Capone Belongings Sold

Although long dead, the gangster Al Capone remains fascinating to the public. At a recent auction, his descendants sold various items that belonged to the gangster, pulling in more than $US3 million. The most expensive item was Capone’s gun, a pistol that went for $US860 000.

Additionally, his former mansion in Miami recently sold for $US15.5 million. It had been bought earlier in the year by developers who intended to demolish the building and replace it. However, local preservationists had strong objections, and the developers were forced to resell it.

Alcatraz Island, where Al Capone was imprisoned.
Alcatraz Island, where Al Capone was imprisoned. (source)

Al Capone’s heyday was in Chicago during the prohibition years of the 1920s. By illegally selling alcohol, Capone made a fortune and was quite popular with the public. However, when he was blamed for ‘the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre,’ in which seven people were murdered, he lost popularity. The government, under pressure to restore law-and-order, found Capone guilty of tax evasion and sent him to prison on Alcatraz Island. In poor health, he was released from prison, and in 1947, he died in his Miami mansion.

The Italian-American gangster’s legend has been kept alive in the media, including in the 1932 film, Scarface, and in the television series, Boardwalk Empire, which ran from 2010-2014. Scarface was a nickname Capone received due to scars on his cheek received in a knife fight.

Sources: bbc.com, nytimes.com, apnews.com, en.wikipedia.org

For source links, see the article on ESLNewsStories.com

Worksheet with activities

Audio

Hear the article spoken:

Useful Language

  • Fascinating (adj) - very interesting
  • Descendant (n) - a person’s child, grandchild, and any person who lives after them in their family line
  • Pull in (phr. v) - earn
  • Go for (phr. v) - sell for (a certain price)
  • Mansion (n) - a big, luxurious home
  • Demolish (v) - to destroy
  • Preservationist (n) - a person who works to preserve something
  • Heyday (n) - the period when someone is most successful
  • Prohibition (n) - the time when it was illegal to sell alcohol in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933
  • Massacre (n) - the killing of many people
  • Tax evasion - the crime of avoiding paying tax

Discussion

Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. Are you interested in crime as a topic in the news, in stories on television, or in books?
  2. Some criminals become famous and sometimes, they become popular. How do you feel about this?
  3. Do you like gangster movies? Have you seen many? What about Scarface?
  4. Would you be interested in buying something that used to belong to someone important? Why or why not?
  5. Some preservationists want to save buildings that are connected with historical events. What do you think about this? Should we preserve these old buildings?
  6. During the period known as ‘prohibition’ from 1920 to 1933, alcohol could not be sold legally in the US. Why do you think selling alcohol was made illegal? And why do you think prohibition was later ended?
  7. People thought Al Capone was responsible for many murders, yet he went to prison for tax evasion. Does it matter that he didn’t get punished for the more serious crime?
  8. Why is it important that we pay taxes?
  9. If you had a mansion, what would it be like? Describe it in as much detail as you can.
  10. Al Capone didn’t like the nickname ‘Scarface’. Do you have a nickname? Do you like it?