Introduction

History of Italian Immigration

Italian Immigration: A Personal History

Background of Post-WWII German History

German Immigration: A Personal History

Sources

 

Italian Immigration: A Personal History

Francesco DiPinto arrived on Ellis Island from Bisceglie, Italy in 1912 with a small bag and the clothes on his back. It was at the immigration depot where he married Lucia Capurso, his love from his hometown with whom the marriage was forbidden, in order for Lucia to come into the country. Francesco, a fisherman by trade, and his wife moved to Worcester, Massachusetts which they knew about through family connections. Neither could speak English, though they were both literate in their native dialect. According to their immigration papers, their reason for immigrating was "poverty."

Map of Italy. Bisceglie is just north of Bari.

Francesco found work through a friend at the Norton Company, a factory owned by a Swedish family in Worcester that produced grinding wheels. Lucia was a housewife but later during World War II worked at a pants factory with her daughters.

Worcester was an ethnically divided city: first the Irish settled, then the Italians. These neighborhoods were totally isolated centers and self-contained, each bustling with grocery stores, bakeries, butcher shops, ethnic churches, and even the mafia which helped hold the community together. Francesco and Lucia learned English through their children and by reading the newspapers; afterall, it was not the norm to socialize with people outside of your neighborhood.

My father recalls hearing stories from his grandparents of various vendors such as the Jewish rag man, Ben the Indian Medicine Man, the Italian Fish Guy, and an Arab peddler who sold cloth in the Italian neighborhood. The fish guy came around every day and sold all types of seafood including squid and eels which his grandparents bought and cooked. They maintained Italian cooking traditions which eventually evolved over time due to a new economic mobility. For example, in Southern Italy, legumes, beans, vegetables, and fish were staples of the diet. In America, Francesco and Lucia ate more meat, in part due to the higher purchasing power, and cooked a lot of beans, such as lentils, soups, pasta, and fish. They expanded their menu to include richer foods such as more nutritious sauces and meats. Everyone had their own garden where they grew grape and plum trees and even produced their own wine.

The Italian couple lived in a three-decker house which was an accomodation unique to Worcester. In 1921, their daughter, Mary, was born. She and her sisters attended public school in Worcester where they often faced mild discrimination. I recall my grandmother, Mary, once saying that her teacher, an American-born, called her a "gas bag" due to the amount of beans and garlic Italians ate.

Francesco sometimes visited his sister who had settled in Brooklyn, New York.

Francesco and Lucia eventually purchased their own home, yet remained living in the Italian neighborhood. Their children became educated and physically mobile, where they carried out their lives in various parts of the country and integrated into the American lifestyle.

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Lucia Capurso DiPinto

 

Crocheted jacket by Lucia

 

francesco dipinto

Francesco DiPinto

 

lucia dipinto

Lucia DiPinto

 

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