Skip to main content

“i Have Always Been Opposed To Violence”

June 2024
2min read

Torrio turned over his holdings to his right-hand man. Capone had been born in Brooklyn in 1899. Standing five foot ten and weighing well in excess of two hundred pounds, Al started life as a bartender. One observer reported that he “emanated menace while saying please.” He received his famous scars not in the world war, as he often claimed, but by insulting the sister of a Brooklyn thug.

Capone shared with many of the era’s gang leaders an incendiary temper and a willingness to take a man’s life. But he was always more than the “millionaire gorilla” that he complained people viewed him as. “I have always been opposed to violence,” he said. “I want peace, and I will live and let live.” He meant it.

Capone tried to make peace with Weiss, but after two years of Weiss’s sporadic rebellion, Al ordered his murder. Gunmen waited six days in a second-story window at 740 North State overlooking Schofield’s; Weiss had continued to use an office there. On the afternoon of October 11,1926, the assassins opened up with machine guns, cutting the twentyeight-year-old Weiss down directly in front of the store. During the shooting a stream of bullets crashed into the cornerstone of Holy Name, all but obliterating its pious inscription.

“Hymie Weiss is dead because he was a bull-head,” Capone announced.

In a later renovation the steps of Holy Name were extended across the front, covering the cornerstone except for the date, 1874. A close inspection can to this day pick out the marks of stray bullets in the rough limestone.

Not long after arriving in Chicago, Al Capone bought a house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue. He lived there with his wife, Mae, an attractive blonde from a devout Irish family, and their only son, Albert Francis, called Sonny. Al’s father having died in Brooklyn, Al brought his mother and two younger sisters to live with him. His brother Ralph occupied the upstairs rooms. The house was elegantly appointed, with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and gilded cornices. The neighborhood was and continues to be solidly middle-class.

LeVell and I park in front of the fifteen-room brick building. Al installed the bars that still cover the groundfloor windows. He built a garage out back roomy enough to accommodate his seven-ton armored Cadillac limousine. The car’s fold-down rear window was a gunport.

Here in the side yard his mother grew vegetables. These are the steps that were covered in rose petals for the funeral of his brother Frank. At this front door reporters were once greeted by the criminal monarch of Chicago wearing a pink apron and cooking spaghetti sauce.

LeVell re-creates the scene when Capone’s entourage would pull up to this curb and a mass of torpedoes would fan out through the neighborhood before Al strolled inside. He pictures Capone playing Santa every Christmas at his young sister Mafalda’s school, dark-jowled elves with bulging armpits handing out the gifts. The school was attached to St. Columbanus Catholic Church, around the corner on Seventy-first Street, where the Capone family worshiped.

The modesty of the home always surprises. Perhaps Capone was emulating the conservative Torrio, who lived in an apartment farther east at 7011 South Clyde. In any case, Al was no homebody; he spent more time in hotels than in his living room.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.