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How Many People Benefitted From Al Capone’s Soup Kitchen?

Alphonse Gabriel Capone is an American gangster and businessman who rose to prominence during the Prohibition Era as the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit. He was sometimes referred to as Scarface. His seven-year reign as a crime lord came to an end when he was caught and sent to prison at the age of 33. But did you know that Capone also helped the community of Chicago get through the Great Depression?

During the Great Depression, Al Capone, the infamous mobster, sponsored a soup kitchen. His charity would feed approximately 2,200 Chicagoans three meals per day on average. Second helpings were not refused. Nobody was asked many questions, and no one was asked to prove their need.

How Did the Great Depression Begin in Chicago?

The Great Depression was a severe global economic depression that began in the 1930s in the United States. The crises affected various countries at different times; in most cases, it began in 1929 and lasted into the late 1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the twentieth century. The Great Depression is often cited as an example of how quickly the global economy can deteriorate.

The Great Depression began in the United States following a significant drop in stock prices that began around September 4, 1929, and became global news with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. Between 1929 and 1932, the global gross domestic product fell by an estimated 15%. In comparison, during the Great Recession, global GDP fell by less than 1% from 2008 to 2009. 

By the mid-1930s, some economies had begun to recover. However, the Great Depression’s negative effects lingered in many countries until the outbreak of World War II. (Source: The Wall Street Journal)

How Many Jobless Chicagoans Queued to Get Their Names on the List for Al Capone’s Soup Kitchen?

More than 75,000 unemployed Chicagoans waited in line to register their names for the soup kitchen. Almost one-third of those in line required immediate assistance.

He couldn’t stand seeing those poor devils go hungry, and no one else seemed to be doing anything, so the big boy decided to do it himself.

Al Capone’s Associate, to the Chicago Newspaper

(Source: History)

How Did Al Capone Pay for this Generous Act?

Despite being one of America’s wealthiest men, Capone may not have paid a dime for the soup kitchen. Instead, he relied on his criminal tendencies to stockpile his charitable endeavor by extorting and bribing businesses to donate goods. 

During the trial of Capone associate Daniel Serritella in 1932, it was revealed that ducks donated by a chain store for Serritella’s holiday drive were instead served in Capone’s soup kitchen. (Source: History)

How Much Would a Day at Soup Kitchen Cost?

At $300 per day, the soup kitchen served 350 loaves of bread, 100 dozen rolls, 50 pounds of sugar, and 30 pounds of coffee. 
It was a sum Capone could easily afford, as Capone’s bookkeeper Fred Ries testified in court on the same day that news of his soup kitchen broke that the profits from Capone’s most lucrative gambling houses cleared $25,000 per month. (Source: History)

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