Who was Al Capone? For some, his name stirs up images of a cigar-chomping folk-hero-mobster involved in everything from racketeering to murder and drug-running (and what would ultimately put him behind bars, tax evasion). For others, maybe there's a desire to know the truth about the man who inspired Scarface. It's also possible you're just curious as his syphilitic dementia.
In any case, Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone is more than the sum of the above, an enigmatic, ruthless, and highly-respected individual who was one the 20th century's most infamous cultural figures before he was even thirty years-old. Have you ever asked yourself, "what did Al Capone do?" Are you interested in the realities of the prohibition gangster's life? Below are some things you may not know about the man who once earned the title Public Enemy Number One.
On September of 1928, Capone teed off with buddies "Machine-Gun" Jack McGurn, Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, and Fred "The Killer" Burke at Burnham Woods golf course. Capone was an avid golfer, and took to the course to raise hell as much as play the game. According to author John Binder, "His rounds were devoted to having fun with his gangster friends who drank plenty each hole, gambled recklessly on the stroke of a ball and carried loaded weapons in their golf bags for use in emergences."
On that fateful day in September, Capone accidentally discharging a revolver while rummaging through his bag for a club (why not put a revolver in with your clubs?). He was taken to St. Margaret's hospital under the name Geary, to keep a low-profile.
Even with all the big spending on expensive suits, fancy jewels, and a tricked-out '28 Cadillac, Capone never had to worry about pinching any pennies. His net worth was staggering. By the end of the roaring '20s, the Chicago mob boss had a hand in bootlegging, prostitution, gambling, racketeering, and various vices in between, all of which earned him about $100 million per year. Adjusted for inflation, Capone would be worth about $1.3 billion in 2016.
During Capone's reign in Chicago, the Big Fellow had one golden rule to ensure there was zero competition and no dissent: kill anyone who got in his way. From rival bootleggers to his own customers, Al was very clear on this point. Of course, this created a bit of problem, since murder is a big time no no. To solve any problems that might arise from his gang's murderous activities, Capone kept countless police officers, public officials, lawyers, and judges in his pocket, spending millions per year to make sure he always had plenty of the right people on his side.
Al Capone contracted syphilis at 18 and never received treatment. If you know anything about the disease, you'll know what comes next; the syphilis slowly eroded his mind, leaving him little more than a shell of his former self. By the early 1940's, a few years before his death, Capone was said to have the intelligence of a seven-year old due to the severity of his neurosyphilis. On multiple occasions, Capone lashed out at nurses. He was also often seen mumbling to himself.