al capone

Al Capone- inventor of milk expiration dates and all around nice fella

Although Al Capone is typically known as a gangster, to many people in his adopted city of Chicago, he was a modern-day Robin Hood.

Capone was the first person to open a soup kitchen to feed the poor during the Depression. At a time of 25 percent unemployment, Capone’s kitchens served three meals a day to ensure that everyone who had lost a job could get a meal. Soon, every city and town had a soup kitchen.

Capone did not only open them, but he would go to the soup kitchens and help serve the meals. These soup kitchens cost Capone thousands of dollars every day to keep running. It is said that Capone had a soft spot for people who were struggling.

It was reported that one of Capone’s family members in Chicago became ill from drinking expired milk. At that time, there were no controls on milk production or expiration.

This drew Capone’s interest to the milk business, and he saw several things: the milk distribution business had a shady character – and Capone was comfortable with shady businesses; he didn’t like to see people, especially children sickened by adulterated milk; he saw a potentially high profit in milk distribution; and with Prohibition soon to end, he had a fleet of trucks that could easily be used to transport milk.

Capone took two steps to move into the milk business. One was to acquire a milk processor, Meadowmoor Dairies. The other was to have the Chicago City Council pass a law requiring a visible date stamped on milk containers.

In 1930s Chicago, before refrigeration and supermarkets, milk was delivered by the milkman, a teamster’s union member. The union controlled the distribution of milk, whose freshness depended on how long the milk sat around until the driver delivered it.

The unions would only deliver local milk. Meadowmoor Dairies wanted to import cheeper milk from Wisconsin, and wanted it delivered by their own nonunion truckers.

With the negotiations at a standstill, Capone’s people reportedly kidnapped the union president and used the $50,000 ransom to purchase the dairy. The dairy was given as a present to Capone’s attorney, William Parrillo. Meadowmoor Dairies opened three months before Capone went to prison.

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December 5th 1933: Prohibition ends

On this day in 1933, Prohibition officially ended in the United States upon the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. Utah was the final state to ratify the amendment, and this gave the measure the required 75% of state approval. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment of 1920 which had imposed Prohibition, which banned alcohol in the United States. The amendment was the result of a lobbying campaign by conservative Protestants of both parties who argued that alcohol was debilitating to both health and morality. The prohibition movement stemmed from long-running temperance campaigns against alcohol in the nineteenth-century. The alcohol ban raised considerable protest, and led many to brew their own bootleg alcoholic drinks which in turn gave rise to an increase in organised crime and the power of gangsters like Chicago’s infamous Al Capone. As well as widespread opposition, the Great Depression contributed to the end of Prohibition as the ban withheld sorely needed tax revenue from the government during that economic crisis. The momentous passage of the 21st Amendment marked the only time in American history when one amendment has overturned another.

Fats Waller was kidnapped in Chicago leaving a performance in 1926. Four men bundled him into a car and took him to the Hawthorne Inn, owned by Al Capone. Waller was ordered inside the building, and found a party in full swing. Gun to his back, he was pushed towards a piano, and told to play. A terrified Waller realized he was the “surprise guest” at Capone’s birthday party, and took comfort that the gangsters did not intend to kill him. According to rumor, Waller played for three days. When he left the Hawthorne Inn, he was very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash from Capone and other party-goers as tips.