Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Al Capone: Chicago's Most Infamous Mob Boss


Capone's job at the Harvard Inn was to be the bartender and bouncer and, when necessary, to wait on tables.  In his first year, Capone became popular with his boss and the customers.  Then his luck turned suddenly when he waited on the table of a young couple.  The girl was beautiful and the young Capone was entranced.  He leaned over her and said, "Honey, you have a nice ass and I mean that as a compliment."

The man with her was her brother Frank Gallucio.  He jumped to his feet and punched the man who insulted his sister.  Capone flew into a rage and Gallucio pulled out a knife to defend himself.  He cut Capone's face three times before he grabbed his sister and ran out of the place.  While the wounds healed well, the long ugly scars would haunt him forever.

Frankie Yale
Frankie Yale
Capone's insult caused a bit of an uproar.  Gallucio went to Lucky Luciano with his grievance and Luciano went to Frankie Yale.  When it came to Yale's attention, all four men came together and dispensed justice.  Capone was forced to apologize to Gallucio.   Capone learned something from the experience --to restrain his temper when it was necessary.

Yale took Capone under his wing and impressed upon the younger man how business can be built up through brutality.  Yale was resourceful and violent man who prospered by strong-arm tactics.  Schoenberg characterized  Yale as specializing in extortion; loansharking, exacting tribute from pimps and bookmakers, and offering "protection" to local businesses.  "Yale needed a stable of strongarms who could not only break arms and heads but would kill."

As powerful as Yale's influence would be on Capone's eventual development, other influences had a very moderating effect on Al.  At the age of nineteen, he met a pretty blond Irish girl named Mae Coughlin, who was two years older than he was.  Her family was comfortable and solidly middle class.   It's hard to imagine that Mae's family embraced her relationship with Capone and it was not until after their baby was born that they married.

New York police photo of teenage Al Capone
New York police photo of teenage Al Capone
Albert Francis Capone was born December 4, 1918.  His godfather was Johnny Torrio.  While Sonny, as he was known all his life, seemed okay at birth, he was in fact a victim of congenital syphilis.  Years later, Al confessed to doctors that he had been infected before he was married, but he believed that the infection had gone away.

With a beautiful respectable wife and a baby to support, Al focused on a legitimate career.  He stopped working for Frankie Yale and moved to Baltimore where he worked as capable bookkeeper for Peter Aiello's construction firm.  Al did very well.   He was smart, had a good head for figures and was very reliable.

Quite suddenly, Al did another about face when his father died November 14, 1920, of heart disease at the age of fifty-five.  Bergreen saw the event as marking the end of Capone's legitimate career.  "It is possible that the sudden absence of parental authority made the young Capone feel free to abandon his bookkeeping job and his carefully acquired aura of respectability....

He resumed his relationship with Johnny Torrio, who had during the intervening years expanded his racketeering empire with the quiet cunning of a visionary.  Torrio had abandoned the hotly contested streets of Brookyn for the comparatively open spaces of Chicago.  The opportunities were enormous: gambling, brothels, and...illegal alcohol."

Torrio beckoned from Chicago and early in 1921 Al accepted.  Armed with his knowledge of business and his experience with the brutal Frankie Yale, Capone had a good resume for a career in crime.

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