AL CAPONE was a gangster leader who controlled much of Chicago from 1920 to 1931. Chicago in the 1920s was a city of vice, corruption, and gangland killings, and synonymous with the evildoings of this era is the name of Al Capone.
Capone was born January 17, 1899, in Naples, Italy. His family emigrated from Naples, Italy, to New York and Capone was raised in the Brooklyn slums. During his early years in New York he made strong gangland contacts and in 1920, he became a member of the John Torrio gang. Torrio, originally from New York, relocated his operation to Chicago, with Capone at his side.
The passage of the VOLSTEAD ACT in 1919 (41 Stat. 305), which prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of liquor, ushered in an era of big business for gangsters. Capone and Torrio were no exception; they operated and organized speakeasies, secret nightclubs that sold the banned liquor. Capone began to gain more power and by the time Torrio retired in 1925, Capone's control had extended to gambling, brothels, and politics. He was responsible for the gangland murders of his rivals and for forcibly controlling election results in certain precincts of Chicago; through these maneuvers, he increased his power and received protection and political favors.
Capone was at the peak of his power in 1931, when he was arrested—ironically—for income TAX EVASION. The INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE succeeded where other authorities had failed: uncovering concrete evidence against Capone for tax evasion. It investigated Capone's earnings and discovered that—despite his huge income, which was judged to be approximately $105 million in 1927—Capone had never filed an income tax return. In October 1931 Capone was tried in a federal court and found guilty. He was required to pay a penalty of $50,000 and to serve eleven years in jail.
An appeal was pursued and Capone spent his first days of captivity in Chicago's Cook County Jail. There he was still awarded the privileges of an underworld king. Warden David Moneypenny allowed him to visit with his gangland associates, including Salvatore "Lucky" Luciano. Capone had requested and was given an isolated place—the death chamber of the Cook County Jail—to meet and conduct business with fellow mobsters.
The appeal was denied, and Capone was sent to a federal jail in Atlanta, Georgia. There he performed the duties of a shoemaker until 1934, at which time he was transferred to Alcatraz in California.
At Alcatraz Capone was not treated with the respect and fear to which he was accustomed. He spent his days as a laundry worker and was harassed by inmates who took pleasure in persecuting the once powerful mob king. Capone's mental capacities dwindled due to an untreated attack of syphilis and in 1939 he was released to the care of his wife and brother. He died January 25, 1947, in Miami Beach, Florida.