Historical records matching Ralph "Bottles" Capone
About Ralph "Bottles" Capone
Raffaele Capone was born in 1894, the second child and last to be born in Italy. After James left, the family looked to Ralph for family leadership. Ralph did not excel in this role, as he was not as smart as either Frank or Al. He left school in the sixth grade to help supplement the family's income by working as a telegram messenger boy. Ralph became the first of the Capone brothers to marry, although the marriage would be a stormy one. Two years after the wedding Ralph Jr. was born, but the couple would soon separate and eventually divorce. Ralph continued a legitimate life in New York selling life insurance and later handled a soft-drink delivery route where he earned the nickname "Bottles."
After Al moved to Chicago to work for Johnny Torrio, Ralph followed about a year later. The two shared an apartment while they both worked for Torrio in the vice trade. When their father, Gabriel Capone, passed away the rest of the family moved to Chicago in 1923 into a home Al had just purchased. Compared to the home the Capones had left behind in Brooklyn, their new family residence on Prairie Avenue was heaven. It was a sign of having "made it" in America. The home, by Chicago standards, was considered ordinary, but for the Capones it was ideal. They lived in the home the same way they had lived back in Brooklyn, the same way their ancestors had lived back in Naples: one on top of another. Teresa Capone lived on the top floor of the home. On the first floor, in a suite of rooms in the back, Al lived with his wife Mae and son, Albert Francis, who was called Sonny. The other brothers came and went living in different rooms in the house. Only Ralph, who at the time was almost 30, lived outside the home.
After the Torrio gang's move to Cicero, Ralph took control of the speakeasies and nightclubs there. A problem soon arose in the form of Robert St. John, the editor of the Cicero Tribune. A crusading young man, he tried his best to publicize the mob's takeover of the town. The Capone gangsters soon tired of the aggressive editor and their first effort to quiet him was to scare the merchants who advertised in his paper into switching to another newspaper. St. John responded with an expose on a Capone brothel. During his undercover investigation, St. John visited the brothel and interviewed a prostitute until 4 a.m. whereupon he made his exit by jumping out a second-floor window. The brothel story enraged the citizens of Cicero and a few weeks later a carefully timed fire burned the brothel to the ground.
Now the Capone gang was enraged. Al sent an associate to see St. John and let him know that he and Ralph, according to Schoenberg, "were extremely angry with the Cicero Tribune." Two days later as St. John was walking to work, Ralph and three others jumped out of an automobile and beat the intrepid editor unmercifully. The attack, directed by Ralph, happened while two Cicero policemen stood by and watched. The only one who tried to help was the Tribune's society editor, but her attempts were futile. Later that same day, Capone henchmen kidnapped St. John's brother, the editor of a newspaper in nearby Berwyn. After several hours he was taken to a wooded area and left to find his way home.
Al paid for St. John's hospital bills. When St. John tried to press charges against Ralph, Al met him at the police station and tried to reason with him by pulling out a fist full of $100 dollar bills. After St. John refused the offer, Al and Ralph ended the problem by purchasing the Cicero Tribune.
Although not a bright individual, Ralph would become Al's right-hand man and the person Al trusted the most. When Al went to prison in 1929 for carrying a concealed weapon, he ran the gang through Ralph. Also, during the times when Al would get out of control due to anger or alcohol, it was always Ralph who had the ability to calm him down.
During the time Al was in prison, Ralph came under legal attack from the IRS. In early October 1929, a grand jury returned seven indictments against him for failing to file income-tax returns and for defrauding the federal government. On the night of Oct. 8, the U. S. Treasury department decided it was going to make a public spectacle of the arrest of Ralph Capone and did so as he sat ringside at a boxing match. Arresting agents led Ralph away in handcuffs. Due to the late hour bond could not be set and Ralph had to spend the night in jail.
Ralph had made serious mistakes in handling his income and by not filing returns. He now made matters worse by not lying low after his release on bail. He returned to running his brother's bootleg empire out of the Montmartre Café where a young Prohibition agent named Eliot Ness had recently tapped the telephone lines.
In April 1930 Ralph was convicted of tax evasion and faced a prison term and a $40,000 fine. He remained free while appeals were in process. During this period Al threw a party for his brother where, according to Schoenberg's book, he publicly humiliated him by saying "you got caught because you weren't smart, you talked too much and put too many things in writing. You gotta be smart Ralph, and I hope you will be when you get out."
Through appeals, Ralph was able to stave off going to prison until November 1930. Then he was packed off to Leavenworth to begin a three-year sentence. The IRS had actually considered its prosecution of Ralph a test case. When it was successful, IRS agents went after other Capone associates such as Jake Guzik and Frank Nitti, fine-tuning their efforts before they proceeded against Big Al.
After Al's conviction on income-tax evasion in 1931, Ralph's importance to the Chicago mob quickly declined. He ran a dance hall in Stickney, had an interest in a bottling company, and a cigarette-vending firm. He purchased a summer home in Mercer, Wis., where he spent most of his time. Ralph married again, but this union too would end in divorce.
When Al became gravely ill, Ralph went to Miami to be with the family at Al's Palm Island estate. The home was surrounded with newspaper people and Ralph kept them abreast of his brother's condition and served them cold beer as they stood in the hot sun. After years of suffering from brain disease brought on by untreated syphilis, Al died on Jan. 25, 1947.
In 1950 Ralph was called to Washington D. C. to appear before the Kefauver committee's investigation of organized crime in interstate commerce. Ralph answered questions about his bootlegging days but refused to talk about any of the people he was associated with. The committee asked Ralph how he spent his time when he went to Miami.
"At the dog tracks," Ralph replied.
"When you showed up they rolled out the red carpet for you, didn't they?" asked a committee member.
"When I went there they were out of red carpet," Ralph responded.
Shortly after Ralph's testimony, his son committed suicide. The 33-year-old Ralphie, who had drifted in and out of a series of jobs and one marriage, mixed alcohol with a bottle of cold medicine one night before writing a note to his girlfriend. Ralph was devastated by the loss but had little time to mourn as another IRS investigation of his finances had begun. Ralph survived the IRS attack, thanks to his brother James' perjury, without having to go back to prison.
The remainder of his life was spent in relative obscurity. On Nov. 22, 1974 he died of a heart attack in Mercer where he spent his final years. He was 80 years old.