Publication Date

6-1984

Advisor(s)

Donald Meyer

Major

American Studies (AMST)

Language

English

Abstract

In the first few chapters of this study, I will give a brief description of life in Italy, the reasons for emigration, and the life of the early immigrants. I will distinguish among the various groups of Italians who came to Middletown, and emphasize the largest group, the immigrants from Melilli (the Melillesi). I will then discuss early Italian organizations, the effects of the Russell Strike, and the flowering of the ethnic community in the years 1913-1932. These chapters are arranged roughly in chronological order, and are told in the narrative style.

The final chapter spans the entire period under consideration in this study (1893-1932), and is offered as a partial explanation for the events related in the preceding chapters. Using information gleaned from city directories, I will trace the careers of some 455 persons of Italian surname over periods of 6 to 25 years. Of these "long term" Italian residents, I will demonstrate, a fairly high percentage showed signs of upward occupational mobility. For many immigrant workers, the period of assimilation coincided with an entrance into the middle class.

In its power structure and fluid class lines, Middletown's Italian community reproduced the conditions prevalent in the larger society. Each individual saw among the prominent men of the community men who had managed to improve their lot, and found no reason why he might not follow their example. By remaining in town, working hard, and learning English, even a mere day laborer might be able to open a successful shop, and in his own way realize the American dream. With the encouragement and aid of his paesani, he could take another step and become fully American.

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