Al Capone was born in 1899 to poor Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York. He rose to infamy in 1920 during the height of Prohibition with his illegal business in bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling. He frequented the Hot Springs area during the prohibition era to strike deals with bootleggers during the city’s own gangster era to stock his clubs in Chicago with alcohol.
Hot Springs provided a strategic location for Capone due to its location in the middle of the Ouachita Mountains and the pine trees provided cover for the moonshine stills. He would then ship his bootleg liquor in tanker railroad cars, which had the words “Mountain Valley Water” on the side for protection.
Capone’s favorite abode during his trips to Hot Springs was the Arlington Hotel. He always stayed at room 442 and would rent the entire floor for his bodyguards and staff members. He would pamper himself and his staff with the hot mineral baths and massage parlors spread across the town.
The Early Years of the Gangster Known as Al Capone
Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born on January 17, 1899 to Italian immigrants Gabriele and Teresina Capone. His mother worked as a seamstress while his father was a barber. He had seven brothers and one sister.
Capone’s early years gave some indication of his future life of crime. He was a good student but struggled with the rules. He retaliated when his teacher struck him and was beaten by the principal thereafter. He never returned to school.
He met his future mob mentor Johnny Torrio when his family moved to the Park Slope neighborhood. Torrioran a numbers and gambling operation near Capone’s home and Capone would run errands for him. He left for Chicago in 1909 but the two remained close. Capone later became involved with several small-time gangs. It was while working as a bouncer in 1917 for Frank Yale that he got scars on his face for inappropriate remarks made to a woman at the door. The scar earned him the nickname “Scarface”, which he loathed.
Life of Crime
When Capone’s father died of a heart attack in 1920, he moved to Chicago upon invitation from Torrio. He later became Torrio’s partner upon recognition of his skills.
Torrio soon left for Italy after an attempt on his life and turned over the entire operation to Capone. He headed the organization that operated illegal breweries, had a transportation network that reached Canada, and with political and law-enforcement protection. He often used violence to increase revenue where they blew up establishments that refused to buy liquor from them. His rivals plotted several ways to assassinate him as his reputation and influence grew. Capone became extremely security minded and would often hide out in remote locations such as Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Saint Valentine Day’s Massacre
After numerous attempts made on his life by his long-time rival Bugs Moran, Capone and his top hit man Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn decided to kill Moran. They observed Moran’s operations from a rented apartment across the street and would soon be infiltrated by McGurn’s gunmen who posed as policemen. The seven victims were lined up and were later shot by machine guns and shotguns. News of the massacre soon hit the public and Capone’s “Robin Hood” persona would fade. The public clamoured to have him arrested and was soon declared as “Public Enemy No. 1”.
Because of the overwhelming public demand for the arrest of Capone over the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, President Herbert Hoover ordered the federal government to ramp up their efforts to nail Capone. Because of Capone’s lavish lifestyle but his relatively clean tax file, they built up a case of tax evasion. They argued that though his businesses were illegal, he was still liable to pay for taxes.
Capone used intimidation and bribery on the jury to overturn the decision on his favor. However, the judge changed the jury at the last moment. Finally, in June 1931, Al Capone was indicted on 22 counts of tax evasion and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He spent his first two years in a federal prison in Atlanta and was later transferred to Alcatraz Island in 1934. And after serving six and a half years, he was released and transferred to a mental institution because he had suffered from neurosyphillis. He was released three years after.
In 1946, Al Capone spent the last years of his life in his Palm Island, Florida mansion. His physician performed psychiatric examinations and concluded that he had the mental faculties of a 12 year-old child due to brain degeneration. On January 25, 1947, Capone died in his home after suffering a cardiac arrest three days before. He was surrounded by his family.