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ABLE 3.-List of Italian rural communities in the United States investigated by the Immigration Commission, 1909—Continued.
The Commission did not attempt an accurate census of these colonies, and the figures for households and persons are in most cases approximations only, based on tax lists, state census reports, or enumerations by parish priests, private persons, or agents of the Commission. They are believed to be fairly reliable. The specific reports on the various settlements usually indicate the source of the statistical information and its relative accuracy. Not all of these families are "farm families." The estimates in the table include, in almost every instance, some families who live in hamlets or villages and who either own farm land or have some agricultural interests or are retired farmers. The number of actual farmers either foreign or of foreign origin in each community studied is estimated in the specific reports. Since the approximations include both the foreign-born and the native-born of Italian origin, they are usually not comparable with either the United States or the state census reports.
More than 40 Italian communities in thirteen States were visited by agents of the Commission. Most of these were in the South, where many incipient Italian settlements have sprung up recently, but more detailed studies were made of several colonies in New England, New New York, and New Jersey. In each of the colonies in the North a number of schedules were secured from farm families and in each
a For a summarized account of the Italian colonies in New York, see Ch. IV, p. 139. 48296°-VOL 21-11-4
settlement visited a survey was made of the community as a whole and of the several community institutions.
The largest and oldest colonies in the East are those in southeastern New Jersey, on the Pine Barrens. Both North and South Italians are represented at Vineland, and Hammonton is one of the largest and most promising South Italian farm colonies east of the Rocky Mountains. In New England the South Italians engaged in market gardening and truck farming near Providence, R. I., at least as early as 1844. Market gardening has increased in importance, and this settlement has been augmented slowly by accretions from the industrial population in the vicinity. North Italian farmers have established a settlement near South Glastonbury, Conn., not far from Hartford. The leading occupation there is fruit raising-peaches and apples. This is a good type of foreign colony, established on comparatively sterile, forest-covered New England soil. The principal farm settlements of Italians in New York are in the western part of the State in a rather well-defined area, most of them along the line of the Erie Canal from Madison to Orleans County. These are growing communities of South Italians, whose successful development the heavy muck soil, adapted to vegetables but hard to clear, has made possible.
In Wisconsin two rural settlements were investigated, aggregating somewhat less than 250 families. One of these is an old colony of North Italians at Genoa, near the Mississippi River, just south of La Crosse, Wis. It represents the type of colony that has practically ceased to grow by additions from without and whose members are as fully Americanized as their German and Scandinavian neighbors. The South Italian colony at Cumberland, Wis., is a different type. It is of recent origin; established on uncleared land occupied by great pine and hard-wood stumps; the members are chiefly railroad laborers, with whom agriculture is an incidental occupation until the land is paid f for. Paying for land with supplementary earnings from industrial labor is not new, but there are few more pronounced types of this on a community scale than that presented by the Cumberland colony. In certain aspects all the Italian settlements are similar. The chapters following bring out the individual characteristics.
ORIGIN OF RURAL IMMIGRATION.
Considering the large number of Italian workers in the States mentioned engaged in day labor, in mines and quarries, on railroads, and in manufacturing establishments, it seems remarkable that not 7 per cent are engaged in agriculture. It has been noted and it may be considered a safe generalization that more than one-half, perhaps two-thirds, of the Sicilians and other South Italians and one-fourth of the immigrants from northern Italy were farmers or farm laborers abroad. At first glance it would seem likely that the newcomers would be inclined to agricultural rather than to industrial pursuits. Statistics, however, do not confirm this surmise, either in the United States or in South America where the Italians have settled. One other point of significance in this connection is that the proportion of North Italian immigrants who have engaged in agriculture is much greater than the proportion of South Italians, although a much larger percentage of South Italians were farmers or farm laborers abroad.
Of the Italians who are engaged in agriculture in the United States, he investigations of the Commission indicate that the number who ntered agriculture immediately upon arriving on our shores and the number who have engaged temporarily in some industrial occupation are about equal. More North Italians than Sicilians have engaged at once in farming. There are a few rural colonies (of which Cumberland is typical) made up largely of industrial workers, and in the suburbs of great cities-Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago, and New Orleans-groups made up of day laborers and small tradesmen or hucksters are beginning to raise vegetables on small areas, often on vacant lots, chiefly for Italian customers. Almost all of these groups are Sicilian or South Italian in origin. North Italian groups are less likely to be established near large cities and are more likely to originate in purposeful colonization.
Substantially all Italian immigrants are poor and come to the United States to better their economic condition. The newcomer, therefore, must at once engage in some occupation that will give him immediate returns. He has no money to travel, and no capital; of necessity, he becomes a wage-earner. Furthermore, the chances are that he knows nothing about the opportunities in agriculture. A friend or padrone or labor agent directs him to unskilled employment at wages that seem to him munificent, and he gladly accepts the employment. Not only is it economically impossible for the newcomer to buy land and engage in farming, but in addition to immediate wages, day labor in industry offers the comfort and companionship of his fellows, usually a home among Italians and the feeling of security and confidence that comes to an ignorant foreigner only when he can make his wants known in his own language. After gaining his economic independence and accumulating a little money it is likely that many Italians would become farmers if they knew where to buy small parcels of cheap land. The deterrent influences are the isolation of rural life, ignorance of the location of suitable farm lands for sale, the lack of experience in American farm methods, and the tardy and uncertain returns from independent agriculture.
Unless settled in communities, the Italians have not proved successful pioneer farmers; neither are the most of them engaged in extensive agriculture, where many acres and considerable equipment are necessary. In almost every instance they seem to succeed best when they live close together, cultivate small farms, and raise crops that require hand labor rather than expensive, complicated machinery. The social instincts are so strong that they must be reckoned with when the Italian is ready to buy a farm. It may be asserted confidently that the primary reason for the Italian's choice of trucking and vegetable gardening in preference to diversified farming is a social one: he can have both land and neighbors. Some have said that the Italian is a gardener here because he was a gardener in Italy. Doubtless his early farm practice exerts some influence on his later choice, but investigation has plainly shown that a compact group of Italians can carry on successfully almost any system of farming and that the isolation of a few families is likely to spell failure even in the midst of favorable natural conditions.
The prospective farmer finds that little suitable land near friends and markets remains yet to be possessed at a possible price. Outlying or virgin land he does not know about, and if he did he has
not the self-reliance, initiative, resourcefulness, nor the self-sufficing individualism that marked the early pioneer farmer. The South Italians especially run in groups and follow a leader. Once settled on the cheap lands in the congenial climate of the South they advance rather rapidly, even where every square rod of land must be cleared. Few soils are naturally less fertile than those in South Jersey, on which hundreds of Italians are living well. It may be added that the majority of those who have succeeded in agriculture in the United States were farmers or were interested in farming abroad.
Climate and physiography play a much smaller part in the ultimate success of Italian colonies than many suppose. South Italian colonies are found all the way from the pine lands of northern Wisconsin to the cane fields of Louisiana. They are making fair livings on the muck lands of New York, the sandy barrens of New Jersey, the rock-strewn hills of New England, and the heavy cotton lands of the Brazos "bottoms." Sentiment often has much to do with the choice of a location, but few will say that the success of the settlement at Genoa, Wis., is not due to the excellence of the soil and the favorable markets rather than to the Alpine aspect of the topography; or that the fine North Italian settlers on the barren slopes of Valdese, N. C., would not have made more progress every way had they settled on level land near schools and markets where there was more fertility and less Swiss scenery.
EFFECT ON AGRICULTURE.
The Italian has introduced into agriculture little that is new, but in the North, in every instance, the Italian community has enriched and improved the land and increased the agricultural wealth of the surrounding neighborhood. They seem to love the land and few farms have retrograded under Italian management. Ownership is the almost universal form of tenure in northern settlements of North Italians, and but few South Italians rent the farms they operate. The most of the northern settlements were established on uncleared areas purchased by the foreigners immediately on arrival. There never has been much tenancy in the North, and to this fact much of the economic progress of foreign farmers is due. Having once purchased a piece of land on time the Italian works early and late to pay for it and make it productive. In numerous instances he has made land cultivable at incredible expenditure of labor-land that native farmers considered worthless.
When the native farmers in the older colonies have suffered from low prices and a general agricultural depression, Italians have been ready to purchase abandoned or semiabandoned farms, often subdividing them and restoring their productiveness. This movement has not assumed significant proportions, so far as Italians are concerned, but in New Jersey the further extension of the settlements seems likely to proceed by this means.
It requires two generations, usually, to make thoroughly efficient farmers of Italians. Farm methods are learned by observation of neighbors, and become fixed habits; consequently there is little progress in the art of agriculture. The ordinary Italian farmer of the first generation is not progressive; he looks on innovations in crops,
fertilizers, machinery, or methods with suspicion. In marketing produce and in buying supplies he has been rather apt to cooperate, and has shown some business ability. Perhaps cooperation has been largely due to timely leadership, for the Italian farmer is a manual laborer rather than a student or a business man.
On the whole the Italian farmer compares well with other foreign farmers in his neighborhood in industry, thrift, careful attention to details, crop yields, and surplus returns from his farm. His strength lies in his patience, unflagging industry, and capacity for hard, monotonous labor. The aspect of an Italian farming community is nearly always pleasing; fields are well tilled and all the cleared land cultivated. It can not be said that any large number are reaping great rewards, but nearly all are making a living and gradually increasing their properties. It is impossible to ascertain accurately the net annual returns measured by sales of crops, products consumed on the farm, and increased value of plant from a sufficient number of families to be of statistical value, without making a long-time study of family budgets, receipts, expenditures, and annual inventories. But most Italian farmers raise a large part of their food supply, although the majority are commercial farmers; they produce for the market. As with many farmers, progress in material welfare is denoted by better houses, more acres, greater improvements; the Italian's bank is his farm in most instances.
THE EFFECT OF RURAL LIFE ON THE ITALIAN.
Ownership of the land he operates is one significant factor in the social and civic progress of the rural Italian in New England, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. The prestige incidental to landed proprietorship, as well as the financial responsibility of an owner, sets the farmer far above the day laborer. Not only is he independent, taking orders from no one, but he is a member of the body politic. He is stimulated to industry, for the money returns are in a measure proportioned to his exertions. The variety of knowledge of crops, fertilizers, markets, and public affairs and the familiarity with a number of occupations necessary to agricultural success educate and develop the newcomer very rapidly. The contrast in independence, resourcefulness, and general superiority between the berry pickers from the cities and the Hammonton Italian farmers is very marked.
Interest in taxation, good roads, public improvements, and expenses for public schools is a stepping stone to wider civic interest. The foreigner's first interest in suffrage is self-interest, but it is better than no interest at all. On the other side, there is the deadening effect of isolation by foreign groups, of segregation in the open country, both on the community and the individual members. Where the Italians are intermingled with an equal number of American farmers they assimilate rather rapidly; where there is rural segregation of large groups Americanization is a slower process than in the city.
It is difficult to measure the effect of the country on standards of living. In the country, food depends somewhat on the products of the soil and climate, partly on the food of the neighbors, partly on the proximity to a market where Italian foodstuffs are sold. eastern colonies much Italian food is imported. At Genoa, Wis., the farmers use almost none. Wine, macaroni, Italian cheese and sau