Modern US History

All the modern US history fit to print

Category: Dylan Pryor

Introduction

Italian Immigration to the US

The New World

As the United States’ economy became industrialized and started to boom, immigrants from all over the world, and especially Europe, came to find work and a home with a new availability of wealth. Italians were one of the largest groups to make their way to America, finding work in many major cities and creating foundations for growing industries. Like many immigrants, they tended to live near each other and brought their daily practices and culture with them. This manifested in many pockets of large Italian communities, transforming neighborhoods into what became known as “Little Italy,” which served as the cultural hub for anything from Italian food to labor and aid programs. Although the neighborhood provided a community of similar lives, they also became breeding grounds for organized crime. Leaders of crime syndicates in Italy took the same chance to move to America and start anew, albeit through the protection of community members and businesses, illegal distribution of alcohol and firearms, and various other self-interested and power-hungry routes (Bertellini 2004).

While the ethnic enclaves like Little Italy were important to introducing America to Italian culture, they also paint a picture of a larger problem indicative of the state of the country. Immigration into the United States was regulated through two points, Ellis Island and Angel Island, with Ellis Island seeing the main influx of European immigration. Because it was such a small port and saw an enormous amount of people daily, regulations put in place would have drastic impact on many travelers. Work by the Immigration Restriction League and Immigration Commission in the 1910s was done to prove racial inferiority of many groups of immigrants. Restrictions were pushed for, partially in an attempt to preserve racial purity, but masked under the guise of an impossibility of assimilation. Intelligence tests and job checks were common tools to distinguish “worthy” immigrants from those who threaten the stability of a white dominated society. The eugenics movement, responsible for joining forces with the birth control movement, focused heavily on the preservation of the white Anglo Saxon race and invested in the move for increase immigration restrictions. Restrictions came in the form of inspections of background, employment and health; easily generalizable factors that could result in discrimination based on false facts, like a botched health exam or impossible literacy tests. Many immigrants were not welcome as equals into America and were forced into communities by the people they settled around, often at a detriment to their quality of life (Pavalko 1980; Gauthreaux 2010).

Economic hardships within Europe combined with the access to jobs in a growing market made the US an attractive destination. These hardships came on the heels of many factors, but a main one being emerging radical political ideologies that discriminated against and ostracized many Europeans. Radical ideologies created tension and eventually war between multiple countries with opposing belief systems, causing exorbitant violence and death. World War I was the result of these political clashes and the subsequent infrastructural and economic devastation led to extreme poverty. The governments of both victors and losers were partially destabilized and as a result, the nations could not provide much aid to their people, sending the countries into economic peril. Similarly, a power vacuum in Europe resulted from the restructuring of the destabilized and defeated countries. Nationalistic ideologies, like Fascism and Nazism, were able to take root and force groups, like Jews, who they believed to be the cause of many problems as well as ideological rivals out of the country. After the events of WWI and movements like the radicalization of labor rights, immigrants were seen as a threat to politics and the economy as these ideas were the antithesis of American life. Economic devastation in Europe and, in particular, Italy, continuously incoming immigrants, and a booming American economy lead to the belief that Italy was promoting the emigration of its citizens to the US. This, in the eyes of many Americans, adversely affected society as it was contributing to genocide of the white race through the proliferation of those who were seen as non-white. Additionally, the political ideologies that were spreading throughout Europe were thought to be making their way to America, threatening the integrity of the United States economy and political system. Immigration was seen as a malicious act directly detrimental to the US while it benefitted Italy due to the influx of money being sent from America (Pavalko 1980; Mondello 1964; Bertonha 2001).

As the ethnic enclaves and cities grew, the resident communities and city governments discriminated heavily against the growing populations of Italians. Especially in the southern US, Italian communities were seen as disruptive and segregated. The newly-Americanized immigrants did not support the same beliefs, especially concerning white-supremacist politics and unionization, as the people they began living amongst and violent measures were taken to oppose these growing sects of Italians. The various governments around the US played their part is discrimination through designation of these areas as immigrant colonies via red-lining policies and the establishment of and lack of regulation on tenement housing. The value of the land being lived on, as well as the infrastructure, was deemed to be of lower value the closer it tended to be to immigrants and African Americans. This created a feedback loop of struggle and poverty resulting in rich white districts of cities and poorer non-white areas. The government systematically disenfranchised citizens and immigrants seen as non-Anglo Saxon through the creation of these policies which had wide-reaching consequences for those living in the areas. Overwhelming poverty and dangerous living conditions were a result of the lack of funding given to the neighborhoods. Racist policies and rules not only found their place in housing, but also in the workplace. Horrendous working conditions for immigrants of all nationalities were rampant, leading to many workplace accidents (Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire), lower pay and long hours. Because of the theory of scientific management, white people were thought to be more skilled than those of non-Anglo Saxon background and held more complex positions with higher wages so they were able to earn a greater living than those who were non-Anglo Saxon. (Bean 1992; Gauthreaux 2010).

While most immigrants were affected by the views of the American people and the restrictions that the government placed on them, the lives of Italian immigrants can be used as a model from which to investigate the factors that drove immigrants to the US to the hardships they faced once they reached the “land of opportunity.” Italian immigrants were one of the largest cohorts to migrate to America, so the hardships faced by them may be related to the struggles of other white nationalities. While immigration was a fluid process that never abruptly started or stopped, certain factors caused large spikes that can clearly be seen when investigating the numbers of incoming Italians. The mass influx of immigrants to the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries helped the economy explode while also causing massive immigration reform along the way.

Citations

Primary Sources

  1. Author Not Found. 1927. “Ellis Island Scenes Pictured: Immigrants Just as They Arrive Are to Be Seen in Screen Version of the Stage Comedy ‘We Americans’” New York Times, June 12. X5.
  2. Author Unknown. 1904. “Protecting Italian Immigrants.” New York Observer and Chronicle (1833-1912). American Periodicals (New York, NY). June 16. Page 776.
  3. Author Unknown. 1924. “Italy Feels Hit Hard by Immigration Bill: Officials Say Johnson’s Proposals Not Only Discriminate, but Also Affect National Income.” The New York Times (1923-2018). American Periodicals (New York, NY). January 6. Page S5.
  4. Carr, J.F. 1869-1939. “Societies Helpful to the New Arrival.” Guide to the United States For the Italian Immigrant (New York, NY).
  5. Carr, J.F. 1906. “The Coming of the Italian: Illustrated from Photographs by Arthur Hewitt.” Outlook. American Periodicals (New York, NY). February 24. Page 418.
  6. Eliot, M. 1905. “The Societies for Italian Immigrants.” Southern Planter (1882-1906). American Periodicals (Richmond, VA). August. Page 648.
  7. Letter from Diego Delfino to Mary Helen Delfino, January 10, 1926.
  8. Ludovic, N. 1926. “Italy, France, and the Vatican.” The Living Age (1897-1941). American Periodicals (Boston, MA). November 1. Page 233.
  9. Meegan, Jean. 1948. “The New New York: Lower East Side Rises Above Slums.” AP Newsfeatures (New York, NY), April 28. Page 2.
  10. Merlino, S. 1893. “Italian Immigrants and Their Enslavement.” Forum (1886-1930). American Periodicals (New York, NY). April. Page 183.
  11. Roberts, S. 2015. “Jacob Riis Photographs Still Revealing New York’s Other Half.” The New York Times. October 22.
  12. Scarantino, Ross, interview by Debra Heid. National Park Service, May 26, 1992.
  13. Tartarini, Victor, interview by Debby Dane. November 22, 1985.
  14. U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Immigration. 1921. “Quotas of aliens according to port, including statistics of deportations and allotments of immigrants by arriving vessel.” Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Series A: Subject Correspondence Files, Part 3: Ellis Island, 1900-1933, National Archives, Washington D.C.

 

Secondary Sources

  1. Bertellini, Giorgio. “Black hands and white hearts: Italian immigrants as ‘urban racial types’ in early American film culture.” Urban History 31, no. 3 (2004): 375-399.
  2. Bertonha, João F. “Fascism and Italian Communities in Brazil and the United States.” Italian Americana 19, no. 2 (2001): 146-157.
  3. Gauthreaux, Alan G. “An Inhospitable Land: Anti-Italian Sentiment and Violence in Louisiana, 1891-1924.” Louisiana History no. 51-1 (2010): 46-58.
  4. Pavalko, Ronald M. “Racism and the New Immigration: A Reinterpretation of the Assimilation of White Ethnics in American Society.” Sociology & Social Research no. 65-1 (1980): 56-77.
  5. Bean, Philip A. “The Role of Community in the Unionization of Italian Immigrants: The Utica Textile Strike of 1919.” Ethnic Forum no.12-1 (1992): 36-55.
  6. Mondello, Salvatore. “Italian Migration to the U.S. as Reported in American Magazines, 1880-1920.” Social Science no. 39-3 (1964): 131-142.

Firsthand Accounts

“My father went all alone because his father was here already and his stepmother was here already, see. My grandfather got married twice. The first wife died and then he married a second time. So my grandfather got married again, he came to America. So my father came to America to make money, to send us, to send us the passport and everything so we could come in this country. Because, you know, they didn’t have no money in those days, you know. Okay. So I went to live with my aunt and uncle. They had four children. And, uh, after a year or two or three, I forgot, he sent a passport, sent the money for me and my mother and my brother Gino to come in this country. So my mother dressed me up, she dressed my brother up. Already, the second week she died, before we left, with pneumonia. She died. So, naturally, we were alone, so my aunt took us in, because she was my father’s sister. So we stayed up there, and then the war, the 1918, ’16 or ’18, the war started. First World War, I’m talking about. And because my uncle went to, to war in Italy, and my aunt ran the store and I used to help her to run the store, you know, just a little small grocery and, uh, she didn’t make bread then because they couldn’t get flour and things.”

The previous quote is from an interview with Victor Tartarini, beginning with a description of his journey to America and the factors which led his family to leave Italy, namely because his father had moved, found work and wanted to bring the rest of his family over. He then describes how he could not come due to his mother’s death, and a subsequent attack by the Fascist party on his Socialist-leaning town. Many people he knew opposed Fascism as a result of the lifestyle they lived, and because of this his father stayed in America and fought in WWII for the United States. Most of the interview then discusses how once he traveled to America to join his father, they moved around a significant amount because of his father’s work. He concludes the interview by refusing to sing a song due to the connotations with the Fascisti.

SCARANTINO: Oh, yes, very well. I was just there about nine years ago and visited my old. We have hundreds of cousins there. My parents all have relatives there. And from there then we went to Caltanissetta. That’s a province of Sicily.

HEID: Well, before we get there, do you remember when you were growing up there? What type of little town was it?

SCARANTINO: Well, it was a little town and I didn’t do no work then because I wasn’t old enough, but I was walking up and down the cobble streets. And when we went to church we took our chair with us to go to church because you don’t bring your chair. You had to pay a penny to sit down, and that wasn’t far from our home.

HEID: And what did your father do for a living?

SCARANTINO: My dad, he had a farm. He had a farm out there. That’s all it was. And then he worked in the sulphur mines too before, while he was there. That’s the mines that they have to go to work. They didn’t want to work.

HEID: What type of mine is it?

SCARANTINO: Sulphur, sulphur, like the coal. Instead of coal it’s sulphur. And when we used to go for water there’s a big pit in the middle of the town, like, and we used to go for the water, go down and bring it up with the pails.

HEID: What was your father’s name?

SCARANTINO: My dad’s name was, well, either Italian or English.

SCARANTINO: Well, I don’t know. But they, you know, they just, from my part they thought they were higher up than us, you know, the Italian people. And the Polish people, too. They thought, you hear guys that I know work in the mines, they used to work in the breaker, these Italian fellows, and breaker is where you take the rock out of the coal, you know, and the boss was either Irish or Welsh. And if they didn’t hurry they beat them, hit them. And this one guy that I worked, the fellow that I worked in the A&P he must have got, a couple of times he must have got beaten by the boss, you know. So one day he wasn’t looking, he did something to him and he, with an iron thing, and he hurt him, too. He says, (?). He told us. He says some of them come, he says, “I told him. I gave it to him.” We’re trying our best here but, like I say, in the old days the Welsh and the Irish controlled the mines. I guess maybe you don’t know about that, but they. So that’s the way, little by little it fades away because we live here now, it’s almost all Italians here now, almost, than Irish, see.

The previous interview details the journey of an Italian immigrant, Ross Scarantino, to America with his family in 1919. He begins by telling the tale of how his family had the idea to travel to America on the account of it being the land of opportunity, the experience of coming through Ellis Island, being inspected and having his legal name changes, and what happened during his first couple years in America. He discusses how his grandparents were the driving force for his family to come, and how they brought their trade of sulfur mining from Sicily to America. Later in the interview, he explains how discrimination against the Italians manifested itself in the workplace, with mine managers beating Italian workers and Irish and Welsh neighbors also beating the Italian children in the neighborhood.

Restrictions

ITALY FEELS HARD HIT BY IMMIGRATION BILL: Officials say Johnson’s Proposals Not Only Discriminate, but Also Affect National Income.

ROME, Jam. 5. – The Italian public is much exercised over the possibility that Congressman Johnson’s bill, curtailing immigration into America from Southern and Eastern Europe, will be approved by Congress and go into force at the expiration of the present immigration law on June 30.

The possibility that the Italian emigration to the United States will be cut down from 42,000 to something under 8,000 annually also causes apprehension in official circles here, as any tampering with Italy’s safety valve of emigration is viewed with deep alarm. The Foreign Ministry, however, denies that the Italian Ambassador has been instructed to protest, as was announced by several newspapers here. He has merely been told to keep in close contact with American officials, and to lose no opportunity to present the Italian case to the public in the United States.

The Foreign Ministry makes a moral question of the problem of emigration to America, and objects to what it terms the “discrimination against Italy” embodied in the proposed bill. As Italy sees it, Congressman Johnson’s plan, whether intentionally or unintentionally, hits Italy more severely than any other European country, and therefore it is natural to conclude that it is directed chiefly against Italy.

“If the bill is passed it will publicly brand Italians as ‘undesirable aliens.'” said a high official at the Foreign Ministry, “and it is this aspect of the case which preoccupies us more than the material damage that curtailment of emigration will cause us.”

The same official also said that the work done by Italians on the American railroads, “which are literally strewn with the corpses of Italian workmen.” should, if nothing else, preclude any idea of shutting the Italian out.

In addition to these moral considerations, there are several material ones which give  the Italian officials concern. Notable among these is the benefit of remittances which Italian immigrants send home every year, and the curtailment of that part of Italian exports which are consumed chiefly by Italian emigrants. There are sources of national income which, the officials hold, would be cut off should the Johnson bill be approved by Congress.

The subject of the New York Times article is the Immigration Act of 1924, where two percent of the total number of people of each nationality were granted immigration visas from every country except Asian nations. The article outlines how the allotted annual immigration from Italy will be cut from 42,000 to less than 8,000 and that the Italian government was shocked by such a development. The Italian government believed it was discriminatory and because of this, many American publications reasoned that the Italian ambassador was instructed to protest the US government. The Foreign Ministry of Italy believes that the bill is aimed specifically at Italian immigration as the proposed cuts affect Italians much more harshly than any other nationality. They also disagree on the grounds that Italian workers have helped build American infrastructure more than any other nationality and should be compensated for their work through the exemption from the restriction. Lastly, the author outlines how Italy is worried that they will not be able to receive as much money from immigrants as there will be less of them at any given time and thus, less money being sent home. This source was found through ProQuest’s New York Times archival database through a search for Italian immigration restrictions.

 

 

 Dylan Pryor Dylan Pryor

This is part of a collection of documents taking count of the exact number of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island based on vessel, departure point, nationality of the immigrants and allotted number of immigrants from each departure point per vessel. The immigrants accounted for came from almost every European country, and even some Middle Eastern countries like Syria. There are letters between the Assistant Commander of Immigration on Ellis Island and the Commissioner-General of Immigration in Washington D.C. about the incoming vessels and confirmation on the number of immigrants from each country. One particular telegram stands out, on page 12, that states the “Hehgali Hellas” will be bringing a large number of passengers that are coming to meet their already settled family and because of this are not within the preferential classes that the government would want immigrating.

 

Opportunities and Hardships

Protecting Italian Immigrants

The Society for the Protection of Italian Immigrants, which has its office at 17 Pears St., is doing a very important work in the way of defending the newly arrived Italians, almost all of whom are very ignorant, very childlike, and wholly unfamiliar with the customs and language of this country, from the “sharps” and “crooks” and dishonest “runners” who are ready to take advantage of their helplessness as soon as they land. The Society guides the immigrants to their destination and provides them with employment as well as advice. The Italian immigrants arriving in the port of New York alone numbered 140,000 in 1901, 165,631 in 1902, and 207,476 in 1903. The Society was founded in March, 1901, and it now has 375 members. The balance in its treasury on March 1, 1093, was $3,884.82. Since then it has received up to March 1, 1904, $5,578.65 from the Italian Government, $2,767.30 from contributions and dues, and $182.51 from its Labor Bureau, making the total receipts during the year of $12,613.28.

Society for the Protection of Italian Immigrants, a group whose main goal was to aid Italian immigrants in their settlement to New York City, is highlighted. It is founded upon the knowledge that newly arrived immigrants do not know the customs of America nor the dangers of being unaccustomed to society. Similar to “Societies Helpful to the New Arrival,” this group meets immigrants at their port of entry and guides them to their destination in New York. They help immigrants find acceptable work and are a source of information about America for the uninformed immigrants. New immigrants are vulnerable to people looking to take advantage of them, provide them with inadequate work, and generally wring them of all their money before they know what is happening. The society is wary of this and works to prevent the inevitable. Interesting to note is that this society was funded by the Italian government in an attempt to make the lives of their countrymen easier.

 

The Society for Italian Immigrants at 129 Broad Street, New York City, maintains a free office of information and assistance which is open from nine o’clock in the morning to half-past five in the evening. Here the Italian immigrant may obtain all the advice and assistance of which he is in need to help the arriving relative or friend to land or to communicate with him if he has already arrived. Immigrants should have every confidence in the agents of this Society. They should go exclusively to them for information, for guidance to their destination, for buying railroad tickets, hunting out baggage; otherwise they are likely to be swindled.

When coming to New York from abroad or arriving from the interior, always send word in advance to this Society; they will send an agent to meet you and take you to the Albergo per gil Immigrati Italiani, where a bed and very good meals can be had for $.50 a day, everything included.

The Society of San Rafacle — This Society gives special assistance to Italian women and children. For this purpose it maintains a retreat at 10 Charlton Street, New York City. Father Moretto of the Missionaries of San Carlo Borromeo, at Ellis Island, meets every steamer, and to him Italian women and children can turn for assistance and advice.

This exerpt from John Carr’s Guide to the United States for the Italian Immigrant displays the kinds of support societies that were available for un-assimilated Italians. It gives the location to the reader, as well as the services available; these range from buying tickets to contacting family and friends. The article advises that immigrants notify the society in advance of arrival, so they can help as soon as the immigrant arrives and have someone to meet them at Ellis Island. This is done so that Italian immigrants can avoid being taken advantage of, stolen from, or given high prices for a low-cost service because they are newly-arrived. The line “likely to be swindled” accents the lack of respect Americans had for immigrants, displaying that they were going to be taken advantage of if they were not careful, something that immigrants may have no planned to face in the land of opportunity.

 

THE SOCIETY FOR ITALIAN IMMIGRANTS.

Editor Southern Planter:

Dear Sir: The need of the Southern States for laborers, mill workers and settlers is leading to many inquiries why out of the large number of immigrants coming from Europe more cannot be diverted Southward than at present go They can be; but only when the conditions under which they come are studied and understood, and the requirements for their Southern settlement met with.

A primary requisite is that they should be familiarized with the conditions of the Southern States and the advantages they offer. Landing as they do chiefly in Northern ports it is absurd to suppose they will travel farther if they know nothing about the country they are going to. Some immigrants can be informed… but to be really effective such instruction must be given to them before they sail.

Accordingly, The Society for Italian Immigrants will be glad to receive printed matter relating to the advantages… and will distribute [them] both in this country and in Europe…

The Society will also cause any manufacturing plant, mine or plantation, the owners of which desire workmen or settlers, to be examined by a competent person who will report fully thereon. These reports will cover all the conditions which concern the prospective settler, such as climate, house rent, cost of living, rate of wages, hours of work, etc….

As the Society is an entirely charitable Society, all it will do will be done simply for the cause of benefitting the immigrant by inducing him to settle where he will live most healthily and happily.

This source is a letter from, presumably, a contractor of some sort from the southern US. They wrote to inquire about the possibility of immigrants being directed to the southern states for work as they mostly stay in the north. The writer says that moving would be beneficial to both the immigrants and the inhabitants of the southern US, but only once the immigrants are familiarized with the southern way of life. He believes that there is not enough information given to the immigrants for them to make an informed decision about moving south, and that if societies, like The Society for Italian Immigrants, helps to give them a more wholistic view of work in the country then they will be able to move south and have good work. This writer shows through the article that he acknowledges the wide-spread mistreatment of immigrants and assures the editor that The Society for Italian Immigrants will be in charge of inspecting the working conditions of their recommended destinations, so the immigrants will be able to acquire good, well-paying work. Omitted, however, is the apparent racism face by Italians moving to the southern United States.

 

Italian Immigrants and their enslavement

This article describes the challenges faced by working Italian immigrants in America through the first-person accounts of the author in relation to two different immigrants he had observed. He outlines the tendency for certain trades, like professional tailors and hat-makers, to settle in one spot and move their family to the location after they are established while a non-specialized worker tended to move to where they could find work, lacking the ability to settle in one spot. He next discusses the laws which inhibit Italian workers from making substantial pay and instead the cheap labor that is produced by these laws helps the contractors by not requiring higher pay. He then tells the reality of these immigrants being forced to do work they do not want to take part in but must for the security of their futures, even if it means blindly accepting shady jobs. The employers know this fact and it creates a cycle of poverty and workplace malpractice as the laborers have no other option.

Americanization

ELLIS ISLAND SCENES PICTURED: Immigrants Just as They Arrive Are to Be Seen in Screen Version of the Stage Comedy “We Americans”

Government authorities have not always been keen to permit the film producers to reproduce the machinery of making Americans. Now, however, Government officials, when they are certain that a moving picture will contribute to Americanism or to an awakening on the part of the country at large to the problems presented by immigration, have made it possible for picture producers to photograph actual scenes.

We asked him if he felt there would be any danger of the costumes of the immigrants having changed in these twenty years.

“Not a chance… They haven’t changed in two hundred years…. I would suggest that he wait for one of the immigrant ships from Italy before taking some scenes. They are the most colorful of all the immigrants who come here.”

It developed in the talk with Commissioner Day that not nearly so many immigrants are sent to Ellis Island at the present time as in the old days. This is due to the practice instituted by the United States Government of having prospective immigrants examined by immigration officials in foreign countries before taking passage.

This newspaper article details the use of film and images of immigrants making their way through Ellis Island in a film titled We Americans in an attempt to highlight the poor representation of immigrants and the countries they come from. The perception of Italian immigrants by Americans at the time, and the attempt to stir nationalism and racism, by making “Americanization” a goal for incoming immigrants. Quotes from Ellis Island officials can be seen that highlight the apparent racism and denigration toward the immigrants on the grounds of their clothes. It is also important to note that in the screenplay, there are scenes of actual immigrants arguing their cases for immigration to officials for the audience to see. The idea of Americanization was not only imposed on immigrants coming to the country, but it was also presented to the public in a form that celebrated its ability to seemingly civilize these immigrants.

Italian Life and Americans’ Perception

   Dylan Pryor Dylan Pryor

Dylan Pryor Dylan Pryor

This article contains a mix of illustrations of Italian laborers and a description of perceptions of Italians in America. The pictures are of various Italians who, the author describes, as representative or non-representative of the new Italian immigrant class. The pictures range from subway workers to cooks. They describe the differences between Italians and how people who are all labelled the same by Americans are, in fact, vastly different from one another. The article mirrors the same sentiments, addressing how Italians from regions located geographically close can be extraordinarily different, even going as far to say that the languages between different regions are entirely different. The customs of the regions are different from cooking to cultural thought and a history of how this came to be through the division of states is explained. The author explains that not all immigrants stay permanently, and it seems to be dependent on the skill level and literacy of the Italians. Highlighted is the discrimination taking place at the housing and judicial levels where Italians are often convicted without due process and resigned to live in dilapidated housing that is never improved.

BELLAIRE, OHIO, JANUARY 10th˙ 1926

MY ADORED DAUGHTER,

I’VE RECEIVED YOUR LAST ONE DATED DECEMBER 14TH OF LAST YEAR, AND I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THERE WAS SUCH A LONG DELAY.

IN YOUR LETTER, YOU WERE EXPRESSING YOUR TENDERNESS AND THE AFFECTION THAT YOU HAVE FOR YOUR FAR-AWAY PARENT. YOUR EXPRESSIONS AND YOUR GOOD WISHES FILLED ME WITH JOY. THANKS, MY DEAR MARY, THANKS.

I’M FAIRLY FINE WITH YOUR BROTHERS, WHO ARE VERY BRATY AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MY GOOD NATURE.

LITTLE JOHN IS A COMPLETE ARTIST. THE WAY HE HAS PROGRESSED IN HIS DRAWINGS IS SHOCKING EVERYONE, GIVEN HIS TENDER AGE. FROM SUNRISE TO SUNSET, HE DOES NOTHING BUT PAINT ANF EVEN WHEN WE’RE IN CHURCH, HE WOULD LIKE TO DRAW THE PRIEST WHILE HE’S SAYING THE MASS. WHAT A MISCHIEVOUS ONE! IF HE WILL LIVE AND HAVE THE GOOD HEALTH, HE WILL BE ABLE TO EARN HIS LIVING IN NO TIME. I’M SENDING YOU SOME OF HIS SKETCHES THAT HE MAKES AT A TERRIFIC SPEED. I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO PAY YOUR SCHOOL’S BILL, GIVEN THE SCARSITY OF JOBS IN THIS TOWN, WAITING, FROM WHAT I HEAR, THAT THE MINERS WILL GO BACK TO WORK. IN THESE PLACES, IF THE MINERS DON’T WORK, I CAN’T MAKE ANY MONEY. I’M SORRY THAT FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER I FAILED TO TAKE CARE OF MY OBLIGATIONS. I HOPE TO BE ABLE TO DO IT SHORTLY.

ADVISE THE MOTHER SUPERIOR THAT UNSEEN AND CRUEL CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE FORCED ME TO FAIL TO PAY. I HOPE THAT YOU ARE FINE AND HAVE FUN WITH YOUR CLASSMATES. THERE IS NOTHING MORE VALUABLE IN THE WORLD THAN PEACE WITHIN THE FAMILY. GLORY TO THE HIGHEST HEAVENS AND PEACE ON EARTH TO MEN OF GOOD FAITH! FOR NOW I WILL HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO TELL YOU. I’M SENDING YOU YOUR BROTHERS’ HUGS AND KISSES AND WITH MY BLESSINGS A MILLION KISSES FROM MY POOR HEART,

YOUR FATHER.

This letter is part of a collection of letters sent between Diego and Mary Helen Delfino, a father and daughter. Diego was living in the US while his daughter was a student back in Italy, to whom Diego would send money and support. Most of their family lived in the US and in this letter, Diego is describing what is happening with the family to Mary Helen. A large part of this letter talks about how Diego is unable to find a job in the rural town of Bellaire, Ohio. There are few jobs, but the miners were going to work soon so he believed he may be able to find a job with them. Along with the rest of the collection, the letter displays the difficulties in communicating across continents in the 1920s, where letters would be received months apart and still payments for school and other expenses must be made.

The New New York: Lower East Side Rises

New York – Gotham’s old world district, the lower east side, is shaping into modern American.

Four up-to-the-minute housing projects will shelter more than 35,000 people in the next year and a half. Hitherto the populous, crowded tow square miles was a squalid mass of tenements, push carts, plaster saints, mezuzahs, brass coffee pots, windows stuffed with bedding, summer fire escapes filled with troubled sleepers.

One project, the Vladeck, opened in 1940, has 11,500 tenants living in decent, if somewhat institutional surroundings. As soon as 100 apartments were finished in the new Jacob Riis development they were filled. When that project is completed next summer there will be room for 13,000 more.

Two others are under construction: the Lillian Walk and the Governor Alfred E. Smith. That will take care of 14,000.

Curiously the tenants are not all old-timers from the east side. They are preponderantly ex-soldiers and their wives, second generation Americans.

What was once the largest Jewish neighborhood in the world is now mostly Italian and the Italian population shrunk 15 per cent last year, according to social agency figures.

On the surface the lower east side has not changed as dramatically. Ancient synagogue’s and churches, old world shops and restaurants remain intact. Folks go back to the old neighborhood to be married and buried, to shop and to celebrate.

Dylan Pryor

This article details the building of new apartment buildings in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, creating alternative housing to the tenements that were there before. This includes an illustration by Jacob Riis of the planned buildings. It also talks about how the new buildings, despite being housing alternatives to the tenements, are not going to house the past inhabitants of the tenement buildings but rather veterans and second-generation Americans. This newspaper clipping was found through the AP Collections Online database, a catalogue of old articles from their past publications. The article shows the blatant disregard for certain groups of people, namely Jews and Italians, through decisions to support housing and the general quality of life of these groups. Although the city knew about the horrible conditions of the tenements, they continued to disregard the problems. Instead of helping the families that lived there, the city instead built entirely new housing projects for a different group of people, one that fit the American ideal more strongly.

Italy, France, and the Vatican

This article outlines the ideas behind Fascism and why some Italians may support the new rising form of government. Initially, Ludovic describes fascism as a unifying force that can bring Italians together after centuries of division and strife. This unifying idea comes from a strong nationalist sentiment that Italy had been mistreated by its allies at the closing of WWI and that they must take back what is rightfully theirs. Namely, they were left without colonies from which to extract resources from in order to keep their nation afloat. The Fascisti are a group focused on uniting the youthful population of Italy around violent ideals. Fascists had turned against many parts of the world, claiming that Italians were being discriminated against in many countries and not allowed in on illegitimate grounds. One way the Fascists attempted to claim the country is through the Vatican, mandating religion classes and empowering the church in the education sphere. However, a difficulty they face is the fact that they overthrew the Popular Party, the party backed by the Vatican, and thus had problems securing approval.

Dylan Pryor

“Italians were happy-go-lucky and content to live in a pig sty” – Jacob Riis

This photograph comes from an article written recently (2015) but catalogues the work of Jacob Riis from the 1880s and 1890s. It contains images such as “Five Cents a Spot,” a photograph of an Italian family living in the tenements in lower Manhattan that depicts the horrible conditions they were forced to live in. Many poor immigrants, and specifically Italians, were neglected housing-wise and were given dilapidated housing because they were largely overlooked by society. While Jacob Riis was the one who brought mainstream attention to these issues, he was also known to believe Italians, because of their heritage and happy-go-lucky attitude, were “content to live in a pig sty,” a sentiment that he echoed throughout his various lectures to followers of his work. This article is an example of how, while the problems of the time were acknowledged, they were often left to the side because nobody cared to help due to racist ideas about Italians.

© 2019 Modern US History

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑