Weird History
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14 Things We Learned About Al Capone That Made Us Say 'Whoa'

December 18, 2020 2.1k votes 301 voters 21.9k views14 items

List RulesVote up the most surprising facts about the crime boss Al Capone.

There is no doubt that Al Capone was one of the 20th century's most infamous cultural figures. But what makes this gangster so notorious a century after his downfall? Capone's story remains alluring because it contains multitudes - an entrepreneur with the famous rags to riches story, an immigrant son's rise to power, and a real-life Robin Hood persona. Capone was an American gangster who captivated the public before he was even 30 years old, and he's portrayed in media and film as a crime boss and a criminal mastermind. Below is a round-up of things we learned about Chicago's first-ever Public Enemy No, 1 that might surprise you. 

  • Photo: National Archives at College Park / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    He Started One Of The First Soup Kitchens During The Great Depression

    From u/lopezjessy:

    During the Great Depression, Al Capone started one of the first soup kitchens, called “Free Soup Coffee & Doughnuts for the Unemployed." Capone’s soup kitchen served breakfast, lunch, and dinner to an average of 2,200 Chicagoans every day.

    Context: Following the stock market crash of 1929, nearly 75,000 Chicago residents were out of work and searching for relief when the soup kitchen on South State Street opened. It wasn't until a week after its open that the benefactor was revealed to be none other than crime boss Al Capone. That same day, Capone's bookkeeper testified in court that the earnings from his gambling houses made upwards of $25,000 a month, making the $300 a day to keep the soup kitchen running chump change. On Thanksgiving day, Capone's soup kitchen fed 5,000 hungry Chicagoans, further benefiting his "Robin Hood" reputation. No one was ever questioned, no one asked to prove their need, and no one was ever denied a second helping. Mary Borden, of Harpers' Magazine, called Capone “an ambidextrous giant who kills with one hand and feeds with the other.”

  • Photo: Chicago Bureau / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Al Capone Is Responsible For The 'Sell By' Dates On Milk

    From u/HouseAtomic:

    Al Capone was responsible for expiration dates on milk jugs

    Context: It is reported that Capone got into the milk business after one of his relatives became sick after drinking spoiled milk. Capone had been looking for an "out" for the crime business, saying he had enough money and didn't need that kind of stress. Milk fit the criteria for the type of lucrative business he was looking for and best of all, the Chicago Outfit controlled the bottling facilities used for alcohol, and they could now be adapted for milk. After Chicago passed a law to stamp the expiration dates to protect the city's children, Capone just had one problem: only union milkmen could deliver milk to Chicago homes. When he couldn't work out a deal to have the milk imported for less from Wisconsin, he kidnapped the president of the union and held him for ransom for $50,000. He used the money to buy the Meadowmoor Dairies, monopolizing the milk market. Just three months later, he was imprisoned for tax evasion. 

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    Famous Jazz Musician Fats Waller Was Kidnapped At Gun Point As A Surprise Performer For His Birthday

    From u/Tac_242:

    Famous jazz pianist Fats Waller was kidnapped by gangsters for three days in Chicago in 1926. He was the "surprise guest" at Al Capone's birthday party. He was later found very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash from Capone and other party-goers as tips.

    Context: Fats Waller was just 21 years old in 1926. He was leaving a gig in Chicago when Capone's henchmen held him up at gunpoint outside the venue and pushed him in their limo. Lucky for him, he wasn't on his way to his death, but to the birthday party of Al Capone to perform as a surprise guest. He spent three days drinking, jamming, and eating fancy foods. He was tipped $100 per song and was dropped off in the same place he was picked up, thousands of dollars richer. 

  • Photo: U.S. Federal prison officials / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    He Got Knifed In The Face For Complimenting A Woman's Backside

    From u/Celestial_Inferno:

    Al “Scarface” Capone got his famous facial scars from saying “Honey, you got a nice *ss and I mean that as a compliment, believe me" to a woman. He got knifed in the face and received eighty stitches for the remark because it offended her brother.

    Context: In 1917, Capone was the bouncer at a speakeasy Frank Galluccio, his sister Lena, and his date were attending. Capone began smiling and making comments at Galluccio's sister. Embarrassed and uncomfortable, she asked her brother to make him stop. When Frank Galluccio reached the door, he heard Capone's remark and became infuriated, demanding Capone to apologize. Capone insisted that it was just a joke and charged Galluccio, but he quickly pulled out a knife, slashing Capone's face three times. Later in life, Capone hired Galluccio as his bodyguard, and refuse to be photographed from the left side.