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Origins of the Scars
Uncovered publically here first on May 17, 2020!
The official date that Al Capone became 'SCARFACE' is
The Detroit Free Press ran an exclusive claiming to know how Capone got his scars. Just one of the many versions that proved unfounded.
This one claiming Al got into a fight after a fellow gang member threw liquor on his favorite blue tie.
Many versions of this story has been told over the years. Everything from the scars being received after a battle in France during World War one, to a jealous lover, to a beer hall fight. Some players in the story change from fellow gang member or from insult to a sister or a girlfriend. Most are denied or unfounded. The more plausible Galluccio reference first hits the newspapers in 1938.
The years offered for the scarring incident vary anywhere from 1917, 1919, 1923, and 1925.
Photos of Al Capone in 1917 show no scars.
All we have are handed down accounts of the story. The facts are this; Capone was indeed scarred, the exact story and legend will always be up for scrutiny. As one story stated, if it continues to evolve, then one day it will become solar.
Al Capone would like to refer to those nasty marks on the left side of his face as a result of fighting in the lost Battalion back in France during the first World War.
Al Capone with that look when a photographer gets his wrong side.
THE ACCEPTED STORY HANDED THROUGH TIME.
Repeat a lie often enough, and it will become truth!
1918 advertisment for The Harvard Inn on Coney Island. This is the place of legends.
One lore in particular tells us that this is the place where Al Capone got his famous scars. But is it?
An interesting article appeared in the Chicago magazine March 1990. New York mob historian and Young Capone author William Balsamo stated that he had met Capone slasher Frank Galluccio at a restaurant / bar called Lentos in 1965. In his later book, and recent interviews, the meeting now takes place in the early fall of 1959, with Galluccio dying a year later. Galluccio told Balsamo not to say anything about their conversation until only after he left for the great beyond. In the more recent account, this would make the 1965 meeting mentioned in the earlier Chicago magazine virtually impossible if Galluccio died in 1960, as later claimed. With the actual meeting or death dates notwithstanding, the initial story has evolved over several decades. Many authors, historians and documentaries have been repeating the myth, now adding their own twists to the tale.
The basic story or many repeated variations of it are as follows;
Back in 1917* young burly Al Capone was working as a bouncer, waiter or both at the Harvard Inn on Coney Island for Frankie Yale.
Frankie Yale was a mob boss in New York.
On one particular summer evening back in 1917*, a New York hood by the name of Frank Galluccio entered the dance hall/ speakeasy with his younger / little sister Lena and his date by the name of Maria Tanzio. (Could be his girlfriend, sister or any female with a hot posterior at the time of this event).
Balsamo admits the name Lena may have been a substitute.
While Al was waiting tables, he noticed Galluccio's young sister, girlfriend etc.. and began smiling at her. The said woman became annoyed and embarrassed at Capone's constant staring, so much so that she asked Galluccio to kindly ask Capone to stop it. Frank was just about to ask Capone to stop when Capone leans over to her and tells her "Honey, you got a nice ass and I mean that as a compliment, believe me!"
Frank hears this, and goes ballistic. He quickly tells Capone that he won't take this shit from anybody and demands that Capone apologize immediately to his sister / woman companion or else.
Al tells Frank with his arms extended "Come on buddy, I'm only joking"
Galluccio responds "This is no fucking joke! " Capone at this moment stops smiling and comes charging at Galluccio who quickly takes out a pocket knife and slashes Capone three times.
He aimed for the neck, but got his face instead as Galluccio had several drinks that evening.
Capone required up to 30 stitches at Coney Island hospital.
After the incident, Galluccio said he had a sitdown with the New York bosses Frankie Yale and including ***Charles "Lucky" Luciano, who is supposedly sent in by Joe "The Boss" Masseria. Capone was called upon and warned by the underworld not to attempt retribution for that slashing as Capone was at fault for insulting Galluccio's companion. Capone agreed and apologized for insulting Galluccio and his female companion. Galluccio did feel bad for scarring Al, but did what he felt was right in protecting a woman's honor.
***The statement mentioned by Galluccio of Joe "The Boss" having sent emissary Charles "Lucky" Luciano for a sitdown is very questionable. Even Masseria, who at that time was just let out of Sing Sing for burglarizing a pawn shop and didn't wield any such power until the early 1920's.
Most of this story you have read for years is just made up fabricated lore!
First newspaper mention of Galluccio in connection with Al Capone's scars.
November 29,1938. Subsequent stories in newspapers have Galluccio scarring Capone in 1923, and 1925, which is complete utter nonsense.
The Brooklyn Eagle, November 29, 1938.
A 1928 story suggested Al was mistaken as a squealer during his time in Brooklyn which caused his scars from a vengeful fellow gang member.
THE KNOWN FACTS!
Convieniently, Galluccio's tale starts making it's headlines in November 23,1938, this when Capone was in prison and his mental health failing. Upon closer srcutiny, Galluccio's story had many holes in it. It was hard to say what was true or what was made up. For instance, he never had a sister named Lena. He also never had a younger sister. He had two older sisters named Annie and Teresa. Some claim Lena was the supposed pseudonym used by Galluccio or the author in the story for his real sister Teresa. As to the whole truth of the story, was Galluccio stretching the truth? Most probably or maybe just partly.
The only part of truth was probably a fight, but of what? It's possible Al made a snide remark to a woman and some guys seeked revenge. So many scenarios have been puit out there. Things like, could it be some Irish White Handers that took exception to Al impregnating an Irish girl? The possiblilities are abound, the stories and rumors are endless. I have trouble with Galluccio being drunk, with an approx. described height of 5' 6" getting in three consecutive slashes on a heavier set Capone. A broken bottle maybe? That theory could create three scars with one swing. If it's a knife, then Capone's version of two guys cutting him makes more sense! One guy holds Capone while Galluccio slices away? All very plausible. But still not the real story!
The facts I have uncovered
* Al Capone got his scars on a Sunday night, December 8, 1918, and not on a hot summer evening in 1917. The fact is the event made the local Brooklyn paper the next day.
Without giving specific details, Capone stated it was two men who attacked him and slashed his face. It is confirmed that he was patched up by a doctor from Methodist Episcopal Hospital in Brooklyn, and not Coney Island Hospital as Galluccio had told in his clandestine interview.
Now the important statement is key. A doctor from the Methodist Episcopal Hospital. This means the doctor was in the area nearby the hospital or the area closest to the scene of the said slashing incident. Now did Al run home bleeding profusely or did he run to the hospital? "Doctor from" implies the doctor either found Al in his bleeding state enroute or was called to Al's aid nearby. In any case, it had to be nearby, and not Coney Island as most suggest. Think of it! Coney Island to Methodist Hospital or the area where Al or Galluccio lived was like over 7 miles! Imagine bleeding profusely. So this can confirm the following;
1) The slashing incident did not happen at the Harvard Inn
2) That Al Capone did not go to Coney Island Hospital to get patched up.
The Brooklyn Daily Times, December 9, 1918.
Even the correct newspaper report made an error when it stated his right side was slashed, when in fact it was the left side of his face that was cut.
Since the actual slashing happened in December, this makes the other part of Galluccio's story of it happening in the Harvard Inn also very suspicious. Why? Because most of Coney Island was closed for the season that ran from September to May. Only a huge massive club like Stauch's was opened all year round, and they proudly advertised it as such in the newspapers during the winter months.
The Harvard Inn dwarfed in comparison to Stauch, and was probably not even open during the winter. No advertising for the Harvard Inn is shown before May or after September.
Interesting fact! The Capone slashing incident happened 4 days after his son Albert Francis was born, and 22 days before he got married. It could also be that Capone probably embellished the story to make it look like a random unprovoked attack instead of a drunken fight over a woman. Mae would have flipped her lid! The latter also wouldn't look good in his family's eyes, especially toward his soon to be wife's family, whom he probably tried to impress as an honest hard working and stable man.
This is the Methodist Episcopal Hospital where a doctor, who was probably nearby or summoned from patched up a bleeding Al Capone.
So now we know that Al Capone did not go to Coney Island Hospital as Frank Galluccio erroneously described in his supposed interview.
(Mario Gomes Collection)
New York Times March 28, 1940.
Frank Galluccio, a low level hood who robbed at gunpoint, was also working at the Siegel Brother's Company sewing buttons. He also used the title of salesman as a profession. He had three brothers and two sisters.
Galluccio's military registration card shows him living at Union street.
Capone's neighborhood was close-by (38 Garfield and so was the Methodist Episcopal Hospital).
It also shows his height.
1) Galluccio never had a younger sister named Lena. Galluccio only had two older sisters named Annie and Teresa.
2) Galluccio height changes in stories from 5' 8" to 5' 2". His WW1 draft card lists him as being medium height. This would be two months before he slashed Capone. Medium would be about 5' 6" or 5' 7". Al Capone at this time was also of medium height. He would later shoot up to 5' 10" by 1932.
Official height for Al Capone: Above is from the Atlanta penitentiary in 1932, and below is while at Alcatraz in 1938.
3) The Galluccio story starts up in November of 1938, this conveniently when Capone has become mentally and physically feeble in prison.
4) Capone was not slashed in the summer of 1917. We know Capone was slashed on December 8, 1918.
5) With the exception of Stauch's cabaret, most of all of Coney Island was closed down between September through May. Not much people went to Coney island in the cold winter months. The Harvard Inn was a little club that may have not been opened at all during the winter. This makes the location of the slashing incident now dubious.
6) Galluccio mentions being tipsy. Now, can drunk man have the time to take out his knife and slash an athletic Capone three times successively without any interruptive reprisal?
7) Galluccio mentions Capone went to Coney Island hospital to get stitched up? This hospital was 0.8 miles and only 5 minutes from the Harvard Inn. The problem with this theory is the new uncovered evidence shows that Capone actually went to the Methodist Episcopal Hospital to get his face patched up. That hospital was 12.7 miles or 24 minutes by car from the Harvard Inn at Coney Island. If the slashing did really happen at the Harvard Inn, then why would Capone, who at the time is probably bleeding profusely, go all the way there instead of Coney Island hospital? In my opinion, the attack more than likely happened closer to the Methodist Episcopal Hospital, where Capone was really treated.
Coney Island at winter time and the mere distance to the hospital leads me to believe that the Harvard Inn was not at all the place where the slashing happened!
1910 census showing Frank Galluccio had two older sisters only.
The facts and some other theories on what may have transpired.
There were reports in underworld circles, especially from those in the know at the time, that confided in return for anonymity, that the Capone slashing attack happened at Union Street near 4th and 5th Avenues. This location actually makes the most sense. Why? Due to logistics, the Harvard Inn for this event make no sense whatsoever! I accept the theory that Galluccio was the attacker, and possibly with someone else. At this location, Capone wasn't out at all out of his territory. He lived (38 Garfield place) just 5 minutes from the area where the attack occurred. Frank Galluccio lived (677 Union street) just 190 ft from Union Street and 4th or 5th Avenues. Since he had no younger sister named Lena, there is no truth to Galluccio's version that his younger sister Lena was the cause of the attack, so we then must assume the next real plausible reasons.
Daily News excerpt of 'someone in the know' as to the area the slashing happened.
This seems logical as the area coincides with the area Galluccio lived and the area near Capone's family home. It's also close to the Methodist Episcopal Hospital.
1) At a dance Capone may have encountered Galluccio's youngest older sister named Teresa, who at the time would have been 21 years old. He may have been flirting with her or making derogatory remarks about her when Frank lost it and attacked Capone. The other sister Anna was 28 years old at the time and would have been a bit too old for Capone to have any interest. Let's say, that even for argument sake, if he did flirt or insult Anna, she would probably have told Capone where to go without any of Frank's help!
2) Capone crossed paths with Galluccio and a fight ensued. It could have been a verbal slight or just an evil look.
3) A robbery gone bad. Interestingly enough, Galluccio was arrested a month after the Capone attack for holding up Samuel Ebstein at gun point. Galluccio robbed $30 from Ebstein at the Borough Park Casino and was part of a hold up gang in the Flatbush section being investigated by undercover detectives. He was held without bail pending his appearance in front of the grand jury. (Least plausible).
Other plausible scenario
In an 1977 newspaper interview, a man named Dominick Grimaldi claims to have witnessed the slashing while he was sitting in the Whitehouse restaurant at 739 Grand Street. He claims Capone and Galluccio were sitting at the same table and that Capone was talking to Galluccio. Grimaldi could hear and see Capone while Galluccio had his back facing Grimaldi, he could still hear him. Galluccio told Capone to stop talking about his sister that way. Capone continued to egg on Galluccio who became totally irate and whipped out a blade slashing Capone's face. His recollection of addresses may have been wrong, but this theory is the most accurate in it's nature. This Whitehouse restaurant location was too far from the dance hall to be plausible.
My conclusion of what happened through the new facts uncovered
Retracing the steps and the the distances of the known locations help to confirm the following; Another witness, close to Capone in his younger days, revealed under anonymity that Capone and Galluccio had gotten into the initial fight at the Columbia Hall where weekend dancing was held. On that evening of December 7- 8, 1918, (Sunday) a dance was going on as usual when Capone and Galluccio got into it near the dance floor. When the fight started, the music abruptly stopped. The dance floor fighting was broken up by friends of both parties. It was started because Capone kept making lewd remarks about Galluccio's older sister.
The Columbia Hall at 725 Union Street and fifth avenue.
This is where Al Capone and Frank Galluccio got into the initial fight on the evening of December 8, 1918.
This fight eventually led to Capone's scarring later that evening in a restaurant.
The initial fight reveals Galluccio had no weapon on him at the time. Also, a slashing at the dance hall in front of many witnesses would not have been good for Galluccio as this would have called attention to the police and newspapers about the event. The slashing was yet to happen! After the dance floor scuffle, a hungry Capone and friends left the dance hall and ended up in a restaurant around the corner at 212 5th avenue. As they were eating and drinking, suddenly in walks Galluccio with his friends looking for Capone. Capone started again with his bad mouthing off to Galluccio. Galluccio sat his party next to Capone and started another heated argument. Galluccio told Capone to shut up and apologize right then and there. Capone, amused by Galluccio's smaller stature, just kept mouthing off. A tipsy and tired Galluccio, not getting the apology he wanted, finally grabbed a steak knife off the table and sliced Capone's face three times in quick succession. Capone, totally in shock at the blood gushing out of his face, quickly ran out. Enroute, a passersby called for help and a doctor from the nearby Methodist Episcopal Hospital patched up Capone and stopped the bleeding. Lucky for Capone, Galluccio did not hit a main artery. The story (with the wrong side of his face) was mentioned in the local paper the very next day.
The Brooklyn Daily Times, December 9, 1918.
The restaurant at 212 5th Avenue is where Al Capone got his scars.
Frank Galluccio grabbed a steak knife off the table that was in front of Capone and cut Capone three times.
This is as close to the truth of what really happened. Why? Because of logistics, plain and simple! Capone lived close-by and his habits were gravitating around 4th, 5th and Union streets. He lived near by to those streets on Garfield place, and his friends the Fischettis, were a street away from that. Frank Galluccio, the slasher, happen to lived on Union street at that time.The dance hall was also close-by and so was the restaurant. All the elements that provided for that fateful encounter on December 8,1918. The Methodist Episcopal Hospital was also the only hospital closest to the slashing. And that's how it really happened! The Coney Island Harvard Inn story on a summer's evening in 1917, is now just a totally busted myth! Logistically too far to make any valid sense, especially with the newly uncovered facts!
1919 Map of Brooklyn
The key locations leading up to the infamous slashing
1) Al Capone's house at 38 Garfield Place.
2) Frank Galluccio's house at 677 Union Street.
3) Columbia Dance Hall at 725 Union Street. (Fight initially began there). Capone made remarks about Galluccio's older sister. The dance floor brawl brings a sudden halt to the blaring music. The two fighter's respective group of friends quickly put a stop to the fight. Cooler heads prevail for the moment. Both brawlers begrudgingly leave the premises swearing at each other. Galluccio takes his sister home.
4) Coffee Pot Restaurant at 212 5th Avenue. After the dance, Galluccio and friends find a hungry Capone in this nearby restaurant eating with his friends. Galluccio, still fuming enters and confronts Capone wanting an apology. Capone laughs and continues to berate Galluccio in front of everybody. Further humiliated and exasperated, Galluccio then either takes out a straight razor, or simply grabs a steak knife off the table in front of him, and slashes Capone three times.
5) Methodist Episcopal Hospital at 263 7th Avenue at 6th Street, the Hospital where Capone was treated.
The legend begins!
Over the years many other wild stories surfaced
In 1964, a man named Dominick Cervadoro claimed to be a friend and client of Al's father (Gabriele) said he used to visit the Capone family barber shop. One day he claimed that Capone came running in with the side of his face bleeding. He had been in a knife fight at school. His story had many holes in it though, like Al's father dying of tuberculosis and Al working as a private cop.
Al later told reporters his scars were acquired from the great war or from some barber as a young child.
In January 1931, after many years of being evasive, Al Capone finally admitted that the great war shrapnel was a dud. The timeline of his supposed war duty did not add up. He was registered, but the war was over before Al was ever called up. Reporters believed his war story after they erroneously found a draft under the same name who fought in the war and assumed it was Al.
To conceal his scars Al applied talcum powder everyday to soften the glow of those scars and always preferred to take photos on his right side. His 3 scars were as follows;
1) One oblique scar of 4" across cheek - located 2" in front of left ear
2) One vertical scar of 2 and a half inches - located on left jaw
3) One oblique scar of 2 and a half inches - located 2 " under left ear on neck.
Most historians and authors read the description wrong and assume there were 5 to 6 scars. That is because they also read the location on the face as a scar. Capone only had 3 scars total! The line under his ear between scar 2 and 3 is the jaw line and not a scar.
(Blown up mugshot photo of Al Capone at Terminal Island 1939)
(Scar identification, Mario Gomes of myalcaponemuseum.com)
3 scars noted and detailed on Capone's Atlanta Penitentiary file 1932.
Some unscrupulous newspapers and magazines even made his scars seem bigger to make Capone look more ruthless. Newspapermen dubbed him Scarface, but none of them would dare say it to his face.
Capone hated the ugly look of his scars even though they helped his persona
of being a tough guy.
Capone's favorite pose without scars.
Capone hiding his scars with a handkerchief.
Two same photos notice how the scars become more apparent in second retouched photo.
(Comparison taken from Bill Helmer's book Public enemies).
Note the exaggerated scars put on by the Miami Daily News in order to make Capone more threatening to it's readers.
March 16,1930. Capone felt that Miami Daily News owner James M. Cox had it out for him personally.
This touched up photo was suppose to instill fear in Miami's residents and project hate towards Capone living there.
May 22, 1930, newspapers reported that Al was seeking a new treatment to eliminate his scars. Al himself told reporters those rumors were false. Although Al hated his nickname "Scarface" I'm sure they helped build his aura around most people. It was good P.R. to get what he wanted.
Al Capone's family never really questioned him personally about the scars. It wasn't the proper thing to do. Mae's relatives told me they were told that it was indeed a bar fight but there was no knife involved. The cutting object was a broken bottle.
In London, England 1968, a new fad was out. Looking like Al with a simulated fake scar was all the rage. For a short time. Wonder what Al would have thought of that?
All research on this page by Mario Gomes. Al Capone's face slashing date uncovered by Mario Gomes.
Sources via newspaper clips, documents, magazines, photos, family members, Ancestry and Newspapers.com
Even with it's errors, William Balsamo is to be commended for his many years of research. His initial story helped peaked my interest and without it, I couldn't have put all the new found facts together for this page.
First Posted February 2004
Updated March 2020