The History of Italian Migration to the United States

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Last Updated on 2022/11/24

The vast majority of Italian immigration to the United States took place between 1900 and 1940; however there is evidence of Italians living in New Jersey all the way back to the 1800s.

As the years went on, more Italians decided to migrate to the United States in the hope of a better life for themselves and their families, and nowadays you can see the lasting impact of Italian culture in many places across the East Coast of the United States. One of the most obvious places to find this is New Jersey, the Garden State, where you will find New Jersey hidden gems that exude Italian culture, from Italian restaurants and stores to Italian car shops.

The Mass immigration of Italians to America

Giovanni Battista Sartori is regarded as being one of the first Italians to emigrate to the United States. He set up the very first spaghetti factory in the U.S., and founded New Jersey’s first Catholic church. The great migration of Italians started around the 1870s, when most Italians chose to settle in New Jersey. The Italian immigrants mostly came from the South of Italy and made the journey to escape poor soil, diseases, drought, and oppressive landlords. In 1861 there was a unification of the States of Italy which failed in its goal for economic peace, leading many Italian people to look elsewhere for their work opportunities.

The Italian immigrants that settled in New Jersey had jobs in many different fields, including agriculture, tailoring, baking, cooking, and a variety of other professions. Agriculture workers created small villages of Italians in regions such as Atlantic City and Vineland.

Early arrivals

A lot of the early Italian arrivals to the United States of America found their way there due to work. Italians were world-renowned for their craftsmanship as woodworkers, sculptors, and glassblowers. There was a slow but steady influx of Italian immigrants during the middle period between 1820 and 1865. Less than 25,000 immigrants from Italy made it to the United States of America during this time, as many Italians looking for a new life opted for countries such as Brazil and Argentina.

The Italian immigrants that did decide to travel to the U.S. settled in various places across the country, including San Francisco, California, New Orleans, and New Jersey. Although there were relatively few Italians emigrating to the U.S. at this time, the impact of these immigrants can still be seen to this very day.

The great arrival

The great arrival of Italian immigrants to the U.S. began at the start of the 1870s, with around 300,000 Italians making their way to the country during the 1880s, and around 600,000 Italians in the 1890s. In the 1900s, over 2 million Italians made their way across the Atlantic Ocean to the East Coast of North America. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the immigration of Italians to the U.S. began to slow down, by which point over 4 million Italians had made the long trip to start a new life in a foreign country. So many Italians had emigrated to the U.S. that they made up over 10% of the U.S. population that was born in another country.

There are many reasons that can be attributed to this period of mass immigration. There had been decades of strife in Italy that left a trail of destruction, violence, and poverty throughout many regions of the country. In addition to this, disease had torn throughout large parts of Italy, and without a strong government, the people felt helpless. It was during this time that advancements in technology, and more specifically, transatlantic transportation, made traveling to distant countries a real possibility for Italians.

Italians settling in Southern New Jersey

Many of the Italian immigrants chose to settle in New Jersey for a number of reasons. New Jersey is located close to the shore, and the climate was adequate. Another big reason that led to a lot of Italians living in New Jersey was the fact that at the time, the land was relatively cheap. A lot of the immigrants that came over from Italy to the U.S. during the great arrival were farmers, and the soil in New Jersey was ideal for farming. This made setting up businesses to grow fruit and vegetables to be transported to nearby big cities such as New York a perfect job.

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