An 11-minute video chronicles the events that brought the first Italians to the Youngstown area in 1873

Sep 10, 2022 1067

BY: Joe Tucciarone

In the fall of 1872, nationwide orders for cast iron fell sharply, forcing cutbacks in coal mining. As a result, Ohio coal operators announced a large cut in miners' pay, effective January 1, 1873. Refusing the wage reduction the miners struck, and within weeks over 7,000 men had deserted Ohio's coal pits. Among the companies paralyzed by the walkout was the Mahoning Coal Company, a Youngstown firm operating mines in nearby Coalburg in Hubbard Township.

The company eagerly sought replacement workers to reopen its facilities. At the same time, nearly 3,000 impoverished Italians had been abandoned in New York, victims of a fraudulent ticketing scheme in Italy. Authorities at New York's immigration bureau were forced to house and feed the helpless foreigners until work could be found. Fortunately, the immigration depot included a labor exchange, allowing employers across the country to check for immigrants seeking jobs.

News of the situation quickly reached the owners of the Mahoning Coal Company, who hired a hundred of the unemployed Italians to work in its idle mines. The unwitting strikebreakers became the first Italian settlers in the Youngstown area. 

This documentary is a personal project. I was born in Youngstown and raised in Hubbard, and all my life I believed my Italian ancestors were no more than tourists who, after immigrating to the U.S., decided to settle in Hubbard. However, a dozen years ago I began researching my Italian ancestors and was surprised to discover their first port of call was not Hubbard, but Coalburg. I was even more amazed when I found that one of my great-granduncles was among the men brought from New York to the Coalburg mines in 1873!

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