Pisano and Siciliano families papers

Collection 3135

1910-2009, undated
(0.8 Linear feet ; 2 boxes, 5 volumes)

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Meidt, Donna
Pisano and Siciliano families papers
1910-2009, undated
0.8 Linear feet ; 2 boxes, 5 volumes
Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Donna Meidt. Revisions to the description and arrangement of this collection were part of the Digital Center for Americana Project Phase II, which was funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.
Language of Materials note
The materials in this collection are in English and Italian.
Text [Volume]
Mixed materials [Box]
Members from both the Pisano and Silciliano families of Philadelphia and Camden first arrived in the United States in the early 1900s, both from the town of Gasperina, Italy. This collection, compiled by Donna Meidt, highlights their genealogies through vital records, passports, family trees, and images (including digital images on one CD). There are also original photographs and Italian magazines, as well as a sampling of plays, operas, and poetry handwritten or transcribed in Italian by Antonio Pisano (1894-1979). Pisano was a poet, playwright, and member of the theatrical group the Philadelphia Filodramatic Circle Gasperinese.

Preferred Citation note

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Pisano and Siciliano families papers (Collection 3135), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Biographical/Historical note

In 1892, in Gasperina, Italy, Salavatore Siciliano (1867-1958) married Maria Innocenza Procopio (1867-1958), and the couple soon started a family that eventually included six children: daughters Marianna (1893-1990), Maria Teresa (1894-1972), and Maria Assunta (1907-2002); and sons Nicholas (1900-1996), Joseph (1906-1969), and George (1910-2004). Salvatore immigrated to the United States in October 1900; he arrived at Ellis Island and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a street laborer. After several years, he was able to provide passage for his family--at the time, his wife, and three children: Marianna, Maria Teresa, and Nicholas--which reunited in Philadelphia in 1905. Salvatore and Maria's other children were all born in Philadelphia, where Maria established a successful boarding house from their home at 505 Catherine Street sometime after 1910. The family was heavily involved with community activities and the church. Their son, Nicholas, played clarinet in the Ferko String Band and became a labor leader with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Sons Joseph and George were in the Duffy Comedy Troupe. The family moved to Camden, New Jersey, in 1921, although they made frequent trips by ferry to south Philadelphia and continued to operate a boarding house in Camden into the 1930s.

The daughters all married in Philadelphia. Mariana married George Spadea in 1909. Maria Teresa married Saverio Celia in 1914. Maria Assunta, who went by Mary, married Antonio Pisano in 1922.

Antonio Pisano (1894-1979) was a distant cousin of Maria's mother, Maria Tera Pisano. He became a lodger at the Siciliano family boarding house sometime after 1915. He enlisted in the Army in 1918 and was discharged, with citizenship, in 1919.

Antonio worked as a shoemaker but was interested in poetry and the theatre. He served as the lead actor, and sometimes writer and director, for a local troupe called the Philadelphia Filodramatic Circle Gasperinese. Several of the Sicilianos' children and borders also participated in Filodramitic's activities that included performances of religious and secular plays, as well as annual stagings of The Passion of Jesus Christ. Pisano also wrote poetry, one piece of which was published in the American Italian-language magazine,  La Follia di New York. His poetry tends to be nostalgic, recounting scenes and details from his childhood and the details of life in Gasperina, Italy. Due to his talent for writing and reciting poetry and participating in theater, he was a popular community figure who would frequently travel from house to house to recite poetry and dramatic scenes.

Salvatore and Maria Innocenzo Siciliano both died in Camden in 1958. Antonio Pisano, who had also moved to Camden, died there in 1979.

Much of this background information was culled from Donna Meidt's post on the PhilaPlace blog: http://www.philaplace.org/story/672/ and her essay on Antonio Pisano, "Antonio's Anthology," which is included in this collection: Box 1, Folder 6

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Scope and Contents note

This collection of papers pertaining to the Pisano and Siciliano families was compiled by one of the families' descendants, Donna Meidt. It contains photographs, genealogical records and copies of vital records, copies of Meidt's writings on the families, and several plays and poems by or transcribed by Antonio Pisano, handwritten in Italian. There is some overlap between the families' materials, due to the marriage of Maria Assunta Sicilano to Antonio Pisano. The material spans almost one hundred years, from about 1910 to 2009, and is arranged in chronological order in two groups: Siciliano family papers and Antonio Pisano's plays and writings. Researchers should note that the intellectual arrangement does not always correspond to the physical arrangement of this collection due to the conservation and housing requirements of certain items.

The family materials consist of a small assortment of photographs, originals and copies of a few vital records, and two works by Donna Meidt: "Maria's Boarding House" (Box 1, Folder 1) and "Antonio's Anthology" (Box 1, Folder 4). Three items are related to both families, and their location within the collection represents this. The folder containing "Antonio's Anthology" also holds photographs of Siciliano family members, "pedigree charts" for the Pisano family, and photocopies of Antonio's handwritten poetry. Found among the family papers were three Italian magazines (one issue of La Follia di New York, which includes "Primavera," a poem written by Antonio Pisano, and two issues of  Calabria Letteraria). These items apparently belonged to Pisano despite being found with Siciliano family materials.

Following the family papers are plays and poetry written or transcribed by Antonio Pisano. These items are arranged in chronological order, with undated (and untitled) plays being placed at the end of the group. The works are legibly handwritten in Italian both in bound volumes and on unbound notebook paper. The plays include Tragedia del Martire S. Innocenzo, several copies and/or variations of  Dramma della Passione de Cristo,  Angelo tiranno di Padora la giocanda, and  Don Abbondio. The manuscript of  Tragedia del Martire S. Innocenzo from 1922 includes signatures of audience members on the pages following the play script. The 1924 manuscript of the same play includes Pisano's annotations, which were used in a production. His poetry can be found in Volume 4 of this collection.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania August 2010

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

Revision Description

 Finding aid revised by Sarah Newhouse for the Digital Center for Americana Project Phase II July 2011

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Donna Meidt, 2009.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

34th Ward Italian-American Citizens Club. Records, undated (Collection D0163)

Covello, Leonard. Papers, 1907-1974 (MSS 40 and PG107)

Da Vinci Art Alliance. Records, 1933-1991 (Collection 3226)

Fiorani Radio Productions records additions and Fiorani-Florey family (Collection MSS163)

Gurzau, Elba F. Papers, 1920-1985 (Collection MSS 48)

Grieco, Rose. Papers, 1940-1986 (Collection SC279)

Antonelli, Severo. Papers, 1929-1985 (Collection 3166)

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Philadelphia Filodramatic Circle Gasperinese.

Family Name(s)

  • Pisano family.
  • Siciliano family.

Personal Name(s)

  • Pisano, Antonio, 1894-1979.
  • Siciliano, Joseph, 1906-1969.
  • Siciliano, Maria Innocenza Procopio, 1867-1958.
  • Siciliano, Maria Teresa, 1894-1972.
  • Siciliano, Nicholas, 1900-1996.
  • Siciliano, Salvatore, 1867-1958.


  • Boardinghouses--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Genealogy.
  • Immigrants--Italian--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Italian poetry--20th century.
  • Plays--Italian.

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Siciliano: Maria Innocenza Procopia Siciliano photograph and "Maria's Boarding House" by Donna Meidt (1910, undated) 

1 1

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Siciliano: Maria Teresa Siciliano and Saverio Celia papers and photographs (1913) 

2 2

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Siciliano: Nicolas Siciliano and Isabella Carney photographs and papers (1918-1996, undated) 

1 2

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Siciliano: Miscellaneous family photographs and records [includes copies of images on CD] (circa 1920s, undated) 

2 3

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Siciliano: Joseph and Salvatore [Chuck] Siciliano photographs (1957, 1973, 1978, undated) 

1 3

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Siciliano and Pisano: "Antonio's Anthology" by Donna Meidt and other genealogical records (undated) 

1 4

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Siciliano and Pisano: Magazines: La Follia de New York (1971, 1977, 1978) 

1 5

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Siciliano and Pisano: Magazines: Calabria Lettararia 1977, 1978 


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Pisano: "Tragedia del Martire S. Innocenzo" [bound notebook] (1922) 


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Pisano: "Tragedia di Santo Innocenzo" [bound notebook] (1924) 


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Box Folder

Pisano: "Tragedia del Martire S. Innocenzo" (1931) 

1 6

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Pisano: Various writings in Italian [bound notebook] (circa 1935) 


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Box Folder

Pisano: "Dramma della Passione de Cristo" (1961) 

1 7

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Pisano: "La Passione de Jesu Cristo" (1961) 

1 8

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Pisano: "Angelo tiranno di Padora la giocanda" [bound notebook] (undated) 


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Box Folder

Pisano: "Don Abbondio" (undated) 

1 9

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Pisano: "La Passione di Jesu Cristo" undated 

1 10

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Pisano: "La Passione di Jesu Cristo" excerpt from Act I, Scene 1 undated 

2 1

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Pisano: Untitled play in Italian undated 

1 11

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