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Monday, December 11, 2017

How was Capone Really Brought Down?

It wasn't Elliott Ness. When I am signing books of Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair I ask this simple question of people. Who brought Capone down? Elliott Ness and the Untouchables is the fast answer. Most people have either seen the movie or even the old television show or heard it through the lore of Capone that makes people profess being related to the big man, having seen the gangster, having been past his home, his grave, worked on his car, his stills, gone to his home in Wisconsin, eaten in his restaurant hideout along the Fox River. But the truth of what really happened to Capone has not seen the light of day.

Elliott Ness in 1957 was a drunk who met a Sports writer Oscar Fraley. Fraley like a lot of writers myself included was on the lookout for a new story. So he asked Ness if he had any good stories from the Prohibition years about Al Capone. Ness produced a dogeared manuscript of about twenty pages and gave it to Fraley. It wasn't much and Oscar went to work by the time he was done the tale of the Untouchables was complete. Then Ness died and Fraley published his books and sold about a million copies. Then he sold it to television and Robert Stack was set for life and then it was sold to the movies and Kevin Kostner became famous.

But the real story is much more fascinating. Six Chicago millionaires banded together to get rid of Al Capone. They had a Worlds Fair coming and it was going to be a disaster unless they got rid of the gang violence plaguing the city. They hired their own investigators and their own police force. They began a witness protection program, set up a speakeasy, and sent their own gangsters into Capones organization. Then they started to study his operation and began to attack his profitability. In the end they famously got him on tax evasion.

So that is the real story. Fraleys story was good but the real story of the Secret Six is even better.


Books by William Hazelgrove