My Paesano
"Italian American History"
is Dedicated to Raising Public Awareness' of the
Heritage, Culture and Contributions of Italians to America.

Italian American Contributions




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  • Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo 1451-1506) made four voyages to the New World. His original voyage was  the Discovery of the Americas in1492.

  • John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto 1450 -1498) discovered North America in 1497.
     Sailing under the English flag, he established Newfoundland.

  • Sebastian Cabot  (Sebastiano Caboto 1482-1557) born to Giovanni Caboto, sailing under the Spanish flag, explored South America, which allowed Spain to take possession of the continent.

  • Amerigo Vespucci  (1451-1512) Who was a friend to Columbus. He participated as observer in several voyages that explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502. Vespucci was the first to advance the belief that the land discovered by Columbus was not India, but a new continent and for that, European cartographers named the New World "America" in his honor.

  • Giovanni da Verrazzano
    He is renowned as the first European to explore the Atlantic coast of North America between South and North Carolina and Newfoundland, including New York Harbor and Narragansett Bay in 1524.

  • Eusebio Kino (Eusebio Francesco Chini 1645-1711) was an Italian Jesuit  priest who in 1687  explored northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States and California. He established 24 missions and built many churches.

  • Henri di Tonti (1649-1704) was an Sicilian -born soldier, explorer, and fur trader in the service of France. He accompanied Robert La Salle and explored for the first  the time the Great Lakes.  He establish  the first settlement in Arkansas and a trading post which would later become the historical town of Arkansas Post.  Tontitown in Arkansas is named in his honor.

  • Alphonse di Tonti (1659-1727) younger brother of Henri Di Tonti, helped establish the first European settlement at Detroit, Michigan Pontchartrain du Detroit (1701)

  • Giacomo Costantino Beltrami (1775-1855) was an Italian jurist, author, and explorer. He discovered  the source of the Mississippi River. Minnesota created Beltrami County in honor of the explorer's discovery.

Early Settlers

  • Taliaferro Family (originally Tagliaferro, iron cutter in Italian) from Venice Italy, who came to America in 1637 and was one of the first families to settle in Jamestown Virginia. Today it is still one of the most well-known names in the South.

  • Protestants from Piedmont An estimated 300 were the first relatively large immigration of Italians to the American colonies  in 1657. They landed in New York and went on to Delaware, where they organized the first government of the colony of New Amsterdam, later founded New Castle, Delaware.

Thomas Jefferson

  • Monticello, Its name comes from the Italian "little mountain."  the house, which Thomas Jefferson himself designed, was based on the neoclassical principles described in the books of the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladion.

  • Philip Mazzei (Filippo Mazzei 1730–1816) Was an Italian Physician and a promoter of liberty. While in London he met the Americans Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Adam They convinced him to undertake his next venture.
     In 1773 he led a group of Italians who came to Virginia to introduce the cultivation of vineyards, olives, and other Mediterranean fruits.
    Mazzei became a neighbor and friend of  Jefferson started what became the first commercial vineyard in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 
    They shared an interest in politics and libertarian values, and maintained an active
    correspondence for the rest of Mazzei's life.

  • Florence, Italy Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Filippo Mazzei still Celebrated. 

                                        American Revolution
     Source: The National Italian American Foundation

  • Filippo Mazzei a Tuscan physician, fought alongside Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry during the American Revolution. He drew up a plan to capture the British in New York by cutting off their sea escape, and convinced France to help the American colonists financially and militarily in their struggle against British rule.
    In 1779 Mazzei returned to Italy as a secret agent for the state of Virginia.
    He purchased and shipped arms to them until 1783.


  •  During the American Revolution, three Italian regiments totaling 1,500 men assisted the colonists. Also, Italian names are found on the rolls of colonial American regiments.

  • Four Italian Americans became Generals (list)  during or following their Civil War service: Luigi Palma di Cesnola; Enrico Fardella; Eduardo Ferrero and Francis Spinola. Gen. Ferrero of the 51st N.Y. Regiment, was among the first Union officers to command black troops. Col. di Cesnola, commander of the 4th NY Cavalry, received the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor. It was awarded in 1897.

  • Francesco Vigo (Francesco Vigo (1747-1836), is believed the first Italian to become an American citizen. A successful fur trader on the western frontier (today the mid-western states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio) was an Italian American who aided the American forces during the Revolutionary War and helped found a public university in Vincennes, Indiana. Vigo served as a colonel, spy, and financier during the American Revolution. He died a pauper, but in 1876 the U.S. government gave his heirs about $50,000 to repay them for Vigo's financial support of the Revolutionary War. Along with George Rogers Clark, he helped settle the Northwest territory

  • Italian officers in the American Revolution include: Captain Cosimo de Medici 
    of the North Carolina Light Dragoons; Lieutenant James Bracco, 7th Maryland  Regiment, killed at the Battle of White Plains; Captain B. Tagliaferro, second
    in command of the Second Virginia Regiment, a direct subaltern of General George Washington; 2nd Lieutenant Nicola Talliaferro of the 2nd Virginia      Regiment; and Colonel Richard Talliaferro, who fell at the Battle of Guilford.
    Other  Italian officers, most from Massachusetts, are on regimental rolls of the 26th Continental Army.

  • Major John Belli was the Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army from 1792 to 1794. (photo) The first settler in Scioto County, Ohio, he lived there until his death in 1809.

  • Giuseppe Garibaldi, who led Italy to unification in 1861, was offered a command as Major General in the Union Army by President Lincoln. Garibaldi declined, but to honor him, the 39th New York Infantry was known as the Garibaldi Guard. About 150 of its 850 men were Italian. It fought in the Union Army from Bull Run to Appomattox.

  • Francis Vigo (Francesco Vigo) (1747-22 March 1836) was an Italian-American who aided the Revolutionary War and helped found a public university in Vincennes, Indiana, USA.

  • Declaration of Independence

    • All Men Are Created Equal  borrowed the expression
      from an Italian friend and neighbor, Philip Mazzei as noted by Joint Resolution 175 of the 103rd Congress as well as

       John F. Kennedy in "A Nation Of Immigrants"(4-5).

    • Filippo Mazzei inspired the Jeffersonian phrase: "All men are created equal" when he wrote "All men are by nature equally free and independent." This phrase appears in Italian in Mazzei's own hand, written in Italian, several years prior to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Mazzei and Jefferson often exchanged ideas ears prior to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. 

  • Two signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Italian descent: Maryland's William Paca and Delaware's Caesar Rodney.

  • Civil War

  • An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Italians fought in the American Civil War for both the North and the South. The exact number is not known since many names were Americanized.

  • More than 100 Italian Americans served as officers in the Union forces during the Civil War including 4 generals; 2 naval commanders; 11 naval officers; 9 colonels and lieutenant colonels; and 28 majors and captains. The exact number is unknown because of the Americanization of Italian surnames and mixed marriages.

  • Four Italian Americans became generals (list) during or following their Civil War service: Luigi Palma di Cesnola; Enrico Fardella; Eduardo (Edward) Ferrero; and Francis Spinola. Gen. Ferrero of the 51st N.Y. Regiment, was among the first Union officers to command black troops. Col. di Cesnola, commander of the 4th NY Cavalry, received the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor. It was awarded in 1897.   

    Little Big Horn  

    "They Died With Their Boots On"

  • Men with the 7th Cavalry at the  Little Big Horn,  Custer's Last Stand

  • Among the handful of survivors of the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 were four Italian Americans: (Count di Rudio) and enlisted men Augusto De Voto, Giovanni Casella (listed as "John James") and John Martin, (Giovanni Martini-Martino)

  • 7th Cavalry Regiment Marching Song "Garry Owen"

  • Videos (YouTube)

  • General Custer's 7th Regiment's Marching Song Garry Owen
    Last Stand of the 7th cavalry 7th Cavalry
    First Major Battle of the Vietnam War  Cav Ia Drang tribute

    MOMENTS BEFORE RIDING INTO his final battle - and the history books - General George Custer sent one final message asking for support/ 
    Custer's Bugler: The Life of John Martin (Giovanni Martino)


    Washington DC Buildings and Monuments  
  •  THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL -- Neapolitan immigrant Attilio Piccirilli and his five brothers carved the statue of Lincoln, which they began in 1911 and completed in 1922. The Piccirilli Brothers were a family of renowned who carved a large number of the most significant marble sculptures in the United States,   The gifted sculptors, working out of their studio/living complex in the Bronx, also carved the famous lions on the steps of the New York Public Library, and the facade of the Brooklyn Museum among many other works in New York and across America. (sculptures by Piccirilli brothers)

  • THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL -- Using techniques handed down by stone carvers since the Middle Ages, Italian artisans created the gargoyles and statues that decorate the facade of Washington's most famous place of worship.

  • THE CAPITOL BUILDING -- A concrete symbol of American democracy, the Capitol bears the imprint of Italian talent. Between 1855 and 1870, the Italian artist, Constantino Brumidi decorated its interior dome, corridors, and the President's Room where Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamatio


  • UNION STATION -- Italian construction workers helped build Washington's train station, which was begun in 1905 and completed in 1908, considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the United States. The six statues that decorate the station's facade were sculpted by Andrew E. Bernasconi between 1909 and 1911.

  • METRO -- Washington is justifiably proud of its quiet, modern subway system, but few of the thousands of commuters who ride it daily know that more than 60 percent of Metro's 764 subway cars are made in Italy. The DC Transit Authority purchased 466 cars from Breda Costruzioni Ferroviarie in Pistoia at a cost of about $1.3 million each.


    Immigration Era

    • About 5 million  Italians immigrated to the U.S. The greatest surge of immigration 1880–1914. The 2006U.S. Census, Italian Americans are the 4th  largest ancestry group in America with about 17.8 million people, 6% of the total U.S. population. 
      Sicilian Americans are a subset of numerous Americans of regional Italian ancestries.  

    • They came by Ship...Our Family

      Cristofaro Rossignuolo (husband) 1907 
      Concetta Mangeri (wife) 1912
      Salvatore Rossignuolo (son) 1908
      Valguarnera Sicily - Rochester NY

      Biagio Maddalina (husband) 1913
       Biagia Selvoggio
      (wife) 1913
      Rasaria Maddalina  (daughter) 1913      
      Pietraperzia Sicily - Rochester NY

           Coming to America

      Notable Mention

      References, Sources and Links: No copyright infringement intended...

      Music: Ferrante & Teicher "As Time Goes By"



                         Italian Heritage Month
    Every year the U.S. President signs an Executive Order   designating the month of October as National Italian American. Coinciding with the festivities surrounding Columbus Day, the proclamation is recognition of the achievements, contributions, and successes of 
    more than 20 million Americans of Italian descent as well as Italians in America., the fifth largest ethnic group the United States.


     Museo Italo Americano
    Italian American Museum (San Francesco)

    This exhibit “In Search of a New Life" at the Museo Italo Americano, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, highlights 160 years of history of Italian immigration to California -- from 1850 to today-- through rare photographs, interactive videos, artifacts and original documents

    In Search of a New Life. The Italians who Made California (Video)



    Rosignolo Guitar Polish
    "The Only Italian You Need To Knox"