This photograph is the mugshot of notorious American gangster and crime boss Al Capone, taken when he was first indicted for 22 counts of federal tax evasion in 1931. Growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, Capone became involved with underground crime from a young age, and by the age of 25 was already managing various prostitution rings, gambling houses, and bootlegging stints. This brought him an incredible amount of wealth – allegedly earning over 100,000 dollars a week in 1924, and an estimated net worth of one hundred million dollars during the height of his power in 1927. Adjusted for inflation, that approximates to about one and a half billion dollars today.
Despite his criminal background, Al Capone was also a noteworthy public figure who performed various acts of philanthropism. He opened soup kitchens to feed the poor, made donations to charities, and even campaigned to have expiration dates printed on milk bottles (although, as he owned most of the printing equipment capable of doing so, he also sought to profit from this legislation). These acts painted him publicly as a sort of Robin Hood figure, and the public support which came with that image contributed to his ability to stay out of jail (alongside a complicated network of bribes to public officials and law enforcement). In the end, however, despite being so closely associated with various sorts of criminal behavior, all he could be nailed down for was tax evasion, which he was eventually found guilty of on the 17th of October, 1931 – a few months after this photograph was taken.
Capone’s influence and public image even continued to benefit him in jail. Despite being interred at the infamous Alcatraz, he maintained a close relationship with many of the guards and was allegedly able to furnish his jail cell with comfortable bedding, a carpet, and even a radio. He was frequently visited by friends and family during his imprisonment, and even supposedly managed to get several of the Alcatraz guards to work for him.