The Curious Weekly History Thread

Hello and welcome to this week’s History Thread!

Our topic for the week: What makes you interested in delving deeper into a topic? Let’s say you know nothing about, say, the American Civil War or the Holocaust or Ancient Rome, but something makes you want to know more. Is it simple intellectual curiosity? Is there a “hook” that captures your interest (a personal connection, maybe?)? Watching a film or TV series, reading a book that depicts or touches on an historical topic? Someone you know squawking at you about it? A bit more abstract than some of our topics, but I’m interested to see what you have to say.

Today’s picture: On this day in 1957, a New York state trooper noticed a suspicious gathering of hundreds of expensive automobiles outside the small town of Apalachin. The curious cop ran the license of plate of several vehicles and found they were registered to numerous organized crime figures. The police took advantage of this extraordinary opportunity, setting up roadblocks outside the town and then raiding the building, which was the home of Joseph Barbara, head of the Bufalino Crime Family. Some 58 mobsters were arrested, including bigwigs like Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Paul Castellano and many others.

This incident, which coincided with the McClellan Committee’s probe into labor racketeering, is considered a major turning point in the fight against organized crime, destroying the myth perpetrated by the FBI and others that there was no Mafia in the United States, merely loosely connected local gangs. While most of the gangsters escaped without serious consequences, Barbara’s prestige in the world of Cosa Nostra was destroyed, and he spent his remaining days fending off charges of income tax evasion and racketeering by an increasingly nosy Federal government. You’d almost feel bad for the guy if he weren’t, you know, a murderous hood. Them’s the breaks.