Karl Baedeker, Southern Italy and Sicily, with Excursions to Malta,
Sardinia, Tunis, and Corfu: Handbook for Travellers. Leipzig, London,
New York: 1930, p. 15. The 1909 Baedeker guide Central Italy and Rome:
Handbook for Travellers indicates that there was no rail connection
with Guarcino. http://www.eurolink/, http://www.eurolink. it/ciociaria/c_guarc.htm
and http://www.rtmol.stt.it/ciociaria/ citta/ guarcino.html provide online
information on contemporary Guarcino.
An expanded statement of this argument is found in John W. Briggs,
An Italian Passage, Immigrants to Three American Cities, 1890- 1930.
New Haven: 1978; see especially the introduction and chap. 1.
Municipio di Guarcino, Ufficio dello Stato Civilie, Registro - Atti
di Morti, 1879, no. 29; 1882, no. 72; 1893, nos. 10, 14, 23; and Municipio
di Guarcino, Ufficio dello Stato Civile, Registro - Atti di Nascita,
1891, no. 22; also, the author's interviews with Tirocchi family members.
Microfilm copies are available through the genealogy service of the Church
of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.
The summary that lists other Tirocchis and associated families is the
result of a search of records in the Archivio di Stato, Frosinone, Italia:
Municipio di Guarcino, Ufficio dello Stato Civile, Atti di Nascita,
1889, 1891; Atti di Matrimoni, 1876- 77, 1882, 1885, 1895; Atti
di Morti, 1877, 1879- 80, 1882- 83, 1885, 1893, 1895; Registro
delle Publicazione di Matrimonio, 1876- 78, 1881, 1883, 1885, 1887,
1890- 91, 1898.
"Chain migration" refers to a pattern of supported migration wherein the
earliest migrants encourage and sponsor subsequent migration by other
family members and close associates. Chain migrations usually result in
a concentration of family members in one city of immigration, as pioneer
migrants persuade and assist brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, etc.,
to join them in their adopted country. St. Bartholomew Parish on Laurel
Hill Avenue in the Silver Lake community still acknowledges Guarcino as
one of two Italian communes that provided its early parishioners. See
the history of the parish Holy Name Society at http://www.rc.net/providence/stbartholomew/holyname.html
Also see "Italian Farmers," Providence Sunday Journal (October
18, 1891), p. 16; "The Italians of Silver Lake," Providence Sunday
Journal (June 29, 1902), p. 18; and "Where Thrift and Enterprise Convert
Rocky Wastes Into Fertile Acres," Providence Sunday Journal (June
6, 1915), sect. 5, p. 3. I am indebted to Father Robert W. Hayman of Providence
College for bringing these references to my attention and allowing me
to work from his clippings.
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census of the United States:
A later census lists Anna and Laura as entering the country in 1907, but
this may indicate the year they arrived in Providence. The author has
relied on the 1910 census, since the enumerator carefully recorded different
dates of migration for different individual members of the families. In
the photographs, Frank's status as boss is indicated by his hands. He
holds a cigarette in one, and in the other grasps a piece of paper. The
workers typically hold shovels, picks, crow bars, or other tools in such
photographs. It would be interesting to know if Frank Tirocchi's stint
as a labor contractor in Canada was connected to Father Federico Achille
Tirocchi's mission there.
Among Maria's relatives, Gino Del Signore had a successful career in the
Italian opera [see fig. 57]. His father Gino was a merchant in Rome. Vincenzo
Del Signore operated a building and road construction business in Guarcino.
Other Del Signores listed in the Guarcino Stato Civile records were either
masons or carpenters. Primrose Tirocchi reported that her father managed
a drug store on Atwells Avenue for Anna at this time. Primrose possesses
a mortar and pestle from that shop, and chairs from the ice cream parlor
in the store ended up in the third-floor workroom at 514 Broadway. No written
records from this enterprise survive in the Tirocchi Archive. The author's
account of Tirocchi enterprises is constructed from Providence City
Directories, state and federal manuscripts, and family interviews.
Other evidence indicates that Eugenia was most likely thirty-one or thirty-two
years of age and Laura might have been nineteen or twenty years old in
1910. It is not unusual to find ages reported in censuses to be "averaged"
down or occasionally up.
Dr. Cella's mother's maiden name was Garibaldi, and the family claimed
a connection to the Italian hero.
While Laura Tirocchi was at Anna's side throughout the history of the
dressmaking shop, the evidence indicates that Anna was the prime mover
at each stage of the business and the architect of her financial and professional
life. This essay thus makes Anna the center of its story. Wendy Gamber,
The Female Economy, The Millinery and Dressmaking Trades, 1860- 1930,
part II. Urbana: 1997, documents the rise of department stores and their
effect on independent dressmakers and milliners. See also Lois W. Banner,
American Beauty. New York: 1983, chap. 2, for the rise of the ready-to-wear
clothing industry and the success of department stores in attracting upper-class
women. See Pat Trautman, "Personal Clothiers: A Demographic Study of Dressmakers,
Seamstresses and Tailors, 1880- 1920," Dress, vol. 5 (1979), pp.
74- 95, for a general description of the waxing and waning of the custom-clothing
Oh Boy, presented by the Junior League of Providence, Inc. (January
27- 28, 1928), p. 77. Madam Zarr also purchased a full-page advertisement
at the cost of $50 [or about $467 in 1999 dollars]. Throughout this essay
the author has included conversions of monetary figures into 1999 dollars
and enclosed the present-day figures within brackets. Data since 1975 are
from the annual Statistical Abstracts of the United States. Prior
to 1975, they are based on the Consumer Price Index from Historical
Statistics of the United States (USGPO, 1975). The calculations were
made with a program created by S. Morgan Friedman and available at http://www.westegg.com/inflation.
There are only a few references in the shop records to U.S. Customs payments
that suggest substantial imports. On April 2, 1924, Anna paid a $5 customs
bill for "increased duties" following her European trip that year. The
25,326 francs worth of goods that she declared in Paris convert to about
$4600 [$43,768 in 1999 dollars]. The duty for her imports in 1926, after
she received a refund for overpayments, still approached $600 [$5500 in
1999 dollars]. On each of these trips she also purchased household furnishings
and antiques: see the itemized customs declarations for March 10, 1924,
and August 11, 1926, among the travel documents in the shop records; and
Iqina Catelani to "Gentilissma Signora" [Anna], Firenze, April 25, 1924.
Also see correspondence and itemized bill from the firm G. Gandola, "Trine-Ricami"
[lace-embroidery], Firenze, to Anna Tirocchi, February 14, 16, and 19,
1927, in the Italian-language Tirocchi correspondence. Anna Tirocchi to
Mrs. Martella, Anna's bookkeeper, n.d., in which Anna discusses a variety
of business matters, including her income tax, the renting of her vacation
home at Narragansett Pier, insurance policies, and the high utility bills
resulting from too many hot baths, an issue she had also raised with Dr.
Cella. Apparently, her niece Emily Valcarenghi Martinelli was managing
the shop in her absence. Anna worried that Emily might be buying too much
merchandise and advised that she return dresses that proved unsalable.
Anna recommends not purchasing from one supplier, Colli, who had refused
to take back unsold goods in the past. Gamber, op.cit., explores
the social-class dynamics of these trades in chap. 4 and passim.
Mary Molloy, the daughter of an Irish immigrant, built a customer base
in St. Paul, Minnesota, by 1900 that resembles Anna's. Molloy's business
closed the year after Anna and Laura opened their establishment at the
Butler Exchange. Accounts of Molloy's career include references to her
French connections, including trips to Paris at least annually to keep
up on the latest in fashion. Judith Jerde, "Mary Molloy: St. Paul's Extraordinary
Dressmaker," Minnesota History, vol. 47, no. 3 (Fall 1980), pp.
93- 99. Another Twin Cities modiste, Madame Rose Boyd, also was believed
to make trips to Paris twice a year "to view the latest fashions"; see
Julieanne Trautmann, "'Sizing up' the client, Minneapolis dressmaker Madame
Rose Boyd," MA thesis, University of Minnesota, October 1997, pp. 2, 37,
159, 167. Banner, op. cit., p. 29.
Shop records include age certificates for Mary Barone, who was fourteen
years and five months old on September 29, 1919; and Francesca Caito, age
fourteen years and three months on January 27, 1922. Lucy Restivo began
working at age fourteen years and three months: Lucy's mother "made her
work." The Tirocchi Archive includes a note from a truant officer: "To
whom it may concern - It is impossible for any child to secure an Employment
Certificate until they are fourteen years old."
Beatrice Cella to Mother, Father, and Brother, July 19 and 24, 1935. She
reported having fun on the ride down to Narragansett in her uncle's laundry
Anna Tirocchi to E. L. DuPoint [sic] de Nemours, December 11, 1939.
Dr. Louis J. Cella, Jr., described her leg problem as "tuberculosis of
the knee which caused her to walk with a stiff gait for life." Report
of audit of 1929 return, February 5, 1931, found that the taxpayer was
an "individual who is crippled and has to hire help to do her work being
unable to do it herself." Anna's 1930 return was also audited without
any additional tax levies. See the copy of the auditor's report, May 26,
1932; Tirocchi Archive.
Gamber, op. cit., p. 195, notes that department stores often sought
to attract wealthy customers with private showrooms, where their most
elite clientele could enjoy "all the privacy that they would enjoy in
their own chambers."
According to Primrose Tirocchi, Anna claimed that the wives of newly well-to-do
Italians lacked the culture and taste to appreciate her artistry. Perhaps
as upwardly mobile persons themselves, they would not accept Anna's claims
to higher social status. In an ironic series of events, Mariano Vervena,
after serving in the Italian diplomatic service for thirty years, became
an American citizen in 1932. He was quoted in the Providence Evening
Bulletin (April 25, 1932) as explaining "America is my homeland. My
wife and five of my six children were born here...my business is here";
Tirocchi Archive. Less than a year later, his Columbus Exchange Trust
Company failed, and he returned to Italy permanently. See obituaries in
the Providence Evening Bulletin (July 26, 1955), New York Herald
Tribune (July 27, 1955), and a paper in Sorrento, Italy (July 27,
1955); Tirocchi Archive. The account of Laura's wedding in the Providence
Evening Tribune (July 2, 1915) includes a sizable list of guests with
non-Italian names; Tirocchi Archive.
See Isabel R. Brown to My Dear Anna, October 12, 1919, and I. R. Brown
to Anna, November 23, 1919. Mrs. S. A. Walsh to Anna Tirocchi, Sept. 13,
Due bill from Vincenzo Del Signore, October 2, 1928, for "Riparazioni
alla Chiesa Parrocchiale di S. Michele Arcangelo chesi asiguesione per
conto della Signa. Anna Tirocchi"; Tirocchi Archive. The charge was 11,811
lire, or about $622 [$5800 in 1999 dollars]. Anna did contribute to a
fund for the repair of Holy Ghost Church, which earned her a ticket to
sit in the VIP section at the rededication of the church by the Bishop.
Anna's contributions are listed in the shop checkbook stubs and in her
income tax returns for the 1920s; Tirocchi Archive. The Tirocchis were
strongly religious. In addition to Father Federico, at least two others
were members of the Franciscan order in Italy. Anna and Laura regularly
gave to religious charities, while the Silver Lake Tirocchis were major
supporters of St. Bartholomew's and Holy Cross, the mission parish that
developed in Johnston, Rhode Island, after World War II. Angelo's son
Joseph was one of at least two American-born children that the family
sought to direct to the clergy. He was sent to Brothers of Charity schools
in Massachusetts and Quebec.
The history of dressmaking in the United States is recounted in Gamber,
op. cit. Much of the family information is constructed from
the 1920 census manuscripts. The letters are in the Tirocchi Archive.
Dr. Cella's obituary ran in the Providence Journal (January 12,
1965), p. 30; Tirocchi Archive. The account of his China service came
from his son, Dr. Louis J. Cella, Jr., who recalled visiting him in China.
See Ubaldo U. M. Pesaturo, Italo-Americans in Rhode Island. Providence:
1936 and 1940, pp. 106- 7.
Members of other branches of the Tirocchi family had established the Rhode
Island Cement Works Company and worked as contractors. Not surprisingly,
Anna employed them in the Tobey project. She paid $50 to John Miller for
plans for the house and hired the Ideal Concrete Products Company (her
cousins Giuseppe and Eugenio) to pour the cellar foundations. See entries
for June 20, 1917, and July 5, 1917 in the shop account books; Tirocchi
Archive. Anna and Dr. Cella took possession of the Main Street building
on October 3, 1923. Payment and financing of this transaction are indicated
in the 1923- 24 shop financial records; Tirocchi Archive. Anna's payments
are recorded in the shop financial records; Tirocchi Archive. P. Russo
to Anna Tirocchi, November 23, 1922. The mortgage to Harvey Becthkas was
for $3500 [$31,766 in 1999 dollars]. Her note with the bank had a $2500
[$22,690] balance. For the Simmonsville mortgage, see shop financial records,
February 4, 1934; Tirocchi Archive.
See shop financial record entries for September 28, 1927, and January 21,
1929, for interest from Italian Consolidated Bonds; Tirocchi Archive.
Giovanni Castagnacci to Laura Cella, September 10, 1928, acknowledges
the loan from Anna. De Meis's stationary identifies him as "Appaltatore
Delle Esattorie" (contractor/agent of tax collector's offices) for Trivigliano
and Torre Caietani with his office in Guarcino. In the nineteenth century,
the De Meis family was most often listed as substantial landholders in
the community records. After De Meis died in 1927, Anna sought to recover
her investment through receipts from a tax sale of the deceased's house
and garden; Affino Giggalconi to Anna, n.d. On March 26, 1929 (Anna Tirocchi
to Loreta De Meis), she wrote the widow seeking repayment of 2500 lire
[$1,241 in 1999 dollars]. Anna expressed sensitivity for the widow, but
sought sympathy for the costs to her health involved in earning the money
in the first place. She also stressed the importance of maintaining Agnello's
good name and indicated that her patience was waning, suggesting that
she might be forced to legal action.
Anna Tirocchi to Mrs. S. A. Walsh, November 16, 1934.
Banner, op. cit., pp. 28- 32, asserts that dressmakers typically
emphasized their craft and artistry over astute business strategy.
Anna's will and estate settlement are filed in Providence City Probate
Court, no. 48948.
"Federal Hill's Growing Rival Silver Lake," Providence Sunday Journal
(September 19, 1909); see also the Providence Journal (October
7, 1888), p. 10; these clippings from Father Hayman's files give an indication
of the important role played by groceries in Italian communities (see
n. 5); Eugenia, for example, extended credit to her customers, according
to Primrose Tirocchi.
Panfilo Basilico built a popular and successful bakery on the East Side
of Providence. He spoke in his interview with high respect for and praise
of Anna's ability to develop a business based on a wealthy East Side "Anglo"
Notes from Dr. Cella to Mrs. Mastella, 1940 (no day or month given), and
December 30, 1940, in the shop financial records; Tirocchi Archive.
See correspondence in the Tirocchi Archive.
Tirocchi Archive and author's interviews: evidence
of Anna's support of Frank's business is scattered throughout the shop
records for the 1920s (Tirocchi Archive) in the form of insurance payments
on his truck and a Ford touring car; a down payment for a Packard truck,
January 13, 1921; and payments prompted by an automobile accident; as
well as the paying off of a mortgage on June 25, 1923. As mentioned before,
Frank ran his business from the Broadway house and lived in one of Anna's
apartments in the late 1920s. Other indications of family support includes
a typed note from Ida [Federici, Eugenia Tirocchi Valcarenghi's daughter
by her first husband], 324 Pocasset Avenue, November 2, 1920, returning
a check from Anna and explaining that what she did for Anna "was done
with a free heart with no intention of being repaid." At the time, Ida
was a bookkeeper. She also discusses a coat that Anna bought for her.
Tito Tirocchi to My dear niece, August 13, 1925; and Anna Tirocchi to
Esteemed Mister Agnello, n.d.; Anna Tirocchi to Carlo C. Tirocchi, May
8, 1940, and May 21, 1940. Also see Angelo G. Tirocchi to Anna, July 13,
1934, and November 11, 1934, reporting on his progress in the Civilian
Conservation Corps and his self-education efforts; Mrs. A. Martella [for
Anna Tirocchi], January 23, 1942; and Anna Tirocchi to Tony Tirocchi,
May 12, 1941. State death records, November 26, 1941, no. 379.