Salvatore Maranzano

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Salvatore Maranzano
Born(1886-07-31)July 31, 1886
Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Italy
DiedSeptember 10, 1931(1931-09-10) (aged 45)
New York City, Manhattan, U.S.
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Salvatore Maranzano
Born(1886-07-31)July 31, 1886
Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Italy
DiedSeptember 10, 1931(1931-09-10) (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 Charles "Lucky" Luciano, who established a power-sharing arrangement rather than a "boss of bosses" to prevent future wars.

Early life[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2]

Early career[edit]

Maranzano emigrated to the United States soon after World War I, settling in Brooklyn. While building a legitimate business as a real estate broker, he also maintained a growing bootlegging business. Soon, Maranzano got involved in prostitution and the illegal smuggling of narcotics.

Castellammarese War[edit]

In order to protect and maintain the well-being of the criminal empire that Maranzano had built up from the ground, he declared war on his rival Joe Masseria (boss of all bosses) in 1930. The Castellammarese War then started; this marked one of the most important times in mafia history.

On the 15th of April, 1931, Masseria was murdered by Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Albert Anastasia. This ended the war and rendered Maranzano victorious.

Boss of All Bosses[edit]

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.[3][4]

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.[3] 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 heart 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 Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. In fact, Luciano and his colleagues had intended all along to bide their time before getting rid of Maranzano as well.[4]

Maranzano realized this soon enough, and began planning the murder of Luciano, Genovese, Costello and others.[5] 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.


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.

Following Maranzano's death, Luciano abolished the position of "capo di tutti capi." Maranzano's crime family was inherited by Joseph Bonanno and became known as the Bonanno family.

Maranzano is buried in Saint John's Cemetery, Queens, located in New York City, near the grave of Luciano.[6] The only known photographs of Maranzano are from the scene of his death. Author David Critchley identified the picture usually claimed to be a mugshot of Maranzano as the London-based gangster Salvatore Messina instead.[7]

Popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Critchley, p. 144
  2. ^ Raab, pp. 26-27
  3. ^ a b Raab, pp. 28-29
  4. ^ a b Sifakis, Carl (1987). The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York City: Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-1856-1. 
  5. ^ Maas, p. 80
  6. ^ Torbatnejad, Mehrnoosh (2008-02-26). "Cemetery has a mob of mafiosi". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  7. ^ Critchley, David. "Maranzano Muddle". Informer. Retrieved 2012-12-06. 


Further reading[edit]