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Considered the most notorious gangster in history, Alphonse Capone, otherwise known as Scarface Al, was born in New York, 1899, in a small apartment in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Having many run-ins with the police growing up, he was always around the local street gang led my Johnny Torrio. After beating one of his sixth grade teachers, he quit school, and quickly learned the way of the streets, joining the Torrio gang, call the James Street Gang. James Street also included Lucky Luciano, one of Capone’s best friends, who would later also become a notorious gangster (Internet 1, 1).
As he grew older, Capone was hired by the gang leader, Torrio, to be a bouncer at a bar in Brooklyn, taking his first step up the “gang ladder”. One night, Capone’s cheek was slashed during a fight at the bar over a girl. It was from then on he was known as Scarface. Later in his life, when asked by reporters where he got this scare, he often lied of serving in the “Lost Battalion” in WWI, even though he never served in the military (Internet 1, 1).
Soon Enough, Capone was in trouble in again. He had killed a man in an argument and was on the run. After calling his old friend Torrio, he was invited to come to Chicago
and make a fresh start. At the time, Torrio was working for his uncle, the current leader of the Chicago underground, Big Jim Colosimo. With the prohibition came possibilities for large alcohol based profits. Torrio knew that Big Jim could make extremely large amounts of money, but Colosimo could not be persuaded to try his hand. So, in 1920, Torrio had Capone plan and carry out the murder of Big Jim, making Torrio the new boss of Chicago, with Capone as his right hand man, and manager of bootlegging alcohol (Internet 3, 1).
As they started their completer takeover of Chicago, few mobs would put up any resistance. One that did was the Irish North Side gang. Capone soon called in Frankie Yale, one of his old gang mates from Brooklyn, and the same man that had done the Colosimo assassination, to murder Dion O’Banion, the head of the North side gang. His death did little to persuade the gang to back down, and they continued to fight on and off for a few years.
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Capone found himself in another tight spot and had to quickly learn the ways of business, now heading up a workforce of over 1,000 men and managing a payroll of over 300,000 dollars a week (Internet 1, 1). From here on, Capone only gained more respect,
and his control of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs became immense. With almost all of the policemen, attorneys, mayors, governors, and congressmen in his pocket, he was virtually untouchable. Also, by surrounding himself by other loyal gangsters he could trust, his mob grew larger, taking over the entire town of Cicero, Illinois. He was also one of the first to accept men of all different nationalities into his gang, as long as the were loyal, even hiring the man who gave him his famous scar in the bar fight (Internet 1, 1).
With his power, Capone also acquired many enemies, as well as allies. Many of his old rival gangs soon joined under him in hopes of reaching the big time. He also gained much public support by directing his mob into fields that the public favored, like alcohol and gambling (Internet 1, 2). However, Capone was constantly on guard for the ever looming assassination attempt. Many times, a bodyguard saved Capone’s life, in these trys at Capone’s life, showing their dedication to Capone and the mob. If the gangsters where not dedicated, or showed signs of breaking loyalty, Capone would often beat them to the punch, as was in the case of two of his best gun men, John Scalise and Albert Anselmi. When they first showed signs of desertion, Capone invited them for dinner, producing a wrapped up gift box. From this he took out a club, and proceeded to beat them in the head until they died, making an example of them (Internet 1, 3).
At the height of his power, Capone would make his first real mistake in his career
of crime, sending him on a downhill plunge, eventually leading to him being arrested and his death. Although in Florida at the time, Capone called for the assassination of the leader of one of his biggest rival gangs, “Bugs” Moran. His men, posing as cops, drove to the Gang’s hideout, and did a fake bust. Offering no resistance, they were brutally gunned down by Capone’s men. “Bugs” Moran however, was not among the 7 men killed. This finally got the government to put pressure on Capone. Not being able to get Capone on the murder charge, they began to look for ways to bring him down. They soon found the way, and in 1929, he was convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced for 11 years in a federal Prison in Atlanta (Internet 1, 3).
After 4 years, he was transferred to Alcatraz prison until his release in 1939. But his time in jail had taken its toll on him. His health deteriorated with untreated syphilis, and he soon showed signs of being “stir crazy”, not uncommon for prisoners that had spent time in Alcatraz. Returning to his Florida Mansion, he soon began to show signs of lucidity and mental inertia (Internet 1, 3). Alphonse Capone, died, on January 25, 1947, of a stroke and pneumonia. He is still remembered today among the most notorious gangsters in history.
“Alphonse Capone (1899 -1947) Chicago Crime Leader” Seize The Night. (2000) 10 Nov. 2004. http://www.carpenoctem.tv/mafia/acapone
“Alphonse Capone, aka. Al, Scarface” Famous Cases. 11 Nov. 2004. http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/capone/capone
“Al Capone” Biography: Al Capone. 10 Nov. 2004. http://www.angelfire.com/co/pscst/capone