7 Interesting Facts About Al Capone That Will Shock You
“Fotografías policiales de Al Capone (Miami, 1930)“, by Recuerdos de Pandora, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Alphonse Gabriel Capone was an American gangster and businessman, who dominated organized crime in Chicago during the Prohibition era. He’s also known by his nicknames Al Capone, and Scarface. Al Capone founded the Chicago Outfit, an organized crime group that rose to power in the 1920s.
This period was marked by bloody gang clashes for control of the distribution of illegal alcohol during Prohibition. Besides alcohol, the gang was heavily involved in numerous criminal activities, including prostitution, political corruption, extortion, illegal gambling, loansharking, and murder.
Al Capone was born in 1899 in Brooklyn, New York to Italian immigrant parents. As a teenager, he joined the Five Points Gang. In his early 20s, he moved to Chicago, where he worked as a bodyguard and trusted “personal assistant” for Johnny Torrio, who was head of a criminal syndicate that supplied alcohol.
Al Capone had a seven-year reign as a crime boss, from 1924 to 1931, when he was convicted of income tax evasion. He spent the next 8 years in prison. Al Capone was diagnosed with neurosyphilis early in his sentence, and from that point forward, his health was only becoming worse.
He died in 1947 in his Florida home on Palm Island. At the time of his death, Al Capone was only 48 years old, and he suffered a stroke.
During his short reign, Al Capone managed to become of the most notorious American gangsters of the 20th century. After his death, he became a major subject of numerous books, movies, and articles. He was a subject of fascination. His image and style became the stereotypical image of a mobster wearing a tilted fedora and a pinstriped suit. (1) (2)
Having in mind that Al Capone’s character is a significant part of popular culture, there are many things you already heard about him. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most interesting facts about Al Capone you probably haven’t heard about yet.
Without any further ado, let’s find out more about Al Capone!
1. Al Capone hated his nickname “Scarface”
While this might be one of the unusual facts about Al Capone, we have to agree that everyone can’t help but be very self-conscious about their looks. And, Al Capone was no different.
When he was just 18 years old, he got into a fight at the Harvard Inn. He insulted a girl, and her brother attacked him. The fight left Al Capone with three scars, which he would attempt to hide when being photographed.
He also tried to lie and say that he got them during the war, but he never served in the military. After he started being recognized as a gangster, the press gave him the nickname Scarface, which he hated. The ones who worked closely with him called him the Big Fellow, and his friends referred to him as Snorky. (3)
2. Al Capone cared a lot about his public image
While many may say that it is Capone’s notorious crimes that earned him the reputation and publicity he still has today, that may not be completely true. As a man who cared a lot about his public image, he certainly invested some time and money to keep his reputation good. In 1930, he even appeared on the cover of Time magazine! Having in mind that this was at the time right before his downfall, this seems like a very risky move for the magazine. (4)
3. He was never charged for St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
One of the most surprising facts about Al Capone is that he was never charged in connection with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, one of his bloodiest crimes.
On February 14th, 1929, seven men who were affiliated with another gang, George “Bugs” Moran, were shot to death. The seven men were lined up against a wall inside a garage in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Five of the victims were Moran’s associates, one of them was Moran’s mechanic, and the last one was his optometrist. The group of four attackers was dressed as police officers, and the event became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Even though many bloody standoffs happened before and after the massacre, this one shocked the entire nation. Chicago citizens were shocked that something like this would happen at their doorsteps.
Everyone wanted answers, and the authorities investigated many theories and suspects. Eventually, some traces led to Al Capone, who was Moran’s largest rival at the time. However, there was no significant evidence to back up the case, which went unsolved. (5)
4. In fact, he wasn’t even convicted for any of his most notorious crimes
Al Capone was one of the most powerful men in America at the time, and he controlled an entire criminal empire. During his reign, he masterminded numerous murders of his enemies. Due to ties with the police, public officials, and blackmailing witnesses, he managed to avoid being prosecuted for several years.
However, his activities drew a lot more attention than just from the local police and government, and it was only a matter of time when he was about to go down. In May 1929, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in Philadelphia, and sentenced to 1 year in jail.
He was released in March 1930, and only a month later the Chicago Crime Commission released their first-ever list of Chicago’s worst criminals. Do you want to guess who came in the first place?
The criminal was drawing more and more attention to him, and at this moment, President Herbert Hoover decided to take the matter into his hands. He ordered the federal government to build a case against Al Capone for income tax fraud.
A year later, Al Capone was charged with tax evasion. The mob boss thought that he could get away with a shorter sentence, and he recommended a plea deal that included a prison sentence of only two and a half years. Needless to say, the judge wasn’t really impressed with this, and the case went to trial.
Al Capone was found guilty of five charges of more than 20 counts against him. The gangster was sentenced to 11 years in prison, and a $50,000 fine. Up to that point, that was the most severe sentence for tax fraud. (6)
5. Al Capone was one of the earliest federal prisoners at Alcatraz
Among the other interesting facts about Al Capone is that he was one of the first federal prisoners in the maximum-security prison, Alcatraz.
Al Capone served the first two and a half years of his sentence at the US penitentiary in Atlanta. However, two years later, the officials decided that Al Capone deserves a little trip. Among a group of several inmates, he was sent to California on the train and transferred to the newly opened prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.
As you probably know already, Alcatraz is a maximum-security prison, designed to hold especially violent criminals, or those who had other disciplinary issues. The odd thing about this was that Al Capone wasn’t a troublemaker during his two years in Atlanta. It’s most likely that he was sent to Alcatraz as a part of a publicity stunt. (7) (8)
6. He almost died in Alcatraz
After being admitted to prison, the mob boss was diagnosed with syphilis. It turned out that he started showing signs of the disease, including dementia, while he was still in Atlanta.
His condition worsened, and the doctors tried to treat him with malaria injections. They hoped that these injections will help beat syphilis. As this was untested before, the treatment was only making his disease worse, and he almost died. (7) (8)
7. Al Capone spent his final years far away from the public spotlight
After serving only 8 years out of his 11-year sentence, Al Capone was released from prison in 1939 due to his bad health. He spent the next several months at a Baltimore hospital, treating syphilis.
Once his health started to improve, he decided it was time for him to “retire”. He moved to his Florida mansion, where he spent his time fishing and playing cards. In the 1940s, Al Capone became one of the first people to receive penicillin for syphilis.
However, the disease progressed too far, and in 1947 he suffered from a stroke. He died at his Florida home at the age of 48 and was buried at Chicago’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. (9)
Al Capone Facts
There you have it – those were some of the most intriguing facts about Al Capone. However, this is only the start of this list, and there are many more things you can find out about this mob boss. Once you, don’t forget to let us know about your favorites in the comment section below!
While you’re here, don’t forget to check out some of our other stories! If you liked this one, make sure to read about the Kray twins, too!