The Italian-American Vote in Providence, Rhode Island, 1916-1948

By Stefano Luconi | Go to book overview

2
The Setting

ALTHOUGH IT WAS AN ITALIAN SAILOR FROM THE SURROUNDINGS OF Florence, Giovanni da Verrazzano, who discovered the Narragansett Bay region in 1524, an Italian-American community took shape in Providence only in the early twentieth century. The 1860 federal census listed as few as thirty-two Italians throughout Rhode Island. Their number was so insignificant that census enumerators did not bother to provide a breakdown of the Italian residents in the single towns of the Ocean State. Indeed, ten years later, the Italian presence in Providence was still negligible since this city was home to as few as 27 newcomers from Italy, as opposed to its total population of 68,904 individuals, including 17,177 foreign-born people.1

The growth of the Italian-American settlement in Providence was extremely slow in the subsequent two decades. Only 175 Italian immigrants, namely less than 0.2 percent of the city's 104,857 inhabitants, lived in Providence in 1880. Their number increased to 1,519 in 1890, while a group of 472 American-born residents of Italian parentage was sizeable enough to be eventually included in that year's census data. In other words, in 1890, first- and second-generation Italian Americans amounted to 1,991 individuals in Providence and comprised 1.5 percent of the city's 132,146 total residents.2

In the meantime, Italian immigrants created a few early social organizations and institutions. The Società Unione e Benevolenza, the first Italian-American mutual-aid association in Providence, was established in 1882 to offer its members sickness and death benefits. The founding of similar organizations such as the Roma Society and the Società Fratellanza Militare Italiana Bersagliere followed suit in 1888 and 1890, respectively. Six years later, the first businessmen's association, the Italo-American Club, was chartered. In 1914 the Providence Lodge no. 263 of the Order Sons of

-19-

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The Italian-American Vote in Providence, Rhode Island, 1916-1948
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • 1: Introduction 11
  • 2: The Setting 19
  • 3: Rhode Island Politics and the Italian-American Vote Before World War I 28
  • 4: The Postwar Decade 49
  • 5: The Depression Years 71
  • 6: The Late New Deal and the Impact of World War II and Its Aftermath 91
  • 7: Conclusion 120
  • 8: A Methodological Note on Electoral Sources 132
  • Notes 136
  • Bibliography 168
  • Index 186
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