July 31, 1886|
Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Italy
September 10, 1931 (aged 45)|
New York City, Manhattan, U.S.
Salvatore Maranzano (July 31, 1886 – September 10, 1931) was an organized crime figure from the town of Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, and an early Cosa Nostra boss in the United States. He instigated the Castellammarese War to seize control of the American Mafia operations, and briefly became the Mafia's "Boss of Bosses". He was assassinated by a younger faction led by Lucky Luciano, who established a power-sharing arrangement rather than a "boss of bosses" to prevent future wars.
Early life[edit | edit source]
As a youngster, Maranzano had wanted to become a priest and even studied to become one, but later became associated with the Mafia in his homeland. Maranzano had a very commanding presence, and was greatly respected by his underworld peers. He had a fascination with Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire and enjoyed talking to his less-educated American Mafia counterparts about these subjects.
Early career[edit | edit source]
Castellammarese War[edit | edit source]
Maranzano took over a faction of the Italian-American underworld at odds with the Mafia "boss of bosses" Joseph Masseria. This resulted in the murder, in April 1931, of Masseria and the end of the Castellammare War with Maranzano victorious.
Boss of All Bosses[edit | edit source]
Maranzano was now the most powerful Mafioso in New York. Two weeks after Masseria's murder, Maranzano called together several hundred Mafiosi at a banquet hall at an undisclosed location in Upstate New York. Maranzano confirmed and anointed the bosses of the crime families who had survived the war--Luciano, Tommy Gagliano, Joe Profaci, Vincent Mangano and himself. He also created an additional position for himself, that of "boss of bosses." This came as a surprise to the assembled mafiosi, since Maranzano had previously claimed he'd wanted to end boss rule.
However, Maranzano's scheming, his arrogant treatment of his subordinates, and his fondness for comparing his organization to the Roman Empire (he attempted to model the organization after Caesar's military chain of command) did not sit well with Luciano and his ambitious friends, like Vito Genovese, Frank Costello and others. Indeed, Luciano came to believe that Maranzano was, in his own way, even more hidebound and power-hungry than Masseria had been. Despite his advocacy for modern methods of organization, including crews of soldiers doing the bulk of a family's illegal work under the supervision of a capo, at bottom Maranzano was a "Mustache Pete" — an old-school mafioso too steeped in Old World ways. For instance, he was opposed to Luciano's partnership with Jewish gangsters such as Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. In fact, Luciano and his colleagues had intended all along to bide their time before getting rid of Maranzano as well.
Maranzano realized this soon enough, and began planning the murder of Luciano, Genovese, Costello and others. Maranzano did not act quickly enough, though: by the time he hired Mad Dog Coll to murder Luciano and Genovese, Luciano, aided by Meyer Lansky, had already found out about Maranzano's plans.
Death[edit | edit source]
Luciano arranged for Samuel "Red" Levine and three other gangsters provided by Lansky to go to Maranzano's offices on September 10, 1931, posing as accountants/tax men. Once inside his office on the 9th floor of The Helmsley Building, they disarmed Maranzano's guards. The four men then shot and stabbed Salvatore Maranzano to death. As they fled down the stairs, they met Coll on his way upstairs for his appointment with Maranzano. They warned him that there had been a raid, and he fled too.
The photograph commonly displayed of "Maranzano" is in fact that of Salvatore Messina, who ran vice rackets in London in the 1950s. The only authentic photographs of Salvatore Maranzano in circulation are a small handful of low-resolution shots of the mob boss lying dead on the floor of his Park Avenue office.
Popular culture[edit | edit source]
- Maranzano plays a small fictionalized role in Mario Puzo's The Godfather. Maranzano refused Don Vito Corleone's proposal to share his monopoly on gambling in New York City, in exchange for police and political contacts and expansion into Brooklyn and the Bronx. Maranzano arranged for two of Al Capone's gunmen to come to New York and finish Corleone. Through his contacts in Chicago, Corleone found out, and sent Luca Brasi to murder the gunmen. With Capone out of the picture, the great mob war of 1933 had begun. Desperate for peace, Maranzano agreed to a sit down in a restaurant in Brooklyn, where he was killed by Salvatore Tessio and his men. Afterwards, Corleone called a meeting to reorganize the American Mafia, something that the real life Maranzano did.
- In the 1972 film The Valachi Papers, Maranzano is portrayed by Joseph Wiseman.
- In the 1990 film Mobsters, Maranzano is portrayed by Michael Gambon, but is known as 'Faranzano'.
- In the 1999 film Lansky, Maranzano is portrayed by Ron Gilbert.
- In the 1999 Lifetime movie Bonanno: A Godfather's Story, Maranzano is portrayed by Edward James Olmos.
- In the 2011 Torchwood episode "Immortal Sins", Maranzano is portrayed by Cris D'Annunzio.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Davis, John H. Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
- Reppetto, Thomas. American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1994.
- Critchley, David, "The Origin of Organized Crime in America" New York: Routledge, 2009
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cs:Salvatore Maranzano de:Salvatore Maranzano es:Salvatore Maranzano fr:Salvatore Maranzano it:Salvatore Maranzano lt:Salvatore Maranzano nl:Salvatore Maranzano ja:サルヴァトーレ・マランツァーノ no:Salvatore Maranzano pl:Salvatore Maranzano ru:Маранцано, Сальваторе