Lengthy letter by notorious Alcatraz prisoner “Alphonse Capone”
Exceptionally rare ALS in pencil, signed “Love & Kisses, Your Dear Dad Alphonse Capone #85,” three pages, 8 x 10.5, January 16, no year [likely 1938]. A lengthy and affectionate letter to his son, written while imprisoned at Alcatraz. In part: “Well Son, here is your dear Dad, with a letter for you, and pray to God, it will find you, in perfect health…Junior keep up the way you are doing, and don’t let nothing get you down. When you get the blues, Sonny, put on one of the records with songs I wrote you about to Ma, to you, which I sure go to town playing them and about 500 more on my Mandola, I also have to transpose my music, from Piano Copy, as the Music people don’t print Music for the Mandola, So I…transpose to one key to another. Sonny I got a Song like Rainbow on the River, that was sung by Bobby Breen, in the Rainbow on the River picture, I sure hope you seen it as we saw it out here, now what I mean by transposing is the Song, Rainbow on the River, was in the Key of 3b, I have to transpose it down to 1b and Son of mine when I come home, I will play not only that song, but about 500 more, and all mostly Theme Songs from the best Shows. In other words Junior, there isn’t a Song written that I can’t play. You know my Mandola is got eight strings, and tuned exactly as the Tenor Banjo A-D-C-G. The only difference is the Mandola is played mostly for Solo work, but the Tenor Banjo plays Cords in the Orchestra, and I mean it too when I was playing in the band in here. First I learned a Tenor Guitar and then a Tenor Banjo, and now the Mandola, but for Solo work only. Well now Sonny…I am sure happy, to hear about you and your pals, had nice holidays at Miami and that you all had a good time, Well heart of mine, sure hope things come our way for next year, then I’ll be there in your arms, and maybe that sure will be a happy feeling for Maggie and You. Well Sonny keep up your chin, and don’t worry about your dear Dad, and when again you allowed a vacation, I want you and your dear Mother to come here together, as I sure would love to see you and Maggie…Now Son about me please do not worry, as when you see me again, you sure will be surprised, in fact Junior I am 7 1/2 pounds under 200 Ha Ha, and in good shape, my routine here is Morning Yard, I mean the amusement Yard, Baseball, Horseshoes Courts, and Hand-ball courts, Checkers and Dominoes, I and a friend of mine keep all items in perfect shape, and work all morning, and afternoons yard if its sunny otherwise I play my music, until 3 P.M., and from 3 P.M. I write songs…Tell Mother to order for you a Monthly Magazine I get here, Called ‘Fortune’…as to my estimation I think it is the most sensible Magazine written. Well Son, there isn’t much I can write, but chin up, always, and at any time, there is something you need or want, please don’t forget Son, that whatever you ask for, it will be done irregardless…I know Maggie gets out to your College suite often, as that sure breaks up the old Blues, and when you see her again give her a couple dozen kisses Capone style and a first class hug…God bless you my dear Son, and it’s short time Son, I will be with you in less than a year.” In very good to fine condition, with light wrinkling and intersecting folds (two trivial small holes at fold intersections on the final page).
In this remarkable, intimate letter penned from prison, Capone reveals the particulars of his day-to-day life at Alcatraz and shares his enthusiasm for the mandola, which is similar to a mandolin. After being transferred to Alcatraz in 1934, Capone lobbied the warden for a year before prisoners were allowed musical instruments. Upon receiving permission, Capone had his family send top-of-the-line guitars, banjos, and music charts to the prison. He learned how to play the banjo and formed a prison band, The Rock Islanders, which included George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly on the drums. After a violent outburst between band members, Capone turned solo and other inmates took his place. At this time Capone’s son, Albert Francis ‘Sonny’ Capone, had begun college at the University of Miami; ‘Maggie’ is the elder Capone’s wife and Sonny’s mother. An exceedingly rare personal letter showing the softer side of the Chicago Outfit boss. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.