34-Muro Family in America: A brief look at the effects of WWI on life in Pennsylvania

Introduction

Letizia Scotti, the wife of Nick Muro, immigrated with their daughter Josie from Italy to America in the Summer of 1912. They arrived in New York and travelled to Wilmerding, company town in Pennsylvania where Nick was working and had a place to live. Our research has located Nick’s naturalization and WWI draft registration records. These discoveries broaden our picture of Nick’s life before Letizia and Josie joined him in America. They also cause us to reconsider earlier conclusions. The great changes that took place during and after WWI created a world for their daughter Josie that was radically different from the world they had known before the War.

Relationship Notes

Nick (Nicola) Muro was:

  • Sammy’s maternal Grandfather
  • EmilyAnn’s Great Grandfather through her Mom.

Nick Muro: Becoming a citizen

Cover page of Petition for Naturalization for Nick (Nicola)Muro.

Petition for Naturualization for Nick (Nicola) Muro.

In posting 28a-Nicola Muro-From Agropoli to New York we presented the first documentation we had for Nick in the United States. It was the passenger list for the Citta di Napoli on which Nick sailed from Agropoli to New York in 1901. When that posting was prepared we had not located his Petition for Naturalization. We thought it possible that Nicola came over as a Bird of Passage. Perhaps he started in that manner but the Petition of Naturalization makes his movements and status in the United States much clearer.

 The date of landing given on the Petition is April 14, 1900. Using the passenger list of the Citta di Napoli to piece Nick’s movements into a time line we find that within 13 months of arriving in the U.S., Nick had already returned to Agropoli and made another trip back to the U.S. On this second trip he arrived in New York on April 13, 1901. The Petition of Naturalization which granted Nick his citizenship and admission to the United States was dated September 12, 1906. His character witness, Luigi Botti, testifies that Nick has lived in the United States at least 5 years. This means that at some point Nick had to have secured steady employment and was living his life in a manner that would prepare him for citizenship. With this discovery we now have a better idea of when he made the decision to remain in the U.S. permanently.

On the Petition for Naturalization the name of Nick’s character witness was written by a clerk as “Luigi Rotti”. The signature is for a “Luigi Botti.” The Botti family of Agropoli were paesanos or relatives, depending on which branch of our family you study. On the Serrapede side Petronilla Botti Ruocco was the mother of Sammy’s Great Aunt Rosa Ruocco Serrapede. Rosa was the wife of Luigi Serrapede.

Family Tree chart for the husband of Syliva Muro. Sylvia was Nick’s daughter by his second wife, Rose (Rosina). Sylivia’s mother-in-law was Mary Botti Manzo. The Manzo-Botti lineage is outlined in black.

Nick maintained his relationship with the Botti family throughout his life. His daughter Sylvia married Sam Manzo. Sam’s mother was Mary Botti Manzo. This pattern of the close relationships with relatives and paesanos from Agropoli continued through the second generation of our family in America.

WWI: Registering for the Draft

WWI Draft Registration Card for Nick Muro.

Nick’s WWI Draft Registration record provided us with his address where he was living in 1918. This is the first record we have about what part of Wilmerding he was living in. The Muro family was living at 417 Patton Street. We also know that Nick was employed as a grinder at the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. We plan to search for maps of Wilmerding to see get a better idea of how the family was situated.

We searched for information about how Italian immigrants in Wilmerding were treated in WWI. There was not too much available but we were able to obtain enough to get an overview of what was happening at the statewide level, as well as in Pittsburgh. Later in our research session a few news items mentioned Wilmerding. Others came from the town of Harrisburg which is a 3 hour drive by modern highway. Although distant from Wilmerding, the events described in the Harrisburg newspapers are consistent with information we obtained from other sources. What follows are summaries of the information we used for our discussion. Links are provided in the Resources section.

Pittsburgh during WWI

Pittsburgh was known as Steel City because of the many steel companies that had offices and plants in the city and surrounding boroughs. The War effort brought an increased need for the natural and human resources available not only in Pittsburgh but in Pennsylvania as well. Such resources were steel, coal, and coke. There were abundant farmlands as well for growing crops needed for food.

Pittsburgh became a major manufacturing center of battleships, tanks and weapons. On Dec. 30, 1914 Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. accepted an order from the British Government to manufacture 3 million artillery shells. Pittsburgh had enough residents of working age to fill jobs in factories that were operating round the clock producing materials for the war

The prototype or the gas mask was developed in Pittsburgh by James Garner of the Mellon Institute. Chemicals like mustard gas were new weapons used for the first time. The gas mask provided protection for the troops.

The immigrant community banded together, with many women contributing to the Red Cross through volunteer work or making surgical dressings and woolen socks.

The Effects of WWI on Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s steel, coal, and railroad industries were operating at maximum output during the war years of 1917-1918. The shipyards fulfilled orders for battleships and also helped maintain maritime transport. Pennsylvanians subscribed to over $3 billion dollars in war bonds.

The influenza epidemic of 1918 started in Pennsylvania when sailors who just returned from Boston, disembarked at the Philadelphia Naval Yard and succumbed to the illness. Influenza raged through the state from Oct. 1918 until Feb. 1919. During the peak in October, in one week over 4000 people died.

In the early post-WWI period the economy slumped. The citizens no longer desired the progressivism of the Woodrow Wilson years and voted Warren G. Harding into office at the President of the USA. People wanted life to get back to “normal”. Fear set in as the revolutions in Europe gave birth to Communism. The KKK experienced a rebirth and their form of terrorism spread through Pennsylvania and the other Northern States.

Wilmerding during WWI: Some highlights from the Harrisburg Telegraph

Close-up of the first page of the “Harrisburg Telegraph”, April 24, 1916.

Workers were in demand in order to meet the deadlines for producing urgently needed wartime materials. Labor organizers saw this as a chance to further inroads into the factories run by the major industries. On April 24th, 1916 the Harrisburg Telegraph reported that miners and steel workers went on strike over wages and demands for an 8 hour workday. Among the companies that would not agree to these demands were the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. Efforts were being made to get employees at the Westinghouse Air Brake companies to join the strike.

In the same edition the paper also reports that in East Pittsburgh police had to use force to hold back strikers so that workers at the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company could get into the company’s workshops. Tensions heightened when demonstrators threatened to dynamite a bridge that was used to gain access to workshop entrances. The Westinghouse Machine Company was also affected by this strike Almost half of the 3000 men employed there did not show up for work.

34-harrisburg20telegraph20august209201917_zpsub7amptq

Close-up of the “Harrisburg Telegraph”, August 19, 1917.

Wilmerding contributed manpower for construction projects during the war. In the Thursday evening edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph on August 9, 1917, we read that in Augusta, Georgia ten warehouses were being built near Camp Hancock to store supplies for the Pennsylvania troops.

Mr. E. Tomlinson, General Secretary of the Wilmerding YMCA brought along a team of 40 men to assist with the warehouse construction project. One of the team members was a Mr. J. Ralston, who worked as a chief clerk in the engineering department of Westinghouse Air Brake Company in Wilmerding.

Reactions of Immigrants to WWI

According to the 1910 Federal Census 1 of every 4 residents in Pittsburgh was foreign born. Germans made up the majority. At the outset of the war many Germans sided with their homeland. When America entered the war they turned their focus and allegiance towards the United States. This turn around helped the German immigrants maintain stable relationships with their neighbors.

German immigrants were still marginalized. Within their community schools stopped teaching courses in German culture and churches stopped offering services in German. The Federal Government required German citizens to register and carry a registration card.

Throughout the country states and the federal government set up programs to reach out to the immigrant community and encourage their Americanization. The immigrants were enrolled in English classes and encouraged to buy war bonds.

Close-up of part of the front page of the Harrisburg Telegraph, May 29, 1916.

Italian immigrants also took great lengths to affirm their loyalty to America. The Harrisburg Telegraph reported on May 29 1916 that members of the fraternal organization called “Sons of Italy” sent a resolution to President Wilson affirming their loyalty to the United States. The resolution was approved during their Fourth Annual Convention. A speech was also given during that emphasized being good citizens of this country and fulfilling civic duty and abiding by the laws of this country.

Discussion with Uncle Sammy, Sunday, August 2, 2015 4:00-4:40 p.m.

Uncle Sammy and I discussed Nick’s age at the time he registered for the WWI draft. In 1918, he and Letizia had 4 children with another on the way. We think that based on his age and the number of dependents he had, an exemption from military service was given.

Uncle Sammy did not hear any stories about the first generation immigrants in our family serving in the military during WWI. I do not recall ever hearing WWI discussed either.

What we do know for sure is that the efforts to organize labor bore fruit as the years after WWI progressed. Several of Nick’s sons went on to work at Westinghouse Air Brake Company after they completed schooling. They all benefitted from union membership. In time the coal, steel and railroad industries were also unionized.

Uncle Sammy remembers strikes in the late 1940s and 1950s that could go on for a month or longer. The striking workers were paid 80% of their salary from a fund the union set up to be used for this purpose. Union membership assured the members of the Muro family that worked at Westinghouse Air Brake Company fair salary increases and conditions that favored their growth and safety. In turn this helped bring the family into the ranks of the middle class by the time the second generation married and began their own families.

Special Note

Some of the language used in period newspapers is offensive by modern standards. Please understand this is beyond our control. The screen shots are used for informational and research purposes only.

Resources

Petition for Naturalization
Nicola Muro
Source Citation
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington D.C.; Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court, 1820-1930, and Circuit Court, 1820-1911, for the Western District of Pennsylvania; NARA Series: M1537; Reference: (Roll 115) July 10 -Sept 12, 1906

Source Information

Ancestry.com. Selected U.S. Naturalization Records – Original Documents, 1790-1974 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.

 

WWI Draft Registration Card
Nicola Muro
Detail
Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Allegheny; Roll: 1852385; Draft Board: 10

Source Information

Title
U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
Author
Ancestry.com
Publisher
Ancestry.com Operations Inc
Publisher Date 2005
Publisher Location Provo, UT, USA

 

Pittsburgh During WWI

The Great War and Steel City
How WWI affected Pittsburgh’s immigrant community

http://triblive.com/news/projects/wwi/

The Effects of WWI on Pennsylvania

The Era of Industrial Ascendancy 1861-1945
all about PA

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/overview_of_pennsylvania_history/4281/1861-1945__era_of_industrial_ascendancy/478730

Wilmerding during WWI: Some highlights from The Harrisburg Telegraph

“Will Not Give Metal Workers Eight-Hour Day”
Harrisburg Telegraph, April 24th, 1916.
Library of Congress, Chronicling America

Page 1: http://tinyurl.com/o68jbn6yeq

Page 7: http://tinyurl.com/plr6fs7

“Deputy Sheriffs use clubs to get through mob strike of pickets”
Harrisburg Telegraph, April 24th, 1916.
Library of Congress, Chronicling America

Page 7: http://tinyurl.com/plr6fs7

“Start Work on Big Warehouse for Troop Camp”
Harrisburg Telegraph. Thursday Evening, August 09, 1917
Library of Congress, Chronicling America

Page 14: http://tinyurl.com/pm69s8v

Reactions of Immigrants to WWI

The Great War and Steel City
How WWI affected Pittsburgh’s immigrant community

http://triblive.com/news/projects/wwi/

“United States Home Front During WWI”
Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_home_front_during_World_War_I

“Sons of Italy Assure Wilson They Are Loyal”
Harrisburg Telegraph, May 29, 1916
Library of Congress, Chronicling America

Page 1: http://tinyurl.com/pv8f3js

Page 3: http://tinyurl.com/qzl3db5

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6 thoughts on “34-Muro Family in America: A brief look at the effects of WWI on life in Pennsylvania

  1. I was interested that your ancestor went “home” for a trip. I was suprised when I found this in my husband’s family. Things must have been so much better for workers in the US compared with Europe. No wonder they wanted to be citizens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. The longer they were in the host country you have to question where “home” was.

      What I don’t understand is why many people desire Dual Citizenship. They go through so much to prove their ancestors did not file applications to become Americans before a certain date and wait some time for the process to complete.

      When I think of the wording in the Declaration of Intent it makes me realize the ancestors embraced their new countries as they would a mother or wife. So why descendants want dual citizenship is not clear to me.

      Liked by 1 person

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