Well, looks like I’m back. After this week there may be some doubt. Today I’d like to talk about who started the modern American mob that we know today. If Christian Cipollini is out there this may be where you’ll want to look away.
It is widely accepted that Salvatore Lucania, aka Charlie Lucky Luciano is the father of today’s American mafia. He was certainly there at its inception but so were a bunch of other people. Some lasted, some didn’t.
Back in the early 1900s in New York and other cities there was crime but it wasn’t organized. As I stated last week, there were a bunch of gangs who spent as much time fighting each other as they did making money. When prohibition came to be, the money to be made became astronomical. It didn’t make sense to be fighting each other when if cooperating, everyone could make real money. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre seems to be what started the ball rolling on getting things done. No, I’m not thanking Al Capone for his contribution.
Johnny Torrio may have been the one or one of the driving forces behind getting the Atlantic City conference to take place. The conference went a long way in getting the national commission to be formed. A major player at this conference was Frank Costello. It was Frank’s speech that told everyone the fighting had to stop. He laid out how everyone could make money if they would just work together. He also convinced Capone to turn himself in in order to get the heat off of everyone else. Capone must have had real respect for Frank and I’m sure Torrio helped in convincing him.
Unfortunately, two men that weren’t at the conference were Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. They didn’t believe in working with non-Italians and even wanted to restrict the gangs to Sicilian only. Another problem with these two is that neither wanted to take a back seat to the other which triggered the Castellammarese War in 1930, less than a year after the Atlantic City conference. This war did not help matters at all. It put a crimp on everyone’s earning ability.
This is where the young Turks step in. They saw what was happening and knew they had to put an end to it. Lucky, Frank, Meyer, Bugsy and even Vito worked together to put an end to the war.
Lucky betrayed his boss Joe Masseria by going to Maranzano and convincing him that he would kill Masseria to put an end to all the bloodshed. Masseria was setup at a lunch in Coney Island where it is believed Bugsy and Meyer stormed in while Lucky was in the bathroom. Most of you have seen the picture of Masseria lying in his blood with the ace of spades in his hands.
This event put Sal Maranzano as the defector head of crime in New York. Soon after Masseria’s death, Maranzano called a meeting of his own. He gathered the leading members of New York’s crime world at a hall in the Bronx. As far as is known the hall had been on Washington Ave near 187th St which would put it in the same neighborhood as Arthur Ave which is more known to people. At this meeting he setup separate families that would be headed by Lucky, Gaetano Gagliano, Vincent Mangano and Joseph Bonanno. This structure is the same structure we have today. There was one problem though. Maranzano took it upon himself to name himself capo di tutti capi or boss of all bosses. This didn’t sit well with the boys so they went back to work.
Sal Maranzano was killed in his office in September of 1931. Our friend Bugsy went in with others posing as tax men. This let the guard down of Maranzano and his men. Once inside Maranzano was killed. Joe Bonanno was given Maranzano’s rackets and peace is finally brought to New York.
Lucky changed very little of what Maranzano had put in place. The major thing was the involvement of a boss of all bosses but I am of the belief that while there was no official title, Lucky was indeed the boss of all bosses. I think Lucky even said “everyone knows who’s in charge”.
Ok, so who is the father of today’s mafia? Is it Torrio? Costello? Maranzano? Lucky? You decide.