Friday, August 14, 2020

Al Capone's soup kitchen

Chicago shivered through a bleak November in 1930. More than 75,000 jobless Chicago citizens lined up to register for relief. A week later the Chicago Tribune reported that a benefactor had rented a storefront and opened a soup kitchen and it was none other than the city’s king of booze, beer and vice. Capone’s soup kitchen served breakfast, lunch and dinner to an average of 2,200 every day. By Thanksgiving that number was over 5,000.
None felt conflicted taking charity from a gangster. The Bismarck Tribune noted, “a hungry man is just as glad to get soup and coffee from Al Capone as from anyone else.”

Capone was never photographed in his soup kitchen but the publicity was intense. The Daily Independent of Murphysboro, Illinois, expressed displeasure at the adulation bestowed upon Capone. “If anything were needed to make the farce of Gangland complete, it is the Al Capone soup kitchen,” it editorialized. “It would be rather terrifying to see Capone run for mayor of Chicago. We are afraid he would get a tremendous vote. It is even conceivable that he might be elected after a few more stunts like his soup kitchens.”
No amount of publicity would save Capone from being found guilty of income-tax evasion in November 1931.