Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Al Capone: Chicago's Most Infamous Mob Boss

Two-Gun Hart

Al Capone's oldest brother, James Vincenzo Capone, left his home in Brooklyn at the age of 16 in 1908.   Always a strong-minded and independent boy, he wanted to escape the crowded city and go west where the prospects were better.

Strong and muscular, anxious for adventure and wide open spaces, he joined the circus and traveled all over the Midwest.  For the first time, he was exposed to American Indians and became fascinated with their culture. 

He also became pretty good with a gun and when World War I broke out, he enlisted and was sent over to France with the American Expeditionary Force.  He was an excellent marksman and a good soldier, who was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.  He was the only one of that generation of Capone sons to fight in World War I.

Two-Gun Hart,  1920's
Two-Gun Hart, 1920's
His family back in Brooklyn had no idea about his military service at that time.  He had pretty much lost contact with them.

After the war, he hopped a train to Nebraska and stayed in the small town of Homer where in 1919 he rescued  a young woman named Kathleen Winch and her family in a flash flood.  Shortly afterwards, Capone, who then called himself Richard Hart, and Kathleen were married.  As his family grew, he tried to make an ordinary living in Homer, but the adventuresome Hart needed more excitement.

When Prohibition laws were enacted in 1920, Hart saw an opportunity to get a more interesting job where his expert marksmanship would be useful.  He became a Prohibition enforcement officer.

Incredibly enough, while his baby brother Al was starting to make bootlegging history in Chicago, his big brother was making a name for himself aggressively busting up illegal stills in Nebraska.  Nor was Hart just a prohibition agent, he kept the peace in that frontier area, regularly arresting horse thieves and other criminals.

Agent Hart
Agent Hart
As his fame as a lawman increased, he was hired by the U.S. Indian Service to try to keep alcohol off the Indian reservations.  Hart and Kathleen and their four sons made their home among the various tribes, like the Sioux and Cheyenne.  In the course of his work, Hart and his family learned several Indian languages and developed close relationships with the tribal leaders.

His terrific ability with guns, plus the pair of pearl-handed pistols he wore, earned him the name "Two Gun Hart."  In one part of the Midwest, the headlines read," Two-Gun Hart Gets his Man," and "Two-Gun Hart Brings Booze Offenders In." At one point, Two Gun was a body guard for President Calvin Coolidge.  Baby brothers Al and Ralph were making headlines of a different sort in another part of the Midwest.

Hart continued his distinguished career as a Prohibition agent until Prohibition was over.  Afterwards, he became the town marshal in his wife's home town of Homer, Nebraska.

Hart was a dedicated family man and taught his sons and grandchildren a lot about hunting and outdoor sports, but for a long time, he kept his real name and background from everybody.

Eventually, in the early 1940's, he quietly contacted his brothers in Chicago and met with Ralph and John Capone in Sioux City, Iowa.  Then he went to Chicago to see his mother, Theresa.  When he went home, he told Kathleen and the boys that he was in fact Al Capone's brother.  At various times, when financial difficulties beset Two-Gun's family, his brother Ralph helped out with a check.

In 1946, Two-Gun allowed his son Harry Hart to go with him to a Capone family cabin in Wisconsin where he had a chance to meet his famous uncle, Al Capone, who at that time was out of jail and suffering from tertiary syphilis.  Two-Gun told Harry not to get too close to Al during this family visit.  The two brothers came from two very different worlds.  Hart probably did not want his son influenced unduly by one of the most famous characters of that other world.

In 1952, Two-Gun Hart suffered a fatal heart attack in Homer, Nebraska.  Kathleen and Harry were at his side.  His oldest son, Richard Hart Jr., had been killed in World War II, while his other two boys had settled in Wisconsin.

It seems unbelievable that the two brothers, Richard Hart and Al Capone, could have lived such remarkably different lives on opposite sides of the law.  Yet when you look at the qualities that made each of the two brothers successful in their own milieu, fraternal similarities are visible:  intelligence, initiative, risk taking, strength of will and purpose, persistence and conviction, and the ability to lead and persuade others.   Strangely enough, it was the law of the land, Prohibition, that brought to the forefront these qualities in each brother.

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