Library of Congress

Teachers

The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Immigration
Image of a Native American man
Image of an African man
Image of a German man
Image of an Irish man
Image of a Scandinavian lady
Image of an Italian lady
Image of a Japanese boy
Image of a Mexican woman
Image of a Chinese boy
Image of a Cuban man
Image of a  Polish man
Picture of globe - clicking produces a Flash animated map showing the pattern of Italian immigration
Picture of clock - click to view global immigration timeline
Immigration Italian
Image of US map - piece 1 Home Vocabulary Potluck Interviews Resources Conclusion
Image of US map - piece 2

Early Arrivals

The Genoese navigator Cristoforo Colombo, known to us now as Columbus, was only the first of many Italian explorers who would come to shape the Western Hemisphere as we know it today. In 1497, the Venetian Giovanni Caboto, or John Cabot, sailed to Newfoundland and became the first European to see the shores of New England. By 1502, the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci had deduced that these new discoveries were part of one great continent. Within a few years, that continent had been given his name--America.

Throughout the colonial and early national periods, immigrants from the Italian peninsula maintained a small but well-established presence in the North American population. Italian craftsmen were renowned the world over, and many traveled to the New World to help build its new institutions, working as sculptors, woodworkers, and glassblowers. Thomas Jefferson had a particular affinity for Italian culture; he recruited Italian stonemasons to work on his home at Monticello, and brought musicians from Italy to form the core of the Marine Band. In addition, he invented his own hand-operated pasta machine, the designs for which are still in the Library's collections.

Italian immigration continued at a trickle throughout the middle of the 19th century. Although travelers from the peninsula continued to roam the world, most chose to settle in Argentina and Brazil. Between 1820 and 1870, fewer than 25,000 Italian immigrants came to the U.S., mostly from northern Italy. These early arrivals settled in communities all across the country, from the farm towns of New Jersey and the vineyards of California to the ports of San Francisco and New Orleans.

The impact of their contributions can still be seen today. The poet Lorenzo da Ponte built the first opera house in the U.S., became a professor of Italian at Columbia University, and almost single-handedly established Italian opera in the United States. The abolition movement received key support from the prominent Philadelphia rabbi Sabato Morais, who brought a fierce commitment to freedom and human rights from his native Tuscany. Starting in the mid-1850s, painter Constantino Brumidi spent decades creating the paintings and frescoes that adorn the U.S. Capitol, including the spectacular images on the building’s great dome.



Previous page Next Page

2005
2000
1995
1990
1985
1980
1975
1970
1965
1960
1955
1950
1945
1940
1935
1930
1925
1920
1915
1910
1905
1900
1895
1890
1885
1880
1875
1870
1865
1860
1855
1850
1845
1840
1835
1830
1825
1820
1815
1810
1805
1800
1795
1790
1785
1780
1775
1770