The U.S. Artichoke industry emerged around 1900 in California, and much of the crop was shipped east, where Italian Americans paid handsomely for the edible thistles. At first, mafia families used their control of rail-line entry points into New York to impose an informal import tax on artichoke shipments. But later, they began intimidating growers into limiting crop sizes and selling at deflated prices. By 1935, the Sicilian American mafia had controlled the American artichoke market (worth about $12.5 million in 2020 dollars) for at least two decades. Mayor LaGuardia had campaigned for office on a promise to take on the mob, and had a penchant for drama. On December 21, 1935, surrounded by horn-blowing policemen, he hopped onto the back of a vegetable truck at the Bronx Terminal Market to denounce the mafia’s tactics and embargo the artichokes.