Capone's lost lair: The Lexington Hotel, Chicago

Historian article

By Ronan Thomas, published 1st February 2013

Alphonse Gabriel Capone's bequest to history is a well-known catalogue of brutal racketeering, bootlegging, gangland murders (most infamously the St Valentine's Day Massacre of 14 February 1929) and the corruption of both American public morals and her elected officials, including the US Judiciary, Chicago mayoralty and city police force.

Born in New York in 1899 to an Italian immigrant family, Al Capone began his criminal career in Brooklyn as a nightclub bouncer, acquiring his trademark left cheek scar in 1917 and a reputation for ruthlessness and extreme violence, before moving to Chicago in 1919. The failed experiment of Prohibition (1920-1933) gave Capone his chance to graduate from simple street thuggery to major organised crime. Eliminating rivals, he built a criminal empire - ‘The Outfit' - staffed by thousands of employees and worth over US$120 million by 1929 ($1.5 Bn today). Its tentacles extended from New York to Miami with Chicago as its vicious centre...

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