He was born in 1899 in Brooklyn to Italian immigrant parents and showed evidence early in life that he had no respect for people, the law or the rules of society. At age 14, he was expelled from school for punching a female teacher in the face.
How he Made Friends He spent the rest of his life as a member or leader of gangs. While working for a bartender named Frankie Yale at a saloon called the Harvard Inn, he approached a good-looking woman and said: "Honey, you have a nice a. . ." Her brother, Frank Gallucio, was sitting next to her and punched Capone in the nose. Capone punched him back. Gallucio drew his knife and cut Capone's left cheek three times, with one slash going all the way from his ear to his mouth. The scars from this attack led to Capone's nickname of "Scarface," a name he hated. Capone later hired Gallucio as a bodyguard for $100 a week.
At age 19, he married Mae Josephine Coughlin, who had just given birth to their first son, Albert "Sonny" Capone. Although he was incredibly promiscuous, he remained married to her until he died. Capone left New York for Chicago without his new wife and son, but they joined him later.
Opportunities in Prohibition On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol. It was repealed in 1933. With the start of prohibition, Capone's Five Points Gang boss, Johnny Torrio, noted that Chicago would give him easy access to bootlegged liquor. He could bring liquor in by boat through Lake Michigan and on all of the railroad lines in the Midwest. Torrio went to Chicago and took over the criminal business of James "Big Jim" Colosimo who had just been killed. Both Capone and his former boss, Yale, worked for Torrio and were suspected of killing Colosimo, but were never convicted.
By the time he was 22, prohibition made Capone a successful businessman who would eventually be worth more than 100 million dollars. He sold alcoholic drinks and women's sexual favors and bribed government officials for the right to do this. His two brothers, Ralph and Frank Capone, worked with him. Ralph was in charge of alcoholic drinks until he was imprisoned for tax evasion in 1932. Frank was an enforcer until he was killed by police in 1924.
Cicero Town Council Elections Capone and several members of his family moved to Cicero, a suburb of Chicago. In the 1924 Cicero town council election, he had his enforcers "influence" voters with threats at the voting booths. His candidate for mayor won by a huge margin. After his election, the mayor announced that he would stop Capone's criminal activities. Capone then knocked the mayor down the town hall steps. Soon after the election, Capone's older brother, Frank, was killed by the police. Capone cried at his brother's funeral and ordered all "non-alcoholic bars of the depression" in Cicero to be closed for a day.
In Chicago, it was take what you could get. The Five Points Gang was led by Al Capone and Johnny Torrio who were both Italians with Irish wives. They competed with, hated, and killed members of the North Side Gang of Irishman Dean O'Banion. In May 1924, police informants told O'Banion that his Sieben Brewery was going to be raided by federal agents, so O'banion sold his share of the brewery to Torrio. The brewery was raided and both O'Banion and Torrio were arrested. When Torrio found out that O'Banion had sold him worthless property, he threatened to kill him, so Torrio had his men kill O'Banion, which started a gang war.
Capone the Gang Leader Torrio was wounded but not killed by the Irish North Side Gang, so he turned over the entire Five Points Gang to Capone and fled to Italy. Capone was now taking in more than 100 million dollars a year through gambling, prostitution and alcohol. He moved his headquarters to Chicago's Lexington Hotel, wore custom suits, smoked huge cigars, ate fatty and sugary foods, drank lots of Rye whiskey, wore expensive jewelry, grew very fat and had sex with an incredible number of different women. His life was now constantly threatened,
The North Side Gang, formerly run by O'Banion, was taken over by Hymie Weiss, who was Polish, and Bugs Moran, who was Irish. They knew that Capone was trying to kill them. On September 20, 1926, the North Side Gang showed up in ten automobiles, armed with Thompson submachine guns, and filled the entire first floor of Capone's hotel and restaurant with bullets. Capone then placed armed bodyguards at the Lexington Hotel 24 hours a day and never went anywhere without a full entourage of bodyguards.
St. Valentine's Day Massacre Capone had suffered highjackings of his alcohol shipments, the assassination of two presidents of the Unione Siciliana and three assassination attempts on his enforcer, Jack McGurn. On February 14, 1929, four Capone men entered a garage that was the liquor headquarters of Bugs Moran's North Side gang. The seven men in the garage thought it was a police raid because two of the men were dressed in police uniforms. They dropped their guns and put their hands against the wall. The men in police uniforms fired more than 150 bullets into the seven men in what is now called the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Moran was across the street and ran away when he saw the police uniforms. Capone had carefully planned to be in Florida during the massacre. Photographs of the massacred men horrified the nation. Although Capone was the most likely perpetrator, nobody was ever convicted of the crime.
Capone murdered many people himself and ordered the murder of many others. In the spring of 1929, Capone found out that three of his gang members had betrayed him. He invited them to dinner and fed them a huge meal. Then Capone's bodyguards tied them to their chairs and he hit them with a baseball bat over and over again. Then his bodyguards shot them in their heads.
Capone at Alcatraz In 1931 Capone was indicted for income tax evasion and violations of the prohibition of alcohol. Charges for violating prohibition were dropped and the jury found Capone guilty of five counts of tax evasion. The judge sentenced Capone to 11 years in prison, charged him $7692 for court costs and $215,000 in back taxes, and fined him $50,000. The government seized his bullet-proof limousine and it was later used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When Capone was at Alcatraz prison, he cut in to the front of a long line of men waiting to get haircuts. James Lucas, a convicted Texas bank robber, told Capone to wait his turn. Capone couldn't believe that any person on earth would challenge him, so he said, "Do you know who you are threatening?" Lucas responded by grabbing the barber's scissors and holding them to Capone's neck and saying: "I know who you are, and if you don't get back to the end of that f...ing line, I'm gonna know who you were."
Dementia Caused by his Lifestyle Capone's stay at Alcatraz was marked by progressive dementia. He was increasingly disoriented, had slurred speech and seizures and was barely able to walk. In 1939, he was paroled and returned to his mansion in Palm Island, Florida. He spent the rest of his life looking over his shoulder and telling everyone over and over that Bugs Moran was trying to kill him, even though Moran was in prison in Ohio.
In 1946, Capone suffered from liver, kidney and heart failure that were caused by the late stages of syphilis and his terribly unhealthful lifestyle. On January 21, 1947, at age 48, Capone had a stroke, developed pneumonia and died four days later. He had spent the last year and half of his life completely irrational, not knowing anything that was going on around him. He died from a combination of the fatal stage of syphilis, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much rich food, not exercising, and copulating with too many different women. He had been treated for syphilis in 1927, but there was no penicillin at that time so there was no cure.
What You Should Know about Syphilis Syphilis is a sexually-transmitted infection caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. If not treated, it can destroy every tissue in your body. You can get syphilis from an infected individual with any exposure to blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or saliva to your mouth, nose, genitals or a cut in your skin. A fetus can get it when he or she is inside an infected mother's womb. You have more than a 50 percent chance of being infected with just one contact with any actively infected person. The bacterium can survive in fluids, but dies when exposed to drying or heat.
You can be infected and have no symptoms at all. Usually you will get a small ulcer around your genitals or mouth a short time after infection and it usually heals by itself. Weeks or months after exposure, you can develop swollen lymph nodes in your groin, legs, mouth, neck or anywhere else. You can develop pain or swelling in infected tissues: bone, skin, mouth, vagina, urethra, prostate, nerves, brain, liver or lungs.
Then five to 30 years later, you develop the late stage of syphilis in which you are not contagious, but you suffer lesions in skin, bones, internal organs, heart, arteries, lungs, eyes, brain and spinal cord. You can lose your mind, your vision, or your hearing, die suddenly from a ruptured artery in your chest or belly, suffer a heart attack, go into heart or liver failure and so forth.
How to Be Sure That You Do Not Have Syphilis Get a blood test called RPR. If it is negative, you will be delighted and relieved. However, on rare occasions, in people with early- or late-stage syphilis, the test can be negative, so you should also get a test called FTA-ABS. The FTA-ABS test helps distinguish between syphilis and other infections. If your FTA-ABS and RPR are negative, you probably have never had syphilis. If your FTA-ABS is positive, you will be given several million units of penicillin and be cured. If you are allergic to penicillin, you can take other antibiotics. If you are treated before your brain is damaged, you will suffer no further damage. If your brain is already damaged, you have lost your brain forever.
Having syphilis once does not make you immune to re-infection. You can get it over and over again from any exposure to an infected person, even if you have had syphilis and been cured by taking antibiotics.
What's Happening Today? With an increase in sexual promiscuity, all sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis, particularly in homosexual males, have increased since the 1970s. Casual sex makes it almost impossible to trace the source of syphilis in an infected individual. In the mid-1980s, fear of HIV reduced the frequency of syphilis. Then from 1985 and 1990, there was again a dramatic increase in syphilis, especially in large American cities and the South, primarily fueled by the use of illicit drugs. There was also a marked increase in syphilis in men and women over 60 years of age. Most older men are not able to achieve erections sufficient to support the use of condoms.
Telling people to abstain from sex does not stop promiscuous sex. In 1998, the U. S. Congress started a fund for a syphilis elimination program. The money went for education, condoms and treatment, and the number of cases reported in 2001 went down. Between 2000 and 2002 the number of cases increased only in men who had sex with other men. The number of cases in women declined. At present the number of new cases of syphilis is low, but it still causes dementia, ruptured arteries, heart failure, liver damage, and sudden death in people who were infected many years ago.
Al Capone January 17, 1899 - January 25, 1947
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