History and Proliferation of Sicilian Mafia into the United States

Posted by Winnie Melda on April 23rd, 2019

The seeds of the mafia according to the modern scholars appear to have taken root during the Sicilian upheaval in the transition from feudalism, in the year 1812 coupled with the annexation by Italy in 1860. Most of the land in Sicily was in the hands of the nobility during the reigning of feudalism as well as also enforcing the law and order via the use of their private armies. In the years following 1812, the barons in the feudal systems resulted in selling as well as leasing of the lands they had to the private citizens. Once Italy annexed Sicily in the year 1860, it began redistributing large sizes of the church as well as public lands to the private citizens. As a result, there was a boom in the number of landowners, having been 2000 in the year 1812 to over 20000 by the year 1861 (CERAMI, 2008).

Consequently, the nobles relieved their private armies in order to leave the duty of maintenance of law and order to the state. The inexperience in relation to the free market capitalism the state had resulted to enforce property contracts, as well as the right. I'll supply of manpower is the other problem that the state had as they were in possession of fewer than 350 officers in the whole island. Lack of permanent policemen in some towns exacerbated the situation as the available ones only came in to collect bribes, setting criminals aside to operate without regard for the law. The supply of more property owners coupled with commercial activities resulted in more disputes needing the adjudication, enforcement of contracts, transactions oversight as well as protection of property. The understaffing of the authority as well as unreliable, the owners of property were resulting into protectors and extralegal arbitrators. The extralegal arbitrators over time would organize themselves into the first Mafia associated clans (Schneider, 2008).

The other name of the Sicilian mafia is Cos Nostra, that implies “our thing”, is a criminal syndicate found in Italy in the region of Sicily. The mafia normally is a loose organization entailing several criminal entities sharing a common organizational structure as well as a code of conduct. Their primary activities revolve around dispute adjudication in the black market as well as protection racketeering. Each of the member groups known as a clan or a family and lays claim to the sovereignty of a particular territory, mainly a village or a town in a larger city where they conduct their racket. The members of these groups refer to themselves as men of honor, which is a contradiction to what the general community perceives of them. During the period of the 19th century, Arab forces were occupying Sicily (Scalia, 2010). The oppression of the native Sicilians led to them taking refuge in the hills that surrounded them. In the hills that they escaped into, the Sicilians formed a secret society to help in uniting them against the Norman, as well as the Arab invaders. The secret society they formed was called the mafia that is the Italian word for refuge (Schneider, 2008).

The structure of the society/ family followed that the Don is usually the chief of operations also known as the boss. The role of the Don is in the making of all decision that affects the family, and normally was always unquestionable as well as being final. Each Don has an adviser whose role was to act as the secretary or lawyer. The adage is going that the affinity between the Don and his advisor being stronger in comparison to what he has with his wife. The captains also known as the capo régimes, who role was to act as the officer in command, as well as the leader of the Mafiosi group (Scalia, 2010). The members of the group were from the same family and normality had loyalty to the same don. Each captain was commanding an undersized henchmen band referred to as the buttons. The buttons are the group that used in the conducting of all the dirty tasks such as setting establishments on fire as well as carrying out killings. The belief among the mafia is that only a Sicilian can be members of the Cos Nostra since they can uphold the Omerta law, the most vital element of the deal.

Omerta code/law is in reference to the silence vow that is sworn by a Sicilian and is the highest type of oath a family member can take when they enter into the particular family. The simple rule after the administration of the Omerta oath is in, not informing anyone who is not a member of the family about their affairs. Once a candidate swears a life as well as loyalty to his Don, he is said to have finally made his bones. It is in reference to the new and higher form of life the candidate has decided to take. Once the taking of the oath complemented, the candidate finally is called a member of the family (Puccio-Den, 2008).

The sole intention of the society was for the creation of the familial sense in line with the Sicilian heritage and ancestry. In the early 1700s, photographs having a Black Hand starting being distributed to the wealthy, this was an unspoken request for a given amount of money in exchange for protection. The failure to pay such money was resulting into violent acts such as bombings, murder as well as kidnappings. In the year’s preceding the 19th century, the society grew bigger and consequently with a greater orientation towards criminality. In the year 1876, Don Rafael Palizzolo was running for a political office in the province of Sicily where voters were compelled to vote him in office at gun point (Scalia, 2010). With his election to the political office, he followed with the promotion of the mafia don Crispi as the Sicilian prime minister. The two complementing each other ensured that Sicily was under total government control and consequently channeled the government funds in the direction of the mafia society.

During the 1800s, New Orleans had the largest mafia site in America. The discovery of the secret was society during an investigation by David Hennessey, who was the then police chief of the murder an Italian immigrant. The police chief assassinated before the beginning of the trial in which 12 men charged though later lynched by a new gang that had just formed. The vigilantes tried in a stance where the then US President Harrison offered a massive cash settlement to the families of the men who had lynched. Sicilian’s first Capo De Tutti Vito Cascio Ferro, Don Vito to escape arrest fled to United States where he started the Black Hand group. The members of the group were the hardcore criminals who were fugitives from Sicily, thus making him take the reference of being the father of the American Mafia (Puccio-Den, 2008).In the year 1924, the then Italian president, Mussolini had the determination of ridding Italy of all the mafia thus the members to flee to the United States in order to avoid persecution.

The proliferation of the Sicilian mafia in United States

The fleeing Sicilian mafia from the Mussolini's hand was the epitome of their proliferation into the United States. The resultant effect of this act was in the increasing the number of the Black Hand members in the United Sates. The fleeing Sicilian mafia members had the knowledge of the money that could be made in US via prostitution, bootlegging, gambling as well as extortion. As a result, within no time very city in the United States had its Mafia chapter (Schneider, 2008). Prohibition being the legal ban on all the manufacturers as well as sales of intoxicants led to a generation of a huge wave involving illegal acts since a lot of money resulted from the sale. The characteristics of this period are of the gangs in the regions flaunting their power and wealth openly. The period also saw the establishment of many youthful men being leaders in the new age mafia in America. The Mussolini wrath entailing the sending of the mafia into prison as well as assassinating them led to the majority of the Mafiosi members running from Italy in the United States.

The Mafiosi initially were settling in the large cities such as New York and Chicago since the industry in the cities was largest as well as there being opportunities for fraud, racketeering as well as crime. The prohibition era led to them getting into bootlegging, prostitution and gambling (Puccio-Den, 2008). The new fields enabled the newly migrated mafia into America become enormously powerful as well as wealthy. Charles Luciano, a Sicilian-born in the year 1897 entered New York in the year 1906; where after receiving training in the five points' gang mafia crew would become friends with Al Capone. By the year 1920, Luciano had established his prostitution racket and by the year 1925 controlled the whole on Manhattan’s prostitution. Luciano became the boss of bosses by the year 1935 having put in place Murder Inc together with Myer Lansky and Benjamin Bugsy for leasing out assassins even to the other gangs.

Myer Lansky did not receive initiation as a mafia member as he was not an Italian but was a close associate with Luciano being a dominant figure among the gangsters in the Jews region. His specialty was in gambling with his operations running as far as Hong Kong and South America. The third member of the Murder Inc is Benjamin Siegel, who born in Brooklyn NY in the year 1906 (Scalia, 2010). Together with Luciano and Myer they formed Murder Inc and carried out murders for Luciano. While he still young, he met Myer Lansky and they later formed Myer and bug mob, whose specialization was in car theft, as well as gambling. Later on for his safety, Luciano and Myer convinced Siegel to move to California where he was the main in Luciano and Myer gang. The gang specialized in extorting money from the owners of movie studios.



Puccio-Den, D. (2008). The Sicilian Mafia: transformation to a global evil. Etnográfica: Revista Do Centro De Estudos De Antropologia Social, 12(2), 377-386.

Scalia, V. (2010). From the octopus to the spider's web: the transformations of the Sicilian mafia under postfordism. Trends In Organized Crime, 13(4), 283-298. doi:10.1007/s12117-010-9106-9

Schneider, J. (2008). Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia. European History Quarterly, 38(1), 129-132.

Carolyn Morgan is the author of this paper. A senior editor at MeldaResearch.Com in custom research paper services. If you need a similar paper you can place your order from urgent essay writing service.

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Winnie Melda

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Winnie Melda
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