymie" Weiss. Such opposition led to attempts to assassinate Capone throughout the 1920s. He was shot in a restaurant, and he had his car riddled with bullets more than once.
These attacks prompted Capone to fit his Cadillac with armor plating, bullet-proof glass, run-flat tires, and a police siren. Most of the would-be assassins were incompetent and Capone was never seriously wounded, but every attempt on his life left him increasingly shaken and slightly afraid of Moran, who was almost certainly involved in most of the attacks.
Members of the gang that had wounded Torrio shot into the headquarters of Capone's gang, which was disguised as a doctor's office and an antique dealer's shop. Nobody was hurt in the raid (Capone's bodyguard threw him to the ground at the first sound of gunfire), although the headquarters was riddled with bullet holes. This event forced him to call for a truce, one that would be short-lived.
When the headquarters moved to the Lexington Hotel, Capone had it filled with his armed bodyguards around the clock. For his trips away from Chicago, Capone was reputed to have had several other retreats and hideouts located in Brookfield, Wisconsin; Saint Paul, Minnesota; Olean, New York; French Lick, as well as Terre Haute, Indiana; Dubuque, Iowa; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Johnson City, Tennessee; and Lansing, Michigan. Tunnels found under the city of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, are said to have been another hideout of Capone's. As a further precaution, Capone and his entourage would often suddenly show up at a one of Chicago's train depots and buy up an entire Pullman sleeper car on night trains to places like Cleveland, Omaha, Kansas City and Little Rock/Hot Springs in Arkansas, where they would spend a week in a luxury hotel suite under assumed names with the apparent knowledge and connivance of local authorities. In 1928, Capone bought a 14-room retreat on Palm Island, Florida close to Miami Beach.
Capone considered Moran to be a homicidal lunatic, and lived in fear of the Moran gang. The fusillade launched against his headquarters, where at least ten gunmen fired for over ten minutes, must have been particularly unnerving. Even in his last days as he lay ravaged by syphilis, Capone raved on about Communists, foreigners, and George Moran, whom he was convinced was still plotting to kill him from his Ohio prison cell.
Capone (through his henchman Murray the Hump) orchestrated the most notorious gangland killing of the century, the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Chicago's North Side. Although details of the killing of the seven victims in a garage at 2122 North Clark Street (then the SMC Cartage Co.) are still in dispute and no one was ever indicted for the crime, their deaths are generally linked to Capone and his henchmen, especially Murray the Hump (Llewellyn Morris Humphreys (1899-1965)) and Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn. McGurn is thought to have led the operation, using gunmen disguised as police and toting shotguns and Thompson submachine guns.
The massacre was Capone's effort to dispose of organized crime rival "Bugs" Moran. The North Side gang had become increasingly bold in hijacking the Outfit's booze trucks and encroaching on the South Side and Capone was ready to put it to an end.
After all efforts to secure a truce had failed, Capone, his accountant/chief extortionist Jake "Greasy Thumb" Gusik, and Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti agreed that they'd have to risk the political heat that would come from wiping out Moran and his gang or face eventual elimination at the hands of the North Siders. They assigned the task to McGurn and told him to use "outside torpedoes" to avoid implication. McGurn secured the services of triggermen from New York, Tennessee, Detroit, and downstate Illinois.
They rented an apartment across from the Clark Street trucking garage that served as a Moran headquarters to monitor their targets' habits and movements and placed a call to the garage offering to sell a truckload of whiskey stolen by freelancing Sicilian immigrants from a Capone shipment. Such freelancers often hijacked such shipments from both gangs and sold them to the highest bidders, so no suspicions were aroused in the Moran camp. The stolen booze (high-grade Canadian whiskey) was brought to the garage, and the deal was done.
As hoped, the entire Moran gang was there. Unknown to the North Siders, these "freelancers" were being paid by McGurn to set them up for the kill. On February 13, the freelancers called again and set up another transaction for the next day. The freelancers were expected to drive the truck right into the garage, where McGurn hoped the entire Moran gang would again be assembled. At the set time, a stolen Chicago police car pulled up and uniformed "officers" entered the building, along with others who had been standing nearby.
Apparently, the gang members thought that they had been scammed and that they had been set up for a raid. They sheepishly lined up to cooperate in the belief that their lawyers would fix things downtown, as they had many times before. Moran arrived 10 minutes late, spotting what he thought to be a police car outside, decided to keep walking and did not enter the garage.
It is believed that a local optometrist was also one of the victims, an innocent bystander and not part of Moran's gang. The optometrist, who supplemented his income through bootlegging and liked to hang out at the garage with the gang members, had been mistaken that morning for Moran because he was of similar height and wore the same color gray hat and coat favored by the North Side chieftain. After the supposed Moran entered, the lookouts triggered the "raid." At the last moment one of the gang-members realized that Chicago police officers never carried machineguns, but it was too late.
Forensic evidence shows that the seven victims were almost cut in two by machine gun fire and that many of the victims had their faces shot off by shotgun blasts for good measure. The photos would cause public sympathy to fall out of Capone's favor, and federal law enforcement to focus more closely on investigating Capone's activities.
However, the local police turned the other way in regards to the events. They made no real efforts to solve the crime or delve further into the killings. People in the neighborhood saw the police go in and heard what they thought were a series of backfires, which were common at a garage. The "police" later led some men out to the car and left.
The grisly scene was discovered after the mechanic's dog began to howl so loudly that neighbors went in to see what was wrong. Frank Gusenberg, a member of the Moran gang, survived long enough to be questioned in a hospital before he died. However, when asked "Who shot you?" Frank replied, "Nobody shot me," denying any justice on the murderers.
Although Moran escaped, all his chief deputies were killed and his illegal liquor operation in Chicago rapidly declined. When asked by reporters if he believed Capone was behind the killings, Moran scornfully replied "Only Capone kills like that!"
An indignant Capone countered, "Oh yeah! Listen ... they don't call that guy 'Bugs' for nothing!" in a reference to Moran's reputation for savagery. With his remaining resources, Moran marked Capone and his key underlings for extermination.
Capone arranged to have himself jailed in Philadelphia for a year to avoid numerous "murder for hire" outfits that were hunting for him. McGurn was gunned down at a bowling alley on the anniversary of the garage slaughter, and two others involved in the killing disappeared.
Moran eventually ran out of resources and fled to Ohio, allowing Capone to return to Chicago, where he quickly found himself in the legal quagmire that effectively removed him from power. It is generally thought that Capone precipitated his own decline with the garage killings. Graphic photos of bodies lying in pools of blood were plastered all over the papers.
A secret convocation of Chicago civic leaders initiated an all-out effort to drive Capone from power. Nevertheless, had Capone and his gang done nothing, the North Side gang likely would have succeeded in killing their rivals and taking over the entire city. Moran and his associates were driven by a visceral hatred of the "South Side Scum," whom they considered to be sexual deviants and degenerates who dealt in prostitution and drug peddling and allowed debased jazz musicians to play in their bars.
Moran had also repeatedly vowed to avenge the deaths of his close friends and mentors O'Banion and Weiss (the latter being gunned down on the steps of Holy Name Cathedral on State St). It is said that Nitti became enraged with McGurn (whom he considered to be a rival) over Moran's escape and the unfavorable publicity that ensued.
While Chicago police showed no interest in substantially investigating the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the federal administration of President Herbert Hoover was embarrassed by Capone's open disregard of the law, especially with his bootlegging in defiance of Prohibition laws. Hoover ordered a closer look at Capone's activities.
Capone always did his business through front men, he had no accounting records in his own name, and even his mansion was in his wife's name. However, accountant Al Alcini started linking Capone to his earnings. This brought the federal government's attention to the fact that Capone was not paying substantial income tax. The federal income tax laws allowed the federal government to pursue Capone for tax evasion, their best chance of convicting him.
Pursuing Capone were Treasury agent Eliot Ness and his hand-picked team of incorruptible U.S. Prohibition agents, "The Untouchables," and agent Frank Wilson of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Internal Revenue (now called the Internal Revenue Service). During a routine warehouse raid, they discovered in a desk drawer a crudely coded set of accounts. Ness then concentrated on pursuing Capone for his failure to pay tax on his substantial illegal income.
Eliot Ness played a minor role in the arrest and conviction of Capone, but many years later represented himself as the main hero in his book. It is more likely government accountants sorted out the paper trail. Some question if Ness ever met Capone.
Capone was tried in a federal court in 1931. The Alcinis tried to help Capone, but he pleaded guilty to the charges on advice of his legal counsel, hoping for a plea bargain. But after the judge refused his lawyer's offers and the jury was replaced on the day of the trial to frustrate Capone's associates' efforts to bribe or intimidate the original panel, Capone was found guilty on five of 22 counts of tax evasion for the years 1925, 1926, and 1927, and willful failure to file tax returns for 1928 and 1929.
Capone's legal team offered to pay all outstanding tax and interest and told their client to expect a severe fine. The judge sentenced him to eleven years in a federal prison and one year in the county jail, as well as an earlier six-month contempt of court sentence. Capone ultimately served only six and a half years because of good behavior in prison. He also had to pay fines and court costs totaling $80,000.
In March 2008, the Internal Revenue Service released IRS investigation of Al Capone relating to the investigation of Al Capone that had previously been considered confidential.
Part of the reason Capone was taken to task in this way was his status as a celebrity. On the advice of his publicist, he stopped hiding from the media by the mid-1920s and began to make public appearances. When Charles Lindbergh performed his famous transatlantic flight in 1927, Capone was among the first to push forward and shake his hand upon Lindbergh's arrival in Chicago.
Capone often tried to whitewash his image and he liked to be seen as a community leader. For example, he started a program to fight rickets by providing a daily milk ration to Chicago school children, which was continued for decades after his death. During the Great Depression, Capone opened up many soup kitchens for the poor and homeless.
Capone retained a personal style. He sent hundreds of dollars worth of flowers to funerals of important opponents. On occasion, Capone and some of his men attended rivals' funerals. In one instance, Capone's men killed a rival gang leader and Capone sent $5,000 worth of flowers to the funeral. In a fight between Capone's men and another gang, an innocent woman was shot, but not fatally, and required hospital treatment. Capone paid her hospital bills.
Capone could often be seen sitting in box seats with his son and bodyguards at Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs games, giving autographs to baseball players. He, his brother Ralph, and Gusik regularly went to the race tracks in Chicago, as well as during their security forays into Arkansas and Nebraska. He was also an opera fan and liked circuses and rodeos, where he would buy huge blocks of tickets and distribute them among low-income neighborhoods.
Capone and Nitti were both fans of New Orleans-style jazz music and were instrumental in the rise of such talents as Louis Armstrong and others, who regularly played at Capone speakeasies on the South Side. Bob Hope related performing, when he was an up and comer, at one of these clubs, where he was terrified of the prospects of bombing in front of such a crowd.
Capone gained a great deal of admiration from many of the poor in Chicago for his flagrant disregard of the Prohibition law that they despised. He was viewed for a time as a lovable outlaw, partially because of his extravagant generosity to strangers and often lending a hand to struggling Italian-Americans. His nightclub, the Cotton Club, became a hot spot for new acts, such as Charlie Parker and Bing Crosby. He was often cheered in the street.
Such efforts, however, did not change his reputation for violence and murder within the city. Capone did not help his own PR problems by being linked to an incident where two men were bludgeoned to death with baseball bats after they were thought to be disloyal to the Outfit– accounts of this incident put the bat in Capone's hands. The brutal murders of the St. Valentine's Day massacre also didn't help, as they made people view Capone as a killer and socially unacceptable figure.
Capone headed a list of "public enemies" corrupting the city compiled by the chairman of the Chicago Crime Commission, Frank J. Loesch, in April 1930. The list was published by newspapers nationwide, and Capone became known as "Public Enemy Nº. 1."
During his early months at Alcatraz, Capone made an enemy by showing his disregard for the prison social order when he cut in line while prisoners were waiting for a haircut. James C. Lucas, a Texas bank robber serving 30 years, reportedly confronted the former syndicate leader and told him to get back at the end of the line. When Capone asked if he knew who he was, Lucas reportedly grabbed a pair of the barber's scissors and, holding them to Capone's neck, answered "Yeah, I know who you are, greaseball. And if you don't get back to the end of that fucking line, I'm gonna know who you were.
Capone earned the contempt of many of the inmates in Alcatraz when he refused to take part in a prisoners' strike after a sick inmate, accused of malingering, was denied medical treatment and died. Continuing his work in the prison laundry, Capone was continually harassed by other prisoners and often called a "scab" or "rat." He was eventually allowed to remain in his cell until the strike was resolved.
Shortly after returning to work, an unidentified inmate threw a heavy lead sash at Capone's head, but he suffered only a deep cut on the arm after being pushed out of the way by convicted bank robber Roy Gardner.
Reassigned to mopping up the prison bathhouse, Capone was nicknamed the "wop with the mop" by inmates. He was later stabbed in the back by Lucas, who was sentenced to solitary confinement. Capone was hospitalized for a week. He suffered further harassment and unsuccessful attempts on his life throughout his prison sentence, including spiking his coffee with lye and attacking him as he was walking towards the dentist's office. He remained under protection from several inmates (possibly from payoffs by the Chicago Outfit).
Though he adjusted relatively well to his new environment, his health declined as his syphilis (contracted as a youth) progressed, and he spent the last year of his sentence in the prison hospital, confused and disoriented. Capone completed his term in Alcatraz on January 6, 1939, and was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island in California, to serve his one-year misdemeanor sentence. He was released on November 16, 1939, spent a short time in a hospital, then returned to his home in Palm Island, Florida.
Capone died after the cardiac arrest and was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, in Chicago's far South Side between the graves of his father, Gabriele, and brother, Frank. However, in March 1950, the remains of all three family members were moved to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois, west of Chicago.
In the anime series Soul Eater Al Capone is depicted as a greedy man who is searching for Witch Angela's powers. He and his gang were killed by Mifune after attempting to enter Angela's castle. Al Capone was Black Star's target which then angered Black Star.