The 1957 gathering at the home of “The Mafia’s Host,” Joseph Barbara, Sr., in Apalachin, New York, is the most consequential meeting that never even got started.
This month marks the 65th anniversary of a gathering of mafiosi from around the world in Apalachin, New York. On 14 November 1957, state police descended upon Joseph Barbara’s woodland retreat, arresting some sixty men: all of them professional criminals with connections to powerful Mafia Families.
No event in American crime history rivals Apalachin for the impact the discovery had on law enforcement. Before Apalachin, Mafia was considered a type of gang, not a single entity. After Apalachin, the FBI pursued the Mafia as a national menace, and coordinated the previously disconnected efforts of local police.
Known and suspected attendees at the 1957 meeting in Apalachin include:
Joseph Barbara, Sr. boss
Rosario “Russell” Bufalino, underboss and future boss
Dominick Alaimo, capo
Ignatius Cannone, capo
Anthony F. Guarnieri, capo
James Anthony Osticco, capo
Angelo Sciandra, capo
Bartolo Guccia, soldier
Morris Modugno, soldier
Pasquale “Patsy” Monachino, soldier
Salvatore “Sam” Monachino, soldier
Pasquale “Patsy” Sciortino, soldier
Salvatore Trivalino, soldier
Pasquale “Patsy” Turrigiano, soldier
Emanuel Zicari, soldier
Joseph Barbara, Jr., associate
Guy Pasquale, associate
Joseph Bonanno, boss, Commission chairman
Frank Garofalo, vice capo
Giovanni “John” Bonventre, capo
Natale J. Evola, capo, future boss
Anthony Riela, capo/faction leader
Carmine “Lilo” Galante, consigliere
Gaspar DiGregorio, future boss
Vito Genovese, boss
Gerardo “Jerry” Catena, underboss/faction leader
Michele A. Miranda, consigliere
Carlo Gambino, boss
Joseph Riccobono, consigliere
Paul C. Castellano, capo, future boss
Joseph Biondo, future underboss
Carmine Lombardozzi, capo
Armand “Tommy” Rava; capo
Gaetano “Tommy” Lucchese, boss
Stefano LaSalle, underboss
Vincent Rao, consigliere
Giovanni “John” Ormento, capo
Joseph Rosato, capo
Aniello Migliore, future capo
Joseph Profaci, boss
Joseph Magliocco, underboss, future boss
Salvatore Tornabe, capo
Frank Majuri, underboss
Salvatore “Charles” S. Chiri, capo/faction leader
Louis A. Larasso, capo
Anthony Riela, capo
Alfred Angelicola, soldier
Stefano Magaddino, boss
John C. Montana, underboss
Antonino Magaddino, capo, future consigliere
Rosario “Roy” Carlisi, capo
Domenic D’Agostino, capo
James V. LaDuca, capo
Sam Lagattuta, capo
Charles Montana, capo
Joseph Falcone, boss or capo
Salvatore Falcone, lieutenant
Rosario Mancuso, soldier
Constenze “Stanley” Valenti, boss
Frank Joseph Valenti, underboss
John Sebastian LaRocca, boss
Gabriel “Kelly” Mannarino, capo, future underboss
Michael Genovese, capo
Joseph Ida, boss
Domenic Oliveto, underboss
John Scalish, boss
John Anthony DeMarco, consigliere
Salvatore “Sam” Giancana, boss
Frank Ferraro, underboss
Anthony Accardo, consigliere
Joseph Zammuto, underboss
Frank Zito, Springfield, Ill., boss
Joseph Zerilli, boss
Anthony Giacalone, lieutenant/capo
Frank Cucchiara, consigliere
Salvatore Cufari, boss/capo
Santo Trafficante, Jr., boss
Joseph Francis Civello, boss
Joseph Campisi, underboss
John Francis Colletti, soldier
Nicholas Civella, boss
Joseph Filardo, underboss
Joseph Marcello, underboss
Mario Presta, soldier
Frank Balistrieri, underboss
James Colletti, boss
Vincenzo Colletti, underboss
Frank Desimone, boss
Simone Scozzari, underboss
James Lanza, underboss
Joseph Cerrito, underboss
Luigi Greco, underboss
Giuseppe Cotroni, capo
Giuseppe Settacase, boss
When Albert Anastasia made his predecessor, Philip Mangano, disappear in 1951, the Commission granted him Mangano’s crime family. Vito Genovese killed Anastasia in October 1957 and forced Luciano boss Frank Costello, who was Anastasia’s ally on the Commission, into retirement. The reason most often cited for the 1957 meeting at Joseph Barbara’s home in Apalachin, New York, was to legitimize Genovese’s position. Carlo Gambino, who stood to take over Anastasia’s position, may have likewise sought the blessing of the other bosses.
Other matters that were most likely going to be discussed included the practical matters of splitting up Anastasia’s holdings, and settling the consequences of another murder: Gambino Family consigliere Frank Scalise. The presence of Giuseppe Settecase and a contingent from Montreal suggest that international narcotics traffic would also be discussed. The implications of the new Boggs-Daniel Act, imposing stricter penalties on heroin import, may have also been on the agenda.
Initially, the meeting was going to be held in Chicago, but at the urging of Stefano Magaddino, who said the country setting would help them elude surveillance by law enforcement, the meeting arrangements were given to the Northeast Pennsylvania Family boss, Joseph Barbara, and his underboss, Russell Bufalino. Magaddino, Barbara, and the Bonanno Family share a common hometown in Sicily of Castellammare del Golfo.
Joseph Barbara had frequent, large gatherings at his secluded home near the Pennsylvania border. He’d hosted the national meeting for several years running, as well as smaller, regional Mafia events. There was a national gathering at his home just the year before. Shortly after the 1956 event, Joe Barbara suffered a heart attack. A year later, when police questioned his guests, most replied they were visiting a sick friend.
The list of those arrested and suspected of attending, or planning to attend, the 1957 meeting includes kinship groups, alliances, faction leaders, in-group animosities, and some debated associations. The New Jersey contingent, for example, represented a series of overlapping regimes from different cities. Even the host’s position as the boss of his own crime family is debated, with some writers placing him under Magaddino. Likewise, many sources consider Utica a satellite of either Rochester or Buffalo, and Montreal as a faction of the Bonanno Family. A few representatives from small Families, like Frank Zito and the Rochester contingent, were ranking members of larger crime families. That Joe Civello allegedly represented both Dallas and the interests of Carlos Marcello in New Orleans at the Apalachin meeting muddies the waters of a similar debate. I consider Dallas a distinct crime family, but some believe it was controlled by Marcello in 1957.
Gangsters and mafia writers have expressed shock and dismay at the poor security which allowed New York State Police to discover the gathering at the Barbara home. Nothing like this had ever happened to the Mafia before. For so many high-ranking mafiosi to appear in one place, and to do this as often as they had, demonstrates their high degree of trust in the arrangements of their colleagues. That the prevailing image of Apalachin in history is of wise guys in expensive suits running through the woods from police, should be enough evidence that someone’s trust was misplaced.
There was a state police officer, Sgt. Edgar Croswell, who had been surveilling Joseph Barbara for years. By a lucky chance, Croswell was in the Parkway Motel in Vestal, New York, when the boss’ son, 21-year old Joseph Barbara, Jr. was seen crossing the parking lot toward the entrance. Croswell got out of view and listened while Joe Jr. booked rooms for his father’s so-called beverage conference attendees. (Barbara Sr’s legitimate source of income was a bottling company he started in the 1930s.) Finding nothing out of the ordinary at the bottling plant, Croswell and his partner went to the Barbara home.
The house was on 58 acres with access from a dead-end dirt road. In April 1950, the census taker found the road the Barbara family lived on unnavigable at his first attempt and had to return, presumably in drier conditions. He enumerated two households: the Barbaras’ 11-room house at 625 McFall Road, built in 1867, and a “shed” behind their house in which a driver for Joe Barbara’s beverage company lived with his wife and three young children, including an infant. (What the enumerator called a shed might be the summer house that was on the property in 2002, or its predecessor.)
Croswell and his partner, Trooper Vincent Vasisco (this name is sometimes spelled “Vasisko”), got the backup of a federal alcohol tax unit, and checked out the former bootlegger’s gathering. Finding many out-of-state cars parked there, the New York state police began taking down license plate numbers. When Joseph Barbara’s wife, Josephine, saw the officers, she alerted the others. Pandemonium ensued.
Some sixty men were arrested out of an estimated more than one hundred in attendance. Twenty of the men arrested were convicted of obstruction of justice, for not telling police what their meeting was about. Since there was insufficient evidence that anyone there was committing a crime, it was the panicked response of the Apalachin meeting attendees that incriminated them. Obstruction charges were overturned on appeal, but the damage was done. A global, criminal conspiracy called “Mafia” existed, and could no longer be ignored. Years later, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover would admit he believed for thirty years that the Mafia did not exist. Apalachin was the first evidence he saw that changed his mind.
Joseph Barbara was charged with tax evasion the following spring. He lost his liquor license, and then his contract with Canada Dry. After avoiding testifying on the excuse of his poor health for two years, Barbara finally appeared before a state supreme court commission. Soon after, he suffered another heart attack, from which he died less than a month later. He was 54.
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