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The Myth of Al Capone in Juarez


Have you heard of the time Al Capone visited Juarez?
The story of Al Capone crossing the international bridge in a motorcade to visit Juárez is often resurrected, usually in the Juárez and El Paso Spanish language press and on the Internet, and boasts of Juarez’s draw to one of the United States’ most notorious bootleggers.
The gist of the story claims, or implies, that Al Capone was visiting to both purchase liquor and arrange for the contraband’s transportation to Chicago for resale.
In the telling there is always a specific Juárez bar Capone visits, though it is never the same bar in all the versions told.  Sometimes it is the Nuevo Tivoli, or The Kentucky Club, or The Lobby Bar. Often the “source” of the story is a family member whose ancestor received a generous gratuity.  When the “source” is not cited as a family member the story still tends to include the encounter ending with the mobster’s cash being personally handed to an employee in the service sector: a bartender, waiter, or shoe shine boy.  The tip is always a significant amount for the era.
Rarely in the retelling is there a specific date given for this historical visit.  The author has located two articles that provide a rough estimate of the date Capone strolled upon the streets of Juárez.  The first article claimed that at “precisely” 7 pm in the final days of October, 1929, Capone and entourage entered The Lobby Bar and stayed one hour. The recipient of Capone’s generosity in this version is the bar owner’s son, who was handed $15 dollars by Capone before he exits the saloon.
The second article states that near the end of 1929, after crossing the Stanton Street Bridge and entering Juárez on Calle Lerdo, Al Capone arrived to visit the city’s bar district. The implied purpose of the internationally known gangster traveling to the border was to meet with his criminal counterparts in the Juárez underworld.
Both articles give rough dates toward the end of 1929, presumably between the end of October and December.  Equally of note is the fact that there is nothing in the El Paso newspapers of that time period documenting Al Capone visiting either El Paso or her sister city Juárez.The likely reason for the omission being that there is significant conflicting documentation as to Al Capone’s whereabouts for all of late 1929.
On May 17, 1929, Al Capone and his bodyguard were arrested in Philadelphia for carrying concealed deadly weapons.  Within 16 hours the criminal pair had been ordered by a judge to serve prison terms of one year each. Capone served his sentence and in mid-March 1930 was released after serving nine months’ time in the Eastern Penitentiary; the crime boss was released two months early for good behavior.
Expanding the search, there is also nothing in the mid-to-late 1920’s El Paso newspapers reporting on a visit by Al Capone or even any of his associates.
Giving the benefit of a doubt to the allegation that Capone actually did visit Juárez,  and the possibility that the “dates” were wrong in the newspaper articles, contact was made with Laurence Bergreen, the author of Capone: The Man and the Era. The gangster’s biographer was asked if during his research he uncovered any information about a visit by Capone to El Paso and/or Juárez.
The author replied, “This is all news to me.  One way to check on this is dates.  Then it might be easier to place him. In general, though, I share your skepticism.”
Ironically, although there are no newspaper articles about Al Capone visiting the El Paso/Juárez area, there is an editorial in the January 23, 1928 edition of the El Paso Herald about Al Capone NOT visiting El Paso.
At that time Al Capone was receiving significant national press attention for taking a vacation in Miami. The Herald’s article did not imply that Capone had considered visiting El Paso.  The editorial seemed to be saying El Paso should be grateful Capone did not visit here due to gunfights that could break out around Capone with his underworld enemies.
The editorial concluded: “El Paso doesn’t care for visitors of Scarface’s type. Being a border town, a good town and on the highways from east to west El Paso gets quite a number of rather undesirable sojourners, but it does not get any beer warriors or gang battlers, and therefore this city’s best wishes and even its sympathy can be extended to Miami.”
There was no referencing of a previous visit to El Paso and/or Juárez in the editorial.
It is obvious that Capone never visited El Paso and/or Juárez before January 23, 1928.  And he obviously did not visit between May 17, 1929 and March 16, 1930.  With no documentation that a visit to the area happened between January 23, 1928, the date of the Herald’seditorial, and May 17, 1929 when he was arrested and sent to the penitentiary, I am confident he never set foot in either El Paso or Juárez.
The hypothesis that Al Capone ventured to Juárez to purchase liquor for distribution in Chicago and surrounding areas defies logic. Overlooked in this notion are the inherent logistical risks of transporting alcohol from Juárez into the U. S. and across the span of the country.  The geographical distance necessary to move the product that distance increases the potential for interception by law enforcement and/or hijacking of the contraband by competitors.  Canada was the realistic, and the chosen, international border for Capone’s “importation” of liquor shipments from a foreign country.
The closest the infamous Scarface ever traveled to Juárez was during the December of 1927; Capone and others boarded a train from Chicago bound for Los Angeles passing through Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The police hounded him out of the City of Angels so Capone and his crew boarded an outbound train to return to Chicago, passing once again through Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Al Capone’s Juárez “visit” is one of the more persistent local urban legends from the Prohibition era.  You cannot prove that a reputed event did not happen, but in this case the circumstantial evidence appears conclusive that Al Capone never visited Juárez.
A word of warning, learn from this author’s mistake. Whenever patronizing a Juárez bar which claims to have served Al Capone never attempt to explain why Capone could never have visited their establishment; they will not receive the enlightenment well.

Bob Chessey is an El Paso-Juarez historian and writer. 

Meriden-made silver cocktail shaker owned by Al Capone sold at auction for $83,000

By Andrew Ragali Record-Journal staff

MERIDEN — Relics from the city’s silver industry can be found at auction houses across the world, with rare items, such as a sterling cocktail shaker owned by Al Capone, fetching enormous price tags. The cocktail shaker was made by International Silver Co., which was based in Meriden. Capone’s wasn’t the only cocktail shaker from the company to do well at auction in recent years.
In March 2014, Capone’s sterling silver cocktail shaker sold for 50,000 British pounds — equivalent to $83,250 at the time — during an event hosted by Sotheby’s auction house in London. Sotheby’s estimated the 15-inch-tall shaker, in the style of a communion flagon, would sell for about $2,000. The cocktail shaker, crafted by Meriden-based International Silver Co., was a Christmas gift to Capone from his associates in 1932, according to Sotheby’s. On the side of the shaker is an engraved message: “To a Regular Guy from The Boys 1932.”
Capone, a notorious bootlegger during the prohibition era, was imprisoned in 1932 after being convicted of tax evasion.
Before it was sold last year, Capone’s cocktail shaker belonged to Stanley Seeger, an art collector who died in 2011 at age 81. Sotheby’s put 1,000 items from Seeger’s private collection up for auction. The cocktail shaker was initially acquired from the estate of a former Capone’s associate in 1998 by the Pullman Gallery in London, Sotheby’s website notes.
Simon Khachadourian opened the Pullman Gallery in 1998. Two years later, Khachadourian published a book titled ‘The Cocktail Shaker,’ featuring photographs and anecdotes about cocktails in the early 20th Century.
Before the book was published, Khachadourian visited Meriden to research silver cocktail shakers produced in the city, according to Allen Weathers, curator of the Meriden Historical Society. He remembers watching Khachadourian excitedly flip through catalogs in the society’s archives trying to find cocktail shakers to feature in his book.
There were several companies under the umbrella of the Meriden-based International Silver Co. The company incorporated in 1898 and acquired silver companies in Connecticut, New York and Canada. Wilcox Silver Plate Company and Simpson, Hall, Miller & Company, both in Wallingford, had sterling silver departments that could have produced Capone’s cocktail shaker, according to Weathers.
Items from the city’s silver industry were sold far and wide. Capone’s associates “could have bought the cocktail shaker almost anywhere,” Weathers said.
A cocktail shaker made by the International Silver Co. in the mid-20th Century, modeled after the Boston Lighthouse, sold in April at Sotheby’s in New York City for $15,000. In January, a lighthouse cocktail shaker made in 1930 sold for $25,000 at the same auction house. In 2011, a lighthouse model sold at Sotheby’s in New York City for $8,750.
An International Silver Co. cocktail shaker produced in 1927 sold for $21,600 at Christie’s auction house in New York City in 2005. In 2012, a cocktail shaker made by the International Silver Co. in the mid-1930s sold for $34,375 at Sotheby’s in New York City.
“The people that buy this kind of stuff have money,” Weathers said.
Cocktail shakers came to prominence during the prohibition era, Jewel Stern wrote in “Modernism in American Silver: 20th Century Design,” published in 2005. Moonshine liquor was often low quality, and was masked with other flavors, contributing to the rise of the cocktail, Sterns wrote. In the 1920s, home cocktail parties became a glamorous way to entertain, and accessories such as cocktail shakers became fashionable.
“Silver manufacturers were quick to respond, offering an array of stylish cocktail shakers, many with matching goblets and a tray in what were called ‘beverage sets,’” Stern wrote. Her book features a picture of a silver and gold-plated cocktail shaker shaped as a penguin, made by the Napier Company in Meriden, and a silver cocktail shaker shaped as a rooster made by R. Wallace & Sons Manufacturing Co. in Wallingford. Shakers were often given “novel and humorous shapes” in the 1920s and 1930s,” Stern wrote.
For socialites in the mid-20th Century, cocktail shakers were a status symbol, said Mary Ellen Brechlin, owner of Nest Egg Auctions in Berlin.
“Even for the middle class that was trying to make their mark on the world, in particular post World War II,” she said. “People were making more money, and they wanted status for it so they did a lot of entertaining,” often using cocktail shakers and other accessories to show their success.
Cocktail shakers and other silverware produced in the area a century ago do well at auction because of nostalgia, Brechlin said. “People hunger for something that speaks for the past.”
The most popular items sold through Nest Egg Auctions are Grand Baroque-style flatware and tea sets, often locally made in the 20th Century, Brechlin said.
“Whenever I have Grand Baroque in, I have numerous bidders,” she said. “It’s just one of those things that are not being produced anymore.”
Collectors are always looking for the next popular product, Weathers said. At one time, he said, antique typewriters were popular auction items, similar to cocktail shakers.
“People collect all different kinds of things,” Weathers said. “As soon as someone writes a book on it, you find out you weren’t the only one collecting.”
Every Sunday in October, Andrews Homestead on West Main Street will be open to the public, with locally produced silver items on display, Brechlin said.

aragali@record-journal.com 203-317-2224 Twitter: @Andyragz

Al Capone’s car ‘buried on Peeblesshire estate’


 A SCOTTISH mansion where American gangster Al Calpone’s car is purported to be hidden is on the market for almost £1 million.
It is believed the 1920s motor is buried somewhere in the grounds of The Ley in Innerleithen, Peeblesshire.
The estate, which has been put up for sale for £925,000, was once owned by a Scot, William Crockett Miller-Thomas, who was a friend of Capone, and sold bootleg whisky to him during prohibition across the Atlantic.
Current owner William McVicar, 82, said: “From what we can gather, Miller-Thomas was engaged in shipping whisky to outside American territorial waters during the days of prohobition.
“He met Al Capone when he was organising it. He bought Capone’s car and had it shipped back here. The story is it’s somewhere within the grounds.”
The pensioner, who lives at the house, added: “I haven’t stumbled across the car after cutting the grass in the woods. And I haven’t ran over the grounds with a metal detector. I should think it’s pretty rusty after lying there for around 80 years.”
Selling agents Remax promotes the connection with Capone in their online advert, as well as the estate’s Royal links.
They say: “The Ley is a substantial property which has in years past achieved a Scottish Tourism Board five star guest house rating and was a previous winner of the Scottish Thistle Tourism Award.
 “Since the reformation the last family in Ley Tower – the ruins of which are now on the site of the neighbouring farm buildings – was reputedly the 4th Earl of Hyndford 1750.
“The present house was built in 1861, extended in 1952 with the rebuild of the circular Drawing Room with mirroring Master Suite above. In the ownership of only four families since the date of build, the property has a fascinating history and local folklore purporting Al Capone’s car to be buried beneath the lawn!”
Capone had strong connections with Scotland, particularly when striking alcohol deals when it was banned in America during the 1920s and 1930s. The gangster is also understood to have played golf at St Andrews, Turnberry and Muirfield.
Hi grand-niece, Deirdre Marie Capone, said: “He was in love with the game and with Scotland. I remember seeing his bag of clubs in the house in Miami where he lived. He told me they’d been made for him in Scotland.”
Alphone Garbiel ‘Al’ Capone was born in 1899 and became boss of the Chicago Outfit. He was behind one of the biggest gangland killings of the day, the 1929 St Valentine’s Day massacre, against rival crook Bugs Morans gang.
He led a $100million crime syndicate, but was arrested by the FBI’s famous team know as The Untouchables. He was jailed in 1931 and given parole eight years later. He died almost penniless in 1947.

Capone Hideway in St. Charles Could Reopen as Bar, Restaurant

Under the current proposal, the business would offer gaming options.
By Amie Schaenzer 

The supposed hideout for Al Capone in the 1920s in St. Charles could soon reopen as a bar and restaurant if Kane County approves a proposal by two restaurateurs, the Elgin Courier News reports.
The former Al Capone Hideaway, at 35w337 Riverside Drive in St. Charles Township, closed after 38 years of business in 2012, according to the article.
Jeremy and Nicholas Casiello, owners of Alley 64 in St. Charles and Dam Bar and Grill in Geneva, are seeking zoning approval to reopen the location as Hideaway 64 with a liquor license and gaming options, the newspaper reports.
Neighbors living in the surrounding unincorporated Valley View subdivision do not support the proposal and are worried about public safety, increased traffic, noise and a 2 a.m. closing time, according to the Elgin Courier-News.
The issues surrounding the barn-like structure re-opening as a restaurant and bar got a recent mention in a Curbed Chicago article.

“Perhaps the new Al Capone-themed restaurant will be true to the Prohibition era and only serve near beer,” according to Curbed Chicago. 

Pub & Grub: Big Al Capone's celebrates 5 years

Taima Kern,

Kern/Action Reporter Media
This Pub & Grub story is printed in the Action Sunday West on May 31, Action Advertiser on June 3 and The Reporter on June 4, see the print edition for coupons and news on local bars and restaurants
Big Al Capone’s, present day.(Photo: Taima Kern/Action Reporter Media)Buy Photo
The former hotel is said to be one of Al Capone's stops on business trips between northern Wisconsin and Chicago
Built in 1846, two years before Wisconsin achieved statehood, the former Stage Coach Inn and Fuhrman Hotel sits on the corner of Highway 151 and Count Trunk W in Pipe, as well as on the State Historical Registry, and presently houses two tenants, a pair of ghosts and one Big Al Capone's bar and restaurant.
Owned for the past five years by Annie and John Schmitz, former owners of Schmitty's Oar House, the building underwent only internal renovations, remaining recognizable when compared to a number of historical photos.
John said he bought the building to "finish the project that others had started" after he sold Schmitty's. He said that the building had stood empty for too many years and he wanted to do something with it. The first floor houses the restaurant and bar, the second floor has two apartments and the office space for the restaurant, and the third floor, Annie says, is left for the ghost.
"People in the community still say that they see her and a little boy beside her in the windows when they're driving past at two or three in the morning," said Annie.
Decorated with a definite gangster theme, a wax figure of Al Capone himself presides over a portion of the dining room and bar, seated beside half of a shot-up 1947 Chevy, representing the year he died. The former hotel is said to be one of Capone's stops on business trips between northern Wisconsin and Chicago.
Along the walls hang a wide variety of memorabilia, everything from an enlarged photo of Frank Sinatra's first mug shot to a collection of local historical photos of the Pipe/Malone area. In the back dining room, which was built in the 1950s, John has collected décor for a '50s theme.
Capone's serves pizza, paninis, hand-pressed burgers, pasta and sandwiches, as well as a Friday night fish fry, and boasts a full-service bar. It also offers a large back porch for the summer months, with a separate fully stocked bar.
On most Saturdays, Big Al Capone's is graced by a variety of county and rock 'n' roll musical acts, performing with no cover charge. On Packers, Brewers and Badgers game days, the bar takes on a sports swing and entertains guests with the TVs turned on.
Big Al Capone's also can be rented for private parties.

For more information, you can visit Facebook.com/BigAlCapones or caponesofpipe.com. The restaurant and bar is located at N10302 Highway 151 in Malone (Pipe) and can be reached at (920) 795-4140. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The bar is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Taima Kern can be reached at tkern@gannett.com, (920) 907-7819; on Twitter @TaimaKern.

Al Capone’s Final Days

He survived the toughest gangland days in Chicago and a stint in Alcatraz for tax evasion but notorious mob boss Al Capone couldn't escape the ravages of dementia and syphilis that left him prone to violent outbursts.
Medical records and letters documenting the final years of the tough gangster boss who didn't give a second thought to killing rivals, offer an insight into the sad demise of the infamous Chicago mobster as he descended into dementia and violent outbursts caused by syphilis.
In it, Moore suggests Capone's family hire a male nurse posing as a chauffeur to protect the public from the gangster's violent outbursts caused by his dementia.
'If, by any chance, Mr Capone makes an unprovoked attack upon a stranger, he is very likely to find himself in court for disturbing the peace and, as a result of that, to be recognized insane by the judge and to be committed to a Florida psychiatric hospital,' Moore wrote in 1941.
Moore said treatment had increased Capone's mental and intelligence quotient from that of a seven-year-old to that of a 14-year-old.
'However he is still silly, childish and mentally deteriorated,' Moore told Phillips.
Moore treated Capone for several years after he was released from prison in 1939, after serving nearly eight years for tax evasion and bootlegging.
Phillips cared for him for the remainder of his life. According to the medical charts and physicians' letters, Capone became 'recognizably insane' near the end of his stint in Alcatraz prison.
In a letter to Phillips in 1941, Capone asks about the doctor's family before requesting more 'of them red pills for bowels movement'.