52b-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression-$120 a month (Part 1b)

Introduction

This posting concludes the topic we began in 52b-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression-$120 a month (part 1a).  In that posting we considered the nature of the work shoe shiners did and how much they may have earned.  When the posting concluded we made note of how the young American boys who did this work faced competition from the waves of immigrants coming from Europe at the start of the 20th century.  Many members of our immediate and extended family worked as boot blacks after arriving from Italy.

We now turn our attention to some of the ways bootblacks worked throughout Manhattan.  Then Uncle Sammy and I share our family stories and discussion at the conclusion of this posting.

Relationship Notes

Sam Serrapede was born in Agropoli, Campania, Salerno Italy.  He immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1920s.  In 1930 he married Josie Muro.  The newlyweds made their home in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y.  Sam worked as a shoe shiner during the 1930s through the late 1940s.

Sam was the Father of:
*Emily Leatrice Serrapede
*Gerald (“Gerry”, Gennaro) Serrapede
*Sabbatino (Sammy) Serrapede

Sam was the maternal Grandfather of:  EmilyAnn Frances May

Bootblacks around New York City during the Great Depression

This shoe shiner waits for a customer on the corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.  He’s set up his station outside of the New York Savings Bank.  The sign above him contains a quote from Disraeli which says, “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.”

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The shoe shiner outside the New York Savings bank got a customer.  He is located in a good spot next to the entrance of a subway station.  The set-up is very simple and would not cost much to keep up.  However, the customer getting his shoes shined would not be very comfortable since the chair is very small.  To have an edge over other shoe shiners in the area this man would have to have better supplies or a better technique.

52b-shoe20shiner20union20square_zpsnbqzvfcn

This shoe shiner was working near Union Square, another busy area.  Judging by the background he may have been near the park.  Union Square is also in the vicinity of 14th Street and is close to a subway station making it an ideal place to attract customers.  This shoe shine station is more elaborate.  It might have attracted more customers than the one of the shoe shiner on 8th Avenue because the bench has a higher back and the awning provides some shade during a bright day.

A study of the photographs makes you realize that if these shoe shiners were working on their own their ability to earn a steady income was impacted by weather conditions.  Another down side to working outdoors was the vulnerability to pickpockets and thieves.  The shoe shine operation needed a steady location in order to cultivate relationships with clients.  How the matter of where the shoe shiner worked outdoors was not described in any of our readings.  It’s possible that the shoe shiner had to get permission to work outside of a business like New York Savings Bank.  There were most likely licensing requirements and fees to be paid.

An independent shoe shiner would also have operating costs for the upkeep of his stand and supplies.  The shoe shiners in these photos may have been working for a service that provided the station and the supplies.  Even so, working outdoors had its drawbacks.  Better locations would be indoors at such locations as Grand Central Station, the Staten Island Ferry Terminal or a local barber shop.

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47-Giuseppe D’Agosto in New York-A young man with a job and a passport

Acknowledgement

The chart of descent for the D’Agosto family, available at ImaginesMaiorum, Ancetors from Campania, was used to provide information about the date of Giuseppe D’Agosto’s marriage. We thank Anthony Vermandois for making the results of his genealogical research available at his website.

Introduction

47-giuseppe20dagosto20in20new20york-192320passport20photo20close-up_zps6i3sivbo

Close-up of Giuseppe D’Agosto’s photo affixed to the application for a passport in 1923.

Giuseppe D’Agosto is related to Uncle Sammy and me by marriage. He was the husband of Filomena Serrapede D’Agosto. Filomena was the elder sister of Sabato Serrapede who was Sammy’s Dad and EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandfather. This makes Giuseppe and Filomena D’Agosto:

  • Uncle Sammy’s paternal Uncle and Aunt.
  • EmilyAnn’s Great Uncle and Aunt along her maternal line.

In this posting we share the discovery the 1920 Federal Census brought us once we learned who Giuseppe was working for. Of all the relatives we’ve studied so far he is the first we know of who became a civil service employee. He achieved much and went far in the 7 years after he came to the United States in 1913.

What was the DSC?

47-192020fed20census20with20giuseppe20dagosto_zpsxaiutafk

Close-up of 1920 Federal Census entry for the Gibaldi family.

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46c-D’Agosto and Carnicelli Families in America: Family and Work, Part 1

Acknowledgement

We acknowledge and thank genealogist Anthony Vermandois for the work he has done researching the families of Agropoli and other towns in Campania, Italy. The information he has gathered is presented through charts of descent at Imagines Maiorum. To access the particular charts for the families featured in posting 46c parts 1-3, click on the surnames that follow. A new screen will open and navigate to the page for that surname at Anthony’s site.

Carnicelli

D’Agosto

Romaniello

Margiotta

Comunale

Taddeo

Relationship Notes

Filomena Serrapede was the eldest sister of Sabato Serrapede who was Sammy’s father and EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandfather. She married Giuseppe D’Agosto in 1923.

This made Filomena and Giuseppe D’Agosto:

–Sammy’s paternal Aunt and Uncle
–EmilyAnn’s Great Aunt and Uncle along her maternal line.

Introduction

During our initial research about Giuseppe D’Agosto, we learned that his mother was Raffaela Carnicelli. Uncle Sammy mentioned that as he was growing up the Carnicelli family who lived on 65th Street were paesanos of our family. Since many first generation families from Agropoli settled close to each other in Brooklyn, he wondered if they were our relatives. In particular, Uncle Sammy remembered a Julia Carnicelli who he thought lived in a multi-family dwelling where the other Carnicelli paesanos lived.

This set me on a search for Julia that was almost like following a fairy as she flew here and there leading me through the garden as I gathered flowers. Only I was actually gathering data that came together to tell a story not only about Julia, but her husband, brother-in-law and Giuseppe D’Agosto. The story is in the details and there are many. To avoid overwhelming the reader we have broken the posting into three parts. Part 1 will focus on Giuseppe D’Agosto and how he was related to Joseph and Anthony Carnicelli. We will also learn about Giuseppe’s life after his marriage in 1923 to Filomena Serrapede.

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44-The Errico Family: From Wilmerding to Brooklyn, 1920-1925

Acknowledgement

We have used the charts of descent for the Scotti family available at ImaginesMairoum, the site presenting the genealogical data compiled by Anthony Vermandois. This data has been collected from Agropoli and other towns in Campania province, Salerno.

For the other documentation used please see the Resources section at the end of this posting.

Introduction

In our last posting we introduced Josie Muro. She was the eldest child in a family grew in size to 11 children by the early 1930s. Variations of a family story recounting why Josie left Wilmerding, Pennsylvania at the age of 18 or 19 to come to Brooklyn, New York provided a bare minimum of details. By using the census records and ships passenger lists for other relatives we are gaining insights into what happened to facilitate Josie’s move up to Brooklyn.

We will turn our attention to the contacts the Muro family had in Brooklyn who, we are certain, helped Josie in the very quick move her parents had her make from Wilmerding to Brooklyn. The story gets more interesting as the details fall into place.

Josie’s Zia Elisa

Josie’s mother, Letizia passed away in 1921 when Josie was 12 years old. We think Letizia was a weakened by an accident in the previous year plus the frequency of her pregnancies. Nick Muro, Josie’s father, married Rose (Rosina) Aiello Marasco in late 1921 – early 1922. We know from Josie’s own discussions with us that she had many chores and errands to perform each day to help Rose with the household.

Letizia’s two sisters, Concetta and Elisa, also lived nearby in Wilmerding. The Scotti family remained close to Letizia’s children during the lifetimes of the first generation of our family in America. Josie enjoyed long phone calls with Elisa. I remember during the times we visited, that even if she were cooking in the kitchen, she’d take time out to sit down and listen to what her Aunt was calling about.

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30b-Muro Family-Letizia and Giuseppa leave for America

Acknowledgement

We have used the charts of descent for the Muro and Comite families as the basis of this week’s posting. This data is available at Imagines Maiorum-Ancestors from Campania, a site where genealogist Anthony Vermandois presents vital statistics and marriage banns for families in Agropoli and other nearby towns.

We have also used the passenger list of the SS Canada for Letizia Muro’s voyage to New York. Please see the Resources section for link.

Muro family link: http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=368

Comite family link: http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=559

Relationship Notes

Letizia Scotti Muro was:

  • Sammy’s Maternal Grandmother
  • EmilyAnn’s Great-Grandmother along her maternal line.

Giuseppa grew up to become:

  • Sammy’s Mom
  • EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandmother

Nicola and Letizia Marriage

Nicola and Letizia were married on January 9, 1909 in Agropoli. Anthony Vermandois lists a voyage that Nicola made to America in 1909 but so far we cannot locate such documentation.

Birth of Giuseppa (Josie)

Nicola and Letizia’s first child, a girl, was born on November 1, 1909. They named her Giuseppa, in honor of Nicola’s mother, Giuseppa Ruocco Muro.  In America Giuseppa was known as Josie.  Only her younger sister Philomena called her Giuseppina.

Departing Agropoli, Arriving in America

Letizia arrived in New York City with Giuseppa (Josie) on August 13, 1912. They left Naples on July 30th, 1912.

The page on which Letizia and Giuseppa are listed contains only one other passenger who was also from Agropoli. His name was Giuseppe Comite.  At first it was easy to think he had no connection with Letizia.  The Comite surname was not familiar and had not come up in previous research sessions.  We then had to recall the customs and attitudes the first generation of immigrants had concerning women and the code of honor they lived by in matters of women and family.  With this in mind we think that Giuseppe was a travel companion to Letizia since at that time a woman with a 3 year old child would not be permitted to travel so far on her own.  It was a matter of honor that a woman be chaperoned, if not by her parents, then by a brother or a male relative to protect her.

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11d-The World’s Work, May 1914 : Controversies of Race and Religion

What follows are screen shots of the above mentioned article published in the May 1914 edition of “The World’s Work.”  This is one of the articles which deeply impressed upon my Uncle Sammy and me the deep seated concerns and fears about immigration during the 1910s.  It also inspired us to craft a response in the form of three letters to Gennaro Serrapede as featured in postings 11a, 11b and 11c.

I am posting these articles as a way to get people to think on how a response that was deeply felt and a fear widely spread at that time proved wrong as the following decades passed.  The immigrants went on to become loyal Americans, many serving their new country in WWI and WWII.

What is shown by the passage of time is that fear is easily transmitted and proliferated while hope and anticipation for a better tomorrow is an uphill struggle to communicate en masse.  The writers of these articles were alarmed at an unknown future, one that was not predictable given how diverse the immigrants were and how many were coming at the same time.  The fear communicated in these articles also reveals how little faith the writers had in all that the process of becoming American involved.

When I read my maternal Grandfather’s Declaration of Intent, I am struck by how much it is like a marriage vow.  He promised to forsake all allegiance to Italy and the King of Italy in order to become an American citizen.  To forsake means to leave forever and embrace the new country as the Motherland and Fatherland in all ways.  All who signed their own Declarations of Intent knew they were making a tremendous change in their lives and identities.  It was not something undertaken lightly.  The contributions our immigrant ancestors made during WWI, WWII and to the post-WWII economic growth show how enriched the country was by the contributions of those who were hardworking members of our society.

Please note you may find the language in the article unacceptable.  You must read it with the point of view that it is 1914, not 2015.

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