Frankie Yale (also spelled Ioele or Uale) was an Italian-American gangster known as the “Forgotten Boss.” Yale was born in Longobucco, Italy on January 22, 1893 and a few years later in 1901, he and his family immigrated to New York. While he was a teenager, Yale befriended gangster John “Papa Johnny” Torrio. Torrio returned the favor by getting him in with the Five Points Gang in Lower Manhattan. This was the start of a life of crime for Yale. Even as a youngster, Yale had a reputation for being violent. People knew him as a street fighter as well as a thief. In 1909, Torrio left New York for the Chicago underworld. In his wake, Yale adopted Torrio’s beliefs: business above all else. Yale started with basic racketeering and worked his way up the ladder, eventually taking over Brooklyn’s ice delivery trade. Yale would sell his services as protection and then created monopolies. In 1917, with all the revenue he had gathered, Yale opened up the Harvard Inn, a bar in Coney Island. It was here that Al Capone got his start. Capone got his famous scars at the Harvard Inn after making a pass at Frank Galluccio’s sister. After working for Yale for a couple of years, Capone moved to Chicago and joined forces with Torrio. Yale was involved in the Black Hand, which was an extortion scheme that sent a letter to a victim. The letter threatened bodily harm, kidnapping, arson, or murder and demanded a set amount of money to be delivered to a specific place. Along with the Black Hand, Yale’s gang ran a chain of brothels in New York. He also took part in protection and labor racketeering. This included protection to local merchants and controlling food services for restaurants, as well as ice deliveries in Brooklyn. Yale’s gang became the first new-style Mafia Family in New York. As a front, Yale sold cigars and ran a funeral home, which was located across the street from his own home in Brooklyn. All of this leads us to the 1920s. And you know what that means: Prohibition. Yale set his sights on booze and became one of the biggest bootleggers in all of New York. Yale never wavered when it came to assaulting or killing people when it benefitted him. In 1920, Torrio and Capone called upon Yale to assassinate Giacomo “Big Jim” Colosimo. Yale travelled to Chicago for his chance to finally kill the boss of the underworld. It’s been said that Yale was questioned by police for the murder of Colosimo, but the witness that had come forward was frightened of Yale and denied ever seeing him. Yale was cleared of all charges. Four years later, Capone once again called upon Yale for an assassination. Capone had taken over the underworld after Torrio retired. On November 10, 1924, Yale and his accomplices, John Scalise and Albert Anselmi, walked into the Schofield Flower Shop and killed Dean O’Banion. Police arrested Yale at Union Station in Chicago as he was about to leave to go back to New York. Yale claimed he had come to town for the funeral of Mike Merlo and had stayed to see old friends. Yale also claimed that he was having lunch at the time of O’Banion’s murder. As police could not disprove his alibi, Yale was released. Back in New York, Yale spent a lot of time clashing with a group of Irish-American mobsters, the White Hand Gang. The conflict reached its peak in late 1925 at the Adonis Club. Capone was in town visiting his son, and he and a few of Yale’s men were involved in the incident at the Adonis Club on December 26, 1925. There are a couple of different versions of what went down that day. One version says that Richard “Pegleg” Lonergan, boss of the White Hand gang, lead his men into the club to attack the Yale crew when they were gathering for their Christmas Party. However, Yale was ready for him and had Capone and his men ready to ambush Lonergan and his men. Aaron Harms, James “Ragtime” Howard, Paddy Malone, Cornelius “Needles” Ferry, and James Hart were all a part of Lonergan’s crew that day. Lonergan, Ferry, and Harms were killed, and Hart was severely
wounded. The other version of the story comes from examining the police reports and witness accounts. These suggest that the deadly altercation at the Adonis Club was not planned, it was an impromptu reaction to an argument that Ferry instigated with Capone and Yale’s men. Yale was one of the most powerful gangsters in the mid-1920s. But he made the mistake of crossing the most power gangster of all, his good friend Capone. In the spring of 1927, Yale had been supplying Capone with Canadian whiskey for quite some time. Yale would oversee the landing of the alcohol and make sure the trucks made it safely through New York. But many of the trucks began to get hijacked before they left Brooklyn. Capone asked James “Filesy” DeAmato to look into the hijackings. DeAmato reported back to Capone that Yale was the one hijacking the whiskey. DeAmato was gunned down on a Brooklyn street corner on July 7, 1927. Capone, trying to save the friendship between himself and Yale, invited Yale to Chicago for the Dempsey-Tunney heavyweight title rematch in September of 1927. The visit was civil, at best, and their friendship continued to decline after Yale returned to New York. In the spring of 1928, Capone planned his retaliation. On July 1, 1928, Yale was at the Sunrise Club when he received an odd phone call saying something was wrong with Yale’s wife Lucy. Yale, left the club in a hurry and drove towards home. While speeding towards home, his car was ambushed by a Buick carrying 4 armed men inside. The men in the Buick peppered Yale’s car with bullets, causing Yale to crash into the stoop of a brownstone house. Yale had been assassinated. Capone was questioned for the murder, but was never convicted. Yale’s murder marked the first time that the Thompson submachine gun was used in a New York gang war. While Yale is generally overlooked in history, he was one of the leading gangsters in New York in the 1920s. Yale’s murder ended up being the first in a string of events that facilitated Joe Masseria’s attempt to consolidate all of New York’s Mafia families under his control, which eventually lead to the Castellammarese War.