Introduction: Origins of the Irish-Italian Gang Wars

Boston was a city that welcomed European immigrants throughout the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century. Large numbers of Italian immigrants settled in Boston’s North End in the late 19th century. Equally great numbers of Irish immigrants settled in South Boston, “Southie” during the same period. Both sections border the Boston Harbor, separated by downtown Boston. Although only two miles apart, the Irish and Italians gangsters mostly kept their crimes to their own little enclaves of the city.

The separate existence began to crumble in 1920 when Congress ratified the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and banished alcohol from the United States. As is commonly repeated, when something is outlawed, the outlaws will control it. This adage certainly held true with alcohol. Once alcohol was outlawed, the outlaws took full control over the distribution of alcohol. When prohibition started, the demand for alcohol skyrocketed. The gangster and bootleggers realized they had a money machine to satisfy the need. Bootlegging alcohol became a billion-dollar business in the United States. Initially, the Italian and Irish bootleggers fed the desire of alcohol within their own neighborhoods. But, it didn’t take too long for each group to seek to expand their illegal distribution.

North End Italian Bootleggers
Giuseppe “Joe” Lombardo

Giuseppe “Joe” Lombardo, a/k/a Joe Lombardi and Big Joe L, controlled the North End bootleggers. Born in Sicily, Big Joe L moved to New York at age 11. He still had strong ties to New York when he moved to the Boston eventually running C&F Importing in the North End. He was well respected in the Mafia as he often received messages later in his life from the head of the New England Mafia, Raymond Patriarca for his “ears alone.” He died in July 1969 at age 72. His obituary noted that he ran a restaurant frequented by the criminal element and “he is shown unusual respect” by them and people connected “with the syndicate.” His funeral was attended by many Mafia notables.

Lombardo was five feet nine inches tall and weighed around 160 pounds. He dressed like a banker. He was known to be ruthless, having been caught with a loaded gun under his front seat and dynamite in his trunk on separate occasions. Lombardo and his gang ran the “Italian Lottery” with tickets sold in grocery stops, bakeries, and barber shops. He and his Mafia were feared and respected in the North End.

Southie Bootleggers

The fear and respect of the North End Mafia did not extend into South Boston. Southie bootleggers were part of the Gustin Gang. The Gustin Gang’s leaders were Frank and Steve Wallace, brothers, who both fought as amateur boxers. The name Gustin comes from Gustin Street, a small street named after a street off Old Colony Avenue in Southie where their club was located. They started out as teenagers in the 1910’s calling themselves the ‘Tailboard Thieves.’

Gustin Street, circa 1920

The Gustin Gang dominated bootlegging in Boston underworld throughout the 1920’s and the Prohibition Era. The Gustin Gang were known for hijacking delivery trucks as they stopped at intersections. The gang even owned boats so they could get alcohol in international waters then land at different places in South Boston where they would unload the alcohol for distribution around the area.

Throughout the decade, the Wallace Brothers were arrested frequently on charges of larceny, trespassing, assault and battery, and breaking and entering, among other charges. They were rarely convicted of those crimes. Frank, arrested 25 times, only served two sentences. No members of the Gustin gang served much time in jail.

The Wallaces had some serious political allies. Steve Wallace’s lawyer was John W. McCormack, then a state senator from Southie. He would become Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. A courthouse in downtown Boston is named after McCormack. Steve as best I can tell never did much time. Frank Wallace had several run-ins with law enforcement. While arrested 25 times, Frank only did a couple of short terms at the jail on Deer Island. Perhaps theses political connections helped keep them out of jail. Perhaps bribes, blackmail and other connections kept them out. Other Irish gangs operated out of Somerville, Charlestown, Dorchester, and Roxbury during Prohibition, but the Gustin crew dominated.

Some say it was after the Gustin gang hijacked a series of the North End trucks carrying illegal booze that precipitated a meeting with the North End Mafia; others claim that the Gustins wanted to use their control of the waters around Boston to cut out of any booze landed by boat in its territory; or perhaps the true reason is lost. Nevertheless, a fateful meeting was arranged between the Gustin Gang and Lombardi’s North End Mafia to “discuss” the issue.

10 thoughts on “Introduction: Origins of the Irish-Italian Gang Wars

  1. Any discussion of the Irish and Italian crime
    families in Boston must include a discussion of
    the FBI crime family and how it manipulated the
    other crimes families to serve the agenda of the deep state.

    I organized a conference for 13 consecutive years looking
    at crimes committed by FBI agents.(1989-2002)
    A partial list of speakers appearing at these conferences
    include FBI agent /attorney Fred Whitehurst, attorney
    William Pepper, attorney Linda Backiel, Pulitzer Prize
    winner Ross Gelbspan, Mary Powers of Citizen Alert,
    Jesuit Phil Berrigan, Black Panther Dharouba bin Wahad,
    FBI agent Tyrone Powers PhD, Journalist Greg Flannery,
    Filmmaker Roz Payne, FBI agent Wesley Swearingen,
    Leonard Gates, FBI agent Suzanne Doucette

    In other news……

    Director of FBI was a Pedophile says Susan Rosensteil

      1. Someone call Sharon Simone in Belmont please!
        Interview her about how the Head of the FBI Child Abuse Program was banging her
        since she was 2 years old.
        His name was Edward Rodgers. By the way
        he was also her dad.

        Million Dollar Damages Are Awarded To 2 Sisters for Sexual Abuse

        In other news…..

        Grapevines: Napa Valley College presents LGBT+ training course to FBI
        FOR THE REGISTER Dec 4,

  2. There is a good book about the gangster Johnny Rosselli called ” Handsome Johnny” by Lee Server. It says the top bootleggers in Boston in the 20s were An Italian, A Jewish guy and Frank Wallace, the Irish gangster. A very good read.

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