Al Capone was born in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. He was a small time criminal and belonged to several different gangs including the powerful 5-Points Gang in lower Manhattan. He received his scar when he insulted a woman at a bar. Her brother, a gangster named Frank Gallucio, slashed Capone’s face. His boss in the 5-Points gang, Frankie Yale, made Capone apologize to Gallucio. In an ironic turn of events, Capone would later hire Gallucio as a bodyguard.
Listen as the well known mob expert and author Bill Friedman tells the stories of Capone’s entrance into the Chicago underworld and subsequent rise. All these stories and many more can be found in his book, 30 Illegal Years to the Strip. In 30 Years, Mr. Freidman tells the stories of the beginnings and early history of the Chicago Outfit leaders, John Torrio, Al Capone and Frank Nitti. In this interesting and easy to read book, Mr. Freidman also recounts the history of Ben Siegal, Meyer Lansky, Charlie Luciano, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis and Moe Dalitz.
At about 20 years of age, Capone had a bar fight. He believed he killed his opponent and sought refuge with a transplanted New Yorker, Johnny Torrio. Jim “Big Jim Colosimo had recruited New York mobster Torrio to Chicago. Torrio was helping to oversee Colosimo’s vast prostitution activities.
On May 11, 1920, unknown persons killed Big Jim Colosimo. Johnny Torrio took over his rackets. Capone was suspected of that murder. During the 1920s, the Torrio Italian dominated gang would engage in a turf war with the North Side gang led by Dion O’Banion. For a time, a truce was maintained.
By October, 1924, Torrio either arranged or approved the murder of O’Banion at his flower shop. Hymie Wiess and Bugs Moran took over O’Banion’s rackets. Wiess made his top priority, revenge for O’Banion’s murder.
In January 1925, the Wiess/Moran faction ambushed Capone leaving him shaken but unhurt. Twelve days later, a similar attempt was made on Johnny Torrio. He was shot several times. Shortly after, Torrio handed control to the 26 year old Al Capone. By this time prohibition was making everybody a lot of money. Capone became the owner of illegal breweries and a transportation network that reached to Canada. He also consolidated and enhanced the gang’s political and law-enforcement protection. Al Capone was more prone to violence than Torrio and he freely used this tactic to increase revenue. Capone henchman often blew up any speakeasy that refused to buy their illegal alcohol.
The famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is often attributed to Capone, even though he was conveniently in Florida when that went down.
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