Joe "The Boss” Masseria

by: Cayde Miller

Early life

He was born on January 17, 1886 in Menfi, Sicily although he lived most of his childhood in Marsala. Masseria had no siblings, and his father was a tailor by trade. Masseria immigrated to the United States in 1903 at the age of 17 to avoid a murder indictment in Italy.

adapting to the US

Joe had some experience in a small time hood in Italy. He looked for similar work in the United States. He quickly found enforcer work for the Morello gang in the Lower East Side of New York. There Masseria gained in power and in 1916 after the murder of Nick Morello. he and several others from the gang broke off and formed their own splinter groups each maneuvering for control of the Morello territory.

The man who could dodge bullets

On August 9, 1922, Masseria escaped death when he was rushed by two men after walking out of his apartment. He hid in a store on 2nd avenue while the gunmen fired several rounds at the store before running out of ammunition. The gunmen then fled down the street to an awaiting getaway car and drove off. Down the street and at the same time as the shooting a women’s union meeting was ending. Many of the people in attendance witnessed the shooting, and when the getaway car tried to flee in their direction, they tried to stop them. Unfortunately, the gunmen, who had reloaded, began firing on the bystanders. When it was all over and the gunmen had escaped, 6 people were injured and two were killed. A horse was also killed.

When the police found Masseria in his apartment after the shooting they found two bullet holes in his straw hat, evidence that the gunmen were close, and that Masseria was in fact very lucky to have escaped. After hearing about the shooting, gangsters from around New York began describing Masseria as “the man who can dodge bullets.”

"Joe The Boss"

In the middle of 1929 Masseria took over territories from Cira Terranova and Anthony Carfano, the head of the Yale crime family. Both men were shot and killed in unusual circumstances and after their deaths, their families came under the control of Joe Masseria, now called Joe the Boss, the head of the largest mafia family in New York.


A new man had come to town by the name of Salvatore Maranzano. He became known as the new "Boss." This angered Joe so much that he sent out a bounty on him. On April 15, 1931 Masseria, accompanied by Charles “Lucky” Luciano, dined at the Nuova Villa Tammaro, Masseria’s favorite restaurant. They played cards, and ate, and drank until Luciano excused himself to the bathroom, and four gunmen entered the restaurant and opened fired on Masseria killing him. The gunmen were suspected to be Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Albert Anastasia, Joe Adonis, and Vito Genovese.

Joe was responsible for over 25 deaths