Al Capone heads for the Atlanta federal penitentiary

May 4, 1932

On May 4, 1932, Al Capone was put into a special rail car on the Dixie Flyer, under heavy guard, en route for the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta. He was destined for celebrity status.

“When Capone walks into the prison, he will be the only ‘big shot’ there,” noted a front-page article in the Atlanta Constitution on the morning of May 4. “All the rest are third-raters. There is not a single inmate of national prominence there now.” Capone, the newspaper noted, was intended to endure the “drear routine” of the Atlanta Pen — considered one of the country’s toughest. “He might as well make up his mind that he is a marked man among the army of forgotten men who inhabit the institution. He will undergo inconveniences. He will obey orders instead of issuing them.”

However, the gangster soon exerted influence here, smuggling in cash and getting special treatment that included a rug to decorate his cell, cigars, and use of a typewriter. Capone  — who worked in the prison’s overall shop — reportedly got in trouble for installing springs in his cell bunk. “Drear routine” indeed. Capone ended up spending just two years in Atlanta, transferred to Alcatraz in August 1934.