Who Was Mae Capone, aka Mae Coughlin?

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Jan 05, 2024

Possibly one of the most notorious crime bosses in history is Al Capone, the American gangster and business owner who gained notoriety during the Prohibition era and lived a life that became the subject of several articles, books, and films. But lesser known is Al Capone’s wife, Mae Coughlin.

This mob wife was essential to Scarface’s life, being both an angelic figure and complicit in the gang’s crimes. But who was Mae Coughlin, and what happened to her after Al Capone’s reign ended? Let’s get into it.

Who Was the Wife of Al Capone?

Born April 11, 1897, Mary Josephine Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Irish immigrants Bridget Gorman and Michale Coughlin. Mae was one of six children, attended school, and was described as bright and studious.

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Al Capone's Wife Trying to Hide from Camera

Source: Getty Images

After her father died of a heart attack when she was 16 years old, Mae was forced to leave school and take a job as a sales clerk at a box factory to help support her family.

How Did Mae and Al Capone Meet? 

How Mae and Al met is not clear. However, reports suggest that the two met either at a party in the Carroll Gardens, or the marriage was arranged by Al’s mother, who knew Mae from church. Despite Mae being an Irish, middle-class, Catholic girl and Al being a working-class Italian who was already involved in crime, the two fell in love as most mob bosses and their wives do.

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Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, New York

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Al was about 18 years old when he first met Mae, who was three years older than him. However, Mae would go to great lengths to hide her age, even decreasing her age by two years and increasing Al’s by one year to make them both 20 years old.

Was Al Capone Married?

After Mae became pregnant out of wedlock, the wedding of Al and Mae Capone took place on Dec. 30, 1918. For Al, marrying an Irish Catholic woman with a higher education than him was a step up in the social ladder.

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St. Barbara Catholic Church

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Neither family opposed the marriage, despite Al’s shady side-business or the countless women he bedded before Mae. Mae would join the ranks of other famous mobster wives.

Did Al Capone Have Children?

Three weeks before the wedding, Mae gave birth to Al Capone’s son, Albert Francis “Sonny” Capone. The couple had no more children after Sonny, which a great-niece of Al Capone says was a result of Capone being sterile since birth (via “Capone: The Man and the Era”).

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Mae Capone and her son, Sonny

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Other reports suggest that Mae contracted syphilis from Al, and any attempts for another child ended in miscarriages or stillbirths.

How Did Al Capone Get Syphilis?

Al Capone contracted syphilis while he was a teenager. Esquire reports that Al may have gotten the infection from a lady of the evening at the Brooklyn docks. Modern strains of the illness are not as lethal as they once were.

American gangster Al Capone (1899-1947) with U.S. Marshall Laubenheimer (right).

Source: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The illness, which was most likely passed to Mae, affected Al’s cognition near the end of his life. As Deirdre Bair notes in her 2016 Capone biography, Capone’s gregarious figure eroded into a shell of the crime boss that was once celebrated and feared.

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Mae Stayed Faithful to Al, Even If He Wasn’t

Al Capone and wife Mae moved to Chicago in the early 1920s. Like his father, Sonny was already showing signs of hearing loss. Capone rose in the ranks in Chicago, building his empire in the underworld after colluding with John Donato Torrio to murder Big Jim Colosimo and take over his business.

Al Capone, pictured in court during his trial, Chicago, 1931. He was sentenced to a 10 years in federal prison and one year in county jail for a total sentence of 11 years.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

The wife of Al Capone knew of her husband’s job. However, it was his infidelity that hurt her the most. “Don’t do as your father did,” she reportedly told Sonny. “He broke my heart.”

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Mae Capone Visited Al at Alcatraz 

Despite her broken heart, the mob boss’ wife protected him from the press. After Al was arrested and convicted of tax evasion in 1931, Mae visited him in prison. There, Al’s health started to visibly decline.

Mrs. Mae Capone (last person leaving boat wearing fur coat and black hat) is shown leaving steamer General Frank M. Coxe today, after Al (Scarface) Capone at Alcatraz Island. Throngs of curious bystanders and cameramen caught but fleeting sight of Capone's wife who yesterday visited mate for the first time since his illness.

Source: Getty Images

News of his health issues made headlines, and Mae was mobbed by the press whenever she arrived to visit her husband. “Yes, he is going to get well,” she reportedly said (via History Hit). “He is suffering from dejection and a broken spirit, aggravated by intense nervousness.”

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Mae Capone Cared for Al Capone in His Final Years

After seven years in prison, Al was released due to the syphilis that had eroded his brain. Left with the mental capacity of a 12-year-old, Mae cared for Al, and the mob gave the family a weekly allowance of $600 to stay quiet and live a peaceful life.

Al Capone's Chicago home

Source: Wikimedia Common

However, Al began to have delusional chats with dead friends and boast about his glory days to whoever would listen. Fearful that the mob would silence Al, Mae became increasingly protective of her husband as reporters tried to catch a glimpse of the once-powerful man.

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How Did Al Capone Die?

Mary Capone saw that her family received the best treatment that they could find. In fact, Capone was one of the first people to be treated with penicillin in the early 1940s to help with his syphilis, but the infection had done too much damage to vital organs.

The headstone of Al Capone

Source: Find A Grave

After a sudden stroke in January 1947, pneumonia started to eat away at Capone. Aware of what was to come, Mae asked her parish priest to administer her husband’s last rites. Al Capone died of cardiac arrest on Jan. 25, 1947.

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Mae Capone’s Death

Al Capone’s wife never recovered from her husband’s death. “Mama Mae seemed to need our company,” her granddaughters recalled (via All That’s Interesting). “It’s as if the house died when he did. Even though she lived to be 89 … something in her died when he did.”

Mae Capone, seated in a car, her gloved hands clenching the hood of her fur coat to cover her face

Source: US Library of Congress

Overcome with grief, Mae never went to the second floor of the house, slept in a downstairs room, and refused to serve any meals in the dining room. Al Capone’s wife’s death was quiet. She died on April 16, 1986, in a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida.

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Al Capone’s Family Today

There are not many details about the Capone family after Al’s death. Al Capone’s son Sonny legally changed his name to Albert Francis Brown in 1966 to remove his ties to his family name. Al Capone’s son today is deceased, as he died on July 8, 2004, at the age of 85.

The cast of "The Untouchables"

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mae hoped to keep her family safe from the media, even suing a production studio due to the similarities between Al’s life and “The Untouchables” TV show in 1964 before her death.

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