Al Capone: A Contemporary Robbin Hood

By Samuel Phineas Upham

One of the most complicated men to come out of the organized crime era in the 1930s and 40s was Al Capone. He was born in Brooklyn to Italian immigrant parents, and he made his money early using his muscle to be a bouncer for clubs. He became the bodyguard of Johnny Torrio in his twenties, which helped to propel his criminal career.

The conflict between a North Side Gang was dramatized in the show Boardwalk Empire. Torrio was almost killed in an exchange with the North Side Gang, which prompted him to retire. Capone, who had worked his way up to earn Torrio’s respect, became the new ring leader.

Capone immediately moved on the North Side Gang and took violent control over the city. The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre would help encourage the people of New York City and Chicago to demand action against gangsters like Capone. Although the odd thing about Capone was that he was usually well-received. He would make public appearances at baseball games and people would cheer for him. Some even went so far as to call him “Robbin Hood”.

After the massacre, the Federal authorities became fixated on jailing Capone. They finally managed to catch him evading his taxes in 1931, but jailing him shows no discernible impact on organized crime of the day. He served his time, but developed paresis from his contraction (and lack of treatment) of syphilis. During the last years of his life, he had the mental faculties of a twelve year old. He died of cardiac arrest on January 25th, 1947.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Twitter.