Al Capone is one of the most notorious gangsters in the history of the United States. Capone reigned over the speakeasies, bootlegging business and other illegal ventures during the Prohibition era during the Roaring Twenties in Chicago. Capone’s nemesis was crime fighter Elliott Ness and the Untouchables, but it was tax evasion that finally sent him prison in 1931.
Alphonse Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1899, As a young man, Capone was a member of a notorious street gang led by Johnny Torrio. Lucky Luciano, who also went on to be a notorious mobster, was another member of this violent gang.
Torrio invited Capone to join him in Chicago in about 1920. Capone became a Lieutenant of the Colosimo mob, which viewed the rackets spawned by the Prohibition Amendment as prosperous growth industries. Opportunities to make riches were provided the public appetite for alcohol, which was legally prohibited. The gangs prospered by illegal brewing, distilling and distribution of beer and liquor. The Chicago mobsters also developed interests in legitimate business, such as cleaning and dyeing. They developed influence with public officials, labor unions and employee’s associations.
In 1925 Capone became the boss of the Chicago gang when Torrio was seriously wounded and retired. By 1929 Capone had a fearsome reputation in the gang rivalries of the Prohibition era and acquired ‘racketeering rights’ in several areas of Chicago.
During the notorious ‘Roaring twenties,’ Capone ruled crime in the Windy City, controlling gambling, bootlegging, prostitution, bribery, narcotics trafficking, robbery, protections rackets and murder.
According to the FBI website, the racketeering laws were not the same as they are today. The FBI did not have jurisdiction over prohibition. Even the notorious ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre” could not be touched by the Feds, because the violent mass shooting was not a federal offence.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacres, on February 14, 1929, is one of the most famous incidences of violence of the Chicago gangs in the Prohibition era. Allegedly, Al Capone’s gang lined up seven members and associates of the Bugs Moran gang against a garage wall and shot them with machine guns. The massacre was generally ascribed to the Capone mob, but Al Capone himself was in Florida at the time.
Capone was released in 1939, but never publicly returned to Chicago. He had syphilis and his health had deteriorated while in prison. Capone, who reportedly had the mentality of a 12 year old, moved into his home in Palm Island, Florida where he lived with his wife and immediate family in a secluded atmosphere. Capone died of a stroke and pneumonia in 1947.
According to the FBI website, there are 2,400 pages of records on Al Capone and his criminal activities in the history section of the Federal Bureau of Investigation website.
By Christine Bude
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