I somehow (mistakenly) had it in my head that Coppola included some kind of analogue of the Apalachin Conference in his Godfather movies – there’s just something very filmic about a bunch of overweight, middle-aged thugs muddying up their expensive hand-made shoes and getting tears in their over-tailored suits as they breathlessly hoof it through the woods in a vain attempt to escape the clutches of some small-town cop, and in turn causing a massive spotlight to be turned onto their lucrative but publicity-shy mob rackets.
So, what was it?
The Apalachin Meeting was a historic summit of the American Mafia held at the home of mobster Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara, in Apalachin, New York, on November 14, 1957.
Frankly, it sounds like a clusterfuck of immense proportions, borne of the minds of a bunch of hubristic psychopaths. What better way to keep your highly illegal money machine running than to invite all your colleagues as well as your business rivals to a big Super Secret Criminal Summit discreetly hosted by a well-known hoodlum at his ostentatious country retreat where there’s one road in, one road out?
On November 14, 1957, the mafia bosses, their advisers and bodyguards, approximately one hundred men in all, met at Barbara’s 53-acre (21 ha) estate in Apalachin, New York. Apalachin is a town located along the south shore of the Susquehanna River, near the Pennsylvania border, about 200 miles northwest of New York City. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss La Cosa Nostra operations such as gambling, casinos and narcotics dealing along with the dividing the illegal operations controlled by the recently killed Albert Anastasia.
How the edifice of this noble citadel came crumbling down is worth an eyeroll:
A local state trooper named Edgar D. Croswell had been aware that Carmine Galante had been stopped by state troopers following a visit to Barbara’s estate the previous year. A check of Galante by the troopers found that he was driving without a license and that he had an extensive criminal record in New York City. In the time preceding the November 1957 meeting, trooper Croswell had Barbara’s house under occasional surveillance. He had become aware that Barbara’s son was reserving rooms in local hotels along with the delivery of a large quantity of meat from a local butcher to the Barbara home. That made Croswell suspicious, and he therefore decided to keep an eye on Barbara’s house. When the state police found many luxury cars parked at Barbara’s home they began taking down license plate numbers. Having found that many of these cars were registered to known criminals, state police reinforcements came to the scene and began to set up a roadblock.
Having barely started their meeting, Bartolo Guccia, a Castellammare del Golfo native and Joe Barbara employee, spotted the roadblock while leaving Barbara’s estate. Guccia later said he was returning to the Barbara home to check on a fish order. Some attendees attempted to drive away but were stopped by the roadblock. Others trudged through the fields and woods ruining their expensive suits before they were caught.
Up to fifty men escaped, but fifty-eight were apprehended, including Commission members Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joseph Profaci and Joseph Bonanno. Virtually all of them claimed they had heard Joseph Barbara was feeling ill and that they had visited him to wish him well.
Absolute dickheads. Postscript:
The intense interest by state police can also be explained by the fact that this was not the first meeting of the Commission at the Apalachin location. That same location had been used the previous year, on a smaller scale. Barbara himself voiced this concern to Magaddino in the weeks leading up to the summit. Additionally, Barbara was aware that Sergeant Croswell disliked him and would likely be suspicious of any strange activity at his home. (Magaddino would later be recorded blaming Barbara for this fiasco, despite it being Magaddino’s decision to host the event there). Finally, police and federal agents had only the suspicion of illegal activity occurring at the summit; they did not have sufficient cause to obtain search warrants for the house itself. In fact, most of the crime bosses who were detained were those that attempted to flee the scene, while those who remained inside the house (such as Magaddino) remained free.