The Mafia was first developed in Sicily in feudal times to
protect the estates of landlords who were out of town. The
word Mafia, derived from the Sicilian word, Mafioso, means
family. Today, Mafia is a name which describes a loose
association of criminal groups. These groups can be bound
together by blood, oath or sworn secrecy. Many people had
considered the Sicilian Mafia as the most ruthless mobsters
of the twentieth century.
By the nineteenth century, the Mafia had become known as a
network of criminal thugs that dominated the Sicilian
countryside. Members of the Mafia were bound by Omerta.
Omerta, an Italian word, stands for a strict code of
conduct. The code include avoiding all contact or
cooperation with authorities.
In the beginning the Mafia had no centralized organization.
It consisted of many small groups. Each of these groups was
considered as a district. And, each of these districts, had
its own form of government. The Mafia had gained their
strong-arm by using scare tactics amongst the people. By
using these terroristic methods against peasants who could
vote, the Mafia used this upper hand in placing themselves
into political offices. They would achieve this in several
communities. Using this political power in their advantage,
the Mafia was able to gain influence with police
authorities and the ability to obtain legal access to
Benito Mussolini was the premier-dictator of Italy from
1922 to 1943. He was the founder and leader of Italian
Fascism. Mussolini, along with his Facets government, was
able to successfully suppress the Mafia during the time of
World War II. However, after the war ended in 1945, the
Mafia emerged and ruled once again. Over the next thirty
years, the Sicilian Mafia was not only able to gain control
Sicily, but all of Italy as well.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, America had
the largest number of immigrants moving to the United
States ever known. There is a recorded three million Irish,
four million Italians, and four million Jews that
immigrated to the United States during the later half of
the nineteenth century. People immigrated for a number of
reasons. Many of them dreamed of leaving behind their old
worlds. Worlds of oppression, fear, and crime.
Unfortunately, this dream was shattered for many of the
immigrants. For those who migrated to Chicago, several
found themselves living in urban ghettos filled with
dangerous and deadly circumstances. Crime, along with the
Mafia was brought into the new world. Due to the language
barriers, cultures and people did not mix. The Italians
remained with, socialized with, and committed crimes on
other Italians within the Italian community. The Chicago
Mafia remained incontact with the Mafia connections in
Since each community had their own gang, there were several
of them. There was the Chinese, Irish, Jewish, and Italian
gangs. Each gang had their own style. For example: there
was the Dead Rabbits gang. They were known for attacking
regular civilians in broad daylight. They got their name by
the unforgettable dead rabbits they carried on sticks while
beating people up.
There was also the Italian Mafia. They were recognized by
the "Black Hand." The "Black Hand" was a letter with a
black hand print on it. The letter would simply ask for
money. Every Italian knew that if you refused to pay, it
would cost you your life. The only way to be immune to the
terrifying "Black Hand" was to be a part of the Mafia.
Even Italian tenor Enrico Coruso received a "Black Hand"
letter demanding two thousand dollars. Without thought or
hesitation, Enrico paid in full. However, when he received
a second "Black Hand" letter demanding an additional
fifteen thousand dollars, Enrico went to the police.
Because of this set up, authorities were able to arrest two
men inconnection with the Mafia. For the next three years,
Enrico feared for his life, and had several guards escort
him everywhere he went.
At the time, Johnny Torrio was the godfather, or leader of
the Italian Mafia in Chicago. The prohibition had begun.
Now not only did the underworld specialize in crimes such
as prostitution, and gambling, but in illegal liquor,
better known as bootlegging, too. He believed in only using
force when necessary.
There were several gang feuds. Torrio was able to regulate
gang wars by allowing each gang to self govern their own
territory. When trouble arouse the gangs agreed to pull
together and fight off any interference's in their
When the new governor of Chicago took office, Torrio
attempted to buy him off. Governor Deven refused. He came
back at Torrio with closing down his club. Eventually the
Mafia was defeated once again and forced out of the inner
city of Chicago, onto the onto the suburban outskirts.
Torrio soon went back to Italy and lift an outgoing young
Italian by the name of Al Scarface Capone in Charge. Some
people to this day feel that leaving Capone in charge was a
Capone received his nickname Scarface due to a scar on the
side of his face. He obtained this scar during a knife
fight in a bar over a prostate. Unlike Torrio, Capone felt
it necessary to use violence when ever possible. He was a
gambler, drinker, and a cigar smoking man. Capone was a
loud man who knew what he wanted, and that was more.
He knew how to get it. He hired a group of personalized
thugs that consisted of hitman, exstorsionists, and
dealers. With these men and Capones sudden power, he was
able to eliminate almost all competition. His biggest
triumph in defeating the competition was what we know as
the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929.
At the time Bugs Morran was the middle man to the liquor
needed for Capones bootlegging operation. When Morran
raised the price of the alcohol several times Capone got
fed up. Like usual, they arranged to meet so Capone, or one
of his associates, could give Morran and his gang the money
in return for liquor that would be delivered later.
However, things did not go as planned. Capone had set
Morrans gang up. Authorities were there and a Coors of gun
fire began. Seven were left by the police car for dead.
Only one man survived, but he never did say whether the
gunman was a police official, and if not, who it was.
Authorities were able to arrest and convict Capone of
income tax invasion in 1931. He was given eleven years in
prison. In 1939 however, he was released on parole.
Crippled by syphilis, Capone spent the rest of his life in
his mansion in Miami Beach, Florida. A great contribution
to the Chicago Mafia died alone in 1947.
In the early 1980's, the Italian government launched an
anti-Mafia campaign throughout all of Italy. Not only did
this lead to a number of arrests and trials, but it also
was the reason for several assignations of key
law-enforcement officials whom were in retaliation.
For the past two decades, both America and Italy have been
cracking down on the organized crime group known as the
Mafia. Criminal activities concerning those involved in the
Mafia have declined dramatically.
The modern underworld crime of today consists of business
men and women with a strong knowledge of computers. Old
world ways such as killing, riots, and vendetta have been
done away with. Today's "mobsters" are highly educated
extortionists dressed in suites.
The old ways of organized crime will never be the same
again. The desire, need, brutality, wisdom, and style of
what we know as the Italian Mafia only exists in books and
movies. In my opinion, the time of the Prohibition was, and
always will be the most recognizable time of the underworld
because of the Italian Mafia.