Illus­trat­ed with over 175 peri­od pho­tographs, rich­ly illu­mi­nat­ing the peri­od of the 1890s – 1920s.

So metic­u­lous­ly researched it reads like a life’s work, Secret Soci­eties exam­ines the ori­gins of the Sicilian-American Mafia. The focus is the 1890s-1920s, a peri­od before the 1931 foun­da­tion of the ‘five fam­i­lies’ that is large­ly undoc­u­ment­ed.
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This is a time before the Castel­lam­marese War – a peri­od of bloody power strug­gles for con­trol of the Italian-American Mafia. The impor­tant peri­od pre­ced­ing the war is con­sid­ered murky and lack­ing his­toric doc­u­men­ta­tion. This metic­u­lous­ly illus­trat­ed vol­ume of Secret Soci­eties shines a light on this fas­ci­nat­ing time of Amer­i­can his­to­ry and orga­nized crime. 

It does so through research from pri­ma­ry sources, rich­ly illu­mi­nat­ing the peri­od of the 1890s – 1920s using pho­tos, doc­u­ments, con­tem­po­rary arti­cles and illus­tra­tions. Start­ing with a look at the “Black Hand” phe­nom­e­non and its rela­tion­ship to orga­nized crime. 

Black Hand let­ters became syn­ony­mous with crime in Ital­ian com­mu­ni­ties across the US. Recip­i­ents were threat­ened with bombs, arson, or mur­der unless a demand was sat­is­fied. At the height of the crime wave New York City record­ed 110 Black Hand bomb­ings in just eight months. 

The book also exam­ines the story of the “Bar­rel Mur­der” in which Giuseppe Morel­lo, the first boss-of-bosses of the US Mafia, was arrest­ed fol­low­ing a bru­tal mur­der in the heart of New York’s “Lit­tle Italy.” Soon fol­lowed by the trag­ic story of NYPD offi­cer Joseph Pet­rosi­no who became a pio­neer in the fight against black han­ders and Mafiosi alike. In 1909, while on a secret mis­sion, Pet­rosi­no became the only NYPD offi­cer to be killed on for­eign soil after he was assas­si­nat­ed in Palermo. 

Through a com­bi­na­tion of peri­od pho­tographs, gov­ern­ment records, news clip­pings, graph­ic design and fully anno­tat­ed text, Secret Soci­eties per­mits the read­er to wit­ness the impor­tant moments and trends in the devel­op­ment of Sicilian-American orga­nized crime in the Unit­ed States.