University Archives


Mafia Boss Joe Bananas in Image Archive

JOSEPH "JOE BANANAS" BONANNO, Archive of sixteen photographs, most with captions, regarding his life, ca. 1959-1972. 3.25" x 4.25" to 8.5" x 11". Some aging but overall very good.

These captioned photographs detail the end of the career of Joseph Bonanno as the leader of the Bonanno crime family of New York City, including his bizarre disappearance in 1964, allegedly the result of a kidnapping, and his equally bizarre reappearance nineteen months later at a New York courthouse. Other photographs deal with his life in Arizona and his younger son’s brushes with the justice system.

Highlights and Excerpts:

Photograph of Bonanno exiting car in Tuscon, May 21, 1959

“Bonanno, one of the men who attended the Apalchin meeting, was picked up at 5:30 a.m. (mst) today by two federal narcotics agents and five Tuscon police officers…. Bonanno was arraigned on charges of obstructing justice.”

The Apalchin meeting was a summit of the American mafia at the home of Joseph Barbara in Apalchin, New York, on November 14, 1957. Authorities raided the meeting and arrested more than sixty.

Photograph of Bonanno, 1959, with caption from October 21, 1964

“Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno, 59, above, was kidnaped in New York early today, police say. Bonanno was named in U.S. Senate testimony by Joseph Valachi as a Cosa Nostra leader. Police said Bonanno was kidnaped by two gunmen from a parked car on Park avenue. He is under subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury in New York.”

Photograph of entrance to New York apartment building, October 21, 1964

“This is the entrance to a Park Avenue apartment building in New York where two gunmen allegedly grabbed reputed gangland leader Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno early today and dragged him off to a waiting getaway car. Bonanno’s lawyer, William P. Maloney, said he and his client were together at the building doorway when the gunmen moved in. Bonanno, an alleged chieftain in the Cosa Nostra, was supposed to appear before a federal grand jury today.”

Photograph of Bonanno, 1959, with caption from October 21, 1965

“GANGLAND BARON STILL MISSING—One year ago today Joe Bananas, above, disappeared in what appeared to be a kidnaping by two gunmen on a Manhattan sidewalk. He is still missing despite a world-wide search for him. On the day he disappeared Bananas was to have appeared before a Federal grand jury investigating the rackets.

Photograph of Bonanno, 1959, with caption from May 17, 1966

“Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno, Cosa Nostra figure who disappeared mysteriously on Oct. 21, 1964, surrendered to Federal authorities today in New York.”

Photograph of Bonanno, his attorney, and newspaper reporter, May 17, 1966

“Long-missing Mafia leader Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno pauses to talk to UPI reporter Robert Evans on steps of courthouse here 5/17 as he arrives to surrender to federal authorities. Bonanno is accompanied by his attorney, Albert J. Krieger. His appearance ended a worldwide manhunt that began 19 months ago when he was reportedly kidnaped at gunpoint on the eve of his scheduled appearance before a rackets grand jury.”

Photograph of Bonanno leaving Tuscon hospital in wheelchair, June 12, 1968

“Joe Bonanno, whose name has been closely linked to the Mafia, checked out of St. Joseph’s Hospital today after being under observation for a possible heart condition. Bonanno, 63, was admitted for observation last Wednesday complaining of chest pains. He had been scheduled to appear before the Kings County grand jury in Brooklyn the following day. The jury is investigating hoodlum killings. The hospital switchboard received a call late yesterday afternoon saying that Bonanno would be killed in the hospital last night.”

Photograph of damaged brick wall at Bonanno home in Tucson, July 23, 1968

“Tucson Police and Firemen survey the damage to a rear wall of reputed Mafia leader Joseph Bonanno. The blast occurred late Monday night less than 24 hours after a pickup truck owned by Pete Licavoli, reputed Detroit Mafia leader, was demolished.”

Photograph of Joseph C. Bonanno Jr., February 18, 1972

“SAN JOSE, CALIF. Joseph C. Bonanno Jr., 26, sentenced here Monday in federal court to 20 years for extortion and conspiracy was arrested on another conspiracy charge involving the alleged threat on the life of a government witness in Arizona. Bonanno, who had been free on bail pending appeal of the conviction, was returned to jail and ordered to appear at 10 a.m. Wednesday in U.S. District Court at San Francisco.”

Joseph Bonanno (1905-2002) was born in Sicily, where his father was involved in organized crime. Bonanno immigrated to New York City with his family in 1908, and lived there for ten years before moving back to Italy. He returned to the United States illegally in 1924, and when Salvatore Maranzano was murdered in 1931, Bonanno became one of the youngest-ever bosses of a crime family. The Bonanno family had several legitimate businesses, including coat manufacturing, laundries, cheese suppliers, funeral homes, and a trucking company, but also participated in illegal gambling, loansharking, and narcotics. Bonanno, also known as “Joe Bananas,” led the Bonanno family as one of the Five Families that dominated organized crime in New York City and the United States. In 1963, Bonanno made plans to assassinate several rivals on the Mafia Commission, but the hit man told the other bosses, forcing Bonanno to go into hiding. When the Commission named another person to lead the Bonanno family, a four-year “Banana War” erupted, dividing the family. In 1966, Bonanno returned to New York, but after a heart attack in 1968, he agreed to reunite the family by retiring as boss and moving to Arizona, leaving others to run the family. Bonanno served two terms in prison in the 1980s, and in 1983, published A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno. He died of heart failure at the age of 97.

Joseph Bonanno Jr. (1945-2005) was born in New York, moved to Arizona with his family in 1968, and studied animal husbandry at the University of Arizona. He later owned a ranch in California, where he raised horses.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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