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


Eugenio Tirocchi and Maria Rossi Tirocchi, progenitors to nearly all of the family members in Providence, were listed as "contadini" - "peasants" or "farmers" in the rural Italian status classification system - in the Stato Civile records for Guarcino. Three of their sons, Nazzareno, Giuseppe, and Tito, as well as their daughters-in-law, were likewise recorded as "contadini." The category of "contadini" did not preclude other undertakings beyond an individual’s primary economic activity. Two of Tito's sons indicated that their family worked as teamsters transporting paper from a factory in Guarcino to Rome by mule and wagon. Only the father of Maria Rossi was listed as "possidente," suggesting that he had substantial holdings in land or other agricultural capital (see the Tirocchi genealogy on pp. 98- 99 for an outline of the family relationships).(3)

The birth, death, and marriage records for fifty other Tirocchis in Guarcino suggest that they were all from modest social and economic backgrounds. Twenty were listed as "contadini." An equal number were identified as "pastori" ("shepherds"). Four women were listed as "pecorare" ("sheep herders"), and an equal number merited "donne di casa" or "cassalinge," which usually suggested a somewhat higher status. There were only three references to "possidenti." Other families in Guarcino with whom the Tirocchis were associated either by marriage or business included the Del Signores [fig. 57], De Meis, and Furias. All but one Del Signore listing were "muratori" or "falegnami": "masons" or "carpenters." The largest number of De Meis entries were "possidenti," but there were also "contadini," two "falegnami," and one "cavaliere" ("gentleman"). Furia listings were almost all "contadini." The lowest occupational classification, "braccianti" ("day laborers"), was not used by the community clerk to label any of the numerous persons considered above.(4)

In a classic chain migration, three branches of the Tirocchi family had settled by 1910 in the southwest corner of Providence at its border with Cranston and Johnston, an area referred to then and now as the Silver Lake district (see map, p. 97). Silver Lake would remain the locale for many of the future business enterprises initiated by the family. This Italian community, while not the largest in the Providence area, had been a center of settlement for immigrants since the late nineteenth century. There were five areas of Italian settlement in Providence before World War I. Federal Hill was the largest. In addition to Silver Lake, there also were enclaves in the North End, Eagle Park, and South Providence. Early arrivals, often from northern Italy, worked in agriculture, and a number eventually owned and operated their own farms. Through the years, Providence newspapers published generally complimentary accounts of this community.(5)




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