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Order Sons of Italy in America, Pennsylvania Grand Lodge records

 Collection
Identifier: IHRC3015

Scope and Contents

The collection is organized into nine series as follows: 1) Historical, 2) National, 3) State, 4) District, 5) Local, 6) Non-OSIA, 7) Newsclippings, 8) Photographs, and 9) Artifacts. While the majority of documents are written in English, there are a number of records, especially in the pre-1950 era, that are in Italian. The collection spans the years 1916 to 1988. The bulk of materials are from the period 1951 to 1983.

This collection is by far the largest in the Sons of Italy Archives and it offers a wealth of documentation on OSIA and demoraphic information for Italians in Pennsylvania.

Dates

  • 1916-1987

Creator

Language of Materials

English and Italian

ACCESS RESTRICTIONS

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room except for files in boxes 25B - 28A in Series 3 which contain records of the Dante School Orphanage and are restricted. For more information, please contact the IHRCA.

OWNERSHIP & LITERARY RIGHTS

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

HISTORICAL SKETCH

The Pennsylvania Grand Lodge was founded on April 27, 1913, the third state lodge chartered by OSIA. At its inception there existed thirteen local lodges in the state. Under the leadership of Arpino Giuseppe Di Silvestro, who was grand venerable from 1913 to 1923, the number of lodges increased to sixty-six by 1916. At least 479 local lodges were eventually formed in Pennsylvania, the second highest state total, following New York. Pennsylvania also ranks second in the number of junior lodges formed, with fifty-six of the youth lodges prior to 1942.

The Fondo Unico Mortuario, or Mortuary Fund, was created in 1916 and enrolled 22,486 members in 1924. In the 1960s this was replaced by an actuarially based program called the Benefit Insurance Fund, which continues to function. A hospitalization fund was also in place by 1960.

In 1922 the grand lodge completed construction of the Dante Orphanage on twenty-six acres of land in Concordville, near Philadelphia. A new building was added in 1940 and the name changed to the Dante School for Children. Every year a sagra, or outdoor festival, was celebrated. A Large seaside cottage at Sea Isle City, New Jersey, was utilized for summer vacations. The Dante School was staffed by the Pallottine Sisters, an Italian order, and functioned as an orphanage until 1963 and then as a private school for several years.

The Pennsylvania Grand Lodge sponsored the Sonsitaly Bank and Trust Company and the OOSIA Savings and Loan Association, the latter still being active. The Women's Division was organized in (1960) and, at that time, included 13,000 female members, who focused on charitable work and student scholarships.

Under the leadership of Grand Venerable Eugene Alessandroni, the grand lodge assumed a pivotal position in the Order. Judge Alessandroni's forty-year tenure was the longest of any state president's, and he also played a key role at the Supreme Lodge level. With the disabling effects of the 1925-1943 schism in new York state, the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge became the largest in OSIA and grew to include 280 active lodges and 40,000 members in 1960.

However, Pennsylvania, like New York, had its schisms and problems. In 1928 a group of local lodges in Pittsburgh, feeling ignored by the distant state leadership in Philadelphia, withdrew from OSIA and created the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, which still functions today. In 1960 a grand lodge official, Arnold Orsatti, questioned the use of OSIA funds raised for the Cassino Orphanage in Italy. While there was no apparent misappropriation of funds, there were heated debates that led to Orsatti's expulsion from OSIA. The ensuing court cases and publicity are estimated to have caused 10,000 members to leave the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge.

The grand lodge today remains the largest in the Order: and for a quarter of a century, 1956-1982, its state headquarters building in Philadelphia also housed the Supreme Lodge office. Many Pennsylvanians have held national office and three have been national presidents: Giovanni Di Silvestro (1921-1935), Americo Cortese (1969-1973), and Frank Montemuro, Jr. (1977-1981). Di Silvestro is the younger brother of A. Giuseppe Di Silvestro, and the former's term in office was the longest of any national president.

The Di Silvestro brothers published La Libera Parola, which served as the state lodge organ from 1918 until 1936. In that year the grand lodge office began publishing Ordine Nuovo, later renamed the Sons of Italy Times, which continues to be issued on a semi-monthly basis.

Extent

116 Linear Feet

Overview

Records of the Order Sons of Italy in America, Pennsylvania Grand Lodge include Supreme Lodge convention records and Supreme Council minutes; Grand Convention documents (1935-1987), and Grand Council minutes (1949-1986), membership applications, correspondence and reports on the Dante Orphanage, Sons of Italy Savings and Loan Association, Columbus Day celebrations, and other projects. Also included are insurance records which compose over half of the collection and include 55 feet records pertaining to members enrolled in the Mortuary Fund. Financial records include ledger books offering details on the deaths of members, 47 microfilm reels providing case by case information on death claims, and other financial reports, along with officers' correspondence, Supreme and Grand Lodge newspapers, files on local lodges, and souvenir booklets. The collection is the largest in the OSIA archives.

Arrangement

The original arrangement of the files at the time of their transfer to the IHRC has been largely maintained. Series and subseries categories were artificially estalished in processing the material but drew heavily upon pre-existing groups.

Processing Information

The collection was acquired from the office of the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge in 1987 by John Andreozzi, Sons of Italy Archives Project Coordinator. Andreozzi and Ed Tebbenhoff, Manuscript Processing Assistant, processed the papers during February through April of 1988.
Author
IHRC Archives
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding Aid In English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Immigration History Research Center Archives Collecting Area

Contact:

612-625-4800