The Breadbasket continues…

D uring the 1870s, Nick Gendusa and his bride Annie Catanzaro Gendusa are shown with their wedding party. The Gendusa/Catanzaro wedding was a traditional, formal Italian wedding. Nick Gendusa was a truck farmer living on River Road in St. Rose bringing his produce to the New Orleans market for decades. (Photo courtesy of RoseMarie Gendusa Palmisano) many blacks left Louisiana for more desirable opportunities in the North, which caused a major labor shortage. The sugar producing parishes were particularly affected. Remaining laborers took advantage and threatened to strike for better wages. The planters organized to resolve this situation and a plan was formulated to enhance the labor pool and control the cost of labor.

     During the mid-1880s, the Louisiana Sugar Planters Association distributed information throughout Sicily and southern Italy. It sent agents to encourage the Italians to immigrate and established an office in New Orleans, which would provide aid on arrival. The Louisiana Agriculture and Immigration Association also extended “An Invitation to Louisiana for Italian Tenant Farmers and Agriculturalists.” It is reported that between 1870 and 1920 at least 300,000 Italians (primarily Sicilians) immigrated to the New Orleans area.

An 1891 advertisement to lure Italian laborers to Louisiana states, “All persons who work laborers in great numbers find the Italian immigrant a valuable acquisition because of his willingness and his peculiar adaptability to hard work.” There were differing scales of pay. Whites received the highest, African Americans less, and the Italians were at the bottom of the scale. (Courtesy of American Italian Museum and Library, New Orleans)

 An 1891 advertisement to lure Italian laborers to Louisiana states, “All persons who work laborers in great numbers find the Italian immigrant a valuable acquisition because of his willingness and his peculiar adaptability to hard work.” There were differing scales of pay. Whites received the highest, African Americans less, and the Italians were at the bottom of the scale. (Courtesy of American Italian Museum and Library, New Orleans)

These passports were issued to Italian immigrants. Note the physical description at left. (Courtesy of American Italian Museum and Library, New Orleans)

Pietro Vitrano became a bona fide citizen of the United States of America. (Courtesy of American Italian Museum and Library, New Orleans)

     Many of the Italians settled on the German Coast and made a significant impact. Like the Germans who came before them, they were hard working and productive farmers and craftsmen. However, they were faced with profound prejudice and the realization that they were placed very low on the social ladder. Salvadore Portera, Using the skiff they named the Virgin Mary, the Portera family sold produce up and down the Mississippi River. The family later entered into the retail business. (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Portera) a typical Italian immigrant, arrived on the German Coast in 1880. He and his wife, Mary Grace Pizzuto, were from Sicily. They lived in Hahnville and were forced to live behind the levee, not being allowed to live “on the other side.” The Italians introduced new fruit and vegetables and expanded the truck farming industry, which added a new dimension to the wholesale and retail trade. Packing-houses lined the railroad tracks to ship their produce across the country. Many Italians were also proficient in masonry, carpentry, stonecutting, tailoring, and advanced horticulture. Italian immigrants formed social and benevolent organizations and carried on their beloved customs and traditions. The St. Joseph Altar Societies and other Italian organizations continue to nurture and hand down these traditions along the German Coast. Other familiar family names were Gilardi, Giangroso, Giardina, Palmisano, Giglio, Gendusa, Vitrano, Barraco, Pizzolato, Bosco, Migliorie, and Marino.

The Bosco family

Josephine and Samuel Bosco in Confirmation and First Communion
attire. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Tamburello Woulfe)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     With the help of the Italian immigrants, farmers of the German Coast continued to be major food suppliers to the markets of New Orleans. The German Coast packinghouses shipped by rail vegetables and produce to major United States cities.

picture

 

< < Prev Next > >

 

 

 

Explore...


 Images

Originally built as slave cabins, these dwellings became housing for freed
slaves, Italians, and other immigrants after the Civil War. An 1891 advertisement to lure Italian laborers to Louisiana

> > See More


 Related Entries

President Abraham Lincoln

The Emancipation Proclamation
On January l, 1863, President Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation…

 

Labor Strikes – 1880

Labor Strikes – 1880
In 1880, former slaves demanding better wages launched the first labor strike in Louisiana…

> > Related Entries


Related Magazine Articles

River Parish Focus Magazine

 

Cultural Vistas

 

Forget the Geritol

Forget the Geritol

Vol. 1 No. 10


Read Article

 

> > All Articles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © This text is copyright material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.

 

Category: Italians Arrive