Iconic picture of Generoso Pope
April 1, 1891
Arpaise, Benevento, Italy
|Died||April 28, 1950
New York, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Founder of the
Generoso Pope Foundation
|Spouse(s)||Catherine Richichi (1896–1998)|
Generoso Pope, Jr.
|Relatives||Carlo Papa (brother)|
Generoso Pope (April 1, 1891 – April 28, 1950), was an Italian-American businessman and newspaper publisher, and the owner of a chain of Italian-language newspapers in major American cities.
Generoso was born with the name Generoso Antonio Pompilio Carlo Papa. He was the son of farmers Fortunato and Fortunata Papa. After coming to America, he fathered three sons with his wife Catherine. His eldest son, Fortunato "Fortune", (1918–1996) graduated from Columbia University and became an executive in the family construction business. Anthony (1919–2005) who was the middle son, took over the family business and quadrupled the size of Colonial Sand and Stone Company in less than four years. Generoso Pope, Jr. (1927–1988) graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology at age 19 and purchased what was to become the National Enquirer in 1952, two years after his father's death.
Generoso Pope arrived in America at age 15 in 1906 with $10 in his pocket and got his first job carrying drinking water to construction workers for $3 per week. He rose to construction supervisor and, eventually, owner of Colonial Sand & Stone, which was the largest sand and gravel company in the world. Colonial built much of New York City’s skyline, including Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge, and the original Yankee Stadium.
In 1912, Generoso established Pope Foods to bring to America the unique Italian flavors which he had enjoyed as a young child in Italy. He bought the Italian-language daily newspaper Il Progresso Italo-Americano in 1928 for $2,050,000, which would convert to $261,000,000 in the modern day economy. He doubled its circulation to 200,000 in New York City, making it the largest Italian-language daily in the country. He purchased additional papers in New York, including Il Bollettino della Sera, Il Corriere d'America, and the Philadelphia daily L'Opinione. Generoso also acquired a small newspaper company and transformed it into The National Enquirer. He also owned the radio station, WHOM, which is the current 92.3 NOW. He became the chief source of political, social, and cultural information for the community.
Pope encouraged his readers to learn English, become citizens, and vote. His goal was to instill pride and ambition to succeed in modern America. A conservative Democrat who ran the Columbus Day parade and admired Mussolini, Pope was the most powerful enemy of anti-Fascism among Italian Americans. He was closely associated with Tammany Hall politics in New York, and his newspapers played a vital role in securing the Italian vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt's Democratic tickets. It is recorded that Generoso is the influence for the election of President Roosevelt. With his presidential friendships, Generoso was able to make Columbus Day into a national holiday in 1934. He also founded the Columbus Day Parade in New York City, which is still the world's largest Columbus Day Parade.
Pope served as chairman of the Italian Division of the Democratic National Committee in 1936, and helped persuade the president to take a neutral attitude over Italy's invasion of Ethiopia. He broke with Benito Mussolini in 1941 and enthusiastically supported the American war effort. In the late 1940s, Pope supported and helped secure the vote for William O'Dwyer as New York City mayor in 1945 and Harry S. Truman as president. His business concerns continued to prosper under New York's Democratic administrations. In the early years of the Cold War, Pope was a leading anti-Communist, orchestrating a letter writing campaign by his subscribers to stop the Communists from winning the Italian elections in 1948.
Pope Hall at Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, New Jersey was dedicated to Generoso in 1971. The St. Francis College athletics building in Brooklyn, New York, which houses their NCAA Division I teams is named after Pope.
Generoso Pope died of a heart ailment at age 59 in April, 1950, and was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in a private mausoleum adjacent to Central Avenue, the cemetery's main road. His wife Catherine Richichi Pope died in 1998 at age 101. The entire Pope family is interred at Woodlawn except for Gene, Jr., who is buried at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Cemetery in Royal Palm Beach, Florida.
- From Il Progresso to the Enquirer: the story of the Pope family. Tiziano Thomas Dossena, L'Idea Magazine #3 Vol.II, NY, 2000