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The Origin of La Cosa Nostra

Man in a suit walking (Image Credit: weheartit.com)

Those involved with the mafia always denied its existence in fear of exposure, yet those who had no relationship or involvement with the mafia spoke frequently of it and recognized the mafia's existence for their undeniable power and influence.

This topic has always been one of the most mysterious, controversial and interesting topics in history.

If you look at the official files from the FBI and various stories and news reports, you can see that the existence of the mafia or La Cosa Nostra (also defined as the Sicilian Mafia) cannot be argued with.

They may have operated under different names and/or under different rules but one thing is certain...

There were individuals and groups of individuals planning and executing organized crimes in the United States.

The Birth of the "Mafia"

The term mafia is originally from Italy. In Italian, it is "mafiusi" or "mafiosi". This word can be interpreted as "swagger" but also means "boldness" or "fearless individual"

The term "mafia" started to become associated with underground criminal organizations and activity due to the infamous Italian play from 1863, I mafiusi di la Vicaria by Giuseppe Rizzotto and Gaspare Mosca.

Interestingly enough, the word "mafiusi" was never once mentioned in the script of the play although it is in the title of the play. This play was very well known in Italy during this time and was deemed very successful.

Following the success of the play, the term "mafia" was adopted by the Italian government. The first example of the use of this word can be seen in the official reports by the prefect of Palermo Filippo Antonio Gualterio from 1865.

The Bridge Between the Sicilian Mafia and La Cosa Nostra

The first member of the Sicilian Mafia that immigrated to the United States was Giuseppe Esposito.

He escaped to the U.S. after murdering the chancellor and vice-chancellor of a Sicilian province. He was eventually arrested in New Orleans and was sent back to Italy.

The first significant incident of the mafia occurred in New Orleans in 1890 where David Hennessey, New Orleans Police Superintendent, was murdered by the mafia. More than a hundred Sicilians were arrested and 19 were convicted of murder.

After this incident, the American mafia, also known as "La Cosa Nostra" (which translates to "our thing") started to spread. First, there were the Black Hand gangs in the 1900s. Following that, the Five Points Gang had emerged in the 1910s and 1920s. In the 1920s, Al Capone's syndicate from Chicago had taken over and they were one of the most powerful criminal organizations in American history.

A mugshot of Al Capone (Image Credit: Wikipedia.org)

After Al Capone, Salvatore Maranzano had become the most powerful mafia boss in the United States. He was called the "Boss of bosses."

Maranzano was the first leader of the sinister criminal organization, La Cosa Nostra. He was later murdered by five gangsters who were dressed as police officers in 1931.

In 1951, the U.S. Senate committee was convinced that there was an underground criminal organization operating in the United States. In the years following, an important La Cosa Nostra meeting that included the most significant mafia figures around the country was uncovered. This meeting was intercepted by the police and most of the attendees were arrested.