Tragedy in Dedham: The Story of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case

By Francis Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
THE MEN AND THE TIMES

An introspective man, the sensitivity of his features concealed by prominent cheekbones and the drooping thatch of his ferocious mustache, Vanzetti was well known in North Plymouth's Italian settlement. Unmarried, he boarded with the Fortini family in a house halfway up Cherry Lane. Daily he sold fish to the Italian and Portuguese families, pushing his cart with its clanking brass scales and load of haddock, cod, halibut, and swordfish along Cherry Lane and Cherry Court and Standish Avenue. The fish for his regular customers he carefully wrapped in newspapers, marking the packages with the name and price.

Most of the Italians of North Plymouth worked at the Plymouth Cordage Company. Vanzetti had been employed there for eighteen months during 1914 and 1915 but had quit when they wanted him to shift from an outside to an inside job, preferring to work outdoors on the Plymouth breakwater. He had been on the strikers' fund committee in the Cordage strike that broke out over a wage dispute in January 1916. At that time the men were receiving eight dollars a week, the women six. The strikers demanded twelve and eight dollars, but finally accepted the company's offer of a general raise of a dollar. After that, Vanzetti never worked or attempted to work for the Cordage again. In the spring of 1919, in an effort to be independent of bosses and foremen, he bought his pushcart and scales and knives from a friend who was going back to Italy.

Each morning at the Fortinis' he would come downstairs in his slippers, take his boots from the zinc platform under the coal stove, and put them on before having breakfast. Then he would push his cart either to the town pier or the railroad station, returning to the

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