Albert Anastasia was born on September 26, 1902 in Tropea, Italy. His original name was Umberto Anastasio, but he later changed his name slightly to prevent his family's reputation from his illegal activities. When he was young, he hid on a cargo ship headed for America with his brother Anthony. They arrived and immediately began taking control of small criminal operations in the Brooklyn area.
The two brothers lived near the docks and Albert was able to get a job as a longshoreman, although most of his revenue came from his shady activities. His reputation grew, eventually getting him a job as a bodyguard for mafia boss Joe Masseria. When the prohibition law was passed, he started working for Joe Adonis, who was a notorious bootlegger in the Brooklyn area. Albert seized every opportunity available to steal booze from other criminals and sell it for Adonis, netting large amounts of profit.
When powerful crime boss Lucky Luciano decided to knock off Joe Masseria and form the National Crime Syndicate, Albert jumped at the chance to take part. Luciano invited Masseria to Scarpato's on Coney Island for a sit down and quickly excused himself to the bathroom. As he did so, Albert, Meyer Lansky, and Bugsy Siegel walked inside and filled Masseria with bullets, ending the old era of organized crime in New York.
Luciano and the others formed the National Crime Syndicate, which controlled nearly all of the rackets in New York City and had branches in other large cities. To keep other gangsters in line, Luciano needed an organization of tough gangsters. Albert Anastasia was placed in charge of a group of crazy hit men that later became known as Murder Inc.
Albert handpicked the men that worked under him, mainly composed of Jewish and Italian toughs. They established a headquarters in a candy store named Midnight Rose's. Murder Inc. quickly became a profitable empire, performing hits at the drop of a hat for large sums of money. The total number of hits committed by the group is estimated to be around eight hundred.
It was during the time that he controlled Murder Inc. that Albert was given the nickname Mad Hatter. He was quick to temper and would kill people for simply looking at him the wrong way. One time, he ordered a hit on a total stranger when he saw him on television testifying against a criminal because he hated squealers.
In the 1940s, a man named Abe Reles agreed to testify against members of Murder Inc. in open court. Before he could give his testimony before a judge, he fell from his sixth floor hotel room to his death. Albert was rumored to be responsible and he joined the army to fight against the Nazis. He was stationed in Georgia and bribed his commander to keep himself out of the war zone and comfortable. When he returned, he told everyone concocted war stories and even paraded around wearing stolen medals.
When Luciano was deported to Italy, Vincent Mangano took over the Crime Syndicate. Albert viewed him as a weak boss and made him disappear in 1951, seizing his position as head of the crime family. However, another powerful gangster, Vito Genovese, was furious that Albert was the boss instead of himself. Genovese held a meeting with Joseph Profaci and Carlo Gambino to form a plot that would allow them to kill Albert.
The first part of their plan was to turn Albert's only ally, Paul Costello, against him. They sent Vincent Gigante to shoot Costello at his residence, but the bullet only grazed Costello's head. Genovese managed to convince Costello that Albert was behind the hit attempt and Costello believed him. Shortly after, a hit was ordered on Albert and the contract was given to Joseph Profaci.
Albert Anastasia's daily routine worked against him, since everyone knew where he would be at a given point in the day. On October 25, 1957, Albert was sitting down for a haircut and shave in the barber shop of the Park Sheraton when two men walked in and gunned him down. It was the end of a terrible legacy of murder and crime.