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Al Capone Essay

Al Capone: those two words, instantly recognizable, conjure up many vivid images in the minds of people all across America. They however mean much more to the inhabitants of Chicago, “the city of broad shoulders” so aptly named after the man who once had an unquestionable hold upon the city and its surrounding communities. Capone is what every gangster desires to be. He is the vision of what a gangster blueprint looks like that is burnt into the minds of the people who experienced his reign firsthand. Young as they may have been at the height of Capone’s legacy, they undoubtedly felt the effects of Capone’s power and celebrity as his presence was impossible to ignore. Even people of today view Capone as the blueprint for gangster perfection, the greatest and most famed gangster of all time. Though the best evidence in supporting Capone’s case as the blueprint; comes from other gangsters paying the ultimate compliment by attempting to emulate Capone’s techniques and mannerisms. One might question as to how can Capone be the model for a member of organized crime considering that he was captured. My answer to that is that he at one time held more power than I can even comprehend, and even all these years later no gangster has made an impact on a city like Capone and most likely never will. Capone is the perfect gangster. He is the model, and this can be seen through all the facets of his criminal career, including his quick ascension through the ranks of the Chicago gang to the top of the food chain. The actions he took during his criminal career and the power that he held over the city of Chicago also lend credence to this theory. However, the one thing that made Capone the consummate gangster over anybody else was his understanding that blood is power and he was more than willing to spill a little blood if it was what was needed. Even today, the only mob boss whose fame and power came close to the heights that Capone reached would be John Gotti. But, when the extent of their power is compared “Da Don” falls far short of “The Big Guy.”

Capone was only twenty years old when Johnny Torrio sent for him to leave New York and come to Chicago to be his protege. Al arrived on the scene and was made the bouncer at Four Deuces night club, quick to offer you a handshake but at the same time ready to shake you down and break your hand. However, Johnny Torrio was not satisfied with the rough edges that surrounded the young man who had all the other tools that have the makings of an ideal gangster. Torrio personally set himself to work on improving Al’s total package. He taught him the common social graces of the time, instructed him in the process of concealing one’s thoughts and emotions from others, and the idea of a ready handshake and easy smile was reinforced on the hardened young man. Torrio had been the beneficiary of the death of “Big” Jim Colosimo who is credited with creating the vice and underground society in Chicago. It is believed by many that Colosimo’s death was the first murder that Capone committed in the great lakes area. Then, in 1924, the event that changed the face of organized crime forever and opened up the gates for what was to be a whole new breed of gangsters and alcohol delivery professionals, better known as bootleggers or beer barons. This event was the inception of Prohibition and it created an entirely new market for members of organized crime, including one Al Capone. After the initial dust settled, the bootlegging business though was divided into the two distinct north and south sides of town according to the Chicago River. The northern territory fell under the control of Dion O’Banion, and the southern territory belonged to none other than the infamous Torrio and his sidekick (soon to be successor) Alphonse Capone. O’Banion, having seen it all in his day, desired to hang up his guns and so offered the entire north side of Chicago to Torrio for the sum of five hundred thousand dollars. However, when Torrio went to make the exchange he found that he had been set up by O’Banion who was aware that the police were planning on raiding this business transaction. Due to the fact that it was another offense on a rap sheet that read a mile long Torrio was sentenced to jail time while O’Banion walked because it was his first offense. Oh yeah, O’Banion also kept the half million of Torrio’s money, so as you could probably guess he was not long for the world long after Torrio was let out of prison. Then in 1925 Torrio retired from the racket (due to a severe injury) and left all that he had over to his now tried-and-true apprentice who by then was more than ready to have a chance holding the reigns for a while. It was his time to shine, “for Capone was to revolutionize crime and corruption by putting both on an efficiency basis, and to instill into a reorganized gangland firm business methods of procedure” (Paisley 11). Capone was now at the top of the food chain and he had just begun to make his presence felt. Though his quick rise through the ranks of the family of organized crime was remarkably impressive, the true testaments to Capone’s greatness come while he is at the top and these actions are what truly make him the “Blueprint.”

The man that no one knew five years ago was soon to become, in the city of Chicago at least, the man who knew no equal. Capone’s first order of business was to ensure that his bootleg business controlled completely all the flow of alcohol coming into the south side of the city. He accomplished this by sending out numerous teams of machine gunners to shoot down rival bootleggers and stubborn saloon keepers that did not buy Capone’s beer. This type of action is what separated Capone from other gangsters; he was an expert at how to convince by terror and was not afraid to do so. He was a man that knew how to spread terror and it was this need to evoke fear that led to the introduction of a revolutionary way to do business in the underworld.

Capone’s grip over the city of Chicago increased even more in the next few years with the introduction of the Tommy gun into the world of organized crime. The resulting image of terror that the Tommy gun gave the public yielded a much-larger-than-life Al Capone. It is quite safe to say that Tommy gun struck terror not only into the people of Chicago, but also made rival mobsters fear and respect Capone even more than they did before the advent of the weapon. The Tommy gun itself was the perfect killing machine, capable of firing 20 round magazines in less than a second (James). The Thompson submachine gun was developed for the military for use during the First World War as a trench sweeper. Though it was not particularly accurate it was more than capable for quick, devastating strikes. When the war ended before the first guns could be produced, Thompson was left with mass quantities of the Tommy gun and due to relaxed gun laws of the day it became available to the public, quickly becoming the favorite for Al Capone (James). The gun’s military purposes aside, what made it particularly popular was its relatively small size, which made it very easy to hide. The gun also boasted armor piercing bullets so it was nearly impossible to escape an attack by the “Chicago Typewriter” as Tommy’s infamy led the public to name it.

Capone’s power could be seen even more clearly in the manner by which he controlled the elections of many public officials as if they were marionettes, easily swaying the publics vote in many creative, though painful ways. Capone had his definite preferences in mayors and he did whatever he could to keep William Hale Thompson Jr. in office since he seemed to look the other way when it came to Capone. It doesn’t take being Elliot Ness to realize that Capone was the reason that Thompson’s pockets were busting at the seams with money during his campaigns, in effect not even giving competitors a chance. The year 1926 was one of heightened violence for Capone: there were on record 29 gang killings in less than six months. In 1928 there were 62 different bombings attributed to Capone (Reid). Sandwiched between those two years is 1927, regarded as the year in which the great Al Capone reached his peak of power. He made enormous amounts of money. In this year alone the IRS believes that he ticketed over 100 million dollars (Burdick), keeping about ten percent of that total while the rest went to his employees and to other expenses.

The north side of Chicago had meanwhile become the rightful property of George “Bugs” Moran. A war between Capone and Moran had been waging for the better part of three years, that began when the north siders hijacked a Capone owned shipment of whiskey. Capone would not stand for insubordination such as this and he dispatched the famed assassin Jack Mcgurn to arrange a faux police raid of Moran thugs at 2122 North Clark St (Burdick). This fateful night will be forever known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the single most brutal and notorious act ever orchestrated by Capone. A team of four men dressed as police officers entered the building as if they were going to bust the criminals within. What they did instead will forever live in infamy. They took all seven men, lined them up against the wall of the garage ordered them to put their hands above their heads, turn around and put their palms to the wall. The assassins then took a .45, a sawed off shotgun and two fully automated machine guns and ripped into the backs of the seven men. Less than thirty seconds later when the smoke cleared seventy two shots had been fired at the men, including two shots fired from the shotgun (Burdick). The plan went off without a hitch except that the intended target of the massacre “Bugs” Moran was not present. He was particularly lucky this day as he was caught up checking into a hotel as an alibi, and arrived late enough that he saw the “raid” and not wanting to be entangled in the affair, he got out of there as quickly as possible.

The failed attempt on Moran’s life had a huge effect on Capone’s celebrity as the publicity surrounding the incident was the most attention that any gang event had ever received. He was suddenly in the national spotlight as journalists and writers all over the country began writing books and articles on him. Capone loved the attention but President Herbert Hoover did not share his viewpoint. Hoover quickly ordered all the federal agencies to work on bringing down Capone and his associates. It was not long before the government had a strong case against the brash Capone, but he was reluctant to realize the trouble he was really in and instead of ducking out of the spotlight, he continued to live in the extravagant and very visible way that he normally did (Kelly). In his day nobody could compete with him. He was the consummate gangster and he lived above the law. No Mafioso’s career lasts forever and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre marked the beginning of the end of the career of Al Capone. The Depression proved to be an obstacle not only for those with legitimate business ventures but also for those whose dealings were not necessarily legitimate. Capone slowly went down the river as the government tore hard into him with a federal tax evasion suit. He ended up being sentenced to eleven years in prison and he rotted away behind bars where one of his vices had gotten to him. He was infected with syphilis, contracted from his mistress (paisley). The disease ravaged his nervous system and eventually led to his death, an interesting way to go out for a man with as many enemies as he had but an end nonetheless.

Capone was the most ruthless gangster to ever walk the streets of the Windy City, and he contributed to over 1,000 mob slayings of which only two were ever solved (Paisley). He was the ideal gangster. It was Capone’s unpredictability that kept others from trying to infringe on his territory or test him. No one ever knew what Capone was going to do next or how he will react to a problem, this is what made Capone so dangerous and is what made him the greatest gangster ever. He kept an entire city at bay: citizen, rival, government official alike with his brash, effective form of business. No one to this day has yet to neither match the success of Capone nor display the flair that he exhibited and until that day when a superior example of a gangster exists I would have to say that Al Capone deserves the title of ideal gangster. Capone is the man who all other gangsters strive to emulate, he is what every member of organized crime wants to be, he is the “Blueprint.”

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