Al Capone (1899-1947) America's best known gangster

Born in New York (USA) of Italian immigrants, Alphonsus Capone early gained his nickname Scarface while working as a bouncer for a Brooklyn brothel: he insulted a patron and was attacked by her brother. Driven out of the city under suspicion for murdering a policeman, he fled to Chicago and joined mafia gangster Johnny Torrio. They soon took over the city's underworld along with the rival gang of Deanie O'Banion. In their gang war for supremacy during the 1920's, more than a thousand were killed.

When O'Banion was also killed and Torrio more or less retired, Capone took over a thriving 5-million-dollar-a-year empire built on prostitution, extortion, bootlegging and gambling. He escaped several attempts on his life. The Italian American gangster had an extensive spy network in Chicago, from newspaper boys to policemen, so that any plots were quickly discovered. He was also skillful at isolating and killing his enemies when they became too powerful. A typical Capone murder consisted of men renting an apartment across the street from the victim's residence and gunning him down when he stepped outside.

Because of gangland's traditional refusal to prosecute, Al Capone was never tried for his murders. Eventually however, he was caught on a silly tax evasion charge. Eleven years in prison broke the man. Sliding into madness from syphilis, Al Capone went into hiding on his Florida estate immediately on his release from jail. He died on January 25, 1947.

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