By the late 1950’s, it was estimated that there were between 25 and 30 major organized crime families across the United States, with an army of approximately 5,000 “made men,” or formal members.
On November 14, 1957, more than 100 organized crime leaders from Italy, Cuba and across the U.S. traveled to attend a summit meeting at Apalachin, N.Y., about 200 miles northwest of New York City. The meeting agenda included the resolution of open questions on illegal gambling and narcotics dealing. Vito Genovese left his home in Atlantic Highlands along with other New Jersey organized crime leaders and headed to Apalachin, where he aspired to being named “boss of bosses” at the summit. The meeting never took place due to police intervention.
Police got wind owing to the substantial food and supplies being transported into the sparsely populated rural area. State Police set up roadblocks, and rounded up the participants as they fled. Few were charged, as no crimes were committed other than by those fleeing, but authorities now had names and links giving them the clearest picture ever of the structure and operations of the mafia in 1958.
At the time of the Apalachin meeting, Vito “drove a two-year-old Ford, and owned not more than ten suits, none of which had been purchased for more than about a hundred dollars. On the dusty top of a dresser in his bedroom stood cheap plaster statues of saints. His children and eight grandchildren visited him frequently, and he personally cooked meals for them.”
The failed Apalachin summit gave federal agents numerous new avenues for investigation and prosecution, and many arrests came as a direct result. Soon enough, this would come to pass for Vito Genovese as well.
Ruled ‘Family’ of 450; Genovese Dies in Prison at 71; ‘Boss of Bosses’ of Mafia Here. (1969). Grutzner, Charles. The New York Times, February 15, 1969, P. 1. Avalilable: https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1969/02/15/90048380.html?pageNumber=1
Task Force Report: Organized Crime. (1957). The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., P. 30.
Maas, Peter. (1968). The Valachi Papers. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, N.Y.