New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Eig will be discussing his book, Get Capone, at the Hoover Presidential Library-Museum on August 20, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.
Get Capone draws on thousands of pages of recently discovered government documents, wiretap transcripts, and Al Capone’s handwritten personal letters. Jonathan Eig, New York Times bestselling author, tells the dramatic story of the rise and fall of the nation’s most notorious criminal in rich new detail.
In 1920 Al Capone arrived in Chicago and found himself in a world of limitless opportunity. Within a few years, Capone controlled an illegal bootlegging business with annual revenue rivaling that of some of the nation’s largest corporations. Along the way he corrupted the Chicago police force and local courts while becoming one of the world’s first international celebrities. Hoover knew that bringing down Capone would not end the violence but that it would send a message to the rest of the criminal world.
Hoover on Prohibition
On January 17, 1920, it became illegal to produce, transport, or sell “intoxicating beverages” anywhere in the United States – this was Prohibition. The ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in January 1919 and the passing of the Volstead Law – made it illegal to produce, transport, or sell alcohol anywhere in the United States. The Volstead Law effectively closed every single bar, tavern, and saloon in the country. It also turned millions of Americans into criminals.
As President, Herbert Hoover supported Prohibition, but also recognized that evasion of the law was widespread and that it had fueled the growth of organized crime. Hoover vowed to put an end to this lawlessness.
In May 1929, Hoover established the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement. This commission was charged with identifying the causes of criminal activity and making policy recommendations. The final report, released early in 1931, documented the widespread evasion of Prohibition and its negative effects on American society. Recommendations included much more aggressive and extensive law enforcement to enforce compliance with anti-alcohol laws. The report also castigated the police for their “general failure… to detect and arrest criminals guilty of the many murders, spectacular ban, payroll and other holdups and sensational robberies with guns.”
Hoover was resolutely committed to law and order. Capone was intent on flaunting the system to enrich himself and his cronies. Something had to give. In the end, Hoover’s administration was able to garner sufficient evidence to convict Capone, not on any criminal charges directly, but on tax evasion. Jonathan Eig brings this story to light with his lively Get Capone.