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Al Capone


Al Capone Mugshot 1929
Author: FBI photographer

Al Capone was one of the most notorious gangsters in American history. He was the leader of an organized crime gang in Chicago in the 1920s during the Prohibition era. He became famous for both his criminal activity as well as his donations to charity. He was seen as a "Robin Hood" figure by many poor people of the time.

Where did Al Capone grow up?

Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 17, 1899. His parents were immigrants from Italy. His father worked as a barber and his mother as a seamstress.

Al grew up in Brooklyn with his 8 brothers and sisters. Some of his brothers would later join him in his Chicago crime gang. Al got into all sorts of trouble in school. Around the age of fourteen, he was expelled for punching a teacher.

Joining a Gang

After dropping out of school, Al became involved in the local street gangs. He got involved with a number of gangs including the Bowery Boys, the Brooklyn Rippers, and the Five Points Gang. One time he got in a fight and got a cut on his face. After that he was known by the nickname "Scarface."

Moving to Chicago

Capone moved to Chicago to work for the crime boss Johnny Torrio. Al worked his way up in the organization and became Torrio's right-hand man. During this time period, Prohibition had made making and selling alcohol illegal. The gang made most of their money from selling bootlegged liquor. In 1925, Torrio was killed by a rival gang and Al Capone took over as the crime boss.

Organizing Crime

Capone turned the crime organization into a money making machine. He became very rich selling illegal liquor, offering "protection" services, and running gambling houses. Capone was known for being ruthless. He had rival mobsters killed and personally murdered anyone in his gang who he thought might betray him. Despite his growing reputation as a crime boss, he managed to stay out of jail by bribing the police and politicians. He used his vast wealth to gain popularity with the people. During the Great Depression, it was Al Capone that opened the first soup kitchen for the homeless in Chicago.

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

On February 14, 1929, Capone ordered a hit on a rival gang led by Bugs Moran. Several of his men went to a garage owned by Moran's gang disguised as police officers. They gunned down and killed seven of Moran's men. The event was called the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. When people saw the pictures in the paper, they realized just how bad a guy Al Capone was. The government also decided they needed to put Capone in jail.

Eliot Ness and the Untouchables

Capone spent a short time in jail for previous crimes, but the government couldn't gather enough evidence to put him away. A Prohibition Agent named Eliot Ness decided to go after Capone's operations. He gathered a number of loyal and honest agents that later earned the nickname the "Untouchables" because they couldn't be bribed by Capone.

Ness and his men managed to raid a number of Capone's illegal facilities. Capone tried to have Ness assassinated several times, but failed. In the end, Ness didn't catch Capone for his organized crime activities, but helped the IRS catch him for evading taxes.

Prison and Death

Capone was sent to prison in 1932 for tax evasion. He served 8 years in prison including time at the famous island prison of Alcatraz. By the time he was released in 1939, Capone was sick and mentally ill from disease. He died on January 25, 1947 from a heart attack.

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