The Ruthless One: Who Was Frank Capone? | History Hit

The Ruthless One: Who Was Frank Capone?

The gravestone of Salvatore 'Frank' Capone (original image edited)
Image Credit: Stephen Hogan;;

The Capone family are perhaps the most famous mob family to have ever lived. As founding members of the Chicago Outfit, the Italian-American Capone brothers were known for their racketeering, bootlegging, prostitution and gambling at the height of 1920s Prohibition in the United States.

Though Al Capone is the most famous of the family, equally fascinating is the figure of Salvatore ‘Frank’ Capone (1895-1924), who was described as mild-mannered, intelligent and immaculately-dressed. However, his calm veneer concealed a deeply violent man, who historians estimate ordered the death of some 500 people before being gunned down himself at the age of just 28.

So who was Frank Capone? Here are 8 facts about this ruthless mob member.

1. He was one of seven brothers

Frank Capone was the third son born to Italian immigrants Gabriele Capone and Teresa Raiola. He grew up in a busy household with six brothers, Vincenzo, Ralph, Al, Ermina, John, Albert, Matthew and Malfada. Of the brothers, Frank, Al and Ralph and became mobsters, with Frank and Al becoming involved in the Five Points Gang in their teenage years under John Torrio. By 1920, Torrio had taken over the South Side Gang and the Prohibition era had started. As the gang increased in power, so did Al and Frank.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition

Image Credit: US Library of Congress

2. He was quiet and mild-mannered

It was widely thought that of all seven Capone brothers, Frank showed the most promise. He was described as the best looking, mild-mannered and always dressed in an immaculate suit, thus appearing more businessman-like.

3. He likely ordered the deaths of around 500 people

While Al’s motto was ‘always try to deal before you have to kill’, Frank’s stance was ‘you never get no talk back from a corpse.’ In spite of his calm veneer, historians described Frank as ruthless, with few qualms about killing. It is thought that he ordered the deaths of some 500 people, since when the Chicago Outfit moved into the neighbourhood of Cicero, Frank was in charge of dealing with the town officers.

4. He used intimidation to influence the election results

In 1924, Democrats were launching a serious attack against Joseph Z. Klenha, a Republican mayor under the control of the Capone-Torrio families. Frank Capone sent waves of Chicago Outfit members to polling booths around Cicero to intimidate Democrat voters into re-electing the Republican. They arrived with submachine guns, sawed-off shotguns and baseball bats.

The life and times of perhaps the most infamous gangster in American history.
Listen Now

5. He was shot and killed by police

As a result of the mob intimidation on election day, a mass riot ensued. The Chicago police were called in and arrived with 70 officers, all of whom were dressed as normal citizens. 30 officers pulled up outside the polling station occupied by Frank, who instantly thought they were rival North Side mobsters who had come to attack them.

Reports differ as to what happened next. The police maintain that Frank pulled out his gun and started to fire rounds at officers, who retaliated by firing at him with submachine guns. However, some eyewitnesses claimed that Frank’s gun was in his back pocket and his hands were free of any weapon. Frank was fatally shot many times by Sergeant Phillip J. McGlynn.

6. His death was ruled as lawful

After Frank’s death, the Chicago newspapers were full with articles either praising or condemning the police’s actions. A coroner’s inquest was held, which determined that Frank’s killing was a justifiable shooting since Frank had been resisting arrest.

Mug shot of Al Capone in Miami, Florida, 1930

Image Credit: Miami Police Department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

7. His funeral featured $20,000 worth of flowers

Frank’s funeral was likened to that of a statesman or royal. The gambling joints and brothels in Cicero closed for two hours to pay tribute to him, while Al purchased a silver-festooned coffin for his brother that was surrounded by $20,000 worth of flowers. So many flowers of condolence were sent that the Capone family required 15 cars to carry them to the cemetery.

8. Al Capone avenged his death

Al Capone escaped being shot on the same day as his brother. In response to his brother’s death, he murdered an official and a police officer and kidnapped many more. He went on to steal ballot boxes from all of the polling stations. In the end, the Republicans won.

Lucy Davidson