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Mr. Capone
Cover of Mr. Capone
Mr. Capone
The Real - And Complete - Story of Al Capone
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All I ever did was to sell beer and whiskey to our best people. All I ever did was to supply a demand that was pretty popular. Why, the very guys that make my trade good are the ones that yell the...
All I ever did was to sell beer and whiskey to our best people. All I ever did was to supply a demand that was pretty popular. Why, the very guys that make my trade good are the ones that yell the...
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  • All I ever did was to sell beer and whiskey to our best people. All I ever did was to supply a demand that was pretty popular.

    Why, the very guys that make my trade good are the ones that yell the loudest about me. Some of the leading judges use the stuff.

    When I sell liquor, it's called bootlegging. When my patrons serve it on silver trays on Lake Shore Drive, it's called hospitality.

    — Al Capone

Excerpts-

  • Chapter One

    A Twig Grows in Brooklyn--and Is Bent

    Gabriel Capone picked a rotten time to bring his young family to America. At age twenty-eight, with a twenty-three-year-old wife, the former Theresa Raiola, their year-old son and another on the way, Gabriel left Castellammare di Stabia, his native village sixteen miles down the bay from Naples. They landed in New York just in time for the Panic of 1893, which would wrack the country's economy for years. Gabriel wisely chose Brooklyn as home in preference to the even greater squalor and density of Mulberry Bend, Manhattan's Lower East Side Italian colony.

    Not that the depression spared Brooklyn. Unemployment would soon idle one quarter of the borough's workforce, making it no time for the unskilled. Yet most Italians who arrived in America then lacked skills that could land them decent urban jobs. The Industrial Revolution had largely bypassed their part of Italy; nearly 97 percent of them had been peasants.

    Why did so many flock to the cities? Why didn't they look for farm jobs or continue west to homestead what remained of the frontier? First, they had emigrated to escape a rural life they could conceive of only as brutal and dehumanizing; they came to better themselves, not suffer more of the same. The second reason bore more directly on Gabriel Capone's experience in America.

    However hard, his lot was easier than that of most Italian immigrants because he did possess an urban trade. He was a barber, which implied considerable skill at a time when many still visited barbers to be bled and have teeth yanked. Even so, Gabriel could not practice his trade right off the boat, because like his fellows, he had no money. The average Italian immigrant family in the nineties had just $17 when they landed, enough to sustain them at best for ten to twelve days.

    That meant most could not have searched for farm work or traveled to it even had they wanted. They took what they could get--which they could seldom get on their own. Most spoke no English. They typically became virtual chattel, recruited by one of the padroni, entrepreneurial countrymen who would sell the newcomers' services in work gangs to perform the most backbreaking labor at the lowest pay. One Italian later recalled bitterly his daily ten hours with pick and shovel for only a dollar, with a Saturday-night kickback of one day's pay to the foreman, followed by the present of a chicken at each Monday's shape-up if he hoped to work that week. That arrangement was extreme. More usual was the hod carrier who pulled down a good $1.50 for his ten hours--fifteen cents for each hour lugging bricks up ladders.

    For Gabriel, lack of capital meant he could not open his own shop; and with haircuts and shaves a nickel each, no one could support a growing family barbering for someone else. Those nickels represented the other side of depressed wages: prices had to match, which usually meant immigrants could afford only the dregs. Four dollars a month rented a two-room apartment with bare walls, no gas or electricity, water carted in from a pump in the yard, a communal privy out back. A really poor family might cook on a kerosene stove, which doubled as their only source of heat. The better-off fed chestnut-sized coals into a potbellied iron stove. No one considered heating both rooms, not with coal at thirtyfive cents for a hundred-pound bag. "In winter," says someone who lived like that, "our place was just a little hotter than outside." His mother refrigerated food by storing it in the bedroom. Some weren't that well off. One investigator found five families--twenty people--sharing a single room, twelve feet by twelve feet, with two beds, no...

About the Author-


  • Robert J. Shoenberg, a former advertising executive, is the author or two other books, including Geneen, a much-praised biography of ITT founder Harold Green.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 3, 1992
    ``I guess it's all over,'' Al Capone told his lawyer after being sentenced to prison for tax evasion in October 1931. But, as Schoenberg ( Geneen ) diligently shows, the public has never gotten over its obsession with the legendary mobster. Schoenberg traces Capone's life from his Brooklyn boyhood (he was a notable delinquent) through his famous Chicago years to his release from prison in 1939 and his death from neurosyphilis. This fast-paced, fact-filled, behind-the-scenes account of a skilled and brutal gangster lays bare the realities behind the myths about a man still known throughout the world 45 years after his death. Schoenberg's lively biography resonates with details of Capone's dealings with other gangsters, the press, government agents and agencies. Photos not seen by PW.

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Mr. Capone
Mr. Capone
The Real - And Complete - Story of Al Capone
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