One of the most notorious figures in U.S. history, Al Capone will forever be known for rising to the top of organized crime during Prohibition—and leaving total carnage in his wake.
Alphonse Gabriel Capone was the American boss of the Chicago Outfit—a crime syndicate known for its bloody and violent ‘business’ dealings.
Here are 10 facts about Scarface, the ultimate American gangster and former #1 on America’s Most Wanted list.
Al Capone: 10 Spectacular Facts about Scarface
1. He was in a gang by the time he hit sixth grade.
Capone was the fourth of nine kids born to Gabriele and Teresa Capone. His parents were Italian immigrants and his father had become a barber in Brooklyn, New York.
Capone dropped out of school at age 11, and joined a street gang by the time he was 12, an interesting fact about Al Capone.
Several years later he joined the Five Points Gang in Manhattan, and worked as a bouncer and bartender for mobster, Frankie Yale. When he was 19 he married Mae Coughlin, and had a son—Sonny. After Sonny’s birth, the family moved to Chicago so Capone could work for Johnny Torrio. Torrio was a Brooklyn mobster who moved to Chicago as part of a move by New York crime bosses to take over the Windy City.
2. He only got shot one in his life—and he did it himself.
Scarface was an avid golfer. He would play several times a week with friends and associates, drinking and betting on each hole.
In September 1928, Capone was getting into a car after leaving a golf course. The gun he had in his right pocket accidentally went off, and he shot himself in the leg and groin. Scarface was admitted to hospital—under a fake name—and hired the five hospital rooms surrounding his so that members of the Chicago Outfit could guard him and carry on business as he recovered from his injuries.
3. He hated the name ‘Scarface.’
In his early days as a bouncer, Al Capone insulted a woman inadvertently. The woman’s brother, Frank Gallucio, took offence, and attacked Capone with a knife, scarring his face from his temple almost to his chin. As his fame grew, he would try to hide that side of his face, and was even rumored to have claimed the wound was from battle—although he never served in the military, a fun fact about Al Capone.
His associated called him Big Fellow, and close friends often referred to him as Snorky.
4. He got stabbed with scissors.
While he was imprisoned at Alcatraz, Capone was attacked by another prisoner. James Lucas, who had somehow managed to get access to scissors in the maximum security prison—stabbed Capone while they were in the shower block. The wounds weren’t serious. When he was questioned later, Lucas claimed Capone had tried to kill him. A report at the time dismissed that excuse, since Capone was an exemplary prisoner and due to his connections, one officer noted that if Capone wanted Lucas dead, he would be dead. The more likely reason, historians have noted, is that Lucas (and at least one officer at the prison) were paid to kill Capone.
5. He lived well in prison—initially.
When Capone was first incarcerated, he was able to live very well. He had carpeting installed in his cell, good quality furnishings, and a radio. His friends and family moved into a nearby hotel, and were able to visit him throughout the day.
In 1934, though, Capone was sent to Alcatraz, where his special privileges were revoked. He remained there for almost 5 years, and was expected to follow the same rules as every other prisoner.
6. His suburb had an unofficial nickname.
Throughout the 20s and 30s, Capone based the Chicago Outfit’s operations out of a suburb called Forest View. It became so notoriously linked to Capone that it was regularly referred to in the media and amongst locals as Caponeville.
7. His brother was a prohibition agent.
Al’s older brother, James Capone, was seven years his senior. He moved to Homer, Nebraska, and became a federal enforcement agent during the Prohibition era. His brother was so infamous at this point that James changed his surname to Hart, an interesting fact about the brother of Al Capone.
8. He was looking for a career change.
As prohibition was coming to an end, and police were becoming more difficult to bribe, Capone was looking for a legitimate business to invest in. At one point he invested in milk, although there were few regulations around milk production. He lobbied the Chicago City Council to create a law to stamp expiration dates on milk bottles, so that kids wouldn’t get sick.
9. He fell from grace—hard.
At the pinnacle of his career as a crime boss, Capone was earning upwards of $40 million. And that’s only income the government were able to prove, an interesting fact about Al Capone. When he was released from Alcatraz at the end of the 1930s, he was only paid a stipend by the Chicago Outfit he had once controlled. Don’t feel bad for Scarface—the stipend was $600 a week, which is the equivalent of $10,767 by today’s standards. Due to the structure of his organization, he also still owned his Florida mansion, luxury cars, and his wife, son, and grandchildren were given financial support.
He was also diagnosed with neurosyphilis and gonorrhoea when he first went to prison, diseases he contracted whilst working as a bouncer. Penicillin hadn’t yet been introduced for medical use, and his mental capabilities declined rapidly. After the introduction of penicillin in 1942, his decline slowed, but by that time his doctors estimated that he had the mental capacity of a 12 year old.
Capone was released from hospital and spent his remaining years at his mansion in Florida, with his wife and grandchildren. He died of a stroke when he was 48.
10. What a disappointment.
In 1986, TV producers found out about a walled-off underground bunker at Capone’s former home. A live broadcast aired from the home, documenting the demolition of the wall—in the hopes that human remains, money, or some other mysterious discovery would be made at the home of America’s most notorious crime boss. The show garnered top ratings, outperforming the most popular sitcoms of the time.
Nothing was found in the wall except dirt and a few broken bottles.
Over the decades, we’ve had many crime figures, but none more legendary the Al Capone. And no other organized crime boss has ever graced the cover of Time magazine, like Scarface did for Man of the Year in 1930.
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