Italian Life In New York 1892 Part II

There is yet another class the chorus singers and ballet-dancers in the spectacular drama, and the opera companies. They, with merchants and professional men, frequent the Italian restaurants, some of which are famous.

Nothing has done more to make the Italian immigrant contented with New York than the industrial schools, which are thronged by the children. A pair who had landed at Castle Garden at six wore found in line at nine the same morning, and announced that seven others would be there in the afternoon. They know from others just what is provided for them, and use every opportunity. The great school on Leonard Street, the outgrowth of the little seed planted in 1855, holds five hundred of them. Afternoon and night schools take in the most pupils, since many must earn their support during the day. The boys are taught various trades; the girls learn sewing, lace-making, and so forth. The building has school-rooms, bath-rooms, reading-rooms, and printing-offices, where trades are taught and payment given for work that is done. Some stay away at intervals, or attend irregularly because they must " mind the stand" or help to sort rags, but all are anxious to come. Often they graduate from this into the public school, and hundreds of good citizens owe their success to teachings received here.

The story of this school is, like that of many another invaluable work for children in New York, a part of the record of the Children's Aid Society. The first Italian emigrants were chiefly a part of the path-one system, and necessarily the lowest order of that nationality. Some fifteen hundred settled in and about the Five Points, to which that type still gravitates. But they were not criminals and they lived hard-working lives, shut off by their ignorance of English from much share in the life about them. Suspicion and distrust had been born of this isolation, and thus it was hard to make them believe that a school could be opened with no ulterior design below the seeming help. Three years of constant effort were required before any real foothold was gained, the ardent opposition of one of their priests being the greatest obstacle. He threatened excommunication for all who allowed their children to enter the heretic doors, and went from house to house to supplement the curse given in church. Fortunately, he collected money for a school according to his own ideas, and then decamped, preferring to spend it at his leisure on his own soil. This was the turning-point, for the people made amends by sending their children to the school he had denounced.

From this time on, the growth of the school has been steady. The chief object was to cultivate self-respect and turn the children from begging and organ-grinding towards trades, and this has been accomplished most thoroughly. The Maestro has become
a most indispensable personage, and is assumed to be not only teacher, but lawyer, doctor, theologian, astronomer, banker, everything that is good and desirable. Family quarrels are brought before him for adjustment, and the gratitude of the people is unending compensation for the service rendered. The Italian government, through its Minister in the United States, has sent formal thanks for the benefits extended to its people, and the higher class of Italians in New York are doing their full share toward
helping on the work.

Italians born in this country are much lighter in complexion than those born under an Italian sun. They pass for Americans, and wish to, for they are sometimes made to feel that their nationality is a disgrace. They enter every trade. The girls are dexterous and skillful workers, and many are found in artificial-flower factories. In one of these factories, near Canal Street, an old Carbonaro spends his days in stamping patterns for flowers, a gray-headed, eagle-eyed old man, a patriot and companion of Garibaldi. There are many of the same order, but they work as quietly as Garibaldi himself worked at his trade of sail-making while in this country.

In the region known as " Little Italy" many of the most evil and reckless have banded, but they are a company less to be dreaded than our own hoodlums. They stab, it is true, and steal, and perform other undesirable offenses; but they are not as lost in degradation, and often, after a course of this sort of vicious indulgence, they reform and take to hard work.

The colony has nearly eighty benevolent societies, several weekly papers, and a Chamber of Commerce supported in part by the Italian government. It is intended to establish an Italian Home, and then the immigrants will fare much better than at present. Swindlers are always on the watch to defraud them, and there is constant complaint that the "bosses" are often as much at fault. Italian banks are started in the neighborhood of their work, and presently the cashier disappears with their savings; but all this is mending. The consuls, under the direction of King Humbert and the Italian government, are paying special attention to the immigrant and to the condition of all Italians in this country, and there is much testimony to their teachableness. They make a city of their own, and are one more element in the strange mosaic we call New York, where every nationality is coming to have larger place than the stock which has the best right to claim it as home.
Website: The History
Article Name: Italian Life In New York 1892 Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Darkness and Daylight or, Lights and Shadows of New York by Mrs. Helen Campbell A.D. Worthington & Co., Publishers 1892
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