Italian American press

Newspapers, magazines, and journals designed to appeal to the Italian community in America, often published in Italian, provided new immigrants and succeeding generations important information about both the United States and Italy, helping immigrants acclimate to their new homeland while remaining in touch with their roots.

News vehicles for Italian immigrants in America were available as early as 1836, when El Correro Atlantico appeared in New Orleans;Italian immigrantsNew Orleans. New York City;Italian immigrantsNew York City had its first Italian-language paper, L’Eco d’Italia, in 1850, and even before the great influx of Italians into the United States between 1880 and 1920 several other major cities could boast of having one or more publications that catered to this ethnic group.Press;Italian AmericanItalian immigrants;pressPress;Italian AmericanItalian immigrants;press[cat]COMMUNICATIONS;Italian American press[02930][cat]JOURNALISM;Italian American press[02930]

Because Italian immigrants generally clustered together in neighborhoods that were dubbed Little Italies“Little Italies,” it was easy for publishers to distribute their newspapers to waiting audiences, most of whom were poor and ignorant of American customs. Many publications contained stories about events in Italy as well as news about America, enabling immigrants to stay in touch with the old country while adjusting to their new home. Such publications were also convenient media in which employers could advertise job openings. Newspapers also served as forums for individuals to vent their frustrations about life in what they called La Merica that to many was proving less rosy than they had anticipated.

Characteristics of the Italian American Press

The explosion of Italian immigration to America after 1880 saw a concurrent rise in Italian American news publications. New York City alone had dozens of small Italian papers, and cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco also had multiple news organs. Many of these publications competed with one another for the same readers, however, and fierce competition ensured that many would be short-lived. Most readers were working-class men and women to whom the papers delivered a great deal of news and opinions on labor issues. The better-financed papers tended to promote conservative interests. For example, Barsotti, CarloCarlo Barsotti’s Il Progresso Italo-Americano in New York, Baldi, CharlesCharles Baldi’s L’Opinione in Philadelphia, and Cancelliere, MarianoMariano Cancelliere’s La Trinacria in Pittsburgh were decidedly promanagement. These conservative papers even went so far as to carry management advertisements for strikebreakers when unions conducted work stoppages.

Editor of an Italian-language newspaper in New York correcting proofs in 1943.

(Library of Congress)

At Labor unions;ethnic newspapersthe same time, quite a number of papers were controlled by various unions and workers’ rights groups; for example, the Industrial Workers of the World;and Italian immigrants[Italian immigrants]Industrial Workers of the World;newspapersInternational Workers of the World used La Questione Sociale and later L’Era Nuova as propaganda tools to influence Italian workers. Publications such as Il Proletario in Philadelphia and La Plebe in Pittsburgh advocated for workers’ rights and promoted civil disobedience, a stance that got them in trouble with authorities on occasion. A typical government tactic used to stymie these radical organs was to have the U.S. Post Office declare them seditious and refuse to grant their publishers mailing privileges, thereby curtailing circulation. Nevertheless, between 1880 and 1940, more than a hundred radical papers appeared. Their impact on the working classes was significant.

Rise of Fascism

The Fascism;Italianpassionate interest of Italians in their homeland was at the root of the greatest controversy involving the Italian American press. Beginning during the 1920’s Italian American papers ran articles and editorials praising the Fascist Italian dictator Mussolini, Benito[p]Mussolini, Benito;and Italian American press[Italian American press]Benito Mussolini, whose efforts they thought would unite Italy and bring justice and prosperity to the peasantry. Chief among Mussolini’s Italian American supporters was Pope, GenerosoGeneroso Pope, a businessman who bought several newspapers, including the New York papers Il Progresso Italo-Americano and Corriere d’America, both of which enjoyed wide circulation. Pope had personal access to both Mussolini and U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt and used his newspapers to promote the Fascist agenda. He was not alone, however. Most mainstream publications, including many supported by the Roman Catholic Church, were ardent Fascist supporters–until Mussolini’s bellicose imperialist ventures in Africa and Spain during the mid-1930’s turned American opinion against him. Even
then, some Italian papers ran articles critical of Mussolini in their English-language sections while continuing to print favorable pieces about him in Italian.

Support for Mussolini was not universal, however. In Detroit, La Voce de Popolo editor Monsignor Ciarrocchi, JosephJoseph Ciarrocchi ran articles exposing the Italian dictator’s propaganda campaign being waged in America. Many left-leaning publications were highly critical. One of the most vocal anti-Fascist publications was Il Martello, owned and edited by Tresca, CarloCarlo Tresca, a lifelong activist who had fought for workers’ rights since arriving in the United States in 1904. Frequently, those publishing unfavorable material on Mussolini before the outbreak of World War II were intimidated or even assaulted by pro-Fascist elements in the United States. After the United States entered World War II against Japan, Germany, and Italy at the end of 1941, open support for Fascism in the Italian American press was replaced by calls for the overthrow of Mussolini’s regime.

Postwar Press

By the end of World War II in 1945, many Italian Americans had begun to assimilate into the mainstream culture. Dwindling populations in Little Italies;decline ofLittle Italies and waning interest among second- and third-generation Italian Americans in their ancestral home and language led to a decline in publications targeted specifically at their ethnic interests. Nevertheless, a number of magazines and journals published by various civic groups such as the Italy-America Society[Italy America Society]Italy-America Society and theNational Italian-American Foundation[National Italian American Foundation]National Italian-American Foundation enjoyed wide readership into the twenty-first century. Most of these publications promoted pride in the Italian American heritage and celebrated customs from the old country that had become part of the larger melting-pot culture of the United States.Press;Italian AmericanItalian immigrants;press

Further Reading

  • Diggins, John N. Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972. Discusses the fascination of Italian Americans with Mussolini, explains the role of the mainstream Italian American press in promoting a favorable view of him, and describes efforts of anti-Fascist publications to counter positive Fascist images.
  • Mangione, Jerre, and Ben Morreale. La Storia: Five Centuries of the Italian-American Experience. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. Extensive history of Italian immigration to America, outlining contributions of Italian Americans to the United States. Includes a brief commentary on the role of the Italian American press.
  • Moreno, Barry. Italian Americans. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Barron’s Educational Series, 2003. Describes the history and customs of Italian immigrants; briefly sketches the role of the Italian American press within these communities.
  • Park, Robert E. The Immigrant Press and Its Control. New York: Harper, Collins, 1922. Provides a sense of the concerns mainstream America had with ethnic newspapers, including those published by Italian Americans, which were perceived as potentially subversive to American values.
  • Pericone, Nunzio. Carlo Tresca: Portrait of a Rebel. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Biography of the activist and newspaper editor influential in promoting the cause of labor and combating favorable views of fascism within the Italian American community.

Ethnic enclaves

German American press

Immigration waves

Italian immigrants

Labor unions

Little Italies

Spanish-language press