“And he did do all those things they said he did!”

Written by Heidrun Reinhardt on Freitag, 29 November 2013. Posted in Brandes Autographs News

Al Capone autographed letter signed opens the 15% discount Christmas special

„I never thought of holding a Capone Autograph in my hands “ Markus Brandes, autographcollector and dealer.

„As you imagine, Capone didn´t give much autograph sessions.“ Markus smiles.

Capone montage

The American gangster Al Capone, who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate, had not left much handwritten material. That was the reason why the special unit from the FBI couldn´t proof his crimes for a long time.

Following his time at Alcatraz, with his health in decline and his mental capacities diminishing, Al Capone returned to a quiet life at his family home in Palm Island, Florida. According to Luciano Lorizzo’s 2003 biography, Capone spent a good deal of his time playing cards with cohorts from his glory days, who visited him often and held enough respect for their former boss that they rarely let him lose. It was at this time that he met Gertrude Cole, who had been a close friend to his daughter-in-law Diana Casey’s family for decades. With her training as a nurse, her reputation as a reliable and trustworthy companion, and her love of horse racing, she became a comfortable friend and occasional caregiver in Al’s world.

In a three-page letter of provenance Cole`s granddaughter describes background information on Cole`s relationship with Capone. With this personal story the piece gets a special touch.

This autographed letter signed, (mid 1940s) to family friend Gertrude F. Cole asking her to pick up some items at a store, written and signed in dark fountain pen "Your dear old pal, Al", mounted for display with an never seen before original vintage glossy candid photograph (taken outside the Capone house on Palm Island in Miami, Florida), shows Capone and his wife.

"Cole - Please bring me 3 decks of Pennucle Cards, 1 large bottle of Bayer`s  Aspirin & get some ...Borax or Lux or any kind of soap you can  the more the better. Your dear old pal, Al“

„This is a once in a life time chance of purchaising a handwritten letter with such a provenance“ as Markus says. „This item becomes available with the 15% discount Christmas special on November, the 29th at“

Following the letter of provenance:

July 14, 2013

This letter is to provide background information on the history of this note and photograph.
The note is a grocery list written to my grandmother, Gertrude F. Cole, by Al Capone in the mid 1940's. The photograph is of Al Capone and his wife Mae. The photograph was taken in front of the Capone home on Palm Island in Miami, Florida. At the time their only child, Albert Francis Capone known as "Sonny", was married to Diana Ruth Casey.

My grandmother came to know Al and Mae Capone through her close relationship with the Casey family. When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother became the sole provider for my Mother, their only child. She always loved caring for people so she became an LPN. Cole, as she was known, was an unusual, independent woman, trusted by all who knew her. I was told that was one of the reasons Al valued her friendship. She kept everything anyone told her in confidence. Also very intuitive, she loved to go to the horse races at Hialeah horse race track. Once, she bet on two horses to win. A photo finish, they could not determine which horse crossed first so both were declared a winner.

Cole entered the Casey's life to help care for Diana Ruth Casey's grandmother. Cole soon became a trusted family member and close friend. She was very close to the two Casey children, Diana Ruth Casey and James "Pop" Casey, and remained so until her death. Diana or "Boogie" as she was known attended Miami High School with Sonny Capone. They were high school sweethearts. Another classmate in high school was Desi Arnaz. It was through Boogie's relationship with Sonny, Cole (and my parents) met Al and Mae Capone.

Cole came to live with us in Louisiana when I was small. When I was ten years old, I went on a road trip with Cole and my aunt to Florida. Cole had not returned in many years. I met Ruth Casey (Boogie's Mother) as well as Mae. I was told they were my grandmother's close friends and she had known them in Miami.  I remembered them as being very nice to a young girl. Every year, my grandmother would receive birthday and holiday cards from them.

Many years later, Cole had a stroke and because my Mother could not physically take care for her, she could no longer live in our home. With deep regret, my Mother placed her in a nursing home.

On one of my visits to see her on her birthday, I was making conversation looking at her cards. I held one card signed by "Mae" and asked Cole if that was the woman I had met in Florida.

"Yes," she said. I then asked, "What was her last name?" Cole said,

"Clark that is the name they used." I asked, "What do you mean the name they used?" In a moment of lucidity, Cole responded, "Well, their name was Capone." "Capone, do you mean as in Al Capone?" I replied.

Her answer was yes. At that moment, my mother turned around and said, "Oh Jan, we told you that story." I quickly replied no one had ever made that connection for me and I was certain my older brother did not know the story either because we would have remembered it. Cole then went on to say, “And he did do all those things they said he did!”

When we returned home, Mom told my Dad, "Jan said we never told her about Al, Mae, and Sonny. Dad thought they had shared the story as well. Now my curiosity could not be contained. Mom retrieved this note handwritten by Al to Cole as well as the photographs. Apparently, Cole had several conversations with Boogie before her marriage, trying to get her to think about the family with whom she would now be associated. Love prevailed. I now assume my grandmother was present at St. Patrick's church when Sonny and Boogie married on Dec. 30, 1941 in Miami. Sonny was twenty-two and Boogie was twenty-one.

Cole was a frequent visitor at the Capone house. Since she had a love of horse racing as did Al, they may have discussed the daily events at Hialeah. Cole had taken me there on our trip. With her nursing background, she may have assisted Mae with his care. This is the reason I think he wrote her the grocery note asking for three decks of Pinochle cards, Bayer's aspirin, and Lux soap - the more the better. Since part of his handwriting is difficult to read, I speculate his health was declining at the time.

I asked my parents if they had ever been to the Capone house. They had been there several times during the mid 1940's, once for Thanksgiving dinner. Jokingly, I asked if there were several guys walking around with machine guns guarding him. They said no, but the Capones did have a "butler” called Brown who worked for them.

When I asked my parents why they never shared the story, they replied "times were different. You just didn't talk about those things." They had met Al after his return from his time served in Alcatraz. When they moved to Louisiana, the home of my Father, in 1945, they did not want anyone to think badly of or make assumptions about the relationship Coleand my Mother had with the Capones.

I chose not to part with these mementos while my Mother was still alive to protect her desire to respect the family relationship. While I always thought of the story as fun, interesting, and entertaining, she felt it was a private matter and would only discuss it with me.

Now, I would like to pass these remembrances to a collector who will preserve and cherish them and relate the story behind the collectibles to others.


Jan Day Gravel

About the Author

Heidrun Reinhardt

Heidrun Reinhardt

(* 1979) Public relations & autograph-market administrator, German Actress, Art Design and better half of Markus Brandes