Giannola, Antonino (1878-1919)

Born Terrasini, Sicily, Nov. 15, 1878.
Killed Detroit, MI, Jan. 3, 1919.

Tony Giannola was an early Mafia boss in the Detroit area. He and his younger brother Salvatore "Sam" built a produce monopoly in Wyandotte, extorted payments from successful Italian businessmen in Wyandotte and Detroit and engaged in a series of gang wars that eventually claimed both of their lives.

First noted in Ford City in the early 1900s, Tony Giannola established a successful produce business there. He was later connected with grocery and macaroni businesses. He also built up a Mafia organization that included many of the later leaders of Detroit's underworld.

Around 1910, Giannola pushed into Detroit's East Side business district, conducting Black Hand extortion rackets in that area. Local businessmen embraced rival underworld leader Vito Adamo as their protector and organized a vigilante White Hand Society. Giannola and Adamo fought each other for years. The Giannola brothers were arrested after a September 1913 exchange of gunfire with rivals that seriously wounded a passerby. They were charged with minor offenses and released.

The Giannola Gang lost some of its more powerful members when Tony Giannola and his business partner Peter Bosco parted ways. Giannola apparently believed that Bosco was cheating him. When Bosco was murdered in October 1918, Bosco lieutenant John Vitale and Bosco's entire underworld faction broke with the Giannolas.

Bosco followers were believed to be behind the Jan. 3, 1919, murder of Tony Giannola. That evening, Giannola was visiting the family of a just-murdered friend. As he approached the house, a gunman emerged from a dark alley and shot him in the head and body. Police found the dead Mafia boss outside of 189 Rivard Street.

Sources:

  • Tony Giannola Death Certificate, State of Michigan Department of State Division of Vital Statistics, reg. no. 205, Jan. 3, 1919.
  • "Alleged assassins sued by innocent bystander," Detroit Free Press, May 14, 1915, p. 5.
  • "Gunmen murder 'Tony' Giannola, fuedist leader," Detroit Free Press, Jan. 4, 1919, p. 1.
  • "Murdered men suspected as German spies," Detroit Free Press, Nov. 17, 1916, p. 1.
  • "Trial of 4 for Peter Bosco murder begun," Detroit Free Press, Dec. 30, 1919, p. B1.
  • Rice, Dennis, "Antonio Giannola, Jr.," Find A Grave, findagrave.com, memorial no. 7814142, Sept. 1, 2003, accessed Nov. 24, 2018.
  • Murray, Riley, "Sicilian gang guns blazed in city feud," Detroit Free Press, Aug. 27, 1950, p. E8.