Luciano, “Lucky”


Wilbur R. Miller

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Publication Date


Publication Title

The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia



Publisher Location

Thousand Oaks, CA

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American organized crime figure “Lucky” Luciano (1897–1962) was born Salvatore Lucania in Lercara Friddi, Sicily, near Palermo, and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1906. Lucania quickly became enmeshed with the criminal underworld of New York City's Lower East Side, notching his first arrest (for shoplifting) a year after his arrival. As he reached his teen years, Luciano graduated to shakedown antics and, through physical intimidation, assumed a position of leadership in the junior gangland of his neighborhood. As a teenager, he was imprisoned for six months for selling narcotics; upon his release, he resumed his criminal career. With the advent of Prohibition in 1920, Luciano's horizons broadened. He was at the near-midpoint of the ambitious cohort of criminals born between 1892 and 1900 that historian Mark Haller identifies as ascending in power during Prohibition. Within this group of predominantly Italian and Jewish immigrants and first-generation American slum dwellers, Luciano distinguished himself quite early. Associating himself with several groups involved with importing—and hijacking—shipments of illegal spirits, Luciano became a rising star in the bootlegging world, associating with notables like Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Vito Genovese, “Legs” Diamond, “Lepke” Buchalter, Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, and Arthur Flegenheimer (“Dutch” Schultz).


History; Luciano; Lucky; 1897-1962; Mafia; Organized crime; Prohibition; United States


American Popular Culture | American Studies | Criminal Law | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Social History | United States History




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Publisher Citation

Schwartz, D. (2012). Luciano, “Lucky”. In Wilbur R. Miller (Ed.), The social history of crime and punishment in America: An encylopedia. (pp. 1048-1049). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781452218427.n408

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