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Mobster Al Capone Ran a Soup Kitchen During the Great Depression

Mobster Al Capone Ran a Soup Kitchen During the Great Depression

Chicago shivered through a particularly bleak November in 1930. As the U.S. economy plummeted into the Great Depression, thousands of the Windy City’s jobless huddled three times a day in a long line snaking away from a newly opened soup kitchen. With cold hands stuffed into overcoat pockets as empty as their stomachs, the needy shuffled toward the big banner that declared “Free Soup Coffee & Doughnuts for the Unemployed.”

The kind-hearted philanthropist who had come to their aid was none other than “Public Enemy Number One,” Al Capone.

Capone certainly made for an unlikely humanitarian. Chicago’s most notorious gangster had built his multi-million-dollar bootlegging, prostitution and gambling operation upon a foundation of extortion, bribes and murders that culminated with the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in which he ordered the assassination of seven rivals.

WATCH: Lost Worlds: Al Capone's Secret City on HISTORY Vault

Many Chicagoans, however, had more pressing concerns than organized crime in the year following the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Long lines on American sidewalks had become all-too familiar sights as jittery investors made runs on banks and the unemployed waited for free meals.

In early November 1930, more than 75,000 jobless Chicagoans lined up to register their names. Nearly a third required immediate relief. “The Madison Street hobo type was conspicuously absent from these lines of men,” reported the Chicago Tribune, which noted that many of the unemployed were well-dressed.

A week later the Chicago Tribune reported the surprising news that the mysterious benefactor who had recently rented out a storefront and opened a soup kitchen at 935 South State Street was none other than the city’s king of booze, beer and vice. Capone’s soup kitchen served breakfast, lunch and dinner to an average of 2,200 Chicagoans every day.

“He couldn’t stand it to see those poor devils starving, and nobody else seemed to be doing much, so the big boy decided to do it himself,” a Capone associate told a Chicago newspaper. Inside the soup kitchen, smiling women in white aprons served up coffee and sweet rolls for breakfast, soup and bread for lunch and soup, coffee and bread for dinner. No second helpings were denied. No questions were asked, and no one was asked to prove their need.

READ MORE: How Prohibition Put the 'Organized' in Organized Crime

On Thanksgiving in 1930, Capone’s soup kitchen served holiday helpings to 5,000 Chicagoans. Reportedly, Capone had planned a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the jobless until he had heard of a local heist of 1,000 turkeys. Although “Scarface” had not been responsible for the theft, he feared he would be blamed for the caper and made a last-minute menu change from turkey and cranberry sauce to beef stew.

The soup kitchen added to Capone’s Robin Hood reputation with a segment of Americans who saw him as a hero for the common man. They pointed to the newspaper reports of the handouts he gave to widows and orphans. When the government deprived them of beer and alcohol during Prohibition, Capone delivered it to them. When the government failed to feed them in their desperate days, the crime boss gave them food. For anyone who felt conflicted about taking charity from a gangster, hunger trumped principles. As the Bismarck Tribune noted, “a hungry man is just as glad to get soup and coffee from Al Capone as from anyone else.”

Writing in Harper’s Magazine, Mary Borden called Capone “an ambidextrous giant who kills with one hand and feeds with the other.” She noted the irony that the line of jobless waiting for a handout from Chicago’s most-wanted man often stretched past the door of the city’s police headquarters, which held the evidence of the violent crimes carried out at Capone’s behest.

Every day, the soup kitchen served 350 loaves of bread, 100 dozen rolls, 50 pounds of sugar and 30 pounds of coffee at a cost of $300. It was a sum that Capone could easily afford since on the same day that news of his soup kitchen broke, Capone bookkeeper Fred Ries testified in court that the profits from Capone’s most lucrative gambling houses cleared $25,000 a month.

READ MORE: How the Great Depression Helped End Prohibition

Although he was one of the richest men in America, Capone may not have paid a dime for the soup kitchen, relying instead on his criminal tendencies to stockpile his charitable endeavor by extorting and bribing businesses to donate goods. During the 1932 trial of Capone ally Daniel Serritella, it emerged that ducks donated by a chain store for Serritella’s holiday drive ended up instead being served in Capone’s soup kitchen.

Although the press never spotted Capone in the soup kitchen, newspapers ate up the soup kitchen story. Some such as the Daily Independent of Murphysboro, Illinois, expressed displeasure at the adulation bestowed upon its operator. “If anything were needed to make the farce of Gangland complete, it is the Al Capone soup kitchen,” it editorialized. “It would be rather terrifying to see Capone run for mayor of Chicago. We are afraid he would get a tremendous vote. It is even conceivable that he might be elected after a few more stunts like his soup kitchens.”

However, prison, not politics, would be in Capone’s future. No amount of good publicity could save Capone from the judgment of a jury that found him guilty of income-tax evasion in November 1931.


Soup kitchen

A soup kitchen, meal center, or food kitchen is a place where food is offered to the hungry usually for free or sometimes at a below-market price. Frequently located in lower-income neighborhoods, soup kitchens are often staffed by volunteer organizations, such as church or community groups. Soup kitchens sometimes obtain food from a food bank for free or at a low price, because they are considered a charity, which makes it easier for them to feed the many people who require their services.

Many historical and modern soup kitchens serve only soup, or just soup with bread. But other establishments which refer to themselves as a "soup kitchen" also serve a wider range of food, so social scientists sometimes discuss them together with similar hunger relief agencies that provide more varied hot meals, like food kitchens and meal centers.

While societies have been using various methods to share food with the hungry for millennia, the first soup kitchens in the modern sense may have emerged in the late 18th century. By the late 19th century, they were located in several American and European cities. In the United States and elsewhere, they became more prominent in the 20th century, especially during the Great Depression. With the much improved economic conditions that immediately followed World War II, soup kitchens became less widely used, at least in the advanced economies. In the United States, there was a resurgence in the use of soup kitchens following the cutbacks in welfare that were implemented in the early 1980s.

In the 21st century, the use of soup kitchens expanded in both the United States and Europe, following lasting global increases in the price of food which began in late 2006. Demand for their services grew as the Great Recession began to worsen economic conditions for those with lower incomes. In much of Europe, demand further increased after the introduction of austerity-based economic policies from 2010.


Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression

Definition and Summary of Soup Kitchens for kids
Summary and Definition: The Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression served free meals to hungry men, women and children. The soup kitchens were run by volunteers from charitable organizations and local communities with food supplies provided by benefactors and people in the neighborhood from their 'Soup Gardens'. Before 1935, as unemployed soared to over 25%,Soup Kitchens sprang up in every major town and city in America as there were few welfare programs to help the unemployed, starving and destitute people.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression
Herbert Hoover was the 31st American President who served in office from March 4, 1929 to March 4, 1933. One of the important events during his presidency was the emergence of Soup Kitchens during the Great Depression.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression

Soup Kitchens Facts for kids: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression

What were the Soup Kitchens during the Great Depression? The Soup Kitchens during the Great Depression were places where hungry men, women and children were served a free meal, usually consisting of vegetable soup and bread.

Who ran the Soup Kitchens? The Soup Kitchens were initially run by volunteers of various charities. The charities were soon unable to meet the demand. In 1932, as the hard times became even worse, President Hoover gave $4 million to the states to open additional soup kitchens.

Where was the Soup Kitchens? The Soup Kitchens sprang up in every major town and city in the United States.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Facts for kids
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Soup Kitchens

Facts about the Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression for kids

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 1: The first Soup Kitchens were first established in America the 1870's following the Panic of 1973 that triggered a previous depression that lasted for 6 years.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 2: The idea of soup kitchens were brought to America by Irish immigrants who had memories of the events of the 1845 Great Irish Potato Famine. The Soup kitchens in Ireland, many of which were run by Quakers, to provide the starving people with hot soup.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 3: The Temporary Relief Act also known as the Soup Kitchen Act was passed in February 1847 by the United Kingdom Parliament. It called for the food to be provided through taxes collected by local relief committees from Irish merchants and landowners.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 4: There were few government welfare systems before 1935, there was mass unemployment and people were literally starving. President Hoover believed that private charities and local communities, not the federal government, could best provide for those in need.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 5: Republican Hoover advocated "rugged individualism", the idea that every man should fend for himself and that government handouts to the unemployed did great damage to people's self-esteem. There was no social 'safety net' of welfare and relief programs at the start of the Great Depression.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 6: Due to Hoover's beliefs and his slow response to the Great Depression, the Soup Kitchens provided the main form of sustenance for the poor, needy, unemployed and homeless

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 7: 1930s soup kitchens were initially run and funded by charitable organizations such as churches, religious groups, missions, Ladies Aid Societies, Women's Leagues and the Salvation Army. They were dependent on donations from local businesses and private individuals.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 8: The situation became so dire that in 1932 President Herbert Hoover authorized $4 million to the states to open more soup kitchens.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 9: Centers were established in any suitable halls and typically furnished with long wooden benches and seats that could seat the maximum number of people in the space available (as seen in the above picture). Others used any old furniture donated to charities.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 10: Some soup kitchens sprang up that did not have the facilities or space to serve food at tables. In these instances people lined up with their own buckets which the soups were ladled into.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 11: Women volunteered to work in the soup kitchens that served their communities, improvising cheap recipes for soups that made use of any available local products. Vegetables, boiled together in water, made up the bulk of the soups and stews that were served. As the numbers of people arriving at the kitchens increased more water had to be added to the stews and their nutrition value declined. The soups and stews were cooked in large pots, similar to those shown in the picture.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 12: Communities encouraged more fortunate people to grow "charity gardens" to supplement the supply of fresh vegetables. Some city land was also made available for "charity gardens".

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 13: The quality of the food served depended on various factors such as how big the kitchen was, the type of food that had been donated and how many people there were to feed.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 14: Most centers only opened once a day. However, larger centers were able to open three times a day, seven days a week offering food or coffee for breakfast, lunch and supper. The staple diet of the people depending on the centers was soups, stews and bread. Soups and stews were economical, almost any ingredient could be used and they were simple and easy to cook and to serve. Soups were often greasy and watery but it was all that was available.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 15: There were some variations of the food that was served. Breakfast might consist of just a hot coffee perhaps with biscuits, muffins, toast and oatmeal. Lunch consisted of soup, stews, bread or sandwiches often made with peanut butter, Supper was soups, stews and bread. If fruit was available some of the kitchens would also provide cobblers or pies. Soups were made with combinations of meat and vegetables (mostly vegetables).

Facts about the Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression for kids

Facts about the Soup Kitchens for kids
The following fact sheet continues with facts about Soup Kitchens for kids.

Facts about Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression for kids

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 16: The quality of the food served depended on various factors such as how big the kitchen was, the type of food that had been donated and how many people there were to feed.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 17: Most centers only opened once a day. However, larger centers were able to open three times a day, seven days a week offering food or coffee for breakfast, lunch and supper. The staple diet of the people depending on the centers was soups, stews and bread. Soups and stews were economical, almost any ingredient could be used and they were simple and easy to cook and to serve. Soups were often greasy and watery but it was all that was available.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 18: There were some variations of the food that was served. Breakfast might consist of just a hot coffee perhaps with biscuits, muffins, toast and oatmeal. Lunch consisted of soup, stews, bread or sandwiches often made with peanut butter, Supper was soups, stews and bread. If fruit was available some of the kitchens would also provide cobblers or pies. Soups were made with combinations of meat and vegetables (mostly vegetables).

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 19: The comfort of a hot meal was especially appreciated by the homeless. The shacks that were built in the shanty towns, called Hoovervilles, had limited cooking facilities and many could not afford food to cook. Other homeless people, especially in congested cities, created really primitive types of housing with no cooking facilities - the opposite photo shows a small site in Manhattan, New York.. For additional facts and information refer to Shantytowns and Hoovervilles.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 20: Al Capone's Soup Kitchen: The notorious gangster Al "Scarface" Capone, the wealthy, bootlegging crime boss of the Chicago Mafia sought to clean up his image by financing one of the first soup kitchens in Chicago. He earned a reputation as a 'Modern day Robin Hood' with the poor and destitute in Chicago who rightly said that Al Capone was doing more for the unemployed than the US government. As a benefactor Al Capone attracted newspaper headlines such as "120,000 meals are served by Capone Free Soup Kitchen".

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 21: Al Capone's Soup Kitchen: On Thanksgiving Day in 1930 he provided over 5000 meals in one day. His charitable donations extended to Christmas as he provided Christmas gifts for poor and needy children. His generosity and charitable works also extended to providing coal, clothes and blankets for the poor the during winter months.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 22: Al Capone's Soup Kitchen: Al Capone's Soup Kitchen was located in a store on 935 South State Street, at the corner of 9th and State Street in Chicago. It wasn't tucked out of the way, it was in prominent view to the people of Chicago, as were the lines of unemployed who waited at the storefront. Three meals were provided each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For additional facts and information refer to Facts about Al Capone

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 23: In the 1932 presidential election election Hoover was crushed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats. Relief systems to help the needy were at last introduced in President Roosevelt's 'New Deal' that instituted the 3 R's - relief, recovery and reform and the passage of the Social Security Act.

Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression Fact 24: Over 6 million pigs were slaughtered in September 1933 to stabilize prices during the Great Depression as a result of the actions initiated by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). Much of the meat went to waste causing a massive public outcry. In October 1933 the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation (FSRC) was quickly created to divert agricultural commodities to relief organizations. Arrangements were made for flour, pork, apples, beans, canned beef to be distributed through local relief channels to the Soup Kitchens, the poor and the needy.

Facts about Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression for kids
For visitors interested in the history of the Great Depression refer to the following articles:


LibertyVoter.Org

America’s most notorious gangster sponsored the charity that served up three hot meals a day to thousands of people in need—no questions asked.

Chicago shivered through a particularly bleak November in 1930. As the U.S. economy plummeted into the Great Depression, thousands of the Windy City’s jobless huddled three times a day in a long line snaking away from a newly opened soup kitchen. With cold hands stuffed into overcoat pockets as empty as their stomachs, the needy shuffled toward the big banner that declared “Free Soup Coffee & Doughnuts for the Unemployed.”

The kind-hearted philanthropist who had come to their aid was none other than “Public Enemy Number One,” Al Capone.

Capone certainly made for an unlikely humanitarian. Chicago’s most notorious gangster had built his multi-million-dollar bootlegging, prostitution and gambling operation upon a foundation of extortion, bribes and murders that culminated with the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in which he ordered the assassination of seven rivals.

How Prohibition Created the Mafia (TV-PG 3:50)

Many Chicagoans, however, had more pressing concerns than organized crime in the year following the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Long lines on American sidewalks had become all-too familiar sights as jittery investors made runs on banks and the unemployed waited for free meals.

In early November 1930, more than 75,000 jobless Chicagoans lined up to register their names. Nearly a third required immediate relief. “The Madison Street hobo type was conspicuously absent from these lines of men,” reported the Chicago Tribune, which noted that many of the unemployed were well-dressed.

A week later the Chicago Tribune reported the surprising news that the mysterious benefactor who had recently rented out a storefront and opened a soup kitchen at 935 South State Street was none other than the city’s king of booze, beer and vice. Capone’s soup kitchen served breakfast, lunch and dinner to an average of 2,200 Chicagoans every day.

“He couldn’t stand it to see those poor devils starving, and nobody else seemed to be doing much, so the big boy decided to do it himself,” a Capone associate told a Chicago newspaper. Inside the soup kitchen, smiling women in white aprons served up coffee and sweet rolls for breakfast, soup and bread for lunch and soup, coffee and bread for dinner. …read more


5. Al Capone moved to Chicago in 1919.

There are two stories about how Capone ended up in Chicago: According to one, it was because Capone had assaulted a member of a rival gang called the White Hand, which warned there would be retribution. This prompted Yale to send Capone and his family west to work for Torrio, who had moved to the Windy City to work for Chicago Outfit kingpin James "Big Jim" Colosimo in 1909.

According to the other, Capone moved because Torrio wanted his protégé to be his underboss. Capone arrived in Chicago in 1919 shortly after, Colosimo was killed with either Capone or Yale doing the whacking, and Torrio became the boss.


That's Gangster: Al Capone, Birdman, and the Surprising History of the American Turkey Drive

Thanksgiving is America’s great reminder to consider the plight of others. Communities traditionally come together in aid of shared values. And, rappers (yes, rappers!) become good samaritans, handing out turkeys to thousands of deserving families.

Believe it or not, the charitable convention of handing out Thanksgiving turkeys begins with the mafia.

“On Thanksgiving Day, [Al] Capone said he was personally donating 5,000 turkeys,” noted Carl Sikakis in The Mafia Encyclopedia. Other accounts suggest that, in 1930, 5,000 people were fed on Thanksgiving, not with a traditional meal but with a hearty beef stew instead. Regardless, Capone’s largesse can’t be ignored. The Chicago boss ran his charitable arm through a State Street soup kitchen called The Loop, claiming expenditures of $12,000 during the Great Depression. Puffing a giant cigar, he expressed his sympathy for the destitute. Reporters ate it up. And his community service predates Roosevelt’s Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, formed in October of 1933 with the aim of distributing to local relief organizations.

Here’s the rub: Capone, up on tax evasion charges, was taking the turkeys from mom-and-pop grocers.

Despite the shaky history of his good deeds, Capone’s legacy lived on in America’s underworld. Gangsters in the post-Prohibition era are also noted for their holiday spirit. In Boston, James “Whitey” Bulger is remembered by South End residents for handing out Turkeys. New York’s Nicky Barnes was considered “the King of Harlem,” using Thanksgiving as an opportunity to solidify his neighborhood standing. Frank Lucas and Raymond Marquez did the same. Each of them, so the narrative goes, influenced by Lucas’ mentor, Bumpy Johnson—a tradition that’s dramatized in Ridley Scott’s American Gangster (2007).

The charitable convention of handing out Thanksgiving turkeys begins with the mafia.

These are famous names, and famous acts of perceived kindness. Like Capone, gangsters of the late 20th century often beat government agencies to the punch. Food banks, now the locations of annual turkey drives, did not form until 1967 (and then did not take root until the 1980s). In their showy fashion, gangsters celebrated themselves, solidifying their status in underserved communities and, in so doing, taking a calculated risk that balanced criminality with kindness.

Rappers certainly aren’t gangsters. However, in cribbing monikers and slang from criminal classes, these musicians have successfully contributed to the folklore of American amorality. Public shows of altruism, as they were in Johnson’s Harlem, are common—never more so than in late November.

The 1990s witnessed hip-hop’s first foray into widespread charity (MC Hammer, for example, organized a massive food drive while on tour). 1991’s New Jack City, director Mario Van Peeble’s seminal crack flick, incorporated elements of gangster philanthropy, too: Nino Brown (played by Wesley Snipes) and his Cash Money Brothers supply their neighborhood with festive feasts, providing an opportunity for the police to spy on the operation. The Cash Money Brothers inspired the name of brothers Bryan and Slim Williams’ Cash Money Records, founded in 1991. The rap crew, like Nino Brown, has demonstrated a commitment to local charity.

Scenes from the 2010 “Birdman & YMCMB: Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner Giveaway” prove the publicity potential of community action. Yes, upwards of 10,000 turkeys are given to needy New Orleans families, but there are also t-shirts emblazoned with Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday art (and its 11/23 release date) to go along with the poultry. Birdman says, “It feels good to be home. And they feel even better for us to come home.” Birdman, channeling Nicky Barnes, becomes king of his own domain (Uptown New Orleans).

All across the country, rappers follow in the footsteps of gangsters, handing out turkeys in an act that is equal parts community service and media feeding frenzy. 50 Cent, Birdman, Ludacris, Young Jeezy, and many, many more have participated in drives. These guys want to give back, and do.

Yet, in eschewing any anonymity, this style of public largesse connects to the legacy of Bulger, Capone, and Lucas—narcissism, as much as magnanimity, fueling decisions. There’s too often a pomp and circumstance that transcends typical celebrity goodwill. Youtube turns small, localized moments into blog fodder, with those interviewed sounding a little like the guys who said Capone did more for the poor than the U.S. government.

Rappers are not alone in holiday charity, though. In Southern California, E.J. Jackson (chauffeur to the stars, a.k.a. “Mr. Turkey) has been providing for his South Los Angeles community for over three decades. Jackson’s clients—including Shaquille O’Neal, Jamie Foxx, and Chris Tucker—often pitch in. Some people believe his drive to be the longest-standing example in the nation, and the Foundation estimates that it has fed nearly 500,000 people over the years.

Of course, there’s nothing gangster about Jackson. He says he gives away meals because he saw the need to help senior citizens on fixed-incomes enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving. For every Jackson, there’s a rapper like Mista F.A.B., now on his seventh annual Turkey drive, proving that good old, street-driven community action hasn’t died.

The turkey-giveaway may have criminal antecedents, but the American inclination to give thanks supersedes that history. Yes, handing out turkeys helps solidify local legend. But, as the tradition advances, it has become hip-hop’s version of the Macy’s Day Parade. Full of flare, pageantry, and, appropriately, gratitude to their respective communities.


During the Great Depression, mob boss Al Capone ran a soup kitchen that offered free meals to Chicago’s poor and homeless


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Al Capone

ptusa: Pablo Escobar did the same kinda stuff. It’s not for charity, it’s simply for public relations.

friendlypelican: Some say soup kitchen others say recruiting centre

Kinglink: Public perception matters quite a bit to some gangsters. Al Capote was a notorious figure but definitely one who cared how the people on the street though of him.

AndrewLucks_Asshair: Poor people in The Depression look like super classy people.

BreadOfJustice: Really? Can I see some proof? That’s crazy if you’re serious

Thats_my_cornbread: For being poor and homeless those boys got some dank-ass threads.

Neon_Scrotum: He did do this, but it’s my understanding that there’s no evidence that his soup kitchen was in existence for any appreciable length of time perhaps only long enough for some good photo ops.


The famous mobster Al Capone sponsored a soup kitchen during the great depression. On average, his charity would feed about 2,200 Chicagoans 3 meals per day. No second helpings were denied. No questions were asked, and no one was asked to prove their need.

Chicago shivered through a particularly bleak November in 1930. As the U.S. economy plummeted into the Great Depression, thousands of the Windy City’s jobless huddled three times a day in a long line snaking away from a newly opened soup kitchen. With cold hands stuffed into overcoat pockets as empty as their stomachs, the needy shuffled toward the big banner that declared “Free Soup Coffee & Doughnuts for the Unemployed.”

The kind-hearted philanthropist who had come to their aid was none other than “Public Enemy Number One,” Al Capone.

Capone certainly made for an unlikely humanitarian. Chicago’s most notorious gangster had built his multi-million-dollar bootlegging, prostitution and gambling operation upon a foundation of extortio… Continue Reading (4 minute read)

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13 thoughts on “The famous mobster Al Capone sponsored a soup kitchen during the great depression. On average, his charity would feed about 2,200 Chicagoans 3 meals per day. No second helpings were denied. No questions were asked, and no one was asked to prove their need.”

Many criminals and gangs took care of their local communities. This was an easy way to keep your surroundings safe and gain some fans. Guaranteed if the police started asking questions, they were met with complete silence.

>Although he was one of the richest men in America, Capone may not have paid a dime for the soup kitchen, relying instead on his criminal tendencies to stockpile his charitable endeavor by extorting and bribing businesses to donate goods. During the 1932 trial of Capone ally Daniel Serritella, it emerged that ducks donated by a chain store for Serritella’s holiday drive ended up instead being served in Capone’s soup kitchen.

The drug cartel in Mexico does the same thing. They pump a ton of money into communities so no one will snitch on them. Pablo Escobar had shrines built towards him while he was in power.

I knew about this because a mobster run soup kitchen was the premise for one of Telltales Back to the Future episodes.

A corrupt, corrupting, sadistic, murderous criminal.. but with an eye for good publicity!

It’s called a hearts and minds campaign. You get the local folk on your side. They see you as protecting them. The you can do all your crimes unhindered and they even cover for you.

Seriously though, it also kinda makes sense to keep people in poverty above a certain level of health, so that he can continue making money off them?

He sold them the booze they wanted, then used some of the money to feed them. Seriously, the only thing this guy did wrong was using a blood thirsty, corrupt organization and racketeering to do it. And cheat on his taxes.

“Mr Jameson, we’re with the Chicago police department. Your neighbor and his entire family were murdered this morning and we believe it’s because he wasn’t willing to pay for his bakery to be protected. Did you happen to see anything suspicious or do you believe he was at odds with local organized crime elements?”

Classic gangster activity. Get the locals to make you a hero and you don’t have to worry about snitches. South and Central American drug lords do it all the time. They build schools, churches, etc. It’s great P/R.

**DO NOT** be fooled by this story. It often comes up and there’s one fact that is usually omitted:

“Capone’s efforts to feed Chicago during the darkest days of the Great Depression weren’t entirely altruistic. It wasn’t even originally his idea, but that of his friend and political ally Daniel Serritella, who was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1930. Nor did Capone invest much of his own money into the operation. Instead, Deirdre Bair writes in “Capone: His Life, Legacy and Legend,” he bribed and extorted other businesses to stock the pantry. In just one example, during Seritella’s 1932 trial for conspiring with grocers to cheat customers, the court discovered that a load of ducks that had been donated to Christmas baskets for the poor ended up in Capone’s soup kitchen instead.”

He didn’t pay for it himself.

Community outreach like this is common for criminals with a big public profile. For a while, Pablo Escobar basically WAS the government for a large portion of Colombia. Took care of schools, roads, etc.. If you minded your business, and paid your dues, everything was basically the same as it was in govt controlled areas. If you didnt, thats another story.


Contents

Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 17, 1899. [3] His parents were Italian immigrants Gabriele Capone (1865–1920) and Teresa Capone (née Raiola 1867–1952). [4] His father was a barber and his mother was a seamstress, both born in Angri, a small commune outside of Naples in the Province of Salerno. [5] [6] Capone's family had immigrated to the United States in 1893 by ship, first going through Fiume (modern-day Rijeka, Croatia), a port city in what was then Austria-Hungary. [3] [7] The family settled at 95 Navy Street, in the Navy Yard section of Brooklyn, New York City. Gabriele Capone worked at a nearby barber shop at 29 Park Avenue. When Al was 11, he and his family moved to 38 Garfield Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn. [3]

Gabriele and Teresa had eight other children: Vincenzo Capone, who later changed his name to Richard Hart and became a Prohibition agent in Homer, Nebraska Raffaele James Capone, also known as Ralph "Bottles" Capone, who took charge of his brother's beverage industry Salvatore "Frank" Capone, Ermina Capone, who died at the age of one, Ermino "John" Capone, Albert Capone, Matthew Capone, and Mafalda Capone. Ralph and Frank worked with Al Capone in his criminal empire. Frank did so until his death on April 1, 1924. [8] Ralph ran the bottling companies (both legal and illegal) early on and was also the front man for the Chicago Outfit for some time, until he was imprisoned for tax evasion in 1932. [9]

Capone showed promise as a student but had trouble with the rules at his strict parochial Catholic school. His schooling ended at the age of 14 after he was expelled for hitting a female teacher in the face. [10] He worked at odd jobs around Brooklyn, including a candy store and a bowling alley. [11] From 1916 to 1918, he played semi-professional baseball. [12] Following this, Capone was influenced by gangster Johnny Torrio, whom he came to regard as a mentor. [13]

Capone married Mae Josephine Coughlin at age 19, on December 30, 1918. She was Irish Catholic and earlier that month had given birth to their son Albert Francis "Sonny" Capone (1918–2004). Albert lost most of his hearing in his left ear as a child. Capone was under the age of 21, and his parents had to consent in writing to the marriage. [14] By all accounts, the two had a happy marriage despite his criminal lifestyle. [15]

New York City

Capone initially became involved with small-time gangs that included the Junior Forty Thieves and the Bowery Boys. He then joined the Brooklyn Rippers, and then the powerful Five Points Gang based in Lower Manhattan. During this time, he was employed and mentored by fellow racketeer Frankie Yale, a bartender in a Coney Island dance hall and saloon called the Harvard Inn. Capone inadvertently insulted a woman while working the door, and he was slashed with a knife three times on the left side of his face by her brother Frank Galluccio the wounds led to the nickname "Scarface" which Capone loathed. [16] [17] [18] The date when this occurred has been reported with inconsistencies. [19] [20] [21] When Capone was photographed, he hid the scarred left side of his face, saying that the injuries were war wounds. [17] [22] He was called "Snorky" by his closest friends, a term for a sharp dresser. [23]

Move to Chicago

In 1919, Capone left New York City for Chicago at the invitation of Johnny Torrio, who was imported by crime boss James "Big Jim" Colosimo as an enforcer. Capone began in Chicago as a bouncer in a brothel, where he contracted syphilis. Timely use of Salvarsan probably could have cured the infection, but he apparently never sought treatment. [24] In 1923, he purchased a small house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue in the Park Manor neighborhood in the city's south side for US$5,500 . [25] According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, hijacker Joe Howard was killed on May 7, 1923 after he tried to interfere with the Capone-Torrio bootleg beer business. [26] In the early years of the decade, his name began appearing in newspaper sports pages where he was described as a boxing promoter. [27] Torrio took over Colosimo's crime empire after the latter's murder on May 11, 1920, in which Capone was suspected of being involved. [10] [28] [29]

Torrio headed an essentially Italian organized crime group that was the biggest in the city, with Capone as his right-hand man. He was wary of being drawn into gang wars and tried to negotiate agreements over territory between rival crime groups. The smaller North Side Gang led by Dean O'Banion came under pressure from the Genna brothers who were allied with Torrio. O'Banion found that Torrio was unhelpful with the encroachment of the Gennas into the North Side, despite his pretensions to be a settler of disputes. [30] In a fateful step, Torrio arranged the murder of O'Banion at his flower shop on November 10, 1924. This placed Hymie Weiss at the head of the gang, backed by Vincent Drucci and Bugs Moran. Weiss had been a close friend of O'Banion, and the North Siders made it a priority to get revenge on his killers. [31] [32] [33]

Al Capone was a frequent visitor to RyeMabee in Monteagle, Tennessee, "when he was traveling between Chicago and his Florida estate in Miami." [34]

During Prohibition in the United States, Capone was involved with bootleggers in Canada, who helped him smuggle liquor into the US. When Capone was asked if he knew Rocco Perri, billed as Canada's "King of the Bootleggers", he replied: "Why, I don't even know which street Canada is on." [35] Other sources, however, claim that Capone had certainly visited Canada, [36] where he maintained some hideaways, [37] but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police states that there is no "evidence that he ever set foot on Canadian soil." [38]

In January 1925, Capone was ambushed, leaving him shaken but unhurt. Twelve days later, Torrio was returning from a shopping trip when he was shot several times. After recovering, he effectively resigned and handed control to Capone, age 26, who became the new boss of an organization that took in illegal breweries and a transportation network that reached to Canada, with political and law-enforcement protection. In turn, he was able to use more violence to increase revenue. An establishment that refused to purchase liquor from him often got blown up, and as many as 100 people were killed in such bombings during the 1920s. Rivals saw Capone as responsible for the proliferation of brothels in the city. [33] [39] [40] [41]

Capone often enlisted the help of local members of the black community into his operations jazz musicians Milt Hinton and Lionel Hampton had uncles who worked for Capone on the South Side of Chicago. A fan of jazz as well, Capone once requested clarinetist Johnny Dodds to play a number that Dodds did not know Capone split a $100 bill in half and told Dodds that he would get the other half when it was learned. Capone had also sent two bodyguards to accompany jazz pianist Earl Hines on a road trip. [42]

Capone indulged in custom suits, cigars, gourmet food and drink, and female companionship. He was particularly known for his flamboyant and costly jewelry. His favorite responses to questions about his activities were: "I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want" and, "All I do is satisfy a public demand." Capone had become a national celebrity and talking point. [16]

He based himself in Cicero, Illinois, after using bribery and widespread intimidation to take over town council elections (such as the 1924 Cicero municipal elections), and this made it difficult for the North Siders to target him. [43] His driver was found tortured and murdered, and there was an attempt on Weiss's life in the Chicago Loop. On September 20, 1926, the North Side Gang used a ploy outside the Capone headquarters at the Hawthorne Inn, aimed at drawing him to the windows. Gunmen in several cars then opened fire with Thompson submachine guns and shotguns at the windows of the first-floor restaurant. Capone was unhurt and called for a truce, but the negotiations fell through. Three weeks later, on October 11, Weiss was killed outside the former O'Banion flower shop North Side headquarters. The owner of Hawthorne's restaurant was a friend of Capone's, and he was kidnapped and killed by Moran and Drucci in January 1927. [44] [45] Reports of Capone's intimidation became well known to the point where it was alleged that some companies, such as the makers of Vine-Glo, would use supposed Capone threats as a marketing tactic. [46] [47]

Capone became increasingly security-minded and desirous of getting away from Chicago. [45] [48] As a precaution, he and his entourage would often show up suddenly at one of Chicago's train depots and buy up an entire Pullman sleeper car on a night train to Cleveland, Omaha, Kansas City, Little Rock, or Hot Springs, where they would spend a week in luxury hotel suites under assumed names. In 1928, Capone paid $40,000 to beer magnate August Anheuser Busch Sr. for a 14-room retreat at 93 Palm Avenue on Palm Island, Florida, in Biscayne Bay between Miami and Miami Beach. [49] He never registered any property under his name. He did not even have a bank account, but he always used Western Union for cash delivery, although not more than $1,000. [50]

Feud with Aiello

In November 1925, Antonio Lombardo was named head of the Unione Siciliana, a Sicilian-American benevolent society that had been corrupted by gangsters. An infuriated Joe Aiello, who had wanted the position himself, believed Capone was responsible for Lombardo's ascension and he resented the non-Sicilian's attempts to manipulate affairs within the Unione. [51] Aiello severed all personal and business ties with Lombardo and entered into a feud with him and Capone. [51] [52] Aiello allied himself with several other Capone enemies, including Jack Zuta, who ran vice and gambling houses together. [53] [54] Aiello plotted to eliminate both Lombardo and Capone, and starting in the spring of 1927, made several attempts to assassinate Capone. [52] On one occasion, Aiello offered money to the chef of Joseph "Diamond Joe" Esposito's Bella Napoli Café, Capone's favorite restaurant, to put prussic acid in Capone's and Lombardo's soup reports indicated he offered between $10,000 and $35,000. [51] [55] Instead, the chef exposed the plot to Capone, [52] [56] who responded by dispatching men to destroy one of Aiello's stores on West Division Street with machine-gun fire. [52] More than 200 bullets were fired into the Aiello Brothers Bakery on May 28, 1927, wounding Joe's brother Antonio. [51] During the summer and autumn of 1927 a number of hitmen Aiello hired to kill Capone were themselves slain. Among them were Anthony Russo and Vincent Spicuzza, each of whom had been offered $25,000 by Aiello to kill Capone and Lombardo. [52] Aiello eventually offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who eliminated Capone. [55] [52] At least 10 gunmen tried to collect on Aiello's bounty, but ended up dead. [51] Capone's ally Ralph Sheldon attempted to kill both Capone and Lombardo for Aiello's reward, but Capone henchman Frank Nitti's intelligence network learned of the transaction and had Sheldon shot in front of a West Side hotel, although he did not die. [53]

In November 1927 Aiello organized machine-gun ambushes across from Lombardo's home and a cigar store frequented by Capone, but those plans were foiled after an anonymous tip led police to raid several addresses and arrest Milwaukee gunman Angelo La Mantio and four other Aiello gunmen. After the police discovered receipts for the apartments in La Mantio's pockets, he confessed that Aiello had hired him to kill Capone and Lombardo, leading the police to arrest Aiello himself and bring him to the South Clark Street police station. [53] [57] Upon learning of the arrest, Capone dispatched nearly two dozen gunmen to stand guard outside the station and await Aiello's release. [53] [58] The men made no attempt to conceal their purpose there, and reporters and photographers rushed to the scene to observe Aiello's expected murder. [56]

Political alliances

The protagonists of Chicago's politics had long been associated with questionable methods, and even newspaper circulation "wars", but the need for bootleggers to have protection in city hall introduced a far more serious level of violence and graft. Capone is generally seen as having an appreciable effect in bringing about the victories of Republican William Hale Thompson, especially in the 1927 mayoral race when Thompson campaigned for a wide-open town, at one time hinting that he'd reopen illegal saloons. [59] Such a proclamation helped his campaign gain the support of Capone, and he allegedly accepted a contribution of $250,000 from the gangster. In the 1927 mayoral race, Thompson beat William Emmett Dever by a relatively slim margin. [60] [61] Thompson's powerful Cook County political machine had drawn on the often-parochial Italian community, but this was in tension with his highly successful courting of African Americans. [62] [63] [64]

Another politician, Joe Esposito, became a political rival of Capone, and on March 21, 1928, Esposito was killed in a drive-by shooting in front of his house. [26] Capone continued to back Thompson. Voting booths were targeted by Capone's bomber James Belcastro in the wards where Thompson's opponents were thought to have support, on the polling day of April 10, 1928, in the so-called Pineapple Primary, causing the deaths of at least 15 people. Belcastro was accused of the murder of lawyer Octavius Granady, an African American who challenged Thompson's candidate for the African American vote, and was chased through the streets on polling day by cars of gunmen before being shot dead. Four policemen were among those charged along with Belcastro, but all charges were dropped after key witnesses recanted their statements. An indication of the attitude of local law enforcement to Capone's organization came in 1931 when Belcastro was wounded in a shooting police suggested to skeptical journalists that Belcastro was an independent operator. [65] [66] [67] [68] [69]

A 1929 report by The New York Times connected Capone to the 1926 murder of Assistant State Attorney William H. McSwiggin, the 1928 murders of chief investigator Ben Newmark and former mentor Frankie Yale. [70]

Saint Valentine's Day Massacre

Capone was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, despite being at his Florida home at the time of the massacre. [71] The massacre was an attempt to eliminate Bugs Moran, head of the North Side Gang, and the motivation for the plan may have been the fact that some expensive whisky illegally imported from Canada via the Detroit River had been hijacked while it was being transported to Cook County, Illinois. [72]

Moran was the last survivor of the North Side gunmen his succession had come about because his similarly aggressive predecessors, Weiss and Vincent Drucci, had been killed in the violence that followed the murder of original leader, Dean O'Banion. [73] [74]

To monitor their targets' habits and movements, Capone's men rented an apartment across from the trucking warehouse and garage at 2122 North Clark Street, which served as Moran's headquarters. On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, [75] [76] Capone's lookouts signaled four gunmen disguised as police officers to initiate a "police raid". The faux police lined the seven victims along a wall and signaled for accomplices armed with machine guns and shotguns. Moran was not among the victims. Photos of the slain victims shocked the public and damaged Capone's image. Within days, Capone received a summons to testify before a Chicago grand jury on charges of federal Prohibition violations, but he claimed to be too unwell to attend. [77] In an effort to clean up his image, Capone donated to charities and sponsored a soup kitchen in Chicago during the Depression. [78] [2]

The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre led to public disquiet about Thompson's alliance with Capone and was a factor in Anton J. Cermak winning the mayoral election on April 6, 1931. [79]

Feud with Aiello ends

Capone was primarily known for ordering other men to do his dirty work for him. In May 1929, one of Capone's bodyguards, Frank Rio, uncovered a plot by three of his men, Albert Anselmi, John Scalise and Joseph Giunta persuaded by Aiello, to depose Capone and take over the Chicago Outfit. [80] Capone later beat the men with a baseball bat and then ordered his bodyguards to shoot them, a scene that was included in the 1987 film The Untouchables. [81] Deirdre Bair, along with writers and historians such as William Elliot Hazelgrove, have questioned the veracity of the claim. [81] [82] Bair questioned why "three trained killers could sit quietly and let this happen", while Hazelgrove stated that Capone would have been "hard pressed to beat three men to death with a baseball bat" and that he would have instead let an enforcer perform the murders. [81] [82] However, despite claims that the story was first reported by author Walter Noble Burns in his 1931 book The One-way Ride: The red trail of Chicago gangland from prohibition to Jake Lingle, [81] Capone biographers Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz have found versions of the story in press coverage shortly after the crime. Collins and Schwartz suggest that similarities among reported versions of the story indicate a basis in truth and that the Outfit deliberately spread the tale to enhance Capone's fearsome reputation. [83] : xvi, 209–213, 565 George Meyer, an associate of Capone's, also claimed to have witnessed both the planning of the murders and the event itself. [3]

In 1930, upon learning of Aiello's continued plotting against him, Capone resolved to finally eliminate him. [55] In the weeks before Aiello's death Capone's men tracked him to Rochester, New York, where he had connections through Buffalo crime family boss Stefano Magaddino, and plotted to kill him there, but Aiello returned to Chicago before the plot could be executed. [84] Aiello, angst-ridden from the constant need to hide out and the killings of several of his men, [85] set up residence in the Chicago apartment of Unione Siciliana treasurer Pasquale "Patsy Presto" Prestogiacomo at 205 N. Kolmar Ave. [55] [86] On October 23, upon exiting Prestogiacomo's building to enter a taxicab, a gunman in a second-floor window across the street started firing at Aiello with a submachine gun. [55] [86] Aiello was said to have been shot at least 13 times before he toppled off the building steps and moved around the corner, [87] attempting to move out of the line of fire. Instead, he moved directly into the range of a second submachine gun positioned on the third floor of another apartment block, and was subsequently gunned down. [55] [86]

Federal intervention

In the wake of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, Walter A. Strong, publisher of the Chicago Daily News, decided to ask his friend President Herbert Hoover for federal intervention to stem Chicago's lawlessness. He arranged a secret meeting at the White House, just two weeks after Hoover's inauguration. On March 19, 1929, Strong, joined by Frank Loesch of the Chicago Crime Commission, and Laird Bell, made their case to the President. [88] In Hoover's 1952 Memoir, the former President reported that Strong argued "Chicago was in the hands of the gangsters, that the police and magistrates were completely under their control, …that the Federal government was the only force by which the city’s ability to govern itself could be restored. At once I directed that all the Federal agencies concentrate upon Mr. Capone and his allies." [89]

That meeting launched a multi-agency attack on Capone. Treasury and Justice Departments developed plans for income tax prosecutions against Chicago gangsters, and a small, elite squad of Prohibition Bureau agents (whose members included Eliot Ness) were deployed against bootleggers. In a city used to corruption, these lawmen were incorruptible. Charles Schwarz, a writer for the Chicago Daily News, dubbed them Untouchables. To support Federal efforts, Strong secretly used his newspaper's resources to gather and share intelligence on the Capone outfit. [90]


Youth

Capone was born in New York to a family of Italian American immigrants. His family, having initially migrated to the Croatian port city of Fiume (now Rijeka) in 1893, boarded a vessel in the same year headed for the United States. He came from humble beginnings his father was a barber and his mother was a seamstress.

A photo of young Al Capone with his mother, (c. 1904-1910). (Image Credit: Public Domain).

At the same time that he became involved with petty criminal outfits, Capone worked as a sweet store clerk, a bowling alley pin boy, an ammunition plant labourer, and a book bindery cutter. Once his schooling career ended at age 14 after he hit his female teacher in the face, Capone began to associate with more serious, criminal organisations and leaders, such as the notorious gangster Johnny Torrio.

While working as a bouncer at a dancehall and saloon in Coney Island owned by a fellow racketeer, Frankie Yale, Capone was slashed with a knife across his face by the brother of a woman that he had insulted. The incident left two scars across the left side of his face, and the wounds led to his nickname “Scarface”, which he famously hated.

Al Capone’s scars on the left side of his face. He attempted to conceal them publically whenever he could. (Image Credit: Public Domain).

Capone’s quick rise to power commenced upon his arrival in Chicago in 1919, at the invitation of his mentor, Johnny Torrio. Torrio had worked for the syndicate crime boss “Big Jim” Colosimo who operated hundreds of brothels and gambling rackets in the Windy City. Capone was employed as a bouncer in various brothels where he contracted syphilis – an infection that would later kill him.

Mugshots of Johnny Torrio, Capone’s mentor. (Image Credit: Public Domain).

Despite being a hugely successful Mafia boss, Colosimo had refused to enter into the business of bootlegging, which, with the enactment of Prohibition in 1920, was viewed as a huge growth opportunity for organized crime groups. Torrio had pushed tirelessly for the gang to expand into this enterprise but “Big Jim” had stood firm.

It is believed by many that Capone was heavily involved in subsequent murder of Colosimo, who was shot multiple times whilst waiting for a “shipment” Torrio had claimed was waiting for him at his restaurant. It is very likely that Torrio had ordered the hit, quickly filling his former boss’ shoes and quickly capitalizing on the illegal alcohol industry. Capone became his right-hand man.

Law enforcement officials tried to crack down on the illegal trafficking of alcohol during Prohibition. However, the scale of bootlegging operations made their job virtually impossible. (Image Credit: Public Domain).

Capone spent five years in this position, becoming heavily involved in the smuggling of alcohol across the border from Canada, although he always denied any involvement.

“Why, I don’t even know what street Canada is on.” – Al Capone


When Al Capone Ran a Soup Kitchen During the Great Depression

For a couple of years during the Great Depression, people in Chicago could find a free meal at a soup kitchen run by notorious gang boss Al Capone. By then, Capone had racked up millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains, so the cost of his charity was a relative trifle, but it made all the difference in the lives of Chicago residents who had no money for food. And the goodwill generated among everyday people made it harder for the police to investigate his crimes.

Capone’s charity had no name, just a sign over the door that advertised “Free Soup, Coffee & Doughnuts for the Unemployed.” Inside, women in white aprons served an average of 2200 people a day with a smile and no questions asked. Breakfast was hot coffee and sweet rolls. Both lunch and dinner consisted of soup and bread. Every 24 hours, diners devoured 350 loaves of bread and 100 dozen rolls. They washed down their meals with 30 pounds of coffee sweetened with 50 pounds of sugar. The whole operation cost $300 per day.

The soup kitchen didn’t advertise its connection to Capone, but the mobster-benefactor’s name was connected to it in stories printed in local newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and The Rock Island Argus. Those who were down on their luck, though, apparently had few qualms about eating from the hand of Chicago’s worst crime boss. Often the line to get in to the kitchen was so long that it wound past the door of the city’s police headquarters, where Capone was considered Public Enemy #1, according to Harper’s Magazine. The line was particularly lengthy when Capone’s soup kitchen hosted a Thanksgiving meal of cranberry sauce and beef stew for 5000 hungry Chicagoans. (Why beef and not turkey? After 1000 turkeys were stolen from a nearby department store, Capone feared he’d be blamed for the theft and made a last-minute menu change.)


Watch the video: Mobster - Frankie Yale (January 2022).

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