Al Capone

al capone

Mmmyeah, see, you dirty rat, whadda ya hear, whadda ya say?  Take off your fedora, set down your Tommy gun, and ready yourself for a history lesson about the life and times of notorious gangster Al Capone.

He wasn’t born here, but in Brooklyn, New York.  After sixth grade he quit school, moved to Chicago in 1920, and aligned himself with a street gang.  Prohibition brought gangs booming business in illegal brewing and distribution of alcohol, and Capone began a quick ascent to junior leadership within his gang.

At this time the North Side Dion O’Banion Gang was led by old Dion himself, and while the two gangs coexisted peacefully at first, O’Banion’s goons eventually began hijacking Capone’s liquor trucks and shot up some of his speakeasies on the South Side.  Not a good idea. Soon after, three men walked into O’Banion’s flower shop/headquarters at 736 N. State St. and shot him.

Capone found himself immersed in a full-blown gang war because, as good gangsters should, O’Banion’s successors Vincent Drucci and Earl “Hymie” Weiss wanted revenge. Drucci lived at the Congress Hotel on Michigan Ave., and one morning as he and Weiss left his residence four men jumped out of a passing car and opened fire.  Both escaped unharmed, and agreed to a “peace conference” with Capone.

When Capone refused to surrender the men responsible for O’Banion’s murder, Weiss and George “Bugs” Moran attacked him in September 1926 at his club, the Four Deuces, located at 2222 S. Wabash Ave. Capone, being the tough guy type, wasn’t injured, nor was he hurt in their next assault on his Cicero headquarters at the Hawthorne Inn.

Of course no one that attacked Al Capone lived very long afterwards.  One day in October, as Weiss approached the old O’Banion flower shop, four men hiding in a nearby building opened fire, killing him.  Their stray bullets left holes in the Holy Name Cathedral that still remain visible today.

George “Bugs” Morgan was next in line to take over the North Side gang, and he established a headquarters in a garage at 2122 N. Clark St:  the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  It was at the garage on Feb. 14, 1929 where seven members of Moran’s gang were lined up by police imposters and gunned down. The generally accepted story is that Capone was behind the murders, though he was in Florida at the time of the slayings, see.

While Capone ran his gang efficiently, the U.S. Treasury Department worked equally as hard developing evidence on his tax evasion.  Not exactly the raciest charges, no, but it eventually led to his demise. In 1931, he first pled guilty, then not guilty to their charges, and was later convicted and sentenced to 11 years in Federal prison, fined $50,000, and ordered to pay $215,000 plus interest due on taxes.

He spent time in Cook County Jail before being transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary at Atlanta, and finally Alcatraz. Eight years later he was released, but had lost his health in prison, suffering greatly from a case of syphilis. He never returned to Chicago, but relocated to his estate near Miami.

Jamie Hansen

About Jamie Hansen

I like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. And I still love reading newspapers. After growing up in the suburbs I took a four-year Chicago hiatus to the University of Iowa where I majored in journalism and English. Now I’m back and ready to help you make the most of the Windy City. As Kanye says, I’m a Chicagoan until Chicago ends… but I wouldn’t mind a vacation home in Florida.


  • April 26, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    Fascinating! Thanks for this article!

  • Big Z
    May 5, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    Who agrees to a “peace conference” with Al? Bad idea…

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