Early period — [ edit ] Verrazzano 's voyage of Italian navigators and explorers played a key role in the exploration and settlement of the Americas by Europeans. Christopher Columbus , the explorer who first reached the Americas in —, was Italian.
Another notable Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci , who explored the east coast of South America between and , is the source of the name America. In , Marco da Nizza , explored the territory that later became the states of Arizona and New Mexico. A small wave of Protestants, known as Waldensians , who were of French and northern Italian heritage specifically Piedmontese , occurred during the 17th century.
The first Waldensians began arriving around , with the majority coming between and The total American Waldensian population that immigrated to New Netherland is currently unknown; however, a Dutch record indicates that, in alone, the Duchy of Savoy near Turin, Italy, had exiled Waldensians due to their Protestant faith. De Tonti founded the first European settlement in Illinois in , and in Arkansas in His brother Alphonse de Tonty Alfonso de Tonti , with French explorer Antoine Cadillac , was the co-founder of Detroit in , and was its acting colonial governor for 12 years.
Spain and France were Catholic countries and sent many missionaries to convert the native population. Included among these missionaries were numerous Italians. Between and , the southwest and California were explored and mapped by an Italian Jesuit priest Eusebio Kino Chino.
The Taliaferro family, originally from Venice , was one of the first families to settle in Virginia , while the Fonda family settled in present-day upstate New York, establishing the town of Fonda.
Francesco Maria de Reggio , an Italian nobleman who served under the French, came to Louisiana in where he held the title of Captain General of Louisiana until War of Independence to Civil War — [ edit ] This period saw a small stream of new arrivals from Italy.
Some brought skills in agriculture and the making of glass, silk and wine, while others brought skills as musicians. In —85 Filippo Mazzei , a physician and promoter of liberty, was a close friend and confidant of Thomas Jefferson. He published a pamphlet containing the phrase: Italian Americans served in the American Revolutionary War both as soldiers and officers.
Three regiments, totaling some 1, men, fought for American independence. Francesco Vigo aided the colonial forces of George Rogers Clark during the American Revolutionary War , by being one of the foremost financiers of the Revolution in the frontier Northwest.
Later, he was a co-founder of Vincennes University in Indiana. After American independence numerous political refugees arrived, most notably: Giuseppe Garibaldi resided in the United States in — In Philip Trajetta Filippo Traetta established the nation's first conservatory of music in Boston where, in the first half of the century, organist Charles Nolcini and conductor Louis Ostinelli were also active.
The musicians included the young Venerando Pulizzi who, in , became the first Italian director of the Band. During this period Italian explorers continued to be active in the West. In —23 the headwater region of the Mississippi was explored by Giacomo Beltrami in the territory that was later to become Minnesota, which named a county in his honor.
Joseph Rosati was named the first Catholic bishop of St. In —64 Samuel Mazzuchelli , a missionary and expert in Indian languages, ministered to European colonists and Native Americans in Wisconsin and Iowa for 34 years and, after his death, was declared Venerable by the Catholic Church. Father Charles Constantine Pise , a Jesuit, served as Chaplain of the Senate from to ,   the only Catholic priest ever chosen to serve in this capacity.
Missionaries of the Jesuit and Franciscan orders were active in many parts of America. Italian Jesuits founded numerous missions, schools and two colleges in the west.
The Italian Jesuits also laid the foundation for the wine-making industry that would later flourish in California. In the east, the Italian Franciscans founded hospitals, orphanages, schools, and the St. Bonaventure College now St. Bonaventure University , established by Panfilo da Magliano in In Francis Ramacciotti , piano string inventor and manufacturer, immigrated to the U.
Civil War and after —90 [ edit ] Approximately Italian Americans served in the Civil War , both as soldiers and as officers. While some served in the Confederate Army including general William B. Taliaferro , the majority, for both demographic and ideological reasons, served in the Union Army including generals Edward Ferrero and Francis B.
Beginning in , Italian immigrants were one of the principal groups, along with the Irish, that built the Transcontinental Railroad west from Omaha, Nebraska. An immigrant, Antonio Meucci , brought with him a concept for the telephone. He is credited by many researchers with being the first to demonstrate the principle of the telephone in a patent caveat he submitted to the U.
Patent Office in ; however, considerable controversy existed relative to the priority of invention, with Alexander Graham Bell also being accorded this distinction.
In , the U. Congress passed a resolution H. During this period, Italian Americans established a number of institutions of higher learning. Also during this period, there was a growing presence of Italian Americans in higher education. Vincenzo Botta was a distinguished professor of Italian at New York University from to ,  and Gaetano Lanza was a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over 40 years, beginning in Anthony Ghio became the mayor of Texarkana , Texas in Lower East Side , circa Italian immigrants entering the United States via Ellis Island in Italian unification in caused economic conditions to considerably worsen for many in the former Kingdom of the two Sicilies.
Major factors that contributed to the large exodus from southern Italy and Sicily after unification, included: Multitudes chose to emigrate rather than face the prospect of a deepening poverty. A large number of these were attracted to the U. Often, the father and older sons would go first, leaving the mother and the rest of the family behind until the male members could afford their passage. From to , an estimated 13 million Italians migrated out of Italy, making Italy the scene of the largest voluntary emigration in recorded world history.
Once in America, the immigrants faced great challenges. Often with no knowledge of the English language and with little formal education, many of the immigrants were compelled to accept low-wage manual-labor jobs, and were frequently exploited by the middlemen who acted as intermediaries between them and the prospective employers.
Tuberculosis and other communicable diseases were a constant health threat for the immigrant families that were compelled by economic circumstances to live in these dwellings. Other immigrant families lived in single-family abodes, which was more typical in areas outside of the enclaves of the large Northeastern cities, and other parts of the country as well. An estimated 49 per cent of Italians who migrated to the Americas between when return migration statistics began and did not remain in the United States.
The Italian male immigrants in the Little Italies were most often employed in manual labor and were heavily involved in public works, such as the construction of roads, railway tracks, sewers, subways, bridges and the first skyscrapers in the northeastern cities.
As early as , 90 percent of New York City's public works employees were Italian. Many established small businesses in the Little Italies to satisfy the day-to-day needs of fellow immigrants. A New York Times article from provides a glimpse into the status of Italian immigration at the turn of the century.
Of the half million Italians that are in the United States, about , live in the city, and including those who live in Brooklyn, Jersey City, and the other suburbs the total number in the vicinity is estimated at about , After learning our ways they become good, industrious citizens. They are laborers; toilers in all grades of manual work; they are artisans, they are junkmen, and here, too, dwell the rag pickers There is a monster colony of Italians who might be termed the commercial or shop keeping community of the Latins.
Here are all sorts of stores, pensions, groceries, fruit emporiums, tailors, shoemakers, wine merchants, importers, musical instrument makers There are notaries, lawyers, doctors, apothecaries, undertakers There are more bankers among the Italians than among any other foreigners except the Germans in the city.
Henry to write a letter in October to the Bishop John J. Clency of Sligo , Ireland ; warning: The Italians are more economic, can live on poor fare and consequently can afford to work for less wages than the ordinary Irishman The Brooklyn Eagle in a article addressed the same reality: But it is the Italian now that does the work. Then came the Italian carpenter and finally the mason and the bricklayer In spite of the economic hardship of the immigrants, civil and social life flourished in the Italian American neighborhoods of the large Northeastern cities.
Italian theater, band concerts, choral recitals, puppet shows, mutual-aid societies, and social clubs were available to the immigrants. The festa involved an elaborate procession through the streets in honor of a patron saint or the Virgin Mary in which a large statue was carried by a team of men, with musicians marching behind.
Followed by food, fireworks and general merriment, the festa became an important occasion that helped give the immigrants a sense of unity and common identity. An American teacher who had studied in Italy, Sarah Wool Moore was so concerned with grifters luring immigrants into rooming houses or employment contracts in which the bosses got kickbacks that she pressed for the founding of the Society for the Protection of Italian Immigrants often called the Society for Italian Immigrants.
The Society published lists of approved living quarters and employers. Later, the organization began establishing schools in work camps to help adult immigrants learn English. The schools focused on teaching phrases that workers needed in their everyday tasks. Among these was Sister Francesca Cabrini , who founded schools, hospitals and orphanages. She was canonized as the first American saint in Hundreds of parishes were founded by the St. Charles missionaries to serve the needs of the Italian communities.
By , Italians had founded Italian Catholic churches and 41 parochial schools, served by priests and nuns, 2 Catholic seminaries and 3 orphanages. They were drawn there by opportunities in agriculture, fishing, mining, railroad construction, lumbering and other activities underway at the time.
Oftentimes, the immigrants contracted to work in these areas of the country as a condition for payment of their passage. It was not uncommon, especially in Southern Italy , for the immigrants to be subjected to economic exploitation, hostility and sometimes even violence.
A number of towns, such as Roseto, Pennsylvania,  Tontitown, Arkansas,  and Valdese, North Carolina  were founded by Italian immigrants during this era. A number of major business ventures were founded by Italian Americans. Amadeo Giannini originated the concept of branch banking to serve the Italian American community in San Francisco.
He founded the Bank of Italy, which later became the Bank of America. His bank also provided financing to the film industry developing on the West Coast at the time. An Italian immigrant, Italo Marciony Marcioni , is credited with inventing the earliest version of an ice cream cone in