Strategies for Success: The Tirocchis,
Immigration, and the Italian American Experience


John W. Briggs
Associate Professor, Education and History
Syracuse University

Branches of the Tirocchi family began to assemble in Providence in the early years of the twentieth century. They joined over four million Italians and other Southern and Eastern Europeans who entered the United States during the forty years prior to World War I. In waves of heavy and sustained immigration, these people came to America in search of employment within a rapidly expanding urban industrial economy [fig.54]. Like so many of them, the Tirocchis came from a small rural village. Their hometown of Guarcino lies south of Rome in the province of Frosinone among the foothills of the mountainous center of the Italian peninsula [fig. 55]. At the time of their emigration, the nearest railroad was about ten miles away in the provincial capital. Later, a spur line was constructed to the town [fig. 56]. As late as 1930, the local hotel offered twenty beds to the tourists who used Guarcino as a base from which to climb the seven-thousand-foot Monte Viglio. Guarcino today remains a small, remote community with a population of approximately eighteen hundred inhabitants.(1)

The Tirocchi families, like most immigrants, came from the middle ranges of the working classes and not from the most impoverished segments of the home society. The very poor, in addition to lacking resources to finance emigration, were also generally disheartened and did not possess the psychological capital necessary to embark on such a wrenching experience. The wealthy and professional classes seldom left their homeland. The former had no need to pursue greater opportunities, and the latter, if they did leave, found that their European training seldom qualified them for practice in the United States, thus immigrant professionals usually experienced significant loss of status. Even in times of severe hardship, emigration was a selective process. Far more people stayed behind than relocated. Those, such as Anna Tirocchi and her family, who chose to risk all in search of opportunity, were a special subset of the larger population. Their skills and personal characteristics would be put to good use in the United States.(2) As Anna's niece Primrose Tirocchi put it, their family came "to get ahead."



printer version
(will open in
new window)


< back to essays


continue >