Italian Immigration to Usa
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The United States has long been known as the melting pot of the world. Many nationalities have influenced what the United States is today. The Italian Americans have made a significant impact on the United States of America. The Italians came to America to work hard with humble beginnings, to organized crime, to successful members of American society.
In the early 1800’s, there were not very many Italians immigrating to the United States, but at the same time Italy was becoming very overcrowded. Not only was it becoming overcrowded, but also according to John Simkin, most Italians were from rural communities with very little education. From 1890 to 1900, 655,888 Italians arrived in the United States, of whom two-thirds were men. America was probably a target because many other countries hyped it up as “the land of opportunity”. America had plenty of jobs and the Italians were looking for work. A survey carried out that most of these immigrants planned to return once they had built up some capital. In fact, from 1900 to 1910 over 2,100,000 Italians moved to America. Forty percent of those immigrants returned to their homeland. (Simkin)
Those Italians that were immigrating to the United States were entering through Ellis Island, New York. They were settling mostly in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. New York was the largest colony of Italians. Italian Harlem was located next
to the East River and had a population of 150,000 living in an area of one square mile. (Medina)
The majority of the Italian immigrants were taking heavy manual labor jobs in steel mills, clothing factories, shoe factories, and construction. Because the Italians could not initially speak English, they were contracted out by professional labor brokers, known as the pardones, to help them find work. During this time, the Italians were making about $5 – $10 a month working 90 hours a week. Unfortunately, the padrones were not very much help because they were cheating them out of their money.(Magnussan) (Minty) (Lee)
The Italians had a difficult time adjusting to American life like any of the other immigrants, because of their language barriers and culture. The Italians learned English quickly, but found safety in their culture.
75 % of all Italian immigrants to the United States came from regions south of Rome where they had been farmers. Usually they would set up a distinctive ethnic neighborhood, called a Little Italy. By 1920 almost one-fourth of all Italian immigrants lived in New York City, while more than half lived in the Middle Atlantic States and New England.
Usually the man of the family would make the trip to America before the rest of the family. The man would work a seasonal and unskilled job building railroads, streets, skyscrapers, and public transportation systems; mining coal; or working in steel, shoe, and auto plants. Shortly after the women would follow the men to the United States and find work in the urban
garment trades, canneries, and textile mills. The children of the family would often leave school before getting their diploma to help their families make money. Life in Italian immigrants revolved around family, church, and small self-help insurance societies formed by villagers from a single Italian town. Key community businesses included banks, boardinghouses, groceries, and saloons. Later on, the Catholic Church, labor unions, and political parties would foot the bill for social clubs and sports. (Greco)
An example of one of these Little Italy’s would be Italian Harlem, located in East Harlem. Throughout Italian Harlem, there was extremely poor housing and overcrowding. This Italian Harlem was one of the original settlements for Italian immigrants. This housing was specifically designed for immigrants. As late as 1939, 84 percent of these homes lacked central heating, 67 percent did not have a shower or bathtub, and 55 percent did not even have a private toilet. Only 7.5 percent of these apartments contained five or more rooms. The only park was constructed at the turn of the century. The city demolished six blocks of homes to create open space for this park. In the mid-1920s the district was known as the most populated block in the city. (Magnussan)
The Italian immigrants, like anyone would, were beginning to grow tired of these lives they were leading. They were getting frustrated with working long hours for low wages, then returning home to their awful living conditions. Many of these people resorted to a life of crime. The Irish and the Jews mainly controlled organized crime, in the early 1900s. The Italians saw
how these “gangsters” were living and making easy, quick money and wanted a piece of the action. Soon enough, Italian gangsters started to emerge in the world of organized crime.