The Real People of Boardwalk Empire: Part 5 – Mae Coughlin Capone to Owney Madden

boardwalk-empire-gambling

As I may have said before, before states in the Mid Atlantic started to legalize gambling and build casinos of their own in recent times, Atlantic City was renown as the Las Vegas of the Eastern Seaboard before Las Vegas with its share of casinos and gambling establishments. It was also the city that served as a model for the Parker Brothers’ game of Monopoly but that will come out during the Great Depression but it’s no coincidence why some of the areas in that city seem to remind you of it. Nevertheless, Atlantic City also began the Miss America beauty pageant which started as a way to get more tourists to their resort boom town, but has become a national beauty contest owned by Donald Trump (and whatever he has on his hair). Still, during Prohibition, it was famous for ignoring Prohibition thanks to the efforts of one Nucky Johnson who’s the inspiration for the Steve Buscemi character on Boardwalk Empire. Yet, we’ve come to the final installment but we still have more people to go over. In this final selection, we’ll look at some historical wives to famous figures like Mae Capone, First Lady Florence Harding, and Katherine Bader. We’ll also meet Al Capone’s mother Theresina and Warren G. Harding’s alleged daughter Elizabeth Ann Blaesing. Yet, we’ll also see investigators William Frank and Eliot Ness as well as Nucky Johnson’s servant Louis Kessel. And then we have famous horse trainer Max Hirsch, boxing manager Jack “Doc” Kearns, and possible Billie Kent inspiration Dorothy “Dot” King. Finally, we’ll meet gangsters Salvatore Maranzano and Owney Madden. So without further adieu, enjoy this final installment of the real people seen from Boardwalk Empire.

53. Mae Coughlin Capone (1897-1986)

Mae Capone was Al Capone's beautiful wife and mother to his son. Yet, since she was a private person, there's very little else that's known about her. Still, Al knew how to pick em' didn't he?

Mae Capone was Al Capone’s beautiful wife and mother to his son. Yet, since she was a private person, there’s very little else that’s known about her. Still, Al knew how to pick em’ didn’t he?

Known in Life as: Al Capone’s wife.
Character or Inspiration? She’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, she was Irish.
Differences: Born in New York and married to Al since she was 21 three weeks after their son was born. Had syphilis. Was an ardent churchgoer. Stuck with Al until the end and was reputed to be beautiful. Still, despite her husband’s infamy as perhaps the most famous American gangster who ever lived, there’s surprisingly little about her.
Ultimate Fate: Died in Miami in 1986 at 89.

54. Max Hirsch (1880-1969)
Known in Life as: American Hall of Fame Thoroughbred horse trainer. One of the most successful in history. His horses gave him 3 wins in the Kentucky Derby, 2 wins in the Preakness Stakes, and 4 wins in the Belmont Stakes. Also, trained the 1946 Triple Crown winner Bold Venture.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he did condition horses for various clients but I’m not sure if Rothstein was one of them.
Differences: Born in Texas and spent his early years as a groom and jockey at the Morris Ranch. Married with at least one son named Buddy who also followed in his footsteps.
Ultimate Fate: Died in Long Island, New York in 1969 at 88.

55. Florence Harding (1860-1924)

Though we're not sure whether she was called

Though we’re not sure whether she was called “Flossie” we’re pretty sure that if Florence Harding ever had anything to do with her husband’s death it had more to do with trusting the wrong doctor than anything. I mean you shouldn’t trust homeopaths for their pseudoscientific quacks.

Known in Life as: Wife of President Warren G. Harding and First Lady of the United States from 1921-1923. Known as the brains behind her husband’s newspaper business, called “The Duchess,” and was said to give notably elegant parties.
Character or Inspiration? She’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, she had gray hair and glasses. Also actually consulted a fortune teller who said that her husband would become President but die in office.
Differences: Was married twice and had a son with her first husband who she divorced on grounds for gross neglect. May or may not have been called “Flossie.” Once studied to be a concert pianist and worked as a piano teacher. Helped Warren run his newspaper business where she organized circulation, improved distribution, trained newsboys, purchased equipment at keen prices, and installed the first local wire service. She also managed her husband’s finances, social life, and public image. Said to have a strong influence in Warren’s administration and held outspoken political views. Her great cause was championing the welfare of war veterans and served alcohol to guests. Though alleged by Gaston Means that she killed her husband, it’s highly unlikely though she did destroy many of his papers.
Ultimate Fate: Died of renal failure after her last public appearance on Veteran’s Day in 1924. She was 64.

56. Teresina Raiola Capone (1867-1952)

Theresina Capone with her grandson Albert Francis. I guess while she didn't seem to like her son's gangster interests, she didn't seem to disown him.

Theresina Capone with her grandson Albert Francis. I guess while she didn’t seem to like her son’s gangster interests, she didn’t seem to disown him.

Known in Life as: Al Capone’s mother.
Character or Inspiration? She’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, she’s Italian though I’m not sure if she went to Chicago.
Differences: Born in Naples and was a seamstress before marrying barber Gabriel Capone. Had 10 children. Came to the US in 1893.
Ultimate Fate: Died in 1952 at 85.

57. Katherine Holvick Bader (1878-1969)
Known in Life as: Edward L. Bader’s wife.
Character or Inspiration? She’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, she did attend dinners with her husband.
Differences: Married with 4 kids. Still, there’s really not much about her.
Ultimate Fate: Died in Atlantic City in 1969 at 91.

58. Jack “Doc” Kearns (1882-1963)

Jack

Jack “Doc” Kearns was a world renown boxing manager most famous for overseeing the career of Jack Dempsey. Still, there may be details in his autobiography that might be rather sketchy.

Known in Life as: World renowned boxing trainer and manager for Jack Dempsey during the 1920s. Also trained Mickey Walker, Joe Maxim, and Archie Moore.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Trained Jack Dempsey around the time of his upcoming fight against Georges Carpentier. May have been corrupt.
Differences: Hailed from the state of Washington and wrote his autobiography called The Million Dollar Gate that was published posthumously in 1966. Quit school at 14 and stowed away on a freighter to Alaska to stake a claim in the Klondike Gold Rush. Said he worked as a dognapper and helped smuggle Chinese laborers. Was a boxer himself in 1900 and said to take part in 60 bouts. Operated a boxing club and bar in Spokane for a time. Remained an active fight manager until his death.
Ultimate Fate: Died in 1963 at 81.

59. Salvatore Maranzano (1886-1931)

Salvatore Maranzano may look rather sharp but this is perhaps the only picture I could find him alive. Other photos depict him as brutally shot up and they're not pretty. Still, let's just say he'd start a gang war and be killed by Luciano.

Salvatore Maranzano may look rather sharp but this is perhaps the only picture I could find him alive. Other photos depict him as brutally shot up and they’re not pretty. Still, let’s just say he’d start a gang war and be killed by Luciano.

Known in Life as: Early Costa Nostra boss in the US who instigated the Castellammarese War to seize control of American Mafia operations and briefly became the Mafia’s “Bosses of Bosses.”
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Was in direct competition with Masseria.
Differences: Born in Italy and once studied to be a priest yet immigrated to Brooklyn in 1919 on a Sicilian mob boss’ orders. Had a commanding presence as well as greatly respected his underworld peers. Was fascinated with Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire as well as loved discussing these subjects with his less-educated American counterparts. Though he was a legitimate real estate broker, he also had businesses in bootlegging, prostitution, and illegal narcotics smuggling. Divided his organization into squads with each soldier pledging loyalty to his squad leader.
Ultimate Fate: Shot and stabbed by 4 hitmen posing as accountants in New York on Luciano’s orders in 1931. Still, he already hired someone to kill Luciano. After his murder, Luciano abolished the “Boss of Bosses” title and his organization would become the Bonnano Crime Family since it was given to Joseph Bonnano.

60. William Frank
Known in Life as: A lawyer who led a joint IRS and FBI task force to take down Nucky Johnson.
Character or Inspiration? Inspiration for Nelson Van Alden which is rather loosely based.
Similarities: Well, they did lead an operation to take down a corrupt political boss making money on illegal activities.
Differences: His operation to take Nucky Johnson down wasn’t until 1936, which was 3 years after Prohibition. Also, he probably wasn’t a religious fanatic (if so, then he perhaps wasn’t as batshit crazy as Van Alden) and was rather successful at getting his man.
Ultimate Fate: Don’t really know what happened to him.

61. Eliot Ness (1903-1957)

I think Eliot Ness is one of the more overrated people in history mainly because his actions during Prohibition make a rather good story despite that he didn't take down Al Capone. Also, he was a womanizer and a drunk.

I think Eliot Ness is one of the more overrated people in history mainly because his actions during Prohibition make a rather good story despite that he didn’t take down Al Capone. Also, he was a womanizer and a drunk.

Known in Life as: American Prohibition agent famous for his efforts to enforce the 18th Amendment in Chicago as well as leader of a legendary team of law enforcement agents known as the Untouchables (and no, they didn’t take down Al Capone. IRS agent Frank J. Wilson did).
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Well, he did publicly declare he’d take down Al Capone while still a Chicago Treasury agent (he didn’t in real life).
Differences: Born to Norwegian immigrants and attended the University of Chicago where he served as a member in Sigma Alpha Epsilon and graduated with an economics degree in 1925. Career as investigator began for the Retail Credit Company of Atlanta. Returned to college to earn a master’s degree in criminology. With his Untouchables, he staged raids against illegal stills and breweries and was said to have seized such facilities worth as much as a million bucks. Also used wiretapping. Had a close friend killed and survived assassination attempts. Was a womanizing drunk. Had one adopted son and was married 3 times (divorced twice).
Ultimate Fate: After Prohibition, his later years as a law enforcer would come to an end in the 1930s and his latter life consisted of two divorces, business failures, and alcoholism. Died of a heart attack in Coudersport, Pennsylvania at 54. ATF building is named after him.

62. Louis Kessel (1888-1944)

Louis Kessel was the inspiration for Boardwalk Empire's Eddie Kessler. A former cab driver, he worked as Nucky Johnson's valet, driver, and bodyguard and was called by his boss,

Louis Kessel was the inspiration for Boardwalk Empire’s Eddie Kessler. A former cab driver, he worked as Nucky Johnson’s valet, driver, and bodyguard and was called by his boss, “the most loyal man I ever knew.” If there was one thing, Nucky Johnson regretted in his life, it was not attending Kessel’s funeral (due to being incarcerated for tax evasion).

Known in Life as: Former cab driver and personal servant to Nucky Johnson at his Ritz-Carlton residence in Atlantic City. Johnson called him, “the most loyal man I ever knew.”
Character or Inspiration? Inspiration for Eddie Kessler.
Similarities: Well, he was German (despite being born in Russia). Also served as chauffer and bodyguard, too.
Differences: Born in Russia and was 42 in 1920. Was of stockier build than Anthony Laicura but had a similar appearance otherwise. Smoked a pipe. Stood 5’5” and weighed 260 lbs. Before he became a cab driver he was a wrestler and bartender. Could easily break down a door. Woke his boss every day at 3:00 pm and gave him a vigorous massage with wintergreen oil, answered his calls, and prepared him of the day. Was arrested in a prostitution sting. Had a wife and kids though (his granddaughter is still alive). Visited his boss in prison a few times a week with Johnson’s second wife Florence.
Ultimate Fate: Died in a broadsided limo accident during a drive to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania to see his incarcerated boss. He was 56. Nucky Johnson was upset that he couldn’t go to the funeral, and not being there haunted him for decades. Still, his boss would write a moving tribute for him.

63. Elizabeth Ann Blaesing (1919-2005)

Young Elizabeth Blaesing with her mother Nan Britton. Though alleged to be Warren G. Harding's daughter, I don't think she bears any resemblance to the President. Still, Harding was known to be philanderer but might've been sterile.

Young Elizabeth Blaesing with her mother Nan Britton. Though alleged to be Warren G. Harding’s daughter, I don’t think she bears any resemblance to the President. Still, Harding was known to be philanderer but might’ve been sterile.

Known in Life as: Alleged daughter of Warren Harding by alleged mistress Nan Britton. Her claims were never conclusively proven.
Character or Inspiration? She’s a character on the show though she won’t be known by her surname Blaesing until after she was married. Yet, since we don’t know who her father is and went by different surnames prior to her marriage, we’ll just use her maiden name.
Similarities: Well, she was definitely Nan Britton’s daughter. And Warren G. Harding’s according to DNA tests.
Differences: Born in New Jersey and lived in multiple states. Married and had at least one son. Said that Warren G. Harding was her father but has refused interviews or a DNA test (not anymore).
Ultimate Fate: Died in Oregon in 2005. She was 86.

64. Dorothy “Dot” King (1896-1923)

Dorothy

Dorothy “Dot” King was a former showgirl, model, and actress who was famously found murdered in her New York apartment in a building owned by Arnold Rothstein. Still, compared to Billie Kent, she was no saint.

Known in Life as: Ziegfield Follies chorus showgirl who lived in an apartment owned by Arnold Rothstein found famously murdered in 1923.
Character or Inspiration? Likely inspiration for Billie Kent though rather loosely.
Similarities: Well, they do have a similar taste in certain infamous men like sugar daddies, playboys, top-hatted stage-door Johnnies, and Just Plain Gigolo. Both were said to have diamonds, furs, and a bachelor girl apartment in New York.
Differences: Daughter of Irish immigrants. She wasn’t the loyal mistress Billie was to Nucky on the show (who had a sugar daddy but also a Puerto Rican con man lover) and was actually in her late 20s. Also wasn’t blown up in a nightclub. Was married once to a chauffeur but he divorced her after catching her cheating on him. Appeared in only one Broadway production for 105 performances in 1920 and worked in modeling. Yet, left both to make a living as an honest to goodness vamp who had affairs with string of wealthy and powerful men.
Ultimate Fate: Murdered in her yellow silk pajamas in her New York City apartment in 1923. She was 27. Some of her jewelry was missing from the scene as well. Killing remains unsolved and no one was tried.

65. Owney Madden (1891-1965)

Owney Madden may not look like much and may have spoken in a Yorkshire accent like you hear on Downton Abbey. Yet, he was a notorious gangster who had future movie star George Raft as his personal driver (yes, that George Raft if you know who he was. Well, if you don't, he's the head gangster in Some Like It Hot, which you should watch).

Owney Madden may not look like much and may have spoken in a Yorkshire accent like you hear on Downton Abbey. Yet, he was a notorious gangster who had future movie star George Raft as his personal driver (yes, that George Raft if you know who he was. Well, if you don’t, he’s the head gangster in Some Like It Hot, which you should watch).

Known in Life as: Leading underworld figure during Prohibition in New York, most notable for his involvement in organized crime, running the famous Cotton Club, and being a leading boxing promoter in the 1930s.
Character or Inspiration? He’s a character on the show.
Similarities: Spoke in a Northern English accent.
Differences: Born in England to Irish parents. Came to US in early 1900s and was a member of New York’s Gopher Gang where he got a notorious reputation as a fighter and killer. Lead pipe and gun were his signature weapons. Enjoyed an opulent lifestyle and was often accompanied by several women. Yet was known for his violent jealousy and shot a store clerk who asked one of his girls out while boarding a trolley. Despite several witnesses, the case was dismissed. Yet, was eventually sent to Sing Sing for 20 years for his violent behavior but only served 9. Found the Gopher Gang broke up at his 1923 release so went to be a muscle for a friend’s cab business and started running Canadian whiskey to New York. Onetime personal driver would be future movie star George Raft (I’m not making this up).
Ultimate Fate: After being responsible for the killing of Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll and being arrested for a parole violation in 1932, he would soon leave New York in 1935. Settled in Hot Springs, Arkansas where he opened the Southern Club where Luciano was arrested as well as became involved with other criminal activities like illegal gambling. Became a US citizen in 1943 and married the city postmaster’s daughter. Gave up his British passport when threatened with deportation in the 1950s. Died of emphysema in 1965 at 73.

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2 responses to “The Real People of Boardwalk Empire: Part 5 – Mae Coughlin Capone to Owney Madden

  1. The information you have shared regarding Boardwalk Empire is wonderfully entertaining; but, your grammar and punctuation mistakes are distracting. I don’t want to be negative because this is a historical one-stop viewing blog that has made it easier for me to binge watch the series. I have been doing the background research on my own and have spent more time reading than watching the show. I appreciate your effort and thank you.

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