Little Bits of History

The Big Barbecue

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 14, 2013
Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara

Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara

November 14, 1957: A meeting takes place at Joe’s house in Apalachin, New York. Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara was the boss of the Bufalino crime family based out of Pennsylvania. The family was part of an organization collectively called Cosa Nostra or familiarly known as the Mafia. Cosa Nostra, the secret Sicilian society, was joined by other crime syndicates in the 1930s. Charlie “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky, along with other ethnic crime bosses formed the National Crime Syndicate.

As with any organization, rivalries and in-fighting can cause difficulties for the whole. The reason for the Apalachin Meeting was to resolve issues surrounding gambling, casinos, and narcotics distribution country-wide but especially in the New York City area. There were about 100 people present to discuss these matters and the recent Scalise and Anastasia murders. With a possible gang war ready to break on the streets of NYC, all the nation’s bosses along with representatives from Italy, met to forestall a war of attrition as well as to divide up the lucrative markets among the families.

Bosses, advisors, and bodyguards gathered at the 53-acre estate about 200 miles west of NYC and close to the Pennsylvania border. A local state trooper had stopped Carmine Galante as he drove away from the mansion the year before. The trooper had been keeping a close eye on the estate since that time. Joe’s son had been busy making reservations for out of town guests at the local hotels and a number of luxury cars were seen going to the estate. As license plates were run, it was noted that many cars were registered to known criminals. Roadblocks were set up. Even though no crime was being committed, when the gangsters heard of the roadblocks, they panicked and tried to flee.

Up to 50 men escaped. However, 58 were apprehended. All the men taken into custody claimed they had heard Joe was sick and were just in town to visit a sick friend. They were all released, since no crime had been committed. La Cosa Nostra and the FBI were both embarrassed by the raid. One because they had been so easily found and the other because J. Edgar Hoover had long denied any National Crime Syndicate existed. With this evidence, Hoover set up a “Top Hoodlum Program” which led to greater scrutiny of many of the top crime bosses. They also were served with more indictments and grand jury subpoenas.

“I really grew very tired of all the Italian mafia movies that parade fancy silk suits, diamond pinky rings and lavish homes. Moviegoers may fantasize about living like that, but they can’t relate to it. Guys in the Irish mafia are different from the Italians. Irish gangsters mostly dress like working-class people, drive average cars, and enjoy a good barstool conversation, just like me and you. They just happen to make their money illegally and are exceedingly violent behind closed doors.” – Mike Kenney

“People can identify with someone taking the law into their own hands. There’s a sense of self-empowerment to it. I think that’s why people continue to romanticize the Mafia.” – Peter Agostino

“The Mafia has returned to dominate the landscape and become more of an economic presence instead of an armed presence. It has returned to make its presence known in the social circles that count.” – Antonio Ingroia

“If ‘The Godfather’ gets an award, does that mean the academy endorses the Mafia or the violence associated with the Mafia? Does ‘The Sopranos’ in any way promote the violence that is such an integral part of the hoodlum’s life? I don’t see the connection.” – Amir Harel

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The National Crime Syndicate was a name used by the press and not something used by those it described. Those who wrote about the national crime situation claimed the idea came from Johnny “The Fox” Torrio and the Syndicate was formed in Atlantic City during a conference held there in 1929. A US Senate Special Committee in the 1950s described the confederation as mainly Italian and Jewish with organized crime groups scattered throughout the US. Enforcement for the National Crime Syndicate was carried out by a Brooklyn mafiosi gang called, by the press at least, Murder, Inc. It was headed by Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro and Albert “Mad Hatter”Anastasia who in turn reported to commission members Louise “Lepke” Buchalter and Joe Adonis. However, in a biography of Meyer Lansky, called Little Man and written in 1991 by Robert Lacey, it was asserted there was no National Crime Syndicate. Lacey claimed that the Syndicate was often confused with the mafia and they are not the same thing.

Also on this day: Nellie Bly – Woman Journalist – In 1889, Nellie Bly left for her trip around the world.
Sugar and Spice – In 1997, Reena Virk is murdered.
Crash – In 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932 crashed in West Virginia.

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