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Mafia 2 Essay, Research Paper
Mafia. What does this word mean? The actual members of the Mafia aren t even sure where the word first originated or what it really means. One of the theories as to where the word came from is from Sicily, where people would yell Morte alla Francia, Italia anela! (Death to France, Italy groans!), therefore forming the acronym MAFIA. Others claim the word derived from the battle cry of rebels who slaughtered thousands of Frenchmen after a French soldier raped a Palermo woman on her wedding day. Their slogan echoed her mother s cry, Ma fia, Ma fia (my daughter my daughter). There are other less glamorous stories as to where the word originally formed. The most likely reasoning says that it came from the Arabic word mahias, meaning bold man. The American Mafia has become infamous due to its leaders, its method of operation, and its impact on the economy through illegal means.
In 1903, Nicola Gentile, a native of Siculiana, Sicily, finding no occupation in his village, came to America as a stowaway on a ship to soon begin his life full of crime. Although barely able to read and write, he believed that he possessed an uncommon strength of will to be sinister. This trait would soon help him to rise to the high rank in the Mafia. After arriving in America, he was amazed at the grand vastness of the buildings and streets he was surrounded by, but moreover, by the attitude of the new people around him. They walked briskly, giving him the impression that all had an urgent mission to perform.
What a contrast with the inhabitants of my town, he commented, People who, when they walked, studied their manner of walking so that their slow strut made them appear solemn, with the thumb of the right hand hooked in the belt of the pants, with the cap tilted over the right eye, trying to create an arrogant air that should command respect. (Hank Messick and Burt Goldblatt 7).
This idea of attitudes shows why a secret society such as the Mafia should luxuriate in Sicily, and could easily be transplanted into the ghettos of the New World. The associates of the Mafia are called fratellos. They are to obey a capo, which they elect. The capo then picks the consigliari (counselors), whom help him to make justice and judgments. When one of the fratellos finds himself in any sort of difficulty, the association tries to help and assist him. Soon hundreds of cities in America had their own associations. In the city of New York and Brooklyn alone, there were five. Between the heads of the borgates or families, they select the overall capo, which they call the capo di capi re, or king. The signature of the Mafia was a black handprint, and for a few years the society was known as the Black Hand. It was also commonly know by many people as the Honored Society. The Mafia mainly preyed on nonmembers among their own countrymen. Immigrants that were not familiar with the laws, traditions, and languages of the United States were easily victims of extortion and could be forced to pay a percentage of their earnings as they had done in the old country. Gentile told of settling a feud between a nephew and an uncle, simply by making the nephew a member of the Honored Society also. Gentile helped to make their relationship stronger than ever. It was by such acts of kindness that Gentile worked his way up to the role of Mafia troubleshooter in the United States. Over many years, he soon became know as Uncle Cola, settling problems from New York to San Francisco. He was a peacemaker, as ironic as that may sound when dealing with the Mafia.
The Italian-Sicilian s were not alone in immigrating to the United States. The Germans, Irish, and European Jews also came in great waves, running from hunger and religious persecution. They not only had trouble adjusting to the other ethnic groups, but with accepting America s Puritan Ethic. It was based upon WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), therefore the accumulation of wealth being seen as proof of God s favor and evidence of a moral life. Many people took this seriously, and tried to help the country as much as possible. New arrivals took jobs such as building railroads, working in the shrimp or sponge industries, and also in steel mills. These jobs brought newcomers to New England, the west coast of Florida, Ohio Valley, Pittsburgh, and many other places. Another law people began to live by was proposed by Gentile, saying that you should take what you can get. The law of the jungle you might say, therefore giving justification to organized crime today. Many tried to argue with people, among themselves, saying that once they made a lot of money; they could earn God s blessing by doing good things for other people with their money. Many universities greatly benefited from this idea throughout the years. It took a while, but the Mafia soon began to find the many short cuts to easy wealth. Most started by getting involved in prostitution, selling women to immigrants whom missed their wives. Places were established in large cities such as Chicago, to train new girls, usually unwillingly to be prostitutes. Auctions would then be held, the girls being sold to the highest bidder, making them known as white slaves. Since such a large number of women were needed to satisfy all the men, the organization soon had to travel to cities half way across the country to meet their demands. Soon after the White Slave Traffic Act was passed, prohibiting the transportation of females in
interstate commerce. Of course, it did not stop the prostitution whatsoever. Among the most famous white slavers were John the Fox Torrio and Al Capone. Neither man was quite as well known as James Big Jim Colosimo who paved the way for all white slavers in the future. He came to the U.S. in 1881 as a child with his father, and moved to Chicago. By 1902, he had married a leading madam and was managing a string of brothels and also a white slave gang to keep his brothels supplied with fresh bodies. His nephew Torrio was brought from New York to work as an executive and gradually took over Colosimo s business and built it into an empire. Although the sale of sex would always be profitable, the opportunities with alcohol soon became apparent. When Colosimo was unwilling to change with the times, Torrio simply had him killed off in 1920. In a way, he symbolized the revolt of the second-generation Americans against the Old World attitudes of their elders, the so-called Mustache Petes. (Hank Messick and Burt Goldblatt 22).
Soon the competition of selling newspapers became incorporated with the Mafia. McBride and Ragen allied together, both being in charge of large newspapers in Cleveland. In 1940, Moses Annenberg founder of the national wire service for bookies, went to prison, McBride and Ragen took over, renaming it the Continental Press. After Ragen was murdered, McBride became main owner and ran it until the Kefauver Committee put it out of business. Meanwhile, McBride formed the Cleveland Browns, re-establishing that organized violence could be profitable.
Cleveland was just one city that appeared to be so attractive to hundreds of immigrants. By 1923, only 35.4 percent of public school children were of unmixed white American parentage, most settling in the Woodland district. Cleveland had the fourth largest Jewish population of any city in the United States (Time Life 42). They soon began to move towards the suburban areas, leaving the Woodland district for the next group of immigrants. The next group just so happened to be Italians. Of 998 murders in Cleveland in from 1918 to 1930, 213 occurred in the Woodland district. Of 373 brothels, approximately 98 were located in Woodland district (Stephen Fox 65). There was an area in every major city such as the Woodland district.
Many people believe that gangs began with prohibition or with the economic depression of the 1930 s, but that is not true. The pre-Prohibition gangs were closely related to the first organized bootlegging, largely due to the fact that many of the early gangs were ethnic in nature. The gangs mainly evolved to protect their pride and territory. Every large city had its gangs in the two decades before prohibition. The Gophers in New York were perhaps more advanced than others due to their members begin of various ethnic backgrounds. The leader was Owney the Killer Madden, a handsome man who was a crack shot with a revolver and slingshot. Repeatedly he was accused of murder, but somehow when trial time came around, the witnesses had vanished. Case by case, Madden s reputation grew. While at a dance, he was distracted by a beautiful woman, and was quickly surrounded by eleven men which proceeded to shoot him 6 times. He lived, but refused to tell police which gang had hurt him. Mysteriously enough, within a week, the three leaders of the guilty gang were murdered. Owney was also associated with Arnold Rothstein, who in the process of denying his father and the Jewish religion, turned to violence and organized crime. He soon became
involved in gambling, and learned to earn the friendships of the older men for protection.
Arnold would loan money to those in need to gamble, and expected in return five dollars for every four lent out to be returned within a week. If he did not receive his money back, Rothstein or one of his collectors, such as Owney, would find that person and force the money out of him. While money lending was not new to the country, Arnold had adapted it to modern conditions, making it a part of the national economy. He was also soon blamed for stealing Liberty Bonds, but was able to shift the blame to Nicky Arnstein due to his protection. Arnstein quickly moved to Cleveland because it was known as a safe town for hoods. New York found where he was, and charged that politicians in Cleveland were connected with Arnstein in the disposal of over two million dollars. Little did they know, but a few New York politicians had helped Rothstein with his stealing. Eventually, Rothstein decided to use his money and help Nicky in trial by providing his own lawyer. The missing Liberty Bonds continued to show up for years after. Some appeared in England, Canada, and Cuba where they paid for shipments of alcohol. Later, some appeared in France in Switzerland as payment for narcotic shipments. Arnold Rothstein may best be remembered as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series and almost killed organized baseball in the process.
Across the country for years to come, in cities far and near, more and more Mafia groups began to appear. Many eras have passed in the meantime, both pleasing and displeasing the public. Casinos and nightclubs were made, only making the Mafia that much more popular. Names such as Al Capone, Bugsy Seigal, Joe Adonas, James R.
Hoffa, and John Gotti have become infamous throughout the years, showing what great power the Mafia has over the people.
The American Mafia has been an infamous staple of American culture for many years because of its leaders, its ruthless method of operation, and its impact on the economy through crime. Although people may not be sure where the name Mafia comes from or what it really means, the following is apparent. Across the nations for decades, the word Mafia has meant murder, prostitution, gambling, illegal alcohol, drugs, and most importantly, fear.
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