Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Deep Water shines a "penetrating light"

“In their frank telling of Macheca's epic life story, authors Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon shine a penetrating light into the shadowy dealings of Gilded Age New Orleans. They present a convincing case for the inextricability of organized crime and organized politics in that era... Along the way, they document some of the more significant and colorful events in Louisiana history.”

- Joseph Maselli
FounderAmerican Italian Renaissance Foundation
New Orleans, LA

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Positive review from Blogcritics

Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia earned very favorable notice from Blogcritics.org reviewer Scott M. Deitche.

"...This is one of the more foundational organized crime books ever written...," Deitche wrote in a review published yesterday. "Thomas Hunt brings the story alive through his rich attention to details. You can practically smell the fetid air of the New Orleans waterfront."

"...Rich familial history [is] intertwined with the background history," Deitche noted. "I think in teaming with Martha Macheca Sheldon, Hunt made a smart move. Anecdotal family stories bring a dimension to the Macheca saga that you rarely get from a general Mafia book. Not wanting to lavish too much praise on the authors, but it's always exciting to find a new way to approach a subject..."

The review concluded, "Deep Water is a worthy addition to the organized crime canon and the greater body of books on Civil War-era America."

The full text of the review is available online at: Blogcritics.org.

The review already has been picked up and republished on Boston.com (the Boston Globe's website) and Cleveland.com (the Cleveland Plain Dealer's website).

Scott M. Deitche is an authority on organized crime. He is the author of two books on the Tampa, Florida, crime family: The Silent Don and Cigar City Mafia.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

St. Louis event a "huge success"

Martha signs a copy of Deep Water.

We wish to express our thanks to all who came out to tonight's reading/booksigning event in St. Louis, MO. Management of the Ladue Crossing Barnes and Noble was surprised by the large turnout and termed the event a "huge success." We also wish to thank Jennifer L. Lynch, community relations manager of the Barnes and Noble store, for her assistance in planning the event.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Booksigning in St. Louis on June 19

We invite you to attend a reading and booksigning for Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 19, in the Ladue Crossing Barnes and Noble in St. Louis, MO.

Hardcover and paperback copies of Deep Water will be available for sale before and during the event.

Coauthor Martha Sheldon, a descendant of the New Orleans Macheca family, is a native of St. Louis. She is a graduate of Villa Duchesne Sacred Heart and of Washington University. She has held volunteer positions with SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Malcolm Bliss Mental Health Center and Barnes Jewish/Christian Hospital. She and her daughter reside in the city.

This is the second signing event for Deep Water, which was released in February by iUniverse.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Deep Water signing draws a crowd

We wish to express our thanks to all who helped make tonight's booksigning event in New Orleans such a success, in particular John Macheca, Andrew Dodenhoff, and Britton and Deb from Garden District Book Shop. The event, originally scheduled for 5-7 p.m., had to be extended to 9 p.m.

We were delighted by the large turnout and by the opportunity to meet with former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu and his wife Verna, American Italian Foundation President Joseph Maselli, historical researcher Doug Casey of Metairie and historian/entrepreneur Fernando Cuquet of Mississippi, as well as the many descendants of the Macheca clan who stopped in for the event.

Tom speaks with Fernando Cuquet.

Martha meets with Joseph Maselli.

The authors are interviewed by Christopher Tidmore (99.5 FM).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Early reviews and endorsements

“Deep Water is a memorable reading experience. It is both a vivid down-to-earth description of ante- and post-bellum New Orleans, and also significant history, with colorful documents and episodes from the lives of ordinary people. Once you start reading it, it is hard to put down. The denouement, the murder of Joseph Macheca in the midst of a mass lynching, has never before been told so closely from Macheca business records. This book will force a reassessment of a famous event in the history of American organized crime.”

- Peter Dale Scott
Author of Deep Politics and the Death of JFK.

“An excellent, meticulously detailed ... account of the birth of the American Mafia and a wonderful study of New Orleans from the Civil War/Reconstruction periods up through the famous mass lynching. Macheca comes across as a fascinating rogue. Deep Water ... shows a marvelous objectivity and a close analytical reportage based on the best available evidence.”

- Rick Mattix
Editor of On the Spot Journal.

“...Through a combination of historical records and family lore, the authors trace Macheca's rise to successful merchant while concurrently describing the political and social changes in New Orleans in the last half of the 19th Century... [A] convincing analysis of the inextricability of organized crime and local politics”

- Kirkus Discoveries

“...Couldn’t put it down...Bravo! It is brilliant work. Working with a tightly woven fabric of injustice, you have objectively and meticulously unstitched the legend for truth, as honestly as possible. Congratulations to you both for this wonderful contribution to Louisiana and American history.”

- Julie Eshelman-Lee
Louisiana historian

“ ... The book centers very much around the life of J. P. Macheca and his ... career in New Orleans. I found it all very interesting and informative. I was also happy to see my own prejudice confirmed: the Hennessy murder emerges out the turbid racial and political situation in the city ... I was impressed by how much information you got a hold of.”

- James Fentress
Author of Rebels and Mafiosi.

“Deep Water is excellent. You really did your homework. ...The Macheca history is terrific... I am impressed on how you got to the meat of the Battle of Liberty Place and the Burke affair. You took two complex subjects and explained them concisely... I really enjoyed it.”
-Doug Casey
Louisiana historian.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Booksigning in Crescent City on April 17

NEW ORLEANS, March 7, 2007 — Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon, coauthors of the biography "Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia," will appear at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans next month to discuss and sign copies of their book. 

"Deep Water" captures the life and times of the 19th Century New Orleans businessman and gang leader considered by many to be the "godfather" of the first Mafia organization to germinate in American soil. The book answers at last the many questions surrounding the 1890 assassination of Police Chief David Hennessy and the subsequent lynchings, in which Macheca lost his life. The book is published by iUniverse, Inc., of Lincoln, NE. Additional information is available through 1-800-AUTHORS. 

Mr. Hunt is an organized crime historian who resides in New Milford, CT, with his wife and their three chldren. Ms. Sheldon is a native of St. Louis, MO, a descendant of the Macheca Line, and an authority on her family history. 

The event is scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, between 5 and 7 p.m. The Garden District Book Shop is located in the historic Rink property at 2727 Prytania Street.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

News Release: New Milford, CT

Gang Organizer Macheca
Betrayed by Allies, 
Murdered in 1891 

NEW MILFORD, CT, Feb. 15, 2007 — A biography co-authored by crime historian Thomas Hunt of New Milford places the birth of the American Mafia in 19th Century New Orleans and tracks the gradual rise and precipitous fall of the man many consider its first “godfather.” 

Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia challenges the legends of the mob’s earliest days and establishes the facts of the 1890 Hennessy assassination, the 1891 Crescent City lynchings and the underworld’s close ties with the city's political machines. Building upon more than a decade of research into archival records, published and unpublished histories and Macheca family traditions, Mr. Hunt and Macheca descendant Martha Macheca Sheldon expose political corruption from antebellum Louisiana through the bloody Reconstruction Era, illustrate the squalor of 19th Century immigrant communities and detail the various intrigues and underworld rackets of the period. They tackle historical misrepresentations of Joseph P. Macheca as a foreign-born Mafioso, proving he was a native Louisianan, a Confederate patriot and a street warrior for the conservative Democratic cause.

“Joseph P. Macheca was a major force in the underworld of his day,” Mr. Hunt explained. “But it is important to view his crimes in an appropriate context. Gilded Age New Orleans was very much a wild, frontier town. During our research, we often encountered situations in which no substantial difference could be found between the actions of respected community leaders and the actions of outlaws. On occasion, the motives and methods of professional law enforcers were indistinguishable from those of lawbreakers. 

"We believe Macheca, longing for acceptance from the local establishment, allowed political bosses to push him deeper and deeper into underworld conspiracies. When the bosses decided he had become more of a liability than an asset, they simply disposed of him.” 

Deep Water has been positively received by experts in Louisiana history and criminal research. Peter Dale Scott, crime historian and author of numerous works including Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, says, “[Deep Water] will force a reassessment of a famous event in the history of American organized crime.” Louisiana historian Julie Eshelman-Lee describes Deep Water as a “brilliant work” and a “wonderful contribution to Louisiana... history.” Crime researcher and author Rick Mattix says it “shows a marvelous objectivity.” 

Mr. Hunt publishes the American Mafia history website (www.onewal.com) and the MobNews current events blog (http://mob-news.blogspot.com/), while also editing the Organized Crime category of the Internet’s Open Directory Project (dmoz.org). He previously served as Managing Editor of the Putnam County (NY) Courier, the Bethel (CT) Beacon and the Pawling (NY) News-Chronicle; as Assistant Editor of the New Milford (CT) Times and Aviation Digest magazine; and as Publisher and Editor of the Danbury (CT) Weekly Tribune. He is a member of the Louisiana Historical Society, the New Milford CT Historical Society and the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime. A native of the Bronx, NY, he is a 15-year resident of New Milford, where he lives with his wife and their three children. 

Deep Water has been published by iUniverse, an affiliate of Barnes & Noble. It is available for sale through iUniverse.com and other major booksellers.

News Release: St. Louis

New biography explores 
American Mafia's birth
in New Orleans

St. Louis, Feb. 15, 2007 - A St. Louis woman’s lifelong obsession to discover the secret of her family history led her to the person many consider the first “godfather” of the American Mafia.

“I heard a lot about family history while growing up,” recalled Martha Macheca Sheldon. “When I learned there was a missing piece of the story, I was determined to find it. My father and other relatives wouldn’t talk about it. Over the years, I was able to pick up bits of information from various sources, until the skeleton was finally out of the closet.”

Ms. Sheldon traced family roots to19th Century New Orleans. In that time and place, her Macheca ancestors were generally well-to-do, law-abiding entrepreneurs and pioneers of the produce trade. However, Martha’s great-uncle Joseph P. Macheca happened to be the leading suspect in the 1890 Mafia assassination of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy and one of the victims in the worst lynching in American history.

Confronted with generations-old lies and denials, Ms.Sheldon decided to set the historical record straight. More than a decade of her research has been channeled into a recently released biography she co-authored with crime historian Thomas Hunt of Connecticut. Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia dispels many of the myths of the mob’s earliest days and establishes the facts of the Hennessy assassination, the Crescent City lynchings and the underworld’s kinship with corrupt political machines of the period. Ms. Sheldon and Mr. Hunt stitch together the details of Macheca’s life and the betrayals that resulted in his death.

“This book... will force a reassessment of a famous event in the history of American organized crime,” explained Peter Dale Scott, PhD., a noted author and crime historian.

Ms. Sheldon, widow of artist Stephen B. Sheldon, is the daughter of Arthur Michel Macheca Jr. and Marie Lucks Macheca. She is descended from Joseph P. Macheca’s half-brother John, a principal owner of the New Orleans-Belize Royal Mail and Central American Steamship Company. She is a graduate of Villa Duchesne Sacred Heart and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Washington University. Ms.Sheldon worked in interior design and, for a time in Los Angeles, CA, in the production of television commercials with her husband. She has served as a volunteer for SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, Malcolm Bliss Mental Health Center and the Barnes Jewish/Christian (BJC) Hospital. On the Auxiliary Board of Directors at BJC, she has served as a member of the Risk Management Board, as Patient Representative Director and as Public Relations Director.

Deep Water has been published by iUniverse, an affiliate of Barnes & Noble. It is available for sale through iUniverse.com and other major booksellers.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

About the Authors

Fascinated with organized crime since childhood, Thomas Hunt publishes the American Mafia history website (http://www.onewal.com/), and the Mob-News current events blog. He also edits the Organized Crime category of the Internet’s Open Directory Project and regularly contributes articles to the On the Spot quarterly historical journal of crime and law enforcement history. He is a veteran journalist and a member of the Louisiana Historical Society, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society and the New Milford CT Historical Society. Born in the Bronx, NY, he lives in New Milford, CT, with his wife and their three children. (In spring of 2012, he and his family relocated to central Vermont.)

A descendant of the Macheca line, Martha Sheldon is an authority on her family history. Discovering and telling J.P.'s life story has been her obsession since first learning "the family secret" over a decade ago. She has assembled a network of Machecas determined to unearth long-buried family truths. A graduate of Washington University, she has worked at interior design and television commercial production. She has also served in volunteer management roles with St. Louis Mo. area medical centers. She lives with her daughter in St. Louis.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Offered through Barnes and Noble

Thank you for your interest in our book. We are very happy to announce that Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia is now available for purchase through the online bookstore of Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble is the Internet's largest bookstore, stocking more than one million titles for immediate delivery. The company is affiliated with iUniverse, Inc., publisher of Deep Water.


In researching Deep Water, we made extensive use of archival sources. These included Notarial Archives, municipal archives and the State Archives in Louisiana; National Archives facilities in Washington, D.C., New York and Fort Worth; the Louisiana Historical Society Archives; the Williams Research Center library; and Pinkerton National Detective Agency archives held by the United States Library of Congress, Court documents, land transfer records and business correspondence were also used.

Louisiana historians, including Joseph Maselli of the American-Italian Renaissance Foundation, Doug Casey and Fernando Cuquet, contributed their knowledge and resources to the work, along with descendants of the Macheca clan who have spent many years researching their family history. A number of unpublished articles, master’s theses and doctoral dissertations were also accessed. Hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles were carefully considered, as were published materials on Louisiana history, New York history, the War Between the States, and the history of organized crime in Sicily and the United States.

A partial list of sources (excluding government documents, and books and articles used in a minor way) follows:


  • Asbury, Herbert, The French Quarter: An Informal History of New Orleans... (Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Co., Inc., 1938).
  • Bragg, Jefferson Davis, Louisiana in the Confederacy. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997).
  • Cassar, Paul, Early Relations Between Malta and U.S.A. (Valletta, Malta: Midsea Books Ltd., 1976).
  • Castellanos, Henry C., New Orleans As It Was. (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 1990).
  • Chandler, David, Brothers in Blood: The Rise of the Criminal Brotherhoods. (New York: Dutton, 1975).
  • Fentress, James, Rebels and Mafiosi: Death in a Sicilian Landscape (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000).
  • Gambino, Richard. Vendetta (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977).
  • Garvey, Joan B. and Widmer, Mary Lou, Beautiful Crescent: A History of New Orleans. (New Orleans: Garmer Press, 1982).
  • Gentile, Joseph, The Innocent Lynched (San Jose: Writer's Showcase, 2000).
  • Horan, James D., The Pinkertons: The Detective Dynasty that Made History. (New York: Bonanza Books, 1967).
  • Huber, Leonard V., Landmarks of New Orleans. (New Orleans: Orleans Parish Landmarks Commission, 1964).
  • Huber, Leonard V., New Orleans: A Pictorial History - from earliest times to the present day. (Crown Publishers, Inc., 1971).
  • Kendall, John Smith, History of New Orleans. (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1922).
  • Landry, Stuart Omer Jr., The Battle of Liberty Place. (Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing Company, 1999).
  • Nelli, Humbert S., The Business of Crime: Italians and Syndicate Crime in the United States. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1976).
  • Pitkin, Thomas Monroe and Cordasco, Francesco, The Black Hand: A Chapter in Ethnic Crime. (Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams & Co., 1977).
  • Repetto, Thomas, American Mafia: A History of its Rise to Power (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004).
  • Rimanelli, Marco and Postman, Sheryl Lynn, The 1891 New Orleans Lynching and U.S.-Italian Relations (New York: Peter Lang, 1992).
  • Rousey, Dennis C., Policing the Southern City: New Orleans, 1805-1889 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996).
  • Walker, General William, The War in Nicaragua (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1985).
  • Wilson, Charles M., Empire in Green and Gold (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968).

Articles - General

  • Buel, Clarence Clough, "The Degradation of a State; Or, The Charitable Career of the Louisiana Lottery," Century Magazine, February, 1892.
  • Casey, Doug, “The Sicilian Feud” (unpublished).
  • Cuquet, Fernando J., "The Boston Club Massacre" (unpublished).
  • Duke, Thomas S., “The Murder of Police Chief Hennessy,” Celebrated Criminal Cases of America, p. 444-446 (San Francisco: James M. Barry Co., 1910).
  • Park, George, “Lynching: Now it Can Be Told,” letter, Truth Magazine, Nov. 9, 1936.
  • Smalley, Eugene V., "The New Orleans Exposition," The Century Magazine, Vol. XXX, No. 1, May, 1885. p. 3-14.

Articles - Louisiana Historical Quarterly Archives

  • Coxe, John E., "The New Orleans Mafia Incident," Vol. 20, No. 4, 1937.
  • Dabney, Thomas Ewing, “The Butler Regime in Louisiana,” Vol. 27, No. 2, 1944.
  • Greer, James Kimmins, “Louisiana Politics, 1845-1861,” Vol. 12, No. 4 and Vol. 13, No. 1, 1929-1930.
  • Hennessey, Melinda Meek, "Race and Violence in Reconstruction New Orleans: The 1868 Riot," Vol. 20 , 1979.
  • Karlin, J. Alexander, "New Orleans Lynchings of 1891 and the American Press," Vol. 24, No. 1, 1941.
  • Kendall, John S., “Blood on the Banquette,” Vol. 22, No. 3, 1939.
  • Kendall, John S., "Who Killa De Chief," Vol. 22, No. 2, 1939.
  • Kurtz, Michael L., "Organized Crime in Louisiana History: Myth and Reality," Fall 1983.
  • Lestage, H. Oscar, "The White League in Louisiana and its Participation in Reconstruction Riots," Vol. 18, No. 3, 1935.
  • Prichard, Walter, ed., "The Origin and Activities of the White League in New Orleans: Reminiscences of a Participant in the Movement," Vol. 23, No. 2, 1940.
  • Renshaw, Henry, “A Sketch of the Life and Career of Pierre SoulĂ©,” Vol. 2, No. 3, 1900.
  • Zacharie, James S., "New Orleans - Its Old Streets and Places," Vol. 2, No. 3, 1900.

Articles - Newspapers

Newspaper coverage from the New Orleans Daily Picayune (1869-1895), the New Orleans Times-Democrat (1869-1891), the New York Times (1862-1894) and the Atlanta Constitution (1868-1914). Additional articles were drawn from the following Louisiana newspapers: the Item, the States, the Bee, the Crescent and the Bulletin from New Orleans; and the Lafayette Advertiser.

Additional Sources

  • Adams, Margaret, “Mafia Riots in New Orleans,” thesis, Tulane University, 1924.
  • Baiamonte, John, “The Myth of the Mafia in Louisiana,” Southeastern Louisiana University oral history tape, Italian Century Week, Oct. 22, 1982.
  • Botein, Barbara, "The Hennessy Case: An Episode in American Nativism, 1890," Doctoral dissertation, New York University, 1975.
  • Carroll, Ralph Edward Jr., "The Mafia in New Orleans, 1900-1907," Master's thesis, Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, La., June 1956.
  • Hennessey, Melinda Meek, "To Live and Die in Dixie: Reconstruction Race Riots in the South." Doctoral dissertation, Kent State University, 1978. 

Deep Water story synopsis

Joseph P. Macheca served as a street warrior for the intensely corrupt New Orleans Democratic machine, as a pioneer of the Crescent City’s fruit trade, as a Confederate privateer in the Gulf and, according to legend, as the “godfather” of the first Mafia organization to germinate in American soil.

Macheca lives on in New Orleans legend as the criminal overlord whose 1891 lynching death atoned for the assassination of city Police Chief David C. Hennessy. However, Macheca’s death was less a spontaneous lynching than a cold-blooded murder. The gang leader's old political and underworld allies sacrificed him so their own roles in local intrigues might not be discovered and so they could assume control of his assets.

Deep Water is the historical biography of Joseph P. Macheca. It establishes the factual details of Macheca’s epic life story and sets them against the vivid backdrop of Gilded Age New Orleans.

Man of action

More complex than the one-dimensional villain of legend, Macheca was an attention-starved and publicity-seeking man of action.

As a young man, he enlisted in the Confederate army only to watch as his native New Orleans fell quickly to a federal invasion. As his military unit disbanded, he moved to Galveston, Texas, and continued to aid the South by running supplies through the Union's blockade of Gulf ports. After the war, he opposed Reconstruction efforts and served in a leadership capacity during an armed insurrection against Republican rule in Louisiana.

Macheca was among the first American businessmen to engage in the produce trade with Central and South America. The Macheca fruit trade brought goods into the American West, Midwest and Northeast. Macheca's efforts generated a vast fortune and won him the position of Consul of Bolivia. The direct beneficiaries of his commercial trailblazing, the Standard Fruit and United Fruit companies, live on today as Dole and Chiquita.

There was also a dark side to Macheca. He led a large gang in bloody rages against African Americans in New Orleans. He served as a patron of the city's Sicilian underworld, involving himself in gang feuds and in a broad Mafia conspiracy. He eagerly did the bidding of unscrupulous political leaders, who used embezzlement, extortion and murder to advance their personal agendas.


A branch of the Sicilian Mafia existed in New Orleans before the Civil War, when the underworld organization followed the lead of Palermo immigrant Raffaele Agnello and specialized in protection and lottery gaming. Agnello initially had trouble with the city's large contingent of Sicilian immigrants from Messina - eastern Sicily had no Mafia tradition. Separate Messina criminal gangs, who dabbled in counterfeiting and protection rackets, battled Agnello's Mafia for years.

Agnello was assassinated in 1869 just as final victory seemed to be in his grasp. Shrapnel from the blunderbuss blast that killed him crashed through the glass at the front of Macheca's fruit store.

The traditional Palermo-based Mafia was eventually replaced in New Orleans with the Stuppagghieri, a radical Mafia branch born in Monreale, Sicily. Macheca embraced the new underworld order and worked secretly with its leaders, the Matranga clan.

Old-line Mafiosi attempted again to take control of the city around 1880. A decade-long struggle between the Matranga and Provenzano clans featured grisly murders and the assassination of Police Chief David Hennessy, believed to be a Provenzano ally.

Though 1891 lynchings at Orleans Parish Prison, which claimed the lives of eleven men including J.P., were said to have been directed at the Stuppagghieri, the Matranga organization emerged from the experience stronger than ever.

Frontier town

The New Orleans of Macheca's time was very much a frontier town, prone to lawlessness and violence. Its rich colors, magnificent buildings and delightful tastes and sounds masked numerous dangers.

During his lifetime, Macheca witnessed the dramatic rise of the port of New Orleans, experienced the first Rex parades of Mardi Gras, attended annual fancy dress balls and socialized with the influential and wealthy men of the community. However, he also lived through the horrors of the Yellow Fever epidemics, the eruption of decaying corpses in city cemeteries and the devastation of war.

Macheca failed to keep up with his times. As New Orleans civilized and became genteel, he stood out as a throwback, a street thug in a business suit. His profitable business ventures failed, and Macheca was financially ruined. His black-and-white, friends-and-enemies view of the world became inadequate.

Old political and underworld allies, whose duplicitous natures allowed them to outwardly embrace progress and civility while inwardly retaining their greed and brutality, left him behind. Eventually, they conspired to eliminate him.


From Macheca's earliest days, death constantly lurked nearby, claiming his relatives, friends and foes. It finally came for him early in 1891. Trapped and helpless in a prison hallway, he tried in vain to open a locked cell door. A shot fired at close range entered the rear of Macheca's skull and ripped through his brain.

Historically, that shot has been blamed on a spontaneous uprising within the New Orleans community - a lynch mob. But Deep Water proves that the lynch mob was used to cover Macheca's premeditated murder and that Macheca's lone assassin was in league with his former friends.

Amazon offers Deep Water for sale

Thank you for your interest in our book. We are very happy to announce that Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia is now available for sale through the Amazon.com online bookstore. Headquartered in Seattle, WA, Amazon.com is one of the world's largest online merchants, serving many millions of regular customer accounts.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Deep Water timeline


1814-15Joseph Mercieca (later Macheca) is born to farming family on the Maltese island of Gozo. Peter Carvanna’s birth in Sicily coincides with Ferdinand’s return to the throne of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
1840sJoseph Macheca and Peter Carvanna settle in New Orleans, Louisiana. Macheca is a pioneer of the fruit trade. Carvanna is an outlaw.
1843Peter Carvanna Jr. (later Joseph Peter Macheca) is born to Peter and Marietta Carvanna in New Orleans. Peter and Marietta live as husband and wife.
c. 1847Peter Carvanna, convicted of a serious crime, receives a sentence of life in prison. Under Napoleonic Code, his relationship with Marietta dissolves.
c. 1848Joseph Macheca, 33, and Marietta, 23, marry. Though not legally adopted, Peter Jr.'s name is changed to Joseph Peter (“J.P.”) Macheca.
1851Son John, half-brother to J.P., is born to Joseph (37) and Marietta (27) on July 24.
1852Son Michael, half-brother to J.P., is born to Joseph (38) and Marietta (28) on Dec. 24.
1854Daughter Rosa Maria, J.P.’s half-sister, is born to Joseph (40) and Marietta (30), in early March. Rosa Maria is baptized in St. Louis Cathedral, May 28. Joseph and Celestine Saliba, immigrants from Malta and Joseph Macheca’s close friends, are the godparents.
1855Rosa Maria Macheca dies and is buried in St. Louis Cemetery II.
1856Whig Party collapses. Bands of armed men seize a number of New Orleans polling places and permit only Know-Nothings to vote. Attempted murder of court clerk Norbert Trepagnier, local Know-Nothing leader, prompts violent reprisals in New Orleans’ Sicilian colony.
1857David C. Hennessy is born to Margaret and David Hennessy Sr., 275 Girod St., New Orleans.
1859Joseph Macheca Sr., 44, establishes wholesale fruit business. He also sells fruit from a Front Street shop. J.P., 16, participates in the business. Joseph Sr. purchases an Old Levee Street business site on May 24.
1860New Orleans unveils a 14-foot statue of Henry Clay at the intersection of Canal and St. Charles/Royal Streets on April 12. Statue stands upon a seven-tier granite base. John Macheca, 10, travels to Malta for several years of schooling. Joseph, Marietta and Michael take the trans-Atlantic trip with him, leaving J.P. to handle the family business. In November, Republican Abraham Lincoln is elected U.S. President with less than forty percent of the nation’s popular vote.
1861Louisiana state legislature formally adopts the Ordinance of Secession on Jan. 26, separating the state from the federal Union. State seizes federal Mint and Customhouse buildings in New Orleans as well as nearby forts. Joseph, Marietta and Michael Macheca return to New Orleans. Louisiana joins Confederate States of America on Feb. 4. New Orleans experiences food and fuel shortages and unemployment as a result of a federal blockade of Gulf ports. J.P. Macheca enlists in the 22nd Louisiana Infantry of the Confederate Army on Sept. 10. Federal forces grabbed Ship Island near mouth of Mississippi in December.
1862Joseph Macheca Sr. dictates his will to notary Abel Dreyfous on March 31. Admiral Farragut's federal fleet bombards Forts St. Philip and Jackson at mouth of Mississippi on April 18 and later sails up the Mississippi to New Orleans. U.S. General Benjamin Butler, with 15,000 federal troops, takes command in New Orleans on May 2. New Orleanian William Mumford is executed for desecrating the American flag. J.P.’s enlistment period expires. He is allowed to return home. Peter Carvanna, allowed out of prison, visits Marietta. He is killed within days of the visit. J.P. Macheca, 19, and Bridget O'Dowd, 16, marry and leave New Orleans for Galveston, Texas. Macheca earns money by working with Confederate blockade runners.
1863Son John J. Macheca is born to J.P. and Bridget Macheca.
1865John Macheca, 13, returns to New Orleans from Malta. J.P. returns from Texas. Civil War major hostilities end as Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders on April 9. Lincoln is mortally wounded on the evening of April 14. He dies the following morning. Joseph Macheca Sr., 50, purchases Toulouse Street property from John Avegno for $8,400 on Nov. 11.
1866Louisiana Constitutional Convention at the Mechanics Institute turns into a bloody race riot. Thirty eight people die as police do little to halt the violence. State’s Reconstruction authorities dismiss the local New Orleans government and take control of the police.
1867Joseph Macheca Sr., 52, purchases Dauphine Street property from H. Rosselin on March 18. Son William W. Macheca is born to J.P. and Bridget Macheca. Republican authorities in Louisiana hire Republicans and African-Americans for police jobs, dismissing white Democrats. Arthur Guerin kills Special Officer David Hennessy Sr. in a barroom gunfight. The officer's son, David C. Hennessy is welcomed into the police force as a messenger.
1868Reconstruction government creates the Louisiana State Lottery. Due to a corrupting influence that appears to reach into every aspect of Louisiana life, it becomes known as “the Octopus.” J.P. buys the schooner Cecelia. Military occupation of Louisiana ends, but Republican-dominated state legislature forms Metropolitan Police, answering only to state officials. Crescent City Democratic Club and similar conservative organizations join in an anti-Republican White League network. J.P., 25, supports Presidential candidate Horatio Seymour of New York against Republican Ulysses Grant. J.P. assembles a large gang, comprised mostly of Sicilians and named the Innocenti (Innocents), leads them in violent attacks against New Orleans African-Americans starting Oct. 24. Prominent Democrats, fearful that the attacks will result in Republican reprisals, force J.P. to disband the Innocents in November. Innocenti member Litero Barba is murdered on his way home from an Oct. 28 party at the Orleans Ballroom. Sicilian immigrants from Palermo take up arms against those from Messina.
1869Sicilian gang warfare forces Messina faction leaders to hide briefly in Galveston, Texas. The leaders return in March and are attacked at New Orleans Poydras Market. J.P. secretly contests the leadership of Palermo Mafia leader Raffaele Agnello in the Sicilian community. During a walk toward the Macheca shop on April 1, Agnello is shot and killed. Monreale-based Stuppagghieri Mafia becomes the dominant force in New Orleans’ Sicilian underworld. Son Joseph Peter Macheca Jr. is born to J.P. and Bridget Macheca.
1870J.P. is full partner, with Joseph Sr. and Paul Biggio, in the Macheca business. Son Michael is born to J.P. and Bridget Macheca in January. J.P. reestablishes the Innocents as a “protection” force for Sicilian businesses. Paul Biggio dies on April 24. Michael Macheca, six months old, dies on July 24.
1871Daughter Mary "Mamie" is born to J.P. and Bridget Macheca. Deputy Criminal Sheriff James D. Houston shoots and kills Arthur Guerin outside a courthouse.
1872After the murder of Joseph Agnello in July, the underworld war between the Palermo and Messina factions quickly ends. By the end of the year, two men – Republican William Pitt Kellogg and Democrat John McEnery – claim to have been elected governor. Rival state legislatures are also formed.
1873Former Confederate General James Longstreet supports Republicans and wins appointment to lead the Kellogg government’s Louisiana state militia. McEnery government quietly forms its own militia under the leadership of Confederate Colonels John B. Angell and James D. Hill. Daughter Rosa is born to J.P. and Bridget Macheca.
1874Mardi Gras’ Rex parade becomes an annual event with its second edition in February. Son Joseph Robert Macheca is born to John and Maggie Macheca on June 11. In July, the Crescent City Democratic Club renames itself the Crescent City White League. Steamer Mississippi arrives at the Port of New Orleans Sept 12. with a shipment of weapons for the White League. Metropolitan Police board the ship and seize the weapons. Joseph P. Macheca, 31, captain McEnery Guards, leads an armed force of 300 Italians in the White League's revolt against the Republican state government on Sept. 14 (Battle of Liberty Place).
1875Son Arthur is born to J.P. and Bridget Macheca.
1877J.P. designs the speedy clipper-schooner Joseph P. Macheca and has it built in Bath, Maine. During a vacation trip with her husband, Marietta Macheca, 53, dies in Malta on Jan. 8 and is buried there. The business of Joseph P. Macheca, commission merchant, appears to separate from the traditional family business.
1878Joseph Macheca, 64, dies Aug. 8 aboard French ship Canada on return trip from Malta. J.P. and his brothers unite briefly in Joseph P. Macheca & Bro. business at 129 Old Levee Street, headquarters of the earlier Jos. Macheca & Co. Sicilian fugitive Giuseppe Esposito visits New York City.
1879Giuseppe Esposito arrives in New Orleans in spring. J.P. supports him as leader of the city's Sicilian underworld. John and Michael Macheca move to end J.P.’s involvement in the family business and to limit his inheritance of the estate left by Joseph Sr. and Marietta. Macheca Brothers business (John and Michael) acquires its first steamship, the Wanderer, built in Philadelphia. J.P. aids Bolivia in its brief war against Chile. Son Edward Michael is born to J.P. and Bridget Macheca.
1880J.P. aids Bolivians fleeing to the United States after the unsuccessful war against Chile.
1881J.P. Macheca & Co. serves as agent for fruit plantations in British Honduras, Bay Islands and Jamaica. New Orleans Mayor Shakespeare vetoes plan to reorganize municipal police force. Over his objection, the Common Council creates the Chief of Aides position and fills it with Thomas Devereaux. Daily States interviews J.P. Macheca at his offices (8 Toulouse Street) on June 12 about fruit market. Detectives David and Mike Hennessy apprehend Sicilian bandit Esposito on July 5. Esposito is taken to New York City for deportation hearings. Violence between rival Provenzano and Matranga Mafias erupts. Shootout between Devereaux and the Hennessys results in serious injury to Mike Hennessy and fatal injury to Devereaux. Hennessy cousins are charged with Devereaux's murder.
1882James D. Houston, leader of the Ring Democrats, manages the reelection campaign of Gov. Samuel D. McEnery. On April 27, the Hennessy cousins are found not guilty of murdering Thomas Devereaux. Upon release from custody, Mike Hennessy and his wife move to Houston. David Hennessy remains in New Orleans, works with private police agency. James D. Houston is involved in a shootout with rival Democrats at a primary election polling place.
1883Steamship Stillwater is built for Macheca Bros. John and Michael give J.P. a payment of $1,200 to end his involvement in family business. Bridget O'Dowd Macheca (36) dies July 14 of tuberculosis at a South Prieur Street sanatorium. The business of Joseph P. Macheca & Co., fruit sellers, fails at the end of July, leaving $100,000 in liabilities. J.P. and his children leave their Toulouse Street home and settle in a shotgun duplex at No. 279 Bourbon Street. J.P. goes to work in his brothers’ firm.
1884Steamship Clearwater is built for Macheca Bros as the firm also acquires the Kate Carroll. Macheca Brothers fleet wins a British commission to haul mail to the colony of Belize (New Orleans-Belize Royal Mail). After delays and financial problems, Cotton and World's Exposition at New Orleans opens in December. David C. Hennessy leads private police force of 300 men for Exposition security.
1885James D. Houston is seriously wounded (hand) in a gunfight against staffers at the offices of the New Orleans Mascot newspaper. Democratic party is deeply divided into Ring and Reform factions. Macheca Line and Leonard Mueller's shipping line are investigated May 23 for their role in transporting unwilling young men from New Orleans to plantations and railroad building projects in Honduras and Guatemala.
1886Matranga and Locascio stevedore firm underbids Provenzano firm, wins contracts from produce shipping companies and becomes the main agent for Sicilian longshoremen. Mike Hennessy is shot five times and killed while returning home from a Houston theater.
1887Reform Democrats campaign against Ring and lottery corruption. The Young Men’s Democratic Association, led by attorney William Parkerson, is the key Reform group within the City of New Orleans. James D. Houston manages campaigns of Gov. Samuel D. McEnery and Mayor J. Valsin Guillotte. Parkerson advises reform candidates Francis T. Nicholls and Joseph A. Shakespeare.
1888In a gunfight between Democratic factions early Jan. 1, Patrick Mealey of the reform group is shot and killed by a Ring thug. James D. Houston is blamed and loses much support around the state. At Jan. 10 Democratic convention in Baton Rouge, James D. Houston pledges to support reform candidates. Joseph Shakespeare wins election as mayor of New Orleans, appoints David C. Hennessy his new police chief.
1889Provenzano-Matranga feud heats up. Vincent Ultonino is found dead, his throat cut, in a roadside marsh on Jan. 5. Joey Mattaino found dead in his home, his head burned in the fireplace, on Feb. 24. Pietro Vitrano is discovered beaten to death in March. New Orleans municipal police department is reorganized. The chief of aides (detectives) position is eliminated. Hennessy is approved as the superintendent of a unified force. J.P. and his brothers part ways in the spring. They will not speak again. Hennessy and J.P. broker a peace conference between the Provenzano and Matranga underworld factions at the Red Lights Club. Mamie, daughter of J.P. and Bridget Macheca, marries Cheri Eugene Sarrazin on Sept. 28. Former state treasurer E.A. Burke is indicted for fraud and embezzlement. The influential Ring politician and newspaper editor is in England attempting to finance a Central American gold mining operation.
1890Early in the morning of May 6, a wagon carrying Matranga stevedores is ambushed at the corner of Claiborne and Esplanade Streets. Three men, including Antonio Matranga, are seriously wounded. Provenzano gang leaders are arrested. Ring attempts to extend lottery contract through a constitutional amendment. The Provenzano gang leadership is sentenced to life in prison for the ambush of the Matranga wagon. As the result of Chief Hennessy’s investigation into the Mafia in New Orleans and in Sicily and of a grand jury probe into police alibis for the Provenzanos, a judge orders a new trial for the Provenzano gang leadership. Hennessy intends to testify in the next trial. Hennessy receives a number of death threats through the summer. Police Chief David Hennessy is ambushed and mortally wounded outside his home. Hennessy dies at Charity Hospital, 9:06 a.m., Oct. 16. Hennessy attack is believed to have resulted from his threat to expose and eliminate the local Mafia. Many local Sicilians and Italians, including J.P., are arrested as suspects in the assassination.
1891J.P. Macheca and eight other defendants are brought to trial Feb. 27 for the murder of Police Chief David Hennessy. Defendant Polizzi experiences an apparent emotional breakdown in court March 2 and allegedly names J.P. Macheca and Charles Matranga the heads of the New Orleans Mafia. Jury decides March 13 that none of the defendants are guilty. Gunmen under the direction of anti-Ring Democratic reformer William S. Parkerson and under the guise of a spontaneously formed lynch mob break into Parish Prison and murder J.P. Macheca and ten other prisoners on March 14.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Deep Water available for sale

Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon proudly announce that Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia is available for sale through the iUniverse.com bookstore. iUniverse, Inc., of Lincoln, NE, an affiliate of the Barnes & Noble company, is the publisher of Deep Water.

Deep Water is the historical biography of Joseph P. Macheca, Confederate veteran, political warrior, commercial pioneer and legendary leader of the New Orleans underworld. It establishes the factual details of Macheca's epic life story and sets them against the vivid backdrop of Gilded Age New Orleans.