#28: Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara Sr. (Part Three)


In this episode, we again discuss Joseph Barbara Sr., the mobster who famously hosted the ill-fated Apalachin Mob Meeting in Apalachin, New York. Part Three covers the events leading up to the disastrous Apalachin meeting in 1957 and the fallout.

Be sure to check out Part One and Part Two.

In this final installment of a three-part series, we discuss:

  • 01:27 Opening Remarks
  • 05:38 Events directly preceding the Apalachin meeting
  • 13:12 Who ordered the Apalachin meeting
  • 13:58 The Apalachin meeting gets raided by police
  • 19:27 Law enforcement's previous suspicions of Barbara
  • 26:32 The history behind Edgar Croswell's initial interest in Barbara
  • 34:09 The "sick friend" excuse and real reasons for the meeting
  • 38:18 Barbara's ill health and becoming a recluse
  • 40:12 The law catches up with Barbara and his company
  • 41:15 Barbara sells Canada Dry Bottling Company
  • 41:55 Barbara sells famous estate
  • 42:50 Barbara subpoenaed to testify in front of grand jury
  • 43:40 Barbara indicted for tax evasion
  • 44:34 Barbara's last public appearance
  • 45:32 Barbara's death and funeral
  • 51:10 Joseph Barbara's mob legacy
  • 54:27 Closing remarks

Episode Transcript


“He had lived in the Endicott-Apalachin area since 1934. Until the notorious gangland convention at his Apalachin estate, he was regarded by almost all of those who knew him as a hard-working and successful businessman.
Few had any idea that Barbara’s past contained links to unsolved murders in the Scranton-Wilkes Barre-Pittston area, or that he was well acquainted with many of the country’s top hoodlums.
The facade he had worked so hard to create was destroyed on the balmy afternoon of Nov. 14, 1957, when he played host at what was to become the most famous barbeque in history.”


Hello everybody and welcome back to another edition of The Gangland History Podcast. I am your host Jacob Stoops, mob enthiusiast, history buff, historian. Just a reminder, this is probably going to be the last one (where I mention that) The Gangland History Podcast is formerly The Members Only Podcast.

So today's episode, again I'm having to cut a new intro because each time I have done this episode I didn't realize just how long it ended up being in terms of the pre-recorded material that I had developed.

But we're going to cover the final part of the Joseph Barbara series and we're finally going to get into Apalachin and the aftermath. It's been a really interesting series so far.

I highly recommend that if you haven't seen Part One and Part Two that you go back and watch them first.

We cover Barbara's upbringing in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, his immigration to the United States in the early 1920's, his first jobs as he gets into the United States. We cover how Barbara gets involved in organized crime, how he becomes assocciated with the Volpe organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York, how he eventually becomes a bodyguard and driver for Santo Volpe (the Don of Northeastern Pennsylvania in around the early part of the 1930's), how he's doing hits in the early part of the 1930's as part of the beer wars and some other vendettas in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area.

We then move into his legitimate enterprises. He becomes associated with several beverage and bottling companies, most notably the Canada Dry Bottling Company. He uses strong-arm methods to get in and get what he wants and establishes himself as a legitimate businessman in the mid-1930's and 1940's.

And we pick up the story here in the 1950's, where we're sitting right on the precipice of the Apalachin conference in 1957. So we're going to talk about Barbara's involvement in that event, the aftermath, and how his life ultimately ended.

But before we get into the episode I just want to thank everybody! We're doing a lot of things with the podcast. We're pushing out more content. I do plan at some point to return to the Angelo Bruno story to finish it off so to speak. I (also) want to do the Castellammarese War, and we've got a lot of exciting updates coming down the pipe.

What I would ask is that you please subscribe, share the podcast, help me grow. My goal is to get to 10,000 subscribers hopefully at some point in March 2024. We're pacing quite nicely. We've been experimenting with YouTube Shorts, and that's been pretty awesome in terms of opening up our videos to new members. We're also building the Patreon channel, it's still not quite ready but it's coming. And we're also transitioning the website. So, lots of good things in store.

But without further adieu, lets get into Part Three of the Joseph Barbara story.

Apalachin & Aftermath

An investigation conducted by FBI special agents Patrick A. Munley and James C. Mee from April 28, 1958 to May 1, 1958 would reveal more about Barbara’s daily routine, a little insight into the overall setup of his estate, large group gatherings over the years, and finally the events lead up to 14, 1957:

“Confidential Informant Albany T-34 whose reliability is unknown at the present time due to the fact that there have been only a few contacts made with him, advised that he has been associated with Joseph Barbara, Sr. since March of 1955 and has had access to the estate and home of Joseph Barbara since that time.”
“He advised that when he first became acquainted with Mr. Barbara it was the usual routine for Barbara to leave his home about 6 AM in the morning to go to the Canada Dry Bottling Company plant at Endicott, New York, and that he would return home around 3 PM for his meal and then would return to the plant and return home later in the evening. He usually drove himself to and from the plant and on his business trips around the Binghamton, New York area.”
“He stated that the home of Joseph Barbara was always well supplied with food and drink. He related that in the basement of the home canned goods, soup, soft drink, ice cream, fish and other items are maintained in ice cream coolers, and that also in a separate section of the basement are food such as oranges, grapefruit and other fruits. He stated there was nothing unusual about the basement, no vaults or safes or any locked rooms maintained there. He related that in the garage Barbara maintains a walk-in meat cooler, and ice cream freezer and a shelf-type freezer wherein meats and vegetables are stored.”
“He stated that there is only one phone line into the home of Barbara, but there are connections from Barbara’s home to the summer house and also to the other two homes that are maintained on the Barbara estate. He related the phone connections between the main home and the summer house and the two houses on the estate are strictly house phones and not connected with the main telephone line.”
“He said when he first was in the employ of Barbara he noticed that an Italian couple named Lucille (Last Name Unknown) and Joe (Last Name Unknown) visited the Barbaras frequently during the years 1955-1956. He believed Lucille was a nurse and Joe worked in a furniture store in Endicott, New York. He said he also noticed that Emanuel Zicari visited Barbara regularly. He said that from what he observed Zicari and Barbara were old friends and frequently Zicari brought his wife with him.”
“He also advised that Russell Bufalino was a frequent visitor at Barbara’s home.”
“He stated that from his recollection since 1955 there have been three what he would call big parties held at the home of Joseph Barbara. He stated that in the Fall of 1955 a large group of men was at Barbara’s home. He related that this group numbered about 35 men; that in the Summer of 1957 there was another large group of people, both men and women and this party was considered an engagement party for Barbara’s daughter Angela. The next group that he recalls was on November 14, 1957.”
“He related when each of these groups was at Barbara’s home they appeared to be regular barbeques where people were walking around the estate and steaks were being cooked and other food was being served to the guests.”
“At no other time he said that he noticed any large gathering in Barbara’s home or on the estate. He said that on numerous occasions Barbara had visitors at his home during the day at which time they would have lunch and visit and then leave the estate. He said these luncheons never included more than three or four individuals.”
“In connection with the November 14, 1957, group he related he had no advance notice that such a large group was going to be at Barbaras. He said that on November 13, 1957, Mr. Barbara told him in the early morning hours that there was an order of meat at Armour and Company in Binghamton, New York to be picked up and that he could pick it up anytime during that day. He said that this was the usual thing for him because he has been doing the same thing since 1955, and had picked up vegetables and fruit at the Green Lantern, groceries from McTighe Groceries and other items at different stores at Endicott and Binghamton, New York.”
“He said that it was his job to see that the fireplaces at the summer house always had charcoal and wood and it was his recollection that Mr. Barbara asked him on the thirteenth whether or not there was enough charcoal and wood at the fireplaces but he is not sure of that.”
“He relates that he recalls no activity at the Barbara home on the night of the thirteenth of November, but that in the morning of November 14 around 9:30 to 10:00 AM he noticed a few cars and a few people at the Barbara home and that thereafter individuals were gradually appearing on the estate. He said all of the visitors were men and there were no women visitors on that particular day.”
“He stated on the morning of November 14 the only strange car that was on the estate was a black Cadillac Sedan; but that he did not know the license plate as to whether it was from New York State or any other state.”

Now, this informant in particular based on my best guess was most likely one of the people Barbara had on staff to manage the property, sort of a groundskeeper. This person was obviously someone in a position to see all the comings and goings and didn’t sound like anyone who would be considered connected, rather a civilian. 

A note I later found discussing the identity of the informant T-34 would confirm the man’s name was Melvin J. Blossom, who had indeed been employed by Barbara since March of 1955. And this guy was spilling the beans of all the goings on at the Barbara estate, including confirming photos of prospective attendees like Joe Cerrito as having been at the meeting.

In the Summer of 1957, Barbara would often make trips up to Buffalo, New York, sometimes with his family under the auspices of taking a vacation, and would be noted as meeting with Stefano Magaddino and John Montana of the Buffalo family.

A different note stemming from a separate informant who was in fact the Babara’s maid, related that around November 9, 1957, the entire Barbara family with the exception of Barbara’s son Joseph, all drove to Buffalo, New York. 

Additionally, telephone records in the month before the meeting would show multiple calls placed to Bufalino family members Russell Bufalino, William Medico, Dave Osticco, Emanuel Zicari, Santo Volpe, as well as prominent member of the Magaddino family including John Montana, as well as the aforementioned brothers, Pat and Sam Monachino and Pittsburgh Boss, John La Rocca.

Now given that the order for the meeting came from Genovese to Magaddino, a trip to Buffalo five days before the meeting could have in fact just been a trip, along with all the obvious correspondence. But I don’t believe in coincidences and if I had to guess, the elder Barbara probably stopped off to confer with Buffalo Boss, Stefano Magaddino regarding the upcoming summit and communicated with the others to arrange all the details for over a month. 

Again, just my speculation.

Anyhow, as we know the infamous Apalachin Meeting would occur on November 14, 1957, and would subsequently be raided, and nearly 100 gangsters would scatter or be apprehended in one of the most infamous and enduring events in Cosa Nostra history.

When reached via phone by local papers in the days after the bust, Barbara would be quoted as saying the following:

“I am sick. I am under a doctor’s care. I don’t know anything.”

When the reporter asked him to verify that the men had been his guests, he said ‘yes.’

In a report from the law enforcement man who is most generally credited with breaking up the meeting, Sergeant Edgar Croswell, advised that one of their reasons for following the many mobsters trickling into Barbara’s home was as follows:

“Subsequently on the morning of November 14, 1957, the same officers mentioned above began further surveillance of the Vestal and Apalachin area and in the afternoon of November 14, 1957, observed a number of automobiles in the vicinity of the home of Joseph Barbara, Sr., RD, Apalachin, New York. Upon observing these automobiles, the officers began to systematically secure the license plate numbers of the cars and while doing so noted that several individuals who were observed on Barbara’s estate were fleeing into the woods nearby. The officers thereupon followed these individuals and secured their identification. Thereafter the officers left the area and subsequently decided to identify everybody leaving the Barbara estate that day. This procedure continued until early morning of November 15, 1957. The individuals who are listed below were identified as being at Barbara’s house on November 14, 1957. These individuals were not arrested nor were photographs or fingerprints of them obtained. They were identified through various means of identification upon their person.”
“The officers mentioned above advised the reason for their procedure in this matter was because of their longstanding interest in Barbara’s activities and realizing that they had no warrants or process for these individuals wanted to identify them for future investigation of Barbara.”

Another pretty viable piece of information, this time from a case from January 12, 1960 entitled, “UNITED STATES of America v. Joseph BONANNO et al., Defendants” filed by the United States District Court, out of the Southern District of New York, detailed that day at Apalachin and why the local police had kind of a hard-on for Barbara, which was a contributing factor in the breakup of the meeting. 

The first part is a bunch of legal jargon which then begin to get into the meeting:

“I shall not in this opinion concern myself with the evidence in this case which clearly established the falsehood of the defendants' statements to Croswell and other law enforcement officers and bodies, including federal grand juries. Suffice it to say that the jury found incredible the defense's position that over sixty individuals, many from California, Ohio, Texas and other distant places in the United States, and even Cuba, came together at Joseph Barbara's home located in a small, hard-to-find village called Apalachin at approximately the same time (a mid-week working day) without any plan or prearrangement to meet at his home. The jury must also have disbelieved the defendants' statements detailing their purposes for being at the gathering, which ranged from visiting a sick friend, to attending a social function (no women or children were present), to buying real estate, to discussing the acquisition of beer equipment or a truck, to having a damaged car fixed. I emphasize that the jury must have found these statements false, since the jury was charged specifically that before any defendant could be found guilty, it had to find that that defendant had not told the truth concerning the true nature and purposes of the gathering at the Barbara estate. Furthermore, the jury was charged that a verdict of guilty could not be returned merely by a comparison of statements, but had to be based on affirmative proof supplied by the government which would satisfy the jury of the falsity or evasiveness of the statements.”

But the second part of the report would go on to say the following:

“Joseph Barbara, Sr., at whose estate the gathering took place, had long been under investigation by the New York police, including Sgt. Croswell. They believed him to have been involved in the manufacture and distribution of illegal alcohol in Pennsylvania. He had been picked up on suspicion of murder on three occasions, and was suspected by the police in the Apalachin area of having been involved in two murders and two disappearances. Barbara, Sr. had associated and met with racketeers in the Endicott, N.Y. area and was generally considered by investigators as being behind the rackets in Broome County. Tr. 2082-84. In 1946 Barbara was convicted of an OPA violation involving the illegal acquisition of 300,000 pounds of sugar (Tr. 2087), a prime ingredient in the manufacture of alcohol.
In 1949 defendant Pasquale Turrigiano was arrested for operating a still. Barbara made payments on Turrigiano's truck, conferred constantly with him during the period of investigation and supplied sugar to Turrigiano. Tr. 2083-4, 2087. Barbara also had connections with one Anthony Ziamba, who had also been arrested for illegal alcohol activities. Tr. 2084.
In October 1956 a man named Galente was arrested for a traffic violation. One of his companions, who ran off, was Frank Garofolo. Upon investigating the incident the police discovered that Garafolo had registered at the Arlington Hotel in Binghamton, N.Y. with Louis Volpe, Joseph Bonanno (a defendant), John Bonventre (a co-conspirator, not indicted) and Joseph Barbara, Sr., who had reserved the rooms and whose local Canada Dry bottling company paid the hotel bills. Galente, when arrested, exhibited the driver's license of Joseph Di Palermo, who had a long list of alcohol violations. Tr. 2084-85, 2156.
On November 13, 1957 Sgt. Croswell observed Barbara, Jr. register for three rooms at the Parkway Motel (near Apalachin) in the name of the Canada Dry bottling company, owned by his father. Tr. 2190. When later that day two persons in an Ohio car arrived and took possession of one of the rooms, Sgt. Croswell asked the proprietor to have the two of them sign a registration card. The persons refused to do so. Tr. 2110.
That evening Sgt. Croswell contacted Agents Ruston and Brown of the United States Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Unit. Tr. 2042. He was aware of the 1956 gathering in which Barbara, Sr. had taken part, of Barbara's close association with Turrigiano and Ziamba and his conviction for illegal acquisiton of 300,000 pounds of sugar, a prime ingredient in the manufacture of alcohol, and thus believed that something having to do with their jurisdiction was brewing. Tr. 2108-09, 2207.
At approximately 12:30 p.m. on November 14, 1957, the Troopers and Federal Agents drove into the Barbara parking area. Vasisko, who was driving, testified that there was never any intention to go past that point (Tr. 1423-24), and in fact the car went no further. The officers stayed only a few minutes, during which time they observed some persons on the property and some 20 to 25 cars parked in various places, the bulk of them parked away from the normal parking area and near the Barbara barn. Tr. 2113-15, 2239, 2242, 2246. Croswell testified that he had never seen so many cars on the Barbara property before. Tr. 2240-42.”

Now, if you go to Google Maps and search up Joseph Barbara’s address at the time of the Apalachin Meeting, which in my research indicates that his residence was along Old Route 17 Near 625 McFall Road, in Apalachin, New York, you’ll see that the residence was on a hilltop and truly out in the middle of nowhere. I had a hard time myself finding the old house, but it is in fact still there and can be found on Google Maps Street View with what appears to be the original brick siding from the 50’s, though the residence is now called Hidden Farm.

In the days immediately after the Apalachin bust, authorities would brace for a Mob War asserting that all Hell was about to break loose in the streets. 

The authorities actually had pretty quickly put a lot of the pieces together, including the link to the Anastasia assassination, which indicates to me that: A) it didn’t take a dummy to figure this stuff out, B) informants were very expeditiously feeding the authorities information, and C) more than likely someone dropped a dime on the meeting. I mean they really were out in the middle of nowhere and it still got busted.

Joseph Barbara’s life, history, and both legitimate and illegitimate activities would all of the sudden be put front and center in the national spotlight.

The Binghamton Press would say the following on November 15, 1957:

“Joseph Barbara, 51, who dresses expensively, drives a Cadillac and smokes good cigars, is a man who wants to be known as a solid businessman.”

And of course, none of what I just said is illegal. Who doesn’t want to have the means to live the high life, right? But when you’re a man who has long been associated with the mob, who has been arrested multiple times over the years for many crimes including murder, and whose business has been well-known to practice strong-arm tactics, you get a certain kind of reputation that you don’t want anyone focusing on. The best mobsters are able to divert attention from their misdeeds, and don’t want them front and center. So this publicity for Barbara was more of a code red.

Reports from December of 1957 would highlight that Sergeant Edgar Croswell had been interested in Barbara’s activities since at least 1944 or 1945, stemming from an incident involving Barbara around the time.

A story in the Binghamton Press would lay out the incident:

“The story really starts back in 1944 or 1945 and State Trooper, Edgar D. Croswell, triggered it. Now it is in the state Senate chamber where the Joint Legislative Committee on Government Operations, headed by Assemblyman William S. Horan, is asking 26 of 60 participants in a session at the Apalachin residence of Joseph Barbara Sr., why they were there on Nov. 14.
Search Croswell told the story when asked by Mr. Horan why he was interested in Barbara.
‘It started back in 1944 or 1945 when I was patrolling the road,’ said the state police sergeant, a member of the plainclothes BCI.
‘I saw a man coming out of the bushes. I questioned him and his answers were vague. So I walked to where he came out of the bushes and I found two five-gallon cans of gasoline. Nearby was a truck owned by Barbara.’
‘The man told me that he had stolen the gasoline from Barbara (who then as now operated a bottling company). I called Barbara from the substation. He came down. He spoke with a thick accent and he had a gun on his belt.’
‘When I explained the situation, Barbara wanted no action taken. Gas was very scarce then, so it aroused my interest.’
Then Croswell looked into Barbara’s past. He found interesting material in Pennsylvania police files…
‘He was known as a big shot in slugging…’
Barbara had been quizzed in several murder cases, Sergeant Croswell said. In Broome County district attorney ‘has a voluminous file’ on him, he said.
The second incident was the speeding white car. Sergeant Croswell referred to it but Trooper Frederick William Leibe of Troop C. Sidney, explained how it happened. The white car flashed east on Route 17 Oct. 18, 1956, and Trooper Leibe chased it, flagging it down after 5 miles.
Driving was Carmine Galante, a mobster with a long record, as subsequently shown. Galante showed a driver’s license issued to Joseph De Palermo, another mobster with a narcotic traffic record, as later shown.
Trooper Leibe couldn’t match the physical description on the license with that of the driver. He took the driver into the substation.
Other occupants handled the speeding car and subsequently ducked away. Galante wound up in the Broome County Jail on a traffic charge.
Sergeant Croswell was intrigued by Galante’s record. He checked around and found, he testified, that Barbara had arranged rooms in Binghamton’s Arlington Hotel for Galante and some other choice characters. The bill was sent to Barbara’s bottling company.”

The report would go on to cite a third inciting incident, piquing Croswell’s interest in Barbara:

“The third incident happened on Nov. 13 this year at the Parkway Motel in Vestal. Sergeant Croswell and an associate were there making a check on a worthless check complaint when, as he testified:
‘I saw young Joseph Barbara (son of the bottler) coming in an auto. I stepped behind the wall (into the living room of the proprietor.’
‘The proprietor’s wife waited on him. He engaged three rooms for the night and charged them to the Canada Dry Bottling Co. of Endicott that is owned by Joseph Barbara, Sr. He did not know what men were coming. He said a convention of Canada Dry men was being held.’
Sergeant Croswell was asked why he stepped out of sight when the son arrived.
‘Normal routine,’ Sergeant Croswell replied. ‘We have checked on the father’s activities a number of times. It’s interesting what you hear if you are out of sight.’
From that incident, Sergeant Croswell stirred around. He found expensive cars in the area. That led to the descent of state police and federal men on the Barbara home the next day.”

So it’s clear, this confrontation between Croswell and Barbara had been a long-time coming, and eventually drew in the national syndicate, at least if you believe Croswell’s story. 

And as I stated earlier, I don’t buy the story that Croswell was just a goody-two-shoes law enforcement official with a particular hard-on for Barbara. I think he had help and collusion on multiple levels leading up to the meeting.

Two days after the meeting, Barbara’s son Joseph Barbara, Jr., who was also picked up during the raid, would be arrested and charged with third-degree assault on a New York City reporter named Charles Carson who’d been sent to cover the story. 

The roundup would also stir up inquiries into old murder cases including the disappearance of two Endicott hoods ten years earlier whose bodies had never been found. As you might expect, federal probers would begin to scrutinize Barbara’s criminal records and all business operations.

Again, just more unwanted attention. 

While I won’t get too much deeper into the Apalachin meeting itself (that’ll be a whole separate episode), U.S. Attorney Paul W. Williams would be quoted in The Scranton Tribune as saying the following about the national combination:

“The meeting was a further indication of a criminal syndicate operating on a nationwide scale with an annual take of $2,280,000,000. The syndicate nets about $180 million in dope, $100 million in extortion and between $1 billion and $2 billion in off-track gambling.”

Now, I don’t know where they got those numbers, which seem immense even by today’s standards, but it just gives you an idea of the hold the mob had across the country.

In the days, weeks, and years after Apalachin, the FBI would conduct extensive investigations into the reasons behind the meeting as well as many of its attendees, including our subject Joe Barbara. Before long, they had informants feeding them information—some accurate and some not—and had built large dossiers of information on all attendees.

Ostensibly, when apprehended many of the mafioso would claim that they were visiting a sick friend or that it was a pleasure trip at the invitation of Barbara. 

And while Barbara had become quite literally ill by that point in time, both in reality and due to the fiasco that unfolded at his home (he was receiving weekly doctor visits at his home according to informants), we know in hindsight that it was most certainly not the real reason for the large national gathering.

The falsehood of the sick call excuse, although Barbara actually was sick, was actually shared by another informant who’d had a conversation with Barbara’s son, Joseph Barbara Jr. in which the younger Barbara stated “my father did not invite them. They told him they were having the meeting.”

One of the reports of the true reason for the meeting came from the Albany, New York Field Office, which details information shared by a confidential informant dubbed T-28 regarding the supposed origins of the meeting:

“On April 18, 1958, Albany Confidential Informant T-8, contact with whom has been insufficient to determine reliability and who is an Italian businessman at Apalachin, New York, advised Special Agents Patrick A. Munley and James C. Mee that he was born at raised at [redacted] Pennsylvania, and that he has known Dominick Alaimo, Russell Bufalino, James Ostico and Angelo Sciandra, all of Pittston, Pennsylvania, who are hoodlums who attended instant meeting at Joseph Barbara, Sr.’s estate on November 14, 1957, as being members of the Sicilian Group in the Pittston area.”
“T-28 related that Santo Volpe of Pittston, Pennsylvania, is the head of all the Sicilians on the Eastern Coast and that he is probably the individual who gave the orders for the meeting which was held at Barbara’s. T-28 said that Barbara, from his observations of the Sicilians, would rank about either number three or four in the Sicilian group.”
“The informant said that the group that met at Barbara’s was made up of mostly ‘muscle men’ and apparently few of the real leaders of the Sicilians. He said that from his knowledge of the Sicilians he would say that the meeting was for the purpose of instructing those that were there concerning the new ‘bosses’ so that they would return to their own areas and pass the word to other Sicilians in the group.”
“T-28 stated that the Sicilians for years have been running the ‘rackets’ in the Pittston, Pennsylvania area, and that he has observed the activities of the individuals mentioned above who were at the meeting and others in the Pittston area, and knows that they have always been involved in some kind of illegal activity.”

Of course with hindsight being 20/20, we know that this note is bullshit and the meeting was in fact engineered by Vito Genovese, handed to Stefano Magaddino to organize, who then passed the orders for the tactical execution to Russell Bufalino and Joe Barbara. On the agenda of course was the assassination of Albert Anastasia, the attempted killing of Frank Costello, the ascension of both Genovese and Carlo Gambino to the heads of their respective families, and of course other necessary business discussions.

After the fiasco of the meeting, it was said that Barbara became a bit of a recluse and did not often leave the estate according to people who worked there. Barbara’s attending physician, a man named Dr. Louis Borelli, would be noted as somewhat chastising Barbara for having such a large meeting and the level of activity surrounding it despite doctor’s orders to take it easy, but I think we know that your first loyalty is the the Mafia and when the families call, he had no choice but to answer. 

The authorities would form a “Watchdog Group” to probe the purposes of the meeting, many Grand Juries would be convened and many mobsters would be questioned, plead the 5th and/or repeat the claims of visiting a sick friend, and would subsequently be charged with contempt for not giving up the true purpose of the meeting, with a few even doing prison time.

As for Barbara, the raid essentially ended his career in the mob for all intents and purposes.

As of 1958, Barbara’s doctor would report that he had a very bad heart condition and that the only reason he was still alive by 1958 was due to the fact that he’d had an operation. The doctor would advise that any excitement would quite literally kill him, and that Barbara would be under doctor’s orders to avoid work. 

Now, we all know that feigning illness is an old Mafia tactic to avoid law enforcement’s clutches, and the government pressure was white-hot after the Apalachin meeting. However, in this case the reports were legit, Barbara was very, very sick.

By December of 1957, the State Liquor Authority of New York would move to revoke Barbara’s license, claiming the funds of the Canada Dry Bottling company were used secretly to “defray expenses incurred by certain persons of notoriously evil reputation.” In fact, later reports would show that some of the actual charges for hotel stays related to the attendance of several mobsters including: John Sarava, John La Rocca, and Mike Genovese would actually be charged to the Canada Dry Bottling Company. Business expense, right?!? Barbara would ultimately choose not to fight the charges.

In 1958, Barbara approached a fellow colleague in the Canada Dry Bottling Company out of Syracuse named John Bersani, who he asked to handle the sale of his franchise, and Bersani appears to have helped Barbara sell his stake in the company for approximately $320,000-$350,000 depending on which report you read (roughly $4M in today’s money) to a man named Carl Touhey of Albany, New York, although some reports would quote the sale price as being $250,000. 

So in addition to grossing several million per year with the plant, he was able to cash out before his health problems would catch up to him.

However, reports two months after he sold his business would indicate that Barbara owed various creditors $50,000, which obviously was also not good.

In September of 1958, reports out of The Buffalo News would indicate that Barbara’s lavish 58-acre estate would be put up for auction, and in May of 1959, reports indicated that Barbara would sell his home for $130,000 to a developer who immediately announced plans to convert it to a tourist attraction. The infamous estate would open for public tours in May of 1959.

Barbara himself would move back to Endicott, New York, residing at 405 Loder Avenue.

So by this point, Barbara was unloading assets, was in failing health, and his life had become somewhat of a media spectacle with almost daily stories in the various newspapers with his name front and center.

By November of 1958, a year after the raid, Barbara faced arrest when he refused to honor a subpoena by failing to show up to testify in front of the New York State Investigative Commission. Barbara’s attorneys would appeal the court ruling which had contended that the subpoena that had been taped to his door in September of 1958 was legally served. 

In February of 1959, Barbara’s son Joe Jr. would be arrested and indicted on five counts of perjury.

And because the bad news just wouldn’t stop by this point, in March of 1959, Joseph Barbara Sr. who had forestalled any and all attempts to question him for almost a year and a half was indicted for income tax evasion.

The 11-count indictment handed down by the federal grand jury in Syracuse, New York charged Barbara with failure to report $38,000 in taxable income from 1952-1956 and making fraudulent returns for his beverage business in 1954, 1955 and 1956. If convicted, he was facing 43 years in prison and a fine of $80,000.

And by this point we know that this is a classic law enforcement approach. If you can’t get the well-insulated gangster on any other charges, follow their tax returns. 

Just a month after his indictment, Barbara would finally show up in a courtroom in a wheelchair, where the media would get their first picture of him in many years, as he remained tight-lipped, refusing to give up any information and complaining that he “didn’t feel so good.” This would be his first time out of seclusion in the 18 months after the raid, and was probably his last. He would post $10,000 bail, plead innocent, and return home, though he’d be declared fit to stand trial.

And while these law enforcement tactics might have ultimately worked on Barbara, in the end it would not matter. 

On May 30, 1959, Barbara would suffer yet another heart attack for which he would be admitted to Wilson Memorial Hospital in Johnson City, New York where his condition would be reported as “acutely ill” and in critical condition.

Just a few weeks later, on June 17, 1959, that would all end when Joseph Barbara would die of complications related to the May 30th heart attack at the age of 53 at Wilson Memorial Hospital in Johnson City, New York. He would go to the grave without ever revealing anything.

After word spread of his passing, FBI documents would suggest that more than 500 underworld figures reached out to the family to pay their respects. The report would read as follows:

“In the report of SA Arthur V. Hart, dated August 26, 1959, at Albany (page 26) information is set out obtained by New York from Confidential Informant Albany T-4 on June 23, 1959, who said he attended the funeral of Joseph Barbara, Sr. between June 18 and June 22, 1959, at Binghamton, New York. He mentioned that Joseph Barbara, Jr. came into Ryans Bar on several occasions with five large sheets of paper containing a list of an estimated 500 names of underworld people who wished their respects to be paid to the Joseph Barbara, Sr. family. The Informant explained that when a person in Barbara’s position died, combination people call their immediate boss and ask if they are to attend the funeral and in the event they are advised against going or are unable to attend they ask that their names be put on the list. The Informant said the list is then carried to the family of the deceased and after the funeral the family will send a thank-you note as if flowers or some other gift had been received.”

So, whether it was just Mafia protocol or not, 500 people sending their respects is quite a lot, and something I think we would all aspire to after we’re gone.

Most members were advised to stay away, but sent their respects, and the names I came across within FBI reports who sent representatives to pay their respects were pretty much a who’s who of the mob and included people sent by the likes of Vito Genovese, Tony Accardo, Meyer Lansky, Vincent Rao, Mike Miranda, Carmine Galante, as well as guys from New Orleans. And some members eschewed the warnings and attended anyway, including the Magliocco brothers Joe and Tony of the Profaci family.

Now this is respect.

According to a note I read, there was a prominent belief amongst the mob and family members that law enforcement had hounded Barbara so much after Apalachin that they were primarily responsible for his death, and in the days before the funeral when Barbara’s body was being stored at his home, there were guards present to “shakedown” and question any people visiting the home whenever they did not appear to be “one of the boys.”

In all, 125 people would attend Barbara’s funeral including several Apalachin attendees at Calvary Cemetery in Johnson City within Broome County, New York. He would be buried in a silver-plated and copper-lined casket, though the funeral would take place under glowering skies and intermittent drizzle of rain. 

As the funeral reached its conclusion, Barbara’s 20-year-old grief-stricken daughter screamed at photographers and news reporters covering the funeral lashing out with the following:

“Don’t you have a guilty conscience? You call us murderers, but you’re the biggest murderers of us all.”

And honestly, who can blame her for being upset. This is after all her father, and he was relatively young. But the flip side is that he was a leader within the Mafia and the people who tend to suffer the most, outside of the many victims, are the families of mobsters.

So when I hear stories like this, while dramatic and made for television to be sure, it also kind of fills me with a bit of sadness.

While Joseph Barbara’s name is often an afterthought in the pantheon of mob lore, I can promise you that this guy was one of the more underrated, powerful, and respected guys in the country at one point in time with the American Cosa Nostra. 

However, he is more often than not thought of in a negative light due to the way things ended, which to be honest really wasn’t his fault. He shouldered a lot of the weight for what happened, fairly or unfairly, but he kept his mouth shut and went to the grave with everyone’s secrets.

Though he tried to be a respectable businessman in his later years, he came up as a true blue gangster and I thought his mob career, while I don’t like to glorify it too much, was worth a deep-dive, which I hope you find interesting.

An article in the Binghamton Press the day after Barbara’s death summed up Barbara’s life with an idealistic and for this episode, appropriate, view of Barbara’s life and vision before and after the events that he is most widely associated with. I won’t read the whole article as I think only the first part is pertinent:

Respectability Exploded After Raid
“Joseph Barbara, who tried to disguise an underworld life behind a facade of genteel respectability, lived to see his cherished dream dashed in a wave of headlines, investigations and notoriety.
His very name and the name of Apalachin, where he had lived as a country squire, became synonyms of big-time crime.
The short, stocky, black-haired man came to this country in 1921 from Sicily as an obscure immigrant.
He had lived in the Endicott-Apalachin area since 1934. Until the notorious gangland convention at his Apalachin estate, he was regarded by almost all of those who knew him as a hard-working and successful businessman.
Few had any idea that Barbara’s past contained links to unsolved murders in the Scranton-Wilkes Barre-Pittston area, or that he was well acquainted with many of the country’s top hoodlums.
The facade he had worked so hard to create was destroyed on the balmy afternoon of Nov. 14, 1957, when he played host at what was to become the most famous barbeque in history.”

After Barbara’s death, his close friend Russell Bufalino would take over the Cosa Nostra family in Northeastern Pennsylvania, which would eventually come to be known as the Bufalino Crime Family. He would go on to rule the family for the next 30+ years, garnering an incredible amount of respect and underworld notoriety in his own right.

But the man before Bufalino was Barbara, and I think his era should be remembered as well even despite how things ended.

Final Thoughts & Closing

Okay, that’s it for this episode! Again, as always it was another expansive episode, but I sincerely hope that you maybe learned something you didn’t know before. I know I found out plenty of new information (at least to me) as I was going through the research process.

There are a few things coming up next.

First, I’ve got an interview lined up where we’ll be covering a pretty infamous mob lawyer, Roy Cohn, which will be part of an ongoing series throughout 2024.

Second, I will be working on an episode covering Angelo Bruno in the 1970’s with the goal of putting you right on the doorstep of the events that ultimately culminated in his assassination, which is to be followed by an episode specifically covering his assassination and the immediate fallout. The Bruno episodes have been so well-received and I’d really like to finish the saga.

Before we close, if you’d like to get in touch with the show you can still email me at membersonlypodcastshow@gmail.com or you can send me a note at my new show email which is ganglandhistorypodcast@gmail.com.

For those of you that are long-time listeners, know that I appreciate you and I’d love if you’d continue to watch and share my show! For those of you that are new listeners, let me know what you think in the comments on YouTube, and if you enjoyed my content please subscribe. 

I’ll end as I always do! Until next time, gratzie!

Online Sources:

Jacob Stoops, the host of The Gangland History Podcast

Jacob Stoops

Host of the Gangland History Podcast

This podcast sits at the intersection of my life-long love for history, my love of mob movies, my now decades-long fascination with the Mafia, as well as my passion for content creation.