Famous Gangsters: Albert Anastasia 1902-1957 cover

Famous Gangsters: Albert Anastasia 1902-1957


Albert Anastasia was nicknamed “The Executioner” for good reason – he was one of the most feared and merciless Cosa Nostra assassins in criminal history.

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Famous Gangsters: Albert Anastasia 1902-1957

The Executioner

Albert Anastasia was nicknamed “The Executioner” for good reason – he was one of the most feared and merciless Cosa Nostra assassins in criminal history.

He established a reputation for being especially brutal and cruel and was said to have enjoyed watching his victims die.

But he wasn’t just the “muscle.” Anastasia was one of the founders of the American Mafia and was boss of the Gambino crime family in New York for much of the 1950s.

The oldest son of a railway worker, he was born Umberto Anastasio in Tropea, Italy on September 26 1902 and grew up in a small fishing village in the Calabria region.

Albert Anastasia

Albert Anastasia

Public Domain

Getting Into Trouble

In 1919, Anastasia – he changed his name in 1921 – arrived in New York after jumping ship from a freighter he worked on with two brothers, Joseph and Anthony, known as “Tough Tony.”

The brothers started working as longshoremen on the Brooklyn waterfront and it wasn’t long before Anastasia was in trouble. He was sentenced to death and sent to Sing Sing Prison in March 1921 after being convicted of killing another dockhand in a brawl. Due to a technical hitch, he won a retrial that was dismissed after four original witnesses mysteriously disappeared.

Gaining His Spot

He spent another two years behind bars on a weapons charge but Anastasia was making some powerful friends, among them emerging mobsters Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Vito Genovese and Frank Costello.

When the new breed of gangsters plotted a coup to do away with the old New York crimes bosses and take over, Anastasia played a key role in gunning down one of the top old-line bosses Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria at a lunch meeting in Coney Island in April 1931.

The (unsolved) murder resulted in the division of New York among five crime families, with Anastasia being appointed underboss of the Vincent Mangano faction, later to become the infamous Gambino crew.

Carlo Gambino

Carlo Gambino

Public Domain

Becoming His Own Boss

Anastasia oversaw many of the murders carried out by Murder Incorporated, the hit squad formed to do the dirty work for the organized crime families.

Some estimates put the number of Murder Inc. killings at 63, others put the final tally much higher. Anastasia acted as the man who ordered the murders – the “fingerman.”

In 1951, Anastasia made his own power play. He had his boss Vincent Mangano killed and seized power himself.

The US government targeted the mobster without success, trying to deport him back to Italy and hitting him with tax evasion charges.

His Last Hair Cut

His Last Hair Cut


His Last Hair Cut

But it was his own deputy that betrayed him, just as he had betrayed his boss.

On October 25, 1957, he was getting his hair cut at the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City when two masked gunmen opened fire as he sat in the barber’s chair, hitting him five times.

The murder, with photos of the bloody barber’s chair, quickly became notorious in the Big Apple’s crime lore.

Anastasia’s underboss, Carlo Gambino, was said to have masterminded the execution and he took over the reins of the crime family. His killers were never identified.