In the 1920s, American lifestyles changed dramatically. Prohibition became a very big deal in America, which led to an uprising in crime. Illegal businesses, including bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, and being hit men, were big-time money-makers. The uprising of organized crime, led by mobsters, ran the show when it came to these illegal activities. This organized crime was the Mafia, one of the most powerful groups in the history of America besides the American government, and among them were the Italian Mafioso and the Jewish gangsters, two of the most powerful crime groups.
When you hear the term "public enemy number one, Alphonse Capone comes to mind. He is recognized worldwide as the infamous Chicago gangster. Capone began his career in Boston, Mass., as an apprentice to Johnny Torro, a member of the Mafia. Instinctively, Capone was a heartless killer. He believed that a gun was the solution to all problems. Capone mixed very well with political, business, and social figures. After years of learning the trades of the Mafia, Capone took over the city of Chicago.
Meyer Lansky is known as the godfather of the National Crime Syndicate. He was a Jew from Grodno, Poland, who was involved with the Mafia in America. Most people think of the Mafia as including only Italians, which is mostly true, but Lansky was very involved, trusted, and respected by the Italian Mafiosos. In fact, Lucky Luciano (an Italian mobster) would say that other followers should always listen to him. Meyer Lansky was known as a money man, and everyone listened to him because it paid off.
Besides Capone and Lansky being involved with the Mafia, they were close to Lucky Luciano, the successful mob leader of New York, which helped them along the way to their success. They were also major businessmen; money was everything. While Capone was running a payroll of over three hundred thousand dollars a week, among other funds, Lansky was investing and hiding millions for the Syndicate. Capone and Lansky were also accused of tax evasion.
The differences between Capone and Lansky included the way they took care of business. Capone was very brutal and was well known for killing anyone that got in his way. Capone was convicted of murder and sent to Alcatraz. Lansky was strictly a businessman and believed that money was much more important than traditions and blood oaths. It was also unimportant for Lansky to be the head man or leader, unlike Capone. Capone's motivation was to be and stay the big dog. What Capone did was well known to the police and others. Lansky was very slick and stayed in the shadows. Actually, Capone went to jail for tax evasion, among other things, while Lansky was accused of it but never convicted because he basically never left his fingerprints anywhere. Another difference between Capone and Lansky was that Capone only attended school through the sixth grade (since he beat up his teacher). Lansky, on the other hand, was well-read and very studious.
The most significant difference is how the end of their lives came to be. Capone ended up at Alcatraz, where his health began to deteriorate; he ended up with syphilis and became insane. Lansky, being slick and inconspicuous, unlike Capone, was never sent to jail and was able to live his life the way he always thought was important: by doing so with money. In the early 1970s, he was estimated to have at least three hundred million dollars. I suppose it pays to be quiet, which I'm sure Capone might have realized in his days at Alcatrez.
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