Early Years

Capone - Growing Up
     Capone’s parents moved to America in 1893 unable to read, write, or speak English.  They moved from the slums of Naples, Italy to the slums of Brooklyn. 
     Life in the Brooklyn was hard with poor conditions. Most children dropped out of school to work and help their family.  Capone dropped out of school after fighting with and stabbing at teacher at age 14.  He became involved in gangs along with many other kids in his community.  As the gangs grew, parents lost authority and control over their children and their activities.

Frankie Yalehttp://www.trutv.com/graphics/photos/gangsters_outlaws/mob_bosses/capone/4a.jpg
     Frankie Yale owned a bar on Coney Island called the Harvard Inn and on a recommendation from a friend, hired eighteen-year-old Al Capone to be a bartender. Yale had a huge influence on Capone and taught him how to build business through brutality and aggression.   Yale taught Capone about extortion, loan-sharking, offering “protection” to local businesses and when to use force to get what he wanted.

Beloved Johnny Torrio
     Johnny got his start in a historic gang called the Five Pointers  Torrio was a new breed of gangster and developed a modern criminal enterprise.  Capone had become part of the Five Pointers and a protégé to Torrio.  From Torrio, Capone learned the foundations of a criminal enterprise and used it to build his own empire in Chicago.
In January 1925, Torrio was shot by a rival leader, Bugs Moran.  Capone took leadership while Torrio recovered.  Torrio turned over his enterprise to Capone and his brothers when he retired.  The business included nightclubs, whorehouses, gambling houses, breweries, and speakeasies. 


Capone has a heart?
     Capone thought of himself as a source of pride to the Italian community and a generous benefactor to many.  His business employed thousands of people, he distributed generous tips and gifts and donated food and clothing to the poor. He made sure all of these things were publicized.  

     “There’s a lot of people in Chicago that got me pegged for one of those bloodthirsty mobsters you read about in storybooks,” Capone complained, “the kind that torture his victims, cut off their ears, puts out their eyes with a red-hot poker and grins while doing it.  Now get me right.  I’m not posing as a model for youth.  I’ve had to do a lot of things I don’t like to do.  But I’m not as black as I’m painted. I’m human.  I’ve got a heart in me.”

     His friend Harry Read, a newspaper editor, told him that he should behave as the community. Capone went to the opera, sporting events and charity function. He bought a home for his entire family and posed as a second-hand furniture dealer.  He did what he needed to appear to be a respectable man to his neighbors.  The deeper he went into underground crimes, the more he held his family up on a pedestal as if they were proof that he wasn’t a monster.

     Many people believed Capone did have a heart. A waitress told John Kobler (writer of  Capone: the Life and the World of Al Capone)

 “I think Al was a wonderful person. He took from the rich and gave to the poor, didn’t he?

Another man said who worked at Capone’s bar said, “They was swell guys, all of them. These folks ‘round here never knowed who paid the rent, but it was Al… They was all fine boys and they was real good to me.”

     Capone had fears of his own, even though he was often looked at by others as fearless.  A doctor urged Capone to come in to get a simple blood test for syphilis, but the thought of a needle in his vein and losing blood horrified Capone.  Neither the doctor’s assurance about the limited pain or the possibility of a very serious ailment could convince him to allow the test.

     Capone believed in the mob tradition of hospitality before execution.  This was shown in one of the most famous murders Capone committed and was depicted in movies to show Capone’s brutal and ruthless acts.
     Capone invited three guests he suspected were disloyal to him to attend a feast at the Hawthorne Inn in Cicero.  They checked their hats, coats and guns as all guests did and spent a jubilant evening with Capone.  They ate, drank, and laughed until late in the evening when Capone pushed himself back from the table and stopped smiling.  Capone’s bodyguards wired the guests to their chairs and gagged them. Capone used a baseball bat to brutally beat each man’s shoulders, arms and chest.  Once he was satisfied, he left it to his guards to finish the task by shooting each guest of honor in the back of the head.

Scar Face – Capone got this name after insulting a beautiful girl while working in the Harvard Inn bar.  Her brother jumped to her defense and sliced Capone’s face three times, leaving a long ugly scar.  You won’t see the scare in most pictures of Capone. He was careful to turn to his good side for the newspaper photographers.

Snorky – Capone only allowed the people closest to him to use this name.  It was slang for elegant.

Quotes from Capone

"I make my money by supplying a public demand. If I break the law, my customers who number hundreds of the best people in Chicago, are as guilty as I am. The only difference is that I sell and they buy. Everybody calls me a racketeer. I call myself a businessman."

Asked if he was a bootlegger: "Sure, and some of our best judges use my stuff."

"I have built my organization upon fear."

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