The Legacy

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Opinions about Capone vary greatly from person to person and group to group. In the eyes of the Italian immigrants of the 1920s, Capone was a community leader. Al started a program in which he provided a daily milk portions to Chicago school children, in order to fight rickets (a disease that softens bones), and  also opened many soup kitchens for the poor and homeless during the Great Depression.

Capone was known for sending flowers to rival gang member’s funerals; one funeral he spent over $5000 on flowers. Capone became very popular with the poor people of Chicago who depended on alcohol to survive because he was able to supply them through speakeasies. Al was seen as a lovable outlaw for his generosity to strangers and Italian-Americans.

Although he was liked by some, he was despised by most. Many people saw Capone as a ruthless, violent murderer. Eleanor Medill Patterson, a newswoman who once interviewed Capone, said "Capone's eyes are 'dime novel' gangster's eyes. Ice-gray. Ice-cold. I could feel their menace." Meanwhile, a lifelong Chicago resident of Italian extraction said,"You can say what you want about Al Capone. If people were desperate and needed help, he was there to help them. As long as you were on the up-and-up. He didn't expect anything in return and he never expected you to pay him back." Regarding the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Laurence Bergreen (author of Capone: The Man and the Era) had this to say," There had never been an outlaw quite like Al Capone. He was elegant, high-class, the berries. He was remarkably brazen, continuing to live among the swells in Miami and to proclaim love for his family. Nor did he project the image of a misfit or a loner, he played the part of a self-made millionaire who could show those Wall Street big shots a thing or two about doing business in America. No one was indifferent to Capone; everyone had an opinion about him."

Although Capone died many years ago, he left a long lasting legacy behind. Visitors from all over the world visit Chicago each year, in order to drive by Capone’s old house, visit his grave, take pictures and many more things. Chicago officials have made little effort to preserve sites tied to Capone’s legacy because they don’t want to promote what he stood for; Dorothy Coyle, the director of the city's office on tourism, said, "Anything that glorifies violence we are not interested in." Capone is the subject of 50,000 hits a month on the Chicago History Museum's website, which is five times the number of inquiries about the Great Chicago Fire and "by far the number one hit on our website," said museum curator John Russick. Another thing that Capone has created is the allusion of his name, for example someone would say "that guy is a real Al Capone".

Today, people mimic Capone’s image in movies, on television and for Halloween costumes.

In the movie, "State of the Union," the character played by Spence Tracy said, "I thought I could hijack the Republican nomination, I became an Al Capone of politics." Capone created the gangster look, which consists of a black suit with a white and black hat. Capone helped create the common stereotype that "all Italians are in the mafia."