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All the Italians and Italian Americans listed at Contributing to America have made significant contributions, but some have made such major contributions, that America would not be the same without them – the Italians and what they accomplished. Their achievements are extraordinary and have earned them a place of honor at Thirty-One Days of Italians.

For resources and links to more information about each Honorary Member, go to 

The Italian Immigrant

This day is set aside for the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and beyond – every Italian who journeyed to America from Italy, regardless of the route. It’s to honor those who sought to make a better life for themselves and their families, to remember them for the sacrifices they endured, and to thank them for the opportunities they provided us and for their contributions to America.

 

(In Alphabetical Order)

Father Pietro Bandini (1852-1917)

A Jesuit priest, Father Bandini first came to America in the late 1880s as a missionary for Native Americans in the northwest. He returned to Italy for a short time, then traveled back to America to assist Italian immigrants in New York City. His previous travels through Arkansas brought him back when he learned of a group of immigrants who needed help in settling there. Recalling an area in the Ozarks similar to Italy’s environment, he assisted in purchasing the land and established Tontitown in 1898, named after Enrico de Tonti, the Father of Arkansas. By 1905, Tontitown was considered the "perfect example of colonization," and in 1909 the town was incorporated with Father Bandini as its first mayor. Through Father Bandini’s efforts and guidance, the Italian immigrants of Tontitown had cultivated the land into vineyards, producing grapes for wine and the Concord grape for commercial use.

 

Constantino Brumidi [or Costantino] (1805-1880)

Known as the "Michelangelo of the Capitol," Brumidi spent 25 years painting the walls and ceilings of the United States Capitol. The rotunda of the Capitol, with the Apotheosis of Washington, and the frescoes and murals on the first floor of the Senate wing – the Brumidi Corridors – are among the most elaborately decorated public places in America. In January 2007, U.S. Senate Bill S-254 was proposed to award posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal to Constantino Brumidi, in recognition of his contributions to America. The Bill is currently up for vote in the House.

 

Mother Francis Cabrini (1850-1917)

With a desire to become a missionary at a young age, Francis Cabrini devoted her life to helping others. After taking vows and adding Xavier to her name in honor of Jesuit Francis Xavier, Mother Cabrini founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At the Bishop’s request – and upon the advice of Pope Leo XIII – in 1889 she came to America to work with the Italian immigrants. Once in New York, she quickly established an orphanage, convent, and school to teach catechism. Over the years she traveled back and forth to Italy and established 67 missions, orphanages, hospitals, and school – one for each year of her life. She became an American citizen in 1909. In 1946, she was canonized a saint. Her body is enshrined under glass at the mother Cabrini High School and Shrine. She was the first American citizen to become a saint.

 

Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

Recognized by many as the world’s most acclaimed tenor, Caruso’s recordings launched the phonograph industry in the early 1900s and prompted other singers to start recording their music for sale. His vocal range and versatility is still unmatched and it’s noted that his recordings have been researched and studied more than any other singer. His recording of "No Pagliaccio non son" was the first record to sell one million copies, and more than a century later, his records continue to sell. Caruso first sang at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in 1903 and continued his association with the Met for 18 seasons. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 for his significant artistic contributions to the recording industry.

 

Christopher Columbus [Cristoforo Colombo] (1451-1506)

Armchair philosophers and biases aside, Columbus was a man who believed. He studied, sought the answers, heeded advice, and secured funding. Many people may have influenced and supported Columbus, but it was his belief in his capabilities as a navigator that led him to sail an uncharted sea and find a new land. Celebrate Columbus Day.

 

Enrico Fermi (1901-1954)

Recognized as one of the twentieth century’s great scientists, and with a name that every physics student is aware of, Fermi received the Noble Prize in physics in 1938 for discovering new radioactive elements and the nuclear reactions caused by slow neutrons. Fermi’s work heralded the age of nuclear power that now provides energy, and used in medical treatments, and agricultural and industrial applications.

 

With a natural inclination toward physics, at 27, Fermi became a professor in the field. His applications in experimentation and theoretical physics led him to become the first to split an atom. Arriving in America after he received the Nobel Prize, he continued his research in nuclear power generation, first at Columbia University in New York then at the University of Chicago. He became a professor at the Institute of Nuclear Studies, now named the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the element fermium is named after him. Fermi was involved in The Manhattan Project during World War II.

In 1956, President Eisenhower established the Enrico Fermi Presidential Award in honor of the Nobel Prize recipient. The National Accelerator Laboratory, established by the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1967 was renamed Fermilab in 1974. In 1976, Fermi was inducted to the Inventors Hall of Fame, and in 2001, a United States postage stamp was issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Fermi’s birth.

 

Amadeo Pietro Giannini (1870-1949)

At 14, Giannini left school to help his stepfather run a produce business. Five years later, he was a partner, and at 31, he sold the business to retire. Three years later, he opened the Bank of Italy – based on the concept of lending money to the working class – offering mortgage, automobile, and installment loans. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, he salvaged the bank’s resources and loaned money to help rebuild the city. Giannini provided financial backing to start United Artists and the California wine industry, and to keep Walt Disney’s Snow White from going over budget.

 

In 1928, he purchased Bank of America with plans for a nationwide banking system, and when he died in 1949, Bank of America was the largest bank in the United States. A. P. Giannini revolutionized banking, establishing the foundation for the modern banking system.

 

Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937)

His early experiments with Hertzian waves led him to conducting experiments at the family villa in Italy and later in England where he would file a patent for wireless telegraphy. Although Marconi shares the 1909 Nobel Prize in physics, he was acknowledged for his ability to put together a "practical, usable system" for wireless transmission of radio waves over long distances. Marconi did not immigrate to America, but in 1903, he established a wireless station in South Wellfleet, Massachusetts, allowing President Theodore Roosevelt to send a Morse code message to King Edward VII of England – the first transatlantic message from a U. S. President to a European ruler. Marconi’s wireless communications (known as Marconigrams) were essential for transmitting messages to and from ships, and his application expanded from cruise ships to battleships when World War I began.

 

Filippo Mazzei (1730-1816)

Befriended by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, in 1773, Mazzei – a physician, horticulturist, and merchant in Italy – came to America to establish vineyards in Virginia. Through his friendships with Franklin and Jefferson, Mazzei became acquainted with George Washington, James Monroe, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, and John Adams, and Mazzei also became a supporter of American freedom. His collaboration with Jefferson led to the inclusion of "all men are created equal" into the Declaration of Independence, a paraphrase of Mazzei’s "All men are by nature equally free and independent."

 

In 1778, Mazzei returned to Italy to help raise money and gain information to assist Virginia during the Revolutionary War. He went back to America after the war, then in 1785 returned to Europe. In 1788, he published The History and Politics of the United States of America, which was widely accepted as the source of accurate information about the Revolution.

 

Antonio Meucci (1808-1896) 

Scientist, mechanical engineer, stage technician, business-owner, and the original holder of the patent for the forerunner of today’s telephone, in 2001 Meucci was recognized by the U. S. House of Representatives declaring that "… his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged." Meucci traveled from Italy to Cuba, where he began working on his teletrofono in 1849. A year later, he was in America, supporting his experimentation with the teletrofono by establishing various business, among them the first paraffin candle factory in the world and the first lager beer factory in America. He received patents for "Effervescent Drinks" and "Sauce for Food" and he developed the precursor to coffee filters and the process for making postage stamps. Meucci befriended Garibaldi, who stayed with him in Staten Island, while Garibaldi was in exile from Italy and before he returned to Italy in 1854 to fight for unification.

 

Maria Montessori, MD (1870-1952)

A medical doctor with experience in psychiatry, philosophy, and anthropology, Dr. Montessori combined her fields to focus on educating children. She developed an educational method based on her belief in treating a child with respect and assisting, rather than teaching, which allows the child to develop fully in all aspects of his or her life. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Montessori Method.

 

Andrea Palladio (1508-1580)

Considered by many to be the "Father of Architecture," Palladio’s style – arches, columns, pediments, porticos, symmetry, and the Palladian window – traveled throughout Europe, to England, and then to America. In 1570 he wrote I Quattro Libri dell' Architettura, The Four Books on Architecture, the most famous and influential books on architecture of all time, and still in print. Thomas Jefferson cited the books as "the Bible" on architecture and designed Monticello and other buildings using Palladio’s concepts.

 

Antonio Pasin (1896-1990)

Arriving in America in 1914 from a small town outside of Venice, within several years Pasin was able to save enough money to start a small business crafting wood wagons. By 1923, he hired his first employees and named his company Liberty Coaster Company, after the Statue of Liberty. Inspired by the automobile industry, he started using metal stamping to make wagons, and named the first steel wagon Radio Flyer in honor of Marconi’s invention of the radio and Pasin’s interest in flight. Throughout the Depression, his company was one of the few that ran at full capacity and his exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair brought world fame to the red wagon. As one of the oldest toy companies in America, it is still family owned and it’s the only company that makes steel, wood, and plastic wagons. Pasin was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2003.

 

Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957)

More than fifty years after his final performance, Toscanini – known for his photographic memory, strong beliefs in music interpretation, and demand for perfection – reigns supreme as one of the world’s greatest conductors. At 13 he played cello in an orchestra, and at 19 his last-minute substitution as conductor of Verdi’s Aida in Rio de Janeiro set the course for his career. In 1898, he became director of La Scala and reorganized the performances to maximize the integrity of the music. From 1908 to 1915, he conducted at the Metropolitan Opera House. Returning to Italy during World War I, in 1921, he assembled a new La Scala orchestra and toured for eight months – three months in the United States.

 

In 1926 he began conducting with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and led a European tour of the company in 1930. Seven years later, with plans to make radio educational and cultural, the NBC Symphony Orchestra was created for Toscanini. Many credit him today for bringing classical music to the masses. He returned to Italy to reopen the demolished La Scala in 1946, but he continued to conduct the NBC orchestra until his retirement in 1954 at the age of 87.

 

Toscanini has appeared on the cover of TIME magazine twice and in 1987 he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant contributions to the recording industry. A United States postage stamp was issued in his honor in 1989. This year, the 50th anniversary of his passing, in honor of his musical career and his stand against fascism, Italy is hosting numerous events in tribute to il Maestro.

 

Amerigo Vespucci (c.1451-1512)

Traveling twice to explore the coastline of South America, Vespucci was the first to realize that the New World was a new continent. Letters he wrote describing his journey were widely distributed in Europe, leading German cartographer Martin Waldseemuller to identify the land as America.

 
 
Copyright 2007-2013 Janice Therese Mancuso
 
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, 2013 Janice Therese Mancuso.