Can An Auction Change the Public View of Al Capone?

Up for sale: guns, photographs and a pocket watch

Al Capone and attorney William F. Waugh
Al Capone and attorney William F. Waugh with unidentified man, Chicago, Illinois, 1929.
Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Ever since his death in 1947, Al Capone’s legacy has continued to fascinate generations of history buffs. For some, Capone’s history in organized crime is mesmerizing; for others, the draw is getting a closer look at the people who worked to bring him to trial. Capone’s life has been the subject of high-profile books and controversial films over the years. All told, that means that Capone is one of a handful of historical figures who can still prompt a strong reaction decades after he walked the earth. And for the most part, that reaction is far from positive.

Now, a group of his descendants are working to change that — or at least to bring a different side of Capone into the spotlight. Writing at The New York Times, Maria Cramer has details on a high-profile auction slated to take place in October. Titled A Century of Notoriety: The Estate of Al Capone and held by the auction house Witherell’s, it’s notable for what’s up for sale — namely, a host of Capone’s own possessions.

Capone’s granddaughters are responsible for putting the auction in motion. One of them, Diane Capone, told the Times that she and her sisters had concerns about Capone’s remaining items being destroyed in the California wildfires. And they hope that some aspects of the auction will also show Capone’s love for his family.

“He was able to compartmentalize his public life from the life he led as a family man,” Diane Capone told the Times.

Among the items up for auction are Al Capone’s pistol (estimated to sell for between $30,000 and $60,000) and his Patek Philippe pocket watch, featuring 90 diamonds (estimated to sell for between $25,000 and $50,000). Taken together, the items up for sale offer a wider glimpse of a complex life that continues to fascinate many people today.

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