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James V. Donnaruma, 1874-1953 papers

Identifier: IHRC559


The collection consists primarily of correspondence but also includes complementary materials such as newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and flyers. Though English is the principle medium of expression, important letters and documents written in Italian are scattered throughout the collection. From behind the editor’s desk of an important immigrant newspaper, James Donnaruma occupied a strategic vantage point for surveying and participating in the community activities of the Boston Italians. The value of the collection owes much to the range of Donnaruma’s Involvement in such activities. By following his career and his concerns, one gains much insight into the issues of interest and urgency to large numbers of Italian-Americans. These issues, it should be noted, tend to be personal and pragmatic, rather than ideological: e.g., how to get and keep a job, how to coalesce to the advantage of the individual and the group, and what to do when in trouble with the law. They were all questions which led many members of the ethnic community into political activity, and Donnaruma was in the forefront of those who tried to make a place for Italian-Americans in the rough and tumble of urban politics. Material bearing upon Donnaruma’s involvement in politics constitutes the largest topical category in the collection. As the proprietor of an influential foreign language newspaper, Donnaruma played a key role in a number of local, state, and national political campaigns, and had important contacts and friendships, including such nationally-known figures as Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. and Congressmen Joseph Martin, Jr. His allegiance to the Republican Party—a position from which he deviated on a number of occasions—ran counter to the general Democratic trend among urban ethnic voters during the twenties and thirties. Folders 41-51 show Donnaruma actively involved in a series of campaigns using both his newspaper and his various personal connections throughout the state of Massachusetts to mobilize the Italian vote for particular candidates. The collection highlights not only the events leading up to an election, but also the political bargaining subsequent to a successful campaign. Material covering requests for patronage and Massachusetts gubernatorial elections (folders 39-40, 50) is especially important for understanding Donnaruma’s general approach to politics. The leverage Donnaruma acquired from these political pursuits enabled him to champion the interests of those in trouble with the law. Donnaruma interceded with various persons to gain bail, paroles, exoneration or better treatment for Italian-American prisoners during the period of 1910-1947. A number of these cases are very well documents and offer a fascinating glimpse intothe immigrant community’s relations with the forces of law and order (folders 5-9). The era of immigration restrictions coincided with Donnaruma’s early journalistic career, and an important section of the collection touches on his role in the controversies of that period. Donnaruma’s fight against the literacy test bill and other restriction legislation as wells Donnaruma’s intercessions with various officials to gain a more relaxed treatment of Italians caught in violations of immigration laws are documented in folders 13 and 15. As one of the prominenti in the Italian community, Donnaruma participated widely in a number of philanthropic pursuits. His interests ranged far and wide: from a campaign to erect a statue in honor of an Italian war hero (folder 20), to the state of health of Italian residents in of the North End (folder 11), to an interest in a home for Italian children (folder 12). The importance of music in the life of the Boston Italian community is a major theme of the collection. Donnaruma was an important local associate for the opera impresario, Fortune Gallo, and used his newspaper and his personal influence to publicize the annual tours of Gallo’s San Carlo Opera Company to Boston. There is a lengthy and illuminating exchange of correspondence between Donnaruma and Gallo mostly dating from the period 1921 to 1930 (folder 52). The difficulties and conflicts encountered by Italian leaders in financing and staging operatic performances and the legacy of bitterness and bankruptcy which attended the efforts of the Italian community to hear the musical performances they held dear are themes in folders 4 and 38. There are a number of folders which touch on developments in the Italian motherland. As the clippings in folder 19 illustrate, the visit of the Italian war mission to Boston in 1917 occasioned a tumultuous, although not altogether enthusiastic welcome on the part of the Italian community and an official reception by the city fathers. As the correspondence in folder 18 suggests, Donnaruma probably worked in an official capacity assisting Mayor James M. Curley in making the arrangements for the official reception. The Montenegrin issue of 1922 to 1924 also occupied Donnaruma’s attention. He is listed as a member of the Massachusetts chapter of the Montenegrin exile groups in America. Donnaruma’s interests in Jewish affairs may have been sparked by the criticism which followed the publication in 1938 of an alleged anti-Semitic article in La Gazzetta. The article was published during a period when—due to a protracted illness requiring and extended convalescence—Donnaruma was absent from the editorial helm of the newspaper. Materials in folders 26 and 27 touch on this incident as well as other topics affecting the Jewish group in the United States and Europe. The attention of the researcher is drawn to the folders of correspondence with Franceso P. Malgeri (folder 30), Boston-based writer, teacher, and social worker; and A.B. Messer (folder 34), first associated with the Republican National Committee and later manager of the Foreign language Newspapers Service Corporation of Chicago. These folders offer glimpse into interesting, but not fully documented, episodes in Donnaruma’s career. There are a number of folders bearing upon Donnaruma’s various organizational affiliations (folders 2, 3, 10, 17). The riches gathering of materials concerns the Dante Alighieri Society of Boston during the period 1913 to 1922 (Folder 10). Much of the material pertaining to the internal affairs of La Gazetta del Massachusetts dates from the period after James Donnaruma’s death, when Caser L. Donnaruma served as editor and publisher of the newspaper. Though some of the La Gazetta correspondence is routine, concerning such matters as advertising orders, transactions with engravers, and general business matters, a noteworthy collection of materials was generated by the publications 58th Anniversary edition of La Gazetta in 1954, when the biographical sketches of prominent Italo-American businessmen and professional people were solicited for inclusion in this issue. The profiles of over 150 different individuals constitute an interesting cross-section of the successful members of the Massachusetts Italian community, and provide interesting details on the family histories of some individuals. The profiles are arranged in alphabetical order in folders 62-64. For some individuals there are multiple drafts of their profiles; for others the questionnaires used in the preparations of the profile are included. It is not known how many of these profiles were eventually used in this anniversary issue for publication. A number of full page clippings, oversize items and full issues of newspapers have been filed with oversized materials. Partial Subject Inventory The following is a guide, not a complete index, to certain persons, subjects, as associations prominent in the collection. Criminal Cases Folders 5-9 Foreign Affairs Folders 16, 18-19, 26-27, 35-36 Immigration Folders 13-15 Italian American organizations and newspapers Folders 2-3, 10, 17, 38 La Gazetta Del Massachusetts Business Correspondence Folders54-60 Fifty-eighth Anniversary Issue Folders 61-65 Opera and Music Folders 4, 32, 37, 52-53 Philanthropic Interests Folders 11-12, 20, 28-29 Politics: Campaigns, Politicians and Patronage Folders 21-25, 39-51


  • Creation: 1887-1962


Language of Materials

English and Italian


Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


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James V. Donnaruma was born in San Valentino Tonio, province of Salerno, Italy, on December 26, 1874. He came to America in 1886. Donnaruma was the founder, publisher and editor of one of the most influential and successful Italian language newspapers in New England, La Gazzetta del Massachusetts, published in Boston, since August, 1903. (The newspaper continues to be published today as an English language weekly, the Post Gazette.) According to Giacmo Grillo, who wrote for the newspaper, James Donnaruma was guided in his journalistic enterprise by two beliefs: that the newspaper should avoid “political and religious passions” and that it should reflect L’Italia innanzi tutto—Italy above all else. Donnaruma married Florence Vogona in 1908. They had tree children, Caesar L., Guy Paul, and Florence M. James Donnaruma died on May 7, 1953.


3.5 Linear Feet


James V. Donnaruma (1874-1953) came to the United States from Italy in 1886 and settled in Boston, Massachusetts. His papers (1897-1962) consist mostly of business files relating to publication of his newspaper, Gazzetta del Massachusetts (later the Post-Gazette). Also included are correspondence with prominent Italian Americans and papers of James's son and successor Caesar L. Donnaruma.


The collection had been arranged into four sections: 1. General Correspondence and papers, Folders 1-32. An Alphabetically-arranged file of persons, topics and associations (e.g. Boston Civic Grand Opera Association, Criminal Cases, Dante Alighieri Society ect. ), Folders 4-533. La Gazetta del Massachusetts papers, Folders 54-664. Miscellaneous clippings and publications, Folders 67-68 The present file folder arrangement reflects a re-ordering of the collection undertaken to eliminate confusion and inconsistencies in the original arrangement (as received from the donor). Whenever possible, however, the names of individuals or topics were used as folder headings that have been carried over in this description.


James V. Donnaruma’s papers were deposited in the Immigrant Archives in November, 1967. They were the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Caesar Donnaruma and were secured through the efforts of Rudolph J. Vecoli, Director of the Center of Immigration Studies, University of Minnesota. The collection, which consists of 2.5 linear feet of correspondence and papers, was processed during 1972-73.


A related collection at the IHRC is Papers of Caesar Donnaruma.

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