Ralph "Bottles" Capone, Sr., (January 12, 1894 – November 22, 1974) was a Chicago mobster and an older brother of Al Capone and Frank Capone. Ralph Capone got the nickname "Bottles" not from involvement in the Capone bootlegging empire, but from his running the legitimate non-alcoholic beverage and bottling operations in Chicago. Further family lore suggests that the nickname was specifically tied to his lobbying the Illinois Legislature to put into law that milk bottling companies had to stamp the date that the milk was bottled on the bottle. He was most famous for being named by the Chicago Crime Commission "Public Enemy Number Three" when his brother Al was "Public Enemy Number One".
Life and crime
Born Raffaele James Capone in a small town named Angri in the Campania region of Italy, near Mount Vesuvius, he was the second son of Gabriele and Teresa (nee Raiola) Capone. He arrived in America on a ship named Werra on June 18, 1895 with his older brother Vincenzo and mother Teresa, entering via Ellis Island. His father Gabriele had come to the United States by the way of Canada, six months previously. They settled in Brooklyn, living near the Navy yards.
On September 24, 1915 at the age of 21 he married Filomena (Florence) Muscato, age 17. That marriage produced one son, Ralph Gabriel Capone on April 17, 1917.
After the death of his father Gabriel in November 1920, Ralph was brought to Chicago by his younger brother, Al. His wife did not want to move so Ralph took Ralph Jr. to Chicago where he was raised by Theresa (she Americanized her name) as her youngest child. Ralph Sr. returned to New York in 1921 and got a divorce decree from Florence on the charge of abandonment.
In 1923, he married for the second time to Velma Pheasant. That marriage produced no children and divorced in March 1938.
Ralph was placed in charge of the Chicago Outfit's bottling plants during Prohibition. The Outfit was attempting to monopolize non-alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (specifically ginger ale and soda water, commonly used in mixed drinks) during this period when the sale of alcohol was banned. Ralph Capone made large profits for the Outfit and became the dominant soft drink vendor other than Coca-Cola during the 1933 World's Fair. In April 1930, the elder Capone was included in Frank J. Loesch's Chicago Crime Commission "Public Enemies" list. He was Public Enemy #3. His younger brother Al, was Public Enemy #1.
Following Al Capone's conviction for tax evasion in 1931, Ralph Capone remained with the Outfit. He hosted several high-level Outfit conferences from his brother's residence in Palm Island, Florida. As the manager of Chicago's Cotton Club, Capone was reportedly involved in syndicate gambling and vice districts. In 1932, he was also convicted of tax evasion and served three years.
In many ways, the elder Capone was a front man for the Outfit. Authorities once described him as an "elder statesman" of the Outfit. In 1950, the United Press described Capone as "…in his own right … one of the overlords of the national syndicate which controls gambling, vice, and other rackets". In actuality, Ralph held relatively little power in the Outfit and the National Crime Syndicate. This finally became evident during his testimony before the U.S. Senate Kefauver Committee, in 1950.
In the 1930s, Capone purchased a home and later was a silent partner in a hotel/tavern in Mercer, Wisconsin. The hotel was named "The Rex Hotel" and the tavern was named, "Billy's Bar." After Capone's release from prison, he moved to Wisconsin and lived there until his death.
On November 22, 1974, Capone died of natural causes in Hurley, Wisconsin. He was cremated at Park Hill Cemetery in Duluth, Minnesota. His ashes were buried at the Capone Family grave site by his granddaughter Deirdre in June 2008. He was survived by his wife Madeline, whom he had married in 1951. In 1977 Ralph "Bottles" Capone's widow married his best friend and long-time business associate Serefeno "Suds" Morichetti.
In popular culture
- Ralph Capone is portrayed by actor Ed O'Ross, in the 1987 film, The Verne Miller Story, and by actor Titus Welliver in the 1990 television movie, The Lost Capone.
- He is portrayed by Domenick Lombardozzi in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
- Capone, Deirdre Marie. Uncle Al Capone - The Untold Story from Inside His Family. Recap Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9828451-0-3
- Binder, John. The Chicago Outfit. Arcadia Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-7385-2326-7
- Enright, Laura L. Chicago's Most Wanted: The Top Ten Book of Murderous Mobsters, Midway Monsters, and Windy City Oddities. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books Inc., 2005. ISBN 1-57488-785-8
- Iorizzo, Luciano J. Al Capone: a biography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2005. ISBN 0-313-32317-8
- Johnson, Curt and R. Craig Sautter. The Wicked City: Chicago from Kenna to Capone. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994. ISBN 0-306-80821-8
- Kobler, John. Capone: The Life and Times of Al Capone. New York: Da Capo Press, 2003. ISBN 0-306-81285-1
- Pasley, Fred D. Al Capone: The Biography of a Self-Made Man. Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Co., 2004. ISBN 1-4179-0878-5
- Schoenberg, Robert J. Mr. Capone. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992. ISBN 0-688-12838-6
- Crime Library
- Travel Wisconsin Gangster Tour
- "Domenick Lombardozzi Joins 'Boardwalk Empire', 'Unforgettable' Adds Detective". Deadline.com. deadline.com.
- Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
- Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-8160-4040-0