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Mob History On This Day: Don Carlo Gambino is Born

Updated on January 6, 2015
Palermo, Sicily in Italy.
Palermo, Sicily in Italy. | Source

No crime crew has been as indomitable, as rich or as violent as the Gambino Crime Family. Its founder came from a well-connected Italian family who were members of The Honored Society, another term for Sicilian Mafioso, which was run by men who operated by codes of honor, money, duty and respect, and who controlled Sicily for centuries by use of sheer brute force. On August 24, 1902 in Palermo Sicily in the Caccamo province, Carlo Gambino was born, an infant boy who would rise to become head of the most powerful crime family ever known.


Carlo Gambino: A Protected, Mafia Child

Don Carlo grew up very sheltered and protected by the Mafiosi. He lived in a highly monitored area of the city which did not allow others within its borders. Carlo admired, respected and honored the men in his world as he viewed their lives as something to aspire to and emulate as soon as he was able. When Carlo grew up, he wanted to be one of them.

While still just a teen, Carlo got his first Mafia job as an enforcer for Don Vito Cascioferro, the boss of The Honored Society who is credited with developing, perfecting and bringing the protection and extortion rackets to the United States. In times past, Mafiosi would destroy and pillage local businesses, but Don Vito saw this as an opportunity. "Don't throw people into bankruptcy with ridiculous demands for money. Offer them protection instead,” he said.

A Made Man at 19

Carrying out his duties with precision and cunning, young Carlo rose through the ranks, quickly becoming a made man at only 19 years of age. He saw this as a dream come true, as it was something he had wanted since a boy. Shortly after his formal induction, things began to change in Sicily. Under fascism and Mussolini's rule, the climate grew tremendously intolerant of the ruthlessness and unrelenting control The Honored Society had over its citizens. Mussolini wanted complete dominance over Italy and had no intention of sharing power.

"If Sicilians are afraid of the Mafia, I will show them that I am the strongest mafioso of all.”~ Benito Mussolini, Dictator of Italy from 1922 - 1943

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini | Source

Immigration to the U.S.

With the Mafiosi under siege, Carlo took advantage of his familial ties with the Castellano family, who were already in America. He left for the U.S. in 1921 on a cargo ship, arriving in Norfolk, Virginia a month later. At once he became involved in the rackets, and prohibition was at the forefront of Mafia business. What the authorities thought would stop the public consumption of alcohol, became a catalyst driving the demand through the roof. The gangsters of the era saw prohibition as an opportunity to become wealthy and they exploited it wholly. Soon the public had an unending supply of the best booze the bootleggers could offer. And the Castellanos were heavily involved in shipping it all over the country. Carlo became a rum-runner for them first and then started working with Joe Masseria.

Charles "Lucky" Luciano
Charles "Lucky" Luciano | Source

Making New Friends: Lucky Luciano

The young mob wanted nothing to do with the costly war that broke out among the old mustaches of the time. All they cared about was making lots and lots of money. Charles "Lucky" Luciano had put together a plan to get rid of the old guys, namely Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano who were strict adherents of the traditional codes of the old country. Luciano told young Carlo his plan to take over and he agreed unassumingly. Lucky Luciano's men killed them both: Masseria first and then Maranzano. Now, the youngsters were free to reign. At Luciano's direction, the infamous Commission was born and Carlo was put under Vincent Mangano to learn. He rose to caporegime at 29 years of age and Paul Castellano, his cousin, was the first person he choose to be on his crew.

The Gambino Family is Born

After Mangano's abrupt and suspect disappearance, Albert Anastasia was named boss of the Mangano Crime Family. Anastasia subsequently made Gambino his underboss. Realizing that with Anastasia in charge, he would never become boss of his own family, Gambino set up the hit. Anastasia was shot to death as he sat in the shaving parlor chair in broad daylight. Now, at 55 years of age, Carlo Gambino was the boss. The Mangano Crime Family became The Gambino Crime Family, and Carlo was determined to diversify his involvement. Growing to over 500 soldiers, the powerful Gambinos were involved in stock market fraud, gambling, the construction racket, extortion, etc. You name it, they were doing it. And Gambino never did one day in jail for his crimes. He died October 15, 1976 from heart attack as thousands came to pay their respects. Carlo was survived by a daughter Phyllis Sinatra and 3 sons: Carlo, Thomas and Joseph. His wife, Catherine Castellano preceeded him in death.

The Gambino Crime Family Documentary

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    • AR Media profile image

      Aunice Yvonne Reed 3 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks HSchneider!

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      Howard Schneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub and biography of Carlo Gambino. It also illustrates very well the rise of the Mafia in this country. Thumbs up, AR Media.