Al Capone, also called “Scarface,” was the son of Italian immigrants, and was one of nine children. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1899, and died in Palm Island, Florida in 1947. He was one of the most famous American gangsters in history, if not the most famous, and he dominated organized crime in Chicago between 1925-1931. Below are 27 criminal facts about the famous gangster.
Al Capone Facts
27. Cultivating His Image
Capone knew the importance of keeping up a positive media image, and he hired a press secretary to help him control his image. He even appeared on the cover of Time magazine on March 24, 1930.
26. Police in His Pocket
During Al Capone’s trial in 1931, the Chicago Police chief claimed that Capone had at least 60% of the police force on his payroll, and many officers were either directly involved in bootlegging or worked to cover up other crimes.
25. Kidnapped Performance
One year for his birthday, Al Capone got a hankering to see famous jazz musician Fats Waller. So what did he do? Kidnapped him of course. Waller was initially frightened, but relaxed once he realized the mob boss was a fan; he left the party days later, quite drunk and with thousands of dollars in tips.
24. Odd Job Al
After dropping out of school, Capone worked a series of odd jobs to help support his family, including one at a munitions factory, one at a bowling alley and one working for a bookbinder. At age 18, he met gangster Johhny Torrio, who hired him to work as a bouncer in his friend’s bar. It was there his true criminal education began.
So what do we call him “Scarface?” In 1917, Capone was involved in a fight at the Harvard Inn with the brother of a female patron whom he’d insulted. The man slashed him across his left cheek with a knife or a razor, leaving him with the nickname Scarface.
22. Milk Man
As prohibition was coming to an end, Capone was searching for a legitimate business to support his lifestyle. Tired of the danger that came with organized crime, he got into the milk business (some say this was also spurred on by the illness of a relative after they got sick from drinking expired milk). At the time, there were few regulations around milk productions, and Capone lobbied Chicago City Council for a law to stamp expiration or sell by dates on milk bottles to keep kids from getting sick.
21. Robin Hood
Capone was also admired for his charitable activities, which led some people to think of him as a modern day Robin Hood. In the 1930s, he funded a soup kitchen with money he generated from bootlegging. The kitchen served meals to over 120,000 people, and provided the only meals that some unemployed Americans had during the great depression.
20. Making Millions
It is estimated that, in 1929, the various parts of Capone’s businesses brought in about $105,000. The largest portion came from bootlegging, followed by gambling, prostitution, racketeering, and other activities. Adjusted for inflation, that amounts to $1,521,990.35 in today’s dollars.
19. Riding in His Cadillac
His most beloved car was a 1928 V-8 Town Sedan. The car was customized to his requirements, and was protected by 3,000 lbs of steel armor and equipped with bullet-proof windows.
18. Bloody Valentine
On February 14, 1929, seven men who were connected to the George “Bugs” Moran gang were shot to death. The crime became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and it was widely believed to have been organized by Al Capone. However, since Capone was in Florida at the time of the murders, he could never be officially tied to the case and was never charged.
17. A Whole Lot of Nothing
In 1986, when TV producers heard about a walled-off, subterranean chamber in Capone’s old home base, they proposed a live broadcast of the demolition of the wall in case human remains or money were found. When the wall came down, what the excavators ultimately found was nothing. All that was there was a pile of dirt and some empty bottles, and the whole thing ended up being one giant let down. While generally panned by the media, the broadcast managed to pull in phenomenal ratings, and outperformed popular sitcoms The Cosby Show and Family Ties.
16. Heavy on the Whiskey
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Capone often enjoyed a drink himself. Capone’s drink of choice was a Templeton Rye whiskey. In honor of the OG, Brooklyn bartender John Bush created a drink known as the “Al Capone.” The drink blends Campari, whiskey, and vermouth, but goes heavy on the whiskey.
15. Whack a Teacher
When Capone was in school, teachers often used physical force as a means of discipline. Capone always had trouble with authority, and at age 14, he lost his temper and started a fist fight with a teacher. The teacher hit him back, and he was expelled. He never went back.
14. Crime Czar
After Capone’s boss Torrio retired to Italy, Capone became the czar of Chicago. He quickly expanded the empire (generally by force), and ran gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging rackets.
13. The Untouchables
Elliot Ness was a prohibition agent, and he and a small team of men raided illegal breweries and other places linked to Capone’s bootlegging operations around Chicago. Because of their supposed refusal to accept bribes, they were dubbed the “Untouchables.” Ness’s work would eventually help take down Capone, though the government focused on prosecuting Capone for tax evasion instead, and it was those charges that sent him to prison. Pay your taxes, people!
12. A Sentimental Ditty
Capone’s favorite song was reportedly a British wartime ballad from 1916 about a woman waiting for her sweetheart to return from the war. According to piano player Jack Woodward, it was the song Capone first asked to hear when he was “just a nobody,” and it was the song he requested years later when he was Chicago’s most famous gangster. In Woodward’s memoir, he states: “I could improvise…songs 9,000 different ways. Orchestrated, cross-handed, C-sharp minor. But mostly he liked the same thing over and over again—’Roses of Picardy.’”
Capone’s brother James was seven years older than him, and eventually became a prohibition agent. Upon moving to Homer, Nebraska, James Capone changed his name to Richard Hart and became a federal enforcement agent during prohibition.
Capone’s influence over Chicago in the 1920s and 30s was so great that the suburb of Forest View, where he was based out of, became known as “Caponeville.”
9. Living Lavishly
Before his imprisonment in Alcatraz, Capone managed to find a way to live lavishly while incarcerated. He had carpeted floors and furnishings in his cell, and even had a radio. More than that, his friends and family lived in a nearby hotel.
8. Resident of the Rock
In 1934, Capone was sent to Alcatraz. In the famous prison, the mob boss received no special treatment. He spent 4.5 years on the Island, and during that time he was forced to follow the same rules as the other inmates, and was given no special rights.
7. The Mind of a Child
Capone was eventually diagnosed with neurosyphilis and gonorrhoea, which he contracted while working as a bouncer at a brothel. The neurosyphilis caused a rapid decline in his mental capabilities, and by the time he died, his doctors concluded that he had the mental capacity of a 12 year old.
6. Riches to Rags
Despite earning $40 million at the height of his rule, by the time Capone died he was broke. When Capone was released from prison, the outfit gave him $600 a week, which was barely enough to support his family, house, and staff.
5. Not Very Musical
While in prison, Capone purchased a banjo in order to be able to join the prison orchestra. Unfortunately for the gangster, he wasn’t very musical, and he was forced to play on his own and away from the main orchestra.
4. Betting on the Holes
One way that Capone used to unwind was by playing golf at his favorite course, Burnham Woods. Several times a week he’d meet friends for a round, where they’d drink alcohol and gamble on every hole.
3. Stabbed With Scissors
While locked up at Alcatraz, Capone was attacked and wounded by another inmate. The attacker, James Lucas, had somehow managed to acquire a pair of scissors, and when both men were in the shower block, he used them to stab Capone. Luckily for Capone, the wounds were superficial, and when asked why he did it, Lucas claimed that Capone had tried to kill him.
2. Don’t Call Him That
Whenever he was photographed, Capone would try to shield the scarred side of his face, and although he never served in the military, he attempted to claim the wounds as battle scars. Capone intensely disliked the Scarface nickname, and criminal associates called him “Big Fellow” instead. Friends who knew him well referred to him as “Snorky,” which was a slang term for “spiffy.”
1. That Time He Shot Himself
Amazingly enough, Al Capone was only shot once during his lifetime, and it was by his own hand. In September 1928, after leaving the a golf course, Capone was getting into the car when his gun accidentally went off in his right pocket. The shot sent a bullet through his leg and groin. He was admitted to the hospital under the fake name “Geary,” and he rented the five rooms surrounding his own for his bodyguards to keep him safe from being targeted by rival gangs while he recovered.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17