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Ralph Capone

(1893-1974)
Brother of Al Capone

In 1950 the United Press reported: “. . . in his own right [Ralph Capone] is now one of the overlords of the national syndicate which controls gambling, vice and other rackets.” It was hardly so. Ralph Capone was never very high on the list of leaders of the Chicago mob, although he did relay orders given by his younger brother, Al.

As much in tribute to his brother as to himself, Ralph was always accorded a position of honor and trust within the syndicate, both before and after Al’s death. His nickname, Bottles, came about because of the soft drink bottling plants Al had set him up in. (Al wanted to develop a monopoly on the soda water and ginger ale used in mixed drinks, an activity he figured would continue after the end of Prohibition. As a tactic, it proved very profitable.) During the World’s Fair of 1933–1934, Ralph’s bottled waters, flavored and plain, were just about the only soft drinks available on the premises except for Coca- Cola, which, thanks to Chicago syndicate tolerance, was permitted entrance. Since Coca-Cola was even then known as the Democratic Party’s drink, the mob tolerated this political accommodation to a new national administration.

But Bottles, who received a handsome mobsubsidized income, was responsible for more than soda pop operations. Among other things, he maintained Al’s Palm Island estate in Biscayne Bay off Miami Beach while Al was in Alcatraz. Ralph dutifully opened the estate to the mob for meeting purposes and the like while permitting the boys to soak up the sun. Although most of Al Capone’s wealth reverted to the Mafia, Al was nonetheless well provided for.

Ralph lived well, so much so that during the Kefauver hearings he was grilled at great length. He really had few facts to contribute on organizedcrime, never having achieved anywhere near the status of a Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky or Al Capone, or the then active leadership of the Chicago Outfit,including Jake Guzik, Tony Accardo, Paul Ricca and Sam Giancana.

Although Bottles Capone prospered because of his Capone relationship, his son, Ralph Jr. did not. Through his school years and college, his marriage and fatherhood, and a depressing series of jobs he abandoned once his true identity was established, young Ralph struggled to escape the Capone name. About a month after his father appeared before the Kefauver Committee in 1950, the son washed down a fatal number of cold tablets with a half quart of scotch.

Ralph Sr. lived until 1974. Although long retired, he was still described in his eighties as a powerhouse in the mob. He wasn’t, but he did die rich.