"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

CAPONE, Alphonse

From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Jump to navigationJump to search
Al Capone was one of the nation's most notorious gangsters.

CAPONE, Alphonse. (Naples, Italy, Jan. 7, 1899--Miami, FL, Jan. 25, 1947). Occasionally finding the "atmosphere" in Dubuque and East Dubuque friendlier than Chicago, Capone reputedly stayed at the Julien Hotel (later HOTEL JULIEN DUBUQUE) during PROHIBITION.

The following information was sent in a letter to Paul HEMMER from Louis PFOHL on May 111, 1977 just as Hemmer with Donald W. STRIBLING and Lauretta M. STRIBLING were working on the script for JOE SENT ME!: (1)

            When I took over the Julien in 1952 there were two people who 
            were familiar with the situation one of them, whose name I 
            cannot recall, is now at the Dodge House. I believe he is night
            superintendent. The story I heard was that when Capone came to 
            town he took over the entire eighth floor and that his guards 
            were stationed at all stairways and elevators. The hotel
            employees would bring the food up on the elevator and give it to 
            the guards, but they could not go on the floor. I have a postcard 
            which shows the three hotels that the syndicate owned, two in 
                            Chicago, one of which Capone's headquarters and 
                            the other the Julien.
            The other man, whose name was Murphy,was a bell boy there at the 
            time we purchased the hotel, and his father was the bell hop before 
            him. Murphy told me that Al would get a little lonesome for female 
            companionship at times and wanted to go to White City which was up
            across the river a distance from Eagle Point. He was afraid to take 
            his car so Murphy's father would meet him at the harbor with a boat, 
            take him up the river, and then bring him back.
            One of the O 'Brien's, the Police Chief's brother, told me that the 
            Dubuque Police would be alerted to the fact when Al was coming. 
            O'Brien would then lie in the weeds near the bridge and count the 
            cars as they came across and try to determine how who was with Al. 
            After Al was dropped at the Julien the cars would be driven to the 
            building at the northwest corner of 4th and Locust, now the Sherwin 
            Williams store. There was a ramp from the alley that led to the 
            basement and the cars would be stored there until Al was ready to leave.

Paul Hemmer also recounted this story told to him by his father. (2)

            As a single man in the late 1920s ydad, Andy Hemmer, roomed in a 
            second floor boarding house at 4th & Main owned by Mae Fivecoats. 
            At that time he was working as a mechanic at one of the downtown 
            service stations. 
            One late evening he had a knock on the door and was met by two tough 
            looking men in suits who inquired, “Are you Andy Hemmer? We’ve been 
            told you’re a very capable mechanic. We need some work done on a car 
            downstairs. We’ll pay you well but you’ve got to keep your mouth shut 
            about this or we can’t guarantee your safety.
            Dad was a strong man and didn’t like threats but could see the gun 
            bulge in their coat pockets and decided cooperation was a good idea.
            He followed them down the hall and stairway to an underground basement 
            garage. A few more men in suits stood around as he was lead to one of 
            several very nice automobiles. The hood was open on one and he was 
            instructed to fix it as quickly as possible. I don’t remember what he 
            said the problem was, but he mentioned noticing a machine gun mounted 
            in the dashboard. At that point he knew who he was working for and 
            decided quickly that the suggestion to “keep your mouth shut” was 
            definitely a good idea. 
            When the work was completed he started up the car, tuned the engine a bit 
            and said, “I believe everything is okay now.” 
            One of the men handed him a wad of bills with another admonition to, 
            “Don’t tell anyone about this – ever.” They led him back to his room and 
            He first told me this story in about 1977 when I was working on the music 
            and lyrics for “Joe Sent Me” and after I had shared with him my letter 
            from Louis Pfohl. He said it was the first time he had mentioned it since 
            that night in the late 1920s. 

Questions of whether Capone actually once owned a share of the Julien remained unresolved as late as 2010.

Though suspected of ordering numerous murders, Capone was never found guilty. In 1931 he was convicted of income tax invasion, sentenced to eleven years in prison and fined $70,000.



1. Hemmer, Paul. E-mail, May 28, 2016, Letter from Louis P. Pfohl

2. Hemmer, Paul. E-mail, May 28, 2016