Al Capone and The St Valentines Day Massacre
Al Capone Quote: “Don't mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you will remember about me”.
During the late 1920's gang warfare ruled the streets of Chicago, and chief gangster ‘Al Capone’ sought control by eliminating his rivals in the illegal trades of bootlegging, gambling and prostitution. Prohibition in 1920, greatly increased the earnings of America’s gangsters through bootlegging (the illegal manufacture and sale of alcohol) and speakeasies (illicit drinking establishments), also gambling and prostitution. Capone’s income from these activities was estimated at some $60 million a year; his net worth in 1927 was around $100 million.
From 1924-1930, the city of Chicago gained a widespread reputation for lawlessness and violence. This phenomenon coincided with the reign of chief crime lord Al ‘Scarface’ Capone, who took over from his boss Johnny Torrio in 1925. Over the years, Capone gained control over most of Chicago’s crime rackets by ruthlessly gunning down his rivals. In 1924, authorities counted some 16 gang-related murders, this continued until 1929, reaching a high of 64 murders in one year during that time.
Chicago’s gang war reached its bloody climax in the so-called St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. On February 14th, seven members of Moran’s operation were gunned down while standing lined up, facing the wall of the garage where the Irish gangster George ‘Bugs’ Moran (one of Capones longtime enemies) ran his bootlegging operations from 2122 North Clark Street the North Side of Chicago. Some 70 rounds of ammunition were fired. When police officers from Chicago’s 36th District arrived, they found one gang member, Frank Gusenberg, barely alive. In the few minutes before he died, they pressed him to reveal what had happened, but Gusenberg wouldn’t talk.
Police could find only a few eyewitnesses, but concluded that the gunmen were dressed as police officers who had entered the garage and pretended to be arresting the men. Though Moran and others immediately blamed the massacre on Capone’s gang, the famous gangster himself claimed to have been at his home in Florida at the time. No one was ever brought to trial for the murders.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre marked the end of any significant gang opposition to Capone’s rule in Chicago, however it was marked as the beginning of his downfall. With his highly effective organization, his impressive income and his willingness to ruthlessly
eliminate his rivals, Capone had become the country’s most notorious gangster, and the newspapers dubbed him, ‘Public Enemy No. 1’.
The authorities began investigating Capone after he failed to appear before a federal grand jury after being subpoenaed in March 1929. When he finally appeared and testified, federal agents arrested him for contempt of court. Capone posted bond and was released, only to be arrested in Philadelphia that May on charges of carrying concealed weapons. Capone served nine months in prison and was released for good behavior.
In February 1931, a federal court found Capone guilty on the contempt charge and sentenced him to six months in Cook County Jail. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department had launched an investigation of Capone for income tax evasion. Through diligent forensic accounting, Special Agent Frank Wilson and other members of the Intelligence Unit of the Internal Revenue Service were able to put together a case, and in June 1931 Capone was indicted for evasion of federal income tax. Convicted that October after an internationally publicized trial, Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison, first in Atlanta and later at Alcatraz.
After Capone was released from prison, he was referred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for the treatment of paresis (caused by late-stage syphilis). Hopkins refused to admit him solely based on his reputation, but Union Memorial Hospital took him in. Grateful for the compassionate care he received, Capone donated two Japanese weeping cherry trees to Union Memorial Hospital in 1939. After a few weeks inpatient and a few weeks outpatient, a very sickly Capone left Baltimore on March 20, 1940 for Palm Island, Florida.
In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist performed examinations and concluded Capone had the mental capability of a 12-year-old child. Capone spent the last years of his life at his mansion in Palm Island, Florida. On January 21, 1947, Capone suffered a stroke. He regained consciousness and started to improve but contracted pneumonia. He then suffered a fatal cardiac arrest the next day. On January 25, 1947, Al Capone died in his home, surrounded by his family and was later buried аt Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.