Barbara, Joseph "Barber" (1905-1959)

Born Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Aug. 9, 1905.

Died Johnson City, NY, June 17, 1959.

A wealthy gangster operating in New York, Barbara owned the Apalachin, NY, estate that was the site of 1957's Mafia convention. Police crashed the gathering, taking most of those present in for questioning (a number of Mafiosi are believed to have eluded arrest either by escaping through the woods around the Barbara estate or by remaining out of sight in Barbara's home).

Barbara came to the United States from his native Sicily on May 26, 1921. He participated in Mafia bootlegging operations and had underworld contacts in New York City, Buffalo and Endicott, New York. In the post-Prohibition years, he gained control of the beer/soft drink distribution in the Binghamton, NY, region.

Barbara was suspected of involvement in a number of gangland killings. During World War II, authorities noted that rationed gasoline was being stolen from Barbara's bottling plant. Just after the war, he was convicted of the illegal acquisition of sugar, a federal crime.

Many believe that Barbara led a Mafia organization with a territory that included northeastern Pennsylvania and adjacent New York. However, it appears far more likely that he was a Buffalo Mob capodecina with regional authority in the Endicott area. The northeast Pennsylvania Mafia appears to have been an independent crime family ruled by the "Men of Montedoro."

The 1957 Mafia convention was organized by Buffalo crime boss Stefano Magaddino after New York City crime boss Tommy Lucchese requested it on behalf of new bosses Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino. Barbara's Apalachin estate had been used for a Mafia convention one year earlier.

After they were apprehended, many of the 60-plus Mafiosi told authorities that they were at Barbara's home to look in on him after his recent heart attack. Barbara was in ill health at the time and was able to avoid much post-convention interrogation due to his heart condition (his son, however, was repeatedly interrogated). After having chest pains for several days, Barbara collapsed at his home in Endicott on May 29, 1959. He was rushed to Wilson Memorial Hospital in Johnson City. He died there on June 17.

Related Links: