The Roaring Twenties were a turbulent time in the United States. World War I had just ended, and everyone was in high spirits. Young people wanted to have fun and were not going to let anything stop them—not even prohibition. Speakeasies, nightclubs, gambling houses, and bookies’ joints were put up to satisfy their craving for fun. With all of these illegal hangouts came a surge in underground crime.Gangsterism was on the rise and was growing out of control. One of the main contributors to this organized crime outburst was Al Capone. His criminal life showed a legacy never seen before in the United States and never to be repeated again.
Crime was Al Capone’s life; he ate it, slept it, and drank it. He owned and worked speakeasies, bookies’ joints, gambling houses, horse and race tracks, nightclubs, distilleries, and breweries from 1925 to 1930 and had an annual income of one hundred million dollars (Al 2). He got his nickname, Scarface, for insulting a woman at the bar he worked at. Her brother attacked Capone with a knife, leaving a scar across his left cheek. Capone had been involved in many massacres. One of the most famous massacres in history, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, was planned by one of Capone’s closest friends, McGurn. McGurn and his men planned a staged police raid to kill antagonist Bugs Morgan. Seven of Morgan’s men were shot and killed. In 1925, a rival gangster (Lonergan) and his men were killed in the Adonis Club massacre. Lastly, in 1929, two Sicilian colleagues gave Capone problems with his businesses. He invited them for dinner, and after the meal was over, he beat the two men and their other partner to death (Bardsley 6, 11, 15, 19–23).
Convicting an international criminal was not easy, but the federal government put all its efforts into finding evidence against Capone. Many people knew what Capone did, but he couldn’t be convicted in a court of law because there was a lack of evidence. There were many who sought to put him behind bars. Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, and Eliot Ness gathered evidence to prosecute him. The FBI sent two undercover agents into Capone’s organization, one of whom was Michael J. Malone. They were given fake names to enter Capone’s group: De Angelo and Grazino. De Angelo became the head of one of Capone’s gambling houses, and Grazino got a job checking Capone’s beer deliveries. Eventually all of their work paid off; they had collected enough evidence to convict Capone of tax evasion. In 1929, Capone was arrested by two detectives outside a movie theater for carrying a concealed weapon. On October 17, 1931, he was found guilty of tax evasion. He was sentenced to ten years in prison (bail denied) in the US penitentiary in Atlanta. He was also fined fifty thousand dollars and charged thirty thousand dollars in court costs. Many of his speakeasies and warehouses were raided and burned down (Bardsley 16–17, 23–26, 28, 31, 34).
Al Capone made a large impact on society in the twenties and thirties. If you ask anyone on the street today to name a gangster, they would probably say Al Capone. He is called the single greatest symbol of the collapse of law and order in the US during the 1920s prohibition era (Al 1). The legacy of Al Capone was very involved with the government. He would bribe judges, politicians, and even prison guards to get what he wanted (Murray 353). Capone left a great impact on society that can still be seen today. Through his work, he revealed all the problems with prohibition. If it had not been for Capone, it might still be illegal to buy alcohol today. Capone revolutionized the concept of organized crime. Bardsley (34–35) notes that many criminals, robbers, and drug dealers today live an Al Capone lifestyle. Today, income tax laws are used to punish political enemies like Capone. Al Capone’s legacy left lots of thoughts in the minds of Americans (Murray 351-352).
With Capone’s help, the twenties and thirties were a fun time in America. Gambling joints and speakeasies added spice to daily life. After the U.S. had dealt with the Capone Legacy, they already had other matters on their hands. Now that prohibition had been repealed, on the horizon was a new era of even more challenges.
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