After being caught carrying a deadly weapon, Al 'scarface' capone spent 9 months in Eastern State Pennitentiary spanning the years 1929 and 1930. Many say that Capone's prison time was not exactly a good catch on the part of the authorities, but instead an arrangement orchestrated by Capone to avoid the heat back home in the Windy City. Capone was certianly not the only celebrity inmate housed at the ESP, but he seemed to raise the bar for jail house comfort. According to easterstate.org: "[Scarface's] time in Eastern was spent in luxury
compared to the other inmates; Capone had oriental rugs, a cabinet radio, free time, and
access to the Deputy Warden’s phone."
In 1971 ESP closed for good and consequently most of the prison was allowed to decay. While ESP's prison records allow us to pinpoint the cell where Capone stayed, until rennovations began in 1991 Capone's cell looked more like a dilapidated barber shop.
In 2002 Capone's cell was renovated to give the public a glimpse of what it might have looked like during his brief, but indulgent stay. The refurbishment was done complete with skylight, cabinet radio, armchair and carpets. While we cannot comment on the accuracy of the other furnishings, we have to say that we're pretty sure a elitist such as Capone would not have had machine made carpets. The carpets chosen for Capone's cell do not quite line up with what would be expected of the era, or Capone's character for that matter. First, going by the photograph below we can see two area rugs with Chinese designs. These designs are what would probably be best considered as "Peking." However, traditional handknotted Pekings (circa 1900) did not use these abassador/power colors as seen below. While the motifs would be very similar the overall colors which were used were anagalous blues, ivories, hints of gold, and charcoal. Post-Peking rugs, carpet trends shifted towards what is now known as Art Deco, such as Nichols'. These rugs often featured garrish and gaudy coloring and motifs, desirable during the roaring twenties and even into the thirties. While we are not saying that it is impossible that carpets, such as the ones pictured below, would not have been produced, we think that such instances would be rare. Our most educated guess would be to place these as being machine made carpets from the at the earliest 40s-50s (although we're not sure of the dates). The reason we believe that these are machine made is that Peking designs did come back in style in the seventie/ early eighties, but would have been hand-knotted with a very thick pile with texture carving.
Art Deco machine made carpets, such as the one pictured on the left, were available and popular during Capone's time. However, we'd like to go so far as to say that Capone would have accepted nothing less than the best, and probably would have gone with a hand-knotted piece such as the Manchester Kashan shown below. As this particular variety was often made only in larger sizes, Capone might have had to custom order a smaller one to fit his cell...