Italian Ephemera

About This Collection

This New York City-based exhibit studies the Italian-American’s pursuit of happiness between the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the presence of music. There are various ways in which these immigrants sought out and celebrated their happiness, but one overall question arises: how is happiness defined? It seems most appropriate to define happiness in this context as success. Italians who immigrated to America were faced with the task of providing for themselves, their families – both in America and in Italy – and, most importantly, rising from outsider to citizen without losing their cultural identity. It seems that one of the key ways in which Italian-Americans held onto their culture was through the celebration of the arts, most specifically Italian music, which consequently became popular throughout the United States. This digital collection encapsulates the Italian-American’s pursuit of happiness through 10 different documents:


  1. A program from a 100-year commemoration celebration of the famous Italian opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi  

  2. A poster from a musical performance of Faccetta Nera, a popular marching song of the Italian Fascist Regime

  3. Lyrics to La Leggenda del Piave, a song that chronicles the Italian victory during The Battle of the Piave

  4. Lyrics to Inno di Garibaldi, a famous Italian  hymn that was said to be Italy’s first national anthem

  5. A piece of sheet music for the song Soldato Ignoto, a song that was played for unknown soldiers

  6. A poster featuring lyrics to Inno di Mameli, Italy’s national anthem

  7. An invitation to a grand patriotic celebration in tribute to Italy, hosted by President Wilson’s United War Work Campaign

  8. A poster giving details to a grand piano performance by Camillo Baucia

  9. An invitation to The San Carlo Grand Opera Company

  10. An invitation to Italian war veterans to partake in a Fourth of July celebration

The outbreak of the First World War threatened the proliferation of the arts, yet provided Italian-Americans the rare opportunity to prove their allegiance to their new country, and elevated many to the status of American hero. Whatever grounds music may have lost during the war were quickly made up for over the course of many music-based fundraisers, commemorations, and festivities. The musical paper trail the Italian-Americans left behind allow today’s viewer the chance to follow the highlights of success throughout the course of their journey.