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Trader Jakes – Issue 780 April 6, 2018

“In God we trust” Page 11

Al Capone is America's best known gangster and the single great-

est symbol of the collapse of law and order in the United States dur-

ing the 1920s Prohibition era. Capone had a leading role in the

illegal activities that lent Chicago its reputation as a lawless city.

Capone was born on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York.

Baptized "Alphonsus Capone," he grew up in a rough neighborhood

and was a member of two "kid gangs," the Brooklyn Rippers and

the Forty Thieves Juniors. Although he was bright, Capone quit

school in the sixth grade at age fourteen. Between scams he was a

clerk in a candy store, a pinboy in a bowling alley, and a cutter in a

book bindery. He became part of the notorious Five Points gang in

Manhattan and worked in gangster Frankie Yale's Brooklyn dive, the

Harvard Inn, as a bouncer and bartender. While working at the Inn,

Capone received his infamous facial scars and the resulting nick-

name "Scarface" when he insulted a patron and was attacked by

her brother In 1918, Capone met an Irish girl named Mary "Mae"

Coughlin at a dance. On December 4, 1918, Mae gave birth to their

son, Albert "Sonny" Francis. Capone and Mae married that year on

December 30.Capone's first arrest was on a disorderly conduct

charge while he was working for Yale. He also murdered two men

while in New York, early testimony to his willingness to kill. In accor-

dance with gangland etiquette, no one admitted to hearing or see-

ing a thing so Capone was never tried for the murders. After Capone

hospitalized a rival gang member, Yale sent him to Chicago to wait

until things cooled off. Capone arrived in Chicago in 1919 and

moved his family into a house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue.

The unpretentious Capone home at 7244 South Prarie Avenue, far

from Chicago's Loop and Capone's business headquarters.The

unpretentious Capone home at 7244 South Prarie Avenue, far from

Chicago's Loop and Capone's business headquarters. (CHS DN-

91356) Capone went to work for Yale's old mentor, John Torrio.

Torrio saw Capone's potential, his combination of physical strength

and intelligence, and encouraged his protégé. Soon Capone was

helping Torrio manage his bootlegging business. By mid-1922

Capone ranked as Torrio's number two man and eventually became

a full partner in the saloons, gambling houses, and brothels.When

Torrio was shot by rival gang members and consequently decided

to leave Chicago, Capone inherited the "outfit" and became boss.

The outfit's men liked, trusted, and obeyed Capone, calling him "The

Big Fellow." He quickly proved that he was even better at organiza-

tion than Torrio, syndicating and expanding the city's vice industry

between 1925 and 1930. Capone controlled speakeasies, bookie

joints, gambling houses, brothels, horse and race tracks, nightclubs,

distilleries and breweries at a reported income of $100,000,000 a

year. He even acquired a sizable interest in the largest cleaning and

dyeing plant chain in Chicago.Although he had been doing business

with Capone, the corrupt Chicago mayor William "Big Bill" Hale

Thompson, Jr. decided that Capone was bad for his political image.

Thompson hired a new police chief to run Capone out of Chicago.

When Capone looked for a new place to live, he quickly discovered

that he was unpopular in much of the country. He finally bought an

estate at 93 Palm Island, Florida in 1928. Attempts on Capone's life

were never successful. He had an extensive spy network in Chicago,

from newspaper boys to policemen, so that any plots were quickly

discovered. Capone, on the other hand, was skillful at isolating and

killing his enemies when they became too powerful. A typical

Capone murder consisted of men renting an apartment across the

street from the victim's residence and gunning him down when he

stepped outside. The operations were quick and complete and

Capone always had an alibi.Valentine's Day Massacre of

1929.Capone's most notorious killing was the St. Valentine's Day

Massacre. On February 14, 1929, four Capone men entered a

garage at 2122 N. Clark Street. The building was the main liquor

headquarters of bootlegger George "Bugs" Moran's North Side

gang. Because two of Capone's men were dressed as police, the

seven men in the garage thought it was a police raid. As a result,

they dropped their guns and put their hands against the wall. Using

two shotguns and two machine guns, the Capone men fired more

than 150 bullets into the victims. Six of the seven killed were mem-

bers of Moran's gang; the seventh was an unlucky friend. Moran,

probably the real target, was across the street when Capone's men

arrived and stayed away when he saw the police

uniforms.As

usual,

Capone had an alibi; he was in Florida during the massacre. Capone

masterminded the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre which left

seven men dead, but was inFlorida when it happened. All but one of

the victims were members of rival "Bugs" Moran's gang. Although

Capone ordered dozens of deaths and even killed with his own

hands, he often treated people fairly and generously. He was equally

known for his violent temper and for his strong sense of loyalty and

honor. He was the first to open soup kitchens after the 1929 stock

market crash and he ordered merchants to give clothes and food to

the needy at his expense.A line outside Capone's "Free Lunch"

restaurant,a soup kitchen he ran during the Depression.

Courtesy of Chicago Historical Society

The Notorious Al Capone