Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia

Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia

by Martha Macheca Sheldon, Thomas Hunt


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Second Edition: Set in the Gilded Age of New Orleans, this historical biography conveys J.P. Macheca's epic life story, as it finally sets the record straight on the 1890 assassination of Police Chief David Hennessy and the 1891 Crescent City lynchings.

A longtime street warrior for the corrupt and ruthless New Orleans Democratic machine, Macheca was also the patron of the fledgling American Mafia in southern Louisiana. His underworld connections brought him into conflict with Hennessy and ultimately cost him his life. Macheca and ten other men implicated in Hennessy's assassination were killed while held within Orleans Parish Prison. The incident is remembered as the largest lynching in American history. However, the authors argue that Macheca's life was ended not through the spontaneous rage of a lynch mob but through a calculated act of betrayal by Macheca's former friends and allies.

As Macheca's life story unfolds, Deep Water examines the many momentous events of his time and place, including Civil War, federal occupation, Reconstruction, violent political and racial division. The authors illustrate the deliberate influence of the Democratic "Ring" on the growth of the Mafia criminal society, and they underline the inextricability of organized politics and organized crime in the period.

Comments on the book's First Edition:

"Deep Water is a worthy addition to the organized crime canon and the greater body of books on Civil War-era America."
- Scott M. Deitche, author and Blogcritics reviewer.

"Deep Water is a memorable reading experience... This book will force a reassessment of a famous event in the history of American organized crime."
- Dr. Peter Dale Scott, author.

SILVER MEDAL winner, regional nonfiction category, 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781453732694
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 08/18/2010
Pages: 414
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Thomas Hunt publishes Informer, a quarterly journal on the history of crime and law enforcement ( He also publishes the American Mafia history website (, the MobNews current events blog (, and a Deep Water blog ( He contributed to the Australian-published reference book, Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime (Millennium House, 2009). Several of his articles were published in the On the Spot crime history journal. He served as Managing Editor of the Putnam County (NY) Courier, the Bethel (CT) Beacon and the Pawling (NY) News-Chronicle; Assistant Editor of the New Milford (CT) Times and of Aviation Digest magazine; and Publisher and Editor of the Danbury (CT) Weekly Tribune. He holds a bachelor's degree in history and journalism. Born in the Bronx, NY, he lives with his wife and their three children in New Milford, CT.

Martha Macheca Sheldon, descendant of the Macheca line, 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. Graduating as a daughter of the Sacred Heart, she majored in the Arts at Washington University. There she met her late husband, Stephen, a cartoonist and painter. They lived for a time in Los Angeles, where they produced television commercials for Gardner Advertising. In between commercials, Sheldon worked for an interior design company. She volunteered at a major hospital, serving as Director of Public Relations and Director of Volunteer Patient Representatives on the auxiliary board. She helped create the guidelines and job description for the Patient Advocacy Representative Program. Sheldon was also a member of the hospital's Risk Management Board. She lives with her daughter in St. Louis, Missouri.

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