Although the Mafia is most associated with the Prohibition era of the 1920’s when it dominated crime in all major US cities, the true beginnings of the most infamous criminal organization started quite earlier. Beginning in the late 1800s, many Italians immigrated to New York City due to continued rumors of success in the area. This trend continued out of the 19th century and into the 20th as over 500,000 Italians immigrated to the United States (Sifakis). As Italian citizens migrated to the cities of the US, they brought along organized Italian criminals, who formed an organization known as Costra Nosa, translating to ‘our thing’, today we call it the Mafia.
In Sicily, the island southwest of Italy, a place historically invaded by foreign armies, a group known as “The Mafia” with no criminal orientation began to grow in order to protect the citizens from such invaders. Starting in the 19th century, members of the group began exploiting protection money from various landowners and grew into the violent organization known as the Sicilian Mafia (History).
In the 1920s, the Prohibition era just began in America and crime across the country increased dramatically. Simultaneously, the very unpopular Benito Mussolini became leader of Italy. The combination of mobsters needing a new home and America with a new demand for crime created a destined path for the Sicilian mobsters. New York City became the new breeding ground for the Italian life of crime, and with the influence of the Sicilian Mafia before it, the American Mafia was born.
As the term “American Mafia” became established, various names in the industry began to emerge. Some have become known in common culture as “the face” of crime during the Prohibition era, while others are forgotten in history. Lots of these figures shared contradicting views, resulting in conflicts and tragedies throughout the crucial years of the Mafia’s life in the 1920’s.
Before the structure of the Mafia became the way it is today, it was just gangs of Italian mobsters with ranging levels of public recognition. However, there was one group that dominated crime in New York. The gang was run by no other than the Sicilian born mobster Giuseppe Masseria a.k.a. “Joe the Boss”. Using the death of fellow gang members and simple brute power, Masseria snuck his way to becoming the strongest mob boss in New York. He became so powerful and greedy that it was clear to other Mafia members that a change had to be made. One man couldn’t have so much influence over the organization as it limits the Mafia’s possibilities. Issues also arose as Masseria’s dated personal beliefs got in the way of business. He refused to work with the Irish and Jewish Mobs who requested an alliance as he believed that the Mafia should only associate itself with fellow Italians. With these issues prominent in his follower’s minds, he was eventually overthrown after the results of the Castellammarese war and a new system was created. However,...