Passport of Antonetta Leone
stamped in Naples, 1921.

The eldest children of Nicola and Antoinette Vitacolonna
c. 1912

Italians came to America with some hesitation. As immigrants to Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, they were latecomers with persistent misgivings about their eventual success in America. They realized that as aliens they were a new breed who had to work harder and struggle more than those ethnic groups which had preceded them. The struggle took place in the anthracite coal mines of Scranton and Wilkes Barre, in the slate quarries of Roseto, in the cranberry bogs and the fruit orchards of South Jersey and in urban Philadelphia, where they settled in great numbers between 1880 and 1920. In these locales, as diverse one from the other as their own "paesi" in Italy, the newly-arrived immigrants tentatively laid the foundations for a vibrant Italian-American community.

Bound by the ties of family and "paesani," many Italian immigrant men were destined to make their homes in the Delaware Valley. Calabresi, Abruzzesi, Siciliani, and Pugliesi identified themselves not only by the region from which they had emigrated, but more specifically by the province and finally by the town where they were born, a town about which they would speak with intense loyalty and undying affection. Despite the brutal economic straits which forced their evacuation, they were emotionally bound to their "paesani" in such a way, so they believed, that only they could understand. These ties ran through their songs, their superstitions, their ceremonial traditions, their dialects. During the uncertain years following immigration, familiar faces and familiar words brought comfort to those who had travelled alone, anticipating, of course, that enough money could be earned in just a few years to secure the passage of a wife and children, a mother or a father.

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