Maier Suchowljansky, better known as Meyer Lansky, was born to Polish parents on July 4, 1902, in Grodno, Poland. (Grodno is located in present-day Belarus.) In 1911, the family emigrated to the United States, settling on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As a schoolboy, Lansky encountered Charles “Lucky” Luciano, who tried to shake him down for his lunch money. Luciano was impressed when Lansky refused to pay, and the two became friends for life. Lansky also partnered with Bugsy Siegel in both the Bugs and Meyer Mob and Murder Inc. Lansky’s analytical and financial skills dovetailed neatly with Siegel’s brutality and Luciano’s leadership.
Lansky is best known for his role in developing the National Crime Syndicate, which evolved into the American Mafia. Lansky connected organized crime bosses from across the country, controlling gambling operations in New York, Chicago, Florida, Los Angeles, and Cuba. Despite being a Jew, Lansky always had the attention of the Italian mafia. Lucky Luciano advised his partners and underlings to “listen to him,” and more often than not everyone did. Fearing prosecution for tax evasion, Lansky fled to Israel in 1970. He requested asylum but was refused. He returned to the U.S. to face prosecution in 1972. Lansky was not convicted, and he died peacefully in 1983 in Miami Beach. At the time of his death, Lansky’s net paper worth was negligible, but it is believed he left behind over $300 million to his family in secret bank accounts.
Meyer Lansky, 2009
Mixed Media Silkscreen on Paper
19″ x 29″