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.”

52b-shoeshiner20bank202_zpskzqf2iqi

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

Relationship Notes

Uncle Sammy and I have decided to simplify how we address our immediate family members in this and forthcoming blog postings.  To avoid confusing readers we will be using their first names.  Since the both of us are working on this blog it can become confusing if I say “My Mom Emily Leatrice told me…” and then Uncle Sammy’s contributions are phrased, “My Sister (Emily) did….”

At the start of each posting we’ll put a key describing our relationships to the people named in the posting.  This will help the narrative be easier to read.

In this posting is featured:

*Sam Serrapede:  Husband of Josie and father of Emily Leatrice, Gerald and Sammy.  EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandfather.

Our Family Stories, A New Feature in Our Family History Postings

This section will follow the research and any documentation presented in a posting and precedes the section where Uncle Sammy and I discuss and compare the results of our research with the stories and memories passed down in our family.

At the end of each family story will be given the source of the story and which one of us is now retelling it.

You may wonder how we can have so many stories and anecdotes to share.  Everything that happened in the lives of the Serrapede and Muro families became an opportunity to learn something.  During family gatherings or phone calls or casual visits, lessons learned were always shared from the experiences had in everyday life.  Since these lessons were often repeated to us they became part of our inner library to reference when it was time to think something through.

My Mom started this process with me when I was 4 or 5 years old.  She was not one to bring up the stories on her own.  I learned to seek her out.  By being patient and asking questions Mom began to assume the role of an expert story teller as she taught me lessons in life by this means.  In telling the stories of her family she’d leave off and pick-up on telling them at different times.  Mom would question me if I remembered what she told me previously before continuing the story.  In time I knew them as well, and sometimes better, than my schoolwork.  I was able to relate to her entire family without any difficulty because I knew all the intricacies of the relationships.

Uncle Sammy did not experience the telling of family stories in the manner I did.  He heard them during the times everyone gathered together for a special event.  Mostly his stories which we’ll share here are based on his own experiences.

Introduction

Josie Muro Serrapede left us a collection of over 250 photos of the family which span the years from the late 1920s through the 1960s.  The rest of the photos from the 1970s onward consist of Josie’s photos and ones given to her by relatives, my parents or me.  The photos that make up the Josie Muro Serrapede Collection are rich in detail.  As we study them we learn:

• The photographs of the family taken outside the apartments they live in help us identify the economic level of the community.  It was the section of Dyker Heights between 11th, 12th and 13th Avenues in the 60 Streets.  Here many hard working Italian immigrants lived.  The community was a combination of working class and modestly middle class residents.
• The family never looked hungry or gaunt.
• Their clothing was well cared for.
• Emily had many toys.
• There were many studio portraits of Emily and her baby brother Gerald.
• The Serrapede family shared happy times with their neighbors.
• There were many photos exchanged between Sam and his sister Philomena.

We will make use of these photos in future postings.

The photos show us that the basic needs were being met for housing, clothing and socialization.  Josie was very resourceful and a good cook so the family could be assured of something to eat at each meal.  For the reader the question arises as to how much money Sam made as a bootblack and if his salary alone supported the family.  There was not much information available about the average salary of a bootblack during the Great Depression.  We did learn a little about the history and have thought about some of the reasons why our immigrant ancestors might have found the work appealing.

For a married couple starting out $120 a month was considered a bare minimum to live on with a little left over for savings.  We’ll detail the sources of that info along with the budget in the next posting.  For this one we came away with the impression that if a bootblack worked hard enough and was resourceful he could get by.  Sam and Josie knew the Carnicelli family on 65th Street in Dyker Heights.  Joseph Carnicelli worked as a bootblack according to the 1930 and 1940 Federal Census records.  He was able to save enough money to become co-owner in a multi-family dwelling.  We still are amazed how the first generation managed to achieve so much even on a small salary.

The Shoe Shine Boy

In Western countries the profession of a shoe shiner or bootblack has been looked down upon.  In developing countries it is still the main source of income in some families.  Young boys get started in this line of work as a way to supplement or provide income in the family when the father is too ill to work.  In the U.K. a positive attitude is growing towards the shoe shiner.  Those who work in London’s financial district are knowledgeable about local events and willing to provide advice.  The clients look forward to the conversation as much as the shoe shine!

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Front piece from a “Ragged Dick” story.

The role of the shoe shine boy was the subject of a popular novel “Ragged Dick” by Horatio Alger.  The story depicted the rise of a young shoe shiner into the ranks of the middle class through honesty, hard work and sincerity.  The story was set in the late 19th century in New York City.  The front plate of one Ragged Dick book shows a luggage boy, two shoe shiners and a newsboy.  The book was published in 1895.  In a few years, Italian immigrant men would be among the adults competing with the boys for these jobs.

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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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46b-D’Agosto and Carnicelli Families-Agropoli and Brooklyn

Acknowledgement

The genealogical research by Anthony Vermandois of ImaginesMaiorum-Ancestors from Campania forms the basis of this posting. We have used Anthony’s charts of descent for the following families:

Charts for D’Agosto Family Lines

Carnicelli Family http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=582

Taddeo Family http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=134

d’Agosto Family http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=668

Introduction

This posting serves as a bridge between our introduction of Giuseppe D’Agosto in 46a-D’Agosto Family – Giuseppe comes to America and the three part series that follows this current posting. There are two Giuseppes in this narrative as well as what appeared to be a tenuous relationship between our families through the D’Agosto matriarch, Rafaella Carnicelli D’Agosto, and our matriarch, Giuseppa Carnicelli Ruocco (part of the Muro line).

Uncle Sammy and I are glad we paused to look through all these factors because the findings enabled us to be more accurate in our three part series. It also helped us understand how easily one can mistake a paeasano (friend from the old hometown) for a cugina or cugino (cousin). We also resorted to the expedient device of calling one of the Giuseppes by his American name of Joseph since that is what he used most often for the Census interviews.  You will meet Joseph Carnicelli in the next posting.

If any confusion remains after you read this posting, please put your questions into the Comment section and we’ll add more information. Continue reading

46a-D’Agosto Family – Giuseppe comes to America

Acknowledgement

The research of genealogist Anthony Vermandois provides the basis for this week’s posting. At his website, ImaginesMaiorum-Ancestors from Campania, data from vital records is presented for inhabitants of Agropoli and other towns from the late 18th through the early 20th centuries. We have used his charts of descent for the d’Agosto family of Agropoli to present the family background of Giuseppe D’Agosto.

Giuseppe’s surname is spelled as d’Agosto at Anthony’s website.   The vital records we have obtained through Ancestry display variations. After Giuseppe came to America we see his surname spelled as D’Agosto, Dagosto or D’agosto. We are using the spelling of D’Agosto since this is the one we have seen written on the back of the photos we have and also a postcard from Giuseppe’s daughter Emilia.

The charts of descent for the D’Agosto family of Agropoli can be viewed at Imagines Maiorum.

Relationship Notes

Giuseppe D’Agosto is related to Uncle Sammy and I by his marriage to Filomena Serrapede.

-Filomena Serrapede was:
–the eldest sister of Sammy’s Dad, Sam Serrapede.
–Sammy’s Paternal Aunt
–Emily Ann’s Great-Aunt (along her maternal line)

Introduction

In Posting 45-Muro Family in America: Josie comes to Brooklyn we traced the series of events which forced Josie Muro to leave her hometown of Wilmerding and come to Brooklyn sometime in late 1928 or early 1929.

Josie was introduced to her future husband Sam Serrapede after she came to Brooklyn. According to the records we have so far, Sam was living with his sister Filomena and her husband Giuseppe D’Agosto after he arrived in the United States. The relationship between Sam and his sister Filomena remained loving and strong from childhood onwards. Uncle Sammy and my late Mom grew up enjoying the company of their D‘Agosto cousins, Aunt and Uncle. The narrative of Filomena and Giuseppe’s lives and their coming to America is an important part of the relationships detailed in subsequent postings. We will, therefore, focus on Giuseppe D’Agosto’s early years in America. Like many young patriarchs of the immediate and extended family in the first generation, he emigrated from Italy when he was single. Giuseppe obtained employment and filed his naturalization papers before returning to Italy where he married Filomena before bringing her to America.

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11g-Back in New York City-Did Cousin Sabato Serrapede become businessman Sabato Sarrapere? (part 2)

We continue our investigation into what happened to our Cousin Sabato Serrapede after he came to New York.  For the background please see part 1 of this posting.  With the discovery of the naturalization papers of a Mr. Sabato Sarrapere we have to consider if these are two different people or if Cousin Sabato changed his surname after coming to New York…

Sabato Sarrapere:  The story contained in his Naturalization papers

Complete Petition for Naturalization for Sabato Sarrapere.

Close-up of the top of Sabato’s Petition for Naturalization.

Close-up of the Petition for Naturalization with the story of the fraudulent certificate.

The Petition gives an estimated Date of Birth for Sabato of September 27, 1868.  He was born in Agropoli and came to the United States on the SS Brittania on September 27, 1888.  Although this date differs from the Britannia Passenger List our search turned up we think it is a mistake on the Petition.  Sabato’s date of birth is also entered as on or about September 27, 1868 which differs slightly from the date of September 16, 1868 which appears at ImaginesMaiorum.

The story of the fraudulent Certificate of Naturalization states that:

“This petitioner was in possession of a fraudulent certificate of naturalization purporting to have been issued by the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, October 27, 1893.  Said paper was surrendered and duly cancelled October 27, 1903, and this petitioner is permitted to reapply for naturalization by an order signed and entered, on notice to the United States District Attorney, in the office of the Clerk of the District Court of the United States, Southern District of New York, March 1, 1907.”

I held hope at this point that there might still be more factual data available to find a link between Cousin Sabato Serrapede and Sabato Sarrapere.

Overview of Sabato Sarrapere’s life

According to the Petition for Naturalization, in 1907 Sabato Sarrpere was living at 43 Mott Street with his wife Arcangela (nee Aloise) Sarrapere.  Their children were:

Rosina, Sept. 30, 1898
Carmela, Aug. 9, 1900
Gennaro, Nov. 29, 1902
Ronato, May 7, 1904
Giuseppe, Sept. 13, 1906

All the children were born in New York City.

1905 NYS Census.

Two years earlier, the NYS Census enumerator visited the Sarrapere family.  Again the name is misspelled, this time as Sarrapieda.  The family had a boarder named Antonio Corrento living with them.  Sabato’s profession is described as laborer.

Our next breakthrough came with the discovery of Mr. Sarrapere’s real estate transactions.

Note:  Uncle Sammy said that the Correnti family of 1166-65th Street were friends with the first generation of the Serrapede family.  The name Corrento, however, is not familiar to us.

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11g-Back in New York City-Did Cousin Sabato Serrapede become businessman Sabato Sarrapere? (part 1)

Acknowledgement

We have used the database at ImaginesMaiorum to investigate the lineage of the Serrapede family.  Genealogist Anthony Vermandois created this database and website to present the data on families he has researched who lived in the Campania region between the late 1790s to early 20th century..

The Search for Cousin Sabato Serrapede

Sabato Serrapede,, son of  Gennaro and Rosa (nee Scotti) Serrapede, is one of those elusive relatives who appear and disappear as searches take place for other relatives in our family line.

The discovery of Sabato’s trip to New York City in 1897 revealed that he was already a U.S. Citizen, as noted on the ship’s passenger list.  This makes him the earliest Serrapede within our extended line that was in the United States.  He also appears as the host of two other relatives within our line.  Then after 1909 he disappears without a trace.

The database at ImaginesMaiorum, where Anthony Vermandois has compiled the vital statistics of families from Campania, does not have a date of death for Cousin Sabato.  Recent searches have brought back many documents gathered over several sessions at Ancestry.  At first it seemed as if we were back on the trail to finding Cousin Sabato.

Here’s what happened….

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