Al Capone letter, medical notes up for auction
CONCORD, N.H. — Al Capone was a ruthless Chicago gangster best known for his 1929 “Valentine's Day Massacre” of seven members of rival bootlegger Bugs Moran's gang.
But few know of his tortured demise at 48 — not at the hands of mobsters or federal agents — but in the throes of dementia and violent outbursts that marked his final struggle with syphilis.
A file of medical records, a letter from Capone to one of his doctors, an official copy of his death certificate and photographs of him alive and dead are being offered for sale by a New Hampshire auction house.
RR Auction, of Amherst, obtained the collection from the family of the late Dr. Kenneth Phillips of Miami — Capone's primary physician. It includes a lengthy letter to Phillips from Dr. Joseph Moore — a Baltimore syphilis specialist involved in Capone's treatment. In it, Moore suggests Capone's family hire a male nurse posing as a chauffeur to protect the public from the gangster's dementia-driven violent outbursts.
“If, by any chance, Mr. Capone makes an unprovoked attack upon a stranger, he is very likely to find himself in court for disturbing the peace and, as a result of that, to be recognized insane by the judge and to be committed to a Florida psychiatric hospital,” Moore wrote in 1941.
Moore said treatment had increased Capone's mental and intelligence quotient from that of a 7-year-old to an age 14 range.
“However he is still silly, childish and mentally deteriorated,” Moore told Phillips.
Moore treated Capone for several years, beginning when he was released from prison in 1939, after serving nearly eight years for tax evasion and bootlegging. Phillips cared for him for the balance of his life. According to the medical charts and physicians' letters, Capone became “recognizably insane” near the end of his stint in California's Alcatraz penitentiary.
The Brooklyn-born Capone quit school in the 6th grade, joined a street gang and early on showed no aversion to gunning down rivals. He went to Chicago at the invitation of mob leader Johnny Torrio and in 1925 became the boss at age 26 — after Torrio was nearly killed during an assassination attempt.
The Capone memorabilia includes a family portrait of Capone with his wife, Mae, and their daughter and son-in-law. It also includes 23 glossy photographs of Capone lying in his $2,000 bronze casket surrounded by floral arrangements.
In a letter to Phillips in 1941, Capone asks about the doctor's family before requesting more “of them red pills for bowels movement.”
The Capone memorabilia will be sold as a single lot, as part of an “Old West, Gangsters and Mobsters” auction. Bidding ends June 19. RR Auction vice president Bobby Livingston says he expects the lot will fetch more than $50,000.
“This particular archive from Capone's doctor really needed to be kept together,” Livingston said. “As a whole it gives such an insight into Capone's life after Alcatraz.”