Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Al Capone's Unofficial Biography and Pertinent Chicago Outfit History.

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One of the most notorious American gangsters, Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone (1899-1947), ran the Chicago Outfit, a Chicago-based crime syndicate, in the Prohibition era (1920-1933), smuggling and bootlegging alcohol, amongst other illegal activities such as prostitution and gambling.
Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 17, 1899, Capone became involved in gang activity from a young age. Capone showed promise as a student but struggled with the rules at his strict parochial Catholic school. His schooling ended at 14 after he was expelled for hitting a female teacher in the face. 

Capone became involved with small-time gangs, including the Junior Forty Thieves and the Bowery Boys. He joined the Brooklyn Rippers and then the powerful Five Points Gang based in Lower Manhattan. 
Members of the [Well-Dressed] Five Points Gang from the 1800s Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Circa 1910.

Five Points Gang (the 1890s-1920s) of New York City, mainly active in Lower Manhattan, Harlem, and Brooklyn. Some of the Five Points Gang members later became prominent criminals in their own right, including Johnny Torrio, Al Capone, and Lucky Luciano.
Five Points (or The Five Points) was a 19th-century neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, New York City.

Capone worked odd jobs around Brooklyn, including in a candy store and a bowling alley.

When the Capones lived on Navy street, Al was baptized at the original St. Michael's Archangel Church that burned down in 1914. It was quickly rebuilt and opened in 1915 at a new location a few blocks away. Al Capone was a First baseman and fireballing pitcher from 1916 to 1918 alongside his older brother Ralph who also played for St. Michael's Church. Al, who was five years younger, would go "anywhere that Ralph would go," and the two played for St. Michael's Church in 1916. One game that year attracted 3,000 fans. The brothers formed the Al Capone Stars in 1918 at St. Michael's Church when the roster started turning over. Initially, the team wasn't very good; they lost most of their games. But they found their stride once Al moved from first base to the mound. Al was then a muscular 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds. It worked better with Al pitching and Ralph playing first or third and switching with their cousin Charlie Fischetti. Fischetti had an arm like a rifle but later earned the nickname "Trigger Happy" while serving as his cousin's bodyguard. "The game's feature was the twirling of Al Capone, who whiffed 15 of the opposing batsmen. Al got three hits, including a double," gushed a June 6, 1918 story in the Brooklyn Citizen about the team's 13-6 victory over Lockport. 
Al Capone in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York.

In 1917, Capone was employed and mentored by fellow racketeer Frankie Yale, a bartender in the Harvard Inn, a Coney Island Saloon and Dance Hall. Capone inadvertently insulted a woman while working the door, and he was slashed with a knife three times on the left side of his face by her brother Frank Galluccio. After achieving prominence as a gangster, Capone was dubbed Scarface by the press, a nickname he despised. Capone would attempt to shield the scarred side of his face in photographs.

Mary "Mae" Josephine Coughlin, an Irish Catholic girl, married Alphonse Capone on December 30, 1918, at the St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Brooklyn, New York. They either met at a party in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, or their marriage was arranged by Al's mother, Teresina "Raiola" Capone, a seamstress who knew Mae from church. Mae was two years older than her husband. On their marriage certificate, Al increased his age by one year, and Mae decreased her age by two, making them both appear 20 years old. Earlier in December had given birth to their son Albert Francis "Sonny" Capone (1918-2004). Albert lost most of his hearing in his left ear as a child. By all accounts, the two had a happy, loving marriage, despite his criminal lifestyle.

Al was called "Snorky," but only by his closest friends, a term he liked, meaning a sharp dresser. Among other nicknames given to Capone were Big Boy, the Beast, the Behemoth, Big Al, the Big Fellow, the Big Guy, Al Brown, and Tony Scarface, most being said behind Capone's back.

When Capone was 20 years old in 1919, he left New York City for Chicago at the invitation of Johnny Torrio and became a bodyguard and trusted factotum (jack-of-all-trades) for Torrio, the head of a criminal syndicate that illegally supplied alcohol—the forerunner of the Outfit—and was politically protected through the Unione Siciliana (today; the Italian-American National Union). Torrio was imported by crime boss Vincenzo Colosimo, aka James "Big Jim" Colosimo (and Diamond Jim), as an enforcer. 
Colosimo's Cafe, 2126 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

James "Big Jim" Colosimo (Chicago's first crime boss) was a longtime gang leader who ran a popular restaurant, Colosimo's Cafe, a hot spot for vice in Chicago. 
An interior view of Colosimo's Cafe.

Colosimo was gunned down in his restaurant on May 11, 1920. One theory is that his second-in-command, Johnny Torrio, set up the killing. Torrio took over Big Jim's empire until he handed the reins to Al Capone.

Capone began as a bouncer in a brothel, where he contracted syphilis. 
Salvarsan, a treatment for syphilis. Timely use of Salvarsan probably could have
cured the infection, but Capone never sought treatment.

In 1923, he purchased a small house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue in the Park Manor neighborhood on the city's south side for $5,500. According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, hijacker Joe Howard was killed on May 7, 1923, after he tried to interfere with the Capone-Torrio bootleg beer business. In the early decade, his name began appearing on newspaper sports pages where he was described as a boxing promoter. Torrio took over Colosimo's crime empire after Colosimo was murdered, in which Capone was suspected of being involved.

Torrio headed an essentially Italian organized crime group that was the biggest in the city, with Capone as his right-hand man. He was wary of being drawn into gang wars and tried to negotiate agreements over territory between rival crime groups. The smaller North Side Gang led by Dean O'Banion came under pressure from the Genna brothers, who were allied with Torrio. O'Banion found that Torrio was unhelpful with the encroachment of the Gennas into the North Side, despite his pretensions to be a settler of disputes. In a fateful step, Torrio arranged the murder of O'Banion at his flower shop on November 10, 1924. This placed Hymie Weiss at the head of the gang, backed by Vincent Drucci and Bugs Moran. Weiss had been a close friend of O'Banion, and the North Siders made it a priority to get revenge on his killers.

During Prohibition, Capone was involved with bootleggers in Canada, who helped him smuggle liquor into the US. When Capone was asked if he knew Rocco Perri, billed as Canada's "King of the Bootleggers," he replied: "Why I don't even know which street Canada is on." Other sources, however, claim that Capone had visited Canada, where he maintained some hideaways. Still, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police says there is no "evidence that he ever set foot on Canadian soil."

In January 1925, Capone was ambushed, leaving him shaken but unhurt. Twelve days later, Torrio returned from a shopping trip when he was shot several times. After recovering, he effectively resigned and handed control to Capone, age 26, who became the new boss of an organization that took in illegal breweries and a transportation network that reached Canada with political and law-enforcement protection. In turn, he was able to use more violence to increase revenue. An establishment that refused to purchase liquor from him often got blown up. As many as 100 people were killed in such bombings during the 1920s. Rivals saw Capone as responsible for the proliferation of brothels in the city.

Capone often enlisted the help of local members of the black community in his operations; jazz musicians Milt Hinton and Lionel Hampton had uncles who worked for Capone on the South Side of Chicago. Capone, a jazz fan, once asked clarinetist Johnny Dodds to play a number that Dodds did not know; Capone tore a $100 bill in half, handed Dodds a half, and told Dodds that he would get the other half when he learned it. On Earl Hines group's road tour, Capone sent two bodyguards to accompany the jazz pianist.

Capone indulged in custom-made suits, expensive cigars, gourmet food and drink, and female companionship. He was mainly known for his flashy and costly jewelry. His favorite responses to questions about his activities were: "I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want"; and "All I do is satisfy a public demand." Capone had become a national celebrity and talking point.

Capone apparently reveled in all the attention, such as the cheers from spectators when he appeared at baseball games. 
Al Capone with his son, Albert Francis "Sonny" Capone.

He donated to various charities and was viewed by many as a "modern-day Robin Hood." However, the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, in which seven gang rivals were murdered in broad daylight, damaged the public image of Chicago and Capone, leading influential citizens to demand government action and newspapers to dub Capone "Public Enemy № 1."

He based himself in Cicero, Illinois, after using bribery and widespread intimidation to take over town council elections (such as the 1924 Cicero municipal elections), making it difficult for the North Siders to target him. His driver was found tortured and murdered, and there was an attempt on Weiss's life in the Chicago Loop. On September 20, 1926, the North Side Gang used a ploy outside the Capone headquarters at the Hawthorne Inn to draw him to the windows. Gunmen in several cars then opened fire with Thompson submachine guns and shotguns at the windows of the first-floor restaurant. Capone was unhurt and called for a truce, but the negotiations failed. Three weeks later, on October 11, Weiss was killed outside the former O'Banion flower shop North Side headquarters. The owner of Hawthorne's restaurant was a friend of Capone's, and he was kidnapped and killed by Moran and Drucci in January 1927. Reports of Capone's intimidation became well known to the point where it was alleged that some companies, such as the makers of Vine-Glo [1], would use supposed Capone threats as a marketing tactic.

Capone became increasingly security-minded and desirous of getting away from Chicago. As a precaution, he and his entourage would often show up suddenly at one of Chicago's train depots and buy up an entire Pullman sleeper car on a night train to Cleveland, Omaha, Kansas City, Little Rock, or Hot Springs, where they would spend a week in luxury hotel suites under assumed names. In 1928, Capone paid $40,000 to Clarence Busch of the Anheuser-Busch brewing family for a 10,000-square-foot house on Palm Island, Florida, in Biscayne Bay between Miami and Miami Beach.

In November 1925, Antonio Lombardo was named head of the Unione Siciliana, a benevolent Sicilian-American society corrupted by gangsters. An infuriated Joe Aiello, who had wanted the position himself, believed Capone was responsible for Lombardo's ascension, and he resented the non-Sicilian's attempts to manipulate affairs within the Unione. Aiello severed all personal and business ties with Lombardo and entered a feud with him and Capone. Aiello allied himself with several other Capone enemies, including Jack Zuta, who ran vice and gambling houses together. 

Aiello plotted to eliminate Lombardo and Capone and, starting in the spring of 1927, made several attempts to assassinate Capone. On one occasion, Aiello offered money to the chef of Joseph "Diamond Joe" Esposito's Bella Napoli Café, Capone's favorite restaurant, to put prussic acid in Capone's and Lombardo's soup; reports indicated he offered between $10,000 and $35,000. Instead, the chef exposed the plot to Capone, who responded by dispatching men to destroy one of Aiello's stores on West Division Street with machine-gun fire. Over 200 bullets were fired into the Aiello Brothers Bakery on May 28, 1927, wounding Joe's brother Antonio. During the summer and autumn of 1927, several hitmen Aiello hired to kill Capone were slain. Anthony Russo and Vincent Spicuzza were among them. Each was offered $25,000 by Aiello to kill Capone and Lombardo. Aiello eventually offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who eliminated Capone. At least 10 gunmen tried to collect on Aiello's bounty but ended up dead. Capone's ally Ralph Sheldon attempted to kill Capone and Lombardo for Aiello's reward. Still, Capone's henchman Frank Nitti's intelligence network learned of the transaction and had Sheldon shot in front of a West Side hotel, although he did not die.

In November 1927, Aiello organized machine-gun ambushes across from Lombardo's home and a cigar store frequented by Capone. Those plans were foiled after an anonymous tip led police to raid several addresses and arrest Milwaukee gunman Angelo La Mantio and four other Aiello gunmen. After the police discovered receipts for the apartments in La Mantio's pockets, he confessed that Aiello had hired him to kill Capone and Lombardo, leading the police to arrest Aiello himself and bring him to the South Clark Street police station. Upon learning of the arrest, Capone dispatched nearly two dozen gunmen to stand guard outside the station and await Aiello's release. The men made no attempt to conceal their purpose there, and reporters and photographers rushed to the scene to observe Aiello's expected murder.

Capone was primarily known for ordering other men to do his dirty work. In May 1929, one of Capone's bodyguards, Frank Rio, uncovered a plot by three men, Albert Anselmi, John Scalise, and Joseph Giunta, who had been persuaded by Aiello to depose Capone and take over the Chicago Outfit. Capone later beat the men with a baseball bat and then ordered his bodyguards to shoot them, a scene that was included in the 1987 film The Untouchables. Deirdre Bair and writers and historians such as William Elliot Hazelgrove have questioned the claim's veracity. Bair asked why "three trained killers could sit quietly and let this happen," while Hazelgrove stated that Capone would have been "hard-pressed to beat three men to death with a baseball bat" and would have let an enforcer perform the murders. However, despite claims that the story was first reported by author Walter Noble Burns in his 1931 book "The One-way Ride: The red trail of Chicago gangland from prohibition to Jake Lingle," Capone biographers Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz have found versions of the story in press coverage shortly after the crime. Collins and Schwartz suggest that similarities among reported versions of the story indicate a basis in truth and that The Outfit deliberately spread the tale to enhance Capone's fearsome reputation. George Meyer, an associate of Capone's, also claimed to have witnessed both the planning of the murders and the event itself.

Al Capone was declared the public enemy number one by the Chicago Crime Commission in 1930.

In 1930, upon learning of Aiello's continued plotting against him, Capone resolved to finally eliminate him. In the weeks before Aiello's death, Capone's men tracked him to Rochester, New York, where he had connections through Buffalo crime family boss Stefano Magaddino and plotted to kill him there. Still, Aiello returned to Chicago before the plot could be executed. Angst-ridden from the constant need to hide out and the killings of several of his men, Aiello set up residence in the Chicago apartment of Unione Siciliana treasurer Pasquale "Patsy Presto" Prestogiacomo at 205 North Kolmar Avenue. On October 23, upon exiting Prestogiacomo's building to enter a taxicab, a gunman in a second-floor window across the street started firing at Aiello with a submachine gun] Aiello was said to have been shot at least 13 times before he toppled off the building steps and moved around the corner, attempting to move out of the line of fire. Instead, he moved directly into the range of a second submachine gun positioned on the third floor of another apartment block and was subsequently gunned down.

In the wake of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, Walter A. Strong, publisher of the Chicago Daily News, asked his friend President Herbert Hoover for federal intervention to stem Chicago's lawlessness. He arranged a secret meeting at the White House two weeks after Hoover's inauguration. On March 19, 1929, Strong, joined by Frank Loesch of the Chicago Crime Commission and Laird Bell, made their case to the President. In Hoover's 1952 Memoir, the former President reported that Strong argued "Chicago was in the hands of the gangsters, that the police and magistrates were completely under their control, …that the Federal government was the only force by which the city's ability to govern itself could be restored. At once, I directed that all the Federal agencies concentrate upon Mr. Capone and his allies."

That meeting launched a multi-agency attack on Capone. Treasury and Justice Departments developed plans for income tax prosecutions against Chicago gangsters. A small, elite squad of Prohibition Bureau agents (whose members included Eliot Ness) was deployed against bootleggers. In a city used to corruption, these lawmen were incorruptible. Charles Schwarz, a writer for the Chicago Daily News, dubbed them Untouchables. Strong secretly used his newspaper's resources to gather and share intelligence on the Capone to support Federal efforts.

On March 27, 1929, Capone was arrested by FBI agents as he left a Chicago courtroom after testifying to a grand jury investigating violations of federal prohibition laws. He was charged with contempt of court for feigning illness to avoid an earlier appearance. On May 16, 1929, Capone was arrested in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for carrying a concealed weapon. 

On May 17, 1929, Capone was indicted by a grand jury, and a trial was held before Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge John E Walsh. Following entering a guilty plea by his attorney, Capone was sentenced to a prison term of one year. On August 8, 1929, Capone was transferred to Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary. A week after his release in March 1930, Capone was listed as the number one "Public Enemy" on the unofficial Chicago Crime Commission's widely publicized list.

In April 1930, Capone was arrested on vagrancy charges when visiting Miami Beach; the governor had ordered sheriffs to run him out of the state. Capone claimed that Miami police had refused him food and water and threatened to arrest his family. He was charged with perjury for making these statements but was acquitted after a three-day trial in July. In September, a Chicago judge issued a warrant for Capone's arrest on charges of vagrancy and then used the publicity to run against Thompson in the Republican primary. In February 1931, Capone was tried on a contempt of court charge. In court, Judge James Herbert Wilkerson intervened to reinforce the prosecutor's questioning of Capone's doctor. Wilkerson sentenced Capone to six months but remained free while on appeal of the contempt conviction.

In February 1930, Capone's organization was linked to the murder of Julius Rosenheim, who served as a police informant in the Chicago Outfit for 20 years.

Capone had been trying to diversify his investments in legitimate businesses for some time, even while consolidating his brewing, distilling, and distribution concerns. It was reported in the early 1930s that one of Al Capone's Chicago family members became sick from drinking milk that wasn't fresh... but had not soured yet. He bought Meadowmoor Dairies, a dairy processing and bottling business. Al Capone and his older brother Ralph, who ran Meadowmoor, are responsible for milk expiration dating in Chicago in 1933. 

Al Capone as Santa Claus


Assistant Attorney General Mabel Walker Willebrandt recognized that mob figures publicly led lavish lifestyles yet never filed tax returns. Thus, they could be convicted of tax evasion without requiring hard evidence to get testimony about their other crimes. She tested this approach by prosecuting a South Carolina bootlegger, Manley Sullivan. In 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Sullivan that the approach was legally sound: illegally earned income was subject to income tax; Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. rejected the argument that the Fifth Amendment protected criminals from reporting illegal income.

The IRS special investigation unit chose Frank J. Wilson to investigate Capone, with a focus on his spending. The key to Capone's conviction on tax charges was proving his income, and the most valuable evidence in that regard originated in his offer to pay tax. Ralph, his brother and a gangster in his own right, was tried for tax evasion in 1930. After being convicted in a two-week trial over which Wilkerson presided, Ralph spent three years in prison.

Capone ordered his lawyer to regularize his tax position. Crucially, during the ultimately abortive negotiations that followed, his lawyer stated the income that Capone was willing to pay tax on for various years, admitting income of $100,000 for 1928 and 1929, for instance. 
Hence, without any investigation, the government had been given a letter from a lawyer acting for Capone, conceding his significant taxable income for specific years. 
Unemployed men outside a soup kitchen opened by Capone in Chicago during the Depression, February 1931.

When Al Capone's soup kitchen opened at 935 South State Street, in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood, in mid-November 1930, hundreds of thousands were out of work. By the following year, 624,000 people, or 50% of the Chicago workforce, were out of a job.

Capone's charity had no name, just a sign over the door that advertised "Free Soup, Coffee & Doughnuts for the Unemployed." Inside, women in white aprons served an average of 2200 people daily with a smile and no questions asked. Breakfast was hot coffee and sweet rolls, and lunch and dinner consisted of soup and bread. Every 24 hours, diners devoured 350 loaves of bread and 100 dozen rolls. They washed down their meals with 30 pounds of coffee sweetened with 50 pounds of sugar. The whole operation costs $300 per day.

On March 13, 1931, Capone was charged with income tax evasion for 1924 by a secret grand jury. On June 5, 1931, Capone was indicted by a federal grand jury on 22 counts of income tax evasion from 1925 through 1929; he was released on $50,000 bail. A week later, Eliot Ness and his team of Untouchables inflicted significant financial damage on Capone's operations, leading to his indictment on 5,000 violations of the Volstead Act (Prohibition laws).

On June 16, 1931, at the Chicago Federal Building in the courtroom of Wilkerson, Capone pleaded guilty to income tax evasion and the 5,000 Volstead Act violations as part of a 2½-year prison sentence plea bargain. However, on July 30, 1931, Wilkerson refused to honor the plea bargain, and Capone's counsel rescinded the guilty pleas. On the second day of the trial, Wilkerson overruled objections that a lawyer could not confess for his client, saying that anyone making a statement to the government did so at his own risk. Wilkerson deemed that the 1930 letter to federal authorities could be admitted into evidence from a lawyer acting for Capone. Wilkerson later tried Capone only on the income tax evasion charges as he determined they took precedence over the Volstead Act charges.

Much was later made of other evidence, such as witnesses and ledgers, but these strongly implied Capone's control rather than stating it. Capone's lawyers, who had relied on the plea bargain Wilkerson refused to honor and therefore had mere hours to prepare for the trial, ran a weak defense focused on claiming that essentially all his income was lost to gambling. This would have been irrelevant regardless since gambling losses can only be subtracted from gambling winnings. However, it was further undercut by Capone's expenses, which were well beyond what his claimed income could support; Wilkerson allowed Capone's spending to be presented at great length. During the five years, the government charged Capone with evasion of $215,000 in taxes on a total income of $1,038,654. Capone was convicted on five counts of income tax evasion on October 17, 1931, sentenced to 11 years in federal prison a week later, fined $50,000 plus $7,692 for court costs, and held liable for $215,000 plus interest due on his back taxes. The contempt of court sentence was served concurrently. New lawyers hired to represent Capone were Washington-based tax experts. They filed a writ of habeas corpus based on a Supreme Court ruling that tax evasion was not fraud, which apparently meant that Capone had been convicted on charges relating to years outside the time limit for prosecution. However, a judge interpreted the law so that the time that Capone had spent in Miami was subtracted from the age of the offenses, thereby denying the appeal of both Capone's conviction and sentence.
Capone's FBI criminal record in 1932 shows most of his criminal charges were discharged/dismissed.

Capone was sent to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary in May 1932, aged 33. Upon his arrival in Atlanta, Capone was officially diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhea. He was also suffering from withdrawal symptoms from cocaine addiction, the use of which had perforated his nasal septum. Capone was competent at his prison job of stitching soles on shoes for eight hours a day, but his letters were barely coherent. He was seen as a weak personality, so out of his depth dealing with fellow bullying inmates, his cellmate, seasoned convict Red Rudensky, feared that Capone would have a breakdown. Rudensky was formerly a small-time criminal associated with the Capone gang and found himself becoming a protector for Capone. The conspicuous protection of Rudensky and other prisoners drew accusations from less friendly inmates and fueled suspicion that Capone was receiving special treatment. No solid evidence ever emerged, but it formed part of the rationale for moving Capone to the recently opened Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary off the coast of San Francisco in August 1934. On June 23, 1936, Capone was stabbed and superficially wounded by fellow-Alcatraz inmate James C. Lucas.
Here is what Al Capone's prison cell at Alcatraz looked like.

Due to his good behavior, Capone was permitted to play banjo in the Alcatraz prison band, the Rock Islanders, which gave regular Sunday concerts for other inmates. Capone also transcribed the song "Madonna Mia," creating his own arrangement as a tribute to his wife, Mae.

At Alcatraz, Capone's decline became increasingly evident as neurosyphilis progressively eroded his mental faculties; his formal diagnosis of syphilis of the brain was made in February 1938. He spent the last year of his Alcatraz sentence in the hospital section, 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 out his sentence for contempt of court. Based on his reduced mental capabilities, he was paroled on November 16, 1939, after his wife Mae appealed to the court.

The main effect of Capone's conviction was that he ceased to be boss immediately after his imprisonment. Still, those involved in the jailing of Capone portrayed it as considerably undermining the city's organized crime syndicate. Capone's underboss, Frank Nitti, took over as boss of the Outfit after being released from prison in March 1932, having also been convicted of tax evasion charges. Far from being smashed, the Outfit continued without being troubled by the Chicago police, but at a lower level and without the open violence that had marked Capone's rule. Organized crime in the city had a lower profile once Prohibition was repealed, already wary of attention after seeing Capone's notoriety bring him down, to the extent that there was a lack of consensus among writers about who was actually in control and who was a figurehead "front boss." Prostitution, labor union racketeering, and gambling became moneymakers for organized crime in the city without incurring a serious investigation. In the late 1950s, FBI agents discovered an organization led by Capone's former lieutenants reigning supreme over the Chicago underworld.

Some historians have speculated that Capone ordered the 1939 murder of Edward J. O'Hare a week before his release to help federal prosecutors convict Capone of tax evasion. However, there are other theories for O'Hare's death.

Due to his failing health, Capone was released from prison on November 16, 1939, and referred to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to treat paresis (caused by late-stage syphilis). Hopkins refused to admit him on his reputation alone, but Union Memorial Hospital accepted him. Capone was grateful for the compassionate care he received and donated two Japanese weeping cherry trees to Union Memorial Hospital in 1939. After a few weeks of inpatient and outpatient care, a sickly Capone left Baltimore on March 20, 1940, for Palm Island, Florida. In 1942, after mass production of penicillin was started in the United States, Capone was one of the first American patients treated with the new drug. Though it was too late for him to reverse the damage to his brain, it slowed the disease's progression.

In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist examined him and concluded that Capone had the mentality of a 12-year-old child. He spent the last years of his life at his Palm Island, Florida mansion, spending time with his wife and grandchildren. 

On January 21, 1947, Capone had a stroke. He regained consciousness and started to improve but contracted bronchopneumonia. He suffered Cardiac arrest on January 22, and on January 25, surrounded by his family in his home, Capone died after his heart failed due to apoplexy. His body was transported back to Chicago a week later, and a private funeral was held. He was initially buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago. In 1950, Capone's remains and those of his father, Gabriele, and brother, Salvatore, were moved to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Vine-Glo was a grape concentrate brick product (aka wine bricks) sold in the United States during Prohibition by Fruit Industries Ltd in 1929. It was sold as a grape concentrate to make grape juice from but included a specific warning that told people how 'not' to make wine from it. Watch the video below.

Wine Bricks & Prohibition

1 comment:

  1. His reputation survived him. When I was in Italy back in 1976, everyone there who asked where I was from asked me "Do you know Al Capone" when I told them I was from Chicago.


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