Birthday: January 12, 1894
Nationality: American, Italian
Died At Age: 80
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Ralph Bottles Capone Sr.
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Italy
Notorious As: Al Capone's Brother
father: Gabriele Capone
mother: Teresina Capone
siblings: Al Capone, Frank Capone, James Vincenzo Capone, John Capone, Mafalda Capone, Matthew Capone, Rose Capone, Umberto Capone
children: Ralph Capone Jr.
Died on: November 22, 1974
place of death: Hurley, Wisconsin
Who was Ralph Capone?
Ralph Capone was an American mobster, more famous as the elder brother of the notorious gangster Al Capone. He was often called Ralph ‘Bottles’ Capone, because of his legitimate non-alcoholic beverage and bottling business (not because of his involvement in the gang’s bootlegging operations). Born in Italy, he later migrated with his family to the USA. He grew up in Downtown Brooklyn, New York, and did small legitimate jobs to contribute towards family income. After the death of his father, Ralph joined his two younger brothers in Chicago and looked after the gambling dens of the ‘Outfit’ in Cicero. When the mob started bottling plants during the Prohibition, Ralph was put in charge and he made profit for the gang. He was charged with tax evasion and had to serve a prison sentence for 3 years. He was named as ‘Public Enemy #three’ by the ‘Chicago Crime Committee.’ Ralph invested in various businesses such as hotel, bottling plants, cigarette vending, etc. He married thrice and had a son, Ralph Jr., who committed suicide in 1950. Ralph Sr. died of natural causes at the age of 80.
Childhood & Early Life
Ralph Capone was born Raffaele James Capone, on January 12, 1894, in Angri, a small town in the Campania region of Italy, near Mount Vesuvius. He was second of the nine children of Gabriele and Teresina (née Raiola) Capone. With his mother and older brother Vincenzo, he traveled on a ship, ‘Werra’ and entered the US via Ellis Island on June 18, 1895. His father had reached the US via Canada 6 months earlier. They settled in the Navy Yard section of Brooklyn, New York.
Ralph attended school up to 6th grade and then left the studies to work as a telegram messenger boy to add to the family income. Then he was not into the crime and led legitimate life as life insurance salesman. He also ran a soft drink delivery route in New York.
Ralph remained in New York while his younger brothers, Al and Frank, moved to Chicago to work with Torrio in the ‘Chicago Outfit.’ After the death of their father in 1920, the rest of the family moved to Chicago and lived with Al in his newly purchased house, but Ralph alone lived outside this home.
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Working for the Chicago Outfit
When the gang moved from Chicago to Cicero, Ralph was put in charge of the speakeasies and gambling dens there. The editor of ‘Cicero Tribune,’ Robert St. John, tried to make the mob’s operations public through his newspaper. The gang members tried first to intimidate him, and then purchase him. But he continued to expose the mob and their attempts to take-over the town. Later, Ralph with his three associates assaulted the editor and beat him up, he had to be hospitalized. He tried to lodge a police complaint against Ralph. Al Capone made an attempt to purchase him, when he refused the Capones ended the issue by buying the ‘Cicero tribune.’
During Prohibition era, the gang launched bottling plants to make profits from non-alcoholic drinks (soft drinks) and placed Ralph at the helm. He ran the business successfully and made money for the Outfit. He became second largest soft drink vendor during the ‘1933 World’s Fair’ in Chicago.
Ralph wasn’t as intelligent as his brothers and often committed errors, but was most trusted by Al. In 1929, when Al Capone was arrested and imprisoned for carrying a concealed weapon, he ran the Outfit from the prison through Ralph. At that time, the ‘Internal Revenue Service’ caught up with Ralph on the charge of failing to file income tax returns and they arrested him in public while he was watching a boxing match. He did not get immediate bail due to the late hour.
Later he was out of jail on bail and returned to the gang’s bootlegging operations. But he carried on the business through a café where the telephone wires were tapped by the authorities. In April, 1930, he got a prison term and $40,000 fine. (At this time, younger brother and powerful boss Al publicly humiliated him for not being smart). Ralph made appeals and managed to remain out of prison, but in November 1930 (some sources say, 1931), he was arrested and taken to ‘Leavenworth, Kansas’ for 3 years.
When Al was convicted by the IRS, it adversely affected Ralph’s position in the Outfit. He conducted gang meetings at his brother’s Palm Island, Florida mansion. He was considered at the front man for the organization and ‘National Crime Syndicate,’ but had little power in the Outfit.
Ralph owned a dance hall in Stickney and was also a silent partner in a hotel and tavern in Mercer, Wisconsin (hotel’s name was ‘The Rex Hotel’ and the tavern, ‘Billy’s Bar’). He also had a partnership in a bottling company and a cigarette vending company. He bought a house in Mercer, Wisconsin and spent most of his time there.
During Al’s final serious illness, Ralph was with the family and handled the reporters at his mansion. In 1950, he was asked to appear before the ‘US Senate Kefauver Committee’ (which was investigating the underworld connections and operations), in Washington DC. He spoke about his own operations but did not reveal any contact names or mob details/secrets.
Later during the same year, his son Ralph Jr. committed suicide, which was a great emotional setback for Ralph Capone. Once again the IRS began investigating his finances, but this time there was no arrest or prison sentence.
Ralph Capone spent rest of his life in Mercer, Wisconsin and died of heart attack on November 22, 1974. He was 80.
Ralph was the first of the brothers to get married. He was 21 when he married 17 year old Filomena/Florence Muscato on September 24, 1915. Their son, Ralph Gabriel Capone or Ralph Jr. was born on April 17, 1917.
In November, 1920, Gabriel Capone, father of the Capone brothers, died and the rest of the family (Al and Frank had already moved to Chicago) shifted to Chicago. But as Ralph’s wife didn’t wish to move, he took his son along and his mother Theresa (changed from her earlier name Teresina) looked after Ralph Jr. In 1921 Ralph got divorce from his wife on the grounds of abandonment. He then married Velma Pheasant in 1923. Later the two divorced in 1938, they had no children.
On November 9, 1950, his 33 years old son Ralph Jr. committed suicide by consuming alcohol mixed with medicine for cold. (He had tried a number of jobs, and had gone through a failed marriage). This loss was a big shock for Ralph Sr.
Ralph Sr. married Madeline in 1951. He lived in Wisconsin till his death. He died of natural causes on November 22, 1974, in Hurley, Wisconsin, and was cremated at the Park Hill Cemetery in Duluth, Minnesota. Later his granddaughter buried his ashes at the Capone family’s grave site in Chicago in June 2008.
Ralph liked to dress well and had a special monogrammed sterling silver lapel pin. He was a proud owner of a race horse.