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176) it is also interesting that the legitimate first response to the dissolution of prohibition was to officially tax it and therefore gain legitimate revenue from a vice. It would not surprise any historian if the idea to tax vice's such as alcohol, which even today the government makes a great deal of money doing, was not born of the substantial success the early mafia made of making money from its illegal production, sale and distribution.
The Irish Mafia:
The Irish Mafia, though usually not thought of as the quintessential mafia "family" were no less influential in some areas that the Italian mafia, one reason for this had to do with the sheer numbers of Irish immigrants to the country following the Potato Famine 1847-1849, and the essential disenfranchisement they felt when they arrived. Having just lived through one of the most grueling of all events, likely to have lost everything including many family members and properties, they were not welcomed with open arms and were in fact considered second class citizens, ranked among the blacks. As a group they had to rely on ingenuity and a pseudo brotherhood to procure employment to feed themselves and anyone in their charge. (Greeley, 1972, p. 83)
With the lack of cesspools and sewers, some twenty-four million gallons of sewage matter accumulated in the streets and gutters of New York daily. Typhoid fever, cholera, typhus, pneumonia, and bronchitis put the population in constant danger. Nearly two-thirds of New York City's deaths in 1857 were of children under the age of five, most of them offspring of immigrants. Eighty-five percent of those admitted to Bellevue Hospital in 1855 were born in Ireland, even though the Irish constituted only 54% of the foreign-born inhabitants of the city. Two-thirds of those admitted to the Blackwell Island insane asylum were Irish; many of them were immigrants who had been in the country for less than a year. Gambling, drunkenness, crime, and prostitution flourished in the immigrant neighborhoods. Of two thousand prostitutes examined in 1858 at the penitentiary hospital on Blackwell Island (the city's venereal disease hospital) 538 were immigrants and 706 were Irishwomen, more than half of whom had lived in the United States for less than five years and one-fifth of whom had been residents for less than one year. Three-eighths were between the ages of fifteen and twenty, threequarters were younger than twenty-six. **the Irish were lowest on the totem pole. Most of the prostitutes in Cleveland were Irish. In Boston, half of the Irish were unskilled laborers (as opposed to 10% of the German and the black populations at the same time). In Boston in 1850, more than three thousand Irishwomen worked as domestic servants. (Greeley, 1981, p. 75)
As a result their communities became insular and violence, power plays and social disorder were common, this situation fed the concept of organized crime from idea to reality and their power was industry, as they comprised a large number of workers. "As one news- paper put it: "There are several sorts of power working in the fabric of this republic, water power, steam power and Irish Power. The last works hardest of all." (Greeley, 1981, p. 76)
One point that is important to make is that the seeds of organized crime were already present long before the Irish or Italian immigrated to America, the two ethnic groups just responded to the situation, to attempt to carve out a piece of the "American Pie" for themselves, in a manner that was not barred to them, illegitimately. (Greeley, 1981, p. 159)
Kelly, 2000, p. x) the Irish Mafia, not alone in this sentiment, had a sense of secrecy that was specially tuned to creating secret avenues for business and money making, they had a particularly strong sense of hatred for informants, probably given the nature of their history as oppressed peoples, who at one time even had to hide the fact that they had married, for fear of having the local English lord take first rights with their wife.
Lehr & O'Neill, 2000, p. xiii) "Many of Boston's poor had been peasants on the farms of Ireland and Italy where the 'government' was an alien force." (Shannon, 1989, p. 205) "It has been fiction, and not fact, that made organized crime and Italian domination of it a household idea in America and elsewhere."
Kelly, 2000, p. x)
In fact there were people of every ethnic background involved in organized crime, not excluding the stronghold of the Irish, who like I have said before focused their attention on labor and business. In fact in the early years the infamous, Tammany Halls were dominated by the Irish as legitimate and illegitimate entities, for labor relations and political and social control. (Kelly, 2000, p. 83) Walsh an Irish political organizer voiced the concerns of the Irish worker:
Walsh articulated the grievances of the impoverished Irish laborers. "The great and fruitful source of crime and misery on earth," he declared, "is the inequality of society -- the abject dependence of honest willing industry upon idle and dishonest capitalists." "Demagogues tell you that you are freemen," he said on another occasion. "They lie; you are slaves.... No man, devoid of all other means of support but that which his own labor affords him, can be a freeman, under the present state of society." "What have we gained by the numberless political victories we have achieved?" he cried. "Nothing but a change of masters!" (Shannon, 1989, p. 52)
Among every race, creed and nationality there are individuals, who when driven to extremes, will make every attempt to rise to the occasion, even if this means deceptive tactics and illegal doings. The diverse nature of the organized crime scene, upon immigration, was one of the only systems, that did not completely bar them from inclusion, especially when the prejudices against the Irish lent a hand to the image of the organization, such as is the case in many organizations. It did not always require the act of violence be done to maintain control, only that the threat of it could be imminent. (Chin, Kelly & Schatzburg, 1994) the diversity of organized crime, could even be seen as a model of the real melting pot that was idealized in literature of early America, this is not to say that there was not infighting and rivalry, nor is this to say that there were not exclusionary mafia scenes but every immigrant population had a hand in the legitimate and illegitimate workings of the different mafias.
This hidden world existed just below the surface, but it mirrored the surface economy and society. In a description of Meyer Lansky, a Polish Jewish immigrant who became notorious in the 1930s, one observer wrote: "The thing that sets Meyer Lansky apart from most men who have achieved the American Dream is his line of business. He chose to pursue his ambitions not in steel or oil, not in automobiles or banking, but in crime. In that field he is as much of a visionary and innovator as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller were in theirs. " 7 When describing the crimes committed by gangsters, we often rely on preexisting notions of ethnicity. We merely apply concepts such as the frontier or the American Dream to urban criminal personalities. During the heyday of the 1970s ethnic revival, Nicholas Gage observed that "clearly, the underworld in the United States is as much a melting pot as any other aspect of our culture, and the opportunities for vice have attracted just as many ethnic groups as the opportunities for legitimate achievement. " (Bernstein, 2002, p. 18-19)
The history of the Irish Mafia does come to a head, as legitimate avenues for expression and business open up to them. "While early 20th century Irish gang members would be integrated into the political structure and their organizations incorporated into the political machine" (Hagedorn, 2006, p. 194)
The Italian Mafia:
The characterizations of the Italian Mafia are many but most agree on several points, distinct to the Italian, brand of organized crime. The foundations of the entity are strong ties to real and chosen family members and the broader organization, including spoken and unspoken assent to the central authority, on many issues.
Reinforced by violence and secrecy, in the hands of the members of all three criminal organizations the bonds of brotherhood and organizational reputation become formidable tools to achieve personal and collective goals. But personal goals are subordinated to the goals of the group, as mafia members are obliged to be absolutely obedient to their chiefs, to place the mafia family before all their previous ties (including blood family ones), and even to be ready to sacrifice their own lives if the mafia boss orders it. As Vincent Cafaro was told on the day of his affiliation to one of the five New York Cosa Nostra families: "Once you accept, you belong to us. We come first. Your family and…[continue]
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