Iconic Maranzano Photo a Fraud

This is a picture of Salvatore, but not Maranzano.
 Salvatore Messina.

Author David Critchley, Ph.D., made a compelling argument in an Informer article that the picture above, widely viewed for many decades as being a photograph of Salvatore Maranzano, is not actually him.

"An apparent photograph of 'Salvatore Maranzano' has appeared in varied venues, ranging from books to the Internet. What those who print it fail to mention [Ed. Note: I'd say they fail to mention because they fail to know!] is that it's not of Maranzano at all. The mistake made is a classic case of the much broader problem of inaccuracies plaguing accounts of the American Mafia, which spread myths and misunderstandings."

The history of the American Mafia is riddled with more holes than a 1920's-era Ford in Chicago during the Capone years. But this one about Maranzano likely has thrown quite a few of you for a loop....

Supposedly, the only existing pics of Maranzano are the two of him dead in his office.

(NOTE: the article is gone, so I can't link to it, rendering the next two graphs obsolete.)

Check out the link above to the article to see the photos of a dead Maranzano; warning, they are quite graphic. There is also a sketch of Maranzano that the article purports was "made by the New York county coroner’s office at the time of his assassination on September 10, 1931." Informer also includes a sketch of its own, based on what it believes Maranzano would've looked like at the time.

The article further reports, the "coroner’s sketch...  differ[s] from [the photograph that is widely considered to be that of Maranzano]."

Adding further weight to this argument: "Joseph Bonanno, in his autobiography, described Maranzano as robust, about five feet nine inches tall, full-bodied with no excess flaccid flesh on him, deep-chested, with sturdy muscular arms and legs… Maranzano was handsome. He could make his face smile sweetly, or he could look severe enough to make you tremble."

Combining the crime scene photos, the coroner’s sketch and Bonanno’s description produced Informer’s approximation of Maranzano’s appearance ."

Lucky Luciano had Maranzano whacked following the hit on Joe "the Boss" Masseria after Luciano- confederate Tommy Luchese warned that Maranzano was putting Lucky's name at the top of a Mafia hit list.

Maranzano was trying to double cross a world-class double-crosser and was clearly out of his element.

Also, Maranzano, who was more concerned about which part of Sicily a man hailed from than the man's level of skill and intelligence -- was too slow on the draw and had an ego so large, it weighed him down.

The hits on Maranzano and Masseria were Luciano & Co.'s way of  ending the needless, bloody so-called Castellammarese War (1929–1931), a years-long power struggle for control of the Italian-American Mafia between partisans of Masseria and those of Maranzano. It was so called because Maranzano was based in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily.

The pic is really of Salvatore Messina -- I believe the author makes a case that leaves little room for doubt -- and was published in a story titled “Messinas and Mayfair: the Links Remain,” in the London Sunday Times on Aug. 13, 1967, according to the Informer article.

The Messina Brothers were a Maltese-based criminal organization that dominated London's underworld during the inter- and post-WWII years. Read more about them here.

Confirmation that the picture was of Messina, and not Maranzano, came in a history of Scotland Yard’s CO14 (Vice and Clubs) branch titled, The History of Clubs & Vice, the Informer article reveals.


  1. Here´s another good myth busting post, based on an article written by David Critchley.
    Critchley is the author of "The Origin of organized Crime in America" and is an excellent researcher.

    The question though is how did the picture of Salvatore Messina ended up as the "picture of Salvatore Maranzano"? We might never know, but it´s sure interesting how far writers and reporters are willing to bend the truth for a good story.

    Btw, doesn´t that man in the picture kinda look like a young Bruce Willis?


  2. Now that you mention it! Also the names are similar - same first name; last names both start with an M... a cynical editor-- I know some! -- could very easily have made a "mistake" -- pics of Maranzano must've been much needed back in the day and if none existed... plus Maranzano was definition "old school" and I could envision him not allowing himself photographed


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