Al Capone strikes fear in the hearts of citizens as his reign of terror continues in the Chicago area. This Brooklyn, New York native began his life of crime at a young age, earning him the nickname Scarface (Messick & Goldblatt, 1972). As an original member of The Five Points Gang, his connections with crime boss, Jim Colosimo offered him to opportunity to learn the trade under Colosimo’s tutelage (Whitehead, 1956). Upon Colosimo’s death, Capone was groomed to take the position.
The prohibition allowed for many opportunities for Capone to continue to profit off of illegal alcohol sales and as hired “muscle” for those who endeavored to test the limits of the law. Capone quickly became the undisputed “king” of Chicago’s crime ring. Competitors feared for their life as Capone’s vigilante justice and intimidation became even more extreme.
Perhaps the most violent of Capone’s crimes culminated in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. A total of seven “Bugs” Moran mob associated were gunned down by mob rivals posing as policemen. The unarmed men were lined up and shot in a flurry of machine gun fire. There was only one survivor of the attack, yet he refused to give a statement to the police. Capone denied any involvement, stating that he was in Florida at the time of the attack. The FBI however was unsure of Capone’s statement and ordered him to appear under a court subpoena to testify before the federal grand jury based on the fact that Capone and Moran were known rivals in the liquor trade and had tried to assonate one another on several different occasions (Messick & Goldblatt, 1972). Connections were also strong between Capone and Jack McGurn who was thought to be the perpetrator of the crime (Messick & Goldblatt, 1972). McGurn was a known hit man for Capone’s racketeering interests. Moran, who narrowly missed the execution style murders by mere minutes, also pointed the finger to Capone stating, "Only Capone kills like that." (Messick & Goldblatt, 1972).
The media immediately took interest in the case and tried Capone in the court of public opinion, dubbing him “Public Enemy #1” even though there was no evidence of his direct involvement and the case had yet to come to trial. Capone countered “If I was as bad as I’m reported to be afraid of myself.” (Whitehead, 1956). While the loss of Moran’s thugs may have of minimal concern for the citizens of Chicago, the shear violence and brazenness of the murders chilled Chicago to the core. It would seem that the good citizens of Chicago had had enough of mob life and pressured officials to maintain the investigation despite a lack of evidence or witnesses. Capone provided the ultimate slap in the face of the jury by not replying to the subpoena and refusing to appear before the jury. Even though Capone cited illness as his reason for not appearing, Capone’s refusal to do so brought forward suspicion (Whitehead, 1956).
Capone did however comply with the March 20, 1929 request to appear before the grand jury once again (Whitehead, 1956). Testimony was brought against Capone, with several witnesses claiming that he was indeed in good health at the time of his previous summons (Messick & Goldblatt, 1972). The results of the trial did not favor Capone who was official arrested and held in contempt. Capone was able to post bail after the trial allowing for his release.
Capone was not out of trouble for long. A mere two months after the trial, Capone landed in hot water once again when he and one of his guards was arrested for harboring illegal weapons (Whitehead, 1956). Capone was sentenced to one year for his involvement. Capone was released nine months later for good behavior.
In February 28, 1931, Capone was finally sentenced for his contempt of court charge and was given another six months in jail (Whitehead, 1956). While he was serving his sentence, the US Treasury Department was investigating tax evasion charges against Capone and many of his associates. Since a racketeering conviction seemed unlikely, many feel that the tax evasion investigation was carried out specifically to source out evidence against Capone.
No sooner than his contempt sentence was served, Capone was thrown back into court again. He pled guilty to the charges brought forward by the US Treasury in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence (Messick & Goldblatt, 1972). The judge was unwilling to accept Capone’s plea, so Capone changed his plea to not guilty (Whitehead, 1956). Even though the taxes not paid were for illegal goods, the court ruled that Capone was indeed guilty of tax evasion. His net worth at the time was rumored to be $100 million, all gained from illegal liquor sales, speak easies, and prostitution (Whitehead, 1956). In the end Capone was sentenced to a total of eleven years in prison as well as heavily fined.
Chicago was glad to be rid of Capone and the seedy elements of society that he represented. In 1933, Prohibition was repealed and the golden age of gangsters ended. It is arguable that had Capone not been sentenced to prison the end of his reign was inevitable anyway (Whitehead, 1956). The terror he left in his wake was both glorified and exaggerated by the local media. Some hailed Capone a hero for his cunning ability to thwart the government and its restrictions that the public greatly despised; others realized that Capone was indeed a criminal whose lack of morals and willingness to commit vile acts to get ahead was despicable. Few however would disagree that Capone was one of the most fascinating criminals in American history. The sentencing of Al Capone showed America that the FBI was indeed serious about ending mob activity.
Part 2: Coca Cola represents social trends from the 1920’s because it was accessible in nearly every state. After the prohibition took effect, Coca Cola gained in popularity as the beverage of choice for the American public (“the history of coca cola”). Socially many viewed soda fountains as a social gathering place, especially since bars were closed. Because of its popularity, Coca Cola was amongst the first to put soda on store shelves and develop brand specific packaging (“the history of coca cola”). Coca Cola advertisements were almost as popular as the drink itself. Advertisements depicted Coca Cola as an “American way of life” endearing it to the public (“the history of coca cola”). Coca Cola took an innovative approach by capitalizing on societies need for a new beverage and gathering place after prohibition.
"The History of Coca-Cola: 1920's - 1930's." The Interactive Media Lab at the University of Florida. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2013.
Whitehead, D. (1956) “The FBI Story,” Random House, New York, New York,
Messick, H. & Goldblatt, B. (1972) “The Mobs And The Mafia,” Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, New York