Adamo, Vito (1883-1913)

Born Sicily, Aug. 18, 1883.
Killed Detroit, MI, Nov. 24, 1913.

Vito Adamo was an early Mafia leader in the Detroit business district. He and his younger brother Salvatore were killed during a war with the Giannola Gang.

The Adamo birthplace is not entirely certain, though some sources indicate it was Salemi, an inland Sicilian municipality in the western Province of Trapani. (Appropriate age Adamos named Vito and Salvatore and originating in Salemi can be found in the immigration records from the early 1900s, but those Adamos were heading to Boston rather than Detroit.) The Adamo brothers likely led a small Mafia organization in Detroit in the early 1900s, when local Italian businessmen sought their protection from Black Hand extortionists.

Vito Adamo became the champion of a "White Hand Society" formed to eradicate the Black Handers of the Giannola Gang, who were encroaching on the business district from downriver bases in Ford City and Wyandotte.

Black Hander Carlo Caleca was shot and seriously wounded in August 1913. He lived long enough to accuse Vito Adamo and Filippo Buccellato of being his assailants. He succumbed to sepsis on August 8. Adamo and Buccellato were tried for murder. They were acquitted in October 1913 after Caleca's wife and a boarder at their home testified that Caleca told them he did not recognize the men who shot him.

Early in November, Vito and Salvatore were arrested following the shooting of former city police detective Ferdinand Palma. Palma had been forced out of the police department in 1905 after being connected with a human trafficking ring. He became a banker and padrone (labor agent). The Adamos were released after convincing authorities that they had a friendly relationship with Palma. Some considered the shooting of Palma to be an attempt by the Giannola brothers to remove a helpful Adamo ally.

At about five o'clock in the afternoon of November 24, the Adamos finished up work as traveling peddlers of wine and liquor and left the business establishment of their partner Pietro Mirabile at Mullett (close to current Nicolet Place) and Rivard Streets. They walked along Mullett toward their home on Champlain Street (now East Lafayette).

A short distance up the street, two men drew sawed-off shotguns from their coats and fired into the brothers. The gunmen fled. When police arrived, the found the Adamos in the gutter in front of 170 Mullett Street. Vito Adamo died on the way to St. Mary's Hospital. Salvatore died at the hospital a half hour later. Both were buried November 27 at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

See also:


  • Carlo Calego Death Certificate, State of Michigan Department of State Division of Vital Statistics, no. 6327, Aug. 8, 1913.
  • Michigan Death Records, Nov. 24, 1913,
  • Salvatore Adamo Death Certificate, State of Michigan Department of State Division of Vital Statistics, no. 9030, Nov. 24, 1913.
  • Vito Adamo Death Certificate, State of Michigan Department of State Division of Vital Statistics, no. 9029, Nov. 24, 1913.
  • "Dying statement may convict two," Detroit Free Press, Oct. 10, 1913, p. 8.
  • "Ten killed, six wounded; Black Hand record in Detroit in eleven months," Detroit Free Press, Nov. 25, 1913, p. 1.
  • "Two exonerated in murder case," Detroit Free Press, Oct. 14, 1913, p. 5.
  • "Two Italians, brothers, are fiend victims," Port Huron MI Times-Herald, Nov. 25, 1913, p. 6.
  • "Two more marked for death in blood-feud of Detroit Sicilians," Detroit Free Press, Nov. 26, 1913, p. 1.
  • "Two more slain in Detroit streets in bitter Italian feud," Lansing MI State Journal, Nov. 25, 1913, p. 14.
  • "Two Sicilians slain in Italian colony of Detroit; feud result," Detroit Free Press, Nov. 25, 1913, p. 1.
  • "Widow's oath is blamed for bomb deaths," Detroit Free Press, April 13, 1914, p. 1.
  • Rice, Dennis, "Vito Adamo," Find A Grave,, Memorial no. 7319067, March 31, 2003, accessed Nov. 19, 2018.