Fear is the one word that perfectly describes the infamous American gangster of yesteryears of Italian origin Al “Scarface” Capone. The title of “Scarface” was earned by Capone due to a permanent scar on his left cheek which he received from a razor during a brawl he had in his youth. It was during the Prohibition era that Al Capone rose to fame as the king of the Chicago mafia. It was estimated that before Capone was sent to the infamous Alcatraz he had amassed a fortune of around 100 million dollars.
Unlike many of the American gangsters of that time who came from a poor family background Al Capone came from a respectable Italian family. He was born to Gabriele and Teresina Capone as Alphonse Capone in Brooklyn on the January 17, 1899. Capone also had two brothers named Vincenzo and Raffale. Although the Capones lived in a tough neighbourhood they were basically law abiding citizens. It was Capone’s induction in a Catholic school which was marred with violent incidences that had deep impact on the young Capone and became a turning point in Capone taking to crime like a fish takes to water. It was at this very institute that despite being a promising student he was expelled for assaulting a female teacher an incident from which he never looked back and entered the world of crime when around the same time he met gangster Johnny Torrio. It was this interaction with Torrio that had the greatest influence on the impressionable mind of the young Capone who was on his way to become a gangster of significant influence. It was Torrio who taught Capone the importance of maintaining a clean image to the society whilst carrying out the actual illegal business on the sly. He also taught Capone to do away with crude violence which was prevalent at that time and maintain a structure so to give the illicit business a corporate structure. Thus Capone initially began his career in crime by joining Torrio’s James Street Boys gang and eventually rising to the Five Points gang
It was finally in 1909 Torrio moved in from New York to Chicago to run the brothel business in the city. While it was ten years later in 1919 that he called Capone to Chicago city. On his arrival in Chicago Capone was in the news for allegedly master minding the killing of Torrio’s boss Big Jim Colosimo thus making way for Torrio to rule the city of Chicago. It was now 1920 and Prohibition on sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol was imposed throughout the country. As is the case with any prohibitory rule the new rule imposed only encouraged new bootlegging operations which resulted in a lot of profits to gangs such as Torrio’s gang who were into the bootlegging of liquor. In 1925 Torrio finally retired from active crime life resulting in Capone taking over the gang and officially becoming the czar of the city of Chicago.
Such was Capone’s hold over the city that be it gambling, prostitution or bootlegging operations he controlled all of them. Has his legend grew in the city he also became renowned for not carrying any arms as security but was always seen with two bodyguards and at times sandwiched between the bodyguards while travelling in a car. He also was known for travelling in the night and travelling in day only if absolutely necessary. With Capone now fully in control of the gang he inherited from Torrio and with control of Chicago city as well he soon moved in to the Metropole Hotel in order to create a celebrity like aura around him. With his growing clout especially in bootlegging business and his sheer ruthlessness and disregard for the law saw a rise of number of murders being carried out by Capone’s men but without being convicted due to lack of evidence.
It was finally in March 1929 that the President of America Herbert Hoover it seems directly questioned his secretary of treasury Andrew Mellon stating “Have you got this fellow Capone yet? I want that man in jail”. As a result of this demand by the President himself that Eliot Ness a young energetic agent with the US Prohibition Bureau was given this huge task of gathering evidences of Prohibitions violations carried out by Capone. As result Ness set out with a team eleven men which was termed “The Untouchables” by the media for refusing a bribe offer from Capone’s men. Although Capone was arrested on charges of tax evasion by the IRS the fact remains that Ness and his band of merry men had very little to do with the arrest. It was finally on the October 17, 1931 that a jury found Capone guilty in several counts of tax evasion was imprisoned for eleven years with bail being denied. In August of 1934 Capone was moved from Atlanta to the infamous Alcatraz in San Fransisco.
With his health rapidly deteriorating in and having contracted tertiary syphilis he became more confused and disoriented. Clearly for end was near for this ruthless gangster ever seen in American mafia history. Capone eventually died on the January 25 1947 at the age of 48 at his Palm Island Palace with his wife Mae Capone besides him. Thus bringing to an end the legend of Al Capone in the history of American mafia, the man who gave fear a new definition and who once appropriately was quoted as saying “I have built my organization upon fear”.