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Lucky Luciano - Boardwalk Empire

Lucky Luciano - Boardwalk Empire American History Biographies Film Trials Crimes and Criminals

Charles "Lucky" Luciano was born in Sicily, despite accounts (including his own, given in a 1936 trial) claiming his birthplace was New York City. 

His parents (Antonio, a sulphur miner, and Rosalie) called him Salvatore Lucania when they welcomed him into the world on November 11, 1897.  Nine years later, he and his family sailed to America, arriving in New York at the Lower East Side of the city.

Salvatore dropped out of school and had his first job - as a shipping clerk for Goodman Hat Company - when he was 14.  Around him, gangs flourished.  By 1913, Solomon Sufrin (an Assemblyman from the Eighth District) observed:

The only way to prevent the development of gangs in future will be found in giving more attention to the growing boy in the streets.  (Quoted by Tim Newark, in Lucky Luciano: The Real and the Fake Gangster, at page 17.)

When he was 18, Salvatore - who already had a hard appearance due to his smallpox-marred face - delivered a vial of illegal heroin to an undercover police informer.  The price he paid for that crime was six months (of an eight-month sentence) at New Hampton Farms Reformatory.

As noted in a later probation report, Salvatore didn't have a high opinion of average people:

His freedom from conscience springs from his admitted philosophy:  'I never was a crumb, and if I have to be a crumb I'd rather be dead.'  He explains this by stating that a crumb is a person who works and saves and lays his money aside; who indulges in no extravagance.  His description of a crumb would fit the average man.  (Newark, page 18.)

When he came out of prison, he had a new self-assigned name - Charles ("Charlie") Lucania. 

Although he remained at Goodman's as a shipping clerk, for a short time, that part of his life ended when he won nearly a year's wages ($244) in a "floating craps game."  (Newark, page 19.)   Thereafter, Luciana focused his sights on organized crime.

In the fall of 1929, Luciana was severely attacked at Staten Island.  His extensive wounds included a knifing of his face, thereafter causing his right eye to droop. 

Because he survived the beating, his nickname - "Lucky" - took on new meaning.  The year before, he'd changed his last name to "Luciano," since it was easier for the police to pronounce.  (See Gangsters, Swindlers, Killers, and Thieves: The Lives and Crimes of Fifty American Villains, by Lawrence Block, page 138.)

The FBI describes Luciano as the "organizer of organized crime," noting his significant rise to crime-world power:

Luciano become the most powerful Mafia boss in America and used his position to run La Cosa Nostra [LCN] like a major corporation. He set up the LCN Commission, or ruling body, composed of seven bosses, and divided the different rackets among the families.

At the end of the 20th century, TIME magazine named Lucky Luciano as one of the century's "100 Most Influential People."  (See the listing for "Builders and Titans.") 

Eventually, however,  Luciano's luck ran out

See, also:

Video - Lucky Luciano - Early Life

Video - Lucky Luciano - Gang Member


Media Credits

Photo online, courtesy U.S. National Archives.

Quoted passages, from various sources, as noted above.

 

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