Alphonse Gabriel Caponi

Alphonso Caponi was born on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York. He was one of seven children born to Gabriel and Teresa Caponi, who came to the United States from Italy in 1893. His father was a barber. Capone attended school through the sixth grade, at which point he beat up his teacher one day and was himself beaten by the school’s principal afterward.

Like many other American children at the time, Capone was taught that the main purpose of life was to acquire wealth and that the United States was the land of opportunity. He discovered that prejudice (unfair treatment) based on his ethnic background made it difficult to succeed in school and that others looked down on the children of immigrants and members of the working class. Angered by the gap between the American dream and his own reality, Capone began to engage in criminal activities as a way of achieving success in what he saw as an unjust society.

Capone worked at odd jobs for a while but found his calling when a gangster named Johnny Torrio (1882–1957) hired him to work in a bar owned by Torrio’s friend. Torrio knew Capone did not mind violence and often had him beat up people who were unable to repay loans. Over time, Capone learned more and more about the criminal world. During a fight in a bar he received a razor cut on his cheek, which gained him the nickname “Scarface.” He then met a woman named Mae Coughlin (1897–1986), with whom he had a child named Albert Francis Capone (nicknamed Sonny). Capone and Coughlin married a short time later, on December 18, 1918.

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