History of the Italian Americans in Philadelphia
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During the 18th Century Colonial Era of the United States, Italian migrants to Philadelphia came from higher class backgrounds and were considered to be accomplished in business, art, and music. Many early Italian settlements appeared in South Philadelphia. The Italians from this period predominantly originated from towns within Genoa Province, Liguria, including Genoa and Chiavari, while only a small number came from Veneto. Donna J. Di Giacomo, author of Italians in Philadelphia, wrote that the first population was "in much smaller numbers" than the mass immigrant groups of the late 19th Century. At the time many Americans had a positive view of classical culture and their view of the Italian immigrants was more positive.
In 1819 Silvio Pellico wrote in "Breve soggiorno in Milano di Battistino Barometro" that Italian immigrants were going to Philadelphia. Charles L. Flynn, Jr. of Assumption College stated in his book review of Building Little Italy that the Philadelphia Italian "community" didn't actually form until the 1850s and 1860s, when it achieved enough size to do so. There were 117 Philadelphia residents known to have been born in Italy. By the 1870 census this increased to 517, with 82% of them living in South Philadelphia.
In the end of the 19th Century Italians immigrating to Philadelphia mainly came from peasant villages in the south of Italy and were from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. During that era most Italians came to the United States in order to make more money, but the vocational skills they had learned in Italy were not in high demand in the U.S. Immigrants in the later period originated from Abruzzo, Avellino and Salerno in Campania, and Messina in Sicily. The public had a more negative perception of the poorer Italians, especially as the media focused on crimes and bad behavior.
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In the community's initial history (circa prior to the 1850s-1860s) about 67% of the residents were male, and about 67% were ages 15–44. The pre-1870 Italian community did not include labor agents. During that period Italians were concentrated in wards 2 through 5 in South Philadelphia.
By the early 20th century the ratio between families with children and male workers decreased.
The Ligurians held leadership roles within the Italian community during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The largest and oldest Italian community is located in South Philadelphia. Other neighborhoods with historical Italian settlements include East Falls, Germantown, and Manayunk. As of 2007 some Italian businesses still operate in Chestnut Hill.
Italians began settling Germantown in 1880. The Italian community in South Philadelphia was, at a later point, reduced in size due to Italians moving to Southern New Jersey. Italians especially moved to Washington Township. In 2007 Di Giacomo wrote in 2007 that "the Germantown settlement is 98 percent gone today".
Historically the Italian newspapers in Philadelphia included La Libera Parola, L'Opinione, and Il Popolo Italiano. The United Presbyterian Church publication was Vita. Ordine Nuovo was the newspaper of the Sons of Italy.
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The early Italian immigrants had little desire to be active in political life in either the U.S. or Italy since they focused on their work.
The Italians coming to Philadelphia were predominantly Catholic. Di Giacomo wrote "The church was the focal point of neighborhood life. Nearly everything, from baptisms to funerals, played out in or around the church." Some Italians were Protestant. The Protestants included Baptists, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals. In South Philadelphia second and third generations of Protestants left at a much quicker rate compared to Catholics of the same generation.
In 1898 Southern Italians who felt alienated from the St. Mary's Catholic Church due to their southern background and from the Irish St. Peter's Catholic Church founded the Our Lady of Good Counsel Church (Italian: La Chiesa Nostra Signora del Buon Consiglio). In 1933 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia closed Our Lady of Good Counsel. Di Giacomo wrote that "The church's constant activity is legendary to this day."
One Italian church, St. Rita of Cascia (in South Philadelphia at Broad and Ellsworth Streets), is now a shrine. Other Italian Catholic churches include King of Peace and St. Nicholas of Tolentine. The Presbyterian church had three Italian churches, with one in South Philadelphia, one in Germantown, and one in Overbrook.
The first Italian mutual aid society, the Società Italiana di Unione e Fratellanza, was organized in 1867.
- Al Alberts (Al Albertini), singer, composer
- Frankie Avalon (Frank Avallone), singer, actor, teen idol
- Toni Basil (Antonia Christina Basilotta), singer-songwriter, actress, filmmaker, film director, choreographer, dancer, singer of "Mickey"
- Maria Bello, actress, writer
- Jerry Blavat, disc jockey, performer, "The Geator with The Heater"
- Ben Bova, writer, six-time winner of the Hugo Award
- Angelo Bruno, Don of Philadelphia crime family
- Tony Bruno, sports talk radio personality
- Roy Campanella, Hall of Fame baseball player, Brooklyn Dodgers
- John Cappelletti, football player
- Gia Carangi, fashion model, one of the first famous women to die of AIDS
- Angelo Cataldi, sports talk radio personality
- Henry Cianfrani, politician
- Gus Cifelli, football player
- Bradley Cooper, actor, producer
- Jim Croce, Folk singer, songwriter
- Pat Croce, President of the Philadelphia 76ers
- Nick Falcon, founding member of rockabilly band "Young Werewolves"
- Cav. Francesco (Frank) DiCianni, architect
- Angelo Dundee (Angelo Mirena), boxing trainer and cornerman
- Lawrence M. Farnese, Jr., attorney, politician
- Linda Fiorentino, actress
- Fabian Forte (entertainer), singer, actor, Teen idol
- Sam Fogarino, drummer for the band Interpol
- Thomas Foglietta (U.S. ambassador to Italy), United States Ambassador to Italy
- Vince Fumo, lawyer, politician
- Joseph Genaro, co-founder, guitarist, co-lead vocalist of The Dead Milkmen
- Joey Giardello, world middleweight champion from 1963 to 1965
- Charlie Gracie, Rock 'N' Roll pioneer, singer
- Buddy Greco, jazz, pop singer
- William "Wild Bill" Guarnere, soldier, "Band of Brothers"
- Frank Guarrera, opera singer, Metropolitan Opera
- Natalie Guercio, "Mob Wife"
- Dom Irrera, stand-up comedian, actor
- Eddie Lang (Salvatore Massaro), "The Father of Jazz Guitar"
- Mario Lanza, actor, tenor
- Joey Lawrence (Joseph Lawrence Mignogna, Jr), actor, singer, game show host
- Tony Luke, Jr., Founder, cheesesteak franchise Tony Luke's
- Tony Mammarella, first producer and second host of American Bandstand
- Bob Marcucci, Manager, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, amongst other Teen idols
- Al Martino, singer, actor
- Pat Martino, jazz guitarist
- John Marzano, baseball player
- Joey Merlino, Don of Philadelphia crime family
- Mike Missanelli, sports radio personality
- Willie Mosconi, "Mr. Pocket Billiards", professional pool (pocket billiards) player, helped to popularize pool as a national recreation activity
- Pat Olivieri, co-creator of the Philly Cheesesteak.
- Harry Olivieri, co-creator of the Philly Cheesesteak.
- Frank Palumbo, owner of Palumbo's, an entertainment complex in South Philadelphia
- Vince Papale, Football player, inspiration for the 2006 movie Invincible
- Lisa Peluso, soap opera actress
- Christina Perri, singer, songwriter
- Nick Perri, founding member of rock band "Silvertide"
- Robert Picardo, actor, singer
- Jon Polito, actor, voice artist
- Frank Rizzo, First and only Italian Philadelphia Police Commissioner, 93rd mayor
- Bobby Rydell (Robert Louis Ridarelli), Teen idol, singer, actor
- Nicodemo Scarfo, Don of Philadelphia crime family
- Lisa Scottoline, author
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- Lawrence Venuti, translator, translation theorist, translation historian
- Anna C. Verna, President of the Philadelphia City Council
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- Tony Voce, hockey player
- Vincent Montana, Jr., musician, member of "MFSB"
- Juliani, p. 4.
- Di Giacomo, p. 8.
- Luconi, Stefano (University of Florence). "Building Little Italy: Philadelphia's Italians before Mass Migration" (Book Review). Italica, 1 April 1999, Vol.76(1), pp. 121–122. CITED: p. 122.
- Varbero, Richard A. (State University of New York, New Paltz). "Building Little Italy: Philadelphia's Italians before Mass Migration" (Book Review). The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1 July 1999, Vol.123(3), pp. 258–259. CITED: p. 258. "We learn that at first Philadelphians, like much of the English-speaking world, were receptive to the idea of Italy and its culture, visualizing the Italians as symbolic of classical culture. This attitude waned perceptibly as the less attractive features of nineteenth-century migrants emerged and newspapers focused on organ grinders, the exploiters of children, and the instances of violence involving Italians."
- Luconi, Stefano (University of Florence). "Building Little Italy: Philadelphia's Italians before Mass Migration" (Book Review). Italica, 1 April 1999, Vol.76(1), pp. 121–122. CITED: p. 121.
- Flynn, Charles L. (Assumption College) "Building Little Italy: Philadelphia's Italians Before Mass Migration" (Book Review). Italian Americana, 1 January 2000, Vol.18(1), pp. 110–111. CITED: p. 110.
- Di Giacomo, p. 7-8.
- Zucchi, John (McGill University). "Richard Juliani, Building Little Italy: Philadelphia's Italians before Mass Migration.(Book review)." Labour/Le Travail, Spring, 2000, Issue 45, p. 327(2). CITED: p. 328.
- Gabaccia, Donna R. (University of North Carolina at Charlotte). "Building Little Italy: Philadelphia's Italians before Mass Migration (review)." Journal of Social History, 1999, Vol.33(2), pp. 490–491. CITED: p. 491.
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- Di Giacomo, p. 11.
- Sheehan, Jason. "The Best Italian Restaurants in Philadelphia." Philadelphia. June 29, 2012. Retrieved on May 30, 2015.
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- Di Giacomo, Donna J. Italians of Philadelphia. Arcadia Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0738550205, 9780738550206.
- Juliani, Richard N. Building Little Italy: Philadelphia's Italians Before Mass Migration. Penn State Press, 2005. ISBN 0271028645, 9780271028644.
- Biagi, Ernest L. The Italians of Philadelphia. Carlton Press, 1967.
- Stanger-Ross, Jordan. Staying Italian: Urban Change and Ethnic Life in Postwar Toronto and Philadelphia. University of Chicago Press, January 15, 2010. ISBN 0226770761, 9780226770765.