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There are so many different ethnic backgrounds in the United States today, but they didn’t all originate here. People of all nationalities started immigrating here in the 17th Century. Just in the short time from 100 � 155, over fifteen million people immigrated to America. These fifteen million people consisted of Italians, Irish, Polish, Germans and many more. They had to form huge communities due to the influx of people, but after migration was cut off in the 10’s the communities quickly languished. Children of the immigrants look back and consider these communities the institution of their learning (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

One of the largest groups of immigrants were the Italians. The Italians are from southern Europe. They mostly have darker skin and have dark hair. However, some Italians from different parts of Italy have blonde hair and fair skin. The majority of Italians are loving people. Altogether, over five million Italians migrated to the United States. Most of the Italian immigrants came from the provinces of Calabria, Campania, Apulia, and the island of Sicily. Even though the Italians lived in these provinces, they were also grouped into little villages. When in Italy they were only loyal to the people in their village. When they came to America they were forced to live in cities where it was too hard to keep local ties between them. These moves to the city made them realize for the first time that they all shared the common Italian heritage (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

The Italians, like many other immigrants, left their native countries for many different reasons. The immigrants that departed from the Northern part of Italy left in hope of finding religious freedom. A lot of men left to avoid military time or even in some cases, jail time. Some immigrants also had high hopes; they were in search of political asylum and greater economic opportunities. In the beginning, most of them didn’t make huge moves, very rarely would they cross the ocean. Most of them ventured to central and western Europe, to such places as, Ireland, England, and Belgium (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

The living conditions in Southern Italy were so much worse than in the North, but it still took the Southerners much more time to leave. There were many reasons for the delay in their move, one reason being that they were much poorer than the Northerners. They were also much less sophisticated and way too conservative. Once a lot of the Northerners left and the population dropped drastically, the Southerners were left with little choice but to go. When they first started moving they went to North and South America. As the American industry expanded they all flocked to the United States. There were so many Southerners immigrating at one time that they greatly outnumbered the Northerners on the transatlantic ships. Unlike in the early years though, the destination of both the Northerners and the Southerners were the same. By the time World War I came along, Italy was losing people due to immigration at a rate of half a million people a year (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

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Once the United States became the main destination of most immigrants, they started to settle in the central and eastern part of the nation. Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Georgia were where some of the settlements were. The population in the western states started to grow also and in 184 when gold was discovered in California, the population soared. Even after the novelty of the gold rush ended, many of them stayed in the west as merchants, shopkeepers, gardeners, winemakers, and much more. Some of them even became prominent local citizens (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

By the late 1860’s, a few Italians lived in almost every state. California still had the largest number of them with New York City having the second most. Some of the Italians in New York City adapted quickly and were very successful businessmen. Still most of the others remained poor. Most of them that got off the ships were living in slums, because they had spent all their money on their passage over (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

The later immigrants didn’t care where they lived, because they were mostly men between ages sixteen and forty- five, who just wanted to make money at available jobs and return home. This idea caught on so quickly that by 107 a total of 85,71 had immigrated to America for work but almost half of them returned to their homeland.

The immigrants that came later in the 1th and 0th centuries assimilated very quickly. Most of them settled in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania near the business districts. A lot of them landed regular jobs after awhile and were able to move out of the slums to make room for newcomers. Even though the immigrants in New York were some of the most successful; New York also had the largest, most congested immigrant neighborhoods. One of the reasons for this was because newcomers from the same village tried to settle on the same street or even the same building sometimes. Most of them would try to get work at the same factory, but that seldom worked out (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

There were so many Italians that inhabited the area at first that even when the population started to dwindle, the area was still thought of as Italian. This was because even though the Italian population went down their churches, restaurants, and businesses were still thriving. These businesses attracted non- Italians very often because of the “authentic” products that they offered. The restaurants stayed in business due to the ethnic foods they served (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

While the immigrants in New York were adapting, so were the ones in San Francisco and New Orleans. A good majority of the immigrants in these two cities were very wealthy. In San Francisco, the business district was settled first. Then the waterfront, also known as, the commercial district, was quickly discovered and inhabited. Now that most of the Italian population lived in the United States, they started to prosper by taking on American ways of living (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

A majority of the Italians settled on farms due to much encouragement from observers. The observers figured that they would Americanize quicker in the countryside compared to in the cities. In addition to the farms, seasonal agriculture work was very popular. They liked this because it required little skill and employed whole families to work together. The largest of these seasonal settlements were in the west, where a lot of farmers that began as tenants eventually bought the land that they cultivated. Most of them didn’t want to turn to farming though, they said they didn’t come all the way to America to go back to the farm. Instead, they longed to be saloonkeepers, ice cream vendors, clerks, barbers, and restaurant owners. Some of the Southerners that arrived late also did well in the construction industry. By the turn of the century, the Italians were well adapted and had overcome all their hardships. Many of them were very successful, such as, Amadio Obici. He is also known as “peanut king”. He is the man that we can all thank today for the Planters Peanut Company. The Italians were becoming smarter and smarter and as soon as they successfully mastered the business side of society, they were ready to move onto politics (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

At first, the Italians that were registered voters usually just voted the way the press and the community told them to. Due to this, the Italians could usually only conquer local offices and nothing of higher status. James March, who arrived in America at age thirteen, eventually became a Republican Party leader in the Italian colony. Through politics and elections, Italians began to realize that unlike in Italy when provinces didn’t cooperate, here in America they had to join together to solve their problems. One problem that they faced and overcame quickly was the transition from the Old World to the New World ways. They accepted many things that were unfamiliar to them in Italy (Harvard Encyclopedia 180).

These things that were unfamiliar to them consisted of the press, multi-benefit societies and they also had problems with the churches. The Italian press offered newcomers morals and advice. The first Italian- language newspaper in the United States was L’ Eco d’ Italia. Almost every single Italian supported the Multi- benefit societies also. These were formed to help the immigrants in times of need. They made monthly donations and then the society helped them when they needed medical care and they also helped with burial expenses in times of death. These societies are much like our medical insurance today.

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