Mafia History

New York Mafia History

The Five Families are the five original Italian-American Mafia crime families which have dominated organized crime in the United States since 1931.

The Five Families in New York City are the powerhouse of the Italian Mafia in the United States. The Five Families originated out New York City Sicilian Mafia gangs. They were formally organized in the summer of 1931 by Salvatore Maranzano after the murder of Giuseppe Masseria, in what has become known as the Castellammarese War. Maranzano also introduced the now familiar Mafia hierarchy: Boss, Underboss, Consigliere, Capo, Soldier, and declared himself “capo di tutti capi” — the ultimate boss over all of the families.

When Maranzano was murdered just months after Masseria, the “Boss of all Bosses” position was eliminated in favor of the Commission, a council which demarcated territory between the previously warring factions and governs American Mafia activities in the United States (virtually a “board of directors.”) The idea was to settle things politically amongst the families and prevent the tyranny of one man controlling all the Mafia’s operations. In addition, the cessation of constant hostilities insured increased profitability and stability for all the families…

Sicillian Mafia History

Pictured Right: Fourteen Sicilian mobsters arrested at the first known national meeting of the Mafia held in Cleveland in 1928, and hosted by Cleveland mob boss Joe Porrello. Notable are Joseph Profaci (seated in wheelchair), head of what would become New York City’s Colombo crime family. Flanking Profaci are Capone representative Joseph Giunta on the left and Pasquale Lolordo.)

The Mafia (also known as Cosa Nostra) is a criminal syndicate that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Sicily, Italy. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct, and whose common enterprise is protection racketeering. Each group, known as a “family”, “clan”, or “cosca”, claims sovereignty over a territory in which it operates its rackets – usually a town or village or a neighbourhood (borgata) of a larger city. Its members call themselves “men of honor”, although the public often refers to them as “mafiosi”

According to the classic definition, the Mafia is a criminality originating in Sicily – i.e. Cosa Nostra. However, the term “mafia” has become a generic term for any organized criminal network with similar structure, methods, and interests.