Material presented on The American Mafia history website ( and was gathered through decades of research into the history of American organized crime. A childhood interest in the subject blossomed into a full-time obsession in the late 1990s, when I began organizing collected newspaper clippings, notebook pages and index cards. That effort gave rise to this website in September 2002. The website is more of a process than it is a document. Very often new historical data becomes available and causes old assumptions to be revised or abandoned. Over the past few years, many underworld legends appearing on these pages have given way to more defensible statements. And other revisions are sure to be made in the months and years ahead. It is a pleasure to be able to share my interest with you. I welcome your emailed comments, questions, criticisms. I hope that the site is useful to you and that you check in from time to time to see what is new. Copyright © 2011, Thomas Hunt. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Joseph Barbara

One of the website changes that will probably draw some criticism is the removal of Joseph Barbara from the Scranton-Pittston, Pennsylvania, crime boss list.
Barbara is generally believed to have taken control of the crime family after the murder of boss John Sciandra in 1940 and to have served as boss until his own death in the summer of 1959. There are a number of problems with this accepted "history."
First, there is no evidence that Barbara ever gave orders to anyone in the Scranton-Pittston Mafia. That organization was controlled from the turn of the Twentieth Century by the "Men of Montedoro." (Barbara was from Castellammare del Golfo, not Montedoro.) Except for the insertion of Barbara into the succession of bosses, every other underworld leader of the region from 1903 through the middle of the 1990s had been born in Montedoro. There is little reason to believe that an exception was made in Barbara's case.
Second, there is no evidence that John Sciandra was killed in 1940 or at any other time. There are newspaper stories speaking of his death by natural causes in 1948 or 1949.
Third, Barbara seems to have had a very strong link to the Castellammarese population in Endicott, New York. The men closest to him were also from Castellammare. That Castellammarese outpost was mentioned in Joseph Bonanno's autobiography as the site of a meeting between Bonanno and Magaddino. While there are connections between Barbara and the Mafia of Scranton-Pittston, these seem to be secondary.
Finally, it seems very clear from the chain of events related to the 1957 meeting of Mafiosi at Barbara's country home in Apalachin, New York, that Barbara was at that time an underling of Stefano Magaddino. It was Magaddino – after urging from Tommy Lucchese (probably prompted by Vito Genovese) – who scheduled the meeting at Barbara's home. That is not something that could have been done unless Magaddino was Barbara's superior.

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