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Italian Immigration to the US

Italian immigration to the United States began in the late 19th century and peaked in the early 20th century. During this period, millions of Italians left their homeland in search of better economic opportunities and a better life.

Elllis Island front facade view of the Immigration Station, early 1900´s.


The majority of Italian immigrants came from southern Italy, particularly the regions of Sicily, Calabria, Campania, and Puglia. These regions were characterized by poverty, overpopulation, and a lack of economic opportunities. The United States, on the other hand, was seen as a land of opportunity where hard work could lead to success and a better life.


Most Italian immigrants were young men who traveled alone in search of work, they typically arrived in NYC entering through Ellis Island.

They hoped to establish themselves in the United States and eventually bring their families over. Many of these men worked in factories, mines, and other manual labor jobs. Some eventually started their own businesses, such as grocery stores and restaurants.


Women and children often followed the men who had already established themselves in the United States. It was not uncommon for families to be separated for years before being reunited in the new country. Women also played an important role in the immigrant community, providing support and social connections.

Italian immigrants faced significant challenges in the United States, including discrimination and hostility from other groups. However, they also established a vibrant community, centered around food, music, and cultural traditions. Today, Italian Americans are a significant part of American culture and society.


1905 Census of an Italian family living in Manhattan, NYC, New York

1927 Petition for United States Citizenship (Italian to American)


What was the process of obtaining citizenship through a petition for immigrants in the early 1900s?

In the early 1900s, the process for obtaining citizenship in the United States for immigrants was different than it is today. Immigrants who wished to become citizens had to go through a process known as naturalization.

To begin the naturalization process, immigrants had to file a petition for naturalization with the court in their district. The petition included information such as the immigrant's name, age, occupation, and country of birth. It also required two witnesses who could testify to the immigrant's character and residency. Once the petition was filed, the immigrant had to wait a specified period of time before appearing in court for an examination. During the examination, the immigrant was asked questions about their background, their knowledge of English, and their understanding of American government and history. If the immigrant passed the examination, they would be scheduled for a final hearing.

At the final hearing, the immigrant took an oath of allegiance to the United States and was granted citizenship. After obtaining citizenship, the immigrant had all the rights and privileges of a natural-born citizen, including the right to vote and the ability to hold public office. The naturalization process was a lengthy and sometimes difficult process, but it was an important step for immigrants who wanted to fully participate in American society. It also allowed immigrants to bring their families over and help them establish roots in the United States.


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