Day 7 Week 3 - Before the stream of Italian travelers to...

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Before the stream of Italian travelers to America had opened into that flood of humanity known as the Great Immigration, Italians were already contributing to American cultural life. As musicians, artists, educators, businessmen and scientists, and as the humble builders in a mass of immigrant labor, they made their mark, however faintly perceived today in general histories of America (Vecoli, 2003). Most are referred to not as individuals but as part of the group, i.e., Italian laborers on the streets and subways of New York, on the canals and gravel pits of Pennsylvania, wherever sweat was needed as mortar to hold together the brick and stone used in the building of ever-progressing America (Vecoli, 2003). Indeed, like the Jews, Poles and Irish, Italians were indiscriminately launched from their homeland and most landed in a helter-skelter fashion on America's shores and proceeded to populate American urban ghettos. In 1850 there were about 5000 identifiable Italian immigrants in the United States. Some had come as political or religious refugees but most were employed in this country as skilled craftsmen or professionals. Many were from northern Italy and immigration averaged less than 300 per year from 1820 to 1850. They had settled in some twenty states and established colonies. These early settlers acted as one of the most important catalysts for later immigration by their countrymen. Because of the war there was a labor shortage, so that relatively open immigration was encouraged. Theirs was a special labor force, that of the contracted laborer under the direction of a padrone. This system enabled Italians to be assured of passage, a job and an elementary sense
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