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Al Capone's CPD Mugshot
Al Capone's CPD mugshot (head only).
(Photo courtesy of the William J. Helmer Collection)

The new year started with a quite interesting photo that brought me many, many emails and different questions from many Al Capone buffs out there,this, during and after the 10 day auction. While I told those who contacted what it was really worth, I've finally decided to answer the other remaining questions here and give you what info I have compiled about this photo. I too, had observed it being auctioned on Ebay. Hey! don't knock Ebay! Lots of authentic and historic items can be found on there, but only if you really know your Capone stuff!
This particular item I stayed away from because I already had a better version of it. The one at auction was rather a copy of a copy. What does that really mean? In short, let's just say it was not worth at all what it ended up selling for. From a standpoint of collectability, Capone personal family photos and items are just the better way to go. The reason being is that most of those are totally unique and have way better provenance. These newspaper photos are not, because most newspaper photos have had many original copies made for distribution to the thousands of newspapers back then. Many photo archives have sadly been stolen or thrown in the garbage, yes, I said garbage!!! Being too cumbersome during bankruptcy or moving, many newspaper archives just chucked them all in the dumpster, that, or they ended up in private collections or copies were made of them adnauseum on Ebay. A 46" X 30" poster of Al Capone's mugshot anyone? Geez!
Now then, let's have a closer look at this particular photo.

Reprinted NEA copy of Al Capone standing mug shot that appeared on Ebay. This lighter copy has a non physical printed version of sticker and info.
(Photo courtesy of The Cleveland Public Library/Photograph Collection)

Now you may ask yourself is it an original? While yes, it is a rarely seen shot, this particular one at auction is not a rare original collectible photo because it is in essence, just a copy of a copy. Originally in the NEA archives, an original photo was taken (1931-32) from the original Chicago Police Department Capone mugshot with a camera by a newspaper man. This photographed copy of the original February 1931 CPD photo ended up in the NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association) archives. It was going to be specifically used for a story about Al Capone for March 8, 1932, pertaining to the NEA story on the Capone gang being brought down by the Government and also about Capone's possible role in offering help to the Lindbergh family in finding the kidnappers of their baby. These stories finally ran minus the Capone stand up mugshot photo. In later years, a copy could be purchased of the unused photo by anyone from the library for a nominal fee ($25) in which both sides were copied. This is an example that was on Ebay recently. The library no longer prints actual photo prints but you can visit the library to print it on regular media for something like 25 Cents! Be sure to note that since they have the NEA Archives, The Cleveland Library owns the rights to this said copy of the photo.

The original first copy with original physical NEA sticker and date stamps taken of the original February 25,1931, CPD mugshot .
(Photo courtesy of The Cleveland Public Library/Photograph Collection)

Now if this auction had been for the original Chicago Police musghot?  Now that photo is worth it's weight in gold!
Earlier (head only) mugshots were mostly used and full length CPD mugshots started around 1928, with one shot of the criminal wearing his hat or overcoat (depending the season) and one without. The norm for the CPD full length shot was without coat and hat on the right and hatless and coatless on the left. Capone's full length mugshot seems to defy the norm, the photographer who photographed the original mugshot photo may have rearranged the split photos in opposite order. Also, the white number on the full length shot should normally be on the right hand side of the photo. The error was made at the NEA photo dept.

Correct copy of original version from Chicago Police Dept.
The official mugshot back side would have listed his name, aliases, address, hair color, eye color, height, weight, fingerprint coordinates etc...
Below is an example from the back of another infamous mugshot. This copy of Capone's standing mugshot was sent out to all police and detective agencies around the country in 1931.
(Chicago Police Department mugshot)

The original Chicago Police Department photo was taken February 25,1931, for vagrancy. Immediately after, Capone was charged with contempt of court for failing to appear while feigning sickness. After a quick trial, he got sentenced to 6 months, which was artfully dodged until after his income tax trial. In 1929, Capone said he was too sick to come to Chicago to face a Federal Court for questioning and even going so far as getting his personal doctor to lie to the court. Detectives in Florida had seen Capone not sick at all but up and about Miami visiting boxing matches, horse and dog tracks.

This photo of Capone on the same day he was photographed for the standing CPD mugshot. Capone had a several suits during the February court dates.
Capone settled for a flashy brown suit for his standing and head mugshots. On that day he was photographed by newspaper reporters from different angles. Capone, who was dressed to the nines that day, liked the photos so much that he requested copies made. He then signed and gave them away to friends.
(Photo courtesy of the William J. Helmer Collection)

A smiling Capone in custody February 1931.
(Photo courtesy of the William J. Helmer Collection)

The February 1931 contempt case was the government's springboard into attacking Capone full throttle for his income tax evasion.

SEE Al Capone's Tax Trial and downfall

Special thanks to The Cleveland Library staff and the Cleveland Library Photo Collection dept.

First  posted January 3, 2018.