Gangsters > Mafia Organization
The mafia as it existed in the 1930's and onward was not always structured that way. In fact, before the 1920's the "mafia" was simply a loose collection of street gangs performing petty crimes, often fighting with each other over territory. Mafia organization occurred over many events and many decades. However the end result was a tougher organization that relied on the code of Omertà and ruthlessly murdered any of their own, an old world testament to their internal justice system.
During the later part of the 1920's mafia bloodshed was at an all time high. Al Capone had just committed the Saint Valentines Day Massacre and Maranzano and Masseria were in the opening blows of the full fledged Castellammarese War. The bodies and violence was causing the population of the cities to cry for the authorities to stop it.
In May of 1929 under the guise of a wedding for Meyer Lansky and the supervision of Enoch Johnson in Atlantic City dozens of gangsters from all over the country representing the The Big Seven gathered in Atlantic City to partake in a massive party and business gathering, the likes of which never seen before.
Called the Atlantic City Conference, these gangsters partied and hashed out the details between May 13th and 16th of 1929 and laid the plans for the growing order and organization of the "National Crime Syndicate". This organization would help solve disputes internally and laid the foundation for the modern construction of the mafia.
After the end of the Castellammarese War and the murder of both Maranzano and Masseria, Charles Luciano helped formalize the mafia structure as it exists today and create the internal conflict resolution system called The Commission that lasts to this day. Done at the Havana Conference, this was one of the major events in mafia history that helped contribute to the modern design as it exists today.
The Boss is the head of the crime family. He makes all of the major decisions for the organization and all of the Mafia's income eventually comes to him. The boss was a position necessary to maintain order and control the mafia due to the criminal nature of the organization. The boss settled disputes and distributed wealth.
The boss is usually the least visible member of the organization, and tries to maintain a low profile. Usually there is one or two bosses in place before the real boss in order to protect his identity from law enforcement and the media.
Boss of Bosses
This position was only held by one person, Salvatore Maranzano and only for a few months before he was assassinated. The position was one that granted complete authority over the other mafia families and as akin to a king. The position came to be highly resented as Maranzano turned out to be increasingly greedy.
When Charles Luciano and his associates murdered Maranzano they abolished the position and outlined that each boss would have an equal vote under the rules of The Commission that Luciano created.
The Consigliere played the role of advisor to the boss. They make decisions that are for the good of the mafia and may not be involved with the business or criminal operations at all. However they care for the mafia as a whole and are respected as much as a boss and did not always have to be Italian-American. Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky were considered consigliere's.
This ad hoc addition to the mafia structure was most likely Luciano's concession to his life long partner in crime Meyer Lansky. As Lansky was a Jew he was not given the same status as his Italian brothers. However by adding this position, Luciano opened up the mafia to other ethnic groups who had were part of the organization. This move was one of the reasons why Luciano is considered the greatest crime boss of all time.
Right underneath the boss is the Underboss. The underboss acts as a barrier between the rest of the mafia operations and the boss. He resolves conflicts on his own and generally manages all of the lieutenants or caporegimes in an organization.
Most underbosses act like a vice president. If the boss dies or gets arrested the underboss will usually take over.
A Caporegime or 'capo' is the captain of the organization. Each capo would have their own crew of soldiers and act as a cell. The role of the Capo would be to manage this crew and make sure they collected money and income for the rest of the family.
Usually a capo and his crew would be given a particular racket or a geographical place to collect from and they could move up the corporate ladder based on how much money they brought in. The capo collects his percentage of the earnings before passing them up to the underboss and eventually the boss.
Think of the mafia organization as a pyramid. One boss, maybe 2-3 underbosses and maybe 7-8 caporegimes. Underneath the leadership hierarchy lies the base of the pyramid and the mafias strength, the Soldiers.
Each soldier reports to his captain and are street level criminals that enforce the mafia territory and do whatever is needed for the family. The soldiers take all the risk for the family, and usually were compensated less for it. They have the potential to earn a lot of money, but most of the time they don't.
Soldiers took a lot of risk by being targets for enemy gangs, and were most likely to go to jail.
Associates were the final aspect of mafia organization. Associates were not technically part of the mafia. They were not made men and could be anyone from a banker to a lawyer to accounts, doctors, realtors, police, politicians, drug dealers or anyone else who assisted the mafia in their criminal enterprises.