In the late 19th century, huge numbers of Italian immigrants were coming over to the eastern United States. During this period, a crime organization known as the Mafia rose in New York and other major metropolitan areas. In New York itself, the group centralized mostly in three boroughs:
- East Harlem,
- Lower East Side,
Charles “Lucky” Luciano was the first to organize the different criminal groups under a Commission, a type of committee to decide the territories and practices of the organization. Luciano was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1936, but was allowed to leave the United States after striking a deal. He died in Italy in 1962.
Despite Luciano being taken out of the New York picture, the families are still active to this day with crime still being done beneath the cover of legitimate businesses. Here’s a look through the history books of the New York Mafia.
1. Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia lies dead on a barbershop floor in 1957. He had been the leader of the infamous Murder Inc. group of hired killers and goons.
2. The hat of Frank “The Prime Minister” Costello after a similar assassination attempt. Costello and Anastasia had grown too powerful and were under attack from rival families.
3. One of Costello’s top men, Anthony “Little Augie Pisano” Carfano sits after his arrest in 1933. He was assassinated in 1959 along with Janice Drake, a witness in Anastasia’s murder case.
4. The body of Thomas “Tommy” Bilotti, killed just two weeks after being promoted to underboss in 1985.
5. Vito “Don Vito” Genovese being turned over by the U.S army in 1945 to the Brooklyn police after being arrested in Italy. Genovese stood trial for murder in 1946 but after the death of two key witnesses, he walked free.
6. Janice Drake lies dead in the car after being killed alongside Carfano. Two men allegedly hid under the back seat until the pair got in the car.
7. Part of the Jewish mob and not the five families, the Cohen’s were a huge part of the organized crime of the early 20th century including Murder Inc. Sam “Chowderhead” Cohen was one of their underbosses.
8. Police squeeze the thumbs of Theodore Clement to try to coax a confession in 1956. He was involved in a fatal shooting during a poker game in Queens.
9. Emanuel “Mendy” Weiss smiles for the camera while Louis Capone hides his face. The two are en route to Sing Sing prison after their 1941 arrest.
10. Dutch Schultz smokes during a trial just months before his assassination in 1935. Schultz had tried to kill U.S Attorney Thomas Dewey, an act the Commission had explicitly forbidden.
11. Mamie Capone in 1938 hiding her face while her husband, notorious gangster Al Capone, was convicted to serve time at Alcatraz for tax evasion.
12. Recently bailed out for $150,000, Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonanno confidently strides out of jail 1966. Bonanno would live a long, interesting life, dying in 2002 at the age of 97.
13. Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno climbs into a car after leaving jail, his trademark fedora and cigar already upon him. Salerno would run the Genovese family for a time in the 80s.
14. The Mafia had close ties to politicians, including James Hines the boss of Tammany Hall. In 1939 he was convicted on several charges including the protection of Dutch Schultz and his mob.
15. William “Slick Willie” Sutton behind bars following his 1952 arrest. One of the most notorious bank robbers in history, Sutton stole approximately $2 million dollars over his criminal career.
16. Al Capone steps out of a cab on the way to his trial in 1931. Authorities were never able to pin the Valentine’s Day murders on him. He would instead be convicted of tax evasion due to a lawyer’s mistake and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
17. Three Mafia members are arrested after a long car chase. From left to right, Salvatore Ingrassia, James Jackson and James “One Arm” De Lucca tried to jump out of their moving vehicle and fight, but were bested by a squad of detectives.
18. Police show off a captured Mafia car that had been riddled with machine gun fire. Propaganda battles raged between the police forces and mobs during the early 20th century.
19. Five youths wearing body armor were arrested on their way to a gang fight in 1958.
20. Criminal John Dillinger (seen here) also operated during the Depression, mostly in Chicago and the surrounding area. Dillinger wasn’t a part of the Mafia, though his “Terror Gang” had many run-ins with other crime organizations.
21. At Frankie Yale’s funeral in 1928, friends comfort his hysteric ex-wife. Yale was the first to be killed by a sub-machine gun in the Ganglands of New York.
22. Joe Colombo is interviewed by reporters in 1970 after creating the Italian-American Civil Rights League. Despite his willingness to be interviewed and appear on television, Colombo was still involved in many criminal activities and was a boss of one of the five families.
23. On the orders of Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, one of the Gambino family’s most infamous underbosses, Michael “The Bat” DeBatt is murdered in 1987.
24. Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll was an Irish-American hitman who was employed by several different Mafia bosses. He was only 23 when he died, after a hit was placed on him by former employer Dutch Schultz.
25. A photo showing Ruth Snyder in the electric chair in 1928. Snyder, a convicted murderer, was the first woman executed in Sing Sing prison since 1899.
26. The camera used to take the Snyder photo, attached to reporter Tom Howard’s ankle during the execution. It would be the first photo to capture the electric chair in action.
27. Tommy “Three-Finger Brown” Lucchese in 1935. A founding member of the Mafia in the United States, Lucchese was a prominent figure throughout the rise of organized crime.
28. The funeral of Edward “Monk” Eastman, in 1920. One of the biggest gangsters in New York, his death led to the rise of the Mafia and the more modern criminal organizations.