Al Capone's personal items worth thousands of dollars were up for grabs in a public sale hosted by his granddaughters.
The world-renowned mob boss, the ruler of Chicago's streets throughout the prohibition era, Al Capone's name still attracts attention even after 75 years of his death. At least 174 of his personal items headed to auction entitled ‘A century of Notoriety: the Estate of Al Capone’ on Friday in California.
According to auctioneers, yesterday's auction would go down as one of the most important celebrity auctions in history.
Capone's three granddaughters were assisted by Witherell's auction house to put his belongings which consisted of weapons, jewellery and letters.
''I'm a kind person, I'm kind to everyone, but if you are unkind to me, then kindness is not what you'll remember me for''.
This famous quote of Capone, who was later nicknamed Scarface, describes precisely what his grandchildren desire to reflect with his items and the auction — a gangster who was not just a notorious mob boss but also a man who had immense love for his family.
Born on January 17, 1899, in New York, Alphonse Capone was the fourth of nine children. His parents Gabriele and Teresa Capone were Italian immigrants.
Capone was familiar with street gangs since childhood. In fact, he was already a member of one as a child. Later on, he dropped out of school in sixth grade and never returned back. In 1918, when Capone was 19, he married Mae Coughlin and had one child called Albert Francis (nicknamed Sonny).
The picture above shows a hand-painted photo of Al Capone at age 27 with his son. It was expected to go for over $10-15,000 at the auction.
Later on, he met his mob mentor, Johnny Torrio, who was running a gambling operation near Capone's home while Capone began to work on small errands for him.
As they were becoming close, Torrio introduced Capone to the gangster Frankie Yale, who later hired Capone as a bartender at his bar in Coney Island.
This is the place where Capone got his nickname “Scarface.”
One night, Capone made an improper comment to a woman at the bar and her brother punched in his face. Then, he slashed Capone over the face, leaving three lasting scars that made him known forever with his nickname and inspired Hollywood movies. The most notable one would be the movie called Scarface starring Al Pacino as Tony Montana, a character inspired by Capone.
Presumably, the woman’s brother scratched Capone's face with a less fancy knife than you see above. The platinum and diamond initialled pocket knife with two letters that symbolizes his name, belonged to Al Capone and was projected to reach a buyer for more than $10,000 in the auction.
By 1920, Capone had moved to Chicago with his family to continue work for Torrio. Back then, Torrio was a member of a criminal network managed by a man called Big Jim Colosimo. But when Colosimo was killed, Capone got closer to becoming a legendary mafia boss as Torrio took over the boss role and made Capone one of his important aides.
However, after a dangerous effort to end his life in 1925 by rival mobsters, Torrio decided to return to his home country, Italy and chose Capone as his successor.
Capone was very successful in expanding his underground organization which he called ''The Outfit'' and became one of the leading gangsters in the country. According to some assessments, his crime cartel earned around $100 million a year, the highest portion from bootlegging, gambling, racketeering and other illicit activities. He became an American gangster who wore flashy dresses and liked talking with journalists, earning himself a reputation that made him famous in the US and worldwide.
The 14k yellow gold money clip, platinum and diamond jewels , a Patek Philippe pocket watch with 90 single-cut diamonds and the precious Chinese dinner set display that Capone was not apologizing for the way he was living. While it is difficult to estimate the price of all the accessories, the pocket watch's bidding started at $12,500 alone.
During this time, this weapon on the other hand, was Capone's most favourite handgun. The Colt. 45 semi-automatic pistol's starting bid was over $50,000 but estimated to be sold for $100,000-$150,000.
By 1929, Capone monopolized the illegal liquor trade in Chicago. But other racketeers strived for a portion of the lucrative bootlegging business and one of them was Capone’s long-time rival “Bugs” Moran. ''Bugs'' Moran was after Capone and his main man Jack McGurn for a kill. Hence, Capone and McGurn decided to get rid of Moran.
On February 14, 1929, McGurn’s gunmen slaughtered seven of Moran’s men in a North Side garage. The incident was later called the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and led Capone to become “Public Enemy Number One.” in the eyes of the public and media.
Perhaps some weapons that you see above were used in that attack. The large collection displays the guns that belonged to Capone and his son Sonny. Although the bids of all weapons are not specified, Capone's Colt Model 1908 hammerless semi-automatic 380 pistol's starting bid stated as $15,000 and estimated to be sold for $30,000-$60,000
In 1927, The Supreme Court had decided that Capone’s income earnings on illegal activities were taxable, which gave the government a powerful hand for prosecuting the infamous gangster. On June 5, 1931, the U.S. government accused Capone for 22 amounts of income-tax evasion.
Capone was found guilty and sent to Alcatraz prison for over 11 years. He was among the earliest federal prisoners at Alcatraz that housed some of America’s most severe and dangerous criminals.
During his conviction years, he sent several letters to his only child Albert. The letters were also went up for auction with a starting bid as 12,500 . In one letter Al Capone refers to Sonny as “son of my heart.'' According to Diana Capone, the granddaughter of the mobster, the letters are a sign of his love for his family.
Soon, Capone started to suffer from poor health and later understood that he was suffering from neurosyphilis, causing dementia.
After six-and-a-half years in prison, Capone was released in 1939 to a mental hospital, where he settled for three years. His health swiftly spoiling, Capone continued his last days in Miami with his wife and died due to cardiac arrest on January 25, 1947.
This is the last photo taken of Capone with his loved ones just over a month before his death. The photo was also up for auction as it represents the last memory of the legendary mafia boss.