Compared to the nations of northern Europe, Italy provided very few immigrants for the first “wave” of Mormon converts to Utah in the 1850-1880. Only a small group of about 50 Waldensians from an area near Turin came to the Salt Lake Valley during that early period. They had been converted by the missionary efforts of Joseph Toronto and Lorenzo Snow, who later became the President of the LDS Church.
The names of those Waldensian families, such as Bertoche, Beus, Cardon, Chatelain, and Malan are deeply intertwined with the development of Utah. The second wave of immigrants, from 1890 to 1920s, involved thousands of people from every region of Italy, but especially from the southern regions of Calabria and Sicily, and the northern regions of Piedmont and Trentino. The new immigrants settled in the counties of Salt Lake, Carbon and Weber, where most of the railroad and mining jobs were available. A Little Italy soon spread in the west side of Salt Lake City around the Rio Grande station, with stores selling Italian food and merchandise. The Catholic parish where Italians met was St Patrick, located in their neighborhood.
In the 1950s Little Italy was cut in the middle by the construction of the freeway, and from then on it decayed rapidly. The Italian Festival Ferragosto is also held every August in that historic area. A farmers' market, similar to the Italian ones, helps to create a Mediterranean environment.
According to the 2000 census, 57,500 people in Utah claimed some Italian ancestry, with about 3,000 being recent immigrants. The percentage of Italian Americans in Utah is about 2.3 percent. Nationally, their percentage is calculated around 5.6 percent, with the majority living in the Northeast, in the Midwest, in California, and in Florida.
Notable Italians in Utah
- Fortunato Anselmo was the Vice Consul of Italy of Salt Lake City from the 1920s to the beginning of the World War II. He was very respected for his volunteer work in favor of the new Italian immigrants.
- Mario Capecchi is the 2007 Nobel Prize winner for Medicine.
- Joseph Toronto was the first Italian who came to Utah with the first pioneers in 1848. He was the "President's (Brigham Young) herdsman." In 1850 he accompanied Lorenzo Snow in the first Italian Mormon mission in the Turin area, where they converted a few Waldensians. He has many notable descendants in Utah.
The main goal of the early fraternal organizations were to provide funding for sick days to members, because at that time there was no coverage for workers. The most important were: Fratellanza Minatori, founded at Sunnyside in 1902. Italian Americanization Club, was based in Salt Lake City, starting from 1919. Società Cristoforo Colombo, operated in Salt Lake City, Ogden and Castle Gate for several years, starting in 1897.
The Italian American Civic League was founded in 1934 and it is still active today. It is the oldest remaining Italian club in Utah and is also a non-profit organization. The Friendly Club was founded in Ogden by a group of northern Italians from the region of Trentino (north of Venice) in 1937. Today it is called the Trentini Club. Italian American Lawyers Association was founded a few years ago. They have monthly meetings.
As of today, Brigham Young University is the only educational institution in Utah that has a B.A. program in Italian Language and Culture. They also offer a program in Florence and Rome. The University of Utah offers a minor in Italian language, along with a program in Siena. Through OSHER, a beginning language course is also offered. East High School in Salt Lake City offers a short beginning course. Nationally, Italian is the fourth most taught language in schools and colleges, after Spanish, French, and German.
In the early years of Italian immigration, several newspapers appeared, such as Il Minatore, edited by Mose Paggi, La Gazzetta Italiana, by G. Milano, La Scintilla, by Alfonso Russo and G. Milano, and Il Corriere d'America, by Frank Niccoli and Alfonso Russo. Copies of these newspapers, as well as old pictures, and taped and transcribed interviews of prominent Italians are kept at the Special Collection of the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah.
Recently, the In Piazza magazine was published from 1998 to 2004. As of today, there are no Italian paper periodicals published in Utah.
Over the years Italy has provided Utah with thousands of people. Some came for religious motivations and most for better economic opportunities. Four thousand came as prisoners of war and a few remained in Utah after the World War II ended. Eight of them rest in a Salt Lake City cemetery after being killed by a camp sentinel. A few hundred Utah soldiers fought in Italy against the Germans and the Fascists and several died. Regarding the number of people, for many years the balance has been in favor of Italy. But starting from the late 1960s, many Mormon missionaries from Utah are active in the major Italian cities. During the past forty years, several thousand of them have spent up to two years in Italy. As a result of their efforts, about 20,000 Italians have converted to Mormonism. Some of them have married former Mormon missionaries. LDS chapels and congregations are present in most Italian cities. The Genealogical Society of Utah has microfilmed a large percentage of Italy’s Catholic Church and Civil Records. This project is ongoing.
Trade and tourism
Italy is one of the top 25 of Utah's trading partners. Gold is the major product exported to Italy, followed by computer electronics and software. According to official data, Utah is visited every year by about 12,000 Italians.
- Cultural assimilation
- Italian Americans
- National and ethnic cultures of Utah
- "Utah History to Go".
- Philip F. Notarianni, "Italian Fraternal Organizations in Utah, 1897-1934," Utah Historical Quarterly 43 (1975)
- "Languages Spoken and Learned in the United States".
- "The Italy Rome LDS Mission Homepage".
- Utah Trade Statistics
- Utah Travel Agency
- Notarianni, Philip F. (1994), "ITALIANS IN UTAH", in Powell, Allan Kent, Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917
- A website dedicated to the history of the LDS Church in Italy - Created by a Utah Italian
- BYU Program (French-Italian Department)
- Official website of the Italian American Civic League
- Italian Center of the West YOUTUBE domain
- Italian in Utah, a website sponsored by the Ferragosto Festival
- Italy Utah Cooperation Center, official website of a nonprofit organization that supports bilateral relations between Italy and Utah
- University of Utah Italian Program (Language Department)
- Utah Italy, a new growing website
- Utah Organization of Honorary Consulates