Professor Kitana Ananda
November 16, 2017
Two Sides of Capone.
When talking about dark years in the history of the United States it is almost
impossible to skip the era of the “Roaring 20’s”. It is undeniable that the American culture changed in many different aspects, especially in different cities across the country. The City of Chicago was no exception to this. The population was increasing as much as the skyscrapers being built. Immigrants from all over were coming to this city searching for jobs and opportunities. The United States was always a door with “hope” and “prosperity”, but Chicago
had something special. It was a city for strong people who weren’t afraid of being out there. This is what infamous criminal mastermind Al Capone was known for, and this is why the city was his. He was made for those streets like Bonnie was made for Clyde. Capone’s acts of violence indeed shifted the life of many others and his operations proved the authorities were still a step behind the organized crime group, but people admired the man in the extravagant suits. The citizens of Chicago were in a moment in history ruled by Capone’s organized crime that led to many changes in society, and despite contrary belief not all were bad.
Al Capone was born in Brooklyn, to immigrant parents. He had a big family, as he was just one out of nine kids. Life as an Italian immigrant couldn’t be easy. Now being poor just made everything much harder, which led to Capone dropping out of school in the sixth grade. At a very young age he tried doing anything he could, and started getting involved in street gangs and getting his name out there. Fast forward to Chicago, 1920. Al Capone had arrived to begin leaving his mark of infamy. At the time, he arrived at the second largest city in the nation following New York City, after its reconstruction of course. Capone had arrived to this city to work for a childhood friend, Johnny Torrio. In “Get Capone”, the timing was perfect.
“…Things began to turn during the years of World War I. A wave of temperance swept the country. Americans we expected to sober up and sacrifice for their nation. Even Chicago cleaned itself up a little. Saloons were raided. Licenses were revoked. The high-end whores and drug dealers, fearing arrest, quit working in bordellos and dance halls and moved to hotel lobbies, where they could be more discreet” (Eig, 7).
Shortly after the occurrences listed above, The Prohibition law was in effect.
Capone had arrived just in time to go against everything that law said, and since the streets were a bit cleaner, he was ready to take action. With the levels of alcohol consumption dropping to an all time low because of this law, Capone’s eyes lit up like he had everything solved. His first crime, Bootlegging.
Capone’s plan to make money was genius. He was determined to give people
what they wanted, and he was determined to make his fortune off going against the law enforcement. Is this is correct? Absolutely not. He did what he thought he could do best. He used his tools and experience in bars, brothels, and gang activities to his advantage. According to “Get Capone”, the more the city expanded, the more its crimes did. “By 1910, a special commission reported that five thousand full time prostitutes and ten thousand part-timers
worked the city, and that, combined, they were responsible for more than 27 million sex acts a year” (Eig, 5). The amount of money made in these illegal activities was unreal. Bad things always seem the most searched for, and they are what sells the most. Chicago was a city that as its streets got emptied, it starved for the crime it once had. Al Capone started his story by feeding it by bits.
The story of Al Capone has two sides. One known by all, which is filled with
hits, attacks, illegal alcohol, etc. The other side of events, gave Capone a lot of respect and admiration from the community. In the year 1929 the United States lived its worst times due to the great depression. The country suffered immensely, and the citizens pleaded to the government for help. This caused many people to be out in the streets. There was no money, no jobs. The country was inhabitable, because of course the rich stayed rich and the poor and middle class suffered. Al Capone had a soft spot for this. Although he was a wealthy man, he helped out some people who needed it. During these very difficult years, there were many people out in the streets, with no homes and no food. Al Capone opened some of the first soup kitchens to feed those who needed to be fed. He handed out clothes during the long winters to those who lacked it. Why bother help those who are in the streets? Perhaps this menace had a heart after all. Maybe he knew what it was like being poor, and although it isn’t much, it’s something.
A small act like this is very much needed in troubled times like those. To see
it come from a man like Al Capone really says something. It shows to society that people can still help if they actually wanted to. How many people got the message? I wouldn’t be able to give you the answer to that… But it sure does send a message.