Italian American Digest JT DIGEST Summer 2018 June First (1) - Page 7

SUMMER 2018 I talian A merican D igest PAGE 7 throw cup and by 1980 had con- vinced the Krewes of Alla, Bacchus, Rhea and Argus to use his cups as throws. The decorated cups were extremely popular and have become a fixture of almost every parade. The cups are fun souvenirs and immedi- ately useful. Today the Giacona Container Corp. makes more than one million cups for Mardi Gras annually. - Megan Celona STANDARD FRUIT In 1899, Sicilian brothers Felix, Luca and Joseph Vaccaro, along with brother in law Salvador D’Antoni, began importing bananas from La Ceiba, Honduras to New Orleans. By 1915, they were so successful that they had bought most of New Orleans’ ice factories to store their banana ships in, and Joseph Vaccaro was known as the “Ice King.” In 1924, they established the Stan- dard Fruit and Steamship Company. The company, along with the United Fruit Company, had a signifi- cant impact on the governments of Honduras and other Central Ameri- can countries often called “banana republics” due to the extreme influ- ence the fruit companies had over the nations. Between 1964 and 1968, Castle & Cooke Corporation acquired the Standard Fruit and Steamship Com- pany. - Megan Celona LYNCHING On October 15, 1890, someone shot New Orleans police chief David Hennessy on his way home from work. There were no witnesses. Hennessy was brought to the hos- pital where he allegedly uttered the derogatory word “dagoes”; Hennessy died of complications the next day. Hennessy had been investigating the Provenzano and Matranga fami- lies who were business rivals.There- fore, it was widely believed that Hennessy’s killers were Italian. Within 24 hours, the police had arrested 45 Italians and rounded up as many as 250. They eventually charged 19 men with murder, ac- cessories to murder, or lying in wait charges. A trial for nine of the sus- pects began in February 1891. Across the nation, newspapers covered the trial, introducing the term “Mafia” to the general public. During the trial, little evidence was presented; much of it circum- stantial. The jury decided that two An advertisement for the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company promoting the S.S. Cefalu, the S.S. Atlantida and the S.S. Contessa men were not guilty by directed verdict and four of the defendants not guilty; they asked the judge to declare a mistrial for the remain- ing three. Instead of being released, the nine men were sent back to prison to await charges of “ly- ing in wait” with intent to commit murder; a charge which would have to be dropped with the not guilty verdict. The mass meeting quickly turned into a mob which stormed the parish prison, breaking the door with a bat- tering ram. Prison warden Lemuel Davis let the 19 Italians out of their cells and told them to hide. The mob hanged and shot two Italians outside the prison and shot or clubbed nine other Italians to death inside the prison. The New York Times headline the day after the lynching was, “Chief Hennessy Avenged...Italian Murder- ers Shot Down.” This strained relations between the United States and Italy. Italy wanted the lynch mob prosecuted and repa- rations be paid to the deceased men’s families. When no one was prose- cuted, Italy withdrew its ambassador from Washington and then the U.S. withdrew its legation from Rome. There were rumors of war. After an impasse of over one year, President Benjamin Harrison used his executive power to pay a $25,000 indemnity to the victims’ families. - Megan Celona THE AXEMAN By March of 1919, the Italian community of New Orleans was in a panic. Since December, 1917, some- one had brutally attacked three Ital- ian grocers in the city – with three fatalities. The assailant broke into residential groceries in the dead of night, and assaulted the grocer in his bed, usu- ally with his own axe. After the most recent attack, such fear spread through the city that some residents – and not only Italians – bought guns and began staying up all night to protect their families. On December 17, 1917, the “Axe- man,” as the press nicknamed him, had attacked Epifanio Andollina as he slept beside his wife behind their store. Andollina survived. Five months later, Catherine and Joseph Maggio were not so lucky. In Au- gust 1918, Joseph Romano also was killed, bashed in the head with an axe while he slept. The Axeman had actually begun his campaign in late summer of 1910. An unknown assailant struck gro- cer August Crutti in the head with a butcher’s cleaver one night in Au- gust. Crutti wasn’t badly injured. But a middle-of-the-night attack the next month left both Joseph and Conchet- ta Rissetto badly cut up. The “Cleaver” – as he was called then – didn’t manage to kill anyone until June 1911, when he murdered grocer Joe Davi in his bed. Then he disappeared. When the killer reappeared almost seven years later, Superintendent of Police Frank Mooney tried ev- erything he could think of to catch him, with no results. But perhaps the Axeman felt the pressure of the police hunt, because in March 1919, he crossed the river to Gretna. There, after midnight on March 9, he struck again – badly injuring grocer Charlie Cortimiglia and his wife Rosie and killing their two-year-old daughter. Although Superintendent Mooney was confident the assailant was the “fiend” that had been active in his own city, the Gretna authorities, probably induced – at least in part – by anti-Italian prejudice, became convinced that the killers were the victims’ next door neighbors, the Jordanos. Eventually, Rosie was per- suaded—perhaps even coerced—to Tricentennial cont. on page 8 Anytime is the Right Time... 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