1833 Italian immigration mystery

Over 25 million Italians have emigrated between 1861 and 1960 with a migration boom between 1871 and 1915 when over 13,5 million emigrants left the country for European and overseas destinations.
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joetucciarone
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1833 Italian immigration mystery

Post by joetucciarone »

Can anyone can help me solve an immigration mystery? This graph shows Italian immigration to the United States between 1825 and 1845. During that period, very few Italians came to the U.S., the yearly total ranging from 3 in 1832 to 179 in 1841. However, 1,699 Italians entered the United States in 1833. The accompanying chart shows how significant the 1833 anomaly was. The question is: what caused the enormous spike of 1833?
italian_emigration_1825-1845.jpg
My data come from page 57 of the United States Census:

https://www2.census.gov/library/publica ... 57-chC.pdf

My first thought was that the figure of 1,699 was a clerical error at the Census Bureau. But I’ve found no information to support this idea, so the number 1,699 must be correct. Did it represent panic emigration caused by an epidemic? There was a massive cholera epidemic in Italy in 1837, but that was four years in the future. There was another cholera epidemic in 1832-1833. According to Wikipedia, it affected London, Paris, New York and Washington D.C., but Italy isn't mentioned as an affected area.

I glanced through newspapers from 1832 through 1834 in both the GenealogyBank and Library of Congress archives, but I found no mention of an unusual Italian immigration in 1833.

I also looked for a political cause. The Encyclopedia Britannica said: “In 1833–34 the first abortive Mazzinian uprisings took place in Piedmont and Genoa. The latter was organized by Giuseppe Garibaldi, who then fled to France." This article also said Giuseppe Mazzini, another rebel Italian leader, fled to London. But the article says nothing about an exodus of rebels to the United States.

What am I missing?
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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As most of the "early" Italian immigrants were artisans or stone masons (builders) that were "imported" for civic and private projects rather than the "typical" immigration for economic or socio-political reasons, that COULD be a possible explanation.

I suppose it's possible there was a spike in need for contractors/artisans/laborers at that time (at least accounting for SOME of the numbers) for civic or private projects that seemed to come to a head at that particular moment in history...
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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Hi Mark - those are good ideas which raise even more questions. Was there a high-profile (or nationwide) building boom in 1832-1833?
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

Post by MarcuccioV »

joetucciarone wrote: 27 May 2021, 18:09 Hi Mark - those are good ideas which raise even more questions. Was there a high-profile (or nationwide) building boom in 1832-1833?
The only thing of substance I could find for the time period was the construction of St Mary's Catholic Church in Manhattan, second only to St Patrick's Cathedral, built in 1815...
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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Note that the category of "Other Southern European" (Spain, Portugal, Greece, etc.) had a similar "spike", so it appears to have been a regional phenomenon whatever the cause or reason.
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

Post by joetucciarone »

That's a great observation! I missed seeing the names of those Southern European countries in the footnote. This also seems to rule out that the 1833 number was a clerical error, a mistake by the enumerator.
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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I wonder if there was a backlog in that region which cleared in 1833.

Maybe some kind of administrative problem at ports of departure?
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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Which geographic areas were under the rule of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies (or some other regional government) at that time?
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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This author appears to be referencing the same table. Notice how he doesn't call attention to the spike. I also can't find any explanation for it in his paper.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1883966.pdf


Page 89
The table may be briefly supplemented. Records for the United States begin in 1820, when 30 Italians arrived. There were less than 75 a year till 1833; less than 200 till 1848; 1,263 arrived in 1854; there were less than 2,000 till 1870, when 2,891 arrived; the year 1873 brought 8,757, a number not again reached till 1880, when 12,354 arrived,. In 1887-1907, 2,386,882 were admitted. As the figure S in the table indicate, the growth has been a recent one. By the census of 1850 the Italians in the United States (3,679) were very slightly in excess of the Swedes (3,559). At each successive census, through that of 1900, the Swedes were decidedly in the majority, tho clearly losing ground, relatively, in the decade before 1900
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

Post by joetucciarone »

That's another good question; I hadn't thought to consider who ruled the two halves parts of Italy in 1833. At that time, the southern half, including Sicily, constituted the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. If I remember right, northern Italy was part of an Austrian kingdom.
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

Post by MarcuccioV »

joetucciarone wrote: 29 May 2021, 01:09 That's another good question; I hadn't thought to consider who ruled the two halves parts of Italy in 1833. At that time, the southern half, including Sicily, constituted the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. If I remember right, northern Italy was part of an Austrian kingdom.
I suppose it could have been a result of the insurrections by revolutionaries wanting a unified Italy in 1830-31. Quashed by the Austrians, it may have given rise to a spike in emigration out of the country by 1833...
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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What seems weird is that in no notes they say what they mean by "Italy".They mention the change of boundaries, but not the existence of several states.
At the time they started the statistics what is now Italian Republic was divided into at least 7 states.
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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The spike could be caused by a change to a broader definition of "Italy" but then how would you explain the similar spike in the rest of South Europe?

Unless the definition of South Europe changed too.

Were the boundaries of Spain, Greece, and Portugal fluid at that time?
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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That's a good point; both "Italy" and the "Other Southern" countries had a similar spike in 1833. So like you said, the immigration singularity must have had a regional cause, but one that didn't reach Northern Europe. Pippo, you wondered what defined "Italy" in the census record. I posted this question to the "History Hub," a forum hosted by the National Archives. A guy answered that, since the census records were compiled in 1957, they used a definition for "Italy" that was meaningful to them at that time. That's why there are census entries for the U.S.S.R. that are dated to the 1800s!
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Re: 1833 Italian immigration mystery

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It's likely the 1833 spike of Italian immigrants didn't happen. In 1958, Giovanni Schiavo wrote "Four centuries of Italian-American history." In it, he said the immigration figures for the period between 1831 and 1840 were "somewhat strange," noting that only 3 Italians came in 1832 and 1,699 came in 1833. He said "Why such an extraordinary jump all of a sudden, it is hard to conjecture, even if one takes into account that a number of political exiles arrived from Italy or Austria (where the Italians had been kept in jail) during 1833."

I decided to look at the 1833 ship manifests. Between January 1 and April 15, no more than 20 Italians arrived in New York and New Orleans. If Italian immigration had been fairly steady, I expected to have counted nearly 600 in those first 3 months. So, unless throngs of Italians immigrated between May and December 1833, the official U.S. Census Bureau's figure of 1,699 Italian immigrants for that year appears to be bogus!
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