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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Crime, Mafia and Gangsters: NYC Gangsters

Guide for Library Research on Crime, Mafia, and Gangsters; Now Including Crime Fiction

Where's Al Capone?

A group of men loitering in an alley known as 'Bandit's Roost' off Mulberry Street 1887

A group of men loitering in an alley known as 'Bandit's Roost' off Mulberry Street 1887 (Link)

You may notice some famous police and mobsters are missing from this page; Al Capone, Frank Nitti, "Machine Gun" Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd, Babyface Nelson, Elliott Ness, to name only a few famous cops and robbers, are not listed here because this page focuses specifically on New York City. The media and information below are only a small sampling; there were a lot of gangsters committing crimes and a lot of cops looking for them in this period in just New York City.

Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly

Paolo Antonio Vaccarelli aka Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly was an Italian immigrant who founded the Five Points Gang in New York City. It was one of the last major street gang in late 19th century New York and was the spawning ground for many future criminals including Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel.

Big Jack Zelig

Big Jack Zelig

Zelig Harry Lefkowitz aka Big Jack Zelig

Big Jack Zelig was a pickpocket and thief who eventually became the leader of the Eastman gang and was a mentor to Murder Inc head Louis Buchalter. He was shot to prevent him from testifying against his own gang in 1908. He was 24 years old at the time.

Monk Eastman

Monk Eastman

Edward Eastman

Monk Eastman was the founder of the Eastman Gang, one of the most powerful NYC street gangs at the turn of the 20th century. He served five years in Sing Sing for robbery and served in the US military during World War One. He was shot to death in 1920.

'Bugsy' Siegel

'Bugsy' Siegel

Benjamin Bugsy Siegel

Benjamin Siegel, known as Bugsy, was a gangster associated with the Lucky Luciano. He was also a member of Murder Inc and after moving out of New York, was a prime mover behind developing the Las Vegas Strip. He was killed in 1947.

John Gotti

John Gotti

John Joseph Gotti, Jr.

Gotti, also known as "The Dapper Don" for his expensive clothes and "The Teflon Don" for his acquittal in three high-profile trials in the 1980s was head of the Gambino crime family.  He came to power through the assassination of Paul Castellano in 1985. In 1992, Gotti was convicted of five murders, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, extortion, tax evasion, and loansharking. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole and died of throat cancer in 2002.

Lucky Luciano

Lucky Luciano

Charles "Lucky" Luciano Mugshot 1931

Charles "Lucky" Luciano was an Italian-American mobster, considered the founder and father of organized crime in America and the most powerful Mafia boss of all time. Luciano split power between the Five Families - Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese - in a power sharing arrangement known as The Commission to avoid the type of bloody wars he fought to put himself into power.

Murder Incorporated

Aftermath of 1957 Hit on Albert Anastasia, One of the Heads of Murder Inc

Aftermath of 1957 Hit on Albert Anastasia, One of the Heads of Murder Inc (Link)

Murder Incorporated was what the New York press called the enforcement arm of the New York Mafia in the 1920s and 1930s. Murder Inc was made up mostly of Italian and Jewish gangsters largely from Brooklyn, usually Brownsville and East New York. Murder Inc was responsible for anywhere from 500 to 1000 contract killings.

Arnold Rothstein

Arnold Rothstein

Arnold Rothstein

Arnold Rothstein was a New York mob kingpin at the turn of the 20th century. Known as "The Brain", it was rumoured that he fixed the 1919 World Series. He is regarded to be the person who transformed organized crime into a business. He was murdered in 1928.

Meyer Lansky

Meyer Lansky

Meyer Lansky

 

Meyer Lansky, a longtime partner of Lucky Luciano, was considered to be one of the most powerful criminals in the United States. Known as an accountant for the mob, his criminal speciality was gambling. He established casinos worldwide including in Las Vegas and Cuba. He was never convicted on charges more serious than illegal gambling and died of lung cancer in 1982.

Dutch Schultz

Dutch Schultz

Arthur Flegenheimer aka Dutch Schultz

Dutch Schultz was a New York City gangster who made his fortune in bootlegging. He was a particular target of prosecutor Thomas Dewey. In 1935 when Schultz attempted to kill Dewey against the orders of the Five Families, he was killed.

Five Points

Five Points

Five Points by George Catlin (1827)

The Five Points was a Manhattan neighborhood that is today covered by the Civic Center (the collective name for the city, state and federal administration buildings and courthouses located in Manhattan), Columbus Park, Foley Square, and NYC Department of Corrections facilities. During a major part of the 19th century, this neighborhood was known as a crime-ridden slum controlled by a multitude of gangs and as a breeding ground for criminals. Its reputation was in part the reason the city eventually demolished the place.

(The movie Gangs of New York is set in the Five Points and gives a rough feeling for what the area was like in the period leading up to the Civil War.)

Gangs of New York

William Stanley Moore, Opium Dealer, Mugshot May 1, 1925

William Stanley Moore, Opium Dealer, Mugshot May 1, 1925 (Link1 and Link2)

 

In the 19th and early 20th centuries New York City has had to deal with a multitude of violent street gangs with creative names such as The Dead Rabbits, the Hudson Dusters, the Whyos, The Five Points Gang, The Eastman Gang, Murder Inc, and the New York Camorra to name just  a few.

Tammany Hall

Tammany Hall

William M. Tweed or "Boss" Tweed (1870)

Tammany Hall was a New York City political organization that functioned from 1786 to 1960. It was a political machine for the Democratic Party that helped control New York City and State including party nominations and patronage. The most famous period of Tammany Hall was when it was under the control of William M. Tweed, also known as "Boss" Tweed.

Jimmy Hines

Jimmy Hines

James Joseph Hines

Jimmy Hines was the most powerful Tammany Hall boss in the 1930s and 1940s., ruling out of Manhattan's Eleventh Assembly District. He had close ties to mobster Lucky Luciano and Gangster "Dutch" Schultz.  He was convicted on convicted on 13 counts of racketeering and served five years in jail.

Louis 'Lepke' Buchalter

Louis 'Lepke' Buchalter

Louis "Lepke" Buchalter

Louis "Lepke" Buchalter was one of the heads of Murder Inc in the 1920s and 1930s as well as a labor racketeer. He was convicted of murder and put to death in the electric chair at Sing Sing in 1944. He is the only mob boss to be put to death in the United States.

James Coonan

James Coonan

James "Jimmy C" Coonan

Jimmy Coonan was a Manhattan based mobster who was leader of the Westies gang, the last major Irish gang in the area, in the 1960s and 1970s. Coonan was sentenced to 75 years in prison for racketeering in 1988.