America Immigration: Italy--Settlement


Figure 1.--The photograsph was an early attempt at color photography called photochrom and provides a wonderful look at the colors that we can only guess at with the black and white photography of the day. Despite their mostly rural roots, Italian immigrantls most Italian immigrants gravitated to New York and other large American cities, mostly in the northeast, although Chicago was another major center. Here we see Mulberry Street in New York, one of the major streets of Little Italy. The photograph is undated, but may have been taken around 1900. The big boy in the foreground on the right seems to be holding a glass--possibly a beer. Perhaps nothing unusual at that time and place? Also notice the boy in the same quadrnt of the photograph wearing a pink blouse and ruffled collar. Also notice all the push carts, a very important part of city life at the time. Click on the image for a fuller discussion. Source: Library of Congress. USZ62c4 4637

Before the massive immigration of the late-19th century, New Orleans had the largest Italian community. With the mass immigration of the late 19th century, New York became the the preminent Italian center in America. Most Italian immigrants entered the United States through New York City. Despite the fact that many Italian had rural backgrounds, most decided to settle in cities rather than become farmers. One source suggests that only about 10 percent of Itlian immigrants settled in rural aras. Italians settled in many American cities, primarily in the Northeast. The two most important were New York City and Chicago. Boston and Philadelphia were other important location where Italians settled. Few Italians moved into the Mid-West--except for Chicago. Some Italians did reach California.--specially San Francisco. There mostly Genoese immigrants played a major role in building the city. The most famous of course is Amadeo Pietro Giannini who founded the Bank of America. Because of the level of Italian immigration, Italian neighborhoods developed in many cities--often called Little Italy. Newly arriving immigrants would seek out family or friends and acquantences from their home town in Italy. New York had a huge Italian community and the largest Little Italy. It was possible to find tenement houses in New York which were entirely occupied by immigrants from the same Italian town or village.

New Orleans

Before the massive immigration of the late-19th century, New Orleans had the largest Italian community in America. Presumably the Catholic chracter of the city was a factor here. Italian-Americans make up a significant portion of south Louisiana's total population. Many arrived at the port of New Orleans from southern Italy, especially Apulia and Calabria, and from Sicily in the years after the Civil War. They found work often as plantation workers, replacing the newly freed slaves. As soon as possible they sent for their families. Children often worked alongside parents in the cane fields. Gradually they moved out into better paying activities. Some saved enough to buy small farms, something they could have never done if they had stayed in Italy. We note a Catholic congregation in Louisiana during 1922. Many f these Italians went into strawberry farming.

Northeastern Cities

With the mass immigration of the late 19th century, New York became the the preminent Italian center in America. Most Italian immigrants entered the United States through New York City. Italians settled in many American cities, primarily in the Northeast. The two most important were New York City and Chicago. Boston and Philadelphia were other important location where Italians settled. Few Italians moved into the Mid-West--except for Chicago. Some Italians did reach California.--specially San Francisco. There mostly Genoese immigrants played a major role in building the city. The most famous of course is Amadeo Pietro Giannini who founded the Bank of America.

Urban Settlement

Despite the fact that many Italian had rural backgrounds, most decided to settle in cities rather than become farmers. One source suggests that only about 10 percent of Itlian immigrants settled in rural areas. We are unsure why so few Italians with rural backgrounnds sought to settle in rural areas.

Little Italies

Italians were one of the most important immigrant group. Because of the level of Italian immigration, Italian neighborhoods developed in many cities--often called Little Italy. Newly arriving immigrants would seek out family or friends and acquantences from their home town in Italy. The best known Little Italy was of course in New York City. New York had a huge Italian community and the largest Little Italy. It was possible to find tenement houses in New York which were entirely occupied by immigrants from the same Italian town or village. Mulberry and Mott streets were very important in New York's Little Italy. There were Little Italies in most major American cities, especially in the northeat. Even smaller cities might have Little Italies. It is through these comminities that Italian influences entered Amerocan life. One major impact was a sunstanial increase in the Catholic population. And Italian cuisine like spagetti was made available to Americans. A major development was pizza, but this became an Italian-American dish. Italian pizza is very different.






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Created: 2:54 AM 9/7/2006
Last updated: 11:24 PM 11/16/2009