Al Capone - a gangster loved by the public

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Al Capone is much more of a myth than a man in the popular imagination. While the infamous Chicago gangster from the Prohibition era of the 1920s still remains in our cultural consciousness, this image is riddled with contradictions: mobsters and benefactors; a man who sprayed silver bullets into the air from his car and helped feed the city’s poor while organizing some of the coldest murders in Chicago history.

Although he was the leader of the infamous “Chicago Outfit” for only six years, Al Capone remained permanently listed as one of America’s most notorious criminals and still captures our attention nearly a century later.

He was born on January 17, 1899. His birth name was Alphonse Gabriel Capone, and he came from a family that immigrated to the United States from Italy. The Capone family emigrated from Italy to the United States via Rijeka. Namely, Rijeka was then an important port in Austro-Hungary, and overseas steamships sailed from it in the direction of America. After arriving in the U.S., the Capone settled in Brooklyn, a famous neighborhood of New York City. It was in Brooklyn that Al Capone was born, just a few years after his parents immigrated from Europe.

Capone climbed the mafia ladder from an early age, first in New York and then in Chicago. As a young man, he was nicknamed Scareface because he was cut in the left cheek with a knife in one incident.

At just 26, Al became the head of one of the largest mafia families with over 1,000 members. Although Capone was a murderer, pimp, extortionist and alcohol dealer, the public loved him. He was often seen in the company of politicians, businessmen and movie stars. He limited jobs to only those the public loved, alcohol, gambling, and women

In February 1929, Capone organized the famous Valentine's Day massacre when his men killed 6 rival mobsters and 1 bystander. Although the FBI tried to arrest him for years for murder and alcohol smuggling, Al Capone ended up in prison for tax evasion in 1931. He was serving his prison sentence in the famous Alcatraz, where it was not easy for him. Namely, although he had financial help from outside, and some mafia friends, there were several attempts to kill Big Al. He was stabbed in the back, there were attempts at poisoning, strangulation…

In mid-November 1930, more than half of Chicago's citizens were out of work, and Capone opened the door to cold and desperate people, without too much pomp. He hung the sign "Soup, coffee and donuts for the unemployed" on the door and attracted 2,200 people a day. Women in white aprons would carry coffee and pastries for breakfast, soup and bread for lunch and dinner. Although nowhere was there an obvious sign that the benefactor behind the kitchenette was in fact the number one enemy, the newspaper advertised the distribution of 350 slices of bread and 22 kilograms of sugar each day to sweeten coffee that warms the soul and body. It didn't matter to the hungry people who paid for their bread. In order to survive, they stood patiently in lines that were so long that they often reached the police station where plans were being made to stop the mafia boss. Probably the longest queue was on Thanksgiving, when more than 5,000 hungry citizens were waiting for their portion of cranberry sauce and beef stew. There was a reason there was no turkey on the menu. A large quantity of turkeys was reportedly stolen at a nearby store at the time, and Al wanted to prevent him from being charged with a crime.

Capone's kitchen was closed in vain in April 1932 under the pretext that there was no need to help because the economic situation was improving. The mobster had to put the key in the lock regardless of the fact that the number of unemployed increased, and the hungry had to go to a new address for a daily meal. Meanwhile, the finance ministry accused Capone of tax evasion and the mobster ended up in jail

He was released from prison in 1939 with a severe syphilis disease whose infection had spread to the brain. Chicago’s former fear and trembling was treated in Miami but by the time he died in 1947 he had vegetated and never visited the city he once ruled.

Al Capone died at his home in Palm Island, Florida. He was only 48 years old and had been suffering from syphilis for a long time. He contracted this serious disease at a young age, and towards the end of his life it damaged his brain functions, and thus his mental health. His doctor said in the year before Capone's death that he has the mental abilities of a 12-year-old child. Syphilis causes mental disorders at a later stage, especially if left untreated.

He is buried in a cemetery in Chicago, the city that was the center of his criminal activities.

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