'Clutch Hand' Confusion
Mafia Boss of Bosses Giuseppe Morello
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In 1903, Morello's half-sister Salvatrice married Ignazio Lupo, also an immigrant from Corleone. Ostensibly an importer and wholesaler, Lupo was secretly a smuggler and Black Hand extortionist.
The marriage bound Giuseppe Morello and Ignazio Lupo together in a Mafia alliance, though it is possible they had a working relationship back in Sicily. Vito Cascio Ferro, later regarded as the boss of all bosses in Sicily's Mafia, spent some of his earlier years in New York tutoring the Morello-Lupo organization.
Extortion, fraud, smuggling and counterfeiting appear to have been the major sources of income for the Morello-Lupo Mafia in the early 1900s. The group also engaged itself in a real estate racket, forming the Ignatz-Florio Association of Corleonesi. They sought shareholders in their corporation, marketing it as a construction firm in the rapidly growing Harlem area. But the association quickly folded, enraging its investors.
While Morello and Lupo terrorized fellow Sicilians on Manhattan's Lower East Side, the Terranova boys quickly rose to the leadership of the 107th Street Mob in East Harlem. That organization grew into the most powerful and feared street gang of the region, extending its strength all the way into Brooklyn, and clashing on occasion with Camorra gangs comprised of Neapolitan immigrants.
There has always been much speculation about whether Lupo or Morello served as boss of the New York Mafia at this period. Nick Gentile, who documented the early history of the New York Mafia in his Vita di Capomafia, made it a point to call Morello "boss." But it is difficult to determine whether he viewed Lupo as Morello's subordinate.
Joe Bonanno, another Mafioso who decided to put the story of his life to paper, offered little help. He made no mention at all of Lupo, while noting that Morello was well respected within the secret society by 1930. (It is important to consider that Bonanno also made no mention of Vito Cascio Ferro. It is impossible that Cascio Ferro escaped Bonanno's notice.)
Morello and Lupo
In The Rise of the Mafia in New York, Giuseppe Selvaggi quotes an old-time Mafioso he calls Zio Trestelle. Trestelle insists that Ignazio Lupo was in a superior position to Giuseppe Morello and was "the first guy to set up organized crime" in New York. The statement is, of course, an exaggeration. The Mafia did not invent organized crime - depending on one's definition, the gangs in New York who could trace their existence practically to the birth of the American republic could be considered organized crime. But Trestelle clearly intends that we understand Lupo's importance in the city's underworld.
Among secondary sources, Donald Cressey seems to prefer Morello as supreme boss. But Cressey makes a major blunder in his reporting of Morello's career (I'll go into it later on) and this might simply be another. Police Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino, who served as a thorn in the side of the growing Mafia and Camorra groups in the city through the early 1900s, at one point identified Lupo as the "treasurer" of the Mafia society in New York. That appears to indicate that someone else held the position of "president," but perhaps Petrosino was not referring to a corporate structure. He may have been attempting to indicate the individual who held all the money of the group.
Underworld historians Herbert Asbury, Ed Reid, Virgil Peterson, Bill Brennan, Sid Feder and others point to Lupo as the anointed king of New York crime.
The federal government, too, appeared to view Lupo as the boss. When the courts handed down sentences against both men in February 1910 for a counterfeiting conviction, Lupo was given 30 years while Morello was given 25. The court, however, noted that the lengthy sentences were the result of considering the criminal histories of the men. At the time, and probably because of his newspaper-friendly "Lupo the Wolf" monicker, Lupo was the better known and more feared of the two.
Interestingly, Stephen Fox chose not to place either Lupo or Morello in a subordinate role to the other. And, upon reflection, his position makes a great deal of sense. Morello's initial power base was probably with his family in East Harlem, while Lupo's seems to have been in lower Manhattan and New Jersey. It is possible that the Lupo-Morello relationship was more of a partnership than anything else.
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