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Anthony D'Andrea

Anthony D'Andrea
Occupation Priest, Translator, Politician
Spouse(s) Carolina Wagner (1899–1921)

Anthony D'Andrea (June 7, 1872 – May 11, 1921) was the Mafia boss of Chicago in the late 1910s to early 1920s. He was also a political leader who was a president of the Unione Siciliana and was involved in a heated battle for alderman. He was killed by an assassin's bullet in 1921.


Early life

Born Antonio D'Andrea in Valledolmo to a large family in 1872, he studied law at the University of Palermo and went to a Roman Catholic seminary in America before being ordained. His brother Orazio (Horace) also became a priest. He immigrated to the United States in 1897, briefly settling in Buffalo, New York. He attended seminary at St. Mary's Academy in Baltimore and St. Bonaventura's Academy in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He then moved to Chicago where he was ordained as pastor of St. Anthony's Italian (Independent) Catholic Church under Bishop Anton Kozlowski in June, 1899. He met a young German woman, Lena Wagner, with whom he fell in love, left the priesthood and married. After their marriage in Milwaukee, Rev. D'Andrea went to the police asking for their assistance in obtaining his bride. He believed that she was being held prisoner in the home of the people she had been staying with sincer her parents died. He was successful and they were able to live as a couple. He planned to teach modern languages. Interestingly, his brother Louis also left the priesthood and married.[1]

The middle years

D'Andrea, because of his education, assisted other Italian immigrants with legal issues and worked as a professional translator. At some point he also became a member of the Mafia. It is not known if he joined in Sicily or after he came to America. While it is not known if there have been members of the clergy who were also Mafiosi in America, it has been known to occur in Sicily. In 1902, not long after his marriage, he was arrested as the leader of a gang involved in counterfeiting coins. When arrested, he initially blamed his wife. While awaiting trial some authorities, evidently forgetting that he was in custody, thought he ended up as the victim of the 1903 barrel murder in New York. He was convicted and sent to Joliet State Prison. His family and supporters started a letter-writing campaign and he was released by the Theodore Roosevelt administration after only a short stay of 13 months. After his release he continued to work as a translator and worked his way up the ladder of organized crime.

Later years

In 1911 D'Andrea co-owned a company with Martin Merlo, brother of Mike Merlo, at 20 East 31st Street in Chicago. That same year Joseph D'Andrea (who, despite having the same name, was unrelated to Anthony) was elected president of Local 286 of the International Hod Carriers' Building and Construction Union. Joseph brought Anthony in as the local treasurer and a business agent. Joseph D'Andrea, a friend and associate of James Colosimo, is believed to have brought labor racketeering into his union. On September 16, 1914, a man walked up to Joseph and said, "I know you." As Joseph reached out to shake the man's hand he was blasted in the leg (other reports say the stomach) with a double-barreled shotgun. Joseph D'Andrea died shortly thereafter. Anthony D'Andrea took his place as president of the union.[1]

It was also around this time that he became the Mafia boss of Chicago, following the murder of the previous leader. Nicola Gentile calls him a terrible and fearful man. Under his administration a group of young men had engaged in certain unmentioned crimes without his authority, and D'Andrea had ordered their deaths. One of them, identified only as Paolinello, sought refuge in Pittsburgh, where Gentile was a leader. Gentile managed to persuade D'Andrea to drop the "death sentence" against the man, and he was brought in to the Pittsburgh crime family. Two years later, in 1916, he ran for alderman in the so-called "Bloody Nineteenth" ward. At that time it had a large population of Italian immigrants as well as a very high homicide rate, most often due to a combination of honor killings and Black Hand activity. His opponent was James Bowler. He was forced to drop out of the race after newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune exposed his criminal past.[2]

In or around 1919 he became president of the head chapter of the Unione Siciliana. This was apparently a pattern in which he would continue to increase his political base. It was after this that he ran for alderman against John Powers, an Irish saloon-keeper who had held office since 1896. He was popular with the Italian community, and this led to the so-called Aldermen's Wars. Murders and bombings became political weapons. The violence reached such a point that D'Andrea condemned it and dropped out of the race. Yet his political enemies continued to use violence, and on May 11, 1921 he was shot and killed while entering his apartment. His successor and close associate, Mike Merlo, was on vacation in Italy at the time of D'Andrea's death. From there he ordered the death of the assassin and succeeded D'Andrea as both the Chicago Mafia boss and as president of the Chicago chapter of the Unione Siciliana. His nephew Philip D'Andrea, the son of Louis, became a member of the Capone organization (the Chicago Outfit).[3]


  1. ^ a b Napoli 2004, p. 31.
  2. ^ Gentile (1963).
  3. ^ Nelli 1976, pp. 134–136.

Further reading

  • Gentile, Nick; Chilanti, Felice (1963), Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Editori Riuniti  
  • May, Allan, "Chicago's Unione Siciliana: 1920: A Decade of Slaughter (Part One).", Crime Magazine: An Encyclopedia of Crime.,  
  • Napoli, Antonio (2004), The Mob's Guys, College Station, TX: Virtualbookworm  
  • Nelli, Humbert S. (1973), Italians in Chicago, 1880-1930: A Study in Ethnic Mobility., New York: Oxford University Press  
  • Nelli, Humbert S. (1970), "John Powers and the Italians: Politics in a Chicago Ward, 1896-1921.", Journal of American History 57: 67–84  
  • Nelli, Humbert S. (1976), The Business of Crime: Italians and Syndicate Crime in the United States, New York: Oxford University Press  
  • Warner, Richard N. (2009), "The Dreaded D'Andrea: The Former Priest Who Became the Windy City's Most Feared Mafia Boss", Informer 2 (2): 4–31  
Preceded by
Rosario Dispenza
Chicago Mafia Boss
Succeeded by
Mike Merlo

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