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Italian Immigration to America Timeline

Italians did not begin to immigrate to the United States until the 1860's during the industrialization of America. They were driven by dire poverty caused by natural disasters and the ambition to succeed in opportunities offered by the country without the political corruption that existed in Italy. Italian-Americans now make up the nation's fifth largest ethnic group.

The History Timeline of Italian Immigration to America includes important dates and events in the history of Italy that contributed to the push and pull factors which led to mass immigration from Italy.

Italian Immigration to America Timeline

Famous historical events include the wars in Italy and the dates of earthquakes and volcano eruptions, the establishment of the Ellis Island center and the Dillingham Commission report.

The Italian Immigration to America Timeline highlights the Push and Pull factors of immigration such as political and religious persecution, wars that occured in Italy together with dates of any natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, diseases, crop failures and famine.

Italian Immigration to America Timeline
Between 1820 - 2000 Italian Immigration to America totalled 5 million. According to the US Bureau of the Census of 2011 a total of 17,558,598 Americans claimed to be solely or partially of Italian descent. Italian-Americans made a significant impact on the culture of Americans and the history of the United States as can be seen in the following timeline detailing these immigrants to America.



The great famines of the 1840's had led to a sharp increase in immigration to the United States and the anti-Catholic Know Nothing Party emerged that wanted to limit or end the influence of Catholic immigrants. As Italy was a Roman Catholic country their reception in the United States was entirely welcoming.



The Great Neapolitan Earthquake caused devastation in the Basilicata region of Italy killing over 30,000 people and resulting in the loss of thousands of homes. Italians started to look towards the United States for a safer and more stable future.



Italy declared war on the Austrian Empire and by 1870, over 25,000 Italians had immigrated to the United States. At least one third made their home in New York City and the district became known as "Little Italy".



Immigration was encouraged due to industrialization and the growth of industry and the railroads during the 1860's and thousands of Italians added to the increasing number of immigrants to the US.



The Panic of 1873 led to the 6 year period called the 'Long Depression' that led to civil unrest and strikes and an increase in anti-immigrant sentiments.



The nation recovered and immigration to the United States exploded in the 1880's and the US began to pass laws to restrict immigration. Between 1881 - 1890 5,246,613 immigrants gained entry to the United States. In the 1880's the number of Italian immigrants to the U.S. totaled 600,000.



The Chinese Exclusion Act increases the demand for Italian agricultural labor but restrictions were placed on the number of migrants to the U.S.



The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor, the welcome landmark for all immigrants from Italy



The 1891 Immigration Act tightened the law and provided for the inspection and deportation of immigrants



The Ellis Island immigration center was opened (1892 - 1954) where migrants from Europe were required to undertake to medical and legal inspections. The Ellis Island immigration center was a frightening ordeal for Italians entering the US, although less than 2% of immigrants from Italy were turned away.



The Panic of 1893 led to a 4 year economic depression, high unemployment levels reaching 20% and a rise in prejudice and discrimination against migrants.



Mount Vesuvius volcano erupted near Naples, killing nearly 1000 people and destroying homes and lands. Many Italians once again turned to the US as refugees.



The 1907 Immigration Act was a reform law that was passed to restrict the number of immigrants. The Act also established the Dillingham Commission whose report led to further stringent and specific immigration restrictions.



The disastrous Messina earthquake and tsunami, killed up to 200,000 people in Sicily and southern Italy.



The Dillingham Commission report was published stating that "New Immigrants" from China, Asia and southern Europe (which included Italians) were inferior, uneducated and unskilled compared to "Old Immigrants" from Northern Europe. It went on to say that "New Immigrants" had failed to integrate with Americans. The Dillingham Commission report concluded that "New Immigrants" posed a serious threat to American society and that the numbers of immigrants should be greatly reduced.



World War I (1914 - 1918) breaks out and immigration falls and Italy joins WWI on the side of the Allies



An earthquake in Avezzano in central Italy kills 30,000 people



The 1921 Emergency Quota Act used of percentage system to restrict the number of immigrants based on the country of origin



The Immigration Act of 1924 (aka Johnson-Reed Act) restricted the number of immigrants even further



Fascist leader Benito Mussolini seizes power in Italy and becomes the dictator of Italy



The Great Depression (1929 - 1939) engulfed the United States, unemployment rose and immigration plummeted



Mussolini and Hitler sign an agreement known as the Roman-Berlin Axis



World War 2 breaks out. Italy conquers Albania and Mussolini sides with Hitler and Fascist Germany against the allies leading to anti-Italian sentiments in the US



The 1940 Alien Registration Act required the registration and fingerprinting of adult aliens in the US.



Italy surrenders to the Allies in WW II on 8 September 1943 and declares war on Germany on 13 October, 1943



The Immigration and Nationality Act (Hart-Celler Law) abolished the nation-of-origin restrictions on immigrants.

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