On November 14, 1957 approximately 100 key Mafia bosses, advisors, and their bodyguards converged on Apalachin, New York to meet at the 53-acre estate of Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara. On the agenda: resolve conflicts among the families of La Cosa Nostra (the American version of the Sicilian Mafia) regarding gambling, casinos, local and international narcotics smuggling and dealing, garment industry rackets (manufacturing and loansharking), trucking, labor and unions, and other operational issues. Recent hits and attempted hits on leaders of individual families also needed attention to prevent all-out war, particularly between the Genovese, Scalice, and Anastasia factions.
Edgar Croswell, a local New York trooper, had grown curious about Barbara estate activities after several suspicious encounters with previous guests. Learning that many local motel rooms were being reserved by Barbara’s son, he started keeping a close eye on the residence. As the luxury cars and limos flocked to Barbara’s house, state police began taking down license plate numbers. Background checks revealed the presence of known criminals, reinforcements were called in, road blocks were set up, and eventually a lot of expensive tailoring was ruined as mob bosses and underlings tried to escape into the brush. Guns and $100 bills were scattered across the hillside, continuing to turn up for months afterward.
Fifty-eight men were apprehended, roughly fifty escaped. Among those consigned to the “paddy wagon”: top figures Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joseph Profaci, and Joseph Bonanno. Their explanation that the gathering was a “get-well-soon” coffee clatch for Barbara went over like a set of cement overshoes. Up to this point, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had been reluctant to admit the existence of organized crime in America. The Apalachin summit bust made the syndicate and its influence painfully clear, and Hoover responded by creating the “Top Hoodlum Program” to pursue Cosa Nostra bosses throughout the country.
The Apalachin summit of “Who’s Who” in 1957 American, Canadian, and Italian mafiosi inspired many portrayals in books and film. A version of the event appeared in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather Returns, and was also referred to in Hollywood’s Goodfellas and Analyze This.