The First Family

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The First Family

Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder and The Birth of the American Mafia

This is the story of terror, extortion, revenge, murder and the birth of the American Mafia. The book’s focus is on the years between 1892 and 1930 when the American branch the crime fraternity was getting a foothold in the United States.

Rooted in primary sources that include records from the U.S. Secret Service, the New York bureau of which kept the Mafiosi under systematic surveillance, this history adds to the extensive lore of one of the most feared international crime syndicates.

Accompanying the narrative are maps of Sicily and New York City, the Morello family tree, and 16 pages of black and white photos. At the heart of the book, though, is the tale of how Giuseppe Morello created an organization that all but took over the streets of New York’s Little Italy and then protected its fiefdom from other gangs.

You’ll meet one-fingered Giuseppe, alias “the Clutch Hand”, the first “boss of the bosses” of the Mafia, and Giuseppe D’Agostino, a fellow extortionist whom the Morello family “retired” so they could take over the territory. These and a host of other Italian gangsters people the pages of this engrossing organized crime history.

There are also extensive details of the infamous “Barrel Murder” where Benedetto Madonia, a senior member of the Morello gang, ended up stuffed in the rounded container with his throat cut.

Bootlegging, extortion, prostitution, gambling, and counterfeiting were just some of the illegal activities the Mafia operated in New York. The struggle for controlling the streets and the profits that these illicit “businesses” generated was so important that the gangs would go to any lengths to protect their turf.

The end product was unquestionably one of the bloodiest periods in 19th century America history which is only rivaled by the violence that today’s drug gangs are engaged in to protect their territory. 

Book Blurb for The First Family

Before the notorious Five Families dominated U.S. organized crime, there was the one-fingered criminal genius Giuseppe Morello and his lethal coterie. Combining first-rate scholarship and pulse-quickening action, Mike Dash brings to life this little-known story, following the rise of the Mafia in America from the 1890s to the 1920s, from the villages of Sicily to the streets of Little Italy. Using an array of primary sources—hitherto untapped Secret Service archives, prison records, and interviews with surviving family members—Dash has written a groundbreaking account of the crucial period when the criminal underworld exploded with fury across the nation.

Night Owl Reviews Nov, 2010 4.00