FH#42  Did Al Capone kill three men personally with a baseball bat, as depicted in the film The Untouchables?

 

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Today is the anniversary of the conviction, in 1931, of the notorious Chicago gangster Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone. He was famous for aphorisms like, ‘you can get much further with a kind word, and a gun, than you can with a kind word alone’. He was probably also responsible for the deaths of more than thirty fellow human beings. Did he go down for murder? Was he sentenced to a stretch in Federal prison for racketeering? Did he even end up in Alcatraz Prison on San Francisco bay for bootlegging? None of the above. Famously he went to jail for tax evasion. Al Capone was, in the eyes of the law, a white collar criminal.

‘I am like any other man. All I do is supply a demand’ he once said. And this simple businessman, with the ethics of Wall Street banker and the sensibilities of a shark with a taste for Bondi Beach surfers, took advantage of America’s Prohibition legislation of the 1920s to make a huge fortune for himself and others.

In 1925 at the tender age of twenty-six Capone took over illegal breweries on Chicago’s south side, and a liquor distribution operation that stretched as far as the Canadian border. Capone, whose mantra was ‘I just give people what they want’, became something of a folk hero in an era where millions of drinkers were happy to encourage the flouting of an utterly senseless law. He encouraged and clearly enjoyed the attention of the media, including the new medium of radio. Basing himself in the Chicago suburb of Cicero, where he controlled local politics, Capone quickly became a national celebrity. His only rival was an Irish-American gang led by a lesser hoodlum named Bugs Moran, which dominated organised crime on the north side of the city.

While local and Federal prosecutors took an interest in Capone, he also managed to bribe countless public officials and policemen. He made things difficult for investigators by never registering any property in his own name. This was despite the fact that he owned a mansion in Miami where he spent more and more time in the late 1920s. He also never opened a bank account, though I suppose that probably looked quite clever after the Wall Street Crash.

Capone’s hold on the Chicago criminal underworld was abetted by the accession to the office of mayor of ‘Big’ Bill Thompson, a man who never saw a bribe he didn’t like. Capone allegedly bankrolled Big Bills 1927 campaign to the tune of $250,000 – a huge sum of money back then.

Capone’s most notorious ‘hit’ came on 14 February 1929, the so-called St Valentine’s Day massacre!

Bugs Moran’s HQ was a warehouse and garage at 2122 North Clark Street. On the morning of 14 February a group of policemen showed up to raid the premises. Except that they weren’t cops, they were Capone’s gunmen. They lined up the seven occupants of the warehouse (one of whom was not even a member of Moran’s gang) and opened fire, killing all seven in the most horrendous crime of the Prohibition era.

            The killings quickly shattered any aura of romance or begrudging tolerance of Capone’s activities, after photographs of the slain mobsters were published in local and national papers. Scarface, so-called because of an old knife wound, had overreached himself.  Law enforcement in Chicago and Florida now began to harass Capone and threaten his operation

His ultimate downfall, however, was due to a 1927 Supreme Court ruling that illegal earnings were subject to income tax just like all legitimate earnings – evidence was adduced, in a 1931 Federal trial, of Capone’s massive spending, and in October of that year he was convicted of tax evasion, sentenced to eleven years in jail, fined $50,000 and found liable for the payment of more than $200,000 in back taxes and interest.  He served the first part of his sentence in a Federal prison in Atlanta, where he was also officially diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhoea

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He was later transferred to Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, the high security Federal prison, becoming, after the Birdman, Robert Stroud, the facility’s most famous inmate.  When he was released in 1939, already in the advanced stages of syphilis, he headed for Florida where he died in his mansion in 1947.

Capone is believed to have been involved in the deaths of thirty-three men between 1923 and 1930, including the seven Valentine’s Day Massacre victims. Despite suggestions, in the Brian de Palma film, The Untouchables, that he personally beat three men to death with a baseball bat, it is unlikely that he actually killed any of the thirty-three himself. That’s fake history.

 

 

On This Day – 1 April 1872 The Birth of Irish-American bootlegger Katherine Daly

 

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She was born Katherine Rose Daly in Oakland, California in 1872. Her father, Bill Daly, was from Roscrea, Co. Tipperary,

 

She was a wild child, one of twelve young Dalys, who was allowed to roam the heights around Oakland in her untutored youth. The knowledge she gained of the hills proved very useful to the family business. Her father manufactured what he called ‘poteen’ and his customers called ‘moonshine’ – Katherine’s intimate knowledge of her environment helped the Dalys to escape the clutches of the authorities who never seemed to be able to find the family’s illicit stills.

 

When the attentions of the forces of law and order became too intrusive the entire Oakland operation was moved in the 1880s to the boom town of Tombstone. However, the law eventually caught up with Bill Daly when he was killed in a shootout with Wyatt Earp not long after the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral. Daly, a supporter of the Clantons and the McLaurys, the losers in that shoot out, simply chose the wrong side. His daughter Katherine, however, kept the family business going.

If some of this seems a bit familiar to you it might be because of a certain well known folk sing that tells the story of Katherine Daly’s life. It begins …

‘Come down from the mountain Katie Daly

Come down from the mountain Katie do

Oh can’t you hear us calling Katie Daly

We want to drink your Irish mountain dew

 

Her old man Katie came from Tipperary

In the pioneering year of forty-two

Her old man he was shot in Tombstone city

For making of the Irish mountain dew

Soon after her father’s death Katherine Daly, better known as Katie, escaped the Earps and betook herself to the Chicago. There she continued to manufacture moonshine for the next three decades. Prohibition in the 1920s should have been good to her. Her famous ‘mountain dew’ was streets ahead of the bathtub gin of Al Capone. But the notorious Italian-American hoodlum had more guns at his disposal than the ageing Katie.

After the St. Valentine’s Day massacre Katie headed back home to the west coast and began operating in San Francisco. There she made a fatal error. Had she confined her activities to the Bay Area who knows what she might have achieved.

But she got just a little bit too greedy and began shifting bootleg whisky across the state border into Nevada. This brought down on her head the ire of the burgeoning criminal element in the Silver State and enabled the very non-Irish FBI to take an interest in her activities as well. She was probably fortunate in that the Feds got to her first. Hence the verse of the song that goes …

Wake up and pay attention, Katie Daly,

I am the judge, that’s goin’ to sentence you,

And all the boys in court, have drunk your whiskey,

And to tell the truth dear Kate, I drank some too

Katie went down for a fifteen year stretch. If you know the song well enough you will be aware that she did not survive her incarceration as the only female inmate of the notorious Alcatraz Island prison in San Francisco Harbour.

So off to jail, they took poor Katie Daly,

But very soon, the gates they opened wide,

An angel came, for poor old Katie Daly,

And took her, far across the great divide.

She may have derived some small satisfaction before her demise from the fact that she survived another famous inmate of Alcatraz, Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone who joined her on ‘The Rock’ after he was found guilty of evading Federal taxes.

Katherine Daly, bootlegger, distiller of Irish poteen based on an old Tipperary family recipe, was born one hundred and forty four years ago, on this day.

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