|New York|  Gang - The Black Hand

Birth: 1750 - Sicily & Naples

Death: Ended with the comming of Prohibition (ca 1920)

Black Hand, or La Mano Nera in Italian, was a type of extortion racket. It was a method of extortion, not a criminal organization as such, though gangsters of The Camorra and the Mafia practiced it.

The earliest Black Hand activities began in Sicily and throughout the rest of the Kingdom of Naples as early as the 1750s. During the 1880s, as South Italian immigrants began to settle in the United States, they were soon followed by criminals, living alongside each other, continued the practice. By 1900, Black Hand operations were firmly established in the Italian-American communities of major cities including New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and San Francisco. Although more successful immigrants were usually targeted, possibly as many as 90% of Italian immigrants in New York were threatened.

Lupo The Wolf Saietta Typical Black Hand tactics involved sending a letter to a victim threatening bodily harm, kidnapping, arson, or murder. The letter demanded a specified amount of money to be delivered to a specific place. It was "decorated" with threatening symbols like a smoking gun or hangman's noose and signed with a hand imprinted in black ink; hence the name La Mano Nera (The Black Hand) which was readily adopted by the American press as "The Black Hand Society". Gangsters would carry out the threat if the victim did not pay. Ignazio Saietta, a Sicilian gangster in New York's Little Italy, strangled his victims and burned the bodies in East Harlem near the "murder stable". One of the threatened victims was the tenor Enrico Caruso who received a Black Hand letter, on which a black hand and dagger were drawn, demanding $2,000. Although Caruso decided to pay, he again received a demand for $15,000. Realizing the extortionists would continue to demand money, he reported the incident to the police who, arranging for Caruso to drop off the money at a prearranged spot, arrested two Italian-American businessmen who retrieved the money. On occasion, Black Handers threatened other gangsters and usually faced retaliation.

If law enforcement closed in, gangsters answered with their usual style: assassination. Victims include New Orleans police chief David Hennessy and NYPD lieutenant Joseph Petrosino. They intimidated potential witnesses even in the courtroom. The Black Hand practice practically disappeared when gangsters found the more profitable enterprise of bootlegging during US Prohibition.

Frankie Yale
In the 1920's, during prohibition, Frankie Yale was leader of the so called gang 'The Black Hand' (it is not certain this was the official name), and were situated in Brooklyn, New York. Their main rivals were a Irish gang called the White Hand gang, led by Dinny Meehan and later by Wild Bill Lovett. Some key members of Yale's organisation became big shots after his murder in 1928: Little Augie Pissano, Joe Adonis, Vincent Mangano & Albert Anastasia.

Fanucci, a character from the movie The Godfather, practices the black hand extortion. In fact the character of Fanucci doesn't show that much similairity because real Black Handers didn't dress up as a big shot like Fanucci, to keep a low profile. Also real Black Handers such as Ignazio Saietta and Peter Morello weren't seen often on the streets unlike Fanucci.

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