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Al Capone and the Lindbergh Baby

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It takes a thief to catch a thief.

That was how imprisoned mob boss Al Capone proposed to bring the kidnapped Lindbergh baby home safely.

Two “mug shots” of Al Capone, half-length portraits, one facing front, the other facing right (1931)

On March 2, 1932, from his cell in Cook County Jail in Chicago, one day after the son of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh had been kidnapped, “Scarface” Al Capone offered an award of $10,000 for information that would lead to the capture of the kidnappers and the baby’s safe return.

“I know how Mrs. Capone and I would feel if our son were kidnapped and I sympathize with the Lindberghs,” said Capone (Washington Post, March 11, 1932). Compassion, however, was not the only aspect of Capone’s offer.

The gangster had been in jail for four months awaiting appeal of his eleven-year penitentiary sentence for income-tax evasion. Capone asked for a temporary release from jail in order to use his influence to search out the abductors. “If I were out of jail I could be of real assistance. I have friends all over the country who could aid in running this thing down,” Capone told reporters (Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1932).

Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA), March 3, 1932
Evening Star (Washington, DC), March 03, 1932

After police officials ignored his initial offer, Capone made several more pleas over the course of the next two months. He proposed to put up $200,000 bail and even offered to place his younger brother in jail as a hostage if he could be freed on bond.

When asked about accepting Capone’s offer, U.S. District Attorney George Johnson, who had prosecuted the gangster and sent him to prison on the tax evasion charges, stated that any deal with Capone would be decided by the federal government.

Officials were reasonably skeptical of the notorious mobster’s motives. For years, Capone had successfully eluded prosecution for countless crimes including bootlegging, gambling, and murder, until he was charged with tax evasion in 1931.

Capone’s proposal to save the Lindbergh baby even made it to the Senate floor. Some senators speculated that the baby may have been kidnapped by an associate of Capone for the premeditated purpose of liberating the mob boss. Ultimately, Uncle Sam refused to bargain with the criminal.

A plan, outlined by one of Capone’s lieutenants, was given to a “high official” who was to present it to the Lindberghs. The family considered it, but ultimately turned it down.

Sadly, the search for baby Lindbergh ended in tragedy in May 1932 when the child was found murdered a few miles from the family home.

Comments (14)

  1. did charles and capone ever meet?

    • To the best of my knowledge, Charles Lindbergh never met Al Capone face to face about Capone’s offer.

      During the investigation into the kidnapping, the Lindberghs worked with the FBI and with others who acted as intermediaries. These go-betweens were used to communicate with the kidnappers about ransom demands, as well as received Capone’s proposal, which was delivered by one of the criminal’s own middlemen.

      Soon after the Lindberghs refused Capone’s offer, baby Lindbergh was found murdered, thus ending any reason for the aviator to meet the gangster. Additionally, if Lindbergh had indeed visited Capone, who was in prison at the time, it would have been huge news in the headlines. From my research, I found no reports in newspapers that the two ever met during that time.

  2. So i’m doing this subject (Al Capone) for a school project, and i have a question, how many times did Al Plea to be released? Sorry if that question is annoying.

    • That’s a great question! While in prison, Capone had access to journalists who would visit him at his cell. He used the press to communicate his offers to help Lindbergh if released from custody. According to what I found in newspapers, the gangster made the first offer on March 2, 1932, that included a $10,000 reward. The Associated Press (AP) picked up the story and it ran in major newspapers throughout the U.S. He then made a second offer on March 10, 1932, suggesting high bail and his brother kept in his place. A third and final offer was made on April 22, 1932, which included Capone’s “absolute guarantee” that he would have the Lindbergh baby returned in several days if released from prison, “without the payment of a cent of ransom,” Washington Post, April 23, 1932, p. 1.

  3. Did the baby die?

    • Sadly, yes. On May 12, 1932, the baby’s body was found within four miles of the Lindbergh farm. The coroner reported that he had suffered a blow to the head and was likely killed the night he was abducted.

  4. Did al capone ever get out of jail to find the baby or was he stuck in jail the entire time.

    • According to newspapers, a deal with Capone was never reached for his release despite all his many offers. Any possibility for a deal went away once the body of the Lindbergh baby was discovered on May 12, 1932.

  5. Can you please name some similarities and differences between Charles Lindbergh and Al Capone? (It would be a huge help if you could name some!)

    • Melanie, that would be an interesting study! If you would like to learn more about Charles Lindbergh and Al Capone, please feel free to contact us through our Ask-A-Librarian service.

  6. Does anyone know about his baby farm in Northern MI?

  7. Responding to Anonymous. Very curious about what you stated. My great grandparents lived in Chicago and worked for Al. My great grandmother was from the upper peninsula (northern MI) my family has stated that Al had a landing strip for his plane on my great grandmas family farm which she had returned to presumably when Al was jailed. Here’s where it gets more interesting. There is a man who was named Harold Olson, he was the non biological son of my great Aunt Sara and her husband Roy. A book was published about the whole thing, In Search Of The Lindbergh Baby by Theon Wright. What Harold uncovered before his death is mind blowing & it’s all in the book. I would love to hear more about what your comment meant! This has been a family mystery that I have been trying to solve!

  8. Did Bruno Richard Hauptmann mean to kill the baby

  9. It was a big, big mistake for the government and the Lindbergh family not to have accepted Capone’s offer. Capone’s outfit in Chicago would have turned the countryside upside down to find the baby and prior to that they would have sent, through their own channels, a message to the kidnappers that they should release the baby unharmed without a scratch on his body, otherwise they would have promised that they would cut the kidnappers to ribbons so that the kidnappers’ own brother would have not been able to recognize them. The child would have been released in a few hours out of the fear the kidnappers would have from Capone’s men.

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