Showing posts with label Lercara Friddi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lercara Friddi. Show all posts

4 May 2017

Anthony Martin Sinatra - father of Frank

Sicilian who became a professional boxer in New York

Anthony Sinatra had 30 fights as a professional boxer
Anthony Sinatra had 30 fights as a professional boxer
Saverio Antonino Martino Sinatra, who at various times was a fireman, a professional boxer and the owner of a bar, was born on this day in 1894 in Lercara Friddi, a mining town in Sicily, about 70km (44 miles) south-east of the island’s capital, Palermo.

Usually known as Antonino, after emigrating to the United States he married Natalie Garaventa, a girl from near Genoa who lived in his neighbourhood in New York City.  They set up home in New Jersey and had a son, whom they christened Francis Albert, who would grow up to be better known as Frank Sinatra, one of the most popular entertainers of all time.

Lercara Friddi today is a town of between 7,000 and 8,000 inhabitants, which at the time of Antonino’s birth was an important centre for the mining of sulphur.  His father, Francesco, worked there as a shoemaker and married Rosa Saglimini. They had seven children, although two of them were believed to have died during an outbreak of cholera.

Early in Antonino’s life, Francesco decided to join the growing number of Sicilians who believed their prospects of escaping a life of poverty in their homeland were slim and after sailing to Naples boarded a ship bound for New York.

Hoboken, New Jersey, where Frank Sinatra was born
Hoboken, New Jersey, where Frank Sinatra was born
New York already had many shoemakers but Francesco found work in a pencil factory, sending money home so that his family could eventually join him.  After first sending her eldest children, Isidore and Salvatore, to make the journey unaccompanied, Rosa followed just before Christmas in 1903 with a then nine-year-old Antonino and his sisters, Angelina and Dorotea, on board the SS Città di Milano.

It was a tough life for the family at first but Lercara Freddi was at the heart of Sicily’s Mafia country. Not far away were the towns of Corleone and Prizzi, notorious Cosa Nostra strongholds. Francesco was happy he had left that world behind and life improved when they saved enough money for Rosa to open a small grocery store in Little Italy.

Antonino adopted the Americanised name of Anthony Martin Sinatra.  After reaching working age, he initially followed his father’s trade as a shoemaker.  Powerfully built, he was handy in a fight and developed a second income as a prize fighter. He might have fought under the name of 'Tony the Shoemaker',which was the nickname he had among friends, but he chose to fight as Marty O’Brien, passing himself off as Irish because Italians at the time were considered inferior athletes.

Frank Sinatra (right) began his career with The Hoboken Four
Frank Sinatra (right) began his career with The Hoboken Four
His earnings in the ring enabled him to give up his day job but his boxing career was abruptly curtailed when he broke his wrist after 30 professional fights. By then he had met Natalie, also known as ‘Dolly’, with whom he eloped to New Jersey after her family, proudly Ligurian, refused to countenance their daughter’s marriage to a semi-literate Sicilian boxer and disowned her.

They lived in Monroe Street, Hoboken, in a largely Italian neighbourhood, where Frank was born in 1915.  Anthony’s hopes of finding work as a merchant seaman were dashed because he suffered from asthma but, encouraged by Natalie, he applied to become a fireman and was taken on by the Hoboken Fire Department in 1927, eventually attaining the rank of captain.  

In time, Natalie followed the example of Anthony’s mother by opening a shop, supplementing the family’s income so that they could afford a bigger apartment. Eventually, her husband was able to retire from the fire service and open a bar, which he called ‘Marty O’Brien’s.’  

The church of Santa Maria della Neve in Lercara Friddi
The church of Santa Maria della Neve in Lercara Friddi
Travel tip:

The name Lercara Friddi is thought to be derived in part from the Arabia ‘al kara’ meaning quarter, and the Sicilian dialect word ‘friddi’ meaning cold. The 18th century church of San Giuseppe, the nearby church of Santa Maria della Neve and the church of San Alfonso are attractive buildings. Apart from the Sinatra family, the town was home to the anti-Fascist politician Andrea Aprile, a leading figure in the Sicilian independence movement in the 1940s, and of the Mafia gangster Lucky Luciano, who was controversially freed from prison in the United States in order to help the Allied invasion in 1943.

Lumarzo sits on a hillside in Liguria
Lumarzo sits on a hillside in Liguria
Travel tip:

Frank Sinatra’s mother, Natalie, came from Rossi, a frazione of the village of Lumarzo in Liguria, about 15km (9 miles) inland, to the east of Genoa. Since 2008, the village has organised an event, entitled "Hello, Frank!", as a musical tribute from Ligurian artists and guests to the actor and singer, who in the course of his career sold more than 150 million records.

More reading:

Salvatore 'Lucky' Luciano - crime boss recruited by Allies in Second World War

Joe Petrosino - policeman from Campania who fought for the good name of Italians in New York

Vito Antuofermo - farmer's son who conquered world in the boxing ring

Also on this day:

1655: The birth of Bartolomeo Cristofori, inventor of the piano

24 November 2016

Lucky Luciano - Mafia boss

Sicilian who brought order among warring clans

Charles 'Lucky' Luciano, pictured in Italy in 1948, after he had been deported by the American authorities
Charles 'Lucky' Luciano, pictured in Italy in 1948, after
he had been deported by the American authorities
Charles 'Lucky' Luciano, the mobster best known for shaping the structure of Italian-dominated organized crime in the United States, was born Salvatore Lucania on this day in 1897 in Lercara Friddi, a town about 70km (44 miles) south-east of the Sicilian capital, Palermo.

Raised in New York's Lower East Side after his family emigrated in 1906, it was Luciano who famously put the New York underworld into the control of the so-called Five Families and also set up The Commission, which served as a governing body for organized crime nationwide.

After he was jailed in 1936 on extortion and prostitution charges, Luciano is said to have struck a deal with the American authorities to use his criminal connections to help the Allies in their invasion of Sicily, a vital first step in driving the German forces and their supporters out of the Italian peninsula.

In return he was given parole and allowed to return to Sicily at the end of the Second World War.

Luciano, whose father, Antonio, had worked in a sulphur mine in Lercara Friddi, began his life in crime as a teenager, when he set up his own gang and became friends with Jewish gang members Meyer Lansky and his associate Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who would become two of his most important allies.

He grew powerful during the prohibition era of the 1920s, which created opportunities for criminals to make a lot of money. By 1925, he was grossing $12 million dollars a year and had met many of New York's future Mafia leaders, including Vito Genovese and Frank Costello.  He had also begun working for another big hitter, the Lower Manhattan gang boss Joe Masseria.

Vito Genovese, an ally of Luciano
Vito Genovese, an ally of Luciano
Caught up in the Castellammarese war - so-called because it involved Mafia bosses from the Castellammare del Golfo area of Sicily - he assumed control of one of the Five Families by eliminating both main protagonists, Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano, after both tried to have him killed.

In doing so he took his place alongside such infamous figures as Joseph Bonanno, Joseph Profaci, Tommy Gagliano and Vincent Mangano - but it was Luciano whose 'family', later known as the Genovese family, had the greater reach.

Yet rather than seeking to make himself still more powerful, he was keen that the gangs stopped fighting among themselves and concentrated on maximising profits. To that end, Luciano sought to create a national organized-crime network to settle disputes and establish demarcation lines between the different operations.

He forged links with crime bosses in other cities, including Chicago's Al Capone, in what became known as The Commission.

Luciano's wealth enabled him to live at New York's luxurious Waldorf Towers, part of the Waldorf Astoria hotel, under the name Charles Ross.

But his luck ran out in 1936 when he was convicted on extortion and prostitution charges, sentenced to 30 to 50 years in jail and sent to a correctional facility in New York State which was known as "Siberia" because of its remote location near the Canadian border.

His appeals against conviction were rejected and it seemed he was destined to spend the rest of his life behind bars, but then came the opportunity to use his influence in New York and Sicily to help the Allied war effort in Europe.

He was contacted by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, who used Meyer Lansky as an intermediary, for help in stopping German and Italian agents entering the United States through the New York waterfront, which the mobs controlled.

Then, as the Allies prepared for the 1943 invasion of Sicily, Luciano is also said to have provided the Americans with Sicilian Mafia contacts.  In return, he was given parole and deported back to Sicily.

Carlo Gambino, the gang boss who delivered the eulogy at Luciano's funeral in New York
Carlo Gambino, the gang boss who delivered
the eulogy at Luciano's funeral in New York
It was not the end of his career in crime.  Although he remained in Sicily in the immediate post-war months, he secretly moved to Havana in Cuba in 1946, meeting up again with Lansky and Siegel in the hope that he could resume control of his operations in New York from a base closer to the United States.

By 1947, however, his presence in Cuba had been discovered by U.S. agents, who alerted the Cuban government, after which he was sent back to Italy.

He was thereafter kept under close surveillance, although still maintaining his criminal activities in New York via his lieutenant, Frank Costello, eventually helping Carlo Gambino, a fellow Sicilian and a longtime friend, to become the most powerful gang boss in New York.

Luciano died in January 1962 at Naples Airport, suffering a heart attack shortly after meeting an American producer to discuss a film about his life.

After a relatively small funeral in Naples, Luciano's body was returned to the United States. After a second funeral, attended by 2,000 mourners, at which Gambino delivered the eulogy, he was buried in the family's vault at St. John's Cemetery in Queens, New York, under his birth name of Salvatore Lucania.

Travel tip:

Lercara Friddi, which features some remains of a Greek colony dating back to the eighth century BC, was once notable for its sulphur mine, the only one in the province of Palermo.  As well as being the home town of Salvatore Lucania, it was the birthplace five years earlier of Saverio Antonio Martino Sinatra, who emigrated to the United States in 1903 and married Natalie Garaventa, from Liguria.  They settled in New Jersey where, in 1915, Natalie gave birth to their only child, Francis Albert Sinatra.

Hotels in Palermo by

The harbour at Castellamare del Golfo
The harbour at Castellammare del Golfo
Travel tip:

Castellammare del Golfo is a fishing town and tourist resort in the province of Trapani on the northern coast of Sicily, west of Palermo.  It is also noted for having been the birthplace of many American Mafia figures, including Salvatore Maranzano, Stefano Magaddino, Vito Bonventre, John Tartamella, and Joseph Bonanno.

More reading:

Carlo Gambino, the Sicilian mob boss thought to be the model for 'The Godfather' Vito Corleone in Mario Puzo's novel

Paolo di Lauro - Camorra boss captured in Carabinieri swoop

Joe Petrosino - Calabrian who became crime-fighting New York cop

Also on this day:

1826: Birth of Carlo Collodi, creator of Pinocchio