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The Real Al Capone Quotes
By William J. Helmer
Inspired by the great previous1990 publication called "The Quotable Al Capone" by Mark Levell and Bill Helmer, here below, on this page are a few bonafide and verified Al Capone quotes from the new version called The Wisdom of Al Capone.
After many years of observing misinterpreted, untruthful, and even made up quotes attributed to Al Capone, I've decided to post what was really uttered by the grandfather of all gangsters. Once someone makes something up and it is never verified, then it can be passed down and suddenly become accepted as truth to the unsuspecting public. Even to some so called authors and historians. Case in point was a recent AHC documentary called "Natural Born Outlaws" in which the author/ historian exclaims at the end of the documentary "One of Al Capone's favored quotes was "You can get further with a gun and a smile than you can with just a smile".
Even the Las Vegas Mob Museum fell for this nonsense with the made up quote prominently displayed in their gift shop wall.
Erroneous quote attributed to Al Capone in the gift shop at Las Vegas Mob Museum.
Excerpt below from the booklet called "The Wisdom Of Al Capone"
(Previously called The Quotable Capone)
"You can get much farther with a smile, a kind word and a gun than you can with a smile and a kind word."
"Al Capone said that. At least some people say that Al Capone said that. It's attributed to him in some "famous quotations" books. But no source is ever given, and it's just remotely possible that some low-life yellow journalist, at some time or another, decided that Al Capone, if he didn't say that, could have. Or should have.
The authors of this volume would never include such a probably-spurious quotation in this collection — at least not without cooking up a good excuse for doing so. Our excuse is that it serves as a good example of the kind of probably-spurious quotation we have not included.
For the following quotes, with the above exception, are taken entirely from interviews, newspaper stories, books and magazine articles (all listed in the Sources) by writers who, we are certain, would never misquote Mr. Capone, or put words in his mouth, or embellish his remarks, or misrepresent his position on any subject, considering the high regard in which Scarface Al was held by scholars, philosophers, gun dealers, revenuers and other intellectuals of the day."
- Mark Levell & Bill Helmer, Chicago
Agreed! So in that case Myalcaponemuseum investigates and finds that there were many versions of this quote such as;
"You get a lot more from a kind word and a gun than from a kind word alone. "
"You can go further with a smile and a gun, than with a smile alone."
"You can get more with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word."
Unfortunately, all are utter and complete bullshit in relation to Al Capone! That particular saying was gaining popularity after appearing in Irv Kupcinet's Chicago Sun Times column for May 9, 1986. It was passed on to Forbes (October 6,1986) which then was used in David Mamet's script that ended up being used for the 1987 movie called "The Untouchables". After research in all the 1920-1930's newspaper and magazine interviews attributed to Al Capone, this said quote was found never to have been uttered by the gang monarch.
(1) It was first mentioned in a 1962 Seattle newspaper in reference to Professor Irwin Corey, a stand up comedian. Among the jokes in his routine was his take on philosophy mentioning during his standup act that you can get more with a kind word and a gun than just with a kind word. It later was used again in his routine and other comedians' routines, but now it was suddenly attributed to Al Capone. Nobody questioned it's provenance and continued to roll with it over the years. Mr. Corey confirmed people lifting his original quotes and using them and attributing them to other people.
See and hear Mr. Corey tell the story himself in this 2015 Youtube video.
Another quote attributed falsely to Capone was "Vote early, Vote often", which was in fact probably uttered by a politician. Other non proven Capone quotes such as "Don't mistake my kindness for weakness" are also dubious at best. It's the kind of quotes many wished Al Capone would have said. If your search youtube, you will now come across a plethora of made up fake quotes now attributed to Al Capone.
No need to fear as Al Capone had many, many great quotes during his tenure as Chicago's crime potentate. They are found here below!
The Real Quotes
"Nobody wanted Prohibition. This town voted six to one against it. Somebody had to throw some liquor on that thirst. Why not me?"
"Hell, it's a business... All I do is supply a public demand. I do it in the best and least harmful way I can. I can't change the conditions. I just meet them without backing up."
"I'm a businessman. I've made my money supplying a popular demand. If I break the law, my customers are as guilty as I am."
"Some of the biggest Drys in the country buy from me and have for years, so let's stop kidding."
"All I ever did was sell beer and whiskey to our best people. All I ever did was supply a demand that was pretty popular. Why, the very guys that make my trade good are the ones that yell the loudest about me. Some of the leading judges use the stuff."
"Ninety percent of the people of Cook County drink and gamble and my offense has been to furnish them with those amusements. Whatever else they may say, my booze has been good and my games have been on the square. Public service has been my motto."
"I violate the Prohibition law, sure, Who doesn't? The only difference is that I take more chances than the man who drinks a cocktail before dinner and a flock of highballs after it."
"The country wanted booze and I organized it. Why should I be called a public enemy?"
"The funny part of the whole thing is that a man in this line of business has so much company. I mean his customers. If people did not want beer and wouldn't drink it, a fellow would be crazy for going around trying to sell it!"
"I give the public what it wants. I never had to send out high-pressure salesmen. I could never meet the demand."
"I've seen gambling houses, too-in my travels, you understand-and I never saw anyone point a gun at a man and make him go in. Tve never heard of anyone being forced to go to a place to have some fun."
"I have read in the papers of bank cashiers being put in cars, with pistols stuck in their slats, and taken to tlie bank, where they had to open the vault for the fellow with the gun. It really looks like taking a drink is worse than robbing a bank. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it is."
"I never stuck up a man in my life. Neither did any of my agents ever rob anybody or burglarize any homes while they worked for me. They might have pulled plenty of jobs before they came with me or after they left me, but not while they were in my outfit."
"I've been spending the best years of my life as a public benefactor. I've given people the light pleasures, shown them a good time. And all I get is abuse."
"When I sell liquor, they call it bootlegging. When my patrons serve it on silver trays on Lake Shore Drive, they call it hospitality."
"They talk about me not being legitimate. Nobody's on the legit, You know that and so do they. Nobody's really-on the legit when it comes down to cases."
"My rackets are run on strictly American lines and they are going to stay that way."
"Don't get the idea I'm one of those goddam radicals, Don't get the idea I'm knocking the American system."
"A crook is a crook, and there's something healthy about his frankness in the matter. But the guy who pretends he's enforcing the law and steals on his authority is a swell snake.
"The worst type is the Big Politician who gives about half his time to covering up so that no one will know he's a thief. A hard-working crook can buy these birds by the dozens, but he hates them in his heart."
"If machines are going to take jobs away from the worker, then he will need to find something else to do. Perhaps he'll get back to the soil. But we must care for him during the period of change. We must keep him away from Red literature, Red ruses; we must see that his mind remains healthy."
"A kidnapper is no better than a rat, and I don't approve of his racket because it makes the kidnaped man's wife and kiddies worry so much. I shall be glad to help Chicago in this emergency."
"I'll go as deep in my pockets as any man to help any guy that needs help. I can't stand to see anybody hungry or cold or helpless."
"Graft is a byword in American life today. It is law where no law is obeyed. It is undermining this country. The honest lawmakers of any city can be counted on your fingers. I could count Chicago's on one hand."
"Crooked bankers who take people's hard-earned cash for stock they know is worthless would be far better clients at penal institutions than the little man who robs so that his wife and babies may live."
"Once you're in the racket, you're always in it. The parasites will trail you, begging for money and favors, and you can never get away from them no matter where you go."
"Union members look at dues the same way they look at taxes: just something you got to pay the thieves who run things."
"You'd be surprised if you knew some of the fellows I've got to take care of."
"Well, maybe he thinks that the law of self-defense, the way God looks at it, is a little broader than the lawbooks have it."
"There's always some wiseacre who stands in the wings and criticizes. You've got two choices. You either buy these wiseacres off by giving them jobs...or you scare them off. If they don't scare, you take them in the alley. When they get out of the hospital, if they still want to squawk, you get rid of them."
"It's hard, dangerous work, aside from any hate at all, and when a fellow works hard at any line of business he wants to go home and forget about it. He don't want to be afraid to sit near a window or an open door."
"I'm the boss. I'm going to continue to run things. They've been putting the roscoe on me for a good many years and I'm still healthy and happy. Don't let anybody kid you into thinking I can be run out of town. I haven't run yet and I'm not going to."
"People who respect nothing dread fear. It is upon fear, therefore, that I have built up my organization. But understand me correctly, please. Those who work with me are afraid of nothing. Those who work for me are kept faithful, not so much because of their pay as because they know what might be done with them if they broke faith."
"Deany was all right and he was getting along to begin with better than he had any right to expect. But like everyone else, his head got away from his hat."
"I'm sorry Hymie was killed, but I didn't have anything to do with it.... There's enough business for all of us without killing each other like animals in the street."
"Of course I didn't kill McSwiggin. Why should I? I liked the kid. Only the day before he got knocked off he was over at my place, and when he went home I gave him a bottle of Scotch for his old man. If I wanted to knock him off, I could have done it then, couldn't I? We had him on the spot."
'They've hung everything on me but the Chicago fire."
"I paid McSwiggin and I paid him plenty, and I got what I was paying for."
"Every time a boy falls off a tricycle, every time a black cat has gray kittens, every time someone stubs a toe, every time there's a murder or a fire or the Marines land in Nicaragua, the police and the newspapers holler, 'Get Capone!' I'm sick of it. As soon as I possibly can, I'll clear out of here."
"The other day a man came in here and said that he had to have $3000. If I'd give it to him, he said, he would make me the beneficiary of a $15,000 insurance policy and then kill himself. I had to have him pushed out."
"Today I got a letter from a woman in England. Even over there I'm known as a gorilla. She offered to pay my passage to London if I would kill some neighbors she's having a quarrel with."
"It seems like I'm responsible for every crime that takes place in this country."
"Nobody was ever killed except outlaws, and the community is better off without them."
"I told them we are making a shooting gallery out of a great business and nobody is profiting by it."
"I came to Chicago with forty dollars in my pocket.... My son is now twelve. I am still married and I love my wife dearly. We had to make a living. I was younger than I am now, and I thought I needed more. I didn't believe in prohibiting people from getting the things they wanted. I thought Prohibition was an unjust law and I still do."
"Why not treat our business like any other man treats his, as something to work at in the daytime and forget when he goes home at night? There's plenty of business for everybody. Why kill each other over it?"
"I wanted to stop all that because I couldn't stand hearing my little kid ask why I didn't stay home. I had been living at the Hawthorne Inn for fourteen months... If it wasn't for him, I'd have said, To hell with you fellows. We'll shoot it out."
"I have always been opposed to violence, to shootings. I have fought, yes, but fought for peace. And I believe I can take credit for the peace that now exists in the racket game in Chicago. I believe that the people can thank me for the fact that gang killings here are probably a thing of the past."
"I'm tired of gang murders and gang shootings. It's a tough life to lead. You fear death at every moment, and worse than death, you fear the rats of the game who'd run around and tell the police if you don't constantly satisfy them with money and favors."
"I want peace, and I will live and let live. I'm like any other man. I've been in this racket long enough to realize that a man in my game must take the breaks, the fortunes of war. I haven't had any peace of mind in years. Every minute I'm in danger of death."
"What do you want to do, get yourself killed before you are thirty? You'd better get some sense while a few of us are left alive."
"I don't want to end up in the gutter punctured by machine gun slugs."
"Things people know about amuse them. They like to laugh over them and make jokes. When a speakeasy is raided, there are a few hysterical people, but the general mass are light hearted. On the other hand, do you know any of your friends who'd go into fits of merriment if they feared being taken for a ride?"
"I'd rather the newspapers wouldn't print a line about me. That's the way I feel. No more brass bands for me. There's a lot of grief attached to the limelight. If I was just plain Izzy Polatski, living in Chicago, I wouldn't stand out in the gutter trying to get a peek at Capone. I'd attend to my business and let him attend to his."
'I've got a mother who never misses mass unless she's too sick to get out of bed. I've a wife who loves me as dearly as any woman could love a man. They have feelings. They are hurt by what the newspapers say about me. And I can't tell you what it does to my twelve-year-old son when the other school children, cruel as they are, keep showing him newspaper stories that call me a killer or worse."
"There's a lot of people in Chicago that have got me pegged for one of those bloodthirsty mobsters you read about in storybooks.The kind that tortures his victims, cuts off their ears, puts out their eyes with a red-hot poker and grins while he's doing it. Now get me right. I'm not posing as a model for youth. I've had to do a lot of things I don't like to do. But I'm not as black as I'm painted. I'm human. I've got a heart in me."
"I'm out of the booze racket now and I wish the papers would let me alone."
"Let the worthy citizens of Chicago get their liquor the best way they can. I'm sick of the job. It's a thankless one and full of grief."
"I am a property-owner and taxpayer in Chicago."
"It's pretty tough when a citizen with an unblemished record must be hounded from his home by the very policemen whose salaries are paid, at least in part, from the victim's pocket. You might say that every policeman in Chicago gets some of his bread and butter from the taxes I pay."
"If Al Capone is found guilty, who is going to suffer-a masquerading ghost or the man who stands before you? You're right; it'll be me who goes to jail. Well, I'd much rather be sitting in a box watching the world baseball championship. What a life!"
"I was willing to go to jail. I could have taken my stretch, come back to my wife and child, and lived my own life. But I'm being hounded by a public that won't give me a fair chance. They want a full show, all the courtroom trappings, the hue and cry, and all the rest. It's utterly impossible for a man of my age to have done all the things I'm charged with. I'm a spook, born of a million minds."
"I'll be made an issue in the next presidential campaign. We sent Capone to the penitentiary, they'll be saying. It wouldn't seem so bad if they didn't use the income tax for political purposes. There's a lot of big men in Chicago who beat the government out of most of the taxes they ought to pay and they get away with it. I don't think that's playing fair, but they've got me and I'll have to take the medicine."
"I leave with gratitude to my friends who have stood by me through this unjust ordeal, and with forgiveness for my enemies. I wish them all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."
"You gotta have a product that everybody needs every day. We don't have it in booze. Except for the lushes, most people only buy a couple of fifths of gin or Scotch when they're having a party. The workingman laps up half a dozen bottles of beer on Saturday night, and that's it for the week. But with milk! Every family every day wants it on the table. The people on Lake Shore Drive want thick cream in their coffee. The big families out back of the yards have to buy a couple of gallons of freshmilk every day for the kids.... Do you guys know there's a bigger markup in fresh milk than there is in alcohol? Honest to God, we've been in the wrong racket right along."
Time Magazine March 24,1930.
"How Al Capone Would Run This Country!", by Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr., Liberty, Oct. 17,1931.
The Chicago Daily News
The Chicago Herald-Examiner
The Chicago American
The Quotable Al Capone, by Mark Levell and Bill Helmer.
The Bootleggers, by Kenneth Alsop, 1961.
Capone, by John Kobler, 1971.
Capone, The Biography of a Self-Made Man., by Fred Pasley, 1930.
Capone's Chicago, by Richard T. Enright, 193
The Gun That Made the Twenties Roar, by William J. Helmer, 1969.
(1) July 3, 1962, Seattle Daily Times, Impeccable Educator: Prof. Irwin Corey Hits Kennedy Steel Stand! by Jack De Yonge, Quote Page 7, Column 7, Seattle, Washington.