IN DEATH, THE MYSTERIOUS SALVATORE D’AQUILA IS REVEALED – OCTOBER 10, 1928
Although mostly forgotten today by mainstream audiences, Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila was one of the most powerful Mafioso figures to emerge prior to Prohibition. Formerly a member of the eponymous Morello crime family based out of Harlem, D’Aquila struck out on his own following the extended prison sentences of Giuseppe “The Clutching Hand” Morello and Ignazio Lupo in the late 1910s.
Described as a ruthless and feared man, D’Aquila came to be viewed as the “boss of bosses” among the Mafia assembly of the day with Morello’s absence. And when Morello and Lupo returned in the 1920s, D’Aquila’s power had become so omnipotent that the two former gang chiefs had to negotiate peace treaties to suspend death sentences.
While known to select few authorities, D’Aquila was a highly secretive man. He was not known to the press and never photographed previously despite two minor arrests that resulted in acquittals in 1906 and 1909 for fraud and being a suspicious person. He had no set office locations or hideouts. This method kept him firmly in power for nearly 18 years and through most of Prohibition until the emergence of a man who matched his ambition — Joe “The Boss” Masseria.
On October 10, 1928, the 57-year old D’Aquila left his Bronx home with his wife and four children for a doctor’s appointment in Manhattan. The family sans D’Aquila entered the office while the Mafia leader tinkered with a troubling engine. He was approached by three men (at least one source hints that one of the men was D’Aquila’s underboss (Manfredi “Al” Mineo). An argument quickly ensued and the men fired on the Mafia boss at point blank range.
D’Aquila suffered multiple wounds to his dorsal spinal cord, left lung, stomach , left kidney, heart and throat. The doctor, who witnessed the shooting from his office, ran out as the killers escaped and a crowd gathered. D’Aquila was taken back into the doctor’s office but expired before help arrived.
D’Aquila’s murder, along with the slaying of Frankie Yale in July, cleared the path for Masseria’s rise as the preeminent mob figure in New York. In death, most outlets at the time failed to grasp the importance of D’Aquila’s status, with many referring to him as a wealthy cheese importer and only hinting at possible connections with Yale.
Ironically, it would take death for us to finally see a glimpse of one of the longest reigning boss of bosses.
“Salvatore D’Aquila Death Certificate” State of New York Dept. of Health, Certificate of Death #25482, October 10, 1928
“Link Murder in Manhattan Uale Death” The Standard Union, October 11, 1928
The First Family, Mike Dash, Random House, 2009