Al Capone's granddaughter hopes auction reveals human side of America's notorious gangster

Diane Capone, granddaughter of American gangster Al Capone stands next to a painting of her grandfather and father, Sonny Capone from the 1920s before an auction of many of her grandfather's belongings in Sacramento, California, US on Oct 5, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

SACRAMENTO - It was Christmas Day in 1946 when notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone took his wife and four granddaughters out for a walk onto the dock of their sprawling mansion on Palm Island, Florida.

A picture shows "papa", as he was known to them, relishing his freedom after being released from Alcatraz where he served over seven years for tax evasion.

That picture is among 174 items belonging to the Capone family that will go up for auction in Sacramento, California, on Friday (Oct 8).

The items range from personal photographs to firearms to pocket watches and jewelry as well as furniture and kitchen ware.

Al Capone’s platinum and diamond Patek Philippe pocket watch is listed for US$25,000 (S$33,000) to US$50,000, while his favourite Colt 45 pistol is estimated to fetch US$100,000 to US$150,000.

A vintage hand-colored silver print of Al and his son, Sonny Capone, is expected to go for US$10,000 to US$15,000.

PHOTO: Reuters

Diane Capone, 77, the second of Al Capone’s four granddaughters, said the decision to sell the items was based on her and her sisters getting older, as well as the increasing threat of wildfires to their homes in Northern California.

Brian Witherell, consignment director at Witherell’s Auction House, said nearly 1,000 bidders have registered for the auction from every US state and 11 countries.

"The items that generate the most interest are the ones that you think of synonymous with a gangster figure like Al Capone, his guns and his fancy flamboyant jewelry," he said.

Diane Capone said she hopes these items will reveal the human side of her grandfather, instead of the ruthless violence that plagued Chicago in the 1920s for which he has become infamous.

The item that most exemplifies this, she said, is a personal letter Al Capone wrote to his son, Sonny Capone, from Alcatraz estimated between US$25,000 and US$50,000.

"It's such a lovely letter, and it is a letter that conveys a side of this man that the vast majority of people have no idea of," she said. "These are not the words or the ideas of a man who is a ruthless gangster. These are the words of a loving father."

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