Early Days of Los Angeles

The Italian Welfare League: The Early Days of Los Angeles

Installment 13: The Italian Welfare League A lot of work has gone into shaping the Jack Dragna biography. The installment that follows consists of a few excerpts from a chapter on my great grandfather’s political and social club, the Italian Welfare League. Like Jack, the club is often misrepresented. Enjoy a little insight into the political plays LA’s Sicilians made during the middle and late twenties in order to combat their adversaries and to push…

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He Didn’t “Toot” His Own Horn: The Early Days of Los Angeles

The initial wave of gambling boats that hit the West during the roaring twenties, kicked off in the summer of 1927. Although Tony Cornero—the good looking racketeer with a reputation for being a straight shooter among thieves—is often crowned King of these floating casinos, he was actually nowhere to be found when the trade first got rolling. A short while after his 1926 bootlegging arrest, Cornero managed to escape custody. A wanted man, he fled…


On This “St Patrick’s” Day, 1934: The Early Days of Los Angeles

March of 1934 ushered in the first post-prohibition celebration of St Paddy’s. It had been fourteen years since America’s Irish immigrants celebrated properly. When the drought finally lifted, many a bootlegging entrepreneur made a quick leap into the gambling rackets. And those who’d already been juggling both enterprises thickened what they had in motion. Facilitating the shift, the timeline seemed to offer an almost seamless transition. Early in 1931, in an effort to counter the…


Shady Disney Characters Lurking in Los Angeles? The Early Days of Los Angeles

Author’s Note – These installments on early LA seek to highlight the lesser known events and relationships pertaining to crime activity in the Southland. They are also intended to clear the conjecture that continues to cloud the true events that transpired. As John Buntin so aptly penned in LA Noir, “Other cities have histories. Los Angeles has legends.” To add to this, in regard to the City of Angels, the early days were exciting enough…


Peacekeepers and Killers: The Early Days of Los Angeles

This widely circulated mugshot of one of the earliest Bosses of the Los Angeles Crime Family is the only image of the native of Piana dei Greci, Sicily, that researchers and mob enthusiasts typically encounter. Depicted, is twenty-nine-year-old Joseph “strong man” Ardizzone. Joe stood for the photo in 1914, roughly eight years after committing the crime. In another decade he would assume leadership of L.A.’s Sicilian fraternity. The crime Joe Ardizzone faced, was the murder…