Italian Heritage Collection
The Italian Heritage Collection at Citizens Library holds publications, family histories and other materials related to Italian Americans who settled in Washington, PA, during the period of large-scale emigration from Italy, 1880 through 1930.
During those years, hundreds of Italian immigrants settled in the city of Washington. They were part of the great wave of more than four million Italian immigrants, mostly from southern Italy and Sicily, who left poor economic and political conditions to find work and opportunity in the United States.
Like most immigrants who came to Western Pennsylvania during those years, those who settled in the city of Washington hoped to find work in industries that produced glass, steel and other products. Many others – grocers, barbers and tailors, for example – provided essential services in their new communities.
During these immigration years, the city’s population increased from 4,292 in 1880 to 24,545 in 1930 (a nearly six-fold increase). Most new Italian immigrants settled in three areas within the city – south and east of the Main Street business district, the west end of the Chestnut Street business district, and Tylerdale in the northwest side of the city.
Italian immigrants families comprised the largest ethnic group in the city during those years and left a lasting legacy in all aspects of civic life.
Many businesses and services originating with these Italian immigrants continue to serve the community to this day. Likewise, Italian Americans have built a strong record of local service in government, education and other fields.
Initial funding for the collection was provided by the family of Bruno J. (1922-1989) and Josephine Matullo Calabro (1923-2016) to honor Italian immigrants who settled in Washington, Pennsylvania. Other supporters include Primo Italiano Lodge #2800, Sons and Daughters of Italy.