Collection Description

Culture Name

Italian Americans

Culture Description

Most Italian Americans trace their ancestry to the southern regions of Italy although earliest migration came mainly from the northern areas of the Italian peninsula. Italian Americans settled throughout the United States. Many of the immigrants had little sense of an "Italian" identity, finding their identity in their hometown or region. Little Italies were found in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and New Orleans. At the height of their immigration, most were unskilled workers who worked on the railroads, in clothing shops, construction projects, shipyards, or on fishing boats. Eventually, they moved into all occupations. Italian Americans have rapidly assimilated into American culture and they speak English.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Regional, Ethnic and Diaspora Cultures


United States

OWC Code


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Italian American file consists of 65 English language documents representing a wide range of ethnographic topics covering both the general Italian American population in the United States and more specific immigrant settlements in urban areas. These settlements form the basis of a number of community studies which comprise a large portion of this file. These studies, which range in time from the mid nineteenth century to the 1990s, include information on the history of the community, immigration patterns, acculturation and assimilation, socio-political organization, social change, concepts of ethnicity, religion, and settlement patterns. For a broad coverage of general Italian American ethnography, the reader is advised to consult: Nelli, 1983, no. 8, Iorizzo and Monbello, 1980, no. 16, Johnson, 1985, no. 3, and Alba, 1985, no. 37. Other studies in the file cover a wide range of ethnographic topics from foods (Magliocco, 1993, no. 71) to street corner society ((Whyte, 1993, no. 55), to fine arts (Mathas, 1988, no. 63; Gardaphe, 1987, no. 68), and many other miscellaneous subjects. Given particular attention in the file is the status and role of women in Italian American society (Orsi, 1985, no. 2, D'Andrea, 1983, no. 12, Egelman, 1987, no. 18, Ware, 1958, no. 27, DeSena, 1987, no. 28, Furio, 1980, no. 30, Capozzoli, 1987, no. 79, Danzi, 1990, no. 84, and Krase, 1991, no. 91).

In general, the wide selection of literature on Italian immigrants in the United States in this file stresses their adjustments to new economic and social circumstances and the life and culture of later generations of Italian Americans.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

The Italian American culture summary was written by Frank Salamone in December 1998. Frank Salamone also provided many of the bibliographical suggestions used in compiling this file. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in November 1999.

Overview by

John Beierle

American Committee on Italian Migration (ACIM) -- categories 167, 664

American Italian Historical Association (AIHA) -- category 814

boarding houses -- category 485

building and loan associations -- categories 452, 453

CAMPANILISMO -- the concept of regionalism -- category 186

Casa Italiana Educational Bureau -- category 741 (sometimes 814)

Cleveland Club -- category 665

communion, religious -- category 788

community brokers -- category 554

consuls (of the Italian government) -- category 648

DOMUS (OSTAL) -- the unifying principle that links man and his possessions; the basis of the understanding of the good and the basis of moral judgement; also the family (household), and the physical home itself -- categories 577, 592 (sometimes with 181)

ex-COMBATTENTI -- a federated, nationwide organization of Italian ex-servicemen -- category 729

fascism -- category 668

FESTA -- category 796

Fisherman's Protective Association -- categories 228, 185

humanistic societies -- Italian American society, IL Cenacolo, Leonardo da Vinci Society

Italian American Agricultural Association -- category 741

Italian Federation of California -- category 575

ITALIANITA, concepts of -- category 186

Italian-Swiss Agricultural Association -- categories 473, 245

MAFIA (black hand) -- category 548

MAGO (STREGA) -- mysterious and powerful magicians -- category 791

mutual benefit societies -- category 456

"New Deal" -- category 185

New Orleans lynching incident of 1891 -- categories 177, 579

nursing homes -- category 734

organ grinders -- category 533

PADRONI system -- payoffs to a "boss" in order to obtain employment -- category 466

political party clubs -- category 665

private welfare agencies -- Society for Italian Immigrants, Italian Mutual Benevolent Association, Italian Welfare Agency, Italian Home, Italian Gens -- category 747

"Problem Center", the -- category 575

rag pickers / scavengers -- category 364

RISPETTO -- respect -- category 577

scapulars -- objects given out at the altar to provide protection -- categories 778, 789


settlement houses (Haarlem House, Hull House, Chicago common) -- category 747


Un-American Activities Committee -- category 647

VERGOGNA -- shame -- categories 152, 626

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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