ST. CHARLES – In researching his book "Al Capone and the 1933 World's Fair: The End of the Gangster Era in Chicago," Campton Hills author William Hazelgrove discovered much more about Capone's life than he had known.
The national bestselling author will discuss the book at 1 p.m. Feb. 12 in the Carnegie Community Room at the St. Charles Public Library, One S. Sixth Ave., St. Charles. Registration is required and those who would like to attend can sign up at the library's reference desk, by calling 630-584-0076, ext. 1, or online at the library's website at www.scpld.org.
The program is funded by the St. Charles Library Foundation. Books will be available for purchase.
The book is a historical look at Chicago during the darkest days of the Great Depression and the story of Chicago fighting the hold that organized crime had on the city to be able to put on the 1933 World’s Fair.
Hazelgrove found a vast amount of information about Capone at the Chicago History Museum. About two years of research went into the book.
"It has all sorts of things on the Capone era," he said. "And then I went over to the University of Chicago. There are archives there, too. I basically just started piecing it together, getting as much information as I could from newspapers, letters and what have you."
That research including looking at artifacts stored in the basement of the Chicago History Museum
"The curator took me down to the basement, where they keep all these artifacts, basically, and they keep them in a deep freeze, so they don't degrade as fast," Hazelgrove said.
One of the artifacts Hazelgrove saw was a fan belonging to burlesque dancer Sally Rand, who caused a sensation at the 1933 World's Fair with her fan dance.
"She did it with these ostrich feathers, these ostrich feathers that weigh about seven pounds a piece," he said. "And she would dance with these things. Those feathers are in the basement of the Chicago History Museum."
Hazelgrove wrote a book about Rand, "Sally Rand: American Sex Symbol," that is set for release later this year. The 1933 World's Fair also showcased many innovations.
"It really started out as a celebration of 100 years of the incorporation of Chicago," he said. "But then it changed to a science fair, because people felt like nobody wanted to see a bunch of dusty history things. Suddenly, it was a Century of Progress. The Zephyr train was there, television was there, microwave popcorn was there and a thing called the Sky Ride, which was 625 feet up. People could take a ride on it. So this gave it a new focus and at the same time, it became a fair to get America out of the Great Depression."
In the book, Hazelgrove also tells the real story of how Capone was brought down.
"By the way, it was not Eliot Ness and the G Men that did it, it was six guys called the Secret Six," he said. "And they're the real guys who got rid of Al Capone. They were six Chicago millionaires. And so this privately funded fair, that everybody thought was going to be this financial wreck, makes a lot of money. It is an amazing story about this fair that happened in the worst of times that actually was a bright light in the middle of all this darkness."