Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara, Sr. (August 9, 1905 - June 17, 1959) was an Italian-American mobster who became the boss of the Bufalino crime family. He is most notable for hosting the Apalachin Conference at his estate in Apalachin, New York on November 14, 1957. After detection by two alert New York state troopers, the infamous gathering of dozens of high-ranking mobsters and Mafia leaders was raided by state police and federal agents. A consequence was that the FBI under long-time director J. Edgar Hoover finally acknowledged the existence and extensive operations of the Mafia in the United States, and began federal law enforcement efforts in response.
Born Giuseppe Maria Barbara in 1905 in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Barbara immigrated to the United States in 1921, along with an older brother called Carlo, settling in with relatives in Endicott, a small town to the east of Binghamton, and getting a job in one of the numerous shoe factories scattered across the region. Barbara began his criminal career by setting up a house of prostitution and was soon working as a hitman for the Buffalo crime family in Buffalo, New York. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1927. He was a suspect in the 1931 murder of Calomare Calogaro, who was shot dead in Wyoming, Pennsylvania. A few months later, police found a Thompson sub machine gun in Joe's car, which had apparently been used in a recent gangland shooting in New York City. In 1933, he was again arrested and investigated in a double underworld killing. One of the victims, before he died, actually named Barbara as the man who had shot him. In 1933, he was yet again a suspect, this time in the brutal, torture murder of Sam Wichner, a Scranton bootlegger. Barbara was a suspect in the murders of Edward Weiss and Joseph Morreale.
After his conviction for illegally purchasing 300,000 pounds of sugar (intended for the manufacture of bootleg alcohol), Barbara entered the soft drink distribution business. In the post-Prohibition years, he gained control of the beer/soft drink distribution in the Binghamton, New York region. He bought a 58 acre (24 hectare) estate in the rural town of Apalachin, New York. He was the father of Joseph Barbara, Jr.
On November 14, 1957, powerful mafiosi from all over the United States, Canada and Italy convened at the Barbara estate to socialize and resolve the mafia affairs in New York and La Cosa Nostra operations such as gambling, casinos and narcotics dealing.
Barbara had suffered a heart attack the previous year, and the conference was held under the excuse that the members were visiting a sick friend. Police raided the gathering, arresting most of those present (a large minority of Mafiosi managed to escape through the woods surrounding the Barbara estate). Among those apprehended were guests such as Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese, and Joe Bonanno. For those Mafiosi that were apprehended, many of them told authorities that they were at Barbara's home to look in on him after his recent heart attack.
The Apalachin Summit meeting brought Barbara aggravation and humiliation. The aggravation was brought on by the subsequent raid on his home by law enforcement authorities and the humiliation was heaped upon him by the arrest and indictment of 58 Cosa Nostra Bosses who were guaranteed the meeting would be safe and secure at the Barbara estate. The meeting at Apalachin should have been another honor in Joseph Barbara's Cosa Nostra career, since he had hosted a national meeting the previous year with no problems. However, Barbara had warned Buffalo boss Stefano Magaddino that he was not comfortable with holding the meeting at his estate once more.
Barbara found himself investigated by law enforcement and indicted for not revealing to a grand jury what transpired at his home on November 14, 1957. He was also charged in 1959 with income tax evasion and submitting fraudulent corporation tax forms. Barbara's business interests declined, as he lost his lucrative bottling contract with Canada Dry. Barbara's health continued to deteriorate and he died of a heart attack on June 17, 1959. Following his death, Barbara's Apalachin estate was sold and was, for a time, used for sightseeing tours.