The most infamous gangster in the history of the United States, Alphonse Gabriel ‘Al Capone’ was the head of a multi million dollar criminal empire in Chicago known as ‘The Outfit’. This organisation specialised in bootlegging, gambling and prostitution and generated fabulous sums of money during the prohibition era of the 1920s. It is estimated that ‘The Outfit’ raked in as much as $100 million dollars per year, most of it through the illegal sale of alcohol – known as bootlegging.
Al Capone began his criminal career as a young member of the ‘Five Points Gang’ in Manhattan, before moving to Chicago some time later. He earned his nickname ‘Scarface’ after being slashed across the face in a bar room brawl – a nickname that he hated, but stuck all through his adult life.
On the morning of 14 February 1929 seven members of the infamous Bug Moran Gang were shot to death, execution style, in a Chicago garage. This became known as the St. Valentines Day Massacre and it was strongly suspected that Al Capone was behind it. However, he was never charged and to this day the crime remains unsolved.
Al Capone was officially named as ‘Public Enemy Number One’ by the Chicago Crime Commission in 1930, but all attempts to prosecute a successful case against him for any of his long list of violent crimes came to null. However, in 1931 he was found guilty of tax fraud and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was one of the early inmates sent to Alcatraz Penitentiary in San Francisco Bay.
Following his release in 1939, he died on 25 January 1947, suffering from long standing syphilis, followed by a stroke and then pneumonia that resulted in his death.
Many famous quotes have been attributed to Al Capone including this much quoted example from his later years:
“You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”
Image: Al Capone is shown here at the Chicago Detective bureau following his arrest on a vagrancy charge as Public Enemy No. 1, c 1930, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.