A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections and events at the RIHS

Object Thursday: Letters to Napoli

The immigrant experience is central to the history of Rhode Island. Italian-Americans celebrate Saint Joseph’s day today. One fascinating collection of letters and ephemera in the collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society are the DiSandro Family Papers which were acquired in 2002. Mostly written in Italian, the letters are often postmarked in Providence and tell the story of one extended Italian family that settled in Rhode Island in the early 20th Century.

A letter from Teresina Fiore to Marietta

A letter from Teresina Fiore to Marietta

Michele DiSandro (c1879-c1952) was a native of the town of Colli al Volturno, Campobasso Province, Italy. He was the son of Domenicantonio and Luisa Iallonardi or Ialonareli. He married Marietta DiIorio (also Mary; Maria; DiOrio; DeTorio; DiTorio) (c1883-1925), and had six children, five born in Italy: Domenic (also Domenicantonio) DiSandro (c1901-?), Rose (DiSandro) Maclerio (c1903-?), Vincent DiSandro (1906-1977), Adolph (1909-1984), Mario (1911-1970). Michele and Marietta marry in 1900 or 1901.

The DiSandro family lived in Cordoba, Argentina from at least January 1902 – January 1905. They apparently went back to Italy early in 1905. Michele DiSandro then went to America sometime around June 1905 to stay with his cousin Romano Mancini in Philadelphia leaving his wife and children in Colli al Volturno. His wife and children probably joined him in America in 1908 or early 1909. The family returned to Italy again by June 1909 and were still there in April 1910. Michele sailed to New York in 1911 to stay with his brother-in-law Giovanni Fiori [John S. Fiore] and sister-in-law Teresina Fiore who lived in Providence, RI. Michele spent April – June 1912 living in Philadelphia and then moved back to Providence. He brought the rest of the family to join him sometime in November or early December of 1913 which is corroborated by the 1920 census (no manifest yet found). Their youngest child, Elsie (DiSandro) Scott (1914-2001), was born shortly after their arrival. In their early years in America, the DiSandros lived in Natick, Warren and Providence, R.I. By 1919, they had settled in Providence’s largely Italian North End, where they lived in a succession of Charles Street addresses, and Michele supported the family with his work as a weaver in a webbing mill. The oldest son, Domenic, was working as a clerk in an Italian-American exchange bank by 1920.

Receipt in Italian for Columbus Exchange Bank, 332 Atwells Ave., Providence

Receipt in Italian for Columbus Exchange Bank, 332 Atwells Ave., Providence

Marietta, the wife of Michele, died in 1925. Michele remarried soon afterward, possibly to Delfina Vittori in 1927. City directories give his wife’s name as Adele. His final child, Adele (DiSandro) Capaldi, was apparently by this second marriage. Michele appears as a single man in the city directories from 1933 to 1952, when he disappears.

~ Phoebe Bean & Karen Eberhart


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This entry was posted on 19 March 2015 by in Object Thursdays and tagged , , .

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